This is important, and it could save your life: the firefighters say that you should replace your smoke detectors every ten years. A whole-ass decade is a surprising amount of time for any electronic device these days to last, even when legislated to the nines. Although I don’t know that for sure, it probably isn’t this way out of guilt, at least.

Throwing something away after a mere ten years is antithetical to my very way of life. Every single thing has value, even when it might potentially malfunction when it comes time to keep you from dying. Even I will shoplift a new armload of the bastards (albeit wearing my most Home Depot-y shirt as I do so) and install them as need be.

Due to my hobbies and general dislike of throwing things away, I tend to have more risk of fire in my home than most. This results in a large surplus of sorta-good but untrustworthy smoke detectors, which slowly pile up in the corners of my home, unable to be banished at last to the municipal dump, who I am no longer on speaking terms with, ever since they didn’t let me take that old ceiling fan out of the junk pile. The foreman tried to taze me, even. Me, who has thought about paying taxes on at least two occasions this year. Customer service is awful these days.

What do you do with the old smoke detectors, you ask? Unfortunately, modern detectors no longer use exciting radiation sources as their emitter, so you can’t collect several thousand of them and then become the subject of a magazine article about how you got a new kind of cancer while trying to unlock the secrets of nuclear fission (it involves atoms.) That said, a “used-up” device is still an important safety device, but the kind of safety it provides has somewhat shifted. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to get the most basic ones: wheel chocks for when your parking brake (and transmission) don’t work on a hill. Imitation landmines to keep Bobby By-Law off of your property. Something to plug that open sewage pipe in the middle of what used to be the previous owner’s bathroom, so you stop falling in when you get up in the middle of the night to check if the power company has finally cut you off.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other ideas, but I only have like two working smoke detectors, and – due to the intransigence of the aforementioned power company – they’re both currently powered by a gas generator that I have welded onto the trunk of my Plymouth. It takes awhile to pile them up if I can only replace them every ten years. Maybe those eggheads in the government should consider cutting it to five years, give me some real inventory to work with. Hell, I bet if I had enough of these, I could use them as a tazer shield.


#anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #(”it involves atoms”) #storytime #unreality cw #this probably deserves some other warning tag but I am not sure what #this post was queued because my to-reblog list is too long and I didn’t want to dump it on you all at once


Once again, I am tested by my circumstances. The local animal shelter was looking for someone to drive some dogs to their various appointments. That responsibility fell to me, a drivers-license-having individual with a community service requirement with an “exponent” symbol in it in Microsoft Excel, to truck them there. Nobody else wanted to do it, possibly because some of the dogs have what medical experts are calling “the terror shits.”

Naturally, I couldn’t do this in my own car. Not only is the Volare incapable of holding any passengers due to the structural rust issues, but I like to keep the car clean. That’s why there’s the big holes in the floor: any dropped candy wrappers, stray strands of hair, or spilled coffees will just run out when I lift the floor mat on the expressway. No: the animal shelter was very insistent that what I would receive is a 2005 Chevy Express van, white-on-white.

This van was, well, a van. For some reason, everyone I met was apologizing to me about “how old” it was, and how they had “no money” in the budget with which to upgrade it. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was several decades newer than anything I’d ever operated, and I was a little bit intimidated by driving something that could go forward and backward, without having to turn the engine off and push it a little bit first.

Still, after a few minutes on the road, I immediately saw what they meant. It didn’t have any soul, this new automobile, being enormously competent at virtually every task. It didn’t shake violently on the highway, all the doors stayed closed, and it could go around corners without the windshield falling out. Soon, I was going an integer multiple of the posted speed limit, still feeling it was too slow because the sensation of danger was no longer prickling its way up my spine. I was practically falling asleep, and when I arrived at the vet’s office an hour away nearly 45 minutes ahead of schedule, I decided something had to be done for the safety of my canine charges.

While the dogs were in the shop, getting their tires rotated, I decided to do a little bit of work on my own. I had been stuck behind a slow-moving BMW SUV on the off-ramp. It was now parked outside a realtor’s office, taunting me with its copious reserve of compressed air and torque. I decided that if they weren’t gonna use their turbocharger, then I should rightfully be entitled to it. After all, it’s for the public good: who would deny these dogs an efficient, comfortable ride? Using the BMW’s toolkit and a piece of parking lot rebar as a lever, I soon had the turbocharger worked off of the engine, dropped out the bottom, and swaged into the van’s induction system. To test it out, I jumped in and pinned the throttle a few times, hearing the delightful whoosh of at least a hundred more horsepower. Yeah. This would do nicely.

