“If I have to conjugate one more Latin verb, I’m going name a horse the new Emperor of America,” a young woman cried, slapping her book shut and slumping over her desk.
“I have no idea what that means and I have zero sympathy. Yesterday you went on an hour long rant about how important Latin is and people who call it dead are dead inside. And then started talking about some dead guy who made butt-rape threats at people he didn’t like in beautiful poetic meter,” another young woman replied in a flat voice, hunched over a much larger book and looking just as stressed.
“Okay, Catullus is a gift, despite the… whole sodomizing threats thing…” The first woman winced a little. “And the horse thing was a reference to Caligula, who went senile crazy and did just that, only of Rome, not America, so the complaint was I’m going crazy from studying. I need a break! You need a break, Cris!”
“Don’t call me Cris and stop talking to me unless you’re going to write this five-page paper on classroom behavior and discipline for me,” Cristina snapped back.
“I’m going to get pizza. We’re going to eat pizza tonight.”
“I don’t have any money, Evie.”
“I’m getting pizza and you’re going to help me eat it because I don’t want to get fat,” Evelyn declared. She got up then, stretching long arms over her head and ruffling her short wavy auburn hair as she yawned. Her dormmate, Cristina, glanced up with dark eyes. Her hair– as dark as her eyes, curly, and shiny with the mousse that kept it manageable– was pulled tight into a ponytail to keep from getting in her way.
“You just want me to eat. It has nothing to do with you getting fat,” Cristina pointed out, blunt and amused.
“True, I like my extra chub.” Evie lay her body over Cristina’s shoulders and narrowed her eyes at the computer screen as Cristina cried out in annoyance. “Dude, you wrote the same sentence twice, look.”
“What!? Shit! Thanks, now get off me and go get my pizza!”
Evie darted away and laughed uproariously as she grabbed her wallet from her bed’s pillow. “What happened to not wanting to eat my money?”
“What the hell does that mean? I want to eat your pizza, not your gross money!” Cristina yelled back just as the door closed.
Evelyn giggled to herself as she double checked her wallet, making sure the last of her monthly allowance was enough for a half-triple cheese and half-meat lovers’. Her eyes, strangely almost the same auburn as her hair, blinked rapidly and her head jerked up. Was that… Her gaze narrowed on what seemed to be a tiny dancing light down the hall. But… no… it couldn’t be. There were a bunch of students, all either slacking off or taking a break from the final’s grind, and maybe someone’s cell had gone off.
Evelyn shook her head and turned towards the exit. Her stomach was almost yelling in hunger now, and Cristina would be, too, if she took too long. With a laughing smirk curling her lips, Evelyn Tallesin left the building.
Behind her a tiny beam of light bounced in midair, unseen by a college junior just centimeters away, then darted after the auburn-haired Classics major. A trail of glittering light followed in its wake.
Two days later, Evie rubbed at her eyes, inwardly cursing the contacts glued to her gritty eyeballs, and chugged back yet another double shot latte. She was so twitchy, she was pretty sure her professors and her friends thought she needed to lay off the caffeine. Finals had just started and not only were these 10-page papers killing her, but she was starting to see things. Well, a thing. The same damn thing every day. There was a tiny part of her mind that thought maybe her words from the other night, about going crazy, might’ve come back to bite her in the butt. Either that or maybe she was going blind from too many fuzzy Latin and Greek photocopies. Because sometimes she saw a tiny (admittedly adorable) little elf-boy with big eyes and tiny wings in yellow stocking-cap, and other times the little guy was a bouncing ball of light just in the corner of her eye or darting around a corner, but she was still positive both the ball of light and the flying elf were the same thing. Right now, he was the ball of light delusion, hovering over her mostly empty coffee cup. He was suddenly his little winged elf self, balancing on the brim of the cardboard mug to peer in and sniff in curiosity. Somehow her caffeine-induced hallucination gained mass and the cup began to tip.
