A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #15
A census taker travels the length and breadth of the British Isles to survey the land’s supernatural inhabitants.
(I’ve decided to do a series of short vignettes inspired by the December 2012 prompts from the International Story a Day Group. Mostly to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This is based on the December 15 prompt “The Take Back”.)
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A wide stroller ferrying a set of eighteen month old triplets nearly mowed down the kelpie as he and the census taker emerged from the tube station at Piccadilly Circus. The mother had apologized, but the kelpie’s mood did not improve. That morning, he had been running late because he had overslept. And because of that, he had missed breakfast. The census taker had offered to stop at the nearest fast food restaurant so he could grab a bite to eat as they went on their way, but he had refused because really, fast food wasn’t really food anyway.
And now, his hunger was driving him mad.
“Really, who goes about town with triplets in tow?” the kelpie demanded as they walked across the road junction at London’s West End. Tourists with cameras and shoppers laden with bags bustled past them as if they were not there. “Someone should take back this place for the real pedestrians.”
“That poor woman probably had her reasons for taking out her children,” said the census taker. “But we don’t have time to go back and ask her about those reasons. We’re cutting quite close to the appointment hour as it is.”
The kelpie grumbled under his breath and tugged at his collar as they passed by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and turned down Shaftesbury Avenue towards Regent Street. He was dressed in a fancy suit that he had gotten recently from a fae seamstress who guaranteed delivery overnight because, well, a meeting the census director required a bit of formality. As he knew nothing about fashion, he had gone with whatever the seamstress had suggested. All he knew about the suit was that it was colored charcoal gray and made of wool. The census taker had discarded her blouses and pants for a purple skirt and matching blazer. Instead of her sensible shoes, she wore a pair of fashionable stilettos. And instead of her messenger bag, she carried a leather briefcase. And the very large purse that used to belong to a certain Mrs. Nornwell.
The sky was dark and cloudy. It looked like it was about to rain. And it was not quite nine o’clock.
“I hope this meeting is worth wherever it is the snotty director is sending us,” said the kelpie as they finally turned on Regent Street. “He’s always rather uppity on the phone.”
“He sounds that way for a reason.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s the direct descendant of Lugh. Must be really hard to come from such a distinguished line and end up as simply the director of the census bureau.”
“Don’t be so snide about it. You don’t know anything about the pressures that he faces in his position.”
“You and I are plebs, Aileen. I think you’re much too sympathetic. What he and others like him call difficult would be nothing to us.” He then squinted at her. “Is that why you wore those shoes?”
“What?” Regent Street was lined by buildings with facades constructed out of Portland stone in the Beaux Arts style. They had just passed a bank and a fast food restaurant. They turned into one of the archways and entered what looked like a business building. “Why are you asking that?” said the census taker.
“They’re shoes that say one thing,” said the kelpie. “It’s for him, isn’t it?”
The census taker’s eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
On the first floor, there was a lift with brass doors. Beside it as a pedestal with a stone statue of a dragon the size of a bonsai tree. Or perhaps it wasn’t a statue. The kelpie noticed the dragon opening its black eyes as they approached the lift and waited for it. The dragon flicked out a tongue, tasting the air. And sensing that the census taker and her assistant were of no particular danger, it closed its eyes again.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” said the kelpie. The lift doors opened. It was empty. They stepped in and the census taker pushed the button for the top floor. The doors closed. “I’m sure every female wouldn’t pass up a chance to bag the director.”
“That’s ridiculous,” the census taker replied. “Are you grumpy because you haven’t had breakfast?”
“No I’m not.”
She ignored his petulant protestation. “I’ll take you to lunch then. Your choice.”
“You’re being much too nice to me.”
“That’s because I don’t want you to eat me when you feel too hungry to control yourself.” The lift stopped at their floor. Before the door opened, she gave him a brief, hard glare. “So think of that lunch I’ll be taking you to. And try to act like a polite gentleman. After all, this is the director. Your real boss.”
“Are you bribing me with lunch for good behavior?”
“Is it going to work?”
He gave a loud exaggerated sigh as the lift doors finally opened to the floor where the headquarters of the Fae Census Bureau were located. “For you, I’ll try. But I won’t give you any promises.”