A fairy shows up in Riley's apartment breaking up his mundane boring life.
As usual, the morning was crap. Really, any time in the morning is too early to wake up. To Riley the room felt like it was a hundred degrees, and the sheets were sweaty. The fridge was empty, of anything edible. Riley was alone. He always was. And just to piss him off the sun was out shining its ridiculous shiny rays of happiness. Whatever.
Riley fancied himself an optimist. Optimistic that he was always right, his primary opinion being that everything was crap. His life was boring and he liked it that way. He exercised at home, to what ends he didn’t know, and which he had yet to achieve. He worked out of his apartment, which he rarely left, doing freelance web design.
Days and nights didn't really mean much to him anymore. His computer was always on and so was the TV. If he had food he ate whenever. The only downside he'd found to his irregular sleeping habits were the mind-numbingly dull infomercials playing endlessly through the night.
Once he'd even thought about getting a DVR so he could record and watch TV whenever he wanted. However, he quickly realized he would have already watched everything worth watching by the time night came around. It was pointless. Life was boring, and Riley was too cheap for extended cable. He chose not to recognize that in fact he was actually just poor.
Riley’s life was repetition. Riley was ready for a change, in something. He had been for some time. Being too lazy to find that something Riley continued his pattern.
Having woken up he now began his usual, entirely necessary yet inconvenient self-battle, which he usually happened to win, unfortunately. It went like this:
“Take a shower.”
“Yes, you smell.”
Awkward pause of mutual skulking.
“Why should I?”
“So you can be clean, and you'll feel better.”
“Yeah, but I'm lazy.”
“Ladies don't like disgusting guys.”
“It’s not like I meet women, especially since I never leave this dump.”
“Yeah well if by some miracle of God you ever came into contact with a human female you'd have no chance smelling like a pig.”
And the battle was lost. He hated it when his conscience won.
“Time to get clean.” When Riley set his mind to something he followed through with it. The problem was the setting part; he usually avoided getting that far if he could.
Riley was remarkable in that he was so exceptionally plain. With his most distinguishing characteristic being slightly yellowed teeth. His pale complexion was trimmed out in the common brown, with eyes of the same. He wasn’t ugly, he just wasn’t attractive. Riley sometimes wished he had some major flaw such as a third arm. That way he could justify women’s lack of interest in him as understandable.
Head hanging off the edge of his old hospital bed, he lay there gathering the energy to face the day. Savoring the last few seconds of warmth in his bed he gazed up at the ceiling making images from the texture. A droopy faced dog in the corner sullenly looked down at him. There was a boat. A range of craggy mountains. A perfect sphere. And one he'd never seen before, amazingly, since it was in exactly the shape of what he imagined a fairy should look like. Well the profile of one. He stared at it. He couldn't believe he'd never seen it before. Oh well. He started to get up. It moved...No it didn't...Well, actually it did, not in the way a being such as a fairy would, say, walk or fly, but rather it bubbled. The paint, that is, bubbled, in the shape of a fairy. Slowly at first, but then swiftly it came to resemble one's soda cup while blowing bubbles at a particularly "exciting" family get together. Then it spread, like the water spot on the bathroom ceiling had last month. Only this spot didn’t drip. Wings, arms, legs, and, he couldn’t help but notice, breasts all stretching out to what he presumed was the size of a fully grown female fairy. The roiling paint stopped.
A fairy sized saggy bubble of paint hung heavily from his ceiling. Closing his mouth he slowly stood up, legs shaking as they do while standing on beds. Riley hiked up his footy pajamas, the torso of which hung limply at his waist, fluffy white clouds billowing as he tugged at the printed fabric. He couldn't help it, he had to...he poked it. It was kind of hard. Riley poked it harder. A foot shot out of the paint, heel catching him in the eye throwing him off balance. He fell backwards, head hitting the wall; feet pushing the bed from beneath him. The fall ended with Riley wedged firmly between the bed and the wall, fuzzy dust ball in mouth.