“Be careful, little guy. You’re gonna tip yourself ass over tea kettle,” Evie muttered, reaching out to right the cup. She didn’t even to mean to say it out loud, weariness and too much coffee loosening what little hold she had on her tongue.
Said-hallucination whirled around, almost toppling into the cup. In fact, he did, but managed to catch himself and flutter right back out before actually getting dunked in the lukewarm liquid.
“You can see me!” he squeaked in a tremulous and way too high-pitched voice. Evelyn winced and grimaced.
“Decibels, whoa. Wait… you’re talking now? I need to see a shrink. Finals officially broke my brain. I have one more semester after this, couldn’t the insanity have waited till then?” Evie groaned as her eyes rolled up to the ceiling. The person nearest her looked over, before immediately losing interest and returning to their book. The girl had what looked like an OChem text and a zillion notebooks over her own table and Evelyn winced in sympathy. Yeah, the myriad of papers each semester were a pain in the ass, but she basically read poetry and made up bullshit (really well-thought out and opinionated bullshit) for her degree. OChem was evil.
“What’s a shrink? You’re not insane! I am talking. I’m Finn! Finn the Harvest Sprite. I’ve been looking forever for a human like you! I need your help, Mother– the Harvest Goddess, needs your help!” the little… sprite? exclaimed as his little arms waved about. Evelyn propped her chin up on her hand and blinked slowly at the self-proclaimed sprite.
“Finn, huh? I'm Evelyn. And I’m pretty sure adults like me are supposed to have stopped believing in things like you,” Evelyn retorted. She had to resist reaching out and poking his chubby little belly. Her insanity came with an adorable little delusion, at least.
“Most adults do. In fact, that’s the problem! No one can see us anymore, even the children have stopped believing. If they can’t see us, they can’t hear us and no one will be able to save my home! You have to come save us,” Finn pleaded. Evelyn’s eyes widened.
“Wow, my delusions of grandeur aren’t even original. A Chosen One? What am I, Harry fucking Potter?”
“What’s a hairy fucking potter?” Finn repeated in confusion. Evelyn winced.
She muttered under her breath,“Okay, no cursing in front of the adorably innocent fairy hallucination. I feel like a Mom all of a sudden.”
Finn huffed in exasperation and flew up into her face.“Listen to me!”
Evelyn jerked back, blinking rapidly at Finn’s outburst, and once again getting OChem girl’s attention.
“Hey, you okay? You need some water?” OChem asked, concern etched into her weary face.
“Huh? Uh, no, thanks though. You do you, girl. OChem is much harder than anything I’m going through,” Evelyn replied as she grabbed at her books and papers and slapped her laptop closed.
“Evelyn! I said we need your help! Don’t you wanna be a hero, Evelyn?”
“It’s not so bad. I really like it…” The other student trailed off as she eyed the mess in front of her.
“Doesn’t make it any easier to study, though. Good luck, bruh,” Evelyn saluted as she crammed everything in her shoulder bag and tucked it under her arm.
“Hey! Stop ignoring me! Hey! Come on, I know you hear me! Evelyn!”
“Uh, yeah. You, too. With your… language stuff?”
“Yeah, Greek. Hence the babbling. Those oracles of Delphi, you know,” Evelyn joked. OChem chuckled awkwardly, obviously not understanding that reference at all and only laughing to be polite. Evelyn booked it out of there, a freaky ball of light chasing after her and shouting her name.
She managed to keep on ignoring the squeaky little ball of light named Finn for most of her trek back to her dorm. He kept up a steady deluge of outrage and pleading for the twenty minute walk, pretty impressive really. There was something about a Harvest Goddess and the land dying and people leaving and … musical instruments? But Evelyn shoved headphones on her ears and hummed loudly, flapping occasionally at the annoying little sprite. Only to stop dead just a building away from her dorm. This scene reminded her only too much of one of her favorite movies, where the young girl was magicked and kept swatting away the little fairies trying to help her, only to have them get eaten by the monster trying to eat the girl. The idea of her cute little delusion getting eaten by a freaky child-eating monster had her shoulders drooping and a sigh escaping her. She slowly put the headphones away, eyes darting around the shadowed walkway for any other students. Seeing it deserted, she turned to face the teary-eyed, red-faced sprite. The tears had her heart squeezing painfully with guilt.
