by Kathryn Fletcher
I am a seer of magical realms, a defender of the unaware. Fairies, goblins, tiny dragons, and more populate our world and very few people know it.
The troll incident began Friday afternoon at my school, Ogion High School. Three sprites flew around Mrs. Snapp’s feet as she wrote on the whiteboard. She could not see any of the Fae.
Mrs. Snapp is the nicest teacher ever. She is one of the younger teachers at the high school. I can tell, because she wears skinny jeans. Old teachers don’t wear those. Plus she always smells like chocolate and green tea.
I watched them to see if Mrs. Snapp was going to trip over one of the sprites or step on it. They zipped around and between her feet like it was a game. Maybe it was for them. I hated them for that. I hoped she would do me a favor and step on one. All it would take is one mistake on their part and Mrs. Snapp would crush it, like one of those little red tomatoes squished on the carpet.
Sprites look like your typical fairy as depicted in countless books, except they are angular. They have sharp pointy eyebrows, ears, and even their elbows are sharp. The little devils wear studded clothing too. Nothing about them is pleasant.
Mrs. Snapp said something about today, but I was too busy watching the sprites to pay attention. Unfortunately, she did not step on one.
I have a special gift called Autism that allows me to see Fae creatures when they break through the barrier between realms. Only people who are neuroatypical are aware of the Fae, but not all have the ability to see the Fae. I think there is probably a gene or something we are born with that gives us the ability.
People see me space out when I watch the magical realm creatures and they think I’m a weird autistic boy. Actually, I am a warrior. I’m gangly and awkward, but that doesn’t matter because I use magic. Sometimes it is fun. I love watching the teacher drop the dry erase marker twelve times because she can’t see the tiny dragon sleeping on the chalk tray in the exact spot where she’s trying to put it.
Many of the Fae creatures are harmless; a few are not. Sprites cause so much mischief. If strange things happen, sprites are probably to blame. And trolls! Don’t even get me started. They smell like rotten eggs and puke. It’s truly the most disgusting smell on Earth. They are incessantly hungry. They cross over to our realm every chance they get because the fruit here in our realm is such a rare delicacy, like when we travel to Germany for the most divine chocolate on the planet or go to France for heavenly baguettes and pastries. Trolls come here for fresh fruit. There are guards on the Fae realm side but Trolls are sneaky.
That day, when the sprites summoned their glowing magic rope to trip Mrs. Snapp, I began the incantation to banish them. To most everyone it sounds like moans, groans, and grunts, but it is actually a complex language based on sounds and pitching your voice in just the right way. It is so frustrating; people think I’m dumb because I don’t speak their language but the truth is that I am bilingual, and I have a pretty good vocabulary too. I think in English, but I can’t utter any English words, I only speak the Fae language.
With a sweep of my hand, a flash of light and a small pop the nasty little sprites retreated back to the Fae realm.
“Okay kids. Let’s go to the gym for the pep rally,” said Mrs. Snapp.
My world tilted a bit and spun. I hate pep rallies. Why do we have them? Do the athletes not get enough cheering at the sporting event? Are these people so thirsty for attention that we must gather and worship them? Why? They run around the field with a ball. Well sure, they do it in a real fancy way, but aren’t there more important things in life?
I don’t like noise, but not just for those reasons. Noise actually opens rifts between the realms that allow the Fae creatures into our human world. The noise is not worth all the problems it creates for me.
I picked up my communication tablet to take with me and tapped the screen. On the right side were some quick buttons. On the left side I had the ability to type what I wanted to say. I’m not very fast at typing though, so I hit the quick buttons to say, I hate gym. Mrs. Snapp would know that I meant the pep rally.
She looked at it and nodded. “I know but we have to go support our teams.”
Why? I don’t know.
I did not banish the sprites in the hall. I needed to save my magic for what was to come–the pep rally. I felt like a person marching to their executioner.
The number of sprites increased as we proceeded down the long hall to the gym. The yelling and cheering made me nauseous.
We entered the gym and Mrs. Snapp sat us down on the floor by the doors in case we needed a quick escape. One of us usually reached our limit before the end of the pep rally.
