The Stranger

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(Edited)

Copy of Photocentric Summer Tropical Beach Party Flyer (1).jpg

by @erh.germany

On the fifth day of their trek in the forests of Upper Italy, the boys finally reached their campsite. Immediately throwing down their heavy shoulder luggage.
Neigel wiped the sweat from his brow with a blue-red-white striped scout cloth, as he had done countless times before, so that by now the cloth was worn and faded, a sign of his challenges. Just like his once dark blue shirt and the shirts of the other boys had long since seen better days, but that was how it was supposed to be.
Walter tossed him his sleeping roll, which Neigel quickly caught and then threw himself with it onto the soft forest soil. The others came panting after them and, exhausted but happy, after some banter about who should look for the firewood, they began to set up their place. The heavy fabric pods for their spacious tent were hoisted onto the appropriate brackets, Mark and Vincent, the other scouts, doing so in routine fashion.
"Soon it will be your baptism!", Neigel called out to Vincent, the youngster, and everyone laughed in joyful and comradely anticipation, as Vincent was the only one who had not yet received his name. Neigel, who had been christened "Surfboard", had to endure his baptism in the form of remoulade and mustard in his hair and had been given things to eat that he would never have eaten in his life had it not been part of the ritual.
"Eh really, guys, don't mess with me!", Vincent replied, but of course knew full well it would come to exactly that. Earning the name was a mixture of fun and seriousness. Oddly enough, at home, one failed to pull off this form of character wisdom and slyness. But even though Vincent anticipated his initiation, he also was a bit hesitant.
There were only four of them who had hiked up to the hill this time and they would meet the rest of the group again in a few days. Surfboard, as the oldest and in charge of the small flock, turned to his comrades as they sat around the cosy crackling fire and hungrily gobbled down their dinner, the obligatory tinned ravioli and Vienna sausages. Still chewing, he said, "Tomorrow two of us are going down to the next village. We urgently need new provisions. Who volunteers?"
Walter, who was called "Ram", was the first to speak up: "Me in any case, I have to shit so badly, no one will believe me!"
"And may the Ram have some flowered toilet paper?" interjected Mark, aka "Please", who couldn't understand how anyone could crave sanitary facilities when the whole point of their venture was precisely to escape from pleasant civilisation. "Say, can't you do your business among the trees like any normal pathfinder, are you a real woodsman or a sissy from the city?"
"Shut up, Please! You don't know how it tears your guts apart if you can't poop!"
Vincent was holding his girth in laughter because Surfboard had pulled his trousers halfway down, pretending to press and then giving up exhausted. With his shorts still down, Surfboard dropped to one side and shouted, "Done, good old battering Ram, you shall have the pleasure of an enamelled toilet bowl again! I'm guessing that Please doesn't want to join, so Vincent and you are going to the village together."
"Next time I'll stay at the camp, I promise," Vincent, still chuckling, got immediately excited by the prospect that he would probably meet girls in the village.
Girls, after all. They had it better on their hiking trips anyway. Once, a group of eight had managed to stay at a local's place, a farmer had opened a barn for them and on another occasion, according to Vincent, a teacher had even invited them to spend the night at his house, including dinner.
"Hellooh, good evening, kind sir, I'm a girl, tinkle, tinkle. Can't you let us in, we're starving and dying of thirst here in the wicked hard world," Please mimicked what he meant by girlishness. "
Remember when we were chased away by that crazy guy who set his dog on us?"
"Shoosh, yeah, that's right, or when we got lost in the bog and came out at a wind turbine where the workers looked at us like aliens?"
So the evening passed in cheerful chit-chat and during night they slept peacefully.
The next morning, Vincent and Ram having already set off down into the valley more than two hours ago, Please and Surfboard spent their morning in relaxed silence.
Surfboard, who was cutting a stick for a piece of grilled meat and whistling a tune, was interrupted by his friend: "Shht! Listen, do you hear something? That can't possibly be the boys."
Surfboard put down his carving and both looked in the direction from which they heard sounds. From the undergrowth they saw a figure coming in their direction. It waved at them from a distance.
In approaching them, they realized a man, already a bit aged, conspicuous about him was his rather run-down appearance, but in another way he seemed even elegant, with a hat on the already gray curls protruding under it and dressed with a walking stick. "Good day, buona giornata, young gentlemen!" he called to them. Eyes shining bright.

