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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Horror/Scary · #2177896
A scary horror story about a leprechaun and a girl. Audience: kids.
The Leprechaun's Rainbow

I first law the leprechaun on the morning of March 17th. St. Patrick’s Day. Just a little over a week after we moved into our new house in Harald Falls, Minnesota. I was eight.

“Naomi, not so far from the house!” my mother called out.

“I’m still in the backyard,” I replied.

I plucked a clover from the ground and held it up close to my eyes for scrutiny. One, two, three, I counted. Three leaves. Ugh, I groaned, and discarded it into the patch of similar clovers that formed a green pool around my boots.

My mother’s voice floated out to me from inside our house. “If I can’t see you from the kitchen window, you’re too far.”

Rolling my eyes, I slouched out from the small thicket of woods that fringed our backyard. Our new house might not have been anything to look at, but I loved our new backyard. It was so big and had so many new places to explore. I dragged my feet until I was within sight of the kitchen window, where my mother stood like a portrait in a picture frame. A portrait of a skeleton, I thought. She looked really exhausted.

“Come on,” I whined. “I haven’t been able to explore since we moved here. I want to see what’s in the woods.”

“You know I can’t leave your father right now,” mom replied wearily. “He’s not feeling well again.”

“You mean he’s drunk again,” I muttered underneath my breath, my voice pitched low, so that my mother couldn’t hear.

“You’re not to go in the woods. Do you understand? I don’t want you wandering off too far by yourself,” mom said. She hadn’t heard my last remark.

“But I’m not by myself,” I argued. “Barry’s with me.”

As if on cue, Barry barked with excitement.

Barry was my best and closest friend. The only one to follow us on the move from our old house in the city to our new house out here, in the middle of nowhere. Barry is our family’s Scottish Terrier. Scottish Terror, mom jokingly calls him. He’s always getting into the trash or something.

“I thought you were getting my dinner. How long are you gonna keep me waiting?” dad’s voice rang out, harsh and slurred. A tone that we’ve all grown familiar to in the past few months. “Ugh, my head. Honey? Honey!”

Mom sighed heavily. I could see the exasperation on her face, which was masked with a net of fine wrinkles that I hadn’t noticed before the move. Her frizzled black hair hung listlessly over her left shoulder like a wet dishrag hanging across the front of a stove.

“Just stay in the yard, both of you,” mom pleaded helplessly. “Please.”

“Pinky promise,” I said, holding up one of my pinkies to illustrate my sincerity.

She smiled, but it wasn’t a good one. Then, she stepped out of the window frame.

“Come on, Barry,” I said, wandering back to the patch of clovers in the woods. My boots making squishing sounds in the wet grass. Above, the sky loomed overcast and dark. It had rained all morning. The drizzle had just finally stopped. “I know there’s a four-leaf clover in here somewhere.”

Barry bit down on one of my pant legs, trying to pull me back towards the lawn, whining.

“I’m not going all the way in,” I said. “Just a little.

I knew that I shouldn’t disobey my mom and go back into the woods, but that’s where the clovers were. Dozens of them. Hundreds! Maybe even a four-leaf one. A four-leaf clover means good luck, and right now, our family could use all of the good luck that we could get.

You see, it never used to be like this. My mom used to be so happy back in the city, and dad never drank. But that was back when dad worked at the public-school building, before he had been fired. Mom would say laid off, but I know that’s not what really happened. With dad out of work, mom couldn’t make enough at the cashiering job that she was forced to take to make the house payments. I’m not really sure what happened afterward, just that the bank came by one day and foreclosed on us, and we weren’t allowed to step foot inside of our house anymore. So, we packed up our belongings and moved out here, were houses could be bought cheap. I can’t imagine why, mom had cracked sarcastically when she had first laid eyes on the gross one-story house that we would now be living in. Neither could I.

I squatted down until the tops of my rubber knee-high rain boots touched my chin and resumed the tedious task of searching through all of the clovers, counting the number of leaves on each. The hood of my yellow raincoat cupped over my head.

“Are you finding anything over there?” I asked Barry, who was sniffing around in the corner of the patch that I had entrusted to him. He hadn’t.

