The Changeling, Part 2

As promised/threatened last week, here’s the second part of The Changeling flash narrative. Not the second part of the story, necessarily, since part 1 stood on its own. But rather “what happened next.”

There’s always something next, regardless of the story, unless of course everybody dies, then it’s simply someone else’s story. Nothing complicated about it.

 

 

 

The Changeling, Part 2

When I finally got up the courage and the means to leave, I was an old woman.

My sister was waiting for me, sitting on a park bench, looking the way I thought I looked, until she handed me a mirror.

That is, my changeling sister. She’s the one they left in my place when the fae took me. I was angry, at first. She was still young, and what had she lost, compared to me? I yelled. I screamed at her. She just waited until I wore myself out.

“Feel better?” she asked.

“No.”

That was all either of us said for a while. I thought of leaving, but I was tired and had nowhere to go. “When did you find out?” I asked finally.

“Probably about the same time you did. Our lives are parallels in so many ways.”

“And how do you figure that? Look at me!”

“I’m just as old as you are,” she said. “And I can’t go back either.”

“What do you mean? Of course you can go back, and I am back.”

She sighed. “Are you? You don’t know how to live in the human world any more than I know how to live under the hill. You don’t know what it means to be human. And me? My family threw me away like old clothes! Now tell me what ferry crosses either of those rivers.”

“You were waiting for me. All this time you knew where I was!”

She nodded. “True, but I couldn’t reach you. I just hoped you’d find a way out.”

That stopped me. “You’re one of the fae. What do you mean, you couldn’t reach me?”

“I was raised human, remember? The way under the hill is secret, and hardly anyone comes out now. I would have seen them. How did you find it?”

“An old fae took pity….”

She shook her head. “We both know the fae don’t feel pity. If they told you, there was another reason.”

Time to face the truth. “He was the one I thought was my father. He was just tired of me.”

She looked thoughtful. “Why did they do it? I’ve always wondered.”

“Because, among the fae, having children is a rare privilege which brings great honor. I think they were afraid of losing it.”

“So instead they robbed us both,” she said.

“Both?! My life was a lie, and my true life ends before it even begins! You’ll go on—“

She nodded again. “Yes. And on and on. Not belonging anywhere, with anyone. Tell me again who got the worst of that deal.”

I didn’t have an answer for her, only a question. “What happens now?”

“If you want, we can belong together for a little while.”

“And then?”

She smiled a sad smile. “And then I’ll remember you.”

I’d just met my sister, but in that moment I knew I both loved and pitied her.

Which was as close to human as I was going to get.

-The End-

 

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

The Changeling, Part 1

I’m a bit under it right now (the gun, not the virus), so I’m posting another piece of flash fiction. When I posted this part to the flash group, several people demanded I tell them what happened next, so next week I’ll post part 2. I like to keep my readers happy. Even if it sometimes takes a while.

 

 

 

 

The Changeling

I’m a changeling. I always suspected.

The odd thing is I wasn’t supposed to live at all. Exchange a sickly fairy child for a healthy human baby, isn’t that the story? The changeling tragically dies, the human is raised under the hill and no one the wiser.

If all that’s true—and I have no way of knowing—my people have a lot to learn about empathy. I know, human concept, but I digress. Needless to say, I fooled them and got stronger instead. Something in formulae, maybe. I wouldn’t know about human milk.

It started when I was about seven and my grandfather died. I looked it up online and the folklore says a fairy laughs at funerals and cries at births. Well, I didn’t laugh. Even at seven I could read the room better than that. But I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. Why? Because all through the service there was the old man himself, standing beside his coffin, grinning, enjoying the show. I liked the guy, he’d been in a lot of pain, and now he wasn’t. It didn’t take long to realize I was the only one who saw him. My mother, on the other hand, saw me.

After that she kept watching me when she thought I didn’t notice, all through High School. The people I knew in school were a little quicker on the uptake. Most boys were all over me—or at least wanted to be. Most girls hated my guts. My mother? For a long time she was merely suspicious, maybe in denial, but I knew by then. Mother loved to sew, and I didn’t. Took me a while, but I figured it out. It was an antique scissors in her sewing basket that belonged to her great-grandmother. It made me sick anytime I came near it.

Cold iron.

She tried to love me, despite that, despite the suspicions, despite her worries. I wonder what would have happened if things had turned out differently, but there’s no point. Mother was sewing masks on the kitchen table, part of a community project to ease the pandemic supply problem. On her way back to her sewing room she dropped those damn scissors.

