Part Three: The Reality

Author's Note: I've decided that I'm simply translating that which is not in the AF books. Namely, the word fuck. When you think of it, Colfer wrote 'D'Arvit!' in AF and then said "There is no point translating that word as it would have to be censored." I've just translated it and not censored it. This story is rated R anyway, so I'm sure anyone reading this doesn't mind about a little fuck here and there. It also means I can use 'ed and 'ing as well, which is v. useful. Fuck is a great word I've discovered.
Author's Note 2: This is the last part of Death. The first part of Life, the next in this Arc, will be up... in a timeframe directly proportional to how often and hard Slime Frog bugs me about it. That part will possibly only be rated PG-13.

Disclaimer: Along with that mentioned in the first part of this story in regards to AF, the last paragraph of this section is a direct quote from 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' by Jules Verne. That is copyrighted to him and no infringement is intended, it was simply the only children's book I had on hand to quote from.

4th of December, 1985
"We're on full alert, troops. Foaly's got a lead on that Millet fellow and we've got to be ready to follow it when we get the all clear from the Commander. Hear me?"

The team saluted their captain, pulling their helmets onto their laps and checking the maintenance on their weapons.

Trouble nodded to Holly, gesturing for her to join him in the far corner of the room next to the drink machine that spewed out poisonous nettle smoothies whenever some unwitting young recruit uses it. Trouble fixed it to make 2 nutritional drinks and sat down beside it, obviously expecting Holly to take the seat beside him.

Holly stayed standing. "Are you going to lecture on 'do you really think you're ready for this?' and 'are you sure you don't want to sit this one out, Short?'"

Trouble shook his head, grasping the toxic brew and taking a sip, scrunching up his eyes as the taste tingled on his tongue. "You know me better than that. This is one male you don't have to worry about in your 'look out for sexist Mud Worms, then beat them up' brigade. I just wanted to make sure you picked the best choice on this machine here," he said, slapping the metal side. "It wouldn't look good if I let a promising newbie die from food-poisoning."

"Right." Holly picked up the other cup, looked at the grey slop dubiously and swallowed. Then gagged. "And that's the best one?"

"Sure is. You really don't want to try number 17.

"Trust me, I won't."

"Good." Trouble sipped at the drink again. Holly finally sat, just looking at hers.

"Nervous, Lance-Constable?"

Holly nodded, not looking at her captain, simply staring at an ugly picture on the wall opposite.

"That's normal. It's more than normal. If you weren't, that's when I'd become even more nervous."

"I'll remember that."

"Do you know what we'll probably end up having to do? Do you know all the possibilities, all the chances, and all the things that might just go wrong? And do you think that you'd do the right thing in such a situation – where the predictable has gone out to visit the Mud Men, your fellows are fallen and you're completely bereft of an annoying Centaur in your ear?"

"That Foaly again?"

Trouble nodded. "One of the last Centaurs left. You'll meet him soon enough, don't worry. Although you'll probably worry after you have met him.

"And you changed the subject. I'm your captain, I deserve answers to questions like that."

"I… I think I could. I probably could. But who can know the answer to that until the time and situation comes?"

"Good answer, Holly. I'll tell you something; it's perfectly all right to be freaked out of your mind in that situation. And in times like that you should go with your guts, go with your instincts - they aren't in the habit of letting you down."

"I'll keep that in mind, Captain."

"You should. Another question: Do you think you would be able to kill? When push came to shove, when your life is in danger, or the life of your teammate or friend?"


"That's a blunt answer. Are you so sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Okay then. I'll tell you something else: Your first kill never leaves you. It doesn't matter if he was a murderer, a Mud Man, a child; he stays with you, looking over your shoulder at every turn. And, contrary to ideas from fiction, it doesn't get any easier. Your second kill never leaves you either. Or the third. It never gets easier; it only gets worse. And those souls are on your shoulder as well as your own demons and angels, weighing you down until you can barely get up in the morning. Don't be so ready to take the life of another."

Holly's face showed her fear, her uncertainty. "I… I know – I believe at any rate – that sometimes it's the best thing."

