You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here, or last week’s chapters here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles.
Las hadas silvestres
Anabel had easily shot into the Earth and then up, not recognizing the place she emerged in, although she had heard the name mentioned: Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There was nothing sinister-looking about it, but maybe they didn’t even know that Ausmann had a lair hidden far beneath it.
She found her way to the A Line tunnel and into downtown, and then followed the E Line out to Santa Monica, and then the sea. Here, she followed the water up the coast a ways until she had reached Topanga, and then ventured up into the mountains above the beach, where she found a quiet bit of slightly forested meadow.
Ausmann had had some nerve asking her for their rules. He was going to have to figure those out himself, but there was one thing he was never going to figure out. There was a class of Rêves that none of his hunters would ever even encounter.
In fact, they didn’t even consider themselves to be Rêves. They referred to themselves collectively as Las hadas silvestres; basically, wilderness faeries.
And, to be honest, they didn’t even refer to themselves collectively. They tended to refer to themselves as a singular Them, which the Rêves always sensed as capitalized, mostly out of respect. They was genderless, ageless, raceless, and sexless. They was everywhere.
They comprised thousands of thems apparently, but They existed as a singular mind, or at least a collective consciousness, and They tended to stick to places where nature still held sway and humankind didn’t often invade.
You could find Them in the ocean, the mountains, and the deserts, and Their territory covered far more than any single Rêve’s did. Las hadas never even really took any kind of visible or tangible form. They were just there as a feeling or a whisper on the wind. The Rêves could always hear and sense them, but so could some humans.
How they had gotten to be who they were was a matter of Rêve legend and lore, although it was more true than not, and it had begun with a plague as well, although not the one that Anabel had lived through, nor the one that Preston had not survived.
This one was a virus that had hit in the 1980s, and many of the people it had killed in the cities were there because they had been rejected by their families. They were young, and healthy, and then they suddenly started getting sick and catching the strangest of illnesses before they started dying, and since most of them didn’t have any family to speak of (or anyone that the government would let speak as their family), a lot of them wound up being cremated.
At first, it was mostly gay men, but that demographic shifted quickly. There were addicts who shared needles, and transwomen who’d had sex with infected cis-men. Hemophiliacs fell victim as well, and so did the female partners of men who claimed to be straight but weren’t. And so did people who’d gotten blood transfusions at the wrong time.
The first three groups were the ones who had a lot of members die forgotten and without family, and whose bodies were burned, and they wound up finding themselves wandering. A lot of their ashes had been dumped at sea or tossed to the wind up in the mountains.
Then they started to find each other. Groups of them knew each other, and connected to other groups, and then one day they met a soul that had already been wandering out here for over a decade.
Her name was Janis, as in Joplin, and she’d been cremated and scattered after death.
While she hadn’t been forgotten and had plenty of fans who remembered her, she had ignored all of that and managed to hold on to her true self and just enjoy the Zen of nature. She always figured that it had had something to do with being burned and not buried, but she wasn’t going to waste any time trying to find out.
She became a magnet for the newcomers, sort of a hub around which they all gathered, and that’s when they declared Themselves to be Las hadas silvestres.
Over the years, others were added to their number — mostly those who died alone and forgotten, and for whom whatever local jurisdiction decided it was easier to just burn the body and scatter the ashes.
Many an orange grove in the area had benefited from those cremains, too.
Another big wave came in 2020, when cemeteries and undertakers could not keep up with the need for burials, and coffin makers couldn’t meet demand, although not everyone who’d been cremated chose the Joplin option. Plenty of them still felt the call of their loved ones and became Rêves instead.
Speaking of Joplin, Anabel did know that Las hadas allowed people to think of Them as Pearl in case the intricacies of pronouns became too confusing, as they most certainly did for someone of Anabel’s generation, and it was easier to say than Las hadas silvestres.
And so Anabel sat in the meadow with its view of the vast Pacific below the hills and cliffs of Southern California, and she manifested herself in a supplicating pose, hovering three feet above a large stone, arms at her sides and slightly raised, palms forward, head half-bowed and eyes closed.
Hovering above the Earth in her sky blue evening gown, she was actually lucky that no hikers passed by because she would have been totally visible — and vulnerable — to humans in this moment.
