Children’s laughter tinkled into Edward Bozleby’s ear.  He knew that up above him in the woodland canopy there were mechanical drones searching for him.  That wasn’t the only trouble he was in.  Despite the low humming of the drones, something made Edward freeze in his tracks.  Around him, the giggles of children were leaking out from the trees.  Edward had heard of these things, but he had never seen one.  These were fairies.  Not the happy, dancing fairies, which replaced your lost teeth with one pound coins, but demonic twisted creatures who epitomised evil.  Edward jumped, as he heard a beeping up above him. The drones, which were dripping with the government desire for omniscience, had caught up with him.  He started running again.  He was being chased by creatures, as old as the devil himself and technology, as modern as UAV spyplanes.  How had Edward become trapped in between these two clashing worlds?

****

Until a few days ago, Edward was the wealthy CEO of Black Hole Enterprises, which had provided software for the military.  That was before another weapons company Eclipse had hacked into it and had corrupted the software.  This had bankrupted Edward’s company and had turned him into an outcast.  He knew that people loyal to him would be trying to clear his name, but for the moment, he was on his own.  Whoever Eclipse were, they were good.  Even though they had destroyed Edward’s career in less than a week, they had made it look like a conspiracy, which had been going on for months.  For reasons unknown, Eclipse had only revealed themselves to Edward and they had used a couple of middle managers to scapegoat for the company’s bankruptcy.  A thought flashed across Edward’s mind: if he wasn’t the one to blame for the downfall of his company, then why the hell was he the one on the run?

****

Edward decided to stop running and conserve his strength for a while, despite the penetrating cackle of the fairies in one ear and the repetitive beeping of the drones in the other.  The irony was that his company had designed the very entities that were chasing him.  The ministry of defence had commissioned his company to create these drones in order to collect surveillance upon any external threats.  So, because of this, Edward knew the strengths and weaknesses of every single drone.  He also knew that the spy-bots weren’t in use yet.  Only a handful of them had been constructed and they all had their weaknesses, which had yet to be smoothed out.  The constant beeping was one of the biggest faults of the drones, especially when they were supposed to be creatures of stealth.  Something cold ran down the back of Edward’s neck and for the briefest moment a hand brushed across his shoulder.  Edward resisted every urge to turn around and lash out at whatever he was touching him.  Instead he took a deep breath and spoke slowly.

“Who is that?”

“My name is Stella Ingriss.”

Edward’s relief was obvious.  “I thought you were a fairy.”

Stella didn’t look impressed.  “Do you really believe in them?”

Edward turned around and looked at the woman he was speaking to.  She was blonde and in her 30’s.  Her face had retained a youthful vitality, but her eyes were watchful and cautious.

“Stella Ingriss, I know that name, Stella, Stella.” A staccato clicking of his fingers accompanied Edward’s thought process.

“I am…well I was a middle manager at Black Hole enterprises,” Stella suddenly stamped her foot in frustration, “how have I only just realised? You’re the CEO of Black Hole enterprises: Edward Bozleby.”

“I was the CEO of Black Hole enterprises; that was until Eclipse happened.”

“Who are Eclipse?” Stella asked.

“They’re the reasons we’re running through this woodland.”

“You never said whether you believe in fairies or not.”

Edward ran a hand over his balding head.  “I’m not sure what I believe any more…I mean just a week ago I was still the CEO of Black Hole.  I still had a full head of hair 15 years ago and I didn’t need glasses, neither did I have this great swollen belly.”

Stella could see the insecurity of the man and thought it would be best to change the subject.  “We had best start moving.”

“Where are we supposed to go? We’re trapped within this forest; if we leave then the drones will find us.”

“That’s the point.  If we stay within the forest, we can stay hidden.  The drones won’t be able to spot us.” Without another word, Stella decisively marched forwards.  Edward noticed that she was still dressed in formal clothing, but decided that now wasn’t the time to discuss it.  For a brief while, the two walked in silence.  Edward was slightly intimidated by Stella’s brisk manner.

Without stopping, Stella abruptly asked, “earlier on, why did you think I was a fairy?”

Edward shrugged, despite the fact that Stella wasn’t looking.  “I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder and I presumed it was a fairy.  I was relieved, when I found out that it was you.”

This caused Stella to stop and turn around.  Confusion was etched across her face.  “I never put my hand on your shoulder.  I never touched you.”

Edward’s eyes flashed from side to side.  “Then, who did?”

