With the arrival of the fae on Earth fictional worlds started to become more real, and it wasn't unusual for people to find themselves somewhere they could have have imagined.
The first thing I noticed was the roof above me. When I’d gone to sleep I’d been looking up at my painted ceiling, like I always did, and what was above me definitely wasn’t that. Instead it looked to be made of wood… as though I was sleeping in a hut. For a moment all I did was lay there, hoping it was all a dream. I’d heard about people finding themselves in the games they played, but this… I shook my head. Up until it happened it didn’t seem like it was possible, and now it had… well, on the upside at least I had an idea which game I was in, although that didn’t make the whole things any easier. Honestly, it might actually have made it more difficult. When I glanced at the clock beside me I saw it was 5.30am. That was a time I’d only ever seen before when I was pulling an all nighter.
Sighing, I pushed myself out from under the covers. The cold hit me. A breeze seemed to be coming in through the door, which was freezing my uncovered feet, but I did my best to ignore it. If I was right then I’d be getting a knock on the door in about half an hour. By that time I wanted to be dressed, and at least semi-prepared for what was coming next… if that was even possible. Clothes were laying on the chest at the end of my bed. They weren’t my clothes, and yet they were my clothes. I had no doubt in my mind they were the clothes I should wear. In a drawer beside the bed there were some big fluffy socks. Nibbling my lip, assuming I was right, I thought it would be the beginning of spring. That would mean the socks were definitely a necessity. There was no way I was going to be out there so early in the morning without something good on my feet to keep them warm, and whole.
Once I was in the clothes, farmer’s clothes, I stopped for a minute. Farming was something I’d only ever done in games before, and that was nothing like real life farming. I didn’t need experience on a farm to know that. The games made it a hundred times simpler than it actually was, because it was a game, and games were supposed to be fun. Finding myself somewhere I was going to have to be a farmer was going to be the absolute opposite of fun. Surely there were better people the game could have chosen. People who were farmers. Raking a hand through my hair I pushed those thoughts aside. Wanting things to be different wasn’t going to change anything, and I still needed to have some sort of breakfast… which never happened in the game. The characters only ever ate when they were running low on energy, but I was hungry, and that meant food. If there was any.
Stepping out of the bedroom I knew they wouldn’t have had at the beginning of the game I was relieved to see I did have a kitchen. Obviously things weren’t that close to the game, because I wouldn’t have had a kitchen either. That would have been one of the first extensions I could have built. As I made my way over to the cupboards, of which I had three, I was even more relieved to find I had some rolled oats. Oats weren’t a thing I’d seen in any of the games in the series. Maybe, in real life farming game, I’d have a chance to grow my own oats. I shook my head. I had no idea how to grow a turnip, let alone something that seemed as complicated as growing oats did. Unless there was some sort of magic that made the farming easier. If there was it would be so nice, but it wasn’t something I could expect. Then again it already seemed to me like there were a number of big differences between the game and the situation I’d found myself in, and that, to me, meant anything was possible. Anything at all.
Making porridge didn’t take all that long. There was milk in the fridge, and I was grateful I had a fridge, as well as sugar in one of the other cupboards. One thing I didn’t find was any tea. It wasn’t a surprise, as such, but it was a disappointment. Instead I poured myself a glass of milk. Before finding myself where I was I would never have done that, but it wasn’t as though I had anything else to drink. Plus I knew I was going to need the energy. Sighing, again, I focused on eating before anyone knocked on the door. I didn’t want to be in the middle of breakfast when that happened. Fortunately I’d just put my bowl into the sink when the knock came, seeming to echo through the house in a way no other knock would have done. I ran my tongue around my teeth before making my way over to the door.
Before I put my hand out to touch the handle I realised I had no idea which game in the series I was actually in. There was no way of knowing for certain who I would open the door to. I had an idea of who it could be, and that was enough, so I opened the door. On the doorstep was one of the mayors I had dealt with during my gaming time. He smiled at me in a way that seemed far more natural than any of the smiles he’d ever given me in game, but I knew for a fact he’d never liked my character. I did my best to smile back, even though I was panicking on the inside.
