THE QUIET MEN
Why am I posting today instead of tomorrow? Why not. The fairies made me do it. Enjoy.
Chapter 11: Brian's POV
The cabbie drops us off at the gates to a large, urban cemetery and leaves us here. I look at Justin. This makes no sense at all. The gates are closed, but just like at St.Stephen's Green we push them open and walk right in. It's not atypical of urban cemeteries in old cities, with ancient tombs and grave vaults, so old the inscriptions have rubbed off the stones, alongside fresh graves covered in wilted flowers. Hardly a likely site for a club. We walk down a path, neither of us sure what to say or what to do next. Suddenly, someone pelts me with something. It hits the back of my neck, stings a little. I turn just as my aggressor launches another missile, a soft clod of dirt from a freshly dug grave. This one explodes against my lapel, showering the front of my coat in dun- colored dust.
"Hey!" I threaten the young man with curly red hair who looks vaguely familiar. Justin narrows his eyes at him and asks,
"Robin Goodfellow out in your sun, in your world. You remember, do you?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Keeping a careful eye on you lot. There's nothing here now, won't be til later. May as well go home."
"How much later?" I demand and he glares at me as Justin takes his picture. It doesn't seem to bother him at all to be caught on film or pixels, whatever a digital camera fucking does.
"Close to the witching hour, I would suspect, given the group who will be honored."
"What group is that?"
"I'm not your guide, Brian. Don't be asking me your foolish mortal questions. Save them for Ariel."
"How am I supposed to reach Ariel, again?"
"On your infernal device!" He motions to my mobile in my pocket. I frown at him.
"I'm supposed to call Ariel on a mobile? Where do I get his number? Fairy Information?"
"His number's there, just look beyond your nose."
I open the phone and bring up my speed dial list. The very first name is now "Ariel", followed by a number. I shake my head, certain I never entered it into my directory. Justin frowns, not liking that name in there. Can't blame him. Puck or Robin or whoever the fuck he is starts walking with us. He looks almost like the ideal Irish lad with that red hair and clover-green eyes, but something is a little off. Skin too white, too perfect, ears too pointy, eyes too intense, something is just not right. He's not as tall as I am, not as small as Justin, but he has a vibe that is feral, as much about beasts as it is about men.
"Best to call Ariel. Someone needs to school you lot on how to be around the Quiet Men."
"Who are the 'quiet men'?" Justin presses and Puck lays a finger alongside his nose as he says,
"Word to the wise. Discuss not the Quiet Men in the light of day. Some t'ings are best left for the shadows. Tonight, lads," he trots ahead of us on the path, turns right to approach a large oak tree, and then he's just gone, as if the tree opened up and swallowed him whole.
"I suppose he doesn't mean the John Wayne movie, the Quiet Man," I quip, and Justin laughs. Amazing in light of all this insanity, we can still find the humor. Later, another cab has let us off at an address on Merrion Square, a scant few blocks from our hotel. This is the address Ariel directed me to when I called him. Merrion Square is a gracious greenspace surrounded on all four sides by gracious Georgian brownstones, each four or five stories tall and three or four windows across. The greenspace is fenced with a wrought iron barrier and only the residents of the square have keys to open the gates. These houses used to be homes to wealthy families, a few still are, but most are now commercial property. Small, chic, boutique hotels, law offices, and architectural firms have replaced single families.
The terraced house matching the address Ariel gave us has graceful white wrought iron balconies on the second floor windows and the double doors are lacquered forest green crowned with a fanlight inset with panes of colored glass. The door knocker is the heavy brass head of Bacchus, and a discrete brass plate states that this house is occupied by "FF Productions". Justin looks at me and shrugs. "Care to guess?" he asks, but I just shake my head, and knock.
A diminutive woman opens the door. She looks normal enough, plain, really. I start to announce us, but she says, "I know who ye are, Brian, and your man, Justin. Enter, you're expected."
From a stone-floored foyer, we're led up the first flight of a graceful, curved staircase to the first floor where Ariel waits. As we climb, we notice framed photos of famous people on the walls, old and young: David Bowie, Greta Garbo, Catherine Deneuve, Orlando Bloom, Vivian Leigh, Montgomery Clift, Harry Belafonte, Liam Neeson, and many others. We exchange a shrug and then we're in a room of transcendent beauty. The high ceiling of the drawing room is decorated with intricate white plasterwork, and the walls are covered in silk hand-painted with a mural of pixies in the forest, sprites in the lagoon, beautiful people dressed in gossamer costumes dancing in circles, while centaurs, who trigger a memory of a man wearing a t- shirt reading "centaur", overlook the scene. In the mural, the centaurs have the traditional head and torso of a man and the body of a horse.
