Disclaimer: I do not own anything in Harvest Moon.
AN: This is a contest entry for the Village Square contest. The current topic is Sunlight and Shadows.
Jack smiled to himself as the cool nighttime breeze ruffled his hair. Crickets could be heard chirping and the full moon shined brightly above him. It seemed like it would be a peaceful night.
The young man had only been there a week, but he had already felt at home in Forget Me Not Valley. The people there were nice and friendly. The only one who didn't seem as neighborly right off was the Witch Princess, but he didn't let that bother him much.
"Hm… I wonder what I should do tonight," Jack murmured, looking like he was deep in thought. He knew he had been working very hard the past week, so maybe a little relaxation was in order. He smiled to himself. "I think I'll go to the Blue Bar tonight. Griffin did always tell me I was welcome there anytime."
With that thought in mind, he looked over his field one more time. Despite his hard work, the place was still a mess, what with tree branches, stumps and rocks all over the place. Weeds also grew alongside his crops, which he knew he had to get rid of. He was pacing himself certain that doing it all at once wasn't good for his health.
He turned to the farm gate and headed out in the village. The farmer smiled even more as he walked on the path. Street lamps were on, showing his shadow on the ground. It looked longer and maybe would have been taller than Jack himself if it was actually standing right next to him.
He paused in his steps when he noticed a familiar figure walking alone. Her sandy blond hair swayed gently and there appeared to be a thoughtful glimmer in her red eyes. She was wearing the same clothes that he expected her to wear; right down to the skull accessory that she used to keep her black shawl around her shoulders and back.
"Witch Princess?" Jack asked curiously.
Witch Princess didn't even acknowledge that he had spoken. She just continued walking ahead. The farmer tilted his head and called out to her again.
The witch gasped as she stopped in her steps, and glanced in his direction. "Oh, Jack! I'm sorry, I didn't see you there."
That wasn't exactly what the brown haired man had expected her to say. He actually expected her to snap or something. The fact that she actually apologized seemed a bit off for her. "Witch Princess? Is something wrong?"
"Oh, nothing is wrong," the Witch Princess answered with a shake of her head. "I was just thinking. Thanks for being concerned, though."
Jack couldn't believe his ears. First, she says she is sorry, and now she was grateful? Something was seriously wrong about all of this. "Witch Princess, are you feeling okay? You're acting oddly."
At first, the blond didn't respond. The knowing look appeared in her eyes again, as though she was trying to figure out the right thing to say. Finally, she nodded slowly. "I'm feeling okay, but there is something you should know. Beware the shadows."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I mean, beware of the darkness within," she told him. "Trust me; if you continue on, you're going to be even more confused."
Jack slowly shook his head. At first, he was about to agree and head back home. But then he remembered something he heard from Marlin once. The Witch Princess was known for being tricky and for playing pranks on the whole village. Perhaps she was only acting nice to fool him?
"Well, thanks for warning me, but I'm going anyway," he said at last as he continued on his way to Blue Bar.
"Okay," she called behind him. "But don't say I didn't warn you!"
Jack did his best to ignore her. He wasn't doing it because he hated her or anything though. He always felt that witches had a bad rap. But, if this was a trick, he just didn't want it getting in the way. He wanted to have some fun, and that was exactly what he was going to do!
However, as he walked, the air for some reason felt slightly heavier. He could hear dogs howling in the distance. The young man wouldn't have been surprised if fog started to roll in, even though there wasn't any. It was starting to feel a bit spooky somehow.
"Stop that," Jack coached himself as he came to a stop in front of the Blue Bar. "You're only getting jittery because of what the Witch Princess said."
Despite that though, he realized that he was actually hesitating to open the door. The young man took a deep breath, and told himself one more time that he had nothing to worry about. Steeling himself, he reached out and opened the door, walking inside of the village's drinking establishment.
The moment he walked in, he heard the sound of a cup banging, hard, into the counter in front him. "Give me another, Griffin! And make it snappy!"
Jack's eyes opened wide in surprise as he looked over at the one who made that demand. Marlin sat on one of the stools, and he was looking pretty steamed about something. He had never seen him like that before, and assumed that Griffin was going to talk him down, because of how sweet and nice he was.
