Enchanted Spark

Writing Inspirations
Congratulations to our first Flash Winner Brynn McNab!

After Closing

by Bynn McNab

After the park closes at night, the gremlins have the run of the place. Fafinell spends his days curled inside a small decorative tower beside the dragon ship ride, and when the last staff member chains the last admission gate, he slides out to stretch his cramped limbs. Across the plaza, Yarinsh, who is young and limber and a little incautious, has already climbed up onto an oversized teacup and set it spinning, all on its own among its dozen static, abandoned brethren.

Fafinell ambles, these days, his joints popping as he surmounts the stairs. He climbs across the dragon's scaled flank--the shining paint slick under his bare feet and hands. Above him, the stars. Below him, the earth rolling in her sleep. All around, the creaking of the park reawakening, and the scent of fried food fading in the cooling night. His grandfather told him gremlins were once havoc-wreakers, but that was in the long ago, the lost days of freedom. Tonight they play the rides, in much the same way the humans do, to burn off their desire for the adventures that life no longer affords them.

On the other side of the park, a tiny trumpet sounds a fanfare. Fafinell pauses, one foot on the boards of the dragon ship ride. A shiver of mixed emotions--fear, hope, animosity and a sort of worshipful awe--passes through the park, almost tangible, tumbling from gremlin to gremlin. The Inventor is here.

Yarinsh scrambles toward Fafinell, leaving his teacup still spinning. "Did you hear it, Fafinell? Time, now."

Fafinell tweaks his own ear between his fingers, to calm himself against the sudden surge of hope and fear. He's not a little ignoramus, he reminds himself, to fall in awe of their self-styled lord. The Inventor is just a man. If Yarinsh's enthusiasm doesn't set him wary, he'll be no match for canny gremlins. He's chosen the wrong beings to enslave, and that's for certain.

Gremlins stream into the plaza from every corner of the park.

The Inventor makes his way slowly, Fafinell remembers. Once, Fafinell was among the dignitaries who escorted the Inventor on his semi-regular visits. Now he's too old for the position--too weak to defend his place. The dignitaries ride the best rides: the biggest roller coasters, the ferris wheel, and the merry-go-round. When he was among them, that little sop of recognition was enough to keep Fafinell placid as anyone. Only after his demotion did he begin to hark back to his grandfather's tales.

Now the Inventor will be checking the seams, the joints of his work. To Fafinell it seem more magic than mechanical, although the Inventor has assured them it's all scientific. Magic, after all, would be an insult to gremlins, and not playing fair.

Fafinell slides from the dragon's scales and shuffles through the crowd to crouch by the Inventor's usual seat, the park bench that he most prefers.

Yarinsh hunkers down on the other side of the bench and winks at Fafinell, who pretends not to see it.

"And once I have the investors convinced," the Inventor is saying as he strolls toward them, the dignitaries tripping along beside, watching him with rapt attention, "gremlins will be famous again. You'll be stars of our advertising campaign." The dignitaries nod, and Fafinell seethes with shame for their sycophantic foolishness. Famous for being slaves? Stars of a campaign for locking up creatures like them?

The Inventor settles himself down on the bench, legs stretched out before him, and surveys his subjects in the starlight. He breathes a happy little sigh; soon he will be rich, and Fafinell can see he's thinking of it. Soon he will be well-regarded by the other humans, no longer laughed at and ignored.

Clouds drift, time slips, and the trap is ready. Yarinsh mutters, moves. The Inventor looks toward him, as Fafinell hurriedly taps out his own half of the spell they bought from the wandering witch. Paid her in cotton candy, oversized stuffed animals, and promises. Magic may not be fair play, but gremlins will do what they must.

The Inventor leans, peering toward Yarinsh, who steps back as bronze begins to form over the man's feet, creeping up his legs. Fafinell jumps up, shoos Yarinsh back.

The Inventor whips around, suddenly grabbing Fafinell by the neck, lifting him off the ground. "Stop it!" He shakes the gremlin hard. His eyes are wide with panic, as the bronze consumes his knees, his hips. "Stop this nonsense!"

Fafinell kicks out. His head is spinning like a teacup, jounced and disoriented by the big man's remonstrations. He struggles to breathe and twists to bite, and the Inventor shakes him again.

In the plaza, the other gremlins are still and silent, watching. Ridding themselves of the Inventor won't break the containment today, Fafinell knows. But give it a week, a month unattended, and someone will find a way out. Back to the days of havoc and joy.

His old bones quake as the Inventor shakes him once more, and then the bronze is engulfing the man's arm, climbing over his face. The man on the park bench, a new statue. They thought he'd be overlooked and ordinary, there.

But as bronze drips over Fafinell's head and into his ears, he thinks of how funny the statue will seem, the man holding a gremlin high.

Brynn MacNab has been reading speculative fiction since before she knew there was any other kind, and writing it almost as long. You can find links to her other published work at brynnmacnab.blogspot.com.


1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. Shari | March 06, 2014 at 11:16 AM EST

Great story.

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