Okay so I got back late from sea, after a nightmare extraction (AKA getting the boat out of the water and off the beach) so here merely a piece of raw prose. Pre-first draft even. You can all have fun telling me how terrible it is.
“I just can’t cope any more!” she said.
Josh Ryan was used to that. His mother said it at least twice a day.
Usually about him.
Huh. He couldn’t cope with himself either, and he had no escape. He was stuck in his life, she could kinda duck out of it. She didn’t have to be the one who didn’t fit in, didn’t belong anywhere. Situation normal, making like it was her who had a problem that she couldn’t cope with.
But this time she was shouting it down the ‘phone line to his father in Oman. And she normally wouldn’t even speak to him. Kept it to snarky e-mails about money. Josh knew. He’d looked. Her password was so lame.
“He’s a changeling, Tom! He’s not normal!” his mother yelled, as if he wasn’t even in Melbourne, let alone the same room.
Like I can help the weird stuff that happens around me, Josh thought, bitterly, looking out at the dirty sky beyond the high-rise flatland of Williamstown. This poltergeist rubbish they accuse me of causing is all BS. Accidents happen. Just more of them happen around me than anyone else in the whole world.
Josh couldn’t hear his Dad’s answer. But he was ready to bet his mother didn’t even know what a changeling was. He kind of wished he was one. It had to beat ‘loser’. Maybe Faerie glamour let you look taller, cooler, like you had an I-phone. Maybe it let you get away with shoplifting without getting busted, he thought. He was sort of resigned to the consequences now. It could only get worse, but at least he wouldn’t be at St. Dominics. At least he wouldn’t be the new kid in the second hand blazer, that didn’t know any cool people or do any cool stuff.
“That won’t work,” said his mother, angrily. “The school has asked me to remove him. I don’t know what to do, Tom!”
That must be the first time she’s ever admitted that, thought Josh, sourly. He wasn’t too good at it himself, but this time the truth was he didn’t know either. He wished he was dead. Only that would please some people, he muttered to himself. Not mum–it would have upset her, he supposed. And she’d stop getting money from Dad then too, and that would upset her more. But Tiffany. She’d said she’d be delighted if he just dropped dead, along with a whole lot of other stuff. Well, he didn’t feel like making her day. Not after she’d lied and left him to take all the heat. Put on that pretty, innocent little girl look and fluttered her eyelashes at the store security guy and walked out, Scott free.
“I can’t,” said his mother. “I can’t afford it, Tom. The flights cost a fortune.”
For a moment, just a heart-lifting moment, Josh thought his Dad was going to have him in Oman.
Not. His mind said.
But his heart was still beating faster when his mother said: “All right. But only if you pay for the flights. And only if you call the Old Bat and arrange it. She always gives me hell because you never call. Like it’s my fault.”
When she got to the part about ‘if you call the Old Bat and arrange it’, Josh knew that his Dad had slithered out again. His dad was a champion slitherer-outer, thought Josh, glumly. And everyone always says that I look just like him.
Josh knew then that he was off to the end of the earth. Exile. Transportation. Being got rid of. Being dumped on his grandmother. Being sent to the worst and most boring place on Earth.
Well. Flinders Island, anyway.
Áed sat, as was his right, at his master’s feet. Those few who could see him and his kind tended to take them for twisted bits of shadow and angle, which looked oddly like a sharp-faced little manikin with black shards of eyes. There was no flesh or blood or true bone about him, but Áed was stirred by the boy’s anger and fear, and numbed by his resignation. He didn’t understand his master. As one of the lesser spirits of air and darkness he didn’t have to understand. His kind of fae were bound by the blood-line, and only had to obey. Áed was loyal to this one, even if the child carried only little of the old blood of the faerie kings of the aos sí, and neither commanded his sprite, nor gave the traditional rewards and honours to Áed. The sprite knew the old ways and understandings were lost among modern men. That was the way of it, but regretted their passing.
This day he’d served his master well. He’d woken the need-fire in an airconditioning unit. Fortunately it was mostly plastic, aluminium and copper wire, and with little cold iron. Even the iron bones in these buildings caused Áed discomfort. It had been hard to do. Raising fire was an achievement deserving of reward, uisge beatha or at least an bowl of old mellow mead…
It wasn’t going to be forthcoming, Áed knew.
Still, he was loyal.