QWERKY

Reads: 47  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


A true story about a little girl, a queen, a hacker with a magic keyboard.

Submitted: February 20, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 20, 2018

A A A

A A A


1. As the reigning Queen of England, Pippi knew that she had a responsibility to a certain level of dignity and decorum. That was her best guess anyway. She had never been out of the United States. Regardless, it was definitely beneath her royal person to crawl on her hands and knees under the locked door of a bathroom stall, climb on the toilet and escape through the tiny window into the petting zoo. Definitely. Yet, needs must.

As she weighed her dignity against her need to escape, the door to the women’s restroom from the hallway outside bashed open and banged against the wall. Over the battered metal stall walls, Pippi saw the hunched shoulders and tiny head of the brute that she was fleeing and could hear the wheezing of his stooped old associate.

“Come on out now, girlie,” the old man started to say from the doorway, but was interrupted in a hacking fit of savage, wet coughs that doubled him over. The brute turned away from the stalls, presumably to pat the shrivelled doctor on his back or help him up, but the girl knew her chance when she saw it. She chucked her keyboard out the window in front of her and followed.

Pippi struggled to drop gracefully from the window and ultimately failed. She crashed down into a goat pen and rose uncertainly. A light brown doe stared at her, both stupid and piercingly perceptive, after the way of goats. Having decided this new intruder was not worth not swallowing her cud, the goat swallowed her cud and took another mouthful from the trough. It’s hard to think on an empty stomach.

There was a crash through the window in the bathroom, a broken sink by the sound, and Pippi remembered the urgency of her need to escape. She recovered the battered, USB keyboard she had thrown out the window from the straw at her feet and looked around for options. There weren’t many.

She was in the back portion of the petting zoo, a dimly lit room with several pens on either side of a hallway, with ‘friendly’ animals huddled just out of reach of a few distemperate and squalling children and their besieged parents or legal guardians. “Children,” Pippi chided herself. Even though she had recently acquired the English throne, she was, herself, only eleven.

Clutching her keyboard with all it’s missing letters to her, she tried to climb out of the pen, but they were designed specifically to look fun but be actually quite difficult for a child to climb. There was another clatter at the bathroom window, the sound of a toilet flushing and an overlarge and over-hairy arm was thrust out toward her. The meaty fingers clasped and unclasped blindly and the muscled limb flailed, searching for its hapless prey. But Pippi wasn’t hapless.

In frustration and anger she tried to climb the fence to the goat pen again and failed again. Millie, because the goat was named Millie because of course she was, was worse than useless: she was judgemental. Pippi judged her right back and looked for another way over.

Then she saw her salvation: a tourist family of three had just entered the hallway. The woman was fussing with a stroller as she propelled it along ahead of her. The toddler in it was making every effort to climb out and was making a lot of noise at it. But the man… he was wearing pressed pants. At the zoo. A button up shirt. And a cardigan! His hair was larger than was absolutely necessary and crammed beneath a duffer hat and he didn’t seem directly aware of the struggle happening in and around the stroller.

And his teeth.

“Excuse me!” Pippi yelled at the family. At the man specifically. “Yes, you, excuse me, but I need your help!”

The man was in the middle of an awkward, long fingered point at his own chest and was surely about to say something like, “Blimey, who me?!” when he stopped. His eyes widened. His mouth made several attempts to talk, but, as there was nothing but static coming to it from his brain, it failed spectacularly.

“You’re…you’re…”

“Yes,” Pippi answered impatiently. “I am.”

“Your Majesty!” the man said breathlessly and swept off his hat from his head, scraping along the hay-strewn floor as he fell into a kneel. He glanced sideways to check that his wife and tiny tyrant had affected the proper abasement only to see, to his shame and horror, that they appeared not to have noticed their monarch before them. The child seemed to have scaled his mother and was trying to pull a toy King Kong doll from her grasp, while she held it at arm’s length and slowly lost the battle. “Mabel!” he hissed, trying to both yell and whisper at the same time with mixed success. More loudly, then, “Mabel!” His wife froze and glowered at her kneeling husband. The toddler did not freeze, and acquired his prize. “The tiny American Queen…” he hissed.

Pippi’s eyes narrowed at the use of the word ‘tiny,’ but there was no time. She cast a sidelong glance back at the bathroom window, but the arm, and the noise, was gone.

“I command you to pick me up!” she said imperiously.

“Of… Of course, Mum,” the man stammered and lurched forward, tripping over his knees and hurrying to the little fence. Pippi was waiting with her arms up, not altogether different from the forgotten toddler with its arms up demanding to be carried by its now-kneeling parents. The man reached down into the pen careful not to dislodge the keyboard from her majesty’s hands and picked her up by her armpits, hoisted her over the fence and plopped her on the other side. “There ya go, Mum… er Queen Mum, er, your Majesty.”

