After Midnight (you can let it all hang out)

Submitted into Contest #172 in response to: Write about a character who must confess their true feelings by midnight, or risk losing it all.... view prompt


Funny Science Fiction

She doesn’t seem all that happy to hear that I am her fairy godmother. She seems, in fact, downright – what’s the word you’d use? – skeptical. That’s it. Highly skeptical.

She’s standing in her doorway, looking over my shoulder at my trim little landing craft, pointing her chin at it like it’s a discarded mining shuttle. I glance back at the running lights flickering over its surface in ultra-violet waves. The last time I had been assigned to this system, I’d had an older model landing pod with orange lights detectable to the human eye. I remember the girl that time had formed the ridiculous impression that it was some kind of mutant vegetation. Humans never cease to amaze.

Anyway, this human’s pain and anguish had cut through all the chatter I was monitoring as she broadcast her suffering at the hands of her abusive siblings over the communications system you refer to as the internet. I felt I might offer her some solace. Being able to do good works upon occasion is deeply — no, no, you are right. I was just outstandingly bored, claw-curlingly, skin-crawling-off bored. I’d been here sent here to the tail end of the galaxy, again, as a punishment for some small infraction of protocol we do not really need to go into at this time. The point is, I had nothing to break the monotony of my pointless surveillance mission. Humans show no evidence of having the ability to join the star faring races regardless of their feeble little attempts. I had wasted countless solar revolutions monitoring them and, well, let’s just say when I get bored, I get into mischief.

Speaking of which, that is precisely what I got into when I decided to lighten this human’s heavy load, if just for one night. It was her deepest desire to go to The Prince with her stepsisters, who are the aforementioned abusers and quite wicked by the sound of it. Déjà vu! I said to myself, let’s do this thing! 

So here I am, with a scowling juvenile human, identified as one Estella, sniffing at my offer of assistance.

“You are my fairy godmother.” Her statement is freighted heavily at the end with a tonal modulation I lack the skill to interpret accurately.

I nod in the affirmative, feeling a slight judder as my human facade shifts over my features. She blinks and steps back. Not good that, we don’t want them seeing what we look like.

My form is a classic: round faced and wrinkled—very cheery—with white hair sticking out all over and a fun flowing cape that actually functions as a cloaking device, if you will excuse the pun, which maintains my human façade. In my case, it also serves to hide the gear my mission necessitates. Anyway, what she sees is an iconic avatar culled straight from planetary mythos, though she seems unimpressed, ganders back at my cruiser, and says, “What’s that?”

I briefly wonder if I could pull off the pumpkin caper again, but it seems this juvenile is singularly unfamiliar with gardening. I scroll my data inputs rapidly for a familiar equivalent from her browsing history. 

“Your Uber. You are, after all, going to the ball.”

“Bar. I wanted to go to the bar. How’d you know that anyway?”

“I told you, I am your fairy godmother.”

She starts shutting the door.

I toe my purple boot tip into the frame and quickly fill her mind with images extracted from the fashion sites she endlessly peruses on the internet. The door opens a crack wider, and I slide in. Ah, how easily humans are bought.

With a few minor tweaks to the subroutines on my fabricator, I can replicate pretty much anything from the basic chemical components extracted from earth and atmosphere. It’s illegal as hell, obviously; I’m not supposed to make contact with the natives let alone engage in cheap party tricks to impress them. But, just so bored. I can’t even tell you.

The point is, I can make her any outfit she wants, at least for a little while since I had only been able to jerry rig the fabricator to spin tempwear designed to break down after a brief time interval for recycling. For this picky young lady I have to program, print, and recycle five different tempwear ensembles before she’s pleased with the results, gaping at herself in a skimpy little Angel Chen knockoff. I suggest the glassine shoes like I had last time, but she gives me a look. “Doc Martins,” she says. “I want Doc Martins.”

My understanding of prevailing fashion does not compute with this particular pairing, but I am a self-proclaimed fairy godmother, so I grant her wish. She grins from ear to ear. Success at last.

Having earned her trust by matching her physical reality to the carefully curated facade she posts online, I can predict she won’t give a moment’s thought to hopping in my landing craft for relocation to The Prince

Blink of an eye and all that, and we’re there. The Prince. I must say, the nomer is really more of a misnomer, if that is a correct phrasing, falsely suggesting an establishment with royal connections. This is nothing like the habitation I had previously taken a damsel to. This one is loud, with flashing lights that seize up my ocular iris, and unsavory types loitering outside—a far cry from well-groomed footmen. Puddles in the pavement steam a sulphureous yeastiness with generous ammonia overtones. The sign above the door loudly proclaims that this is, indeed, The Prince, and somebody is not afraid to say so. Loudly, in glowing neon with an arrow pointing, I feel rather ominously, down.

