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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Piņatas From Space!: Crazy Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
Stormcastle: And Other Fun Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by Jeromy Henry
The Wizard's House

by Jeromy Henry
The Dreaming Fire

by Jeromy Henry

The Really Serious, Angst-Filled, Dark Story

by

Jeromy Henry



A woman walked down the streets of New York, or maybe it was San Francisco, or LA.  Who the heck cares?  All these kinds of stories take place in some gritty urban area.  Take your pick.  It was nighttime, so all the buildings loomed like blocky shadows.

Kat Black wore skintight leather pants, which are completely impractical and cost a fortune to clean.  They also squeak when you walk, which annoyed the heck out of her.  She wore a black leather duster, a faded black tee, and a silver ankh around her neck.

Kat sported a dead white pallor and shoulder-length black hair, and her red lips turned down in a frown.  A bulge on one side of the coat indicated a gun, or maybe the hilt of a sword, or maybe just a stash of chocolate she was bringing home from the convenience store to drown out the angst of life as a poor paranormal investigator in the city.

She also wore black sunglasses, which look cool, but are a bad idea in twilight.  She proved this fact by kicking a garbage can with one of her high, you guessed it, black leather boots.

Kat let out a string of curses and hopped on one foot.  She ripped off the sunglasses and stuck them in her black leather purse.  As the clangs of the trash can echoed down the street, Kat looked around.  Luckily, she saw no witnesses.  However, the rising moon did reveal why she'd worn the glasses, despite the tripping hazard.  Baby blue eyes peeked out above cute, dimpled cheeks, and sort of ruined the Goth assassin look she'd obviously spent a lot of money to cultivate.

"Crap!" hissed Kat, as she limped away.  If anything, her frown deepened and she angsted even harder.  She couldn't wait to get home and rip into the bag of chocolate half-hidden under her coat.  It looks like she doesn't have a gun after all.  Truth to tell, she'd failed the conceal and carry class, and had to leave her black leather holster at home.  The police had already warned her about the sword, too, and promised jail next time they caught her with it under her coat.

Out of an alley staggered a thin, short, pasty white vampire.  His bloodshot eyes blinked repeatedly as he groped along a nearby wall.  He kicked a brown bottle, and it clinked and rolled to Kat's feet.  She watched the pathetic creature sniff the air, and then stagger towards her.  He wore a filthy black turtleneck and cargo pants, and had obviously not cut his black hair in a couple of years.  She wrinkled her nose at the smell of stale cheesy puffs and weeks of concentrated BO.

"Blood!" rasped the vampire.

Kat sighed and slowly took the black leather thong off her neck.  She thrust the ankh into the vampire's face.  It screamed, and instantly dissolved in a pile of fine brown dust.  Kat casually looped the black cord back around her neck, and tucked it under her hair.

"Vampires," she said in disgust.  Their cool and sexy rep was all a marketing ploy to attract members.  In truth, vampires had less strength than the average ten year old, and could barely see.  Maybe it had something to do with turning into a bat.  They spent most of their time indoors, playing video games and drinking cherry cola.  This one would eventually reconstitute himself and slink home.

Kat really wished she lived in an edgy city, constantly beset by supernatural threats.  Instead, she had to deal with lame-oid vampires.  Why couldn't she have a life like the characters in her favorite novels?

A man-sized shadow split away from the black outline of a building.  It looked vaguely like the silhouette of some guy from the cover of a romance novel.  You could see the bumps of muscle on his arms and legs, the top of his chest, the glint of grey eyes, strands of long blond hair.  He looked down at Kat, over a head higher than the five foot eight girl.  The shadows didn't reveal any more specifics.

"Nice move, Kat."  The shadow chuckled.

Kat groaned.  "Look, the last thing I need right now is you," she spat.

"Now, now," said the figure, in a deep, easygoing voice.  "You're the one who wanted to work for faeries.  Titania has a mission for you."

Kat's insides plummeted.  She craved chocolate with every fiber of her being, but it looked like yet another delay had popped up!  If possible, she frowned even harder.

"If you keep frowning like that, your face will stick," teased the shadow.

"What does she want this time?" ground out Kat, balling her fists.

"Is that any way to speak to the Lord of Daffodils? The Prince of... "

"Shut it, pansy boy.  What's my second task already?"

The figure sighed.  "Titania wants..."  He paused dramatically.

