This story is by Allene Reynolds and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I saw the monster again today, digging his way out of the soft dirt near the porch of the abandoned house. Like a huge slug, green and slimy, he twisted to free himself from the ground. Rotund and shiny he oozed toward the porch, up the steps and knocked against the door. Waiting a few seconds he sat on his haunches and wailed.
He’s come every day since I took up residence in the rental cabin directly across the road. I had asked my realtor to find me a small remote house to rent for a couple of weeks to get away from problems at work. There were only two houses on this stretch of gravel, mine and the abandoned one. I had brought in provisions, planning peace and quiet. Unfortunately, being an investigative reporter, I couldn’t sit at the window, night after night, and watch this pitiful display. Tomorrow I would go to town.
The woman at the court house was helpful. She looked up the address and told me the owners name. I asked if they ever came to take care of the property. “No, she replied, “when they abandoned it they made plans with a law firm to provide money to pay the taxes every year. I believe, if I remember the story, they said it was not to be sold and no one was to ever live there again.” She gave me a curious look. “May I ask why you want to know?”
“No reason.” I mumbled.
“I can tell you who would know more about it, if you like?
“That would be great.”
“Old man, Macfee. He was born here in the town and is the local historian.”
“Where do I find him?”
She glanced at her watch. “This time of day he will be at the café on the corner. Just ask Alice, the waitress, and she will point him out to you.”
“And what was it you wanted to know?” Macfee asked, nibbling on a bread stick.
“About the house out on the gravel road.” I gave him the address.
“Oh yes, I know the place. I believe the father was a retired coal miner, had a host of ailments, and a sour temper. The mom was a little thing, looked worn out. There was two kids, a girl and a boy. The boy, Porgy, was a real piece of work. He was my age but I didn’t get on with him. No one did. He was rude, untidy and, for the lack of a better word, mean. He would bully the little kids, scare the girls and had a filthy mouth. Didn’t seem to want friends. He would rather spend his time in the woods out by his place. Can’t remember the girl’s name. She was tiny, but chubby, with big solemn eyes.”
“What happened to them?”
“Don’t rightly know but I recall the day. . .” Macfee paused and looked off into the distance, bringing his memories into focus. “I was riding my bike on Main Street and saw their old car coming along the road. It was loaded down, boxes and stuff tied to the top. They were pulling a lopsided trailer with bits and pieces of furniture. The old man in the driver’s seat, next to him the little woman and in the back the solemn eyed girl. But Porgy wasn’t there. I would have seen him if he had been, He was so fat.” Macfee chuckled. “ I rode my bike out to the place the next day to see if they had just got tired of him and left him. Didn’t see any sign of life. Older folks got it into their head that the old man had lost him temper, killed the little idiot and buried him in the woods.”
“You never saw them, or him, again?”
Considering what the old man told me the next day I went into the woods behind the abandoned house and walked along an overgrown trail. I was looking for something, anything, that might indicate a grave. It grew dark, a brisk wind got up. Storm approaching. I turned to go back when I saw a flickering light. I moved cautiously forward. It seemed to be circling through the darkening woods. I was frightened and at the same time, mesmerized. The overgrowth suddenly gave way to cleared space. A tree stump stood in the center where the ground was worn down. I heard a sound, a low humming. The light approached, the humming grew louder, lights separated and I could see hundreds of tiny wings flittering and flicking, making a circle around me. My heart pounded. Suddenly, a tiny winged being with red, curly hair sprang from the mist and landed delicately on my shoulder.
“Hello.” Her voice soft. Her face close to my cheek.
“Hello” I answered in a shaky voice.
The being reached for a lock of my hair. She began playing with it, plaiting it and finally murmured, “Lovely. Just lovely.”
The rest of the fairies were circling about, giggling, sounding like a hundred tiny bells ringing in the breeze. The red-haired fairy stayed on my shoulder, playing with my hair. “Why are you in the woods?” she asked.
“I – I’m looking for a grave?”
“Yes, I want to know what happened to the boy, Porgy.”
The fairy laughed, joined by the others in a chorus of giggles. “You’ll not find him in a grave.”
“Then where is he?”
“We cursed him.” She said simply.
I was startled. “Why?”
“He was a nasty little boy, Lovely.” She undid the plait in my tresses and started again. “Fairies are nice, you know?”
“Oh – of course.”
“But we can be mean.” One of the fairies from the circle lit on top of my head and pushed my hair in my face. They all tittered. This time I wasn’t reminded of tiny bells but of incessant gnawing.
“Why,” my voice shaking, “did you curse Porgy?”
“He wouldn’t tell anyone about us.”
“You mean you want people to know you are here, in the woods?”
“Of course, Lovely, what good can fairies do if no one believes in us? The nasty boy, when asked what was in these woods, would laugh and say, ‘jest snakes and wolves’. He wouldn’t tell anyone about us.”
I was afraid to ask but pushed on, “How did you curse him?”
“We turned him into a fat, green monster.”
“Can – can you turn him back?”
“Of course, Lovely, we are fairies. Why do you ask?”
“He seems so lonely. I have seen him digging out of the dirt. And, he wails – it breaks my heart to hear him.”
The fairy moved closer, brushing her wings against my cheek. “You do know, Lovely, that if we reverse the curse he will die?”
“No. Why does he have to die?”
“He’s old, isn’t he? And, he deserves to die.”
I held my breath.
The red-haired fairy let go of my hair, waved her hand in the air and with a stirring of light and wings they made off into the woods.
Thunder rumbled overhead. With shaking legs I made my way home.
It was the next evening before I saw the monster again. He was digging his way up from the earth but something was different. He seemed slower. He struggled up the steps and lay down in front of the door. As I watched green slime began to disappear, replaced by rotten flesh, then bones, and a pile of ash.
Sometime around midnight I heard the wind. A vicious storm rattled the windows of the cabin. Later, a thunderous crash, then gentle rain.
The elm tree, next to the abandoned house had been uprooted and fallen square across the building, reducing it to shattered timbers. I had three more days on my lease but I packed. It was time to go back to Chicago, back to work.
“You’re back early.” Ruthie, my coworker remarked as I sat down at my desk. “Good vacation?”
Lunchtime seemed to come quickly and when I sat down in the break room Ruthie took the chair directly across from me. “Do you believe in fairies?” She asked.
My heart skipped a beat but I looked at her and answered, “As a matter of fact, I do.”
The surprised look on her face was followed by a description on an article she had read about a man who believed in fairies. I didn’t listen. Instead I concentrated on the flutter of wings and the small soft voice in my ear. “Very good, Lovely. Maybe we won’t curse you – yet.”