fantasy by Brian J. Hunt
The sound is loud in the otherwise completely silent house. The man in the bed opens one bloodshot eye.
Not for the first time this evening, he rearranges the pillow over his head.
Sighing resignedly he gets out of bed. Yet another night’s sleep eludes him. He feels somehow that his sleep addled brain is trying to remind him of something. Something important, but it just won’t come.
While stumbling down the hallway, he is startled by the gold coin that rolls out of the bathroom and through his legs. Bending over and looking between them he sees a two foot tall man snatch up the coin and put it into the coat pocket of the his old fashioned outfit.
“So I be correct in thinking you can see me now, Daniel Donovan?” the small, stout figure asks.
Daniel frowns, “Who –”
“Looked right past me you have. I’ve been trying to get your attention for days! Then I remembered the old through the legs trick. I’m Tam the Doon, sometimes known as Tam-The-Knocker, or sometimes even as Shut-The-Fuck-Up. One of the wee folk,” he grins and then turns deadly serious. “And one of your family is in grave danger.”
“Did you know your great-grand mother, Maddie Donovan? No? More your loss. She was a fine woman. Kept to the old ways. One evening we was talking when, unthinking, I let my guard down. She suddenly caught ahold of me.”
He squints at Daniel. “If you not be knowing, catch one of my kind and we are compelled to offer a service. Anyway, she says to me, ‘Tam, my sons and one of my sons’ sons have been called to war. Watch over my sons and all of my sons’ sons down the generations until the sun fails to burn. Keep them safe.’ I have been looking out for the males of your family every since.”
Daniel still looks confused. “I don’t understand. The wee folk? My father told me stories, but…”
“Come outside with me,” says Tam.
He takes Daniel’s hand and suddenly they are outside sitting on the porch. While gripping Tam’s hand, Daniel feels more alert, as if a blanket had been taken from his head. He can almost recall that thing he needs to remember, but it still won’t come.
“Close your eyes Daniel,” Tams says. “Tell me what you hear.”
After a moment, Daniel opens his eyes. “Nothing, I don’t hear a thing.”
“Exactly lad, nothing. No insects, no wind in the leaves, no traffic, no barking dogs, no nothing. We call him Mr. Quiet. He’s one of the lot your kind has collectively generated to replace the wee folk. Our bunch was cantankerous and mischievous, and never took gladly to fools, but the lot you have replaced us with are harder, with nasty edges.
Mr. Quiet targets children destined to push back the darkness with the brilliance of their future. He can’t stand their light; it draws him to extinguish it. Your wee Sally is one such child. Be she destined to become a doctor to relieve the suffering of multitudes, a wordsmith to inspire with her pen or a musician to lift the hearts of the weary, I know not. I only know that she will shine so very bright in an increasingly dark world. He will take his time destroying her now that he has her.”
He reaches out and grabs Daniel’s hand. “Time for you to remember.”
“What!” The memories flood back as Daniel bolts to his feet. The ominous silence as the shadows came alive and stole Sally from her bed. Her mouth open in terror, chest heaving as if she were screaming, but no sounds coming out. Then the dark man engulfing him, wrapping him in a cocoon of silent, placid calm.
Tam reaches out and effortlessly settles Daniel back into his chair.
“It’s the ancient pact between your lot and ours. By the rules I can act on mortals only under a strict set of circumstances, but leaky faucets are another matter. Worry not Daniel Donovan. You are safe, as is your son. I honor my promise to Maddie. I protected your grandfather on the beaches at Normandy and your uncle in Vietnam. You yourself survived a head-on collision with a drunk driver when your wife did not because I cushioned you. I obey my promise according to the pact. Otherwise I would have faded like most of my kind has.”
A wistful expressions passes over his face. “Oh my sweet Maddie, did you know that by protecting your sons, you protected me as well? I just think she might have. A tricksy wight was our Maddie.”
Daniel lunges forward and grabs the small man by the lapels of his jacket. The little man struggles for a bit and then sighs, hanging limp in Daniel’s arms.
“Well, you have me, Danny boyo. I am beholden to you. What task shall I perform? Get you a pot of gold from the Earth King’s realm? Always popular. Ever-dancing shoes? Fun, but not recommended. What shall I do for you?” Tam’s eyes shine with mischief.
Daniel clears his throat and proclaims, “Tam the Doon, I compel you by the ancient pact, protect my sons and daughters and my sons’ sons and daughters and my daughters’ sons and daughters and their wives and husbands and all they hold dear. Keep them safe down the generations until the sun fails to burn.”
“Done!” the fae shouts, a fierce smile on his face. “Now let me loose.”
Daniel releases the little man and sits back down.
“Sleep, Daniel Donovan, and forget, but always know that our family is protected.”
With that Daniel falls into the first real sleep he’s had in days.
Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Tam Donovan, sometimes known as Tam the Doon, strides off towards the garden and prepares to make war on those and all who would harm his great-great-granddaughter.
Copyright October 2011 by Brian J. Hunt
Brian J. Hunt lives in Portland, Oregon.
Like the family twist, then again I’m always one for a satisfying twist.