A loud thud violated Emilie’s eardrums. A waft of blood permeated through the air, swallowing her in a fit of rage and disgust. She spat on the floor, trying to understand, to comprehend what she had just seen. As quickly as this darkness had come, it lifted. The only souvenir of its visit was this human boy breathing his last, dying breaths. She could hear it all: his frail, frantic heart, fluttering as it attempted to restart itself in vain; the blood gurgling and rising from his lungs; even the flitter of his eyelids as he blinked stupidly at her, refusing to understand that this was the end of his life. This empty carpark would be the finale, the final bow, his last performance. Pretty soon, his curtains would close and she would have done nothing to help him. He was barely more than eighteen years old, yet he was staring death in the face. In pain. Bleeding out on the cold, unforgiving floor –
No. A wave of compassion flooded through her, washing away her own shock. Kneeling beside him, she lifted his head tenderly and placed two fingers upon his forehead. “Close your eyes.” She lacked the power to heal his wounds, but she would at least take away his pain and let him relive his fondest memories. She shuffled through his thoughts as if they were files, sorting the good from the bad, shredding the worst of them. These measured actions were taught to her at The Academy, yet not even the most organised process could prevent her from reliving all his experiences. She felt his first kiss tingle her lips, inhaled the satisfying scent of books in his local library, and watched his father walk out on him forever. In just a few seconds, she cried and laughed through his whole life as she pushed his fondest thoughts into his consciousness. His contorted face turned to gentle contentment, even acceptance. He knew he was dying, but it no longer mattered if this was what Heaven was like. Somehow she knew he would not be disappointed.
The boy smiled weakly and then everything stopped. She dropped her hand from his forehead, finally allowing her mind to buzz with unanswered questions. What had that darkness been? How could she explain his death? What about his parents? For the rest of the world, nothing had changed. The birds continued to tweet as they always did. The gravel continued to crunch beneath her. The cars in the distance continued to shoot past without a care in the world. The sounds of normality jarred horribly with the smell of blood. Nothing, nobody, would pay tribute to his death here. No one but her. The small stones on the ground cut uncomfortably into her knees, but she would not leave until she was certain his soul had been lifted. She lowered his head onto the ground gingerly and sat beside him, staring at the imprints the stones had left on her legs and attempting to gather her thoughts. He was still with her, that was certain. Probably his soul was staring at his body, disorientated. Was that not what any normal human being would have done? She never knew what to say to them. Who could tell what humans saw when they were being lifted to Heaven?
“What do you see?” She did not know why she had bothered asking. She may have sensed his presence, but she was not yet strong enough to see or hear the souls around her. She could not even be sure if he could hear her voice. “You should feel warm and happy all over. God will guide you if you let him be there for you. Go towards that happiness. Everything will be okay. I promise.” The soul continued to linger, whether it was from his confusion, or if her reassurance had been left unheard, she could not tell. There was the click of a car lock from behind and the even crumpling of gravel as another human entered the carpark.
“What the fuck?!” It was a woman in her late thirties, dressed for some sort of office job with her mouth spread into a pink lipstick ‘O’. She screamed. “What the fuck have you done?!” The human woman folded over, grabbing her stomach and heaving loudly, then continued to shriek. The human was going to call the police. Emilie would have to be prepared to pay the price for simply being here. Well, prison would have to be an option then. There was no way she would allow this boy to cross over without her, not after she had failed to save him from the darkness. All the birds in the trees had stopped singing, save from one persistent little mockingbird who warbled solemnly.
Emilie did not have time to waste on this shrieking human. She continued to speak to the boy’s soul affectionately, “It will be even better in Heaven. Heaven is a place for all the good souls in the world. You just have to trust that good feeling. Go there. Be happy.” She was still trying to coax the boy’s soul away by the time the sirens began to blare from the distance. She felt so stupid, useless. Why had she spent years at the Academy if she could not even help someone who needed it? Something sinister had stripped this boy of his life and all she had done was stand there helplessly, watching this robbery without providing any sense of justice.
“I am so sorry,” she whispered, her voice faltering uncontrollably. Finally, she felt the soul disappearing, evaporating into nothingness as it was taken to Heaven. She continued to sit there silently, praying for his soul. No matter what this human had told police, they would surely understand. She would never do anything to hurt another living being. It had been long established that her people felt empathy stronger than humans did. The humans would understand that.
The sound of crunching grit returned, but this time there were more feet. Heavier feet. She heard one of the police officers sucking in air sharply, followed by the quickening of their pace. The two human men in uniforms approached her cautiously, but with purpose. They were clearly alarmed by the sight before them. Her palms and white jeans were covered in blood, her nostrils flared at the stench of death. Sweat was flecked through her thick, brown hair and yet she did not care. There had been an awful murder and, despite her magic, she was powerless. Confusion continued to swirl around in her mind, drenched in her guilt and self-disgust. Questions injected themselves into her consciousness painfully. Who? What? How? Why? There was no evidence of stab wounds, yet he would not stop bleeding. Even now, she felt the burning red liquid seep out of him, as if his whole body was crying. How was this happening? The Academy had taught her everything she knew, but no one warned her about such dangers. Did they even know?
