This is one that I might revisit; after the story I'll say a bit more.
At the Wall
by L Czhorat Suskin
The cottage at the wall was a quaint one, all gingerbread and colorful trim gently muted by years of sunlight. The caretaker was just as quaint, his grey beard as neat-trimmed as the hedgerows, his briar pipe as anachronistically charming as the old stone well out back. We found it a particularly delightful place to room and board ourselves; a romantic getaway in the shadow of the wall.
|KHoffmanDC on Flickr|
http://www.flickr.com/people/24248942@N04 by way of the Wikimedia Commons
shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
We'd caught glimpses of the wall between trees on our way along the hard-packed gravel road. It looked like nothing more than the kind of stone wall you find in old farming communities.They say that those walls aren't walls at all, but just a convenient way to stack stones out of the way when clearing them from your field.
The Wall, of course, is different. We all know why; we know in our legends, our fairy-tales, the stories we grew up with. We know it in our very bones.
So, we end up there, in the cottage on the wall. Together, with the caretaker. We all know what's there and, aside from the joy of our company, why we're there. We don't know the details, the best places to go, the best way to see those who live beyond the wall. For that, we asked the Caretaker.
From an antique slant-top desk he drew forth a battered leatherbound notebook, overstuffed with stapled handbills and pamphlets, scraps of paper, phone numbers. He settled on a page. "MacPheagles. They'll give you a tour of fae country, and a real fae would lead it. Some of the other wall tours are run by people from this side of the wall.. these are real fae."
My bride looked at him, "they're real? That's better?"
He nodded enthusiastically. "You can see how they really live. It's different than us. Their clothes haven't changed much over the centuries, nor their customs. One of the first things I saw here that blew my mind was a real fae family, with kids and everything.
"You can see their kids too?"
"Not only that, everything. Their bakers use some kinda fae magic to make those little cakes. I don't have to warn you about eating them! And if you go off the main roads a bit, you'll even see their prisoners, turned to stone and frozen into the wall. And their women have this delicate beauty. Should I arrange it for you? Something you'll never see otherwise?"
She nodded, and I nodded, and we left the caretaker to make arrangements for us to get a tour from a genuine fae, to see the strange ways of the people living beyond the wall.
Still here? Of course you are. The inspiration, aside from the image, was a real conversation I had with the owner of a B&B in Lancaster, PA. Amish country. He spoke of a buggy tour run by "a real Amish person" and kept harping on the genuineness of the experience. It felt vaguely uncomfortable, as if the Amish were zoo exhibits. I left wondering what other groups we'd do this with; about how strange it would be to be offered a tour of Williamsburg, for example, by a "genuine Jew". Why does the former seem charming, but the latter offensive on its face?
This is a setting and idea I'll likely revisit after Nightmare Fuel season ends. Perhaps you'll all see the end result later.