A Home Invasion
by Alex F. Fayle
Unlike most magic wardrobes, mine just led down to the kitchen, which was great for midnight snacking but not so good when you’re barricaded in your bedroom hiding from a houseful of pixies looking for someone to help.
At least the kids were at their father’s and I only had to worry about my stupid sister Marilyn. The pixie home invasion was all her fault, what with her insisting on putting a saucer of milk outside the door before going to bed.
“Don’t do that,” I told her. “This isn’t the suburbs where a bit of milk draws happy little house hobs who keep the squirrels from eating your tulip bulbs and rainspouts that never clog. We have pixies here and their idea of help usually kills people.”
“Oh c’mon, Jane! The neighborhood’s not that bad,” she said. “It’s not like you live in crack-dealer and prostitute-land. Have you ever tried it?”
“No because I don’t want the entire house and family to vanish overnight. Which happened three houses down, by the way. Don’t do it,” I told her.
I should have checked, but I thought I had scared her enough. But no. My stubborn sister decided she knew better, as always, and so I was facing a pixie invasion at one o’clock in the morning.
As if on cue, my cell phone rang with her ringtone. I pounced on it, hoping to catch it before the pixies heard the noise.
“What?” I whispered, putting every ounce of anger I had into that single word.
As usual, Marilyn ignored my anger.
“What’s happening? Is someone trying to rob us?” she asked.
“The help YOU invited has arrived and we are likely going to die or worse before morning.”
“Don’t be-” she interrupted herself with a squeal. I heard scrabbling and a door slam. “What was that– that thing?”
“A pixie. Where are you?”
“I’ve locked myself in the bathroom.”
“Good. There’s an old iron paperweight on the shelf above the toilet. Put it in front of the door. They won’t be able to get in.” Following community warnings, I kept something of pure iron in each room, just in case. Fairies, pixies, hobs or whatever fey creatures might be lurking about didn’t like iron. “And stay in the bathroom until I come get you, or until the police arrive and find you. Whatever you do, don’t come out.”
Marilyn murmured her assent.
“Now I’m hanging up,” I said. “I have to call the police.”
I disconnected without waiting for her reply. As tempted as I was to just let the creatures have her, I didn’t want to leave her kids motherless. And besides, whatever “help”, the reasons-for-my-neighborhood’s-low-housing-prices, gave would affect me too.
I punched 911 and got the standard response: “Someone is on their way.”
I made the call only to register the invasion. I should have done it earlier, but it wasn’t like they were going to come rushing to my aid. Everyone knew that the police never arrived until the pixies had left and they could just clean up whatever mess was left. I didn’t blame them. Why risk their own men and women because of someone else’s stupidity? Unfortunately, I had no such choice.
I sat on the bed, staring at the iron doorstop blocking the pixies’ entrance. Something downstairs crashed, likely the china cabinet. I cringed at the thought of all my good dishes in a broken pile.
I stared at the door. The iron doorstop would only deter the nightmare-Tinkerbells for so long. They could ignore it if they really wanted to. After all, it’s kind of hard to live in the city without touching any iron.
Another crash made me wonder what they were doing to my living room set. With the kids finally all in their teens, I’d upgraded to a leather couch and I’d gotten myself a one-of-a-kind coffee table from a glass designer down by the old harbor.
The image of the coffee table reminded me of a magazine article I had been reading just before the milk argument with Marilyn. It was about surviving a pixie invasion. Oh god, did I remember enough of it to give it a try?
There was only one way to find out. I stood and walked over to the door, picking up the iron doorstop. It probably wouldn’t help me much but its weight felt good in my hand. I took a deep breath and flung open the door, pulling up the steps in my mind and doing just as the magazine had suggested.
1. Demand a parley.
The article had said to be forceful. Strong. No problem. Between my sister and my kids, I could get pretty damn forceful when I wanted to.
“Yo!” I shouted. “Which one of you is in charge? Let’s talk. Now!”