“One, two, three,” I counted, tossing the unlucky clover behind my left shoulder, picking a fresh one. “One, two, three.” Toss, pick. “One, two, three-”

“Four.”

Huh, I said aloud, glancing up.

I would have been startled and probably would have ran if the voice that spoke to me wasn’t so pleasant. It sounded like a child’s voice, yet when I looked up, the face that stared back at me was old, crinkly, and red bearded.

Quickly, I rose, standing, and was astonished to find that the man before me wasn’t much taller than myself. In fact, he stood a few inches shorter. At first, I thought that he must have been kneeling or even sitting on the ground, but when I looked down, I observed that his shoes were standing flat among the clovers. What strange shoes, I remember thinking.

After my brain registered the initial shock, I fully took in the strange man’s appearance. Strange was right! His shoes had pointed tips and were green with golden brass buckles. His hat was green too and also pointed. It reminded me of an elves hat. The kind that I put on Scotty every year at Christmas. He always takes them off and chews them to pieces. The man’s coat and pants – clover green, like the rest of his costume – looked like something from one of my made-up fairy tale books. Of course, I thought with glee, that’s where I recognized him from! I could tell at once that the man standing before me was a leprechaun. If I had been thirteen, I wouldn’t have believed my very eyes. But I wasn’t thirteen. I was just an eight-year-old kid.

“Please, do not run away,” he said. His voice high-pitched and infantile, like the voice of SpongeBob in the cartoons, but with a heavy accent. “I believe you are looking for this.” The leprechaun extended his right arm out towards me. In his white-gloved hand, he held a clover. I could count four leaves on it.

“Oh, wow, thanks!” I said, snatching the clover in my hands. I noticed the white frills of lace around the leprechaun’s wrists.

“Anything for a friend,” the leprechaun replied, and then giggled, clapping his hands together.

“Where did you find it?” I asked.

Beaming widely, the leprechaun pointed to brim of his hat. “A real leprechaun always keeps a four-leaf clover in the brim of his hat for good luck.”

“Are you a real leprechaun?” I asked with astonishment.

The little man offered a low bow, kneeling down on one knee, the tip of his hat almost sweeping the grass as he did so. “As I kneel, I am a leprechaun, true and real. As true to my fame, I go by many a name. But you may call me Charlie, if you so wish.”

Barry growled menacingly.

“Barry, where are your manners?” I scolded. Then, to the leprechaun, I introduced myself. “I’m Naomi,” I said, “and this is Barry.” I pointed beside me to Barry, who still paced warily back and forth, his neck fur bristling.

“Pleased to meet you both,” replied the Charlie the leprechaun, removing his hat and tipping it.

“Are four-leaf clovers really good luck? That’s what my story book says,” I asked shyly, holding the clover to my chest.

“Do not disbelief. With one of those in your possession, you’ll find that your luck may take on a new leaf,” said Charlie. “My gift to you. So, as a bargain to make, if my luck I may lend, may I call you a friend.”

Wow, I thought, friends with a real-life leprechaun. Mom and dad are never going to believe this!

“Friends,” I agreed, shaking hands with the leprechaun. He giggled again, and started dancing merrily, jumping into the air and kicking his feet together.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” cried the leprechaun. “I’ve always wanted a friend.”

All of my old friends were back in Belmont, almost fifty miles away, and I was also excited at making my first new friend out here. Besides, back in the city, I didn’t have a leprechaun for a friend.

“You just have to meet my mom,” I said.

“’ Twould do no good, I am afraid,” he replied. “For, you see, the ability to see us leprechauns disappears with age.”

A bright idea suddenly came to me. Came to me from my picture book, How to Catch a Leprechaun. “When you catch a leprechaun, are you really granted three wishes?”

Here, Charlie the leprechaun stopped dancing. His wide smile dropped to a frown. He covered his eyes with his hands and began sobbing sadly. I could see twinkling tears drizzling down his rosy cheeks. “Catching a leprechaun is not something that I would expect from one who calls themself a friend,” he replied softly.

