“This is dumb,” Aÿd said. ” Spontaneous, and it probably won’t work out like how you want.”
“Yet you’re following me into the woods,” Vinta said. “So, it must not be that bad.”
Aÿd was shaking her head. “Why do you always have to be so stubborn?”
Vinta smiled and they both left their small town for Pykey forest.
“I bet it’s not even real,” Aÿd said as cobbles turned to dirt. “A tall tale used to keep children from going in too deep. The forest is dangerous you know.”
“Do you? Because it will be dark by time we head back down.”
“I know my way through the forest,” Vinta said. “Better than anyone in fact. Also, I brought the light.”
Vinta held up a medium sized tube encased in black plastic; it contained a large stick that would glow with a luminous orange substance. Vinta also showed off her compass, map, and a plastic wrapped slice of cake.
“What is that for?” Aÿd asked.
“It’ll help us find the faery. They love sweets.”
Aÿd sighed. “There is no faery of Pykey forest.”
“How do you know?”
“Because it’s silly.”
“No, it isn’t,” Vinta said. “People have gone missing up here—never to be seen again. It happens much too often. That’s why we have all those tales scaring us away. Faeries were said to have done it, spirited the people away.”
Aÿd rolled her eyes but Vinta continued.
“And they say if you spot a faery in Pykey forest during the day, it will grant you a wish for a favor. That’s why I need you. Someone must watch the faery while the favor is completed or else it will escape.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” Aÿd said. “I’m here to make sure you don’t get yourself killed on this silly faery hunt. Why are you doing this anyway? What are you going to wish for?”
Vinta stopped to look at her friend. “I’m going to wish for freedom. The freedom to be able to leave this place and follow my dreams. Aÿd, I don’t want to live in this small town, fearing magick and the world forever.”
“You really want to leave that badly?” Aÿd pursed her lips for a second then nodded, as if satisfied by something. “And I really can’t change your mind?”
Vinta gave a sad smile. “No.”
“I can’t leave my best friend to the wilds of Pykey Forest.” Aÿd gave a tired smile and they continued to walk up into the hills that housed the woods.
They walked till the woods became a dense and thick forest with tall, white and brown trees that towered over them heights. Roots stretched out above the dirt and fallen logs were everywhere. Thickets of spiney bushes grew and other dense foliage. Without a path, the forest had become an obstacle course.
“This is why we should not have come here,” Aÿd said, breathless.
“Almost there,” Vinta said. “They say she appears at the ruins of Old Oak.”
“So, that’s where we are going. And so far out. Vinta, night will catch us,” Aÿd said. “What do they say about the faery at night?”
Vinta frowned and didn’t look at her friend. “That we should not find ourselves in its company after dark.”
“It changes…it becomes…aggravated.”
“Like how?” Aÿd said, stepping over a large root.
“Something about it being less than friendly,” Vinta said. “Which is why we should hurry and not bicker about the details. I rather not find out what happens at night.”
Aÿd grunted but didn’t argue.
They continued onward, trekking through the trees, past old and ancient wood that their families had warmed them to stay away from.
“Is it true you think?” Vinta asked quietly. “Can the forest really hear us?”
Vinta saw her friend glanced about and shiver. “I hope not..”
When the ruins came into sight, they were out of breath and the sun had neared the Western horizon. The ruins of Old Oak were once beautiful, towering and done in shades of white, but now were grey, weathered, crumbling and taken by flora. Only glimpses of the bare stone peaked through the moss, ivy and vines.
Just behind the ruins was a great oak tree. Its massive trunk had been wrapped with a band of emerald rope, knotted and burnt with sacred sigils.
“Many say the spell on this ancient oak is silly. That it doesn’t work. Just superstition,” Vinta said. “Others say it truly keeps some terrible creature from entering our world.”
Aÿd shivered. “Tales…but what does it matter?”
Vinta looked at Aÿd. “I don’t think they are just tales. I think there are mysteries here and far beyond. I want to find these places and discover the truth of these things, Aÿd. I want to travel and unravel the hidden world.”
Vinta laid a hand on our of the crumbling pillars. It was cool and smooth. The stones were old and discolored but she could see the delicate patterns of white, different shades woven together.
“I don’t like how this place makes me feel,” Aÿd said. “Let’s be done with this already.”
“We just got here,” Vinta said, taking out the slice of cake with a smile. “But fine, let’s start.”
Aÿd chuckled. “At least you brought Berrybom cake. It’s my favorite.”
“It isn’t for you or me. It’s for the faery,” said Vinta, playfully holding the cake away from her friend.
“Oh, great,” Aÿd said. “Now I must forgo my one prize. Why did I come here?”
