This story was written as part of a Chuck Wendig/Terribleminds flash fiction challenge (2016): choose one of ten titles created by his readers. Jeremy Pocket and the See-Through Wall jumped out at me – well, Pocket did. He demanded to be heard. Unfortunately I could only whittle the story down from 1900 words to just over 1300 words (not the 1000) .
Jeremy Pocket and the See-Through Wall
© 2016 Karen J Carlisle
The air shimmered. Pocket’s ghost-like reflection faded. Darkness formed into shadows. He raised two fingers and rotated his hand. A notebook levitated from his workstation and hovered beside him. Another flick of the wrist; a quill separated from the pages. It’s soft feather wafted as it scratched on the paper: Subject: Sarah #113. Day:7669.
Pocket waved his hand in an arc across the view-wall.
Shadows coalesced. Colours brightened. Details solidified. The figure turned, her face loomed above him – flame-red hair, pale skin, freckles. Her eyes squinted.
Pocket held his breath.
Painted nails reached up. Fingers raked through her hair and patted a loose tendril in place. A wrinkle formed at the corner of her eye and spread to her forehead.
Pocket’s fingers drooped. The quill froze mid-air. She looked so sad. He reached his hand forward.
The quill quivered and buried itself back into the page.
Pocket snatched back hand away from the view-wall.
Overseer Spindle hovered beside his station. She thrust her hands on her hips and glared.
“You know the rules.” Her wings twitched.
Pocket lowered his head. “Report. Do not engage.”
“Exactly. Under no circumstances must an observer interact with the subject,” said Spindle. “You know what happens to fairies who cross the wall without Godmother’s protection.”
“But surely, Sarah…” Pocket cleared his throat. “Surely subject one-one-three is in need of intercession?”
“Under no circumstances.” Spindle waggled her finger.
But, Spindle, she looks so sad,” said Pocket.
Spindle’s wings thrummed. “Sadness is a human emotion. It’s their usual state.”
“Get back to work, Observer Pocket.”
Spindle huffed, pirouetted in the air and buzzed off.
Pocket turned back to the view-wall.
A tear rolled down Sarah’s cheek. She wrinkled her nose, spun away and padded up the stairs to the private rooms.
Pocket snapped upright and flicked open his eyes.
The view-wall shivered. Shadows flickered and twisted beyond the barrier.
Pocket gestured. Shadows separated and solidified. A flash of red whipped past view. Sarah turned toward Pocket. He gasped.
Can she see me? He shook his head. That’s impossible!
A red line tracked across one side of her face. She raised her bloodshot eyes. Her fingers crept toward her cheek, hesitated, touched the mark. She winced.
Glass rattled behind her.
Another rattle. The door behind her shuddered.
Her eyes followed the movement of the figure on the other side of the door.
Pocket let his breath escape. She’s watching him.
Sarah took a deep breath.
“I told you to leave,” she yelled. “I don’t love you anymore.”
“No one rejects me.” The silhouette froze. Its voice rumbled through the view-wall.
Pocket recoiled. His wings quivered. He snapped his fingers. A red, tasselled cord dropped beside him. He snatched the cord and yanked down.
Overseer Spindle materialised. She rubbed her eyes.
“What is it now?”
“Sarah’s – . ” Pocket straightened his shoulders. “Subject one-one-three/requires an intercession.”
Spindle peered at the wall. Sarah sat on the stair, crying. The figure had gone.
“She’s sad again?” said Spindle. “Put it in your report.”
“File an intercession request.” Spindle yawned. “You know the procedures.”
Pocket sighed. Godmother’s powers were fading. Only exceptional circumstances made the review list.
Pocket could hear Sarah sobbing. His heart fluttered. He edged closer to the view-wall.
So sad. He leaned forward.
“Jeremy Pocket, hold!”
Pocket’s wings halted mid-flap.
“You will not cross the wall.” Spindle’s eyes burned red. Her nostrils flared. “Only Godmother can grant permission to enter the human’s world.” Spindles eyes widened. “Even then safe return cannot be guaranteed.”
Pockets wings slumped. His legs dangled in the air. It would take a few hours for Spindle’s hex to fade.
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It was still hours before dawn. Pocket flitted along the row of sleeping observers. He didn’t have time to rest.
pindle snoozed at her station. With each snuffle, numbered bells tinkled on the panel beside her.
