Pretty is a Dangerous and Perishable Fruit, Kimberly Glanzman
At the intersection of wind falling north and the shadow attached to the sunset, the darker fairies are born. They have icicles for eyelashes and smoke wrapped in unwished wishes for hearts. They lick their bloody lips as they plummet from the womb of night, wings damp and weak.
For the first days, they lay dazed and thirsty at the bottom of their craters, unblinking. They are listening to the history of the earth and learning her languages, trimming their tongues with their teeth so they might speak them. Skies filled with stars make them hungry: if they could, they’d swallow every inch of heat across the universe.
But twilight fairies are tiny things so they must settle instead for the heat of human life. When their wings grow large enough, they launch themselves from the crowns of icebergs, from the depths of the coldest mountains, from the frigid belly of the sea, in search of their human soulmate. When they find her, they needle their nails into her nape, gouge a ladder into her spine with their knees and feet, gorge themselves on the sweet, burning taste of her trembling and her trepidation.
After: the girls walk heavier, chew slower, struggle to meet their own eyes in the mirror. The weight of a fairy feels like the moment just before the heat breaks open the rainclouds; or the greedy fist of a riptide grasping for the air in their lungs. The face of a fairy is a glare at the corner of their eye, and though they turn and turn and turn they’ll never catch that light.
None of the human girls whose necks they ride will ever again smile beneath the full weight of the sun. From this moment forward, every mouthful will be washed in the taste of bright new pennies; all the girls’ voices sink into a minor key. Their mothers fear them: they look like their daughters, if their daughters had spent a century frozen at the bottom of a lake and now they want to be cradled again as though they are human children, and not ghosts shaved from ice.
Alice’s fairy is called Belle. Belle is not pretty, but like all fairies, her name is meant to be a necklace of barbed wire. The other fairies gave it to her as a gift, and like all fairy gifts, it exacts its own price.
Belle’s left leg is a twisted and deformed mess; she can’t even limp in a straight line. Her wings are crooked too and her hair is black as diseased straw with bald patches and streaks of gray throughout, and her eyes: small and very close together and sunken in, as though her cheekbones are trying to swallow her face.
But Belle is not the ugliest of the dark fairies – that she might have worn as armor, something she had won, ugliest, but she’s not; she’s generic, mediocre, just plain average at best.
Belle’s human girl is nothing special either.
Fae Diana’s ruined an English duchess and a princess of Qin; a Viking shield-maiden faltered beneath her hand.
Helen – truly the ugliest of them all – raised Katherine the Great and Lizzie Borden.
Alice is Belle’s first girl, after centuries and centuries of searching. Alice is nothing special. Yet.
Alice is very pretty, and Belle has many ideas about how to fix that.
Kimberly Glanzman (she/her), who was probably an orca or an anemone in a previous life, lives in Charlotte, a city near no water. She writes words in various shapes and sizes. You can find her through her website kimberlyglanzman.com or by following her at your peril on Twitter @glanzman_k.