Day 1: New Arrival
onto a dreary wasteland, kicking up a cloud of dirt behind me. The land in
front of me was littered with rocks and boulders, sticks and stumps, weeds and
rodents. The wildlife that populated this inhabitable piece of land scattered
at the noises we were making. It seemed like no one had set food here for many,
“Well, what do you think?” piped up dumpy Mayor Thomas right behind me. “Thith wath your grandpa’th farm. It’th been neglected for quite thome time, tho it’th a bit of a meth…” he managed to say in his thick lisp.
If I wasn’t more concerned with pressing matters, I might’ve found it distracting, and extremely funny.
Neglected? I could think of a dozen words off the top of my head that would have more accurately described what I was looking at. If I'd been told that this land used to be used for nuclear weapons testing, I wouldn’t have been any wiser. This place was a dump unfit for anyone to live on. Even the living dead would find this place appalling. I was surprised that any life at all could be found growing here.
The house, chicken coop, barn, and stable, were all in disrepair. The house itself wasn’t even a house at all, but a shack. I could barely even call it a shack, it was so pitiful. It looked like it was about to fall in upon itself at any given moment. I could fart and blow the door off its hinges. The fish pond was full of stagnant water so thick with algae, if I put any fish in there, they would literally drown.
The only good thing about this place was the apple tree. Despite the ravages of time, it didn’t look half bad. In fact, it looked quite healthy, probably from feasting off of all the carcasses this land has claimed.
I guess this place could be better. If I closed my eyes and concentrated real hard, I could almost imagine a dump instead of a wasteland. There would have to be a lot of work done though. A lot of work… More work than I think I could accomplish in three lifetimes.
Something didn’t add up though. How did this place become so desolate? Why didn’t anyone bother taking care of this place in-between when my grandfather died and now? If this was once his farm, where did all these boulders and stumps come from? Was he growing trees here? Did the boulders roll down from the mountain? Or were they strategically placed here to teach me the meaning of hard work and help me gain some skill points in farming?
Or was this all just a cruel prank from the Goddess herself to piss me off?
I had so many questions and so little answers. Wait… correct that. I had too many questionsand no answers. The questions I had weren’t even the really important ones either. Those I tried to keep in the back of my mind. If I dwelt too much on those, I might not even be here right now. My temper would definitely get the better of me and then I really wouldn’t get any answers I wanted. No, thinking about those big questions wouldn’t get me anywhere. I just hoped there was someone who could answer them.
“Do you remember when you were young and thpent thummer vacation on thith farm?” the mayor suddenly asked out of nowhere, interrupting my reverie.
I sighed. “I already told you Mayor Thomas, I’ve never been here before. I’ve never seen this place. My dad has never mentioned my grandpa. I’m sorry. I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I’ve certainly never –”
“Remember,” I heard a female voice say from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I turned around sharply. “What? Who said that?”
“Thaid what?” Mayor Thomas asked, a look of concern on his face.
“REMEMBER!” the voice shouted.
A sharp ringing – like a dialup modem – screeched in my head. I covered my ears but the noise just seemed to grow louder. Tears were streaming down my face as I scrunched my eyes, trying to ease the pain. My head felt like it was going to pop. I tried to get away from the noise. It was a dumb move on my part because the pain kept me from seeing where I was going. I tripped over something – a rock or a stump – and fell forward.
Instead of hitting the ground though, I felt like I was falling down a deep dark chasm.
Where am I” I moaned. “Where is this
place? It’s all black and... and..." I couldn't think of a good word, "and all voidy. Am I… am I dead?”
No answer came.
“Well… on the plus side, at least that noise is gone,” I said to no one in particular.
“I’m sorry but I’ve had to cancel the family trip this summer,” a voice resonated from the darkness.
“Dad?!” I shouted, looking around and finding myself alone.
