A Refugee from Fairyland - A story by Keyan Bowes

Here is one of the four stories that will appear in the December 2023 issue of Worlds of Possibility.

A Refugee from Fairyland - A story by Keyan Bowes
Illustration by Tetiana Hut

This story is from the December 2023 issue of Worlds of Possibility. The ebook of the entire issue is available to download for free as an end of the year gift here: https://www.juliarios.com/the-december-2023-issue-of-worlds-of-possibility/

Paid subscribers got to read this story – and see the illustration by Tetiana Hut – a few days early. This is one of two stories in the December 2023 issue that involve fairies, both of which involve references to William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. We've seen what those fairies get up to in the summer, but what about the rest of the year? This story and Megan Baffoe's "Morning Dew" gives us some hints.

A Refugee from Fairyland
by Keyan Bowes

The child evicted from fairyland sat silent in his overlarge new clothes, his brown skin pallid.

“Munna?” I said. “Let’s go.”

He glanced up with huge brown eyes, but didn’t speak – or move.

This was my first time working with a kid refugee, and I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I popped into Nisha’s office for help.

The Borderlands Refuge Director looked tired. She’s used to a trickle of dimensionally misplaced adult refugees, rather than an influx of confused children. I’d been volunteering with her for a year, initially for transport through the PonyCart network, then handling individual cases when the need arose.

“Munna’s very withdrawn,” Nisha said. “He learned English quickly, but doesn’t say much. His DNA test suggests he’s originally from India. Something’s wrong in fairyland. They’re randomly sending back kids, some barely of age.”

“Which is what, around eight?” I asked incredulously. “And why send an Indian kid to California?”

 “Maybe they don’t understand human geography or aging. Or don’t care.”

She came out with me to where the boy was sitting. “Come, Munna,” she said. “Latasha will take you to Mama Marree. She’ll look after you.”

Silently, he rose, but stiffened when I put my arm around him.

“We’ll try to find your human folks,” I said, trying to reassure him.

Fairyland refugees panic in automobiles, hence the PonyCart network. Munna’s eyes brightened when he saw my pony, Dapple. He stroked her nose, and she nickered.

The Refuge was a cluster of homes sprawled amid acres of woodland. The air smelled fresh and green. We found the other changelings in the main house, eating honeycakes at the kitchen table.

The children started chattering with Munna in the fluting tones of Fae lingo. I’d tried to learn when I started volunteering with Nisha’s group, but only caught a few words… queen, king, fight. Ti-Tanya. Oba-Ron.

Wait. Could Munna be that changeling? Then he was displaced in time as well, by at least 400 years. Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream in… (a quick online check)…1595 or so.

So much for finding Munna’s folks.

Marree thanked me, offered Munna a honeycake, and deputed another kid to show him around. All the children took off, like a flight of butterflies, with a shimmering illusion of wings.

The DNA test that confirmed Munna was from India, matched him with some distant relatives – including one Kumar in Sunnyvale.

Kumar turned out to be a programmer in his twenties, who arrived in Silicon Valley a few years earlier. Over coffee at Starbucks, I explained about Munna, who might have been taken hundreds of years ago.

“There’s a family story,” Kumar said thoughtfully. “My distant ancestor was a Raja. His youngest wife Lavanya returned to her paternal home for childbirth, but she died.  Not so uncommon in the old days. But reason for the story is the baby, the Raja’s first son. He vanished. The birth-attendants said an unearthly lady took the child.”

“And – the baby’s name?”

Kumar took a sip of coffee. “The story didn’t say. Probably he was too young. In India we usually wait to give babies names.”

“So, not Munna?”

“Munna just means boy, like Chico. The birth-attendants could have called him that.”

“Want to meet him?”

“Well… sure. But to be clear: I’m in no position to adopt him.”

“Would others of your family?”

“An eight-years boy from fairyland?”  he said doubtfully. “I can ask on our FamilyApp. But it’s not so likely.”

Well, that was a dead end.