Pocket fluttered closer, reached across to bell one-one-three and slipped off its clapper.
He flew back to his station, gathered his equipment and adjusted his belt pouches.
The view-wall shimmered. It was dark on the other side.
Pocket donned his goggles and twirled the dials. A figure came into focus in the doorway. Something glinted. Pocket twiddled the dial again, increasing the contrast. Details cleared – silver hair, dark clothing. A stiletto in his hand.
Pocket’s heart thumped.
“Pocket?” The neighbouring Observer opened his eyes.
“Go back to sleep, Socks.”
Socks glanced at the view-wall and back to Pocket’s pouches. He grabbed Pocket’s arm.
“You can’t cross the wall, Pocket.”
Silverhair crept across the room.
“Magic doesn’t work the same on the other side .”
Pocket’s heart raced.
“I must,” whispered Pocket.
“You can’t return without Godmother’s protection.” Socks gripped tighter. “No one knows what happens if we stay too long.”
Pocket swallowed and eyed the view-wall. The old fairies told stories. But that’s all they were – stories. They had to be.
Silverhair climbed the stairs. Pocket’s heart thumped.
He wrenched his arm free and lunged at the view-wall. Socks grasped Pocket’s wing. Pocket slipped his hand into a pouch.
“I’m sorry, Socks.” He blew the dust into Socks’ face.
Socks’ grip slipped. His eyes closed. His wings slumped.
Pocket dived though the view-wall. A wave of nausea enveloped him. He struggled to raise his arms, to move his legs. It was like swimming through treacle – then splot – being spat out the other side.
Pocket dragged himself to his feet and adjusted his goggles.
The stairs creaked.
Pocket flew up the stairs, snatched dust from his pouch and flung it at Silverhair’s face.
Silverhair swatted the air around him and grinned.
Magic doesn’t work the same on this side, fairy,” hissed Silverhair.
Pocket darted out of reach. His wings buzzed.
I have to save Sarah.
He fumbled with his belt and charged Silverhair, thrusting the contents of all four pouches up his nostrils.
Silverhair’s eyes burned red. He wobbled, and swayed, and groaned as he stumbled down the stairs.
Pocket zoomed up the stairs toward Sarah.
The room burst into light. Footsteps rushed toward him.
Hide! Pocket flitted behind the railing.
“Thank you, little one.” Sarah’s voice was soothing.
Pocket peeked around the rail. Her freckles danced as she smiled.
“You must return. It’s not safe here.”
“You know what I am?” He hovered toward her.
Sarah nodded. Her smile faded. She pointed to the mirror on the wall near the bottom of the stairs. “Please, go.”
“I can’t leave.” Pocket’s wings drooped.
“You must.” Tears rolled down Sarah’s face.
“I can’t return without Godmother’s protection.”
“Protection?” asked Sarah.
“A talisman.” Pocket’s wing’s trembled.
“What does it look like?” Sarah descended the stairs, slipped her fingers under Silverhair’s shirt, yanked a chain from his neck and presented it to Pocket. A gold star dangled from the chain.
“Is this it?” she asked.
“Please take it and leave. I don’t want it to happen again.”
“What to happen?” he asked.
Sarah glanced at Silverhair. “He stayed too long.”
Pocket’s eyes widened. He examined Silverhair. A pointed eartip poked through his hair. Pocket’s heart jumped into his throat.
“He’s…” The words stuck in his throat.
“He was a fairy, like you. He stayed too long. He changed.” Sarah’s chin quivered. “I asked him to stay. It was all my fault.”
Pocket struggled to breathe.
Sirens screamed in the distance.
“That’ll be the police. You have to go.”
Pocket raced back to the mirror and hesitated. Spindle would be waiting for him back home. He glanced at Sarah’s reflection in the mirror. He’d crossed the wall for her. What if she still needed him? If he stayed…
Tyres screeched outside.
“Now. Before they find you.”
Pocket took a deep breath and dived through the mirror.
“Observer Pocket!” Spindle’s voice boomed.
Pocket looked back through the view-wall. Sarah smiled and winked. He tucked the talisman under his tunic and turned to Overseer Spindle.
“I’ll make that report now.”