All I’m legally allowed to tell you about what happened next is two things. One, the van really was less boring after all this work. The little V8 sang with the joys of forced induction, and the tires smoked well through however many gears this magic future transmission had in it. Two, it was a good thing I was going to the dog groomer’s next, because none of these animals were in a presentable shape. It turns out dogs afflicted with the terror-shits don’t like to pull a deep thirteen-second quarter mile, which is definitely something they should have told me before they gave me the keys.

Not every day of volunteering is going to be perfect. Next time I go back, I think I’ll cut a hole in the floor instead. At least that will make the cleanup easier.


#storytime #anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #(”arrived at the vet’s office an hour away nearly 45 minutes ahead of schedule”) #unreality cw #unsanitary cw #this post was queued because my to-reblog list is too long and I didn’t want to dump it on you all at once


my birthday is tomorrow! if you want to do something nice for me for my birthday, one nice thing would be to check out the session logs for Two-Faced Jewel, my formerly-D&D fantasy campaign i’ve been running and writing summary posts for for the past couple years. i’ve put a considerable fraction of my time and creative energy into this for a good long while, and i think like, two people besides the players ever read them? (i very much appreciate both of you. 💙)


there’s an index of all the posts here, and a fun short-form recap of the first twenty-odd sessions here. i think i’ve done a lot of cool and interesting things with it, am seeking sweet sweet validation, and am not above invoking Birthday Law to beg!


#I appreciate you too! <3 #keep up the good work #@readers these are great and y’all should check them out #storytime #recs #scrupolosity cw #reblog coercion cw?


“X bodily fluid is just filtered blood!” buddy I hate to break it to you but ALL of the fluids in your body are filtered blood. Your circulatory system is how water gets around your body. It all comes out of the blood (or lymph, which is just filtered blood).


“Okay but why is it always so chemically roundabout and unnecessarily complicated” well buddy, that’s because your blood is imitation seawater. See? It’s very simple.


Blood is what now?


It’s imitation seawater what part is confusing




#are you telling me#humans are just sentient aquariums?

Buddy if anything is living in your blood (except for more parts of you) in detectable amounts then you have a serious microbial infection and need to go to the hospital.

Humans are seawater wastelands kept sterile of all but human cells, with microbial mats coating their surfaces.



Thank you that’s…very disturbing


It’s not my fault you’re human.


Ok but “It’s not my fault you’re human.” Is the best comeback ever.


You can use it against anyone except children that you biologically helped to create.


#/blood is imitation seawater/ is the part that’s confusing

Picture this: you are a Thing That Lives In The Ocean. Some kind of small multicellular animal a long time ago, before proper circulatory systems existed. “Wow,” you think, metaphorically, “it sure is difficult to diffuse chemicals across my whole body. Kinda puts a hard limit on the size and distance of what specialised organs I can have. Good thing I have all this water around me that’s the same salinity as my cells (they have to be that way so I don’t explode or shrivel up) so I can diffuse and filter chemicals with that.”

“Wait a minute,” you say a couple of generations later, because you’re not actually a small animal but an evolutionary process personified and simplified to the point of dangerous inaccuracy for the purposes of a Tumblr post, “instead of losing all these important chemicals to the water around me, how about I put it in tubes? I can keep MY water separate from the rest of the world’s water! Anything I want to keep goes in my water! Anything I don’t, I dump back into the outside water! I’m a genius! An unthinking natural trial-and-error process that’s a GENIUS!”

“Wow,” you think a great many generations later, “being able to have such control over such high concentrations of important chemicals is so great. Look how big I’m getting. I even have a special pump to move my seawater around, and these cool filter systems to keep the chemicals in it right, and that control and chemical concentration has let me grow so many energy-intensive, highly specialised organs! Being big is so hard. I need special cells just to carry my oxygen around now, to make sure my enormous, constantly-operating body has enough of it.”

