Sometime in Somewhere

Muskaan Jadeja

Before we begin, goodbye CLS! I’m graduating so this will be the last you see of me. Thank you for reading any of my work at all these past few years. It means a lot. I’ll miss the newspaper for sure, and here’s to hoping my writing goes somewhere 🙂

“Sometime in somewhere”

“Legends are cautionary tales more than stories,”

I squint in the sunlight, the feeling of lazy spring heavy on my eyelids.

Bystanders annoy me. The mere thought of them brings a perfect scowl to my face. So I don’t bother with turning and granting him a closer look.

“I throw caution to the wind, and after that, I’ll throw you.”

The old man skitters away as I approach the crumbling one-story house, swallowed nearly whole by overgrown weeds and wildflowers. If I had a heart, I’d even stop to drink in the picturesque scene. But alas.

The town has a connection with odd happenings and strange songs, abandoned houses, and missing people. But these happenings, so small, so unnoticeable that they pass by for decades.

At first glance, the suburb was nothing. You’d drive by, birds chirping, kids crowding on a lawn, and sprinklers going off somewhere. It was distinctly spring and distinctly normal.

This was telling enough.

They dwell in monotonous places, only to create havoc in small sips.

Celestial beings are pesky to trap, but their favors are elixr among wine. Or curses among poisons.

And I need but one favor.

I reach into my coat’s inner pocket and pull out a thick book and a small journal. The journal was my research, the book from the children’s section at the local city library. Funny how accurate children’s media can get.

