Published on 2012/10/14

A Fairy Scary Night

Lindsey Beth Goddard

I stood at the foot of my father's king-sized bed, frozen to the spot. The massive, hand-carved bed posts towered over me. I felt out of place in his perfectly kept den. Amidst the lavish furniture and polished antiques, I felt very much my age. Not even ten.

I cupped the tiny cage in both hands, hiding it. The little bars, like iron toothpicks, seemed to rattle as my father spoke. It was probably just my nerves, but in that moment, I could've sworn it was his thunderous voice that shook the cage.

"What are you doing?!" he nearly screamed. "I told you never to come in here!"

"I--I--" My hands began to sweat as I stuttered, trying to formulate a reason why I was standing dead center of the one place in our twelve room mansion I was not allowed to visit. I worried about the tiny creature trapped between my palms. I didn't want her to overheat, or suffocate.

My father pointed at my hands. "What do you have there?"

My palms were clammy. The square metal box, not much larger than a match box, suddenly felt very heavy in my grip. I sighed and opened my fingers to reveal what I'd found. The teeny woman inside the cage squinted her eyes as light spilled into her world. She was beautiful, with bean-sized feather wings and soft, curly blonde hair. She was naked, aside from the clover leaves draped over her groin and buttocks, knotted at the small of her back by thin stems. I couldn't take my eyes from her radiant glow, and I realized my father had fallen silent as well, eyes fixed on the winged creature as she sulked. She sat with her legs bent, knees pointing upward, arms draped over her thighs... frowning. And the frown on her pea-sized face was unsettling, a sharp contrast to the glimmer of her flesh, which was vibrant, nearly crystalline.

My father shook himself from a stupor, took a few steps forward, and said "Okay, Scottie, I won't punish you this time, but what you're holding in your hands is very rare and worth a lot of money, so hand it over to me, son."

"What is it, dad? A fairy?"

He took the cage from my palm, holding it carefully with both hands, and put it back in the wooden hutch where I'd found it. I had seen hutches--in other homes--with panes of glass on the door, allowing a glimpse inside. My father's hutch had slats of cedar where the windows should have been. This drove me insane with curiosity, an ongoing mystery that compelled me to snoop around.

"It's none of your business. In fact, it's my business. I'm in the business of finding things. Rare things. And someone paid me a fortune to find this. It took me six years, and I intend to deliver."

I thought about this for a minute as my father locked the cabinet--something he had failed to do the last time. "But what will happen to her, dad? What will they do with her? Why do they need her?"

He dropped the key into the pocket of his gray suit jacket and walked over to me. Placing his broad hands on my shoulders, he ushered me through the door of his den, into the hallway. "I don't know, son. I don't ask questions. I'm only paid to find things... things that take a lot of time and effort to hunt down. And I don't appreciate you meddling in my business."

"But--"

"But nothing, Scott! Run along now. You're lucky I'm not grounding you for a week!"

Hanging my head, I loitered in the hall for a minute before sauntering back to my room.

***

Sunlight poured through the clouds, shedding radiant beams across the meadow. My mother stood before me, sun dress ruffling in the April breeze. A smile curled her lips as she gazed into the distance, watching two robins build a nest in the branches of an oak. Trees were sparse in this meadow, but maybe the sheer beauty of this place is what drew the animals.

The path to my right cut a line through the overgrown grass. Heavy stones and wild lilies bordered the trail. It went on straight for a while, then zigzagged out of sight. We would take that path soon--leave the park and go home. I didn't want to. I wanted to stay here, forever.

I cradled the jar in my hands, hoping to keep the butterfly inside. I peered through the glass, marveling at the patterns on its orange and black wings, trimmed with little white speckles. Its wings moved, slowly, but it made no effort to fly. Its antenna searched the air, its dark eyes fixed on me. A twig snapped as my mother approached. Her shadow fell over me, much taller than her petite figure, as she stood between me and the sun. Light framed her face as she smiled down at me.

She knelt, placing a hand behind my neck. Her fingers were soft and warm on my skin. "If you love it, Scott, you have to let it go..."

I awoke, tears forming on my eyes. Realization slammed, hard, against my chest. It seized my heart and forced my wind pipe to tighten. I'd never see her tender face again. These dreams were just memories. Bits and pieces of a better time. She was gone, taken from me by the cancer in her brain. It had been nearly a year.

I hated those dreams. They were a tease. They felt so real, it shattered my world to awaken, alone in bed, a wet spot forming on my pillow as I sobbed. It was like losing her all over again.