At this point you are embodying a fish, and eventually, fish start straying into water with different pressures and salinity levels. (I mean, they do that since befor ehty’er fish, but… look, I’m trying to keep things simple here.) “What the FUCK,” you think. “My inside water is at a different salinity and pressure to the outside water?? How am I supposed to deal with that? I can’t have freshwater inside my seawater tubes! My cells have a set salinity and they would explode! I need to start beefing up my regulatory and filter systems so that my inside seawater STAYS SEAWATER OF THE CORRECT SALINITY even if the outside water is different! Fortunately, adding salt to my seawater is a lot easier than removing it, and I want to be saltier than this weird outside water.” At this point you beef up your liver and urinary systems to compensate for different salinities. (Note: the majority of fish, freshwater and saltwater, have a fairly narrow band of salinities they can live in. Every fish doesn’t get to deal with every level of salinity; they are evolved to regulate within specific bands.)

You also, at some point, go out on land. This is new and weird because you have to carry all of your water inside. “It’s a good thing I turned myself into a giant bag of seawater,” you think. “If I wasn’t carrying my seawater inside, how would I transport all these important chemicals between my organs and the environment?” As you specialise to live entirely outside of the water, you realise (once again) that it’s a lot easier to add salt to water than to remove it in great quantities. Drinking seawater in large amounts becomes toxic; your body isn’t specialised for removing that amount of salt. Instead, you drink freshwater, and add salts to that. The majority of your organs are, at this point, specialised for moving your seawater around, protecting it, adding stuff to it, or taking stuff out. You have turned yourself into an intelligent bag for carrying and regulating a small amount of imitation seawater, and its salinity (and your commitment to maintaining that salinity) is based entirely on the seawater that some early animals started to build tubes around a long time ago.

And that’s what a human is!


Well, there’s another few steps, of course.

Because at some point, operating along lines of logic that worked out perfectly so far, you did decide to be a mammal.

A mammal is a machine for adapting to Circumstances. A mammal is a tremendously resilient all-terrain life-support system, with built-in heating, cooling, respiration, and incubators for reproduction. Mammals internalise everything (grudges, eggs) and furthermore are excessively, flamboyantly wet internally. Sure, everyone’s a bag of chemicals; but mammals slosh. Mammals took the concept of an internal ocean and took it in an unnecessarily splashy direction, added aftermarket mods and a climate-control system,

and just to show off, you leaned across the metaphorical gambling table and said: “my internal ocean is so good-“

“Bullshit,” said the shark, keeping it salty (ha)

“My internal ocean is so brilliantly resilient, more so than any of YOURS,” you said, holding their attention with a digit held aloft, “that for my next trick, I shall artistically recreate the ballad of evolution as a performance. I shall craft a complex chemical ballet depicting the origin of multicellular life – using some of my own material, of course-”

“Oh, ANYONE can lay an egg,” yodel the fish, and the ray adds: “ontogeny does NOT recapitulate phylogeny!!”

And you’re like, “yeah no, it’s an artistic rendition, not a literal thing. Basically I’m going to take some cells and brew them up-“

“Like an egg.”

“Like an egg. An egg but internally.”

“Yeah,” said the viviparous reptile, “yeah, like, that can work really well. I’ve always said it’s the highest test of one’s chemical know-how. It’s a lot of work. And forget about support from your family – forget about support from your PHYLUM – all you get is criticism.”

“I’m gonna do it on purpose forever,” you said. “The highest chemical, thermoregulatory, immunological, everything-logical challenge. It’s gonna be my thing.”

“I’m with you,” said a viviparous fish, stoutly. “Representation.”

You kindly don’t point out, once again, that you’re planning to do this outside the ocean, in a range of temperatures; carrying the dividing cells in a perfect 37.5• solution of saline broth in all terrains, breathing oxygen in a complicated matter, you know, bit more difficult; but you need your allies.

“It’s solid,” says the coelacanth.

“But is it metal?” says the deep-vent organism.

“Oh, it’s metal. I will feed the young,” you say, magnificently, “on an echo of the mother ocean. The first rich feast of cellular matter, the first hunt for sustenance, the first bite they sip of our liquid planet-”

Everyone waits.

