Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume One
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 2: The Writing Club
Malcolm felt warmth. Amazing, brilliant warmth that soaked through his body. There was no more pain. His head no longer throbbed. His muscles didn’t ache. It felt as if hot oil poured over his body, healing everything. As consciousness gradually came back to him, his eyes fluttered open.
At first, light was blinding. His eyes worked to focus on his surroundings and things became clearer. He was lying on the floor. Above him was a ceiling made of wood. The flicker of a warm fire bounced around the room.
A woman was kneeling beside him. Her hands hovered above him. They glowed white light. Her eyes remained closed. This was not the woman who’d saved him. She was older, but still young. Her hair was long, white, and smooth, like wisps of snow. He slowly regained his usual vision and everything was clear again. As with the other girl, the woman’s face was angelic. Her wings, which hovered behind her head, were like the young girl’s: thin sheets of stained glass emitting their own light. This woman’s wings shone pure, white light. Like the moon itself.
Malcolm struggled to speak. Words weren’t coming. The woman’s hands stopped glowing and she lowered them. She opened her eyes and looked at him. They showed him that she cared. A wonderful feeling. This woman could have been his own mother. At least that’s how she made Malcolm feel. Her eyes broke every defense he had and demanded trust.
Finally, words came to Malcolm. It was the obvious question. “Where am I?”
She smiled. “Welcome back. You were close to gone, but you’re safe now.” Her voice was like a cool stream.
Suddenly, he realized there were more faces crowded around him, all peering down. Curious and excited faces. In all, five girls were looking at him. He recognized one of them as his savior.
“Alright.” he said, unsure of how to proceed. “Where am I again?”
“This is our home.” the woman answered. “We brought you here to heal your wounds.”
Malcolm sat up carefully. He expected pain to shoot through his body. It didn’t. Not even an ache or a spot of soreness. Nothing. In fact, he felt healthier than he’d felt his entire life. He looked around at the five women who watched him intently. They all possessed the same unearthly beauty, odd clothing, and stained glass wings. “You’re... fairies?” he asked, still not believing he was saying such a thing.
“Yes.” she answered. He was beginning to understand that she was the eldest of the group and the leader. She stood, then reached down to help him up. Malcolm took her hand and stood. The others continued crowding near him.
“Ummm...” Malcolm didn’t know what else to say. What does one say in a situation like this? “... thank you. I feel good. Amazing in fact. Did you put me back together just using magic?”
“Healing magic, yes.”
“Healing magic, right.” He pointed to the fairy with whom he was already acquainted. “She used that on me earlier. And her magic trick with the mouse.”
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard the story tonight. Until you woke up, she was chattering away over and over about how she turned the bad man into a mouse.” The eldest fairy chuckled. “I think you’re hero is quite proud of that.” His hero had a giant grin of pride on her face. She stood straight with her hands clasped behind her back like a good soldier.
“Hello.” Malcolm, still dazed and feeling as if he were in a dream, reached his hand out to her. “I’m Malcolm. I owe you my life.” She hesitated, not sure what to do. After a moment, she reached her hand out. Malcolm took the dainty hand and gave it a gentle shake. “Your name?”
“Kara.” she answered in that same small voice that had yelled Stop! earlier. She wore a blue dress made of what looked like leaves. Her hair was black as the night sky, short, and cropped her face. It was messy and stuck up in places. “I’m happy that you’re okay.”
“Yeah, me too.” he said, looking around at her comrades. Another fairy stood next to her who looked exactly like her. So much so that they must be twins, except that everything about her was a shade of orange. Her wings glowed orange, her leafy dress was orange, even her hair was orange. It was also short and messy like Kara’s. She greeted him. “My name is Autumn.” She mimicked what he’d done earlier, thrusting her hand out at him to shake.
Malcolm took it and shook. “Autumn. Never would’ve guessed.”
The one standing beside her seemed a tad older. She had golden, curly hair which was pinned up and hugged her face. Her dress was ornate, like something from the Victorian age, but still made from giant leaves. Her dominate color was green and she was adored with yellow flowers. She reached forward, more gracefully than the last, and took his hand. “I’m April. Pleased to meet you.” Her voice was bouncy and chipper.
“Nice to meet you, too.” Malcolm responded. His voice still had the air of being dazed and awed.
