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Fiction

I chose the road less traveled, now where the hell am I? - Robert Frost/unknown


The stranger arrived on a sunny day. 

Which was weird, as all the other days of the month had been rainy and stormy. But the day the bells rang announcing his arrival, the clouds dissipated and we saw blue sky for the first time in over thirty days. 

The small inn at the end of the lane, creeping up over the cliff, was almost full to bursting. Not with visitors, no. Lane’s End didn’t get many visitors in the season-season, let alone in the off-season. Rather, it was filled with the townsfolk who had grown weary of being stuck inside their homes as the rain continued to constantly fall. 

So over half the town was there, myself included, when a hush fell over the crowd. The crazy man, Alfred, was babbling at the window, hands wildly flailing as he tried to describe what was happening. Everyone else immediately ignored him and the chatter and bustle resumed. But I stood up, my chair scraping against the hardwood floor, and walked, as if in a daze, to the window where Alfred was all but convulsing. Then again, he might have been dying too, that was always an option. 

I peered out the window, my gaze locking on the clear blue sky, and my jaw dropped. My feet rooted to the ground. I couldn’t believe it. 

“Oy, Lily, what’s going on out there,” one of my classmates asked, her voice roughened with ale. 

“T-th-the-the-the sky’s blue,” I stammered out. Loud raucous laughter burst out from the patrons of the inn behind me. I turned and my white face must have been an inclination of the truth, because as if a gun had shot off in the enclosed space, everybody rushed to the window, nearly trampling Alfred and me. Someone burst into tears. Everybody turned and stared at Alfred. 

“Iza viry ekciteng,” he muttered and we all simultaneously rolled our eyes. Then suddenly, the big brass bells on the church spire, only slightly taller than the fir trees surrounding the building, rang. Three times. That meant someone new had entered the village. Everyone looked at each other, then practically ran to the door, streaming out of the inn in a matter of seconds. I was pulled off my feet by the crowd, my weak protests unheard. 

Lane’s end didn't look like much. It actually looked exactly like any other seaside town along the coast of Oregon, but it was the last stop on the bus and by the time any visitors get here, they were either drunk, lost, or a combination of the two. 

The town square was more of a rectangle than a square, with a row of fir trees marking the end of the road and the beginning of the misty forests that surrounded our town. Nevertheless, everyone crowded near the fountain that our founder Christopher Lane erected in honor of finding this prime piece of land. And it had been, too. Until the erosion of the wind made the cliff face impassable, and the creation of another port town further down the coast that was more accessible. 

Lane’s End vanished into the mist and spray of the sea, the only destination for the three hundred odd people who stuck like barnacles to the soil they had been born on. Nobody new had moved into our town in the one hundred and eighty-nine years since Lane’s End had been founded. And our tourist economy hadn’t boomed since the other town had been established. 

Everyone had crowded into the town rectangle, even those who weren’t at the inn. They had all heard the three peals of the bell. I spotted my mother in the crowd and pushed my way toward her. She was busy chatting to our neighbor, the baker, about this evening’s freshness capabilities. 

“Mom,” I said, sidling up beside her. She nodded at me, then continued arguing with the baker. I rolled my eyes. “Mom,” I insisted. She finished talking to the baker, then turned to me, with the air of someone who just won an argument. 

“What?” she asked. 

“Did you see who it was?” I asked. 

“The visitor?” she checked. 

“No, the cat. Yes, the visitor!” I snarked. She shook her head. 

“I think that’s why we’re here,” she said. I sighed. 

“Yes, mom. That’s why we’re here,” I muttered, turning around and facing the front of our town rectangle. 

The stranger arrived with a twinkling sound. It took us all a moment to realize that it was the bells on his weirdly shaped shoes. Everyone watched in silence as he walked down the town rectangle and stopped in front of the podium where the mayor usually gave his speeches. 

He looked at everyone. Everyone looked at him. 

He had pale, pale skin, freckles stark against the paleness, bright red hair, a green felt cap covering his mop of hair, gray eyes, and he was dressed in the strangest clothes. A bright red vest, a yellow shirt, and red pants that clashed horribly with his hair. He looked like a walking traffic light, except this particular light covered seven tracks and operated with nine trains all narrowly missing each other as they screamed past. 

After a long moment, he smiled. 

“Hello!” he announced. Everyone shifted. The mayor made his way to the front of the crowd. 

“Welcome to Lane’s End,” he said, and as if someone had flipped a switch, everyone crowded around this strange man. The baker offered the freshest bread, the butcher offered the juiciest cuts, the innkeeper offered the best room with the best view, and the cobbler offered a discount on shoe maintenance. The man laughed, a sound as clear as bells, and as if in a trance, everyone stopped talking. 

