A sense of duty pervaded the central office of the forest fairies. The blue fairies sat eating the essence of Gaia while the red ones sat in the opposite section of the grove eating the newest dietary fad - the essence of Gehenna. In short, a dichotomy was now underway in the once-solid working office of Wood Fairies, Blessed Wood Branch. The red fairies and the blue fairies used to co-mingle and take part in numerous after-work activities such as going to the pub and playing squash. However, of late, a schism meant that both factions had gone their separate ideological ways. The rest of the fairy clans continued their work as normal, floating around aimlessly, waiting for unsuspecting travellers to come and enter the Blessed Wood.
“John, pass this onto Resources,” said Bert, John’s boss. Bert was a yellow fairy and, in John’s opinion, a bit of a bellend. Bert had been working in the Blessed Wood for the last two years, having apparently been successful as Deputy Area Manager in the Cursed Forest adjacent to The Troubled Plains. But John wasn’t convinced he could have been that successful, especially seeing as five years ago the Cursed Forest used to be known as The Lovely Forest. Coincidence? Hard to tell. Plus his dad owned half the company. Nepotism - the bane of the honest working fairy.
John didn’t look up, deciding that floating around was too important to let himself be visually distracted by Bert.
“What is it, Bert?”
“That’s Sir Bert to you.”
“Just read the damn memo.”
The paper fell to the ground. John sluggishly sojourned towards its crackling content before it could get swallowed up by vegetation.
THE BANSHEE IS DUE ON MONDAY. CONSULTING ROLE DUE TO POOR QUARTERLY FIGURES. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND LOOK BUSY. AND CALL ME SIR NEXT TIME BECAUSE I JUST DID YOU A FAVOUR. BERT.
Bad enough to have this extra workload, but The Banshee? Banshees had no idea how to go about enticing strangers. If you scream and rant and rave at someone, it doesn’t get results. John hung his head and attempted to look depressed but it was difficult because he was a ball of light with wings. Sadie appeared to his right. Man, she was hot. Only green fairy for miles. Flaunted it though. Nothing worse than a fairy who knows she’s fit.
“The Banshee?” came her husky but jaded tones to his right ear, caressing it with their wavelength. “Why did Bert choose him? It’s like choosing one of us to chair a meeting on how to terrify giraffes.”
“Maybe he didn’t have a choice,” offered John, allowing himself to savour the sight of her in profile. He wondered whether actually he was looking at her on profile, or from the front, because she was also a ball of light with wings. “You never know what higher-up wants.”
Later that afternoon, all fairies gathered in Conference Cove B. The red and blue fairies predictably sat on opposite sides of the cove. John and Sadie sat at the back, talking about toadstools and whether they were just made up. Then a blood curling scream came from behind all who sat in the cove.
“YOU CALL THIS A COVE, SHIT-FOR-BRAINS? IT’S MORE LIKE A GROVE. BUT THEN I’VE SEEN YOUR GROVE AND THAT’S MORE LIKE A COVE. TYPICAL FAILING WORKPLACE. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO OR WHAT YOU ARE.”
A banshee came floating through and around the gathered, creeping the shit out of everyone, before taking its place atop a tree stump like a weirdo.
“YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW TO TRAP UNSUSPECTING TRAVELLERS? YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT.” It held the gaze of a nearby fairy who John recognised as Jim, the white fairy. Then it occurred to him there were twenty other white fairies in the same vicinity and that actually he had no idea who it was. Awful, really, how little he knew or cared about his colleagues. Maybe he was even a bit racist. “YOU. WHAT WAS THE NAME OF YOUR LAST BEDAZZLED WAYFARER?”
“I don’t remember,” answered a mutter.
“YOU SHOULD FUCKING REMEMBER. ME, I GOT THIS HIDEOUS VISAGE FROM YEARS OF EXPERIENCE.” He held up his wrist, upon which lay a glittering device of wonder. “THIS CASIO CALCULATOR WATCH COST MORE THAN YOUR ENTIRE FOREST. I GOT THIS BY DOING MY FUCKING JOB.” The banshee produced a clipboard from the ground and held it up. “THIS. THIS IS YOUR FUTURE. I GOT A LIST OF TWENTY FAMILIES ALL COMING ON HOLIDAY TO CURSED GLENGARRY GLEN FOREST IN THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS. BUT THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. THIS IS FOR CLOSERS. YOU ARE NOT CLOSERS. YOU COULD NOT ENTICE A WASP TO A JAR OF HONEY. YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF FAIRIES.” There was silence. “I MEANT THAT AS A HOMOPHOBIC INSULT, BY THE WAY.”
There was a stir. Several fairies cried out angry retorts. One fairy who John recognised as the only brown-coloured fairy in the wood strode to the front.
