Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume One
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 5: A Long Way from Reality
He was invited to stay for a late lunch which would be graciously prepared by the three fairies who had caused the most trouble. As they worked on lunch, Malcolm sat on one of the intricately carved benches. He couldn’t help but look around at the beauty that surrounded him. Birds were always calling through the forest. The flowers were always in bloom. The grass was as perfect as soft carpet and greener than any golf course. A small spot of sunlight beamed in through a gap in the trees. He also noticed that in this bubble of magic, there was not a single bug to be found, which was the biggest reason for him not wanting anything to do with nature. He might have been the first human to be this close to the Garden of Eden since Adam and Eve. It was a small piece of paradise. The area protected by the bubble seemed about the same as a medium-sized yard.
Yukina sat down beside him on the bench. “Enjoying yourself?”
Malcolm nodded. “This is an amazing place.”
“I agree.” she said, resting her elbows on her knees. She looked toward the cabin. There was constant bickering coming from Slipha, Autumn, and Kara as they prepared the meal. Adjacent to the house was a garden where April tended to her plants, singing all the while. “What makes it so special are the people who live here.” She turned her gaze back to Malcolm. “I don’t want to loose them.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I think you know why. They’ve gotten a glimpse of the outside world. Now their curiosity has been aroused. Especially the younger ones. I’ve spent my whole life trying to protect them from the world. But now...” she trailed off.
They sat in silence for a while. Malcolm didn’t want to pry any more than he already had. Yukina eventually spoke. “As far as I’m concerned, you will always be welcomed here.” She looked up at Malcolm. He couldn’t help but smile. She saw the happiness in his eyes. “I think you’ve earned the right to be our friend. But...” she raised a finger at him. “Don’t piss me off.”
“I have no intention of doing that. I’ve already had enough of your wrath for one lifetime.” He smiled at her. She smiled back. “Do you mind if I ask something?”
“Not at all.”
“Are you really their sister? Because you act more like their mother.”
She chuckled. “I’m the oldest sister. Slipha is the middle sister and April is the youngest. Our mother was friends with Autumn and Kara’s mother. We’ve always been together, so we call them our sisters anyway.”
Malcolm hesitated, not sure if he should ask the next natural question that came to his mind. He asked anyway. “Where are your mothers?”
Yukina looked at him. “Don’t ask questions I can’t answer.” Her tone was both humorous and sad.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have...”
“It’s alright.” She gave him a pat on the leg. “You’re a curious one. That’s good. As you can guess, the leadership role fell to me naturally. After today’s events, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job.”
“Everyone acts up sometimes. Doesn’t mean it’s your fault.”
“Today was large-scale mischief, the largest scale I’ve ever seen. But by no means the first. Autumn is always looking for trouble and dragging Kara along. And as for Slipha...”
Malcolm rolled his eyes.
“Well, she’s always been troubled. Sometimes she seems like she doesn’t want to be here at all. I’m sorry that her behavior effected you today. It’s hard to say why she did that.”
“I’m pretty sure she hates me.” Malcolm said. “She probably wanted to get you to kill me.”
Yukina shook her head in disgust and looked back to Malcolm with her most caring eyes. “I apologize again. I should have thought it through better.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Not holding anything against you.”
“Thank you.” She embraced Malcolm for a moment. “You’re a good man. Don’t change.” They parted and smiled at one another. Then she stood up. “I need to check on them. Lunch should be ready soon.”
As he watched her walk away, Malcolm had a sudden realization. He pulled his phone out and saw more missed texts. Apparently Blaire was still freaked out about the show that had happened earlier. But as usual, not against continuing work. (If the building was on fire, Blaire would continue work.) He answered her texts with a simple one: “Everything is fine now. Had fun flying around! Going to the writer’s club tonight. Be home by 9, promise <3”
The lunch was delicious. Malcolm wasn’t usually a salad guy, but these salads were amazing. (Perhaps because the ingredients came from a garden tended with magic instead of a store.) They ate outside under the warm afternoon sun which caused the leaves above to glow. April, Autumn, and Kara couldn’t stop asking Malcolm questions. Questions about the everyday sort of things people take for granted. He enjoyed talking to them, no matter how silly the questions. Where else would he rather be?
Afterward, they left the sphere. As Malcolm soon learned, this was a normal part of the fairies’ evening routine. They walked a trail through the dense forest, soon coming out at the cliffs. There was a strip of grass unfettered by trees which created a perfect spot for relaxation.
