Deep in the woods
Damn good loving
Gets you high
But your love
Better be true
Or the fall
Will make you blue.
–Graffiti spray-painted on a rock, deep in the woods of Jericho Falls.
It’s said there is a place in Jericho Fall’s woods where fairy tale folk dwell. Jeb remembered this legend while blundering blindly, running away. He didn’t care what was in the woods because it was better than back home. A mirror had dropped in front of him, forcing him to face himself. He ran from shock. He ran from fear.
His family had discovered his secret in a chain of errors resembling a teen comedy, a bit that would occur just before the mid-point of the film, a hilarious escapade culminating in awkward looks between son and parents that would get shuffled down the line in favor of the next joke. But this was no movie. His father certainly hadn’t given him any comedic double-takes. His eyes had widened to popping, and his mouth had twisted in such disgust that it would never leave Jeb’s memory.
“Are you queer?” His father asked when he saw Jeb’s phone. His sister Lilly had grabbed it, meaning only to place an online order for pizza. Her phone was upstairs, his was in easy reach. So innocent. Jeb didn’t blame her. Lilly had opened the browser and there, in full HD glory, was porn. Trans porn. Daisy Marie and Ella Hollywood and Alexia St James and a dozen more trans women in thumbnail form. Hannah had squealed. His mother looked and gasped. Then his dad took over, and that look came, that question. Jeb had sat through it all, frozen, watching his family discover his secret. He watched everything change.
“Are you queer?”
He didn’t believe he was, but Jeb was attracted to cross-dressers and trans women. They were beautiful, full of elegance, simply stunning. That’s what they did. They stunned him. They were art but his father had taken Jeb’s appreciation and twisted it with that question. Jeb hadn’t considered his sexual preference in terms of straight or queer, he only knew what attracted him. But. That. Word. That look. Jeb hadn’t answered his father but ran past, out the back door, through the subdivision, and into the woods. How long ago? He checked his phone. Long enough.
He checked his text messages and saw that Trudi hadn’t answered his earlier effort, the one before his family’s discovery. Jeb lowered his head and sobbed.
He sat on a rock and wept. He could without fear now. There were no teammates here, no cheerleaders, no girlfriend or friends or family. He cried. His tears splashed the rock and perhaps that’s what called the fairy.
It appeared first as a blue glow, like weird lightning bugs. Despite his misery, Jeb was immediately taken by the creature’s beauty: thin, nude, with small breasts and gossamer wings sparking glittered light with every movement. Its eyes glowed. It tilted its head to the side and produced a giggle. Jeb smiled. It smiled back, creating cherub cheeks. Not it but she. Her hair was a beautiful sky blue, a thick bob. He longed to stroke it.
He approached. She stood proudly, arms back, chest out, wings vibrating. Jeb touched her. She bit her bottom lip and cooed. He traced his hands down her face, over her breasts, and then—yes, there. The fairy’s penis jutted proudly. As Jeb caressed it, her wings beat faster, green veins glowing like neon.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
It was upon him, the heat he hid every day. This was the desire he didn’t understand. But education wasn’t necessary now. This was raw-end emotion. He kissed her, she embraced him, and they flew, exploding off the ground in a whirl of leaves.
Wind and her kisses stripped away the world. Up, up, up! Jeb tasted the wispy candy of clouds, like rain and licorice. They twined together, kissing, loving. Her wings were faultless, carrying them higher. They touched everywhere. How was he naked? It didn’t matter. Her gaze was strong, her hands stronger, and Jeb felt an orgasm approaching like never before. He cried out, his voice ricocheting against the stars. The fairy stroked, they rose even higher, and Jeb came in a magnificent flood. His seed spurted, then circled around them as lace, floating without gravity while they crested above the clouds. The fairy threw her head back and joined his growl of pleasure.
But then . . .
Reality. The stars faded. The earth tugged at his feet. They were waiting for him down there, maybe even searching the very woods below.
Jeb looked down. They were so high! Joy turned to fear. He remembered what he was running from, and his face broke. What had he done? Jeb sobbed. His penis deflated. The fairy frowned. The rhythm of her wings changed. Meeting her gaze was impossible.
“I’m sorry,” Jeb whispered.
She let go.
He reached for her, but she did not reach back. She watched him fall, casting judgement with a sneer. His mouth opened. His ears filled with rushing air. He was going to die. And wasn’t that just? He had hurt her. He was tired of hurting himself.
Jeb plummeted. Then, powerful hands jerked him. Jeb flew up. The fairy caught his arm, let him dangle, then shook him. Fury blazed in her eyes, blue flames. She let him drop, caught him again. She screeched. Blue sparks peppered his face. She tossed, dropped, caught. Terror painted Jeb in ice. As she slung him, Jeb saw flashes of his life.
