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Lazare peered through the second story window. He was perched on the fire escape and would’ve been visible to any passersby, except for the spell he’d cast to make himself dim. He was invisible to the human eye— that is as long as no one looked in his direction for too long. If they did, a creature obviously not of their world would seem to appear out of thin air. The troll shifted his feet uncomfortably on the steel grate. His long toe nails clicked loudly and he flinched. The troll’s bumpy skin was a deep shade of purple, with orange circles around his wide set violet eyes. His eyes were large— twice as large as any humans’— with long lashes. Lazare’s lips were thick, and when he smiled his mouth opened to reveal 32 ragged teeth; an ordinary number for a human. But his were huge and pointed. At his full height he was only four feet tall, and had powerful arms, and equally powerful stubby legs. He stared through the window at Glenda. As if she felt his gaze she stirred restlessly in his sleep. The girl was fourteen with chocolate colored skin and full lips. Her thick kinky hair was braided and spread out now against her pillow. In the bedroom next to hers,' Henry Jr. slept. Today was his 12th birthday and his mother, Carlotta, had scrapped together enough money to make him a yellow cake. Henry had also received a card with $10.00 inside. Henry Jr. had been very disappointed; he’d wanted a video game. Carlotta worked at a dry-cleaners and the childrens' father, James, in another city as a mechanic. Although their parents no longer lived together, James sent money each month. But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. The tiny, three bedroom apartment was expensive. Then there was the electricity bill, the telephone, food, clothing… Lazare surveyed the streets below. Except for the cars moving up and down the street it was deserted. Good. He clamored down the fire escape, surprisingly fast for his girth and scurried up the street, turning into the first alleyway on his right. The alley was filled with homeless men and women who had bedded down for the night, under blankets and makeshift shelters made of cardboard. Some were too mentally ill to notice he was different, but he was still careful to time his excursions after they fell asleep.
The troll climbed inside his own shelter and pulled his dirty blankets around him. Faery but it’s cold! I can’t wait ‘til I’m finished here!
At the clanging of the bell, announcing the end of the school day and the weekend, youngsters poured through the doors of Frederick Douglas Middle School. Children quickly partnered up into groups, while some took solitary routes home, to the playground or other more mysterious — and sometimes forbidden— destinations. Henry was a foot shorter than his sister but had the same dark brown skin, his kinky hair cut close to his small head. He headed west: Glenda dogging his heels. Both were heavily bundled against the cold in worn coats and gloves. After a half block, he turned and confronted his sister. “Quit following me!” he snarled. Glenda’s rosebud mouth thinned into an angry line. “I ain’t following you! I’m going home!” “Home is that way!” Henry pointed east. Glenda’s face softened. “Henry, you know Mama told you to stop hanging out with the Scorpions,” there was plea in her voice now. “So what!” her brother countered. You gonna tell her?” Glenda hugged her books close to her chest. “Two of those boys already went to juvenile for stealing a car. Why do you want to be friends with them anyway?” Henry sighed tiredly, for a moment looking much older than his twelve years. “Look I’m small for my age. I’m tired of getting jumped on at school. If I join the Scorpions I ain’t got to worry about that no more Plus which I’ll have some money in my pocket… Maybe I can buy some new clothes for me and you Lynn, and some other stuff besides.” Glenda twisted her mouth and looked disgusted. “Uh-huh; and where is all this money supposed to come from? Next you’ll be on your way upstate for stealing! And why didn’t you tell me you were getting picked on at school? I can take up for you, just like I used to when we were little!” Henry shook his head. “Just what I need— my sister helping me fight! Oh yeah, that’ll definitely get me the rep I need!”