”Get those for me, will you Dear? Got my hands full.”

I don’t know if she did it on purpose. Maybe, maybe not. I’ll never know. What I do know is I looked at her and said, “I can’t. You know I can’t.”

And that was it, over. We both knew.

I’d read the stories of what happens next, but I never thought it would. I flew out the window of my room. I don’t know how I did that. All I know is, at the moment, I couldn’t do anything else.

I was raised human, but I don’t belong there. It occurs to me that somewhere, under some fairy hill, I have an adopted sister who doesn’t belong either. Maybe I can find her.

Maybe we can not belong together.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Stuck in a Groove

Totally AWOL last week and still concentrating elsewhere, for good or ill. So for this Monday it’s another piece of flash fiction. The only context is this was for the Flash Fiction group, the trigger word was “Toll,” and I was feeling a bit fey. So here is:

 

Another Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a good-natured boy named David who didn’t listen.

“You lazy, good for nothing dolt!” Which was his mother’s standard morning greeting, What he heard was: “Good morning, My Blessing.”

“Mother, I’ve decided to go out into the world to seek our fortune.”

“Our fortune? You couldn’t find your arse with a torch!”

What he heard was: “I will miss you. Please be careful.”

“I will, and I love you too.”

She just shook her head. “Mark my words, you will have a heavy toll to pay.”

Having bid his wonderful mother goodbye, David hoisted his pack and left. In five minutes his mother had his room cleared out and advertised for renters.

As happens in such journeys, David hadn’t gone more than a few miles when he met a magical cat sitting beside the road. “Here comes another bungler,” the cat mumbled.

“Did you say you were hungry? Have some cheese.”

David gladly shared what he had. When they were done, the cat sighed. “According to the rules I must help you now. Look under that fallen tree.”

Now the cat may have been magical, but he was also ill-tempered and ungrateful. He fully expected the lad to uncover a nest of hornets and be stung within an inch of his life. Instead David came back with a small bag of gold and the cat just stared.

“I could have sworn I hid that better.”

What David heard was: “This will make your journey better.”

David thanked the cat and continued on his way. The cat stared after him.

“No way this ends well,” the cat said. “I must follow and see.”

So he followed David unseen until the lad came to a river bridge, which the cat knew fully well was the home of a voracious troll. “I will enjoy this,” the cat said to himself.

As David approached the bridge, the troll appeared and roared at him. “I shall make you my dinner!”

What David heard was, “Please make me some dinner.”

“I can’t do that,” David said. “There’s barely enough in my pack now to feed a mouse. But I know what it is to be poor. Maybe I can help you.”

“No tricks,” growled the troll. “No BS about your brother coming and he’s fatter than you. Been there, done that.”

What David heard was: “I’d appreciate anything you can do, and that’s that.”

“Buy yourself a nice lunch.”

He tossed the bag of gold to the troll who opened it and could only stare, dumbfounded, at the treasure, so David crossed the bridge and went on his merry way. Soon he met the same cat again.

“How did you know that would work?” the cat demanded. “That troll should have eaten you!”

“Well, did you see him? He was twenty-five stone if he was one.”

“And what has that to do with anything?!”

“I simply heeded my good mother’s warning. She did say I’d have to pay a heavy troll.”

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks.  All Rights Reserved.

Flashing Monday

Seeing a few hopeful signs. Flour is sometimes to be had. Likewise TP. Most people are wearing masks (homemade or otherwise) and keeping their distance. This is nowhere near over, so be careful and stay safe. For now, here’s a bit of free flash for a Monday. We do what we can.

 

 

Subject to Interpretation

By Richard Parks

“No, that’s not quite it.”

Kenny was doing his best, but it was also proving my point. Human beings just did not undulate. Snakes sort of did, if you overlooked the fact that their wave motion was side to side, not up and down.

“But….”

“If I bothered to plot your up and down motion as points on a graph, it might resemble a wave. Without an artificial interpolation, it is simply you popping up and down like a bloody jack-in-the-box.”

“I saw a bellydancer once—“

“So have I. While I admit a proper belly roll is an undulation, it is only part of her body and temporary and has nothing to do with locomotion. Nor is any part of our bodies above the microcosmic shaped in an undulated fashion. Neither the direct nor alternate definitions of the term fit.”