“Thank you, sir…?” Pippi dragged the ‘sir’ out extravagantly, trying to convey to the peasant that she wanted to know his name. She assumed that he was a peasant, because he was English and not the Queen. What did she know about Britannia? She ran out of breath, inhaled and continued, “Siiiirrrrrrr?

“Ahem,” the man said. “Reginald. Not a ‘sir,’ though, Mum. Just Reginald.”

“Of course you are,” Pippi said. She looked around hurriedly. Those men were bound to be here any moment. Had they stopped to go to the little boys’ room on the way? She needed to ditch these people and get somewhere quiet. Somewhere she could think. Plan. And she needed a thesaurus. “Um,” she said hastily, “Do you have a sword, Reginald?”

The woman, Reginald’s baby-mama, snorted from where she was kneeling. She had managed to tackle the child under her and was keeping him tied up at great personal cost to her hairdo and decorum.

“I… um, no?” Reginald answered uncertainly.

“Well, how about a pen?” Pippie demanded, impatience and fear overtaking her need for royal dignity. “Its supposed to be better, right? Mightier?”

Reginald fumbled in his vest pocket and produced a fountain pen. He slipped as he gave it to her, but Pippi caught it in time before it fell to the ground.

“Okay, um…” Pippi drew herself up in front of Reginald to her full height (“Tiny,” indeed), closed her eyes, put her most airy and elitist face on and composed her words with care. “I, Epiphany Kate the First, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith, dub thee Reginald at the zoo, Sir Reginald, Knight of the Realm and Duke of, um… Lancaster?” She peeked one eye open inquiringly. “Is that a nice place?”

“Lancaster, Mum?” Sir Reginald asked timidly. “Y-Yes, your Majesty.”

“Okay,” Pippi said, “Duke of Lancaster and all of its lands, income and castles,” she continued again, touching each of his shoulders with the pen several times solemnly. “How’s that?”

“Well,” Reginald, Duke of Lancaster and all of its lands, income and castles, said, “Um, that is… I don’t think…” but he cut off sharply at the disapproving look from his Queen.

“Good,” the ‘tiny’ new Queen of England said with finality, and again, “Good.”

She handed Lord Reginald back his pen, tucked her keyboard under her arm and bounded away down the hallway toward the entrance to the petting zoo.

“But, your Majesty,” Lord Reginald called after her, “How will anyone know any of this?”

Pippi stopped in the doorway, light from outside shining down on her portentously, and turned to regard her most important Lord. “Lord Reginald,” she said and held up her mangled typing board imperiously. Magnificently, Reginald thought, admiring his new queen with all of his thoroughly British heart. “You gotta have faith.” She pointed at the keyboard confidently. “We’ll take care of it.”

Then she was gone.

A few moments later, three men in matching green and white suits like caterers at a wedding, but filthy and disheveled, came into the petting zoo hallway. But for their uniforms and the state of their clothes, the three men could not be more different. The first to the railing was a massive man, fit to give the gorillas’ two pavilions down an inferiority complex. His head was like an angry little coconut caught between the sumo wrestlers that were his shoulders. The second man hobbled up to the railing soon after, doubled over in a spittle flecked coughing fit and seemingly so accustomed to these wracking spasms that he acted as likely to continue on his way as if he were chewing gum and not hacking up a lung. The third man arrived soberly. He was taller than either, or would have been, if his back weren’t twisted downward into a cruel question mark to match his crooked cane. His face was lined with more and deeper cracks than a bloodhound’s and everyone of them suggested a lifetime of scowls and frowns.

Millie, the goat, regarded them impassively as they searched her nearly featureless cell and even more featureless face for a trace of their impudent quarry.

Slowly, all three of the villains turned to regard the British family standing mutely behind them.

“Tell us…” the oldest one wheezed, gasping desperately for gulps of air. “…Where…the girl…fled to…”

“As though your life depended on it,” the massive ogre-man added, his voice a mix of rumbling buckets of gravel and broken toothed words. He stepped forward to emphasize his point, but the crooked man reached forward and placed the head of his cane at the brute’s chest, in his path. The topper on the cane was brass, cast in the shape of a twisted tree stump.

“That isn’t necessary, Mr. Slash.” The crooked man’s voice had a rich timber and ran like syrup from his jagged lips. He stepped toward the family and produced a business card with ornate gold letters twisting about each other like ivy on one side and a phone number on the other. His face twisted hideously into a vicious, predatory grimace as he tried to smile winningly. “I’m sure we can come to a beneficial arrangement for everyone present, isn’t that right, Mr…?”

Reginald gulped slowly, slack jawed and dumbstruck.

