The Black Fairy

NOW.

My vigil is showing upon me. It etches lines upon my face, it fades my once dark hair to a sullen grey; eyes once eager to see the world now no longer want to view it’s wonders, for they have seen enough. And know what hides in the dark. Yet, still I sit, fighting against the sleep that entices me with release. For it is an empty promise. There is no comfort to be found behind closed eyes. A momentary escape perhaps, but that is all, and that too demands a price, one that my heart could not bare. So, my hair greys, my face ages and I sit. Sit in the wooden chair in the corner of my son’s room. Watching over him throughout the night. Keeping him safe. Safe from what I know to be also be waiting, there in the dark.

And unlike me, it’s eyes are always open.

THEN
The nieces arrived just after noon. Two girls, of six and ten,bringing with them a small suitcase each and enough laughter to fill the rooms of our small flat ten times over. It was partner’s idea that they should stay for the weekend. I was against the idea at first, but Emma generally ended up getting what she wanted, and so here Lucy and Terri were, waving their mother and father off as their Ford Focus slid away from the drive, smiles and energy in abundance. I looked over at Emma who read me in a heartbeat. ‘Relax, it will be fun.’ she said. ‘You promise?’
‘I promise.’ And with that she took my hand. My doubts disappeared instantly.

And it was fun. We baked cakes. Well, burnt cakes. We played games, and drew and coloured. The girls dressed up in Emma’s clothes and pretended to be posh ladies, and a few little temper moments notwithstanding, it was, all in all, a pretty good day. Come eight ‘O’ clock and I was ready for bed, well the sofa, for that’s where Emma and I would be sleeping having only one bed, but the girls wanted a bedtime story, and so as Emma tidied up the kitchen, I perched on the corner of the double bed, and there as two little faces huddled up against clean white pillows, I began to tell a tale.

It wasn’t the greatest tale if truth be told. It involved fairies living in our garden, and how at night they would creep into the flat looking for food and items they could use. Bit’s of cloth, a teaspoon here and there. Things that a fairy would need in a fairy home. The girls enjoyed it though. ‘Have you ever seen one?’ they asked, ‘when did you know they were taking your things?’ Questions upon questions. I answered as best I could. Each new reveal building upon the idea until finally the enquiries slowed and lids began to close. I sat for a moment longer, then quietly rose to turn off the light, pulling the bedroom door too, leaving Lucy and Terri with their dreams.

”Fairies’ Emma said.
”C’mom. They loved it’
‘I know they did. So, tell me, where do these fairies live in our garden exactly?’
‘By the shed. They come out at night, and steal your knickers’
‘I thought that was the neighbour’
‘He’s in league with them.’
‘You’d better keep an eye on them then’
‘I intend to.’
I put my arms around her and held her tightly and she pressed back against me momentarily before breaking away. ‘Not tonight. We have children in the flat, remember?’

The sofa wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. We lay together, listening to the slow of passing cars, her head upon my chest, my arm around her, the nearby street lamp a dull light against the drawn curtains. ”We should do something’ Emma said.
‘Won’t we wake them’
‘Not that’
‘Oh’
‘The fairies. We should make out they have been during the night. The girls would love it’
‘OK. What do you have in mind?’
‘Leave it to me. I have just the thing.’
And with that she kissed me goodnight. I lay listening to the traffic a while longer, wondering about everything and nothing. Just happy to be. In a small flat, with someone close to me. It was enough.

Come morning and Emma had made good on her promise. By the time the girls had woken there was flour scattered upon the floor, and in it, the tiny footprints of a fairies step.
‘Looks they took a few bits from the kitchen again. See, the pepper pot is missing and these footprints, they lead all the way up to the hall to the bedroom.’
The girls stood wide eyed and excited.
‘Probably saw you two asleep and decided to head back to the garden,’ Emma continued, ‘surprised they didn’t wake you.’
‘I wish they had’ Lucy said, ‘I really want to see a fairy.’
‘And me. Me too’
‘Perhaps, you will Terri. Uncle, here knows how to catch them. Don’t you?’
I looked at Emma. Don’t do this, I was thinking. Don’t raise hopes you can’t make good on. We’ve had fun, but let’s stop this now.
”Yes’, I said. It was all I could do.

