The Fae Worlds

Morning

The sun shone through the curtains, and that was how I knew I wasn’t at home. Mornings were not my thing. After going to bed at a time most people were just waking up I hadn’t entirely expected to see the sun. Being able to see it from my bed meant I wasn’t in my bed. Everyone heard stories about people who found themselves somewhere else, because it became almost normal after the arrival of the fae, only I never once thought it would happen to me. Probably everyone it happened to thought the same. For a few seconds I lay there, trying to work out where I could be, and then I thought of the game I’d been playing recently. It was one of those things I never thought I would be interested in, until I found myself actually making time to play it around my job.
Sighing, I pushed myself out of bed. If I was right I knew what to expect. The clock on the bedside table told me it was 6am, a time I hadn’t woken up at for a very long time. Working at night changed my life. I always thought, being a night owl, night shifts would work for me, but they didn’t. Instead they screwed me up even more than I already was. Only it didn’t matter any longer. I wouldn’t be working the night shift. Instead… I raked a hand through my hair, telling myself it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Surely the world wouldn’t have chosen me if I was going to fail.
Pushing aside my worries I pulled on some clothes. Technically they weren’t mine either, but they were close enough to being my clothes I wasn’t going to complain. Breathing in deeply, trying to come to terms with the change, I stood close to the window to look out at the land I knew was out there. All I could see were trees, probably ones I’d need to fell, because they were going to be be in the way of something. It was always the way in these games, apparently, only this wasn’t a game. It was my life, and, somehow, I needed to work out how to become who they needed me to be.
Feeling uncertain I made my way out of the bedroom. At least I wasn’t in a tiny shack. I did have a house, even if I felt I was an impostor in it, and I stepped into the kitchen area to make myself something to eat. Food was something I definitely needed if I was going to get through the rest of the day. The only thing I could find in there was porridge. Normally I probably would have turned my nose up at it, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. What I didn’t find was a microwave, which wasn’t entirely unexpected if I was on another world. I made myself porridge in a saucepan, certain it wouldn’t be long until someone knocked on the door.
Eating was my way of making myself feel slightly more normal. It didn’t working well, because I was sitting in a house I couldn’t call home, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Just as I’d put everything in the sink to soak I heard the knock at the door. I ran my tongue around my teeth, hoping I didn’t have anything stuck, and made my way over to it. When I opened it I found myself staring at a smiling woman.
“Good morning, Michaela.”
“Mickie.” I did my best to smile back. “Everyone calls me Mickie.” Not even Mum called me Michaela any longer, thankfully. It was probably something I was going to have to get used to reminding people of. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mayor.”
“Call me Lana.” Our eyes met for a moment. “How did you sleep?”
“Better than I expected. Places like this always have strange noises to deal with, but I think I was too tired for them to bother me.”
“Good. It’s going to be a long few days, I think, so you’re going to need the sleep to get through it all.” She ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “We are one of the few places that still has a connection to the Harvest Goddess. It hasn’t done us a lot of good, unfortunately, because we haven’t had a farmer, and that is what we need more than anything else.”
Her words told me there was so much more to things than I realised. Maybe Lana even knew I’d come from another world. I raked a hand through my hair, trying to work out how to respond. “I don’t know how good a farmer I’m going to be, but I will do my best to make things work here.”
“Anna said you would. She wouldn’t have called you here if she didn’t believe you were the right kind of person to try. We need people like you, Mickie, people who are different to the norm, because our norm…” She shook her head. “Let’s just say things haven’t been good for a while now, and I was beginning to think Hazelside would fade entirely before this happened.”
“That’s a lot of weight.”
“Fortunately for you it’s not all on your shoulders. Anna planned on calling ten of you, to the farms that needed you the most, and this was one of them. I remember a time when this farm was different, but the loss of the magic happens so quickly, especially when, we believe, someone is trying to make it happen.”
“We?”
“Some of the towns have forgotten the Harvest Goddess, but there are others who remember, and we talk about what’s happening. There’s quite a lot of distance between us, so you won’t be having to fight against the other farmers. Hopefully you’ll still be able to meet in the future. You can share stories, because I think it would be good for you to share what you’ve done, once you’ve had a chance to start the work.”
