BirdSong: The Walkabout Man


Illustration by Tahira Lubrano

Birdsong: The Walkabout Man

“…and that was what Altjira, the lord of the Dreamtime, meant by the music of language,” Otium cooed to her Mukel. The great branch of the Great Tree was crowded by her seven: Penerimaan, Benevolentia, Teremto, Devotio, Vergaeven, tiny Empatia and even smaller Venia. The rest were out in Miogaror, with Serenite, her mate. They were out too long. Too long.

The Mukel nodded and twoked their approval. Devotio, a little louder then the rest, quieted quickly, nuzzling Vergaeven.

Teremto asked “May we have another story, Otium? We..” noticing the others looking her way, “…um..I’m not tired, yet. Please, Otium? Please?”

“Yes, yes..please Otium…” they all chattered on. All except Venia.

Otium smiled, gave Venia, who nestled in her palm, a light kiss, and asked “And you, you want to hear one more story tonight?”

She nodded, “Yes, please Otium.” Pausing for a moment. “Could we hear the story about The Walkabout Man?”

The nightdusk sounds around the Great Tree, and on the branch the Mukel perched, went stone silent. Mother Otium looked from one to the other, eyes averting as met, until she returned her attention to Venia.

“Where did you hear about The Walkabout Man, little one? I have never mentioned him, here, before.”

Penerimaan spoke up. “I told them, all,Ā  Otium. What little I knew. It was a late night tale, you were off listening to the Honey Ants Dreaming. I didn’t mean..”

“Hush. It’s done,” she lilted. “Come closer. This is a story that was meant to be heard, at another time, and another place, but… it’s been recognized. It is time, this is the place. Unless,” she grinned, “..are you sure you wouldn’t want to hear about how the Birds Got Their Colors?”

“No,” they all said, in a very quick fashion.

“Or the Dream of the Shark?”

“No,” quite emphatic from all.

“How about why we should Never Avert Our Eyes?,” twinkled Otium.

“NO!” laughing, bouncing and crowing together the Mukel answered.

“Settle, then.. his is not always a happy tale….,” and so, she began.

“The Walkabout Man had come a long way, leaving all he had loved behind. Once he was known as Alejandro, but no one has called him that for a very long time, and he has not accepted that name for even longer. He wore a hat of the night, a coat made of sand and of pebbles. His robe went from neck to ankle, in blackest grey, and made of cloth that both itched and soothed, depending on how it lay. The Walkabout Man’s feet were shod in a cushion of wind, so his feet never touched the land.

Some say he is Alchera, the Spirit Creator, but the truth is much simpler than that. He came from the waking lands. He had a wife and a child that he adored. More then any of you can imagine. His love was so powerful, so complete and encompassing. But..” she sat, thinking. “But…are you sure you want me to continue?”

yes,” they went.

“Yes. But, a sickness took both, first his wife, then his daughter. Alejandro cursed everything and everyone, but mostly himself. He sat vigil for twelve days and nights, neither eating or sleeping. Instead, his mind went away. It entered the Dreamtime and traveled. I do know he met, and wept with, the Man of Beads, on the Flower Isles.Ā  His essence seeped through the song-lines. Discordant, it came to the attention of Altjira.

Altjira pulled Alejandro out, laid him to rest, and felt his story through. On the mortal walking plain, on the twelfth night, at the twelfth hour, Altjira sent the spirit back to its vessel.Ā  There was no more Alejandro. The Walkabout Man arrived.

Since then, he has visited all of the Seven Realms, helping where he could, observing more times than not, for sometimes… sometimes, it is not meant for everyone to get involved with the destiny of another. The Walkabout Man learned that lesson the hard way.”

Otium, head bowed, sighed. Looking up, she continued.

“The Walkabout Man brought his suffering with him everywhere he went, but it was wrapped up and hidden in layers and layers of The Virtues. These were placed upon him by Altjira as he, tending the wounded and sick spirit, took pity. The Walkabout man left a widow with renewed hope, many children with a sense of wonderment, helped lift despair off of lovers…oh, so many other wondrous things…

…and some very painful tales as well.


The crowd of “awwwwsss” were tamped down by “Enough for this. It is time all to rest, time to all greet the lord of the Dreamtime, and let him wend you safely through your night thoughts.”

Otium noticed that Teremto was going to say something, but Benevolentia and Empatia brushed her down, in a gentle manner. Settled, one by two they closed apart, and down.

“Yes, enough. The Walkabout Man will come, soon. You’ll know more. Soon.” Turning her head to the darkening, beyond the Great Tree, she whispered, “Serenite. Too long. Please, be safe.” Otium, herself, closed apart and went down, meeting Altjira above the great branch.

