Authors: Marie Bilodeau
Tags: #apocalypse, #fairy, #end of the world, #fairy tale adaptation, #apocalypse adventures, #fairy creatures, #endtime fiction, #fairy tale action adventure
“Some handsome man,” she mumbled. Mrs. Gallaway
meant well, but she’d probably mentioned more than she should have,
hoping Alva finally had a “suitor.” Damn thieves, too lazy to get
jobs, yet skilled enough to pick a deadbolt without having to break
down the door. Not that they’d have found anything of value here,
Alva crossed the living room quickly to the train
set lining the back wall. It was old and too broken to be of any
worth to even collectors, but it had been her dad’s when he was a
boy, and it was the only thing they had left of him, save for the
one thing she kept hidden in the small tollbooth station. She
reached carefully across the dilapidated pine trees, the bear
figure with the missing forepaws, and the faded crosswalk signal,
and popped the top off the little tollbooth. It was meant to go
with a car set and not on a train track, but her father had loved
it so much that every time the train went around the tracks, it had
to stop to pay the toll.
“Popular with the customers, I bet that was!” He
laughed when he showed her, when it had been just the three of them
in a small, but not as small, apartment. Her long, oil-stained
fingers reached in and grazed cold metal. She let out a short sigh
She rolled her fingers around the metal and gently
clasped the top, pulling free the old watch her father had given
her, his grandmother’s watch, the only item of value they had. “If
we need to, we’ll pawn it. It’s gotta be worth something, but
still, old gram would be disappointed…”
He’d shake his head and place it back after showing
it to her. The only other time she’d seen it was when he looked at
it, when they’d been talking about her schooling. He had wanted her
to go to university. Then Pete. He’d always worked the trains, and
the rails were dying out. The trains had been a good job when he
was a boy, but now he was older, scraping by with odd jobs and no
formal certification in a world that demanded proof of learning
over proof of knowledge and experience.
He’d wanted her to go and take higher learning.
“That watch might be good enough for one year, at least. Maybe even
two. I can get more odd jobs, get money for the other years in the
He was already working 80-hour weeks.
Alva had signed up for her apprenticeship the
following day. “Learn as you earn,” the tagline was. And she had,
and she’d never once regretted it.
But her dad had always been a bit disappointed. He’d
wanted her to do more than him, working with his hands on a
technology that evolved too rapidly in the span of a lifetime. But
she’d loved her job. And Gruff and her dad had become fast friends.
Her winning argument had been Pete. With both of them saving money,
they could afford to send at least the youngest Taverner to higher
That had been the plan, anyway.
Al had just turned nineteen when a drunk driver
sideswiped her dad, and that was that. All she had left of him were
this watch and the old train set.
She half fell on the futon, which was currently set
up as a couch but would become her bed later. She missed him, but
this watch somehow made her feel connected to him still – the sound
of his voice as he’d tell old family legends late in the night, his
tinkering with it trying to make it work, the way his eyes watered
when he recited his favourite pieces of literature.
She held up the watch. It wasn’t tarnished – she
certainly didn’t let it get that way. It was gold, or a metal
resembling it enough. Dad had been convinced it was worth
thousands. She doubted it, but had never had the heart to tell him
Its value was in its beauty, and in the stories it
preserved. It was intricately carved. A small village on one side,
a giant pine tree swooping over a small thatched house. On the
other side was just one letter, which was her great grandmother’s
initial. A promise that never came to pass.
She heard a thunk in the kitchen. Alva’s head jerked
up and she jumped to her feet, threw the watch in her pocket,
grabbed her keys and leapt in the hallway and then the kitchen in
She threw one leg back behind the other and adopted
a defensive posture, bringing up her “armed” hand.
There was nothing there.
She quickly crossed to the corridor. There was no
one there, either. She glanced in the kitchen.
Hadn’t those drawers been open a second ago?
