An Epic Season Finale Feeble Fable of the Fantasmagorical by Leila Allison
Mary and the Photobomb Fairy
Mary was lying on a couch at a psychiatrist’s office, getting her head explored. It was your typical wood panelled and diploma-laden psychiatrist’s office, the kind you see in films, TV and New Yorker cartoons. There were the already described walls, the couch containing Mary, an occasional table on which lay a box of Kleenex, and a seated shrink, who, if she resembled Dr. Melfi from The Sopranos one atom more, might prompt a lawsuit. No creativity was spent on the presentation of this office, for it was borrowed from the Public Domain Library for use in this story. In fact the sloth in this paragraph alone is so prevalent that your author hasn’t bothered to look up whether Dr. Melfi is a psychiatrist or a psychologist. It’s because all that’s required of this paragraph is for the author to get across the image of a woman named Mary getting her head explored by a professional in that field (from here, “Dr. Morley”) at a place where such explorations normally take place.
Mary lay on the couch and gathered her thoughts. Doctor Morley knew not to prod her patients. Doing such in the past had yielded poor results. She often told her ex-husband that prodding patients was “Like whacking away at The Pinata of Locopants.” The job and her contentious divorce had made Dr. Morley cynical.
“I really don’t think I’m crazy, you know?” Mary said. “I’m just here to get a second opinion.”
I don’t give a husky fuck at a rolling psychosis whether you’re bonkers or not, Dr. Morley thought, because she was a cynic suffering from a cataclysmic hangover. But, being sane, she didn’t say it. She just faked a smile and nodded.
“It all began when I was vacationing in England,” Mary said. “Ever hear of the Cottingley Fairies, Doctor?”
Doctor Morley knew about the hoax, but it wasn’t her job to contribute to Mary’s hallucination. “Tell me about it,” she said.
“Way back in 1917, two girls, Elsie and Frances, lived in Cottingley, and there’s this little area there called Cottingley Beck–which had, and still has, a tiny waterfall and a witching pool. It’s the sort of place conducive to fairies.”
“How interesting,” lied Doctor Morley.
“Anyway, the girls got hold of a camera, a book on fairies and scissors. You can guess what happened.”
“Hmmm,” said Dr. Morley, who wasn’t in the mood to play guessing games due to her headache.
“The kids had no idea that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would somehow get hold of the photographs and later publish them as authentic, you know, as in the verification of fairies, in the 1920 Christmas issue of The Strand,” Mary continued. “As ridiculous as it sounds, the same mind that created Sherlock Holmes was into spiritualism late in life.” Mary partially sat up, propped by her elbows. “Conan Doyle actually believed in the girls’ photographs.”
“Do you?” Doctor Morley asked, realizing that this was a whack at The Pinanta of Locopants, but it was also an action consistent with what she had been taught in medical school.
Mary laughed and resumed lying flat on her back. “Oh, hell no,” she said. “Holmes had been ancient history to Sir Arthur by then, who had some sort of grief issue that mixed poorly with old age. When the girls themselves got old they confessed that it was all a gag that had got out of hand. They were in a bind because telling the truth would’ve besmirched the reputation of the nation’s most esteemed minds. Yet one of the girls held out that one of the pictures had been real. I thought she was just pulling everyone’s chain, as old ladies will. I’m not so certain anymore.”
“How so?” Something inside Dr. Morley groaned. But the work involved in earning six-hundred bucks an hour often caused things in her mind to groan.
“Glad you asked,” Mary said. She then sat up and dug her phone from her bag and opened her photo gallery. “As I told you I was on vacation in England last month and wound up at the site of the Cottingley Fairies’ Affair. Like the other tourists, I took a few selfies with a display of cut out fairies, like those setup by the children. Later on, I glanced at the pic and saw this. And in every selfie I’ve taken since that day ‘this’ has appeared. Yet not once have I seen this, um, person, without the camera.”
“What happens if I don’t see ‘this’?” Dr. Morley asked, although she knew that probably shouldn’t have asked it. It was a bit early to confront whatever lurked inside The Pinata of Locopants, but the two “special headache” pills given to her out of pity by a colleague were beginning to work. Special headache pills often caused Dr. Morley to speak before thinking.
“Then I’ll definitely be at the right place,” Mary said.
