A set of twins find themselves involved in something weird.
| It all started with the cow, Gertrude. The stupid cow got out of her stupid pen and I had to go get her stupid butt and bring it back home. How could something as simple as going to find the cow and bring her home wind up with me in this mess?
âBertha, the cow got out of her pen, again, and your brother is in town, my mother bellowed from the herb garden next to the pen, âGo find her before your father comes home and decides to kick your brother out for not latching the gate properly.â Gertrude is mad to get out her pen; however, she will ravage the wheat field, trample the cabbages, and sometimes gets stuck in the mud by the creek. She never can find her way back, and if we wait too long, we donât find her until her lowing to be milked can be heard for miles.
Now why the fact that my brother is forgetful and lazy always winds up being my problem is something I have pondered since I can remember. Bartram, or Bart as we call him, is exactly 5 minutes younger than me. However much I wish I could remember those 5 minutes of solitude, I canât; having been only 5 minutes old myself and as such not possessed of forming long term memories. I imagine it was wonderful: My mother dew eyed with joy looking at my face and blue eyes. Overcome with love she would lovingly stroke my tiny ears and tiny nose. My father, beaming at us as the midwife states, âI have never set eyes on such a beautiful and well behaved newborn in my life. You are truly blessedâ. I can picture it now as I walk to the garden to tell my mother that I will go look for the infernal cow.
As I turn the corner my mother can see by my face that I have been daydreaming and with a good-natured sigh tells me, âShe is probably down by the creek or off to eat the sweet grass up on the hill by the fence line with the McKay family farm. I donât know what your brother is up to today, but I am sure it is rapturously important.â
I head off towards the creek with a wave to my mother. I think about climbing into the hayloft when I return to escape the screaming that Bart will receive. Bart never comes up there anymore due to his fear of heights, caused by the same hayloft. We were about five and were climbing up to the loft to hide from father after we had upset a pail of fresh milk. He would be furious when he found it. Each drop counted to have cream, butter, and cheese to sell since we wanted to buy another cow. Bart was behind me on the ladder when the third from the top rung broke as he stepped on it, and he feel to the side. His other leg got twisted in the ladder rung below (which was what saved him the fall) and he hung upside down. I couldnât get down around him to go get father. I ran to the door of the loft and began to scream for father to come quickly. Father got to the barn, climbed up, released Bart from the ladder, and carried him down. I meekly followed them down and then had to explain what had happened. We both got a wallop on the behind and ate plain bread and water as punishment for wasting good milk. Bart never got over hanging upside down like that and to this day hates ladders and heights.
I was recalling all of this in my day dreamy way that aggravates my parents when I reached the creek. I looked around the immediate area and saw no sign of Gertrude. I decided to go north towards the McKay property since she loves the grass over that way. I cleared the trees near the hill closest to the creek and thought I could hear the bell around her neck on the other side.
I started up the hill, daydreaming again of the world before Bart. How my life would have been so much sweeter, if less interesting, if I hadnât been a twin. As I pictured my parents doting over me as I played with the dog they would have got me if Bart hadnât been there to be afraid of dogs, I came to the top of the hill and looked down towards where I had heard the bell. Well, where I had thought the sound had come from a few minutes ago. Where was that stupid cow?
"I am so sick of how they treat me. I am going show them I am not a dunderhead." I tell the little blue faerie, Misha, flitting by my right shoulder. She shakes her head and I am about to say more when I notice that the people outside the tavern are looking at me funny. I don't say anything more. My family, and especially my sister, Bertha, are used to me talking to myself. Or they think I am talking to myself, they just can't see the faeries. I think Bertha used to see them, and I stopped asking her when we were six because she said "Faeries are for babies" but I kept talking to them since they had become my friends. The feel of the peopleâs eyes on my back remind me that most people think it is weird to see faeries and/or talk to oneself. I gently wave Misha away and whisper, "I can't talk now. I will see you later." She looks angry, and I know she had something to tell me, but I couldn't talk her now.
I was running away from home, and I wanted to tell her about it, but I didn't need people remembering a strange boy walking through town on the way to Delton. I was done being the butt of my dad's jokes, my mother's disappointed looks, and Bertha's teasing. I was 15 and a man. I was also done with the name Bartram. What a dumb name, from now on I would be Ram. No one would mess around with a guy named Ram. As I am thinking about this, I see Misha flitting nearby and I wave her off. I can't talk to her now. She can find me once I 'm in the woods in the road to Delton.