He saw his mother and sister playing with dolls and remembered trying to join them. His father had pulled him away, claiming boys didn’t play that way. Jeb had only wanted to be in their laughter and love. His father’s play was cold and instructional, swing this, throw that, toughen up. Jeb saw his father urging him into football and not wanting to go. Jeb saw his girlfriend and how he opened his eyes when they kissed so he could study her face. He saw himself hiding pictures of trans women and how he worried about who he was. Was he queer? What did that mean? Did it matter? Jeb only knew he liked beauty and curves and color and confidence. His last flash was of privately asking Mrs. Snyder if she would rig the frog-dissection project pairings so he could be with Trudi, the trans girl in their biology class. He wanted to get to know her. He was going crazy stealing glances when no one was looking. Had her beauty started this obsession or only wakened an existing appreciation?
Toss, fall, toss, fall, up, down, up, down. Finally, the blue fairy didn’t dive for him again. Jeb passed the treetops. He turned as he swam through the air. Branches ripped his flesh. Down, down. The earth loomed. He bounced, turned, screamed, finally crashing to the ground, landing on his back. The impact stole his breath. Everything seized. Was he paralyzed? His vision blackened at the edges.
Then her voice. Trudi.
She came out of the dark, knelt at his side, and pushed back her hood. Pink hair cascaded over her cheeks in the most adorable way. Jeb wanted to tell her she was beautiful, but he was suffocating.
“Breathe.” Trudi rubbed his chest. Her hand felt wonderful. She repeated herself and massaged him until air whooshed. Jeb greedily gobbled and choked.
“Take it slow.”
“What are you doing out here?”
She smiled. “Why are you falling out of the sky?”
“Fairy,” he said.
“That’s not very nice.”
“No! No!” Words tangled up. He was desperate to explain but she was smiling.
“It’s okay, Jeb. I know about them.”
“Yes.” She sat beside him, glanced down, and grinned. “You’re naked by the way.”
Jeb blushed and covered his groin with both hands. He groaned. Trudi primly looked away but cut her eyes back and grinned again.
“Aaaaanywaaaay . . . I got your text. I came out here to think about how to respond. I saw you up there. Then I saw you fall.”
Jeb investigated the sky. The fairy was gone but his clothes fluttered down and landed around him. He tried a few investigatory movements and succeeded in gathering them. Trudi kept her back turned as he dressed.
“What’s with the text?” Trudi asked. “Is it a game? A set-up for a joke? We’ve never spoken before bio class today.”
Jeb stood. “No joke. I promise. I just . . .” He shrugged. “I just like you. I don’t understand it or what it means or even who I am really. I just know that I find you more attractive than any other girl. I always notice you first. I don’t know if I’m gay or straight or if those kinds of labels even matter. This is the time of life we’re supposed to be figuring ourselves out. I just know I like you. I want to know more than just the wrapper.”
Trudi smiled. “My dad says we’re all human. That’s what I think, too.”
Trudi looked up. “Being human means we shouldn’t fly.”
“But we do,” Jeb said. “We fly, and sometimes we fall, and sometimes beautiful possibilities rub life back into us.” He held out his hand. “Will you walk me home?”
Trudi looked at his offering. She cocked her head. “Is that all I am to you? A wrapper to open? If so, I get enough of that from other guys. They think I’m easy. They think this is about sex. It’s not. This is about my identity. I know I’m a girl, I just got—well, the wrong wrapper at birth.”
Jeb felt his way along, speaking slowly. “You’ve got a pretty wrapper.”
Trudi sighed, rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Flirt.”
“I was up there with another beautiful creature, and I let myself be carried away. When it was over, I was unhappy. Sex wasn’t enough. She knew it. That’s why she dropped me. I deserved to be dropped. With you . . . I don’t want to get dropped again. I want to know what’s inside the wrapper. Why pink in your hair? Why do you draw flowers on yourself? What’s with the Robert Silverberg book you carry everywhere?”
“Wow. I didn’t realize you saw all those things.”
“I do. You make me want to look. I don’t understand myself well enough yet to know what I can promise you, but I promise to try my best for you.”
Jeb swallowed, deciding for total honesty.
“I asked Mrs. Snyder to pair us up in class.”
Trudi studied him. Jeb simply stood and took it.
“Okay,” she said.
Trudi took his hand and they walked out of the forest together. She stopped him only once, to look him in the eye. Whatever she saw there must have satisfied her because she faced forward and kept walking with him, now slightly in the lead.
I have published over thirty-five short stories in both magazines and anthologies, as well as two novels, and a short story collection. I won the first annual Aiken Community Playhouse playwriting contest that produced my comedic two-act play. I have written nine novels, countless articles, reviews, essays, plays, and over 150 short stories including horror, sci-fi, fantasy, satire, and comedy.