The cheerleaders ran and flipped across the floor, followed by the football players. Though the football players ran, not flipped, across the floor.
The coach came to the mic and talked, well actually yelled, about their most recent game. Apparently the football team made it to the playoffs.
The sprites swarmed around the crowd. Students cheered and there were flashes of light, like camera flashes as sprites popped through the barrier. I covered my ears with my hands so I could focus, and muttered a warding spell that might strengthen the barrier between realms and keep the fae in the realm they belonged.
The crowd screamed as the cheerleaders bounced around the gym floor hollering incoherent nonsense.
Then I saw it. I saw a line of light–a massive tear in the fabric between realms. It seemed to rip as easily as an overstuffed grocery bag.
I groaned a new spell. It was meant to close the rip but this one was too big. Something was coming through and I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t strong enough by myself.
A giant, mossy green foot came through the glowing, gaping hole, followed by a 10-foot behemoth. They are usually pretty slow creatures, so moss and dirt covered most of its body. He looked like a tall, thick-boned man. His wide nose was turned up like a pig snout. His eyes were human in shape but yellow and animalistic. Although he looked somewhat human, he was really nothing more than a beast. He needed to be put down or sent back as quickly as possible.
I redoubled my efforts to close the hole. I really didn’t want another troll making it through. At this point, I had to use a stronger spell with hand motions to banish them.
To others it looks like I’m flapping my hands, but I’m actually writing words in the air in the Fae language, which is very up-down zig-zagish.
I wrote in the air frantically and spoke the incantation loud enough to be heard over the commotion. The rip was closing up but not fast enough. I was losing track of the troll. I couldn’t focus on the rip and the troll at the same time. Stupid troll. Stupid greedy fruit-stealing troll.
“Albert, settle down.” said Mrs. Snapp to me. She doesn’t like it when I make noise and flap.
After a minute more of chanting, I closed the rip. Meanwhile the troll had already escaped the gym–probably looking for fresh fruit in the cafeteria.
I jumped up, tucked my tablet under my arm, and ran through the double doors while saying another incantation and frantically flapping my hands to cast a spell to send the troll back to his realm.
All the way down the long hallway I saw posters hanging half-off the bulletin boards while a few fluttered to the ground. Trolls always make messes and kids get blamed for it.
The troll was not in the hallway anymore.
How could such a slow moving creature get out of here so fast? He must have gone down one of the short side hallways. I was surprised that it didn’t go down the long hall to the cafeteria looking for something to eat.
“What was that thing?” A girl with a short afro and beat up tennis shoes stood twenty feet ahead with her back to a bathroom door. She was either rough on her shoes or had worn these for a long time because there was a hole in the right toe.
I stopped the incantation. Did she see the troll or just the papers being ripped off the wall? The noise of the pep rally, while more distant now, still echoed in my head making it hard to concentrate. Now this sneaker girl was yelling. The troll was getting away. I just couldn’t deal with all this. It was too much. I was worn out from expending that magic to close the rift.
Slow down and think, I told myself. It had to have gone down the fine arts hall, that was the closest hallway. It couldn’t have gone too far.
I walked past her, focusing on listening for sounds of the troll. I didn’t have time to engage in conversation right now. I had to find that troll and banish it before it caused any more damage. I was the only one in the school who could see the Fae and had the training to banish it.
“What are you doing? What was that thing? You saw it. I know you did,” the girl walked next to me as she talked.
I kept walking. I tried saying, leave me alone, but it came out as groans. I didn’t have time to mess with my communication tablet to tell her to leave me alone. She was too distracting. I couldn’t concentrate.
I tapped the quick button for Shhh and hit display. The text “Shh” showed up big on the screen for the girl to see. I flipped the tablet around for her to read it.
She stopped screeching nonsense at me. I almost reached the fine arts hallway when I heard Mrs. Snapp calling my name. Mrs. Snapp and her little herd of students had apparently realized I left and chased after me. She’d catch up to me in a minute. A glance at the hall clock told me it was 3:18, so school would be out soon. I’d have to find the troll later. At least later, I wouldn’t have a girl following me around asking about the troll. I’d had enough of people for today.
After school, my mom stood across the street. I waited for the crossing guard to walk us across.
