“So where is this party again?” Hannah asked. She stood in front of the mirror toweling her hair and staring at her body.
“It’s at a cabin out in Westmore. They call it East Coast,” said Will stepping out of the shower.
“East Coast? Technically Vermont isn’t on the east coast,” she said, turning to look at her profile.
“It’s just a name, Hannah. Like that place everyone went while we were in school. Remember Ruby Hill?”
“I never went to Ruby Hill.” She looked back over her shoulder.
“Well excuse me,” said Will grinning down at her.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said and looked down at her feet.
“No offense taken love,” he said and pulled her into a quick kiss. She squirmed and turned back around to the mirror. “What should I wear tonight?” she asked.
“You mean you can’t go like that?” Will asked. Hannah gasped and smacked him with her towel. She went into the bedroom to consult the closet. He followed.
“So who’s going to be there? Besides Tyler, I mean,” she asked. The hangers clattered as she flipped through her wardrobe.
“Uh, I think James and Beth will be and they’ll probably bring Mike. Andrew will be there and maybe Jenna,” Will said. He lay on his side on the bed and watched her.
“I don’t know Andrew, and I don’t like Jenna,” said Hannah. She pulled a strappy red dress off the hanger, held it up and turned around. “What about this?”
“Do you really want to wear a dress?”
“Why not, what’s wrong with a dress?” she asked, voice rising slightly in pitch.
“Mosquitoes flying up your skirt.”
“Good point.” She sighed and replaced the dress. “Pants it is I guess. I’ll just have to wear a really cute shirt. She moved over to her dresser. Will flipped onto his back and looked at her upside down. “Hey, cutie,” he said slowly and reached out a hand. She swatted him off. “You should get dressed. We’re going to be late.”
“You can’t really be late to a party like this. Too early, maybe,” he said.
“Whatever,” she said. He sighed, got up and went back to the bathroom to comb his hair. Hannah wasn’t far behind wearing a purple v-neck and carrying three other shirts.
“How does this look?” she asked more to the mirror than to Will.
“It looks fine,” he said and ran a cursory comb through his goatee.
“Just fine?” She pouted and pulled the shirt off. “How about this one?” She pulled a navy blue tank top on.
“You’ll get cold.”
“I’ve got that blue button down I can put on over it. How does it look?”
“Sexy,” Will said. He grinned again and pulled at her.
“Just sexy?” she said, and pulled back.
“Jesus Hannah, what do you want me to say?” he said. Probably too sharply. She looked down at her feet again. “I’m sorry Will. I – I don’t know.” She left the bathroom. Will ran his hands through his hair. Then he had to comb it again.
Twenty minutes of minimal communication later they were on the road. Hannah was driving, one hand on the steering wheel, the other in her lap picking at her thumb. Will stared out the window. The radio between them played classic rock hits.
Cornfields and hayfields flashed by at fifty miles an hour. Wildflowers dotted the high grass on the roadsides with blurs of bright blue, pink and yellow. Beyond the fields, great green hills rolled on and on. The sheer rock faces of the Willoughby Gap blinked at them as they rose up and down the hills in the road, and then disappeared as they turned onto a forested dirt road.
“What was the house number?” Hannah asked quietly.
“What?” he could barely hear her for road noise and the radio.
“The house number?” She sounded annoyed.
“Oh, it was 3518. Ty said there should be a mailbox. The driveway is on the right.” Hannah nodded. Will looked back out the window at the pines and spruce closing in around them. He looked up when they slowed.
“Where should I park?” she asked, turning up the driveway. It was lined with cars.
“Probably back here if you want to get out tonight.” She pulled in behind a mud-splattered jeep.
“Can you put these in your pocket?” Hannah said, holding out the keys. Will took them and started walking. She fell in step with him and grabbed his hand, lacing her fingers through his. He looked over and she smiled at him. “Let’s have a good time, okay?” she said. She squeezed his hand, and then stuck out her tongue at him. They laughed off the car ride and walked down the driveway.