“Let’s say you’re real,” Evelyn started abruptly.
Finn all but toppled from the air before catching himself and zooming towards her. She giggled involuntarily as the tiny thing nuzzled up under her chin. “You stopped ignoring me! I was so scared you wouldn’t believe me and I’d have to go home without you and Mother would be so sad and please please please don’t ignore me anymore, it’s scary! What if I disappear like sister Alana said?!”
“Confession, I’ve never truly stopped believing in fairies,” Evelyn admitted, her hands cupping Finn’s trembling little body, guilt and affection increasing at once. “But I still sorta think I’m drugged up or unconscious somewhere. What exactly are you asking from me and how can I prove it’s real?” Evelyn asked, gently raising Finn up to eye level. He sniffled and rubbed at his face with his tiny hands to collect himself.
“There’s a place called Castanet. It’s by the ocean very far away from here and it’s my home. It’s a real place! Find it! Mother… the Harvest Goddess, she said they made a… a sight where they asked farmers to come and farm there.”
“A sight? Wait, a site? Like a website?”
“Yes! A web sight! I don’t know what seeing spider webs have to do with anything, but she said the Mayor and his son made one just last year, before I left,” Finn exclaimed, wings and hands flapping in the air erratically in his excitement.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with spiders. It’s on the computer! Come on!” Evelyn took off running to the dorm, Finn a little ball of light at her ear.
Cristina jerked upright and almost fell out of her desk chair as Evelyn barged in, panting and flushed, just moments later. Her school bag went flying as she tugged at the zipper of her laptop bag wildly. Still gaping in shock, Cristina watched as her friend slammed her laptop down and booted it up.
“Okay, first of all, whatever happened it’s not your laptop’s fault, be careful! And second, what the hell is going on?” Cristina demanded breathlessly.
“Shhh, watch your language!” Evelyn admonished absently while her fingers flew over her keyboard.
“Excuse fucking me?!”
But Evelyn didn’t reply, instead she stared wide-eyed and jaw-dropped at her computer screen. The screen where a legitimate-looking call for farmers and/or ranchers to a small farming town named Castanet. Well, technically it seemed to be a tiny county named Castanet, the actual town being Harmonica Town. The website itself was actually pretty cute, with buttons in the shape of different musical instruments and the mouse-arrow a conductor's wand. There were candid and posed pictures of simple, cheerful-looking people in their shops, or walking along streets. The About page was a well-written and even-better-edited brief history of the town and its set up. While it didn't have an overall map, it had pictures of their major stores and gathering places. Each place then had a blurb of its own; there was even a menu uploaded for both the inn restaurant and a separate late-night bar. It was a small town most people she knew would describe as quaint. If they were particularly charitable, they'd call it charming.
“Don’t call me Cris. Why does it look like you’ve seen a ghost? Have you seen a ghost!?” Cristina asked in excitement. She craned around to look at Evelyn’s screen and frowned, puzzled.
“No, better. Fairies. I think… I think I’m really seeing fairies, Cristina. What does this site say?”
“It’s an ad for farmers or something. What the hell are you talking about? What about fairies?” Cristina repeated in utter bafflement and not too little concern.
“You’re going to come, aren’t you, Evelyn? You believe me! I knew it! I knew I’d find you!” Finn shrilled excitedly, zipping around her and Cristina’s heads and waving his little arms around.