As I drop her off in the darkened alleyway out front, I give the same last-minute instructions I gave the young lady last time. “I’ll wait for you here at midnight, Estella. After that, I am not responsible for you.”

She rotates her eyeballs and groans. Young female humans have amazingly versatile faces. Presumably, she is displeased. Whatever. I don’t have all night. She scampers into the bar, the open door briefly belching out a wallop of sound that nearly destroys my audio transmitter.

 I retreat into the darkness above the establishment where I can monitor her triumphant exit.

It doesn’t take long. I had her down for three human intervals before she is due to appear, but well before that, she comes stumbling out the door, drops to her hands and knees, and starts heaving onto the pavement in thick gooey streams while the ruffians slouched against the walls cheer her on. What fresh hell is this?

I fire up my façade, transport back to the darkness at the edge of the building, and make my way through the malodorous puddles to the pool of light showcasing this repulsive spectacle. Before I reach her, two other women emerge, one to lovingly cradle the spewing head of my young charge, the other to begin frantically flicking her fingers over her communications device.

I recognize the wicked stepsisters from Estella’s Instagram feed. She often distorts their features, turning them into rodents and zombies and such, but the two women I see before me are actually quite striking. The younger, Gloria, is celebrating what you refer to as ‘legal age.’ She’s the one kneeling on the greasy street while Estella eliminates everything she has consumed for the past week, it would appear. The other, Stacey, is responsible for hosting this natal day event wherein her sister will become ‘legal.’ There are elements of human existence for which my data inputs do not provide clarity, needless to say, or this whole debacle would not have ensued.

Gloria is expressing what you refer to as pity for Estella’s situation, murmuring various sympathetic endearments that do not slot into my conceptualization of her as ‘wicked.’ Stacey is vocalizing a little more strenuously at her youngest sibling. “What were you thinking, Es? You’re only 16 for God’s sake!”

“Give her a minute,” Gloria suggests from down in the gutter. “She’s really hawking up quite a lot. I think she gets that she shouldn’t have come.”

“Shouldn’t have come! Shouldn’t have drunk the entire room under the table, more like. What the fuck!”

“I get it, OK?” Estella shouts directly into the asphalt. “It’s just you guys always go have fun and tell me I can’t.” She starts sobbing copiously, her tears tracking black runnels of eye product down her cheeks.

I am beginning to have a bad feeling about my interpretation of events heretofore. Last time, the stepsisters in question had been objectively horrific individuals and poor Cindy quite mistreated. Taking in the genuine concern on the two older sibling’s faces, it strikes me that all may not be as it had seemed on Estella’s Snapchat, Instagram, and even TikTok.

I venture to introduce myself, stepping into the light with an upbeat, “Good evening!” on my lips.

“Who are you?” Stacey demands, before I’d gotten any further than, “Goo—"

“I’m her fairy godmother.” I try for a little humility in my tone. One doesn’t want to put on airs.

“Fuck off.”

“No really,” Estella says. “She, like, came after you guys left and made these clothes and brought me here in this fancy Uber.”

“And you just got in a car with a total stranger?” Gloria’s voice rises to a rather distressing pitch. I worry for anyone holding glassware nearby.

“She knew the exact Angel Chen dress I wanted, and how I wanted my hair and….”

“Yes, because you fucking put your whole life out on the internet, you idiot. Of course she did.”

I try to seize control of the situation. “Last time, it worked out rather nicely. Well, except for the stepsisters cutting off toes and heels to get into those shoes. I did not see that coming, but Cindy turned into a Princess.”

Stacey snorts. “Yeah, well, you leave a 16-year-old at a bar nowadays, she’s going to turn into a victim, not a princess. Jeez.” She turns to her sister and twiddles a finger near her cranium in a gesture I understand from many time intervals spent consuming media.

I must make a defense. “I thought this Prince fellow would fall into a deep attachment with Estella and that would fulfill her.”

“Fat chance. The ‘prince’ that owns this place is Carlos Prince whose only deep attachment is to the color green.”

I’m confused at this reference to the native color spectrum; my data inputs seem to be struggling to keep up with events. “So, there is no prince in this establishment?”

Gloria stands up and touches my arm gently. She has a kind look in her eyes. “Ma’am, you are not a fairy godmother. I am pretty sure you need help.”

“On it,” Stacey cuts in, “I’m looking up social services now. I don’t think they work at night though.” Her fingers do a little Riverdance on the communications device. Then she starts swiping. Once people do that, they tend to get stuck in that mode; I think it is an autonomic neural glitch.