Later, whilst we took the girls for a walk round the local graveyard (the only place with grass and tress in the vicinity), I argued the point. Emma, had a way of getting round me though, it was something she did effortlessly. Some part of me told that she enjoyed it too. Isn’t that the way with the sexes though, small battles fought in the hope of the reconciliation? Was it that, or just her smile. For that alone, I would have agreed to the impossible. And so, come evening, I sat on the living room floor, explaining to two little girls how one goes about catching a fairy.

It was a ridiculous plan of course. The poorly constructed trap consisting of balanced jam-jar with one of Terri’s salt and vinegar crisps as bait. Terri and Lucy were ecstatic though, asking questions throughout the traps construction, suggesting different places on where to lay it; whether we should use sweets instead of crisps, all the things one would expect when catching fairies.

”I hope you have a plan’ I said to Emma.
‘Always.’ She replied. And I believed her.

‘So. What is it?’ I asked as we lay together once more on the sofa.
‘This’ She pulled the small figure from beneath the covers. It was a fairy. Cloth and nylon perhaps, but a fairy nonetheless.
‘They will know it’s not real, you know.’
‘Not, if we only let them glimpse it’
‘Go on’
‘We get up early. Place this under the jam jar. Wake the children. They won’t be able to see it clearly under the jam-jar anyway, so all you have to do is pick up the jar, show them, then take it to the garden and throw it over the wall’
‘Throw it over the wall’
‘You know. Say it has to be set free or something.’
‘You think that will work?’
‘It’ll work’
‘It better.’
‘It will. Now, kiss me, you fairy catcher you’.

It was Terri’s voice that woke me. A high pitched screech that sounded loudly in the confines of the flat.
‘Emm, wake up’
‘Whazz?’
‘Their already up. Shit, I knew this wouldn’t work. C’mon. Wake up’.
We walked into the kitchen dressed in our pyjamas. I just hoped Emma was thinking of what to say to two disappointed girls, as I had nothing. Lucy and Terri were sat on the floor hunched over the jar whispering to each other. I looked at Emma.
‘Well, you can’t be lucky all the time. Sometimes, the fairies just don’t come. Right?’
‘Right’ I said.
Lucy turned her head. ‘But they did’ she said and moved to her left exposing the jar.

And there within in the glass it lay.

‘Christ. What is it?’
‘A fairy. We caught a fairy’
‘Ssh Terri, and don’t touch it’
‘Rich?’
‘I have no idea’
And, I didn’t. I mean, sure it looked like a fairy. It had arms and legs and wings, but it was ugly. Real ugly. It’s frame was thin and malnourished. It’s head disproportioned, big upon a neck to thin. Eyes black and lash-less.
‘Is it dead’
‘Not sure’ I prodded it with a pencil. The thing remained motionless.
‘Don’t touch it for God’s sake’
‘Can we keep it?’
‘I don’t think so Terri. Best we give it back to the other fairies.’
‘Why don’t we call your mum eh! See what time they’re picking you up’ Emma said.
‘Can we tell them about the fairy’
‘Sure. Why not. They might not believe you though. Now, get dressed and I’ll make you breakfast’
‘Can we say goodbye to the fairy?’
‘Later perhaps. Now, c’mon’
I watched the girls run up the hall, then looked back to the hideous thing upon the floor.
‘What the hell is it?’
‘I don’t know’ Emma said. ‘Just get rid of it’.

I buried it in the graveyard. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, part of me felt that I had killed it, whatever it was and I owed it that much. I couldn’t find a black bag or box so wrapped it in a Tesco’s carrier bag. It perhaps wasn’t the most dignified thing to be buried in, but I figured it would keep the foxes from eating it. It wasn’t till I was walking back to the flat that the though occurred to me.

