How [Not] to Befriend a Human

Submitted into Contest #30 in response to: Write a story in which the lines between awake and dreaming are blurred.... view prompt



“It’s just a dream…” She thought to herself. She was walking down a dirt path among the trees of a beautiful forest. She had been here before, though she couldn’t exactly recall when. Perhaps in her childhood... Yes, that was it. She often came here with her older brother. It was their secret place, and up ahead was a clearing where they would play.

Unconsciously, her pace quickened. She had to see that clearing again, with the multi-colored flowers, the specks of dust glittering in sunbeams, it was truly a magical place. She could see the tree line approaching.

Breaking out into a full sprint, she reached the clearing in no time, but what she saw was not familiar at all. The flowers were gone. It was dusk, so no sun beams either. Just a field of dead grass and withered petals. Of course it wasn’t the same. It would never be the same. Her brother was dead. The darkness was coming. There was barely enough light to see anymore.

Not wanting to be here anymore, she turned back toward the path. Then she heard the growling. Spinning back around, she saw a black beast with bared fangs, snarling at her from about fifteen paces away. She started backing away, and realized she heard growling now from the path too. Then one to her left as well. To her right was a large tree.

She was trapped. Trapped in the memory of her brother’s death. He too was ripped apart by wolves, while she ran to get help. She was only eight years old. He wanted her to live, so he told her to run while he stayed and fought the wolves. He was only eleven. But he was the best brother in the world.

With three wolves surrounding her in this familiar forest she had to think quickly. Strewn among the leaves on the ground were some hefty branches. She backed up until she felt the cold trunk of the tree. “Should I fight, or climb to safety?” She started to panic.

One of the wolves made the choice for her, leaping at her with bared fangs. In an instant, her hands felt the thickness of the nearest branch, and her face felt the warmth of the beast’s breath; its fangs latched around the branch and mere inches away. Another wolf moved to flank her left, so she shoved forward, sending the first wolf sprawling to the ground.

Wasting no momentum, she used her forward movement to swoop up another branch and targeted the flanking wolf just as it made its attack, this time shoving the large branch down its throat. The beast gagged and whimpered, trying to remove the obstruction as it snarled and spat out blood.

The third wolf reacted quickly, it was waiting for its chance to strike. From her right side, it ran up and aimed its fangs at her leg...

Suddenly someone grabbed her arm, pulling her out of the street just before a car sped past, horn blaring.

“Wait, the street?” Looking around, she saw her familiar city. Nashville. Home sweet home. She was on the road she took every morning when she walked to work. Looking down, she saw her briefcase. Then the hand that was still on her arm. She jerked her arm out of his grip and looked up at him, panic and bewilderment in her eyes.

“Whew, that was close. Are you ok ma’am?” He asked in a southern accent. Re-adjusting the guitar on his back, he looked her up and down. He was a handsome, well-built young man with dark brown hair and green eyes. Holding out his hand, he said “Howdy, I’m Billy Carson.”

She stared at his hand, making no move to shake it. “Emily.” She replied gruffly, still bewildered. “Was I sleepwalking?”

He dropped his hand, a concerned look on his face. “Are you gonna be ok?” He checked his watch. “I got a gig in like five minutes…”

“Yes, I’m fine. Thanks.” She replied quickly, lowering her gaze and allowing her blonde curls to hide her face. “Good luck with your gig, or whatever.” She walked around him and continued on the path to work, pretending not to notice how crazy she probably seemed to him. She thought she heard him start to laugh, but didn’t look back.


When Emily was out of sight, Billy was immediately bored again. Well, his real name wasn’t Billy, it was Balefire. But that never sounds normal, so when he shifts into a human he uses a human name. To make it more fun, he usually adopts a whole new persona. Playing with humans was all he ever wanted to do, but his mother, Titania, Queen of the Fairies, always wanted him home, where he was expected to laze about and sleep among the flowers.

Sometimes he had to join in on the Hunt, a monthly excursion in which the other male fairies would compete to see who could offer their Queen the biggest catch. But he never won those competitions, which made him feel consistently inadequate as the Prince, and despite his position, he didn’t have any friends either.

He wanted to play with her more, but she was already late for work and he didn’t want to get her fired. With an air of defeat about him, he decided to head home before it got any darker. Mother didn’t like it when he was out this late. He was probably already in trouble. When he reached the tree line, he shifted back into his usual fairy form, and stashed his “disguise props” back into the hollow tree with the rest of his forbidden human knick-knacks.

