The Fairies in the Crawlspace

the girl found the fairies
in the crawlspace below her house
where slants of light illuminated
how they fluttered about and spun webs
strong enough to snare mice
she stared, fascinated, for a while
almost forgetting about the
wrathful thunder of
mother’s footsteps above

the fairies needed no web
to snare the girl

she started to bring them treats
baby birds fresh from the nest
snake eggs
crawdads from the creek
they ate up everything
the girl knew they’d eat her, too
if she fell asleep
that’d she’d wake up
to find herself swaddled in web
those tiny teeth delving for her marrow
that didn’t scare her as much
as mama, though
and it sure didn’t keep her away

the fairies whispered
their voices like burdened tires on gravel
they told her when best
to string new web to catch dew
when frogs were their tastiest
the rare joy of a wayfaring chicken
of arteries, jugulars
the freshness of a still-beating heart

sometimes she tasted wafts
of their sweet-as-honey magic
and wondered if inhaling it
might help her grow wings

as months passed
the girl began to tell them stories, too
of her mother, of school
of hollow bellies and practiced lies
uttered to old men with clipboards
that she wanted to be a fairy like them
when she grew up

no, the fairies said
you can never be like us

that’s when the girl realized
that they had arteries
and still-beating hearts
that she was bigger than them
better than them
and hungry

she ate one, then another
their flesh like hard lumps
of brown sugar melting on her tongue
with pecan praline bones
and meringue wings

she was a girl
a hungry girl
and so much more

the fairies scattered
she scampered in pursuit
exultation molten in her veins
as mama rumbled above
an angry god
never worthy of worship
no longer deserving of fear

the girl still hoped for wings
but knew she’d manage on feet, too
after all, she was
a superior predator to the fairies
one with no fear of the dark
and oh, she could learn
to weave webs of her own and
snare mightier prey than mice

(Editors’ Note: “The Fairies in the Crawlspace” is read by Stephanie Malia Morris on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 21B.)

Beth Cato

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Her newest novel is Call of Fire. She’s a Hanford, California, native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband and son. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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