“You come here with your fancy screaming and hideous face. It’s easy for you. What’s a big-shot like you doing talking to a bunch of no-good losers like us?”
“YOU THINK YOU’RE A LOSER? YOU ARE A LOSER.”
“I know. I just said it.”
“NO. YOU ARE A LOSER BECAUSE YOU WANT TO LOSE. I WOULD LOVE TO BE A FAIRY. YOU GET TO FLY AROUND AND BUMP INTO SHIT. YOU ALSO GET TO LOOK ALL PRETTY. NEVER HAVE A BAD HAIR DAY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO HAIR. NEVER HAVE SPOTS BECAUSE YOU ARE A SPOT. YOU ALSO HAVE SOME AMAZING PORN, YOU KNOW THAT? YOU EVER TRY TO WATCH BANSHEE PORN? IT’S FUCKING APPALLING. YOU GUYS HAVE IT EASY. OVER IN BANANA FENS THEY’VE GOT TO WANK TO MEMORIES OF A NOW-DEAD TOURIST INDUSTRY. YOU GUYS HAVE HOT MOMMAS COMING FROM ALL OVER DELAWARE SWIMMING IN THE RIVERS. AND WHAT DO YOU DO? YOU BLOW IT. YOU WANT TO BE A CLOSER, MAGGOT? YOU GO OUT AND ENTICE FIVE PEOPLE HERE TODAY. I COULD SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF TWENTY TOURISTS IN BLESSED WOOD TODAY, BUT YOU KNOW WHY I DON’T HAVE TO? BECAUSE I’M A CLOSER. IF I WAS A FAIRY I’D ENTICE THE SHIT OUT OF TWENTY WANDERING CHILDREN. I’D BEDAZZLE THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF THEM. I’D BEGUILE, AMAZE, AND INVOKE A SENSE OF WONDER SO FUCKING GIGANTIC IT’S AS BIG AS MY COCK. AND BELIEVE ME, BANSHEES HAVE COCKS. YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT BANSHEE COCKS? TOO BAD, BECAUSE KNOWLEDGE OF BANSHEE COCKS IS ONLY FOR CLOSERS.”
“Can you stop talking in capitals, please?” spoke Sadie. “You’re giving me a headache.”
“HOW’S ABOUT YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH?”
“Fuck you. I do a good job.”
“YOU EVER THINK THIS MIGHT NOT BE AIMED AT YOU, HOTLIPS?”
Sadie could only say, “Hotlips? What the hell does that even mean?” before retreating into slightly pleased silence.
“NOW,” said the banshee, standing up and striding around and in between the assorted gawkers, “APART FROM THE SEXY LADY AT THE BACK THERE, MOST OF YOU ARE SCUM. YOU ARE PLANKTON, SWIMMING IN A SEA OF SHIT. MOST OF YOU HAVE THE GOOD FORTUNE OF BEING SCUM THAT HAVE SO FAR EVADED DETECTION. SOME OF YOU, HOWEVER, ARE NOT. THE FOLLOWING HAVE ONE WEEK TO SAVE THEIR CAREERS: BARRY STEVENS. NED BOTGASM. ELLIE PASTASTATION. BORIS SWAN-NOSTRIL. SYLVESTER EXPLAIN-GHETTO. RISME SCALLOPBRAIN. LISA LAUGHATDE’ATH. MORRIS GULPISH. JASON JAPANO. ALICE EMPTYFUDGE.”
John sighed. He’d been saved.
“OH AND FINALLY, JOHN DELIVERANCE-ANAL.”
John could only meet Sadie’s gaze for a moment before rising to his feet and realising he had no feet because he was a floating ball of light with wings.
“Good luck, John,” he heard Sadie say after him. He could do no more than raise a wing in silent recognition.
He made his morose and forlorn way onto the lawn, for more roses had grown and horns had gradually retrained his erstwhile brain into thinking they were related to the story but in fact had nothing to do with anything.
That was the way it was, being a small-time fairy in a small-time forest. He could have been someone. Could have been a top dog like The Banshee, if only he’d got the right breaks. Tried stalking a boy once, but the boy was too old and ended up using a swatter which was just fucking irritating. Tried stalking a teenage girl once but she mistook him for a lightbulb and just sat there reading some story about vampires by the light of his ball of light with wings and actually the story was pretty good but unfortunately she wasn’t taken in by his spell and subsequently got away just like the rest of them. Sure there was that kid who followed him into the nearest nook where he was passed through the system before being ejected through the other side and sent screaming to his parents, which was satisfying but that was far too long ago now. That was back in the old times. Times when you could have twelve martinis for lunch and still come out on top.