Immediately the upstairs hall filled with heroin-dreamt Muppets. They were about four feet tall with various shades of green, naked skin. They appeared to be sexless, but I didn’t want to test the theory. Their height surprised me. I’d always heard that pixies were more like four inches tall, but being magical creatures I suppose they could probably be whatever size they wanted to be.
As they rushed at me, I swung the doorstop in an arc and they piled to a stop – well, at least they didn’t advance farther. They never actually stopped moving and shifting constantly, like they wanted to confuse me about their numbers. I had an impression of about two dozen.
“So, who’s the head honcho?” I asked with fake bravado. I’d learned this tactic dealing with my oldest son’s so called friends.
“I am!” “That’s me!” “No, I am. I’m the big cheese!” “I’m the CHO – Chief Help Officer!” “No you’re not!”
“QUIET!” I yelled using my mother-on-the-edge-of-handing-out-several-weeks’-worth-of-groundings voice. They shut up.
“One of you will be the leader and will offer me a parley. Who will it be? And don’t take all night. I have to get up for work in a few hours.”
After a bunch of mutterings and some slaps upside a few heads, one stepped forward.
“I’ll play, I mean parley,” it said.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
It thought for a moment. “Fred. Yes, Fred.”
“Hello, Fred. I’m Jane. Let’s go into the bedroom and talk. The rest of you,” I fixed them with my best mother-knows-all glare, “had better behave while Fred and I chat.”
I followed Fred into the bedroom, shut the door and put the doorstop back down on the floor in front of it.
2. Admit to your fear.
Fred lay on the bed on his stomach, feet swinging back and forth in the air, his head propped up in his hands. He looked at me a moment, then rolled over and dropped his head off the edge of the bed.
“You’re a brave one, aren’t you?” he said from his upside-down position.
I almost said yes then remembered the article’s advice: admit your fear but act like it doesn’t matter.
“Not really. I’m scared to death,” I said and he laughed.
“Good,” he said with a grin and sat back up. “Okay, par-ley time. You asked for help, we deliver. What do you want?”
3. Refuse all offers of help.
“We could clean up that mess we made downstairs,” he continued not waiting for me to answer. “That would be easy. And since your sister didn’t leave us that much milk, we’d rather not do that much work.”
Tempting, but there had to be a catch. Since I hadn’t yet seen the downstairs, saying yes might give them free reign to do something spectacularly nasty down there.
“No go,” I said. “I choose, but I have to think about it a moment.”
“Oh, I know! How about that sister of yours? We could make it so that she never bothers you again. “
“No way, Jose.”
“Whatever. How about I offer you something I really need?”
“Really, really need?” he said, bouncing a little on the bed.
He obviously liked this since he started jumping up and down on the bed in earnest. I could hear the bedsprings protesting and I was tempted to tell him to stop it but held my tongue as step four in the process rose up in my memory.
4. Be very careful what you ask for.
Now I was stuck. I had no idea what I wanted. What could I ask for that they couldn’t misconstrue? I thought about asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I’d heard about someone who had asked for a bagel and cream cheese and ended up with a kind of Midas Touch. Every piece of food he ever touched turned into a bagel and cream cheese. Within three months, the guy had committed suicide.
A pixie’s idea of cleaning probably meant getting rid of the house altogether. No way would I ask for that.
“Give me a-” I bit my tongue. Fred stopped bouncing and got as close to me as he could without falling off the bed.
“Yes? Give you a what?”
I had been about to say “second” but I knew where that would have ended up – I would have had exactly one second left to live. I could feel sweat on my brow. This was worse than trying to find the right words to tell the kids their father and I were getting a divorce.
Fred grinned at me again and dropped off the edge of the bed. He started checking everything out, opening drawers and looking at my underwear. I let him rummage. I had nothing to hide. And it gave me the time I needed to think of something.
My eyes followed him around the room and continued past him to the wardrobe.
“Give me a magic wardrobe that works properly!” I said.