Malcolm walked along the coast. He had always enjoyed looking out at the sea. (Which was why he’d been so happy when Blaire told him they would have to move to Cliffside for her promotion to manager.) He enjoyed it most when there weren’t noisy boats or people hindering it - the exception of course being happy fairies frolicking about. Thankfully, this was a private coastline. There were no roads or man-made anything within sight. Simply nature. It seemed they were able to lower their guard and just enjoy themselves here.
He couldn’t help but grin as he watched Autumn and Kara playing tag in the air. Though they were adults in years, they had never really grown up. And should they? Should anyone grow up?
April was enjoying a pleasant nap in the grass. (She was tuckered out from all the magic she had spun earlier.) Yukina was standing at the edge of the cliff doing something very similar to painting, but far more beautiful. Malcolm wasn’t quite sure what it was, but she was using magic to create a picture on glass canvas.
As he walked along the cliff, he came across Slipha. She was keeping to herself, sitting on the edge with her feet dangling off. When he discovered what she was doing, he had to check twice to make sure he wasn’t mistaken. She was writing in a large book. Was it a journal? Poems? Or perhaps that which got Malcolm most excited... fiction. He wasn’t sure if he should ask or even get close to her. After all, he was fairly certain she wanted to see him either dead or severely tortured. But the closer he walked to her, the more curious he became. It finally won the battle and forced him to stop beside her.
“Hi.” he said, still nervous about talking to her. “What are you up to?”
She looked up at him and smiled a big, patronizing grin. “Writing, of course.” Then went right back to it.
“Sorry. You have to forgive me. I’m very interested in writing.” He sat down beside her without asking. He let his legs dangle over the cliff, too. He wanted to be adventurous, but that didn’t stop the uneasy feeling in his stomach from cropping up as his legs dangled a hundred feet above the jagged rocks and sea. “What are you writing?”
Without looking up, she answered, “If someone asked you, would you tell?”
“I guess not. What I meant to ask is what kind of writing is it?”
“It’s a story.”
“Good, good. I love stories.” He chanced to look at the page. It was written in characters he’d never seen before. Instead of a pen, she was using the tip of her glowing finger to inscribe them. He chuckled. “I guess you don’t have to worry about me reading over your shoulder.”
“No I don’t. Nor do I need to worry about anyone reading it.”
“Why do you say that? Won’t you let people read it when you’re done?”
She stopped writing and looked at him, both annoyed and resentful. “Who’s going to read it? My sisters? They might be able to read the language, but they wouldn’t understand the words.”
“I suppose publishing is out of the question?”
“Publishing? You mean human publishing? I don’t see that as an option.”
“Well...” Malcolm thought for a moment, trying to pinpoint the right advice. “There are lots of writers who stay anonymous. They use made-up names. You could use one and I can help you publish it. Or I suppose you could use your real name. It’s not like anyone would be able to find you.”
He had gotten her attention. If it was one thing Malcolm understood, it was writers. And if it was one thing every writer craved, it was for their work to be read. She stared at him with skeptical eyes. “And how do you know that what I write would interest anyone?”
“That’s the thing. We never know. I ask myself that question a thousand times a day. Will anyone like it? Or am I the only one in the world enjoying what I’m writing?” He shrugged. “I’ve come to the belief that if you like it, there are a group of people out there who’ll like it, too.”
Slipha looked back at her page. “Then perhaps...” she thought a moment, flipping through the many pages she’d written. “...perhaps I should start writing in English.” Malcolm caught her smiling, but it quickly disappeared. “Thank you for the advice. I will talk to you again once it’s complete.”
Malcolm looked out to the sea. Had he actually done some good? Maybe even earned a little respect in Slipha’s eyes? He felt invigorated at the thought. So invigorated that he decided to push his luck even further.
“About earlier...” he began.
“Oh?” she responded, unenthused.
“I’m not holding anything against you. I would much rather be friends. If you’d like, that is.”
She was quiet. After a moment of reflection, she turned to him. “That’s very nice of you.” She rested her elbows on her book and her chin in her hands. She smiled a coy smile. “I’m glad I could finally win your approval. You’re so gracious to invite yourself into our home and offer us tales of the modern world, in exchange of course for helping yourself to our little paradise.”
Malcolm was becoming very nervous.