“Thank you for the very warm welcome, but I am looking for someone in particular. Liliana Jourdou, please,” he said, eyes searching the crowd. I wasn’t that hard to spot, given that I had hung back from the crowd surging forward, but still, everyone turned immediately to me. That’s the horrible part of living in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows everyone’s business, and if you do something bad, everyone will learn about it over Sunday potluck. 

I cleared my throat, stepping forward, and the man’s eyes shot to me. I realized that they weren’t gray as I’d originally thought, but rather a hazelly-blue color, shifting as they caught the light. The man stiffened. 

“Liliana?” he asked. I nodded. 

“I am her,” I replied. 

“Good, good. Now, lead me to your house, please,” he said, all previous animosity gone from his voice. I blinked. 

“Lead you to my house? I don’t even know you,” I voiced in a chilly tone, crossing my arms. The man smiled, although this time it didn’t meet his eyes. 

“Oh, but I know you.” 


***


Of course with that sort of statement, I had no choice but to lead him to my house. Situated in the middle of town, my great-great-great-grandfather had won this plot of land for thirty-three cents, with the promise of fresh eggs for a month. It looked old from the outside, but I had renovated the two-story house on the inside as much as I could. My mother didn’t object, she helped me remove all the old junk and make the house into one worth living. 

The path was laid with stones and my shoes squeaked on them as I led the stranger to my front door. 

“You want something to drink?” I asked politely, but he shook his head, making his way to my living room without having ever lived here before. I felt myself growing suspicious, yet something else about this man, made it seem as if I could trust him unquestionably. He sat down, arranging his pack near his feet. He propped his hands on his knees and looked at me with those weird eyes as I settled myself onto the sette across from him. 

“So...Lily. You claim you don’t know me, but I know you. Actually, more accurately, I know of you,” he started, his voice soft. I crossed my arms. 

“You’ve said that already,” I muttered. The man leaned forward, his eyes locked on mine. 

“How familiar are you with the legends claiming parallel worlds exist and contain fantastical creatures as well as demons?” he rapidly said. I blinked. 

“Um. My mother read them to me when I was a child, but it’s been over twenty years since I’ve heard them,” I answered slowly. The man grinned and I was disconcerted to see that his teeth were pointed. How on earth did he manage that?

"Ah, that's your mistake. I am not from Earth," he said. I was startled.

"Did you just...?" I asked. He nodded, grinning.

"Read your mind? Yes, all leprechauns can. You see, I'm from Earth. But just not your Earth. I-hmm, here. It's better to see," he said, and then leaped forward and touched my hand. Instantly my living room went black.


***


“What the hell?” I shouted, snatching my hand away from the man-no, leprechaun-’s hand. 

“No, not Hell. Although that’s around the corner. You want to see it?” he asked. I wordlessly shook my head. 

“Th-that’s not possible,” I stammered. 

“Ah, nothing’s impossible, dear Lily,” he tutted, walking away from me, down the corridor. 

We were in a long corridor, doors on every other section of the wall. Every door had a plaque on the top. I read a few as I walked by. I couldn’t read any of their names. 

“What are these?” I questioned, jogging a little to catch up with the leprechaun.

"Parallel worlds. Do keep up," he reprimanded. I flushed.

"Where are you taking me?" I asked. He stopped in front of a door that read Nujalim.

"I have something to show you," he said, opening the door. I don't know what I was expecting, but a pitch-black space wasn't it.

"Er...it's not here," I said, leaning into the threshold, or where it was supposed to be. The leprechaun chuckled. 

“How about now?” he said with glee as he shoved me forward. I screamed, falling into pitch black nothingness. 


***


“You really need to stop doing that,” I scolded the leprechaun. We had landed on soft soil, everything around us drenched in a pink hue. 

“Then stop being so easy to trick!” He told me, laughing. The strange man led me through the forest we had landed in, finally arriving in a small camp on the outskirts of yet a larger forest. The leprechaun whistled, a sharp piercing sound, and people started coming out of the tents.

No, not people. Strange little men in the same kind of costume my leprechaun tormentor was wearing.

"Hurendk jualis akuhn," the leprechaun called, spreading his arms out.

"Huh?" I asked, walking down the slope after him.

"It's faeish," he told me, then proceeded to narrate my entire life's story to the other leprechauns. They oohed and aahed until I thought I was going to start screaming and then he turned to me.

"So, Liliana, still confused as to where you fit in?" he asked and I shook my head. Suddenly, his eyes glowed red and his body shrunk, turning into a smaller version of himself, except it was far uglier than before. Sprouts of thick hair shot out of his ears and nostrils and his mouth gaped in a red grin as his jaw unhinged showing three more rows of sharp jagged teeth. The other leprechauns did the same thing until I was surrounded by these demonic creatures.

"yₒᵤ'ᵣₑ ₒᵤᵣ ₗᵤₙcₕ," he growled, his voice strange and guttural. With a snarl, he leaped onto me, and before I had time to scream, his jaw unhinged and he bit off my head in a spray of blood and gore.