I hear the bell on Gertrudeâs collar and it sounds like it is in the dell over the next hill. However, when I get there she is not there, but there is a cave. I think I hear her bell in the cave, so I take a deep breath and head into the cave. Bart doesnât like heights and I donât like small spaces. I go into the cave and sooner than I like it gets dark. I grit my teeth and reason that the cave canât be that big, it is in a small hill, so I continue towards the sound of the bell. I turn a corner, and suddenly it becomes easier to see. I can find no source of light, but it seems to swell from the roof of the cavern. I look around for Gertrude, but I donât see her anywhere. I begin to wonder if I had been hearing things when I followed her in here.
I turn to leave, but the passageway I have just come through is gone! I begin to move backwards staring at the wall in front of me. I would swear that I had come through a passageway there not 1 minute ago. I now hear voices from where I heard Gertrudeâs bell before. Has someone found her? I move towards the voices and when I round the corner, I see Gertrude and a strange looking short man feeding her. He also reaches out and strokes her head and I hear him say, âYou brought the wrong one, we wanted the boy.â
I look around to see whom he is talking to and suddenly I hear the second voice, coming out of Gertrude! I hear a voice coming from my cow say, âI think it will work with the girl too. Even though she doesnât present in the same way, I believe she is actually more powerful than the boy.â This point is where I feel my knees give out and the two of them turn at the noise and stare at me. If a cow could look surprised Gertrude does, and the small strange shape man looks perfectly befuddled. I am sure I look just as bad as I realize that mouth is hanging open and I am on my knees in a puddle on the ground. I slowly stand up and walk towards them which snapped them out of their befuddlement. They quickly look away from me to each other and back with a small noise of dismay coming from the little man.
âI am quite confused, did I hit my head?â I ask with a nod of greeting at the little man.
The little man jumps at the sound of my voice and shrieks, âShe sees me!â he then runs behind Gertrude and whispers to Gertrude in a voice I cannot quiet hear. I walk closer to Gertrude, and reach for her collar with her bell and touch her tentatively. I look into her eyes and ask, âCan you understand me? Did I really hear you speak?â
Gertrude heaves a huge sigh, and with a gentle shove moves the little man around towards me and says, âYes I understand you and yes I can speak. This is my friend Grubson, he is a gnome. He is terrified of humans, even though most canât see him. You, however, can see him because you are special, which is also, why you can hear me speak. Now I am going to have to do something when we are done here to let you go back. First, we need to take you down to my home and finish what we started. Please climb on my back and we will be on our way.â
âWhat?â I ask as I shake my head. I sit down on the floor again since my brain seems to be so busy spinning that it no longer is capable of controlling the muscles to stand.
This is the point where Grubson walks fully around Gertrude to look at me. âAre you quite sure that this one will do? She doesnât seem bright enough for what we need. She seems quite frail; she keeps falling on the ground for Gaiaâs sake!â
Indignantly I stand up and sputter at him, âI am quite bright and I would love to see how you fare when your cow starts talking to you as she tells you her friend is a gnome and that she is taking you somewhere!â
Gertrude starts at my slightly hysterical voice and comes over and gently nudges my hand and licks it. âIâm sorry Bertha. I wasnât ready to see you and acted poorly at the surprise. As for taking you somewhere, I promise to explain everything soon, but for now, I need you to climb on my back and be calm. If you canât be calm, I will need to let Grubson do his magic and make you fall asleep. SO can you do what I asked?â
âYes, I think I can do that. Wha, wha, what do I need to do after I climb on your back?â
Gertrude smiled, I have never seen a cow smile, and says, âClimb up and hold on while I carry us where we need to go. I wonât let anything hurt you, even if it seems we are going to fall or hit something. OK?â
âAre you crazy Gertie?!?â Grubson asked, âYou canât let her go without a sleep spell. She will balk at the shields and fall. She might figure out how to get back. And most of all it is against the rules!â
âGrubbie, it will be ok. If there are any problems I will take of them and answer any calls of rule breaking.â Gertrude answered as she began to walk with me on her back.
I am humming to myself, something that drive my sister crazy, as I walk down the road. I see a flutter to my left side, but I ignore it. I am not ready to talk to Misha. I continue walking and it still follows, just over my shoulder. I decide to talk to her and tell her that I am running away and I am going to not talk to faeries, because I am a grown up now and grownups donât talk to faeries. I turn but there is no faerie there. I continue walking, but I see a flutter by my left shoulder, so I turn. I see a distant fluttering and it goes under the bridge I just crossed. This is weird; if it were Misha, she would just talk to me. Maybe it is a new faerie. I decide to go tell her to leave me alone and to let Misha and the others know I am done with faeries.
I walk to the bridge and lean over to look down, where I can see the bank. I can hear something.
âIS it him?â a small voice asks.
âI believe it is,â answers a tinny, faraway voice.