The trees opened up to a meadow of tall grass and more wildflowers. At the end of the drive was a one-story log camp. Beyond that was Cold Pond, nestled between two of those rolling green hills. They could hear people splashing in the water behind the house. The wind off the pond brought the scent of campfire.
Young men and women milled about on the porch of the little place. Tyler hailed them and walked out. “Hey, I’m glad you guys could make it!” he said and took a sip from his red cup. “Want a beer? The keg is over here. Some fantastic micro brew. I forget the name of it. Hey, what’s this beer called?” he shouted to anyone on the porch.
“Bear Mountain Mead, dude. Hi Will, Hannah,” said Mike. They waved and let themselves be lead to the keg. A knot of people surrounded it chanting and throwing fists into the air. They squeezed in to see some guy crouched on top of the keg with the nozzle in his mouth, pumping vigorously. “Gar-goyle! Gar-goyle!” shouted the crowd.
“What the hell is he doing?” Will asked Tyler over the din.
“He’s gargoyling man.” Tyler took up the chant. Will and Hannah did too. About thirty seconds later the kid tipped over backwards off the keg and stumbled away to raucous applause. Tyler pumped them beers.
“You take the first one,” Hannah whispered to Will, “I don’t want gargoyle germs.” He accepted the cup and rubbed her shoulders.
Drinks in hand they began floating around the party. They followed Tyler back to the group on the porch and were introduced. For a while they talked about trips cross country to go skiing, hiking and biking. Hannah shivered and made it clear she’d like to go find the fire to warm up.
They walked, hand in hand around the side of the camp and were assaulted with a wave of heat from a bon fire at least five feet high. More partiers ringed the fire, shifting as the wind blew the smoke around. A blunt made its way around the ring a few times and it wasn’t long before Hannah and Will found themselves simply lost in the orange-yellow tongues of flickering flame.
Tyler made his way over to them again. “Come meet the hosts of this old shindig!” he said and beckoned them to follow.
A back door admitted them into a little kitchen with a beer pong table shoved impossibly inside. Music and smoke filled the air. Hannah gripped Will’s hand tight so as not to drown in this sudden sea of people. They followed Tyler down a narrow hallway and through a door into a much quieter room.
People were sitting on couches and cushions around a circular coffee table. “Hey all, this is Will and Hannah,” said Tyler, “and those are our hosts Jack and Jill.” He gestured to a couple draped over each other on the couch. She was thin and would be tall standing, with wild brown hair wearing a long gauzy t-shirt and leggings. He was stocky, dark of hair and eyes. He wore a battered baseball cap, a red flannel with the sleeves cut off and Carhartts.
“Jack and Jill, huh? Did you go up a hill recently?” asked Will laughing.
“Nice to meet you,” said Hannah, blushing at Will’s remark.
“It’s alright, we get that all the time,” Jill said, staring straight into Hannah’s eyes. “Take a seat.”
They squeezed themselves onto an open cushion. “Where are you from,” Jack asked, taking a pull on his beer. As Will gave their back-story Hannah gazed around the room. It was wood paneled and warm. Three racks of impressive antlers hung on the far wall. A dark, abstract painting hung alone on the right hand wall. Through a window on the left wall, the sunset shone, reflecting off Cold Pond. Hannah blinked a few times to try and clear an odd shimmer from her peripheral vision.
“Anyone want to go another round?” asked one of the girls across the coffee table from them. A general agreement sounded.
“Have you ever tried WB?” Jill asked, catching Will and Hannah’s eyes.
“No, what is it?” Hannah asked. She couldn’t keep the skepticism from her voice.
“Oh it won’t hurt you. It’s kind of like weed, acid and shrooms all rolled up into one. We call it Witches Brew, WB for short. You’re among friends so don’t worry about it. The trip is just beautiful,” Jill said and smiled beatifically.
“You want to?” Will asked Hannah. She chewed on her lip and then nodded.
“Oh good! I love to see someone’s first time. It really is amazing,” said Jill leaning forward to take an exquisite glass dragonfly off the table. It was as long as her hand, electric blue with green swirls. The wings were swept back along the body and must have been fumed glass for the way the colors in them shivered in the light.