Peeking from behind the bed, looking thoroughly bewildered, he asked, as if emulating a mouse ( a very frightened particularly squeaky one at that) "Um...who are you?" at a loss for how to politely phrase the question “What are you?”
"Lilith" the fairy replied absentmindedly, and more than slightly grumpy, as she began to peel paint chips from off one of her wings. Her wings were midnight black edged in a shimmering, slightly luminous deep dark blue. She switched wings, folding the now clean one flat against her back. Pearly white skin, chocolaty dark hair, and piercing blue eyes made for a visage that was hard to take your eyes off of, while at the same time making you fearful of what she might do to you if those intense blue eyes caught you staring. Riley now noticed her height; she was quite short probably no more than five foot. To top it all off her sumptuous womanly figure was draped in an alluring silky dress straight from Parisian high fashion, complete with deep plunging neckline. Riley had never been above watching fashion shows to fill the hours of his life. All this made any attempt at not staring that much harder. As she peeled away at the paint she muttered to herself things like,
"...always doing stupid crap!
"In the paint!
"I'm supposed to be learning from him!" As well as many other unintelligible, and or excessively vulgar phrases.
Finishing up the paint removal process she settled into a gargoyle-esque crouch upon the corner of Riley’s beat up green dresser paint varying in shade from forest to pea. She looked at him, Riley squirmed uncomfortably, her blank mildly interested stare was disconcerting. Nervously he looked away suddenly feeling very intimidated by this new arrival.
Lilith studied him. To her he appeared particularly pathetic, even as humans go. He was fairly tall, but that was it, the rest of him was an utter disappointment. She knew that fairies were a much more slender race than humans but they still had muscle, something this human was certainly lacking. Also he had a disgustingly large amount of hair that had, like some flesh-eating disease spread down from the top of his head to cover most of his body. To be fair he was actually just under the average hairiness of most men, but the difference in hair quantity between humans and fairies was apparently a small void in her education, gross. Judging by the state of his bedroom, excluding the paint chips now strewn about the room, he was messy and unorganized, both highly undesirable traits. The human appeared to be a slow-witted scaredy-cat as well, seeing as he was still cowering behind his bed. He had yet to find his voice to question why a winged stranger had just fallen from inside his painted ceiling. Something she was sure he'd never experienced before.
Lilith's father was known to have the occasional lapse in judgment, but this human just seemed...well quite frankly, pathetic. She couldn’t blame him, her father’s “good” ideas often proved to be a little too theatrical and messy in execution.
"Hey you!” Lilith snatched a pair of socks, freshly balled, from atop Riley’s dresser and pitched it at him. She was more than a little anxious to get home, this was a little too far out of her comfort zone. The socks ricocheted of the wall and smacked Riley in the back of the head. “Get up, human moron, time to go." She gestured for Riley to get a move on, placing her hands impatiently on her hips, wings twitching in irritation.
"Who you calling moron, you’re the winged freak?" Riley was beginning to find his nerve, not enough to fire back a sufficiently witty retort, but some of it. Being frightened out of his mind was all well and good, but there was a line. And that line lay well before being insulted by a rude, angry little flying woman.
"You’re one to be name calling, you're the ugly hairy oaf here." Lilith flung back at Riley off hand. Riley could tell he was out matched, if not in wit, in attitude.
"Yeah well glowing wings aren't the most common sight for me."
Then getting to a point which had been very long in coming "You're gonna pay for new paint right?"
"No." She replied flatly more sure than ever that her father must have been mistaken.
"Why the hell not?" He shouted back clamoring back onto the bed; bed springs screeching in protest. He plopped himself down cross-legged like a pouty yet defiant child, his fear now having been fully overcome by anger. He'd probably lose his entire deposit on the place if he didn't get the ceiling repainted.
She slathered on the sarcasm, "Is that really what you're most concerned with? A fairy, a mythical creature of fairy tale, namesake nonetheless, and legend, just pops into your room..."
