Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


Author's Note: You should read THE TRAVELLING MAN before this.

The Travelling Man sat in a favourite place of his and stared towards the city. From here, the caravan of refugees from across the valley was just a smudge against the walls

The answers he needed were inside those walls. He knew it, but he also felt it. The room full of photos and paintings of him, right in the middle of the city, proved that someone was waiting for him. All he had to do was visit.

But there was no one within that city that knew him. All of his peers had been forced out months ago and he, himself, had never been past the walls even before this whole crisis started. But someone inside was expecting him. Each day another photo or painting – he couldn't tell between the two – was raised in that small room.

“Bait,” he muttered to himself. “Bait on a line.”

‘Or,’ that voice inside his head said. ‘Answers to the questions you have.’

"Both," he muttered, standing. “Not worth it yet though.”

He turned and watched as the late afternoon sun tipped towards the horizon. With the others involved in their little plans to do whatever, they had left him alone. He didn't know whether Lily had managed to find Liam or not, but he assumed she had. He wouldn't join her, even with the threat of death hanging over him. Liam knew better. But there were other things he could say that would make life difficult.

The Travelling Man stopped and slapped his face lightly several times. There was too much going on inside his head and he needed to clear his mind.

One thing at a time. As much as he wanted, and to some level, needed to find out what was in that room in the city, he couldn't devote any time to that right now.

The others, in particular Lily and her cohorts, were equally not a priority. Liam and Noah, wherever the latter had got to, would be fine on their own and they each had photos for emergencies.

No, the priority, as it had always been, was to find her. She was out there somewhere. By herself, waiting for him to come back. And now that he had dealt with Lily, as much as he was able to do right now, he could set himself back on task.

“Alright,” he said, again to himself. “Lets try this again.”

On the ground in front of his feet he dropped a small passport sized photo of himself. It was almost a year old at this point and the last year had really put a strain on his physical appearance, but it would work. He put his foot on the photo and took a deep breath in.

It took a few moments, but he eventually felt the usual sucking of the photo as he disappeared inside it.

He opened his eyes and looked around at the familiar haze of purples and greys that made up this in-between zone. He could see the usual black pinpoints of photos or paintings that were close enough to his current image. The darker the spot, the easier it would be to travel there. Off in the distance, to his left, the dark grey smudge of the room full of photos and paintings hovered ominously. He knew that if he went closer to it, it would start to break up into the many dark dots that reflected the individual images in that one room.

With effort he turned himself from the smudge and looked around for the one he knew would be close to it. Once he had fixated on the black speck he needed, the purple-grey in-between zone rushed towards him in a flash. He reached out and pushed his hand against the black orb which now floated several inches from his face.

People like The Travelling Man and Lily and all those people; the ones who were being held responsible for the caravan of refugees flooding into the city, for the uninhabited no mans land between the city and the valley, for the almost perfectly circular hole cut through the moon, weren't allowed in the city.

Obviously, the walls themselves were no obstacle to The Travelling Man, but aside from the room in the middle of the city, there were exactly zero photos or paintings of him. A deliberate attempt at keeping him out. Or funnelling him to a particular place.

Regardless, entering the city quietly was the one thing The Travelling Man needed to do. And so he had set up a small cabin just outside the main gate through the walls.

Despite the official view on the people like him, there were many who didn't blame them. Not as a group, at least. The Travelling Man knew a few of these people and through them had got an inside channel to some of the higher ranking officers in the military who were overseeing the influx of those from the valley and, some said, beyond.

This cabin, empty for 99% of the time, was the one place where he could meet with what he considered to be his liaisons and not be arrested, or worse.

The photo laid on the floorboards of the cabin, covered in a layer of dust. It had been a long time since it had been used and now, with no breeze, it started to flutter across the floor, shedding the dust and bulging out. Slowly at first, but faster as The Travelling Man pushed through the black speck more and more.

He shook himself and straightened his clothes as he stood on the photo. He bent down to pick it up and placed it gently on the table nearby.

“Need to get a new one,” he sighed. It was more difficult than he had anticipated to travel here.

“Hey,” a voice said from another room. “You're here.”

“The fuck,” The Travelling Man said, spinning to face the door where the voice had come from.

“Sorry,” a young lady in a crisp military uniform said. “I didn't mean to startle you. I was actually about to leave. I've been here three days, as per the instructions that were left for me.”

“Who are you? Where are the usual guys?”

“Gone,” she shrugged. “Re-upped. Back to the valley, as far as I know.”




She smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “And your friends, but mostly you. My boss doesn't like that we have a channel here. I’m here to end it.”

The Travelling Man placed his hand on the table, surreptitiously covering the photo. “End it?” he asked.

She smiled again and The Travelling Man was torn between it looking sweet and devious. “There are people within the walls who are eager to meet you,” she said. “And if I am correct, you have been angling for a way in?” she looked at his hand on the table. “Legitimately?”