“Will be a blood byproduct. My own blood byproduct.”

Everyone looks uncomfortable.

“But,” a hagfish says carefully, “don’t you outdoorsy guys still need your blood?”

You cough and explain that if you stay wet enough internally and hydrate frequently, you should be able to produce enough blood byproduct to sustain your hellish new invention until they can eat your peers.

The outrage that follows includes questions like “is this some furry shit?” And: “milk has WATER in it?”

And you won the bet. “My inner ocean is such a perfect homage to the primordial soup that I can personally cook up an entire live hairy mammal in it. And then generate excess blood byproduct from my body and give it to the small mammal until it gets big.”

That is an absolutely bonkers pitch, by the way, and everyone thought you were a showoff, even before the opposable thumbs. When the winter came, and the winter of winters, and the rain was acid and the air was poison on the tender shells of their eggs and choked the children in the shells; when the plants turned to poison, and the ocean turned against you all; when the climate changed, and the world’s children fell to shadow; your internal ocean was it that held true. A bet laid against the changing fates, a bet laid by a small beast against climate and geography and the forces of outer space, that you won. The dinosaurs fell and the pterosaurs fell and the marine reptiles dwindled, and you, furthest-child, least-looked-for, long-range-spaceship, held hope internally at 37.5 degrees. Which is another thing that humans do, sometimes.


#I have been wavering on whether to reblog this for several months #I am not altogether comfortable reblogging something that self-describes as‚ quote‚ ”dangerous inaccuracy” #but think of it as something more like a creation myth #storytime #biology #that one post with the thing #(…I think the 37.5 degrees bit is *trying* to evoke a post-luteal body temperature) #(but I run cold and 37.5 is *definitely* a fever) #(anyway) #this probably deserves some warning tag but I am not sure what #discourse cw? #unreality cw? #body horror? #unsanitary cw?




went to alcatraz today. was not able to conclusively locate the secret entrance to the underground lab run by the Cult of the Beast that’s infiltrated the highest echelons of our government (to stop them from distributing soda that mutates people into radio transmitters for a signal that will awaken the long-slumbering mother of monsters beneath the earth), but did locate several promising entrance candidates for the strike team to investigate.

oh, the model industries building is a “rusted out husk” and “structurally unsound” and the public isn’t allowed inside “for their own safety”, sure. i’m sure all that loading equipment lying around is for totally innocuous purposes, and the fact that it’s right next to the powerhouse where all the pumps (repurposed for mutant soda distribution) and generators for the entire island are located- that’s a wacky coincidence, definitely.

you motherfuckers ain’t foolin’ me


@caprice-nisei-enjoyer i appreciate that you’re yes-and-ing the bit here, but the thing you don’t understand is that i am 100%* serious and these are real** problems i am dealing with. Capricornus Industries is a front for the Cult of the Beast and there is a strike team that will be raiding their secret lab under alcatraz to shut them down and prevent humanity from getting Third Impact’d by a demon or whatever. i did go to alcatraz today*** in order to scout out the layout and locate potential security vulnerabilities to exploit, and fresh local ingredients can eat my entire ass

#*exact percentage varies, #**in a world of darkness campaign i’m in where we’re all playing as our real life selves, #***in actual real life, nobody was expecting me to do this and it really was an unnecessary and expensive degree of research


#anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #storytime #(if you’re *going* to go on vacation somewhere that does sound like a fun way to decide where)


new gregan


When electronics importer Cara Leon goes missing, private investigator Sam Mujrif is hired by her sister to investigate. Cara is eight times taller than Sam, but evidence soon points to players much smaller than either of them. As Sam and his cross-scale colleagues pursue the case, it becomes apparent that Cara’s disappearance is linked to the development of technology with the potential to reshape their whole society, and radically alter the balance of power between the scales.


he can’t keep getting away with it!


but it’s not the science that makes it great literature but the deep ethical questions that you can use the sci-fi conceits to address, like “would you really arrest a little guy? 🥺”


just a nano little guy? 🥺


#storytime #oh god I haven’t even read The Arrows of Time yet and he keeps writing More #this does look really good though



“These copper ingots,” the devil said, “are of sub-par quality.”
“You accepted them as payment,” the merchant said, “the deal is done.”
“Very well. I will uphold my end of the bargain,” the devil said. “Your name will live forever.”
“That is all I ask,” said Ea-nasir. (Source: Micro SF/F Stories)


#I was double-checking whether I’d ever reblogged the previous post before #and it turns out that not only is *that* one not in here‚ I never reblogged *this* one #managed to dig it up on DuckDuckGo after a few tries #Ea nasir #that one post with the thing


It has happened.