***


Ja-en Lock licked his lips, feeling the human girl's warm blood soothing his throat. He looked around at his kin and the pale white bones of their victim.

"ᵂʰᵒˢᵉ ᵗᵘʳⁿ ⁱˢ ⁱᵗ ⁿᵒʷ?" He asked.

June 03, 2021 13:58

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46 comments

Nainika Gupta
14:01 Jun 03, 2021

So...that probably didn't go the way you were expecting. There's a few reasons for that. Firstly, I was going to have her be some long-lost queen or princess or something, but that was WAY too cliche for me, and so I was like...well, can I disgust people even more and make them just eat her? Yeah, why not. So yeah. Secondly, I was wayyy too tired after finals to create a whole 'nother world for Liliana and the leprechauns to live in and so yeah...lazy me. And lastly, it's cause I wanted to and I can. Sue me. :) Yeah, anyway, hope you ...

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14:24 Jun 29, 2021

Definitely not! This story definitely wouldn't have been this good if she was a queen/princess. It may have been kinda disgusting, but I enjoyed reading this nonetheless. I understand not having the energy to do that, but I feel like this story is perfect the way it is. I loved the way you wrote about the small town, the mystery of the stranger, and how it was only sunny on the day he came. XD I did! Awesome job and keep writing! -b r o n a n a

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Nainika Gupta
21:45 Jul 30, 2021

:) Thanks so much Brooke!

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23:12 Jul 30, 2021

You're welcome so much! ;)

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Kelly Dennison
19:41 Jun 03, 2021

Well that took a turn!! You know, I kind of like that it ended like that! Not everyone gets to be "long-lost princess"...sometimes you're just lunch! I love how you changed the font for voices once they turned... Poor Lily!

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Nainika Gupta
13:42 Jun 04, 2021

Exactly!! :) thanks for the read kelly!

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Dhwani Jain
16:31 Jun 03, 2021

Hey Nainika! I think I got the answer to the Movie Emoji Puzzle! ⚫🕷️🔴 Is this Deadpool? Or maybe Spiderman? I am a Spidey fan, so I want it to be Spiderman, but my first guess is Deadpool...tell me if I'm right. Also, I am feeling a bit lazy these days, can you suggest me some of your 'short' short stories to read? [No offence meant, but I am kind of being lazy here to read 'long' short stories!!!]

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Nainika Gupta
13:43 Jun 04, 2021

Hi! Nope - it’s another upcoming marvel movie! Also lol I don’t like long stories either - any of my recent ones are shorter! Enjoy.

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Dhwani Jain
11:45 Jun 26, 2021

I have decided to write a story with the characters introduced by you, yes, YOU. Fill this form to JOIN US!!! https://forms.gle/sH57gUnwx4a2rPtHA #new #DreamDJ #DhwaniJain #JoinUs #join #joinme #Google #Googleform

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Akshara .
17:40 Aug 12, 2021

Well, that took a turn!! 😁 I like how you ended the story. Not everyone gets to be "long-lost princess"...becoming someone's lunch. I also liked how you changed the font for voices once they turned...Poor Lily! 🤐 My favorite line was right in the beginning: “Then again, he might have been dying too, that was always an option.” I love the way that it has been crafted and written. Happy writing.

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Nainika Gupta
16:59 Aug 14, 2021

Hey thanks so much!!

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. .
23:06 Jul 12, 2021

Spiderman into the spiderverse XD

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Nainika Gupta
21:46 Jul 30, 2021

Nope :) also HIII

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Babika Goel
18:43 Jul 09, 2021

Interesting-Becoming someone's lunch!

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Nainika Gupta
21:46 Jul 30, 2021

Yeah!

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Is the movie black widow???

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Nainika Gupta
21:46 Jul 30, 2021

Yep :)

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Gip Roberts
20:13 Jun 22, 2021

You're right, it didn't go the way I expected, but it was still good. The part where you're first describing the stranger immediately made me think: "This guy sounds like a leprechaun," and I knew I was in for a wild fairy tale. Also, I've been to the Oregon Coast, and your descriptions of the town were extremely accurate. There's a town called Astoria which really does just sort of "vanish into the mist" like that on certain days. The end was funny, but I can easily see it scaring the crap out of young children, like some of the old Grimm's...

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Nainika Gupta
21:47 Jul 30, 2021

Thanks so much Gip! Glad I was accurate enough for you to get an image of the town :) And, hey, if they get scared, they won't run away with strangers?