“I… I think I need to be a farmer,” Evelyn muttered, slumping back in her chair and staring at the bright and colorful ad for Castanet. There was a long moment of silence between the two humans in the room, until Cristina let out a bark of laughter. Evelyn blinked in surprise before she turned in her chair to watch Cristina stumble backwards towards her bed, curled over her stomach and laughing her butt off.
“What?!” Evelyn exclaimed.
“You! A farmer! Oh, you had me going, but okay, okay, I get it. It’s a joke. You’re just being a dork. You really had me for a minute, though,” Cristina chuckled as she fell back with a ‘thwump’ to her mattress.
Evelyn pouted, then hopped and shuffled her chair around to face her roommate directly. “What’s so funny about it? I like sheep! I like the country! I lived in the country even!”
“You did not. You visited your cousins in the country for a couple months in the summer when you were, like, ten,” Cristina retorted unimpressed. Evelyn pouted more and looked away.
“I talk too much about myself,” she muttered under her breath.
“I’ve known you for almost four years, Evie.”
“Ee-vee?” Finn parroted in confusion.
“You’re not a country girl. You like libraries and coffee shops and driving your scooter. You wear big black frames and clothes your grandma would wear. You’re a hipster city girl to your core,” Cristina pointed out, amused and… not really wrong.
“I could do it! I could be a farmer!”
“You can’t even keep a pot of flowers alive longer than two weeks,” Cristina said dryly. Evelyn flushed bright red as Finn gasped in shock.
“I could do it! If I really wanted to, I could do it! I could be the best da–darn farmer in that town if I tried. I’m smart, dam– darn it. I can get books! And watch youtube videos!” Evelyn protested earnestly, her eyes darting from Finn’s pale, wide-eyed face to Cristina’s completely unimpressed and unconvinced darker one.
“Right, okay. So say you did go be a farmer and become the best one ever because you’re smart,” Cristina drawled, making Evelyn flush brighter, “why do you want to? You have one more semester until you get your Bachelor’s in Classics. You’ve already had a meeting with your advisor about grad school! You just took the GRE last month! Farming isn’t exactly grad school, Evie.”
“Some things… some things are more important than grad school,” Evelyn murmured. She stared down at the ground, twisting the toe of her shoe against the ground and fingers fidgeting together.
“Yeah, I agree with that, but you don’t. You love school. You literally correct my essays and papers for fun,” Cristina said, her mouth twisted up into a little grimace. It was both an annoying and helpful habit that had caused not a few arguments in the past three and a half years.
“Maybe I want to do something better. Maybe I found something worth giving up grad school for, something amazing and important and special,” Evelyn argued, eyes lighting up and voice bordering on fevered. Something magical, she thought to herself, eyes flitting to Finn, who was slowly smiling at her, his faith returning and his wings glowing.
“A farm. A farm is something amazing and important and special,” Cristina deadpanned.
“… you’ve heard about the bees, right?” Evelyn tried hesitantly with a wincing little smile.
“Guadelupe Evelyn Nimue Tallesin Fuentes!”
“C'mon, there was no need for that giant mouthful of a name..." Evelyn protested with a grimace. "And okay! It’s not about the bees, though, really, everything should be about the bees. It’s about this farm, this county, Castanet. I know I have to go there and… help,” Evelyn explained lamely with a shrug.
“Help!? Help with them with what?! Growing tomatoes?!”
“You’re going to drop out of college–” Evelyn flinched at that blunt wording, “–just to grow friggin’ tomatoes? Are you crazy? I know what this is,” Cristina declared, getting back to her feet. She marched over to Evelyn, placed her hands on her friend’s shoulders, and crouched down a little to meet her eye for eye. “This is graduation cold feet. Maybe even your end of college crisis. You’re ready to go out and be an adult, okay? You’ll be great in grad school and learn even more useless facts about cultures and languages that don’t even exist anymore and teach it to more students that love useless facts about cultures and languages that don’t exist anymore. You’ll probably find a husband, or even a wife, I don’t judge, who likes talking about useless facts about long dead cultures and languages and have a bunch of babies who like learning about useless facts about long dead cultures and languages.”
