The Mysterious Stranger: The Blood Orange
By Robert J. S. T. McCartney
It was here—here where the stranger stood atop the mossy hilltop. He looked down at the village that laid nestled below in the sprawling green fields. Gray puffs of smoke rose from chimneys and dispersed into the kaleidoscopic swirls of magenta, orange, and the pale green horizon. The stars began their celestial occupation for those beneath its heavenly virtues. The warmth of the day had now been scattered to the four winds of the night. The sun’s eye slowly began to start its sleep cycle, while the moon crept over the mountainside’s shoulder; continuing its scientific observation of the world below. The clamor of livestock and the harvest festival celebration overtook this small village. The drought was avoided; the village was spared from certain doom.
Next to the stranger, there sprawled a sizable patch of dirt with a small flower. The man gathered his brown ragged cloak around him and knelt before this little flower. His hazel eyes looked over the seemingly fresh tilled patch. He closed his eyes: a scent of oranges filled his nostrils. It filled him with such strange emotions for such a small thing.
A soft voice echoed from within. Stay. Listen. Stay and listen to my woe, stranger. Hear the tale of my beloved who was taken from me.
The stranger opened his eyes, and gave a slight nod to the unknown voice. Before him, the flower bloomed—an orange blossom. The orange, plump, ripe and juicy—was sliced into five equal parts. The earth ripples like a puddle of mud, as if a portal from beneath the simple orange. A brown hand emerges slowly from the dirt—creaking, cracking—with it; it takes up the five orange slices before the mysterious stranger. Each piece seems to bleed crimson intravenously with the hand. Lightly above him, the sky begins to weep, for it already knows of the tale.
Eat. Be shown the truth.
The stranger reaches for the slices and eats them, one by one. Slowly, the world was peeled back—reality distorts; the layers of time revert, days of light and darkness flash in strobe effect.
An ancient world came to focus. Azure stretched on all throughout the heavens, while streaks of white flowed sporadically in nature’s creation. The sun hung high, projecting its warmth to those below. Here, there laid a loving couple—a hunter and his huntress—beneath an old orange tree. Their hands clasp together; their eyes fixated upon one another. Love was heavy with each one of their breaths.
An erratic image flashed before the stranger like lightning. In the night, there was a dark figure of a man with an axe that chopped vigorously at a tree in a heavy downpour. Each strike met with the crash of lightning and roar of thunder. The rainwater thrashed off the chipped and cut bark, and off the axe with each blow against the mighty tree. The rainwater sloshed and splashed against the ground, the figure’s face and hands. Nearby blood mixed with the dirt from the body that laid next to the tree.
As the tree fell and began to rot, here the figure knelt next to the body, resting its hand upon it. “Here you will lay, forever you shall stay. A vow you had made, your life for your wife; your village spurned you, your head on a spade. Her body shall be mine, one I will enjoy like a fine wine. Your “child” will be deformed, one that will be born. . .to my magics and ways.”
The body bubbled and began to melt into the ground with the fallen tree. The blood flowed with the leftover orange until all that remained was an unsightly blackened patch of dirt. The man let loose a malevolent grin.
As the figure left the hilltop, a soft voice escaped. “In life, you may have stopped me, but in death, I will not be so easy. . .I will return.”
The stranger focused his thoughts and searched for reasoning. The voice came to him again from within. Will you help avenge me, stranger?
The cloaked man nodded silently.
Then let us begin. . .