The Old Man

My ramblings do not originate from thin air: Daily prompt: Sudden Downpour

It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next!

‘Greetings, my young friend.’ The old man with wrinkled skin, akin to that of paper, says. A shabby coat is drabbed over frail and slightly hunched shoulders. ‘Fate has brought you here today, even if you do not believe it.’

I am already shaking my head, sprinkling rain water everywhere. This place seems so old, so strange. Even the dust swirling through the air takes on a weird pattern. Everything seems wrong here, although I can’t quite place my finger on it. Alarm bells are ringing in my head.

‘Come, you must be cold and weary. Sit by the fire for a while.’ The old man continues, hobbling to the rear of the shop, entering a secret door that is painted the same flaking brown as the rest of the wall.

I glance at the pouring rain outside, before sighing. Left with no choice, I tread lightly over, wood creaking beneath each step. To my astonishment, a pile of wood sits in the fireplace, just waiting to be lit.

The old man bends down to the fire, and with a snap of his fingers, a flame appears between his forefinger and thumb. He calmly sets the wooden logs aflame.

What?! Did he just do… magic? But that’s impossible! There must have been a match stick somewhere…

The fire casts warm shadows in the musty room. There is a bear skin rug placed in front of the fire, and over it stands a round and short oaken table. A saggy old couch sits at the side. Facing this couch, a rocking chair is positioned, slightly turned towards the fire.

It is there that he sits with a sigh, before I settle reluctantly onto the couch. Slightly unnerved, I gaze about the room, eyes wide as I take in the shelves of dust covered books. My leg muscles are tense, poised as if to run.

The old man examines me with bright eyes, flames dancing within each pupil. I drop my gaze hastily to the ground.

‘So what will it be?’ He muses. ‘Do you want your fortune read, or perhaps, a book? Or a crystal ball, eh?’

I start violently, before finding my voice. Despite the danger vibes this place is giving me, my curiousity is piqued. I say in a quiet voice, ‘I don’t mind hearing my fortune.’

‘Are you certain, child? It takes one courage to request that.’ The old man arches an eyebrow, a half- smile of amusement curving his lips.

I wrinkle my nose. It sounds as if he had lifted that line out of a book.

‘Yeah, go ahead.’ I say.

He heaves himself out of the chair, disappearing a moment as he enters a back room, and returning again, with a package the size of a book in his hands.

He places it on the table, before pulling on a string to unwrap the package.

‘These are old and ancient bones.’ The old man says. The yellowing paper falls back to reveal… three white pieces, cylindrical and about four inches long. I grimace at them.

‘Behold! These are the bones of—’ Here, the old man pronounces a word, but it sounds as if he is clearing his throat.

‘Uh, that sounds made up.’ I can’t help commenting.

The old man ignores me, concentrating hard on the bones. Then, with a swift and fluid movement, he gathers and scatters them onto the table.

There is a moment of silence as he contemplates the three pieces of bone.

Then suddenly, he gasps, edging away from the table.

I lean forward to study the three bones, frowning slightly at them.

‘What is it?’ I ask quickly.

‘Oh dear, I am too old for this… too old.’ The old man is muttering to himself.

‘Don’t say that. People are always saying that in story books.’ I snap, glaring at him.

He gives himself a little shake, as if surfacing from his fortune- telling.

‘You have quite an unfortunate fortune, for lack of a better word.’ The old man sighs tiredly. ‘The first bone says that you will face terrible peril in an unknown world.’ He points to the next one. ‘Whether you pass this peril will affect what happens next.’ The old man points at the third bone. ‘You will also meet someone who could harm, or help you.’

‘Wow. That’s great. That’s just being deliberately vague!’ I stand abruptly. ‘I think I should be heading back soon. Maybe the rain has stopped.’

I rise hastily from the couch, hurrying out of the room before the old man can say anything.

I stop short at the entrance of the shop.

Where are the sky scrapers that I have grown up around? Where are the paved streets that I walk down everyday?

A dirt track of gravel, lined with lush greenery, traces down the path. Across this road, stone cottages sit side by side, puffing out smoke from their chimneys. There is a sudden crunch of gravel, and a horse, pulling a carriage, lumbers languidly past the shop.

‘An unknown world, indeed.’ I murmur, too apalled at my predicament to say anything else.

‘Ah, the first part has been explained!’ The old man says cheerfully from behind, making me jump.

‘You, explain this! Why am I in the past?’ I growl, whipping around to skewer the old man with a death glare.

‘Now, what is the modern saying, eh?’ The old man pauses to think. ‘Ah, yes, I’ve got it! Shit happens.’ He says triumphantly.

At this point, I am so angry, and so afraid, that I am tongue- tied. I can only stare helplessly at him.

‘My young friend, do not fear. All you have to do, is to believe in yourself.’ The old man says kindly. ‘When all else fails, you must believe in this.’ He places a hand over his heart.

‘That’s so horribly cliché!’ I snap, before stomping out from the store. I’ve had enough of this old man.

My feet crunches on the gravel as I stalk down the path in high dudgeon, daring the world to throw me anything. Come what may, I am going to find my way back, and the old man had better hope that I don’t meet him again, if not…

***

That’s part one of the story! Did you enjoy that? Part two will be coming out… Nah, just kidding. 🙂 What do you think of this short little adventure? Would you have asked for your fortune to be told?

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