Kenny glared at me. “I think you’re being a bit too dogmatic about this.”

“The very root of the word is from the Latin, meaning ‘wave.’ Words must mean what they mean. Neither more nor less.”

“When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less.”

“Said Humpty Dumpty before his great fall, written by a master of nonsense. When I say you did not see a belly dancer nor Elizabeth Morganstern undulate across a room, it’s because that’s physically impossible. Worse, you put a ridiculous image in the reader’s head and interfered in the willing suspension of disbelief. If you’re describing a physical action, it must comply with the laws of physics. Now, write it again.”

By this time I knew Kenny was long past regretting asking my help on his little essay, but I did try to warn him I had no gift for teaching. Writing? Sure, I’m fair to middling most days and borderline decent on others. But explaining how to do it? No. Yet in my time I’ve met people who could barely write a check but give them a lesson plan and one good example and they could turn out the next Tolstoy, or at least a fair humor columnist. It’s a different skill.

So as a tutor, I was a bust. All I could do was point out errors and bad choices and make my students do it again and again until they got it right. If only by accident and the law of averages.

Kenny typed furiously for precisely two seconds. “I quit.”

Kenny stormed out of my office and onto the landing. I’d swear I saw little storm clouds over his head. “Watch the railing—“

Too late. Kenny’s sleeve caught on a gap in the steel. He made a bad step and the next thing I knew he was sliding down the stairs on his belly. Curiously, his body really did make an almost smooth distinct up and down motion traveling from his nose to his feet as he bumped down the stairs.

Assuming he lives, I’ll gladly confess I was wrong.

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Flash Fiction: Invasive Species

I’ve chosen this portrait of Sheffield the Cat to illustrate the following. The reason will be clear enough later.

Again, I’m nose down on a story issue with no brain cells to spare. So this week’s blog post will be another piece of flash titled “Invasive Species.” The trigger word was “Arboreal.” I have no one to blame, really. It was my word.

 

Invasive Species

I’m watching the pitbull from a lovely old oak just across the neighbor’s fence. Nice place—plenty of green leaves to hide behind, plenty of dry leaves to build my crèche come fall. One or two limb holes where the beetles have cleared out the wood. Perfect for hiding acorns.

I think I’ll move in.

First thing’s first, though. There’s more at stake than my comfort. I show myself. The dog’s reaction is instantaneous and gratifying. Barking the tone I know means “Squirrel!” It’s a warning. Dogs know. They evolved here. They know who doesn’t belong and what to do about it. Fortunately for me, it’s a good strong fence and most of the acorns will come down on the neighbor’s side of that fence. They, on the other hand, don’t have so much as a goldfish. I know. I got a good look yesterday at their weekly supplies. Food and foot powder, mostly. One of them must have some world-class bunions, but I digress.

The barking means I can wake up the neighborhood any time I want, and they’ll blame the dog. This location is too strategic to pass up. I bark myself, but a proper bark, a squirrel’s bark. I get answered from the south, across Cedar Street. That’ll be Lukan. He’ll relay my new position to command. I should have approval by this evening. I’m one of many, spreading across the neighborhood day by day. Soon we’ll have it covered.

Tree rats, some call us. I prefer the term “Arboreal Warrior,” because that’s what we are. The indigenes think we’re natives because we’ve been here a long time. So have dolphins. Don’t get me started on those guys. Real party animals, but we don’t want the same habitat, thank the Maker. We’re persistent, but they’re wicked smart when they want to be. Fortunately for us, they just goof off in the ocean.

Now, if only the cats would do the same. I see one now, and I freeze, down close to the branch. A big gray queen, but I don’t think she saw me. Not sure which indigene family she’s with. She could be a free agent just passing through, but I’m not that lucky. Cats have been here as long as we have, and in some ways they’re doing better. They’re not trying to displace the indigenes; they’re developing a symbiotic relationship. They get fed and cared for, and all they have to do in return is look cute.

I can do cute. I just can’t resist chewing on the cables. The indigenes are way too fond of cables.

That cat could complicate things. They’re evolved hunters, and like my people with cables, they just can’t help themselves. Plus I suspect, now that they’re established, they’re not above helping the humans out.

No matter. We will prevail. We are patient. We are resourceful.

“There are a lot more of us,” I said aloud.

“Good. More for me,” said the big gray cat, grinning behind me.

Oops.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.