Sheerya greeted me when I entered the dorm after classes that day.
“What happened today?” she inquired.
“Schlimme threw away a bunch of displays to make room for a giantess,” I told her.
As I expected, her reaction was one of shock and horror. “Threw… away…”
I couldn’t resist a smile as I opened my duffel and showed her my “contraband.”
“You mean you—all of them?” she squealed in delight. She began flying dizzy circles around my head. “Oh you dear boy!” she crowed, “Oh you dear, heroic young man!”
She displayed a fairy’s considerable strength as she began dragging each of her kith and kin from the duffel all by herself. She called some of them by name.
“Perestra! Oh! Sactele! Prissom! And Forander! We have not spoken in ages! I wonder how he was doing?”
She coyly approached me; I knew what was coming.
“You know, Casey, wouldn’t it be fun to—“
She stuck out her tiny lip in a pout. “But—but you rescued them, didn’t you?”
I ran a hand through my hair, somewhat irritated at her pitiful, reproachful tone.
“Sheerya,” I tried to explain, “that was only to keep them from being thrown away. This is the last night I have free to study before I start working at nights.”
Her face lit up, “The Master of the House is going to let you work at night? Alone?”
“Yes, but, Sheerya, I need this time because I have a big test coming up soon, and if I don’t pass this test, I get a low grade, and if I get a low grade, I lose my job at Snowden House and do you know what that means? No more Sheerya, no more waking up, no more Phantasm. I’d have to go back home, and I can’t take you and all these with me. Not tonight, Sheerya.”
She cast one more forlorn glance in the direction of the duffel, and reluctantly flew to the top of my desk-lamp.
I sighed and pulled out my Physical Science textbook.
Sheerya sighed, too.
When I didn’t respond, she sighed again, long and loud.
“Do you mind?” I finally snapped. She was really starting to get on my nerves!
Sheerya yelped, but then she got indignant. “Well, I’m really bored, and all I want is someone to talk to, and you’re no fun, and I just keep thinking about all those poor little folk, so close to freedom, but forced to wait till it’s convenient for you!”
“Sheerya! I don’t think I’ll be able to study with a bunch of little folk flying and crawling about the room! What I can do is bring them with me when I to go to work tomorrow, and free them at the museum, but I can’t do it tonight.”
She sat silent for a long while, but as soon as I turned the page, she let out another theatrical sigh.
I groaned; what a little manipulator!
“What?” I growled, looking at her very sternly.
She huffed moodily. “Well, okay, I understand you can’t do all of them, but can’t I just have a few friends to talk with? I promise we’ll be quiet!”
Two hours later, we freed the last of six fairies and four elves. During this time also, Sheerya pointed out that a few of my “survivors” were already dead.
“You can tell a dead fairy by the wings,” she said sadly. “A fairy dies within hours of losing her wings. These elves,” she pointed mournfully to a few more of the little chaps, “are coated in wax, see? They’re dead too.”
Once those few were free, I said, “Okay, Sheerya, that’s enough for tonight.”
She flew up and calculatedly planted a fairy’s kiss on my cheek. “Thanks so much, Casey,” she gushed.
I stood, “Now, none of you bother me while I’m studying, is that clear?”
Forander, an elf whose cheekiness rivaled Sheerya’s, saluted smartly, “Right-o, human!”
I shook my head and returned to my books.
When another two hours passed, and I had only made it halfway through the chapter, I knew something had to be done. It wasn’t that they were loud—actually, they chattered very quietly—but it was absolutely incessant! I just couldn’t focus!
“Could you guys be a little quieter?” I asked them.
“Oh! Okay, sorry!”
I sighed and resumed my studies.
A loud thump jarred my concentration. I turned around, “What’s going on?”
Forander and another elf, Kyrn, tried to return my gaze innocently as the fairies lifted the dictionary off the floor and returned it to the bookshelf from whence it came. “Nothing! Sorry!”
“Be quiet, you guys!”
Five minutes later, they were giggling again. I stood up; it was the end of the line now!
“All right!” I said, “Everyone into the closet, right now!”
“Aww,” Sheerya whined, “but Casey—“
“No buts! In!”
One of the elves crossed his arms and shook his head. “There’s ten of us, and only one of you! Who says we have to do what you say?”
I picked the little guy up by his collar. “You owe me your life. If it weren’t for me, you’d be dead by now. I suggest you do as I say.”
That got through to him. “Yes sir, thank you sir,” he said nervously.
All ten of them filed into the closet, and I closed and locked the door. The good thing about their being six inches tall was that made them just barely too big to fit either under the door or through the lock. Plus, the door muffled their voices, so I could study in peace.
When at last I finished that chapter, I closed the book and paused to enjoy the silence. Then it occurred to me:
It was too quiet. What were those little people up to?
“Guys?” I inquired.
No one answered, at least not verbally. I heard a few giggles, but that was it.
“Guys?” I repeated.
I heard some thuds, a few scratches at the door; were they doing something with my clothes?
“Are you guys okay in there?” I asked, finally getting out of my chair and walking over to the closet.
“We’re fine!” Sheerya sang out, and they all burst into a flurry of high-pitched giggles.
Somehow I doubted her words. More scratching and thumping, and a whole lot of whispering; I stepped closer to the closet.
“Are you sure?” I asked, kneeling by the closet.
Sheerya’s voice came from very close to the door, near the vicinity of the knob, “Yeah, we’re sure; don’t look, Casey!”
I put my eye to the keyhole, “Don’t look at wha—“ Instantly, a blinding light flashed less than an inch from my eyeball. “Augh!”
The closet rang with the laughter of little folk as I rolled on the floor in absolute agony, trying to restore sight to my left eye. It took five minutes, and even then I saw spots before my eyes as I blinked and rubbed and muttered under my breath.
The giggling subsided, and Sheerya asked, “Can we come out now?”
“No,” I told her bluntly, finding myself very angry with them all, “not until you learn to behave.”
“What? Please, Casey!”
“Nope!” I was firm. I got into bed, dug out a pair of earplugs I’d brought along in case of a noisy roommate, put them in, and fell asleep in silence. Before dropping off, I added a third note to my list:
Fairies and elves were a load of curious troublemakers!