I suddenly felt really bad. I mean, terrible. Awful! I had just made friends with this leprechaun, and here I was, already thinking of nothing but me, me, me.

“I’m sorry,” I quickened to say, putting my hands on the leprechaun’s shoulders to comfort him. “I would never do that to you. Cross my heart.”

Sniffling, he wiped his eyes and peered at me meekly underneath the brim of his hat. “And hope to die?” he inquired.

“And hope to die,” I repeated.

This cheered the leprechaun up, who smiled gayly again. Barry was still being a brat, growling and making a fuss, watching Charlie closely from between my feet.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “It’s just… I could sure use three wishes right now. You see, things have been really rough for my family lately.”

“And what, if I may ask,” he said, “would you wish for?”

The question caught me off guard. I thought about it long and hard. “Let’s see,” I said at last. “For my dad to get his old job back, for my mom to be happy again, and for us to move back into our old house. That’s what I would wish for.” I blushed as I saw the leprechaun observing me, a thoughtful expression on his face.

He seemed to be lost in deep thought. Finally, his face lit up. He snapped his fingers together and said, “As long as our friendship holds strong, the three wishes are sadly gone. But I may know of another way to get what you wish, and my friendship, you would never have to miss.”

“How?” I asked, hardly being able to contain my excitement.

“As you have undoubtedly been told, us leprechauns prize nothing above our pots of gold,” he said. “But, alas, mine is hopelessly lost. If you were to help me find it, we may both share in the cost.”

“A pot of gold!” I marveled. “With that much gold my dad wouldn’t have to worry about finding a job ever again. And we could afford to buy back our old house!”

“Exactly so,” said the leprechaun.

“Naomi! Naomi!” I could hear my mom’s voice calling my name and the patio door creaking open.

“That’s my mom,” I said. “Listen, I have to go. It was really nice meeting you.”

Charlie the leprechaun frowned. “Must you go back? Are you sure that you can’t stay and play for a while?”

“I wish I could,” I replied apologetically. “But I promised my mom that I would be back in time to help with dinner. Well, goodbye.” I waved to Charlie as I ran off in the direction of my house. Barry, who seemed thankful to be leaving, followed quickly behind.

“You won’t forget about me pot of gold, will you?” the leprechaun called out.

“I won’t!” I called back.

I ran into the kitchen so fast that I almost plowed into my mom, who stood in the frame of the door holding the screen open. I couldn’t wait to tell her all about what had happened to me today. Without even pausing to breathe, I told her about Charlie the leprechaun, the pot of gold, and the four-leaf clover.

“Look! See!” I urged, showing the lucky clover to my mom.

“That’s very nice,” she replied absently, taking the clover from my hands and placing it carelessly on the shelf above the sink. “Look at you, you’re a mess. Go on and get washed up for dinner, but don’t wake your father.”

“I’m telling the truth,” I insisted. “I met a real-life leprechaun. He has a pot of gold and everything. He says that we’re going to be rich! Then we’ll be able to buy back our old house and dad won’t have to work anymore.”

“A pot of gold?” mom asked doubtfully, folding her arms sternly across her chest.

“Well, I have to help him find it first,” I admitted. “But, trust me, we’re going to have nothing but good luck for now on!”

Mom sighed. “I’m sorry, Naomi, I’m just not in the mood for games right now.”

“You’re the one who said that I should make new friends,” I argued. “I thought you’d be happy for me. This is going to help us all!” I felt really upset that my mom wouldn’t believe me. She was acting like it was all just a big game or something.

My mom took my hands into her own. “Look, sweetie, I know that you’re just trying to help, but what I need from you right now is to help me take care of your father. Not running around chasing some imaginary pot of gold. No magical good luck flowers. Do you understand? I need you here, helping out around the house.”

That afternoon, a rainbow stretched across the sky.

After dinner, I still hadn’t been able to get Charlie the leprechaun out of my mind. As I washed up the dishes in the kitchen sink, I found myself wondering if I had simply imagined it all. I mean, there couldn’t really be an actual leprechaun living in our woods. There couldn’t really be a pot of gold. Could there?

Suddenly, Barry started up in the back yard. Bark! Bark! Bark!