At that moment, three boys came abreast of the siblings and quickly surrounded them. All were heavier and taller than Henry. One, a ginger colored youth of fifteen, who been held back in the 8th grade twice, sneered at the smaller boy. “What’s up?” Henry looked nervous. “How you doing Leroy?” Leroy looked Glenda over, as if seeing her for the first time. “Who’s the skezz? She supposed to be your protection?” His friends laughed raucously. “She’s my sister,” Henry answered with gimleted eyes. “What you want?” Leroy’s nasty smile vanished. “What you got?” “Leave us alone!” Glenda shouted. “Come on Henry, let’s go! You ain't got to talk to them!” “Come on Henry!” the dark boy to Henry’s right mimicked in falsetto. He shoved Henry hard. Henry stumbled into Leroy, dropping his books. “Get off me man!” Leroy yelled smirking. He pushed Henry into the third boy: a hulking red-brown youngster. “Man what’s wrong with you?” the reddish-brown youth propelled Henry back to Leroy. “Stop it!” Glenda dropped her books and balled up her fists … then pulled up short. No one but she saw the creature fluttering beside Leroy’s ear. It was two inches long, with sepia skin, close-cropped, curly hair and pointed ears. She was clothed in a purple daffodil, with two golden antennas. Diaphanous wings protruded from her back. In the blink of an eye she took hold of Leroy’s left ear in her tiny hands and bit it – hard. Leroy howled and batted his ear— the faery dodged his groping hand with lightening speed. He turned his head, searching for source of his pain. “What the – ?!” A wide eyed Glenda and Henry drew closer together…
Now three more faeries joined the fray: one with onyx skin, clothed in red rose petals; another dressed in white lilies, her complexion the color of brown sugar; and a third coconut colored faery wearing peach fuzz. They zoomed over the heads of Henry’s goggle-eyed tormentors like enraged mosquitoes, biting and clawing. “What are they—?” “Ow—!” The reddish brown boy cried, as one creature sank her sharp little teeth into his nose. They took off howling up the street, pursued by the creatures. “Come on!” Glenda shouted. “Let’s get out of here before they come back!” They raced east towards their brownstone. “What— are— those— things?” Henry gasped as they ran. Glenda shook her head. “Don’t— know!” As they rounded the corner he appeared: a monster with purple skin, long powerful arms, and pointed ears. They screamed. “Hush up!” Lazare hissed. Henry and Glenda clutched each other and screamed even louder. The creature vanished. Reluctantly, they released one another. The creature was gone. Only their neighbors remained, standing about or sitting on their porch stoops: staring at the youngsters as if the two had lost their minds. With trembling fingers Glenda took the key hanging round her neck and opened the door of their apartment.
Lazare reappeared in his shelter, huffing and puffing from the effort. My magic is weak in this world! It had been hard enough to glaze Glenda’s and Henry’s neighbors’ eyes over so they wouldn’t see him. But he couldn’t be expected to keep the children quiet as well. I’m lucky only they saw me! Another moment and Isis would’ve have had my hide!
The troll shook his head in frustration and pulled a box of moldy chocolates from beneath his blankets. The sweets would replenish his magic— besides filling his gut— but he couldn’t go back. Not without the children. The moon will be high ‘fore my sorcery returns, Lazare grinned, but no matter. I know where they live.
Glenda and Henry sat at their kitchen table. “We gotta tell Mama,” gasped Henry he was still out of breath from running. Carlotta was still at work and wouldn’t arrive until 5:30 PM. The dark girl shook her head. “Uh-uh... it’ll worry her.” Henry screwed his face up incredulously. “You for real? What if that thing comes back?” Glenda stood reached into the cabinet and pulled out a jar of peanut butter. She opened a loaf of bread, took a knife and two plates and began making sandwiches for their afternoon snack. “Fine,” she said. “You tell her.” “Lynn— ! You ain’t gonna back me up?” Glenda put the knife down and locked eyes with her brother. “Nope. Mama’s got enough on her mind trying to take care of us.” She took two glasses opened the refrigerator and poured milk into each glass. “Besides it’s probably just some dope head dressed up in a costume.” “It looked real to me!” Henry replied stubbornly. It looked like a… a troll! Yep that’s exactly what it looked like!” Glenda placed Henry’s milk and sandwich before him. “Well there you have it,” she said reasonably. “There’s no such thing as trolls!” “Yeah… what about those other… flying things?” Henry persisted. “Those weren’t folks dressed up in costumes!” Glenda sat down at the table, and gazed at her brother earnestly. “OK you’re right, but let’s not tell Mama yet. I don’t wanna bother her. Let’s think about it first— ”
“Our books!” Henry exclaimed. “We left our books!” Glenda hit the table in frustration. “Dang!” At that moment there was a rapping at their door— like a barrage of pebbles hitting the wood at once. The children locked eyes. “Don’t open it Lynn!” Henry hissed. Together they crept into the living room… Their school books were stacked neatly on the coffee table.
When Carlotta’s key turned in the lock, they both jumped off the couch and hugged her. “Well, I’m glad to see you too!” Carlotta exclaimed. She was an older version of Glenda: with the same cocoa shaded skin and nappy hair that she’d kept in a short Afro. Let me just rest a moment and I’ll start dinner…” All at once Carlotta furrowed her brow quizzically. “Is everything alright?” She looked from Glenda to Henry. Glenda cut her eyes at her brother. “Yes ma'am.” “You sure?” Carlotta studied her childrens' faces. “Because, you know you can talk to me about anything.” “Everything’s fine… right Henry?” “Yeah…” he mumbled. “I’ll fix dinner Mommy,” Glenda offered, “you rest. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” Carlotta’s face melted in a smile: her teeth flashing against her dark face. “How could I say no to an offer like that?” She hugged them both and went upstairs to take a nap.