"Ceiling..." he said, mumbling under his breath so she couldn't hear. She still scared him a little. Just a little.
"...and all you can think about is paint. Instead maybe... ‘Why is there a winged lady here?’ Or maybe something like ‘I didn't know fairies really existed, this is quite a shock.’ You really aren't very intelligent are you, even for a human." It wasn't a question.
"I am, but my landlord is gonna kill me..." he said with the meekest of mumbles. Riley assumed a defeated posture; it was the one he was most comfortable in. His shoulders slumping and head hanging low Riley settled into the bed like an old house on its foundation.
"Well I guess since your exceedingly inquisitive mind has no more intelligent questions let's go." Springing from the dresser she floated to the floor with a faint hum and the gentlest of breezes filling the room, her wings becoming a dark shimmering blur. It was a shame her demeanor didn't even come close to matching her grace.
Riley became a little more serious at her apparent surety at his leaving with her. "Let’s go? Where are we going? Why am I going anywhere with you? And why the hell are you in my apartment?"
"Well, I'll start with the last and the most stupid of the three and we'll work backwards from there. To get you. Because I'll kill you if you don't. To save my people."
He shrank back a little at this, and as was his habit, he adopted a slightly cynical sense of humor.
"Well...um, I guess I'll react in order also. That makes sense, sorry, dumb question. Ok, sounds delightful. And, what? What does saving your people have to do with me, other than it being my only alternative to death?"
"Wow, finally some intelligence. Very well, first a short history lesson." Again Lilith floated, this time towards him, and onto the other end of the bed where she also sat. He watched her intently, now intrigued, and still a little afraid for his life. "No living human remembers, but there are actually three worlds..."
"Wait, do you mean like planets, because we know about them, and there are seven of those I think. Or do you mean something like parallel universes, because we know about those too, and there's supposed to be, and it makes sense logically, an infinite number of those..."
"Shut up! No and no! Sorry, bad word choice on my part apparently. We call them realms, but I think that sounds corny. You could also call them lands, or maybe even kingdoms, but in essence there are three different 'realms' where beings live. Two of them exist through magic, and all three can be traversed through magic." Appearing at the edge of an outburst of questions she was quick to head him off. "Hold on, wait until I'm done, and then ask all the questions you want."
Feeling like a child he simply responded with, "K."
"OK. One of the realms exists in the actual physical plane. That's this realm. Long ago three races all inhabited this realm..."
"That really does sound corny..."
She ignored him, "Humans of course, fairies, and the Primit."
"Shut up." She gave him a glare only equal to that of his mother's. "For centuries we coexisted with very few incidents. Over time, however, the Primit became greedy. Long story short, we fairies locked them away in their own realm for being such bad boys and girls.”
Riley was nodding along with each new fact. He was still waiting to hear why he needed to rush off to fairy land.
"The Primit are a large strong race that breeds even more quickly than you humans. In the past they were no real threat to us, our magic was more than enough to keep them under control. But now is another matter. Their numbers have swelled so greatly that they outnumber us, by our best estimation, nearly ten to one. We think that they may now be planning to attack us. If they do, we may not be able to hold them back. We fear that they could overwhelm us with sheer numbers. And after they conquer the fairy realm you can kiss your crappy little apartment goodbye along with the rest of your precious little planet."
She starred at him. He starred back, waiting to wake up or suddenly remember he was a junky and in the middle of some crazy, but not uncommon trip.
"Ouch!" she'd given him a hard kick to the shin.
"Snap out of it human!" Humans were turning out to be more strange than she’d thought. She hoped they weren’t all like Riley.
"Well it is kind of hard to process the fact that a fairy is telling you giant barbarian men..."
"And women, both sexes fight."
"Whatever...are about to leave their magical land via a magic bridge to a land of wizard fairies to destroy the flying people there. Then they will proceed over a second magic bridge to here, the human realm, and kill us all. Its nutty, and I'd say you're one hundred percent insane if it wasn't for one very real and fully functional set of glowing wings. Ok, fine, why are you here, why do you want me?"