30 responses »

  1. You really are an amazingly versatile writer. I think the works I most enjoy are the ones you create as myths and legends. A dozen or so would make a very nice collection! (I liked Hit the Night Dirt Running too, as you know.)


    • Thank you Li. I “sweated” over this one today, and actually did a LOT of pre-writing research and notes. I’ve got a number of ideas to continue this thread. The names of her Mukel all have meaning, and I already have the beginnings of a larger plan. Glad you liked this, and thanks for the compliments.


  2. I love Myth and Legend…it weaves forward into the present and symbolically tells of our story today. Beautifully written…makes you want to turn the page and go into their dreams. Great imagination…the names are magic….wonderful story telling!


  3. I have to agree with an earlier comment – you are an amazingly versatile writer. Your voice is so clear and then in the next story it’s a completely different voice, just as clear. Dialogue is pitch perfect, mood, texture, all of it. The only problem is that each short piece that I read draws me in and I want to read more. So Stu, it’s time to pick one and write a book!! If you wouldn’t mind…


    • Thanks Gloria. Right now, I’m invested in this one. I made a lot of side notes sitting in Starbucks, and all I wanted to do was get home, finish my research and do this. I want to take this further.
      Is there another piece(s) you’d like to see? Is it time for me to put up a poll?


  4. Awwwe, Now you’re speaking my language!!! I saw myself holding an oversized Fairy Tale Bed Time story book and envisioned the colorful pictures in the book… while I was reading this. WOW!!! That should tell you how good your writing is! šŸ˜‰

    I’m making some hot tea and I’m going to re-read this! BEAUTIFUL!


    • Really, really flattered by this. Thank you. I was afraid, at first, that the juxtaposition of the Great Tree and the darkness of The Walkabout Man wouldn’t work like I hoped it would. Glad you found the pics. Thank you.


  5. This needs a longer setting up, Stuart….all the characters need to be fleshed out a little bit, before you jump into the story.

    And of course, a lot of continuation. šŸ™‚

    I love how prolific you are, and that you’re experimenting with different genres.


    • Hi Damyanti…I flew right into the heart of it, to see if it grabbed interest and if people wanted to know more. I have my set up for all of them. I really wanted to get the Walkabout Man introduced. This was a step in where I think I should go.

      Just so you get my thinking: I’m an improvisation actor and director. One key thing with improv scenes: start from the middle. Fill in as you go. Start in a place to grab, not introduce. That’s kind of how I write as well.

      Everything I set up in here I plan to follow up on. The music of languages all the way through what WM screwed up.



  6. Helloooo ? Can you see meeee? Bugger! I knew I shouldn’t have worn blackish grey at night. Well if you can’t see me maybe you can hear this… Great storytelling Stu, it is amazing what you can do with words. Loved it.

    Cheers A


    • A…phew. I was actually on pins and needles. I know how much Amelie means to you, and while this is fantasy and I only took your name (not in vain), I was hoping you’d be cool with this. I see you are.



  7. It seems there is much more to Otium and Altjira will you be creating around them as well… however you have sensed the sorrows of The walkabout man well….


    • Hi Sav… yes, there is. As I mentioned above, in one of my replies: The Walkabout Man is not the main protagonist. Altjira… not sure yet. Otium and her group..yes, they all get more time. I had originally thought of this as solos stories, fitting around the title of BirdSong:… working in all the little things I threw in there (some are very important). Almost an anthology around the basic theme. The story, as it went, just…happened. I’m good with where it went. I have a “prequel” idea that I need to ferment first.

      Thanks, and again..really enjoy your month!!


  8. Hello!

    You write beautifully Stuart! And even though you were sweating on this one, no one notices this. It’s a wonderful, flowing piece of what can become a larger story! My fave genre is fantasy with touches of mystery, side stories and hidden secrets. I’m writing one myself. You know, I can’t add more to the kind words that all the others have said, but you certainly have a way with words. It keeps you hooked and wanting to know more.

    I have more illustrations planned of the The Bird Lady and her birds šŸ˜€



    • You, of all people (hey, everyone, the artist whose work graced the top of the story)..I am very glad you liked where I went with this. More illustrations? We need to talk. Obviously, there’s more to this story. Thank you, twice: comments and the painting.


      • You are most welcome! Yes, more illustrations šŸ™‚ I wonder how she looks like when she’s standing and her feathery hair & tailare open. And we can’t forget the birds! They are an interesting bunch with their mohawks haha.

        Ooh looking forward to the talk šŸ˜€


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