[Author’s Note: Faery Swap is told in alternating points of view, between Finn, the human boy, and Zaneyr, the faery prince who tricks him into swapping places.]
He looked up at the blanket of haze hiding the sun. The sky had been blue when he had dropped off Erin. How long had he been out? He wrestled his arm around to look at his watch
The second hand was dead still, frozen between the five and the six. Whatever McFreaky did to knock him out broke his watch, too. The watch his mom gave him. She had strapped it on his wrist that day he was late for the bus and told him that being on time was important. Part of growing up. She drove him to school. The wreck happened on the way home.
It was the last thing she ever gave him. And McFreaky broke it. Finn clenched his fist and slammed it into the grass.
Then the grass punched him back.
The hit to his shoulder was so hard, it flipped him onto his back. A tinkling of glass sounded all around him.
“What the…?” Finn scrambled to sit up. The grass couldn’t have punched him. That didn’t make any sense. Something under the grass then. He jumped up to his feet and stared at the ground, frozen, waiting for it to move again.
Finn stomped his foot on the grass where he’d been lying a moment before, just to be sure. The grass kicked back, knocking him off his feet and landing him with a thump on his backside. The tinkling glass sound rushed up, like a thousand tiny voices laughing.
“Ahhh!” Finn jerked up off the ground. A narrow dirt path was just a dozen feet away, so he ran toward it. Tiny insects rose up wherever he stepped, making the tinkling sound, then falling back down. He teetered on the safety of the path, which seemed clear of the insects. The path was just wide enough for a sheep to pass. A very small sheep.
What was this crazy place?
Zaneyr peered at the young sister of Finn. He vowed to respect that kin bond, as a brother would. It was the least he could do, having banished her brother to the eternal changelessness of the Otherworld. And perhaps the House of Finn would serve as good a hiding place as any.
She awaited his answer with an impatience too large for such a small thing.
“No, lass, you cannot stay home with me.” He gestured to the loud guardian of the stone structure. “You need to stay here. But I will be back at the appointed time for you.”
Erin’s shoulders sagged with defeat.
“But I think I will return home now.” Zaneyr looked around at the many dwellings that crowded the path. “Which one would that be?”
Erin fixed that glare upon him again. “I memorized our address, already! When are you going to stop quizzing me?”
“It is the sickness,” Zaneyr said with a smile. “It is stealing my memory like a thief.”
“Dude, you are sick.” She suddenly shot her hand toward his face. Reflexively, Zaneyr leaned away, but she managed to land a tiny, warm hand on his cheek. He froze. What sort of magick was she working by touch? Then he remembered she was only a child, and a human one at that. It had been so long since he had felt the warmth of any touch.
The tension flew away.
“You’re not running a fever.” Her face was a picture of seriousness. “But I should go home with you.”
“Erin!” the woman called again, closer now. “You all right, love? I’m closing the gates.”
“You are summoned. You must go.” Zaneyr glanced again at the dwellings, stacked like cubes on top of one another. He pointed to one. “Is that our home? I don’t believe you truly recall.”
Erin’s shoulders drooped again. “It’s 842 on Earls Court.” She speared his chest with a small finger.
Don’t forget to come back and get me.”
“I could hardly refuse an order so imperiously given.”
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Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she’s up to.
Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut.