Ganna glanced down at her pointy purple nails and sighed. Why did this always take so long? She covered a second huff with a sugary smile, the one all wishers expected, full of curiosity and promise. Her eyes widened intentionally. She batted her green and purple eyelashes at the grotesque human quivering in front of her.
“Shall I ask again?” she purred, flying closer to his obnoxious face. She fluttered her long, thin wings faster, creating a hypnotic, prismatic effect that might hurry things along. “What wish may I have the honor of granting you?”
Their wishes were always the same: to be more attractive or richer, to find love, to have fast cars and big houses. Boring. Boring. Boring. But she was expected to wave her dumbass magic wand, fling a bunch of glitter around (that stuff seriously got into every crevice, and it itched!), and make their wish come true.
The blob of a man shuffling his feet in front of her hemmed and hawed, mumbling over all of his (super predictable) options. He could ask to find love. He could ask to be thinner. More handsome. He could ask for money and maybe no one would care what he looked like. With money he could make himself more attractive. He could have things and then people would want to hang out with him.
Decision made, his face relaxed. “Money,” he coughed, then cleared his throat and said it again. “I want money.”
Blessed be, how she loved it when they weren’t specific. And okay, sure she was technically supposed to make them say it again with more details, but the laws set by the Queen were pretty grey about how hard she had to push for details. “Money?” she repeated. “Just money?”
“Lots of money,” he said, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets, then crossing them. He jerked his head in a slightly annoyed way. Ganna got the message: get on with it!
“Lots of money, coming right up.” She waved her wand, the five-pointed purple star flared for a split-second. A cloud of gold glitter and pearlescent smoke filled the air, and she used that distraction to get the hell outta there. Still she wanted to see the wrath she’d unleashed. With a slight buzzing, she alighted on a nearby branch, ducking behind a cluster of leaves.
An angry bellow filled the air.
Guess he didn’t like the hundreds of bags of gold coins she’d left at his feet. Tough tulips. Be more specific next time.
Dumbass gullible humans.
Ganna took one final, delighted look and buzzed off, chuckling all the way to her favorite flower garden. Bees droned about, mostly ignoring her, as she wove and dove around stems and blossoms, landing on her favorite droopy rose bush. She danced between the thorns until the tip of the blood red flower grazed the rippling surface of the birdbath. With a loud, shrill screech, she scared away the family of finches playing in the pool. They flew over her, chittering angrily. With a hard flap of their golden brown wings, they sprayed her with cold droplets and flew away with a snippy round of chirrups.
Blasted bird brains, she grumbled and leaned toward the birdbath, checking the damage to her sleek green hair in the water’s reflection. Aside from a few glistening drops on her sharply angled face, nothing seemed amiss. Ganna looked over her shoulder to make sure she was alone, and preened for a moment. Lookin’ good, girl. Lookin’ real good. Now let’s go screw over a few more people today, yeah?
Ganna took to the summer air, letting a gust of warm breezes carry her higher, looping about the garden in lazy circles. The finches came after her, pecking at her toes. She dodged and spun, staying a wings’ breath out of their reach. And almost flew right into a tree trunk.
The finches cheeped gleefully and flew off, circling the tree once for good measure.
Stupid birds were gonna get her killed one of these days.
She flitted about aimlessly for the rest of the afternoon. Humans were mostly blind to her tiny frame, too busy with their phones to even notice when she literally landed on their shoulders. Oh well. Win some, lose some, as the humans say. Better luck messing with someone’s life tomorrow.
The sky flamed vibrantly, its pinks and oranges joyous as she headed home: the towering Elder tree along the outskirts of town. It was still a wooded area, though the buzz amongst the animals was wary as houses encroached further into their territory. The tree and its immediate surroundings were blessed and would remain protected for as long as the Queen deemed it so, and Ganna didn’t really worry about the rest of the habitat, though home would be a less pleasant place to scheme if it were encircled by buildings. Such was progress.
That was a concern for another day, though. Right now she was tired from the day’s adventures and ready for a leisurely dinner with friends, comparing stories and stuffing her face with summer’s bountiful treasures. Namely blackberries and oatcakes.
The Queen was waiting by the entrance.
Buzzing bird brain must have ratted her out.
