“…I changed my mind.” A menthol slim appeared between the faerie’s fingers: The black tip was already glowing. “You can ask one last question.”
“Really? On the record?”
The tip flared. “Mm.”
Colette nearly knocked over her glass to push record. The cassette’s wheels spun atop the bar’s scratched surface, the blinking red light a pale cousin to her subject’s lit cigarette.
Claacckck. Through the haze, the billiard balls rolled and glinted. Its occupants were blurred — whether from the bar’s light or her own drink, Colette didn’t know. She sipped her glass, considering. It needed to be good: The deadline was tomorrow. The faerie sat across the booth, bored, waiting. A thin ribbon of smoke rose from her hand.
Colette glanced down at the blinking red light — still recording — before speaking at last. “What,” she asked, “is damnation?”
“That’s your question?” The faerie snorted. “Please.”
“Deal’s a deal.”
“Fine, fine. What’s damnation?” Leaning back, the faerie inhaled. Her menthol — resting on the table, far from her lips — flared to life untouched, the crisping paper receded. She exhaled; twin plumes of smoke streamed from her nostrils. “Damnation,” she said, “is the same thing as salvation.”
“…what’s the difference?”
A tsk, a raised eyebrow. “You already asked one question, Colette. No cheating: House rules.” The delicate head tilted back, exhaled. Blue smoke rose like a serpent, slithering past the faded photos and plaques and filthy, glowing Edisons to twist around a sign above the bar:
Absolutely no screwing with the faerie folk.
The clawed finger tapped the menthol; ash drifted to the worn mahogany. “Tell me,” she said after a moment. “Do you know the difference between damnation and salvation?”
“Why ask me?”
“Because I don’t actually care.” She raised her cigarette, plunged its burning tip into her palm. When she licked away the ash, the dark skin showed no blemish. “We’re immortal, Colette. That’s the hand the fay folk were dealt. You lot, on the other hand…well. Short lives; eternal repercussions. So: You tell me.”
Colette frowned. The ice in her drink had melted, the bar’s tap now a crappy mixer in her whiskey. She drank, grimacing, set the empty glass on the table with a clink. “Damnation is repetition,” she said slowly, “salvation is continuation. Eternal joy. Fulfillment. Unending light.”
“Sounds boring as hell. Pun intended.” Diaphanous wings flicked. “But you’re right about one thing: It is repetition. Whatever it is you lot get afterwards, it’s eternal. Endless and pure.” She reached for the cigarette, frowned: All that remained was ash.
Colette, too, eyed her empty glass. “Right. Well. Tab’s on me.” She rose to leave; a thin hand stopped her.
The faerie smiled. “You know what? I changed my mind.” She pulled out another menthol slim. The black tip glowed; she breathed it in, exhaled with a sigh of blue smoke. “You can ask me one last question.”
Colette sat upright. “Really? On the record?”
The tip flared. “Mm.”
Colette nearly knocked over her glass — and blinked. Ice chimed at her touch; the whiskey glinted dim and gold beneath the bar’s neon. She frowned…but shook her head, pushing record with her thumb.
She took a sip.
The cassette’s wheels spun as she considered her last question. “What,” she finally asked, “is damnation?”
“Damnation?” The faerie’s lips twitched upward. She leaned forward, too-large eyes pale and bulbous in the bar’s halflight. “Oh, my child,” she whispered. “Damnation is nothing. It is nothing at all.”
She leaned back; a thin ribbon of smoke rose from the clawed hand. “I changed my mind,” she said at last. “You can ask me one last question.”
David-Christopher Harris received his M.A. in Medieval Literature, which he uses exclusively to teach his cat Latin. He’s currently querying his debut fantasy novel, Element, and splits his time between writing for Samsung’s artificial intelligence and beatboxing a cappella music. He lives in Oakland, California. To contact/see pictures of his cat visit https://www.dcharriswriting.com.