Being high up looking down bothers me, ever since that stupid day in the hayloft with Bertha. I go to the side I just crossed and turn to go under the bridge. When I get there, I see a small female faerie, I donât recognize, but no one else.
âWho are you talking to and why did you follow me but disappear when I finally turned to talk to you?â I ask.
âArgh! You can see me?â the little green faerie says as she jumps at my voice.
âYes I can see you. I thought you were one of my friends until you ran away.â
âI have never met a human who could see me. I know special humans often see most faeries, but none of them can see me. Iâm a Loki sprite. I was watching you because I think you are about do something that is going to be bad. I was supposed to follow you because you shouldnât see me and try to prevent you from reaching Dalton. But now I donât know what to do. I am going to be banished for sure. Of all the days too.â
âIâm sorry I am really lost,â I say. âWhat am going to do thatâs bad in Dalton? I just canât live at home anymore. I going to go find a job and thatâs all. What kind of trouble can I get into?â
âHold on, I am going to try to answer your questions and my own as soon as I can get a vine through.â This is when I realize that she is messing with the roots of large vine under the bridge in the banks of the creek. She is holding a trumpet flower attached to the vine, and holding it to her ear.
âHi Misty, itâs Lokana and I really need to talk to Vander. Yes, Iâll hold.â
âWait, are you talking into that thing?â I ask incredulously.
âYes, how else am I supposed to talk to my boss ad figure out what to do with you? Yes? Hello? Yeah itâs Lokana I need to talk to Grubson. What do mean heâs out of the office? Heâs supposed to be waiting to hear from me about the Belson kid. Huh? How can the kid be there, heâs standing in front of me? No, Iâm sure heâs a he. Ok, Iâll wait her for a reply. Yes. Iâll keep him here with me.â
âSheesh, what a mess. Why would they think youâre a girl and down there already. You are right in front of me.â
âWell, I might know an answer to that. I have a sister, a twin.â I reply.
âWhat?! Are you kidding me? Thatâs crazy. Why didnât we know this?â here she grabs the vine again, âItâs Lokana again. Did you know we were dealing with twins?...... No. How did we not know this? â¦â¦Someone screwed up and it wasnât meâ¦â¦â¦â¦. So you mean she is already down there with Gertrude. What was Gertie thinking? â¦â¦â¦Oh, of course, it was an accident; Gertie is perfect and would never do something like this on purpose to make me look badâ¦â¦â¦â¦. Yes I know who Iâm bad mouthing, I donât care. Iâll bring him down and we can sort this out when we get there. Byeâ
âOK apparently your sister found a âsecret caveâ and followed Gertie and now the whole things a mess. All we needed was one person to do one thing and now it is a collassal mess and Iâm going to be blamed. Well follow me.â
At this point, I was completely befuddled. I shook my head and stood where I was even as she began to walk down the bank of the creek. She turned and saw I wasnât following.
âCome on! We have got to get down there. Total chaos is about to be unleashed and we have got to stop it. I donât have time for your slack-jawed awe at what is going on. Letâs goâ She had walked back while talking and now grabbed my hand and pulled me along. She was quite strong who such a little thing. I slowly walked after her, and loosed my hand from hers, which she allowed once she realized I was going to follow this time.
We came out from under the bridge and there was a large root system at the bank of the creek with a large stump up above our heads. She then seemingly tapped a random knot on the roots and they spread apart leaving a gap large for her, but a tight squeeze for me to enter. Once into a tunnel the roots behind me closed again. I suddenly feel claustrophobic, which is Berthaâs issue while mine is heights, but I now understand the feeling she describes. I start to hyperventilate afraid I wonât be able to breathe in a minute. Lokana turns around and grabs my hand and I suddenly feel calmer. She says, âI may be a trickster at heart, but I still have basic faeries magic at my control. I just calmed you, but I have to stay in contact for it to work. But to get where we need to go, I have to let go, as the passages are narrow. Can you stay calm if I let go?â I nod at this ad take a deep breath as she releases my hand. I close my eyes and continue to breathe and slowly open my eyes and try not to think about the closeness of the walls. She begins to walk and I follow her. Before I know it, the walls are even closer and I canât help but to brush them as I walk. I close my eyes, take deep breaths, and keep walking. Somehow, not seeing the closeness of the walls but feeling them is ok. Slowly the walls leave me and I am forced to open my eyes to see. Lokana is just ahead of me and we are in a large cavern, I feel wind and look around for the source, but can find none.
âThe wind is due to the convergence of multiple tunnels here in this cavern.â I nod and look around. I feel ok in here, not claustrophobic at all. So I continue to follow her. There seems to be a small pool to theâ¦ well right of me. I have no sense of direction down here.