Ganna glanced around, wondering if she could hightail it outta there before the Queen spotted her. She veered away as the canopy of the Elder tree shaded her.
“Moriganna,” Queen Tulippia summoned as she built up to escape velocity. “Don’t even think about it.”
With a dramatic sigh, Ganna changed course and approached from the far side of the tree, making it seem as if that had been her original intent. “You rang, your Majesty,” she said with a deep, mid-air bow.
“My chambers. Now.” The Queen didn’t wait for her response, spinning on her rose-thorn heeled shoes and striding toward her private rooms.
Ganna’s wings drooped as she landed and followed the Queen along the polished tunnels, not even noticing the warm aromas of roasted berries and grains as she passed over the communal dining hall. She suddenly wasn’t hungry.
Queen Tulippia’s wrath escaped her publicly serene exterior before Ganna closed the acorn shell and pearl door. The pale yellow of her skin flared gold and orange, her green lips twisted with sour disappointment. “It is bad enough that you torment the humans with their pointless wishes, but to continually abuse the birds is beyond reproach.”
“There are no excuses. None. Short of them pecking at your eyeballs, you will not do so much as look askance at a bird, bee, or other living creature without my hearing about it.”
“Yeah, okay, but–”
“Do you understand?”
“Great gophers, Mom! You never listen! All I did was–”
Queen Tulippia held up a slim hand, her daffodil-yellow wings splayed as wide as they would stretch. Ganna clamped her mouth shut. “Do not make me warn you again. This is your last chance or you’ll be confined to the tree for as long as I see fit. Do. You. Understand?”
The young faerie seethed, her fingers tight around her wand. One flick, that’s all it would take. And she’d be in charge.
Her hand relaxed its hold, the wand dipping toward the floor. No thank you.
Ganna lowered her head and her wings. “Yes, your Majesty. I understand.”
The Queen turned her back, wings flicking in anger. “You’re dismissed.”
Too upset now to eat, Ganna buzzed down the halls to her own private rooms–located about as far away as possible from her mother’s chambers while still remaining within the protective branches of the tree. She paced and flew about the spacious sitting area, unable to settle herself.
A knock on the heavy door made her brush a wing against the glowing, magic-infused gemstones that lit the room. The last thing she wanted to deal with was one of mother’s assistants coming to make nice with some dumbass gift. She had plenty of guilt-trinkets filling her shelves. “Go away!”
“Okayyyy! But then I’ll have to eat this giant pile of chocolate sunflower cakes by myself. And then I’ll get fat. And you’ll feel all guilty–”
Ganna squealed. She might not want the company of the Queen’s simpering ladies in waiting, but a visit from her best friend was the perfect way to end this day. She flung the door open and pulled her friend inside. “Don’t you dare! I’ll get the honey wine.”
“Wheee! I was hoping you’d say that,” Alamarra said, carefully setting down the large tray of sweets before she flopped on one of the milkweed couches scattered around the room. “I saw the Queen waiting by the entrance when I came in, and then didn’t see you at dinner, so I put it together. Figured you needed this as much as I do.”
“To dumbass humans.” Pale gold liquid shimmered in the cut crystal goblets as the friends toasted and worked their way through the bottle, sharing tales of the stupid wishes they’d granted over the years. Alamarra preferred a more comedic route to mean pokes, but she giggled at Ganna’s wickedness all the same, encouraging her to step up her game.
The headache that raged through Ganna’s angular head the next morning was worth it as she devised her plans for the day. A few herbs and the pain vanished in moments. She stretched her long purple wings and hurried out of the tree before the Queen or any of her annoying, drone-like assistants could follow her.
Pale clouds streaked the summer sky, and Ganna took to the already warm air, bobbing up and down along the eddies, weaving around sunflowers and loop-di-looping around branches, carefully avoiding any and all living creatures. No way was she getting confined to the Elder tree at the height of the wishing season. So many dumbass humans to sucker, so little time.
She swooped and swished, waiting to be “caught” and ordered about. After handing out a few pointless wishes (really, someone please get original. PLEASE!), Ganna alighted on a raspberry bush. Her stomach rumbled hungrily and she realized she’d fled home without breakfast. She feasted on plump, juicy berries until her tiny hands were stained pink. Leaning back against a large leaf, she rubbed her full belly and sighed, happy to laze about for the remainder of the day.
