The Isle of the Shark-Dogs
by Monica Nickolai
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was tried in a court of law, found guilty, and banished to the Isle of Shark-Dogs. Shark-dogs are part dog, part shark. Just like dogs, they roam the earth in packs, and, just like sharks, they can smell blood from long distances and tear victims apart with jagged teeth.
Her parents wept for her and her deeds, and the girl wept for herself. On the last night before she was banished forever, her mother bribed the guards — a hefty price for a miller’s wife — to be allowed to visit her daughter in prison. Beneath her apron, she snuck a few bottles of beer brewed over one hundred years ago by gnomes in the Shadow Land. The only thing that satiates a shark-dog more than blood is a bottle of the magical beer thrown in its general direction. She kissed her only daughter on the forehead one last time and bid her farewell.
Once the girl was marooned upon the Isle of Shark-Dogs, she avoided the dogs by throwing her bottles toward them in only the most dire of situations. After many weeks alone on the island, she grew weary of being alone and fearing for her life every moment.
One day, a small shark-puppy came yapping at her, one she could have easily punted away with her foot. However, she reasoned, “Even though this one is small, surely its yapping will bring larger ones. Perhaps its mother is the one I have seen who is large enough to eat me with one bite. If this pup so much as nips me, the mother could come barreling at me from any direction.”
Since the girl no longer had any desire to live, she threw the shark-pup her last bottle of beer and, with it, any hope of leaving the island alive. The shark-pup ran away with the beer while she prepared herself for death.
She wandered through the dense forest until she came to a clearing at the top of a hill. At the base of the hill was a shed. Exhausted, she went down the hill and opened the door to the wooden house.
The house was very long and so dark she could not even see its walls. Then, she heard the sound of near-maniacal laughter. She shuddered. Although she no longer feared death, she knew of many fates worse than death, and she preferred being swallowed in a few bites.
When a fairy-boy flew from the darkness and glimmered with stardust before her, she cried in relief.
“Why are you crying, girl?”
“I thought you were an evil spirit and that my end had come.”
“You must be very frightened.”
“You’re not afraid of the shark-dogs?”
“Not anymore,” she said, sighing heavily.
With this comment, the fairy-boy knew she had given up hope. “I’m sorry.” He thought for a moment. “There is one way to get off of this island. You would not die, but you would not live any longer, either.”
“I have no hope of living, and I would very much like to avoid being killed, gnashed between the teeth of beasts. How can I do this?”
The boy blushed. “I feel quite embarrassed to say.”
“Please tell me,” she begged.
After a long silence, he said quietly, “You must kiss a fairy-person.”
She laughed in relief, but the fairy-boy was quick to add, “I’ve kissed young maidens on this island, but even I don’t understand what happens to them. First, you will feel your toes disappear. Then, your feet will follow. Then, the disappearing will follow up your legs. The last to disappear will be your lips against mine.”
“Then what happens?” the girl asked.
“I wish I knew,” the fairy-boy sighed. “All I know is every human girl I have ever kissed has disappeared. Sometimes, I’ve felt their phantom presence within me, so I know they feel no pain. However, it pains me. I have every day alone to think about all of the girls who have disappeared from me. Loneliness plagues me.”
The girl, feeling grateful to the fairy-boy, took his hands into hers. Silently, she kissed the fairy-boy in the darkness, and it was just as he said:
First, you feel your body disappear. Then, it is as though you are in an electrical storm, with great flashes of lightening and claps of thunder, yet you have no fear. Darkness extends into infinity. The ground and sky cease to exist, as does your body. You wander among great flashes of light, a world without threat of death or pain.
It is difficult to say how much time elapses, if time even exists in such a place. People who have unwittingly fallen into fairy circles have described how a dance that only lasted a few seconds among the fairies lasted a hundred years in the outside world, and how they fought their way out of the circle of fairies only to discover everyone they ever loved was dead. That is how time moves for you.
One day, you are very surprised to find a door. At first, you don’t see any reason to enter. Surely, your parents perished long ago, and you have no desire to return to the kind of world which had sentenced you to certain death. However, you think of the fairy-boy. You want very much to see him again, but you have no idea what fate awaits you behind the door, if you could ever see him again or if you would be forced to wander the earth, cursed and alone. Weighing your options, you open the door.
What happened next is uncertain. Perhaps the maiden’s eyes opened, and the fairy-boy was sleeping next to her. Perhaps she wrapped her arms around him and covered him in kisses.
Perhaps then the fairy-boy opened his eyes, embraced her with tears of joy, and cried, “Every kiss I have given has always been followed by the same dream: the maiden wanders in The Land of Nothing until she finds a door. She passes the door without opening it, and I can no longer conjure her up, even in my dreams. You are the only one to return to me.”
Then, as the fairy-boy hugged her, she laughed for joy. She then noticed that they had begun to float higher and higher and then realized that she, too, had become a fairy. So perhaps the fairy-couple lived together happily ever after.
We would like to think so, wouldn’t we? In fairy tales, endings are just and certain. Yes, I believe that justice exists, but where? And nothing in life is ever certain other than the fact that nothing in life is ever certain. So I really can’t be sure.
Copyright © 2013 by Monica Nickolai