A beam of moonlight shined through a gap in the curtains, slicing the darkness in two. Shadows hung in the corners of my room, the furniture lost in inky blackness. Yet, the beam of light provided a comforting path to the doorway. I could still feel her fingers on the back of my neck, and I smiled. I closed my eyes and revisited the dream for a moment. I was not scared when I imagined her here.

I ran my toes along the floor, feeling for my slippers. I slipped them on and grabbed my robe from the overstuffed chair. I would go downstairs--to the kitchen--for some cookies and milk, a ritual I'd developed during my father's long business trips, when I was left alone with a stranger called "the nanny".

The floor boards creaked as I entered the hall. Dull silver light came through a bay window. The window lattice cast a shadow over the wall that moved and contorted as clouds crossed the moon, causing eerie shapes to dance across the surface. I watched the shapes move as I approached the stairs, little fractions of moonlight, blinking in and out of existence. Then, the light was gone, as if a black cloud engulfed the moon. I picked up pace, closing in on the stairs.

As my foot touched the first stair, I heard a soft weeping noise. It was faint, barely audible at first. It grew louder--a drawn out, stifled sob, frantic one moment and desperate the next. It sounded feminine, petite, filled with despair. It was coming from my father's den.

The door was ajar to my left. Shadows filled the vaulted ceiling as I backpedaled to the opening. For comfort, I tried to picture my mother's face, smiling, but I was too afraid of the noises to close my eyes. Breathing shallow, I stood at the end of the hallway and listened to my father's den. The sobbing continued, heavy panting and heartbroken whimpers.

The door hinge squealed as I entered the room. In darkness, I felt around on the wall for a switch. I found it, flipped it on. The crystal chandelier flickered to life, a myriad of bulbs flooding the room with yellow light. My eyes flicked to my father's desk. The chair was empty. I scanned the corners of the room, the leather couch along the wall. Nobody. And yet the crying continued. From inside the cedar hutch.

"If you love it, Scott, you have to let it go..." My mother's words rang through my mind, her unheeded advice. It was a good memory and a bad one, bittersweet, something I thought about often in my dreams. I didn't let it go. The butterfly. I selfishly chose to keep it. The poor thing died, on its back in the hot, cramped jar, legs curled in defeat.

Then, after a few months, mother did the same thing. She died. She left me alone with father and his many business trips. A nanny who barely knew my middle name. I tiptoed around father, who seemed inconvenienced to raise a child alone. I spent most days hiding in the solitude of my room, pretending she hadn't died, that the cancer hadn't won. I was trapped. Just like the butterfly. Just like the fairy.

As I eyed the wooden hutch, I knew what I would do.

Unafraid of the shadows, I made my way down the hall. I had a purpose, a mission, something that made me feel alive again. How long had it been since I'd felt anything but sadness? Too long. It ended right here. By doing this good deed, I would find happiness again. Not just in memories, but in present time. This very moment. Tonight.

My father's jacket was draped over the arm of his chair. His chest rose and fell as he snored, softly grunting. I tiptoed past him, felt around in the jacket pocket, gulping hard as he rolled over in bed. Cool metal grazed my fingertips, and I smiled, grasping the key. Silently, I slipped back into the hall.

Moments later, I held the tiny cage in my hands. "It's going to be okay," I told the grief-stricken creature. Her whimpering subsided to a few staccato breaths that rattled her shoulders as she lifted her head from her knees, staring up at me in wonder. She pushed a lock of hair away from her emerald green eyes. It fell behind her shoulders, cascading to the small of her back to join the rest of her golden tresses. Curious, I attempted to poke my pinky through the bars. Only the very tip would fit. My finger turned white where the fatty tissue strained against the metal. The winged nymph jumped back, cowering, fresh tears shimmering on her eyes, which weren't much bigger than the head of a pin.

"Don't be afraid. I'm going to set you free," I whispered. She only scrunched her eyebrows in response, scaling me up and down with those scrutinizing, miniscule eyes.

I lowered myself to a sitting position on the ground, steadying the cage in my hands, as to not jostle my little companion. Gingerly, I placed it on the floor. The top of the cage was fixed to each wall by a sturdy latch. I studied the latches, running my fingers over the interlocked pieces until I understood the design. I pressed down, hard, on the main piece, popping a thin metal loop from its grip. I repeated this process with all four latches. Then, gripping the handle between my thumb and index finger, I yanked the lid, pulling it loose.

She stared up at the sky, cautiously searching, eyes flinching as I entered her vision. She scuttled to the corner of the cage on all fours as I peered into the opening, grinning.

Shielding her head with her arms, the tiny fairy shivered as she peaked at me through a gap in her forearms. I realized I was frightening her, so I used my palms to scoot myself further away as I sat cross-legged on the floor, waiting. My father's clock counted the seconds as I sat, unmoving, waiting for the fairy to emerge.