“A what?” Fred asked and dashed to the wardrobe. He opened it up and stuck his head in for a moment. “Where does it go to?”
“The kitchen, of whichever house it’s in.”
“And where do you want it to go?”
“Where do magic wardrobes usually go?”
“To magical lands full of wonder.”
And danger. I noticed he forgot about the danger part.
“Then that’s where I want it to go, to a magical land full of wonder.”
“Are you sure?”
5. Do not let them alter anything in the request.
“We could make it go somewhere much more practical than that, you know. How about London? Wouldn’t you like to go to London? Or maybe Beijing. You’d like Beijing. Great selection of restaurants.”
Like the magazine needed to emphasize this point. Did they think their readers were complete idiots? Then again, people often messed up quite innocently, so they were probably just being careful. Beijing might be nice, but it would most likely be a one way trip or even better, a one way trip to a Beijing a thousand years in the past.
“No. I want a proper wardrobe. A magical land of wonder.”
“With dragons?” If he had had eyelashes, Fred would have been fluttering them at me.
“Do magic wardrobes usually lead to worlds with dragons?” I used the same tone I used on the kids when they were attempting to weasel their way out of something.
He stuck his chin out at me and tried to stare me down. Given that I was a good eighteen inches taller, it didn’t work that well. Plus I’d faced a teenager in full know-it-all sulk. This was nothing.
“No,” I could hear the pout. I almost laughed. He sounded exactly like my youngest when he didn’t get what he wanted.
“Then no, no dragons.”
“Okay, we’ll fix your wardrobe so that it goes to a magical land of wonder,” he announced.
I sighed in relief. That just left two points in the magazines list.
The sound of my sister screaming out in the hallway carried into the bedroom and sent point six flying out of my head. I dashed to the door, kicked aside the doorstop and flung the door open. The gathered pixies were passing Marilyn up and down the hallways on their upraised arms. If it weren’t for her nightie, it would have looked like a homemade version of crowd surfing.
“What are you doing with her?” I asked. I wanted to yell at them to put her down, but that would have been a request and that would likely have been fatal for her. “Actually, who cares about you lot. What are you doing out of the bathroom, Marilyn?”
My sister had stopped squealing when I started talking. Her bearers, however, seemed to have no desire to stop crowd surfing her, so her answer was a bit disjointed.
“I couldn’t hear anything…”
“… I was worried about you…”
On the next pass-by I reached out and grabbed her wrist. The pixies didn’t resist and let me pull her down to the ground. I helped her into the bedroom then slammed the door behind me.
“I told you to stay in the bathroom.”
“I thought maybe they’d left.”
“What would-” I stopped. It wasn’t the moment for another argument with her. I had to finish off with the pixie.
“Where were we?” I asked Fred.
I knew where I was, but I wanted him to repeat my request. Then we could move on to point six, which was – oh no! What was point six?
“You asked me to fix your wardrobe so that it goes to a magical land full of woooonder.” He winked at my sister.
“Fix the wardrobe?” she asked. “What do you mean fix it? It’s always-“
“-been broken ever since we got it. Yes.” I finished for her and added a glare in her direction. It was the same glare I’d given her when she told my kids that Santa didn’t actually exist. She hadn’t understood back then and probably wouldn’t this time either.
Point number six blossomed in my memory: keep family members out of the negotiations, no matter what the pixies try.
“Oh, right,” Marilyn said. “It’s never worked the way we wanted it to. And you’re going to fix it.”
I almost cheered. For once in her life she had actually understood tact. Now my only challenge was shutting her up before she said something stupid.
“Can you make it go to Paris?” she added. “I’ve never been to Paris.”
Fred’s eyes grew wide and I barely resisted the desire to strangle her.
“Oh, no you don’t” I snapped at Fred. “You’re parleying with me and we’ve already agreed that you’re going to fix it properly.”
Fred kept his eyes on my sister as he answered me.
“But it was your sister who left the milk out.”
“It’s my house and you agreed to treat with me. And besides it’s my magic wardrobe. My sister has no say in where it goes.” I stepped between them, breaking their eye contact.
