short story - chris j mitchell

I was deep in the woods at this point and the trees were casting a cold shadow over the ground.

I was wondering if it was time to turn back as my stroll was turning into something far more strenuous than I had planned.

Still, I kept on for I felt something inside of me wanting to push forward. I squeezed past a couple of huddled trees, but then had to free my foot from the entangled nettles I stepped into. My attention distracted for a moment while I freed myself and also kept my balance with one hand firmly placed against the damp bark of a tree.

I then caught sight of a curious looking structure set a few feet from my location.

Laying in the ground the hands of time had covered it in moss, and hidden away from civilisation it looked as though it had not been touched for over a hundred years. An old stone trough or even an ancient grave I thought to myself?

The structure did not rise more than a foot from the ground and where it was not covered in moss there were flakes of stone peeling away after years of rain, damp and cold.

I approached, carefully stepping one foot over the other, but the sound of a twig breaking under my foot forced me to freeze. Why it should force me to do this, I cannot say for I was not hiding or in danger, but a sense of fear had come over me.

My heart rate had increased and little sounds, such as leafs rustling or the chirp of a bird had all become exaggerated, and ringing out in my ears as potential threats of danger. A natural fight or flight reaction I assumed.

I gazed into the centre of the structure and could see only leaves and a few rotting branches. Glancing over my shoulder I took a few steps closer.

In the most likely reality a drinking basin for livestock or horses, but still enough for my curiosity to push me to investigate. I pressed my foot gently on top of the leaves and pressed a little. The rotting organic debris depressed under the weight of my foot, but no trap door or hidden passageway swung open.

I kneeled on the side with one knee and cleared a few small branches away. Then I got a little braver and scooped up a bunch of leaves in my hand. They were cold, damp and as you would expect. Underneath was earth and disappointment that I had not discovered a great missing artifact.

My heart rate returning to normal. I sat down on one of the cold stone sides and took in the silence… 

Then a strange sound, like the wind whipping against a cliff edge, emanated from behind me. Jumping to my feet and turning around, there was a strange swirl enveloping the leaves and the earth inside the shallow walls of the structure.

I took my feet into a stride and just as I made the nearest tree I stopped and turned around.

“Yes, of course,” I said out loud. “How could I forget!”

Memories at this point were flooding back into my mind. The past, the future and the Otherworld. 

A hand, old, wrinkled and greyish popped up through a vortex that had formed at the centre of the swirling mess of leaves and earth.

This was followed by an arm and then the bald head of an ancient person. Grey skin and in places bones showing where there should have been flesh. It clambered out of the edifice.

My heart was not racing though and my palms were not sweaty, for I knew exactly who he was.

His name was Graham!

He pulled out an old rolled up manuscript and sat on one of the stone sides. 

“Ready when you are,” his voice creaked.

“Sounding a little rusty, you need some more vitamin D. It would add colour to your cheeks,” I replied. To which he did not respond, but started reading the paper. 

“How did it go?” he asked.

“It went well.”

“You found here okay?”

“It appears so… Please give me a moment.”

I checked in my backpack and sure enough, it was still there. An old Celtic artifact lost long ago. Stolen from the Otherworld and brought to Earth without permission. My task to retrieve it and then to return.

The vortex and the magic around it had restored my memories to their rightful place. My name is Caratacus, and having been sent here from the Otherworld years ago the memories of my real identity quickly faded. This was a side effect of the transition spell and its casting that sent me here.

Aside from a few notes written on a parchment how would I know to retrieve it or where to return?

I was assured by my elders it would all fall into place. I would have an instinct in me that called me to this place when the time was right. Where the keeper, Graham, would let me in.

“I have friends here you know that I will not see again,” I said.

“I know, and we all knew that is a price you would pay. Anyway, can’t you send them a text goodbye or something? Isn’t that all the rage these days?”

“I could, but texting is a little out of date, I will send a DM instead.”

“Please do, its chilly here.”

“I sent the message, “Tata for now.” and that was it. I was always a bit of an enigma for those few who knew me. Maybe I will meet them again one day in another life. But who knows. For here, for now, my time is done!

This short story was written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt and was originally posted in chrisjmitchell