However, the response he heard was certainly unexpected. "Keep your shirt on, Marlin. I don't care what your problem is, but don't expect any sympathy from me."
"Hey, simmer down guys!" Jack exclaimed as he rushed over to them. He had never seen either of them act like this before! He shook his head, as though trying to clear his head, and when he stopped, he noticed that both men were glaring at him. "What's gotten into you two?"
"You keep out of this Jack," Marlin snarled, keeping his gaze fixed on the horrified farmer. "This isn't your concern!"
"What have I told you about your acting up, Marlin?" Griffin demanded as he reached over the counter and grabbed Marlin's white shirt. "If you keep up with your outbursts, I will have you thrown out of here! Do I make myself clear?"
The black haired man growled and lowered his voice, "Crystal clear."
Jack could only watch in surprise as the elder man released Marlin. He had never seen either of them act like this. In the short time that he had known them, he has seen them talking to each other. One time, they were even laughing and having a good time. He had no idea what was going on here, but he didn't want to find out!
"Uh… I think I'll be going now," he said softly, as he started to turn around. What greeted him was a puff of smoke to his face. He coughed and sputtered, waving hid hand in front of face as though doing it would clear it.
"Oh, sorry, Jack," a familiar girl's voice remarked.
"Wha…?" When the smoke was cleared from his vision, the farmer saw, much to his surprise, that Muffy was standing there. Now this wasn't so surprising because she lived and worked there. However, what was startling was the cigarette that she was holding in her hand. "M… Muffy?"
"Yeah, it's me. Something wrong with that?" she demanded, crossing her arms.
"Uh… n… no of course not," Jack said quickly, not wanting to anger her. "I just don't think I've seen you smoking before."
Muffy shook her head and looked away from him. "Well, what would you know about me anyway? You've only been here a week. What would you know about my troubles?"
"Um… did your troubles have anything to do with your smoking?" the farmer questioned, hoping he sounded sincere. He paused as he felt the hairs of his neck stand out on end. He looked over his shoulder and noticed that Marlin was glaring daggers at him, but was keeping his mouth shut. Doing his best to ignore it, he turned his attention back to the barmaid. "Um… I would be willing to listen if you…"
"I don't want to talk about it," she told him. Suddenly, she was staring right back at him, and he didn't like the look in her eyes. "You sure are nosy, aren't you?"
Jack shook his head, unable to stop himself. He didn't like the stares between Marlin and Muffy. Normally, he would want to help them, but the atmosphere had turned very sour. A shiver went up his spine as he walked around the barmaid and started to head back. "Um, sorry, I didn't mean to intrude. I'll just be leaving then."
He could feel their eyes following him as he headed for the front door. On the way, he passed Celia, whom had come in just as he started to leave. She sat down on one of the stools, and Jack had a feeling he knew what she would ask for, but he didn't see her doing it normally, but tonight was anything but normal.
As he stepped back into the night air, which seemed to feel worse than before, he turned in his steps to head back. All he wanted to do was to go home and get some shut eye. "I don't want to see anyone else tonight."
Jack groaned softly as he tossed and turned in bed. Sunlight shown through the window and it was another new day. But he didn't get as much sleep as he would have liked. All of last night's weirdness got to his head. He was certain that it was because of it that he didn't sleep well.
He sighed, knowing he had to get to work and climbed out of bed. He looked down, noticing that he didn't even bother to change into his pajamas. He had been in such a hurry to get to sleep; he climbed into bed with his clothes on. He looked in his cat and dog's bowls and filled them with food and fresh water. Then he headed outside to greet the day.
All he was able to do was water his crops. He thought about doing the weeding, but couldn't seem to get into it. He shook his head, telling himself that he had to do something, or the weeds would just keep growing.
"What's the matter with you?" a voice demanded behind him.
Jack looked over his shoulder, noticing that the Witch Princess was standing right behind him. "Witch Princess? Are you doing better?"
"You could say that," the witch told him. "You look like you could use more sleep though." A sly smile appeared on her face. "Maybe I should use you as a guinea pig to test my dream potion!"
"Um… I don't think so," Jack said quickly as he rose to his feet. "Do you mind telling me what was up with your attitude last night?"