The next stepped forward to greet him. She was not bouncy or chipper. She seemed to be the most serious one in the room. “My name is Slipha.” She shook his hand with violet gloves which reached past her elbows, as if she belonged at a fancy ball. Very similar to April’s attire, Slipha’s seemed Victorian. Her dominate color was violet. Even her wings glowed dark violet, similar to a black light. Her hair was brunette, or perhaps it could’ve been called mahogany. It was long and tied up in an intricate style. It seemed not one of her hairs were out of place. Her eyes never budged from their serious gaze.
Malcolm nodded to her. “Good to meet you, Slipha.” He turned to the last one, the white fairy.
“I’m Yukina.” She shook his hand. “A pleasure to meet you.” Her gown wrapped around her, long and flowing, white and blue, like an icy water fall. She looked like she could’ve been a Greek goddess. “I’m glad you’re not dead.” she added.
Malcolm nodded with agreement. “I’m glad, too. And thank you.” he said, feeling weird and awkward from his audience. He raised his arms, generally acknowledging everyone, and brought them down to flop against his legs. “Thank you for saving me. I don’t know what I could ever do for a group of all-powerful fairies, but... if you need anything, I’ll do it.”
Yukina laughed. It was a graceful, cheery laugh. “Don’t worry yourself, Malcolm. You don’t owe us anything.”
“No, really. Anything. Anything at all. You want a cat? I have a cat. You can have him.”
“A cat?” Autumn exclaimed. “I’d love a...”
Yukina stopped her with a hand gesture. “We’re not taking his cat.” Autumn’s shoulders slumped.
Malcolm took a moment to scan the room. It looked like they were in a one room log cabin. There was no electricity or technology of any kind. He could’ve been standing in 1878 for all he knew. There was a large hearth fireplace. A pot hung above the fire. April went to it and ladled porridge into a wooden bowl. There was a large table with chairs, some counter space on the opposite side of the room, and a wash basin. The only other noteworthy feature that caught his eye were the five miniature houses nailed to the wall.
April offered the porridge to him. “Here you go. Eat up.” she said, almost singing it.
Malcolm took the bowl. “Thanks.” He used the included wooden spoon and sipped the hot food. It was beyond good. It tasted amazing. Sweet and savory homemade goodness. His mother would’ve been jealous. “Wow!” he said. “This is so good.”
“Thank you!” April clapped her hands. “I’m glad you like it.”
Malcolm sat down in a chair by the table and continued eating. Everyone but Yukina sat down in the floor facing him as if they were waiting for him to tell a story. Yukina sat beside him at the table. He pointed to the group. “Why are they doing that?”
“We’ve never had a visitor before. And they’ve never been close to a human. Can’t really blame them for being intrigued.”
Malcolm still felt uncomfortable about the whole thing. It was like being an exhibit at the zoo. “I... um... suppose I’m honored.” He looked back to the miniature houses, motioning with his spoon. “What are those?”
“Our houses.” Kara answered.
“They look a bit... small for you.”
She giggled. “No, we fit just fine.”
Suddenly, Kara shrank down to the size of an action figure. It took about two seconds to transform. There was no magical smoke or sounds, except maybe for some uncomfortable sounds that emanated from within her body as she changed her size. For the first time, he saw a fairy using her wings. She hovered over toward him until she was just a few inches from his nose. Sure enough, she looked just as she had before, only smaller. About four inches tall. She waved to him. “See?” she squeaked. Then, she zipped away and into her house. Each had color coded decor matching its owner, so of course Kara went to the blue one. She flew out and back to the middle of the room. Then, grew back to regular size. She sat down on the floor cross-legged and seemed very proud of her performance.
Malcolm couldn’t help but smile at the demonstration. “Wow! I am amazed. Simply amazed.” He took another bite. “I am so happy I got to meet you. Without a doubt, the greatest moment of my life.” He shook his head, still having trouble believing. “The greatest.”
Everyone smiled back at him, save Slipha and Yukina. Slipha still wore a serious look, as if she were suspicious of him and still sizing him up. Yukina, however, wore a sad and tired expression. Once he noticed it, Malcolm became more sullen. He went back to his food quietly.
When all was done, he passed the bowl to April who took it to the wash basin. Autumn brought him his belongings: cell phone, wallet, notebook, pen, and half-finished bottle of soda. “Here you go. I made sure to pick up your things.”
