Enough Fairy Tales
by Jen Larsen
I told him, don’t go into the woods, Gus. Stay away from the mushroom ring. Don’t listen to the fairies—their teeth are sharp and they have not got much in the way of morals. But he didn’t listen to me, because he never does, and he went out at midnight, straight to the mushroom ring and took the hands of the dancing fairies, and they whisked him straight off to never be seen again.
Of course, I couldn’t let that happen. I had read enough fairy tales to know exactly what I was supposed to do—pack light, and not eat anything they offered me, accept no bargains and enter into no games. I was supposed to rescue him with my wit and my beauty in a battle of wills. Some trick—some sleight of hand or eye or mind, some twisty phrase, some silvery promise that dug a hole under the Queen of Fairies and dropped her from a great height, right into the palm of my hand. Easy enough.
I didn’t know what, exactly, or how—but that would come to me at the precisely correct moment. I had read enough fairy tales to know how it goes. I told our mother to put down the phone. I would retrieve him.
My mother sighed and packed me a lunch, and I made my way to the underground burrow. It was dirty. There were no lutes playing, or flowers growing along vines or sparkling motes making the air into diamonds. I don’t know why I expected lutes.
I made it all the way to the throne room without encountering any traps or tricks or temptations, too.
And then there she was. The beautiful and terrifying Queen of the Fairies. Her throne was made of black and thorny vines that dripped with blood. She glanced up at me when I came in, and put her paperback down.
“I’m here for my brother,” I said, striding to the dais.
“Never heard of him,” she said, inspecting her cuticles.
I waited for the moment, the golden shining one where I defeated her, but she just bit off a hangnail and picked up her book again. She didn’t look up as I left, and I didn’t look back. But not because I had read enough fairy tales to know what would happen if I did.