"Spit it out!"

"A case of honey.  Again.  Deliver it to the same place as always."

Kat froze.  "Wait, please tell me she changed the location of the door."

"Nope."
    
"I almost got arrested last time!"

"No one ever said working for the Faerie Queen was easy!  Toodles."  The figure melted away into darkness before Kat could retort.

Kat stamped her foot, then winced at the pain as the tight, pointed boot pinched her toe.  The urge for chocolate was about to drive her crazy.  You see, Kat was half Fae and half human.  All she'd inherited from her Fae side was a massive sweet tooth and a pixie-like face.  Unfortunately, she didn't inherit much of her father's magic.  The thought was enough to send her into another wallow of angst as she bemoaned her lot.

"I hate my life," muttered Kat.  "Champion of the Summer Court, my ass.  I should have read that contract before I signed it."

Kat sighed and looked up and down the dark street.  She spotted the neon sign of an all-night grocery on the corner, and went to clean out the honey section.

The pimply clerk looked at her oddly, and the people behind her in line began to mutter after he rang up the 100th honey bear.  Kat tried not to make eye contact with the mob, and instead focused on the clerk's white apron and dorky hat.  She saw gnarled fingers of an old man tapping on the conveyor impatiently, and heard the squeak, squeak as a lady in a green dress rocked her cart back and forth and muttered under her breath.  She could feel death-glares heating up her black leather coat, and she gulped and nervously scratched her collarbone.  Finally, she staggered out of the store, loaded down with ten white plastic bags full of golden nectar, and an even higher credit card balance.

"I hope Titania doesn't try to pay me back with flowers like she did last time," muttered Kat.  She staggered through two blocks of grimy shadows, and finally slumped against the brick wall of a convenience store, between two battered doors of greenish metal.  The air smelled of beer by-products.  Banana peels and a wet grey sock littered the asphalt, along with a few cigarette butts.  A dumpster off to her right leered at her with a lopsided grin.

Kat swiftly panned the back lot.  The deepening twilight had sent most passersby home.  The silvery moon now shone full in the sky, revealing nothing else but asphalt and weeds, and the faded yellow lines of automobile stalls.  She heard an idling truck cough around the corner, but saw no one.

You'd think they'd put a door between worlds in a cooler place.

Kat hefted the bags again.  Plastic straps cut into her wrists, and her arms burned.  She gave one last fearful glance around, then kicked open the door with the little man icon on it, and jumped inside.

"Ow!  Crap!" wailed Kat.  She almost dropped her bags as the pain in her foot lanced up her leg.  She tried to ignore her throbbing foot, and limped across the slimy white tile.  She fumbled in her purse, and pulled out a pink plastic wand with a sparkly star on top.

Kat's face burned in embarrassment at owning the cheesy artifact.  She tapped the wand on the stall door, and a silvery glow erupted from the scratched metal.  The door now resembled a TV screen.  Kat stepped through it.

The sun smiled on manicured grass, and yellow buttercups danced in a light breeze.  Lollipop flowers grew out of the ground along with the real ones.  Bluebirds chirped, and hopped from branch to branch on hoary oaks, dripping colored gumdrops instead of acorns.  A few lazy clouds floated in a cerulean sky.  In the distance, Kat heard the scrape of a viol and a silvery laugh.  The wind carried the smell of gingerbread, roses, and lilacs.

Titania's palace rose above the forest.  Domes of gold topped white marble crenellations.  Tall spires wrapped with silver kissed the clouds, and diamonds sparkled on witch's hat roofs.  Rainbows danced around flapping crimson flags.  A thousand crystal windows winked in the noon light, each encircled by marble carvings of flowers and Fae.  A golden drawbridge of delicate filigree butterflies led to a door encrusted with head-sized rubies, thrown open to the breeze.  Kat limped over the bridge.

Quiet whispers filled the Great Hall.  She passed a tall Fae in a wine-colored velvet doublet and heavy cape, absently twirling a long-stemmed glass in his thin fingers.  A smooth curtain of silvery hair pooled on his shoulders.  Perfect teeth gleamed as he smiled, and purple eyes looked her up and down.  His pointed ears stuck out two inches beyond the human norm.  He nodded in greeting.  She passed an elaborately coiffured lady in a gossamer green gown, sitting in a chair and licking a lollipop.  She saw a grinning Fae in a blue doublet twitch a wand behind his back, and a gentleman across the room sprout horns.  Bell-like laughter pealed as a circle of Fae around the target laughed.  Everyone she passed was a beautiful, living, lithe statue of porcelain, clothed in silks and jewels of a bygone age.