“Lord,” Mabel said, shoving the toddler toward Reginald with her leg and stepping square to the crooked man before her husband. The wretched man regarded her with one cocked eyebrow.

“Excuse me?” He sneered.

“‘Lord,’” the woman repeated firmly. “My man’s name is ‘Lord Reginald of Lancaster,’ and you will address him wiv’ respect.” She turned toward her husband and added, “Shall we love? The patronage of this zoo seems ravver shabby today. Wouldn’t you say?” She scooped up the littlest monster and left, drawing a wake in her path.

“Lancaster,” Reginald muttered, gathering the stroller and their other belongings, strewn as they were by the child’s temper. With bewildered glances back at the menacing-yet-unmoving thugs and after his newly elevated Lady, he got himself along after them.

 

2. 

The basic questions were fading fast. Who? What? Why? Where? When? What would happen when they were completely gone?

Pippi looked up. She was sitting in the back bench seat of the city-line bus. Her feet were tucked beneath her dirty legs. Beside her, innocuous, apparently, rested the keyboard. Unbidden, her eyes drifted downward to it again. It was a simple, cordless, black computer keyboard. It was missing all but a handful of keys at this point.

Who?

She was Epiphany Kate the First, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith. That much was public knowledge and she didn’t seem to have any trouble remembering it.

But who had she been? She knew that she had a mother and father the way one knew the stats of a tiger: twenty claws, one tail, seventy seven black stripes, one extra sense (when compared to a human) and zero respect for bears. Of course she had parents. Everyone did. But who were they?

Pippi started to cry.

Suddenly, like pieces of a song fluttering down at her from different mouths in a passing throng of strangers, her family came back to her: her big, bossy-pants sister, closing all the cabinet doors. The dogs. Both of them. And gerbils. And a father. People always thought he was frowning at them, but they were wrong. Some of the time. And her mother… Pippi remembered her mother. She was afraid that she would not be able to recall them again. She struggled to hold on to them, even to one, but as her mind wandered, Pippi lost sight of her mother’s face again. Had she been smiling?

Pippi wiped her nose and looked around for a tissue. She thought about her keyboard and laughed in spite of herself. It would be a waste to use it’s magic to summon something to blow her nose on.

The sun had set. The bus had turned around and started its route again. The rush hour was over and the evening commuters had already hurried home to their meals and their TVs. After the last lap, the bus driver had come back to see if she was okay. If she was lost. Pippi knew that she could just keep riding the bus once she had paid to get on. She had told him she just needed to think. He was on old man, heavily layered even though the night was nice. He had dark, rumpled skin and thick whiskers, yellowed eyes and stubby fingers in his driving gloves. He had nodded and with a knowing look gone back to the front of the bus.

What?

That was easy, but it was the only question that didn’t matter. What was a magic keyboard? When you type a word, if you really mean it, it happens. And some of the letters fall off that were used. She had gotten it at a garage sale because she thought it would be fun to pretend to be able to hack the people and things around her.

Mostly, she had just said, “Daddy, I hacked you and you have give me a drink of your coffee now,” and the like. She would clackity clack the keys and her imagination would do the rest.

There had been a fight. She had meant what she said to her sister. She had actually typed the word.

The keyboard worked.

Why?

Pippi thought she saw someone in the night reflected back at her through the bus window. A mean, crooked face. Almost as soon as she had left home, they had been following her. Four men in green and white. The giant. The rat. The doctor. And the crooked man. They had come to her nicely the first time. Seemed to think she might go with them. Join them.

She had run.

With the keyboard, she could really run. The thin, creepy one had been the hardest to shake, but she had.

She had become the Queen of England. She had fed all the hungry people everywhere with so many veggies. All the veggies. “Hungry” wasn’t a thing anymore. Anywhere. As long as people would eat veggies. She wasted some keys on a bubble bath. It had felt good, but barely two weeks later and she was dirty again. She had used one “wish” with the word “WAX” but she couldn’t remember why.

Now she wanted to go home.

Where?

Where could she go? Was “home” still a place? How could she go back?

There was no one at her house for her now. No one she could see again. They wouldn’t want to see her. Buckingham palace? She looked down at the keyboard. It still had H, O, M and E. But so what? Those places were not home anymore.

Pippi had always pretended that she was an orphan. Lost in a jungle. Homeless on the streets. Abandoned on Mars. Friendless. Parentless. Family-less. It was fun. Her. Alone against the world. On a grand adventure. Poor little lost child.

She wished that she could go back.

She would give up the crown to go back. And the rest of England and it’s stupid stuff.

“Little girl.” The bus driver had come back to the back again. They were stopped at the depot. It was time for him to go home. “Are you okay? Do you need some help?”