"Maybe. Sometimes it's the only solution, and sometimes it's an accident. But that doesn't change the act. And even if it looks like resolution, seems that it would clear the air and clean the world… it's painful. It's always a painful thing. I know."

"…Who? If you… Don't mind…"

Trouble closed his eyes, scrunching them tight so that the tears brimming were unable to escape.

"I've killed in the line of duty. When someone was threatening the team, civilians. But the first was in defense of my brother…"

Holly gulped, wishing that she hadn't gone so far as to ask such a question.

"He was a drunkard. My family had been hiding him for a time, not letting him be exiled from the People because he was special to us. Then he lost it one night, beat up Grub and … then I lost it too, just as badly as he had. It's probably better that he's dead – our family was falling apart - but that doesn't make it easier. I pushed him too hard, not meaning to kill him... and then he was dead anyway. It didn't matter that I regretted it, it didn't matter that it wasn't intentional. He was still dead."

"Is that the injury that made your brother retarded?"

Trouble nodded, face stoic, wiping his eyes while pretending that he wasn't, faking a cough to hide behind.

"Well… you did the right thing then. If the man was being that violent you're lucky that your brother wasn't killed."

"The man's dead, but that's not going to bring back the old Grub. It's impossible. I just--"

The door opened and everyone looked up, pulling helmets on and standing up. "Julius's got the action past the Council, finally. You know how they are about offensives inside Haven itself. I don't envy ol' Beetroot, that's for sure. But you're free to do your worst, Captain Trouble. And Retrieval Two is on it as well, coming from a different station. Julius probably pulled the classic 'it could be your wife or daughter next' card." The centaur made a noise through humanoid lips that still somehow sounded like a whinny. "Bring Millet's head back on a platter, guys. With an apple in his mouth. No, make that a carrot, 'kay?"

A few people laughed, but not much. The team filed out of the room at a jog, brushing past Foaly. As Trouble passed he plucked the arrest warrant from Foaly's hairy fingers. "Good luck, guys." He noticed Holly, grinning. "And gal. I bet you just stun them without touching that trigger."

"I have many triggers, Foaly, sir. One is sexism." She slapped him. Then smiled in faux innocence. "Do we understand each other?"

Foaly grinned even wider. "Perfectly, darling." He nodded at the back of her team; the non-sprites were already pulling on electronic wings in the entrance hall. "You better keep up or no one will be able to gawk at that gorgeous behind."

Holly gritted her teeth, but pretended to ignore the stupid centaur. She ran down the hall after Retrieval 7.

Foaly was whistling on the way back to his Ops Center. Ostentatiously he checked that all the recording systems attached to the Plaza cameras were working. Not that there was a chance in Hell that they weren't – he had constructed the system himself - but looking back through old tapes to find Holly's physical examination wasn't really a good enough excuse by itself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Outside of the air conditioned Police Plaza it was cold, and Retrieval Seven felt this all too keenly as they followed the directions that Foaly had given them, Trouble on point. Retrieval Two was making their way to the target point from another location so they would be able to capture Millet in a classical pincer movement, overused and abused though it was.

As they were nearing the location – a dank, uncommonly used supply-shed – Trouble put up a hand and they slowed, spreading out in the air, hovering a few meters above the ground. Since they were shielded the only way any member of the fairy public would be able to detect their presence was from hearing the almost non-existent buzz that came from the motors in their wings.

Everyone was silent - Holly's silence being a violent, ferocious one. Trouble signaled to the team with his hands, holding them just over his own shoulder so he wouldn't have to turn around, knowing about the possible (but highly unlikely) interference from their radios if anyone inside or in the near vicinity was listening to the Top 40. Retrieval Two arrived and gave one squawk on their radio, hopefully not enough to alert anyone to the presence of the two teams. Trouble started a countdown on his fingers, and they knew that across the way, on the other side of the building, R2's captain was doing the same.

And then, like in all Cops and Robbers movies, they barged into the deserted warehouse… and it was deserted. A salon-style double door at one end – leading into a makeshift office area - was swinging slightly. Coffee from a cheap chipped mug was spilt on the floor, the liquid running on the slightly uneven slope. An illegal video of violent, hardcore Mud Men porn was showing on an old television set. The wrappings of old fish and chips were strewn around it.