Upon his return to their “kingdom” in the forest, he saw that everyone was preparing for another hunt. He was expected to participate. Not interested, he headed towards the palace, looking forward to a hot bath and some quiet rest while everyone was away. Even though it was technically his choice to join the hunt, he was obligated to be present for the feast.

Balefire’s gifts weren’t unique to him, but most fairies didn’t use theirs, too afraid of what the humans would do to them if they were found out. He could pluck copies of memories from people, alter the environment in them, and present them back in the forefront of their mind. Then they have to relive that altered memory, yet their choices and mindset are their own. “If Mother ever found out what I was really doing with my time, I’d probably be exiled.” He actually didn’t mind that thought.

His forest kingdom - more like a village - was beautiful. Rivers so clear you could count the stripes on the fish swimming in it, vibrant colors on every surface; even the rocks looked like they shimmered with some hidden gems. And at the heart of all that was the palace.

The palace was immaculate: everything was made of silver and gold, or at least made to look that way. Patterns of vines and leaves and fairies covered every inch of it. Even the cobblestones in the walkways had pictures chiseled into them. Walking through the intricately decorated palace door, he saw his mother sitting on her throne, waiting for him. She was wearing one of her best gowns, emerald in color, to match her eyes. Her brown hair was slightly curled and put up in a fancy bun, with parts of it braided too. Her crown shone brightly as the light glared off of it. She was breathtakingly beautiful, as a Queen should be - but on her face, she wore only anger. He gulped, and approached her with caution.

“Should I even bother asking where you’ve been, Balefire?” She asked, looking directly into his eyes, and tapping her finger on the arm of her throne.

He didn’t look away, he knew better than that. “Mother,” he answered immediately, “I was out exploring the forest. I know that you don’t want me to, but I have a hard time trusting the safety of this kingdom merely to the guards.” He learned from experience that it was better to tell a lie that would admit a lesser crime and allow a reason for the guilt on his face. He did love his mother; he just hated their way of life: secluded in these woods, unable to use their powers, and just being so damn bored all the time.

“Our guards are more than capable. Have you witnessed anything to the contrary? If so, please tell me so I can dismiss that guard immediately.” She smirked. She knew her guards were, for the most part, pretty adept at their duties.

“Oh no, nothing specific. It’s just, you know, maybe they are too used to their routes by now, or-“ He stopped as she held up a hand, indicating she wanted to hear no more. She moved her hand then, inviting him to come closer. She stood and embraced her son. “Mother?” He asked.

“I’m just glad you’re safe. I know, why don’t you join the guards and then you can better monitor things if you are so concerned?” Fear flooded her son’s face. She smirked, as she knew he would not want such restriction and responsibility. Laughing, she continued, “Oh don’t bother, I know you don’t want to join them. You’re a bit filthy, so go ready yourself for tonight’s feast.”

Balefire kissed his mother on the cheek, and she tousled his hair. Then he ascended the many steps to his quarters.


Emily ran the rest of the way to work, and arrived five minutes late, to see her judgmental boss looking down on her. She was a ghostwriter, who was currently working on six stories at once, and one of them was due by end of day. “Sorry,” she breathed between gasps, winded by her run. “I was almost hit by a car.”

The look on her boss’ face didn’t change. “You writers come up with the best excuses, I swear.”

“But it’s not a story –”

“I don’t care. Why are you still here? Get to work.”

“Typical Janice.” Emily thought. Her boss was usually pretty rude, but today she seemed especially peeved. Emily briefly wondered what happened, then decided she didn’t care. If her boss was upset, it made her a little happy. Even though Emily was 25, she was the youngest one there, so she was picked on by everyone. She briskly strode to her desk and started typing away. Today’s task was about a musician. “Huh, maybe I’ll make him the main character…”

Night came, and Emily turned in her work. She took a cab home, feeling so exhausted after today’s events. But she stopped by a store and bought a few internal locks for her door, the ones with the sliders. Just in case she sleepwalked again. It was so strange, she hadn’t experienced any sort of sleepwalking in years.

A twinge of pain wracked through her as she remembered that strange dream, and her dead brother. She thought also of that musician with the green eyes. There was something strange about his eyes. They were too… jovial?  for someone who was concerned about her life. But a few moments later the locks were installed, and she chased those thoughts away with soothing music and a nice, hot shower. She had no dreams that night.

