The human settlement was an unorganized jumble of wooden buildings and dirt streets. I cautiously fluttered into an alley between two rough wooden walls, the little creature trailing behind me. This place seemed deserted and while human voices echoed off the walls from the street ahead, none of them turned down here. My follower found a crate turned on its side and climbed into it. Assuming by her unintelligible speech and the solid seat she had taken inside that she intended to stay there, I darted down the alley to peer around the corner into the street.
Humans passed by yelling merrily to each other, their arms full of wares and baskets. Small stands or carts stood along the walls covered with what I assumed to be food, though it was mostly plants. I was about to dart into the street when a frantic woman barreled past, grabbing the arms of strangers and imploring with them. They each shook their heads, and she hurried onto the next person. The human language was mostly a mystery to me, but I understood enough to know that she had lost something on the road. I laughed to myself realizing it must have been the work of my kind.
She passed on down the street and as quietly as I could, I fluttered to the first stall, distracting the beefy man behind it by knocking over a stack of crates, and gazed over his array of wares. Green leafy plants were piled high over the rough wood, and I moved to the next stall with a grimace. I couldn’t comprehend how they coped with consuming something so bland and fibrous.
After a complete search of the options and causing a rash of misplaced objects or sending neatly stacked items tumbling into the dust, I decided on a fresh fish. It was the only thing I recognized besides the hunks of red meat which I knew better than to bring her. Retreating into the alley, I found her still in the crate. The fish was deposited at her feet, but she quickly kicked it away. Getting annoyed at this point, I shoved it back.
“No!” she yelled, hurtling it at me from her chubby fist, coming close to damaging my delicate wings.
It was with some anxiety that I noticed her mood was significantly worse than when we had met though I had done my best to appease her. She kept opening her mouth wide, revealing rows of tiny white teeth, and with a little sigh she’d clamp it shut again, rubbing at her eyes with a dirty hand until they were red.
Maybe I had misjudged and leafy plants were the better option. With a sigh of irritation, I hurried back to the street, wondering if this was all some ploy to torment me further. It was certainly effective if it was, but I couldn’t let the thing starve. Not before she imparted her secrets.
I shoved over the stack of crates the human had just finished re-stacking and examined his stand again while he was distracted. These articles looked inedible, but I was desperate. I was about to select a strange orange branch when I noticed the little creature had abandoned her crate and pushed her way into the street after me. A wagon was rumbling right toward her, but she didn’t move. She bent down and was trying to pick up what looked like a pebble.
At the last moment, the human driver yanked back on the reins. The horse, apparently disliking the sudden bite of metal in his mouth and already disturbed by my smell, reared. The wagon crashed onto its side, throwing the driver into the street. The horse was dragged after it, but it thrashed wildly against the leather bindings, finally freeing itself and flying down the street, sending a wake of humans hurtling themselves out of the way. The little creature was still in the middle of the street, and to my horror one of the humans was making his way toward her.
All fiends know they must never be touched by human hands or we lose our powers, so I darted into the street and dragged her by her small garment back into the secluded alley. After I let her go, she held her arms up to me, her bottom lip again protruding itself. I had no idea what this meant and backed away suspiciously. With a whimper, she crawled back into her crate, pressing her face against the side. Loud voices floated from the street, and I fluttered back to the end of the alley, perching on a barrel to observe.
She had revealed herself to these humans without hesitation. I would never do anything so insane, but I was curious to see the outcome. I gazed in awe at the destruction around me. One of the wheels on the overturned wagon was still half-heartedly turning. The contents had spilled into the street, and one of the stands had been crushed under it. Several humans helped the driver to his feet, half carrying him away.
The frantic woman I had seen earlier rushed into the chaos, anxiously questioning the passersby. I shook my head in confusion. With everything that had just happened, how could she care about a lost trinket? When she saw the wagon, she collapsed onto an overturned crate and buried her face in her hands. A tall man, who had followed her through the crowd, knelt next to her, speaking softly to her. She nodded and buried her face in his shoulder.
My chaos was inconvenient, but even chaos needs balance. The duty of the fiend is to inconvenience, irk, and irritate, but never maim. We’re masters of mayhem, maybe malevolent, but never malicious. The little creature possessed too much power, and I made my mind up right there that this had to end.
The villagers managed to get the wagon back on its wheels. They called over to the frantic woman, and she started weeping profusely. The tall man beside her pulled himself to his feet and glanced around before starting toward my alley.
Realizing this was my chance, I flew back to where the little creature was still curled up in the crate. As the human passed by, I knocked over the crate next to hers. He paused before kneeling next to her hiding place.
The tiny shriek that echoed off the walls made me wince, but it had to be done. She was extracted and swept up into the arms of the tall human. I watched sadly as she laced her arms around the human’s neck, obviously trying to overpower her captor with her grip and her tears, but ultimately failing. When she was again placed on her feet, all traces of menace had vanished, and she stumbled along with her hand firmly gripping the human’s. It was done. At the end of the alley, she turned back and examined the walls for a moment before extending a hand to me.
I perched on the thatched roof to watch the scene below. The weeping woman rushed to them, dropping to her knees and crushing the tiny creature in her embrace. It all made sense now. She was the one responsible for whatever they had lost. How else would they recognize her? She must have revealed herself as she had when the wagon crashed. I might have felt bad for turning her over to those she had wronged, leaving her a hapless victim, but I was a fiend. We are prided for our chaos not our conscience, and I was proud of finally gaining the upper hand over her.
I had hoped to learn from her, and in a way I think I had. There was no shame in taking pride in the small successes: a missing trinket or a misplaced item. It is better to act from the shadows then flaunt your power and end up in the arms of a human. Satisfied, I spread my wings and soared off into the sky searching for my next victim.
Let me tell you, writing has been hard lately. My brain feels like pudding, but I’m slowly making progress. I am at 90,000 words in my draft. It’s almost done, and then I will move into the editing phase. I am also in the midst of putting together a small collection of short stories. I hope to have that done by the end of next month. Good things are happening, slowly but surely.
~ R. E. Rule