SHORT STORIES: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

"Looking down at the contract, I realised that the terms had slightly changed. Instead of three wishes, I only had two left."

Short Stories (1)

“Over my dead body!” I pocketed the pen lying on the table.

I pushed the contract out of my sight and turned my back on the Woman in the Blue Suit. The door that I came through was gone. As I turned back to the table, I saw that the contract was in the middle again, although the Woman in the Blue Suit hadn’t budged. I could tell she had been responsible for the year I’d had. She was almost motionless now. She looked at me, then she looked at the table, beckoning me to sit down again without saying anything. I turned around one more time to make sure the door was really gone, and then I sat down again. I had her hook, line, and sinker.

I checked my watch: 3:40 PM. Looking down at the contract, I realised that the terms had slightly changed. Instead of three wishes, I only had two left. My tactic didn’t work after all, it only annoyed her. I looked up at the Woman in the Blue Suit and opened my mouth, ready to ask about the change (and feign complete innocence), but when she gestured at the paper again, I saw that there was only one wish left. Alarmed, I looked back up and shook my head apologetically. I faced the paper again. Two wishes. A wave of relief swept through my body and I began to read through the rest of the conditions. Since I could tell I wasn’t going to be able to leave this room without signing the contract — and I wasn’t going to be able to morph it to my own terms — I knew I had to make the most of it. The plan depended on it.

Most of the conditions were fairly standard — I didn’t really care about them, either, since I had a way out. It was a win-win situation for me. I thought about scribbling some nonsense about giving my soul in the afterlife in there, but I realized that might be going a bit too far. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the Woman in the Blue Suit’s overly-friendly-and-clearly-trying-to-sell-something smile starting to wear off. I had to hurry up if I didn’t want to lose another wish.

“I think my friend was the victim of a faerie contract he was forced to sign, so my first wish is to free him of any and all consequences of faerie contracts.” I looked back down on the paper and see that the wish hadn’t appeared yet. The conditions were still the same, thankfully: my first-born child, ten years off the end of my life, the chance that the undersigned faerie may come to collect a single favour of any kind any time they so wish. Standard fare.

Finally, the Woman in the Blue Suit reacted. “Generally, this is allowed, but it is often frowned upon and rarely permitted. Do you know more about this faerie, Mr…?”

“Call me Mark, I won’t give you my real name until I’ve signed the contract. I don’t know the faerie’s name, sadly.” The Woman in the Blue Suit nodded, and I continued. “But I do kinda remember what they looked like. Although most of their skin was blue, they were greenish, and they had two sets of wings. Their hair was messy and almost looked like a crown, and the suit they were wearing glittered like the night sky. I think they had a few –”

Potæsos.’ The Woman in the Blue Suit hissed, and the spit that reached my hair simmered. I wanted to wipe it away but I felt like I was going to burn my hand if I did.

“Is that their name or are you just angry at me?”

Her suit had since turned blood-red. “We faeries do not take lightly to our language being mocked. However, this specimen you have described is so pitiful, so cowardly, so lowly that your remark is almost humorous. I will allow this first wish of yours. In fact, I will do so gladly.”

As I leaned back to take a better look at the contract and saw that the wish had now appeared on the contract, but I couldn’t read the faerie’s name. The Woman in the Red Suit was standing just a bit closer to the table. The smile on her face had changed; it was more genuine, and her eyes were much more intense.

“I have a proposition for you. If you want to truly avenge your friend, you could even take revenge on the one that hurt them. Eradicate the faerie from existence. All it would take is your second wish.”

This was exactly what I was waiting for. Still, I couldn’t give in too easily, otherwise she might have noticed something was wrong. “I’m not sure, I haven’t really figured out what I want for the second wish. Money or a longer life seem so selfish, but they’re really tempting.”

“Of course. The need to help others is common among the best of you. What better way to help someone than to stop the problem at the root? Destroy the faerie so they can never harm anyone like your friend again.”

“It doesn’t say anything here about not being able to wish for more wishes, is that because it’s just common knowledge?”

“No, it is possible, but rarely granted.”

“Huh.”