Jill sprinkled what looked like golden powder in a bowl at its head and picked up a lighter. She laughed before putting it to her lips. “You have to pull from his butt.” Then she lit it, breathed in and breathed out a cloud of pearlescent smoke. It looked like waves breaking on the shore changing into horses running on the plains changing into windblown snow.
Jack laughed at the looks on Will and Hannah’s faces. “You haven’t even tried the stuff yet!” Jill passed the dragonfly piece directly to Hannah. “Go ahead,” she said.
Hannah lit it and took a little breath. The smoke was cold and hot, sweet and minty. She passed it to Will and licked her lips after she exhaled. They felt like they were coated in powdered sugar.
“Did you like it?” asked Jill as Will’s cloud of smoke poured across the table.
“Oh yeah,” said Will, savoring the flavor of the smoke rolling over his tongue. Hannah simply nodded and watched the images shift in the smoke as the dragonfly made its way around the table.
It wasn’t long before they both had the feeling that some cold hand had snaked up their backs and curled its fingers into their brains. Motions stuttered across their field of vision. The shimmer Hannah had in her periphery swamped her eyesight.
When the dragonfly made it back to them Hannah passed, but Will took another hit, blowing out an enormous puff of smoke. Anxiety prickled beneath Hannah’s breastbone as Will seemed to go further and further from her even though he was still sitting right there with his hand on her knee.
“Where’s Allison?” Jill’s voice came to them like an echo through a mountain pass, and then physically pulled them back to the room.
“Who’s Allison,” Hannah asked, hoping she wasn’t slurring her words.
“A wonderful storyteller. Allison! Come here,” called Jill.
A young blonde woman floated into the room. Her eyes were the same electric blue of the dragonfly’s body. She folded herself like a fawn beside Jill and looked around the table smiling dreamily.
“Tell us a story dear,” said Jill running her fingers through the girl’s straight blonde hair. Allison’s eyes dimmed and half closed as a pleased shudder rippled across her body.
“A story,” she mused, drawing out her words. “Okay…
“There was once a lowly scullery maid who found a tiny blue egg in the road one day.”
The smoke in the room began to waft and coalesce as Allison spoke on, “The girl picked it up to save it and kept it in her pocket day after day. One day it hatched into a tiny golden bird and flew off, calling out that it would come back one day for her.” A winged puff of golden smoke took off for the ceiling.
"For many years the girl dreamed and lived on waiting for the golden bird. She became a woman and then a spinster, holding tight to the hope that golden bird had given her. Finally, as an old lady sick and dying in her bed, she heard a tapping on her window. She struggled to get up and see what it was. When she threw back the shutter, lo and behold! It was her golden bird. "Climb upon my back," he said, and we will go. So she did, and his feathers were soft and warm to her old bones. The woman was never seen again, though some still speak of hearing laughter and catching a flash as a golden bird goes flying by.” Distant laughter suffused the golden fog.
The group stayed quiet after the story was over. Each was lost in the haze of the room, seeing the story played out on the coffee table before their eyes; the vivid blue of the egg and the shine of the golden feathers. Some reached out to touch something not there and others said things quietly to themselves.
Hannah was not on the same plain as everyone else. That prickle of anxiety held her fast to reality. She tightened her grip on Will’s hand and he began to drift out of his reverie. His eyes were glazed over in dream. Anxiety turned into panic and stabbed at her sternum.
The shimmer in the corner of her eye drew her attention. She saw a young girl, no more than 12 sitting where Allison had been. The outline of a woman hovered around the girl. When Hannah looked straight at her again, the outline was gone and all that was left was a dreamy eyed 12 year old.
Her breath was catching in her chest as she thought of some way to get out of there politely. Abruptly, she stood and pulled Will to his feet. “Gotta get him up and moving or he’s going to fall asleep!” she said and smiling, backed out of the room.
Will was wiggly on his feet and leaned heavily on Hannah. “Why’d you do that? We were having such a nice time.”
“Did you see that little girl?” Hannah hissed. “What kind of a place is this that they’d drug up a little girl? We’ve got to go. I’ll call child services in the morning.”