With the sunrise came a new day, and Emily was not ready for it. Still reeling from yesterday’s events, she crawled out of bed, brushed her teeth, dressed, fed the cats outside – they weren’t hers, but she didn’t like to see them starve – and made a quick breakfast while jotting down notes on her other works. Sitting down with her notes and her breakfast, she thought about her current tasks. She had the story about the lost dog to finish, and the manga about the demi-human was almost complete as well. That just left the –

Emily sat at her brother’s side, reciting the lines she had to learn for her upcoming school play. She wasn’t cast in an important role, and only had 3 whole lines, but she wanted her performance to be perfect, and her brother was happy to oblige. They sat in a sunbeam, in their favorite clearing in the woods. The air glittered like pixie dust in the light that shone down through the leaves overhead. The earth felt warm below them, and the flowers danced as the gentle breeze whispered through them.

Emily spoke one of her lines – in her adult voice. Immediately she realized this wasn’t simply one of her memories. Remembering the mirror she always carried back then, she retrieved it and looked at her reflection. She was 25. Her brother was eleven. “This isn’t possible…” She spoke.

“What’s wrong?” Her brother asked. His voice was like a dagger to her stomach. Sickened, she backed away from him.

“You’re dead. You can’t be here. I’m not here. This isn’t real.” She said, panicking. Sitting against a tree across the clearing, she hugged her knees and rocked herself back and forth. She closed her eyes and said over and over: “This isn’t real. This isn’t real. THIS ISN’T REAL!” She shouted the last time, and opened her eyes to see Balefire’s face. His true face. His very fairy-like face, with pointed ears and inhumanly green eyes and sharp teeth – and screamed.

Balefire backed away, tripping over the coffee table and sending himself, and her breakfast, flying to the floor. He scrambled to get to his feet, and when he did she was standing there, knife in hand, with a crazed look on her face. “Now, you’re probably upset, but I was just messing around. Oh! I know… Uh… This is all a dream! Yeah. You’re dreaming. So just –”

“The clearing, the wolves, my brother, that was all YOU?!” She said, still crazed. She had been told stories about fairies before from her mother, that’s why she spent so much time in that forest. With her brother’s death, she thought she stopped believing. But apparently not, for she wasn’t that surprised. “Explain yourself. Now.”

Balefire looked for an escape, but this was an old house. The windows didn’t open and she was between him and the only door that room had. With a deep breath, he said, “I’m Balefire. I’m a fairy.”

“Duh!” She shouted. “I’m asking why you are messing with my head!”

Incredulous, he stared at this human for a moment. “I, um, well…”

“Spit it out!”

“I’m sorry! You don’t know what it’s like. I’m the Prince so I am under a magnifying glass all the time. There’s never anything to do, and we’re not supposed to leave, or talk to humans, or do anything interesting ever!” As he admitted to his pathetic existence, going more and more into detail about his life, tears sprang forth from his eyes. They were pretty huge tears.

Emily’s heart softened a bit. She lowered the knife. This guy was pretty child-like, and she had a soft spot for kids. “Do you know that my brother died?”

“I had no idea! When you said that, I was so confused, and sad, and wanted to take it all back. Please believe me.” He cried.

“I do believe you. And you’re going to promise NEVER to do that again to me right?” She stared directly into his eyes. Just like his mother did.

He gulped. “Yes, I promise. You’ll never see me again.” He started to walk toward the door, but she held out her hand to stop him. He looked up at her inquisitively.

“You don’t have to never see me again.” She said, kneeling down. “It must be hard being ostracized. How about we become friends? That way we both win. I don’t have to be tormented, and you don’t have to be alone. Win-win, right?” She smiled at him, and seemed so friendly. Too kind.

Balefire’s tears flowed once again, accepting her outstretched hand, and her friendship. Anyone else might have just killed him for what he did. To relay his gratitude, he showed her a clearing nearby that paled in comparison to the one she knew, but one that had its own magic. They hung out there often, and she would make him food and read him her stories. They became good friends indeed, and she even sent him after Janice’s memories once or twice, provided he promised to not touch upon any memories as damaging as the ones he played with in her own mind.


A year passed, and Balefire devoted himself to becoming a model Prince, to someday accept his role as King of the Fairies. He always checked first before messing with someone’s memories, and even seldom felt the need to do that at all.

But he still snuck away, now and then, to play with his only human friend. She was now an author, and who was always willing to read him a nice story. 

February 25, 2020 20:55

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