Half of her pea-sized head peeked over the top of the cage as she studied me, trying to understand if I posed a danger or not. Then, she rose into the air, wings flapping so fast they were nothing but a blur. Quick as a flash she flew over to me, leaving a trail of luminescence in the air as she approached. I strained to focus my eyes as she hovered a mere inch from my nose, cocking her head to one side as if thinking. She reached out, gripping the tip of my nose with her nimble fingers, and planted a kiss on my face. It tickled, but I didn't raise a hand to scratch it for fear I would scare her away. Smiling, I slowly opened my palm in hopes she might decide to land there.

Then, her angelic eyes squinted. The gratitude dissipated from her face. Her rosy lips curled into a scowl, and she began to breathe heavy, puffing up her chest with each dramatic inhale. She glared around the room, at the contents of my father's den, as if looking for something to punch. "It's okay now," I attempted to calm her. "You are free to fly wherever you want."

Turning to me, anger still burning in those leaf-green eyes, she patted the tip of my nose as if to say, "My quarrel is not with you." She hovered there for a few ticks of the clock. The beating of her delicate wings played a duet with the hammering in my chest. I was beginning to panic, wondering what to do next. My throat was suddenly dry, and I gulped, hard. The sound seemed to pull her from a silent reverie, and she sprang into action, darting away. I scrambled to my feet, tracking her movements by the radiant trail left in her wake.

The first crash made me jump, surprised. An Oriental vase hit the ground. It shattered against the hardwood floor with an ear-splitting sound that ripped through the silent night. Her movements were a blur as she doubled back, floating to the center of the room, only to zip past me again at full speed. The fairy rammed into another antique vase on the shelf, and it toppled over, cracking as it hit the ground. "Stop," I pleaded, my voice still a half-whisper, as if that mattered anymore. "Stop! Please!" She zoomed past me again, targeting a Faberge egg. It rolled from its stand, a large split down the middle.

"What in the hell?!" My father's voice caught me off guard. My heart skipped a beat, leaping into my throat. I should have expected his arrival, knowing the noise would wake him up, but I'd been so desperate for the fairy to acknowledge my pleas that I hadn't noticed him standing there.

"I--I'm sorry," was all I could manage to say. I cowered in his shadow, feeling as tiny as the creature who was destroying my father's den. He glared at me. His dark eyebrows scrunched together, forming a 'V' at the bridge of his nose. Betrayal and anger filled his features as his face flushed with blood, turning pink.

Then, the chaos of breaking glass stopped as the fairy caught sight of my father. She zipped over to where we stood. It was hard to read the expression on such a miniature face, especially one that was moving so quickly, but I noticed she no longer looked scared as she had in the cage. She wasn't the victim, shaking in her iron cell. She was a warrior now, invigorated by the damage she'd done to the room.

Before my father could swat her away, the fairy darted through the air to hover before his chest. She placed both hands on the skin above his heart. A sinister smile twisted the corners of her mouth. My father suddenly gasped, falling to his knees in the doorway, feebly striking the air where the fairy had been. He reached out for me with one hand, clenching his chest with the other. "My heart. Son.... my... heart."

"What did you do?!" I screamed at the fairy, but she was already gone, zipping around the corner of the doorway as I tried to make eye contact, my voice pleading. "Please come back. Please, don't do this!" I followed her, standing dumbfounded at the top of the stairs as I watched her sparkly white trail descend the staircase with a flash of light, disappearing underneath the crack of the front door.

A long, rattled breath escaped my father's lips. Then he fell silent, his eyes fixed on the cedar hutch. Tears streamed down my face as I collapsed to the floor, reaching out to grip his hand as the life left his fingers. "Dad," I said, caressing his cheek. "Dad!" I cried into the empty night, sobbing.

Later, when the paramedics arrived, they said it was a "fatal heart attack". But I knew better. I knew it was the fairy, and her magic.

Despite our differences, deep down, I loved my father very much. I never would've wished for his death. But I can't change the events that unfolded that night, nor can I convince you to believe them. I can only extend a warning: If you should ever catch a fairy, be prepared to keep it forever.

Though they are small, their vengeance is mighty.


Lindsey's fiction has been sprinkling the horror genre since her first small-press publication at the age of fifteen. Current and upcoming publications include: "Product 9" in the Night Terrors anthology from Kayelle Press, "The Moonlight Swamp Monster" in the western-themed horror collection from E-volve books, and her flash piece "Bare Minimum" will appear in Daily Flash 2013 from Pill Hill Press. She resides in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO with her husband, three children and a daft feline companion. For more information, visit: www.LindseyBethGoddard.com