I felt tired and old. How many years had I lost this time? A hundred? I let the ball of light dim a little, before I passed out.
A gentle hum filled the air. It wasn’t a soothing sound. There were maybe a dozen or so of the tiny flying piranha, although it was hard to tell with them moving back and forth so rapidly. Their bodies glowed and they left trails and afterimages as they moved.
If they moved close together, they would form a ball of light, which was what I had seen, I guessed. Or maybe it was something else entirely. The great thing about speculating is that it helps take your mind off all the sharp teeth.
“You won’t leave here alive,” said the Golden God. I could tell which one she was because she glowed in a much darker, more intense fashion. “If you do as I say, perhaps I will give you a quick death.” Her voice wasn’t sharp or threatening, it was soft, gentle and uninflected making it feel like no matter the subject, she would speak in the same effortless, impersonal manner, like it didn’t really matter to her what I chose to do.
She was the only one who didn’t move. She hung in the air above me, about the size of my hand. For reference, I have quite small hands, not at all manly or brutish. I always felt hard done by to not get big, powerful fists. If I had big hands, I could have learned to play the piano and done impressive things regarding key changes on a guitar. I wouldn’t have, but at least I’d have had the option.
I didn’t believe a word coming out of the Golden God’s tiny, razor-tipped gob, of course. If she could just bully me into doing what she wanted, she would have done it already.
“And who are you supposed to be? The fucking fairy queen?”
“Yes. I am Almedia, Queen of the Fairies, rightful ruler of this world.”
I hadn’t expected to be right and hadn’t prepared any follow up questions.
“Okay, well, nice to meet you. I’m Colin, I hope we can get on.” Fat chance. “What is it you want? And why are you even in here? I’m fine with the abridged version.” It was tempting to tell her to fuck off, that was my go-to reaction when someone threatened me, but what if her plans aligned with mine? People get too worked up about the lack respect they get shown. The job is to get what you want, not get treated like a princess while you get it.
Nobody had attacked me. The mini-Luftwaffe were silent and angry but they hadn’t started any strafing runs, so I was feeling like I was doing pretty well.
“This is our land, our world. You are thieves and tyrants.” Her eyes glowed red, which looked cool but not very intimidating. If she could get them to blink on and off one at a time, at least then she’d be able to signal a turn. “You made a grave mistake coming here.”
“Please, I make twelve grave mistakes before I get up in the morning. This is nothing special. Have you any idea how often I’ve been threatened with death since I came to this stupid world? Not to boast, but I’ve actually died a number of times already. It’s overrated as a form of intimidation. If you need me to get out of here, how will killing me help?”
She glared at me, which told me I was right.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, so please cut the shit. Believe me, if you want to claim this world as your own, I won’t stop you. I’ve no interest in fighting over who gets to take the dog turd home.”
The atmosphere turned raw and prickly. They seemed to be uncertain of how to get me to do their bidding, like if they blew their one shot they’d never get another, but all they needed to do was ask. How bad could it be? The death of every living creature that wasn’t a fairy? I mean, it’s not the ideal scenario, but you don’t start negotiations with your best offer.
The problem with desperate people is that they look at everyone as competition. It makes it much harder to believe people will help without being forced, because you certainly wouldn’t.
“I want my home back. I want my people to be free again. I want you and your kind to meet a cruel and painful fate that lasts a thousand years and ends in your utter destruction.” She was speaking quickly and nervously. She had been calm enough before but some sort of dam had broken, like she was sure I wouldn’t help, so she was free to be as abusive as she wanted.
If she killed me, I obviously couldn’t give her what she wanted. If I left, there was no way to get me to come back.
“You could have had it all,” said Almedia. “Everything you ever dreamed of.”
“No,” I said, “I couldn’t.” People are always offering things they can’t deliver because they think you won’t be able to prove otherwise, as though only a time machine can catch a lying piece of shit. Guess what? Your face is all the proof anyone needs. “But you’re all dead, aren’t you? Even if I let you out, you don’t have bodies to go back to.”
“We aren’t bound by the same laws as you. We can take any form we wish.”
If that was true, who else were they capable of being? Joshaya’s habit of pretending to be other people could mean he was really a fairy, too.
“So, all the old gods were fairies? Even Joshaya?”
“We tried to give you people what you wanted, in return for what you no longer needed. But you hunted us and slaughtered us and wanted everything for yourselves.” I wasn’t sure if what she was telling me was true, but it did sound like us. “Only the children escaped, only the ones we hid.”
“And the rest were killed?”
“You tried your best, but you could not suppress out existence completely, so you trapped us in here.”
“Hey, can we dispense with the ‘you’ business? I had nothing to do with it. I like people even less than you do, believe me. In case you haven’t been keeping up on current affairs, my main opponent isn’t you, it’s my own people. Why the fuck you think you have to rely on me to get you out, I have no idea. If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?”
“There is no way out,” she said with bitterness, waving a hand at the darkness.
“Of course there is,” I said.
The atmosphere changed, I could feel it. Hope had entered their thoughts.
“And in return, you would want what?” Who was she kidding? No way would she honour any deal with me. Still, if someone offers to make your dreams come true, you might as well put in a request. Would feel pretty dumb if this was the one time somebody actually meant it.
“In return, I want you to leave me the fuck alone from now on.”
“That’s it?” She sounded utterly incredulous.
“You could also put on a bathrobe once in a while,” I said. They were all naked, but small enough so I could pretend they weren’t really.
“You mock me.”