A fine-meshed net landed over her, disrupting her impending nap.
Alrighty, I can do one more wish today, she cackled to herself.
Large brown eyes met hers, widening as they looked over her tiny body. “You’re real,” said a hushed voice. “I knew it! I knew faeries were real.”
Ganna sighed and stood up. She hated it when little kids found her. They were just too easy to fool. Like, all they wanted was candy or a stupid toy. You’d think they, at least, would be more creative than adults. Dumbass humans were dumbass humans, no matter the age. “Yup. I’m real.”
“Do you grant wishes?”
The faerie was bad at guessing ages, especially of humans, but this one couldn’t have been school-age yet. She fluttered her wings and added a bit of sparkle to her skin, fussing with her skirt and dancing around a bit, like a faerie from the stupid movies these kids all watched. “Of course I do.”
A line formed over the little girl’s freckled, sun-pinked nose as she squinted, drawing closer to Ganna. “I thought so. I’ve been watching you,” she finally said and crossed her arms. “You aren’t very nice. Not nice at all.”
Great. As if being judged by her holier-than-thou mother wasn’t enough. Where did this human get off? “Listen kid, do you want your wish or not?”
“I can have anything?”
“Pretty much, yes. I mean, I can’t…there’s a few things… Never mind. Yeah, I can give you just about anything.” It was unlikely the kid was going to ask her to bring someone back to life or to kill someone. And if she did… Well, Ganna would deal with that if it happened. “What’s your wish?”
A grin pushed the little girl’s freckled cheeks wide as the summer horizon. “I wish for you to be nice.”
“Excuse me?” Ganna’s wings stuck out in full alert.
A self-satisfied nod jerked her round head. “I wish for you to be nice.”
“Nice? Like, nice nice?” Ganna sighed. She could deal with it for a few hours, she guessed. Go hide in her room. Under her bed. Away from everyone and everything.
“Yes. And forever. ‘Til you die. No more being mean, you old mean faerie.” Chubby hands waggled a dimpled finger at her. “I see how you always fool all those people.”
Ganna slumped to the leaf, her legs, quivering. Nice? Dumbass kids. Way smarter than any adults. She might as well just fly straight into a bramble and end it all. Nice? NICE!? What fun was that ever going to be?
“Listen kid, wouldn’t you rather have…I dunno, like a puppy? Or a pony? Oh! How about a unicorn?”
“No. I want you to be nice. That’s my final wish.”
The compulsion to fulfill the wish brewed inside, especially since the kid had said the same thing a few times. Ganna shuddered. But she was trapped. Literally under the net, but also by her nature. She was designed to grant wishes. She’d never disobeyed and had heard horrible tales of those who refused to do as was demanded by the wisher.
She closed her eyes and waved the wand over herself. A jolt of power, gritty and more invasive than sand, struck her–along with a fair amount of glitter and smoke–as the wish took hold of its purpose and set about making it so. Making her nice.
Whatever that meant.
Agony gripped at the inside of her stomach. Her heart throbbed unevenly. She wanted to puke. She wanted to sob.
What had she done to all those people? They’d never hurt her. Most had been so surprised by her very existence that it was no wonder they had unoriginal wishes. She could have helped. She could have guided. Instead she’d been rude. Unkind. Lacking any understanding.
Hollow and unsteady, Ganna opened her salty, tear-stung eyes and stood. The small child watched, then, satisfied with something she observed, she removed the net. “It’s okay to feel bad. It means you care now. Just be nice and then it won’t hurt inside any more.”
Be nice? How could she be nice with the heavy, growing ball of shame in her gut? How could she be nice when all she could see were the fallen faces of those she was supposed to bring joy? How could she be nice when all she wanted to do was drive an Elder branch through her heart?
But that would bring her mother sadness, and that would not be nice.
The little girl reached out a grubby finger and patted Ganna on the top of her head. “Come see me any time. I don’t need any more wishes. But I can be your friend now that you’re nice.”
“That would be fun,” Ganna said. But she wanted to gnash her teeth and scratch at the fumbling human. To make her hurt. Instead she smiled and submitted to the child’s affections. Inside she raged against the force that kept her fingernails at bay, that silenced her screams, turning them into laughter.