Evelyn sighed. “You could really stop using the word useless. Any minute now.”
“The point is, you’ll get through finals this week, okay? You’ll get through them and on the other side you’ll have winter break and you’ll be already missing classes and you know it! Just calm down and next week you’ll know I’m right and forget all about this farming nonsense.”
“Hey! It’s not nonsense! You know it’s not, Evel- Evie! We need you to come to Castanet! I’ll help you with growing plants, I’m great with plants! We can do it together,” Finn pleaded, bouncing and flailing behind Cristina’s head. Evelyn’s mouth twitched at the sight of Finn’s exuberance juxtaposed by Cristina’s serious, concerned expression.
“Okay, fine. After finals. I won’t make any decision until after finals,” Evelyn conceded. Finn deflated, wings– and a great deal of his height– drooping. Cristina exhaled loudly in relief and stood up. “But farming, Castanet, they aren’t nonsense. They’re important.” Finn perked right back up and Cristina rolled her eyes.
Her friend reached over Evelyn’s shoulder. She turned just in time to see a glimpse of Castanet’s advertisement one more time, before Cristina exited out and snapped the laptop closed.
“Whatever you say, you dork.”
“I can not believe you’re doing this,” Cristina muttered, arms crossing and face a thundercloud of frowning as Evelyn packed the last box.
Finn flew up with the tape roll and they taped down the flaps with a slight pause to free Finn’s tiny fingers from the tape. Somehow Cristina had spent an entire week and a half completely unseeing of any of Finn’s interference. She didn’t see pencils hover or cups of milk drink themselves or candies disappearing into his insatiable gullet. Well, she did notice the candies disappearing afterwards, but never seemed to notice him chewing gleefully just a few feet away from her head. It was pretty hilarious, actually. She also hadn’t heard a single one of Finn’s squeaking little rants of how they needed to go to Castanet, how the Harvest Mother or Goddess or whatever, was waiting for them. Evelyn had long learned to tune him out, especially around other people who may not notice him but would definitely notice her talking to thin air.
“I can’t either really. I can’t believe the Mayor actually accepted my application. I have a house and barn and coop waiting for me!”
“Yeah, there’s gotta be a catch in there somewhere,” Cristina pointed out warily.
“You should trust people more, Cris.”
“Don’t call me that. I still think this is idiotic! You’re the one who goes on and on about how you’re going to be first in your family to have a Bachelor’s degree, how proud you are of yourself for paying for your own education, for making something of your life better than your family. Now you’re gonna just disappear into some nowhere town to raise chickens.”
“And cows and horses! Oh, the Mayor said they even sell goats sometimes. They used to be famous for their goat cheese!”
“Oh, goodie. Goats,” Cristina sniped sarcastically. “You still haven’t explained why this is so damn important! And don’t you dare say it’s for the bees!”
“It is important, Cristina. I can’t…” Evelyn stopped, stared down at her box, then got her feet and squared her shoulders. She turned to Cristina and returned the same earnest, serious expression that Cristina had used over a week ago. “I can’t explain it, but if I can do this, it’ll be the most important thing I’ve ever done, or could ever do,” Evelyn told her firmly, almost… bravely. Finn flew close and landed on her shoulder, cuddling close to give her a hug. During the past days they’d managed to bond quickly, with him sleeping close on her pillow at night and cuddling her during the day when she looked stressed or worried, or when he got especially frazzled by his own nerves. She tipped her head just enough to rub against his little, stocking-capped head but not enough for Cristina to notice. Especially since she’d looked away, mouth tight and eyes shiny.
“You’ve been my friend and my roommate since my very first day here. I can’t even imagine doing this without you, Evie,” Cristina whispered sadly. Evelyn heart clenched and her eyes grew misty. “I’ll hate whoever moves in with me next semester and it’ll be all your fault!”