He doesn't really care about being caught, that's not why he's gone… us chasing is just another form of his power, his power of people, over us, over those 'not as smart'…

Without a word passed between them, the two squads, minus one corporal from R2 who remained in the warehouse, ran through the still swinging door. Half immediately took to the sky, scanning all below with careful eyes and the sensory equipment in their helmets.

There was a shout from Corporal Bell, then R2's captain turned to Trouble. "Your squad on the floor."

Trouble nodded and started running in the direction that Bell had indicated before, pulling off his wings as he went so their drag would not slow him down. It was faster to fly, yet criminals on the run always expected the aerial pursuit – one of the good results from modern crime fiction, criminals no longer expected ground officers.

The rest of R7 ran after him, Bell was the fastest in the group, but Holly wasn't the slowest. She didn't turn to look at anyone else – she was too scared to do that – but she wondered what they were thinking. Then the energy that it took to run properly, since concentration really has a much greater influence over performance than most people can understand, required her mind. And she didn't know what thoughts were running through their heads, let alone why, but she knew that one day – perhaps in only a few hours – she'd understand better. They'd done this before, they'd chased and run and … been terrified in the say that she was right now. But, Kelp said the fear never went away, and if it did you were a lost person, your fairity was lost to the world if you lost your emotional connection like that.

She was terrified. But she didn't want the fear; she'd lived too long with fear. Perhaps it would all be better if she didn't feel at all, because things would be easy. And having faith, being fey in all the traditional ways … it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. Fairies were human; they'd even learnt how to learn fast.

There was a split in the road, a 5-way area, with two of the entrances little more than alleys. One of the Sprites in the air waved his arm in the direction Millet had gone; three of the paths would need to be followed. Holly followed Trouble down the furthest right, and her breath was starting to burn the inside of her lungs as it came and went, (whoever knew that oxygen could hurt so much?) however fit she was.

The rest of the team was down the other two, the wider passages through the old city. This was an ancient district; it had once been a village a reasonable distance from the town of Haven. But, like in all cities, Above and Below, the cannibalistic monster that moves in the name of progress and industry had swallowed it. The houses and derelict buildings on either side were crowding upon one another, staying up only by force of will and by resting upon one another's broken shoulders – the blind leading the blind, the fallen holding up the falling on their drowned bodies. This village was a victim of society, with it's two-up-two-down's it was the perfect breeding place for murderers, the perfect place to ruin fantasies.

Holly ignored the burning of breath and ran on. She was just behind her Captain. He was more experienced; he knew the thoughts to think and wasn't distracted. He had longer legs and, frankly, men were more fit for this type of activity. She drew level…

She didn't see the dark shadow of the alley at all, not even when a darker shadow – as blind as she was – emerged from it so fast that it seemed impossible. The darker shadow… Darkness in eyes, dark causing pain as she was half-knocked over, her hip and ankle twisting with the awkward pressure, already straining from the pace Holly had been traveling at.

Her shoulder and arm were pulled away from where she had thought they were. And pain entered her mind via bruising force that was imprinting fingertips onto her dark skin, through the thick green material of her uniform.

She was looking Millet in the face. And was surprised about his face. It was charismatic, handsome. No disfigurement of anything other than personality had led him to do the things he did.

She had expected a monster, for who would have expected a male pixie, almost middle-aged, yet not quite, a rather fetching few strands of grey resting at his temple. Her father was a monster, she knew that, and since she did she saw that in her mind. Her father was twisted, ugly; not a tall, dark-haired man with not more than a few lines at his temple. Her father had warts and blemishes, his breath smelt of decay and his nose was crooked. His eyes spoke of death and destruction.

Millet was… normal. Indescribable in his normalcy. His eyes implored her to trust him. But she knew death, or thought she did. She saw death.

She had her Neutrino in her hand. The setting was on 4 - well done. It was pressed against his belly; her finger rested on the trigger.

He pushed her away from his body slightly, looking her over. He licked his lips.

Then pulled her close again, breathing a soft, gentle (the breath of a lover) murmur over her face. He kissed her lips, reverently, as if he loved her. He grinned, smirked, and his eyes were alight with another's imminent pain.