As the child skipped away, the faerie shivered. Her arms hung at her sides, at odds with her perky wings and the ridiculous grin plastered across her green face. With no other options, she flew toward home, pointedly hiding from humans, not trusting herself to grant so much as a single wish in her current state. A battle raged inside Ganna, tugging at her with thorny stems, whispering that she should go forth and seek out humans.
How nice she could be if she only made them happy.
At the communal dinner, she agreed with everyone, their pleased smiles filled her aching emptiness with joy.
Internally she screamed, begging for mercy for herself
For weeks she granted wishes to every human who found her soaring about in the summer sun. She gave them not only what they wished for out loud, but searched their hearts for what they truly wanted.
A part of her clawed for release from this hellish prison
Ganna spent time with Janey, the young girl who’d wished niceness upon her, not because she wanted to, but because she’d said she would, and to ignore the child would be unkind.
Instead of pretend tea, all she wanted was a draught of poison to end the perpetual torture
Queen Tulippia summoned Ganna to her chambers once again, beaming with pride at how much her stern talk had set about this lovely, surprising change in her beautiful daughter. She ducked her head in modesty, her mother’s kind words soothed a pain she hadn’t realized she possessed.
All she wanted was to run naked through the Elder tree, until she found a branch pointed enough to end her misery.
Yet her misery didn’t end, for killing herself might make someone sad, and that wouldn’t be nice of her. Worry filled her, more and more every day. Was she being nice? Was she pleasing everyone? A single scowl of unhappiness from anyone–human, faerie, bird, or creature–even if not directed toward her, sent Ganna sobbing to her chambers. Each assault to her niceness caused her to hide longer and longer, remaining in isolation for fear of accidentally ruining someone’s day.
A frustrated knock on her door set Ganna’s heart racing. Who had she disappointed so early in the morning? She cowered behind an oversized milkweed couch. “Come in,” she whimpered, pulling the edges of her dressing robe about her slight body.
Alamarra waltzed in and slammed the door, not even flinching at the echoing boom she created. “Enough,” she said, kindly but firmly. “This, all of this, is simply enough.” Her rose-hued face flushed bright magenta.
“I don’t know…are you mad? What have I done?” Ganna wailed and dropped to her bony knees, curling into a ball. “Haven’t I been nice enough?”
“Mad? Nice? What are you blathering on about?” Alamarra sunk next to her dearest friend on the smooth wood floor. She put a hand on Ganna’s back, rubbing small circles until the sobbing stopped. “I miss you. It’s been months since anyone other than your chamber maids have seen you. Please, Ganna, please talk to me.”
“I tried. I tried so hard to be nice. But…but…” she hiccuped. “I can’t do it any more. I can’t make everyone happy, and if they aren’t happy then I must be doing something wrong. Then I’m not being nice.”
“Since when do you give an otter’s ass if you’re being nice?”
Ganna wiped the tears from her cheeks and finally told her friend about the wish made by the young child. “It hurts inside, like I swallowed rocks or bramble bushes.”
Alamarra stood and pulled her friend to her feet, marching her to the polished looking glass in the corner of the room. Green skin pulled taut against her angular face, and deep, dark circles plagued her worried eyes. “You’re right. You aren’t being nice. You’re ignoring the most important person by acting like this.”
Acidic panic gurgled along Ganna’s insides. She wanted to vomit. How was it possible she’d messed up so badly? She turned toward her friend and gripped at her bright tunic with desperate claws. “What should I do???” she howled. “How can I make it up to you???”
“Not me, dumbass.” Pink hands forced Ganna to turn around and face the mirror again. “Be nice to yourself.”
“Nice to…nice to myself?”
“Yes. YOU are the most important person. If you aren’t nice to yourself, then how can you possibly be nice to anyone else? Seriously time to cut yourself some slack. Now come on. Are you joining me outside or not? You missed all of winter. It’s spring already. Time to mess with some busybody bees.”
Bubbles popped, bright and gleeful, before her eyes. Be nice to myself. Be nice to myself. She shuddered as an icy chill wormed its way from her spine through her skin. The wish was…well, it wasn’t broken, but it was…amended.
“Dumbass bees,” Ganna chirped. Her eyes sparked with mischief. “Think they’re better than all the other bugs. Let’s teach ’em a few lessons!”
Image credited to tutincommon