“What a weird dog,” I grumbled, drying my hands on the dishrag hanging across the oven.

I figured that it had probably started to rain again. Whenever it rains, Barry feels the need to read it the riot act, as if he’s protecting us from it or something. But, when I glanced out the kitchen window, I saw that Barry was barking at something else instead.

Charlie the leprechaun stood near the edge of the woods, waving to me. He looked just like a lawn gnome, I thought with amusement.

I dropped the dishrag on the floor and bolted out the screen door I was so excited to see my new friend again. So excited that he wasn’t just a figment of my imagination.

Barry was tugging on his lease with his teeth, as if trying to put as much distance between Charlie and himself as possible, barking and growling.

“You came back!” I said, greeting my friend.

“We are friends, aren’t we?” Charlie replied warmly.

“Of course,” I said, then added reluctantly, “But I’m afraid that I can’t play right now. I have to help my mom out around the house.”

“If we want to find me pot of gold, we must be fast,” Charlie said. “It’s not far, but the rainbow won’t last.”

“Your pot of gold! It’s nearby?” I exclaimed.

“My gold can be found at the end of the rainbow,” he said, drawing my attention to the sky. The fading rainbow reached to the other end of the woods.

“I’m really sorry, but I can’t go with you right now,” I repeated. “By the way, my mom said that I’m not allowed to go into the woods.”

Charlie the leprechaun looked at me. “You do want to find me pot of gold?” he asked, his voice lower than usual. “After all, we are friends.”

I had so many chores! And mom would be so disappointed in me if I didn’t finish them all. I mean, she couldn’t be expected to do everything around the house. Dad certainly wasn’t going to help out. When he drank, he mostly slept all day. He was usually more pleasant asleep than awake.

However, it’s hard to turn your back on a pot of gold. That much gold would solve all of our problems.

Barry tugged on my pant leg with his mouth, whimpering.

“The walk isn’t far,” Charlie added reassuringly. “And us leprechauns are good luck. On my word, you shan’t be harmed.”

“What’s that for?” I asked, pointing to the woodsman ax that I had just noticed in Charlie’s right hand. He must have been holding it behind his back.

“If you want me pot of gold,” Charlie said again, more direct this time, “we must go now.”

I took a step forward. Barry yelped. He wouldn’t let go of my pant leg.

“Maybe I shouldn’t,” I reconsidered. Walking deep into the woods with a total stranger, without my mom’s permission, didn’t feel right. I mean, I know Charlie was my friend and all, but still.

“You don’t want to?” the leprechaun asked.

“No, I do!” I replied quickly. “But if Barry doesn’t want to, then I can’t go. I never go anywhere without Barry. How else would I find my way back home?”

Charlie’s eyes went from me to my dog. “I see,” he said.

“But we can play later, I promise.”

“Then I will see you later,” Charlie said, turning to leave. Then, over his shoulder, he added, “Both of you.”

That night, as I lay in bed trying to catch sleep, Charlie came to me again.

I had been lying in bed trying to catch sleep, counting backwards from two-hundred, visualizing each number in my head. I can usually put myself to sleep around seventy. However, that night, I found that I couldn’t concentrate on the numbers. When I rolled over to gaze out my bedroom window, I noticed a figure sitting on the sill. It was Charlie.

“What are you doing here?” I gasped, sitting up in bed. I turned on the small table lamp on my night-stand. The lamp bathed Charlie’s face with a yellow incandescent glow.

“Why, I’ve come to play,” he said.

“But it’s too late for me to play right now,” I replied, still nervous from earlier. I was afraid that I had offended Charlie by not following him into the woods. “We’ll wake my mom and dad.”

Charlie leaned forward on the window sill. He looked just like an Elf on the Shelf, I thought. I would have laughed out loud if not for his face. He was frowning. I could tell that he was despite the deep shadow that hid his features as he leaned out of the lamp’s glow. I wondered how long he had been sitting there watching me.

“I know a better place that we can play,” Charlie said. His face may have been angry, but his voice was still jovial. “On the other side of the woods. Come with me to my leprechaun cabin and you shall have every toy that you could ever imagine.” He held his hand out for me to take.

