Story: Percy

A very random prompt this week. Thanks Carole. Or Arthur.

Rest of the series under the writing tab above!

Percy
by Liberty Gilmore, 27/11/12

Adam tries to find Ava and finds someone else entirely…

Adam wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going, which probably wasn’t wise – alone in a foreign city as he was – but he didn’t care. His every thought and energy was focused on spotting a dark head in the crowd. It was hopeless, he knew. There was any number of streets Ava could have taken, but in case of some cosmic congruity that meant he took the exact same path as her, Adam wasn’t about to give up.

Because something else in him knew that if he didn’t find her, Ava wasn’t coming back for him.

When Adam’s feet hurt so bad he started doubting he’d make it back to the hotel, even if he knew the way, he sat on a bench. He didn’t have a phone, any money, anything. In a country where he didn’t speak a word of the language. On the scale of desperate situations, he knew he’d fallen off the edge somewhere.

So he sat. Trying to think of his next step. Trying. His overcooked brain cells weren’t being very forthcoming with ideas. Except about all the ways he should have taken what Ava said to him so that she didn’t run out on him in the first place.

‘Great,’ Adam said. ‘Just great. Thanks a lot.’

Talking to yourself. First sign of madness.

‘Cheer up love, it might never happen,’ a cheery female voice said from above him.

‘It already did,’ he said, mouth opening before he had a chance to properly process. ‘Hey, wait!’ He leapt from the bench, looking round for the source of the voice. A short, bemused girl, probably about Ava’s age, looked up at him through thick rimmed glasses. She had long curly brown hair and her glasses had no glass in them, just an empty frame. Her eyes looked very large and very brown behind them.

‘You’re English,’ Adam said, and felt entirely stupid.

‘No, I’m German,’ the girl said, ‘I heard you speaking English, so I spoke it back.’

That wasn’t right, Adam thought, though he couldn’t place why. Not that it mattered.

‘Can you help me?’

*

‘So, you’ve lost your girlfriend, your hotel, you don’t have a phone or money and you don’t know where you are. Have I got that right?’ the girl said.

‘Yeah,’ Adam replied, scratching the back of his neck as if that would stop the rising flush of embarrassment that was pooling on his cheeks. ‘Stupid. I know.’

‘Actually, I think it’s kinda sweet that you chased after her. No concern for anything else, and all that.’

‘Can you help me?’

She shrugged. ‘It would help to know the name of the hotel?’

Adam described it as best he could. After about five minutes, the girl nodded. ‘Ah. I think I know where you mean. Come on, follow me!’

Adam sent up a silent prayer to whatever gods had taken pity on him and followed her.

‘But you’re liking the country so far?’ the girl asked. ‘Despite your misadventures.’

‘Not seen much of it. Only arrived last night. I’m sure it’s great though. I mean, breakfast was good and everything,’ Adam added hastily, lest she get offended and abandon him.

She laughed. ‘I guess your mind hasn’t exactly been about enjoy what our beautiful town has to offer.’

Adam shook his head. ‘Not really.’

‘Chin up, gorgeous, we’ll get you sorted out.’

Adam spluttered at the description, which only made her laugh again.

‘So, what’s your name?’ Adam said when they’d been walking for a few minutes.

‘I’m Percy – you?’

‘Percy?’ Adam said, raising an eyebrow.

‘Well, not really, but that’s what everyone calls me.’ She turned a dazzling smile on him, her fake glasses perfectly framing her dark blue eyes.

‘Adam,’ Adam said, feeling more and more dubious about his guide without really understanding why.

They walked in silence for a while. Adam’s predicament and his strange helper had almost pushed Ava out of his head, but every so often it was there, like a knife in his chest. Maybe he should just wait at the hotel – Ava wouldn’t leave him there forever, would she? Maybe she expected him to turn round and go home. But what good would that be? Her crazy mother would just kill him, and as much as Ava was probably hating him right now, Adam didn’t think she would want him dead.

He hoped not.

But Ava’s words came back to him. I’m not even human. So how could he anticipate how she would react?

‘Percy?’ Adam said, breaking from his reverie and turning to his guide. When he looked at her, the question he was going to ask vanished and he stared at her, open mouthed.

‘Yes?’ Percy prompted, waggling dark, slender eyebrows at him.

‘Your hair’s different,’ Adam said. It was no longer curly and brown, but sleek and dark.

‘No it’s not,’ Percy said, but Adam thought he saw a hint of panic in her eyes.

‘It is,’ Adam said, looking closer at her. ‘And your eyes…’ He felt a headache start to tighten its grip on the place behind his eyes, his eyes straining, like he’d been looking through 3D glasses for too long. It was like he couldn’t focus properly, and when he tried to, Percy’s features kept shifting – brown eyes, green, blue, dark hair, blonde, curly straight. And sometimes, underneath, a hint of pincer teeth and buggy orange eyes.

Percy tilted her head to the side, insect-like. ‘Interesting. You can see through Glamour.’

‘Glamour? You’re a fairy?’ In his surprise, Adam stopped concentrating, and Percy snapped back to her original appearance – curly brown hair, large brown eyes.

Percy looked back at him with equal surprise. ‘You know about fairies?’

They stared across at each other for a moment, Adam watching the fight or flight reaction he was having play out across Percy’s face. In the end, he spoke.

‘You’re still going to show me where my hotel is, right?’

Percy sighed, then laughed, then nodded.