“I might consider it if you used a wish to kill that faerie.”

I definitely had her now. According to our plan, I didn’t need another wish, but there was one thing I needed to figure out. “Well I don’t really know what I would use my extra wish for…”

“It is possible to save a wish to utilize later and sign the contract without choosing all your wishes. The opportunity is rarely used, given how difficult it is to find the faerie again. Of course, I would give you a way to contact me again provided…” The smile had turned into a toothy grin. The Woman in the Black Suit was standing another step closer to the table.

Now I knew exactly what I had to. “So, if I wished for two wishes, one of which being the destruction of that faerie, you would grant that first wish and following two wishes?”

“Most definitely.”

I leaned back and acted like I was preoccupied, thinking about the option the whole time. When I sat upright at the table again, I saw the Woman in the Orange suit standing even closer to the table. The wishes were on the contract and just as promised, one of them was not filled out, ready to be used as a later date. “I get a copy of the contract, right?”

“Of course.”

Suddenly, my watch began to beep. 4:00 PM. Time to sign the contract.

“Important event?”

“I just usually have dance classes now, I forgot to turn the alarm off.” Not quite.

I pulled the pen out of my pocket again and began to sign. I had practiced the timing with Evan so that we could guarantee we’d sign it at the right time. I was two seconds ahead, so I made sure to add a bit of a fancier touch to my signature. One second left — I checked my signature while keeping the pen on the paper. Time to stop — I picked up the pen. When I clicked it I noticed that my hand felt unnervingly warm.

Just as we planned, I saw the terms and conditions begin to dissolve as the first wish on both of our contracts was fulfilled. The Woman in the Green Suit didn’t notice; my hand was still resting on that section of the contract. Suddenly, she took a step back and clutched her face. Her suit turned grey as her eyes widened. She choked on the words she was trying to say and slumped against the wall.

Her skin began to flake, and her suit turned pitch black. I folded the contract and pocketed the pen, turning back to face the spot the door had once disappeared from. The door was there again. I opened it and found myself back on a bustling square.

I walked towards the small park on the side and caught a familiar figure in the process of sitting down on a bench.

“Evan!” I called out, running towards him. He turned around and gave me a hug.

“Did everything go well for you?” I could barely hear what he was saying because he was pressing his face into my scarf.

“I think so! The faerie’s dead, I have one wish left, and all the terms and conditions are gone from my contract.”

“Perfect!” We let go of the hug and looked at each other, smiling.

“It’s time for the next step of the plan.”

Evan nodded.

We pulled out our contracts and pens, and attempted to write on them again. Suddenly, two uniformed guards appeared next to us and grabbed us. The park disappeared. Majestic creations of metal and something shiny that wasn’t quite glass towered around us, and we were standing right in front of a massive staircase. I looked at Evan and saw that his eyes were as wide as mine were. Glancing at me, he smiled and nodded.

Before we could move, a faerie was standing in the middle of the staircase, walking down slowly as their cape draped behind them. I could have sworn that the cape’s colours were constantly changing as if it had a life of its own. The Woman in the Blue Suit’s colour changes didn’t even come close, but I didn’t have time to stare at the cape.

“You attempted to alter your contracts with those pens you stole,” the faerie boomed, without opening its mouth.

Evan took a step forward. “No, we weren’t trying to change the contract, your honour. We were hoping someone would bring us to the court.”

“That wish was fulfilled. Take them away.”

“No, wait! We each have an unfulfilled wish.”

“Wonderful! Not of my concern.”

“And the undersigned faeries have died.”

The faerie stopped in their tracks, their cape hovering slightly above the ground.

“This is problematic,’ they said, slightly turning their head. “Our law on unfulfilled wishes in the event of the death of a faerie are very loose.”

“We know.” I took a step forward, and the guards came a bit closer. “Our friend was wrongfully sentenced to death for the murder of your emperor.”

“Preposterous.”

“With all due respect, shut up.”

The faerie turned around and faced me with a glare so intense it could easily have burnt off my skin.

