It was the night before November, and Lila was getting ready for a Halloween costume party. As she braided a section of her hair on either side of her face, she looked over the makeup she had done.
Something’s still missing, Lila thought. When she finished braiding her hair, she opened a drawer and pulled out some glitter.
Lila’s phone started buzzing, and she picked it up to see the contact: Alice, her best friend. She accepted the call and put the phone to her ear. “Hello?” she answered.
“Hey!” Alice said, her voice pitched an octave higher than usual. She sounded nervous; maybe it was because this was her first party. “You almost ready?” she asked.
“Almost,” Lila said. She held the phone between her head and shoulder as she reached into the drawer to look for a brush. “You alright there?”
“Yeah,” Alice said. She let out a long breath. “Left my place early, so I’ll be at yours in ten. Sound good?”
“Should be,” Lila replied. She reached deeper into her drawer and felt a sharp stab of pain in one of her fingers. She sucked in a breath and yanked her hand out from the drawer. A drop of blood glistened on the tip of her pointer finger. She wiped it on a tissue and shook her hand to relieve some of the pain.
“You okay?” Alice asked.
“Yeah,” Lila said. She looked into her drawer and finally found the brush she was looking for. “Got pricked by something. Call me when you get here.”
Lila hung up the phone and applied the glitter on her face, before shrugging into the silver fairy wings that matched the color of her dress. Then she sat on the edge of her bed, waiting for Alice’s call.
But the longer Lila waited, the heavier her eyes began to feel, and the more her head began to droop. I don’t know why I’m so tired, Lila thought, before she curled up on her bed and succumbed to sleep.
Lila found herself at the edge of a clearing, the autumn breeze ruffling her hair. Leafless yellow trees surrounded her on all sides, their branches reaching to the deep-orange sky like jagged fingers. She couldn’t tell what time of day it was. The sky was filled with black pin-pricks that almost looked like stars.
Lila looked down and realized she was wearing her silver dress, but this one felt better somehow; lighter, even. She almost felt like a real fairy instead of someone just pretending to be one. She could feel something between her shoulder blades as well, and she sensed that those were the fairy wings.
Someone behind Lila cleared their throat, and she turned. Standing before her was a crowd of men and women, separated into pairs with arms interlocked. All wore either suits or black dresses in the same style as Lila’s dress, with matching fairy wings. Their faces were shadowed in the dim light. To their right she could make out a small stage, where some classical instruments stood.
One man, the only one without a partner, extricated himself from the crowd and made his way to Lila. Even when he was standing a few inches away, Lila couldn’t make out his facial features. The man extended a hand to Lila, and she didn’t know what else to do but take it. He led her over to the crowd, who separated and rearranged themselves to form a circle around her and the man. Then the instruments on the stage began to play of their own accord.
The music sank through Lila’s pores and filled her veins with a restless energy. She didn’t need to be told what to do next; she took the man’s other hand and began to dance, twirling and moving to some unknown choreography. She turned her head and found the other men and women following her lead, their wings fluttering as they rose into the sky, spinning and dancing on air. Soon Lila felt herself rise, too, and she danced to all her heart’s content, she and her partner floating higher than everybody else.
Sunlight floated into Lila’s room, and she slowly opened her eyes. It took her a minute to understand where she was. She could remember dancing, and wonderful music, and fairies in dresses and suits. Then she remembered the Halloween party.
Lila jolted up and immediately called Alice.
“Where are you?” Lila asked urgently. “I thought you said you were coming in ten minutes!”
Alice was silent for a minute, before she slowly began to speak. “Lila, that was yesterday.”
Lila stopped. “What?”
Alice’s voice was tinged with remorse. “I pulled up to your house, but you weren’t answering your calls. I came in with your house key after a bit and found you were sleeping, so I left you alone and went back home.” Alice hesitated. “I’m really sorry.”
Lila opened her mouth to speak, but what came out instead was a yawn. Her eyelids drooped once again; Lila ended the call without another word and collapsed on her bed.
Lila gasped and jolted awake, willing her eyes to stay open. Outside, a full moon was shining, but she wasn’t sure what day it was. She had lost count of the amount of times she had woken up and fallen back asleep, how many times she had appeared in that dream world with the dancing fairies.
She couldn’t take much more of it. The music that had initially filled her with a need to dance now grated against her skull, and though she had stared at the faces of the dancers for what felt like hours, she still couldn’t make out any of their features. When she looked at them out of the corner of her eye, they almost looked like skeletons, their clothes hanging off their frames in tatters.
Now, fighting off another wave of drowsiness, Lila tried not to cry. Why was this happening? All she had been doing was getting ready for the party, adding on some glitter and--
The blood on her finger. Was the thing that had pricked her causing all this?
With the little bit of strength she had, Lila forced herself off of her bed and stumbled to her dressing table. She opened her drawer, searching for the thing that had stabbed her.
There. It was so thin it was barely visible, a twisted pin that almost looked as if it were made out of bone, the pointed end tinged red with Lila’s blood. Not knowing what else to do, Lila grabbed the pin between her hands and broke it right down the middle.
Music burst into Lila’s head so harshly that she collapsed, writhing on the floor. The music was so earsplittingly loud that at first she couldn’t hear the undercurrent of laughter permeating through the room. Lila lifted her head just an inch to see the dancers all crowded in her room, twirling and spinning anywhere they could find space, all looking down at her and cackling with glee. The lone man in the center of the crowd, Lila’s dancing partner, laughed the loudest. Outside, Lila could see the sky bleeding into an orange color, the stars twinkling out and turning obsidian.
Lila curled into herself and screamed, willing for this all to pass.
Hey, it's Lila! Sorry I can't get to you right now. Please leave a message!
"Hey Lila, it's Alice. Again. Listen, I'm really sorry I made you miss that party last week. And I'm sorry I used your house key without asking first; I promise I'll never do that again. I'll make it all up to you in any way I can, but can you please call me back? I'm getting worried.
"I get you're angry with me right now, but I hope you're still taking care of yourself. You sounded really tired on the phone last time we talked. Make sure to get your rest and drink some fluids. And please call be back soon to let me know you're okay. See you soon, hopefully."