I turn back to Estella, still bent over in the gutter. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I quite understand…” Stacey snorts at her device, but I plow forward—once more into the breach and all that. “You were so distressed and described your stepsisters as committing great harm to you…”

”Es!” Gloria sounds shocked, pulling her little step sibling up to confront her.

Stacey belts out some language far more salty, earning her an “Oi! Get a grip there, lady!” from a slurred voice in the alley. 

“Shut up asshole!” she fires back, without missing a swipe. “What the hell, Estella? What is this shit you are writing about us?”

Seeing the blame possibly taking a turn against someone else, I jump in. “Yes, I have been monitoring her online presence and—”

“Christ!” Stacey cuts me off. Each swipe at her device produces a fresh and colorful swear. “Gloria, you should see what this little brat has been posting about us….”

The two stare at the device which glows up at their disbelieving faces. 

Estella is shamefacedly studying the pool of vomit and garbage at her feet.

Confronted with the reality unfolding before me, a shift in perspective seems advisable. These two siblings are clearly not among the legions of the damned as advertised on Estella’s posts. “Am I to understand your stepsisters are not, err, wicked?” I ask her.

“Look, my life is pretty boring,” Estella says, lifting her chin in defiance of the fact that she is clearly in the wrong. “I get a lot more attention when I make it sound like my stepsisters are shit heads.”

“You claimed we hit you!” Stacey gasps. “Are you telling me that you have been posting that we abuse you in order to get likes and care emojis?”

Gloria is looking at Estella now like she is the actual personification of the filth at her feet. “Es, how could you?”

“Everyone can see this!” Stacy squawks. “With what you are posting here, anyone could report us to social services!” The hurt in her voice is something even I can detect, and I am not generally very good at reading human emotions. I think that may have already been evident to you.

“Speaking of which,” I pivot the conversation, “there is no need to contact these social service people about me. I am not a crazy lady.”

All three of them look at me. “I beg to differ.” Stacey’s voice drips with condescension. “You dressed a juvenile to look like a high-class escort and brought her to a bar on her own. What did you think would happen?”

“I didn’t think she would get ill. I thought her…”

“Yeah, her prince charming would show up and ’form an attachment’.”

“When you say it like that—”

“There is no other way to say it. Look at this dive. Look like a castle to you?”

“Well, no. I was having my doubts—”

“I should think so.”

“—But it worked out so well for the other girl.”

“Oh for god’s sake. Look lady, fairy tales don’t come true.”

My cloak shoots me a low power warning. How did I not recharge it before this little escapade? My façade will cut out shortly and I can’t risk appearing as myself to these people. It would appear I have to extricate myself from this entertaining interlude a tad prematurely. This thought is immediately followed by another: that Estella’s tempwear is also due to disintegrate into its elemental components shortly. It won’t be long before the Angel Chen dress will disappear, and she will be entirely naked in front of an unsavory establishment in the middle of the night. I see I have made an error.

However…I ponder that it is possible a naked juvenile in front of a bar will provide perfect cover for my getaway. I begin the mental countdown.

“Maybe we should call the cops,” Stacey is muttering.

Estella starts moaning again. “Let’s just go home.”

“Great birthday celebration,” Gloria interjects.

“Well, there!” I note brightly. “An enjoyable time was had—”

“Sarcasm,” Gloria cuts in. “Read the room.”

Estella sucks in a nose full of snot and wipes her bare arm across the offending appendage. “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been trying to be something I’m not just to get attention. I shouldn’t have been making up stuff like that about you guys. You don’t deserve that. You’ve been really good to me since Mom died, and if social services takes me away…” She started doing that weird stutter thing people do sometimes when their eyes are leaking.

The stepsisters regard her without speaking.

Estella waves a finger at me. “And I don’t know who this lady is but obviously, she’s been following me—”

“Stalking, more like,” Gloria points out.

“—on the internet but, like, I am the one who put it all out there for, like, the whole world to see. I really screwed up. I’m s-s-so sorry.” She barely gets the last word out before breaking down into fresh sobs, but this time, with the two stepsisters leaning in to offer their support. I sense a tender moment about to happen and then everything will be OK.

But then her tempwear fails. It must be after midnight, and in a puff of elemental dust, Estella is standing as naked as the day she was born for all the world to see. It’s my cue.

I spin around to exit down the darkened alley just as her sisters let out stunned yelps at this unexpected turn of events. Crude shouts and canine whistles hail out of the blackness as the lurkers in the alley catch sight of the naked female spotlighted in front of the bar.