As she reached the foot of Titania's throne, she saw that the queen wore a purple silk gown that exposed her white shoulders.  A crown of golden lace and ruby stones perched on her butter-yellow curls.  Titania absently waved a scepter crusted with pink diamonds.  Big blue eyes lit up as she saw Kat, and the queen dimpled.

"Hello, dear," said Titania.  Her voice came out as a throaty purr in the suddenly quiet hall.  Then she squealed and clapped her hands.  "Oooh!  Honey!"  She bounced up and down on her tush.  "Gimme, gimme, gimme!"  She snatched a honey bear out of a white sack, popped the top, and sucked down the contents.

Kat dumped the white bags at the queen's feet and rubbed the red welts on her hands.

You'd think immortal Fae would be wise, elegant, and mysterious; fat chance.  Sure, they're inhumanly graceful.  But a Fae also has the sense of humor and the sweet tooth of a six year old.  In truth, if Fae grow up too much, they fade away and are reborn as humans, or at least that's what the Prince of Pansies told Kat once.  She sighed.

The queen finished her honey bear and smiled a sticky, Cheshire smile.  "Ah, my Champion, you have successfully completed two tasks for me.  Now, I have a third and final task before your contract is fulfilled."  Titania leaned forward and looked grave.  "The Faerie realm is in deadly peril!" she announced portentously, waving her scepter.

"Er, right," said Kat.

"No, really," said the Queen.  "See, all these human authors keep writing angst-filled stories that portray us Fae as bloodthirsty and dark.  They're eroding the real Faerie world as more and more humans believe in that junk.  More of our land disappears every day!  Our lollipop count is way down!  I want you to get all those bozos to quit writing about us, and write nice and sugary stories instead!"  Titania beamed.  "Now get to it!"

Kat felt cold, and her heart plummeted to her boots.

"Er, wait, how am I supposed to do that?"  Kat's mind raced.  This was horrible!  They wanted her to go after her favorite authors!  What was she supposed to do, assassinate them?  A vision flashed through her mind of leaping through an author's window, silver sword in hand.  But what about all the fan fiction writers?  The task was completely impossible!

"That's up to you to figure out, dear," said Titania.

Kat noticed that the whole court looked at her now, with identical smiles on their faces.  She shivered.

"I... I can't!" she cried.

Titania shrugged.  "Oh, well, then I'll have to force you to wear pink frilly dresses and eat nothing but gumdrops for the next thousand years as punishment.  Your choice."

Kat staggered back a step.  In all her books, the Fae trapped mortals in terrible contracts.  She'd held the true Fae in contempt when she realized they weren't the dark and sexy gods of her imaginary world.  But this fate was worse than anything she could have imagined.

"I'll do it," she said in a small voice, and dropped a curtsey.  "Excuse me, Your Majesty."

Kat wandered from the throne in a daze.  She was too shocked to even angst over her squeaky pants or throbbing foot or chocolate withdrawal anymore.  She barely noticed when a Fae grew an asses' head right in front of her, and everyone nearby laughed.  A lady in a crimson gown burst into sobs when someone took her gumdrops.

"Waaaah!" cried the Fae.  "Give them back!"

Kat sidestepped the shoving and hair-pulling match that followed.  Somehow, she navigated the dark and grimy streets of the city, and made it to her office.

**********************

Kat leaned back in her black office chair and took another shot of cola.  Her head ached with a sugar hangover from her binge the night before, and she hoped the dose of high fructose corn syrup might make the bright lights stop hurting so much.  She glumly stared at her office.

Thin grey carpet covered the floor.  It smelled of glue.  Long fluorescent bulbs lit the grey walls with a pallid light.  Green blinds from two picture windows kept the bright sun pointed away from her face, and patterned the floor with shadowed bars.  Five bare, grey desks dotted the room.  Her own desk hosted a beige phone, a pen, and the eviscerated husks of a hundred chocolate bars.  She'd painted "Kat Black -- Paranormal Investigator" on the glass door, and stuck a few skulls on a shelf by her desk.  Her katana, resplendent in its black leather sheath, hung on two hooks.  She'd stashed the futon under one of the empty desks, so no one would realize she lived in her office.