The Neutrino was still there, its weight the same as always. But he was too real, for monsters are more real than the heroes. You stop believing in heroes that will save you early in your life; but fear, but monsters… they are always with you, after the heroes leave, after your family, friends… They're all gone, but the monsters are still there, always waiting in the darker places of your mind.

Millet could wait forever.

He laughed. Then bent even closer, his breath burning against her cheek. "I'll enjoy watching you suffer. You're going to be fun." He smirked again, a smirk that spoke of knowledge – knowledge of the deepest fears and anxieties.

Then he was waiting forever.

The demon behind his eyes went out. Which simply meant that he was gone, for he was the demon, and it wasn't a demon at all. It was a fairy, as all demons really are.

Children's books blame it on evil, but nothing's evil. It's just… normal. It's just fey. For some people 'evil' is simply them; evil is just a stupid name that tries – and fails – to convey the darkest levels that exist inside everyone, and everyone tries to explain it away because they are so afraid of what they personally might be able to do, what someone might be able to do unto them.

The body that had trapped Millet's demon - demon Millet - crumpled to the ground, and Trouble was standing behind him, his blaster not smoking, but showing a small orange light which indicated it was ready for firing. He was wearing a pained look, one that spoke of regret and resignation.

Holly didn't know what she looked like, but she felt… wronged. She should have been stronger, she shouldn't have needed rescuing. She shouldn't have frozen, because that was what happened to other people, not to her.

Trouble stepped over Millet's shell, as if it had never been a person, as if since it was a monster it wasn't a fairy as well… He wrapped her in a hug. And she closed her eyes, her weight resting upon his shoulder since her legs weren't strong enough to hold her up anymore.

But then…

She pushed Trouble aside and ran, again. She was good at running. And she didn't care when the air burnt her esophagus.

She didn't care that the wind stung the tear tracks that marked her cheeks as she ran.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

12th of October, 1967
~ Trouble ~
I wish it wasn't like this.

I wish that there were quiet.

I wish that when we are alone, just the three of us, it was never as silent as it always is. The silence that bustles with the thoughts of future noise, with the memory of past melee.

I wish I didn't know the oppressive feeling of silence, silence that speaks of submission, of communal pain that will only increase if it is voiced by a naive someone; of fear and terror and the knowledge that perhaps, one day, if given the option, you'd give your loved one up instead of having to face it all again yourself. A silence of pain and betrayal. We can't do anything for anyone, not even ourselves. I wish I could blame someone. But can you blame your pain on another when it's your fault, when it's you who allows it all to happen?

I wish I didn't know the difference between this and the silence of comfort, or relaxation, when the air is heavy with lethargy and half-stirred, familiar, happy memories.

Fuck, listen to me! I've listened to too much Rock and Goth. I should be wishing for Leanne to give me head, that's all I should be wishing for.

I wish I could get the lines of this to look right.

I glare at the penciled picture that lies on the desk before me. Where a jaw line should be there's a smudge of rubbed out lead, a slight thinning of the cartridge paper. I can't draw faces, it's impossible.

I pull a doodle pad towards me and flip through to a new page. Barely conscious of the act, only knowing that I need to be doing something, I let my pen rest against the paper and make a line. It looks possible. Another. And it's a wing, something that can become something, possibly even something interesting. My hand moves without mental intervention, simply another inane turn of movement - of fingers and thumb and wrist, my hand raised above the paper so as to not smudge that which I've already done because it takes a few seconds for the ink to dry.

And time doesn't matter, because what does? What the fuck does?

There's an angel staring out of the page at me. Wings delicate, made of feathers, so easily shot through and destroyed. Large eyes, giving a wrong impression of innocence and suggestibility, for who can make even the darkest angel submit to their will other than God or Lucifer? He's dressed in black ink with, upon ghost white cheeks, tears that have the viscosity of blood. My eyes track to my arm, involuntarily. There's a small scar just above the elbow from when I snagged myself on a rusted fence not far from school when I was young. Sometimes I wonder if my blood would be as dark as the ink, black even though it shouldn't be. Sometimes I wonder if anyone would notice; if anyone could possibly care if my blood was making the pavement slippery. Sometimes I wonder if I would. Sometimes I wonder if--

And the silence breaks, as it always does. The way a wave making its slow way towards a shore is destined to. It shall take the debris it causes out with the tide, out into the poluted ocean, before it inevitably strikes again.