Malcolm hadn’t even thought of them before now. “Thank you!” and took them one by one. He checked his phone. There were a lot of texts and missed calls from Blaire. It was almost eleven. “Oh no. I forgot.”
He looked up at the fairies. He didn’t want to leave them. There wasn’t an ounce of desire to go home. They all looked at him with such wonder, like he was the most interesting man in the world. If no one else cared for his stories, he was certain they would soak them up with wide-eyed wonder. They would love his stories. They would love spending time with him. Not even his girlfriend seemed this interested in him. And the way they lived was so... simple. So natural. No internet, no media, no electricity. (No bills!) The sort of life style a modern man can only dream of.
As much as it pained him, he had to go home. He had a life to live. Not only that, but he had a writing career that he felt was about to get much better.
“Well...” Yukina said, authority in her voice. “I think it’s time for our guest to go home. Everyone say goodbye.”
The room became sullen, eyes falling toward the floor. One by one, the fairies walked to Malcolm. First Autumn. Without hesitation, she wrapped her arms around him and patted him on the back. A gentle hug that made him feel like they’d been friends for years. “I enjoyed meeting you.” she said quietly before parting.
Next was Kara. She gave him a strong little hug and a big smile. “I’m glad we got to meet, even if it wasn’t good circumstances. Everything works out for good, though.”
He nodded. He wasn’t sure what all this meant, but he had a bad feeling. It felt like this was the last time he would see them.
April came to him next. It looked as if she were fighting back tears. She threw her arms around him. “It was fun.”
Malcolm gave her a gentle hug back. Now he was feeling sadder than ever. “It was.” he said.
Slipha didn’t come to him. She stood in the corner with her arms folded, still eyeing him with suspicion.
Yukina took his hand. “I’ll take you home.” He nodded and followed her out the door. He took a last look over his shoulder at the sad group of fairies. He understood now. There was no coming back to this magical place. And the fairies had been isolated for who-knew-how-long. He was their first outside visitor and a glimmer of hope for a new friend. He now walked out the door forever. He kept his eyes on the group of beautiful fairies as long as he could, etching the image in his mind so that he would never forget.
The cabin sat in the middle of a small clearing, which was decorated with furniture and torches. Beyond the clearing was dense forest. It was the kind of forest that was so thick with greenery that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in. There was a bubble encircling the entire clearing and the cabin. You could see through it, but it distorted the outside world. Near the cabin was a pedestal with a glowing crystal globe.
When he and Yukina reached the bubble wall, she waved her hand, opening a hole in it. As soon as they walked through, the hole closed, and their home disappeared. Now it looked no different than the rest of the forest. “Where’d everything go?” he asked, curious, but partly knowing the answer.
“The crystal houses magic that shields the cabin. No one can see or enter the sphere unless we allow it.” Yukina continued pulling on his hand, leading him through the thick of the forest. He couldn’t see anything aside from what her glowing wings lit, which was only a small radius of light. “Step where I step and don’t let go.”
He did exactly as she said, all the while fighting within himself with what he should say. The greatest thing that’s ever happened to him was about to disappear forever. Living with the knowledge that there were real fairies living just outside of Cliffside would be torment. He thought of the stories he could write. The fun they could have together. Things he could show them, things they could show him. Even the possibility of... romance? No. He quickly shook the thought from his mind. He couldn’t allow himself to fall into that pit. He simply longed for the escape from boring-old modern life. He had always thirsted for adventure and the unknown. Perhaps that is why he became a writer in the first place. It was a way to escape the world of modern America.
He looked at the person he followed. Just watching her back; the glowing glass wings before him, her icy hair tied into twists and turns and then flowing down her head, splashing against her shoulders. No New York salon could ever hope to achieve such art. He didn’t want this to be the last time he gazed upon the supernatural. There had to be something... some logical reason why they shouldn’t part ways forever. Was there any hope to convince Yukina otherwise? She was the protector of the fairies and too wise to fall for trickery. Was there anything good that he could offer? They probably didn’t want any part of the modern world... and for good reason. He wanted to escape it, too.
