2019 Short Stories,  Screen Saver

03 – Screen Saver

After a few more reassurances from the agent, Jones had disappeared, the webcam feed replaced with what seemed to be a slideshow stream straight out of his memes folder.

She watched the volley of pictures, grateful at his attempt to distract her. But it was barely working. There was only so much that cute pictures of kittens could do to combat the fact that she was one shitty hiding space away from being hogtied and shipped off to be sold to someone who – at best – would kill her before eating her.

She looked down at her phone and tapped her thumb to keep the screen alive. The chat with her parents sat open, and she wished some words would come.

She could tell them what was going on. A few quick sentences that would turn their lives upside down that would send them barrelling out of their own office buildings – her mother across town, her father in Faerie.

And either of them could be so upset that they drove stupidly and hurt themselves or others – and she hated the logic that kept her from screaming for her parents like a child after a nightmare.

They couldn’t help.

It was blunt, and it was cruel, but they couldn’t help.

Her father, being a second-generation domain, had more power than she did; but he was also one of the oddities of his generation, instead of having skills over a generality – even as weak-ass as her powers were, she could interface with her phone as easily as her laptop, her father’s powers were limited to ovens.

It was weird, but his niche skills had landed him a role with one of the largest Fairyland white goods producers, so he was happy.

And nothing about his ability to know exactly what was wrong with an oven just by touching it was going to save her from a meat market sale.

Her mother’s domain was wood – but unlike nymphs and hobs, her skills shone with dead wood, rather than creating and shaping living plants and trees.

And while her mother could probably convince a lump of wood to take on the shape of a bat or spear, that would still mean her racing across town when peak hour was approaching; and getting in before either the worst happened or the Agency rescue team arrived.

And her mother would fight past the agents to murder all of the people who had taken her daughter hostage – and that wasn’t something she wanted to put on her mother’s soul.

She tapped her thumb again. Sending another “I love you” message would be suspicious, but everything else seemed… too big to put into words.

She would regret it. She was already regretting it.

Her fingers still found no words.

Making plans for the weekend was cruel, if she died, then it would always be hanging over them like a broken promise. If she said something frivolous, they’d go to their own graves, feeling bad that she was trying to make them feel better when she needed comfort.

The meme stream blinked, and Jones reappeared. Again, as he spoke, the words appeared in the chat box. {Okay. I’ve contacted the Fairyland police, they know your co-workers are being taken illegally, so they’ll be covering the exit of the stairs.}

She nodded – she hadn’t been watching the office webcam feed constantly, but it was distressingly probable that they had started to take people to Fairyland, hauling them down to the hidden staircase in the garage that would get them straight into Faerie.

{Good idea.}

{That just leaves Earth to deal with. We’ve got a Plan B if the situation goes sideways, but we’re trying to put together a less drastic scenario to ensure fewer casualties.}


Her phone lit up with notifications – even as much as time was standing to seem still within her beige hidey hole, the world was going on around her; memes were being posted to the lesbian and girl-loving groups she was a part of; events were being updated, her friends were posting pictures of food or new haircuts.

It was like her phone was the eye of a hurricane, untouched by the insanity of the situation around her.

Jones waved in the web camera feed, and she looked at him, mouthing the word “what?”.

{I’ve moved in a few of my drones to get a better view of what’s going on,} Jones responded. {And I can’t see the troll anywhere.}


She looked at the wall beside her and made sure that she wasn’t touching the concrete wall – touching the floor was unavoidable, but hopefully, the linoleum would somewhat disrupt its ability to sense her.

Earth had the phrase “if wishes were horses”, Faerie had many variations on the idea, but the one that permeated pop culture, mostly thanks to Clover’s animated version of the tale from an old folk story about the folly of relying on hope and luck instead of hard work. The phrase was “the fisher’s moon never came”, and as the ground rumbled below her, she felt as alone and utterly fucked as the fisherman in the story.

A grey arm drove up in front of her, breaking through the heavy linoleum and smashing into one of the shelving walls before it fell towards her, thick fingers grabbing at the air before finally snatching at her laptop.

She let her laptop be taken, and pushed backwards, smashing into the rolling shelves, managing to get a few feet of room between her and the troll as he fully pulled himself up through the floor.

After a second, she managed to get to her feet, unsure of where she would run to, but sure that she had to try all the same.

The floor rumbled and grew unsteady, but she stayed upright by slamming herself into the shelving unit for balance, then pushed off and ran for the end of the aisle between the rows of the shelves.

A spear of concrete rose up out of the floor and punched her in the chest. She stood, winded, and felt an arm close around her neck.

‘Don’t struggle,’ the troll suggested.

‘Okay,’ she said, nodding her head as much as she could. ‘Okay.’

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