Every Friday I post a short story here in its entirety. It stays up for one week and then I post something new. When I do, the old one is taken down. So please enjoy the story of the week while it lasts.
Deidre frowned at the porch. Damn the pixies she had allowed to move into the floorboards.
They’d eaten through the joists and now she had to repair the deck without destroying their nest.
Unfortunately baby Mori had already fallen through and been bitten mercilessly.
Now Deidre had to find a way to balance her family against the pixies’ to keep both of their families safe, healthy and growing.
By Meyari McFarland
Deidre frowned at the porch. Damn the pixies she had allowed to move into the floorboards during the spring. As loathe as Deidre was to throw people out, the pixies weren’t exactly kind on other people’s structures. They’d gnawed most of the way through one support post, weakened a whole series of beams and just this morning little Mori had fallen straight through into a nest of very irate pixies.
She could hear him inside crying as Tyson smoothed spackle over his wounds. Not much else would work as a bandage for a baby dragon. Mori’s scales just weren’t strong enough yet for them to protect him against pixie bite. In a couple of years it would be different but for now he was as vulnerable as Deidre. Thankfully none of the other kids had gotten caught in the swarm. Pixie bites on the twins would have been nasty, worthy of a trip to the emergency room.
And a call to the exterminator, as sickening as that thought was to Deidre.
A plume of purple sparkles showered up from the hole in the deck. Tiny chattering voices echoed under the deck like there was an entire city living down there. Might be, honestly. Deidre had left the situation alone far too long.
“Hey,” Deidre called as she cautiously tapped a foot near the edge of the hole in the deck. “Need to talk to you.”
“Stay out!” a dozen or so of the pixies shouted up at her.
Three tiny heads, each as big as Deidre’s big toe, poked out. They had gossamer purple, pink and white hair, eyes as big as a button and mouths filled with teeth that could rip flesh from bone in seconds when they wanted to. Deidre rather liked having pixies around. They were happy to scavenge corpses so the pack could have real hunts instead of hunt and rescue games. It was good for the family, good for the overpopulated deer herds around town, and good for the pixies.
“Not coming in,” Deidre said. She crouched down, hands draped over her knees so that she could jump back if the pixies decided to attack. “Worried about the deck. Roof’s gonna fall if the deck goes, you know.”
The three pixies’ eyes went wide as their heads snapped up to stare at the porch overhead. They crooned and then ducked back into the cloud of purple dust drifting up. Must be upset for that steady of a flow of pixie dust. Most of the time they didn’t let that much go loose. It was their major source of money. Pixie dust worked as a perfect amplifier for most magical and combustion engines. A few fools even smoked the stuff though Deidre wouldn’t if her life depended on it. The hallucinations weren’t worth it.
“Fix the deck!” a dozen voices said as an even nine pixies flew up from the hole.
“Can’t do that with you living in there,” Deidre said. “Gotta tear the boards out, replace the beams. Put in all new posts. It’ll ruin your nest.”
The nine pixies, almost enough for a true full-mind, gnashed their teeth. Three more flew up to hover like hummingbirds with the others. Deidre let out a long breath, both relieved and worried. She’d only dealt with a full-mind pixie group once before and that’d ended up with a colony living under her deck.
“The nest is broken,” the pixies declared.
“So it is,” Deidre agreed. “Said you could stay here. Like having pixies around. You keep the forest clean, help with the Hunt. Did warn you that the wood was weak, though. I can’t fix it without tearing it all out and putting new wood in.”
“But the nest is broken!” the pixies repeated, this time with enough agitation that Deidre realized there was more to it than just the boards breaking down and creating a hole.
“Can the next be fixed?” Deidre asked.
Communicating with pixies was always a challenge. They didn’t think anything like other people. It was a lot like talking to old Jerry, their autistic pack member who rarely took human form. Every statement had to be evaluated to see if it implied something more, lead in a different direction because what was obvious to Deidre wasn’t clear to either Jerry or the pixies.
She could hear Tyson singing to the kids. They were all inside right now so that Deidre could deal with the pixies without any distractions. Honestly, she’d appreciate some right now. A pixie full-mind glaring at her and gnashing their teeth while flexing their claws was intimidating enough that Deidre had to stomp on the urge to shift into her wolf form. Be hard to communicate in wolf form and this was hard enough already.
“Broken,” the pixies said. “Nest is broken. Promised safe place.”
“Not promised,” Deidre huffed at them. She crossed her arms over her chest and stood to glower at the full-mind. “Said we wouldn’t call the exterminators. Told you not to gnaw the wood. No promises were made.”
True as far as it was but it left them at another impasse. The pixie full-mind snarled while the cloud under her feet howled with outrage. Or fear. Deidre had never learned to tell the difference between pixie scents, if there was one, as their emotions changed.