Within a few minutes, the woods cleared and they stood before the road. It was the same highway that Malcolm had walked several hours earlier. He looked to his right and could see the lookout where he had stopped. An abandoned car still sat off the side of the road, one with a lot of damage and no owner to be found. To his left would be the way back to town.
Yukina turned to him. “Well, Malcolm, it’s time for us to part ways. I’m glad we could save you and have the pleasure of meeting you.”
“No.” he shook his head. “It was my pleasure. I’m forever indebted to you and the others. And... I really wish...” He searched for the right words. Nothing ideal came, so he settled for the best he could. “I really wish we could continue meeting. If nothing more, I just want to learn about the world of fairies.”
Yukina smiled. “You’re a very curious man. For that I admire you. But there isn’t much more to tell. As far as I know, we are the only ones. And what you saw is all there is to it. I think it’s best for you to simply forget about us.”
Malcolm shook his head in protest. “No, I can’t forget. I have to write about my experience. I feel invigorated to finally have something to write about.”
“No.” she raised her hand to his forehead. “You will forget.” Her hand glowed.
Malcolm jumped backward, stumbled, and fell. His tailbone broke his fall in the grass, causing a lightning bolt of pain to shoot up his back. But he didn’t care about that. He was about to loose the most precious thing he had: the memories. Anything but that. “What are you doing?” he asked, frightened. More frightened than when he thought he would die. This was much worse.
“I’m going to take the memories of us. It will be much less painful for you this way. Aside from that, my most important responsibility is to protect my sisters. I can’t let knowledge of them leave the forest.”
“NO!” Malcolm shouted. It caused Yukina to jump. “Don’t take my memories. This is the most important thing I’ve ever experienced. Don’t take it from me.”
Yukina raised her glowing hand again. His body froze. No matter how hard he fought, he couldn’t move a muscle. She knelt on one knee beside him, her eyes meeting his, and her hand getting closer and closer to his forehead.
“No no no!” he cried behind gritted teeth. “Don’t do this. Please don’t do this.” His entire body shook. It was the most he could do to fight the spell. He still couldn’t move, but he was fighting.
Yukina stopped, her hand inches away. Tears rolled down his cheeks. She studied him for a moment, then relaxed her hand. With gentle fingers, she wiped the tears from his cheeks, then his eyes. It was the same kind of loving way a mother would wipe the tears of her own child. “I’m so sorry, Malcolm. I know you don’t want to loose them.” Now her expression was that of pity. “But I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what you might expose my dear sisters to. And what you might expose to the world. No one can know of our existence.”
Malcolm struggled to speak through the spell. “I won’t expose you. I promise. No one will believe it. It’s just fiction.”
Yukina eyed him for a second. “May I peek into your soul? Let me see for myself?”
“Whatever you want.” he pleaded. “I don’t mean any harm. Please let me remember.”
She placed her hand on his chest and it glowed. She closed her eyes and breathed in, as if she were breathing in his thoughts. He could see her eyes moving behind her lids. She took her hand away. When she opened her eyes, they remained somber. “I’ve seen your thoughts.”
“Yes?” Malcolm asked, fearing what she would say next.
“I see that your desires are to tell our story. You want to tell the world what you’ve seen and keep it hidden behind the shroud of fiction. I can’t really argue with that.”
Suddenly, the spell loosed and Malcolm flopped onto the grass. He breathed heavily, regaining himself bit by bit. He sat up and put his knees to his chest. Yukina remained kneeling beside him, still deep in thought. He could see the battle going on inside her. On the one hand, she pitied him. On the other, she feared him.
“But I see more than that.” she continued. “You want to be near us to learn more. An insatiable curiosity burns in you. You have a desire to escape your world and enjoy ours. You want to enjoy our company and friendship.” She smiled. “I can’t blame you at all. My sisters are wonderful people. A bit chaotic sometimes, but still wonderful.” She suddenly became stern. “But you also have impure desires. Your human nature is attracted to us. I think that if, given the chance, you would take one of us as your own.”
Malcolm turned red and looked to the ground. He couldn’t respond. He felt too ashamed.
“I sense your fight against the desires. I know you don’t want to entertain them. It’s just how humans work. You understand why I can’t let you come back, don’t you? You want desperately to escape your world because it’s poisoned. The problem is, if we let you in, you’ll bring the poison with you. It will corrupt our happy, quiet existence. It will make us into humans.” She tilted her head, her compassionate gaze continuing to melt him. He couldn’t lie or come up with witty things to say. He was like a small child being told what’s right and wrong. “The last thing you want is to make us human, isn’t it?”