“You don’t understand,” I said carefully, my voice weak and trembly. “I’m not allowed to the leave the house after dark.” And that was the honest truth. If my mom caught me, I’d be in a world of trouble.

“I feel like you are lying,” he replied slowly. “I feel like you don’t want to play with me.”

“No, that’s not true at all!”

“I feel like you don’t want to be friends.” His voice wasn’t so cheerful anymore.

“I do!” I said, nodding my head yes rapidly. But, as you could probably guess, I was starting to become afraid of the leprechaun.

“After all,” Charlie contemplated, looking at his fingertips, “I did lend you my four-leaf clover, didn’t I?”

I gulped, grasping the blanket tightly in my hands. I felt really scared. Sweat soaked through my clothes and onto my bedspread.

“Tomorrow we will go to the other side of the woods and play,” Charlie said. It wasn’t worded like a question. Then, he opened the window and climbed out.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I must have. I awoke to a sound that I hadn’t heard in months.

Laughter. From downstairs. The kitchen. My mom’s laughter.

I ran down the stairs like a kid on Christmas morning, taking them two at a time. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I rounded the corner into the kitchen.

“Good morning,” mom said cheerfully, wearing a sunny smile. She looked five years younger, I thought. “You’ll never believe it. Dad is trying to make breakfast for us.”

“Dad’s making breakfast?” I asked, as if I didn’t even know the meaning of the words.

“Trying is the operative word,” dad said, smiling, flipping a burnt egg over in a saucepan. “I hope you like scrambled.”

“Are you feeling okay?” I asked in disbelief. It was a terrible question. I mean, dad was just trying to do something nice for us. But, given how miserable he had been the past few months, I just couldn’t believe his sudden transformation.

I found myself wondering if it had all been one long bad dream. Not just last night with Charlie, but everything, everything since the move.

“Never better,” dad replied. Then, more soberly, he said, “I know that’s hard to believe. Lately, I’ve put this family through a lot, I suppose. But starting today, things are going to be much different.”

“Tell Naomi the good news,” mom said.

“Huh, what good news?” I asked.

“Well, it seems that the school board is having second thoughts about letting your dad go.”

“Firing me, to tell you the truth,” dad amended, turning off the stove and sliding the Frankenstein’s monster of an omelette onto a plate. “But Chuck Borris called this morning. You remember him? We had him over for dinner that night your mom set the smoke detectors off?”

Mom gave dad a playful shove.

“And it seems,” dad continued, “that the board voted 5-2. In favor of giving me my old job back.”

“Does that mean we’re going to move back into our old house?” I asked, practically shrieking with excitement at the good news.

Dad shrugged, and then smiled again. “I suppose that I can’t be expected to the make a fifty-mile commute every morning, now, can I?”

For the first time in months, we ate breakfast as a family. I was so happy that I had almost completely forgotten about Charlie and the four-leaf clover. I mean, we were finally going to move out of this dumpy little town. Far away from this gross house. Far away from Charlie. Everything was going great! But, by dinner time, I noticed that I hadn’t heard my dog barking all day. Practically unheard of for Barry.

I ventured out into the backyard with a bowl full of Alpo. Barry’s favorite.

“Barry!” I called. Nothing. Strange, I thought.

His leash lay in the grass, still hitched to a spike in the ground, but there was no dog attached to it.

“You are looking for your dog?” A light, child-like voice asked. I knew who it belonged to even before I glanced up.

This time, I didn’t feel any delight at seeing my “friend” Charlie the leprechaun. He stood near the edge of the woods, axe in hand.

“Where’s Barry?” I asked him sternly.

“I found your dog wandering around in the woods like a stray,” Charlie said. “So, I took him back to my place to eat and to play.”

“I want to see my dog! I want to see Barry! Bring him back to me!”

“I can take you to him,” Charlie replied. “And we can all play together. We can all be friends.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” I said defiantly. “A real friend wouldn’t take my dog like that. I want to see Barry now!” It was the first time that I had raised my voice at Charlie.

