For years, she had followed the same routine. The list of toothless children arrived through her letter box in the early evening, complete with a silver coin for every child. Over the course of the night, the fairy went from house to house, collecting the teeth that had fallen from tiny mouths – pulled, wobbled free, stuck to toffees or other sticky treats – and swapping them for silver coins. A whole under-the-pillow transaction performed with such agility that the children barely woke and never caught her. And for years, she had loved her job, assuming herself to be part of a bigger picture, keeping the world as it should be. She had relished the mentions in storybooks and had a collection of thank you letters lining the walls of her home. But that was before the discovery. Before she realised the truth of her job, and who was really behind it.
One evening, as the fairy woke from her afternoon nap, and brushed the crumbs of her pre-nap blueberry muffin from her chest, she heard, in the distance, a mechanical groaning. A clattering and kerchunking that she had never heard before. Pulling herself up from her oakwood bed, she moved towards the window of her tiny cottage. On the horizon, great plumes of smoke rose into the blue sky from three, dark towers she had previously never noticed. Curious, she went to the door, opening it to find the courier delivering her daily list. “Egbottom! “ she exclaimed “why thank you, gosh – what a long list!”. Egbottom smiled his crooked smile, and handed her the small black sack of coins. “There’s’m your coins, miss”, he said, “and them that’s extra are for you”. The fairy thanked him and handed him the previous night’s teeth. As he turned to go, the fairy said, “Egbottom? Those towers? Have they – are they… I don’t believe I’ve seen them before”.
Egbottom turned back and looked at the fairy, his green eyes sparkling, unnervingly. “Them towers, miss?” he said, “them towers is nothing you should be worrying about, miss”. And with that, Egbottom limped down the garden path and climbed back on his horsefly, who shuddered and took off.
The fairy, a creature of much curiosity and not one to leave a mystery unsolved, paused. She knew that there were children waiting, tucked in bed, for the tooth fairy to come. She knew that her job was one of the utmost importance. She knew she couldn’t let all those people down. But, she thought, there was certainly time to look into the issue of the towers before she set off for the night’s work.
Packing up her work bag, and pulling on her cloak, the fairy left the house and wandered to the stable, where her grasshopper, George, was ready to take her off on her travels. He looked up as she approached, and seemed to understand as she told him they would be going a different way, this evening. Not towards the land of Huemen, on the other side of the woods, but nearer to home – the horizon. She saddled him up and they set off towards the towers.
It took them longer than expected to reach the towers, which always seemed to be right on the end of the earth, where the land touches the sky. For a long time, the smoke from the towers seemed all around them, and George had to stop once or twice to catch his breath. As the sun began to set, however, George and the fairy found themselves entering a small courtyard, in front of the three giant towers, that now seemed even more dark and mysterious than they had from the distance of the fairy cottage. The fairy found herself suddenly afraid, and when she heard voices moving towards them from inside one of the darkened buildings, she hid, quickly and quietly behind a large stone wall, pushing George behind her.
“We need more” said a deep, angry voice. “There simply isn’t enough for what we need. We need more!”
“Yessir!” said a quieter voice, uncertainly, “But… well… how?”
There was a pause, the only sound a thick inhale of breath, followed by coughing – a whisp of stale-smelling smoke creeping over the wall to where the fairy sat, holding her breath. “Sweets.” said the first voice “They must eat more sweets. We will fill the schools with sweet treats; chocolates and toffees. We shall have a fair! Candy-floss and sticky apples! We’ll pour sugar in the water supply! We’ll pull up paving stones, so they trip and knock them out – I don’t care how we do it, but we need more teeth!”
The fairy gasped. Teeth? Who were these people?
“Did the fairy get her list?” continued the voice “It was a nice long list this evening. When can we expect her to bring us back the loot?”
“Tomorrow ev’ning, sir” came the reply “Egbottom will pick them up then”
“No. No, that won’t do. I shall visit her myself and collect them first thing tomorrow”. And with that, the owners of both voices, vanished back into the building.
The fairy pulled herself up from the difficult position she had been crouching in, and turned to comfort George. As she stroked his wise, green head, she thought about her job. How much did she really know about what she did? She had never thought to ask herself about her employers, about where the teeth went when Egbottom collected them from her each evening. She had only ever handed them over, happy that she had a new list of children to visit, a new bag of coins to distribute. She shook her head slowly. What was she to do? Looking up at the sky, now definitely night, the fairy realised that for now, at least, she had just one thing she could do. She needed to deliver those coins and collect her teeth. After that was done, she would think about what to do next. She jumped onto George’s back, and off they went galloping across the land, through the woods, and into the land of Huemen, where the children were fast asleep and never caught her.
Dawn was well underway when the fairy arrived back at her cottage and fell into her bed. She was exhausted, having spent all night worrying, wondering, pondering what she had heard earlier at the towers. Looking down at the bag of teeth by the fireplace, she sighed.
There was a knock on the door. “Hello? Tooth fairy? You in?”. It was deep voice. He had come.
The fairy got up, smoothed down her red hair, and opened the door. She coughed, as her lungs filled with leaf smoke from her visitor’s pipe. With tears in her eyes, she looked at him. A small, squat toad-like creature with black, black eyes and hair covering his face. “Tooth fairy.” he said “How nice to meet you, it has been too long, may I come in?”. Deep voice stepped forward, turning sideways to get through the tiny door, pushing past the fairy as she moved back in surprise. “Er, yes, um, do – come in.” she stuttered and then rushed to find him a chair to sit by the fire.
“Tooth fairy. I have come for the teeth”.
“Erm, yes, well, I… yes” said the fairy, eying the bag of teeth that was now at her visitors feet. “I… Um. Well, I’ve collected them as usual. This is most unusual, where is Egbottom? He normally collects them in the evening, when he drops by with my list”
“There has been a change in plans”, said Deep Voice “I have come to get the teeth myself. I wished to see you, to thank you for your hard work”. As he spoke, he looked down at the bag, visibly fighting the urge not to grab the teeth and leave immediately. “You are a most valuable employee, Miss Fairy, and we wish to acknowledge that. I have bought you a gift”. From his coat, Deep Voice drew out a long, thin riding crop made of the finest silver birch and a matching saddle. “For you”, he said ‘They tell me you still travel by ‘hopper?”
“Why, yes sir, thank you” said the fairy and took the gifts from him, a feeling of uneasiness in her stomach.
“Good” said her guest “Well, I must be off. The teeth?”
“Well, yes… here”she said, holding the bag up to him, and hesitating, “Sir? the teeth? Where do they go?”.
Deep voice rose and looked at the fairy. He paused. “Tooth fairy, why do you do your job?”
“Why, I love it, Sir. I like to think it is important, that it needs to be done. I like to think of the happy children when they wake in the morning and find the coin under their pillow”
“Then it is of no concern to you where the teeth go, my dear. Stay happy knowing all you need to know”. And with that, he turned and let himself out.
The fairy turned back to the fire. Despite the night’s work, she found she was not in the least bit tired, and instead felt more energised than she had in months. She didn’t trust Deep Voice. She didn’t like him. Whatever he was doing with all those beautiful baby teeth, she didn’t think it was anything good, and she needed to find out what was going on, what the teeth were being used for. She needed to know if all her work, the work she had been so proud of for so long, had all been a lie. She pulled on her cloak and went out for George.
[The rules clearly state it should be unedited. It is. It’s also not finished, but I have to go to bed. To be continued… maybe…]