We're back in the Myth and Science Universe today a century or so before the events of "Don't Go Near the Well." This flash fiction is set as the earliest in the series, so you absolutely don't have to have read anything in it to understand and enjoy today's installment.
Find the audio version of this story here. Or listen to a playlist of all the Myth and Science audios in chronological order.
This wasn’t a little girl. This was something else. It might look like a little girl and talk like a little girl, but it was far from being one.
Thaddeus blinked up at whatever it was from the bottom of the well he’d been digging. Water seeped in under his boots, rising fast, and his ladder hovered several feet above his head, just far enough where he couldn’t reach no matter how high he jumped.
The girl smirked and shook her head, causing her long, black pigtails to swing and curl in the wind like wisps of smoke. “You broke the ring, Thaddeus Brown,” she said.
Hands shaking, Thaddeus pulled his tattered cap from his head and bowed as deeply as the confines of the well allowed.
“I beg your pardon, my lady,” he stammered.
“Your Majesty, if you please,” the girl said with a prim sniff. “That is how you address a queen, is it not, Mr. Brown?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Thaddeus said a silent prayer as he crushed his cap and curled farther into himself. “Please forgive me, Your Majesty.”
“You had clear warning this land was mine,” said the little queen. “Why should I forgive such an insult?”
“Begging your pardon, Your Majesty, but I was taught the fair folk were stories meant to keep children out of the woods,” Thaddeus explained. “If I’d known you were real and the ring was more than just a bunch of mushrooms, I swear I wouldn’t have trespassed on your land.”
The pitch of the little queen’s voice dropped as she spoke and a feeling of immense power spiked from the place where she stood, causing Thaddeus to look up despite his terror. Wind swirled fallen leaves and scattered flower petals around her figure as it pulsed and stretched. Moments later, the wind died and an unnaturally beautiful woman stood where the girl was moments before.
She turned green eyes so bright they seemed to glow down to Thaddeus. They flashed, and Thaddeus found himself lifted from the muck by intangible hands. His ladder rose ahead of him before some unseen force threw it to the side, and Thaddeus hung suspended in the air, eye-to-eye with a being of power.
“Do I look like a story to you?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
The queen’s expression softened, but the smile she wore as she tilted her head to consider him wasn’t a kind one. “How many of your kind believe as you did?”
“Most all of ‘em, Your Majesty.”
Thaddeus’ boots dripped, and he shivered where he hung above the well as the queen mulled over his words. The muscles at her jaw twitched, and her eyes narrowed.
“If I forgive your trespass, what do you offer in return?”
“Anything I can.”
The woman’s smile changed again, less predatory but still not quite friendly as the invisible hands began to lower him to the ground beside the well.
“You and your decedents shall serve as the guardians of this entrance into my kingdom,” the queen declared. She waved her hand and a contract unrolled before Thaddeus complete with an inked quill hovering just before it.
“The well is mine,” she continued. “Its waters are those of my kingdom, and no mortal is to drink of it. None are to trespass here again.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Thaddeus agreed with another deep bow.
“Fulfill your duties well, and the land on which you live will prosper,” the queen continued. “Failure will be punished, both for you and the trespasser.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Be warned, Thaddeus Brown, should you or any of your line trespass on my land again, the offender and all your household will belong to me from that day until judgment.”
After he’d agreed again, the queen motioned for him to sign their contract, and he did so. The moment he lifted the quill from the paper, the terrible queen, contract, and quill all vanished into the ether. Only a single note that read, “Welcome to the service of Queen Mab and the Seelie Court,” was left behind as proof it was anything more than a dream.
Each story in this series is 700 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first prompt like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me" and "Culture Shock." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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