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Notes from an Unpublished Interview with Mme. Delave, Fairy

[From the records of the New York Times, 1937. Archivist’s note: We have been unable to locate the piece’s original author or substantiate any of its claims. We retain it nevertheless, for historical value, and because unsubstantiated does not mean impossible.]

***

Delave. It was when the Revolution failed that Faerie died, for we lost our faith in it.

[Note: In the lede, describe her: synesthetic—voice of twilight, eyes of music. Wrinkles tilted upward, as if obeying an alternate gravity.]

Bolsheviks? No, no, my dear, Jacobins: you must remember I am older than I look. There were many fairies in Louis’ court, and we mostly endorsed the Revolution. That will surprise you. We love finery, it’s true, but also mockery and mischief; when the Bastille fell, we thought it a fine game. Perhaps our error was that we, too, came to believe in it.

Q. Really? I had thought the fading was more recent—caused by atheism perhaps, or scientific progress.

Delave. Humans have such strange ideas about faith. You think its objects are truths, and that to lose them is to lose faith, as if you had spilled pennies.

Q. What is the proper object of faith, for a fairy?

Delave. Magic—which is to say, possibility.

[N. How she recites gnomics as if they were entries in an encyclopedia—didactic, slightly bored. My editor said: fairies speak in figures, so you must read deeper.]

Q. But really, the eighteenth century? There are human reports of entering Faerie as late as 1921.

Delave. Fantasies, alas, or hallucinations. It is gone forever.

Q. All right. Tell me about Faerie before the Revolution. Was it like Louis’ court?

Delave. My dear girl. You have had dreams: you know what it was like. No, no, don’t look so peevish. I will tell you, but should you interview another fairy tomorrow—you won’t, will you? The tales are true, we are terribly vain—you shall get a different answer. Nothing is stable in Faerie; it is our greatest, perhaps our only, strength. As Europe has history, so Faerie has change. Had. [N. For just a moment, her wrinkles sag.]

Yes, in some ways Faerie was like the palace of a king, for everything there answered to desire. You see why our strength was change! Desire is mobile, which you call fickle, and see as weakness… Imagine, if you can, a Versailles of harpsong, its gables strung with doves; cities that were also woods, woods that were also water; everything ripe, potable, delicious. Fairy fruit, you called the blue apples and saffron grapes we once exported, attempting to name its particular quality of attraction: but really that quality was the land itself. For a time I lived in a watercolor town that painted itself anew every morning; for a time as a wagtail on a prince’s lawn; for a time as the lawn itself. When I was at Louis’ court, stepping in and out of Faerie at my leisure, I wavered gaily between marquis, mistress, chef de cuisine, palace housecat, and washerwoman. In the latter guise I held a pike at the women’s march, and knit myself a liberty cap, and sang La Marseillaise. Oh how I sang! I remained in that form for a very long time. For years, years, I did not return to Faerie, its magic was so potent.

Q. I don’t understand. How could being a poor washerwoman rival Faerie?

Delave. Darling, weren’t you listening? That is what so interested us about your Revolution. It seemed for a moment as if humans had finally understood magic and endeavored to apply it to your world, the hard world, which is so difficult to change and whose possibility is, therefore, so much greater. What courage, to attempt such a spell! How could we not have been enchanted?

Q. But weren’t you hungry?

Delave. I must apologize, my dear. I lied: there was one constant in Faerie, which was that no one was ever satisfied. Therein lay its beauty. [N. Her tone patronizing, or pitying.] Would you like a café?

[N. She rises, retrieves a small silver tray of coffee, meringues, and a jug of cream. Notes for atmosphere: a corner suite in the Chrysler building, diaphanously furnished, pale carpets either haute or threadbare. It smells of milk and cat, though there are no cats present. The rooms of a faded aristocrat: old money, old fashioned, fleeing change or the War. No evidence she is what she claims to be. Figures. Ask for a raise, a real story, and your editor sends you to interview fairies. Features, “women’s interest.” She looks at me, eyes lentando. N. for one-liner: if she is not authentic, her sadness certainly is.]

Q. When did you first notice Faerie disappearing? What was it like?

Delave. I will tell you of the first time I returned, the day the dying began. It was September beneath the Commune, and I had received suffrage, and a musket. Can you guess, my dear, which item contained more magic? No matter: what you must know is that magic is like meat, it rots, and fairies are helpless against its high reek. In the summer heat, we circled the jails like flies. That face—are you surprised, my dear? Did you think magic a child’s game? I told you that Faerie answered to desire. Could such a thing be safe? Have you ever tasted fairy fruit? No questions: let me continue.

Following the fetor, I came to the Abbey de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, with many others of our kind. [N. Long pause.] When the killing began, I do not know if I participated; drunk as I was on ripe magic, I forgot much. I have forgotten so much. But suddenly waking in the heat of smoke and copper pavement, I saw that the piled bodies blocking the door were those of magic itself, bleeding its heartsblood down the cobbles. Weaving closer I realized, with horror, that I desired to sip it. I was terrified. I did not think magic could die, or that I might be an instrument in its murder. For an agonizing instant I lost sight of myself, and of Paris, for I could no longer recognize us. It was at that moment that I nipped the air and dove away, towards Faerie and her cool, sweet, possible waters.

