The Halloween Project 2023 - Story 6: Pixie Stones
“Mister Chester?” The small voice called from just beyond the fiercely trimmed hedge.
“Yes, Dani?” The man called back. She was Danielle, but always Dani from when she was just a toddler. “How can I help you?”
“Can I come over and play on your fairy stones?” She called in her open, five-year-old lilt.
“Dani,” he countered, “They are not ‘fairy stones’. They are pixie stones. Fairies are vicious and very cruel. Pixies are mischievous, but harmless. These are pixie stones. And yes, you can come over.”
Through a precise and measured opening, accompanied by a pristine gate, Dani emerged in a voluminous dress, looking quite a bit like a Disney princess. She immediately made her way to the back of the yard that resembled nothing less than a perfect Victorian garden. In the center of the garden was a free area, grass meticulously trimmed, appearing more like a concise golf green at St. Andrew’s than the backyard of a country home, remote from most neighbors. In that open space was a circle made of stones. Granite stones, buried halfway into the ground, larger than a man could grasp around, boulders in fact. Their tops were all rounded or flattened. They were precisely arranged so that atop one a person might leap to the next in either direction if they were so inclined.
“I love your circle,” Dani exclaimed, pirouetting lightly a foot off the ground.
“Oh, it’s not mine, Dani. I just helped to make it,” Chester replied.
Chester Renson was 67 years old. He had been a bookish professor of Druid Mythology until the changes that occur in all modern times forced him to resign and retire early. That was 15 years ago. Of course, his tendency toward control and obsessive nature had always gotten the best of him. Each day upon arriving at the university he would walk around his car three times, checking all the door handles to be sure each was locked. Not once, not twice, but three times. Always three. Now he performed the same ritual at the local grocery store when he still ventured that far afield. His teaching desk at the college had to be arranged just so; lecture notes center, to the left two pencils pointed toward the students, to the right a thermos of camomile tea. Anything else was unacceptable. The same was true of the desk in his house. There were more “idiosyncrasies.”
If the mail was not delivered by 11 AM Chester would drive to the Post Office to inquire about the problem. His refrigerator resembled an edible chessboard, every item precisely in place; ketchup here always, eggs just there, milk abutting the Half and Half, always milk to the right, alphabetically. His clothes were another matter altogether. Marie Kondo was his ally in every respect. Folding, sorting, placing on shelves and in drawers, everything associated with a sock or a shirt was organized. Since the advent of Covid, Chester had learned how to order for delivery from a variety of restaurants. This pleased him immensely.
Chester’s parents' inherited wealth proved advantageous for Chester when they passed. Reading voluminously, he no longer watched television. Every magazine imaginable was delivered to his doorstep. Stacked by title and date. The only adjacent house was Dani’s who lived with her ten-year-old brother Dylan and their divorced mom, Willa.
Chester watched Dani play, lightly hopping from stone to stone when her brother called across the hedge, “Dani!? Are you over at Mr. Chester’s?”
“Yeah! Come on over,” she yelled back.
Dylan burst through the gate quickly and flew to the stones, waving at Chester, “Hi Mr. Chester! Love your fairy stones!”
Chester shook his head and countered, “Pixie stones Dylan, Pixie St…” he was cut off abruptly by a distant thrum emanating from the forest beyond the circle. It was earthen and dense, yet accompanied by a single high-pitched tone. The air appeared to thicken and not quite fog but a transparent cloud settled. It grew steadily closer, and louder, and finally the children turned to look at the dense trees beyond. A darkness very low to the ground seemed to be crawling foot by foot toward them. Soon, it was much closer, and the ground appeared to be churning, turning over in small clumps here, there, everywhere.”
“Children,” Chester said mildly, then with more energy, “Dani! Dylan! Look at me!” They both turned abruptly, this was not the Mister Chester then knew. He was now standing atop a stone.
Calmly, directly, measured, Chester said, “Something is going to happen in the next minute and it’s too late to run to your house.” Dylan looked across, measuring, then back at Chester.
“When it happens, you’ll be frightened. Very, very frightened. You must not move. And you absolutely must stay on the Pixie stone. The rock,” he pointed a quick arm. “The one you’re on now.”
They both looked down in tandem, then back at Chester.
The rising swell of crunching earth and convulsing small stones erupted over the edge of the yard and crossed the trimmed grass in clots and rivets. The noise expanded and reverberated off tree trunks and earth. Handfuls of sod jumped into the air for several inches. Snake trails like malevolent moles appeared crossing and criss-crossing the yard. The thrum grew heavier.
“DO NOT STEP OFF THE PIXIE STONE!” Chester shouted.
In a second, they were surrounded by turf expanding, contracting; fissures appearing, spidery ground eruptions began. From the expelling earth came creatures, a multitude of creatures. None bigger than a sparrow, some winged, others clubfooted, or multi-tentacled. All with sharp teeth and fangs, clawed feet dangling between hummingbird wings. Eyes of all colors, wide set, pupils crimson and crescent. They ascended and searched about them. Faces were less than faces, punted, malevolent. The creatures made a sound between insect bleating and a wail.
Dani began to scream, a cry piercing through the riotous noise. Her scream flew and carried. She began to shake. Many of the subterranean figures flew but no more than a foot above the ground. They buzzed and canted around the children’s knees, but could not cross the stones. Dani continued screaming.
“Dani!” Dylan cried, “I’m coming! Don’t move!” He was three rocks away.
“Dylan, NO!” Chester cried out.
Dylan made the first jump quickly, surprising the whirling creatures. Without hesitation, he made the second jump but they had readied. Two circling dark fairies brandished blades. They looked to Chester like the sharp edges of scallop shells. They lashed quickly at Dylan’s bare legs. Streamlets of crimson red appeared, beginning to trickle. He screamed but made the final jump and distance to the boulder and enveloped Dani’s small body in his arms.
“Dani! Dylan!” Chester called above the maelstrom, “Don’t move! Do not move!”
A voice leapt across the hedge, “What’s happening!? What is happening!!” Their mother
“Willa! Stay where you are! Stay!!” Chester yelled.
The earthen explosion lasted another 30 seconds. It rose and tossed. The creatures wailed in contempt and anger. They hovered and darted, never more than a foot off the ground, never able to enter the sacred circumference of each individual stone. Dani’s continuous scream pitched above the din and Dylan moaned as the rivulets of blood dripped into his socks. Willa froze at the gate.
Just as quickly, the sound diminished. The thrum fell back to earth, buried under sod. The creatures burrowed beneath the surface. Another undulating movement, decreasingly small, retreated toward the forest. One single wave of vibrating soil passed beyond and out of the
yard. Quiet returned save for the sobbing.
Chester stepped down from his stone and approached the children.