She was too tired. Long shifts and her obsession
with fixing the watch were taking a toll. Having her place broken
into was a violation she just didn’t need. Alva locked the deadbolt
and the handle, and slid the nearly useless chain in place. At
least it would warn her if the lock picker decided to come back.
That, he’d have to break.
She pondered calling the cops for a second, but
nothing had been stolen as far as she could tell, and she didn’t
have anything else of value. Or any insurance, for that matter. She
might as well save herself the hassle.
She thought about warning Pete, but she didn’t want
to worry her younger sister. She was off in Toronto, checking out
universities and the Royal Ontario Museum with others from her
class. She needed to focus on her decision, and not worry about
An hour’s worth of work and most of the apartment
was back to its usual order. They didn’t have much, but the small
space fared better when everything was organized.
It was nearing midnight and Alva almost fell into
bed before thinking better of it, walking to her front door, and
placing a chair under the handle.
A train chased her, its strident whistle breaking
the still air. She ran through dark fog, which licked her exposed
arms and face. Car grease slicked off her arms like tears, her
breath burned, her heart hammered.
She couldn’t see through the thick fog, the night
too dark, the air too thick. A light pierced through, highlighting
layers of fog, making the world seem both endless and walled
The train whistled and she realized she had been
running towards it, not away from it.
Adrenaline flooded her system as she threw herself
sideways, nearly falling off her bed. It took her a moment to
adjust to the encroaching darkness. She pulled her shirt off her
clock, which was just too bright for any sane individual seeking a
good night’s sleep.
It was just after 3 o’clock. She had slept for
barely three hours. Her alarm would be going off in two hours and
it would probably take her half that long to get back to sleep, so
she decided to get up.
She yawned and stretched, dressing only by the blue
light of her alarm clock. She reached down where she’d thrown her
coat and yanked, but something seemed to be on it. For a moment,
she thought it might be her old tabby Frank, but he’d been gone for
almost a year. She jerked her hand back, the weight falling from
the coat, and it easily came. Reaching behind her while looking
wildly around, she turned the light on and tried to blink away the
blindness as quickly as possible.
There was nothing there.
“I need more sleep,” she mumbled, embarrassed even
if no one had witnessed her confusion. It didn’t matter. She knew
about it, and that was enough.
She threw on jeans and a sweater. She’d left her
overalls at the garage, and she would throw those on before her
shift. She grabbed her coat and stared at it. It looked much
cleaner than she remembered. Two oil stains she distinctly
remembered on her sleeve were gone. Maybe the stains had been on
her sweater. Damn, that garage could get cold sometimes.
“I’m off,” she said more out of habit than need. She
threw her keys in her coat pocket, hesitated for a second before
grabbing the watch as well.
She didn’t intend to leave her one precious
possession in her apartment. Not until she was certain it was safe,
Alva squinted at the flickering road. Well, the road
didn’t flicker, but the street lamps certainly did. It was like all
the lamps in town were on the fritz. The overcast night seemed
intent on inducing seizures.
She turned off Main Street, by far the most direct
route to work, and decided to take the smaller streets instead. At
least they didn’t have street lamps, and the lack of flickering
would spare her head.
She slowed down, to avoid being too noisy. Her
orange 1970 Mercury Cougar had been a pet project of hers with her
dad, when she’d been a teenager. She loved the feel of the steering
wheel in her hands and the pull it still had. Much more satisfying
than modern cars. She smiled and ran her finger on the faux-wood
Her dad shouldn’t have been surprised that she’d
become an auto mechanic. Restoring this beast with him encapsulated
some of her fondest memories. She maintained it herself and it
wasn’t about to fail any emissions test, but it could get a bit
loud, and she didn’t want to start waking up children at four in
the morning. In a small town like Lindsay, they’d probably all know
it was her, too.