The policemen watched her with cautious yet accusatory eyes. She was worthless, nothing, and they surely sensed it.
“Madam, I am going to have to ask you to step away from the body,” one of the men attempted to regain his professionalism. He rested one of his dark hands on her shoulder hesitantly, frightened.
“This is all my fault.” The sun was dipping in the sky as she began to sob. All happiness had been drained from the world. An innocent boy had been killed for no reason, by an unknown force. “I deserve all the punishment in the world. Take me away please.” The click of the handcuffs echoed through her empty mind as she was forced to stand up on her feet and the police officers began to read out her rights. She could hear the red and blue wails of the sirens cut through the air once again. The peals pierced through the streets like lances, parting the crowds of cars. She rattled around in the back, the metal bracelets digging into her wrists. She would be detained, taken away and dealt with later. She would be the first faerie to be jailed, but she would definitely not be the last. The humans did not understand.
Mr James Blount
“Sir.” A straight-faced faerie secretary in a black suit and tie bowed to James Blount as he rushed into his office, throwing papers onto his desk and frantically opening all his draws. He was looking for something.
“Where is it?” Mr Blount bellowed. This was the first time his faerie secretary had seen him in such a state. Usually, The Boss was the picture of composure and compassion. It was his job to care for others. He was a doctor, and a faerie one at that. Faeries did not lose their tempers. In fact, they did not have tempers to lose. They usually felt nothing but kindness and generosity. This was different, though. One of his own had been accused of murder. A faerie had been spotted at a crime scene with blood all over her. His niece. There must be another explanation for all of this. He clawed at his desk, seeming to find what he wanted, and pocketed it without a second glance
Then, he stopped and sighed desperately, seeming to suddenly notice his nephew, who was standing awkwardly and picking at the loose wood of the doorframe. “Aethan, what do you think?” Blount had dropped his arms, defeated, and the secretary quickly hurried out of the room. Both men were stiff as a board, confusion and denial swirling through their minds.
“She didn’t do it.”
“They have a confession, you know. Apparently.” A crease had formed between Mr Blount’s eyes, and Aethan could not help but notice how tired and old he looked.
“She didn’t do it.”
“I’ve seen faeries go off the rails before. Especially the young ones. Never as bad as this, though. Never someone as good as her.”
Aethan’s hands found his face, defending him from all doubts. “She didn’t do it.” It was barely more than a whisper. His certainty caressed his lips gently. Persistently. It had little time to settle in the room before Mr Blount was out of the door and racing down the stairs three at a time, briefcase swinging violently in his hand. Aethan was right. If it were any other faerie, Blount may have believed it easier. Not Emilie. Emilie was pure and kind and, well, he had known her since she was a little girl. He could never believe that she was capable of killing a human boy. She could barely sneeze without apologising for it. Emilie was not a celebrity. According to the faerie rank, she was nothing special. Just a middling faerie with average grades still attending The Academy. There was no reason for the human police to implement her in anything.
Mr Blount felt the pain of a father. He had practically raised her like his own daughter. He could hardly begin to imagine what Aethan, her older brother, would have been feeling when he answered the phone. He had been prepared to scold her for being late for her work placement, as usual, when the phone rang with the news. This was the first arrest of a faerie after three hundred years of peace. Why did it have to be their little Emilie? There was something seriously wrong with this. Maybe this was all some big joke and he would get down to the police station and Emilie’s lilac eyes would be shining at him, like lotus flowers floating on water. Maybe she would be wearing her best mischievous, lop-sided grin with her arms crossed, as she had when she was a child, playing silly tricks on them. Only, this time he knew it was no trick. This time the whole world would hate and fear his little niece. He did not care. He would do anything to save her.
The spring day was a choir of little birds cheeping in their nests.
The little birds’ nests were full of cheeping babies as he passed them. He could hear them all waiting for their protectors to come and provide for them, to fill them with food and protection and reassurance, to hush their little squeals and encircle them in soft, protecting wings.
The loud, bumbling steps of Aethan caught up to him before he had reached the corner of the road, hasty in his youth. Stealth would come with getting his wings. For now, the youth did not even need to shave his face. The only thing which hinted at adulthood was the new development of a deeper voice: unsettled and frequently cracking.
Every sign pointed to the idea that she had killed him. It was almost impossible to believe that she, a faerie, would take the life of a human, yet there was the evidence before them: the red, red blood of an innocent teenage boy. The fact that there was no weapon and no evidence of stab wounds or punctures pointed towards some sort of magical death, not a hate killing from a human thug. Humans could always be trusted to fear the unknown. If anyone was capable of such violence, it was one with a power they did not understand. Who cared what was in her heart when her hands were capable of doing evil so easily? Their heavy uniforms and weapons dragged them down, as did their silent accusations.