Dr. Morley took Mary’s phone and wasn’t surprised that there were scores of selfies in the gallery. At twenty-six, Mary was a typical Millennial–a shameless yet somehow congenial narcissist, who operates under the impression that Earth needs to see as many images of her as there are of Marilyn Monroe. But none of that meant much upon Dr. Morley’s first glimpse at Mary’s hallucination. Sure enough, right beside Mary’s smiling face a Fairy hovered above her right shoulder. Dr. Morley whistled. It was a fine Fairy. Everything it ought to be. It even cast a shadow. She had guessed that it had been a fifty-fifty ball between seeing nothing and being taken for a chump. Figuring she had been played (perhaps as a “punking” by the same colleague who had given her the special pills), Dr. Morley considered the best method of payback. Simply by whistling at the startlingly beautiful forgeries on the screen, she had recklessly spent the “I See Nothing, Let’s Schedule a Lobotomy” card she would have laid on the co-conspirator of the little yuk if her wit hadn’t been addled by the events of the previous evening. Besides, special pills withstanding, this was one good doctor who wasn’t the sort of good doctor who gladly suffered or played the fool.
“How did you do this–you work for CGI?” Dr. Morley asked.
She quashed the mention of the suspected co-conspirator’s name when a familiar and genuine look of relief bloomed in Mary’s face. Despite the bumpy run of her own personality, Dr. Morley was good at her job and she knew the expression. It said, “I’m not crazy.”
“Tell you what,” Mary said, “take a pic of me with your phone.”
Which is exactly what Dr. Morley did. Ten minutes later the women were at an office recently opened on Dr. Morley’s floor by another narcissistic, yet congenial, Millennial nutburger.
“Doctor” Renfield Stoker-Belle was the reason why Dr. Morley had a hangover. The psychiatrist and the “supernaturalist” had rung the chimes at midnight at the Scottish/Pakistani pub down the street.
Renfield, who’s hangover proof, was seated behind her desk trying to make sense of Daemonologie written in 1597 by King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of everything upon the demise of the virgin queen.
Renfield’s office was full of tumbling piles of books much like the one she held in her hands. The walls were also festooned with diplomas. Her B.A. and Masters were legitimately earned at a well known American university, whilst her recently won Phd. had been issued by “The University of Neptune at (nation’s name omitted due to the distinct likelihood of causing offence).”
Renfield was also the colleague who had supplied Dr. M with the special pills, which helped to make the doctor legible. You see, Renfield, Dr. Morley, Mary and the Photobomb Fairy are Fictional Characters employed by your author. But they all have Free Will, which means that when they have too much fun at Pakistani/Scottish pubs they become as illegible as a prescription written by, say, a hanging doctor, the next day.
“Jen! And Stranger!” Renfield chirruped cheerfully. “You guys gotta get a load of this,” she added tipping her book at the women, then reading aloud: “‘That abominable kin of the devils, abusing of men or women, was called of old, Incubi and Succubi, according to the difference of the sexes that they conversed with…The one, when the Devil only as a spirit, stealing out the sperm of a dead body, abuses them that way…’ Maaan, even back in the day there was zombie love.”
“How interesting, Rennie,” lied Dr. M, for the second time in this fable. “I’m certain that we’d love to hear more about it if this were a social visit.” Then Dr. Morley faltered and looked at the floor, preemptively disbelieving what she had to say next. “This is Mary. Believe it or not she needs your professional opinion on something which lies beyond rationality.”
“Hi there, Mary–How interesting, Jen,” Renfield replied. “Forgive me if I sound confused, but I remember a certain colleague who doesn’t believe in my specialty. By the way, how’s that certain colleague doing, this fine day? Last I saw of her she looked ready for lilies and embalming fluid.”
“I seem to be getting photobombed by an invisible fairy,” Mary said evenly. “Dr. Morley says you are a leading authority on such things.” She then handed her phone to Renfield, and asked Dr. Morley to do the same thing with her own. Between the two of them they explained the situation to Renfield, and how Dr. Morley had thought it best to seek out Renfield after she had captured the phantom on her own phone.
Renfield studied the images and whistled a B-flat, which was the same note whistled by Dr. Morley. Then she glanced up at the two women and arched her right eyebrow. “Another person would ask if this was some sort of gag, but I’d rather find that out myself, since nobody ever goes ‘Yeah, it’s some kind of gag’ when asked. There’s one way I can see if Mary has picked up a fairy or if I need to relocate my foot up both of your buttocks.”
Renfield took a picture of Mary with her own phone and again whistled (F natural). She then plugged her phone into her computer and enlarged the image.
A beautiful green creature with fine wings the color of rainbows appeared on the screen. The longer they looked at her the more like a person the creature became. Although her skin was lush green, her eyes a rich ruby red, and her hair formed from fine silk, her shape was undeniably feminine, and the expression on her tiny face most definitely conveyed human peevement and exasperation.