I stepped right up to Fred, crossed my arms over my chest and loomed above him.
“You’re no fun.”
“No, I’m not. And I don’t care. Will you fix the wardrobe the way I want it?”
“Fine. But I’ll need help from the others.”
“As many as you need.”
I turned around and after mouthing “you are so dead” at my sister, I opened up the door.
7. Cross your fingers and wait.
The next fifteen minutes were some of the worst ones in my life, even worse that the botched epidural I had been given during the delivery of my second daughter.
The pixies flowed into the room and smothered the wardrobe, somehow even sliding behind it though it was almost flush against the wall. They opened it up and threw everything out. Marilyn tried to pick things up and fold them, but I tugged at her arm and drew her down to sit on the bed with me. I was riding high on adrenaline and even though I was so angry with her that I wanted to push her into the wardrobe with the little green beasts, I needed to hold onto someone or I’d start screaming. She took my hand and gripped it tightly.
One by one the pixies disappeared inside the wardrobe. Occasionally one would come flying out as if thrown, but it would dive right back in laughing maniacally. Fred stayed outside, watching the goings on. Finally he was the only one left. He turned to us.
“Done! It wasn’t easy, but we managed it.”
I bet. Somehow I felt that Fred could have made the change in his sleep but I wasn’t about to question him.
Marilyn opened her mouth and Fred looked at her expectantly. Did the silly woman know nothing? I was certain she was on the point of thanking the pixie. No one thanked fey creatures. It just made them feel indebted to you which pissed them off. The expression on Fred’s face told me that he was waiting for any sign of gratitude as a reason to be offended and renege on the deal.
I dug my fingernails into her palm. She squeaked and tore her hand out of mine but she didn’t say anything and that was the only thing that mattered.
“Okay, great,” I said. “Goodbye then.”
Fred pouted at me again. The poor guy. I really was no fun. Well tough luck, I thought. Let him have fun with some other sucker.
“Good night, ladies,” he said bowing then disappeared into the wardrobe and shut the door behind him.
I let out a huge sigh, not quite ready to believe we’d gotten out of that so easily. Marilyn jumped up and reached toward the wardrobe door handle.
“Don’t touch that!”
“Why not?” She let her hand drop. “Don’t you want to know where it goes?”
“No. And you don’t either, not if you ever want to see your kids again.”
Marilyn took a step back as if the wardrobe had suddenly caught on fire.
“What are we going to do with it? Burn it?”
Sometimes I wondered how she could be my sister and yet be so dumb.
“That’s not how things work. We’re going to do our best to hide it away and then fifty or a hundred years from now someone is going to find it and have some fascinating and likely highly dangerous adventures.”
I stood up and pulled a belt out of a drawer to tie the doors shut.
“Help me get this thing down to the basement. I can hire someone tomorrow to wall it up behind the furnace. That should give us a few decades of peace at least. “
As I was tying the belt to the door handles, there was a knock from inside the wardrobe. Marilyn and I exchanged wary glances.
“Yes?” I asked remembering just in time to keep my voice strong, instead of letting the sudden terror I felt come through.
“Jane? I forgot something.” It was Fred.
I cracked the door open slightly, keeping a tight hold on the belt wrapped around the handles. The pixie stuck his head into the crack, but I didn’t let him come through.
“What is it?”
The little of his face that I could see appeared slightly apologetic.
“George wanted me to tell you that he accidentally ate your cat.”
“He accidentally what? Wait. I don’t have a cat.”
Fred brightened up immediately, filling the gap in the wardrobe doors with a smile that reminded me that pixies have strong carnivorous tendencies.
“Oh goodie! Well, never mind then. Have a good night, ladies!”
He disappeared and I shut the door again, pulling the belt tight.
“How do you accidentally eat a cat?” Marilyn asked.
“I don’t want to know.” I shook my head. “Now come on. Let’s shift this thing. I would like to get some sort of sleep tonight.”