“Hey, get a load of this one” She picks another envelope from a pile.
“Yeah shut up. Here we go.” The first researcher clears her throat. “Hello —stop laughing— Hello. My name is Maddie. I am 8 years old and I live near Stuttgart. I am a happy kid. I like school. I like to play with my friends who live on my street but sometimes when I am alone I like to go for walks. Is it pretty in Geneva? I always imagine all your machinery and stuff being buried under one of those beautiful glass hill-lakes. Like in Frankenstein.”
The other researcher chortles into his coffee. Behind them; an empty office throbs with servers, spectrographic diagrams and computer monitors. It is unclear what time of day it is because there are no windows. “Anyway. I am just writing because nobody else here will believe me. A few weeks ago I began walking a different trail around the woods behind the house. I hadn’t gone very…”
She stops reading out loud. Scans ahead a few lines before continuing.
“I hadn’t gotten very far when I ran into the fairies. They came down out of the trees… and at first they looked like lights but then they started talking and performing spells and they showed me burrows deep beneath the roots where they held feasts and we danced all the night around tall bonfires. I came home what I thought was the next morning to find that only an hour or so had passed. I visited several times over the next weeks with the disposable camera I got for my birthday because when the fairies wore their beautiful spider-silk gowns some of them looked almost like people. I showed the prints to my parents but they just laughed because it reminded them of fake photographs they’d seen in the newspaper. One of the fairies taught me to weave thorny apple flowers into a crown…” There are pictures attached. “Anyway we were sitting by the river one day when one of them tugged on the edge of my dress and told me to warn people at the Large Hadron Collider (the word ‘Collider’ misspelled and crossed out twice) that something was about to go horribly wrong. I don’t know how long this letter will take to reach you but the date in question is—” Todays date is printed in neat handwriting. “All I know is that something is going to happen. I’m sorry but that’s the message. The fairies seem agitated, but refuse to go into any further detail. The other day I saw my friends talking quietly in a clearing. Then they gave me iodine tablets. I hope the machine is ok. All that is lovely to you, signed: Maddie.” The final part is written in a different coloured gel pen. With flourishes.
It is another moment before either of them speak.
“Well then.” She says.
“Wow.” Replies her coworker. “Hahaha. Sadistic. I love it.”
“What do you mean?”
He retrieves a pair of glasses from his coat pocket. “I mean you don’t honestly believe?…”
“No no of course not.”
He handles the crude envelope. “Look theres not even a postage stamp or return address. Somebody could have walked in and slipped this into the mail today. Just because somethings written in crayon doesn’t mean its real.”
“It is not written in crayon. And I think if it is a real girl she would have to be pretty messed up to create this entire fantasy. This is dark. There are pictures.”
“Exactly. It’ll just be some creep with too much time on his hands, or a practical joke from another department. Didn’t Johanssen’s wife come dressed as a fairy to the Christmas party? You see stuff like this all the time.”
There is a pause. He wheels his chair to the other side of the room and returns with another letter.
“See I knew that letter reminded me of something. Got this one a few weeks back. Here we go listen to this—“
This note appears to have been typewritten and on a much thicker stock of paper.
“Dear sir/madam. I’m afraid I can’t explain to you who I am or where I’m writing from until you have heard my proposition. Basically I don’t fully understand what it is you do or even how you attempt it, but as I understand it the focus of activity at the European Organization for Nuclear Research is in performing high speed particle experiments by recreating the conditions of our universe during the very first fractions of a second after the big bang. My business proposition is this: as long as you’re perfectly controlling the conditions of your equipment, and we’re all basically doing magic quantum-science-bullshit anyway — why not allow myself and other mystics to gather and apply non scientific measures to the process and see if that does anything weird. Like have we tried everything? What if we get a priest in to hallow the joint. Or Sufi warlocks. Or a rabbi. Have you tried turning the machine off and on again whilst somebody casts zen riddles down that really long tunnel? We don’t even have to be inside the building. We can just stand outside in the woods, muttering like faeries. Did you know that the guy who built the atom bomb can trace his lineage all the way back to Rabbi Loeb, who created the original Golem of Prague.”