“I couldn’t rearrange my work schedule… I’m sorry. I know I promised you. Please understand… I’m very busy. … I’ll make up for this…”
"Dad?!” I shouted again. “Where are you Dad?! What the heck are you talking about? What trip? Hello?!"
I started breathing heavy. Nothing was making any sense. I felt like I was going crazy.
“I’m very sorry, dear…” a more melodic voice rang in the dark. “But I asked Grandpa if you could stay at his farm.”
"Mom?!" I cried out. I hadn’t heard my mom’s voice in ages.
“Take it easy and enjoy nature for a change," she said.
"Mom! Where are you?! What the heck are you doing here?! Mom?! MOM!"
I heard my voice echo off in the distance, but no one replied back. I was all alone once again.
Then, the blackness started to ebb away, until it was completely gone. I looked around and saw that I was back on the farm, only… it wasn’t an apocalyptic wasteland anymore. It was actually really clean and beautiful. All the buildings were pristine. The land was well tended. There were even animals grazing in a field, animals that weren’t vermin. Still, even though there really wasn’t much to look at because it was still a stupid farm, compared to what I had seen before, this might as well be paradise.
Then, a voice caught my ear.
"JACK! HEEL!" an old man shouted to a dog who was running up to a little boy.
The little boy, no older than six, ducked and covered his head as he cowered in fear. A few feet from the boy, the dog put on the breaks and skidded to a halt so that he stopped mere inches away. His tongue lopped out of his mouth and he was breathing heavy, apparently super excited that a visitor had come. The boy, aware that he wasn’t going to die, lowered his arms and looked cautiously at the dog. That was enough for the dog to bark and tackle the boy.0
The old man ran over and I followed him. When he stopped to laugh at the sight of the dog licking the boy’s face and the boy screaming in fear, my mouth dropped. The old man… was me. Or, at least, he looked like me, if I was an old man. The resemblance was uncanny. As he laughed, the boy shouted for help, peeling my eyes away to look at him. If my mouth could detach itself from my head, it would’ve because the boy looked like me too, only he was super young. I looked around again trying to figure out where I was. Was I in the future, or the past? I wanted to know just what the heck was going on here!
“Hello there, sonny," the old man said coming closer to the boy and pulling the dog off. "Sorry about Ol' Jack here. He gets excited when visitors come. Thinks they're here to see him."
The boy looked like he was going to piss his pants. He backed away quickly and began to wipe the slobber off his face. When he was done, he stood up and scowled at the old man.
"Well..." the old man hesitated. He took off his cap and loosened his collar a bit while clearing his throat. “My name is Jack...”
“DUDE! MY NAME IS JACK!” I shouted. “I do not age well.”
“But… I guess you already knew that,” the old man continued. “Ahem... But you can call me Grandpa. Everyone else does. I mean... I am your grandpa. Raised your dad an all. In fact, you were named after me!”
“Hey… wait a minute… I got my name from my grandpa as well! I think… I think…” I said to myself. I took closer look at the boy. “Then this must be… me? If it is, why the heck don’t I remember this ever happening?”
“I see you got my good looks as well,” Grandpa Jack puffed his chest out in pride. “One day boy, you’re going to have the women swooning all over you. But, I guess you’re too young to notice all the nice parts about a woman that make weaker, uglier men do the one hand dance. You’re probably still in that phase where you think ‘cooties’ are a real thing. Well, let me tell ya’ boy, if they are then you best get ‘em. I don’t want no grandson of mine prancing about like a fairy!”
“Oh man…” I moaned. “Did I actually stay with this guy?”
“Anyways, there’s not much excitement out in these parts… and that’s just the way I like it! Your dad thought that living here was a dead end. Too bad he turned out the way he did. What a nerd… It’s a good thing he doesn’t come around here anymore. I’d be too embarrassed to be seen with him. Oh! But you’re welcome to stay as long as you want. Anytime you want!”
The boy Jack nodded, looking like the entirety of that conversation went over his head. He started looking around the place.