“What girl? What are you talking about Hannah?”
“Allison. She’s just a little kid!”
“Huh, I thought Allison was at least our age. Maybe you were seeing stuff from that WB,” Will said.
“No, I think you’re seeing stuff because you had too much of that WB,” Hannah snapped and stopped to stare at him. His face was a mask of dull confusion. “Oh never mind,” she said and started back down the hall. She nearly bumped into the Allison child when she turned around. The girl was so small she only came up to Hannah’s chest.
“I heard you say my name,” she whispered.
“Uh. I did. I was talking about what a great storyteller you are. Why don’t you come for a walk with us?” Hannah said. She took Will by one hand, the girl by the other. She avoided the kitchen and went out the front door. There was no one left on the porch. It had gotten cold after the sun went down and they’d gone out back to the bonfire. Quietly, hoping not to be seen, she led her boyfriend and the little girl down the driveway to her car. Once they were in and safely buckled, she performed what felt like a 20-point turn and headed back down the driveway.
She drove, white-knuckled as fast as she dared to go on the dark back road. When she hit the main road she sped away, disregarding the terrible shape the pavement was in and what the bumps may do to her car. Every few seconds she checked the rear view to see if they were being followed, but there was no one else on the roads this late at night.
After a while Will groaned a bit and shook his head. “Do we have any water?” he asked.
“By your feet,” replied Hannah.
“God, what was that stuff we smoked?” he asked after he’d taken a sip. “I feel like I got hit by a train. It was a good trip though. At one point I think you were telling me we had a kid or something. Some little girl.”
“We do,” said Hannah, “Look in the back seat.”
Will’s eyes went wide. “Who is she? Did you kidnap this kid?”
“No! She’s that storyteller girl. Allison. Everyone else was too high to realize she was really just a kid. What the fuck is a 12 year old doing at a party like that?” Hannah realized she was nearly shouting and lowered her voice, scared to wake the girl. “I mean come on. She just appeared in front of me while we were leaving. I couldn't just let her stay. That’s child abuse!”
“Well what are we going to do with her?” Will asked, all traces of the WB’s effect gone from his eyes.
“We’ll take her back to our place for the night and call child protective services in the morning,” said Hannah.
“Okay. Oh god. All right. We’re not going to go to jail for this or something will we?”
“No I—I don’t think so. I hope not,” said Hannah.
“You don’t think so? Hannah, this isn’t some shitty little civil offense. This could be kidnapping!”
“Hush. Don’t wake her. I couldn’t leave her Will. Trust me, for once. Please.” Hannah said, out of breath and desperate.
Will sighed. “Fine. Whatever.” That was as good as it was going to get for now. Hannah turned onto their road and a few miles down into their driveway. Wordlessly, Will carried the little girl into the house while Hannah collected a blanket and pillow, laying them on the couch. She and Will crawled into bed, turned on opposite sides, and uncomfortably fell asleep.
It felt like only minutes had gone by when a scream shattered the silence. Hannah was up and out of the room at once, blinking in the morning light. Allison was not on the couch. Down the hall the door to the bathroom was closed.
“Allison?” Hannah knocked.
The door burst open and Allison flew out at Hannah. “Who are you? Where am I? What the fuck happened?” She jabbed her finger at Hannah with every question. Shocked, Hannah backed into Will and nearly bowled him over. “Who’s he?” Allison screeched.
“Calm down. It’s okay. Just take a seat and we’ll explain everything,” Hannah cooed, trying to usher the prickly little girl back to the couch.
“No. Don’t treat me like a kid. What the fuck happened to me?” Allison demanded.
“Listen,” said Will before Hannah could fall back on her soothing phrases, “We we’re at a party at this place called East Coast and you were there drugged out of your mind.”
“We couldn’t leave a little girl at a place like that. They were abusing you honey, but it’s okay. You’re safe now,” said Hannah.
“Fuck you. I’m not a little girl. I’m 20. I'man English major at Kingdom College. I’m going into my senior year next year and when I graduate I’ll be paying back forty grand in student loans. What the fuck happened to me?!”
