General Fiction posted February 27, 2014


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The mind is a funny place for make believe.

Away with the Fairies

by PhilipCatshill


 
“Expect a flurry of snow on the hills,” the TV weatherman closes with his irritating smirk, and glibly waves towards the studio-generated map of Central England.
 
Mother phones. “The road’s clear, Arlene. Get your coat on and get over here.”
“Okay,” I agree. “I’ll put a shovel in the car just in case the weatherman’s wrong.”
“Take a whistle in case you get lost.”
“There’s only one road. I’m not likely to get lost.”
“Don’t stop for strangers. You know what men and fairies do to girls if they find them alone.”
“Yes I know what men and fairies do,” I say, although in truth, I don’t believe in fairies, and though I’m thirty-six, I’ve never been anywhere with a man long enough to find out.
 
Just to appease Mother, I set out with a referee’s whistle from my netball coaching days. I remember the shovel and even throw a blanket in the car. I have barely gone a mile before the first flakes flutter towards the windscreen. A mile later, I’m down to a crawl. The windscreen wipers struggle to cut an arc through the snow. Just as I lean forward to wipe away the condensation with the back of my glove, I hear a thud. The front wheel is stuck fast in snowdrift. I take the shovel from the back of the car and start to dig. Just in case some other idiot has ventured out in the blizzard, I lift the whistle to my lips and shrill out six long blasts. I utter every curse you can imagine, most of them I direct at mother. Then I see car lights snaking up the hill. “Lord be praised,” I say aloud.
 
That’s when she says, “The Lord won’t help you when the fairies come, Teacher.” I spin around. I mean, I’m in shock or whatever. I’m miles from anywhere and there’s a woman, or girl I should say, just standing in a snowdrift by the side of my car. I stammer out, “what… who… why?”
The girl speaks again. “You whistle up the king of the fairies, teacher The Lord won’t help you.” Even without coat or cardigan, she seems oblivious to the cold. “Come,” she says; “Come hide with me.”
“We should wait,” I insist. The car is closer with its headlights cutting a ghostly path through the blizzard. The girl takes the shovel from my hands. “If the fairies stop this time, I’ll protect you.”
“This time?” I say.
“This time,” she repeats. “You know the story. When the king of the fairies  comes, he never leaves alone.”
“But that’s just folklore,” I say.
The car crests the hill and stops just yards away. “Please,” she implores again. “RUN!”
 
The car door opens; the driver starts to get out. “It’s him!” she screams. He takes a step. The shovel swings. He falls. She hits. Blood reddens the snow.
I grab the shovel. “No,” I scream. She comes towards me. Blood red fingers stroke my face. “You’re safe now,” she says. “Come; I’ll protect you.”
“No,” I scream again. I swish the shovel back and forth. It passes through her. I turn and run through the blizzard. I hear the screech of her macabre laugh.  Then the screech turns into an ear-piercing scream. I run until my lungs burn. I collapse into the snow.  She lifts my hand in hers and kisses these fingers, one by one.  “You’re safe now, teacher.”
 
It’s morning when I wake. I’m alone. I hear people shouting. Arlene, they call. Arlene. I lift frozen fingers. The whistle freezes to my lips. 
 
“Expect a flurry of snow on the hills,” the TV weatherman closes with his irritating smirk, and glibly waves towards the studio-generated map of Central England.
 
The doctor turned to his companion. “Time to leave unless you want to here that story again.”  The two doctors left the room, the older said. “Thirteen years on and she still talks as though it happened today. Did you notice that? The story never changes, yet she is the third woman I’ve heard tell it. ”
“You’ve heard that before?”
“Yes, “ replied the other. ”Round here, it’s a traditional fairy tale. Parents tell their kids the story to stop them speaking to strangers. A woman gets lost in the snow and the fairy comes to her rescue. Then some innocent passer-by ends up dead.”
“But no one died, did they?” asked the younger man.
“Around eighty years ago someone did. Just before the war apparently, a teacher took his young lady up there. No one knows what happened but he ended up sliced almost in two with a shovel, and she died from exposure with the blood stained shovel in her hands. Now this woman is convinced she’s done the same.  We know she didn’t. We know the other women didn’t either but it’s a local legend, so here they are. Three women spending years in a mental home for the sake of a blessed fairy story.”
The other replied, “Things we tell our kids eh? Fairy stories have a lot to answer for.”

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