I flip it open, landing on “Chapter 2: The Fairy”. Next to the flowery script, two-winged children are drawn mid “ring around the Rosie”.
“Fairies are avid conversationalists, but enjoy most of all, escalating havoc, from a little as switching sugar and salt pots and cutting the seams of pockets to breaking windows and harming humans. And if you listen closely, you might hear their tiny voices in the garden.”
I skim the rest of the chapter. It went on to detail the changeling process, the trapping of humans. Standard enough. Every sign pointed at a door to the fey. There had to be some hole in reality, letting either side slip through.
Faeries can grant wishes if you trap them well. They like to speak in riddles, and we play the same game, teasing out a title, a name, and identity.
I approach the house slowly, trying to ignore the ache spreading through my body, holding the book over my head, shielding my sensitive eyes from the sun.
The fey are especially tricky creatures. The fey lie, it is in their blood to, and if they have your true identity, they have a hold on your being, two hands deep. But having theirs gives you power over them. It was a risk, this one, but time, damn it all, was running out for me.
The door barely takes a budge and it swings open, welcoming me in. It opened to a drawing room, decorated with a rotting gray couch. The house had many windows, each wearing broken blinds, paused at varied heights. The room smelled sickly sweet, like the stench of a fresh hyacinth. It made my head throb.
It was silent, so much so that the ringing in my ears seemed to fade. There was someone here. The most human part of me knew. I am preyed upon.
The drawing room swept right into the small kitchen, a perfect rendition of the phrase “closed quarters”. It ended before it even began.
The kitchen table wore a thin even coat of dust proudly like a Sunday dress. I swipe a finger through and rub it off against my trousers. This place has been abandoned for long. Too long. And the unease of the old man only added to confirm fey interactions for possible decades. Now all I can do is hope that it’s right.
There’s a creak to my left and I freeze.
“There once was a man in somewhere, seeking something from someone.”
The voice whispered straight into my left ear and I whip around.
A small figure stood before me, hidden in the shadow from the lopsided blinds on a window.
“Some time had passed since the seeking began and some time shall pass before it will end.”
The voice was honey, thick and heavy, weighted with age.
“But someday he’ll get what he desires,”
The figure steps forward and I can make out its face.
The first thing I notice is its smile. Wide and unfaltering. My shoulders tense.
It took on the form of a frail young woman despite its soothing elderly voice box, donning a blue nightgown. With a face sweeter than a cherub and large unblinking doe eyes, like two drops of clear syrup. They weren’t focused in one place, rather flitting as if drinking in the room and somehow looking through the veil of the material world. And it’s skin, swarthier than the night sky. Atop its forehead sat a silver iridescent dot, a moon decorated upon a cloudless night. Even in its beauty, the eerie falseness of it irked me. It was wrong in how human it tried to be. The imitation was a parody of the book clasped in my hand.
“Some boon, some gift, some favor.”
A bird chirps twice outside, and another joins in.
Oh for the sake of us all, take that insipid mating ritual to a different tree.
“Some may call him greedy, some, desperate. And some just wonder how he will beg for it.”
It’s voice, so was unnatural. So wrong. I stand my ground.
“Begging is overrated.”
It blinks, one eye closing slightly before the other. “So it is. Worship on the other hand…”
I step away from the kitchen counter. Its eyes don’t follow, but rather look beyond me.
“You know, some used to pray to me. Hands joined in a plea. They offer me marigolds in altars, and when I visit, I bring them a golden noose decorated with their gifts.”
“I care not for your nooses.”
“Have you felt a heart cease to beat, the struggle within burn out? Such a sweet extinguish. Dipped in sugar, it is.”
It cocks its head, “And sometimes, I like to capture one’s last breath in a kiss, so it’s candied.”
The fey, despite their best abilities in mimicry, lack the realness of humanity, but even for the fey, this one was far too mechanical.
“Who are you?”
“Who are you?” it counters. This time the faraway look in its eyes clears and its pupils turn to me. My chest tightens. It’s looking at me. Without moving another muscle, still standing three feet away, less than an inch shy of the jagged shadow of the broken blinds.
“Some would even say we have met. Once. Back when my hair was silver and my moon, waning. My body was bent over and yet I remember you. So, who are you? You’re just the same, a weak and cynical man, your name, nothing of value.”
Persistence. Persistence. This was panning out like no fey interaction I’ve had.
“Who are you?”
The girl, this child, this 5 foot child, seems to loom over me. All 6 feet 2 inches of me shrank in comparison.
“Who am I?” and then it takes a step closer. That’s all it’s moved this whole time, spewing nonsense at me.
“I have had your name in my books since before your lungs swelled open for the first time and it will remain there until the end of Time. I have stitched together the seams on your flesh and I will pull apart the strings just as easily. I am no faerie and I am no sprite. I thrive on the folly of man. I am Death and I am Time.”
Curdling fear pools at my throat. I was wrong.
“And you seek a boon.”
I force out an answer. “I do.”
It grins at me, peeling back to reveal clean rows of teeth. “Fear not. Death is good. Death is patient. And Death is inevitable. When bones are turned to ash, no string keeps you tied to this plane, and you are free of shackles, you come to my door, and I will welcome you with a garland of gifts. One boon, I heard you seek and so I will grant one.”
“Then grant me immortality.”
It looks me up and down, before tsking. “Those on the brink of collapse shouldn’t try to jump too high.”
“So you know?”
“Know? I can smell it. The expiration date is near and you are spoiling. The very cells within betray you.”
Wondrous, Death can sniff out cancer.
After years of barely holding on to my slip of a life force in hopes of a wish, I’m face to face with Death. Begging. Ironic.
“So? Will you? Promise to never reap my soul.”
It takes its first steps, circling me, and I get a glimpse of its feet through the too-high hem of the gown. Barefoot and backwards. Amazing. I wonder how it gets pedicures.
“Really? You don’t want to die and start over? Reincarnation’s line isn’t too long.”
“No.” There’s no starting over for me. No new beginning.
Death shrugs, “Decay too breathes air, enduring and existing. And so you will abide. Stuck in this moment, in this snapshot. This earth will be gone, your bones too will be gone, every fabric of your being stripped. But you will endure. There, immortality. I will never collect.”
“That-that’s it?”
My body felt no lighter, the sluggishness remained and if anything, a new weight pulled me down. I was not fixed. Not saved.
It trails a finger over the layer of dust on the kitchen table, same as I and rubs it between its fingers.
“Death is inevitable. For the evil, for the good. To gain peace, to face consequence. Death is impartial too. But you are timeless now. Another like me.”
“Pity, I would’ve asked to be healed before an eternity in that body. To each their own I suppose.”
Death had left. Boon fulfilled.
And the reality of it sunk in.
Forever. In a rotting body.
Well, off to go watch birds then.