“You’ve got quite a mouth for a 12 year old,” remarked Will.
“Fuck. I’m not 12. Here,” she dug in her pocket, “My goddamn college ID.” She tossed it to him.
He and Hannah studied the faded picture on the plastic card and compared it to the girl before them. The electric blue eyes and blonde hair were the same. The faces look similar, like a 12 year old could grow into the 20 year old on the ID.
“Okay,” said Hannah skeptically, “If you’re really 20, then you tell us what happened. Start at the beginning. How’d you wind up at East Coast?”
Allison sat herself back down on the couch and closed her eyes. “Could I get some water?” she asked. Will went off to the kitchen. Hannah stood with her hands clasped together in front of her, waiting for Allison to speak. After a long drink, Allison opened her eyes and began to tell another story.
“I don’t party that much. I’ve made Dean’s list every semester and come hell or high water I’m making President’s list next year. I like homework. So sue me. Anyway, my friend Mark convinced me to go out one night, saying, “Oh Allison, staying in all the time’s not good for you. Come on, it’ll be a real chill party, nothing crazy.” So I go and he takes me back to meet Jack and Jill. Then we smoke the Witches Brew and I find myself babbling, retelling all these crazy fairy tales my dad told me as a kid. And Jill, she just eats them up. Then she lights another bowl and… and I don’t know I guess I just kept on telling stories.”
They sat wordless absorbing the story. Somewhere in the distance they heard thunder.
Will spoke first, “What day is it?”
“Its Sunday the 24th,” said Allison while Hannah said, “Its Sunday the 15th.”
Allison’s mouth hung open. “You’re fucking kidding me.” Hannah pulled out her phone to check the date, and then showed the girl. She leaned back shaking her head saying, “This is just like one of those fairy tales. The fairy queen takes a kid and sends a changeling back in her place and then the changeling turns back into wood before anyone realizes the kid is really gone. I wonder if the bitch even sent a changeling back in my place.” She was quiet for a minute, eyes on the ceiling, mouth in a frown.
“God, I remember now,” said Allison slowly. “Jill told me she wanted to keep me forever as her little storyteller pet. Said I was so pretty and cute and lovely. She kept giving me that goddamn dragonfly full of that stuff, but she wasn’t calling it WB. What was she calling it? Re—re something.”
“What do you mean?” Will asked. “Do you really, honestly think you were captured by fairies?”
Allison glared at him. “How long have you lived here?”
“Five years now,” said Hannah, still wringing her hands.
“Haven’t you seen some pretty weird shit up here in that time? And come on, it’s the Northeast Kingdom,” said Allison. She was building steam. “There are so many ghost stories and inexplicable events all the time. Why not fucking fairies? But that means they’ll be pissed. They’re going to come for me and they’re not going to be nice. Oh shit. Do you know anything about protection from fairies? Got any salt or rowan or, uh…” Allison was up and pacing now, hands moving frantically.
“Hannah is a Wiccan,” volunteered Will.
“Only kind of. Not a good one,” said Hannah quickly.
“No, that’s good,” said Allison, “What do you know?”
“Well, we could put a circle of salt around the house. And I know some knot magic, but I’m not sure what good it will be.”
“Binding spells. Do you know any?” asked Allison.
“I can look some up. Let me go get my books.” Hannah went back into the bedroom.
“What about you?” Allison looked at Will.
“I play paintball. One of those would probably take out a little fairy,” he said.
“They’re not going to be little, but go get your stuff anyway. We can at least stun them,” said Allison. Will went off to a closet down the hall. Hannah came back flipping through her books.
“Give me those. I’ll find something. You go set out that salt circle,” said Allison spreading the books on the kitchen table.
A few minutes later Hannah was back inside looking over spells with Allison and Will was sitting down putting one of his guns together. They all jumped as a clap of thunder shook the house.
Will looked out the window. A jeep with three strange men had pulled into the driveway. “Who are they?”
“Those would be Jill’s lackeys. Fucking fairy queen won’t get her own hands dirty,” said Allison.