She also would have instantly led to sudden reports of a sighting of the Virgin Mary in the Santa Monica Mountains, and that wouldn’t have been good.
“Pearl,” Anabel sighed. “The Rêves need your help. We have a human who is hunting us and taking us, and we don’t know why. Pearl, please let me know what to do.”
She let her thoughts go blank except for one last one: “Pearl, please help.” Shortly, the wind kicked up a bit and the long meadow grass began to shudder back and forth, giving a slight whistle in the wind.
She sensed a presence, as if hundreds of warm arms embraced her and felt a flow of positive thoughts, as if an endless line of people were marching by to greet her and saying, “You’re going to be okay.”
Then she heard the voice in the rustle of the grass, “Anabel. Anabel,” it seemed to say.
“Yes?” she said out loud.
Then her memories of her encounter with Ausmann, from start to finish, came flooding back like a movie was playing in her head, and it was incredibly detailed, although she was watching from outside of her own POV, so she noticed things that she had not before. She had no sense of agency or volition. It played out as it had played out, although she paid very close attention to Ausmann, as well as the computer screens on his desk that had not faced the tank she had been trapped in.
What she managed to spot on it shocked her. Well, at least what she understood. There were a lot of graphs and charts that were useful without explanation, but there was one image with text, clearly a report, and headline stunned her.
“Toward a workable method for eradication of supernatural entities.”
“My god,” Anabel thought. “Genocide.”
And then the version of her in the tank shot out the side and her POV shot up into the Earth and darkness and popped out into the bright sunlight of the meadow, only now she was on her back, and she felt thousands of hands supporting her as they slowly and gently lowered her to the ground.
For the first time that Anabel could remember in ages, she cried. She hadn’t even really cried when her father died. She was never given to that kind of emotion, but here she was.
Something shadowed the Sun and Anabel looked up to see a young woman with blonde, shoulder-length hair, an engaging smile, and a slight Texas drawl. She wore an elegant silk blouse with an intricate design on the front, sleeves that started tight at the upper arms but then exploded into a series nested maunches ending in flared bells. She had lots of rings and bracelets on both hands, and a tattoo on her left wrist.
Her pants were very tight, probably also silk, and these too ended in flairs. A pair of octagonal glasses with rose-tinted lenses was perched on her nose.
Anabel might have mistaken her for human, but she had to have been at least twelve feet tall, and her feet weren’t on the ground either.
“Hello?” Anabel said.
“I don’t usually do personal appearances, man,” the woman said, “But this feels like a special occasion.”
“Are you… are you Pearl?”
“I am me, and them, and we are me and… fuck, what’s that Beatle’s lyric?”
“Whatever, man. You asked for help, and it really looks pretty bad. Like nothing none of these cats have ever seen, dig, man? What was that word? Oh, right. Genocide. Yeah, that is some total Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot shit right there, man.”
“I’m a woman,” Anabel said, not knowing what to think otherwise.
“I know, man,” Pearl replied. “And We’re not. Not normally, not anymore, but unfortunately, the only way We can get through is to, you know. Go all class two, and let the image the humans have of us take over. Joke’s on them, though, because I’m still in control.”
Pearl smiled and laughed and Anabel wasn’t sure what to think, but Pearl’s demeanor changed completely.
“Oh, shit. I’m scaring you, aren’t I? Sorry, sorry. Sorry, sorry… sorry, man.”
Pearl shrank down to human size, feet settling on the ground, then smeared out into a group of people of all types who all looked very normal and sympathetic. They held their hands out and Anabel was suddenly standing again.
“We will do what we can to help the Rêves,” They said, “But we cannot do it by killing any humans.”
“Then what can you do?” Anabel asked.
“Warn them to change their ways,” They announced.
“Do it,” Anabel replied.
“Done,” came the reply as the manifestation of Pearl vanished, but the word was a whisper on the wind instead of anything audible, and then the wind died down.
Far offshore, there was a sudden flash of lightning and as Anabel squinted, she could see a line of dark clouds start to rise above the entire horizon. There was more lightning, but no thunder.
“Damn, they work fast,” she thought as she made her way back down to the E Line and then to home, arriving just at nightfall. There was no storm up here yet, but there did seem to be a breeze rising from the west.