When bedtime came, Henry insisted on sleeping the floor next to Glenda's bed. “Alright now that’s it! First you tackle me when I first come through the door and now this! What’s going on?” Carlotta demanded.
Glenda averted her eyes. “We’ve been having nightmares.” “Both of you?” “Naw that ain’t it!” Henry blurted. “Henry— !” Ignoring his sister he poured out the story of their otherworldly afternoon. “… And he looked just like one of them trolls in the fairytales you used to read us.” Henry finished. For a long moment, Carlotta was silent. “Your sister’s right. More than likely it was a drug addict or some other nut dressed up to look like a troll.” “But what about the other ones Mama?” Glenda interrupted. Now that the truth was out she wanted an answer— one that made sense. “The things that looked like um… fairies?” Carlotta’s eyes twinkled. The hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “I prefer the word faery, when they’re creatures of color.” Her children stared at her open mouthed. How had their mother come by such knowledge? “It doesn’t seem like they did you any harm.” Carlotta went on. “Seems like they did you a good turn. But since we know faeries don’t exist, they must’ve been dragonflies.” Henry and Glenda both shook their heads emphatically. “Uh-uh Mama! They definitely weren’t dragonflies!” Henry disagreed. Carlotta held up one slender hand. “Never mind about them. From now on I’m picking you up after school.” “What about your job?” cried Glenda. “Your safety is more important to me than any job,” Carlotta replied firmly. “I should be at home with you more anyway. I’m not letting the streets raise my children.” “But if you cut your hours won’t that mean less money for us… ?” asked Henry, thinking of how tight money was already. Yeah but if she picks me up, I don’t have to worry about getting beat up after school. Carlotta rose. “Let me worry about that.” “Can I still sleep in here with you?” asked Henry. “Me too mama,” said Glenda. “we could sleep on the floor...”
“Sure baby,” Carlotta waited in until her children had arranged a pallet on her bedroom floor; and then kissed them both on the check. “Love ya’ll… goodnight.” She pulled the door shut. “Did you see the way Mama looked, when she told us about the fai— I mean faeries? She was actually smiling!” Henry whispered excitedly. “Yeah, that was really weird… You think something like this happened to her?” Glenda breathed. “Nah… she’d of told us.” But he didn’t sound convinced. “You know Henry, maybe it was good that monster showing up like he did. Now you don’t have to worry about those boys bothering you anymore.” “That takes care of after school, but what about during? “You should tell Mama about that too; or the principal.” “I ain’t snitching like some little punk!” Henry said petulantly. “Protecting yourself doesn’t make you a punk!” Glenda shot back. “Not wanting to fight doesn’t make you one either! You’re smart, and smart people fight with their brains— not their fists!” Henry adjusted his pallet on the floor, his small face thoughtful. At the stroke of midnight, the closet door swung open. Bright moonlight streamed across the floor. Lazare’s squat body was silhouetted in the portal. Tiny, iridescent bodies danced on each of his broad shoulders. “Do her first,” the troll whispered, pointing to the sleeping form of Carlotta. Two faeries flew from Lazare to the sleeping woman: one the color of tofu, and clothed in violets; the other midnight shaded, wearing white roses. Together they sprinkled golden dust over Carlotta’s face. As it settled the dust twinkled across the dark room. “Not too much, eh! You don’t want to put her in a coma! Then we’ll have to a fetch a prince to wake her up.” The faeries giggled: their laughter like the sound of tiny bells. “Now do those other two but just enough so they can go across.” The faeries split up: one took Henry, the other Glenda.
They soared back through the doorway.“Don’t be long!” their squeaky voices sang in unison. Stepping around Henry, Lazare timidly shook Glenda. “Wake up child…” Glenda opened her eyes… the first thing she saw was Lazare’s orange ringed eyes. She opened her mouth to scream and he clapped his big hand over her mouth. “None of that now! I’m not going to harm ye! I’ll take my hand away but no caterwauling. Fair? Nod if ye agree.” Glenda nodded yes. Lazare lifted his hand, and Glenda had time to let out a yelp, before he put his hand back up again. Lazare wiggled his purple brows in frustration, “Come on child, ye must cooperate! We’re taking a trip and we only have so much time fore ye Mum wakes!” At this, Glenda glanced over at the sleeping Carlotta. No wonder Mama can sleep through this! He drugged her! She snatched Lazare’s hand down— more angry now than afraid. “I’m not going anywhere with you! You’re a troll and everybody knows trolls eat children!” Lazare looked amazed “Who’s been filling ye head with such nonsense? Trolls love children!” “Yeah to eat!” On the floor beside them, Henry stirred in his slumber. “That’s not true child! I love to play with children— I’ve been playing with such as ye for 300 years.” Glenda gawked at him. “You’re 300 years old?” “Aye,” Lazare grinned proudly, “and I don’t think I look a day over 200, if I do say so meself.” At this Glenda took a good look at the troll. His violet eyes were honest almost innocent and she felt no danger from him: only calm and sweetness. Now she spied the open portal over his shoulder… Beyond it was a moonlit sky, with blossoming trees. It looks wonderful! She pointed to the doorway. “Is that where we’re going?”