I have purchased Trans Wizard Harriet Porber and the Bad Boy Parasaurolophus

Will provide updates





I’m going to start it pretty soon. I’m for some reason locked out of my student account and email and IT was no help as usual, so what is there to do except read a parody romance novel written specifically to spite J.K. Rowling?

Chuck Tingle has more or less become a meme because of his bizarre titles and covers and because of the Hugo fiasco, but I’ve heard relatively little about what it’s like to actually read his work and I frankly have no idea what to expect or if I should go into this with expectations at all


This book is…surprisingly easy to take seriously as a book. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. But it’s like. A Book and not just an extended joke. Like on some level it’s not particularly terribly written nor does the plot like, completely exist in service to the…whatever humor is derived from the self-aware absurdity of the premise





I love that he’s not even described as a humanoid dinosaur. He’s just sexy goth tattooed Severus snape and he’s also a parasaurolophus and we are left to just figure it out


I have to talk about what is going on with the worldbuilding. Like this is a parody. Of Harry Potter. But there’s an entirely different magic system and….everything???

In summary

  • there doesn’t appear to be a statute of secrecy type thing magic is just fully integrated with the modern world and modern technology
  • Harriet is a wizard, but that means that she creates spells by typing them out in long manuscripts, which on one level is a nod to the book publishing industry but on another level is kind of interesting in of itself
  • there’s a??? spellcasting industry??
  • there are different types of magic users other than wizards, and they appear to be based on the d&d classes
  • or at least, bards exist and they are distinct from wizard
  • the dinosaur is a bard
  • Bigfeet exist and they are integrated with modern society
  • there are sentient motorcycles and no one finds this in any way unusual


…Warlocks in this world get their powers from a pact with Chuck Tingle



The fourth wall break is killing me.


The sexy dinosaur is also trans


As much as I love skillfully crafted satire that takes deft jabs at the flaws of the thing it’s lampooning, there’s also something charming about how every character in this book has a name blatantly and hilariously derived from a Harry Potter character regardless of how most of their roles in the story barely resemble anything like characters in Harry Potter.

…You know, I’m not even sure Chuck Tingle has read Harry Potter.


I’m back to reading. Does chocolate milk have intoxicating effects on sentient motorcycles??

…sentences I never thought I’d write


um im lowkey getting feels from this like there are some genuinely emotionally resonant bits in here what the fuck


chuck tingle’s magic system is unironically better than jk Rowling’s I’m sorry



I’m so sorry to sample the sex scene but. “sexualis secondus” just killed me. I have been pronounced dead by this book. im obliterated this is indescribable



I literally have no idea how to describe what I’m experiencing right now. Like this is a somewhat poorly edited parody adult dinosaur romance novel but. It’s genuinely?? Creative?? In a lot of ways???? And there’s a lot of heart to it, a lot of genuine powerful messages about identity and about art and creativity and the fourth-wall-breaking device is…I can’t explain it because that would spoil it but it’s actually pulled off so well?????

This is not like, a humorous joke story this guy did for Being a Little Shit and Spite reasons, it’s like actually in its themes and message a genuine “fuck you” to j.k. Rowling’s transphobia even though it’s this absolutely wild janky batshit story and I have never experienced anything like this in my LIFE

I did not expect my adhd little heart to be touched by understanding of my fears about creativity and writing and its place in my life. Not like this. What the fuck. What the fuck.





#this has been sitting in my to-reblog for literal months while I struggle to figure out how to tag it #but with @drchucktingle joining Tumblr‚ now seems like a particularly fitting time to dig it out #storytime #fanfic #Harry Potter #Chuck Tingle #nsfw text #this probably deserves some other warning tag but I am not sure what #cissexism cw?






What the fuck

Room full of clocks at different times, you say


Me, innocently: ooh, someone used a gif… which one?

