The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 53

man, he stood and faced him, expectant, but the old man just continued to stare into the sun. The boy noticed the old man's body split in two like his, except that the old man’s dual layers cut him in half horizontally with his top hemisphere metal and his bottom hemisphere wood. The iron had long lost its luster, adopting orange and tan flecks the same hue as Mount Albot. The boy couldn’t tell where his legs began and ended; out from the hermit’s thighs extended four different offshoots of gnarled, tangled sycamore. The additional legs moved independent of his body, digging into the mountain with each spider-like limb. On his rusted face grew a full beard of verdant leaves.

"Oh, you’re here! Didn’t think it’d be that quick. Do you intend on staying? I might have something around you can sleep on," the old man said.

The boy explained how his parents told him of a healer residing at the top of Mount Albot.

"I cannot heal you, boy. Don’t know what I’d heal to begin with. I'm sorry your parents lied to you. I can think of better ways to get you to visit me."

The boy was confused – didn't this old man suffer from the same affliction as he did, if not worse? He asked if it was also a lie that the hermit had been run off into the mountains by the townspeople. To this, the old man bellowed a clanging, throaty laugh that spilled down the sides of the mountain.

"No one chased me anywhere. I came here all my own. Didn't you?" The old man asked with a smile.

The boy told the old man that he wished to look as normal as the townspeople did.

"I spend all my days watching birds flit about. I’ve seen every type of bird in this land. This high up, the sky is filled with them, untethered by the world below. All shapes and sizes, all different kinds. They glide and hover and flap their wings the same way to stay afloat. Haven’t seen one yet whose flight has been hindered by the color of its plumage."

The boy responded by telling the old man he didn't understand what it was like;