“There is still our wish,” Vinta said.
“You mean your wish.”
Vinta placed the cake on top of a crumbling stone in the middle of the ruins and ran back to hide behind a collapsed stone pillar, pulling Aÿd down with her.
Aÿd lowered her voice. “There is no faery or wishes to be had. That is a wasted piece of cake,” she said.
Vinta looked at her. “Stay down. It’s not a snack really, it’s is a lure.”
“Lure? For the faery?”
Vinta nodded. “I’ve already learned some things. Legends talk of sweet food offerings in exchange for audiences with the Pykey Fae folk.”
“Make believe,” Aÿd siad.
“Shh, it’s true,” Vinta said.
Aÿd rolled her eyes then heard the sound of child-like laughter echoing through the forest. It was light and high, reminding her of bells. They both peered out from their hiding place and watched as a small woman, no bigger than a child, dressed in a sheer, glittering piece of fabric, came out flitting from behind the ancient oak.
The woman’s thin body was nude except for her gown which gave glimpses of her pale, chestnut flesh. Her slender, triangular face was spotted in freckles that shimmered like the gown around her.
The strange, tiny woman went to the stone ruins that were twice her size and hopped up gracefully. Wings shot out and lifted her for a moment—four translucent things that flattened and hid themselves against her back and legs. Vinta had to cover her mouth to keep from gasping in surprise.
The faery eyed the cake Vinta left out then snatched it up and began to eat greedily with tiny, quick hands. Vinta chose this moment to jump out.
“Caught you! That is my treat, faery!” she said, smiling triumphantly. “You do exist. See, Aÿd?”
The creature paused, eyes growing bigger for a moment. The faery blinked then smiled, cake all over her face.
“So, it seems,” she said in an odd, small voice. “Indeed, I have been tricked.”
Aÿd stepped out of hiding, shocked at what she was seeing, at what she thought was impossible. Vinta grinned.
“Is it as they say? Now that I have you here, will you grant us a wish?” Vinta asked.
The child-sized woman smiled and nodded eagerly, going back to her cake. So near, Vinta could see her pointed breasts and how just below, ribs pressed against her thin flesh. Aÿd noticed her nails were sharp and pointed, more claw than hand, and that she ate with a hunger. When she was done, the faery addressed them.
“Your cake is very good. So, I will allow you to ask favor,” the faery said. “But you must do me a favor in return. A Fae of Pykey never gives without getting. Grant my wish and I shall grant you yours.”
“What can I do for you?” Vinta asked without hesitation.
“Your cake has made me thirsty.” The faery pointed to a tree not more than ten yards out. “You see that tree? A flower grows on it at the very top. The flower is big and blue. It holds the sweetest nectar and my people crave it above all others but it is much to heavy for me to take down. Bring it to me and I will grant you a wish.”
Vinta agreed. “Done.”
“No, Vinta. You shouldn’t. That thing is a trickster,” Aÿd said.
“This is my chance,” Vinta said, looking back at her friend’s trembling eyes. “Trust me, I can do this. It won’t take long.”
“Don’t leave me here with this thing.”
Vinta could tell Aÿd was scared but didn’t want to admit it. They had never seen anything like this before.
“I told you she was real.”
“I don’t want to argue,” Aÿd said. “I believe you, okay? Let’s just leave.”
Vinta pursed her lips. She could see a desperate, pleading look in Aÿd ‘s eyes but she couldn’t let her dream die. If she could just get the funds and materials she needed, they could both leave without worrying their families.
“I promise to be quick. Then we’ll get our wish and leave this place entirely.”
Then Vinta ran off. She didn’t wait to hear Aÿd’s protest. If she was going to do this, she couldn’t hesitate.
The mentioned tree was not far at all, true to what the faery had said. When Vinta got to the tree, she found it was far larger than it had seemed and covered in a slimy moss.
“I’ve climbed many trees before. How is this different?” she asked aloud.
Without time to lose, Vinta began to climb but every inch of the way was slippery and Vinta found herself struggling to get up. She huffed and felt her muscles ache with the effort. Nevertheless, she continued to slowly climb the tree. Vinta had no concept of time as she climbed, putting all of her focus into getting to the top.
Finally, Vinta broke the top of the canopy and gasped at the sight. The flower was as blue and spectacular as the faery had described. It was huge, as large as a pumpkin. Vinta wrapped her arms around it and heaved. Planting her feet as firmly as she could. It took some effort to loosen the delicate bud but eventually, Vinta plucked it.
“At last. Nothing will get in my way,” she said, exhausted. “I’ll be free of this place.”
