The stranger appeared in the centre of the town. He was alone. Dust swirled in the deserted streets, dust-devils danced around the wooden walkways.
The stranger blinked his eyes. Everything looked strangely familiar but his mind refused to function properly. He was devoid of memory. Feeling dazed he looked around but recognised nothing. No matter how hard he strained his mind no understanding would present itself. He did not know how he had got here. He did not know where he had been. He could not even remember who he was.
His mind was a complete blank.
A panic welled up in his stomach but he fought it back. Not a sign of anxiety appeared on his face apart from a slight tic hovering over his temple.
He surveyed the arid town with wary eyes – the bold relaxed manner disguising his uncertainty. The sun shone from an unbroken azure sky. The buildings were old and shabby looking. The paint peeled.
Through slitted lids and screwed up features he nervously squinted trying to piece together where he was and where danger might emanate from. All the while he held himself upright, looking assured and cool, radiating toughness.
From where he stood, in the empty square, he could see that a high stone wall isolated the town from the surrounding land. It provided a marked contrast. The countryside outside was lush. It consisted of green hills that rolled away towards the distant horizon encircling the town. This dried out husk of a place was completely different to its surrounds, incongruously resembling an oasis of dust.
He stood there, holding himself aloof, poised, expecting something to happen. His presence here might precipitate trouble. He remained alert.
He hoped that he would appear calm and assured, radiating an aura of arrogant strength with just the right hint of challenge. If he was being watched he wanted them to know he was in control. Inside he was keyed up and afraid. He fought to keep his bewildered fear from surfacing.
Gradually the fear subsided and, despite the inexplicable strangeness of his circumstances, he found himself relaxing. After all, no untoward events had occurred yet. Perhaps nothing would? Besides the town was pervaded with a feeling of comfort and security, a calm familiarity. His senses detected nothing sinister. He felt at home here. Despite his apprehensions and immense confusion he found the tension draining away. He did not feel in any danger.
He had things to find out. He needed to speak to someone.
Still nobody appeared.
Calmer now, he studied the town with greater objectivity, house by house, road by road, turning his head slowly from side to side to take it all in. Nothing moved except the eddying of dust devils in the gentle noon breeze.
The stranger felt the sun beating down on him. He cleared his throat and took a few tentative steps forward. He did not quite know what to do but he knew that he had to do something. But which direction should he go? He stopped and then shuffled from foot to foot in indecision. There had to be someone around, someone to ask. It worried him that he could not remember anything. He had to talk. He had to straighten things out in his head.
Where was he? What was he doing here in this strange town?
Gathering his wits like a protective cloak he set out purposefully to find someone to ask.
The houses all looked alike. They had no signs, no numbers. He knocked at the door of the first house he came to. There was no answer. He knocked again.
At first he was hesitant, full of indecision. He felt like an intruder. He did not feel at home here. Nothing was right. There was a sense of hostility. He might not be welcome in this place. It felt so alien.
He turned away and was about to go elsewhere. Perhaps there would be someone at the next place? There was no one here to ask.
Perhaps he would find out the answers to his questions somewhere else?
Yet he felt a strange compulsion. The fear subsided. An instinct was telling him to go in. Gathering his courage into a ball he discovered a newfound resolve. He had to trust in his instincts at a time like this. There was so little to base his judgements on. Instinct had as much chance of being right as anything else.
He turned back to the door. He was hungry and a tantalising smell was emanating from within that house. The hunger rose in him and was overpowering.
He had to eat.
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