A child laughed and then another joined in and then another and then another and another and another.  Not before long, there was a whole chorus of children giggling and smirking.

“What the hell is that?” Edward demanded.

“I’m not waiting to find out.  Let’s get out of here.” Without another word, Stella charged forward and the former CEO had little choice but to follow.

Behind them, a fluttering of wings sounded in conjunction to the laughing chorus.  Stella had a good ten years upon Edward and now the fat man was struggling to keep up.  Reluctantly, the blonde woman stopped behind a tree and waited for her former boss to catch up.  She tried to ignore the laughter and the fluttering of wings.  As Edward finally reached Stella, something flew past the two of them, slicing the air in half.

“We have to leave this woodland.” Edward said, decisively.

“We can’t.  Your bloody drones are still out there searching for us.” Stella snapped.

“But if we stay in here, the fairies will catch us.” Edward hissed.

“There’s no such thing as fairies! They’re just made-up stories Edward!” Stella snarled.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

“What the hell do you call that then?”

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

“Hold on, Stella.  What the hell are you doing here?”

“Now isn’t the time Edward! We have to move!”

“We can talk now.  Why are you here?”

“Your bloody drones chased me into here!” Stella snapped.

“But, why this particular woodland? Why the same one as me?”

Panic and frustrated flooded Stella’s eyes.  “We can talk about what happened after we have moved.” The two humans started to run again.  The fairies were beginning to surround them, although they were moving so quickly they weren’t visible to the naked eye.  All around them, the fluttering of wings, the laughter of children, the chanting of nursery rhymes were building up to deafening levels.  There was the snarling of teeth, the sun reflecting of the wings of the fairy, the slightest sight of a claw and the never-ending chanting.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

The chanting of the fairies reminded Edward of the nursery rhymes he had heard when he was a young boy. When he was a child, his parents had told him stories about the fairies, about how children will be snatched away without a trace, about how adults were driven to insanity by the child-like laughter.  Edward suddenly realised how ridiculous he was being, for thinking of such a trivial thing now.  He had to put all of his energy into running.

Itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.  Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

Vaguely, Stella was aware that the fairies were now singing a new nursery rhyme.  Did she believe in fairies now? Something snapped between her feet, but she carried on running.  Something cut across Edward’s cheek, but he carried on running.  Something metallic flew up above the pair, but they carried on running.

Itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.  Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

The fairies were no longer chasing the pair, but flying alongside the both of them.  The woodland was their territory and they easily slipped in and out of the trees.  Leaves were afraid to settle on the tarnished floor.  There was a massive crashing, as two drones broke through the woodland canopy, but the chanting of the fairies was so loud that neither human heard it.

Itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.  Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

The two drones were still chasing their prey, but they were struggling to keep up with the speed of the fairies.  The creatures were little more than blurs.  Tinges of green and brown were smashing through yellow sunlight, whilst solid black floated menacingly on.  More and more fairies joined the chase, vastly outnumbering the two spy bots.

Ringa ringa roses.  A pocket full of posies.

Edward was exhausted and he couldn’t run any further.  “Stella!” He called out, breathlessly.

The blonde woman stopped and started to walk back to her former CEO.  She was absolutely exhausted, as well.  She could only speak in small pants.

“We can’t…stop….now.  We have….to…carry on….”

Edward pointed all around him.  “The fairies have stopped chasing us.” He was right.  The fairies had now formed in a circle around them.

Ringa ringa roses.  A pocket full of posies.

Stella was slowly getting her breath back.  She could clearly see the fairies now and could no longer deny their existence.  They were vicious looking creatures with teeth like jagged shards of glass and ill-looking skin with green and brown patches.  They looked nothing like how they did in fairy-tales.  They were skinny beasts with thin skin.  Stella and Edward could see every single bone in their small bodies.  Only their wings, with their own iridescent, shimmery quality, looked anything remotely like the stories, these creatures were associated with.

Ringa ringa roses.  A pocket full of posies.

“Why do they keep singing these nursery rhymes?” Stella demanded.

“I heard that fairies were once children who had become tainted and twisted over time.”

“But why have they stopped chasing us? Why are they surrounding us?”

“Maybe they were waiting for them.” Edward pointed towards the two drones which had now caught up with their prey.  The CEO and his former employee were standing back to back and the drones were hovering on either side of them.  They were spherical machines, which were coloured an intense black with silver circuitry.  There was a certain coldness about them, which was found in the majority of machines.

“Can your drones hurt us?”