She had been crying again.

Pippi mumbled something to him, took her keyboard under her arm and pushed past the old man. He thought she looked like that new queen kid, but that didn’t seem likely.

 

3. 

Four times!

Four times in two days! It was intolerable. Was she the queen or wasn’t she? Pippi thought, for just a moment, that it was actually a pretty good question.

Ridiculous. She was the queen. Everybody knew it. It was official.

And four times of being cornered by those Green-clad Groomsmen was intolerable even if she wasn’t.

At first Pippi had been irritated and occupied more with learning who they were and how they were finding her no matter what she did or where she went. It wasn’t like she didn’t have some spectacular travel options at her disposal, after all. With a little wordsmithery and a drop of creativity, she really could have or be or do anything she wanted.

Like the Queen of England, for instance.

In a bus station, the one with the massive mounds of muscles had grabbed her, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop her from typing, “SHRINK.” One incredible journey later, she had decided to restore herself to a similar-to-original size, only to be immediately cornered by the crooked old man in a green and white butler suit. He was the scariest. She had escaped him and was ambushed again the next day, this time a spindly twerp with an evil twinkle in his eye. He had been waiting like a green daddy-long-legs on the ceiling on the girls bathroom in the gift shop at the Louvre! Fine, he was the creepiest!

Now Pippi had been trying to get one of these mimes to push her down the canal in Venice and another to pretend to be her boyfriend. They weren’t even good mimes, as they kept babbling at her in whatever language they speak in Italy.

Suddenly, here was one of the Green Goon Guys again. The oldest of the group that she had seen so far: he looked like an old mad movie scientist, Pippi thought, probably due to the goggles forgotten and strapped to the top of his head and failing to contain his wispy white hair.

Pippi was running out of keys on her poor keyboard. She had wanted to bug these paddle pushing canal clowns with a love song of her own invention. And she wanted to know where these Green Girlie Grabbers kept coming from!

Pippi had an idea. It wouldn’t solve the canal mime situation, but maybe she could come back to harass them later.

“HIDEOUT!” she typed on her keyboard, banging on the keys as the old man tried to grab her. She could have fled on foot, as he kept coughing and sputtering and hacking every other step anyway, but that wouldn’t tell her anything.

As she intended, Pippi vanished from view of the Venetian row-boaters and the old man in a spectacular pink cloud of stink-gas. She left two young Italian men and a creepy old scientist standing on the cobbled walkway next to a cafe on the canals of Venice.

When Pippi materialized, she was disoriented for a moment. She had poofed away twice before. This was the first time she had thought to leave a stink in her wake. She shook her head, straightened her sweater and readied her keyboard.

She had appeared in shower room.

The lights were off and Pippi could tell that the whole place had been abandoned for some time. There were piles of leaves in the corners, the tiny windows near the ceiling were  broken and the tile on the floor and walls was discolored from exposure to the elements. It was cold and Pippi wished, not for the last time, that she had brought a coat.

Sure she could actually wish for one, but that seemed like a waste.

The sky outside was overcast and dark, but it must have been day, as the light filtering in made it so she could see, barely. She didn’t like locker rooms in any circumstances, so Pippi found the door and opened it.

Outside the locker room was a swimming pool room. It had more and larger windows, so she could see much better. The mortar around the pool was cracked and missing in many places and the pool itself was empty. The deep end was filled with debris from maple trees outside and trash blown in on the wind, but the shallow end was decked out like a little office: it had a desk against one of the walls of the pool, a chair behind it and two facing. There was a little sofa, badly battered and patched and a stand with a metal barred bird cage hanging from it.

At first Pippi thought there was no one else in the large room, but she was wrong. There was a tiny person in the cage.

 

Pippi looked around again carefully and walked around the pool twice. There didn’t seem to be any of those Green-clad Goons around. Cautiously, she descended the dirty porcelain steps into the pool. She trusted her newfound keyboard powers enough to know that if she had typed, “HIDEOUT,” with the intention of finding the source of these creepy green suited men, then that was where she had appeared.

The person in the birdcage was like a little doll. She hair like a wild animal and a face so dirty that Pippi struggled to understand her features. Where a person would have had legs, this creature had three long snake bodies emerging like legs from under an octopus at her waist. While she was naked, her little body was more like a lythe cat than a human. She was holding to of the tiny wire bars in her fists and peering at Pippi as she approached.

“You should leave,” the creature said through razor sharp teeth in a mewling voice, quivering with fear.

“What are you?” Pippi asked, ignoring the warning. Honestly, this was all she had ever hoped for.

The creature scowled. Maybe she didn’t like being disobeyed. “Go, little human,” the creature insisted again. “Fly away before the Hackers come back.”

Pippi frowned.

