Nine million…
Time passed.
Ten-million-and-one.
Spyder.
You’ll throw off my count.
Spyder, this is crazy, even for you.

If I’m not counting, I’m thinking. If I’m thinking, I’m feeling. If I’m feeling-
You’ve already lost hope. This is just denial.
Why would he just- One fight and he leaves for good? Even James…
She put her head to her hands and felt tears.
Ryan wasn’t James, Ryan had been kind.
Ryan wasn’t James, Ryan had been helpful.
Ryan wasn’t James.
Ryan wasn’t stuck with her.
He had no obligation to look after her.
No obligation to make sure she was okay.
More tears fell.
He had loved her. It had been real, so far as she could tell – so far as she had any basis for what love was like. It had been nice. It had felt like the descriptions of real parents from stories.
A feeling of warmth. Of knowing someone was there. Of…of knowing someone cared if you lived or died.
She’d had a dad. Not a father. Not someone whose responsibility and care had ended as soon as he’d been able to dump her at boarding school. Not someone who had never even pretended to love her.
She’d finally had someone who loved her.
And she’d fucked it up.
She’d been ungrateful. She’d argued-
You weren’t being unreasonable.
‘You shut up!’
It’s not love – any kind of love – if you can’t have a say.
‘I argued and he left.’
Spyder, you don’t know that’s the reason why he hasn’t been back.
‘It’s pretty convenient timing if-‘
But if you want to leave, I’ll help you. If you want to stay-
‘I can’t be here. Not with her. It’s too fucked up. I want- I want to see the sky for fuck’s sake. Being a hermit in my apartment is one thing. This is-‘
Then you know what you have to do.
No, I don’t.
Spyder, I’m your brain, stop trying to lie to me.
Contingency Number Four?
It’s low-risk, conservative and safe. Probably your best option.
So not Number Two?
You called it Number Two cause it’s shit. Walking up to the Agency’s front door can’t possibly end well.
Stef stood and paced the tiny section of the oubliette. It had been four days. He’d never been away for so long. Even with a visit of a minute to let her know he couldn’t stay, it had never been more than two days between agent sightings.
She touched the wall and wished for new clothes. A plain t-shirt; cargo pants with pockets big enough to hold supplies; and a jacket – to protect against any random cold, the rain, and to serve as a fairly shit impromptu disguise.
She caught her reflection, and for a moment, considered changing her hair – but there was no point. The Agency’s powers didn’t extend into Faerie – or at least, no one had indicated that they had. Without that power, no one would be scouring surveillance footage for her – and that was on top of the fact that Ryan couldn’t even order such a thing without revealing her resurrection anyway.
And it was unlikely that he cared enough to go door to door with her photo.
Frankie was an invaluable resource – and the best escape plans always involved a best friend; or so the stories had led her to believe. Climbing a manor fence to go after smugglers, or escaping in the dead of night to join the circus; stories to get away from families that kept you from adventure.
The chance at family was an adventure in itself.
But there had to be a point where you gave up.
She touched the wall, and he appeared in his carrier bag. Step two completed.
Step three was currency, but she had no frame of reference for what fae money was like.
Stef sat back on the bed, going over the plan in her mind again. Absolute numbers were out – a million fairy dollars might only have the buying power of a few quid, so numbers were risky.
Carrying it was also a potential problem – it wasn’t the smartest idea to be carrying bricks of cash around whilst trying to remain mobile.
She crossed her legs, reached out to the wall and thought of three months of a higher-than-average salary – surely enough to get her a start in Faerie.
Nothing happened.
She pressed her hand flat and tried wishing again.
No money appeared on the bed.
There was something wrong – the oubliette was always “willing” to provide her anything she needed. Food and clothes and at least eight Rubick’s Cubes…
All things you can use in the oubliette. Currency is useless here.
Her head dropped. ‘Shit.’
Step four, in that case, was a door.
The door was the weak point in her plan – oubliettes, after all, were meant to lock people away. There was every possibility that she wouldn’t be able to open a door from the inside.
And even if she was, there was every possibility that it would open up right next to Ryan.
Nothing ventured.
‘Nothing gained.’
Stef stood and pressed her hand to the wall. She thought of the local court – it was the one place in Fairyland that she had some reference for, the one place she had a chance to acclimatise to, and navigate her way around.
Buildings and landscapes began to rush by within the reflective wall of the oubliette, like images projected onto a screen. Finally, they slowed, and the local court appeared. The same airport-like concourse she’d walked down. The same candy shop with a front that looked like a gingerbread house.
She pulled back as a door appeared, a texture layer in the reflective surface – something seen by where the light hit and didn’t hit. A handle sat at the perfect height, encouraging her to leave.
There was no need for hesitation, or platitude, or clichéd thoughts. She’d made her decision well before her count had reached her first million.
She put on her jacket, and looped Frankie’s carrier bag over her shoulder.
‘I just need one more thing,’ she said to the oubliette.
She touched the wall with both hands and thought of her dead body.
For a moment a question weighed on her mind – there’d been a similar feeling when she’d made non-specific wishes, or hadn’t know what food she wanted. A need for clarification, coming from the oubliette itself.
It wasn’t alive, but there was something there. Something that could sort through wishes.
And right now, it wasn’t sure what she was asking for.
Her dead body needed to be here one way or the other – she could wish for a copy, or she could wish to be dead. Both had their positives.
She took one hand off the wall, wiped away tears, and took in a breath.
For today, at least, life was preferable to death.
She fixed the idea of a copy in her mind, and the tense questioning feeling evaporated from her mind.
The world seemed to breathe again, as a corpse appeared on the bed, its chest hollow, the mirror apparently depleted.
‘I want him to believe I’m dead,’ she said.
If she was dead, there would be no reason for him to come after her – if he ever came back to the oubliette at all.
She wasn’t his responsibility.
She wasn’t his burden.
She wasn’t his problem.
She’d outstayed her welcome. She was the problematic pet that metaphorically pissed on the carpet. She was the kind of thing that needed to be put down, not given a chance.
And now she was out of his way. He could readjust to the life he’d had before, the better one he had without her.
She adjusted her bag, pushed on the door, and left the oubliette.
[table id=15 /]