THE ONLY OTHER THING I know about fairies is that they love music. All sorts. Jazz, rock, big band, hip-hop, they love it all.
That is, except for country music. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all country music they hate. It’s them old cowboy songs. Just like Tumbling Tumbleweeds.
Personally, I love it. But the fairies? To them it’s like running your fingernails over a chalkboard while chewing aluminum foil, only more annoying. For them the sound is, to put it in the simplest possible terms, unbearable. To hear such music tends to make them head for the hills. It’s about the only thing I know of that will stop them.
I’d known this going in, so I’d bought what they call a burner phone in Eudora once I’d gotten the call.
Cell phones aren’t something I know much about, I don’t own one myself. So I’d had to take it out to the Great and Powerful Frank, my wizard friend who’d helped me out with the Maggie Keaton kidnapping case. Frank loaded the song onto the phone, then set the alarm to go off at thirty minutes past Two this morning. He, of course, used the song as the alarm tone, and set the volume for its max. All I had to do was carry the phone in my coat pocket and stall.
See, while I didn’t know exactly what it was the fairies were up to, I figured that they would try and throw me under their spell. Which they did. I mean, it’s what fairies do.
What I didn’t know was how the song might affect me while I was mesmerized. My hope had been that the spell would break and I’d be free to clean house. On that one, I was right.
The fairies continued to scream, most of them zooming off to parts unknown.
“What’s going on?” Jake said. He had tears in his eyes and his body trembled and shook.
I hadn’t taken into account what he might go through once he was out from under their spell. To his credit, he took it better than most.
“Can I go home now?” Jake asked.
The thing about being put under a fairy spell is that when it’s all over, you remember everything that happened. If they wanted you to dance wearing a hamburger costume, you would do it. And after, you’d remember and feel the embarrassment and shame that might come with dancing in a hamburger suit. Or, in the case of young Jake, if you allowed yourself to be taken from the safety of your home, at only eleven years old, and then agreed to be tied to a tree, an act that cut into your flesh and caused you to bleed, well… that would just plain rattle some folks.
“You bet,” I told Jake. “I’ll get you home. Don’t you worry. But first we got to get a look at those wrists. I have a first aid kit back in my Scout. But it’s a hike. You up for it?”
“Yes, sir,” he said. He was looking up at me, his eyes still full with tears.
For that image alone I wanted to gun down each and every one of tiny little winged bastards. Most of them, however, had fled. Nona, had remained behind, her hands over her ears, tears streaming down her face. Lance was nowhere to be seen.
I took the phone from my pocket and touched something on the screen. The music died.
Relief shown on Nona’s face and she took her hands from her ears.
“Thank you,” she said. “That noise is the worst.”
I pointed a gun at her.
“I only hit snooze,” I said. “That means that in five minutes that music is gonna start up again. Meaning you got three hundred seconds to tell me why I shouldn’t shoot you here and now.”
“First,” Nona said, looking ever so petulant. “You can’t kill me. We’ve gone over this. So shooting me isn’t a threat at all. Second…”
She looked down for a moment and when she looked up, I could see guilt in her eyes.
“It wasn’t my idea,” she said. “I tried to talk him out of it, but Lance said that if we controlled you then we could stay here forever.”
“Stay here?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“We aren’t supposed to talk about it,” Nona said. “All I can say is that this world, your world, isn’t our home.”
“Then why are you here?” I said. “And where is your home?”
“We’re here as punishment,” she said.
“What are you saying?” I said. “Are you trying to tell me that you’re criminals and Earth is your prison? What, are you aliens?”
I laughed. I mean, there’s no such thing as aliens.
“We aren’t aliens,” she said, looking annoyed once again. “Don’t be so stupid. And no, we aren’t criminals, though this is a prison. Or at least, they think it is, the elders.”
“I don’t understand-” I began, but was interrupted by a streak of green light and a stab of pain across the bridge of my nose.
I put a hand to my nose as the green light fled into the distance. The hand came away bloody.
“What’s this, Nona?” I asked, anger creeping into my voice.
“I—” she backed away, fear showing on her face. “I’m sorry, Norman.”
Another streak of green light, another stab of pain, but this time across my forehead. More blood.
“It’s Lance,” Nona said. “He wants you d—”. But that was all she said. The green light hit her before she could finish her sentence and she fell to grass and did not move.
Suddenly Jake and I were surrounded by every color in the rainbow. I stripped off my long coat.
“Get down, Jake,” I said. “Make yourself into a ball.” The boy did so and I threw my coat over him as the lights circled us in almost a lazy fashion, like they had all the time in the world. I was hoping my coat would provide Jake with some protection once the swarm decided to strike but, to be honest, I’d never been in a situation like this before.
I pulled both pistols and thumbed back the hammers. The swarm continued to circle.
“What are you waiting for?” I shouted, my voice echoing out into the stillness of the night.
But the five minutes were up. The snooze limit on the phone ended, and the song played out once again from the pocket of my coat. The reaction this time however, was quite different.
The fairies screamed as if in one voice and shot directly at the sound, my coat, and young Jake who lay huddled beneath it.
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