Away with the Fairies: A Folk Narrative for the Twenty-First Century.


Some say the good folk left England as the steam-trains puffed over their green and luscious hills hailing in the modern age. Some say tales of the fay folk are the hallucinations of weary travellers roaming the misty morning moors. Some can’t believe their senses.


The cold starchy haze hung around the tower tops in the city. It was late Friday night; another night spent hunched over a glowing screen playing with meaningless figures. Robert and Luke emerged from their headquarters into the black empty street to start the solemn commute home. Yet, on this eve the faint tinge of thyme and heather curiously permeated the air.


They ambled down the street; the soft click of crepe soles on paving stones echoed against the brick facades. Luke could hear the soothing tone of violins emerging from a side street. A sweet green light shone from the rusty gated entrance of a decaying warehouse. Luke transfixed, sauntered towards the source of the melody.


“Aren’t you coming home with us on the 21.17 to Highgate, mate?” Robert queried.


“Nah, you are alright, go ahead, see ya Monday” came the reply.


Robert chuckled and continued towards the underground station. Luke was obviously seeking some licentious lady to sooth the pains of the long week.


Monday morning came; the coffee cups clinked, the keyboards clattered and the rising FTSE100 spelled a promising start to the week. Yet Luke’s workstation lay empty and untouched.


“Have you seen Mr. Price this morning?” Jasper, a fat balding stockbroker in a navy pin-striped suit boomed into the office. “He has not signed off the papers this morning and his mobile is off and his land line is not being answered.”


Luke had not been online all weekend and his phone had been off since Friday. This absence was most atypical for the diligent young trainee. Robert had passed the door of his apartment last night, the property was dark and still, the letters and papers behind the door indicated Luke had not been home. This mysterious desertion seemed sinister. In fact, he was last sighted, by Robert, bound for that derelict warehouse in Islington.


Tuesday and Wednesday passed. Luke’s chair remained vacant, the pile of papers mounting upon his waved flat-pack workstation. Jasper, the manager, had of course dutifully followed all necessary procedures and reported Luke’s disappearance to the authorities. The police thronged through the office asking questions. Computers were removed from home and work, hard-disks were scrutinised for any clues to resolve this bizarre disappearance.


Robert had been called in for police questioning.

“When did you last see him?”

“Was there anything strange about his behaviour on Friday night?”

“Did he mention where he was going?”


Added to this, at every fallow moment Robert faced a barrage of gossip.

“Did you know Luke visits, ahem, madams quite frequently. I hope he’s not got himself into a spot of bother?”

“I hope his penchant for, uummmmm, ladies, hasn’t lead to his downfall!”


Robert had a nasty suspicion that his well groomed companion’s less than respectable personal life might have been connected with the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. Luke had always frequented less salubrious places, dabbled in un-respectable substances and indulged himself in all means and manners of wantonness. However, he was a firebrand, inexplicably talented with investments. He made others, and indeed himself, a fortune. Any personal discrepancies could easily be overlooked in the face of such successful revenue.


Of course the police had been subtly enlightened as to this ‘upstanding’ young man’s disreputable habits. However, despite tact and cover-up of this sensitive aspect of his life, many questions needed to be answered.


Two weeks passed, all trails went cold. No phone calls, no credit card usage, no sightings and nothing missing from his flat. Mounting pressure and surrounding secrecy fuelled office conspiracies.


“You don’t think Robert could have done it? No he is such a nice young man.”

“But he was the last one to see him alive!”

“Yes, he has been dreadfully quiet”

“No, surely Robert isn’t that type. He doesn’t look shifty.”


One such conspirator, Candy, a jovial squat tea-lady with long grey hair and a retinue of awkward mannerisms shuffled into the main office. “That boy has always been away with the fairies, hasn’t he? I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t been carted off into some hill somewhere by the pied piper himself.”


“It’s no laughing matter, Candy.” Robert grunted.


“I wasn’t laughing, you young boys have never heard of folk ways have you?”