“I’m too busy with my farm chores to play around with you much… But there are some children in the village you can always make friends with. There’s Lillia’s daughter down the way if you’re interested. She’s a farmer’s daughter, if you get me,” Grandpa Jack winked. “She has a brother. They’re both around your age. There’s also the daughter of Jeff, the owner of the Market. She’s really cute, but sadly she’s also your age. There’s Ann, she’s Doug’s – inn keeper’s daughter… but she’s your age. There’s Basil’s daughter… She’s a little weird. You can have her. There’s Ellen’s granddaughter… but she’s your age too. Heck! Why do all the good ones have to be so young?!”
My mouth dropped. “What a total perv!”
“There could be plenty of stuff for you to do around here if your balls ever drop! It’s a good thing I’m such a good example. That way, when the time comes, you can get any booty you want.”
The younger version of myself nodded again, oblivious to what was actually being said.
Then things started to grow weird. Though I didn't move an inch, the scenery started shifting around me. I was now watching my younger self riding a very large bovine. For an instant, that me smiled at the youthful innocence of childhood, but that instant vanished when I – he fell off the cow. As the younger me cried on the ground the scenery changed again.
My younger self was now talking with my grandpa in front of a horse. “Heh heh… This here’s Bullseye. Terrible name, ain’t it? I feel like someone’s always gunnin for him. Know what I mean? Keh heh heh… Guess ya don’t. Hmm… Wanna ride ol’ Bullseye?” The boy nodded and was lifted and placed on the saddle. Grandpa walked the horse around the farm. They were both laughing when the scene changed a fourth time.
This time, he was chasing one of the chickens around the farm with a stick in his hands. I could see what was going to happen before he did. Boy, was I a stupid child. The younger me was probably imagining something totally different was going to happen than from what was actually going on. That wasn’t made known to the chicken though. The boy cornered it in the barn. A moment later, he made a hasty retreat as a dozen chickens chased him out. The scene changed yet again.
Now the boy was fishing off the pier, the same one I had set foot upon earlier today. It was a beautiful day outside. The sun was bright. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. A soft wind was blowing. After a few moments, he cried out in surprise as his line went taunt. He reeled and pulled with all his might, but the fish was mightier. The fishing pole went flying out of my younger self’s hands into the water. The scene changed as the boy walked off whistling, pretending that he didn’t know what happened.
I found my younger self at the bridge south of the farm, feeding Jack the dog. That was it. Then the scene changed.
The next thing that I saw was my younger self walking along a path. The path steadily rose. He was looking fatigued. Still, he kept walking. Eventually he came to a bridge that crossed a lake. He didn’t stop, but kept going. The path continued through a crevasse until it opened up into a huge field. There were dozens of flowers in it and tons of trees surrounding it. It was here that my younger self decided to leave the path and find a nice place to rest. As he started to doze, everything went black.
“Great… what now?” I wondered. Then, I heard singing. It was a humble tune, one that quickly got stuck in my head.
♪Na na na/Na na na/Na/Na/Na na/Na na na/Na na na/Na/Na/Na na/Na na na/Na na na/Na/Na na/Na na/Na/Na na na/Na na♪
The black slowly turned back into the scene that had just gone, only this time, there was a little girl with a ponytail standing above the younger me. “Hey, it’s you! Remember me?”
The mini me didn’t respond.
“Eh, you probably don’t. We didn’t know each other for very long. Are you here alone? I’m alone as well,” the little girl said as she sat now next to the smaller me and hugged her legs. “
Still the other me said nothing.
“I came here from Mineral Town. It’s a long ways away. My parents made me stay with my aunt and uncle over the summer while they decided to go on vacation. I don’t like them. They’re mean to me. So I ran away… and got lost. That’s how I wound up here.”
Still, the smaller me said nothing. Was I really that shy?