“As I was saying, our friend was wrongfully executed for the death of your emperor. Since we have two wishes left and you have little to no laws regarding this situation, I think you can tell where we’re going.”

“How dare you.”

Evan took out his contract and his pen, then started writing in the empty slot. “Wish number one: I want my friend, Sam Lionel Korpens, to be brought back from the dead in the exact same condition as she was two days before the murder.”

“But that’s not possible—”

“The only law you have for wishes left by a dead faerie is that you can’t wish to become a faerie. I know you’re bluffing.”

I took out my contract and began writing, too. “Wish number two: As I have evidence that the prosecutor who had my friend Sam Lionel Korpens sentenced to death is responsible for the murder of your emperor, I wish for them to be executed.”

The guards were just as bewildered as the faerie standing before us. One of them even ran over to the caped faerie and asked, “This can’t be legal, can it?”

“I’m afraid it is. We do not have many laws that handle these wishes in the case of a dead faerie, and the existing legislature states that only the undersigned parties may decide which wishes are accepted, to prevent tampering. As the undersigned faeries have died, we are now at the mercy of these humans. The faerie court must obey.”

Evan and I gave our contracts to the caped faerie and followed them as we were walked into a massive round room. The different seats were arranged on a staircase, with the highest Judge sitting at the top. The caped faerie who brought us to the court presented our contracts and the situation, and exasperated yelps filled the room. I looked at Evan and I felt a rush of triumph surging through me. I wasn’t quite satisfied yet — we still needed to make sure our wishes were fulfilled — but we were on the right path.

We didn’t understand most of the court process, which was spoken in the ancient language used for most official proceedings, although I did hear one or the other faerie hissing, ‘potæsos.’ Guess it was an insult after all.

The flag that had been draped down from the chair of the highest Judge changed to a shimmering green as they let out a sigh. The caped faerie guided us out of the room again, leading us to the prison, to Sam’s old cell. As they flipped a switch and turned a dial slowly, Evan and I heard a loud sound behind us. We turned around quickly but couldn’t see anything, so we looked back at the cell.

Suddenly, Sam was in there again. The cell door was opened, and Sam came running into our arms. We hugged, glad to see her again, but we knew we had to save the reunion party for later. Evan and I turned to the caped faerie and nodded.

He guided us to the execution grounds outside of the castle, but it took us a while to stop staring at everything. For something that caused us so much pain, this world sure was beautiful. The skies were shades of purple and pink, and the trees slightly changed colours as the wind rustled their leaves.

As we stood on the execution grounds, the prosecutor was waiting with his head on the chopping block. I didn’t expect for a species so advanced to have such a primitive killing method. I would have thought it would happen with magic, like when the Woman in the Blue Suit crumbled to dust. Still, I wasn’t going to complain about my wish being fulfilled.

The prosecutor looked up and was confused. They looked us in the eyes and we sneered at them. Finally, our friend would be avenged. Faeries gathered on the execution grounds and eventually, it was time. The executioner raised their blade, as fine as the leaves fluttering in the wind, and hacked down through the prosecutor’s neck. In their final moments, the prosecutor looked afraid and confused. Served them right.

The caped faerie led us to the summoning grounds for us to be brought back to our realm. As we were walking past a group of younger faeries, I heard them gossiping. “Did you hear about the inmate who managed to get away?”

“I heard they ripped their way out of the cell.”

One of the older ones butted in. “My friend told me that they learned the true name of a faerie and used it to control them.”

“My mom says that why you should never tell anyone your full name,” the youngest of the group said

“Weren’t they supposed to be executed?”

“They should have been, but they got away.”

“Humans scare me.”

“How did they get away though? Even the name wouldn’t be enough if they weren’t nearby.”

“The prosecutor came to taunt the dirty human and the human ended up —”

The door behind us closed and I couldn’t hear the rest. Surely, they couldn’t have been talking about Sam, right? But how many humans were supposed to be executed in the last few days?

As the caped faerie handed us off to a group of guards to send us back, I saw them stare at Sam. Now that our wishes had been fulfilled, Evan went in to hug Sam, and I saw her eyes flicker. For just a second, they were red.

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