“I’m a hacker,” she said, pointing at her computer keyboard.

“Not for much longer, you’re not,” the cat-snake-fairy thing said. “You’re almost out of keys on your little key-thing.”

“What do you know about my keyboard?” Pippi asked, but before the critter could answer, “Why did you call them ‘hackers’? Do you mean the Guys in Green?”

“They call themselves ‘Hackers,’” she answered simply. Then she stared at Pippi hard. “Are you going to let me out of here?”

“Are you dangerous?”

“I am,” the creature said, and fell backward onto her back on the floor of the cage and stretched out, contracted and stretched out again, snake tails and hands thrashing about like she was making a snow squid.

“To me?”

“Are you a Hacker?” the fairy asked.

Pippi looked at her keyboard. Somehow, in that moment, she understood: this creature was the source of the power.

“What are you?” she said again.

The creature sat up and shrugged its tiny kitty shoulders adorably. “I’m like what you call a genie,” it said. It pointed over to the desk. “That was my bottle.” On the desk, a mess of papers, and old-looking book, some tools and a metal apparatus like a model-stand. Thick black ink was splattered, pooled and dried on all of it. There were broken glass shards of some kind of clunky, smoky glass scattered over the desk and on the tile pool floor beneath it, carelessly.

“Don’t genie’s get to go free when they get their bottles broken?” Pippi asked. She had thought about saying ‘Genie’s aren’t real,’ but no one likes that kid in the movies that tries to tell the magic thing that there’s no such thing as magic. In fairness to that kid, though, it would have been a pretty natural response in the moment.

“Our bottles don’t break,” the creature said, sadly, “Not usually. If the Hackers deserve any credit for anything, it would be for finding a way to break one.”

“Why are they called the ‘Hackers’?” Pippi asked, holding the keyboard to herself.

“Cuz they’re idiots,” she snickered. “But they think that board belongs to them and, thanks to my magic, they will always be able to find you.” She paused and tilted her head back. She licked the air, tiny pink tongue darting out like a snake’s. “They are coming now.”

“My sister…” Pippi started to say, before changing her mind. “Can I undo the magic things I have done?”

“That’s not how magic works,” the fairy answered. “Magic always makes something new. It doesn’t ever put things back the way they were.”

Something in the locker room banged and then clattered. Someone started coughing, a wretched hacking cough and someone else started swearing savagely. There was a bang against the other side of the locker room wall that echoed through the pool room.

Pippi grabbed the cage and tilted it toward her, staring through the bars at the tiny creature between her hands. “If I let you out, will that fix everything?”

“These bars don’t hold me, child,” the fairy said through teeth gritted in anger. “It’s the tools crafted from my ink bottle that bind me.”

The door slammed open and four men poured into the pool room. The crooked man stood in the doorway while the hulking monster-man leapt down into the pool, tile exploding at his feet where he landed. The spindle man scurried an all fours into the pool, elbows and knees awkwardly working like the wooden limbs of a puppet. The scientist was hanging on the door jam, doubled over in a fit of coughing that wouldn’t abate.

Pippi slapped the keys of her keyboard, fingers dancing across the damaged remaining letters.

“LATER,” and a poof of pink-stink.

 

4. 

“This is all your fault.”

The Crooked Man swiveled on the old Scientist. The Scientist was shorter and still staggered by his latest coughing fit. He had wiped his mouth on his green lab-coat sleeve and managed to mutter the accusation a mere moment before.

“How do you imagine, doctor?” the Crooked Man demanded, with emphasis dripping in sarcasm on the word doctor.

“You know,” the Scientist weazed, struggling to hold down another tickle in his chest. Even so, it threatened to develop and explode into more hacking and coughing.

“If you hadn’t been trying to cut us out,” the Creeping Man snarled, high-pitch voice wrapped in a thick accent, “The doctor would never have sent the keyboard away. You betrayed us all and now we are running out of any means to find the girl. How many do you have left?” he demanded of the Brute, who was simply standing next to the fairy’s cage and scratching his stupid, murderous head.

The Brute pulled a battered walkie-talkie radio out of his undersized green jacket pocket and looked at it. Its knobs were missing and the cover had come loose from the speaker and was held on by duct tape. He shrugged back at his gangly compatriot. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe two more times? I still want my own zoo.”

“This is why I needed that keyboard,” the Crooked Man snapped. “You are idiots and I should never have brought you into my plans.”

“Except you needed us,” the  Scientist snapped. “Remember? You couldn’t figure out how to get any more than the three wishes the creature had promised. You. Needed. Us.” The old scientist grinned wickedly, chest heaving as he tried to suppress his next fit. “I’m glad I sent the keyboard away, you… you…” but the insult never landed, as he double over and began hacking up his lungs again.