She'd taken out an ad and rented the space two weeks ago.  No one had ever called.  Kat buried her head in her hands, and tried to think of how she could fulfill Titania's orders.  Mind blank, she realized there was nothing to do but call her contacts.  Actually, she had only one contact, as she was a bit new to the PI business.  She stabbed a few buttons and listened to the rings.

"Hey.  Uh, Kat, nice to hear from you," said a voice on the other end.  He sounded jittery.  Though Kat couldn't see him, she pictured Larry in her mind.  Her childhood friend stood only five foot four.  The skinny twerp's blond hair spiked up all over his head, and explosions of freckles covered his face.  He wore gold, wire-rimmed glasses that he constantly pushed up on his aquiline nose.  He twitched and paced constantly.

"Hey, Larry," said Kat, trying to sound cheerful.  "I'm in a fix.  Could you get a list of the names and addresses of some fantasy authors for me?"

"Umm... actually, Kat, see, the FBI caught me hacking into their database and, well, I think they're tapping the line now, and... uh, hey, I'm going to take the next flight to Honduras.  I'll call you in a few weeks if I make it.  Bye!"  The phone clicked.

Kat blinked.  "Well, crap," she thought.  Larry was a bit paranoid.  Every so often he'd freak out and vanish on her.  It looked like now was one of those times.  She had no idea if the FBI was really after him or not.  She knew he spent all his time in front of a computer, somehow making money from home, but she didn't understand how he managed it.  She slammed down the handset and stared at the wall.

The next few days, Kat thought hard.  During the night, she prowled the city, and hunted monsters.  One evening, she accidentally squashed a were-rat with her foot.  The next, she dusted another vamp.  On the third night, just when she'd staggered back to the office with another load of chocolate, the solution hit her like a jolt of caffeine.  She paled as she contemplated the horror she was about to endure, growing even paler than the cake of white make-up that usually slathered her face.  There was only one answer.

The next few days, Kat scribbled frantically in a notebook.  Balls of paper littered the office, along with the ever-growing mound of candy wrappers.  She even purchased pastel paints, and half-finished drawings covered the four extra office desks.  Some days, she slipped into the library and furtively typed up her scribbled manuscripts.  After weeks of work, she e-mailed the finished product off to several publishers.

Over the following months, "Cute Sticky Fairy Pansy Peppermint" hit the bookstores, then the airwaves and the DVD shelves.  Fan fiction sprouted up all over the internet.  Shaking from her terrible ordeal of writing something so horribly cute, Kat took comfort in the clause in her contract that levied a million dollar penalty if the publisher ever revealed Kat's real name.  If she couldn't take the angst out of adult fairy tales, well, she could always corrupt the helpless minds of kids, and change the human perception of Fairyland that way!

Kat visited Titania one last time.  The Queen gushed, "You did it!  The trees even started growing tubes of sugar dust and peppermints and honey bears again!  I release you from your vow.  Want some chocolate?"  Kat shook her head, and mumbled some excuses.  Walking around two giggling Fae lords, engaged in a mock duel with giant sugar tubes, she escaped from the Summer Lands.

And so it was that Kat Black finished the last of her three tasks for Titania, the Summer Queen of Faerie.  Though ridiculously wealthy, Kat joined a Goth band as a bass player to give herself something to do.  She scrubbed her name off the glass door, and gave up her office space.  She packed away her leather pants and sword, and joined a support group for chocolate addicts.  She never visited Fairyland again.  And she lived angstily ever after in New York, or San Francisco, or LA, or wherever the heck it was, forever haunted by her terrible ordeal.

This story originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Defenestration.


Read more stories by this author



2013-07-15 16:32:30
kerochan - Thanks for the comments!

2013-07-15 09:04:24
micheledutcher - Very Funny! I liked the city - wherever the city was and whatever it was called. Support group for chocolate addicts - funny. One small comment, 'Kat shook her head' - please say shook yes or shook no, we can't really see her. Lots of fun!

2013-07-02 15:47:38
Great story, Sir! I enjoyed this tremendously.




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Piņatas From Space!: Crazy Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
Stormcastle: And Other Fun Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by Jeromy Henry
The Wizard's House

by Jeromy Henry
The Dreaming Fire

by Jeromy Henry


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