Twas later in the day, and weird creatures were flooping and flopping around the sundials and what not. Probably meant that it would rain, so I made my way down to the now somewhat familiar pub for my mocktail fix.
The same barman was there, and I perched on an empty barstool, looking at him expectantly as he polished the bartop. He smiled and quietly prepared the same mocktail as he’d done before.
Then he spoke.
Have you ever heard the song of a fairy? (he asked. I shook my head.)
I almost heard it before. I’m thankful I didn’t.
It was a day like this, where weird creatures were flopping and flooping around, at about 4pm. I was pretty sure it was going to rain, so while there were no patrons, I stepped out to take a breather. Perhaps it was the weather, or maybe it was just that moment when the barrier between real and unreal slips. The air was thick, and I could feel time beating its pulse through the stillness of the moment, as I stood in the garden you just came in from.
The sun was still bright, and there was a light breeze on my face. It reminded me I was alive to feel, and as I breathed deeply, a flower petal floated past. It shimmered and sparkled in the sunlight, and as I focused on it…
It spoke to me.
It told me of dreams and hopes, of flights of fancy and fantasies. It showed me possible futures, ideas, things to come and things that might be. It gave me the certainty of uncertainties, the dreams of my hopes. It whispered of riches and sensualities, delicious things of the senses, titbits of the soul. All it would take would be for me to accept it, to let the petal rest on my palm, to listen to wait where’re you going?
I had stepped back into the bar. I found a bowl and poured some fresh peanuts into it, checking it twice to make sure there wasn’t any mould. Then I stepped out again.
The atmosphere had changed. The air was a little less still and sparkly. The breeze came in short bursts. Time was moving naturally again, and a toad sat next to the door, staring out into the cloudy skies above.
I sat down next to it, and offered it the peanuts. With relish, it flicked an untoadly long tongue out to smack some of them into its cavernous mouth in quick succession. We stared at the clouds.
It finally asked. “What gave me away?”
I smiled. And took a peanut (an unslimed one). “I’d like to think I’ve seen more than the average person has. Even though I’m just working in this little bar of mine, my… Friend. Promises like the ones you give are nice to see, and nice to have. But the price to pay for them is never nice. I’ve paid too much just to stay who I am, in this nice enough place. That’s all I need. That’s all I want.”
The toad smiled. As much as a toad can smile. “I’m a fairy by the way. Not the other kind.”
“Aren’t fairies supposed to be… Uh… Smaller?” I almost choked on my peanut trying not to say the first words that came to mind.
The toad smiled even wider, and took another tongueful of peanuts with seeming relish. (Watching a toad eat peanuts is an experience of its own. It would whip its tongue into the bowl, under a group of peanuts, and then in the same motion, it would draw its tongue back and up, while wrapping and rolling it in. A few peanuts would be caught this way in one go, and then it would continue talking as if nothing had happened.)
“I’m appearing as I should appear in your mind. You’re not an easy one to let me in. How did you know the toad was the one to speak to?”
I shrugged. “You’re sitting on a chair reserved for garden gnomes. After that kind of incident… Anything too much of a coincidence probably isn’t.”
The toad snorted.
“What other kind?” I prompted.
“Demons. Devils. Deities. Dots of your imagination.”
I nodded. “What would have happened if I’d let you settle in my hand?”
The toad finished the last of the peanuts and hopped off the chair, steadying the porcelain gnome with its tongue. “You’d have heard me sing. And then…”
“You’d have all your dreams come true. All of them. In as short a time as possible.”
I looked at the toad. “Isn’t that… A good thing? Won’t most people kill for that?”
The toad belched a few times. Then it seemed to remember something. “That was supposed to be laughter. Toads aren’t made for laughter. Sorry.”
It hopped onto my knee. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. Are you sure you want all your dreams to come true? All of them?” The black eyes of the toad seemed to bore into my soul, even as the rest of the world dimmed. “All your dreams… All at once?”
And in the depths of those black pools, I remembered my… Dreams. Dreams of people abandoning me. Dreams of running, hiding, never being able to rest. Dreams of hopes broken, of screams and shapeless things that haunted the corners of my soul. Dreams of my past, things better forgotten, but never really forgiven. On top of other more pleasant dreams, but if they all came together, all at once…
I shuddered and blinked.
So did the toad.
With a final croak, it hopped off my knee. “Thanks for the food. Technically I owe you for that, but I doubt you’ll like my presents.”
Then it shimmered and vanished. But before it vanished, it turned to smile at me, and as it smiled, it changed into a little gauzy wisp of a thing, wrapped in cotton wool and glitter. It reminded me very much of a fairy tale fairy, except…
I clearly remember too many teeth.
I leave a chunk of raw meat at the side of the garden gnome every week now. It’s always gone by the end of the day. If you want, you can help me lay it out when you leave.
There’s something good in that mocktail. I’ll come back for more, I’m sure.
I did help to leave that piece of prime sirloin in the garden. Something told me not to linger to see what would happen to the meat.
No, you don’t understand. I actually heard a voice telling me not to linger.
But I’ll be back. Just maybe not to sit by the garden gnome.
(Reposted from my Tumblr account)