Robert rolled his eyes. Candy had always trundled round the office with crimpled floral skirts and battered old coffee urns gabbling nonsense. Her immense skill for brewing perfect tea and supply of delectable pastries made this old crone tolerable.


“Why, where did you last see Luke? Show me this old warehouse at lunchtime. I’m sure this wise old bird will field some clues.” Candy, like an old sage, arched her eyebrows reminiscently with an heir of knowing.


Robert found himself agreeing to humour the old soothsayer, partially to appease her babblings and partially to placate the growing sense that his friend might be in some drugged stupor somewhere or unrecognisably beaten, attached to a ventilator.


That lunch Robert found himself marching towards the decaying iron gateway where he had last seen his colleague with a shambling woman scuttling behind him.


“Here” he declared, opening his arms out wide to condescendingly accentuate the void before him. “The gate was closed, the alley was dark and except for a few battered beer cans, it was empty.”


Candy pointed her bony, wizened finger at an empty window and with squinted eyes ceremoniously sniffed the air. “Ahh can you smell the fresh thyme?” She crept towards the crumbling masonry and ran her wrinkled hand over the red bricks. Closing her eyes she felt her way to the gate and bizarrely wedged her worn red shoe under the rusty trellis.


“Ahhh, Can you hear the sweet melodious harps? Look?”


Her head swiftly turned round mid-statement.




Facing skywards, her head sprung round again, as if watching swooping eagles soaring through the London skyline.


“Here! Take this looking glass, turn around and use it to gaze over your left shoulder.” She pulled a red velvet case from her pocket and thrust a tatty old black mirror with a large crack down the centre into his hand, as if it was a conduit to some unseen realm.


This upright young man, in a tight tailored blue suit and brown brogues reddened. This harebrained figure before him was flapping and gasping, humiliating his composed deportment.


“Ummm, very well then” Robert was seeking a means to mollify this old mystic and prevent her exhibition from escalating and drawing unnecessary interest.


He turned around and peered into the distorted black looking glass. A shaft of green light faded into his vision. The harmonious sounds of panpipes and frolicking giggles elevated. Besides him the entrance opened to a scene reminiscent of a Bacchic carousal. Tall languid maidens with skin of various hues of green indolently reclined upon couches brushing their emerald locks. More danced and gyrated to the harmonies. Others poured translucent absinth into their mouths straight from the cooler, lighting the sugar cubes on their tongues. Above more winged damsels swooped in the skies above, circling the tower blocks and balancing on neighbouring window sills. On the floor hairy goblins, no more than a foot tall, ambled about making crude gesticulations towards the girls. Luke danced in the corner surrounded by these fairy folk, gorging himself on fruits, berries and nuts. He dropped the looking glass and turned round.


“Luke, you have been here for two weeks. You have been reported missing, the police are looking for a body.” Robert shouted.


“Come and join us, just a little longer, I have only been here for a short time.” Luke held out a handful of fresh strawberries and one of the imps beckoned with a goblet of green elixir.


Wading into the revelry Robert pulled Luke from within the fay folks’ compound. Luke kicked and protested. The small hob-men jabbed each other and laughed, poking the pair as they exited. The green light faded, the harpsichords and songs drifted into silence. The crispness of the dusty alleyway, the scruffy brickwork of the crumbling Victorian warehouse and the brown rustiness of the barred entrance imprisoned Luke once again back into reality.


It is said that once a man feasts on fairy food he gives himself wholly unto the good folk. Upon re-entering the human realm he is cast into an incurable melancholia. The figure languishes and pines away. As in all good folk narratives, even the contemporary urban, our protagonist also faded. He stopped speaking and took to his bed. Over eight slow months he refused food and slowly withdrew from life. At the tender age of twenty nine this successful young banker was lowered into the ground in a mahogany coffin; a wilted and wasted form. Five minutes feasting with the fairy folk foretold a fatal end.


Some say that the melody of panpipes could be heard on the breeze that day, calling him back to the fairy folk. And so, the timeless tales of our eternal supernatural siblings still linger on our tongues for generations to come.

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