Casually, the Crooked Man strode over to him, raised his twisted cane high, and swept it down, cracking the older man sharply on the skull. The Scientist collapsed instantly into a crumpled pile.

“How dare you…?” the Creeping Man demanded. He moved to attack the Crooked Man almost immediately, but the Brute was faster and had already crossed to separate them.

“Stop,” the Brute said. He looked at the Scientist, unconscious with blood oozing from his temple, to the other two in turn. “Both of you.”

There was a flash of pink light and smoke and a stink of burning french fries, and Pippi was back. The little fairy creature bounced up and down and burst into tiny applause from behinds its bars. The young Queen of England had appeared in the bottom of the pool, near the desk and was holding her keyboard up high, fingers ready to dance.

“I said I’d be back,” Pippie shouted with drama.

“You did?” the Crooked Man asked, confused..

“I…yes?” Pippi said, less confidant now. “I don’t know.”

“Well, here we are then, gentlemen…?” the Crooked Man said, looking down at his fallen victim, “I assume we can resume our conversation later?”

“Count on it,” the Creeping Man answered, accompanied by a nod from the Brute. The three moved as one to fan out and begin to encircle the young girl.

“Stop,” Pippi yelled, “Or I’ll…”

The Crooked Man held up a hand and the other two halted. “You’ll what?” he leered.

“I’ll put you all to sleep!” Pippi snapped. Her fingers danced over the keys and she slapped the ‘enter’ button triumphantly.

Almost all of the keys that she had just used popped off and clattered to the ground. Other than that and the broad creepy grin spreading on the Crooked Man’s lips, nothing happened.

As the goons began to encircle Pippi again, stepping carefully and with their arms cast out to ward off any attempt to run, the fairy groaned, “You ‘hackers’ can’t use my magic on each other. Believe me, these guys have tried already.”

“Exactly,” the crooked man confirmed.

The other two had reached equal positions around an imaginary circle ensnaring her and the three of them began to advance, relentless and slow, inching closer to the wary young queen.

Pippi was panicking. She had to think fast. Needed another moment. She had come back to end all of this and save the fairy, but it wasn’t working. She needed time to think.

She held the keyboard high over her head, finger poised and said, “Wait!”

The men stopped again, but the Crooked Man sighed impatiently, and snapped, “What?”

“I’ll just leave again,” Pippi said. There was a tremor in her voice that the Crooked Man noticed. He cocked his head to the side as though listening, or re-listening. His smile broadened and he nodded to himself with satisfaction.

“I don’t believe that you can,” he said. “I believe you have run out enough keys that you are having a hard time doing anything anymore. You are a dumb child playing Scrabble on a magic keyboard and you have run out of words.”

The goons moved forward again and the Creeping Man reached Pippi. He caught ahold of her shoulder and started to yank her around, when she yelled, “You’re wrong!” Her cry was so sharp and forceful that the Creeping Man released her, withdrawing his hand sharply.

“You’re wrong,” she said again. She turned slowly, meeting their eyes one at a time and ending with the little fairy-genie. The genie was looking at her curiously, face scrunched into a frown as she tried to understand Pippi. The three men were so close now around her, that they could have taken hands and played Ring-Around-the-Rosie with Pippi at the center. “I still have one word left.”

The crooked man hesitated. “You’re bluffing.”

“Am I?”

He looked to the other two goons for their opinions, but they provided no help.

“What word?”

Pippi’s fingers flew before any of them could react and tapped out the keys as she spelled them out loud, never taking her eyes off of the genie: “Eff. Arr. Ee. Ee.” She stopped with her thumb depressed on the keyboard’s ‘ENTER’ key, only the slightest pressure needed to finish the command.

“F-E-R…?” The Creeping Man said, counting on his fingers slowly.

“I think she said, ‘F-R-R-E,’” the Brute corrected.

“‘Free,’ you dolts,” the Crooked Man snapped. “She would set the genie free.” A fire boiled in his eyes, and rage twisted his face into a mask of itself.

“Would that work?” the Creeping Man asked, “Would that set the genie free and break all of our magic things?”

The Crooked Man considered for a long moment and answered, “Unknown.”

“I wish the doc wasn’t clobbered now,” the Brute said sullenly. The Crooked Man scowled, but didn’t disagree.

Pippi took advantage of the moment. “I’ll trade,” she said.

“Trade what,” the Crooked Man answered.

“Put all of your…” Pippi stammered. “All of your… your…” Her mind was racing. She came up with an elaborate plan. They would put their magic stuff in a pile, she would take one of them, with the least magic left, to protect herself. Then they would have to wait for her and the fairy to get away. She would teleport or something. Then they would get want they wanted, but not really because she would set a trap. Ha! But why would they believe her and let her leave? And how could she stop them from following her? And would they care about her anymore if she didn’t have the magic? And could the fairy be freed if they still had the magic stuff with its power in it?

