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Helping Hands I

How can I help?

Yarrow Tallum had said those words all her life.  She’d grown up in a family that had helped. She had gone to a church that had helped.  She had moved to this city working with a not-for-profit that, above all things helped.

When the not-for-profit had turned out to be not quite what she wanted with her life – or they hadn’t wanted quite what she did, or something; it had ended, and it hadn’t ended in a fun way, and that was really, in the end, the bits that mattered – she’d taken the first job that had come to hand, and from there another one and now, seven years after she’d moved into this city, she found herself walking down a back street to what was very politely called “the place” by people who knew about it.

The weather was getting cold and it was only going to get colder.  The snow had already started to fall, and the forecasters and weather-witches and all the old almanac signs all agreed, for once: It was going to be a long and very hard winter.

Yarrow had been hearing rumors for a while, the way you did if you listened to people, really listened.  And they said that there was someone named Katydid. And that Katydid was doing things.

In this city, there were any number of things that one could be doing.  There was a priest talking to the fae in a church that had once been drenched in fae blood.  There was a woman reclaiming the Crossroads park. There was a person who sat at the same corner every day and sang, songs like angels had come down from heaven, songs that lifted you up and made your day better.  

There was an amazing world out there, but Yarrow was not going down to “the place” because she wanted to rubberneck.

It was going to be cold, so she dug through her closets and she found the three winter coats that had never fit quite right and the packs of socks that her mother liked to send her.  She found three blankets that she didn’t need, and a pack of scarves and mittens and hats.

She cleared out her cupboard of canned food, except what she needed for the next week, and when she had this all in a shopping cart, she ran back upstairs and grabbed a can opener and her camp stove.  And a box of tea and her second-best tea kettle.

That ought to be a start, she thought.  And she started walking towards The Place.

If you asked her, Yarrow would have told you people need help more than I need these things.  But it was more than that.  It had always been more than that.  And some of it…. sometimes she had to admit it was a little selfish.

Bundled up, she walked briskly through town towards “the place” – towards where she was pretty sure “the place” was.  She had cash in her pocket for panhandlers – but there were none on the road, no buskers, nobody hiding in the little alcoves and corners, nobody being sent away from the convenience store or the warming their hands over an air outlet.

It made the city feel too quiet, not alive enough.  It made her both worried and hopeful. It made Yarrow wonder, more than where are they, what are they giving to the city normally, that we don’t notice?

All God’s children got a place in the choir, her father would’ve said. And every note that isn’t there is notable.

That wasn’t enough of an answer, but that was a question for another day. Today, she passed one skinny kid who looked both lost and drawn, that was it, and she said to them “I hear the Place is this way.”

“Isn’t the Place for, I dunno.  Like…?”

“Are you hungry and cold?  Then the Place is for you.”

The nerve of her, she thought, to say that when it wasn’t her place.  But the words had come from somewhere and it wasn’t really her mind that they’d come from.  Still, she added, “or. When I’ve dropped these things off, you can come back to my house. I don’t have much but I can give you dinner and a place to crash for the night.”

“I’ll… You’re going to the Place?  I’ll come with you.”

Magic didn’t solve everything, that was one of Yarrow’s first lessons.  The city still had its problems, steeped in magic as it was, some of them caused by that very magic.  But kindness…

They walked in silence, except Yarrow passing him the mittens on the top of her pile and a meal bar from lower down in the pile.  The kid looked sort of grateful and sort of embarrassed. She wondered how long they’d been wandering around, and if they had any place to go that wasn’t Yarrow’s house or The Place.

How did things get here? She wondered, but then, the way that she’d been taught, she also started to wonder how do we get things away from here?

When they reached the Place, she realized that someone – or someones – had moved on to the next step, the part where you stopped wondering and started moving forward.

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Catalog People

My Giraffe (Zebra) Call is open!

Written to ysabetwordsmith‘s prompt.

🛋️

Every payday, Edrio very carefully opened the Sears catalog and very carefully placed an order.

It wasn’t always Sears; it wasn’t always a catalog.  Sometimes it was Penney’s, although their catalog wasn’t as good, or the furniture store, or the hardware store for some paint or some molding.

But it was always payday, and it was always a very considered purchase.

