The Pixie Sleeps December 17th, 2016

The pixie sleeps. It presses up against my chest firmly, its small round eyes closed tightly against the bitter north wind. I stroke its gentle blond fur with my fingers, running up and down from its neck to its soft, white underbelly. It has not stirred, and so I believe that we are safe for tonight.

I do not know why the pixie chose to protect me. Certainly it was rewarded--I shared my food with it, and let it enjoy the warmth of the fire--but I believe there lies more to it than that alone.

It is winter, I hope. If this is summer then I believe I will die here when the seasons change. The nights are already cold, and if they turn worse we may both perish. The gales howl through the dead branches, which rustle and moan as if suffering like I do.

We huddle for warmth under the bough of an ancient oak. The cold wind carries the distant cries of a wraith, but I am not scared. While I find myself unable to sleep, I know there is no danger this night for the pixie has not woken.

It is the only thing in this land that has not tried to kill me. For that I am thankful. Without it I would have perished long ago. I hold it closer to me, and let its soft long ears rub against my arm. Even asleep it breathes faster than I, its delicate heartbeat thumping like a purring cat.

I know not its name. I have taken to calling it Iskin, as the sound reminds me of the squeaks it makes from time to time. It seems to respond to it now, yet I cannot tell what else it thinks. I wish it could answer my questions; I have so much I would ask of it.

There exists nothing good in this strange world. So little patches of life remain here, and what does wants only to kill me. This world is dead. Perhaps I am too.

The days are short here, always grey, and never a clear sunlight. The morning light barely lifts above the horizon, painting only a dark indigo glow through the overcast clouds.

The pixie wakes, and yawns widely. Its sharp incisors are briefly revealed and then vanish again. I share some water from the flask, and it laps at it until satisfied. I stroke its sweet ears and tell it I love it. I does not seem to mind the contact.

I open the folded note I have carried all these weeks. This scrap of paper is all that guides me forward. I live in endless fear of what would happen if it were to be lost. I try every day to commit the directions to memory, in case of the worst. I recite them back to myself before each night, hoping the words will remain stuck inside my head. My fate rests on this map; a loose set of drawings scrawled on the back of a gas station receipt. It is nothing, yet it is all I have.

The last waypoint had been the giant oak tree on the cliff edge. I only found it by chance; if I had rounded the wood on the other side I may have missed it. The only guidance I have on my next stage is to journey west, through the valley south of the two peaks. It is little to go on but my options are none. We will head west then, and hope a valley will be found.

The pixie stands on its hind legs, looking to the north. We are high up on this clifftop, with a view stretching for miles. Yet I see no valley, nor the pair of peaks marking our way. I have hope that my guide is correct, and if we venture westwards for long enough the route will become clear. I am worried; perhaps the pixie sees something out there in the wild. Perhaps something sees us.

The land is clearer here. I am glad for we can make haste, yet worried that the open spaces provide us no protection. The dense woodland has given way to open meadows of rye grass and lavender, a rare sight of beauty. There was a time on Earth when I would have enjoyed such sights, yet in this world the shadowless grey light removes any trace of joy.

The pixie bounds around, exploring amongst the tall grass, and I take time to collect some dandelion leaves. The pixie seems fond of them. It begins to rain, and we pause to rest under an ash tree.

I feed the pixie a dandelion leaf, and it eagerly munches away. Its tiny eyes close as it eats, with no care in the world other than the present. I brush away the grass that has caught on its fur, and it pays no attention to me. I should let it sleep again, for it must surely be tired, but we cannot delay much longer.

The pixie's ears prick up, standing on end. It stands upright on its hind legs, the sure sign it has sensed something. I hear no noise but I know this means nothing. The pixie has some magic power, something I cannot pretend to understand, but something I know to listen to. It is sensing danger and taps its large foot on the dirt. In the woods we just came from, something follows us.

The pixie does not wait to see what comes, and bolts across the meadow. I hurry to grab the small possessions we carry--the blanket, the blade, and my purse--and run after it. It is time to leave this place, for an evil is loose. I do not know what horror it will be this time, nor do I wish to. We must run.

As I sprint across the rough dirt I stumble, and fall on the ground. My purse spills on the floor and half its contents scatter. My hand is grazed.

I raise myself and reach quickly for the bag, but in the distance I see what comes for us. It is the monster I call the 'orc'; a giant beast of muscle and claws. Its large frame moves through the distant treeline, easily brushing aside the dead bracken. It has not seen us yet, but it will.

There is no time. I must go. Yet I have so little possessions here, and they lie scattered on the ground around me. I grab the bag, and stuff back into it the one thing so precious to me--the map I drew on my only scrap of paper--and run. All the rest I must leave behind. The hand mirror, the pen, and the small tools I had fashioned; all these I am forced to abandon.