I hear the door open first, slam against the doorjamb, making photo frames on the wall rattle. I've seen it enough to remember the details like that. It's the one of us all at a Beltane party 20 years ago that swings incredibly, almost enough to cause it to fall to the floor. But it never does. There's some kink in the thread that keeps it up there, mocking our existence of now.

There's silence, potential building with every moment it continues. Then my mother's footsteps against the kitchen tiles. A creak of a heavy, well-worn boot on floorboards; floorboards that creaked when the house was new, and now simply creak with desperation - a creak that speaks of unwanted age and use thrust upon the poor wood and foundations. And I can imagine the soft sound of pages and hardback cover closing in my brother's book, but not before he's checked to make sure he knows what page he's on.

I don't wonder what happens next, and the noise, the sheer coarse, now-unwanted break in the perpetual silence. Father's voice is low, gruff, and usually hesitant, with a thick lower-class accent.

"Get up, boy." And my brother rises to his feet, hiding his fear behind a brave look because he believes that anyone with a good heart will always have a happy ending. Damn books. Giving him unrealistic ideas about the world.

Grub wouldn't say anything, he never did.

"You're a damn weakling, Grub. You're a – HA! - grub, worthless, not even making a good meal for someone better and stronger than you are. Books? What the hell do you need with books? What does anyone need with books?" He's probably walked closer now, to where Grub has his back against a wall that begs to fall down. Maybe he's grasped the book and tried to rip it across the spine. "There are three important things in life: fucking, power and drink. You've got none of it, Grub. It's despicable." And our father gets slightly tongue-tided over the word; his drunken mouth not doing what he wants it to do. But it's not enough to bother him – or perhaps he never noticed. I can hear the sound of him hawking back his saliva and spitting a large dollop onto my mother's floorboards.

Mother hates that.

He doesn't care.

There's a thump.

"Get up, boy!"

Another thump - softer, yet slamming against something that causes an echo.

There's a whimper, and I wish I didn't have to hear it. And I feel so guilty for even thinking the thought, because I have heard it and I need to do something about it, because there's no way I couldn't.

I go down the stairs, slowly, because I can't force myself to move any faster, not while knowing what I'm moving towards. And I'm too selfish to move faster.

Mother's frozen at the door, calling out to Father, and I pull her aside before moving into the room. She tries to smile at me encouragingly, but can't make her muscles move the right way. She's got tears in her eyes.

"Father." I call, and he turns slightly, lowering Grub until his feet are resting on the floor once more. Grub breathes in. Father turns back to him, yelling shit at me over his shoulder.

I move towards him in a moment, disgust in my mind and thoughts and written in large print all over my face. I pull him away from Grub; I pull him to face me. I'm taller than him, by at least a few centimeters, and a good deal stronger.

He swings a punch in my direction. It misses, and maybe I laugh, I really don't know. He kicks my shin as I hold his shoulders, the pain makes me wince but pain is just pain, it doesn't matter.

We talk, or yell, but I don't know what we say. I just want to be able to talk to him, but I've known for years that that's hopeless.

My father pulls away from me, he looks at Grub angrily, unseeing of any Person, just… another nuisance of the world.

He pushes him against the wall once more and something cracks. Nothing inside me cracks alongside, not in synchronicity. But, just for a moment, my anger becomes more logical than it should be. It is a moment when logic reigns, because it is logical, painfully logical. Anger is logic, and sometimes it's freedom.

I pull my father away from Grub, some material ripping under my fingers that ply for grip and submission. And he's in the air, suspended a few inches above the ground as if he is a toy, not real. He isn't. Nothing can be real, no deity would be so cruel as to have the world be real, have this suffering be anything more than a nightmare, a game, a tragic fantasy.


My father held above my head, my fingers bruising his shoulders. My mother having run from the doorway, cradling the lolling head of Grub in her arms; she's scared. The picture of the Beltane party, it has fallen from its place on the wall finally, after so many failed attempts.

