A Mysterious Find (Short Story)
By Chris J Mitchell
I was deep in the woods and the trees were casting a cold shadow over the ground.
The call of a solitary bird echoed from far away, and I wondered if it was time to turn back as my stroll had turned into something more strenuous than I had planned.
Still, I kept on for I felt something inside of me wanting to push forward. I squeezed through a couple of huddled trees, but then stepped into a tangle of nettles. This distracted my attention for a moment while I freed myself and I 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 it away from civilisation. The object looked as though it had not been touched for over a hundred years. Was it an old stone trough or even an ancient grave I thought to myself?
The structure rose 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 came over me.
My heart rate had increased and little sounds, such as leaves rustling or the chirp of a bird all became 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.
Most likely a drinking basin for livestock or horses, but still enough for my curiosity to push me to investigate. I put 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 and leaves away with my hand. They felt cold, damp and as you would expect. Underneath was earth and disappointment that I had not discovered a great missing artifact.
My heart rate returned to normal and I sat down on one of the cold stone sides to take 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, boney head of a strange figure. He had grey skin and in places bones showing where there should have been skin. 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 of the structure.
“Ready when you are,” he said.
“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 over his shoulder.
“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!
For further fictional tales please see the fiction page or for an insightful academic look at the history of ghosts and how they have been used in creative literature to add suspense, story devices and to engage with the reader please see A Concise History of Ghosts and Famous Accounts in Literature