The History of Almer’s Way

He looked up at the statue prominently displayed in the neighborhood proper of Almer’s Way, and Nelbin smirked.

Towering above him, an image struck in bronze and overcome with streaks and splotches of patina like the stripes of a tiger, was Almer himself. Known to his progeny as a great explorer, a defender, a visionary. Thats how they thought of him here, in this tiny neighborhood in this backwards city that forgot to stay clean. Here, in Disitinct Poplar, Nelbin knew that nobody cared about Almer, everywhere else. But where Nelbin came from, Almer was looked upon quite differently.

Here the statue showed a tall man of wild hair which was stuffed inside an impossibly small but wide brimmed hat. The edge of which is pulled so impossibly low, that it covered the man’s eyebrows...like he’s hiding his eyes from something, Nelbin mused. Next was the collar of his fan collared coat, iconic expedition gear from that era before the Age of Steam and Sorrow. The buttons are practically embedded in Almer’s impossibly large nostrils, a buffer to the iconic long nose he’s known for in satire. Not around here of course, here he is treated like the ominous broad shoulder figure with one outstretched hand holding a shovel, the first one made by the first settlers he led, which dug the first hole for the first plot of land. In his other hand, Almer holds a scroll case, which supposedly held the very deed to Almer’s Way, and Nelbin smirked again.

Even if any of this were true, according to the placard at his feet, Nelbin knew better than to believe it. Why, if that were the actual fact and truth, then this neighborhood, which was once a township independent of this convoluted city, would have had to uproot itself and move. Historical accuracy may not be taught in the schools here, but where Nelbin came from the maps all show Almer’s Way sprouting up several hundred miles east of this location.

Where he was from, they didn’t think too highly of Almer and his rag tag band of settlers. Almer the visionary was Almer the fool, Almer the great defender was known as the great coward, Almer the explorer was Almer the liar, and that was the truth. Almer’s Way was Almer’s folly and Nelbin was fine with that.

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Everyone knew why Almer had left the comfort of civilization, to venture into the wild, and establish a place where things would be done his way. Almer was a stubborn sort, or so the factual history lessons go. This neighborhood, now where Nelbin stands, was supposed to be an independent township that would grow into civilization of it’s own. One free of conformity, of social regulation, of unjust rules and religious persecution. Instead, it was swallowed up by this city, before this city was called Distinct Poplar. Back when it has been called-

Somebody had bumped Nelbin, made him lose his train of thought. Some man of the neighborhood, who was dressed in a pea coat and a bowler hat and whom wore a pencil thin mustache and carried a swinging cane. It was that pointless cane that had accidentally rapped him as the buffoon had passed swinging it from his wrist as he goes. Nelbin sighed aloud and glared at the dolt who pranced on by without care or notice. Thats how they all dressed here, all the men wore those boring coats and matching blue trousers the color of deeper sea. And all the women wore deep V-neck sweaters with prominently colorful and loud jewelry to decorate their prominent cleavage. Everyone of them were descendants of Almer and his rabble, that was the rule here in this part of the city. Nobody else can live here or reside a business, lest they be able to prove they are descendent from those who founded that old defunct town.

A pitiful and superstitious lot actually, who would want to live here amongst them? Always carrying a thread of beads, one for each season, with knick-knacks and trinkets practically spilling out of their pockets, as they scuttled past him. The locals believe that their ancestors found creatures in the hills, old beings of malign and magic that would come down from their caves to harass them. Stories are told of old creatures that live well past their meaningful years. Monstrous things that kill men in their beds and take crying babes from weeping mothers. Old cursed places where nobody will rightfully set a sane foot. Fetishes, charms, trinkets and beads for every occasion, holiday, but most of all-to ward off the supernatural rubbish these simple people were obsessed with. Each different and unique and equally confusing to anyone from a sane and normal part of the world. Nelbin helped himself and snatched one of these...things...from a passing woman. It was easy for him to lift it out of one of her bags with but a finger. Multi-colored beads strung together, seemingly haphazardly, and ending in symbols and figurines and junk. He found a stone that was shaped like a heart, a skeleton key, a rabbit figurine, and an animal tooth. To Nelbin, there was no rhyme or reason to these fetishes, simply that these people were backward and old fashioned. This much was obvious from the architecture of the surrounding buildings...it was like stepping into the past, to the time of Almer himself.


That Homeless
By Matt Herzberg

The neighborhood of Almer's Way is featured in THAT HOMELESS, a new Distinct Poplar short story available on Amazon Kindle.

This modern fairytale tells the story of a city neighborhood called Almer’s Way and the strange sickness that has claimed half of it’s residents. Arriving in the form of a noxious cloud that envelopes the neighborhood, the people of Almer’s Way find themselves cut off from the rest of the city—with no way out. The only solution to these events seems to be a mute vagabond and the boy who heralds his unique story. They call him, That Homeless and his role to play starts with a haunted house, a monster, and a strange curse. Find out what happens in this short story of dark storybook fantasy and the magical modern marvel that is the city of Distinct Poplar.