Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume One
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 6: Discovering Cliffside
Malcolm followed his usual routine of writing in the morning and leaving the house at noon. He walked to Main street where there was now a bustling crowd of people larger than any festival had drawn. Scientists were scattered around the street setting up equipment so that they could analyze the wondrous town. Tourists had piled in from all over the region (and more might be coming from further away over the next few days.) Some were just curious and hoping it might happen again. Others seemed to be the type of people who made pilgrimages to anything supernatural or unexplainable. Malcolm chuckled to himself as he watched the fascinated tourists, knowing that he was the one and only person who knew exactly what had happened.
The coffee shop was busy. (Apparently the pilgrims needed their caffeine, too.) He waited in line patiently. By the time he reached the counter, Tabby had already fixed his drink.
“Crazy times, huh?” she said, handing the cup over the counter.
“Sure is. Other towns are going to be jealous of Cliffside.” He swiped his card. “Won’t take long for them to start faking gravitational anomalies to increase tourism.”
She laughed. “You might be right. I’ll give you a free coffee if your prediction comes true.”
He pointed his finger at her. “Be careful what you say. I’ll remember that.”
“You got it, Mr. Birshire. So what do you think happened?”
He grinned ear to ear. “Magic. Just magic, plain and simple.” He sipped the drink and left the chaos of the shop.
It took another hour of walking to reach the special place on the side of highway 1, just before the scenic lookout, which he had become very familiar. He walked into the woods without slowing and tromped down the trail until he reached the invisible home. He knew exactly where to stand, though there was nothing to mark the place. He waved his ringed finger and the door opened. As he took another sip of iced coffee, he walked through the doorway.
Before the door had time to close, an explosion rocked the ground. The air inside the bubble rushed in a whirlwind. Startled, Malcolm looked up to see two fairies, Slipha and Autumn, in a high speed chase around the sphere.
“Give me that book, you little prick!” Slipha charged another ball of magical energy and threw it at her.
Another explosion rocked the ground. Autumn evaded the blast. She had the book Slipha had been writing clutched to her chest. She was laughing too hard to speak. Her speed was incredible. It was like watching person-sized bees zipping around in circles. Slipha chased her around the small sphere and took another chance at throwing a magical grenade. This time, the explosion kicked up dirt and sent one of the outdoor chairs flying into splinters. Autumn laughed even harder now.
Yukina marched in through the other side of the bubble. (It seemed mom couldn’t leave the house for five minutes without a fight breaking out.) She yelled into the air, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TWO DOING?!”
Autumn continued flying in circles around the yard like a super-charged race car. Slipha landed, pointed at the air, and yelled. “She took my book!”
Yukina, already fed up with the ludicrous behavior, thrust her hand in the air. The magic grabbed Autumn and yanked her down, bringing the mischievous fairy face to face with Yukina. Autumn grinned. “I just wanted a peek is all.” She hung upside down, her short hair pulling toward the earth, her grin upside down.
“Give the book back. You can’t just take people’s things.” Yukina’s voice was stern and annoyed.
Disappointed, Autumn jabbed the book at Slipha who quickly yanked it away from her. “You’re such a stupid child.” she sneered at Autumn.
“And you aren’t?!” Yukina snapped. “Now both of you fix the mess you made.” She dropped Autumn, who landed on her back. She got to her feet and skipped away to start repairs on the yard. Slipha shrunk her book to miniature and hid it in her dress, then marched off to help with repairs.
Yukina noticed Malcolm and walked over to him. “I’m sorry you had to see that.” She folded her arms. “They’re still petulant children, it seems.”
“That’s okay.” Malcolm said, sipping the last of his coffee until it slurped the bottom. “I rather enjoyed the show.”
She laughed. “Sibling rivalry is entertaining, I suppose. If you’re not the one who has to break it up.”
“Well, I originally came to enjoy the peace and quiet. Not exactly what I was expecting.”
“It should be quiet now. If not, I’m going to make it quiet.”
Malcolm set his empty cup on the ground by the “door” and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Can we take a walk?”
They walked along the cliffs where they’d been yesterday, except now alone.
“I understand your feelings.” she said with that same caring voice, silky soft as usual. “But it’s okay, really. You’re not intruding. Don’t beat yourself up like that.” She patted his shoulder. There was something about being around her that made Malcolm feel better no matter what. “I believe fate wanted you here. Not just for your benefit, but ours, too.”
Malcolm looked out at the sea, a faint smile lighting his face. “I love it here. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to leave the world and go live in a fairy tale. Now I can. But... I feel like I’m not helping anyone by being here.”