Rather than let thing escalate, Deidre waved a hand as if to brush all that off. The pixie full-mind shifted in the air as if they were watching her hands, not her face. Which was interesting. Normally they were very focused on faces. Tyson had theories that they couldn’t stop staring at non-pixie faces because they were so very large, like billboards, to pixie eyes.
“The deck is broken,” Deidre said.
“Yes,” the pixies agreed. “Nest is broken.”
“Nest and deck must be fixed,” Deidre said somewhat more hopefully.
“Yes!” the pixies shouted as the showered dust all over the hole in the deck.
Deidre nodded. Good. At least they agreed on that. She wasn’t so sure they’d agree to the next bit.
“The nest must move for the deck to be fixed,” Deidre said. Rather than just say the words she gestured as if carefully picking up the nest and shifting it off to the side.
“Nest is broken,” the pixie full-mind complained, waving tiny fists at her.
“You want it to stay here or something else?” Deidre asked.
Every single pixie, including some from the hole, stared at her, button-black eyes shuttering at her in surprise.
“Else,” the full-mind whispered, each of them clutching the others’ hands or feet until they were a complicated tangle of beating dragonfly wings and wide, frightened eyes.
“Good,” Deidre said. She took a deep breath. “The nest can’t be moved or something else?”
“Can’t,” the full-mind said.
“You need a new nest in a different place?” Deidre asked. The pixies moaned, wings buzzing even faster. “We can find a place on the land, you know. Doesn’t have to be right here. Might be better out in the forest. We can fell some trees, build a spot for you.”
The word ‘build’ finally got a response from the pixies. The entire cloud billowed up out of the hole in the deck, chattering and humming and singing in that weird pixie language that seemed to be more gnashing teeth than actual sounds.
Deidre backed up, heart beating faster, as a second full-mind, then a third and a fourth formed in front of her. They argued between each other for a moment, long enough for Tyson to poke his head out and then stare along with Deidre.
“What’s up?” Tyson asked.
“They like the idea of building another nest somewhere on the property,” Deidre said. “Not sure what else is going on.”
“Huh,” Tyson said. “All right. We’ll get the rest of the pack, gather some tools and wait out back. They can let us know what they want and where when they’re ready to communicate. Though I think Mori will stay inside.”
In fact, Mori did not stay inside. An hour later, after the fear and novelty of four pixie full-minds arguing over her deck had turned into boredom and impatience, Mori and all the other kids came along as the pack surged out into their patch of land. Deidre didn’t know if they’d want something on the lot proper or back in the woods but with three acres for their lot and thirty more acres of forest they’d probably find something that worked without too much trouble.
The pixie full-minds had dissolved, all but the one she’d started out talking to. They hovered overhead, way out of reach of even the highest jumping kids. Deidre waved at everyone to shut up as she looked up at the full-mind.
“Okay,” Deidre said. “You need something with sawn lumber or will logs with bark be okay?”
“Bark!” the full-mind exclaimed with enough delight that Deidre laughed.
“Up close to the house?” Deidre asked, gesturing towards the edge of the yard where the grass was actually able to grow because it wasn’t constantly trampled. “At the edge between yard and forest? Or out in the forest?”
The pixies scattered a cloud of dust, faintly pink now instead of their normal purple, as they flew over and checked out the spot she’d indicated on the grass. Then they checked out the broken down fence between the yard and forest, huffing and gnashing their teeth as if the broken fence slats offended them. They hovered for a moment, staring at the forest and then came back to hover over the grassy spot.
“Right,” Deidre said. “That’s the spot for your new nest then. You need big logs? How long? Or skinny ones? Need a hole dug and then build the logs into a framework on top? Don’t know what you’d like best for a nest.”
The pixies stared at her, clutching each other’s hands and feet so that they were a clump again. So did the pack, little Mori coming over to tug at Deidre’s pants. She smiled and scooped him up, kissing his scaly nose. His wings quivered when Deidre ran her hand over them.
“No biting?” Mori asked.
“No biting as long as you don’t bother their nest,” Deidre said. “They bit because you sat on their heads.”
Mori squeaked and then giggled as he tucked his face into the nook of her throat. His crest scratched a little but that wasn’t that big of a deal, not when his scales were still soft and pliable. The pixies hissed at him a little bit but apparently Mori felt safe in Deidre’s arms because he didn’t flinch at all. Or maybe his hearing was affected. He had been thrown out for being a runt and runts often had health issues. She’d have to check later.
“Figure we build the structure,” Deidre said to the pixies and by extension the waiting pack, “and then we’ll build a nice tall log wall and plant like blackberries or something around it. Or roses. That way it’ll be secure and you’ll have protection. Which is better, blackberries or roses? Both?”