He looked at me for a long time. Even though he stood a few inches shorter, I could feel him looking down on me. A chill tingled the nape of my neck, rousing all of the hair there to attention.

“The next time you see a rainbow in the sky,” the leprechaun said, “meet me here, at the edge of the woods, and we will follow it to its end. There, you will find your friend. That is, if you want to see your dog again.”

“And if I don’t follow you?”

“I lent you my good luck and I can take it back just as easily,” Charlie threatened, grinning sinisterly. He looked up into the sky, studying the clouds. “It will rain soon. I will be expecting you.” He then turned and disappeared into the woods, but not before adding, “We’re going to have so much fun together! All of us.”

That afternoon, it rained. Hard.

“You’ve been quiet today,” my mom said, scooping a spoonful of mashed potatoes onto my plate. “You’re worried about Barry, aren’t you? Don’t worry, he’ll show up.”

“I’ve always said that he was part Border Collie,” dad added, passing a bowl of rice across the table. “He’s probably exploring the woods and having the time of his life. When he gets hungry enough, he’ll be back.”

I was worried about Barry, that much was true. But what really troubled me was Charlie’s ultimatum. I didn’t know what he had planned for me at the other side of the woods, but it chilled every fiber of my body just thinking about it. We can all play together, he had said. What if he never let me go again? What if he wanted me to be his friend, forever and ever? And what choice did I have? I could either follow the leprechaun into the woods or watch as all of my family’s good luck crumbled right before my eyes. Watch my dad return to the bottle, watch my mom become a miserable wreck. But the worst part would be that we’d never be able to move out of this house, or away from Charlie.

Sure enough, later that day, a rainbow appeared in the sky.

As I was placing my dirty dishes into the kitchen sink, I looked up at the shelf where mom had placed the leprechaun’s four-leaf clover. With astonishment, I noticed that it wasn’t there.

“Mom,” I called out from the kitchen. “Where’s my lucky clover?”

“Huh?” She was sealing up leftovers into plastic Tupperware containers.

“My lucky clover. The four-leaf clover that you put on the shelf above the sink.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. I threw that out yesterday. I didn’t know that you were saving it.”

So, my family’s good luck had nothing to do with the four-leaf clover after all! Nothing to do with Charlie! I felt a wave of relief wash over me. Relief, and anger. All this time the leprechaun had been lying to me. Well, I thought bitterly, two can play at that game.

I ran upstairs and grabbed a book off my shelf, spreading it out on the desk in front of me. How to Catch a Leprechaun. Charlie wants to play? We’ll play.

I was waiting when Charlie emerged from the woods. He held his ax. Even from a distance away, I could tell that the blade was sharp. However, I now observed that it was splashed with red stuff. Blood, I thought! Who’s blood? Barry’s?

“What did you do to my dog?” I demanded.

“Unlike you, he was not a true friend,” the leprechaun said. “I know that you will not try to run away like that mutt did. You will be my best friend. Forever!”

Tears streaked down my cheeks. Anger raged all throughout my body. My hands were clenched. My heart beating sounded like crashing waves in my ears.

“Let us go,” Charlie said, offering me his hand. “We are going to have some fun together, you and I.”

“We’re not friends anymore,” I said quietly.

Charlie the leprechaun’s face grew dark and angry, like the storm clouds that still lingered overhead. He tightened his hand around the shaft of the ax. “What did you say, you little brat?” he said, seething with rage. His voice was no longer light and child-like, but deep and growling.

My heart now felt as if it would beat right out of my chest. I took a step back. As I did, Charlie stepped forward.

His entire face began to change. Not just the features on it, but everything. It rippled, like a TV station flickering briefly through broken static. I could see bottomless dark eyes, like two vacant portals. A wide grin. Rows of sharp teeth. Then, just as quickly as I had seen it, it was gone again, and Charlie the leprechaun’s smiling face was back.

“All I wanted was for us to be friends,” the thing said, slithering closer. “Stupid little runt! Child! Little girl!”

I thought that I was going to faint. Suddenly, I jammed my hand into my jeans pocket. My fingers closed around a fist-sized rock with jagged edges. My other hand reached around my hip and clasped around the sling-shot sticking out of my back pocket.

