(Fantasy author David Dalglish has written a new fairy tale for the fair, based on the lore of wicked water fairy Jenny Greenteeth! I thought it would go nicely after yesterday's mermaid post. Thanks, David!)
by David Dalglish
“No she didn’t,” Nathan said, even though it was a lie. “She just said I had to watch over you, and be here when she got back.”
Katie crossed her arms and remained at the edge of the road. Behind them was the playground, empty but for a few teenagers too old to be interested in playing with them. Up ahead was a long stretch of forest, dark and vast compared to the nicely mowed grass of the playground.
“I’m not going,” she said, hoping Nathan would just drop it.
“You don’t have to,” he said.
“Then you can’t go, either. You have to watch over me, remember?”
Her brother sighed and rolled his eyes. He was a year older than her, but liked to pretend she was a baby compared to his ten years of age. The park was at the edge of town, its road rarely traveled, so he stood in the center and did his best to look angry.
“There’s nothing to do here,” he said.
“We can go play in the sandbox, or the slide…”
More eye rolling.
“Boring,” he said. “Stupid and boring. I hate it.”
Katie tried to hold her ground. Her brother got like this sometimes, but she just had to out-stubborn him, keep trying different tactics.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked. Maybe she could make it sound boring and stupid, like he always did with the things she wanted to do.
Nathan turned to the forest and pointed deep inside.
“There’s a pool,” he said. “We can go swimming.”
Despite her resistance, she couldn’t help but rethink things. She loved swimming…but why would there be a pool in the woods?
“There ain’t a pool out there,” she said, calling his bluff. Nathan flung his arms up, looking so exasperated.
“Is to,” he said. “Jenny told me.”
“Jenny? Who’s Jenny?”
No answer, just a shake of the head and a glance away from her. She recognized that reaction too. He’d started acting more and more awkward, always when he was around girls. Well, girls not named Katie.
“I don’t want to go,” she said, hoping that was final.
“Too bad. I am.”
He put his back to her and crossed the road.
“You’ll get in trouble,” she called out to him.
“I don’t care!”
Panic started swelling in her. She glanced back at the teenagers, who were watching their argument from the monkey bars with faint amusement. She didn’t like being alone at the park, especially if there were no other parents. She swallowed.
“You won’t get back in time,” she shouted, one last shot to stop him.
Nathan turned, and she could see how upset he was.
“I will too,” he said. “We always have time whenever mom wants to see him.”
Him was their mom’s new boyfriend, Curt, and the reason they were alone at the park. Katie tugged on her lower lip, and when Nathan stepped into the woods, she ran after, crying out for him to wait.
“All right,” Nathan said as he led them through the thick oak trees. “If you’re going to come with me, you have to promise not to be a baby.”
“Promise me, Katie.”
Now it was Katie’s turn to roll her eyes.
“Fine. I won’t. What’s the big deal?”
“I…just don’t, okay?”
They trudged along, and slowly Katie realized there was a worn stretch of dirt through the grass and leaves forming a path. Had Jenny showed it to him? Speaking of Jenny…
“When did you meet her?” she asked her brother as she ducked below a low branch.
“You know who. Jenny.”
Nathan shrugged, clearly acting like it was no big deal to him but failing terribly.
“Here a couple times, when you’re at Dad’s.”
He stopped and scanned the ground. Something was wrong, she could sense it.
“What is it?” she asked, trying not to be afraid. Glancing behind, she could still faintly see the path, but they were so deep into the woods she could no longer see the road. A worm of fear crawled in her gut.
“It’s nothing,” he said.
“Are we lost?”
“I said it’s nothing! I can’t seem to…”
He quieted at the hooting of a nearby bird. It was almost like an owl, but higher in tone, and it startled them both. Katie clutched her brother’s arm as her breath caught in her throat. Following the hoot was laughter, high pitched and mocking. From a nearby tree stepped out a girl not much older than Katie, all laughs and smiles.