“Why of course child! Where else? Not wake ye brother for me.” Glenda swung her legs to the floor, kneeled beside her brother and shook him. “Henry! Henry wake up!” “Wha…” Henry murmured sleepily. He opened his eyes saw Lazarus and came full awake: clutching his sister. “It’s him, he’s back— !” “It’s Okay Henry, he won’t hurt us!” “You crazy?! Look at him!” By now he scooted against the wall, and was tugging at his sister’s arm. “I’m very handsome for a troll,” Lazare said indignantly. “Why in my village I’ll have ye know, child I always have a dance partner for the fair.” Glenda giggled. “You see? I told ya! Come on!” She pulled him to his feet. They followed Lazare through the door…
The children crossed over and stepped on to a cobbled path, bordered on either side by trees of flowering tulips, roses, orchids and daffodils. As they walked past the trees whispered: “Welcome little ones…” and Henry and Glenda’s faces stretched in goofy half-smiles. Lazare led them to a beach with golden sands and an indigo ocean. Above three moons shined down upon rippling waves. A dark body broke the surface of the sea— they caught a glimpse of a dark female body, braided hair and a spotted green tail before she plunged back into the water. “Oh— a mermaid!” cried Glenda. She and Henry clapped their hands in delight. As they watched more mermen and women leaped out of the water headed skyward and dived back down. At that moment a centaur galloped down the beach toward them: his hair hung in dreds about his shoulder. His upper body was light brown and muscular, his lower body ending in the mahogany colored hindquarters of a horse. “Jules!” Lazare greeted him with a smile. “Come to join the fun?”
“Aye!” the centaur grinned back. “Who wants to ride first?” his voice was a melodious baritone. “Me!” said Henry. “Me first!” Glenda echoed. “The lass shall be the first to ride,” Jules said. He lowered his body so that Glenda could mount his back, as Henry looked on wistfully. But at that moment, five more centaurs clopped toward them— centaurs ranging in color from butter yellow to the darkest of midnight. Henry climbed on to the back of a fair colored female centaur, Lazare on to another and they raced... At length, the troll led them back into the forest, to a mushroom table with three toadstool chairs. Lazare sat down with them and four faeries brought over a plate of the tiniest, most delicious cookies Glenda and Henry had ever tasted; along with a fruity, green liquid in tulip shaped cups. “Faery juice,” Lazare said with a wink. No sooner then they’d finished eating, a murmur began throughout the trees: “Isis… Isis…Isis…” And she appeared before them: a tall woman with brown sugar skin, close cropped hair, pointed ears and slanted eyes. She was dressed in a green jerkin and trousers made from leaves. Lazare stood and inclined his head: “My queen…” Queen Isis put a slender hand on his shoulder: “Lieutenant Lazare, you have done well!” Lazare grinned broadly. The children gazed at her: speechless. Except for her ears and skin tone she was their mother’s twin! Isis greeted them: “Princess Glenda… Prince Henry…” she shook their hands. Prince? Princess?
“Oh yes,” said Isis as if she could read their thoughts, “you have stout hearts and brave souls too! You will be great leaders in your world. And so it falls to all of faeryland to watch over you and keep you safe.” “Lieutenant Jueles, their gifts please.” Jueles appeared and handed Glenda and Henry each a volume of Black history, and another book with blank pages. The covers of the blank books were inscribed with the words: “Write your own story.” “Thank you Queen Isis,” breathed Henry. “Yes, thank you, my Queen,” said Glenda. “My pleasure... and now it’s time for you to go. “No!” “Not, so soon!” “But you must!” said Isis. “Your mother,” at this the corners of the queen's lips twitched in smile, “will awake soon. And it would not do to have you missing.” “Can we come back?” asked Glenda “Please?” Henry pleaded. “Of course!” Isis smiled. “I’m looking forward to it…”
Valjeanne Jeffers is a poet, writer and the author of the Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies including Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction and Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology. This story has been published in LuneWing Anthology 2010 and Genesis Science Fiction Magazine Issue #1 http://www.myebook.com/GenesisScienceFictionMagazine/ Copyright Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson 2011
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