A young boy sat in his bed with his blanket pulled high to his face as his Mother sat on the corner of his blanket; she flicked through a small book with a worn spine and faded colors on the cover.
“We don’t have to read from this book; we can go back to your other one.” She said softly.
The child shook his head and slowly lowered his blanket down to his waist.
“No, that one is for babies. I want a spooky story.”
“That is my big strong man. You will protect me if I get scared reading this, won’t you?”
The son sat up and reached over to the mum with a sympathetic hand.
“I will protect you, Mum; they are just stories.”
“Of course, I am so silly.”
The mum giggled and grabbed her sons’ stomach and tickled him; the two of them giggled for one moment before the mum rested on a page.
“Ah, how about this one? It is called the Pale Green Eyes.”
“What is it about?” His hands already tensing on his blankets again.
The mum read ahead, flicking through the pages. She frowned at points before she finally smiled.
“This is a good story for a big strong man. But I can only read it if you are really brave.”
“I am really brave!” He practically shouted.
“Okay, well, here we go then.” She said with excitement in her voice; shifting closer to her son, she began.
“The Pale Green Eyes is one story of many in the small book of folklore.
Up in the north, where the green grass is replaced by the hard greys of stones, and the dew drops freeze to where they cling, is a small community of hardy people. They live in the sleet and snow, building their homes from the woods that protect them from the harsh winds of the few lands that are further north than they are. Their nights last weeks, and their days come and go in minutes; they struggle through life in darkness. If it were not for the light of the moon, they would be bathed in the black blanket of the sky, consumed by its cold.
The people that live here are large; they are nearly as wide as the trees that grow, with skin as thick as the stones that litter the landscape. Isolated from the comforts of the civilized world, they have started to partake in strange forms of entertainment, competing with one another by testing their own strength against one another. They pick up and throw entire tree trunks, shatter stones with their fists, and go into the wild to see if you can survive in the most remote, wolf-filled section of their country.
Wolves, bears, and other beasts of the wood pose a challenge for these people, but there is one thing that they fear, the Green-Eyed Owl.”
The child stirred in his bed, poking out from under his covers.
“I love owls.” He ducked his head lower again and babied his voice unintentionally. “Do you think this is going to be a bad owl?”
The Mother smiled sweetly and stroked the hair of her son to comfort him.
“I think it might be, but that does not mean you have to stop liking owls. There are still plenty of good ones out there.”
“Good, maybe this one will get told off, or maybe it will learn to be good.”
The Mother aww’d as she tweaked her son’s cheek.
“Maybe if he came to meet you, you could get him to be good.”
“Yes!” He shouted. “Go back to reading, please.”
The mum licked her thumb and turned the page.
“This owl was special to the people; it had once been a guardian of the forest. He would wander between the trees and make sure that none of the Fae had come from the other side to play tricks on the inhabitants of the forest. But on one day, the owl fell for the nastiest of the tricks that the Fae pulled.”
“What do you think it is?” The boy asked.
“I think that… they put all his socks in the river.”
The boy giggled and scrunched his face as he tried to think of a response.
“Well, I think that they pulled off his pants when he was dancing.”
“Oh, that is very tricky. I have never seen an owl wear pants before. Must be a very special owl.”
The two went back and forth with a volley of nonsense until the mum insisted on continuing so they might finish the story before bedtime.
“The owl is huge, he is taller than the moose that roam, and his beak can crush entire tree logs with one snap. When he flies, there is no sound, and his feathers help him blend into the night sky. If you were to be looking up at them as he passed over, you may not realize that he had already moved in and out of your vision. Being so large, he has to eat a lot; the forest brings all their old and wounded to the owl to eat; it was a part of their nature to give themselves to the owl when they could no longer survive in the world, so the owl was not suspicious when a large green grub crawled up to him. The owl gobbled it up in a flash, but as it swallowed, it noticed the Far starting to gather around, poking their little heads out from the trees and emerging from under the leaf litter of the forest. The owl got ready to strike but stopped when he noticed the Fae laughing.
His stomach rumbled, and the laughter of the Fae got louder. The owl started to panic, and then it began. His stomach twisted, and he fell to the ground with pain as the magical grub in his stomach started to do what it was meant to. The Fae had tricked the owl, and where it once had calming blue eyes and a soft complexion, he now had an angled face of anger and pale green eyes that beamed from his face like two beams of moonlight.”
“What do you think is going to happen?” The son asked.
“I don’t know, but what do you think will happen?”
“I think that the bug in his tummy will make him do naughty things, but he will beat it and go back to helping people.” The boy said optimistically, blind to the nature of the folklore in the book.
“I think you may be right; let’s see where this goes.” The mum started to read but stopped. “And if you need me to stop at any point, let me know, okay?”
“Yes, mum.” He groaned. “Now, keep going… Please.”
The mum smiled to herself and then continued reading.