Pippi pressed the ‘ENTER’ button. The rest of the keys on Pippi’s keyboard fell off.

For a long moment, nothing moved. All four of them just stood there, stock still, unsure of what had happened. Was that it? Had she done anything?

In a rush, the Crooked Man raised his crooked cane over his head, roaring with rage and brought it down to slam on Pippi’s head. He would murder this impudent child and figure out if she had succeeded in destroying his tools afterward! Pippi flinched away backward from the blow and backed into the Brute, whose hands closed around her shoulders like a clamp. Her fingers released the broken keyboard. She closed her eyes and tried not to imagine that cane-knocker splitting her skull open like an egg.

But the blow never came. Nothing did.

Pippi peaked one eye open.

The three men were still standing around her. The Brute’s unyielding grip still held her shoulder. The Crooked Man was still swinging his crooked can, inches from her face now.

And he was still swinging it. And still swinging it.

Everything appeared to be frozen. Pippi looked around but nothing was moving. Even the dust in the air seemed to have stopped.

“Yeargh!” came the tiniest, most protracted and adorable-sounding yawn Pippi had ever heard from the bird-cage. She turned her head awkwardly, pinned in the brute’s grip as she was, to try to see the fairy.

It slithered to the door and with languid and over-exaggerated ease pushed the door of its cage open. The creature exited the cage, tentacles spread out like an octopus navigating the bottom of the ocean, but hovered at the same level as the floor of the cage it had left and drifted toward Pippi.

For a moment, the cat-genie-fairy-tri-snake-thing seemed not to notice any of the humans. It looked around the pool room as though it had just arrived in a tea party it hadn’t been invited to and scowled. Then it saw Pippi and the Hackers again.

“Ugh,” it said in its teensie voice, and rolled its eyes in disgust. In time with this action, the fairy, the three frozen men and the unconscious or dead Scientist disappeared.

 

5. 

Pippi cried.

She cried because she was scared. She was lost and had no idea even what country she was in, really. She cried because she was alone. She cried because she had hurt her family. Her sister, Jasmine.

When Pippi could finally stop crying, she looked around in the weird little bottom-of-the-pool office for something to help her. She didn’t really know what to look for. A map? A telephone? Would it even work?

The only traces of the four men in green- the ‘Hackers’- that she found were their defunct magic devices. They had been left behind when the fairy had vanished with the men. Pippi found each one in the place the man carrying it had stood or lain. Their devices were: a walkie-talkie radio, a can of spray paint, a clipboard and a dictation recording device. At least, she thought that these were the magical devices. They were the only debris that didn’t seem like they had decayed in this pool-room for long and they all were missing parts and cobbled together like her keyboard

She couldn’t make them do anything.

She found the remains of her keyboard. It was badly broken now. The bottom was all beaten up looking and the keys had all come loose. She tried to piece them together, but she wasn’t always very attentive and had trouble figuring out where some of the ones she could find would go. And Pippi couldn’t find most of them. Many had been lost over the last few days of adventuring and fleeing the Green Hackers.

“You’re computer’s all busted up,” a tiny voice behind her said.

Pippi didn’t look up for the fairy. “I thought you just left me.”

“I did,” the fairy answered. “I had to deal with those guys… in accordance with the old Laws.”

Pippi didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound nice. She tried to feel bad for them, but she couldn’t. Four men chasing a little girl had it coming. Whatever ‘it’ was.

“I thought I was left alone,” Pippi said.

“You were,” the fairy replied. “But I’m back. I had to repay you. That’s how this goes.”

Pippi scooted around on her seat to face the fairy. It was floating just above the floor of the pool, snake-tentacles drifting slowly like it was treading water.

“Do I get a wish?” Pippi asked. “Can I undo everything that I did?”

“Not exactly,” the fairy said.

“Then how about just one thing,” Pippi said, tears leaping into her eyes. “Can I just undo one thing I did with your magic?”

“I told you,” the fairy said. “It doesn’t work like that. Magic makes new things. Does new things. It never restores the old things,” the fairy looked sad. “If it could…” She she seemed like she might finish the sentence, or tell a story, or cry, but none of those things happened.

“Then what?” Pippi demanded. Her magic keyboard was the worst thing that had happened to her, and now she was beginning to think that magic, in general, was pretty stupid.

“This,” the fairy said. She held out in both hands a single, black keyboard key, clutched like a precious gift in her weird little squirrel hands.

Pippi took it. The magic was gone, wasn’t it? And what could she do with a single letter anyway? Pippie turned the button over and looked to see which one it was, but it didn’t have a letter on it.

