Deep breath, and exhale. Welcome to day five of my five-day Flash Fiction week. The last item on Chuck Wendig’s list of settings is a Fairy Tale Forest. Of course, it’s Friday again, which means he has another challenge up. Because he’s a sick twisted bastard that way.
No, you needn’t write fiction in which you lie to yourself, but you must write fiction in which the characters lie to one another. The deception is the thing, you see? Every story thrives on conflict same as yeast thrives on sugar and bears thrive on honey (provided it was first stuffed in the chest cavity of a fleeing park ranger). Your task today is to make the core conflict of the story based upon or orbiting around a terrible lie.
Alright. Fairy Tale Forest. A lie that drives the story. Let’s journey Among the Trees.
Among the Trees
“Hurry up!” The trees were grown denser and taller. Their shadows were longer here, and blended together to throw the leaf littered ground into a perpetual twilight. At spots sunlight still held sway, piercing the canopy with laser-like beams of brilliance. It was in one of these that Daniel stood, beckoning Paulette deeper. She panted as she fought to keep up. She wasn’t out of shape, but she’d never seen Daniel move so fast.
“Where are we going?”
“I found the fairies.”
Paulette stopped. She should have stopped long earlier, when a nature trail hike had become a chase through the trees. The path was long lost behind them now. Here branches and roots littered the ground, hidden beneath the leaf fall. The smells were different here. The autumn freshness here smelled for what it was. Decay.
“You’re mad.” She stepped closer to him, but he slid out of the sunbeam and back into the shade of the trees. “Fairies. Fallen angels, not evil enough for hell?”
He was cutting deeper into the woods, but this stopped him. “Excuse me?”
“You haven’t heard that one? Or did you find the banshee?”
“You know. Fairies. Little sprites dancing around on sunbeams. They’re not at all evil.” There was something in his voice, something hurt.
Paulette caught up with him and gave him a half hug. “Oh come on. Let’s go see your fairies. Just, not so fast.” She took a tight hold of his hand and gave it a squeeze. This brought the smile back to his face, and they were again off through the trees.
This whisper of a steam led them on, and she laughed as they bounded from shore to a large rock then the far shore. Paulette looked around at the trees, trying to learn their faces as they went. As she looked back she tried to pick out the path they’d taken, but couldn’t recognize trees she was certain they passed just a few moments earlier.
“Are you sure you know the way back out.”
“That’s nothing you need to worry about.” He squeezed her hand, let go, then bounded off among the trees again.
She hurried after him as fast as she could. Branches snagged at her, no matter what clearance she gave them, and the roots became thicker under he feet. Daniel was just ahead, she could hear him calling her onward, see the occasional flash of his shirt or his hair among the trees. “Slow down!” Her shouts were only answered with his laugh, which bounced through the trees. She was about to give up and stop when she saw a clearing ahead. Light poured in from a large hole in the canopy, so bright her eyes had to adjust.
In the forest it was early autumn, the leaves changing and just starting to fall. Here it was spring. A soft cool breeze set her hair to dancing around her head, and filled her nose with the sweet smell of lavender. Grass grew here in thick blades that tickled her ankles as she stepped out of the trees. Tulips and daffodils bloomed, and the trees themselves surrounding the opening were green and lush. Everything here reminded her of childhood dreams, the idea that if she went just a little off the beaten trail she might find magic. The sort of ideas that growing up meant abandoning.
And then she saw Daniel. Not the man she knew, but saw him for what he was. His hair was blonder, his skin paler, and he just shone. “Do you like it?”
“I love it.”
“Still think fairies are evil?”
“I’m so sorry I said that. I thought you were kidding around. I never expected.”
“It’s alright. People have a hard time believing in us. Understanding us.” He strode through the opening with bare feet. “We were tricked, lured out of heaven during the schism. We weren’t let back in, so we were left here on earth. That doesn’t make us evil. That just makes us lost.”
“How horrible.” She pulled kicked off her own shoes and felt the grass between her feet. It felt good.
“We’ve had time to adjust.” He sat in the grass, and she sat beside him, looking up at the sun and listening to birds singing overhead.
“Don’t you want to go back?”
“This is our home now. And it’s really not so bad. After all, it has you, doesn’t it?”
She felt the blood warm her cheeks. She lay back in the grass, letting it engulf her.
“Some of the others, they’ve tried to find ways. Thinking if they were just good enough, maybe they could get back in.”
“No.” He propped himself up on an elbow. “They don’t realize, we can never again be good enough for heaven. It’s not for us. Not the way it’s run. But I think I’ve found a way. It’s why I wanted you to be here, wanted you to be part of this.”
He kissed her softly. She swam in that moment, until she felt the sharp pain in her gut. She screamed and pulled away from him. “You said…”
“We’re not evil. That’s the problem.”
She coughed up blood. Tried to get to her feet, but couldn’t.
“We’ll never be good enough for heaven. They don’t realize that. But that doesn’t mean we can never be evil enough for hell.”
Her vision darkened as he stood over her. “Now, maybe, I can get out of this purgatory.” She tried to damn him with a last breath, but it was too late. He’d already damned himself.