Okay, turns out I "lied" about continuing to post TSR episodes in a timely manner. Posting now resuming...
Out in the fields
The early morning sun had tipped over the horizon to paint the sky in lemons and salmon pinks. A drifting gauze of mist softened the edges of the grassy field. Several sheep dotted around the grass, lazily chewing their cud.
Sora, a bitty slip of a girl, sat huddled up against a tall lean man with dirty blonde hair in the shadow of a craggy rock along the fence line.
Her thick wavy hair had been forced into two tight fat braids, and tiny curls sprouted around her face and watchful blinking brown eyes. His milk pale skin looked almost transparent next to the warmth of her darker skin.
She pulled her feet tighter under the hem of her white flannel night dress, trying to keep them warm. Most of the other strangers had already gotten up, grumbling, and wandered away. Disappearing as so much dissipating mist as they walked toward the road. She was ready to go somewhere else too.
“Uncle Kerr, are you awake yet?” she tried again.
“Maybe,” his voice croaked back at her this time, creaky and hoarse with disuse. At the words she popped up on her knees peering at his face. His eyelids fluttered.
"Please, wake up?" She tugged hopefully at the front of his sleeping shirt.
This, along with the cold discomfort of hard ground underneath him and the reality of her presence, finally brought him fully awake. His eyes snapped open, and he sat up abruptly. Then blinked at the impossibility of his surroundings.
When he had fallen asleep he could have sworn it was in his own bed, in his old college apartment above Ralph's Apothecary. A city away from Sora. The strangeness of that thought penetrated his thoughts. Never mind the distance between where they lived. He had lived in that apartment with Hank years before Sora was born. Years before Hank had even married Lily. He looked down at her, dazed. Now she was old enough to be a girl of...six.
How could he have been living in that apartment? How could he have forgotten about Sora? About everything that came after his college years? How could he be in a field?
He looked down at his feet for a moment to block out the sky and the grass and the wide brown eyes and the questions. Then he saw what he was wearing. Hang on, why was he wearing the red candy cane striped flannel sleep set his mother always insisted they wear on Christmas morning? He hated them, all scratchy and cheesy.
"Where are we?" was the question he finally settled on voicing, not expecting a reply.
"Shepherd Sam's field," piped back Sora.
"What?" He looked back at her, trying to translate the words into something that made sense.
"Shepherd Sam's field. From daddy's stories?" Her words were patient, if slightly patronizing now.
"That's a real place?" He couldn't keep the shock out of his voice. He would have sworn on his life that the world of Shepherd Sam was completely fictional.
In fact, he was positive it had been fictional, a composite of photos torn from magazines, and culled from old books, and printed off the internet. He had watched his brother sketch and design and redesign all through college.
"Duh," Sora rolled her eyes at him and climbed to her feet. She was cold and tired of waiting for him.
He scrubbed his face with his hands and wished for a cup of hot steaming coffee. It was too early to deal with this insanity.
As he took a look around he found the world making even less sense. The pastoral scene and winding road did in fact look very much like his brother Hank's Shepherd Sam comic. Off in the distance he could even see a shepherd teetering on the stilt seat that was straight out of a pen and ink drawing Hank had found in a book from the 1800s.
He looked back at Sora, who very definitely existed. From a future he hadn't remembered before he went to sleep last night. As she stood in a made up field. She seemed to be having a whole lot less trouble with this than he was.
"Can we go see Grandma Nan now?" asked Sora, pointing.
And, sure enough, down the winding road off to their right, he could just see the puffing smoke from a fat chimney that looked a lot like Grandma Nan's. The fictional Grandma Nan. He sighed. Grandma Nan was always good for coffee and hot food in Hank's comic wasn't she? Maybe she would feed two passing friendly strangers dressed only in their nightclothes and going slowly insane. Yes. Coffee was definitely the next step. Even if it was fictional coffee.
He shoved himself to his feet and then bent to pick up Sora.
"Let's see if we can find some breakfast before we try to think about this, hey?" He felt her head nod against his neck before it dropped to his shoulder.
For those who are interested in the pen and ink drawing of the shepherd see here.