“You came back,” she said to Nathan, smiling. Katie tried to hide her revulsion. While the girl was pretty, with pale skin, two red pigtails, and vibrant green eyes, her teeth were disgusting. It looked like she’d never heard of a toothbrush in her life. Her clothes were plain but old, like she’d dressed herself with whatever she could get from a church charity drive. In her left hand she held a long stick, the bark stripped clean.
“I said I would,” Nathan said, pushing Katie off him. Immediately Katie felt a spark of anger burst in her belly.
“You shouldn’t scare people,” she said, not caring that Nathan glared at her for the interruption.
“Sure I do,” the girl said. “That’s why they call me naughty Jenny.”
Another smile, thankfully with her mouth closed. It made her look so much prettier. Katie crossed her arms and pouted, more so when her brother abandoned her side to get closer to Jenny. He was starting to do that more often too, paying attention to other girls more than her. It had something to do with getting older, she knew, something her mom promised to talk about with her one day.
“We wanted to come swim,” Nathan told Jenny. At this Jenny let out a clap.
“Good! I get so bored swimming alone. Come on, Nate.”
“Nate?” Katie asked as Jenny rushed deeper into the forest. She thought she was the only one who called her brother that. Nathan blushed and refused to answer her question, instead hurrying after Jenny.
Whatever path they’d followed, it steadily vanished the further into the forest they went. Katie found herself jumping at the calls of birds and the rustle of leaves from the wind. Something about the forest felt ancient to her somehow. Mom had told them to never play in the forest, and almost told her brother so. She stopped, realizing it wouldn’t matter. He knew he was disobeying. He didn’t care.
“So where do you live, Jenny?” Katie asked, trying to stop thinking about silly stuff like old woods.
Jenny glanced back at her, a twinkle in her green eyes.
“Out here,” she said. “My parents own a cabin.”
Her attention returned to Nathan, and the two took turns laughing as they talked about school. Katie felt herself drifting further away from them. She’d thought Jenny as old as her, but when she had turned around, Katie realized she was her brother’s age, if not older. That must be why she got along so much better with him, and had no interest in her. Right?
“Wait up!” she called out to them, realizing she was dawdling too far back. As she hurried, she heard a buzzing, and realized they’d passed beneath a nest of wasps. Her pulse tripled, and she sprinted faster, barreling through the brush like some clumsy animal. When she reached Jenny and Nathan, the two were holding hands. Nathan glanced her way, and she could see hesitation in his eyes, and questions, but he said nothing, and did not withdraw his hand.
“Sorry,” Katie said, even though she wasn’t quite sure what she was sorry for. Jenny continued talking right over her, as if not hearing. It made Katie feel like a third wheel. Trying not to pout, she caught her breath when she saw a wasp clinging to the back of Jenny’s shirt. Her eyes widened, and she had no idea what to do.
“Jenny,” she said, but not loud enough to get her attention. “Jenny!”
The girl looked back at her, the contempt in her eyes thoroughly humiliating. A teenager, Katie realized. Jenny was a teenager, and how she must look down at her, see her as a baby like her brother did. But even teenagers could get stung by a red wasp.
“There…there’s a wasp,” she said, pointing. It continued crawling higher, reaching the pale skin of Jenny’s neck. When Jenny turned, Nathan saw it too, and he jolted out of reflex. Jenny lifted an eyebrow, confused, and then she moved a hand so her fingers were in the wasp’s path. It crawled onto them as both watched in horror. Then she flung the wasp into the air and smacked it with the stick she carried. It made a dull thwap, then fell to the ground, dead.
“Come on,” Jenny told them, beckoning further into the woods. “We’re almost there.”
Katie didn’t know what she’d expected to find when her brother said there was a pool, but what she found was not it. It was really a pond, although more beautiful than any of the cow ponds she’d seen on the nearby farms. Stones ringed the outer edges, and between their cracks grew flowers of all colors. The water itself was clear and blue, with not a hint of moss or sludge. Katie’s first instinct on seeing it was to go diving in, clothes and all, and wash away the muggy sweat of summer heat clinging to her skin.
