SAVING THE SHAMROCK
By Irene Montaner
The lights were blinding. Wherever Fingula looked, hundreds of lights blinked. Some moving and some still; many yellowish, but some were red and a few even green.
The first thing Fingula saw when her eyes adjusted to the bright luminescence of this place was the metallic column in the middle of the road. Fingula looked up its gleaming surface and saw it stretch to the sky, like a needle tickling the clouds. Its base was decorated with symbols she could not comprehend. She didn’t have time to try and decipher them, though. A multitude of people walking in opposite directions swept her away. Fingula lost her balance for a second but managed to stay on her feet and began to move along, without knowing where she was going.
Lost among the people, she noticed the weird garments they wore. Most of them wore breeches and their jackets were often padded and colourful, made of a material she didn’t recognize. They were the very same people the druid had warned her about.
The druid’s face was paler than usual when he returned from his last extracorporeal wander. His gaze was fixed on Fingula but she was sure he wasn’t seeing her.
“Master, are you alright?” Fingula asked.
“Perishing nature, people endangered,” he said, almost in a whisper, and repeated these words over and over again, louder each time.
Fingula offered a the druid a soothing herbal tea but he refused it and left without giving any further explanation than those cryptic words.
Three days later he returned and told Fingula about his plan to give a chance of survival to the unnatural humans that would inhabit the future he had just visited.
People began to disperse as soon as they reached the right side of the road. Fingula found herself under a stone roof that rested on several rock columns that looked all the same. Fingula had never seen a megalith that tall. It was, without any doubt, man-made. In fact, everything in this twisted future had to be man-made. From the odd looking buildings that lined the road to the metallic carriages that crossed the sky incessantly. Nature was indeed dead. No trees, no grass, no turf, no animals grazing around. Perhaps even the river was lost to this people. But if it wasn’t, she had to find it. The Liffey river would be her only hope to help nature thrive again.
A jarring noise brought Fingula back to reality. She looked over her shoulder and glimpsed a giant metal snake creeping down the road. The snake halted and several holes opened on its flank. People came in and out and the snake resumed its smooth movements. It didn’t take long for another such creature to follow after. And another.
Curious to find out more about these beasts, Fingula walked to the middle of the street, her right hand fetching the dagger she had concealed along her left forearm. She was standing opposite the beast, ready to fight it, when something dragged her back to the margin of the road. A young man was holding her. Fingula tried to break free but his grip was strong.
“You ok?” asked the man who, unbeknown to her, had just saved her. “That luas nearly ran you over. Mind your way next time, trams don’t fly yet, you know.”
Fingula couldn’t understand anything he said except for one word. Lúas – that meant speed in her ancient tongue. Perhaps that metallic snake was meant to help her, whatever it was. Time was ticking for her.
“It will be your duty to safeguard these species through time,” the druid had said to her upon his return. The druid had been collecting seeds of every plant and herb he could find. They needed to save as many as they could. “Animals,” he said, “are a more delicate matter, for they have their own spirit and cannot be so easily coaxed into breeding whenever and wherever we choose. But plants are more tractable.”
The druid gave Fingula a goblet with a nasty looking beverage. It smelt foul. And tasted wrong. Fingula felt her insides burnt as she took one sip and would have gladly stopped but the druid urged her to drink more.
“A time travel juice, it’ll take you as far in the future as possible; but the further you go, the sooner you’ll return.”
Fingula had been given a leather satchel full of shamrocks to take with her this time.
Fingula decided to ride the beast instead of fighting it. She pulled up her hood to hide herself from unwelcome stares and wished she had an invisibility cloak with her instead of a plain weatherproof one.
Another metallic snake stopped at the same spot they others had and Fingula got in. It was rather crammed with people inside. Fingula stood close to the door, trying not to draw too much attention on herself. The beast began its ride and its traction took Fingula by surprise. She wasn’t holding onto anything and fell on her knees, bumping someone else on her way down.
Determined to make the beast pay for its rudeness, Fingula walked the length of the snake, pushing everyone on her way aside. She reached the end of the snake but instead of a head, she found a wall. Furious, Fingula knocked and kicked the wall.
“Stop it, you weirdo,” said a boy. But Fingula carried on and accidentally hit the alarm button in one of her strikes. The beast halted abruptly and Fingula fell once more to the floor. She didn’t hit anyone else this time. Everyone around her had already taken a step back. She was singled out and people looked at her with a mix of fear and curiosity.
A hole opened on the flank of the snake and two men with identical garments came in. Indigo breeches and shirts, and flashing waistcoats that had the word GARDA written on them. Fingula couldn’t read any of those symbols, though.
“What’s the matter here?” asked the taller of the two men. “Who rang the bell?”
Fingula stood still, her heart racing, and wishing more than ever for an invisibility cloak. No one said a word for a few seconds until the boy who had called her weirdo pointed at her. “That nutsy, she was having fits and wanted to bring the tram down,” he said.
For the first time since arriving in this twisted future, Fingula was scared. She was clueless about what the boy had said but she had seen him pointing at her. She began whispering the words of a protective charm but the spell just wouldn’t work. Magic was useless in this place with too much noise, so many lights, and a most unnatural smell. Her hand moved instinctively to her hidden dagger. She was about to unleash it when she remembered the druid’s final warning. “No lives you shall sever, for your mission concerns life.”
The shorter guard took a set of metal rings. He moved fast and it only took him one moment of Fingula’s hesitation to immobilize her and trap her wrists with those manacles. “Out of the tram with you.”
Fingula’s insides flipped over as the guards’ car took off. She looked through the window glass and saw the world became smaller as they flew higher and higher. People, buildings, and even those giant metallic snakes looked tiny from the sky. And so did her hopes. Until she noticed a black streak that divided the city in two halves. The river. It must be. Fingula had finally found the Liffey but she was still trapped in that flying thing.
Her right hand was free after the short guard had sat her on the back seat of the car and tied her left hand to one of the front seats of the car. Fingula reached for her dagger and took it out of its sheath easily. But as much as she tried, it was impossible to break those metal rings with it. Until she noticed a minuscule indent on the ring trapping her hand. Carefully, she slid the tip of the dagger in the dint and tilted it slightly to the right and then the left and right again until the ring opened.
She was free but still trapped inside the car. The doors were locked but a glass could always be shattered. Fingula banged it wildly until it broke. Everything happened very fast and by the time the noise alarmed the guards, Fingula was already sneaking through the window.
The wind was hissing loudly. Fingula could feel the icy cold cutting through her skin. She was free falling and praying her time here was over before she hit the ground.
Her fists were clenched, filled with shamrock seeds. Fingula opened her hands and saw the seeds disperse in the in the air, sprouting with the help of the humid wind. Zillions of shamrocks were raining over the city, covering the banks of the Liffey of an emerald green long forgotten.
But Fingula only had time to see a few of them dancing around her. Her time was up.
By Irene Montaner