An unusual fortune teller. Winner of SCREAMS!!! February 22 2021.
I found the sign completely by accident - an arrow pointing up a side road and “Snot County Fayre” written in hastily-painted black lettering. It did not seem particularly official and the narrow road indicated was not very promising either. I can’t imagine anything more tempting to my curiosity.
I swung the wheel over and took the side road. This led me over a nearby ridge, through a stand of trees, to emerge into an open area where tents of various sizes had been set up. A field to my left was identified by another sign announcing, “Parkya Karkas”. Obediently, I turned in and parked near the entrance.
A brief walk brought me to a large box at the side of the road. A man sat inside. “Is this the Snot County Fayre?” I asked.
“Snot Fair,” he answered. “Snot County Fayre is the Renaissance version, every Thursday between 9:00am and 4:30pm.”
It was Tuesday. “But is the Fair open?” I asked.
“Certainly is,” he replied.
“Can I go in?”
“Ticket, please.” He held out a hand expectantly.
“I don’t have one.”
“In that case, I’ll have to sell you one.” He turned and consulted a notice board attached to the wall of the box.
“Unaccompanied adult?” he asked.
I looked around but could see no one else. “Unaccompanied,” I admitted.
“That’ll be five dollars then.” He reached under the counter and produced a blue ticket. We swapped money and ticket. I waited until he had put the money into a metal box and then asked, “How much would it be if I was accompanied?”
“One dollar less for each accompanying child,” he rattled off, without consulting the notice board.
“So how much would it be if I had five children with me?”
The man gave me a look as though dealing with an idiot. “Nothing, of course. You’re hardly likely to get into trouble with that many kids watching you.”
“What if I turned up with six?”
He sighed. “I’d give you a ticket and a dollar. Are you going to let me get on with my work or do you want to ask questions all day?”
I apologised and walked on past the box.
The first tent I came to was small, striped in faded colours with yet another sign outside. “Fairy Nuff,” it announced. “Fortunes told and questions answered.” Never having met a fairy before, I lifted the flap and entered the dark interior.
She was sitting behind a small table in front of me. My eyes were still adjusting to the lack of light but I could see that she was well past middle-age with overdone make-up failing to hide the years. Her dark hair was clearly a wig and her attire was more in the line of fortune teller than fairy. She gestured at the chair on my side of the table. I sat down.
“How much is it?” I asked.
“Probably free,” she answered. “The more questions you ask, the less you pay. If I were you, I’d ask as many as you can think of.”
“Doesn’t seem a good business model.”
“There are reasons. So what’s your first question?”
At that moment I noticed the pair of transparent wings hanging on a strut of the tent behind her. They were hardly gossamer and had been mended in places with duck tape but they were fairy wings of a sort. I looked in her dark-ringed eyes.
“Are you really a fairy?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Do you have a problem with that?”
I smiled. “I thought I was supposed to ask the questions.”
She smiled back and, for a moment, I thought her dark eyes flashed bright green. “I’m allowed. Fairies are allowed anything.”
“Okay,” I responded, “since you asked, I do have a minor problem. You seem a bit older than I thought a fairy would be. How old are you?”
“Nineteen,” she replied.
I smiled again. “Now that’s hard to believe. I’d have guessed - don’t want to insult you - but somewhere between forty-five and sixty. I know I’m probably way off.”
She laughed. “I didn’t say years.”
“What? You mean nineteen… What?”
“Hours, my dear, not years.”
There was a brief silence as I tried to understand. “You mean… You’re saying you’re nineteen hours old?”
“Exactly.” She took pity on me then and explained. “Fairies are like mayflies - we only live for twenty-four hours.”
My jaw had fallen open and she reached across the table and closed it for me with a long-taloned finger. “You look silly like that.”
“But that means you’ve only got a few hours to live.”
“Five actually. But time flows differently for us. It seems a full life to us, just as I’m sure you’re reasonably happy with yours.”
I was still finding it difficult to understand a lifespan as brief as hers. “What’s going to happen when you… Pass on?” I asked. “Who will run this tent?”
“Oh, Monsieur Garibaldi will just have to catch another one tonight,” she answered. “I’m told he’s becoming quite good at it with all the practice he gets.”
“But that’s terrible. A fairy captured every night and made to work in this tent.”
“Oh, we don’t mind. You can’t keep a fairy where she doesn’t want to be.”
I shook my head at the weird revelations I was having to cope with. Strangest of all was that I believed what she said. Was I under some sort of spell? Normally my skepticism runs pretty high.
She interrupted my thoughts. “And that’s all the questions you’re allowed. Time to move on. Don’t worry about payment; this one’s free.”
I staggered to my feet. “I don’t know what to say.”
Nuff waved me away with a gesture of her hand. “Don’t worry about it. You have bigger problems on the way, as it happens.”
I sat back down. “What, you mean you can see my future?”
She nodded. “Yes, but I’m not sure you’d want to know this. Might be better to go into it with eyes closed.”
As she spoke the last word, I felt my eyes become extremely tired and my head began to spin. I tried to get up but my body refused to move. The inside of the tent darkened and I was only vaguely conscious of Nuff moving from her seat and standing over me as the world slipped away.
When I awoke, it was night and the sky was obscured by the branches of trees overhead. There was just enough light to see that I was lying in short grass and that, just a few feet away, Fairy Nuff too lay, breathing noisily as though with great effort. She turned to me as I began to move.
“Good, I was hoping you’d surface before I died. I don’t have much longer so you need to know that you’re going to have to run for your life. You have your fairy wings and I have no doubt that Monsieur Garibaldi is even now setting out on the hunt. Keep moving and you might get away.”
“Fairy wings? What the hell are you talking about?” Even as I spoke, I became aware that something was strapped to my back. As I struggled to turn to see what had been done to me, the realisation came - those stupid, taped wings from the tent must have been attached to me while I was out.
Fairy Nuff was no longer in any condition to answer. Her breath came in painful gasps and, after a final long pause, it escaped her body with a sound like the scraping of fingernails on metal. The words “death rattle” drifted through my mind.
But there was no time to mourn the death of the only fairy I’d ever met. Monsieur Garibaldi was out there somewhere and, if I was to avoid being a fairy for the rest of my very brief life, I must get moving.
I rose and began to stumble into the darkness, the strange weight of the wings on my back slowing me down as they waved uselessly from side to side.
Word Count: 1,351
For SCREAMS!!! February 22 2021
Prompt: A fortune teller.