A Fairy Tale


The light from the hallway shining through Michaela’s open door was just enough for someone with very acute vision and lots of practice to read a note to the tooth fairy. Everyone who lived in the house was fast asleep, even little Toby in the bassinet in his parents’ room.

The quiet of the night was broken by the whirring of tiny wings on two figures flying across the room. They would have looked a lot like winged snakes if it weren’t for their clawed arms and legs and human-like heads. Blue-green iridescent beetle-like chitin covered their entire bodies. Their ears twitched independently from each other, listening for any approaching danger. An extra carapace of smooth chitin capped their heads, almost like a very slick bob hairdo. The carapace was ready to extend down over their face and ears at a moment’s notice to protect them from attack or the dissolving acids of human saliva.

Sascha had tagged along with her mom that night to help keep watch. They didn’t travel together often, but now that it was just the two of them they didn’t have much choice. It was too dangerous for Elowen to give birth alone. Sascha had been about the same size as her mum for six months now but her carapace still hadn’t fully grown. She couldn’t get the tight seal needed to enter a human mouth. She would be the last of her litter to mature. Her older brothers and sisters were too busy with their own lives now to rub it in.

Elowen was here for Toby but her eye had been caught by the glint of light reflecting off a gold coin in the darkness of Michaela’s room. Mother and daughter read the note by the bed together. Dear tooth fairy, I lost my tooth on the way to school. Please can you find it for me? Love, Michaela. Generations of dedication to perpetuating that tradition amongst the humans was still working in some households at least.

Elowen let out a chattering moan, her tail thrashing. “Sascha! It must be about to hatch. We have to find it!”

Sascha looked at her mom and tried to push down the sickening anxiety rising within her. Elowen’s thrashing had started an undulating motion underneath her skin. Sascha shook her head. “You’re too far along. You need to lay those eggs now or you’ll lose them.”

Her voice was agitated. It was stressful enough when they needed to launch a rescue mission for one of her younger siblings. Why did it have to be the one night in the last five years that her mom was ready to lay? Not to mention that it was last time she would ever lay. She wished her dad were still here, but wishing couldn’t bring him back.

We’ll never be able to search that big a space if you wait for me to finish laying. Go get started and I’ll come find you when I’m done,” Elowen said.

They stared at each other for a long moment. Laying was a very risky business. You needed at least one other fairy there to keep watch and run interference when the humans started putting things in their screaming child’s mouth. Even without that, you sometimes needed help getting a mouth open to escape when you were done.

Mom, you can’t. I’ll stay with you and we’ll search together afterwards. We can’t put all those eggs inside you at risk for one child. Please. Don’t ask me to go.” She didn’t say what she was really thinkingthat she couldn’t face losing her mom too.

Elowen shook her head. “Your brother or sister could be lying alone on the side of the road right now about to be eaten, or stood on, or drowned by rain. Go!” Elowen’s teeth were bared now, rows of sharp points promising a fight if her daughter didn’t do as she said.

Sascha looked down at her feet. “If you’re not there in the next two hours, I’m coming back to find you,” she said.

Don’t stop searching till you find it,” Elowen replied. Then she launched herself into flight towards Toby’s bassinet in the other room.

Sascha didn’t waste any more time. She knew her mom would calm down once the drive to lay her eggs had left her, but until then she wasn’t likely to see sense. She made her way out into the cold breezy night and cursed the clouds that made it that much harder to see the ground.

As she left the house, she heard a wail from Toby as Elowen stabbed her clawed feet deep into his gums to plant the first egg. She imagined her mom’s delicate ears assaulted by the sound echoing around the child’s mouth. Her wings would be tucked tight to her back leaving only her clawed hands and feet to cling to her perches and avoid being swallowed. She would have lowered her head carapace before she entered, moving by feel alone in the darkness so the saliva couldn’t drown her or damage her eyes.

Sascha was filled with fierce pride and fear for her mom and for the day in the not-too-distant future when she might be ready to lay her own first eggs. Even if her mom got herself out when she was finished, her wings would be wet and useless for many hours. She could easily be crushed by Toby while she was helpless. Sascha needed to find the missing tooth fast and get back to her.

She flew back and forth in a grid pattern along the footpath. Her multi-faceted eyes swung pendulum-like along the ground, searching for any hint of reflection that might reveal the ripe chrysalis of her sibling. She was careful to keep high enough above the ground that any cats or dogs wandering in the night would not be able to catch her in their jaws.

