A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #17
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 17 prompt “Sacred Solidarity”.)
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“This is one of those times when I wish Shuck was still tagging along,” said the census taker.
“Now don’t be too hasty in saying that,” the kelpie replied. “It may be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, the last we saw him, he seemed entirely too happy chasing that fat politician around Parliament Square.”
“Well, if the demon dog was here, we would be out of this station in no time. And not stuck here with nowhere to go.”
The census taker and her assistant had taken the train north. They were in Glasgow to pick up one last package before meeting up with their important appointment, but when their train arrived at Glasgow Central Station, a crowd dressed in green and white stripes was already waiting on the platform. The other passengers debarking at Glasgow had managed to shove their way out of the crowd, but the kelpie and the selkie were still trying to navigate their way through the horde of football fans without using any magic.
“I see something!” the kelpie suddenly said. “Come on!”
The kelpie hooked an arm around hers before she could complete her thought and simply forged through the green and white clad bodies, shouting “Excuse me!” while dragging her along. When they finally popped out the other side of the crowd, near the doors, the census taker took in a gulp of fresh air.
“What was that about?” she finally said when she caught her breath.
“I have no idea,” the kelpie replied. “I’ve never seen so many humans voluntarily packed like that. Like sardines.” His eyes took on an odd sheen. “I wonder if they taste like sardines.”
“Sardines certainly smell better,” the census taker delicately shuddered. “I’m not sure some of those humans know the meaning of personal hygiene.”
A short little man sitting on a large black suitcase next to one of the station struts gave a distinctive chuckle at the census taker’s comment. They turned to look at him in curiosity. He was quite rotund around the middle with a neat beard on his chin. The little man wore a dapper pastel blue suit with a straw boater hat, an outfit that was more appropriate for the spring than the current late fall season. The census taker and the kelpie, for their part, were wearing black coats to keep out the wind.
“Some people don’t wash their clothes because they’re afraid that they’ll wash the luck right out,” said the short little man. “It’s a superstition. Which, of course, these football fans take to like ducks to water. They’re all here because they’ve heard news that their gods will be arriving on the five o’clock train from London.” At his audience’s confused looks, he clarified, “Their gods are the players in their favorite football team.”
“Ah. But who are you?” asked the census taker.
He doffed his hat with a fancy flourish. “McKee at your service. If you’re new in town, and you look like it, I’ll be glad to offer my expertise as a tour guide to Glasgow. Why, I’ve given a tour to Queen Mab herself, back in the day!”
“Queen Mab, huh?” said the kelpie with a skeptical expression on his face. “She doesn’t really strike me as a lady who needs a tour guide anywhere.”
“Besides that, why are you a tour guide?” the census taker added. “Most dwarves aren’t, uh, sociable with other kinds, to put it lightly.”
McKee gave them a slightly strained smile. “Well, we all have to make a living, don’t we? Mining doesn’t pay as it used to.”
“I completely sympathize,” said the census taker. “And thank you for your offer. But we can find our way around. I’m sure you’ll find a lost tourist in need of your services later.”
At that moment, the humans in their green and white regalia started chanting and shouting. They waved their arms, making the crowd look like a rippling green and white beast. Several station security guards were discretely surrounding the football fans, quietly talking on their portable radios.
“Let’s get going,” the census taker said, casting the fans an uneasy glance. “That doesn’t look very stable.”
The kelpie had been glancing out the door while she had said this and then turned back to her. “What? Did you say you wanted a sandwich? That would be easy. I think I saw a cafe down the street. I’m kind of thinking ham and cheese myself.”
McKee laughed again. “You don’t think it’s stable? Why, this is absolutely nothing. You should see what happens when they do a stampede.” At that moment, the football fans let out a mighty cheer as if they were the devout shouting “Amen!” at church. The ruckus ensued as another train entered the station drowned out most of his words.
“I’d rather not,” replied the census taker. This time, she tugged the kelpie toward the door. “Come on, Garrick. Perhaps we’ll get you that sandwich after all.”
“What? Did you say roast beef?” shouted the kelpie over the noise. “While I think that’s a good choice, and I may have to order one of those too, I thought tuna fish was more your speed.”