Where there was one, they may be others.

Emma didn’t want to speak of the thing and I was happy to go along with that. Though sometimes I would wake in the night to what I thought to be the sound of a hedgehog outside, or cat, and I would imagine the thing and it’s kind clawing at our door or window, seeking entrance in the cracks of wall and floor. Now and then, I would find our bin over turned and the contents scattered, or the tyres on my bicycle punctured. Kids, Emma would say and I would nod in agreement.
Within three months we had moved.

The house wasn’t that much bigger than the flat, but it was new(ish) and the mood that had effected Emma since the discovery of that … thing, appeared to be lifting. She sang as she went through the place, decorating and buying knick-knacks for this room and that. Things were settling down into how they were. Just what we needed. Fresh start. I remember thinking that yes, this was to be a happy home alright.

Emma fell pregnant in July. I was right. When she told me, I thought I was the luckiest man alive. I cried. For the first time in my adult life, I cried. And she cried with me. That was the happiest moment of my life.

And then November came. And with it the darkness. Perhaps it sensed our happiness. Perhaps, it had just finally found us after months of searching. Perhaps, it was none of these things, and that it had been with us all along. Waiting. Patiently waiting for right time to show itself, and make it’s presence known. But, one chilly evening, as Emma slept upstairs and I sat finishing reading a novel, slowly making my way through a glass of brandy, it came.

The cool air turned cooler still, the windows frosting, my breath becoming pronounced upon the air. I got up to check the thermostat, tapping it twice, then moved to the back door to make sure everything was shut against the night. The kitchen overhead light blinked then turned off and I made my way back to living room in darkness in search of the fuse box. It was then I saw it.

It stood against the living room window. Vast and black. It’s head bowed against the ceiling, it’s thin yet huge arms stretched out, reaching from wall to wall ending in long spider like fingers which played upon the picture frames Emma had only recently hung. I stood, unable to move, watching the thing as it’s fingers began to tap a hideous tattoo. Then tiring of the song, it’s hand moved towards me.

‘You took my child’ the thing rasped, it’s pointed finger encrusted with dirt, knuckles blackened. ‘I demand payment’

It’s breath filled the room. The stench of damp soil, of a dog left in the rain, of things left in the grave.

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”I… don’t know. Don’t know what you’re talking about?’

‘You took my child. And I demand retribution’

‘You’re child. I.. I don’t know… what…

The hand moved again, a spider folding back into it’s lair only to return again, to place something at my feet. It was a bag, ripped and worn, the faded Tesco logo barley visible.

‘Compensate… fairy catcher’ the thing said.

‘I didn’t, I didn’t know. It was a mistake. Just a mistake. I …’
I fell to my knees and the thing moved over me. A huge cloud of darkness, it seeped everywhere, into my clothes, into my lungs. I could hardly breath. ‘Please’ I begged.
‘You’re child’ it said.
”I .. have no child’.
‘You’re child’ the thing said again.
‘Please’
‘You’re child’.
And with that it was gone.
There were complications during the birth. Emma just wasn’t strong enough they said. A heart condition that hadn’t been picked up on. That’s what they told me. I hope that what they told me is true. I hope that the cold I felt in the theatre just before she died was just that, the cold, and not something else. Something pressing home it’s demand. I hope that she is at peace now and watching over me. Knowing that I am doing all I can for our son. Keeping him safe. No matter the cost.

And so I sit. Sometimes I imagine Emma is with me, that she cares not that my hair is now grey, and my face lined. That she places her hand on mine and tells me, it’s OK, she has a plan, and I go along with her, like I always have. Like she always knew I would. I tell my son to say goodnight to her every night. I tell him how much she loves him, and how she will be with him, always. And then I tuck him into bed. And I wait.

I know not what I will do when the time comes. How I will protect my son from the black fairy.

I only hope that Emma has a plan.

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