"What are you talking about?" Witch Princess demanded, narrowing her eyes.
"Last night, you were acting weirdly," Jack explained. "And come to think of it… Marlin, Griffin and Muffy were acting weird too, though I didn't stay all that long. And Celia…"
The blonde rolled her eyes. "Oh please… you mean you didn't take my warning seriously when I was acting differently?"
"I… I thought you were just trying to trick me," Jack replied, shuffling his feet nervously.
Witch Princess sighed and shook her head. "It is just like I said, 'beware the shadows.' Everyone who lives here is affected by this."
"You mean… Marlin's drinking and Muffy's smoking…"
"All part of what happens here at night," the Witch Princess told him rather flatly. "I originally cast the spell just for fun, but I've been having trouble reversing the effects. Thing is, I'm the only one who knows about it, not even the Harvest Goddess can help me!"
Jack gazed at the red eyed girl curiously. "But isn't the Harvest Goddess a statue now?"
"That's why she hasn't been able to help me, of course!" the Witch Princess added. "Not that I would accept her help anyway. She is so annoying…"
Jack was confused about the whole thing, but he knew at the moment there was nothing he could do. He knew nothing about magic, so he wouldn't know what to do. "Wait… if people get worse in the dark, how come you…"
"If I knew, I'd let you know, but not even I get it," the blonde interrupted. "As you were not here when I cast the spell, you don't have to worry about changing in the night. Not that you would notice if you did." She chuckled lightly. "I'm sure the look on your face was priceless last night!"
"Hey, this really isn't funny! You should fix this!" Jack yelled, doing his best to control his temper.
"I'm doing the best I can," Witch Princess snapped. "You'll just have to be patient."
"I'm sorry," Jack said quickly, not wanting her to cast a spell on him. "I get cranky when I don't get a lot of sleep."
Witch Princess shook her head. "Whatever," she said. "Anyway, I'll fix this as fast as I can. I'll leave you to your work." She chanted a spell and clapped her hands, disappearing from view.
Jack decided he needed to clear his head, so he headed out to the village for a walk. This was all too much to take in all at once. Despite the way he felt earlier, he was starting to regret coming here. How could he have not noticed it earlier?
It didn't take him long to remember he spent most of his nighttime hours at home. He had been so tired from his work that he went to sleep as quickly as he could. That was how he had been blind to it.
"Jack?" Celia's voice asked in concern, taking him out of his thoughts. "Are you doing okay? You don't look so good."
Jack looked up in surprise, gazing at the brunette. "Celia? I'm fine, I guess. I didn't sleep well last night. How about you? Does your head hurt or anything?"
Celia gave the farmer a confused look. "No, I'm fine. Why would my head hurt?"
"Well, I did see you at the bar last night," the young man answered. "I saw you order a drink too."
"Um… I wasn't there last night, Jack," Celia replied slowly.
Before Jack could say anything else, Muffy walked up next to the other girl. She looked very bright and cheerful like she usually did. "He probably had a bad dream last night is all," she replied. "He does look rather tired. Maybe you should get some sleep, Jack."
Jack looked between the two girls. As he did, everything became clear to him. During the daylight, everyone acted nice and friendly, at least most of them are. This he figured was their actual personalities. However, the darkness, the shadows as the Witch Princess called them, made everyone he knew different. That included the witch herself, who instead ended up nicer and concerned instead of getting worse like the rest of the residents.
The farmer swallowed the lump in his throat as new information sunk into his mind. No one was aware of their changes at night. It was as though they had alter egos that they didn't know that they had inside of them. The only ones who were aware of this were Jack, who wasn't effected at all, and the Witch Princess. He figured the reason for this was because it had been her own spell, or maybe it was because she was a witch. Whatever it was, she knew just as well.
He knew he had to stay here since he did promise to help the Harvest Goddess. And yet, he was afraid now to even be living there. He had a feeling that what he had seen was only just the beginning. So far, he had seen people that he knew smoking and drinking. Was anyone around him into gambling at night? What about stealing from homes, or kidnapping people? Could any of them be part in some sort of group that he would rather not know about?
"This place is going to drive me crazy," Jack thought to himself. "The Witch Princess better fix this soon."