“They shouldn’t be able to make it through the circle,” said Hannah.
“Shouldn’t,” said Will.
“Look I’m sorry I don’t know for sure. I didn’t even think this stuff really—“
“Shut up, now is not the time for a lovers spat,” said Allison as she watched the men get out of the Jeep and start towards the house. “Those aren’t men,” she said quietly, “they’re goblins.”
Will couldn’t help a chuckle. “Goblins. Like those short, ugly things with big ears and nasty hygiene?”
“Look at them from the corner of your eye Will,” said Hannah quietly, looking away from the window now.
“Oh shit,” said Will as he saw the three men truly were ugly creatures with pig noses and sallow skin. The three of them watched the goblins saunter up to the house and then BANG. The goblins were thrown back from the salt circle like they’d been launched from a cannon.
“Oh thank gods,” said Hannah and she looked back to the book.
“They’re back up,” cautioned Will. He crouched and crept towards the window. “They’re splitting up. I think they’re going around the house. Hannah, stay low and go into the bedroom to keep an eye on them. Allison, the window in the bathroom looks out on the back yard. Go in there and keep an eye on them.”
The girls took their posts and Will called out quietly, “Hannah, tell me what they’re doing.”
“Just walking slowly. I think they’re looking for a break in the circle, but they won’t find one. Stupid goblins,” said Hannah with a little laugh.
“They may be stupid but they’re tricky,” said Allison, watching the creatures move around the house.
More thunder boomed overhead and the sky got dark. The wind picked up, blowing leaves off the trees. Fat drops of rain began pelting the windows.
“They’re moving back out front,” called Allison.
“I see them,” said Will. The girls came back into the front room and watched as the goblins huddled together by the Jeep.
“What are they doing?” asked Hannah. The rain was coming in fast and getting heavier.
“I don’t know,” said Will.
“Oh god. The salt!” said Allison, pointing to a pile in the driveway that was dissolving under the heavy rain. At that same moment the goblins sprang from their huddle and charged the door, landing against it with a thump.
Will moved to cover the hall. Hannah stood breathless watching the door handle wiggle. Allison cast about the room for a weapon and seized the heavy flashlight on the table. More thumps hit the door, harder and harder and then it crashed in, sending splintered wood flying.
Pop pop pop pop! Went Will’s paintball gun and three orbs of sticky yellow paint exploded in the goblins’ faces. They staggered back and Will kept shooting.
“A binding spell Hannah!” screamed Allison as she fumbled to knot some dental floss.
Hannah snapped out of her breathless trance and looked around for string. She couldn’t do a binding spell without string. Desperately, she ripped a hole in her shirt with her teeth and pulled out a thread. “Uh… bind this evil, bind these three, as I say so shall it be.” She tied three quick knots in the thread. Instantly, the goblins were crushed together and suspended in the air, immobile despite their struggles.
Will popped a few more rounds onto them.
“They’d have you for bonus balling in a game,” said Hannah, laughing nervously.
“Good thing this isn’t a game,” said Will with a sly smile.
“It sure isn’t,” said Allison. “Now. We gotta get out of here.”
“What do we do with them?” Will said.
“Leave them,” said Allison. “Jill’s gonna send Jack after us, I just know it. I keep remembering stuff. Once, at that never ending party, some dumb kid stole money out of her purse when he thought she wasn’t looking. She always knows what’s going on at her Court though and one look sent Jack off and running. He brought the kid back to her and she played mind games with him till he gave up the cash. Then she let the goblins and her other nasty pets have him.”
“What happened?” Hannah said quietly.
“You don’t want to know. Trust me,” said Allison. “Now let’s get some provisions and get the fuck out of here.”
Will strapped on a belt with full pods of paint and an extra tank of air. Hannah grabbed the container of salt, a yarn ball and some scissors. Allison kept a firm and menacing grip on the Maglite, staring at the goblins that were stirring. One of them winked at her and then with a loud sucking sound, they disappeared.
“What was that?” said Hannah and Will together.
“The goblins. They broke your spell and went back to Jill. We really need to leave now.” Allison headed for the door and out into the deluge.