My part of the story

"Hello, Sir! Can we help you?" asked Surfboard warmly. He motioned towards the campfire, indicating that the older man should have a seat.

"Thanks so much for your invitation." he replied, walking into the scout's camp. The man seemed grateful for the chance to rest, yet he didn't appear tired.

"My name's Surfboard. This lughead here is my friend, Please."

The man acknowledged each with a short bow of the head. "You can call me Cavallo. I am on a long journey, thank you for your hospitality."

"It's our pleasure, Cavallo." replied Please. He was curious to find out what an old man with no gear was doing way out there, but was too polite to ask.

Surfboard on the other hand had no such inhibitions. He was the leader, after all. And as the leader he considered it his responsibility to get to the bottom of this mystery.

"Do you by any chance have a little extra food? I can't pay you, but perhaps we could trade?" asked Cavallo in a soft, gentle voice.

"You are welcome to join us for lunch. We don't expect any payment. I saw that you came from the East, and there's nothing in that direction for fifty-four kilometers. How did you get so far without any food or gear?" asked Surfboard.

"I didn't come from Brawer. My walk wasn't too far, and I'm not as delicate as I look." Cavallo chuckled a little, as if he had just told an inside joke.

The boys looked at each other, wondering if their guest might have a few loose screws. Despite his strange and sudden appearance, the man didn't set off any warning bells.

The man ate his peanut butter crackers quietly, then stretched out for a nap. Perhaps he was more tired than he looked. He slept several hours.

"Cavallo, won't you join us for supper?" asked Please, when the old man awoke.

"I would be most grateful, my friend. But I have no money."

"We don't want any money, we have enough food for the three of us. And our two friends should be back any time with more." replied Please.

After they ate, Surfboard went to the edge of camp for some extra firewood. While there he motioned to Please, then mimed a pillow and sleep, pointing at Cavallo. Please nodded.

Surfboard approached the older man, who was holding his hands out towards the warmth of the flames. "Excuse me, it's getting late. Would you like to spend the night here? Two of our group are in Torbu, so there is extra bedding. I don't think they will be coming back this late, but if they do we will use our jackets and shirts for blankets and pillows."

"That sounds wonderful, my young friend. Thank you. Again, I can't pay. But I will be forever grateful for your kindness."

"We don't expect anything, Sir. You are welcome to share our camp, what kind of hosts would turn a guest out into the night?" spoke up Please. Secretly he was wondering what the old man would have offered had they accepted his offer of a trade. Not because he wanted anything from him. But because he wanted to know more about the mysterious hiker.

Surfboard nodded his agreement. "Your company is payment enough. Do you have much further to go? Maybe we can all travel together, after the guys get back in the morning. They'll be bringing plenty of supplies back too. We'll have more than enough."

Cavallo smiled, as if he had been hoping for this very offer. "That's very kind of you, but I must travel solo. This welcome respite is just for the night. I will be on my way when morning approaches."

After that, he became quiet. Not unfriendly, just not talkative. The boys didn't want to make him uncomfortable, so they left him alone except for bidding him a good night, and pointing out the sleeping arrangements before they turned in.

He was still sitting by the fire when they went to sleep, so they figured he would probably have a late start in the morning. Still, they had a strange feeling that he wasn't a normal visitor. Sleep was slow to come, because of all the unanswered questions.

When the sun rose, Surfboard had been awake for at least two hours. The stranger had been gone before he awoke. He left without a trace, presumably in the middle of the night. The fire had been well tended, but the sleeping bag looked as if it hadn't been used.

They were stumped. What could he have been doing trying to hike through the hills at night? Neither of them had seen a flashlight, and a torch wouldn't have lasted until daylight.

"Do you think we should go look for him?" asked Please when he woke up.

"Let's have breakfast first, and when the guys get back we can all go look." said Surfboard. Since they would have had to abandon their search soon anyway to meet up with Ram and Vincent, that made sense.

Oddly, when Surfboard opened the food pack to prepare breakfast, it was full. There was fresh bread, jam, butter, cheese, salami, and even freshly picky grapes. Enough to feed the four of them for two days! Underneath he found their regular camping rations, untouched. He shook his head. How did that food get in there?


"Where were you?!?!" asked Surfboard.