“Wait is that true?”
“Does it matter? Blah blah blah… Instructions, should we wish to rendezvous… Ah. He goes on to say: I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. P.S. If you’re still having trouble with that Higgs Boson give me a couple of dowsing rods and I’ll go down there and find the fucker.”
The researcher cannot hold back his laughter any longer. “See what I mean?” He giggles.
“I had somebody look into it as well, apparently all the service desk knows is that this letter came through with a consignment from North America. There are some real freaks out there, I tell ya.”
“You were right I said.” They consider both letters side by side.
Eventually the female researcher looks up. She notes to herself that the air flow always tasted thicker and more recirculated this early in the morning. In front of them: data whirs past on screens.
The Boy was just off of a fire break near Vernier when he discovered It.
He judged the time to be roughly four in the morning, as frost had not quite had enough time to finish creeping through the tall grass. He was on a morning hike to clear his head; bundled up beneath multiple layers of fleece, miniature nose protruding Rudolph-coloured into the cold night air. He rubs his own eyes. Leaves shattering beneath wellies. The Boy is only ten years old but he has not been sleeping well. Besides, he enjoyed long walks to get away from everyone, particularly at night. It is quiet. The only downside was he could’t risk crawling back in through the downstairs window to leash the family dog without the risk of waking his parents. That would have made him feel much safer. Anyway he never went far.
The Boy rounds another corner on the trail. His teeth are chattering slightly. Wait a minute. Something is wrong, he thinks. He has come to a fork he does not recognise.
There is a gate. And a river too. The fork takes you either over the metal gate and over the stream (to a farm? Road? Quarry?), or down a deer trail along the waters edge and into the evening proper; unlit paths of briar and stone, fog, dreams. In the distance a fortress-like building blots out giant mouthfuls of stars. He thought he might have wandered all the way off of the park behind his house.
He keeps walking.
He found The Man’s body sprawled in the trees; beard nestled comfortably within drifts of snow and spring flowers. Pink frost coats the entirety of his (mostly) naked body. But The Boy could still see the face, highlighted and cherubic in the pale pale snow.
For some reason The Boy only started to scream once the police had arrived.
“What’s that.” Says the researcher. A notification begins blinking rapidly in front of her. And then changes colour.
She receives a call on her phone.
Apparently there is a wall somewhere over there through the woods but all The Boy can see are trees; hollow green spaces between them and gutters full of unmelted ice that cast steam between cars, making everything around him seem sort of purple with its own source of light. Pine-buds shimmer, red and blue. The responding officer has only been gone for a minute but it has felt like much longer. Out there in the haze; flashlights flicker online one by one, like…
A man raps on the glass. But then he opens the door softly. It is a different officer than the one before, with a pulled down balaclava.
“Hi. I’m sorry. We’re taking you back to your parents now. I just have to move you to a different car if that is alright?”
“Ok. Here we go.”
They walk across the clearing to a running police sedan. The officer helps The Boy (along with his foil blanket) into the backseat. Looking back across the trail: a gurney is being lifted into the forest by men in reflective coats.
“I want to go home.”
“Yes. Sorry, we just had to change routes…” The officer begins to peel away down the track. “There’ll be a case worker waiting. I’m sorry.”
“What’s that.” He says. The Boy is pointing over through the windshield.
Flakes of ash are now falling across the glass in front of them. They shatter as they land and make mad spiral dances either side of bright headlights. It is not sunrise yet. The car emerges onto a road, where the ash-fall is still fine but becoming more noticeable.
“Well like I said we had to change routes. This is the first I’m hearing of anything.”
The officer thinks about switching his wipers on, but chooses against it. Light pollution looks bad tonight. “I guess there’s a fire.” He says.
Jarvis E. Gooden is currently a first year studying Creative Writing BA at Leeds Arts University but originally from Suffolk, writing short horror fiction with some longer prose available. Main influences include Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac and Nick Cave. Currently unpublished but moving in the right direction — slightly too obsessed with hovering lights; pine switches and ghosts; broken algorithms spitting out reams of data, volumetric graphs and petals.