Me, moments later: dear. god. yes. 100% apt giff usage, thank you.  Steel approved.


#Sapphire and Steel #I didn’t actually laugh aloud but it still amused me enough to reblog #juxtaposition #storytime #clocks #(also in all seriousness that house sounds like hell to live in) #(my brother recently tried to put up an analog clock in the living room and I couldn’t stand it)

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Two identical infants lay in the cradle. “One you bore, the other is a Changeling. Choose wisely,” the Fae’s voice echoed from the shadows. “I’m taking both my children,” the mother said defiantly.

Once upon a time there was a peasant woman who was unhappy because she had no children. She was happy in all other things – her husband was kind and loving, and they owned their farm and had food and money enough. But she longed for children.

She went to church and prayed for a child every Sunday, but no child came. She went to every midwife and wise woman for miles around, and followed all their advice, but no child came.

So at last, though she knew of the dangers, she drew her brown woolen shawl over her head and on Midsummer’s Eve she went out to the forest, to a certain clearing, and dropped a copper penny and a lock of her hair into the old well there, and she wished for a child.

“You know,” a voice said behind her, a low and cunning voice, a voice that had a coax and a wheedle and a sly laugh all mixed up in it together, “that there will be a price to pay later.”

She did not turn to look at the creature. She knew better. “I know it,” she said, still staring into the well. “And I also know that I may set conditions.”

“That is true,” the creature said, after a moment, and there was less laugh in its voice now. It wasn’t pleased that she knew that. “What condition do you set? A boy child? A lucky one?”

“That the child will come to no harm,” she said, lifting her head to stare into the woods. “Whether I succeed in paying your price, or passing your test, or not, the child will not suffer. It will not die, or be hurt, or cursed with ill luck or any other thing. No harm of any kind.”

“Ahhhhh.” The sound was long and low, between a sigh and a hum. “Yes. That is a fair condition. Whatever price there is, whatever test there is, it will be for you and you alone.” A long, slender hand extended into her sight, almost human save for the skin, as pale a green as a new leaf. The hand held a pear, ripe and sweet, though the pears were nowhere ripe yet. “Eat this,” the voice said, and she trembled with the effort of keeping her eyes straight ahead. “All of it, on your way home. Before you enter your own gate, plant the core of it beside the gate, where the ground is soft and rich. You will have what you ask for.”

Keep reading

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The woman took the pear, and drew her shawl further over her head before she turned, so that all she saw was a pair of fine leather shoes with long pointed toes. She ate the pear as she walked home, and it was the finest she had ever tasted. When she reached her own gate, she wiped the juice from her chin with the edge of her shawl, and knelt to bury the pear’s core in the soft ground near the gate. It was not the right time for planting… but she did not think that would matter this time.

And in the spring, she bore a child. A girl, with curling leaf-brown hair like her mother’s and merry dark eyes like her father’s, who was not fretful or difficult, but always a joy to her mother. That spring was the happiest of the woman’s life, and she tended the tiny sapling that had sprung up where she had buried the magical pear almost as carefully as she tended her daughter. Whatever price would be asked of her, it would be worth it.

She expected the price to come at Midsummer, but it did not. Still all was well, her daughter was sweet and healthy, and they were happy all through the summer and the autumn. But when winter began, the child fell ill. She cried day and night, and grew thin and pale, staring up at her mother with sad dark eyes as if she begged Mother to make her well again. For a whole month, her mother nursed her tenderly, never laying her down but tying the babe to her back or her breast with her brown woolen shawl, for warmth. In time she grew better, though she was still thin and fretful, and her parents doted on her as much as ever. “It is the cold, no doubt,” her father said comfortingly. “Come spring, she will grow stronger.”

She did grow stronger, and in spring she was less fretful, stumbling about on her baby legs and reaching for things like any child. But her mother noticed that the dark eyes did not often look into hers now, and sometimes she laughed or cried for no reason that the mother could see. And if unwatched, she would always creep or totter out to the sapling pear tree and sit by it.

When the woman woke on that next Midsummer’s Day, the child’s small bed was empty, with a pear leaf on the pillow, and the woman knew it was time. She drew her brown woolen shawl over her head, and went in the cool light before dawn to that clearing and that well. She did not cast anything into the water this time, but stood and waited.

