Go to this link, generate 5 random story titles, pick one and go.
This has been a great exercise for me. I haven't finished many stories in the last several years and this little challenge was just right for me.
I welcome comments on the story. I didn't have anyone proof it for me, I though I'd just get it out here and if anyone has coherent thoughts on it, I'd like to read them.
(I really got this title from the random generator. How lucky is that? I'll admit I spent some time trying to see the story behind "The Agoroman that Chased the Imaginary", but I don't think 1000 words is quite enough for that one. I thought "Chained Cylinder" had some potential, and "The Mesa Under" made me think of a Jules Verne style story. "For a Pain with a Bat" is just confusing. I actually resited "Chased by Faerie" at first, because I thought it'd be too easy. Then, I got over myself and the story come out.)
Chased by Faerie
The ragged figure in the shop window startles me. Dirty hair stick out at odd angles. Layers of dirty, torn clothes swish heavily around her when she pulls back. Her eyes, large and staring from her sharp, gaunt face, startle me most. Haunted, frightened whites showing all around a blue that should have been beautiful. No beauty could find it’s way past the red veins and dark, dark circles her eyes sink into. She stares back at me, unmoving, unwilling to come closer or move past. She stays out of my reach, as if I was the danger. Passers-by bump us at the same time. We stumble toward each other and; my god- that’s me.
It’d been so long since I looked in a mirror- I figured out early on they could come through that way. Reflections, heat shimmers in the air, anything that tricked your eyes, they had some way of hooking onto you and pulling through, quick as fear. Any kind of illusion or glamour was a doorway somehow. Even drug-induced hallucinations, I found out the hard way.
That was one bad trip.
They didn’t last too long on this side, but plenty long enough. Some of them were strong enough to touch you, even hurt you.
I looked close at my reflection in the window, the one I had judged so harshly a heartbeat ago. It was like reading a memoir of my last few months backwards. The most recent encounters the most vivid, like the infected-looking scab running along my jawline. The older incidents fading into the general grime and unevenness that has become a part of my person. The chunks of hair I had to cut nearly to my scalp because of the goop they had put in it were growing out some.
I still thought it was kind of fun up to then.
At first I would see little ones, just out of the coner of my eye. Tiny flashes of light, like glints off of eyeglasses. Only I don’t wear eyeglasses. And when I’d look around, trying to see what was glittering, I’d trip over my own feet, or fall out of my chair. My friends started teasing me, asking when I had “caught the clumsies”. I laughed back and claimed a growing spurt, though I’m 20. I was with a fun group of kids, hitchhiking and busking our way around the country. As open minded as they were, even they wouldn’t believe what was really happening. By the time the goop ended up in my hair, our group had dwindled down to me and a couple of guys. They tried to watch after me, which was sweet. But the night I was thrown out of the club for screaming incoherently in the bathroom... well, they never came out after me. I had to pull some serious Houdini moves to get my arms free from my knotted shirt and get my clothes turned right way around, all with a sidewalk audience in front of the club. I eventually made it back to our crash space, grabbed my stuff and started my life on the streets.
I knew I wouldn’t last long alone on the streets, so I had to get them to stop. I thought maybe if I tried to be friendly, maybe offer milk or bubbles or something, they would be done with their game. I set up a little space in a corner of a park. My reflection and I smile ruefully at each other, remembering my pathetic “ritual” to “summon” one of them. Well, it worked. One came through.
I didn’t mean to backhand the tiny man into glittery dust, but when he poked my finger with his sword, I just reacted. He surprised me.
Things escalated quickly after that.
My reflection hand reaches for my real hand, looking for comfort. The glass is cold. I look at the gaunt, bruised face in the glass and try to remember what she looked like before. Heart-shaped face, big blue eyes, shapely lips, though I always thought they were too thin. I was pretty, beautiful even. People liked me, boys would give me things. I was on top of the world, traveling and making friends and meeting lovers, and just good enough on the ukulele to make a few coins sometimes. Not that I needed them, but it was fun, made me feel like a real troubadour.
Yes, it’s dangerous to stare at my reflection so long. It’s as good as asking them to come, and I barely survived the last one. But this girl in the window is so sad, so far from what we had been. We lean our foreheads together on the cold window glass, twin tears tracking down our cheeks. We remembered playing Amanda Palmer songs on our uke for beer money, and loving every minute. Our shoulders shook a little with a sob-chuckle when we thought of some of the things that ended up in our hat; foreign coins, odd baubles, the occasional sandwich. All gone now, of course, even the uke. Well, almost all. I’ve kept one odd thing. A plain glass ball just big enough to fit in my closed fist. My hand closes around it in my pocket as I think of it. All that’s left of the girl that was is an odd glass ball.
We’re not going to make it, I tell the girl in the window. We should just give up. She nods back at me. We could just wait here. One of them will come through, and we don’t have to fight. My reflection looks uncertain about that, but I know it’s the only way to end our suffering.
There, something’s materializing now- oh this is a big one. Taller than me, humanish-shaped, but much thinner. My fingers and toes start to tingle, and I resist the urge to run. The face is long, pale and thin, surrounded by silvery hair that seems to lift and float on invisible currents. Pointy ears peek through the silvery locks. Large, almond shaped eyes lock on mine; pupiless, pearlescent, swirling colors, hypnotizing, drawing me in. Well, one eye was. The other is just an empty socket. It’s jarring to see the imperfection on an otherworldly face.
The glass ball is icy-hot in my hand, the face is fierce and terrible. Words screech in my head;
GIVE. IT. BACK.
I jerk back from the window. Someone yells at me. The terrible face in the window morphs into a normal, angry face. It’s joined by hands making shooing motions. I’m staring into a diner. Diners are staring back. Someone is trying to get me to move on. I look around for the terrible figure, but everything’s normal. I shuffle down the sidewalk, pulling my hand from my pocket. The glass ball feels normal, except... it isn’t plain any more. It’s pearlescent colors swirl, hypnotizing.
Give it back.
That’s it? All the torment and pain, all the crazy-making illusions and tricks, and they just want this back? Why didn’t they just ask in the first place?
I stop in front of another window, see reflections of people stepping around me, looks of pity and anger are shot my way.
“You want this?”, I screamed.
“Then take it!”
I hurl that stupid glass ball into the window as hard as I can. The window cracks with a sharp report and the ball ricochets down the street.
What did I just do? I stumble towards the ball. I can’t lose it now, they’ll never stop!
Someone else has spotted the ball now. It’s hypnotic colors draw him in. He picks it up, drops it in his pocket, and walks quickly down the street.
Huh. Maybe he’s actually one of them. Maybe, I just gave it back.
Just before he’s out of sight, I see him trip over nothing.
A police officer has stepped in front of me. She has a kindly look.
“Miss?”, she says, “will you come with me, please?”.
I glance down the street, but there’s no sign of the guy. He has no idea what he just got into.
“Yeah,” I tell the nice police officer, “no problem.”