Yukina sighed. “You are helping. You’re helping me to loosen up. I was so hell-bent on protecting everyone. I’ve been stifling them.” She hesitated, knowing that what she needed to say next was necessary, but also frightening. “We need to get out. We all need to get out and away from home. Just a little. My sisters are growing more and more restless each day, which usually leads to the kind of mischief you saw earlier. So if you want to help, that’s how. Figure out how we can be a part of the world without being spectacles.”
Malcolm turned it over in his mind. “Can you hide your wings?”
She shook her head. “No. And they always glow, which I’m sure would draw attention. They glow brightly at the full moon, dimly at the new moon. But they are always glowing to some extent.”
“Well... we might be able to get away with it.” Malcolm said. He rubbed the stubble of his chin as he played things out in his mind. “We could use the crazy tourists downtown as cover. There’s a ton of weirdoes.” He thought it over some more. “You’d just be cosplayers.”
“Cosplayers? What are those?”
“People who dress up as fictional characters. I remember there was a bunch of kids in college that did it. They’d go to conventions or costume contests. It’s perfect. You can pretend to be college students. You’re convinced that there are fairies in Cliffside. So you dress like them in hopes that it will make them feel comfortable enough to approach you.”
Yukina arched an eyebrow at him, both skeptical and lost. “So... we are pretending to be humans who are pretending to be fairies?”
“Exactly! It’s important that you know your story so intimately that you believe it yourself. When people talk to you, you know you’re telling them the truth. You have to convince yourselves that it’s the truth. You’ll be able to enjoy a night on the town like regular, nutty folk.”
Yukina pondered it over. It was ridiculous, but so ridiculous it made perfect sense. “Let’s discuss this with the others.”
A couple of hours later, a portal appeared on the back wall of a building downtown. One by one, each fairy crawled out of the hole, and finally Malcolm came through. April closed it behind them. They all looked to Malcolm for leadership. He beckoned them to follow. The fairies were nervous and excited as they followed him into the crowded street. The crowd was thronging all around. Excited tourists chattered to one another, talking about all sorts of crazy things. Scientific theory, aliens, witchcraft, and - of course - magic.
“So, where do you guys want to go first?” Malcolm asked, on the verge of yelling to be heard over the noise in the street.
“Let’s eat!” Kara said, clapping her hands excitedly.
“Where’s a good place?” April asked.
“Well, there’s a really good pizza place we can try.” Their faces lit up. What was this ‘pizza place’ he spoke of? Whatever it was, it sounded exciting.
As they walked down the street in their ‘disguises’, no one paid them much mind. They got a few amused looks and a group of hipsters stopped them and asked if they could take pictures with them. They all posed together as one of them snapped a picture with their cell phone. But that was all the attention they received. They were surrounded by curious people who were misfits themselves and thought it not out of the ordinary to see a group of cosplaying co-eds in search of the unexplainable.
The group entered the pizza place with awestruck wonder in their eyes. The place was popular among the tourists and tonight it was almost standing room only. Decorations hung from the ceiling and walls like an informal museum. The decor illustrated local history from Cliffside and Maine. There were miniature sailboats which had been hand built a hundred years ago. Fishing nets, lobster traps, and hand tools from the days of the colonies. High on a wall above the bar was a mural painted by talented high school students which illustrated some of the famous people who’d come from the area.
Malcolm led his costumed group to the back where there was a booth large enough for them. A spunky waitress came to their table.
“Hiya! Love your costumes! They’re so cute.”
They all blushed. “Thanks!” Autumn said. “We’re fairies.”
“I can see that. They’re such intricate designs and...” she stopped to look closer at Autumn’s wings. “... so amazing.” She stuck a finger out and tapped her wing. Autumn giggled and her wings fluttered. Everyone else at the table stared and held their breath. “Wow! They even move? And glow? How’d you do that?”
Malcolm butted in. “LEDs. Tiny motors and LEDs.”
“So cool. It’s amazing what people do with costumes these days.” She backed away and pulled out her notepad. “So what’s it gonna be for the fairies?”
He ordered two large vegetarian pizzas, a pitcher of lemonade, and a beer for himself. As they waited for their food, he got a kick out of watching his friends gawk at the room. Kara, Autumn, and April had elated expressions of wonder. Slipha was trying to keep her serious face, but he could tell she was having as much fun as the others. Yukina’s expression was more mature than the others, but she couldn’t stop smiling. She was happy to see her sisters having so much fun.
Their pizzas came. After Malcolm showed them the correct way to eat the food, the group dug in. After that, he ordered a desert pizza topped with chocolate chips. The group finished eating and, after Malcolm footed the bill, they started to leave. Near the door was a dark room with a few arcade machines. Their flashing lights and sound beckoned them. Malcolm bought some tokens and went to the pinball machine.
“Here, I’ll show you how this works.” He put the coins in and launched the ball. Everyone crowded around the game and watched the shiny ball bounce around. The lights strobed, the music blared, and every time the ball made contact with something, a sound effect accompanied it. It was sensory overload for the fairies, who’d never seen such crazy things. He lost the ball. “You try.” he beckoned to Kara.