At the edge of the meadow I fall down a deep ditch, covering myself in leaves and mud. The pixie is here, hiding behind an overgrown log. It peeks over the log as the monster enters into the meadow, not daring to make a sound. It is scared, I know. Its whole body remains alert in absolute stillness. Its heart beats faster than ever.

I join it and we observe together. We were lucky today; the orc did not see us. It lumbers through the meadow, inspecting where we sat. Had the pixie not sensed its approach I would have died today at the hands of this ungodly beast.

Soon it will spy the dropped mirror, and it might track its prey from there. Perhaps the rain will obscure our footprints. Perhaps the orc is not intelligent enough to follow them anyway. Perhaps everything. I cannot think about it now. Thinking can wait. Instead we run.

I lift the pixie up forcefully and hold it under one arm. It makes a small squeak at being held, but quiet enough to remain unheard. The ditch provides cover, and we flee for our lives.

The first day had been the hardest. I was woefully unprepared, though not through my own fault. I could not have predicted what fate would befall me.

There was no warning, no action I could take. I was a mere three hundred feet from my car. The only sign was the static build-up on my hair, and the taste of metal. I do not know what happened. Was it something I did? Had I stumbled on ancient gateway, untouched for thousands of years? Or just a random chance of fate?

I will never know for sure. One moment I had been parked in the Brecon Beacons, the heart of the Welsh countryside, the next I was wrapped in total darkness.

I had nothing. Only the clothes on my back, and the contents of my purse. I could not see, for it was pitch black in this new place. Were it not for the small light on my car keys which I could faintly see by, I may have starved slowly to death in the darkness of that cave.

I was not alone in the dark. Perhaps it was my good fortune that the cave was sealed; had it been open, who knows what horrors may have wandered inside, waiting to kill me. On that day, I had one small piece of luck however; my companion in the cave was human, and had been dead for hundreds of years.

It took hours to clear the cave entrance. A landslide of dirt and pebbles had blocked it, and I had only my hands to dig through with. The daylight that spilled through had never seemed so wonderful, like rays cast through the clouds. I sat outside the entrance, covered in dirt, and cried.

I looked at the scene in front of me. I was no longer in the bright summertime of Wales, that I could tell for sure. Wales had looked beautiful, but this land looked dead. Most trees had no leaves, and what was not brown was grey. Perhaps once this was a paradise but no longer. I was in some kind of hell, of what manner I do not know. I stumbled around looking for a clue. Anything to indicate where I was, a sign of the world I was used to. But nothing I saw, not a road, a house, nor a person. If it were not for the words left by some unknown guide, I would have wandered aimlessly through this land until the day the evil would finally best me.

I owe my thanks to that ancient stranger, whose name I do not know. This world was not completely devoid of hope, for just a hundred feet from the cave, in a clearing of flat rock, stood a stone menhir. Carved into the surface by that savior's hand lie these words:

"Another exit lies west, at the ruins of Treryn. Godspeed."

Below the words a map was drawn. It was crude, but marked a set of points. I do not know what kind soul had drawn this, nor how many years it had lain here etched into this menhir. It was overgrown with lichen, perhaps centuries-worth. Yet it was all I had.

I had copied it down onto the only material I carried with me, a receipt in my purse. I had been lucky perhaps; I kept a light on my keychain, a pen in my purse, and held something to write on. Without the light, I would have died slowly in that cave like the skeleton that lay still in there. Without the pen I may have been lost forever. Any prospect of my return home lay with this small scrap of paper, and the hope that wherever these markers led still existed after all this time.

I did not want to go. I wanted it to stop. I did not depart on that first day, for I could not bear it. With what strength I still held, I lit a small fire with my cigarette lighter, then I laid down in the cave and cried. In the morning, I returned to the deceased skeleton who lay sitting against the cave wall. I took what possessions he had carried; a blanket, a leather flask, and a small blade. He would have no further need of them.

That was the first day. Today is the 34th, and I have cried on each of the days so far.

The pixie wakes with a start, waking me too, and we are forced into flight. Only seconds pass before I hear it; the cry of the ghost-like wraith. I have seen them before, from afar. They move as if floating, I know not how. They seem unreal, as if the wind itself has borne an evil and carries it forward.

This time it is not afar, it is near. The cry is loud. I run faster than I thought possible, caring not for the direction. The pixie bolts with me, in fear for its life. We climb the rocky path, slipping on loose pebbles with every step. The pixie turns, distracted by what comes after us.

The monster almost gets me. Not the wraith which follows us, but the other monster which blocks our path. Standing upright before me, a figure holds a rock in its hand. I recognize it as I have seen its kind before; it is like the demon that attacked me so many weeks ago, the thing I'd called a 'goblin'. An evil little beast of teeth and menace. It lets out a fearsome cry upon seeing me.