Edrio’s house wasn’t all that large.  It was the smallest house that had been for sale, as a matter of fact, and he’d gotten a very good deal on it because it was old, un-updated, and a one-bedroom.  The Cape Cod house had last been updated in the 50’s, if the wallpaper was any indication.

The wallpaper was the first to go, the carpet, the trim.  Everything was carefully replaced, everything chosen from the catalog spreads or the display lay-outs in the stores, the colors from Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens or color-matched to a Sears spread.  The effect, were anyone to walk into his house, was slightly like being inside a catalog.

In the bathroom it was the most obvious, the small room showing the carefully-coordinated shower curtain and drapes, towels and garbage can and rug.  His bedroom showed the only signs of personality, a stack of battered paper-backs in between leather-covered Barnes and Noble books on a display shelf. His closet was much the same, outfits picked from the pages of the catalogs, bought and worn as exact to those pictures as possible.

The catalog purchases covered over strangeness, of course – the circle of glyphs under the living room rug and the other one in the bathroom, the tone-on-tone runes on the carefully-picked out molding, some to keep monsters in, some to keep them out.  But mostly, they were to cover over Edrio.

At night, he would lie in bed, as he had since he was a child, flipping through the pages of an ancient Sears catalog.  “This is real,” he’d tell himself, in a ritual as battered and as old as the pages.  “This is how real people live.”


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Tootfiction/Thimbleful Thursday: Nest Egg

“The idea,” Ron explained, “came from putting a fake egg into a nest to encourage the bird to lay there. So…” He put $50 and a ceramic egg in the safe-deposit box.

“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Iva complained. “It’s all about saving money, encouraging YOURSELF to put more cash away. Not just… hoping someone else will lay eggs in your safe-deposit box.”

“Well, if I’m wrong, we move it all to the savings account and go from there. But if I’m right…”

Both of them were surprised when, upon opening the box a month later, they found $100 and 15 ceramic eggs.


Written to April 20’s Thimbleful Thursday prompt and also tootfiction – 500-character-or-less fic for Mastodon

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The Wise Mushroom… Helps, a story of Fairy Town for Patreon Patrons

“I don’t need advice,” Everett was complaining. “And I don’t need advice from a mushroom.”
“Sure you don’t,” Delores agreed, too easily, too readily. “And I’m sure the Wise Mushroom wouldn’t want to be bothered. It’s a pretty small problem, and he’s got better things to do.”

“Better things? He’s as bad as the teachers, then. Don’t complain, don’t tattle…”

read on…

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1179230.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Stone Soup and Other Gifts

Katydid tried not to think about it.

The thing about her tricks was, they didn’t work if you focused on them – you being her, them, anyone. Lots of her brain worked – or didn’t work – that way; the minute you tried to pin something down, it was gone. Home? No, nothing there. When she was thinking about something else, she could remember the smell of the kitchen, or the feel of the old leather couch, or hugs. She remembered hugs the most often. School? Chalk dust and notebook paper and exactly how to fold a note for maximum cuteness and pass-ability.

read on…

Over-eaters’ Anonymous, a story of Fairy Town for Patreon Patrons

The support group met in the basement of a building that had, at one point, been a school. No church would accept them, no current school, no Y or rec center or even town hall – and it wasn’t like they had any question about why. They all knew why they were there, and it wasn’t like the name of their group, Over-eaters’ Anonymous, was actually fooling anyone.

They slipped in from separate entrances: through the floor, through the vents, a couple through one of the three doors into the old classroom….
read on…

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Planting some Good


Written to kelkyag‘ prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2. This plays off of and comes after The Fairy Road

The park in the middle of the city had always been creepy. In this city, that was hardly surprising, especially for the thousands of people who had no power of their own but enough of the blood to sense what was going on. The park had power, power by the boatload, and it had danger and ghosts twice on top of twice the power it had. For a small thing, a city block crossed by stone, it was fraught with history and with meaning, and it was so overgrown as to be more of a tangle than a park.

It would take careful handling, but Whitney had found that many things did. She started in the library, reading every article the Local History librarians could find her, down to the smallest clippings, single lines in the crime blotter, short paragraphs in obituaries, mentions in the Floral Column when she went back far enough.

She got permission by submitting a form that was ignored — that being the way of city bureaucracy — and she started slow, taking the earlier bus so she could have an hour in the mornings to work, carrying tools and plants in her gym bag.