Maybe he was getting too jaded for this. Maybe he needed to strike out big. Leave this place. Go on to do some other stuff. Could be a will o’ the wisp. There was still some posts out there. The industry wasn’t dead, some said, only stagnating. Maybe he could revive it. Get the old times rolling again.
The infuriatingly reasonable inner voice of Sadie cut into his brain, telling him it was an appalling idea. She was right, had always been right.
Just when it seemed all hope had lost and he’d have to rob the forest overnight to get those Cursed Glengarry Glen files, a boy emerged through the undergrowth. Scrawny. Cap on his head with a propeller thing on it. Didn’t think that sort of kid existed anymore.
“Are you a..?” said the boy, eyes widening. “A?”
“A fairy. Yeah, I am. Well, I’m a fairy for today, but in a week’s time I’ll be busted. I’m done, kid. Old before my time. Game’s lost. Get outta here. Scream. Scram I mean. Screaming’s for closers.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know anymore.”
“Thanks, kid. You haven’t seen funny until you’ve been around here for a few years.” As he flew back and forth, he saw himself reflected in the kid’s big brown eyes. “I tell you I once saw a couple porking right where you’re sitting. Got involved. Got kinky real quick. Ever had a fairy threesome? Bet you have, you just didn’t realise. Oh wait you’re a kid. Well then your parents have. Yeah. Something settles on your mum’s boobs next time she gets laid, she thinks it’s a fly but no. It’s me.”
“This is like the weird version of a story you wrote eight years ago.”
“Don’t I know it, kid. But time was easier then. It went slower. Used to be I could rustle up whatever shit I wanted and didn’t care. But now it’s all precious. You think you’re old because you’re what - five?”
“Five and a half.”
“Shit. That’s not old. I’m like, two.”
“Yeah, two. As a young fairy, I’m going to tell you - it’s not over, kid. You’re not dead yet. Don’t lose heart.”
“You know how old people live to?”
“A hundred. My dad says he’s going to live to a hundred and fifty. Says if he can bench 40k then he can live to a hundred and fifty. I don’t know what he means by that but it sounds cool. When I’m older I’m going to bench 100k so I can live to, uh...” He twirled the propeller on his head.
“Yeah! Two hundred.”
“You’re alright, kid.”
“I’m older than you. Don’t call me kid.”
“Whatever. Anyway, this fairy’s all fairied out. What I’m meant to be doing is getting your attention. Lurking on the edge of your sight like this” - he swiftly flew to the edge of sight - “making you unsure whether I’m real or just a figment of your imagination. Then I’m meant to fly around and you’re meant to chase me, like... well, like you’re now doing. Then I’m meant to fly into the deep dark part of the wood through that thicket there. Then, because this banshee guy has come along, I’m meant to lead you into the scariest part of the wood where all the monsters are and they scare you, you run away, we meet our quota, and the job’s done. But no. I’m through.”
“What kind of monsters are there?”
“Well, that banshee guy, and there’s lions and tigers and bears...”
“And there’s a golem, a mummy, a werewolf, mudmen, mudwomen, Black Ents, trolls, spiders, witches, vampires...”
“Coooooool. I want to go see them.”
“Wait. No you don’t.”
But no. The boy had leaped up and dashed off through the thicket into the deepest darkest part of the forest.
A little while later the aforementioned monsters all came dashing out from the place where the boy had entered.
“What is it?” said John to a passing vampire called Brian. Brian was cool. He once gave John a tip on how to attract the ladies: always act interested and listen. This chick Navi used to come up to Brian and say ‘hey listen’ all the time. Finally, Brian listened and over that summer had enjoyed some fine ass.
“The boy isn’t scared of us!” Brian gesticulated. His shadow tore out its hair. “We’re screwed! That Great Fairy guy told us we had a week to scare the shit out of one kid, and the boy ends up trying to make friends with us!”
John chuckled. “Don’t worry about the Great Fairy. That’s Bill, my brother. He gets asked to give the same speech every day to different companies. Guessing he told you that you were all failures who didn’t know how to close?”
“And that over in Banana Fens they manage to make blind, deaf, dumb paraplegic people run away in terror?”
“And that the Cursed Glengarry Glen clients were available, but were only for really scary monsters?”
“I helped him write that speech. Don’t worry. Nobody cares. They just bring him in to shake things up.”
“That’s a relief.” Brian sat on the log next to John. “How come you’re sitting out there all alone?”
“I’ve failed.” John hung his head. “Banshee guy told us to entice five people by the end of the week. It’s impossible. First kid I get, got a propeller cap head thing and I can’t even begin to entice him. It’s pointless.”
“That banshee guy? He’s my cousin. Guessing he told you he had a bunch of Cursed Glengarry Glen clients that were only for closers?”
“Did he mention the banshee porn?”
“I wrote that bit.”
“Oh. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disturbed.”