art by Justine McGreevy
by Erin M. Hartshorn
I sat on the green bench watching the kids at the playground. Not mine. Never mine. But my niece and my two nephews ran up slides and jumped down stairs and raced across bridges and climbed up the outside of equipment that had surely never been meant for that.
"I don't know how you manage," I said softly to Geena, my sister-in-law.
"I knew your family could hear the Call. Knew it when I married Ash. It didn't surprise me when he got up and walked out in the middle of dinner. I just hope he's all right, wherever he is."
He wasn't. Just as surely as we were bound to hear the Call of Adventure, so was our family bound to feel our kin. I knew when Ash died, just as we'd both felt our father die years before. Geena didn't want to hear it, though, and I didn't bother telling her again. The afternoon was too pleasant to spoil with a fight.
Nodding toward the kids, I asked, "And them? Are you ready for them to hear the Call?"
Only silence greeted my question. Turning, I caught the haunted expression on her face. Her voice was barely a whisper. "I'm afraid they already do--Liam, at least, has this way of cocking his head as if he's listening to someone I can't see. When Kenzie does it, I don't know whether she hears anything or if she's just copying him."
I knew the look she meant. Ash had had it early, too. Me, I hadn't even heard stirrings until I'd been off at college, far from my family, who would have understood. It's not a good way to pass calculus, stopping in the middle of a test, straining to hear something not from this world. Somehow, I managed not to flunk out of school, but I still moved back home after graduation.
The Call was fainter when I was surrounded by family, fading from just on the edge of hearing to something I imagined in my sleep. More fitting people to talk to, I suppose. Fine with me. I got to have a normal life.
Except I knew what I was missing. I'd heard the siren song growing, and that part of me had risen to answer it. Ash vanished and returned several times before settling down with Geena, and I was jealous.
I wanted to hear it again... but I knew that everyone who heard it wound up with one last adventure, one they'd never return from. I wasn't ready for that.
What is it about a statement like that? It taunts fate, like saying, "At least things can't get worse." At that moment, I heard the strings of harps, the blare of bugles as for a hunt, and the single word, "Come."