“On this spot,” she told the dandelions and the thistles, “Emory MacDonald proposed to Dahlia Stonemason. He knelt here, in the alyssum, and her tears fell on the sidewalk.” She pulled weeds and smoothed down dirt, finding, under all the overgrowth, the marble border some long-ago gardener had placed with care. Into the fresh dirt, she planted some alyssum and watered them with bottled water.

“On this spot,” she told a particularly nasty weed a few days later, “Sally Hennings vanished. They say she’d collapsed, been hit so badly she had had lost consciousness, but when the police arrived, she was gone, never to resurface.” There she planted lilies, setting the bulbs in little circles so she could dig them up for the winter if she needed.

That was a Friday; in one week she had cleared an area 2 feet deep by five feet wide. But when she returned on Monday, she found she was not working alone.

“Here,” the translucent man told her, “a woman kissed her lover for the last time before the war.” He knelt down and dug, translucent or not, and daffodils — bright and flowering and out of season — replaced the matted weeds.

“Here,” a slim creature who had never been human sang, “They buried a diary. The book is gone, but the story remains.” Ivy twined from its feet, filling the shaded area with brilliant greenery.

Whitney did not turn, but she knew the voice that had come behind her. “This place has many a story, woman of the city, and you have no debt to it nor to its denizens. You will be a long time at unearthing them all, even with the help.”

“It needs to be done,” Whitney replied, although she could not have said why. “So I shall do it.”

“Very well, then. You will have the time and the space to do it in.” His voice had the finality of fairy gifts, but still, he sounded kind.

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Blood on the Stone

* The next time an icon day comes around, someone remind me I need a good icon of some sort for Fairy Town?
* Written to flofx‘s commissioned prompt: A continuation of Old Stories and old Fates.
* Fairy Town has a landing page here..

There were things those people in their tainted church would never say. There were things that no-one in this tainted town would even whisper, not even Bishop MacNamilla. There were things that you didn’t even think.

And one of those things was this: there were fairies and fairies. There were the things that looked like people, that you called “fairies,” or didn’t really even call that so much as shape the label around the space they filled. They went to work with you, if you were a lay person. They owned houses and shopped and, to a casual tourist, looked human. But they were a little strange, a little eccentric, a little tainted.

And then there were the demons that were actually fairies, the spirits and sprites, goblins and boggarts, monsters and mice, and they hid in the wild spaces, lurked around the gateways, lingered anywhere there were too many of the first sort, anywhere there was belief, anywhere the god had touched.

This altar, the place where it was said the god had Lain His Hand, was so thick with fairies it was a wonder the Bishop could move at all.

And every single one of them had heard of him. Is this the one that killed us? Is this the one that shed the blood?

Fairies, true fairies, had ways of knowing who you were that didn’t rely on faces or fingerprints or skin that was once smooth and now was sagging. Fairies, the real ones, it was said, knew your souls.

Bishop MacNamilla figured that was probably true. Most demons would, wouldn’t they?

He stood, his feet spread and his arms loose at his sides. So he had stood, once, explaining to the elders what needed to happen. So he had stood, over the graves of the demons, over the graves of the fairies, his hands soaked with their blood. So he had stood, when he had been weak.

He had let the children go, the spawn. He had let some of the females go, too. And the final nail in their coffin, the living victim – he had not been able to do that, either. He had been weak.

And now he was far, far weaker in body – and far, far stronger in will. He straightened his spine and looked at them, the demons deep in this holy place.

Is he the one? Is this the spirit-killer? Is this the Unholy Thing? Their voices buzzed around him. Their hands brushed over him, leaving places that were too hot or too cold. Their noses sniffed at him, rubbing their scent over him in turn. They couldn’t let it stand. They couldn’t let him live, not after what he’d done.

He was ready for it. Bishop MacNamilla raised his chin and looked them in as much of eyes as any of them had. They would kill him, of course. And his blood would spill over the god-stone. And then the world would shudder and the old magic, the old divinity, would awaken, and all this taint would be cleansed from the world.

His vision was blurring. The Bishop realized with some alarm that he was having trouble breathing. He was seeing spots. He was…

He slumped to the ground in front of the god-stone, his blood unspilled.

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