Okay, here’s my response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge from Friday, the 17th. Chuck called it an easy one, but I’m not so sure. The challenge was to use a random phrase from this phrase generator. Standard 1000 words. Took a while to find time to write, and couldn’t get more than 680 words.
The tiny figure made its way hesitantly down the grimy street, peering into storefronts and alleyways with quick, furtive glances. Cloaked and hooded in pale gray, it contrasted sharply with the broken sidewalks, fly-specked windows and crumbling brick buildings. Halfway down the street the figure stopped and looked up at a cracked and clouded window.
Consolidated Naughtiness, Inc.
It consulted a slip of paper it was carrying, and glanced once more at the storefront. For several minutes the figure stood, watching the window, before finally stepping inside.
Once across the threshold, the figure stopped. The store was dark. A few pools of orange, red or green light drew the eye, but did little to brighten the room. A dry, whispery voice said, “May I help you,” from the darkness next to the figure.
“Oh!” the tiny creature gasped. Lowering the hood, she looked around. “I didn’t see you there.” She laughed nervously, small bells chiming an unfamiliar tune. “Umm, where are you exactly?”
A light flared. Slouching next to her was a stooped, gaunt figure. It held a candle in a knobby, ragged nailed hand. It studied her with large glowing eyes. Greasy locks of hair hung over its face. “What do you want here, fairy?” the bogeyman asked.
“I want a job.”
The bogeyman looked at her. The fairy bit her lip, but met his gaze. After a few minutes the bogeyman turned. “Follow me,” he said. The bogeyman led her into a small office. The fairy blinked in the sudden brightness; there were candles burning on the cluttered desk, and a fire blazed in a small fireplace. “Would you like some tea?” he asked, motioning her to a chair in front of the desk.
“No. No thank you.” The fairy’s laugh was soft and nervous, but still carried an undertone of cheerful laughter. She sat.
“How do you do that?”
“The laughter. You aren’t happy.”
“I can’t help it. The impression of laughter, tinkling bells, glittery footprints. It’s all part of who I am.”
“No. not anymore.” She took off her cloak and shifted slightly in her seat, displaying the ragged stumps where her wings had once been. “Fairy dust comes from our wings. No wings, no dust. No dust, no job.” She sat back.
“What happened?” the bogeyman asked quietly.
“I was a tooth fairy. Three centuries on the job, commendations.” Her voice was bitter. “The job’s always had its dangers—owls, dreamcatchers, getting pinned when a kid turns over. House pets can be tricky. I don’t know what’s worse, a yappy dog or a pouncing cat. Lately, though,” she shook her head and silvery curls danced.
“Kids don’t really believe in the tooth fairy anymore. That’s part of the job, too. More kids stay awake, waiting for us. That makes a lot more work for the sandman; there are all kinds of scheduling problems…” She sighed. “I went on a call. Kyle. Kyle Biggers. Horrid child. Rotten teeth. Definite non-believer.”
The bogeyman waited. Finally he prompted her, “The call?”
“He’d lost three teeth in a fight at school. The sandman went in first. A few minutes after, I followed. The little brat was waiting for us. I saw the sandman trapped in a jar–I thought he’d gone to check on Kyle’s sister–and I froze.”
“He grabbed me before I could do anything. It was a long night; the kid has quite an imagination. Right before he left for school, he tore off my wings, so I couldn’t escape.”
“But you did.”
“The sandman did something, I’m not sure what. Glass is made from sand, or something? Anyway, he managed to break free, and got me out of there. The healers repaired most of the damage, but they can’t regrow wings.”
“So you came here, to Consolidated Naughtiness.”
She nodded. “I need someone to teach me rueful, mocking and malicious laughter. The sound of leper’s bells, and death tolls. I’ll change my name to Cobweb.” She smiled, revealing a mouthful of long, needle-sharp teeth. “I’m going to be a new kind of Tooth Fairy.”