She seemed nervous to be controlling the giant machine. She pulled the plunger back slowly, then let it go, jumping when it launched. Kara began hitting the buttons quickly. The ball slipped by and was gone in a flash. She tried again and was able to hit the ball a couple times before loosing. Her shoulders slouched.
“Hey, don’t feel bad.” Malcolm said. “That’s how my first game went, too.”
“My turn.” Slipha announced. She stepped up to the machine, put the tokens in, and launched. She waited for the ball to come down and slammed the triggers at just the right time. The ball went crazy, bouncing from spring to spring, hitting all the goals, and the double-ball power up. The second ball came out and began bouncing around like mad, too. She was flipping the paddles like crazy and wore a devilish grin. The machine was going nuts, doing things Malcolm had never seen a pinball game do. The points soared as the lights and sounds cheered Slipha on.
Malcolm watched the ball carefully. It sure didn’t seem to be acting normal. He looked down at her hand and saw that a faint glow emanated from under the glove. He leaned on the top of the pinball machine, looked at her, and shook his head. “Would you stop cheating already? You’re not fooling me.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. “I’m not cheating.”
“Oh that? That’s not cheating. Magic is as much a part of me as my hands.”
Malcolm shook his head. “I think you’re missing the point.”
She scowled at him, but he didn’t budge. She realized she’d have to give it up. “Fine.” she said, rolling her eyes. Her hands stopped glowing and the balls began to obey physics again. They plummeted toward the flippers and she hit the triggers at the wrong time, letting them slip through. Slipha left the game. “It’s a dumb game anyway.” she said as she went to study other arcade games. Autumn was more than happy to take over for her.
When they left the pizza place, it was dark outside. Malcolm wasn’t exactly sure where to go or what to do next. What would be exciting to the fairies on their first official outing? He beckoned for them to follow him and they walked down Main street. He made sure to head away from the phone store. Blaire was home by now and awaiting his return from the writing club, but he was still nervous about going near the place. He was already treading in dangerous territory being out in the open and escorting cosplaying co-eds around town. Thankfully, he was well shielded by the crowd.
They toured several stores, including a local artist’s gallery. A painting of a garden full of fairies proved especially interesting to the group. The artist, Anne Galloway, struck up conversation with them and would not stop asking questions about their costumes. Malcolm did most of the talking at that point.
They visited several different touristy stores and eventually turned back toward the coffee shop. Upon reaching it, he decided to stop for drinks. (Tabby’s shift was over and a less familiar barista waited on him.) They sat down at the tables on the sidewalk and began sipping the hot lattes. (Malcolm had decided to be adventurous and get one for himself, too.) They were split between two different tables: Malcolm, Yukina, and April sitting at one while Slipha, Autumn, and Kara were at the other.
Kara wouldn’t stop chattering about all the different things they’d done that day. Of course, the people at her table had been with her all day, but that didn’t matter. She finally had something to talk about. Autumn was growing more and more restless as she sipped the warm drink. Maybe it was her first taste of caffeine or maybe the sudden overload of experiences the day had brought, but her mind was moving faster and faster. She had tuned out Kara’s chattering and was now studying the tourists.
Autumn realized that the one and only reason they had flocked to the town was because of her little trick. A trick that was fairly simple to do. She began to reason within herself that, if she didn’t perform another trick, they would be awfully disappointed. If nothing else magical happened, all those people would leave and it would once again be a dead, boring town.
With her hand under the table, she reached out toward the street. Just a little more magic would be all, and then she would stop. She wouldn’t cause as much commotion as before. Just a tad. Her hand began to glow. Slowly, gravity ceased for a block radius and people began to realize they were floating. There was excited shouting. People from all around began running toward the area of anti-gravity. Autumn giggled as she watched. It made her so happy to see them having fun.
Kara stopped talking. Slipha leaned close to Autumn and whispered. “What do you think you’re doing? Stop it before you get in trouble.”
She dismissed her. “I won’t do much. Just a little.”
Everyone in the streets began cheering. The main attraction had arrived and they were having a blast. Unlike the grown-ups who had found themselves floating yesterday, these grown-ups wanted to experience the phenomenon. Guys were jumping up in the air and floating straight up like superheroes. Girls were laying back and floating like they were enjoying a day at the pool. Autumn giggled more as she watched them.
There was a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see Malcolm, Yukina, and April with their arms folded, scowling down at her. Her grin wouldn’t leave. “I was only going to do it for a few seconds.”
“End it now.” Yukina said. “Slowly.”
