Summers on his grandfathers farm were always the highlight of young Spencers year. Even as a teenager he couldn’t figure out what it was about Stardew Valley that made him feel so, well, alive. Was it the sweet smell of fruit growing in the fields, the warm summer breeze that gently carried away the leaves, or perhaps it was a welcomed opposite of the hustle of Zuzu city.
Yes, Spencer loved the valley, which was why he was so afraid of the next day when he would have to go back to Zuzu city for the new school year. Spencer always struggled with fitting in with the other kids, but here he felt like he belonged, and leaving the valley always made him feel incomplete.
His grandfather knew about his grandsons anxiety, even if he tried his best to hide it, “Spencer? You’re old enough now. Why not go to the Cidersnap forest to collect some spiceberries for jam?”
Spencer perked up, “Really?” he asked excitedly. He, however, didn’t wait for an answer as he grabbed a basket and ran across the farm to the forest.
He only paused, however, when he saw a mysterious tower looming over the tree tops. He had saw this tower multiple times, but every time he tried to ask about it his grandpa never seemed to want to talk about it.
“You must never go up there. For my sake.”
So he never did. He immediately turned around and went in the other direction where he found more bushes of spiceberries.
As he gathered them, Spencer paused when he heard tiny, almost distressed sounding squeaks behind one of the bushes. When he went over, he expected to see a mouse caught on a branch, but instead found something much, much stranger.
A tiny green creature, almost apple shaped, was caught in a spider web. As bewildered as he was, Spencer could almost feel the distress the creature was feeling. It was almost enough to make him cry.
“Sh…” he whispered gently as he carefully untangled the creature, all while trying not to destroy the spiders home, “It’s okay,” Once he released it, Spencer set it down.
He half expected the thing to run away, but instead it looked at him, then scurried onto him to his face, rubbing against his cheek. Spencer giggled before picking it up and setting it down, “You’re welcome,” he looked at his basket and gave it a spice berry, “Here you go. Hurry on home now.”
The creature hopped, making an almost musical chime, before scurrying away with the berry in its arms.
“I saw something in the forest today,” Spencer told his grandpa as they sat on the porch. His grandpa stopped his carving and turned to him.
“It wasn’t the tower, was it?”
“No. I know not to go up there. But, I did see something stranger.”
“What was it?”
“A small green creature. It was almost shaped, like, uh….”
Spencer turned to his grandpa in surprise, “Yeah! Wait, do you know what they are?”
His grandpa put down his carving knife and looked up at the sky, as if searching it for answers. He then sighed and turned back to him with a small smile, “They’re called the Juminos. They’re spirits who guard the forest. They don’t easily show themselves to humans, you know.” He showed his grandson the carving he was working on, which looked exactly like the Jumino, “It seems you made friends with them today, I’m afraid.”
“What do you mean?”
His grandfather opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated. He looked down at the carved Jumino before taking Spencers hand and placing it in his palm, “Spencer, there will be a day when I won’t be on this earth anymore. When that happens, you must remember that I will never be truly gone. I will be right there with you. When you’re in this valley, on this farm, you will feel me right next to you, guiding you,” He closed his hand around the carving, “But I will give you this advice now. Remain kind, stay strong, and whatever darkness haunts you, will be driven away by that light,” He pulled Spencer close and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead, “Now go to sleep, Spencer. You have a long journey ahead of you.”
“I don’t want to go back to the city,” Spencer sighed.
His grandfather only chuckled, “I know, but that’s not the journey I’m talking about.”
Spencer looked up at him, “Huh?”
But his grandpa only chuckled, “Go to sleep, Spencer.”
That same year would be known as the worst year of Spencers life. That fall, his grandfather suffered a horrible heart attack. He was moved in with Spencers family after it was apparent that he could no longer live on his own on the farm. He was still the jovial man Spencer knew him to be, but even he could see the life flicker from his eyes as his health deteriorated.
Spencer hated winter. He hated the snow, he hated the cold, but yet he couldn’t bring himself to go back inside from his backyard porch.
“Spencer?” He heard his mothers voice from behind him, “Your grandpa wants to see you.”
His grandpa lay in a cot in his living room, the fireplace glowing dimly against the moonlight.
“Spencer? Come here, my boy.” He weakly held out his hand.
Spencers breath hitched, but he walked over to him anyway.
“Look at you,” His grandpa smiled, “You’ve grown up so much.”
Spencer couldn’t say anything else, but he smiled as he put his hand in his grandfathers outstretched one.
“Spencer,” his grandpa said weakly. He pulled out a sealed envelope from his covers, “I want you to have this.”
Spencer took the envelope and moved to open it.
“No, no,” his grandfather chuckled, “Have patience, my boy.”
Spencer stopped before putting the envelope in his lap.
“Now, listen closely, there will be a day when you feel overwhelmed by the stress of modern life. Maybe it will feel like there’s a part of you missing, as if there will be no chance that you will be happy ever again. When that happens, Spencer, you will be ready for this gift.” His grandpa gave his hand a squeeze, “There are secrets, Spencer, that I wish I could tell you, but maybe one day you will learn them. Just remember what I said: Remain kind, stay strong, and whatever darkness haunts you, will be driven away by that light.”
Spencer smiled solemly as he felt tears well up in his eyes, “I will, grandpa. I promise.”
His grandpa smiled at what he heard, before closing his eyes. A candle went out in the room, and Spencer felt his grandfathers grip loosen around his hand.
Spencer, for the first time that night, allowed himself to cry.