Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Flashback: The Hungry Pixie

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it--and a hundred similar stories--can be purchased on Kindle in a new collection.


The Hungry Pixie
Word Count: 600
Published: 2/14/14

It’s June. I’m walking in the woods. I’m lost. That’s how these things start.

I’m leaning on a tree wondering if I’ll ever see my home again, or my parents, or my dog, or my kid sister, or my bike. I miss home. That’s when I hear the noise. It sounds like a voice, but also like water trickling through leaves. I follow it.

“Please…” says the voice. “So hungry...”

“Hello?” I call out. I brush aside some leaves and I see a tiny woman. Well, not a human woman. She has greenish skin and tiny translucent wings. She glows, ever so softly.

“Please,” she says. Her voice is thin and reedy.

“Hello,” I say. “Are you all right?”

“Hungry,” she moans.

“Are you a pixie?” I ask. I hope she is. Pixies grant wishes, sometimes, if you can catch them. And I got one!

“Hungry,” she says again.

“You’re hungry?” I ask. “You want food?”

She nods. And coughs.

I rummage through my pockets to see what I’ve got. Not much. I find half of a candy bar. It’s partly melted and sticking to what’s left of the the ragged wrapper. I open it clumsily and place it next to the pixie. She manages to get a handful of dried caramel into her mouth.

She smiles. And coughs. Her teeth look awfully sharp. I wonder if all pixies have sharp teeth.

“Do you grant wishes?” I ask.

She shrugs. “Need food,” she says. “For my sisters.”

I don’t understand how a pixie who grants wishes could run out of food. Maybe they can only grant wishes for humans. If she gives me enough wishes, maybe I can wish her some food. That’d be the nice thing to do.

“You can have the whole bar,” I say.

“Help me take it back,” she says.

“Sure,” I say. I pick her up. “What’s your name?”

“Daffodil.”

“Do you grant wishes?”

She nods.

“How many if I give you my candy bar?”

“Two,” she says.

“Just two? Why not three?”

She just shrugs.

“Oh, fine,” I say. That’s a shame. I’ll need one to get home—you have to plan ahead like that, pixies are crafty. But I can use the other for something nice for me. Maybe a new racing bike. Or a submarine. Or a jet plane. We’ll have to see.

Daffodil pulls out a knife. It’s small but it looks sharp. She uses it to point into the forest. “That way,” she says.

I walk, humming to myself, thinking about what I’ll use my second wish for. It’s a shame she didn’t offer me three. I’d have used it to wish for pixie food for her and her sisters.

After about fifteen minutes and more pointing, we enter a clearing. There’s a tree stump set out like a table. I see pixies everywhere. Gosh, there’s a whole swarm of them. Yep, they all have sharp teeth. Who’d have guessed?

“I found food,” says Daffodil, licking her lips.

“Hello,” I say.

Two of them fly behind me.

I’m still trying to decide what I want for my second wish.

There’s a searing pain across the back of my heels. I hear a wet snap and all of a sudden I can’t control my feet. I slide down to the ground in a heap. I’m screaming. I want to go home. It hurts, oh god, it hurts so much. There’s blood in the grass. Mine. More pain. I want to go home.

I see knives.

And teeth.

“Put up your wings, girls,” says someone. “Don’t want to get blood on them.”

As with most of my year-two posts, this one was a chance to stretch myself. I'd been reading through the Song of Ice and Fire books and loved the way George R. R. Martin foreshadowed horror, so that's what I was really trying to accomplish here. Because it's not enough to show your reader something horrible. You really have to torture them with the threat of it for a while first.

I had a couple of tools at my disposal. The first, obviously, is the reveal that the pixie has sharp teeth about a third of the way through. The reader should know from the title that the pixie is hungry, so this combination of facts should trigger most people to be a wee bit uneasy about where the story is going. Normally a character would think this as well, which would deflate the situation somewhat. But I don't want to deflate the situation, so instead I focus on how the narrator isn't very clever. The second tool is tone. The sentences are short and staccato, except for a few instances where they're rambly. It's also written in the present tense, so the whole things feels lurching and immediate.

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