A Faerie's Sullen Child
I never wanted to be anyone’s wife, but I have always wanted to be someone’s mother. My girlhood rag-dollies were loved more than any human child. Outgrown, but not forgotten, they sit in tiny chairs at their tiny table set with tiny cups and saucers. What we’d really like is a human baby.
Unfortunately, there are none to spare around these parts and the greedy house-hens won’t even let me hold one. Whenever I try, they jerk them away and smother them in their leaky, overprotective bosoms.
Ivy, stop—you’re scaring him.
You’re frightening her, Ivy. Not now.
Look what you’ve done! Crazy old thing—the poor mite’s terrified.
Maybe I am scary. The reflection is not beautiful-- inky eyes shoved into sallow skin like raisins in a burnt pancake. Oily hair, in color and texture, frames my face with too-long sideburns and a widow’s peak. I might look like a gigantic bumblebee coming to ravage the delicate little flowers.
Or maybe they’re crying because they’re being jerked about and smothered. Who knows?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Changelings lately. We don’t talk about them much anymore. We are far too modern, too forward-thinking. Today, the word would never travel the breeze, lifted from sewing circle gossip. Nobody’s father is pounding his fist on the table, declaring he could never love a faerie’s sullen child. Schoolyard bullies might call you a freak or loser, but never a Changeling.
I think I might like one—a Changeling of my own.
I haven’t a human baby to trade, but I’ve made a lovely new doll. Perhaps faeries can be tricked? Her skin is clear and unblemished, stitched together from the sun-bleached fabric of my sheets. Large blue eyes framed with delicate golden lashes and brows gaze fearlessly out into the world. Her rosebud mouth smirks a bit, as though she’s amused with life. That snub nose is perfection. It took many days and many faces to achieve such perfection. I buried the deformed and distorted babies in the back yard, with tiny stick crosses to mark them. It seemed wrong to throw them away.
Her name is Daisy. She is pretty, delicate, and quiet. Not at all like her mama. She is the kind of baby faeries would want. I must make sure they know just how desirable my sweet Daisy is.
The townsfolk think me mad. I’ve been promoted in their thoughts from peculiar to deranged, but as I “seem harmless enough” they’ve decided to let me be. That’s what the wind tells me, anyway. They’ve stopped speaking to me altogether.
Daisy continues to be a delight, however. I’ve sewn her a lovely little wardrobe, ripped from the fabric of my own skirts, cloaks, and curtains. Her corn silk hair is painstakingly curled and tied with a bright blue ribbon. After breakfast each day, I walk her in the woods, cradled in my arms. At night, I take her out to see the moon, then sing a lullaby before placing her in her cradle. She is loved and cared for. Those watching from the forest must see what a darling baby she is. They must want her by now.
Soon I will give her up.
Daisy is six months old today. We had a cake and a candle. I cut the candle in half, since it was her half-birthday. I blew it out for her and made a wish for me.
There is no moon tonight and the stars are scarce. The faeries will believe themselves hidden.
I tell her that we are going to look for the moon and carry her deep into the forest. We come to a clearing and I know I’ve found the perfect spot. Right in the center, there’s a ring of toadstools dotting the damp grass. Light bounces from my lantern and the dew glistens around us like tiny, tangible stars. Singing Daisy her favorite lullaby, I place her in the middle of the circle. A tender kiss on her forehead, and I’m gone. I’ll be back in the morning for my baby.
With soft sighs of relief, the faeries placed the shrieking child in the toadstool ring. The child clawed at their faces in rage. When she could no longer reach them, she scratched at the air, the earth, herself. She had already destroyed her faerie mother with the violence and crudeness of her birth. She kicked and squalled and refused to be comforted. Above all, she was hideous—sallow skin with eyes of pitch.
The doll was a welcome trade.
The faeries retreated. The doll rested quietly in the queen’s arms, the perfect child. The queen looked back once, glancing over her shoulder at the screaming mass on the ground. This time, she felt no guilt.
The Changeling would take care of her kind.
J.G. Formato is a writer and elementary school teacher from North Florida. She lives in a little house on the edge of the woods with her beautiful family. You can find her work in Persistent Visions, Luna Station Quarterly, The Colored Lens, freeze frame fiction, and elsewhere.