"It started pouring cats and dogs right after we reached Torbu. We had to beg the storekeeper for a place on the floor. Once we agreed to tidy the place up, and be locked in, he still charged us."

Surfboard then told them what happened.

"Very funny!" exclaimed Ram. Neither he or Vincent believed it until they saw and tasted the food.

The four friends packed up their things. Under the tent there was a small hole. Sitting inside it, cushioned by soft green moss were two identical and very lifelike statues of prancing horses.

"What is this!" exclaimed Ram. He carefully picked up one of the heavy golden statues.

"Those eyes look like real diamonds! And that saddle and bridle are full of jewels too." marveled Surfboard.

"What did you say the old man's name was again?" asked Vincent.

"He said to call him Cavallo. Didn't give a last name." replied Please.

"Cavallo... That means Horse in Italian. I've never met anyone with a name like that." said Ram, getting involved in the mystery.

After the boys were packed, they searched the area. "I think I found something!" exclaimed Ram.

The other three ran to join him. They didn't quite know what to make of their discovery.

"Those look a lot like hoofprints in the mud by the river, don't they? But if they are, why do they just stop in front of this boulder?" asked Surfboard.

Confused, the boys decided to go into Torbu. Maybe someone was looking for the horse, the old man, or both. They decided to begin at the visitor center. If anyone was out for an extended hike that would be the place to leave an itinerary, in case of an accident.

What they saw shocked them. There was a painting of a magnificent golden stallion, with bridle and saddle matching their statues. Next to it was Cavallo, with a walking stick. He hadn't changed at all, except in the painting he was wearing a brown cloak. This scene had been painted over three hundred years ago.

Underneath there were various plaques depicting the adventures of those who met up with the man, his horse, or both of them.

Invariably, those who showed him cruelty met with a very painful end. Those who were greedy died poor. Once, a rich man cast him off of his estate. The next day, his only heir was dead and his vineyard withered, never to produce again in his lifetime.

But those who showed kindness and generosity were known to have great fortune, and long healthy lives. It was reported that once a beggar shared his only bread crust with a stranger in a brown cloak, and the next day he accidentally saved the life of the crown prince. He knocked into him right before an arrow would have surely pierced the child's heart. The king rewarded him with an estate and a title. The beggar was officially declared royalty.

Deciding not to mention their adventure after all, the boys left the sleepy little village. The only proof, two beautiful statues and a pack of delicious food.

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44 comments
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Woah I enjoyed reading every single tiny bit of this story, I love the curiosity to know what might happen next and I also thought he might steal things or do something yeagic but none of my assumptions were true!
Indeed this could happen in reality and its really nice to treat a stranger properly with all hospitality.

Nice Post!

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Thanks ❤️ Yes we should be careful, but also kind. If you are in a tent, chasing the stranger off doesn't really protect you. It just puts them in an unknown location. The boys were wise in how they handled the situation.

!PIZZA !ALIVE !LUV

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Indeed they were wise and very curious as to know his history or where his coming from....

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Probably the boys were rewarded for their help. Perhaps Cavallo decided to reward them for their kindness. He probably wanted to see whether they help others even in that condition or not. They got the fruit of the help they did.

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Yes, they were well rewarded :) Any kind person would love to meet him!

!PIZZA !ALIVE !LUV

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(Edited)

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I enjoyed your continuation. The idea of weaving in a folktale is definitely something the story begged for, and I think that the original made way for your idea. Good to read.

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Loved it! I am guessing on the name that it was a horse onset! We also have the same naming sense here as it was inspired by the Spanish colonizers.

Great read for me, inspiring to do some research on this contest.

Thanks!

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I'm glad you liked it :) Sadly we will never know who and what Cavallo was...

!PIZZA !ALIVE

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Wow, this is so good. I hung on every word. This is so well written. I've been behind, so I'm catching up today. 💖

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Thank you ❤️ I hope you are officially back :) Is everything ok?