Autumn turned her attention back to the street. She slowly brought gravity back so that the people who’d been enjoying it floated harmlessly to the street. They stood up and began cheering. They didn’t know who or what they were cheering to, but whoever it was, they wanted to express their gratitude. The ride had only lasted thirty seconds, but to them, it was the best ride of their lives.
She looked back to Yukina. “See? No harm. I thought that since all these people came to see the trick, I didn’t want to leave them disappointed.”
Yukina was now past the point of caring or being angry. “Please don’t do it again.” was her only response. They went back to their table.
Slipha leaned in again, a grin lighting her face. “See? You’re in trouble.”
“No I’m not.”
Once everyone had finished their lattes, it was time to go home. They began the walk back to the alley where they had come in. Autumn trailed at the back of the line. She didn’t want to go home already, it felt too soon. She dragged her feet and looked all around at the sights going on around her. She also felt a great deal of pride knowing that all the people she passed would have given anything to meet her: Autumn the Wondrous. She was like a celebrity. A secret celebrity.
The group passed a storefront full of women’s clothing. There were manikins in the window wearing the best clothes the store had to offer. Autumn couldn’t help but stop at the window and look in. It all looked so beautiful. She tried to picture what she would look like in them. There wouldn’t be a place for her wings, so they would have to be cut and modified. She smiled as she thought about it. Perhaps next time they go out, they could shop for some human clothes.
She turned to continue following the group, only to discover that everyone had disappeared. A small jolt of panic swept through her. But she knew they weren’t gone. They were just hidden by the crowd. She started walking in the same direction as before, sure she would catch up. She wanted to fly up and find them, but knew she couldn’t without drawing attention. Then the secret would be out and they would never be able to leave home again. And she didn’t want that.
Autumn continued walking forward. There was still no sign of them.
There was a tap on her shoulder. She looked back. A tall man stood behind her. His hair was black, his features strong, his skin pale. He wore jeans, a silky black shirt, and a black suit jacket.
“Hello dear. What is your name?” His speech felt calm and gentle. An inviting smile parted his lips.
Autumn didn’t know what to do. The group was getting further away from her. Would they notice she was gone? Of course they would, but would they be at the portal by the time they did? Should she talk to the man? Whether she should or not didn’t matter because deep down she felt compelled to stay and chat. His ice blue eyes were so inviting.
“I’m Autumn.” She answered. “What’s your name?”
“Autumn is a fine name. You look like the personification of the season.”
“Now if you don’t mind me asking, how did you do that?”
Her heart froze. She stammered a little. “I… I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh I think you do, young fairy.” His eyes were becoming more frigid. She couldn’t look away. “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
She wanted to run. Even flying away at this moment would be better than being a prisoner to this man’s eyes. But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t breath. Something was holding her. “I’m not a fairy.” She whispered so low that she could barely hear it herself. “I’m just a cosplayer.”
The man grinned. “Don’t lie to me, little fairy. I saw what you did. I have many questions to ask. Perhaps you could come with me so we can chat privately?” He turned away and began walking. She didn’t know why, but she was following him. It was like being trapped in a dream where she had no control over her body. She just walked behind him like it was the most natural thing in the world. Her vision was blurred and everything felt swimmy.
Far, far away, she heard her name called. But she couldn’t turn her head or look away from the man. She heard her name called again. It felt distant, like it was just something she imagined. The man opened the passenger door of a black sports car. She had lost all ability to think. Autumn sat down in the seat and he closed the door. She was going for a ride. To where, she did not know.
“AUTUMN!” Yukina screamed. The car shot out of the parking space and down Main street. It darted onto a side street and disappeared.
There was no hesitation. All four fairies leapt into the air, flying straight up, then curving downward to take chase. Malcolm stood looking up, helpless. “Alright.” he called after them. “I’ll just... wait here I guess.” He turned his attention to the people staring at the spectacle that had just happened. “They have very good costumes, you know. I designed them.”
In the air, Yukina and her sisters pushed their wings hard. They headed for the street where the car had disappeared. But when they flew over, there was no black sports car. “Spread out.” Yukina called out. “They’re going in that direction.” The four of them moved away from each other so that they were combing the town, still flying fast and keeping their eyes fixed straight down.
He opened the car door for her. It all still felt like a dream. She stepped out. “Welcome to my home.” he said, cheerful and friendly like a good host. He beckoned for her to follow. She did, despite the internal battle waging within her. She knew it was dangerous to be following him, but her conscious mind was lost, wandering around and bumping into things. All the while, she did as she was told, a blank stare and slumped shoulders accompanying her actions.
The house that stood before her was very old. It was an all brick house with little decoration. Large, but not so large to be considered a mansion. There were no other homes in sight, only his sprawling yard surrounded by pines. Not far away, she could hear the crashing ocean. The sound felt chaotic and calming at the same time, much like how her mind felt right now.
Autumn followed him up the stone steps to the front door. Soon they were inside.
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