May 25, 2021

These Boots Were Made For Walking, by Tamkinat Tariq



Editor’s note: This is one of the most unexpected tales I’ve read in a while. I didn’t see the ending coming, and the author made every word count. You’ll enjoy this! Read on.

The setting sun cast glowing embers in the sky—as if the sun was reaching its magnificent yellow rays to capture the expanse one last time before dying, if only for the night. 

 

Thomas, lying on his back, stretched his hand as far as it allowed, and it wasn’t much, to touch the sky. To feel the warmth of a dying sun. But all he felt was the cold, on the back of a mule cart, where he had been since this morning and three before that.

 

“How much further?” he asked the old man in the front, talking to the back of his head, which looked like a white furry carpet worn down and thinning from being walked on too long.

 

“Not much furtherin’ now,” he said chirpily, chewing on whatever root old people chewed on that made their mouth burgundy and their smile contagious.

 

Thomas turned his head back, listening to the steady, rhythmic tread of the mule’s hooves hitting the dirt road and echoing in the wilderness. Trying to feel the consoling vibration of the movement in his legs. But he felt nothing.


He was on a journey to see a magical healer. A man with extraordinary powers, capable of returning men from the cusp of death. Surely, he would be able to make him walk. Or else, he had just sold all that he owned, which wasn’t much, and given most of it to the old man to show him the way, for nothing.

 

Thomas had grown up with stories of magical healers and good witches. The cunning folk, the villagers called them. “You stay away from ‘em, Thomas. They’ll cut ya and eat yer liver,” the elders told him. That’s why they killed some and drove the rest away. People don’t trust those who are different. Like he was. He was a cripple. He never really fit in with the rest. Maybe that’s why he felt an affinity to the magic folk. He wanted them to exist, so he could exist.

 

The old man halted the cart, saying, “We’ll spend the night here, sonny.” Thomas looked around and saw the still, beautiful lake, colored liquid gold from the sun. The old man got off and led the mule towards the meadow of lush green grass surrounding the lake and parked under a tree. Thomas managed to nudge himself off with the help of his crutch, clumsily, pitifully as the old man watched.


***

 

Thomas felt the warmth of the crackling fire prickle his skin, sending a shiver down his spine. His mother used to say that it meant a fairy was nearby. He looked up to see the old man watching him patiently across the fire, his eyes as deep as the lake and as blue as the skies.

 

“Tell me, sonny. Why do ya want to walk so bad?” the old man asked.


Thomas, not expecting the question, paused and said, “I want to see the world.” He continued, “My father wanted to be an adventurer. It’s all he really talked about. But between taking care of me after my mother passed and putting food on the table, he never got the chance. He was a good man. Never complained about how he didn’t get to live his dream because of me.” He looked up at the sky, as if his father could hear him.

 

The old man nodded, took out a root from his pocket and casually stuck it in his mouth, chewing at the end. “Say, those are some fancy boots ya got there,” the old man admired.

 

Thomas looked down at his feet and shrugged. “They were my father’s. He bought them and saved them for his travels. But I doubt I will be doing any walking in them. Just like he never did,” Thomas said dejectedly. Fairies, magical healers, here he was putting his faith in something nobody had ever seen. “Here, you should have them,” he took them off and put them to the side, pointing to the old man’s bare, cracked feet. “It’s not much,” he thought to himself.

 

“It’s enough,” the old man answered. “Here, ya can have the rest of my root.” He flung over a small, thin purple branch Thomas didn’t recognize. Confused about if he had actually said the words out loud, he tossed it in his mouth and started chewing. It tasted sweet and comforting.


“Ya know where we are, boy?” he asked. Thomas looked around and shook his head. “We’re at the home of the Fairies. Ya see this lake? They say you can see them Fairies dance on the still waters after nightfall. Beautiful creatures. But if ya stare too long, ya fall into a spell and never leave,” he said in all seriousness.

 

“Have you ever met one?” Thomas asked indulgently.

 

“One or two, but their spells don’t work on me,” the old man winked, and his wizened face cracked into a red-mouthed grin which Thomas couldn’t help but reciprocate. Feeling a warm wave tingling his whole body, he suddenly realized how tired and sleepy he was. He lay down next to the fire and watched the lake reflect the sinking sun. Dying, only to be reborn again. As he closed his eyes, he swore he could’ve seen a pair of golden eyes watching him from beneath the surface of the water.

 

Thomas woke up to the sound of birds chirping and the sun shining, once again. As he opened his eyes, he saw the fire burnt out and no sign of the old man or the cart. His heart sank. He sat up and realized he was all alone. The old man had run off with his money. But had left his boots as a cruel joke. He felt a wetness in his eyes and realized he was crying, his desperation trickling down his face. His hands touched a rock, and he threw it across the meadow in anger and kicked his boots.

 

He kicked his boots.


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Bio: Tamkinat is a journalist and avid fan and follower of fairy tales. Her predilection for writing originated from reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” amongst many other works of magical realism. She believes in the mystique and charm brought about by stories that create a world yet unbeknownst to one’s reality.


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This story is brought to you by Kristen Baum, who is a Patreon supporter of Enchanted Conversation. To learn more about supporting EC, follow this link.


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Image from Pixabay.


7 comments:

HulderMN said...

That final line...masterful surprise! πŸ’πŸŒΉπŸ¦„

T. said...

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it πŸ™‚

Tamkinat Tariq said...

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it πŸ™‚

Momina said...

Beautiful and Captivating! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Ellie a.Goss said...

A very nifty twist - loved it!

T. said...

Thank you ☺️

T. said...

Thanks a lot!

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