Lost and Found 2: Changeling
On Australia Day I went to the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to see The Sapphires (courtesy of the Northern Territory tourism commission). What should I spy on the way in but this spangly sign that surely faeries have passed nearby, up to no good of course?
Bloody treacherous faeries.
Faeries, you see, get fancies. They see things they like and just take ’em. Pretty, shiny, sparkly things. And also babies. Faeries have an unfortunate tradition of taking a shine to some chubby little darling and whisking it away to the Land of Faerie to feed it little cakes and sips of flower nectar and generally spoil it rotten.
They’re not stupid, though, faeries. Even they have noticed that vanishing infants and toddlers create an awkward kerfuffle amongst those slow-witted and reality-bound humans, and some of those humans are annoyingly attached to their offspring, as well as irritatingly persistent in trying to get them back.
So faeries leave a substitute. A little changeling, very much like the child it’s replacing, but quieter. The changeling cries less, fusses less, is more placid and obedient and docile. With this sly bit of subterfuge, the faeries hope that the humans will just be grateful that their infant is suddenly much more pliable and easy to manage and not pursue the matter.
It’s not going to work this time though. Do you see that sparkly little jacket? That pink and spangly thing with flowers in it? That belongs to a bright and lively little girl who is always chattering and giggling and, well, yes, also screaming sometimes. She’s a kid. She doesn’t know all the words yet for what she wants and needs, let alone has oratory skills to help sway her audience to her way of thinking. When she’s a teenager, she’s going to be absolute hell, in the best possible way. In the meantime she chatters and giggles and screams as occasion demands.
Right now, she is making the Faerie Queen wish heartily she never saw the kid. Right now, she is expressing her opinions rather forcefully, even with her limited vocabulary, about the taste of bleeding flower nectar and the use of cobwebs – GODDAMN COBWEBS – as a blanket.
Have these faeries never noticed what kind of spiders live in the Real Plane that is called Australia, that this little girl quite rightly views with concern? It’s hard to feel cosy and relaxed sleeping under a little blankie made of the butt-silk of venomous things. Okay so maybe the kid has a problem and if she just thought about it she’d work it through and think the cobweb blankets were neat, but on the other hand, she’s thinking, you are not my real parents, who would never make me sleep under poisonous spider butt-silk sheets and wouldn’t make me drink bloody flower water and where the absolute hell is my bunny and my ninja My Little Pony and MY MUUUUUUUUUM?
For their part, her parents are not impressed with the obvious substitute they found in the stroller. This whey-faced, doughy, dull little baby with all the personality of an undercooked bread roll. Okay, so humans are not of themselves magic, but they’re not stupid, and they are, as explained, attached to their children. So these parents are going back to the gardens with this dull little changeling and they’re going to stand under the tree where they last saw their own child and they are going demand the return of their daughter. Loudly. Repeatedly. Insistently. With many, many swear words and very little in the way of attempts to bargain with the magic folk. Screw diplomacy. Give us back our daughter you creepy little winged freaks before we find a way to burn down your fairy fucking halls.
And frankly, the Faerie Queen is going to be much too relieved to be rid of this bold, brave, uncompromising, strong-willed and vocally enhanced human child to worry overmuch about the lack of courtesy.
Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.