“Will you keep me company? I don’t want to go back…”
After that, the scene changed yet again. This time, the younger me and that girl where sitting on top of a cliff overlooking a sunset. It was here that the girl started singing that hypnotic melody of hers. Just as the sun was almost completely gone, both me and my younger self joined in as well.
The scene changed yet again and I was quite frankly fed up with it. Whenever they talk about your life flashing before your eyes, they never mentioned how annoying it was. I hoped that this would be the last one. The scenery now showed my younger self and Grandpa Jack standing at the entrance to the farm.
“So how was it?” the old man asked. “Did you have fun? Did you kiss a girl?”
The boy nodded, then immediately shook his head.
“Well, at least this trip wasn’t a total waste. You had fun. Good. I’m glad that you were able to make some fond memories while you were here. When you go home, tell your Mom and Dad that I enjoyed it too…” After a moment of awkward silence, Grandpa Jack got down on one knee and opened his arms. “Aww, c’mere boy. I’m gonna miss ya.”
My younger self ran over and hugged the old man.
“Hopefully, you’ll remember everything I taught ya,” the old man said before letting go.
As my younger self began to walk off, I noticed a huge difference in his appearance. He was no longer timid like the first time I saw him. His footsteps were sure and his head held high. Whatever happened while he – I – was here, it changed us. Before he could make it out the entrance though, the little girl came running up to him.
“Hey, Jack! Are you ready to play with me?” the girl asked.
“HA!” Grandpa Jack laughed.
Sadly, my younger self shook his head.
“Oh, are you leaving? That makes me feel lonely… After playing with you, it’ll be boring just playing with myself again.”
Grandpa Jack kept laughing. “You’re killing me! I’m gonna wet myself!” He ran off, leaving me, myself, and the little girl alone together.
“You’ll come back again someday, right?”
My younger self nodded.
“Okay. I’ll hold you to it. Just don’t forget me, okay? Remember, you promised…”
After a tender embrace, everything started to spin and go dark. Before I could prevent it from happening, this time I felt like I was shooting upwards towards a bright light.
I opened my eyes and found myself lying on the ground. As I pushed myself up, I heard someone running over. I looked up to see that it was Mayor Thomas. “How long was I out?” I groaned.
“Only a moment,” he said, trying to lift me up and failing because of how short he was.
‘A moment?’ I thought to myself. ‘All of that happened in a moment?’
“Are you alright? Thould I take you to the Doctor?”
“No!” I shouted, causing the mayor to let go of me in shock. Then, more subtlety I said again, “no. I’m fine. Just… just give me a moment to catch my breath.
The mayor looked at me skeptically, but agreed. “Okay. If that’th what you think ith betht.”
I turned over and sat down. I just needed some time to process what I just saw. My whole life, I’ve never set foot here. Yet those memories were mine. They were of me. How did I forget? What happened to me? After another moment or two, I made to get up.
“Don’t… don’t puth yourthelf,” Mayor Thomas said.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.” I got to my feet just fine, but I was a little unsteady. My left leg was aching pretty badly, but not badly enough I’d have to go see a doctor. As soon as I was sure I wasn’t going to fall over, I looked at the mayor. “See?”
Mayor Thomas looked at me skeptically. “I’m not tho thure. I don’t know what’th going on with you, but I feel rethponthible. Maybe… Maybe calling you wath a bad idea.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m here now so you might as well tell me what you’ve been wanting to say. I’m not in the mood to play any more mind games right now. I’d appreciate it if you just cut to the chase and just told me why you brought me out here.”
Mayor Thomas sighed again. “Okay. Okay. I talked thith over with the people in the village. Your grandfather took real good care of thith farm. We rethpect hith witheth and would like to thee how much you can accomplith in three yearth. We don’t mean to be tethting you, but…”
“But you’re gonna test me anyways…” I said, rolling my eyes
“If you can get thith farm back like it wath, the village will accept you ath the rightful owner of the farm. But if the farm ith neglected or you can’t get along with the villagerth, then… you’ll have to leave. That ith the decithion we made ath a village.”