Mom’s rule: The crossing guard must walk you across this street.
The girl with the grungy sneakers came up next to me.
“You saw that thing. I don’t know what it was, but you were chasing it weren’t you?” Sneakers asked.
She looked at me. I didn’t look at her face, but I could feel her eyes boring into me.
“I could help you track it down. Do you know how to stop it? Are they dangerous?” Sneakers asked.
How could she have seen him?
I tapped the button on my tablet to say, “No.” I didn’t want her to get in my way and distract me.
I tried to say, I work alone, but it came out in Fae language so she just heard a series of vowel sounds. I would have used my tablet but it took forever to type.
The crossing guard blew her whistle and held up her sign. A brownie popped through the barrier at the sound of the whistle. Brownies look like fairies without wings. They have skin the color of a brown moth and are as angular as sprites. This one zipped across the street chasing a fallen leaf, before I could even begin the spell. I was too tired anyway.
Mom gave me a hug when I got across the street.
“Are you his mom?” said Sneakers.
Mom nodded. She always smells like apples.
“My name is Joan. I met your son today at school. I’m new. Just started last week.” said Sneakers.
“This is Albert. I saw you talking to him. He doesn’t say much because he has Autism.” explained Mom.
“Oh. Well, I have ADHD and my mom says I talk enough for two. What‘s your name?”
Ah-ha! That was how she could see the troll! She must have pretty severe ADHD if she sees the troll. The number of Fae creatures a person could see was proportional to the degree of neuro-variance. People with minor neuro-variance might glimpse little fairies every now and then out of the corner of their eye. Only someone with a major variance could see something big like a troll. It seemed like she was only seeing these things for the first time though. I wondered why.
“Ms. Johnson,” Mom said.
They chatted all the way home, but I was too worn out to listen to them.
Joan smelled like bubblegum. Part of me felt it might be nice to have a friend who could see these things. But then I’d have to use my stupid tablet to talk to her and she talked way too much. No, she was definitely too peopley. What I mean by that is being around her was like being in a place with too many people. I was just fine without her. Definitely.
I watched for sprites. I didn’t see any now. I wondered if the troll had actually come this way and scared them away.
“Albert, say goodbye to Joan.” Mom said.
“iiieee.” That was bye in Fae. I didn’t use the tablet because I didn’t care if she understood me. I really didn’t want to encourage her.
“He said bye!” Sneakers said excitedly and rather too loudly. I flapped my hands but banishing humans never works…unfortunately.
When we got home, Mom gave me my peeled apple snack. I wished I could tell her about the Fae. It would be nice to talk to someone about everything. She’d never believe me though. I had no proof to offer her. My dragons were enough; I didn’t need a human to talk to about it.
While she fixed dinner, I went up to my room to watch my pet dragons. They are fun to watch, and sometimes I feel like they are the only ones who truly understand me.
I have a red dragon, a silver dragon, and a gold dragon. The red and silver ones are the length of my arm including their tail. The gold one is just a baby, so he is half that size. I named them Red, Silver, and Gold.
Red and Silver were play-fighting on the floor. I sat on my bed and watched them. Gold tried to join in but the other two knocked him away. Eventually Gold flew up and sat in my lap to watch with me.
I stroked the length of his body. Gold tilted his head and leaned into my petting. I like the soft, smooth feel of Gold.
Sometimes, about once a year, Red and Silver went to the Fae Realm to renew their human realm residency permission and report to the queen dragon on how my training was going.
I spoke to Red in Fae explaining the events of the day and asked, “How can I find the troll?”
Red spoke telepathically, “It is in the neighborhood, so don’t worry, you’ll run into it eventually. What is your plan when you find it?”
“I’ll do a banishing spell” I said.
“You need to bind it and then banish it. The binding makes it easier to get it through the portal. The girl may turn out to be useful. Let her help you if she is around.” Red said.
“But she distracts me. She’s loud.” I said.
“Albert. You live in a world full of people. You need to learn to like, or at least tolerate them. Sometimes a friend is a good thing.”
“You’re my friend,” I said.
“I’m a dragon. I’m your teacher.” said Red
“Silver and Gold are my friends.” I said.
“Also dragons, Albert.”
