[I’m kind of crapping my pants putting this up – this is a super weird piece and honestly probably a miserable choice for a first fiction post, but there we are. Enjoy or… something, anyway. Be nice to me. I’m delicate.]
We never call it faerieland, here.
We live in this lovely house. Lovely lovely lovely. They would call it quaint. Or grand. It’s old and has lots of little nooks and crannies. Sometimes I think the rooms move, or they change, anyway, a lot of the time I go around one corner and end up back where I started. That makes him laugh, when he catches me doing that.
He’s the reason we’re here. He’s the lord in the house, in this world. And then there are us. There’s me, and the selfish man, and the little girl that I never see. There’s the man of books, always in a book, never without a book or three or seventeen. Sometimes I think he is made of paper, I watch pages fall from his shoulders and shatter on the floor. But he’s one of us, too. I think there’s a boy right now. And there are two other selfish men. But we’re all selfish here. We all want him.
He doesn’t have a name. I had a name once, but it’s gone. I may have lost it, dropped it on the way here, or left it in one of the rooms I can’t find anymore, upstairs on the fourth floor. The stairs up there are rickety and have some squeaky steps. No one has a name. He probably took them, but I don’t know why. But that’s probably why we want him, if he is keeping our names.
That’s an important thing, I think. I can’t remember today. Do you like my dress? I’m going to the tower on the third floor. That’s where the robin’s egg room is, and that’s my favorite.
I am crouching next to the book-man. I keep trying to catch the pages as they fall from his shoulders, before they touch his shadow and crackle into a million pieces. Effervescent. They sort of glitter when they break, but it’s like watching light move under water. You can’t actually see it. They slide around my hands as I hold them out. The book-man doesn’t notice. He is reading a book with gold pages.
Sometimes I read with him.
“Where am I from?” I ask him, one day as I walk around the solar. He is sitting in his favorite chair; we are alone. It’s spring or summer, anyway, the room is thick and stifling with greenery. He answers without looking up from his book.
“I forget, my dear. And you mean when, don’t you?” He never looks at me.
I do mean when. “When, then, please,” I murmur. It is always, always to please. “What year?”
He sort of rolls his head around, the feathery hair shifting, catching rainbows in the afternoon sun. It’s hot and cold in the solar; I am cold. “Oh, I think sometime in the 1950s, petite. Somewhere in there. Ha!” He chuckles at his own misspoken phrase, jewels rattling around in a velvet bag. “Somewhen in there, I should say.”
“That’s not right.” I stop dead in the middle of my roaming. In midstep, as they say. Then he does look at me, a warning, a great fear, a pale shadow in his glassy eyes.
“Isn’t it now, love?”
“No. That can’t be right. I remember.” My head is in my hands, I’m crouched on the floor, my dress is grey, my hair is falling in my eyes. “I remember computers and the Internet and digital cable. I remember smart phones.”
“Silly child, let me braid your hair, look what a mess it’s getting.” And my hands are in his, pulling me up, up, out of memory, out of myself. And I can’t care, because my dress is peach and rose again, my hair is dark and curling against his deft fingers as he twists and winds the locks together. His book is laying open on the arm of the chair, the slow breeze turning the pages back, back, in those strange syllables that I can’t read.
“What was I saying?” I am fluttering my lashes again, and he finally looks at me and smiles. I’m warm again, the sun is golden on us both; the room revolves around us. His fingers linger over a last curl before he touches my cheek. His smile hides a secret. But that’s not unusual.
“I believe you were commenting on how lovely the weather was, darling. You are absolutely correct. It is perfect.”
I used to like fairy tales. Before. I’ve tried to ask the book man if he’s reading fairy tales and that’s why the pages break. One of the selfish men told me fairy tales aren’t real.
What is real?
I talked to the little girl today. She was in the bay window on the third floor. I didn’t see her, but I know she was there. She listens. I told her that today I wanted to go home. She didn’t answer me. But I know she heard me. She did. I’m afraid she’s going to tell him.
Then I tried to go out the front door. There’s a front door to faerieland, did you know that? Our front door is painted yellow, pale pale yellow like the bitterest part of lemon flesh. But underneath that it’s blue. And underneath that it’s red. The red scratches through the blue and the yellow frighten me. I kept trying to open the door today, but I was so afraid of the red. I could hear them under my fingertips. The knob of the door is copper. I could never reach it.
You can’t look out the windows here, either. If you are inside the room, and you can see the window, it looks like you could look outside and see trees and a charming New England (where?) day outside, with oaks fluttering in the breeze. But you either can’t get to the windows, or by the time you get there they’re misted over.
I think about breaking one, on the bad days.