The first night I saw him, I thought he was a possum, staring through my window. With his shiny eyes, and his malicious grin, I thought he was a possum under the porch. Staring through my basement window because he was curious.
I was not entirely wrong.
He was no possum. On that account, I was definitely wrong.
He is infinitely curious.
The second night I saw him, I thought he was a fox. A hungry fox, hiding beneath our porch for shelter.
I was still partially wrong.
He was no fox.
He was, however, in need of shelter.
For the first half of the night, he simply looked like a fox to me. Some magic playing tricks on my eyes. Cloaking his presence. Sometime in the night, I heard him stirring—waking from a nightmare. And, in that half-asleep state, I saw what he was.
I saw him.
He was no possum, and he was no fox.
The next night, when I saw his eyes glow at my window, hiding beneath the porch, I didn’t ignore him.
Not that time.
“What’re you hiding from?”
Of course, he didn’t answer. Didn’t speak. It would’ve broken his spell.
But, I was persistent.
I knew what I saw.
Night after night, I would try something different. Something new. I left a blanket out under the porch. Food. Water. Soda. Sometimes I’d leave him candy, or sometimes I’d leave him mittens or scarves. Anything I could think of that might be of some use to him. That might aid him while he camped out.
The collection remained untouched though. The things I’d left him remained where I’d placed them, unbothered.
It was driving me nuts.
What was he?
Why was he refusing food? Water? Warmth?
What was his deal?
Why was it that he looked like an animal when I was awake, but looked nearly human when I was half asleep?
What was he?
One night, I’d finally had enough.
When his eyes glowed at my window that night, I left my basement room.
I went outside.
Crouching so I was level with him, I saw how he looked. That night, he looked like a coyote, with his eyes glowing in the light of my flashlight. Limbs spread in a way that showed his alarm. How ready he was to run.
But there was no need for that.
“Listen, I don’t know what you are,” I told him. “But I know you’re not a fox. And you’re not a coyote. And you’re not a possum. You’re kind of human, kind of magical, kind of mythical. I think I know what you are, but I don’t want to say it because then… well, I’d be in trouble, wouldn’t I?” He still said nothing. Those coyote ears he was wearing flicked, registering my voice, but he made no other moves. Spoke no words, as if barely even registering the fact that I was speaking.
“Look, I don’t know for sure what you are, but, what I do know is: you’re hiding. And for someone like you, that can’t be good. Definitely not. I don’t know if you’re good, if you’re bad, or if you’re just doing your own thing, but, I don’t really care. Everything I’ve left out here is for you to use, you know. Completely free. No debt attached, I swear. I don’t expect anything from you, not at all. I just… want you to have what you need.”
My words drifted under the porch. Stuck in the light of my flashlight a moment.
He still said nothing. Made no expression, no changes to his stance. He stood under the porch, looking ready to bolt.
Maybe I was crazy.
I didn’t think so.
I said nothing else. Gave up for the time being. I felt certain he’d return, and certain I’d crack him eventually.
I wasn’t wrong.
That night, when I was sleeping, I swear I heard something. Something… not good. Like scuffling. Like whimpering. Like someone getting tossed around.
By the time I got out of bed to check it out, the coyote was gone.
A trail of blood left behind.
I thought it was going to be the last time I saw him. The last time I saw my mythical friend.
But the next night?
I found him by my window again.
Not a fox, not a possum, not a coyote.
The version of him I saw when I was half asleep.
Slumped against my window, he held tightly to his shoulder. It oozed some liquid that was gold in color, that looked thick and slimy. Head pressed against the glass, his breath fogging it up, ears pinned to his skull, he panted. His human face scrunched up with effort, with pain.
When he looked up, he saw me. Saw that I saw him. That I knew I was right, all along. He didn’t look at me long—it was too much effort. His head drifted down, leaning against the glass, clearly exhausted.
He knocked then.
Knocked on my window.
I stared a moment, unsure if I heard it.
But then, he looked up again. Looked right at me.
“Please,” he breathed.
A faerie just asked me for help.
Everything I knew about his kind—how devious they were, how heartless, how sneaky—ran through my mind, but, in that moment, I didn’t really care. Couldn’t find it in me to care.
I opened the window.
And I let the phouka in.
Author’s note: Probably will have a part 2.