Some people who have read this story see subliminal imagery in it. I didn’t write it with that in mind but it did appear to manifest itself in the writing process. I hope you like it.
He arrived in the village today. His shabbiness stood out against the prim, manicured hedges and the crew-cut lawns. He was of indeterminate age, a face obscured by his beard and experiences. I saw him first by the old cross. He was sitting in the sun, staring at the sky and I could see his lips moving, perhaps in prayer or madness: I was too far away to hear what he was saying so I moved closer. He saw me and I looked away instinctively. I didn’t want him to think I had been staring although I had been.
As I drew closer, I could hear him speaking. He was incoherent, at first, I thought he was rambling drunk. Then, as I drew closer, I seemed to recognize what he was saying, but not the meaning; the language seemed familiar but strange. He looked at me. ‘Good morning, nice day.’
I attempted to start a conversation in the oh so very English way. His response was to cease his mumbling and stare uncomprehendingly. I sensed no aggression in his manner. In fact, a strange calm seemed to emanate from him. I backed away, left him then to go about my business and leave him to his.
That evening, I heard from friends the man had been seen around the village during the day. Everyone commented that, although he was a stranger, he seemed familiar. And everyone reported the sense of calm that seemed to flow from him.
I thought no more of him until I saw him again three days later. Where had he been? Had he been staying somewhere, perhaps sleeping in the open, in an outbuilding? Where? Why had he decided to stop here on his journey?
That evening at the village meeting , some voices were raised in discord:
‘Lowers the tone of the village.’
‘Will encourage others like him to come.’
‘Can do without his sort here.’
But the accusations were half-hearted. They knew he had done nothing but chosen our village as an interruption in his travelling.
The next day I saw him by the old cross. There was a group of children surrounding him. I was sure they were harassing him. I drew nearer. I could hear laughter, childish laughter; the children were engaging with him animatedly. He seemed to have a, strong almost childlike rapport with them.
I watched for a while from the edge of the excited group of children. After what seemed only a few minutes, but in fact, had been over an hour, he painfully stood up and began to walk away with a rag-tag procession of children in his wake, their laughter carried on the soft breeze. As he reached the edge of the village, the children stopped and waved him on his way. He continued without a backward glance and disappeared from view as the road bent away to the south. The children scattered and the square was empty apart from me. I found myself looking longingly in the direction he had gone.