Reality has no full stop, life never does. Not even destruction is a full stop.

And my father flies across the room as if he were a sack of flour, ready to split against the wall.

Reality can't be reality, it can't be life.

I run, because I want it all to end.

The door slams shut behind me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

6th of December, 1985
~ Holly ~

It was two days ago. Two days ago I stood there, breath upon my face that should have smelt of decaying meat… but didn't. Two days ago I had my neutrino pressed against the soft flesh of a murderer's stomach but was unable to give him justice. I was too weak, too weak.

And he was too human.

I leave my room, giving a (scared, sad, horribly fascinated) courtesy glance to the few photo frames that line the hallway. There are a lot of lies in this house - more than you'd think a fairy would be able to cope with, but People can survive anything, they don't even need much motivation - so the photos are a joke. They aren't real, none are real, and everyone knows it. Sometimes it makes me laugh, but my laugh is only a passable shadow that probably doesn't even have to power to cause an echo; it's a laugh that exists because the tears are far too stubborn.

The gym's closed, dark, and should I really have expected otherwise this late at night? The equipment looms as shadows in a shadow realm, usually illuminated as they are by fluorescent lights that hide nothing and are so profuse they cast no shadows.

I go around to the back and knock on the window, hoping that Jimmy will still be in the back. There's no answer. I make sure nobody is close, nobody is watching, then haul myself up so I'm atop of the gable. There's an upper window here, and if you hit it just right the catch goes and it swings open. It drops down into the toilet cubicle.

In the gym I don't turn on any of the lights, preferring the gloom and greys, the only light coming from lamps streets away. The dark is comforting, for no one can judge me through it - no one, that is, but me.

I pull a pair of boxing mitts from a storage cupboard, and don't bother changing into my usual gear – I'm wearing sweat-pants already, I don't need to change.

The bag is just as unforgiving as always, and it's so much better than my Captain's worry and the damn psychiatrist, Arble. No, Arble was the guy who killed himself in the shaft-diving stunt, Argon's the psychiatrist. Both idiots.

I don't know how long I stay, since the time doesn't matter, and I don't think of anything past which fist to swing next, when to dodge the flailing bag because a punch has landed too strongly.

It's only when layer after layer of sweat has dried upon my body, when my arms can barely move anymore… When I'm so exhausted that I know that I won't dream of Millet when I sleep… Then I pull the gloves off and dump them on a shelf in the cupboard. I splash some water on my face in the bathroom before leaving through the backdoor, letting it swing shut and lock again behind me.

The air's colder now, but that's just an impression because of the soft breeze against my bare arms and the tips of my ears. It's never really cold underground, not really. And it's never really warm either. But there's always great water pressure, as if that makes up for the lack of weather and moonlight.

As if that makes up for the fact that we're all alone, taken away from what makes us us, so there's no way we can not be… what? What are we? It's fucking stupid.

The lights are off in the house as I walk up the hill towards my family's house. It's a dank place, part of a housing estate that was made a few too many years ago to have any reasonable style, too long ago to be holding itself together by more than one, perfectly balanced bolt per house. The lights are off. They're never really on; the entire house is never lit up, only ever a few cold rooms at a time. Our neighbours must think we're very conscientious about energy shortages.

We're not, but impressions are nine tenths of the wanted reality.

I pull a key from my pocket. It's on an old key ring I once got as a birthday present from an aunt; it's got my name on it, as well as a picture of a Christmas-style sprig of holly. I got a key ring from LEP Academy, but I never was bothered to switch the keys (at least four fitting no longer existing locks, and one from my old school locker) over. I've probably lost the LEP one now.

The house is dark, as it usually is. My parents are probably asleep, my mother wearing an eye mask that covers a bruise that won't fully heal anymore. I decide to get a drink (hopefully there's some vodka in the freezer) before bed.

And in the darkness of the kitchen my mother isn't crying, because she can't cry anymore, the tears were suffocated a long time ago. My father isn't caring, because he never cared. She's pushed against the kitchen bench, where she had chopped up onions and carrots hours ago. He's pushed the skirt of her nightgown up around her waist, and there are small drops of bright blood seeping from where his fingernails cut the skin of her thighs. The top of the dress is ripped slightly, and he bites at her shoulder blade as he fucks her.