“Thank you so very much for being so gracious as to offer me your friendship.” She said through a toothy grin. “Let me show you just how grateful I am.”
She flicked her gloved hand at him. A force that mimicked her gesture slapped Malcolm’s back, sending him tumbling over the edge. He had no idea what was happening, other than that he might be falling. Yes... yes... definitely falling. All he could see was the rocky side of the cliff whizzing past. It was like the worst roller coaster he’d ever ridden: air rushing around him and his stomach somewhere else. He screamed, flailed, and could do no more to save himself. He squeezed his eyes closed, waiting for it to end. He hoped he wouldn’t feel the rocks when his body exploded on them.
Then, all was quiet. No more rushing air. His stomach returned to it’s rightful place. He wondered if he were dead. After a second of wondering, he dared to open an eye. He saw Slipha. She was upside down. In fact, everything was upside down. He flung his eyes open and looked up. He saw the rocky walls and the crashing ocean. He looked back to her. She beckoned with her glowing hand to come closer. His upside-down body did as she commanded, floating closer until their noses almost touched. She still smiled. He didn’t dare say or do anything.
Slipha patted his cheek with her hand. Her glove was softer than silk. “Silly, silly man. Does an ant become friends with a shoe?” She lowered her voice to a whisper, her lips close enough to send her breath pulsing against his forehead. “You are nothing more than entertainment for us. And if I so choose, I will dispose of you at a whim.” She tilted her head. “Understood?”
Malcolm nodded in agreement. “Understood.”
“Good.” With her magic, she tossed him aside. He tumbled onto the grass. After regaining his bearings, he stood up and brushed his clothes off. She glanced over her shoulder with a devilish grin. “I’m glad we had this conversation.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Malcolm continued his walk at a much faster pace.
The orange sunset, which had burned above the forest canopy, turned to darkness. A multitude of stars appeared in the sky. The group met back at the edge of the woods where the path started. Malcolm made certain to never make eye contact with Slipha. The fairies floated through the forest like water while Malcolm tromped through it like a boulder.
Once they were back at the house, Malcolm went about saying his goodbyes to the fairies that would miss him. They weren’t bitter goodbyes as before since he would be returning tomorrow. Yukina approached him last.
“Here.” she said, taking his hand and placing something in it. “You’re welcomed here whenever you want to return.”
He looked down to see a ring. It was woven from briars which had their pricks removed and shaved smooth. They twisted together at the top, encaging a red crystal which glowed. He looked as deep into it as he could. It seemed as if there was a galaxy of stars shimmering inside. “Wow, this is amazing.” he said, awestruck by its beauty. “Why are you giving it to me?”
Yukina chuckled. “It’s not to look at. You can use it to open the shield. As I said, you are welcomed here anytime. Whether it’s just to visit, to escape the world, or if you truly need asylum, you’ll always be welcomed here.”
Slipha coughed. She was lounging on a bench behind them. Everyone looked to her. “Sorry.” she said with a smile. “Just threw up a little in my mouth. Please continue.”
Yukina put her hand on Malcolm’s back and led him away toward the edge of the sphere. “Don’t worry about her, she’ll come around.”
Malcolm wasn’t so sure about that.
“I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. We’ll have lunch again.”
“Thanks. I look forward to it.” Malcolm looked at the bubble wall, then reached out and touched it. It didn’t budge at all, as if he were pushing against a stone wall.
“Put the ring on your finger. Then, hold your hand up and wave.” He did as she said. When he waved his hand, an opening parted in the shield. He looked back to her with a giddy smile. He felt like an imaginative child again. She laughed and smacked his arm. “Get out of here. You’re having way too much fun for your own good.”
“You’re right. I am.” he said, waving a goodbye to her as the shield closed behind him. He stared back at what now looked to be empty woods, but he knew wasn’t. He imagined that she was still watching him through the bubble. He turned away and began the long walk back to reality.
He arrived home just before nine, just as he’d promised. Blaire was curled on the couch, browsing the web on her tablet. Smooth jazz played on the stereo. She’d always loved music like that, which was far from the top forty songs that most of their generation listened to. “Hi honey.” she said without looking away from the tablet. “Have a good day?”
He nodded. “Oh yes. Very good day.” He paused, then added. “So... your day?”
She shrugged. “Ok I guess. Half the town almost floated away, but it turned out okay.”
Despite knowing better, he’d almost hoped her memories had disappeared. He went around the couch and sat down. “Does anyone know what caused it?”