She hopped up again, performing an elegant one-eighty backflip onto the floor, heading out the door and down the hall. He couldn't help but notice the delicate swaying of her hips as she walked away, not making the slightest sound on the creaky old floorboards. Lilith shouted back over her shoulder, "I don't know."
He sprung off the bed chasing after her down the hall, the floor screeching in protest, and into the kitchen, "What do you mean you don't know? I mean who goes out and tells someone they have to save not only their world," his voice was now dripping with sarcasm "wait, I'm sorry 'realm', but another 'realm' as well, and you expect me to believe that!" She was now casually fling the contents of his fridge about the kitchen. She found the milk to have a rather satisfying explosion on impact with the cupboards.
"Look..." she was now removing the metal wire shelves from the fridge. "I don't know why I'm supposed to get you, believe me, there are a million other people I would have picked before you, but my father, our king, said it had to be you. He said that to save our two races we need a human. He said we need you, and that you’re of good blood. I don't see it, but he's not usually wrong. I trust his judgment, most of the time, so he's going to get you whether you want to go or not, preferably alive." she ended glancing at him with the evilest of smiles.
“Good blood? What does that mean?” Riley began to sense there was more to Lilith’s story than she’d told him so far.
“I don’t know. I guess he knew you grandfather, or great-grandfather, I forget how fast it is that you humans die. I don’t know the whole story, listening to my father reminisce about the good ol’ days isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do.” Lilith leaned nonchalantly against the inside of the open refrigerator door. “I kind of zoned out during his explanation.” She shrugged as if to say “You would too if you knew him.”
“You zoned out?” his voice began to rise in anger.
“Yep, he’s really boring.” Lilith didn’t seem to mind that she hadn’t brought along a value piece of information for selling Riley on his trip to fairyland. Riley gave up, getting anything useful out of the fairy was obviously impossible.
Now that he thought about it Riley did remember his mother telling him about some valiant family member of his doing something heroic; there may have even been fairies in the story. The only problem was he’d been doing the same as Lilith when his mother had told him the story, zoning out. Riley never had known his grandfather, let alone his great-grandfather, but the idea that he came from a lineage a fairyland adventures got his overly active imagination churning. "Ok, ok, but did you really need to disassemble my fridge?" his voice rang with the sound of total defeat, it pleased her immensely. She could see why her father loved to order her around so much.
Shrugging she replied completely understanding his frustration "Sorry my father likes to try to be funny sometimes. He told me that this is where he'd put the tunnel."
She pushed the door wide open and stepped aside. Where shelves stocked with spoiling milk and rotting eggs should have been, his fridge had a tunnel. His fifth story apartment had a fridge with a tunnel where a regular tunnel-less refrigerator should have stood. Despite his skepticism he was definitely intrigued. Any bit of his curiosity that hadn't been piqued by a winged lady was definitely piqued by his fridge having a tunnel.
"So what do you think, wanna see what's at the other end of the rabbit hole?"
He starred back at her blandly.
"Yeah, just a bit. I’m surprised you know that story."
“A classics a classic.” She responded matter-of-factly. Riley shrugged in agreement. It was true.
Before making up his mind Riley turned to his role model for a consultation. WWLSD, what would Luke Skywalker do. He only pondered this question shortly. Diving straight into something new and unexpected to escape a mundane life was the obvious answer.
The air in front of the fridge was cold. Riley slipped his arms back into the sleeves of his fleece footy pajamas and zipped up the front. He ducked down, into his fridge, and the tunnel beyond following a fairy into a land of magic to fight evil. Riley hopped he'd be back in time to meet what deadlines he needed to for work. If not he'd just pull the old, "Oh, you didn't get my email? How terrible!" trick. That always worked. Most importantly he wouldn’t be stuck watching reruns tonight, they never played anything worth watching on Tuesday nights.
“This is different.” thought Riley, “No shower today. Guess I win after all.”