Number six in the series of Flash Fiction challenges.
F is for Fairies
Perhaps inevitably I’ve chosen to focus this episode on Fairies. I’ve written about them before, in short and long form. I’ve always been much more fascinated by the original, darker, nastier stories than the more modern butterfly-like depictions that the Victorians favoured. Think Brothers Grimm, rather than Disney.
Once the Fae Folk were objects of dread, referred to only obliquely. People used names such as “The Hidden People”, “The Fair Folk”, or “The Good People” so as not to insult them and incur their wrath. Spying upon them might lead to a person being struck blind, trying to trick or coerce them would end badly, but helping them could bring rewards.
Originally described as ugly creatures, by the middle-ages they were more commonly depicted as beautiful. By Elizabethan times their royalty and aristocracy even more so. Their sizes also changed: once they were reputedly the size of regular people, then variations arose who were child-sized, and now if you ask someone to describe a fairy, they’d probably never suggest they were more than a few inches tall.
This story is inspired by a local legend of a man who tried to get the ‘Fair Folk’ to cover up his dirty deeds.
F is for Fairies
Nobody went to Glattering Gat. Not because it wasn’t beautiful, for it was. Nor was it dull, for it boasted interesting rocks and fossils. It wasn’t even for a lack of resources, for the hazel grew straight and strong, but was never cut down for walking sticks or fence-posts.
No, the Gat was left alone because it didn’t belong to men. If you pushed through the hedgerows surrounding it, your brain became addled, your feet waylaid. You were as likely to return home and find two weeks had passed in a minute, as to never come back at all. The ‘Hidden Folk’ didn’t take kindly to intruders.
Which gave Harold an idea. If nobody went to Glattering Gat, nobody would find what he hid there. At least, nobody who would inform the authorities. If one of the ‘Good People’ stumbled across the body, they might claim it, or destroy it, but they’d never tell a living soul.
His father had lectured him on his gambling habits once too often. If he had known the depths of Harold’s debts, suspected how desperate and how cruel the money-lenders were, he might not have agreed to an isolated walk on Wenlock Edge that afternoon. But he didn’t know, couldn’t suspect, and didn’t realise his fate until the rope tightened about his throat, and the knife slipped between his ribs.
Harold tucked his father’s body against the roots of the hedge, cut branches and pulled up saplings to hide it. “Just in case,” he thought. “No sense leaving him on show.” He took the rings, pocket-watch and wallet from the corpse; they’d barely make a dent in the amount he owed, but once he got the inheritance, he’d be back on top.
That night, he dreamed of how he’d spend his wealth. Images of a large house and expansive feasts danced through his mind. His own horse won race after race, showering him with prizes and riches. All evaporated into mist when the rapping on the door started.
His father had been found, they told him. Murdered, they said. He looked suitably shocked and dismayed, even wept a little, though not too much. But when they told him where, grief turned to confusion. The body had been a full mile away from where he knew he’d left it, uncovered and propped against a rock. Harold was too confused to answer when they asked him why he had his father’s watch and rings, too bemused to argue when they charged him, and still baffled as they led him to the gallows. Right before he swung, he saw the tiny figures dancing a jig at the rear of the crowd, pointing and jeering.
I’d love to know what you think - send me an email to let me know!
If you enjoyed this story, why not check out my other writing - pick up a free eBook while you’re here .
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again soon.