“Don’t call me that, damn it!” Cristina exclaimed, laughing wetly and throwing open her arms.
Evelyn rushed forward and clutched her best friend tightly. “We’ll email and text and call each other all the time. I’m gonna be so lonely in my house, in a district all by myself! I don’t have any neighbors at all! And I won’t know anyone and I’ll be so busy hoeing and weeding and who knows what else! Talking with you every day will be the only thing that keeps me sane!” Evelyn cried, burying her face in Cristina’s shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah. You’ll make friends in no time and forget all about me. Everyone loves you, Evie,” Cristina muttered, sniffling.
“I love you, too, Cris.”
“I fucking hate you, stop calling me that!” Cristina burst out, laughing and sobbing simultaneously.
Finn hovered around their heads as they cried their last and hugged a little longer and tighter.
Finally, Evelyn stepped back. Cristina helped her put the last of the boxes into the trunk of Cristina’s car. Standing side by side, they stared at the license plate, arms linked and heads resting one upon the other. Then, they moved apart and towards the front of the car. Finn settled on top of Evelyn’s hair, wings humming in excitement.
“Why can’t you just buy a cheap truck and drive all your crap to Castanet?” Cristina asked then.
“They don’t… allow cars…” Evelyn answered slowly.
“Wait, what?” Cristina yelped as she tore open her door. They both slid onto their seats and Evelyn exhaled roughly.
“It’s a conservation thing. They want to keep the county clean and they don’t really have money to pave all the roads, apparently? Cars could ruin the roads they have. Mostly, people walk or have wagons and horses.”
Cristina demanded, aghast, “Are they Amish?”
“No. They’ve had some… financial difficulties in recent years. Crops aren’t growing well, their tourism has dropped, their hot springs have, um… cooled? They don’t even get the ferry to and from Toucan Island anymore.”
“I’ve heard of Toucan Island! That place is supposed to be like a paradise, a tiny Hawaii!”
“Yeah, and getting there is easiest from the port in Harmonica Town. Anyway. Banning cars was a way to at least keep the area clean and even make money for the farm that would rent out horses or wagons to visitors. It’s also small enough that the Mayor says most people just walk everywhere.”
Cristina hummed pensively. “You said, hot springs cooled? That’s weird, right?”
“Yeah, that’s weird.”
A small moment of befuddled silence followed.
“Okay. So… you’re going to a dying town, with shitty tourism, to break your back doing hard labor you’ve never done in your life, that also doesn’t allow cars. Wow. I’m sold,” Cristina said in an overly-enthusiastic voice.
“Luckily, you’re not moving there. I am. I really am sold. I’m ready! I can do this,” Evelyn said fiercely, hands clenching into fists.
“Okay, well, if you give up, no one will blame you. It’s just farming.”
“Hey!” Finn cried in offense. Evelyn discreetly patted his tiny foot.
“I won’t, but thanks. Just drop me off at Will’s. I can pay a moving truck to cart my stuff to the depot outside Castanet and the Mayor arranged to have someone by there to pick it up when it arrives. I won’t be moving in until spring. The house I’m getting needs a bit of cleaning up. No one’s lived in it in a decade or so.”
“Oh my God,” Cristina hissed, flicking on her blinker with more force than necessary.
“It’ll be fine! At least I know it’ll be clean and I’ll have furniture when I get there!” Evelyn said brightly and optimistically. “I’ll have my very own house. How amazing is that? Lookit me, adulting all over the place,” she laughed. Cristina rolled her eyes, but smiled a little.
“I bet you’ll do it.”
“Be the best farmer ever. A real hero,” Cristina teased.
Evelyn’s auburn eyes widened in shock at Cristina’s profile, Finn falling right off her head into her lap. “Yeah,” she breathed softly, her smile small and hopeful. “Thanks.”