There’s something to be said about vagrancy; having no roots means one is fluid and immensely flexible. Life as a vagabond is both a study in the methodical and giving oneself up to contingency.
Troy woke up and took his habitual, five-minute shower. Like clockwork. Exact. When you are on the move so often, never quite knowing where your next bed might be, or if it will be a bed at all for that matter, you come to hold certain meticulous, precise, and predictable rituals as nothing short of sacred.
He quickly toweled dry. Don’t panic; always know where your towel is – people don’t forget funny yet oddly true phrases like those – as Mr. Adams wrote some decades ago inspired by a somewhat similar life situation as that of Troy’s. He put on his worn, hole-ridden jeans, boots, and flannel shirt. He was ready to travel, once more, down this uncertain road he didn’t quite understand but nevertheless felt compelled to continue traversing.
He had his towel – three, actually –, an army-issue backpack full of basic tools – pans, flint for sharpening his serrate knife, water canteen, etc –, and a handful of outfits. Years on the road had seen Troy become an expert in urban survival, and he also knew a thing or two about less-than-urban situations to boot.
Out the door of the model house he went. 5 am was a good time to make it out of these unoccupied places – model houses with working plumbing, recently built but as yet empty homes, places repo’d by the bank or lenders – no one working whatever line of business concerned with such places was ever up and about at that time; never had he come upon any realtors showing off a house so early in the morning.
For a long time he’d been following a beacon, a calling, something that pulsated in the back of his skull and burned bright like nothing in his life ever had. And he was not alone in this. He had met several others over the years. Some younger, some older… the older ones said that whatever it was they were following, seeking, always moved, always changed, never quite remained in the same spot.
Troy had been roving, wandering, for nearly five years now, but he had always stayed in the States; he had met one Vagrant who’d been on the Dust-light trail – as it was known amongst the vagabonds – for nearly twenty years, if he was to be believed, and he claimed to have followed, as a stowaway on some liner, to Europe, Spain, specifically, and been taken on a hell-of-a-ride through the continent thereafter.
No one had ever found It, the Dust-light Siren, whatever it was they all sought. It was quite abstract. Some claimed to have seen it manifested it dreams. Others claimed it would show up on drug trips and others even said it would speak to them. Troy had never had a dream about it or had any trips – he’d taken acid a couple of times with little effect, and had dabbled in other party-type drugs without it having any sort of effect aside from seeing the sky melting like glass while on MDMA, a rarity – but he still knew instinctively that what was being shared by some of the more rough-looking Vagrants was true. The Dust-light Siren, whatever it was, the beacon, was somehow sentient, alive, and it kept moving – perhaps against its own will – while calling out to them. But why did it call? For rescue, then?
It was a hard life, a modern version of a hobo’s, perhaps. He’d had a pretty normal life, rather average, before hearing the call. A wife, two beautiful children, but the beacon… He’d had no choice, hadn’t slept at all for a week after hearing it for the first time because the pull, like OCD mania times a thousand, to the Nth power, would not let him until he began moving. In the middle of the night, with the children sleeping still – he kissed his boy and girl gently on the forehead. He would miss their smell. He left them mementos of their time together so that they wouldn’t forget him, though they may surely vilify him and grow hateful toward him as the years rolled on. Having bid his silent goodbyes, he stepped out of his house and into the night answering the siren call that had kept him moving for years thereafter.
Recently, the Vagrants he met said there was something different in the air, that there was a sense of coming to a head, of things finally moving to the next stage, whatever that might be. Some even thought they might actually find the Siren. Troy wasn’t so sure, but he did feel something building up for weeks now. Something was different.
He’d kept a journal since the second week of his vagrancy, his roaming. He’d write every night, in an empty house, with no furniture most often – with a bed in the best of cases, with a midden of abandoned garbage and shit in the worst –, and simply scribble every musing and observation on the state of his life. He would lightly touch upon what his children might look like now, what his former wife – he was still legally married, having had no formal divorce and being, essentially, a missing person – might be up to, but mostly he would debate with himself about the beacon, the Siren, the calling.
He wondered, often, about what it might be. There was this dogged sense of purpose that suffused him daily, but at night… at night he was himself again and could ponder, calmly, objectively, while still seeing the urge, the call, perceiving it somewhere in a chamber of his mind, subdued, and wonder at his entire endeavor. Debate as he might, lucidly or otherwise, he always woke up at around the same time and proceeded with his little comforting rituals before vacating his nightly refuge and going off into the world to see if, perhaps, that day the beacon might be found.