I stared at Mayor Thomas. “Why the heck would I want to stay here?” I asked. I did so out of curiosity. Mayor Thomas was going to have to work to keep me here. I wasn’t just going to roll over and play nice for him.
“Well… You have a free home that’th already been paid for.”
“That’s a shack.”
“Utilitieth are already taken care of.”
“From here it looks like there’s no running water.”
The mayor pondered for a bit. “There’th plenty of pretty girlth in town.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“Girlth,” he repeated.
“What? I’m still not getting it.”
“Girlth!” Mayor Thomos said, frustrated now.
“Girlth! Girlth! I’m thaying gir –“ He paused and thought for a bit. “Women. Women your age.”
“Oh…” I said with realization “Oh! Gurlzah…” I put a lot of emphasis on the word. “So what? There’s plenty of girls in the city. What makes these ones so special?”
The mayor reached into his coat pocket. “Thith ith a photo of them from lath yearth Thwimming Fethtival,” he said as he handed it to me all sly like.
“Oh come, on! They can’t be that –“ I looked at the picture. “Whoa…”
It was immediately snatched away from me. “Tho, do we have a deal?” said the mayor.
Dang it. My one weakness. ‘How did he know?’ I asked myself. The answer popped into my head. ‘Grandpa.’
“What’s the catch?” I asked. “Why are you asking me? Wouldn’t there be more qualified people to do this sort of thing? I don’t know the first thing about farming.”
The mayor shook his head. “There ith no catch, m’boy. It’th like I told you over the phone. Your grandpa died over a year ago. We just rethently found hith will. In it he thpethifically thtated that everything wath to be left to you. I don’t know of anyone more capable of running thith farm better than the grandthon of Grandpa Jack. Farming’th in your genes, boy. Don’t knock it till you try it.”
I looked around at the place. I never realized I could gain so much worth so less. My lifestyle back home, though it was meager at best, was a lot better than starting off from scratch. That is, it would’ve been if I had a home to return to. I left everything all behind coming here. When Mayor Thomas told me that I had inherited everything my long lost grandfather had, I thought I’d be a millionaire. Instead, I became poorer.
When I found out that I had a grandfather that my dad never told me about, that he kept him a secret from me even after he died, that I never got a chance to know someone who certainly wanted to know me, I came here against my father’s wishes. I quit my job and sold what little I had to get here. Wish I hadn’t. Now, I couldn’t just go back. I’d look like a retard in front of my dad. The absolute last thing I ever wanted to hear him say was, ‘I told you so.’ This was my new home for the next three years whether I liked it or not.
I looked at Mayor Thomas and sighed. “Fine. I’ll stay.”
Mayor Thomas seemed elated. “Exthellent choithe, m’boy. Excellent choithe. I’m thure glad we don’t have to thell thith beautiful land to thothe real ethtate vultureth. Anywayth, just remember that farming ith very hard work, but I hope you do your betht and become a great farmer like your grandfather!” With that, the mayor walked off with a spring in his step.
“Just… tell me one thing.” The mayor stopped and looked at me quizzically. “Why do you have that picture in your pocket?”
The Mayor grinned mischievously. “I thought you might need a little perthuading.”
In the back of my mind, I thought that he might’ve been using it for something else. But then again, he did have a thick lisp. And with his clothes?
“Alright. I believe you.”
“Thee you later, Jack.”
“See you later, Mayor.”
I was dead tired from everything I had just gone through. Whatever farming I needed to do would have to wait until tomorrow. I walked over to my shack and carefully opened the door. After close examination of the place, I found that even in its terrible condition, everything was still sturdy as a rock. Whoever built this place, built it to last.
What’s more, it was obvious people were in here recently. There wasn’t a speck of dust. The sheets looked clean. Everything was tidy and neat.
Not caring about anything else, I made my way over to the bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.
I still had my usual dream of a storm though, even in my fatigue.