“Give it back!” Terry Freeman shrieked, his hand barely missing the leather-bound portfolio held just out of his reach. Clutched in the mocking hand of Mark McGinley, who scoffed down at him, “Whatsa matter Terry, I thought all fairies could fly!” Malicious laughter emanated and echoed from those witnessing the spectacle.
This ageless schoolyard ritual played itself out, as it has since time began. A group of peers, who firmly believed being “athletic” was a privileged superpower, taunting a bookish type, who was only among them because by law he had to be.
Terry made another leap; Mark shoved him to the ground. “Keep your hands off me you f***ing fa…” Mark’s jeer was cut short as powerful hands clutched his letterman jacket’s collar and shook him. His taunt turned terror then defiance: “Hey, you can’t touch me like…”
Mr. Caswell the biology teacher, who looked like he belonged more in a gymnasium than teaching the finer points of frog dissection, glared at Mark. “Harassment, theft and assault, that’s what I’m seeing here, Mister McGinley!” he punctuated this with another shake. “Can you comprehend the consequences of your actions? What if Terry was to…” But Terry was already gone. During Mr. Caswell’s intervention he’d snagged his portfolio and ran.
Eyes clouded with tears, Terry “the Fairy” (as the upperclassmen called him) ran through the field behind the school and into the forest beyond. He clutched the portfolio to his chest. An expensive and sentimental gift from his parents, his mother a lover of Tolkien, his father a kindred spirit taken too soon. They’d always encouraged his imagination and artistic talent. He delighted in showing his sketches, mostly of fairy folk, to them and for the past year… just her.
Lungs spent, he collapsed near a small stream in a part of landscape he didn’t recognize. The forest had always served him as refuge — kids didn’t play in the woods anymore. Settling, catching breath, opening book and doing the only thing that brought him calm — he drew. Time elapsed. He may have well drawn into darkness, had it not been for movement across the water.
Terry looked up to see a tiny woman, about 5 inches tall, emerge from the foliage. She had dark hair, wore a small dressing of dark leaves and had a pair of gossamer wings protruding from her back. “They’re real”, Terry thought as, without hesitation the fairy took to wing and landed on his sketch book.
She looked at it curiously. Then looking to Terry she pointed to herself. “Yes”, he thought for words escaped him, “yes it’s you”, as he lifted a tentative hand towards her. She touched his thumb, sniffed at it and smiled.
Suddenly, her mouth opened into a vicious maw and she bit deeply into his metacarpophalangeal joint. Terry howled in pain and flung her away. She sailed into the bushes, only to return a moment later… and she wasn’t alone. Terry ran.
The swarm behind him grew and closed the distance with each desperate footfall. He was bleeding from at least a dozen wounds, probably more, almost ready to give in, when he spotted the blacktop ahead. The buzz of wings fell away as he leapt onto the road… where he was promptly run down by an almost fully restored late 80’s model Camaro.
The Camaro had been a summer project car for Mark and his father. He cursed vehemently, jammed the brakes, the car slid to a stop, passengers and driver piled out. “Hey isn’t that the fairy kid?” “Came out of nowhere!” “Look what he did to my f***ing car!!!” “Hey… you guys hear that weird buzzing noise?”
The quartet turned to see the fairy horde explode from the bushes and trees. Like winged piranhas, they fell upon the boys. Then they turned their attention in the direction from which the boys had come… back towards town. And they were still hungry.
“And that dear children, is why you should leave kids like Terry alone!” Mr. Caswell finished to a schoolyard of shocked and bewildered faces. With this he snatched the portfolio from Mark and handed it to Terry. He took it and for the first time noticed the faded circular scar on Mr. Caswell’s thumb that looked like a very small bite mark.
Tune in next week as Hell-o-ween continues.
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