“There’s a lot to be done before anything else can happen.” I raked a hand through my hair. “A lot for all of us.”
“You aren’t alone here. I promise if you need help you’ll be given it. We want this farm to become as successful as it once was, because we need it in the same way it needs a farmer. Without you this town would have died.”
Nodding, I bit my lip. “Am I likely to meet the Harvest Goddess?”
Lana smiled. “She’s going to be around here somewhere. She wants to help as much as we do. Calling you here was her last resort. We thought there would be others who’d be called by the magic of the farms, but too many of the young have disconnected from nature, and even if they were called they wouldn’t have heard it.”
“How many people are left in town?”
“About forty. I shouldn’t even be calling it a town now.” She shook her head, her smile fading. “We were the first to lose our farmer, which means it’s been worse for us. Houses and shops are empty. A few of the townspeople are clinging on to what they have, because they remember what this place can be. Their children aren’t too happy. They think the time has come for everyone to move to the cities, as that’s where everything is now.”
“I take it I don’t have much time.”
“As there are ten of you I think things should start to come together far more quickly than they would have done if there were fewer. I probably shouldn’t have told you so much. I just wanted you to know where you stand, because this…” Lana shook her head. “It’s been hard, to watch the town I love so much fade, and we need you, Mickie.”
“Lana’s always been honest.” A young woman appeared behind Lana, and put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m Anna, the Harvest Goddess, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mickie.”
For a few seconds I had no idea what I was going to say next. I never thought I’d be meeting the Harvest Goddess, but there she was, and I nibbled my bottom lip as she studied me. Was I the person she hoped I would be? How many of the others had she met? Breathing deeply, in an attempt to slow my thoughts, I told myself I’d been chosen by someone, and as I had been chosen I wasn’t going to walk away. Maybe someone else would have done, because I’d been dragged to another world against my will, only I couldn’t help thinking my life might well be better in Hazelside. At home I’d simply been going through the motions. The thought of having my own farm… I was surprised when I felt this blooming happiness deep within me. Maybe that was why I’d been chosen.
“Hello, Anna.” I smiled at her. “How many of the others have you met?”
“The plan is to meet all of you. Fortunately one of the things I can do is bend time a little, so I’ll be able to do it, but that doesn’t mean you’re all going to want to meet me. I came here first. You’re the one we needed the most.”
“Me, specifically, or just a farmer for Hazelside?”
“You, Mickie. We need someone like you.” Anna sighed. “I wish I had some better way of explaining this, but each one of you is important. The magic chose you for a reason, and I think it is important for you to understand, because you’re the one who can make the decision to walk away.”
“Can you tell me why I was chosen?”
“Only that you were the right person for this farm at this time. That’s how it always worked before, but things have changed so much. Lana’s right when she says someone could be working against the farms. Taking the magic from would change everything. At times I’ve thought about giving up, only I remember how things were before, and I’m not willing to walk away. Not when there’s still a chance we’re going to be able to fix things.” Anna glanced around the farm. “All of the farms have been deeply affected by the loss of their farmer.”
Lana nodded. “It was about thirty years ago we last had a farmer here. Matlocke was the last to lose theirs, and when that happened things started to fall apart more quickly. The longer you’re here, the longer you’re all here, the more quickly things will come together once more. You are going to need to put in the work. The farm isn’t in the best condition, but there’s still good soil for you to grow your crops in. I think, if I remember correctly, there should be some fruit trees around too.”
“There are, but they need some work, like everything else.” Anna looked deeply into my eyes. “This is your chance to walk away, Mickie. If this isn’t something you want to be a part of you need to tell me now, and I’ll send you back to the life you led before, with this being nothing more than a dream.”
“I’m not going to walk away, Anna. You said I was chosen for a reason. I believe you when you say that, and I want to stay, to do what I can, even if it turns out that I’m not the right person for the job.” I shrugged. “I can’t simply give up without trying. My life wasn’t going how I wanted it to be, and this is my chance of starting somewhere new, where I can do something… important.” I looked between her and Lana. “I’m not going to say I’m not going to need help, because I will, but I’m going to do what I can to make this farm a success once more.”
Anna smiled, looking almost relieved. “In that case how about I give you a tour of the farm?”