“No.  I never designed them to have weaponry.  They’re just for surveillance.”

There was a clunk and grinding of metal.  On either drone, a hypodermic syringe appeared out of a hidden compartment.

Edward loudly groaned.  “I’m guessing Eclipse have made a few improvements.”

“Shutup Edward! Look at the fairies.” Stella pointed to the creatures all around them.  The fairies had started flying in a circle, surrounding the two humans and the drones.  Loose mud was being drawn into the air, as the fairies continued to chant.

Ringa ringa roses.  A pocket full of posies.

The fairies were picking up speed and were almost a blur.

“STELLA! GET OUT OF THE CIRCLE AND STICK TO THE GROUND!” Edward had to shout to be heard.  The two humans ran in opposite directions and the fairies briefly parted to let them pass.  The fairies were flying faster and faster and the drones were becoming confused.  Little specks of dirt were invading their circuitry and clogging up their mechanics.  Edward and Stella watched in amazement at the dust storm, which the fairies were whipping up.  Particles of loose mud were being forced into a spiralling funnel, which shielded the drones from view.  The chanting of fairies sang in correlation with the grinding of the mud on the metallic body of the spy bots.  There was a sudden thump, as both drones crashed to the ground.  The fairies stopped flying and all dispersed, except for one.  Stella ran over to Edward and they waited for the fairy to approach them.

“I suppose we ought to thank you, for what you did to those drones.”

“They were in our territory and they had to be dealt with.” The fairy spoke in a childlike voice.  It was also telepathic.  As it spoke, its mouth refused to open.

“We’re in your territory?” Stella tentatively quavered.  She knew she was taking a risk, by saying this, but it was one that had to be addressed.

“The drones were a threat to us.  You are not.” The fairy was still hovering above the ground.  Edward didn’t think it had set foot on it for many millennia.

Edward stepped forward this time and addressed the fairy.  “You’re right.  We don’t mean to hurt you.  Eclipse chased us in here.  We had nowhere else to go.”

“Eclipse?” The fairy questioned.

“Have you heard of them?” Stella asked.

“You have to leave our woodland now.” The fairy evaded the question.

“What? But Eclipse will still be chasing us.  We’re safe in here.” Stella protested.

“That is why you have to leave.  We can’t risk any harm coming to us.”

“Harm is exactly what’s going to come to you.  Eclipse is going send more drones and much worse through this woodland to find us.”

“We are in control of the four elements: water, the earth, the fire, the very air you breathe.  We can look after ourselves, but you have to leave now.”

Edward smiled sadly.  “They’re right.  We should go.  They did protect us from the drones after all.”

Stella pointed to the mid-afternoon sun.  “Can we at least rest here for a while? We’ve been running for hours.”

The fairy reluctantly nodded.  “You can stay here until dark.”

****

The two humans had stayed in the woodland, until the middle of the night, at the grudging acceptance of the fairies.  Edward and Stella had wanted to make sure that nothing else was chasing them; during this time the sky had stayed free from any hostile invaders, but the pair knew that it was time to leave.  The fairy that had talked to them earlier had appeared to the two humans and had led them to the edge of the woodland.  It hadn’t spoken to them for the entire trip.

“How do you know so much about these fairies, Edward? I barely believed in them.”

“I remember, my parents telling me about them, when I was a boy.  They told me about this mystical woodland that I should stay away from.  Maybe Eclipse drove me into here on purpose.”

“Who are Eclipse?” Stella asked.

Exasperatedly, Edward shook his head.  “It’s difficult to explain.  My father had Black Hole before me and I knew that him and Eclipse had a strong rivalry.  I’m guessing he must have wronged them badly and now they’re taking revenge.”

“This is where we leave you now.  Good luck.”

Behind the two humans, stood a line of fairies which began to quietly sing another nursery rhyme.  However, the coldness had left their voices and they sounded like a chorus of jovial children.  Edward and Stella walked out of the forest and into the starlit darkness.

Twinkle, twinkle little star.  How I wonder what you are.

Twinkle, twinkle little star.  How I wonder what you are.


*Author’s Notes*

It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story.  And this isn’t one of my best…This was something I originally wrote for my writer’s group.  It was more just a creative unleashing task, rather than anything else.  I was given the name Edward Bozleby, the location of a mystical woodland and I was told write about government drones as well.  The fairies are of my own creation, slightly influenced by folklore and the like.  I use asterisks to signify paragraph breaks.

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