The Fairyland Flower Show
Lizzie’s parents had forgotten about magic.
She tried not to hold it against them. She understood that most people forgot magic as they aged, becoming more preoccupied with matters such as stock portfolios, mortgages, and lawn maintenance by the time they were grown-ups. It seemed to be the way of things.
But then her twin sister Laura fell ill, and lapsed into a coma.
The doctors were mystified. After several months, they gave up on a diagnosis and decided that Laura would be most comfortable at home. Laura slept, like a princess in a fairy tale, if the princess were in a rented hospital bed surrounded by medical equipment. Their parents were losing hope, but Lizzie was only ten and had not yet learned how to give up. As medical science had failed to provide answers, Lizzie went into her back yard to look for fairies. Fairies were full of gossip. Perhaps she could catch one that would know what had happened to Laura.
Her first two captures turned out to be mere butterflies, but on her third try, Lizzie slammed her jam jar over a downtrodden pixie who’d paused inside a snapdragon for a hit of nectar.
At first the pixie hadn’t wanted to talk, but she got pretty chatty the moment Lizzie lit a match and held it under the jar.
“All right, all right!” the pixie said. “The scuttlebutt is that your sister ate the cursed fruit of the Goblin King. A second taste would cure her, but he never sells to the same person twice. Now would it kill you to punch some air holes in this thing?”
“That depends,” said Lizzie. “Where can I find this fruit?”
“The Fairyland Flower Show. Dusk to dawn on Midsummer Night. The Goblin King attends every year; his fruit blossoms always win. The doorway opens on the crest of the big hill outside the village.”
Lizzie opened the jar, and the pixie flew off with an aggrieved “Hmphf!”
Two weeks later, Lizzie waited on the hillside on Midsummer Night. When the last of the fireflies had dimmed, an archway appeared, dripping with wisteria blooms and Spanish moss.
A leprechaun stopped her at the entrance. His red beard reached just to Lizzie’s knee, but he spoke with authority: “Admission’s one copper.”
Lizzie only had a single silver coin, and she needed that for the Goblin King.
“I didn’t know there was an entry fee,” she said.
Her eyes widened as the leprechaun produced a sharp knife, but then he handed it to her. “There’s plenty on your head,” he said.
She cut a single curl from her copper-red hair. The man examined the lock with an appraising eye, and said, “That’ll do,” as he tucked it into his waistcoat pocket.
Lizzie stepped through the door, onto a verdant carpet of clover. Moonlight illuminated a network of booths the size of a city. Everywhere she looked, fantastical creatures displayed their unique fruits and flowers: elves arranged bowers made from blooming saplings, and giants tended beanstalks that stretched to the sky. There was even a vampire, beaming with pride next to a plant that bore a ribbon reading: “Best of Show: Carnivorous Division.”
A gnome pedaled by on a red tricycle, towing a flatbed of begonias. When Lizzie asked about the Goblin King, he pointed her towards the center of the show.
She walked for hours. It was almost morning before she reached the Goblin King’s booth. Boughs of apple blossom decorated the roof, and baskets on the counter overflowed with berries. Goblins with wrinkled faces and hands gnarled as tree branches scrambled about, hawking wares.
Lizzie set her silver coin on the counter. “Give me all the fruit this coin will buy,” she said.
The Goblin King clapped his hands. “A customer!” he cried, with glee. “But surely you will try, before you buy? Sample our wares, forget your cares.”
Lizzie shook her head. “I only want to buy the fruit, not eat it,” she said.
“Try some, first. We have the ripest berries, the sweetest cherries.”
Again, Lizzie refused. “I’m only here to buy it.”
The other goblins began chanting, “Just a taste. What a waste, to show such haste!”
It was tempting. The peaches were velvety, the strawberries ripe. But…there was Laura, asleep at home. “No,” Lizzie said. “If you won’t sell it to me, then give me back my silver coin.”
The Goblin King’s face twisted in anger. “You’re up to some trick!” he cried. “Taste my fruit at once, if you want it so badly!”
Enraged, he threw a peach at her.
The ripe peach exploded all over her shirt. Juice splattered her arms and her face, stinging her eyes. Lizzie kept her mouth clamped shut so that not even a drop of juice would enter. She brushed the pulp from her shirt, and her hands became sticky with the mess.
The other goblins turned on her, their arms full of ammunition. But as she prepared to be pelted, the sights and sounds around her began to fade. The angry faces melted away; the booths evaporated in the sunlight.
Dawn had come, and the Fairyland Flower Show was over for another year. Only a ring of toadstools was left to mark the place where it had been.
“I failed,” she thought. “I didn’t get any of the fruit.”
Her hands, though, were sticky with peach juice.
When she arrived at home, her parents were huddled next to Laura’s bedside. Their eyes were dull and hopeless. They hadn’t seen Lizzie come in.
“The doctors said we need to be realistic,” she heard her mother say.
Lizzie sighed. Sometimes, you had to do all the heavy lifting yourself.
She’d resisted the urge to clean her hands during the walk home. She unfurled her sticky, juice-covered fingers, and stuck one of them into her sister’s mouth.
Her parents did not understand what she was doing, and probably never would. But that didn’t matter, because Laura opened her eyes and smiled.
Alexis Silas is an aspiring writer who copes with everything by enjoying copious amounts of hot, sugary beverages. Her favorite method of procrastination involves reading stories about anthropomorphized animals that wear waistcoats and tiny spectacles.