“Good morning, Tess.”
“Good morning.” His name was escaping me right then, but I stepped back, and he stepped into the hut. I had trouble even thinking of it as a house. “I hope you slept well last night.”
“As well as could be expected.”
Nodding, he studied me. “This is all new to you, isn’t it?”
“You could say that.” I nibbled my bottom lip. “I’m going to do my best to make this work.”
“That’s all we can ask of you. Farming, even for those who are born to it, isn’t an easy job. I know that from experience. Making the decision to walk away wasn’t easy, but it was what I needed to do for my own sanity.” He looked around the little hut. “I will do what I can to help you. I’m not just going to expect you to be a capable farmer straight off.”
“I would appreciate all the help I can get.”
“How about today you spend some time getting to know the farm? We have some time before you have to be planting, and, as much as I hate to say it, the place isn’t in the sort of condition it should be. After Father died no one really wanted to take on the job.” He sighed. “Having you here, I hope, will change things.”
People had said how different things could be when they found themselves standing in one of the fictional worlds, and I knew things weren’t going to be exactly the same. It hadn’t once crossed my mind quite how different it could be. He’d never been related to the farmer who’d once owned the land I found myself on in the games. Slowly, I nodded. “I think getting to know the farm would be good for me. Plus it will give me a chance to work out where I can plant what.”
His silence went on for longer than I expected it to. “This is your chance to walk away. If this isn’t truly what you want to do don’t push yourself into doing it. Forcing yourself to learn this… it’s not something anyone should do. A good farmer is someone who wants the job, not someone who feels like they have to do it.”
Working out how to respond wasn’t easy. There were so many things I could say, but saying any of them wouldn’t have been right. I was there for a reason. What that reason was was still a mystery, but, in the end, I would find it out, and when I did… well, maybe being there, learning how to farm, would be good for me. Finally, I smiled, the first true smile I’d managed all morning. “I know this isn’t going to be easy, but it is what I want to do. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.” I ran my tongue over my bottom lip. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Relief filled his eyes. “Okay, so the tools you’re going to need will be in the shed outside. They’re probably not in the best of shapes, but it will be better than nothing, and the time will come when you’ll be able to get something better. I’ve made sure there’s some free seeds for you at the local store. For the moment it’s just spring seeds. As the seasons change so too will the seeds, because I want to do something to make this place better than it was before. I feel guilty for walking away. I know it was the right decision, for me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when I look at this place. Knowing how it was… Father would be so displeased. There were just nothing I could do.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I know I’m talking too much.” He brushed a hand through his hair. “Selling your goods is something you can do at the weekly market, when you’ve actually grown something. People will be more than pleased to see you. That’s something I’m certain of.”
So far it seemed as though they’d combined two of the series into one, which was interesting. I nodded. “Okay.” There were questions I wanted to ask, but they weren’t questions I should ask. I had to have money. If I’d made the decision to move there I had to have brought money with me, to keep me going until I did manage to grow something. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He reached out a hand, and I shook it. “Come to me if you need any pointers. I’m more than happy to help you with the theory behind the farming. It’s just the more practical aspects I wasn’t too great at.”
“I will.” I smiled again, my own mental panicking not stopping me from liking him, and hoped I’d be able to do what needed to be done. “If things work out the way I want them to this farm will be just as it was before, if not better.”
He smiled back, seeming calmer than he had done before. “I’ll leave you to explore. Today might also be a good day for you to meet some of the locals, if you get a chance. It’ll be good for them to meet our new arrival.”
Now that was something I’d been expecting. “I’ll see what I can do.”
When he stepped out of the hut, closing the door behind him, I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of so many mixed emotions I didn’t even know what half of them were. Farming couldn’t be that difficult, could it? Pulling on the jacket that was hanging up next to the door I followed him out. The moment I did I was reminded of all the farms I’d seen before in the games. Like all of them the first thing I saw were weeds, but weeds were something I could deal with. Turning, I knew the bigger issue I was going to have were the trees that had grown in the time since the mayor’s father had been around, as well as the rocks. Even in the games that hadn’t made sense. In real life it made even less.