Delicate white marble fireplace finials, one male, one female, support the mantle over the hearth. Fresh flowers are so abundant in crystal vases that the whole atmosphere smells of spring, despite the wintry day. The furniture is scant. Delicate Chippendale covered in pale yellow silk moiré. Gauzy draperies laced with gold thread shield the tall windows, dispersing a subdued light.
Ariel, dressed in a classic business suit and yellow power tie, is seated on a chair, his long golden hair pulled back in a ponytail, a single tendril falling free to curl against his high cheekbone. Except for the fact his feet are bare, one tucked under him in a pose favored by young girls, he looks like an especially beautiful businessman. He smiles and nods towards the settee, where we both sit. From somewhere above, lilting music can be heard. It's not any style I recognize.
The woman who showed us in returns with a gleaming Georgian silver tea service and fine, paper-thin porcelain cups and saucers, rimmed in gold. A crystal tray holds a heap of delicate little cakes dusted with sugar. She leaves and closes the double doors behind her.
"Help yourself, gents. Tea, faerie cakes, quite tasty," Ariel invites, but I frown.
"We're not here to eat."
"Never decline the hospitality of the fey, Brian. Taken as rude. Help yourself," it comes across as a command, and Justin does the politically correct thing and pours out two cups of tea and hands me one. I don't drink from it, but he eats one of the cakes, and I can see by his sublime expression that it's as good as promised. Satisfied, Ariel says, "About tonight..."
"No, Ariel, not about tonight. About what the fuck is going on, here. Let's go there first."
"No, Brian, let's not," he says with that perfect fucking smile. As gorgeous as Ariel is, I just want to flatten him most of the time. My survival instincts tell me that would be wrong. His eyes, those weird, feline eyes that are an unnatural shade of silver-blue today, broadcast a warning. "Americans are the most difficult to convince. It's as if your culture breeds paranoia and disbelief. Why? Because the only natural history in that land was in the myths of the indigenous people, who were promptly slaughtered to the edge of extinction by the invaders. So there's no kinship between the realm of the mortal and the realm of the fey in America. Here, people have grown up with the stories of the fey, eon following eon. But where you hail from, it's all cynicism and a calculating lack of faith. Thus, it usually takes extraordinary means to convince your lot of what is, and what isn't."
I laugh. "And what is, Ariel? You're a fairy? And not a cock-sucking, jizz-sipping backroom bandit, but a real fairy? All this shit depicted on these walls is real? Humans live in a parallel universe with fairies?"
"Well, now that we've settled that, what the fuck do you want from me?"
"We want you to come home, Brian. Join us."
"You mean live here, in Ireland?"
"That matters not. You can live where you choose, has nothing to do with whether you join us. Come home to us."
"Why do you keep saying 'come home'? This isn't home to me. What do I have to do with any of you?"
"You're one of us."
I laugh. "That would be a surprise to Joanie and Jack Kinney, who think they conceived a kid the old-fashioned way and here I am, some little fairy they found under a cabbage leaf?"
Ariel smiled, a radiant, stunning expression. "Conception, such a human trouble. With us, conception is a spectrum of possibilities, not just one base act. But the fact remains, you were conceived the human way, born of blood, like all mortals, but that changes not your link to the Seanmhaithair."
"What is that word?" Justin asks. "I heard it before and wrote it down in my book."
"In your language, Seanmhaithair is Grandmother," Ariel says and I look at my lover, who shrugs.
"Sorry, Ariel," I respond. "I met both of my grandmothers before they kicked, and neither one would fit the bill as a fairy. Hags, maybe, but not fairies."
He smiles again. "Don't limit your examination to the close generations you've met, Brian. You're but one on a vast continuum. Look beyond your nose."
That phrase again. Puck used it too. "To find what?"
"Your key. Your path. Your destiny."
Justin squeezes my hand and I lean back on the couch, wanting desperately to awake from this nightmare. And yet, there's something compelling about it, something as seductive as it is repellant. Which is exactly the way I think of Ariel. Seductive and yet repellant. And I thought Ireland would be dull.
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July 25, 2004