It is 11:37 in the dark of night. The hour of yeasting. Sian’s sprawled across her brand new reclining sofa, only just bought from Sofa Mart by way of a downright predatory loan because she wanted to own leather furniture for once in her goddamn life and had already decided to be buried with it. Stainmaster, they told her. Tough enough to withstand a pack of great danes or half a day with a rambunctious toddler.
But they didn’t say jack shit about evil fairies. She’s just finished part one of a two-parter for Criminal Minds and is eating hummus directly from the plastic container with a spoon because after your fourth twelve hour shift in a row while holiday music does an endless loop and summons forth the devil in the automotive aisle at Target, going to the grocery store sounds about as appealing as doing lines of ground glass off the floor of a truck stop bathroom.
Sian knows she’s fucked the minute she sees the sparkly puffs of flour out of the corner of her eye, and catches the smells the sweet scent of baking bread mixing unappetizingly with the acrid stench of scorching leather. “Oh, come on.”
They’d probably be beautiful if she didn’t know what they were. There’s three of them because of course it was three, arrayed across the back of the sofa: pale to the point of almost being doughy, hair in shining blonde waves, yadda yadda. They are all also under four feet tall, but in the grand scheme of mythical beings to get screwed by, height really doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning. Maybe it makes them look less scary than they actually are, but by the time you’re baking a drop of your own blood into a cake cut with ground unicorn horn under a harvest moon, you are already beyond way too deep and into a realm of kid, you should have asked for an adult hours ago.
The tallest, not that it’s a description with much meaning when they’re all sitting, says, “Sian, we have come to collect what you owe.”
Fucking bakery elves. “No.”
The third elf sticks its finger into the tub of hummus and doesn’t even pause when she sharply smacks its hand. “No?” the first says.
“I said no. I don’t have anything for you to collect unless you really like expired snack cakes. Fuck off.”
“You don’t get to say no,” the second says. “I’m pretty sure it’s in the contract.”
She smacks the hand of the third elf again, gives up, and just out and stabs it with her fork, which still has a miniature gherkin hanging off one of the tines. “Oh yeah? I’m pretty sure the contract also said I’d have my own cake decorating business at this point.”
“Barring an act of god,” the third says stiffly, shaking its pale, thin hand and glaring at her.
“You’re fucking fairies for fuck’s sake.”
“Fairies really like hedges, you know,” says the second.
It takes a moment for that implication to fully dawn on her. “Oh, you have got to be kidding. Are you stupid or something?” Hedge funds? How is that even a thing for fairies? She has no sympathy for the rich assholes that drove the economy off the cliff in the first place and made custom decorated cakes too pricey for anyone who couldn’t send their money for extended vacations in the tropics. Stuff ’em all in the oven and turn the temperature knob until it snaps off, as far as she’s concerned. And bakery elves? Just another kind of predatory lending company.
The first bakery elf claps its hands together. “Now. No need to get ugly. What’s done is done. We owe someone else and you owe us, and it’s the 72nd full moon.”
“You know, full is a really meaningless descriptor of the moon, since the actual moon never—”
“Three dozen, Sian. One for each of us,” the first interrupts firmly.
“And good ones. None of that pasty grocery store mass produced shit that’s full of preservatives,” the second says.
“Organic,” the third says piously. “I’ve been doing some reading.”
“There’s no fucking way. It’s not going to happen. To get proper dough it’s got to rise cold and—”
“We don’t care,” the first one, the rude one apparently, interrupts again. “Three dozen, now, or we take your first born.”
Sian brightens. She doesn’t even have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend), let alone a kid. “Oh, sure—I mean dang. Whatever will I do.”
The third fairy stares at her. “Or lacking a first born, any pets.”
“Or we’ll take all your furniture and your computer.”
Sian puts her head in her hands. “Fuck.” The third fairy extracts the hummus container from her lap and begins licking it out with a deep purple tongue.
“God, I hate you so much.” Sian pulls her phone out of her pocket and begins to call bakeries. Just before midnight. On a Sunday. But it’s the only chance she really has at this point. “Hi, are you—” click “What are—” beep, answering service “Look, I just need bagels. Three dozen—hello? Hello?”
By the time she hits the last one in the area according to Google, she’s somewhere past desperate and into why did you fucking take Liam Neeson’s family again you morons. “Hello? No, don’t hang up. Look, I just need three dozen bagels. Yes, three dozen. I’ll give you anything. I have a credit card. One that hasn’t hit the limit. Look—I don’t care. I need them. You don’t understand. Please, I know— Look, lives are at stake—hey—HEY!—I don’t care where you are, I will find you, and I will—well fuck you too, buddy!” Gone from desperate near-weeping to explosive anger in half a second, she throws her phone across the room.
The second bakery elf has begun to pull all her DVDs off her shelves and put them in an order of its own devising that has the Blacklist next to the Walking Dead. The third bakery elf lays half-under the coffee table, the hummus tub now licked clean and over its head like a hat. Sian no longer has the energy to cry, or she’d be howling in Shakespearean despair, more Hamlet than Othello.
The first bakery elf, slowly drumming its heels against the arm of the couch, asks, “So that’s it?”
“That’s all I got.”
“Okay. Furniture and computer it is. Oh, and your phone counts as a computer.”
“What if I stab you?”
The first grins at her, revealing needle-pointed teeth that definitely are not suited for eating bread. “You could try. Just goes to show, Sian… when the bakery elves are coming, you’d butter be bready.”
“…haven’t you hurt me enough?”
The first elf pats her on the face. It smells like yeast having a frantic sex party. Then it yanks its doughy little hand back as Sian tries to bite it. “Hey.”
But not fast enough. She gets a snap of something gooey, and yeasty, and yes, very bready.
“Well, that was rude. Just for that, I’m taking all your coasters, too. Need something to protect the furniture.”
Sian only grunts, mulling over this new revelation. The universe is more ridiculously literal than she ever could have guessed, and she’s just never had the balls to try it because it seemed a little too much like cannibalism. Something about eating things with faces, which could also speak.
And are currently dragging all her furniture into the middle of the room. Yeah, fuck pseudocannibalism, it sounds awesome right now.
Sian gets up and heads to the kitchen, gently toeing the third elf in the side as she passes. “Hey, you have a lot of furniture to move. You want another thing of hummus?”
“Sure. See, being friendly is always the best policy!”
“Well, come on.” And to the kitchen she leads the elf. Her purse is in the kitchen, just inside the door on the counter, already open. That’s where she leaves it every night, open and ready.
Women carry all sorts of interesting things in their purses.
The rest of the night doesn’t need to be expounded on, other than to say it involves a taser, a rolling pin, one very unfortunate round of mace—but hey, that counts as spicing things up, right?—and a lot of switching racks in and out of her oven, which is tiny and wholly inadequate for the task at hand. She greets her morning wake-up alarm from the wrong side, silencing the chirping phone as she pulls the final eight bagels out of the oven. She’s sure going to be the popular girl in the break room this afternoon, if the other employees can manage to get over their easy listening jazz holiday classics shell shock enough to remember to put food in their food holes.
Because look at that. Three dozen bagels.
Story inspired by (a) true event
s in the life of my mysterious and somewhat bready friend who shall be known as Jester. Credit for the pun goes to Plum.