“Woa, Percival,” she said absent-mindedly as she
eased off the gas. Her old, venerable car had earned its name long
ago. After they’d restored it and took it for a spin, a much larger
car had sideswiped them, right on the passenger side, where Alva
was sitting. The already old beast had taken the hit like a knight
of old, her dad had said, saving Alva from injury. The car had
earned its name then, and had kept it since.
Percival hadn’t had to prove himself again, but Alva
still felt more secure in the old metal beast than in any new car
with complicated electronics that made her want to pull her own
hair out every time a new manual came out. Which was all the
“And why can’t every dealer just use the same damn
systems?” She exclaimed out loud.
A shadow ran across the road. She slammed on the
brakes. She couldn’t tell if she’d hit it.
She unfastened her seat belt and opened the door,
dreading what she might find. A cat, or a small dog maybe. It
wasn’t much bigger than that. It had moved too fast for a raccoon,
and the air wasn’t pungent from a skunk.
She reached over to her glove compartment and pulled
out a flashlight.
The street was dark save for Percival’s lights, and
quiet, save for the rumbling of her old motor. If she had hit the
animal and it had stumbled away, she’d need to hear it. She turned
off the motor before stepping out, but kept her lights on.
Percival’s battery was good and wouldn’t let her down.
Fall coated the crisp night. Alva could already
smell winter on it, felt its cool tendrils pierce her light leather
jacket. She ignored the chill and crouched beside her car. There
wasn’t anything under it. She aimed the flashlight on the road
toward where the animal had run, and there was no blood or sign of
something having ever even been there.
A nearby bush rustled and she aimed her flashlight
at it. She thought she spotted eyes, but they flashed away as
quickly as they’d appeared. She shrugged and got back in her car.
Not having to tell a family she’d run over their beloved pet was
definitely her preference.
A few minutes later she pulled into the shop. She
parked in the back, the night still thick. The only sound that
reached her ears was that of her boots on the gravel lot.
Inside the shop, however, a familiar sound greeted
her. Snoring. She sighed and tried to be as quiet as possible as
she turned on her bench light and pulled out the test watch. She’d
mapped most of it and hoped she understood how it worked. But every
gear had to be perfectly aligned or it wouldn’t keep time right.
She decided she’d completely take it apart and rebuild it. Only
then could she be confident she wouldn’t destroy her own. Just the
thought of the robber almost finding it last night re-motivated her
to fix the watch and keep it safe.
The watch was the only thing that pointed to a past
before her; her only connection to a family she never knew. And her
father had always wanted to see it keep time again. In a way, it
was keeping his legacy alive. Her hands would handle the same small
pieces his had handled. Where Pete had inherited his love of words
and literature, Al had his finesse with machines. And his love of
them. This was his legacy to her, and she intended to carry it
Besides, she loved the challenge.
She placed every small gear and piece in a box lid,
lining them up in order of removal. She was so engrossed in her
work that she didn’t even realize Gruff was up until the smell of
coffee filled the shop. She stretched her back and groaned. It was
still early, so she left everything out and went off to hunt
She headed to the back, to what could pass as a
small staff kitchen. It was tiny, with a small table and two chairs
squeezed onto a small fridge, coffee pot on top, but it was
functional and clean. Like the rest of Gruff’s shop. Gruff sat at
the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper. Alva sat on the
other chair, grabbing the sports section. A useless section until
hockey started, but with less than two weeks to go before that
happened, the trades and line-up speculations were entertaining
“Up early,” Gruff said, more than asked. The fridge
shook as it kicked in and buzzed, making the space seem ever
“Yup. Someone broke into my place last night,” she
said off-handedly. Gruff lowered the paper.
“They didn’t take anything. Suppose there wasn’t
much to take. Well, nothing that they could have easily found,
“Al, you should have called me. I’d have
Alva laughed. “With what? Clean up? They were long
gone by the time I got home, Gruff.”
“I would have helped with clean up. At least I’d
make sure you were all right. What if the creeps came back?”