“I believed you,” Nathan said, pulling off his shoes and setting them atop a rock. Katie started to do the same as nervousness bubbled up anew in her mind. Mom would know they’d been swimming. It wasn’t like they had any towels to dry off. It didn’t matter how fast they hurried back, the second she dipped a toe in that pool of water, they’d be in trouble…
That final thought sparked something in her, and she looked closer at the water. It wasn’t quite so blue. That had been a reflection of the sky. She saw dirt now, and a hint of green as the pond shimmered.
As Nathan pulled off his shirt, exposing his scrawny pale chest, Jenny stepped into the pond. At first Katie thought she’d not taken her shoes off, then realized that Jenny had been walking barefoot the whole time. Why had she not noticed that before? Further into the water Jenny went, not bothering to remove any of her ratty clothes. Deeper and deeper in, then turning to stare back. The water was up to her neck, and she dipped her face below to hide her smile.
“Nate, we should go,” Katie said.
“What?” Nathan asked. “We just got here. We should swim.”
Something about his voice upset her. It wasn’t angry, or embarrassed. It sounded…sleepy.
“Nate,” she said. “Please, let’s go, I just want to go…”
He whirled on her, and for a fleeting moment it was her brother, angry, annoyed, and embarrassed. He didn’t say anything, just glared. Katie didn’t know what to say. She wanted to latch onto him, pulling him away from that damn water. Tears wet her eyes, though she could not explain why she was so afraid. But the rational part of her told her she was overreacting, just being a stupid child. His cold glare held her frozen.
“You coming?” Jenny asked. “I don’t want to swim alone.”
Both looked to her, just a head bobbing out of the water. Drops trickled down her red bangs, and she rubbed them away from her eyes. Katie stared at them as Nathan stepped into the pond. The water across Jenny’s face was the same color as her hair, a deep red. It smeared when she brushed them away, as if it were dye. Or blood.
Further and further into the pond went her brother, and Katie could only watch, a lump in her throat. Jenny paid her no attention, her eyes locked on Nathan, a smile on her lips. She looked older now, and smaller.
The water went up to Nathan’s chest. It was slimy, she saw, leaving muddy waves upon her brother’s pale chest. Jenny’s smile spread wide enough to reveal her teeth. They were worse than before, hideous green things with bits of black, like moss, stuck between them. A hand reached out for Nathan. Jenny continued to change.
“Stop it!” Katie screamed.
The thing in the pond held her brother mesmerized with her blood red eyes. Katie picked up one of the rocks beside her and threw it. It struck Nate in the back of his right shoulder, and whatever spell was upon him broke, and he saw the tiny, wrinkled fairy bobbing in the water, wrapping her hands about his neck and digging her yellow fingernails deep into his flesh. He tried to turn, but then those green teeth sunk into his cheek, and down below the water they went.
“Nate!” Katie screamed over and over again. “Nate, Nate!”
The circle of stones surrounding the pond shimmered red, and though sunlight streamed through the trees, it suddenly seemed very dark, the land ancient. Bubbles pushed through the murk and slime atop the pond, swelling larger and larger until they popped. A hand emerged, followed by a naked woman, young and beautiful.
“Don’t you want to come for a swim, Katie?” Jenny asked, blood from her lips dribbling down her neck and between her small breasts. Her hand reached, out beckoning. Her red eyes locked on hers, and as Katie’s legs began walking of their own accord, she heard, as if from a distant world, the screams of her brother.
“You killed him,” she whispered as the pond water surrounded her with every step.
“I know,” said the strange fairy, all smiles. “Naughty Jenny, so naughty…”
Now her hands were about her head, tiny and soft like those of a child. Her mouth was close, and down below the water they went as Jenny pressed her green teeth against her neck, like a kiss.
Thanks for the great story, David!
Giveaway! One randomly selected comment on this post wins an ebook of David's newest book, Blood of the Underworld.
This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (Eastern) tomorrow. Ebook giveaway is international.
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