Malcolm nodded, hugging his knees tighter. The weight of tears pushed against his eyes. He rubbed them with his hand. He hadn’t cried since the girl in art class rejected him. He had been fourteen. Since then, he had been cold and unfeeling. A cactus that wanted to prick everyone around him. But the near death experience, the fairies, and especially Yukina, had made him into a fourteen-year-old crybaby again.
“You’re a good man, Malcolm.” She stood. Once again, she extended her hand to help him up. He accepted and pulled himself up. She put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m leaving it up to you. Do you want to remember?”
His eyes were fixed on the grass. He dared to look up into her eyes. There was no judgment in them. Malcolm nodded in agreement.
“Very well. But you can’t return.” She let her arm fall to her side, then backed away. “Goodbye, Malcolm.” She turned and walked back to the forest. Malcolm’s gaze stayed glued to her. He wanted to remember every moment. Once at the edge of the forest, she shrank to miniature size. A small, white glow whizzed through the forest. Then, she was gone.
He stood for a moment staring at nothing. The dream was over and now he had to regain his composure and return to life. After a few deep breaths and wiping at his eyes, he mustered the courage to call Blaire. As he walked back to town, he began working on a story that might be believable. He wanted to tell the truth, but if he said he’d been run over, almost killed, and healed by fairies, her first reaction would be to accuse him of cheating. In fact, every story Malcolm came up with caused his mental image of Blaire to accuse him of cheating. No matter what, being MIA until eleven at night seemed awfully suspicious.
Malcolm was back at the gas station. He had just finished his soda and tossed it in a bin when he caught sight of headlights coming down Main street. He felt as if they were the eyes of an angry dragon coming for him. (Not far from the truth.) She pulled into the parking lot. With much fear and trembling, Malcolm entered the car.
Blaire stayed silent. Both hands planted on the wheel, she stared straight ahead as she drove him home. Malcolm stared out the window, not daring to speak. After a long string of seconds, she spoke. “I’ve been worrying about you, you know. What happened?” Her tone was calm and composed, but there was fire behind it. She was ready to attack.
Would the story he spun work? Malcolm had no clue, but there was a slim hope. “I’m sorry, honey. Time got away from me and I had my phone silenced.”
“Time got away from you? You mean the last four hours?”
“Time flies when you’re having fun, you know.” he said, chuckling. Blaire didn’t laugh. “Truth is, I’ve been having a little trouble writing. Ok, maybe not a little, but a lot. So I went to the park and started jotting down ideas. Nothing good came to me. While I was there, I answered your text and was getting ready to leave when an elderly man approached me. We struck up a conversation about why we were both at the park with notebooks. Turned out he was a writer, too, and brainstorming. Said he ran a little writing club that met in the evenings and asked if I’d like to come. So I went along. Turns out there’s five members, not including me. We sat around in his living room... he has a nice house outside of town... and discussed writing, ideas, stories we’d worked on. The time flew by and next thing I knew it was after ten o’clock.”
Malcolm chanced to look at Blaire. Her expression was unmoved. She pursed her lips, wrinkled her brow, then responded to his story. “Really? Are there any women in this writing club?”
He did his best to play off the question. “Yeah, three men and two women. Richard’s wife - I forgot to mention that his name was Richard - and a stay at home mom. The other two guys looked to be middle aged.”
Blaire nodded. “A writing club, huh? Are any of them published?”
Malcolm shook his head. “Nope. They’re all aspiring like me. Guess that’s why they decided to get together and share ideas, maybe spur some inspiration and connections.”
Blaire was nodding more now. Perhaps she was accepting his story. “Interesting. Do you plan on going back?”
That was the question, wasn’t it? Malcolm’s imaginary writing club sounded like a great place to be, but Blaire had no idea how wonderful the real writing club had been. Why wouldn’t he return? He certainly wanted to, but couldn’t. He gazed out the window, watching the small town crawl past, and remembered how great it’d felt to be there. Just to be in the presence of such beings was intoxicating. He didn’t know it, but a small grin was tugging at his cheeks. “I don’t know. Haven’t decided yet.”
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