I waited until the thing took three more steps. Each one brought the leprechaun agonizingly closer. Then, as quickly as a flame is drawn from a lighter, I sprung into action. I loaded the rock in the elastic strap of the sling-shot and pulled it back. ALL the way back. I could feel the elastic band stretching, almost snapping. When I released my hand, I heard a loud ZIP noise. Then a sickening CRACK.

The creature doubled over beneath a large birch tree. As it convalesced in pain, I dropped the sling-shot to the ground and bolted over to the thick trunk of the tree. A rope zigzagged down the length of the trunk in a makeshift pully, the end tied to a root protruding up from the ground. I grabbed the loose end of the knot and gave it a yank, and then let it go. The tail of the rope zipped into the air. The other end came crashing down. My trap worked perfectly. The metal crate that I had dangled from up in the tree landed around the creature, trapping it underneath.

It tried pushing the crate off, but I was too fast. At first, I leaped onto the crate, using my strength to push it down. But, after I had managed to drive the spike hitching Barry’s leash to the ground into one of the handle openings, it was fastened securely.

I could no longer see the thing inside, but I could hear it. There sounded like two separate entities underneath, both talking in unison.

“Is this how you treat a friend?” a voice said. It was the child-like voice that I had grown used to. Charlie’s voice. It sounded like he was sobbing.

(“STUPID CHILD!”) The deep, darker voice. Angry, evil, monstrous.

“After all that I’ve done for you,” Charlie said, sniffling.

“I don’t need you or your stupid clover,” I replied hoarsely. “My family can make our own luck. But I will take my three wishes.”

A bright, illuminating green light shined out from the cracks where the sides of the crate met the ground. Inside, Charlie screamed agonizingly, as if in pain.

“Wish one: I want my dog back! Wish two: I want my old life back! And wish three: I want you to LEAVE ME ALONE!”

A loud scream issued from underneath the crate. Then, the entire thing vibrated and rose off the ground. It floated in mid-air for a second, spun around, and then disappeared into nothing. That was the last that I saw of Charlie the leprechaun.

After that, things returned to normal, and my family put that whole ugly chapter of our life behind us. Dad got his old job back at the public-school building. We moved back to our old house in the city, far away from Harald Falls. On the day of the move, just as we had finished packing the last of our suitcases into our SUV, I heard three happy yips. Barry came padding out of the woods, his ears perked, happy to see me. I thought that I would never stop hugging him. As we pulled away, I looked out the back window into the woods that grew smaller and smaller. I thought, just for a moment, a horrible moment, that I could see Charlie standing at the edge of the woods, waving to me.

That’s where the story ends. At least, for me. I wish that I could say that’s where the story of Charlie the leprechaun ended for good.

You see, years later, when I was a grown woman, I was passing through Harald Falls on a business trip. Age has a funny way of distorting things, and I had almost all but convinced myself that the months that I had spent in Harald Falls as a child of eight was all just a big nightmare. Almost with amusement, I decided to swing past my old house. It still stood on the edge of the woods. I could see a Ford parked in the driveway, so I knew that people were living there. In the backyard, children’s play equipment lay scattered on the lawn.

After that, I decided to drive around the woods, and see what existed on the other end of them. It was a short drive.

But what I saw chilled me to the bone. When I think about it, it still maddens me with terror and helplessness. Even as I write this now, I am struck with a sense of doom. Unending doom.

On the other end of the woods lay a cemetery. I wandered through that cemetery. Most of the grave-markers, I noticed, were of children under the age of ten.

But what can I do? What maddens me the most is that I had the possibility to end it all, and I didn’t. I had three wishes at my disposal. I could have wished for Charlie to die forever. To disappear from this world and to never come back. But I didn’t. I had simply wished that he leave me alone. On record, there have been five missing children this year, and I suspect that there will be even more next year, and the year after that. It is impossible to tell how many children, like myself, have evaded the leprechaun’s trick. But the statistics reveal how many have not. They continue to grow. I can do nothing but watch in horror. I am one of the few. One of the few who know that Charlie still exists. He is out there.
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