“You are timely,” said the voice, with a triumphant purr in it now. “Now walk around the well, and look behind it.”

When the woman did so, she found a small bed spread upon the moss, and in the bed two little ones side by side. Each had leaf-brown curls, and merry dark eyes, and lifted baby arms towards her.

“One is the child you bore,” the voice said from the shadows, smug and satisfied with itself. “One is the changeling that made all your winter days a burden. The child in your arms when you leave here will be yours always, and the one you leave you will never see again. Choose wisely.”

It was a cruel, cruel test, and the mother wept as she looked down at the two little girls. It was not long before she saw that one pair of dark eyes slid away from hers when she gazed into the small face, while the others gazed straight at her, and yet she wept. Then she wiped her eyes on the brown woolen shawl, and straightened up, staring straight ahead. “You said,” she said carefully, “that the child I carry away will be mine forever, and a child left behind I will never see again. Is that your only condition?”

“Yes,” the creature purred. “The choice is yours entire, as are the consequences.”

“I understand.” She pulled the brown woolen shawl from her head and shoulders, and spread it out beside the small bed, and wrapped her choice tenderly in its soft folds.

And when she stood, both arms cradling her burden, the voice sounded different. There was no coaxing or wheedling, no laughing or purring, only shock and disbelief. “You cannot take them both!”

“Why not? You did not say I must take only one.” And now she turned and faced it, the fairy creature, and though it stood more than a foot taller than she, and was fearsome to look upon with its goat’s eyes and sharp teeth, it stepped back from her glare. “Perhaps I only bore one, but both I have held in my arms, and nursed at my breast. Both have I sung to sleep, and kissed on waking. They are both *mine*.”

The creature stared at her as if it had never seen anything like her. “But one is sickly and fretful. It is strange, and eats insects and cries without reason.”

“She is not sickly and fretful now, not after nursing and care. And if you think eating insects and crying without reason makes a babe strange, you know little of them.” She hitched up the heavy bundle, the two girls cuddling happily against their mother. “She did not make my winter a misery. A labour, perhaps, but a joyful one, for she is my child. And I will go now, for I have made my choice.”

She turned and walked away, and the creature did not stop her, and when the woman reached her home again, she set down both children on the soft sheepskin before the fire. “Well,” she told her puzzled husband, “they took our child at the beginning of winter, and left a changeling in her place, and then bade me take one and leave the other this morn as if I would ever turn my back on either one of the babes I’ve nursed and loved. If the Fair Folk think it is a punishment to give me two children instead of one, why, the more fools they.”

“Foolish indeed,” her husband said, and he reached down to ruffle two heads of leaf-brown curls. “Do you know which is which?”

“Of course,” the mother said, affronted. “What mother could not tell her children apart? This one is our Wulfwynn.” She pointed to the child she had borne, and named ‘Wolf joy’, for any child born of a bargain with the fae brought danger as well as happiness. “And this is our winter child.” She pointed to the other. “I thought about it on the way home, and I think we should name her Wulfrun, for she was a secret meant to bring us harm, though she will be our joy hereafter.”

Ever after, Wulfwynn and Wulfrun were spoken of as twins, and if one girl was a little shy and strange, a wild fawn to her sister’s sturdy calf, well, that was the nature of twins. Certainly both girls were pretty and kind, taking after the mother who’d refused to give either one of them up, and dearly loved by their parents. They tended the pear tree all their days, and often called it their third sister, and its fruit was the sweetest to be found anywhere.

Now and then in secret, the women whispered of the trick the fairy creature from the well had tried to play, and laughed over its downfall, being fool enough to think that a woman so desperate for one child would hesitate to take two, given half a chance. And more than one barren woman followed her example, in the years after, hoping to trick the fairy creature into giving them two children instead of one.

The people of that village have a reputation for being sometimes strange, these days. There are many whose eyes slip away from one who stares into them too long, who are a little wild and a little shy, whose voices are too soft or too loud. But they are merry, and kind, and their families love them dearly.

What the creature of the well thinks of it, no-one knows. But it never stops a mother from taking both babes, and never stopped offering them, so perhaps it is content with the bargain.


#fae #storytime #fun with loopholes