As each hour passed, Sascha fought to ignore the growing despair inside her. A hint of red was leaching into the sky when she finally caught a glimpse of white in the green verge. She could see tiny hairline cracks forming along the hard shell, but she didn’t have time to check any further. She grasped the chrysalis in the claws of her feet and launched herself back towards Toby’s house and her mom.

#

The house was silent despite the rising sun. Its occupants were exhausted from a trying night. Sascha laid the chrysalis down on the floor behind a bedside table gently so as not to crack open the shell. Then she flew to Toby’s bassinet and perched on its edge searching frantically for any signs of her mom.

Elowen was nowhere obvious, which left two options. Either she was underneath him or she was still inside his mouth. Sascha wasn’t supposed to venture into a human mouth until her carapace was fully grown, but if her mom was still inside the boy then she could be swallowed at any moment if Toby rolled over. She had to get her out.

Sascha launched herself off the side of the bassinet and landed on Toby’s rosy cheek. The breaths from the boy’s nose rustled her wings as she folded them on her back. The trick was to try and get him to open his mouth without waking him up and drawing an adult’s attention. She started by running her claws gently over Toby’s lips. His mouth twitched a little and then Sascha had to leap into the air to avoid being swatted by the sleeping child’s hand.

Next, she tried tickling under his nose. This time she was braced ready to jump clear, but she almost got sucked up a nostril by a sharp intake of breath and then she was blown end over end by his sneeze. As the world spun around her, Sascha desperately twisted her body towards Toby and saw a sliver of her mom’s iridescent green body inside the boy’s mouth.

She landed on the bed, all too conscious of the light starting to creep in around the curtains. There was nothing for it. She’d tried subtle. She was going to have to be more direct. Speed would be everything. She landed on the child’s cheek once more and before she could second-guess herself, she stabbed a clawed foot deep into Toby’s lip. He woke with a screeching howl. Sascha fought to tug her claw free. She tucked and rolled into the boy’s mouth just as his hand slapped onto the pinprick of blood welling up from his lip.

She was momentarily disorientated by the cacophony of sound around her. It vibrated her brain and teeth until she felt like they might rattle out of her head. It was only the sight of her mom lying unconscious wedged inside the boy’s mouth that got her moving. She fought her way along the gums where neat rows of lumpy eggs now lay buried. They were a promise of many annoying younger siblings in her future, if they lived long enough to collect them in the coming years.

The child’s tongue was vibrating high in his mouth with his screams. As the gaps between his wails grew longer, his tongue started falling down towards her. Her eyes were already stinging from the saliva she couldn’t shield herself from. Sascha stabbed her foot into the child’s mouth once more in desperation, and almost fainted from the crescendo of noise that resulted. Then she scooped her mom up in her arms and staggered along the bucking, slippery, red pathway as fast as she could towards freedom.

They tumbled out of Toby’s mouth and into the blankets just as Anna came to scoop him up and take him to her bed. “Hush, Toby. It’s OK. It’s sleepy time. Please go back to sleep.” Her eyes were barely open or she couldn’t possibly have missed spying the two fairies lying in the blankets.

Sascha peeled her mom’s head cape back from her face and saw with relief that she was still breathing. The saliva had started to seep in under the seal and she could see one eyelid was red and weeping with acid burns. Her wings were stuck together on her back as if glued. Only time would tell if they would dry out properly and become usable again.

Sascha closed her foot claws gently around her mom’s wrists and started climbing hand over hand up the mesh sides of the bassinet. In a night of terrible luck that mesh was a small blessing; without it she wasn’t sure she could have got her mom out. She felt her joints pulling and straining with the effort of carrying her, but she couldn’t let go. Her head was spinning and her vision was starting to blur as she reached the top. Somehow, she managed to lever Elowen over the railing, but the weight of her body was too much. Rather than drop her, Sascha let go of the bassinet and they fell entwined together to the ground. They landed with a crack near the small white chrysalis she had left tucked safely behind the table on the floor.

Sascha groaned in pain, feeling the bruises and damage forming to the soft tissues under her exoskeleton. Thankfully, the skeleton itself wasn’t cracked. With the last of her strength she dragged herself and her mom behind the table with the chrysalis.

They lay like that all dayElowen unconscious and Sascha in a daze. She couldn’t risk moving in the daylight even if she’d been able to carry both her mom and the chrysalis with her bruised body. She forced herself not to think about what would happen if they couldn’t get home.

When darkness fell again, the chrysalis started to crack open between them. Sascha roused herself from her stupor enough to reach out and pull a piece of white calcification off her brother’s face. She felt someone else’s hand on hers as she touched the baby fairy. Her mom was finally awake. Their glittering eyes met in the darkness and they smiled.

Your dad would be so proud,” Elowen whispered. 










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