Note: This story is for the weekly Flash Fiction Challenge posted on the blog of the insanely talented Chuck Wendig. The title is the result of a random title generator.
Wyatt didn’t think very much about magic until the day the faeries tried to kill him. One second he was taking a leisurely soak in his bathtub, and the next he was dodging a toaster. It was the lack of general knowledge about common household appliances that tipped him off. He wouldn’t have suspected the faeries if they had used a hairdryer or a curling iron. Though the curling iron would have been a little hard to explain since he lived alone and didn’t have a girlfriend.
If it weren’t for the attempted murder, he certainly never would have found himself in the office of Basil Alderdice, the local magician for hire, staring at jars labeled “powered cockatrice beak” and “dried manticore lips.”
“A faerie infestation, you say, Mr. Jones?” Alderdice asked, pouring himself some tea.
“Yeah, I think so.” Wyatt replied, refusing the cup Alderdice offered.
Alderdice took a sip of his Earl Grey. “What did you do to provoke them?”
If Wyatt had been drinking tea, he would have spit it out. “Do? I didn’t do anything, I swear. Look, I generally don’t like talking to people in this world. Why would I go looking for friends on another plane of existence? Besides, I didn’t think you had to do anything. I mean, aren’t faeries supposed to be amoral little bastards anyway?”
Alderdice frowned. “Well, that’s a more or less accurate description of some faeries. The Daoine Sidhe, for example, would think no more of killing a human than you or I would of crushing an ant, but it would take a significant event in our world to get their attention.”
“Like what, if I were the Chosen One or something?”
“Um, yes, I suppose that might do it. Or, you know, the last time we had trouble with the Sidhe was when The Guiding Light was cancelled.”
Wyatt let his shoulders slump. “Oh. I see.”
“They didn’t use toasters either. Not their style. Other faeries, maybe, ones that can be provoked by less. Now think. Has anything at all unusual happened in the last month or so? Anything, no matter how insignificant.”
Wyatt closed his eyes and concentrated. It took him a few minutes to come up with something. “I have this pair of pants. There was a hole in one of the pockets, but when I put them on the other day the hole was gone. It didn’t seem weird to me at the time. I just thought maybe I was mistaken about which pair of pants it was.” Suddenly he opened his eyes. “Although…”
Alderdice put down his tea. “Yes, go on.”
“A few days later I noticed all my shirts seemed to be freshly pressed. And then I saw someone had alphabetized my spice rack and even added a few. You wouldn’t happen to know what turmeric is, would you?”
Alderdice peered at Wyatt over the top of his pince-nez. “Really, didn’t you think at the time something supernatural might be going on?”
Wyatt shrugged. “Not exactly. I guess I thought if I ignored it, it might go away.”
“Mr. Jones, you have brownies. They’re upset because they haven’t received payment for the things they’ve done for you.”
“But I didn’t ask them to do any of those things.”
Alderdice shook his head. “That’s beside the point.”
“What can I do about it?” Wyatt asked.
“A saucer of milk and a piece of stale bread left on a window sill will usually suffice.”
“That will get rid of them?”
“Get rid of them, no, but it will satisfy them, as long as you remember to do it every night.”
“What? If I wanted to leave a saucer of milk out every night, I’d get a goddamn cat.” Wyatt paused. “Would that—”
“No, Mr. Jones, it would not. Don’t even think about it.”
“But I really just want them gone. Do you have anything that can do that? A spell or a potion or something?”
Alderdice stroked his beard. “Faeries aren’t terribly fond of cold iron. You can use it to keep them out of your house.”
“That’s it? What if I just went to the hardware store, bought a bunch of nails, and sprinkled them around? Would that work?”
Alderdice laughed. “Is your tetanus vaccination up to date? That could work for the short term, but once the nails start to rust they’ll lose their power.” He picked up a small bag from the table next to him. “This, however, contains iron powder and…a few other ingredients. Sprinkle this around your house, and it will keep the brownies away for much longer.”
“How much do you want for it?”
When Alderdice told him, Wyatt nearly punched the magician in the nose.
“That’s extortion!” He raised up a shoe so Alderdice could see the hole in the sole. “I work two full-time jobs just so my ex-wife can fill her closet with shoes. I can’t even afford to replace my own.”
“We could always work out a payment plan.”
Wyatt stood. “Forget it. I’ll just deal with them myself.”
Alderdice took another sip of tea. “Well, of course that’s entirely up to you. Good luck.”
Wyatt had about as much magic as he could take. He drove straight to the hardware store, bought all the iron nails they had and littered the yard with them when he got home. Inside, he went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He grabbed the milk and swirled the carton to discover only a little left. He looked around, then tipped up the carton and gulped the milk down. After putting the empty carton back, he walked into the living room, fell into his chair, and turned on the television.
A few days later, Alderdice was skimming the newspaper when he came upon a story that caused him to pause. Wyatt Jones, 32, was found dead in his home, the apparent victim of an accidental electrocution. Alderdice raised an eyebrow as he read the details. Cold iron might give the faeries trouble, but a hot iron…