It said “HOME.”

Pippi shook her head, tears flowing freely again. She handed the button back to the fairy and turned away, crumpling into a sobbing, knee-hugging ball on the floor of an abandoned pool in… where was this? Russia? Afghanistan? Iowa?

She could never go back home. Jasmine was gone. Her parents… how could they forgive her? Love her? Look at her? Even if they would say that they would want her back, Pippi knew it wouldn’t be true. How could they?

“Are these… tears of joy?” The fairy asked. Pippi snuffled. She had buried her face under her arms and tried to curl into a ball, but the fairy’s voice spoke from just in front of her nose. Pippi opened her eyes to see the fairy’s face pressed against hers inside her Pippi shelter. It had crawled between Pippi’s elbows to look into her eyes. It licked the tears off her cheek. “They don’t taste like tears of joy,” it said.

“I can’t go back,” Pippi said, standing up and dropping the fairy, who just hovered. “I can never go home. I couldn’t live in that house anymore. Not without my sister.”

The fairy looked at the ‘HOME’ key with a thoughtful, confused expression. “Huh,” she said, perplexed. “I never thought of ‘home’ as a place.”

“What do you mean,” Pippi snapped irritably. “What else would it be?”

“For the Folk,” the fairy said, “‘Home’ is where you are safe. The ones you love. Who love you.”

Pippi shrugged. “I don’t have that either, anymore.”

The fairy shook the key as though it could rattle and held it to her ear. She nodded as though she had heard a very good thing. A thing that agreed with her pleasingly. “According to this key, you do have a Home. Would you like to see it?”

“I…” Pippi started. How could there be any place like that? Where people could love her again? Where she was safe? But where else could she go? She still had no idea where she was, even. “Okay,” she said.

The fairy held the key out to Pippi again. Pippi took it in her hand, held it in her palm and stared at it like it could burned right through her.

“Now remember,” the fairy said. “Magic can’t undo things. It can only make new things happen. There must still be a price for the things that have happened. It can’t all be the same as it was.”

“I know,” Pippi said. She held the button, but she couldn’t bring herself to push it, so she just stared.

The fairy reached out a squirrel-finger and held it suspended above the button in Pippi’s hand. “Think about ‘home,’” it said gently. Then with a “Boop,” it tapped the key and Pippi was gone.

 

Pippi’s had smashed her eyes shut tightly.

She couldn’t open them. Couldn’t dare to hope. To see.

“Pippi!” she heard the booming voice of her father. He sounded happy. Worried.Thrilled. Not angry. He was echoed immediately by two others. Her mother and… and Jasmine! “Pippi!”

Pippi opened her eyes. There they were. All of them! But how could they be? Hadn’t the fairy said she couldn’t undo the magic?

Pippi didn’t care. She rushed to her father and he swept her into his arms. Her mother and sister joined into the kind of big, bear-family hug Pippi had always been trying to get everyone into in their kitchen. Back before any of the magic. Before Pippi had hurt Jasmine with magic.

Pippi hugged Jasmine so tight her sister yelped. Her mother was crying. Pippi thought her father was crying, but that couldn’t be.

“We were so worried!” he said, unwilling to let her go. He wouldn’t let any of them go or breathe. “We missed you so much, Pippi!”

There was a booming toll of a bell and Pippi jumped. It echoed all around all of them and her father and mother groaned in irritation. “Ugh,” Jasmine said. “Do we really have to do this now?”

“You know we do,” their mother said, though Pippi could tell she didn’t want to do ‘this now’ either, whatever ‘this now’ was.

They released their big family hug and Pippi could see her surroundings for the first time since she had appeared.

It wasn’t their house.

Pippi and her family were standing in a massive hall, at least three stories tall on the inside. Everything was red and gold. There were expensive looking rugs, tables, crystal displays of fancy vases, beautiful upholstery on everything, luxurious wood panelling, lace curtains and chandeliers lighting the place. Lighting the palace.

A man standing at one end of the room so stiff that he might have been a statue was wearing a tuxedo and had livery that matched the curtains. There were guards with tall, fluffy black hats and red uniforms.

The tuxedo man bellowed, “The ambassador from Taiwan has arrived, to honor Her Royal Self, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Defender of the Faith…”

Pippi groaned. You’ve got to be kidding, she thought. Wasn’t it all over? Besides, she was the youngest person in her family. Wouldn’t that make her a princess at best?!

But the pompous announcer continued as though he couldn’t hear Pippi’s thoughts, finishing with:

“HER MAJESTY, QUEEN JASMINE THE FIRST!”


© Copyright 2018 Ubersnail. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Ubersnail

Hopelessly

Book / Romance

QWERKY

Short Story / Humor

Popular Tags