And that’s when my cloak dies, shutting down my façade. There I stand in all my inhuman splendor for the lurkers in the alley to feast their eyes upon. Their appreciative noises turn into a demented chorus of shrieks and cries as I make my getaway to the cruiser. What can I say? Without my human facade, I can be seen as what I truly am.

November 17, 2022 19:41

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Zatoichi Mifune
15:08 Jul 06, 2023

Hilarious twist on Cinderella. The alien's POV was done perfectly, sounds just right for an extra-terrestrial who just can't understand what's happening and is only trying to do the right thing. Despite being, of course, terribly bored. The last line has so many layers of meaning that I can see, so many that I can imagine and probably so many that I can't see as well. Lukewarm responses from people? I can't see why. Seen one of your replies for an earlier comment about your inspirations. Especially interested about the 'golden age of sc...


Laurel Hanson
21:43 Jul 07, 2023

Thank-you for your kind words. The Golden Age of Sci Fi I think is around the 40s through the 60s: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlien, LeGuin, Pohl, and so on. They tended toward optimistic about space exploration and the future and were a little more sciencey. I did enjoy that story a lot and used the same character for Beragrub and the Beast, which shortlisted. THe only other Sci Fi I tried to write was Smoke and Mirrors awhile back.


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Jane Andrews
16:04 Mar 25, 2023

Great twist on a traditional fairytale - I’ve done a few myself but none of them were executed as deftly as this. What a wonderful mashup of fairytale, sci-fi and social commentary. Definitely not a lukewarm response from me.


Laurel Hanson
16:33 Mar 25, 2023

Awesome! That goes back a ways. My most natural voice when writing was this alien character who doesn't understand what is going on exactly yet plows in with good intentions. Must say something about me. Lovely to get some feedback on this oldie! Thanks


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Graham Kinross
01:14 Feb 06, 2023

This is awesome. Who are your inspirations?


Laurel Hanson
13:21 Feb 06, 2023

First, thanks for the feedback. Second, I read a lot but have deep admiration for the characterization and pacing of George R.R. Martin's novels. In a different style altogether, the free indirect discourse of authors like Kate Atkinson or Virginia Woolf, and then in a totally different style, the narrative voices of Deepa Anaparra. Not to mention I like a lot of sci fi, probably leaning more to the old golden age of, and of course, humor such as David Sedaris. So nothing coherent and nothing reflected really in After Midnight. I'm new-ish t...


Graham Kinross
13:26 Feb 06, 2023

The more stories you read and comment on here, the more people will read of yours. It’s quite fair like that. You get out what you put in. You’ll find writers you like and if you talk with them about their work then they’ll be happy to do the same about yours. Seems like everyone who read this liked it from what I see.


Laurel Hanson
14:01 Feb 06, 2023

Sorry, yes. I phrased that poorly. Relative to other types of stories I am experimenting with, this one seemed to gain less traction (and got a definite "meh" from my husband (ouch! :). However, one of the things I like about the site is it removed publishing from the writing equation. In other words, I stopped thinking of writing as something where publishing was a consideration. Instead, the focus is on the writing. Writing a lot and consistently. It was like flipping a switch, making it easier to write, but then I find myself doing somet...


Graham Kinross
22:14 Feb 06, 2023

At least your husband read it! The best thing about reedsy is getting us to write constantly. Nothings as useful as practice.


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John K Adams
16:30 Nov 26, 2022

This is laugh out loud funny. Lines like: “You are my fairy godmother.” Her statement is freighted heavily at the end with a tonal modulation I lack the skill to interpret accurately" capture the character and the scene perfectly. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. I'm in awe. Hilarious!


Laurel Hanson
22:17 Nov 26, 2022

Thank-you! I appreciate your kind words and super glad you found it enjoyable.


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Michał Przywara
21:36 Nov 25, 2022

Oh, this was hilarious :) The premise of a bored alien masquerading as a fairy godmother is great, as is the tie in to Cinderella. But you capture the alien tone well in the observations and reflections, and that really makes this stand out. Heh, and the twist :) What was meant to be a good deed ends up sending a minor to a bar, and it turns out, she might have been exaggerating her situation. Great misunderstandings. I was grinning the whole time I read :) "no, no, you are right. I was just outstandingly bored" ha! "go to The Prince w...


Laurel Hanson
12:22 Nov 26, 2022

Thank-you so much for the thoughtful feedback. I was in awe of your 'Civic Duty' and your masterful command of the satire, so it means a lot that you enjoyed this.


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Wendy Kaminski
22:14 Nov 22, 2022

This was really great! I got a lot of good laughs out of it, thanks for an entertaining story!


Laurel Hanson
16:29 Nov 23, 2022

Thanks! Much appreciated.


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