It was fair to say that of all the rum soaked, vodka stained, gin joints in all the worlds, the ones in Faerie took the biscuit. Waiting there at the bar, I knew I was in for some fun. The band played a fun, folksy tune; the flappy mouthed barmaid kept giving me the eye and across the room some Ogre-type fellow seemed non-too pleased about it. The ale went down well, with a tingle.
Then she came in. The room shushed and watched as she made her bee-line to my stool. The barmaid dropped off my shoulder and the Ogre huffed in the corner and went back to harassing some Leprechaun. Her legs never touched the ground, her hair damn near floated and when she finally stood in front of me some eon later, her voice crawled over my arms and down my back.
“Hello, Mr Cooper.”
I shook myself free and answered her.
I didn’t know how she knew me, but people find me when they need me. That’s always been the way.
My voice crackled, and despite the five ales I’d consumed, my eyes stayed on her. A bad idea. In a place like this anything can happen. Got to keep your peripheries clear.
“I need your help to find my friend. She’s disappeared.”
“Easy to get lost in Faerie?”
“Not from me.”
She said it with a smile, but she was anything but happy. She may have looked ethereal, but something told me she knew how to handle herself.
“Her name’s Calypoly, she’s a…”
“Quite, but she’s also has ability to foresee what has yet to come.”
“You don’t say?”
“I do say, Mr Cooper.”
Fairies never got sarcasm, good thing for me too. This one, despite her appearance, could have ended me in a flash.
“Any ideas where I might start? Enemies? Yours or hers?”
She stared straight through me. I couldn’t read her.
“You might try your handsome friend over there.”
I knew who she meant. That Ogre hadn’t taken his eyes off me since I came in. Either I was more alluring than most gave me credit for or he wanted to talk. I turned back to her but she was already floating back the way she came, every set of eyes went with her. In the haze of fairy and ale I’d never gotten her name, but something told me I’d find her easy enough, or she’d find me as was more likely.
The music played behind and all around, then it began to sway. It was either the drink or the chick, but I was getting a little sleepy.
I awoke on a small chair, with my hands tied behind me and a shadow looming over. In the distant dim of the pub he looked almost bearable, but up close, with a hangover and a light in the face, he was anything but.
His Ogre’s teeth, spotted black and green, grinned down on me. Then his breath hit me–harder than any punch I’d ever taken.
I couldn’t help it. I threw-up all over his brown, chewed boots. He got the message and after the dutiful smack, I righted myself and waited for the interrogation to begin. But it didn’t come from him. I heard a floorboard creak and turned to see a Unicorn smoking a cigar. How? Don’t ask, in Faerie you learn not to be surprised, but on this occasion it was impossible not to laugh.
“Are you kidding me?”
The Ogre did his duty again and I stifled the laughter, though barely. The Uni…I can’t, I’ll just call him Ralph, though that’s only slightly better. Ralph trotted over; the acrid wisp hit my nose and caused the reflux to kick in once more.
“Mr Cooper, it may not look like it, but this is a polite request. Please vacate Faerie.”
“Look fella, I was hired to find a young lady and until I’ve–
Clank, right in the mush.
Ordinarily I don’t get to this part in the investigation until I’ve knocked down a few whiskies and doors alike, but Faerie was different and while things look a might odd, they all boil down to the age old “you got it, I want it” routine.
My response was less than gentlemanly, but I was beginning to get tired of the mythic freak.
“Go Fu–” then came the forth, this time a left hook that sent me flying across the room and into a wooden crate. The shattered wood splintered and I made for a piece. I sawed at my ropes and my hands were free just before the great bulk wrenched me off the ground, his right hand clasped around my neck and subsequently, my right foot in his groin.
Thank heavens for the universal language.
He fell to the ground and the U…Ralph, galloped off.
While the Ogre took a nap, I picked my brown, stained jacket and hat up from the floor and had a look around the joint. A barn–old, dank, and with a smell of mold mixed with fresh vomit. Nothing to give me any clue to the girl’s whereabouts. After a few minutes of that odor I slapped the Ogre awake. I’d decided not to heft him onto the chair and simply hog-tied him instead.
“Why?” I figured even an Ogre would understand ‘Why’.
“Mr Ralph, he want the pretty lady business.”
He looked around, everywhere but at me.
“Ah come on, buddy. You know how this goes. Best to Man/Ogre-up now and tell me, save you a lot of pain.” I gestured at his bits.
He told me. They always did.
In the cold light of day, Faerie can be a pretty, no, a beautiful place, filled with flowers and trees and lakes and prancing, dancing creatures, but in the middle of the night it takes a decidedly darker turn. The kind of ‘things’ you read about in Tolkein exist and if you’re not careful, they find you, at the worst possible time.
Luckily for me, I’m one of the worst ‘things’ you’ll find in the real word and as such I kicked-in Ralph’s door and took a hammer to his knees. Ever see a cigar smoking Unicorn hobbled? It ain’t a pretty sight, but then kidnapping ain’t too nice neither.
He’d been keeping her in the basement (no points for originality), seems she and the floaty lady from the pub had some kind of ‘relationship’ and blackmail was the name of the game. This whole ‘seeing into the future lark’ could be profitable when exacted the right way and while miss floaty lady and her friend didn’t go in for that, Ralph sure as hell would.
Calypoly was small. She was also, even with the five layers of mud and filth, the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. It was no wonder the fairy wanted her back.
She rose her eyes to me, slowly and gave a half smile.
It nearly killed me.
She never said a word, even when we stepped over Ralph’s writhing, weeping body.
We rocked up at the lady’s house and I handed the little wisp over. She seemed happy, had a slight smile edging out the corner of her mouth. Guess that’s what counts for thanks in Faerie.
I took the gold purse she gave me and wandered down the lane. Sitting in the pub a little while later I watched the band play, flicked a smile at the girl behind the bar and then sat in the corner.
When the Ogre walked through the door I slipped my right leg back and waited for the lunge. It never came. He lumbered over, pushed a few people out of the way and crashed down on the seat across from me.
David is a former English language teacher and currently a Creative writing student, reading for a Masters degree at Anglia Ruskin University. He has been published on a variety of sites and was happy to win a couple of flash fiction competitions recently. He is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child. Visit him on the web at http://davidjwing.wordpress.com/
Image by maf04