Slowly, not quite able to believe it was possible, I made my way towards the first of the trees. Touching it told me it there was no reason for me to think it was a figment of my imagination, no matter hard hard I wished that was the case. Looking up at into the branches I knew there was no chance of me being able to cut it down. I had even less experience felling trees than I did with farming. How easy it had been on the game didn’t make me think for a moment it would be the same with an actual tree, with branches, and one of the thickest trunks I think I’d ever seen. Raking a hand through my hair I took a step back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something, much like in the games. There was no reason for me to look to see who it was. I was almost certain I knew, and if I was right she wanted to talk to me anyway. That was why she was there.
I glanced at her. “I’m not quite sure how to address a Goddess.”
“Anna will be fine.”
That did make me look at her. “Anna?”
“Before I was a Goddess I was a person.” She smiled at me. “I still use that name, because it keeps me grounded.”
Slowly, I nodded. “Why am I here?”
“You’re someone who could make this farm the way it should be. I know you don’t believe that right now, and I can understand why that would be.” She glanced around, able to see exactly what I could, before looking back at me. “One of the things you have to understand is that magic pervades this place. That’s why the trees have grown in such a short time. People here are use to it. It’s part of the way things have always been. You, on the other hand, will need to learn how that affects what you’re going to do, and why that will give you certain capabilities you wouldn’t have if you were back on your world.”
“Why is anyone needed?”
“If the farm is left for too long the magic of this world begins to fade. There are others like this, others that have been filled with people just like you, in the hope we can stop that from happening. A lot of the people here have lost their connection to the natural world, and should things be left the way they are then there will be huge problems in the future. Only none of them will know what those problems are. It won’t affect them. Instead it will affect the more magical beings that call this world home.” Anna put her hand on my shoulder. “Ask me any questions you may have, and I will answer them. I know suddenly finding yourself here won’t have been easy, but I will do what I can to help you through the transition, because we do need you. We need you more than you will ever truly be able to understand.”
Relief flooded me. I thought I was going to have to guess how everything worked. Knowing I didn’t… I smiled. “You know of the games?”
“Yes, we do, although I can’t be certain what of this was in them.”
“Okay.” I nibbled my bottom lip, trying to work out where to start. I had so many questions. “How does the year work?”
She smiled at me, and I could tell from the sparkle of amusement in her eyes she’d been asked that question before. “Our year is much the same as yours. I know, from what others have told me, that each season is one month long in the games, but that’s not the case here. Every season is three months long. There are several crops that will grow in multiple seasons, and you won’t find yourself without work in winter. It will be more complicated, if you wanted to grow outside, but it’s not impossible. Plus there are things you can find that will help you.”
“You aren’t going to tell me everything I can find, are you?”
“No, I’m not.” She studied me. “I want you to explore the farm, to learn what’s here, and get a feel for what your life is going to be like. You might not be the one who should be here. That’s something I’ll be able to find out in the next few days, while you learn what it means to be here. If you aren’t someone who is going to work in the way we need you to I have no problem with sending you back to the world you come from.”
Slowly, I looked around. If I pushed aside my scepticism I could feel the magic in the ground, and in Anna, so there was no reason for me to think she was lying about that. Knowing there was magic… it changed things. Having Anna there changed it even more. I had someone I could talk to. She already knew I was from another world, and not having to keep that a secret made the conversation so much easier than it had been when I was talking with the mayor. “I want to be here. I want to see what I can do with this farm.” As I looked at her I could see the relief in her eyes. “I don’t know how good I am going to be at this, but I don’t want to go back to my world without having truly tried to make this work.”
“Then I have high hopes for you.” She ran her tongue over her lips. “Your days work much the same as they did on your world too. You will have plenty of time to do what needs to be done, as well as what you want to do. Once you start getting to know people I know spending time with them will become just as important as everything else.”