The Girl With No Name

She doesn't stumble across a fairy ring. She's not that stupid.

No, she created the ring—although some would say that that makes her worse.

That makes her ready, willing, and ripe for the picking in a garden of her own planting.

She leaves the house early that morning, calling behind her that she's going out.

"Okay, L—," her mother answers absentmindedly from the kitchen. She wishes that she could write off L— as absentmindedness. Mom's busy cooking and has forgotten what she's supposed to call her daughter now. But she knows that's not the truth.

She closes the door behind her and plunges into the woods, tearing through the trees until she reaches the ring.

She steps into the circle of lush grass, barefoot, and surveys the patch in a slow, careful rotation. She brushes her toes against the soft, exposed dirt, examines the growth of pale white mushrooms gathered in clusters with lean stems leaning and golden-brown caps overlapping. A few inches higher today. All covered in droplets that the casual observer could mistake for dew.

She cocks her head, examines the little beads and their sheen, not iridescent like water, but flashing jewel tones—a cycle of fuchsia, plum, and ruby, depending on the light.

She smiles.

A noise chimes in the distance: almost a bell, almost a warning tone. It sounds like an iPhone notification, a mechanical and bright little ping, and her smile widens. The fae have gotten so creative these days.

But she's creative, too. After all, she tricked the fairies into thinking that this was their construction rather than a few packets of seeds from Home Depot and weeks of careful watering.

There's another series of notes, these more insistent; it's the melody of her alarm clock, the post-post-post-snooze button, a usually-frantic reminder that she needs to move. Move now.

She does not.

Then, she spots a figure, skittering behind one of the fungi before she can look closely.

"Hello," she ventures.

They are golden-yellow, from the crown of their pin-straight hair to their tiny delicate toenails, and they look up at her with wide, unblinking monochromatic eyes.

"How are you?"

They shake their wings open like massive sails, rising with a shower of sparkles to sit cross-legged on the plant, looking like a pat of butter in the center of a pancake. When they speak, she is not sure that she actually hears any words; it feels more like the sentence is pressing against her brain, fully-formed and ethereal.

"I do not think that is the question you really want to ask me, human."

She feigns confusion, wrinkling her brow, and the fairy tsks in response.

"You walked into a fairy ring. You cannot expect me to believe that you do not have a desire in mind." They scan her closely. "You are not a weary traveler, but I could still give you food and drink or a place to sleep."

"I’m not really in the market for any of that. Not with my house within walking distance."

"A wish granted, then." The fairy's eyes have latched onto her forehead and she suspects that her thoughts are being read. Or perhaps her memories. "I can sense you feel great unhappiness. Stemming from a relationship with a family member. Related to a lack of acceptance, it seems. If you so wanted, I could—"

"Dance with me," she interrupts.

The fairy's expression changes almost imperceptibly. A twitch of the brow. A quirk of the mouth. They reach one small hand below the rim of the cap, brushing their fingers against the ruffled gills in a repetitive gesture that she would say resembles a nervous tic if she knew that fairies could even feel nervous, or any other form of ordinary human emotion. "You want me to dance with you?"

"Yes," she replies.


She shrugs. "Why not?"

"Why not indeed."

They stand, and she watches closely as they raise their short, elegant arms above their head and their body elongates in one smooth motion that she can only compare to a brushstroke.

They are exactly her height now, and she is considering whether they have chosen this because they are average height compared to other fairies like she is compared to other humans, or because they see it as polite, when they reach over and place one hand in hers and the other on her back.

She adjusts her grip to match theirs, gentle but firm, and tries to rest her hand on their back but can't find a placement that doesn't bring her into contact with their wings, which feel eerily like otherworldly cobwebs that she isn't supposed to touch. They seem to sense her discomfort and the wings disappear. She can't tell where exactly to—not tucked around their legs, not stuck straight out backward—but the fairy interrupts her puzzling to say, "There's no music."

She reaches for her pocket, for her phone, and remembers a split second later that it's not there.

"I could hum?" she suggests, not wanting to lose the opportunity.

"Very well."

She doesn't actually know any classical music very well, certainly not all the way through, but reasons that the fairy probably doesn't, either, so she starts with the first few measures of Für Elise and then improvises.

The fairy seems satisfied.

She realizes, a split second before she starts moving, that she doesn't actually know how to waltz, either. But this, clearly, is an area of expertise for the fairy, whose fluid movements pull her along in the dance like a river. The two revolve in slow spirals, all graceful turns and extended arms, and she swears she can feel a gown ghosting over her body, heels elevate her feet, and the atmosphere of a ballroom envelop them like a quilt. She wonders if this is the fairy's magic, or simply the magic that results from a slow dance in a forest with a beautiful creature, when they lift their arm from her back and reach over to stroke her cheek.

Their skin is the velvety softness of flower petals.

They halt. "You stopped humming."

Her face burns. "Oh. I'm sorry."

The aureate irises meet hers. "You do not have to apologize."

She steps back awkwardly. "I should go."

"You do not have to." Is it her imagination, or has their expression shifted again?

"Yes, but I should."

"At least tell me your name before you leave me, darling."

There it is.

They were not truly surprised by any of this after all.

She opens her mouth, and wind gusts out. The kind of gust that howls without any perceptible fricative in the trees. The kind of breath that extinguishes a candle.

It whooshes around her, around her, around the ring, around the forest, concentric circles; she can feel it, tornado-ing in her hair, and she can see it, aggressively rustling the leaves. The fairy opens their mouth as if to speak, but instead, their mouth gapes open; it widens, crumbling across their face, eating up their chin and nose and eyes and forehead, until they are entirely gone except for a pair of lips and an endless black hole in between, as tall as her, gulping down air.

When the wind has been entirely swallowed, a new face, long and strange, blooms out from behind the mouth. Its eye sockets are hollow, its skin rock overgrown with moss, and its expression furious. A body follows, tall as the woods themselves and then taller, wrapped in a cloak that looks like paper and stained in ways she does not even want to consider.

"You should not have done that," it reprimands. Now its voice, if she can even call it that, rattles in her ears. "Fairies steal names, child."

She does not respond, pointedly keeping her face blank.

She has a feeling that if it had eyes, it would be rolling them at her.

"Leave before you lose more. Never look back. Never come back. Do you understand?"

She nods.

"Good girl."

She returns home quickly. It is not even dark yet; her mother is sitting in the living room, reading, and looks up when she sees the door open.

"You’ve been gone for hours!" she exclaims. "I tried texting you, but you left your phone in your room."

"Sorry, Ma," she responds. "I went for a hike in the back woods."

"Ach, just tell me next time." She returns to the book. "Should we order in pizza for dinner?"

"Sure. I'm going to go wash up first," she says, heading for the stairs, her shoulders slightly slumped.


She turns.

"Leave your shoes down here. I don't want that mud getting on your bedroom carpet, Riona."

"Sorry, Mom," she responds, stopping to kick off her boots.

There is a smile hidden on her face and a silent thank-you on her lips as she climbs the stairs.


MP Armstrong is a disabled queer writer from Ohio, studying English and history at Kent State University. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Perhappened, Prismatica Magazine, and Hominum Journal, among others, and their debut chapbook, who lives like this for such a cheap price?, is forthcoming from Flower Press. Find them online @mpawrites and at