“You’re driving,” said Hannah to Will as she followed Allison out. Will grabbed his keys from the hook by the door. Gravel sprayed from his tires as they pulled out.
“Where should we go?” asked Hannah as they drove down the road.
“Into town,” said Allison. “Maybe all the metal and modernity will confuse them so they can’t find us.”
“Aw crap,” said Will.
“What?” asked Hannah. An edge of panic crept into her voice.
“Calm down,” said Will. He sounded annoyed. “The gas light just came on. I should be able to make it to the station just outside of town.” Hannah craned over to look at the dash while taking deep breaths.
Once on the main road the three watched lightning flicker from cloud to cloud. Under her breath Allison counted the seconds between flash and boom. “We’re driving right into it,” she said. Will turned up the speed on the wipers. All the way into town it was just the click-clack of the wipers, the splashing rain and the boom of thunder.
When they pulled under the roof above the pumps the sudden quiet was alarming. The clap of thunder following the quiet elicited a screech from everyone. With a sheepish look around Will got out to pump gas.
Hannah turned to face Allison in the back seat, eyes bright with unshed fears, “What are we going to do about Jack?”
“Will can shoot him and you can bind him for a start.”
“But my binding wasn’t even strong enough to hold goblins for five minutes. I’d never be able to bind a full-fledged fairy. Do you have any dirt on him or anything?”
“Are you suggesting we try to blackmail a fairy? He’s got nothing to lose.”
Hannah looked down at the center console and mumbled something. Allison gently punched her arm. “Take it easy. Even if you can only bind him for five minutes that gives us five minutes to think of something else.”
“Yeah I guess,” said Hannah. She took a big deep breath.
On the road a huge diesel engine pickup roared by. Allison’s eyes widened and she shrank against the seat, “That was him.” She started banging on the window. “Will we gotta go. He just drove by. Come on.”
“What?” said Will and cupped a hand to his ear. Hannah reached over and opened his door. “That truck was him. We’ve got to leave.”
“Just let me get the receipt,” said Will replacing the pump and waiting for the prompt.
“The receipt be damned,” shouted Hannah as she grabbed his shirt and pulled him back in the car. “Drive!” The receipt was left flapping in the breeze as they squealed out of the parking lot.
“Go outta town, he just went in,” said Allison. “We can loop around and come in the other side.”
Out of nowhere a pair of headlights glared into their car. Hannah looked behind them and shrieked, “He’s right there.”
“Turn here, here,” said Hannah. Jack turned behind them.
“Faster, come on we’ve got to lose him,” said Hannah, clutching at Will’s arm.
“Calm down. Trust me, I’ve got this,” he said. They zipped down road after road until the headlights were no longer behind them.
“We should cross a bridge or something. Fairies don’t like bridges right?” asked Hannah.
“I’ve never heard that, but it’s worth a shot. There’s a covered bridge just down there,” said Allison.
Will turned and slowed to cross the one lane bridge. At the other end he slammed on the brakes. “Oh shit.” A big pick up truck with dual stacks was parked across the road in front of them.
“How the hell did he know where I was going?” Will asked.
“It’s a small town. Stay in one place long enough and you’ll find who you’re looking for,” said Allison, her voice barely a whisper.
“What do we do?” said Hannah.
Allison looked up her eyes glinting in the stormy grey light. “Fucking fight him. Come on.” She threw open her door and stepped into the rain, drenched in an instant.
“Yeah, this is paintballing weather,” roared Will as he stepped out. Hannah cut three lengths of string and stepped out too.
The door to the truck opened slowly. One booted foot touched the ground then the other. The rain steamed around them.
“Well, well, well,” Jack said. The hiss of his voice was almost lost to the rain, but the threat there still rang true. “Seems like you stole something from my Mistress. She don’t like it when people take her pets.”
“I was never a pet you redneck asshole,” said Allison.
“You never had a choice darling,” Jack said and began to walk towards them.
