Amelia sat placidly in her seat, gazing out the window but not truly taking in the sights that passed her by. Her mind was filled with thoughts of home, and of friends and fond places left behind. When her mother had tearfully hugged her and made her promise at least fifty time to return home if she was uncomfortable, Amelia had kept a strong front. She stood tall, assured her family there was no need to worry, and had kept the smile on her face until she crossed the Warren town line. As they passed the sign, her resolve crumbled into silent tears. To her immense relief, the driver seemed determined not to notice, and left her to comb out her tangled emotions in peace.
The ride was about two hours long from her quiet Massachusetts home to the rural New Hampshire hamlet her rideshare driver was taking her to, and besides the hum of the wheels and the soft lilt of Stevie Nicks on the stereo it was a silent trip. Amelia’s thoughts were left free reign over her attention, and they decidedly encompassed her consciousness in a haze of nervous hopes and worries. The song Dreams began to play, and the remembrance of the one that had started this falling domino chain of events came back in full force.
Three weeks earlier, she had woken in a cold sweat from the oddest and most tangible dream she had ever had. Walking through a forest bathed in silver moonlight, she found herself among gnarled trees with weeping branches that appeared to be made of lightly colored glass with leaves of green velvet. She walked up to the one closest to her and reached her hand out to touch the smooth brown bark just below a small knothole set at her eye level. As her fingers made tentative contact with the icy surface her vision warped, the tree grew immense in her vision, and the branches encompassed her in a flourish like a curtain rushing together at the end of a Broadway play.
In the knothole she saw a scene open, as if being projected onto a rippling pool of water. She saw herself sitting at her computer in the office, except she looked much older. She felt a wave of complacent misery wash over her from a strange yet distantly familiar place and realized, without knowing how, that she must be tapping into the emotions of her vision self. The tired-eyed, middle aged version of herself was typing away on a computer like the one on her desk now. The website on the screen was unfamiliar to her except for the company logo on the top, but the older Amelia seemed as though she could be doing this with her eyes closed. The placard on her desk read “Supervisor”, though the sight of the promotion gave her no joy. This version of her seemed like a husk, devoid of hope and operating on necessity alone.
The pictures on the desk were somewhat visible, it looked like she'd had a few kids. She knew somehow that they were distant from her, and many of the pictures of a younger, slightly happier Amelia with the two children were folded on one side. She knew, in the inexplicable certainty of a dreamer, that the folded side hid a man whose heart she no longer held but whose betrayal she had never truly gotten over. The vision Amelia stopped suddenly and glanced at the photo the dreamer had been focusing on. As a silent tear rolled down her cheek, the vision shook her head roughly and discreetly wiped it away before returning to her busywork. The dreamer felt the deep loneliness and regret that the complacent vision concealed.
She turned away as the scene rippled and faded, eager to escape the feeling. The curtain of branches opened slightly, and Amelia walked through without hesitation back into the glass forest. She turned to look at the tree she had been standing before, but it was the same as it had been before her touch. She almost walked toward it again, but something urged her to turn and move forward on the path. She took a few soft steps, and a white glow began to attract her eye. Somewhat off the path, she could just make out the outline of a larger tree obscured by the uniformly sized brown ones surrounding her.
She walked to the edge of the path, trying to get a better look. Something tantalized her, beckoned her to step off the path and go toward the glow. Behind her she heard the vague clicking of the vision Amelia's keyboard, feeling it was a foreshadowing or an ultimatum even. Without turning toward the source of the sound she stepped off the path into the icy grass that crunched like brittle glass beneath her feet. She moved forward vaguely feeling the blades cut into her soles, but afraid to look down and lose her nerve. Besides, she felt no pain. She heard the trees whisper as she passed, felt the brush of their possibilities, but urged herself onward toward the milky glow.
She stepped into a clearing, the white tree before her was taller than the rest and the branches twisted wildly in all directions instead of flowing downward like the willows around it. She could almost hear the hum of its presence as she stepped forward, feeling warmth in the glow. As she gingerly moved forward the heat increased to the point where, as she stood an arm's length away, it felt as if she was standing before blazing bonfire. Many gnarled knotholes were on the thick and towering body of the ethereal tree, she reached out to touch the closest one to her; the bark felt like being tickled by old television static, but nothing else happened.