Renfield fumbled through one of the stacks of books and found one on fairies. She lay it open beside the computer. The wonderful six-hundred year old drawing in the book and the image on the screen were a match.
“Classic Welsh Meadow Fairy,” said Renfield. “By the looks of her, I’d say a four-incher. Possibly the same chick in this book.”
“How come the artist was able to see her and we can’t?” Mary asked, pointing at her shoulder.
“You can see her,” Renfield said. “But only if you concentrate on her long enough. Back in the day people had fewer input distractions. When they weren’t doing something devoted to survival they tended to sit beneath trees in the woods and gazed until they saw Othersiders.”
“It could be some sort of exotic bug,” Dr. M said in a grasping-at-straws sort of way, still not all in with the paranormal viewpoint.
“Still clinging to your calcified science, eh Jen?” Renfield said. “Tell me, Is there some sort of bug that totes a wand, sports a tiara and wears fishnet stockings?”
“Fairies wear fishnet stockings,” Mary asked.
“They do in this town,” said Renfield.
“Cut!!!” I yelled. So far this production had been going along in a fairly inoffensive manner, although I had worries about the Pakistani/Scottish pub bit. But leave it to Renfield to veer from the script.
The actors who played Dr. Morley and Mary saw me spring from the shadows and they scooted away from Renfield as though she were a ticking package that had no return address.
“Goddammit, Renfield,” I bawled because I have never written “I bawled” before, and am not likely ever to get the chance to do so again. “You just had to go and make a crack that you could have gotten away with back in the days between the fall of the Three Stooges and the rise of Jon Stewart, but not anymore. I ask you: Why don’t we make swish jokes? Why don’t we use the limp wrist? Why don’t we try stuff too crass for Bennie Hill? I’ll tell you why, Renfield, we don’t do that sort of thing because my name is attached to this and I’m the one who’ll catch hell from the LGBQT community, that’s why.”
Renfield laughed, shook her head and muttered “Silly, silly civilian.” She then pointed at the text beneath the drawing of the Welsh Meadow Fairy. It said “Shee cometh clothed in finerey, crowen, magick skepter and feesher-net stokkings in certaine climbes and towens.”
I blushed. This little faux pas on my part required an actual apology not like the crafted, insincere apologies I issue from the cover of email. The best way to fall on the sword is to do it as quickly as possible, that way there’s little pain between the fall and the coming of sweet sweet death. Fortunately for me, since I am the author, I do not have to recount my humiliation in great detail. Let’s just say I said sorry with plenty of sugar on top to Renfield, and slinked back to my chair and mumbled “Action.”
Renfield consulted Mary’s phone and became flabbergasted “You didn’t try to live action her? Just stills?”
“Um, no,” Mary said, blushing herself. “I didn’t think to do it.”
“Silly, silly civilian,” Renfield said for the second time in this getting to be awfully goddam long Feeble Fable of the Fantasmagorical. “Considering Jen’s state of mind, I’m not surprised that she didn’t think of it, but you have had three weeks.”
“I’m sorry,” Mary said.
“Don’t get snotty with Mary because of me,” I called out. “Resume, and let’s try to wrap this fucker up before my head implodes.”
Renfield told Mary to sit behind the desk. She then aimed her computer screen at Mary and engaged Zoom. This resulted in the live action of obviously agitated four-inch Welsh Meadow Fairy flitting about on Mary’s shoulder. The little person was creating high-pitched, insectile buzzing sounds–like a mosquito.
“Have you been troubled with that sort of noise in your ear, lately?” Renfield asked.
“Maybe,” Mary replied sullenly.
“Silly, silly civilian,” said Renfield, again. She then stood behind Mary and began speaking to the invisible Fairy on Mary’s shoulder at a rate of speed heard only at meth dens and Smurf conventions. Renfield asked the Fairy to reply slowly and promised to do everything in her power to help her. She also explained that modern day humans have such fried attention spans that it would be best if the Fairy told her tale to the machine across from her.
After all that had been accomplished, the animated little Fairy spoke slowly and directly at the computer screen. With a voice which made a munchkin sound like a baritone in comparison, the Fairy first vented more than a few dark observations regarding Mary and the human race in general before she settled down and became friendlier.
“Mary’s camera captured me by accident. Fairy Law requires that I do something magickally nice for Mary to win my release,” said the Fairy. “Three magickal kindnesses, actually,” the Fairy reluctantly added.
Mary perked up at that. “Three wishes, just like a freaking genie?”