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Cole Lane
02:34 Jun 17, 2021

Hey, I want to live at 'Lane's End' :) Except, it sounds rather foreboding (for me anyway). lol! You know I have never trusted leprechauns, they are a close second to clowns in my book of bad things lurking in the dark. So then you took them to the next level with multi-rowed teeth and jaws that unhinge, so now they have moved to the front of the line for all things horrible lurking anywhere! You write some magical, crazy amazing stuff, I love the way that Ja-en's voice was in such a different font. It is tough (for me anyway) to add desi...

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Nainika Gupta
13:47 Jun 17, 2021

Oh goodness i have created a monster. JEez. Well, glad you liked it! As I’ve said before and I you've probably saw, this ain’t no ordinary fairy tale and i wanted to show leprechauns in a different light. OR at least maybe even how they look in real life!? Terrifying thought. Thanks - the inside of my mine is a scary place lol. And for the fonts, all I did wasn’t type fancy fonts into google...found the first or second link I think...typed what I wanted to say in the generator and copied and pasted it into reedsy. Quite simple actually. Did...

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Cole Lane
14:42 Jun 17, 2021

It's kind of like when someone does a cover song, but they do it in their style. It is familiar but unique in their own way. You took fairy tale character that was familiar, but then they go and unhinge their jaw and bite your head off, and you're like, 'hmmm, that's new'. lol! Thank you for the text tip as well! I also discovered Unicode emoji generators, probably not good for the actual stories, but damn, I can decorate comments all day. 😵

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Nainika Gupta
15:49 Jun 17, 2021

Yep. Precisely what I have done. :) and decorate those damn comments every time haha

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Alya Kaikuahine
19:36 Jun 13, 2021

This is very... I don't even know what to say. I DID NOT expect that. But, even so, still has that nice Nainika touch to it. Cool piece!! Also, is the emoji puzzle Black Widow?

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Nainika Gupta
21:47 Jul 30, 2021

Aw thanks! And yep :)

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Rohit Mukundan
15:25 Jun 12, 2021

As "shaggy dog" stories go, this was pretty good.

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Nainika Gupta
17:30 Jun 12, 2021

:) thanks!

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Palak Shah
12:36 Jun 12, 2021

Great story Nainika, I love the way that it has been crafted and written. Is the answer to the movie black widow or spiderman?

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Nainika Gupta
17:30 Jun 12, 2021

:) thanks! And one of them but I’m not telling which.

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Palak Shah
14:41 Jun 13, 2021

Black Widow ??

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Nainika Gupta
21:46 Jul 30, 2021

Yep!!

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Palak Shah
09:32 Jul 31, 2021

Yay :))

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Palak Shah
12:17 Aug 08, 2021

Could you please read my latest story and share some feedback if possible. Thanks

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15:03 Jun 10, 2021

Is your puzzle "black widow?"

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Nainika Gupta
15:05 Jun 10, 2021

yep

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16:26 Jun 11, 2021

Yay!

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Kelly Burmeier
06:27 Jun 04, 2021

Oh, dang! I think the wry humored laced through the narrative and dialogue led to that ending nicely! It was shocking, but somehow fitting! My favorite line was right in the beginning: “Then again, he might have been dying too, that was always an option.” So, it was even better when dying was an option for the main character! I was puzzled by the care he seemed to take to find her, specifically (though, that could have been a quick product of the mind reading), only to unceremoniously eat her. Then I thought about how I sometimes crave M...

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Nainika Gupta
13:42 Jun 04, 2021

Haha thanks for the compliments Kelly! Really appreciate it :) yeah. So about the leprechaun’s fascination - I wanted the reader to think she was something special - a normal cliche fantasy where the weird girl is actually a terrifyingly amazing queen, but in actuality she was just lunch. I live for the cliffhangers. :)

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Valerie June
17:54 Jun 03, 2021

No, the story certainly did not go the way I expected it to. I do admire the fact that you did something very unique with this story, though. I also tend to avoid cliches as much as possible. So congrats to that!

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Nainika Gupta
13:42 Jun 04, 2021

:) thanks for the read!

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Spescozia Juma
14:53 Jun 03, 2021

Interesting

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Nainika Gupta
14:54 Jun 03, 2021

ha- that's one word to describe it :)

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Dhwani Jain
11:35 Aug 12, 2021

Nainika, It is killing me! Can you please tell the answer for the movie emoji puzzle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

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Dhwani Jain
05:07 Aug 01, 2021

I HAVE BEEN DOWNVOTED!!!!!!! I HAD ABOUT 1100+ POINTS, AND NOW I AM LEFT AT 660+.... PLEASE HELP ME, MY REEDSY FRIENDS STOP DOWNVOTING NOW!!!!!

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16:50 Jul 31, 2021

Hi! How are you? Glad you're back!!

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Dhwani Jain
12:22 Jul 31, 2021

Nainika, How have you been at camp? Any new story ideas? It's been waaaaaaay too long since that movie puzzle. Please tell me the answer. Also, I have something similar (inspired by you) in my bio too! Do check that out!

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