An Ancient Calling - Part One

‘Who are you calling “over the hill”, buster?’‘Well, honestly, how long does it take for you guys to fix a couple of potholes?’ the belligerent young man quipped through his open car window, ‘I’ve got an important meeting that I’m late for.’A crackle over the radio told Joseph he could let his end of the traffic through the road block. Not that you could call one car “traffic”, but why it had to be driven by a loud mouthed city businessman was beyond him. What possible business could he have out here in the middle of nowhere?Turning the stop sign in his hand around so that the “proceed slowly” sign was showing, Joseph waved a hand at the driver, ‘You can go now, Your Highness,’ Joseph sneered, ‘Sorry to have made you wait a whole three minutes.’The sleek Mercedes took off in a shower of dust, ignoring the safety warnings.With a sigh, Joseph raised a hand to his forehead and wiped away the beads of sweat. He didn’t know what was wrong with him over the last few days. It was not like this was the first time that he’d been harassed by impatient drivers, the bane of all highway workers, but it was the first time he’d retaliated.This guy was the third city dweller in a row, one for each day they’d been out here, who had give him grief on the wait. What the hell they were doing traveling this lonely old road was beyond Joseph; but they all had apparently seen his presence on the road as a personal insult.The crew had been called out to repair this barely used stretch of road that ran through the woods outside of town. The road was completely shadowed by the canopy of the old forest; the huge root systems had crept all the way to the edge of the tarmac. But that was not the crew’s problem. It was only the large potholes they were required to fix.Joseph had felt edgy and irritable under the shade of the trees but couldn’t put his finger on why. All he could come up with was that the woods themselves seemed to resent the presence of the men and Joseph was absorbing some of those sentient thoughts. But that was ridiculous, his logical mind kept reminding him, nothing more than vague memories of the superstitions his Grandparents had brought with them from the old country.Coming out of his reverie with a start, Joseph was surprised to see a heavy fog rising from the forest floor and enveloping the road. The radio clipped onto his shirt was crackling insistently.‘Joe? Where are you, mate?’‘I’m still standing by the barrier, Wayne,’ Joseph relied impatiently.‘Joseph? Answer me! Where have you gone?’‘Settle down, Wayne. The fog’s not that thick, I can see you.’Joseph frowned as Wayne continued to call out his name frantically. Propping the stop sign against the bright yellow barrier, he walked up the road to where the rest of the crew was standing. They were all looking anxiously down the road and into the dense copse of tree trunks surrounding them.‘I think my radio is busted, guys,’ he called as he approached.To Joseph’s astonishment, they all ignored him, continuing to call out his name in increasingly panicked voices.‘What the hell?’‘Do not bother, Joseph,’ a feminine voice with a thick accent sounded behind him, ‘They cannot see you.’Twirling to face the voice, Joseph took a step back in surprise, ‘Delia? Oh God, I must be dreaming.Delia’s dark eyebrows arched, a gesture that was frighteningly familiar. Frightening because Delia had been Joseph’s Grandmother’s best friend back in the old country and had died thirty years ago when Joseph was in his early twenties.‘You are not dreaming, Joseph.’‘Have I died?’Delia sighed, ‘No, Joseph.’‘Then how are you here and what the heck is going on?’‘Tis Samhain, Joseph. You know we can come while the veils are thin; or have you forgotten all of your upbringing? This forest is old and steeped with magic…and you just ticked off the guardian. It was he who sent me to you. He thinks your people want to tear down his forest.’Joseph felt suddenly very self conscious. He was aware of the council’s ambitious plans to do just that to make way for a new housing estate.‘Wait a minute? Who is the guardian and how did I tick him off.’‘He has been waiting for you to remember the old ways. In truth he has been provoking you. Think, you have seen him three times.’The young man he’d confronted only moments earlier suddenly stepped out of the fog, now dressed in a pale green robe, a wreath of leaves crowning his head.‘I am sorry for the trickery, Joseph,’ he said softly, ‘but I had noticed that only when you are angry do you remember the tales your Grandparents told you. They were all true, you know? The forests are alive with a consciousness of their own and many of the Faery still dwell here. We are all threatened and only you can save us’‘Why me?’‘Because you still have the magic of the old country in you. You still have the gift of words and can save us,’ his hand swept around the surrounding forest, ‘This forest was planted from seeds brought from the old country in the times of the Tuatha De Danan,’ he smiled ruefully, ‘of course, that is not a part of established history.’‘What do you want me to do?’‘Save us, Joseph.’Joseph opened his mouth to speak but it was too late. The fog had disappeared and his crew was staring at him in disbelief. He’d appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

© Alison Pearce 2008

An Ancient Calling - Part One

Alison Pearce

Logan Central, Australia

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Artist's Description

Short story written for the Spirit Walks challenge on Short Story-Spherical Scriptings

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