“No, not ‘just like a freaking genie,’” the Fairy said. “No wishes, just kindnesses of my own freaking choosing. Small, magickal stuff, for I’m a small magickian. However, I’ll say that if Fairies did grant wishes, and if I were you, hostess, I would wish for a digestive system less prone to expressing itself in close places, but since I’m neither a wish dispenser nor you, we’ll just have to play by the rules of the game.”
“Wow, didn’t know it was Kick Mary Day,” said Mary.
“Right?” said Renfield. “I swear it comes earlier every year.” She then glanced in Dr. Morley’s direction, broke character and said “Aw hell, Leila, Jen’s gone narco.”
“Shit–cut!” I said. I wandered over from my chair, and sure as moose screw in the springtime, Dr, Morley had gone narco. She was just standing there, snoring away in her heels like a horse.
Although I hadn’t asked her to do it, Renfield explained “narco” to the inexperienced FC actors who played Mary and the Fairy. “Narco happens when our authoress gets too busy juggling people and subsequently forgets about one character for a page or so. You see, Leila is a Pen Name who is only certified to handle a maximum of three characters at once. In that way she’s like a circuit panel which conks out when overloaded. I just knew that either Jen or you, Mary, would have to go narco when Mab here joined the party.”
“Don’t call her Mab, Renfield,” I said. “It’ll go to her head and she’s hell enough as it is.”
I was fiddling away on my tablet, feigning clam, even though there stood a distinct possibility that someone else would go narco if I stayed in the scene too long.
“All right,” I said, pushing enter, thus feeding my characters new lines, “action.”
Then there was a knock at the door. It was Rikkun Aileanach, proprietor of the Pakistani/Scottish pub. He had brought three tankards of “Fairy Ale,” and explained that they had been ordered and paid for online by a mystery person for delivery at that moment. (Since Rikkun had no lines, he didn’t weigh on the circuit breakers.)
Upon Mr. Aileanach’s exit, the Fairy began to rejoice. “That’s three small magick kindnesses, I’m so out of here.”
“Hold up a minute there, sister,” Renfiled said. “How’s this three magick kindnesses?”
“Silly, silly mortal,” said the Fairy, “Fairy Ale changes the nature of reality.” And she winked out leaving many unresolved questions like “What was a Welsh Meadow Fairy doing in an English Beck?” “Does Fairy Ale turn people into Fairies?” “Were you the one Cottingley Fairy who was real?” “Is that a Kate Spade clutch?” and countless others. Sadly, leaving a trail of mystery is just how Fairies roll.
Mary waved one of the tankards under Dr. Morley’s nose, which revived her, and the good doctor immediately, as they say out in the enchanted meadow, had “a wart off the toad that licked her.”
Mary and Renfield studied Dr. Morley as she gulped down her ale. Satisfied that it wouldn’t turn them into Fairies, or perhaps hoping that it eventually would, they joined her.
An Afterword, Plus Various Morals of Declining Quality to Choose From
We have reached the end of the first season of Feeble Fables of the Fantasmagorical. Although it hasn’t been asked for, there will be a season two. Despite their random air dates, these items are produced only between the first day of autumn and last day of spring. The long term Fictional Characters in my employ, such as “Dr.” Renfield, go on vacation in the summertime. Such persons lead much more exhilarating lives than I, their Creator, yet the facts are evenly splayed before me, like corpses pulled from a great disaster.
Cataclysms and unpleasant discoveries are constants in my life. With that in mind there stands a chance that you might understand the following:
Never before in history have “morals” been the perishable things that they are today. It’s sad that each and every concept we had held eternally certain comes with an expiration date, just like that found on a swollen can of stewed tomatoes. Upon completion of this feeble fable, I discovered leftover morals in the pantry. They were busily shedding atoms of Truth and deteriorating so rapidly that there was no chance that they would survive the summer. So I am forced to dispense three morals instead of one, even though not one of them is a perfect fit.
Moral One (Designed for literal-minded Dork Mathematicians) : If a Picture is Worth 1000 words then a Pic Must Have a Rough Value of 429.
Moral Two (This one came about because it’s how I hear an old song by Gerry and the Pacemakers): “Fairies Across New Jersey are Not Alone, But They are Loved. And There They Pay… the Ma-fi-a…”
Moral Three (This was the “safety moral” the thing I would have used if stuck for something even dumber. As vague and catchall as a horoscope, it’s Latin for the saying “What comes round goes round.” My Great to the 4th Grandfather uses it plenty.): “Versatur Circa Quid!”
Here’s hoping that next year’s crop of Morals comes in a little fresher.