This one comes with a price. The words ran across her mind like cool water over a river stone, not from herself or any familiar-feeling place. She instinctively looked down to the glass grass, and finally saw the bloody footprints trailing behind her. Lifting her foot to rest on the opposite knee she saw the numerous tiny cuts on her soles, all flowing crimson with more fervor than any real small wound in the waking world would have. She pressed her hand to the open wounds, then slowly reached forward and left a stark red hand print where she had touched. The blood bubbled like an egg on hot tar, and faint wisps of red smoke trailed upward and swirled like a hurricane cloud into the knothole.
Make a wish. The distant voice said playfully. Understanding, Amelia blew the smoke gently. As it dissipated, she saw another rippling vision. This time she was atop a mountain overlooking the most beautiful valley she's ever seen. She looked elegant with a white streak in her brown hair that almost seemed to match the simply made white gown she wore. She was older, but this version of her had been less worn by time, and seemed untouched by the ravages her other self had suffered. A smile played on her lips, and her back was straight and proud. Several white-clad figures came up beside her, their faces obscured by the focus of the dreamer. They joined hands with the vision Amelia, and like a otherworldly chorus they began to sing. The melody wrapped around her and a feeling of home, like she hadn’t experienced since childhood, washed over her. She felt safe, loved, fulfilled. Desperately she wished she knew how to get there, to be able to find that peace. In that moment the vision suddenly turned and seemed to gaze out from the knothole meeting her eyes with a wry smile. Amelia stared back, as their eyes locked, she knew that the vision truly saw her. The older vision nodded to her younger self, and calmly mouthed the words “Hearth, home, and earth.” before fading in a similar ripple.
Find us. The voice said, Amelia began to turn to take a step, but she found the ground had fallen away, the blood from her feet flowing over the edge of a dark precipice like a terrible red waterfall. She tried to step backward, but slipped and fell in, tumbling down into the darkness. As she plummeted down the last words the voice uttered echoed around her, We’re waiting.
She’d sat bolt upright as the sensation of falling jerked her awake, looking to see the clock read 1:11 am. Her heart pounded so forcefully; it was all she could hear. Amelia had gotten up, thrown cold water on her face, and grabbed her laptop with the intention of finding a video to help her calm down and go back to sleep. However, almost without realizing it she pulled up a search engine, and typed in the words “Hearth, home, and earth”.
To her utter astonishment, a farm just over the border of New Hampshire popped up on the first page of the search. The simple website read, “Moirai Meadow: Hearth, Home, and Earth”. Just beneath the banner she read the words, “your new life is waiting!” and her heart stopped.
After regaining her composure, she perused the site and found it was a farming community set on almost 100 acres of land. They offered a home free of bills and a small stipend in exchange for work on the farm and crafting to make wares to sell in their store, something like a commune but with the promise of more privacy and with health benefits even. Amelia had to admit, she had always joked about running away to live on a farm, and she hated the office job she was at but didn’t figure she had any other path to take. It sounded nice, but she wondered if it was worth the risk. The image in her mind of her jaded older self came back to her mind and sent a fresh shiver down her back.
She’d slammed the computer shut, writing it off as a fluke and went to bed. She didn’t think of it again until the next day at the morning meeting. Her supervisor proudly announced they would be updating the archaic website the company used and showed an official mock-up of the new portal which had just been finalized. Amelia felt a wave of nervous nausea pass over her as she realized the web-page looked identical to the one the vision in her dream had been using.
After a few days of nervous apprehension and research, she had reached out to the farm's liaison by email, and settled upon coming for a few months to see if it was for her. All the reviews and the features in local newspapers pointed to it being a good place that did a lot of charity work. Her friends and family, while supportive of the sudden change of course, all made jokes about the cult she was moving into, and she laughed along with them to keep any serious inquiries about her motive for the move at bay.
If only they knew how crazy this idea really is, she thought. She’d quit her job and skipped State over a dream, and for all she knew this was a strange cult of some sort.
“Almost there, miss.” The driver said, rousing Amelia from her reverie with a start. Well, she thought, there’s no turning back now.