“Oh, you mean the law of gravity being revoked for three blocks of Cliffside? No, no one has a clue.” She finally looked away from the tablet and at him. “You have any theories?”
Malcolm shrugged. “I’m not a scientist. I’m a writer. I spend most of my time in fantasies. So I think I can accept magic as reality.”
Blaire gave him a funny look. “You think it’s magic?”
He nodded. “Oh yes. I do. I think someone was playing a prank.” He said with the utmost confidence before adding, “A magical prank.”
“Really? And who would be playing a magical prank on the whole town?”
He shrugged again. “Witches? Wizards? Uhhh...” he pretended to search his brain for more ideas. “...fairies, perhaps?”
Blaire let out a short laugh. “Oh, fairies you say? When was the last time you saw fairies running around Cliffside?”
He scoffed at the idea. “Well of course you’d never see them running around like normal people. No, no. They would keep themselves hidden. I could just imagine a couple of young fairies with too much magical power and not enough maturity playing a prank on the town. The whole time, they would be hiding on a roof somewhere laughing their heads off.”
“You’re awfully specific, aren’t you?”
Malcolm was grinning as if he were hiding a great secret. “I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be imaginative.”
“Well, I think that’s just stupid.”
Malcolm’s brow furrowed. “Why would you say that?”
“Come on. Magic? Fairies? That’s ridiculous. There has to be a scientific explanation.”
“Do you have any scientific explanations?”
She thought for a moment. “Well... no. But I’m sure that scientists will be here investigating. They’ll figure it out.”
Malcolm shook his head. “No, they’ll come up with some half-assed excuse to keep their jobs. I think my idea is much more plausible.”
“Oh, you mean the magical fairies? Sure.”
Malcolm shrugged. “Maybe I just like things that aren’t logical.”
She shook her head and went back to reading. Malcolm rested his arm on the couch arm and his head in his hand. He stared at the blank TV.
After a few minutes had passed, Blaire broke the silence. “So, how was your book club?”
“No, no, no. It’s a writing club, not a book club.”
“Sorry. Writing club. How was it?”
“Good. Very good. I can’t tell you how much it helps to talk to these people. They’re quite smart. And I’ve been hammering out the pages much faster lately.”
“That’s good. I’m glad they’re able to help you. When’s the next meeting.”
Malcolm swallowed. “Tomorrow.”
“What? You mean they meet every day?”
“Well...” Malcolm thought about it for a moment. He wanted to go back every day. Every Single Day. But it just didn’t make sense in the context of his story. So, adjustments would have to be made. “...tomorrow is the last meeting until next week. They usually meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from six to eight. This week was different because some people had things come up.”
Blaire went back to her tablet. “Okay. That sounds fine.”
He stood up and went to the kitchen. A frozen TV dinner might not compare to what he ate at the fairy house, but he was now hungry enough not to care.
“Oh, by the way...” Blaire added. It was never good when she started her sentences that way.
“Thursday is Patrick and Annette’s anniversary party. We’re going, remember?”
Malcolm kicked himself. No, he didn’t remember and he didn’t want to remember. He had no desire to hang out with friends of Blaire. Truthfully, he had no desire to hang out with any humans. “Right, right. How could I forget. So it’s Thursday night?”
“Yeah. Seven o’clock.”
“Sure, we’ll do that.”
“Oh, and sometime tomorrow, can you pick up a gift card for them?”
He rolled his eyes. “I barely know them. How can I pick out a gift card for them?”
“Just pick out a nice restaurant. There’s not many around here to choose from anyway.”
She had a point. He threw up his arms in surrender. “Okay, I’ll take care of it.” He went back to microwaving his food. He missed the woods already.
As he lay in bed that night, Malcolm’s mind refused to calm down. He was curled into a ball on his side, while beside him, Blaire lay on her back with her hair spilt on the pillow. His mind was running over what Slipha had said. Did he have any right to be there with them? Was he invading the happiness of their home? He also thought back to what Yukina had said the night before. She said he would bring the poison in with him. Sure, she had warmed up to him and seemed to want him back, but would he poison them with humanity?
He fought within himself for the next few hours, searching desperately for something he could offer. There had to be a reason for being invited into the sphere. If not, he would be nothing more than a moocher. After he was finally able to fall asleep, the turbulence in his mind continued in his dreams. He wouldn’t remember them.
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