The pixies trilled, a sound so delighted that Deidre stepped back instinctively. They beamed, showing those wicked piranha teeth before nodding at her.
“Both!” the full-mind declared.
“Okay then.” Deidre snorted. “Big logs for the nest? Or small? How about you come with us and show us which to cut first and how long?”
And that, thankfully, was that. The pixies took to the air, singing with delight. The pack followed Deidre out into the woods. Over the next four hours they cut down one big tree that they bucked up into four foot lengths, two small trees that ended up in six foot lengths, and then piled all the branches on top of the resulting tumbled together pile for the pixie cloud to shift and arrange as they liked.
The log wall was even easier. They didn’t have to make it solid at all. Tyson notched each end of eight foot logs and they stacked them like Lincoln Logs in a loose, wobbly wall that the pixies somehow strengthened until it was sturdier than solid granite. By the time darkness fell the pack had dug up blackberry vines from the edge of the forest and Jerry had emerged from his wolf shape to carefully transplant a runner from the old yellow rosebush their grandmother had carried with her when she made the trip from the east coast to the west, back when the pack had decided that the Opening had changed too much of their territory for them to stay put.
The pixies’ new nest wasn’t pretty. It’d probably lurk like the eyesore it was in the corner of the yard for a good long time. But Deidre didn’t mind all that much. She walked through the rapidly darkening dusk to the front of the house, staying on the grass because who knew how much of the porch was compromised at this point. There were a hell of a lot more pixies living under the porch than she’d thought.
“Not empty yet!” the pixies shouted at her when she neared the hole.
“I know,” Deidre said. “Just eager to get started. Gonna be moved tonight or should I wait before getting to work on the maintenance?”
Three pixies poked their heads out of the hole. It might be the same three. They had purple, pink and white hair but then most pixies did have hair those colors. Either way, they stared up at her, blinking before climbing up to stand, actually stand on the deck like they were person-sized instead of doll-sized.
Deidre blinked back at them. Knelt down and cocked her head.
“Don’t hate,” one of the three pixies, the one with purple hair, said with a frown that made the statement into a question.
“No,” Deidre said. She shrugged. “I don’t hate you. Even Mori doesn’t hate you. Just worried about the house. Don’t want it to fall down.”
The pixie nodded, clasped its hands and then wrung them as if worried or afraid. It looked at the other two pixies who nodded at it. When it turned back to Deidre its expression was very serious indeed.
“New nest,” the pixie said, its voice humming with the echoes of the other pixies lurking under Deidre’s feet, flying around in the back yard. “New nest.”
“You’re happy or something else?” Deidre asked. “I don’t understand.”
“New nest means new queen,” the pixie said. “New queen means new babies. New babies means new hope, new food, new life. Gave new nest.”
Deidre stared, holding up a hand so that the pixie wouldn’t continue. “You can’t have new babies or a new queen until you have a new nest?”
The pixies all nodded. Deidre huffed and sat on the deck despite the way it wobbled as if she was about to fall through just like Mori had. Their neighbors had brought exterminators in the last time the pixies had tried to expand. Just last week someone had complained in the grocery store about ‘damn pixies’ and how they’d tried to create a nest on his property.
“People kill your nests,” Deidre whispered. “They keep you from having kids.”
“Yes,” the pixie agreed.
“Well, fuck that!” Deidre snapped as she stood back up and glared out at the street. “I’ll be damned if I let them do that. You should be allowed to have nests where you’re not threatening anyone. No one should be denied the right to have kids if they want them.”
The pixies flew up into the air, a new full-mind forming as several more pixies drifted up out of the hole in the deck. For the first time, their teeth baring smiles didn’t look so threatening. Not when paired with cooing noises and clouds of pink and gold pixie dust.
“Thank you,” the pixie full-mind crooned.
“You’re welcome,” Deidre said. “Let us know when you’re all moved over to the new nest. I’ve got some people to yell at about attempted genocide of an intelligent species. There are laws about that sort of thing.”
She strode back into the house, cheeks going red because the pixies crooned and laughed and clapped their hands as if she’d just done the most incredible trick. It wasn’t a trick though. As much as people forgot it, pixies were people. They were people the same as werewolves, humans, dragons or any of the other species around.
They should be treated with respect and allowed to have homes that suited their needs, not hunted and killed and kept from having children. And that was exactly what she was going to tell the others in town. If they got in her way of creating some sort of pixie safe zone, on her land or maybe in the town park, then she’d show them just how dangerous it could be to cross a werewolf with children’s lives on the line.
One way or the other, she’d find a way to balance her pack’s needs with the needs of the pixies and the whole damned world better get out of her way.
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