They walked in uncomfortable silence, both trying to watch the other without being caught. Adam’s brain was firing on all cylinders trying to process this turn of events.

‘You don’t have an accent,’ he said. ‘I mean, you do, but it’s a British accent, not a German one.’

Percy nodded. ‘I can speak all human languages. Instinctively. I just switch to whatever the person I’m talking to is speaking, without really thinking about it.’

‘Is that something all fairies can do?’ Adam asked, thinking of Ava talking to the receptionist in perfect German.

‘Let’s get something straight. “Fairy” is a very generic term. It’s like saying that’s a dog,’ she said, pointing out a small ratty looking dog, ‘when it’s actually a Pomeranian.’

‘Sorry?’ Adam said. ‘What…’

‘What am I?’ Percy said when he didn’t find the words to finish the sentence himself.

‘Yeah. If you don’t mind me asking.’

Percy shrugged her shoulders. ‘I’m a Changeling.’

‘What, like, stolen from a human home, swapped for their own baby?’

‘No,’ Percy said, her tone implying this was an entirely stupid suggestion. ‘That’s just idiotic humans getting their myths mixed up. Changelings are Fairies who can change their appearance. That’s why my hair and eyes changed. I was changing them.’

‘Why?’

Percy looked a bit embarrassed. ‘To seduce you.’

Adam nearly choked on the breath he was taking. ‘Excuse me?’

‘It’s my remit,’ Percy said. ‘I find lovelorn, emotionally vulnerable humans, subtly shift my appearance to match what they find attractive, work my way into their beds and let them impregnate me.’

Adam’s eyes would have popped out of his head if they’d opened any wider. ‘And, uh, why would you do that? Why not just settle down with some Changeling bloke?’

Percy made a dismissive noise. ‘There are no Changeling blokes – only women. If our children are female, they are also Changelings. If they’re male, they become warriors. Their human side means they are stronger than the average Fairy, and not as vulnerable to technology. It makes them very good infiltrators, although the downside is their human blood makes them more likely to defect.’

Infiltrators. That was what Ava said she was. Was Ava a Changeling? Somehow he didn’t think so.

‘And you were going to do… that… to me?’ Adam said, needing to know as much as he didn’t want to.

‘Sure,’ Percy said, apparently unrepentant. ‘I give you the best night of your life, in return, you give me a baby. Fair trade, I think.’ She paused, looking closely at him for a moment. ‘Are you sure you don’t want the best night of your life?’

‘Quite sure,’ Adam said, though he had to force his words out through a throat that had suddenly gone very dry.

‘How do you know about Fairy-kind anyway?’

‘My girlfriend.’

‘She’s one of us?’ Percy laughed. ‘No wonder you can see through Glamour. She’s probably taught you a thing or two, right?’

‘Right,’ Adam said, thinking it probably wasn’t wise to let Percy know exactly how little he knew about Fairy-kind.

‘But now you’ve had a falling out and she’s run off somewhere – I wouldn’t take that too personal, you know, we have a habit of doing that. It’s just in our nature.’

‘I know. I mean, I know that about her anyway.’

‘Give her some time, she’ll come back before long.’

Percy’s smile was knowing, but Adam’s mind kept wandering back to Ava’s last kiss – the kiss she’d given in case it never happened again. Ava had been preparing herself to leave. It wasn’t just a ‘caught in the moment’ sort of action.

Adam felt his shoulders sag. The wind was picking up, tugging at his clothes, blowing in dark clouds overhead to match his mood. The hotel was visible between a few other buildings now and Adam didn’t feel any better for it.

‘Weather can’t make it’s mind up today,’ Percy said conversationally.

‘The weather…’ Adam said, kicking himself for not thinking of it sooner. ‘I should follow the weather.’

‘Excuse me?’ Percy said.

Adam felt his face split by a smile. ‘Thank you for your help. I’ve got to go.’

He took off in the direction of the hotel, pain in his feet forgotten. Back at his room, he grabbed his phone and some money, throwing a jacket on as he headed back outside. Percy was waiting for him in the foyer.

‘Follow the weather?’ she said.

‘That’s what I need to do. To find her. To find Ava.’

‘Riiight…’ Percy said, dragging out the syllables to make room for all the disdain. ‘You are going to end up lost in the city again.’

‘But I know where I need to get back to now. Thanks to you. I really appreciate it. Sorry I can’t, er, give you what you want.’

Percy waved a dismissive hand. ‘Forget about it. Probably a really bad plan if your girlfriend is one of us. I don’t want to be killed by a vengeful Fairy. I don’t want you to be killed by one either, you’re too cute to die.’

Adam felt himself blush. ‘Well, I’ve got to go. Thanks again.’

He made it about ten steps before Percy called out. ‘Wait!’

He turned back to her. She jogged to catch up with him. ‘So, I’m kinda interested to see how this plays out. And you might need a guide when you get yourself good and lost again. I’m the nicest Fairy you’ll meet in this city. You won’t get so lucky again.’ At Adam’s heightened blush, she added, ‘I didn’t mean that kind of getting lucky.’

‘I know,’ Adam said.

‘So, shall we go then? Follow the weather or whatever?’

She looked up at him with those big brown eyes, and though Adam didn’t know whether it was a good idea to trust her or not, he couldn’t help thinking how much nicer it would be to search with the benefit of a local’s knowledge.

‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Let’s go.’

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