Preface

I saw you across the bar, pacing back and forth as if waiting for a date to arrive. You were tall, but that was all I could make out, for you had clothed yourself that morning in a manner that made it very difficult to ascertain any other details about you. You could have been thin, fat, weak, strong, and I could never have known. You glanced at the door, cursed, and then checked your watch before fidgeting slightly. Slowly, I began to walk towards you.

“Seen anyone enter that you know?” I asked you. You jumped slightly, not expecting anyone else to speak.

“Who says I’m waiting for anyone?” you replied.

“The pacing. No one paces like that unless they’re waiting for someone, or perhaps considering something difficult that you learned only recently. Judging by how you keep looking at the door, though, I can imagine you would be in the former camp.”

“...how long were you looking at me for?” You looked me up and down, suspiciously.

“Long enough.”

Now that I was closer, it was easier to see what you looked like. You had long hair, beginning to grey slightly, although most of it was covered by the hood you were wearing. The hood itself, a rather sorry affair: it appeared to be made of an old burlap sack, small particles of dirt falling out every time you spoke, patches covering the fabric to the point that it seemed more patch than hood. Your face was tired, dirty, creased in many places. Later you would tell me you had been on the streets for a while, but were starting to get back on track. It wasn’t particularly surprising.

“Do you want to sit down? I’ll buy you a drink if you want,” I said.

“...fine,” you said. I went to the bar, got a couple of cocktails, and walked over to where you were sitting. You eyed me nervously.

“What?” I asked.

“Why are you being so nice to me? I have no idea who you even are,” you said, spitting the last word out rather angrily.

“I’ve been travelling for a while,” I answered, sitting opposite you. “It gets to you in the end. You meet people, talk to them, maybe stay with them for a few nights, but it never lasts forever. Besides, it’s just the nice thing to do, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but it’s still a bit… odd, wouldn’t you say?”

“I suppose it might seem that way. I’ve become somewhat used to this, so I don’t really know.”

You took a sip of your cocktail. Instantly, your face screwed up and you had to fight to get it down; you hadn’t had a drink in a while. However, you quickly took another sip, more carefully the second time.

“So why are you here?” I asked. You swished the ice around the glass for a while, pondering your response.

“I don’t really know. Nowhere else to be, I suppose. I tried to travel once as well, when I was a lot younger, but I always found myself back here… I’m waiting for a friend,” you quickly added, attempting to backtrack and keep on topic.

“Do you have any travel stories?” I asked, prodding further. You shifted in your seat, slightly uncomfortable.

“Nothing… that interesting. I think that’s why I always came back here, nothing interesting ever happened to me. I’m bad at telling stories, anyway.”

“Do you want to hear a story then? There’s a tale I heard a few years ago, when I had just started travelling. I always found it intriguing.”

You glanced at your watch, then at the door, before sighing. “I suppose I don’t have much of a choice, do I… What’s it called?”

“I’m not sure it really has a name. Certainly I wasn’t given a name in any case. If I had to give it a name, I guess I would call it The Traveller’s Tale, although that seems a bit pretentious to me…”

You sighed again, looking into your glass. “Fine. Tell me the story. But make it quick, I don’t know when my friend is arriving and I need to talk to them about more important matters than stories.”

I smiled softly, enjoying your slight irritation, and began to weave the tale into your mind.

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