“I certainly fucking do. Now move out of the way.” I raised the intensity of my light once more and began looking around for a way out.
Wesley had found an exit using my light, so it stood to reason I could do the same. It wasn’t that easy, though.
After about half an hour or so I could feel the doubt growing around me. Not my doubt (that was always at a steady maximum), the fairies’. While it was expected, it wasn’t helping. I was able to take threats of death and torture in my stride, but feeling like I was being judged as useless was altogether harder to cope with.
“Can you stop following me around like that? I suffer from performance anxiety and all the negativity you guys are emitting is putting me off.”
Jenny had always claimed I was at my best when the chips were down, but that was when things were moving too fast to think. Currently, I was creeping around the dark, trying to find some invisible stairs.
The fairies, who had silently watched me fumble around, drifted away from me, like they had some business floating around in the vicinity, nothing to do with me.
From what I’d understood from when Wesley had found the exit, my light not only made it possible to find the doorway out of here, it made it exist, too. Something to do with being observable only when observed.
I likened it to that thing about if a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Obviously, the answer is yes, but physics reckons sometimes maybe not. You being there can be the difference.
“What are you doing?” asked the Fairy Queen.
I could understand her uncertainty. I probably looked like an idiot, even more so than usual.
“Looking for the door.”
“The door?” said the Fairy Queen.
“At the top of some stairs.”
“There are no stairs here,” she said with complete confidence. She had been trapped in here some time, so she probably felt like she knew the place better than me.
My foot hit something and then something else a bit higher. I began to rise into the air like a mime climbing a ladder, only not as despicable. I had done some terrible things in my life, but at least I’d never pretended to be trapped inside a glass box.
I opened an invisible door at the top.
The fairies were stunned. It was a nice feeling, to confirm that suspicion people have hidden in the back of their mind that they are really the dumbest person in the room. Even if I was still the second dumbest, that’s not much consolation to the guy in last place.
“You’re letting us leave?”
“That’s right, genius. If you’d just asked in the first place, we wouldn’t have had to go through all this nonsense. Go on, buzz off.”
“And you want nothing in return?”
“We could shake hands. It’s what civilised people do, but I won’t insist. The culture shock might be too much for you.”
It’s great being better than people, makes them feel like complete shit.
They fairies hesitated a moment, and then took their chance to leave, flowing past me one after the other.
I gave them a moment. I didn’t want to bump into anyone I knew on the way out.
When I returned to my body, there was no one there, inside or out. Everyone had gone and left me behind. Story of my life.
No Joshaya waiting for me in one of his guises, no Laney coming to the rescue. There was also no sign of Wesley or Richina in my mind.
“They left,” said the little version of me, who, unfortunately, was still there. “They didn’t say where they were going.”
Fine by me. The sooner they all turned on each other and forgot I existed, the better.
My plan was simple — chaos. With things in a big old crazy mess, no one would notice me sneaking off. Maybe I’d go back to the island and top up my tan. Actually, they probably wouldn’t be happy to see me back. Perhaps I could settle on my own island. If Flossie lent me a dragon, I could probably find one to my liking. Deserted.
I returned to the temple entrance. The place was empty, even the gift shop. There was, however, some noise coming from outside. All out war? Fairy against man, a fight to the bloody death? Time for my innate invisibility to finally come in handy. Sneaky sneaky, no one would even notice me heading into the sunset.
I crept out of the entrance, ready to slide into the nearest shadow, and was met by a huge crowd. It looked like the whole of Gorgoth had turned out to greet my triumphant return. That’s what it looked like.
What it actually was, was an army of the dead. Every one of the temple’s undead inhabitants were standing in front of me, skin pale grey and vulnerable to melanomas, eyes glowing in rather a familiar fashion.
They stood facing the temple, like they were waiting for something. I instinctively looked over my shoulder. Sadly, no one was there.
“Colin, come, accept the fruits of your labour,” said a tall woman with fiercely red eyes. The voice was the Fairy Queen’s.
“Can I come back and get it later? Fruit doesn’t really work with my low carb diet.”.
“You will be my consort, general of my army and, after some training, master of my vulva.” I already didn’t like the terms of employment. “You have proven yourself as the saviour of the fairy race. To defeat the humans, we need someone who understands them, who can foresee their actions, and who hates them as much as we do. With you as our weapon, they will be struck down.”
“Sounds good, but I’m a bit busy. Could we push it back till Tuesday? I could meet you back here.” I was trying to let her down easy because in my experience — and I don’t want to come across like all women are the same — naked birds tend to get the hump when you turn them down.
She wasn’t listening. “Accept my boon.” I wasn’t sure what her boon was, probably located somewhere near her vulva. I’ve never been very good with female anatomy. “Accept it or join the rest of this world as it is devoured in the Feast of the Fairies.” The people all smiled, their mouths full of fairy teeth.
Typical. I spend my whole life never getting invited to anything, and the one party I do get invited to…
I wasn’t the sort of person who was easily swayed by threats and teeth, but this was a hard situation to get out of. There were thousands of bodies, each with a fairy pilot. Where had they all come from? It had only seemed like there had been a dozen or so with the queen. At least I now knew what Joshaya was collecting so many dead people for.
I could leave my body and float around in the adjacent world, but then what? And if Joshaya could move around there, wouldn’t the others be able to do so, as well?
Looked like I was going to have to play along for now and wait for an opportunity to escape. Until then, all hail Colin, King of the Fairies.
End of Book 8
Book 9: Welcome to Fairyland continues the story here: LINKAfterword from Mooderino