She doesn't cry.

She sees me in the door, back-lit by the light coming in from a window in the hall. She still doesn't cry, yet she begs for me to run, when she doesn't have the courage to do so herself. Well, I don't have the selflessness, the mercy, needed to leave.

That's enough; that's far more than enough.

I don't know how, but I'm inside the room, pulling his small, weak body off my mother and pulling his hair until he looks at me. He's not scared, but he's not a monster either. Monsters are never scared. But he's got a weak chin, and my hazel eyes, and dark hair that's thinning on top, and one earlobe lower than the other. His teeth don't drip blood and his fingernails don't turn to claws when it's full moon. He's not a monster.

Monsters are never punched, they're slain by princes with silver swords, or maidens with a drop of blood and a pure heart.

Monsters aren't real, they don't smirk when they think they've won, nor flinch when they realize they aren't going to.

They aren't scared, never scared.

Fear doesn't rest in their eyes (in front of the pain) when they are on the floor, looking up at one they always underestimated and never respected. They never are faced with the reality of fists and boots and anger that can't be sedated with anyone's words. They never feel punch after punch bruise their skin. They never are watching, as if from a meter above their body, as they are pulled up from the floor again, propped against a chair as if that would make them be a worthy opponent once more, when he was never a worthy opponent to anyone.

They never feel the click as their neck snaps.

Monsters can never die; they are never scared of death.

So maybe he was a monster, because he didn't think I'd be able to kill him. But I'd always known I'd be able to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Trouble pulled the electronic wings from his back and shoved them into his bag. Sometimes it's better to walk, sometimes it's better to have both feet on the ground. And sometimes it's comforting, it makes him feel like he did years and years ago when he didn't know the meaning of innocence, because he hadn't yet felt the lack of it.

His key is still on a keychain he'd found in a souvenir store years ago, and it displayed a model of a famous statue of Frond. Trouble flew – or walked – past it everyday on his way into the Plaza, it was nothing special. But some people think that it is, they buy key chains of it with the idea to never forget, even though they know the chain is likely to be lost, buried somewhere at the back of a bookshelf of junk, within days.

The caravan is of the breed that was never intended to move at all, only to sit in a park somewhere, being a home and a refuge. He likes it, even though it's small and cramped. He moved out because it was expected, because his mother wanted him to not feel obliged to be there, not because he felt any urge for freedom or individuality. He came back often though, every Thursday and Monday at least, when they had dinner together.

Grub was colouring in a picture of an action-hero, comic-book style. The creature, dressed in red and yellow spandex, stood over his enemies with Right on his side. Right and Wrong, they were invisible though.

Grub looked up. "Trub!" He pushed himself up off the floor and gave his brother a childish hug. "Mummy got me a new book today, Trubs, she said… um… Nikki? Well, someone told her it was good." He pulled a paper-backed novel seemingly from nowhere and displayed it to Trouble, who grinned and read the title.

"Journey to the Center of the Earth. Oh, this is a very good book, Grub. It's a Mud Man book, so it's a bit funny, since they don't know about us fairies down here in the Earth, but it's good. Do you want me to read it to you, or is Mummy going to?"

"Could you, Trub? You have different voices for people, but Mummy can't do that."

"Yeah, Mum can never get the voices right, can she?"

Grub shook his head 'no'.

"Well, sure thing." Trouble sat down on the couch, which was squished against one wall of the caravan. Grub curled up beside him, his head on Trouble's shoulder, letting himself be lost in the story, because he wasn't burdened by the memory of being able to read it for himself without stuttering, while his big brother sat upstairs considering life and death, fish and chips – illogicality, but completion.

"My Uncle Lidenbrock. On 24 May 1863, which was a Sunday, my uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, came rushing back towards his little house, No. 19 Konigstrasse, one of the oldest streets in the old quarter of Hamburg. Martha must have thought she was behindhand, for the dinner was only just beginning to sizzle on the kitchen stove. 'Well,' I said to myself, 'if my uncle is hungry he'll make a dreadful fuss, for he's the most impatient of men' –"