“Dragons can’t be friends?”
“You need friends of your own kind.” Red said.
“Why? Dragons at least speak the same language.”
“You could teach the girl a bit of our language. Plus, you need to practice more with the communication device.”
Hrumph. He was probably right but I wasn’t going to admit that.
That night, I woke to a crash just outside my window. The troll! I got dressed as fast as I could. The crashing continued but became more distant. He was getting away! I glanced at the alarm clock on my nightstand. 3:04 am. Everyone else was asleep at this point so I wouldn’t need my communication tablet. I could just slip outside and cast the troll back to his realm. I’d be back in five, maybe ten minutes.
I climbed out of my window as quietly as I could but I banged my knee on the lamp which thumped as it toppled over on the nightstand. I set it right again and closed the window, hoping it wasn’t enough to wake Mom.
I looked in the direction of the tromping sound.
The troll traveled west on Laurel Street.
I saw the trash can that it must have knocked over. I turned down that alley.
I began my binding incantation-a golden magical rope-to hold him. Dogs all around the neighborhood were barking. Animals like dogs and cats could see the Fae. Cats were particularly sensitive to them.
When I was three blocks from my house, the troll entered a backyard.
Oh no, I thought. The spell I had been working on fell apart because I stumbled over a word. The warm glow of the spell slipped through my fingers like water, and it was gone.
I followed the troll.
It kicked over a kid’s toy–the kind that a two-year-old scoots around on. Quickly, I waved my hands, beginning the incantation again. The spell was quite complicated.
“What–” began a voice behind me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“–is making that noise?” Sneakers said. She stood in the doorway of the house.
My heart pounded. I cursed in Fae, “Deeyaah.”
The spell slipped through my fingers again.
Sneakers wore a purple robe and purple fuzzy slippers now.
I guess I can’t keep changing her name every time she changes her shoes. Mom said her name was Joan.
“Oh yea, you can’t answer me.” Joan prattled on, “I heard a big crash outside my window. Was that the moss monster? What are you going to do?”
My spell was ruined and the troll already climbed out of Joan’s yard into the next. I cursed in Fae one more time, “DeeYaah!” and began the spell again as I climbed over the next fence. I waved my hand at her, trying to communicate that she should leave me alone.
This yard had a big tree, and I heard the crunching of fall leaves as the troll dragged its feet across the yard like an oversized zombie.
Joan climbed over behind me. “Oh my gawd, that thing smells!” she whisper-yelled. “What’s it doing?”
The troll opened the back door of a house and tried to squeeze through.
Mom’s rule: Do not go into someone’s home unless invited.
I redoubled my efforts, but the spell was as long as it was complicated.
“It’s stuck!” Joan said.
I wished the girl would just leave me be to handle this alone, uninterrupted. Red’s voice niggled in the back of my mind. She may be of help, he’d said. Maybe, but she clearly didn’t know any magic spells. How could she help banish the troll?
The troll heaved and fell through the door.
So many things could go wrong. What if it stepped on a pet or smashed a fish tank? Worse, if they had a baby, the troll might hurt it. It could even hurt one of the adults. Trolls had been known to cause sudden heart attacks. If I learned later that they got hurt or died, I couldn’t live with that. There was nothing else to do. I had to go in and save their ignorant lives. I chanted more quietly and followed him.
“We can’t go in there.” Joan whispered urgently.
I stepped onto the patio.
Joan continued after a moment, “You are going in there aren’t you? Agh. Alright. Fine. I’ll help.”
Finally the rope spell was complete. It glowed gold and looked far too thin to hold the troll, though I knew it was more than strong enough.
“Oh, that is so pretty,” Joan said.
The first time I summoned a rope like this was three years ago and Red had helped me. We were using it to bind a banshee. That was the screechiest, most horrible creature I’d ever encountered. The screaming and wailing quite possibly could have been worse than the troll smell. Now, I’d been working without Red’s help for over a year.
At the door, I turned toward her and tried to say, I work alone. But, once again, it came out as a mix of angry sounding vowels and consonants. Sometimes I wish I could speak English. Mostly I don’t though. Conversation is annoying.
Joan followed me in and hissed, “You better know what you are doing. We could get into so much trouble.”