My adrenaline pumps like never before. When I met my first goblin on that third day, I was unprepared. But I have seen now how they fight, and my will is still strong. I will not die this night.

I pull the blade from my belt and plunge it deep into the goblin's neck. It lets out a hellish scream and clutches at the metal which sticks from it. I do not stop to finish the work for I know what chases me.

I run without looking back. The pixie is twice my speed over short sprints, and waits for me to catch up. I do not dare stop.

Far behind us, I hear the wail of the wraith once more. Then the cries of the goblin rise again, only to be silenced abruptly. The wraith has found a meal for tonight, and perhaps we may be saved. Yet I cannot take that chance. We do not stop for another hour, until we are exhausted and can walk no more.

The pixie sleeps. I sleep too. We do not die this night.

On the 39th day I sight the two peaks, the 12th marker my unknown guide has bought me towards. I am tired, for I have had little sleep.

The pixie sleeps, and I cannot bear to wake it. I have asked so much of it, demanded that it keep on past the point of exhaustion and then further. It has stayed with me throughout my whole journey, even though it does not know our goal. I have tried to explain but I do not think it understands my words.

It is only a little creature. I cannot ask this of it. Today I let it sleep. It rests soundly, curled up near the fire I have made for it. It breaths with a gentle rhythm, a quiet noise almost hidden against the wind.

I find some red berries which I know it likes. I save them for when it wakes.

I wonder about my unknown goal. The vague promise of some kind of exit is the only thing that has driven me forward through this land. I wish I could know what lay in store for me, if I can find the last marker. Can I ever return home?

And what of the pixie? My poor Iskin, my companion through so much hardship. I love him so dearly. I could not bear to leave him here, the only light in this world of darkness. But could he even exist back in our world? He has a magic sense I cannot explain, some way of detecting danger before it happens. What if I take him back, and the world finds out? What will they do to him?

He first saved me on that 3rd day. That was when I met a goblin for the first time. It ambushed me in the forest, I had no defense against it. The goblin came at me with its claws, leaving a cut across my arm. I fumbled for my blade but dropped it. I remember looking into the cold, cruel eyes of the monster as it came for me. It let out a laugh. It actually laughed, as it moved in for the kill.

That was when Iskin saved me. I didn't see where he came from, but he had leapt from behind and sunk his front teeth deep into the goblin's arm. I had never seen such a small creature bite so hard. The pixie was no match for a goblin twice its size, yet it showed immense courage and fought for its life. For my life.

When I had managed to get ahold of the blade again, I stabbed it into the goblin's stomach. Again, then again, until it stopped moving. It died slowly, but it died.

I do not know why the pixie came to my aid that day, only that it did, and I owe it my life. After that it kept following me on my journey, and I did not discourage it for I was glad of the company. A small light of friendship in this dark place.

I let the pixie sleep.

We climb the mountain. The wind is killing us, for it will never cease. I am so cold. I pray for it to stop but my calls are unheard.

This is the last marker. I do not know what lies ahead. I do not know what we will see if we reach the summit; will there be this "exit" there, or will I find only another set of directions, carved in another stone? Or worse, will there be nothing? What if I am being led on a fool's errand, one last cruel joke from a cruel world?

We have come so far and I struggle to continue. The pixie is exhausted yet I force it to go on. We walk uphill as the wind pushes us back down. We fight onwards, leaving two separate trails in the dirt. I walk, and the pixie slowly follows.

I turn to my companion but he is not there. Behind me, fifty feet down the hillside, he lies fallen on the ground unable to walk any further. I return to his side and gently lift him in my arms. I carry the pixie, protecting him from the wind, and now we leave a trail as one.

I am so scared. I am scared of what will happen to Iskin if I leave him here. There is no shelter on this high peak, no places to run. He cannot hide here. But what if this strange portal forces my hand? What if I am whisked home as mysteriously as I arrived, and he remains here without me? The air is like ice here, and I feel it may snow. If I am no longer here to light a fire for him, he may die.

He may die on this barren hillside.

The warm glow from the TV flickers and spills its light across the room. The sound it makes fades into the crackle of the fireplace. It gets dark early at this time of year, but here in the warm yellow of the fire I pay it no mind. I place the ice-cream back in the refrigerator and close the door; I'll save him some for when he wakes.

I chose not to tell anyone. No-one would believe a word of it, without proof. And I will not turn him into a science experiment, nor put him on display in a circus. I owe him everything. I wish I could tell him that, and know for sure he understands. Perhaps he does.

Nestled amongst the sofa cushions, his long furry ears poke out above the patchwork quilt my grandma made. He seems happy here, as far as I can tell. He has developed a fondness for almonds, and tuna fish. I love him so much.

The pixie softly sleeps.

Written by Richard Mitton,

software engineer and travelling wizard.

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