[N. My god, is this a confession? Reminder: research the St. Germain massacre—when did the Terror begin? If it’s true—! She’s still talking—raving. Uncanny: everything on her sagging, dragged down. The room’s grown yellow as old paper. Just afternoon light, and a crazy old woman? I thought I knew the genre of this interview, but now I’m not so sure. In the air, the milk smell’s curdling.]

But death had followed me home. Not fully, not at first. But once in Faerie again, I found it harder to transform as easily as I had once done: beasts were more difficult, and flora impossible. Too, the colors had altered. Our blue apples were purpler, tending to red, the saffron grapes greener. All seemed to be growing duller, solid, like ink drying at the bottom of a well. Yet still Faerie’s magic lived. Still change lingered immanent in its woods and waters, and though the blood lay still in my nostrils, I was refreshed.

I returned to Paris. It was 1793.

Q. Why did you go back?

Delave. Why, for the same reason I returned to Faerie, of course.

Q. Which was?

Delave. I believed.

[N. No, the room’s definitely darker. Brown almost, like gelling oil.]

Q. When you next returned to Faerie, what was it like? How long did the fading take?

Delave. It always perplexes me that you humans call it “fading,” when it was just the opposite. When I returned again, in July, the rivers had iced over, and all the milk gone to cheese. When I returned a third time, after Robespierre’s fall, my tooth broke on a red apple. And when Bonaparte came, there was a hard frost. The grass turned green porcelain. The sky tinkled, hard as ice.

Faerie did not fade. It thickened to its death. Over its porous surfaces, through which passage had always been possible, crept a varnish of hard crystal. It grew opaque. Entering became difficult. Have you ever tried to run in sand, my dear? Imagine shouldering through curtains of sand, walls, when the grains are turning to glass. Ah, my sweet child, I see from your face you do not know what it is like. What luck. And what a pity, for in older days you might have passed into Faerie.

No, do not interrupt: I have nearly finished.

[N. Harder to see now. She’s changed the light? Sunset breaks through the window, a red plinth.]

At last a day came—the Grande Armée was marching on Russia—when I could not enter at all. I had taken this form, my final, with effort, so that I might flee to Britain. But before I did I made one last effort. I tore at the surface of Faerie, begging its magic to ease, but my nails chipped on the slick barrier. My hand bruised against Faerie, as my heart bruised against our Republic, which had hardened into an Empire. It was gone.

Crying, I took ship with a fisherman who smuggled me and several other fairies to Dover, from thence to London, and, at last, New York. There we lived, through Austerlitz and Waterloo, though Gravelotte, through Ypres and Verdun and the Somme. All the while Faerie lay below us in its grave, blunt and dead, compressing like sandstone.

[N. It’s like night in here. The macarons are slate bolts screwed to the table; furniture grows up in stalagmites. Magic ? I must tell my editor—incredible, if real. My breakthrough story. Progress for Women. Possibility.]

Yes: that is how I will explain it. Faerie died and buried itself, and now it is the bedrock.

Q. The bedrock? Of what, exactly?

Delave. Of everything.

[N. The room’s so dark I can’t see my notepad. Fight panic: concentrate. Faeries speak in figures. Read deeper.]

Q. You make it sound as if Faerie still exists, it’s just inaccessible.

Delave. No. It is gone forever.

Q. But how can that be? You’re still here—I mean, it’s three o’clock, but this room is pitch black. That’s magic, isn’t it?

Delave. My dear, it is as I said: possibility is the only magic. And I no longer believe in it.

[N. Can’t see her face, but her voice is prickly. Did I hit a nerve? Deeper.]

Q. But what about those other accounts of Faerie, even stories of human visitors? I have one from Cardiff in 1917—

Delave. All lies. My dear, I am beginning to find this interview tiring. Perhaps you should go.

[N. Air thickening now. Darkness palpable. Harder to breathe. Her voice—human?]

Q. Are you sure it isn’t just you? Maybe Faerie still exists—

Delave. You should go.

Q. —but because you don’t believe in it, you can’t get there anymore?

Delave. Now.

Q. Isn’t it—

Delave. GO.

Q. —possible—

Delave. GO.

GO.

GO.

***

HALLOWE’EN MISCHIEF A-STONE-ISHES MIDTOWN

October 31, 1937

A Hallowe’en caper for the modern age occurred on Saturday afternoon, when a swishy corner apartment in Midtown’s Chrysler Building was replaced with a block of pure obsidian. The enterprising engineers of the prank remain unknown. The flat’s owner, wealthy French expatriate Mme. Delave, has also gone missing, though foul play is not suspected.

A Times reporter who was at the scene has attributed the jest to fairies. She says that the petrified penthouse could be a gateway to Faerie itself. Her explanation is not widely credited.

Asked for comment, senior architect William Van Alen admits mystification as to how the mischief was achieved. “If you find those engineers, give them my card, because I want to hire them,” he joked. “I have no idea how they did it. It shouldn’t have been possible.”

A bit about the author:

Brittany Pladek teaches literature in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Lackington's and Ideomancer. She tweets, infrequently, @bpladek. Visit author page