“The Fae giggled their wicked giggles as the Owl stood once again, black-feathered and greened eyed. He was no longer the moonlight owl but the Fae light owl, a beacon of the Fae, a titan to lead them as they went out into the world to cause mischief and mayhem.
The owl was now under the control of the Fae, and they were looking to make up for time lost because of the owl. They wanted to do things that they could not do before and target those who were too strong for them to target before. They were feeling confident and bold, looking for the next level of chaos they could cause to those around the world, starting with the town that they had been denied since the birth of the owl.”
The mum looked up to see the fear in her son’s eyes, he was trying to hide it, but it was still apparent.
“You can keep reading.” He said with a quiet whisper.
The mum sighed and continued reading.
“But before any of the Fae could do anything, the owl started to choke and splutter; out from its mouth came the grub, and the owl stomped down on it, killing it. The Fae all looked around, shocked, and began to run back into the forest, the owl’s eyes returned to normal, and he started to hunt down all the Fae that got past him.
It was not long before he had caught everyone, banishing them back to the forest and keeping the town safe once again.”
The child’s eyes lit up, and he shot out of the blankets.
“You said this was a scary story, but the owl kicked butt. He was all swoosh, and no Fae could trick him. He is too strong.”
The mum grabbed her son and wrestled him back to the bed.
“That is right, and now since you have your owl looking after you, you can go to sleep!”
The mum wrestled and argued with her son until, eventually, the son wore out and slowly passed out. The mum walked out of the bedroom exhausted and sat down in the lounge, slumping down into the couch with the book on her lap. She grabbed the half-empty glass of wine she was drinking early and sipped at it.
“Why he wants to read these is a mystery to me; I barely want to read them; they always have grim endings.”
She muttered as she opened the book to where she left off.
“Now, what really happens in this story?”
“The owl turned on the village and wreaked havoc on all who slept in their homes. He led an army of Fae to the town he once swore to protect. Where once their intentions were mischief, they now felt strong enough to do more. With the owl at the head of their army, they wanted to do more; they wanted to have more.
They felt as if they had been denied the creature comforts that the humans indulged in, and now the Fae wanted it to be their turn. They stormed homes, taking goods of all sorts, from gold and gems to weapons and powerful magics. With the owl at their vanguard, they took all they desired, which soon included humans.
They began to snatch the children from their beds and put them to work, forcing them to do anything and everything that the Fae wanted. The excitement from the power of the owl was overflowing, consuming their once mischievous nature and turning it to one of villainy.”
“God damn, how are these supposed to be kid stories? This is going to give any child a fear of abduction. Who wrote this?”
She turned the book over to see the headshot of the author, but it was a photo of an empty chair with the name written beneath it.
“Really? The Author. Is that supposed to be a pen name, or did they just forget to write him in?” She laughed to herself, self-congratulating her joke. “Okay, not too much left; I will finish this, then head to bed.”
“It was not long before the town was overrun; even the adults were forced into submission as the Fae took over everything, enslaving the whole town. The ideas of pranks changed from shuffling items and breaking small things to cutting people and putting glass through food. The spirits of every one were broken, their souls crushed and compacted.
Everyone was afraid of the owl but terrified of leaving after seeing what happened to those that tried to run. But unlike a scared child in bed, they could not have their mum change the story to make them feel better.
The Mother frowned and stiffened in her seat; sitting forward, she chuckled to herself nervously as she took a large sip from her wine glass.
It did not matter what people did; the Fae was never satisfied. They had been denied so much, and now they had everything they could want. But now it all started to feel empty; the Fae began to hurt one another and fight amongst themselves as boredom started to take over. It did not matter how much they took or how much pain they inflicted; they still felt empty inside. Then like a solo Mother drinking wine on the couch, they resorted to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.”
The Mother’s eyes started to shake slightly as tears welled up in the corners. She found herself feeling overwhelmed by the directional comparisons she kept reading.
“Even when it is apparent that a book is talking to her, she still sits like an idiot, with her legs curled up. Beneath her, she kept reading the spooky story, compulsively drinking from her glass till she realized that it was empty.”
The Mother looked at her glass to see that it had less than a sips worth sitting in the bottom of the glass. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she looked back to the book, turning the page she just finished with a shaky hand.
“What is wrong bitch? Never been visited by the Fae before? Well, let me give you a hint, we go for the kids first.”
The Mother’s eyes closed hard for a moment, pressing all the tears from them. She then threw them open and ran to her son’s room, where she swung the door open to see his form rising and falling under his covers. A wave of relief hit her, but before she could leave the room, she noticed that the window was open. She wandered over cautiously, pulling it closed. She could see scratch marks and splinted wood. Turning back to the bed, she called out quietly.
“Hey, Seb. If you wake up, I will give you some ice cream, and you can watch a movie and play video games.”
Her son did not show any signs of moving, and the fear grew in her. She reached out with the same shaky hand that turned the page in the book; gripping down on the blanket, she began to pull the blanket back as there was a slight sound behind her, followed by a pale green light that seemed to illuminate the room.