Vinta watched her hometown glittering in the distance. Dark buildings against a red and pink sky. She peeled the petals of the flower to look inside and was met with sweet aromas. Exhausted and thirsty, Vinta took a handful of the nectar for herself and assumed her strength.
“I would only miss this sight,” she said.
Pyk had been her home all her life. Vinta watched the beautiful sunset over the top of the trees.
“No!” Vinta said. “The sun is setting!”
Vinta scrambled to get back down, slipping on moss. She risked her limbs trying to descend as quickly as possible, holding desperately onto the flower. Then, she heard a scream that made her blood turn to ice and the flower slipped from her grasp.
“Aÿd!” Vinta called, recognizing the scream. “Aÿd!”
Vinta cursed herself. She should have never left her friend there with the faery. She thought she could make it in time. She thought she had it all under control, but now night was fast approaching.
“Aÿd, answer me!” she said, sliding down the moss-covered tree.
Her friend should have been close enough to see her coming down the tree, but Aÿd did not answer, nor did the faery. Vinta dropped to the ground as darkness began to descend upon the forest. The sun’s orange rays were fading behind the horizon, giving way to an eerie twilight. She looked around, grabbed the flower she had dropped and ran.
“Aÿd!” Vinta said, sprinting. “That damn faery tricked me! Aÿd can you hear me? We must get home!”
She should have known it would take much too long for her to get the flower and return. The faery never planned to fulfill their wish.
Vinta had returned in no less than a minute, but Aÿd and the creature were nowhere in sight. She looked around in a panic. The twilight turned to a blanket of darkness as night fell.
Vinta began to shake, and not from the cold. She could no longer see past her own hands. She took out her light stick, fumbled with the plastic, then ripped it open and cracked it with a loud snap. Orange light chased away the shadows.
Vinta screamed immediately. From behind a broken pillar, a pale, child-like face, was frozen there, smiling at her. The faery’s eyes were all black, big and twinkling. Tiny sharp teeth glistened in a mouth painted with fresh, wet blood.
“Where’s Aÿd?” Vinta asked in a small voice.
“Have you brought me something nice to drink?”
Vinta paled and held up the crushed flower. Half its contents had been spilled. The faery did not seem pleased. For the first time, she frowned and it was terrifying.
“Wait, there’s still some—”
Like before, the Fae was quick. One blink and the tiny face was gone. Vinta heard only the rustle of leaves. She didn’t wait to see the face again. Vinta took off running.
“Aÿd! Answer me!”
Giggles came from the dark.
“Will I have another meal,?…” said a small, sinister voice.
Vinta could see glimpses of it stalking her. A pale, bloody claw slinking behind a trunk, or a wisp of dark hair in the shadows. Vinta could hear the patter of her small feet and the flutter of her thin wings, moving faster than her own two feet could carry her.
“I-I don’t have any more cake,” Vinta said.
“I don’t want your stupid cake,” the faery said from the darkness. “I desire the sweet nectar running through your veins.” she giggled madly.
Vinta was gasping and panting, looking around wildly for signs of the faery. She knew it would change at night and become aggressive perhaps, but not like this. This thing was a monster.
“Aÿd!” she cried. “What have you done with Aÿd?!”
The faery giggled again, sweet and child-like.
Vinta hear da groan then tripped over something. She went down hard, the wind knocked out of her lungs. She grunted and looked down. In the light of her glowstick she saw Aÿd ’s face and small, viscious, bloody marks all over her flesh. Her eyes fixed wide open—glassy, unfocused, and full of fear.
“Aÿd?” Vinta said in a small voice. Her friend twitched.
Without warning, Aÿd’s body was snatched up. Vinta gasped and watched as she was whisked up and into the darkness of the trees, her wide eyes dropping hot tears that landed on Vinta’s face. The only thing other thing she heard was the flutter of thin wings, and then, nothing.
It took several moments for her to come to her senses. Vinta was alone. She stood, looking into the darkness.
“Aÿd?” she called weakly. “Aÿd!…”
But no answer came, not even the sound of tiny feet and laughter. Shaking, Vinta went back down. She went the way she came, searching the darkness for signs that she was going the right way.
It felt like an eternity, wandering the darkness, replaying the last moment she saw her friend alive, over and over again.
“I will not leave you…I will not give up,” Vinta told herself. “I will find them again…I will find them again.”
Shamefully, Vinta went back to town by herself, clearing the forest at dawn. Perhaps she would never see her friend again. Was Aÿd dead? She didn’t know, but she did know that the myths were true. The Faeries of Pykey existed and were taking people. And Aÿd was now another face among the posters of those gone missing in Pykey Forest.