Her blabbering was going to get us caught. I didn’t know why Red thought she’d be able to help.
If I could trap the troll and banish it without waking anybody, that would be perfect.
The troll reach for a bowl of fruit on the kitchen island. It put an orange in his mouth and bit down making a squishing sound. Juices from the orange dripped down its chin. Rotten eggs and puke was all I could smell though. How could the smell not wake the people? Maybe they couldn’t smell it. Maybe they rationalized it away as a shift in the wind carrying the scent of a distant trash dump.
The troll reached for another orange but its clumsy hand knocked the bowl of fruit off the counter with a loud metal clatter. I cursed silently in my head.
I snuck up behind him while tying a loop in the magic rope and flung it over him. He jerked up in response to the burning sensation from the rope. It blazed reddish gold now.
The troll struggled against the rope, roaring its malcontent.
I muttered the words to send him back. This spell was blessedly short.
I heard voices from the other room.
The troll glowed green and disappeared in a shower of fluorescent glitter.
I breathed a sigh of relief. That took a lot of effort. My whole body felt like strawberry jam–all slippery with slimy chunks. I needed to sit in silence for a bit, but that would have to wait until I could get home.
What was that? I turned around.
A man stood in his underwear and bare feet. He held a handgun aimed directly at me.
“What the hell are you doing in my house?”
I stood there gaping. I should have brought my tablet so I could communicate. I never planned on breaking into anybody’s home. I felt like throwing up.
“I am so sorry,” said Joan with her hands up in surrender. “This is my friend Albert. He has Autism. Sometimes he wanders at night. I followed him here to drag him back home. Come on Albert. Time to go home.”
“Get out of my house, and if I ever see either of you on my property again… ” the man threatened. He spoke loudly which probably meant he was really mad.
Joan pushed me out the door, and half dragged me through the gate and out of the yard to the front sidewalk.
Good thing Joan was there to explain things to the man.
“Albert! Do you know how close we came to being dead?!” She yelled at me. “You can never do that again! Do you hear me?”
I covered my ears. I just banished a troll, saving a bunch of lives, or two lives at least, and I get a gun pointed at me and yelled at? No gratitude.
I turned and walked toward home.
“But…that was so–cool!” Joan skipped down the sidewalk at my side. “You summoned that rope. Didn’t you? I can’t believe you have magic! I’ve never met anyone like you.”
I wished she would be quiet. I heard a voice in the distance. My mother’s voice, calling for me. Oh no, she woke up. Now I was in for it.
When Mom saw me, she ran to me and hugged me tightly.
Then she started to lecture me, “What in heaven’s name are you doing out at night?” Her voice was shrill to the point that it hurt my ears.
“Ms. Johnson, you would not believe what Albert just did! He captured a troll and sent it back to wherever they come from.” Joan recounted what happened.
Mom stiffened as Joan told the story.
“This was your doing? You were playing some imaginative game? You went into someone’s house? You could have gotten my son killed tonight! Do you understand how serious this is?”
I tried to protest. Joan was a blathering mess and I didn’t want her along at first, but she did save my life tonight. I couldn’t have explained myself to the man. Somehow, she could see the Fae. Joan was the only one I had ever met that could see them clearly like I did. As much as I hated to admit it, it felt good to not be so alone.
I was so exhausted. I just couldn’t deal with this.
I stepped between Joan and my mom to protect her from my mom’s wrath. Mom stop yelling.
“We’ll talk about this later. Joan go back home.”
Mom marched me home. She slept on the floor of my room. I feared she might never let me out of her sight again. I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling until dawn. Gold curled up on my chest. His weight and slow even breathing comforted me.
The next day, Mom was more calm. She talked to Joan’s mom and dad. She talked to the man whose house we had gone into. Joan confessed to following me, and then making up the troll story to explain my actions. That surprised me. Nobody had ever lied for me before. Nobody besides the dragons knew the truth about the world. I wasn’t so alone now.
Monday morning Joan found me at school and jabbered at me about something. I smiled. I didn’t mind her noise as much as I did before. That was a good thing because it seemed I was stuck with her anyway. I started to teach her a bit of the Fae language.