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co-author Leslie Roy Carter
A Plague of Pixies
by Margaret L. Carter

Shooing seven nude, hummingbird-size, translucent-winged humanoids off the kitchen chair, Janet invited her brother to sit down. Arthur, a dazed look in his eyes, lowered himself into the chair, brushing glittery dust off his trousers. So far, she thought, he was taking the shock rather well. He hadn't screamed or fainted.

"No wonder you wouldn't tell me what was up over the phone." He glanced at the sink, where five of the creatures took turns climbing onto the faucet and swan-diving into the soapy dishwater. He shuddered visibly and looked away. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you'd sneaked into my office and slipped acid into my coffee mug. What the heck are these -- things -- and where did they come from?"

"As for what they are," said Janet, running a hand through her short, curly, brown hair, "figure it out for yourself. You can see them as well as I can. Where they came from --" She swept a trio of pixies off the laminated table top and produced a necklace from the pocket of her jeans. "I've stopped wearing it, but that didn't help." She laid the pendant on the table.

Arthur picked it up to examine the silver chain and the oval medallion. A pattern of interlaced spirals was etched on it. "Where did you get this?"

"In a box of miscellaneous jewelry I bought at an estate sale. You know, scrounging stuff for the shop. I think it's Celtic -- a real find, heaven knows how it got mixed in with the rest of the junk." She'd tried wishing that she had never set foot within ten miles of that auction, but that kind of wish seemed beyond the amulet's power, worse luck.

"I told you that New Age crap would get you in trouble."

"Oh, stuff it, Arthur." She didn't have the energy to get mad at him. "I called you for help, not 'I told you so's.'"

"Why me?"

"Aside from not wanting anybody outside the family to see -- all this -- you're the one with the Ph.D."

"In entomology!"

"So? They look sort of like insects, with those wings."

"Janet, you need a folklorist." He swatted a pixie off his left sleeve. "Or an exterminator."

"No way am I letting any strangers in here. I'd end up under siege from the tabloids. You've got to help me."

"How did it happen?"

"I brought a carload of boxes home from two different auctions Wednesday. Carried in the one with the costume jewelry -- or so I thought -- first. While I was digging out the necklace to get a better look, it started pouring rain." She felt something scrabbling in her hair. Reaching up, she plucked off one of the creatures and tossed it on the floor. It scrambled to its feet and fluttered into the air, unhurt. "I said out loud how I hated the idea of hauling boxes in that mess, and I wished it would stop. Well, it did. Just like that."

"Funny," said Arthur, "that storm went on for two hours over at the University. Still, could be coincidence."

She gave him a disgusted look. "Yeah, then how do you explain those?" She waved a hand at a pyramid of winged creatures on top of the refrigerator. "Anyway, at the same moment, one of them appeared in front of me and started circling my head like a miniature satellite."

"Must have been quite a shock."

"You're telling me! I decided to experiment, so I made a couple more wishes. A box of chocolates appeared on the coffee table on demand -- along with two more of those fairies. Then I wished for a hundred-dollar bill, and that appeared. With another four fairies."

He sat up straight. "You're saying that every time you make a wish, you get it -- plus double the number of pixies -- or whatever?"

"Yep. I figured it wouldn't hurt to use another wish or two, so I asked for perfect health and five hundred thousand dollars in the bank."

"You what?"

"Well, I thought, why waste it on something piddly? Except I forgot to wish for a way to explain it to the IRS, but I can worry about that later."

"What, no world peace?"

"Considering what happened when I made wishes for myself," she said, "I was afraid to risk something really big."

"And then you stopped, right?"

She nodded.

"That would make --" Arthur stared off into space, muttering, for a few seconds. "That should have resulted in a total of thirty-one pixies. Where did all these come from?"

"Well, I quit making wishes or even wearing the medallion. But the next day I discovered a new batch. Thirty-two more, I'd say -- they won't hold still long enough for me to count. Another bunch, probably double the number of the previous one, appears every day."

"It all started Wednesday, and it's Sunday now -- oh, my God!"

"Thank heaven they don't follow me out of the house, anyway."

Arthur scanned the kitchen counters. A crew of pixies had just pried the lid off the sugar canister and were scattering the white granules by miniature handfuls. "Have you thought about getting a cat?"

"The apartment complex doesn't allow pets."

"Oh, and they do allow small mythical flying things?"

"I've thought about moving out, now that I have the money for a house. Assuming they don't decide to move with me. I don't have the heart to squash them like bugs, and anyway more of them would just materialize." She got up to pour coffee, nudging pixies out of the way with the toes of her running shoes. "Don't you have any ideas?"

"Have you tried wishing that they'd vanish?"

"Sure. Doesn't work. That must be an exception to the amulet's power, like reversing past events." She explained her futile attempt to wish away buying the thing in the first place. "It could be worse," she added, returning to her seat and setting two full mugs on the table. "They don't seem to eat anything. They just poke into my stuff and shed that dust all over the place." A pixie landed on the edge of her cup. She absentmindedly flicked it off.

"But if they keep multiplying geometrically --" her brother said. "Apparently they don't have any natural enemies in this environment to keep them in check. Worse than rabbits in Australia."

That remark stirred something in Janet's befogged brain. "Hey, isn't that what you're supposed to do about pests? Bring in their natural predators to exterminate them?"

"Like aphids and ladybugs? Yes, sometimes that's an ecologically sound solution, but --"

Janet cut him off with, "Thanks, great idea!" Clutching the amulet in her fist, she said, "I wish a creature these pixies are really scared of would appear and get rid of them and keep any more from showing up. Oh, and that it'll go away after finishing the job." She laid the necklace on the table. "There, that should cover it."

The sound of a tiny explosion burst upon the air.. A little man, about a foot tall, materialized on the kitchen floor. He had gnarled, brown skin, ragged, brown clothes, and a floppy, red cap that looked soaking wet. He also had tusklike, dagger-sharp teeth curving over his lips. And he drooled.

Arthur slowly got to his feet. "But sometimes, as I was about to say, it's not the wisest thing to do."

The little man scooped up a handful of pixies, shoved them into his mouth, crunched, and swallowed. Wing fragments and glitter-dust stuck to his chin. He sprang into the air and snatched a pair as they fluttered toward the ceiling. Fairies scattered from his path; he pursued and gobbled them. Those in the far corners of the room vanished like blown-out candle flames.

The "predator" swept through the apartment like a whirlwind, Janet trailing after him in numb fascination. By the time the creature cicled back to the kitchen, as far as she could see, all pixies that weren't eaten had disappeared.

"Good job," she whispered, fighting nausea.

"That's what I call efficient," Arthur agreed with a tremor in his voice.

"Okay, you can leave now," she said. The thing grimaced at her, picking shredded wings out of its fangs with a clawlike fingernail. Crimson droplets trickled from its cap down the side of its face. Blood?

Janet picked up the necklace. "I really wish you'd go."

Two more of the beings popped out of thin air.

She sagged into a chair and covered her eyes. Four more tomorrow, eight the next day, then sixteen, thirty-two. . . .


Copyright 2000. First published on Zealot.com.

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