Marree sympathized. “DNA databases have helped us in locating many families. But we get few placements, and even fewer work that work out.”

“I’ll keep trying,” I said. “Munna deserves a family. But it’s been hard to find someone related who’s looking to adopt.”

Marree nodded. “The Fae connection unnerves potential parents. The Refuge is a long-term arrangement for most of these kids. Wish I could get some help, though. Nisha’s fund-raising.”

“I’ll volunteer a few hours every week,” I offered. I came to see Munna quite often anyway. Somehow, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. He was such an appealing child!

Soon, I was there every weekend. The kids called me Mama Latasha.

“Why don’t you move here, Latasha?” offered Marree one Saturday. “There’s a couple of cottages open. Leave your car in the shed near the entrance.”

“Dayjob,” I said wryly. “Long Commute.”

When, six months later, I had to report I’d failed to find any interested relatives, I expected Munna to be disappointed. Instead, he looked thrilled. When I hugged him, he didn’t stiffen, but melted right into my arms. I held him close, inhaling his sweet boyish smell.

Soon afterward, my company went remote to save costs. I took Marree’s offer and relocated to the cottage. It even had a stable for Dapple.

One evening, Munna moved in with me, and chose a new name.

And just like that, some paperwork and a court appearance later, he was my son.

Late one night, I awoke to realize I wasn’t alone.

A fairy glowed in my desk-chair, looking ethereal and ghostly, as though moonlight had taken a humanoid form. Her diadem sparkled as she swiveled to look at me.

“Latasha. You have my Munna.”

“He’s called Raj now,” I said, sitting up. “And he’s mine.”

“I promised his mother I’d care for him. Fairies don’t break promises.”

“Someone threw him out of Fairyland. And other kids as well.”

Her face darkened. “My consort’s a jackass. He attempted a coup, making factions in our land. Some of which started evicting our human wards, as though our two worlds are not forever intertwined.”

“Raj is thriving here. Maybe your promise is better kept by leaving him with me rather than embroiling him in fairy politics and marital … discord?”


 Raj ran into the room and onto the bed. “Mom!”

I grabbed hold of him and held him close.

Art by Tetiana Hut. A fairy, in the form of a beautiful Black woman in a glowing ethereal pink dress, stands in a moonlit room by an open window, holding out her hand to invite a human child to come with her.
“Give me the boy,” said the fairy. - Art by Tetiana Hut

“Give me the boy,” said the fairy.

“Mom, don’t!” Raj whispered urgently.

Moving so my body shielded Raj, I strengthened my hold on him.

“Nope,” I told the fairy. “Not happening.”

“Mom, let me go…”  Raj wriggled free of my grip and got off the bed.

What? He wanted to go back? I was floundering.

He knelt to the fairy queen. “Lady!”  he said.

“Munna! Come home!”

“No, my Lady. May I stay here?” They spoke Fae, but I’d learned enough to follow. Ohh. He did want to remain with me.

“Won’t you return to the beautiful place?”

“No, my Lady. May I stay?”

“You would learn magic and wonder!”

I held my breath. That sounded so enticing, even to me.

“No, my Lady.”

“Thrice! You refused thrice!” She glared at me. “He stays, then. But I keep my promise. I’ll be watching over him.”

Great. Just what I needed. Co-parenting with a powerful fairy queen.

But what I said was, “So, my son’s got a fairy godmother.”

She laughed like the tinkling of bells as she shimmered into invisibility.

About the Author

Keyan Bowes is a peripatetic spec-fic author, currently to be found somewhere on the West Coast of the US. She writes when inspiration bites her in the ankle, and organizes various spec-fic things – mainly virtual now, due to Covid. Her work can be found online, and on paper in a dozen anthologies and magazines. Clarion graduate, SFWA member. Website: www.KeyanBowes.org

About the Illustrator

Tetiana Hut created the illustration for this story. You can commission her on Fiverr at https://www.fiverr.com/tanyagut.