Pop pop pop pop pop! Paintballs whizzed through the air, but every single one missed Jack and splattered against the truck. Jack narrowed his eyes. “Now why’d you do that to my truck. Oh you’re going to have to pay for that.”
“Use your peripheral vision,” said Hannah. “Stun him and I’ll bind him.”
Will looked slightly to the side and saw why he’d missed his target. In his true form Jack was skinnier than Jill had seemed to be and ridiculously tall. His body was all sharp angles with light blue skin. He looked like a dead, emaciated giant. Will aimed as best he could and walked the trigger not letting up for a moment. Some balls struck home, and some just bounced, but Jack never stopped moving slowly forward. It wasn’t long before all the paintballs in the hopper were gone.
“Bind this evil before me, as I say so shall it be,” shouted Hannah quickly tying knot after knot into orange yarn.
Jack stopped and looked confused. Then he smile like snake and said, “I see you’ve got a little hedge witch on your side Storyteller. She’s pretty weak though. Won’t help you none.” He flexed his muscles and began to break free.
“Dirt, dirt,” whispered Allison. “I don’t have any dirt.”
“Come on, a crime, a name, anything,” said Hannah. She held the knots tight in her hands, praying it would help hold him.
“A name!” said Allison. “I could kiss you. A name.” She looked out to Jack, that glint back in her eye. “Your name, Nimbo.” Jack writhed as if he’d been dealt a physical blow. Allison laughed.
Will laughed heartily. “You’re kidding. His real name is Nimbo?” Jack, now Nimbo, doubled over. Hannah joined in the chorus of laughter.
“I remember now. One night after all the revelers had left, it was just Jack and Jill alone in that room. They’d forgotten about me. I just sat watching and listening as they got all intimate and used their true names,” said Allison. She laughed again and danced down to the immobilized Nimbo. She gave him a hard smack with the flashlight. “Take that asshole! Now you go back and tell precious queen Pibble, that’s right I know her name too, to leave me and my friends the fuck alone. And if I hear of you fucks taking anymore people as pets, I’m going to come and destroy you.”
“You couldn’t if you tried,” he said, teeth clenched.
“I could and I would. Now, Nimbo I command you with the power of your true name to tell me how to break the enchantment on me.”
“Roll in a patch of clover,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Thank you,” said Allison and emphasized it with another whack from the flashlight. “Nimbo, I command you by the power of your true name to leave here and never come back.”
Woodenly, Nimbo turned on a heel and climbed back into the truck. The engine roared to life. The truck turned and sped off down the road, stacks belching black smoke.
Allison turned, grinning to Will and Hannah. She grabbed their hands and giggled. They danced in a circle for a moment, laughing. A cool wind picked up and the sky lightened.
“I gotta find me some clovers,” said Allison and skipped off to the roadside.
“The rain’s letting up,” said Hannah. She took Will’s hand and leaned in close.
“Yeah,” he said, and kissed the top of her head.
They watched Allison roll like a dog in the wet grass. She stood up and was suddenly two and half feet taller and flesh colored mush like paper mache dripped off of her. “Told you I was 20,” she said.
“I guess so,” said Will.
“Do you need a ride home?” said Hannah.
“Actually no. I live pretty close to here. What’s your phone number though? I feel like we can’t just end it here.”
“Oh hell no,” said Hannah and she jotted down her number on a note pad from the car.
“Thanks,” said Allison and she swept the two of them into a big hug. “Thanks so much! I’ll see you soon!” She walked across the bridge and was gone.
Will and Hannah climbed back into the car.
“Home, James,” she said, sagging into the seat.
“The name’s Will.”
“Home, Will,” she said.
Sunlight flickered through the clouds and turned the high grass on the roadside into a blur of diamond light.
“You know,” said Will, reaching over to take Hannah’s hand, “You were pretty awesome back there. You didn’t even freak out while I was driving like a madman.”
“And you took my advice, to look out of the corner of your eyes,” she smiled and laughed, “You never take my advice!”
“I think I may just start,” said Will. “Maybe we should go into human fairy defense. We make a pretty good team with my marksmanship and your magic.”
Hannah said, “I’d like that. We’d rock their world.”