!PIZZA !ALIVE

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You're welcome. I was never gone, hahaha. Everything is as okay as it can be in this moment, is the accurate answer. When my plate gets fully loaded, I have to take some time to clear that before I can attend to other things. These days, there's a lot on my plate and a lot at stake, so it's day to day. Thanks for asking. 💖

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I wish you the best with it ❤️ Hopefully everything works out perfectly :)

!PIZZA !LOL !PGM

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Thank you, I appreciate it. I'm sure it will be as it's meant to be. 🙂

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Great to see you writing such an interesting story, and keep on writing, also make sure to include #AliveAndThriving when posting for #alive, have an awesome weekend and stay !ALIVE

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Thanks so much :) Those boys should be thankful that they have kind souls. That was what kept them Alive!

!PIZZA !ALIVE

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A very loose and light-hearted continuation of the boys' encounter in the forest with a stranger.

The fact that they don't show much fear and the way they behave towards the stranger, neither too timid nor too cocky, arouses my liking (some mothers might want boys like this, who find it part of the adventure to meet strangers in the forest, while others would find it rather uncomfortable).
I'm glad you went for the confident option.

The fact that Cavallo is not actually a living person but a mythical figure, and that he put the boys through a test to prove themselves as to whether they intended to be friends or foes, takes over the thread at the beginning of the story, which is about earning a name and passing a test. In doing so, you have continued the spirit of the narrative and gone beyond it by making it a fairy tale.

I recognise in it - or at least I think I recognise - a longing to experience something extraordinary, something that contrasts with modern, often banal everyday life. The moral "treat others as you would like to be treated" is strongly expressed. In any case, you provide a very good tension and hold your reader curious til the end!

To the technical:
I was a little confused by the time sequences. Vincent and Ram left the campsite early in the morning and only a little more than two hours have passed when the stranger appears. So the night comes too quickly in your narrative.

The boys sleep together in a large spacious tent, they don't set up individual tents, nor do they have any to spare. They have a lot of stuff to carry on their backs.
The fact that the other two only come back the next morning contradicts the first part in a way, because it is difficult for the boys to sleep somewhere else, firstly because they don't have any equipment with them while they are in the village, secondly because they are boys and not girls ;-) You've bent the story a bit too much in your direction, maybe you think about the twist again, how it could be done that day turns into night not so quickly but more natural and how you could plausibly have the other two boys either stay away or come back to the camp?

Are Brawer and Torbu real places?

Thanks for taking part in the contest, I felt really charmingly entertained!

Oh, and finding a really good meal when you're running low on provisions yourself is about the best thing you can ask for in the wilderness! :)

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Fixed, hopefully - thanks so much for catching that :)

No, they are not real places, but we needed them to be there ❤️

!LOL !PGM !PIZZA !ALIVE

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The meal they got was most welcome, and better than anything that could have been in that pack :) Fresh food can be hard to keep!

!PIZZA !ALIVE

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Hey, I read the story again with the edits you made :) I know, it can be a pain to re-edit, at least, that's how I feel when I do it. Do you like it that way and are you satisfied or do you feel otherwise about it?

For my part, I find it now more coherent. <3

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I like it :) Unless you have another suggestion??? It did add a few more words, but I think it reads better ❤️ And the rain in the village adds another supernatural event too :)

!PIZZA !ALIVE

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Nicely written @wrestlingdesires.
I enjoyed how you molded your continuation of the story to have this mysterious narrative with Cavallo.

It was a good technique you utilized to encapsulate the reader, building up eagerness to find out what the deal was with this mysterious man in the woods.

The boys seemed like they wanted to make him feel right at home in their camp site and weren't pushy or greedy about his offer for trades. It was an interesting way for him to test them.

That would have sucked if one of the boys was greedy and ignited his wrath lol.

That was pretty cool how he ended up being a spirit of the past who lurks in the woods looking to spread love or hack down bad people lol.

Thanks for your contribution with this. I'm starting mine (and hopefully finishing) tonight :)

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Thank you for your kind words ❤️ I'm glad you liked the story, it really was lots of fun to write :)

I hope to read yours soon 🙌

!PIZZA !LOL !PGM

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Imaginative premise. A traveler from another era compelled to help those that demonstrate the positive side of the human spirit. The Ghost Buster in me wants to know how something like this could happen, but that's not the point of the story. Explaining the mechanics of temporal displacement would distract from the essence of the piece.

I like also how you weaved the elements from the original story. This is the tricky part, taking the original pieces of the puzzle and completing the picture. Well done.

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(Edited)

Thanks so much ❤️ I do hope you will reconsider, and write your own :)

!PIZZA !LOL !PGM

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