Short Story – Huldufólk by Meg Pelliccio
The rain was drumming against the window panes in such a fast-paced rhythm that it was almost hypnotic. Or completely headache inducing. Adrian flicked through the messages on his phone, cursing the intermittent signal as he did so. He desperately sought to block out the annoying sound of the invading weather. The wind was howling and it had whipped up a penetrating cold that had managed to creep inside the house with a vengeance. Though Adrian had seen to it that the new build had the best in heating and electricity, like everything else it seemed to work only when it wanted to. He’d have to call the contractors back out to check it over; otherwise they’d never sell the damn property.
When he’d signed on to go abroad and oversee the new housing development in this small town in the back ass of nowhere, he had been assured it would be a quick and easy job. Months after it should have been done and dusted, they only had one incomplete house, an endless list of issues and a whole load of discontent amongst the locals. The area was a prime location for new real estate and he was being paid a hefty wage to get the job done by a high-rolling American entrepreneur. Too bad the residents there didn’t feel the same. They had the planning permission and the money, but that didn’t stop the petitions, the protests and the many people that kept pissing Adrian off. He’d all but been turned out of the town, no motel or B&B would house him and so here he was, squatting in his own unfinished build on the outskirts of the city.
The lights flickered and it caused Adrian to blurt out a string of expletives as he stomped to his feet to go and check the fuse box for the fifth time that evening. He flicked the switches up and down impatiently, hoping that resetting the switches would sort the damn power out. Instead of stopping the lights from blinking, he just stopped them entirely. Adrian cursed and flicked the switch a few more times, but nothing happened. Shit. It wasn’t the first time the power had given up the ghost, so he turned to plan B and grabbed a torch.
As he walked back through the incomplete building, the light hit upon the thorn in his side. The remnants of the rock in what was to be the living room glinted in the beam from his torch. So many tools and drills had broken in the removal of the rock that Adrian had lost count. But finally, the ugly mound of bedrock was gone. Now all they had to do was clean up the area where it had been and they could finally finish this room and get the show house open to the public. The torch started to flicker; Adrian slapped it into his palm a few times until the light became solid once more. The bitter touch of cold traced its way down his spine and he shivered. Another night of being stuck in the cold and dark it seemed.
“Fuck this,” Adrian muttered to himself as he grabbed his coat.
As he walked into the local pub, Adrian was immediately aware of the judgemental looks that were being thrown his way, but he grew up in East London and his skin was thicker than most. Let them look. He stalked up to the bar and waited for the barman, who reluctantly came his way and grunted in greeting. It was better than nothing, more importantly, it was better than being told to sling his hook.
“A pint, please,” Adrian stated flatly.
The older man grabbed a glass, muttering something in the local language as he did so. Adrian didn’t need to understand the dialect to know that the barman was not saying pleasant things to him.
Once the pint was full, the old man kept hold of it and stared Adrian down. “You’re making a mistake,” the barman growled, “You need to respect our way of life and-”
Adrian waved his hand dismissively, “Just the pint without the lecture will do, thanks.”
The old man narrowed his eyes, muttered something else that Adrian didn’t understand and slammed the pint down just in front of his unwanted customer before walking away. Grabbing his drink, Adrian decided to find the most secluded table in the place and sat down just glad to be somewhere warm and lit well. Even if he could feel the sharp resentful gaze of many a patron in there.
His peaceful solitude was short lived as an uninvited local took the seat opposite him. The man was much older than him and had the appearance of a local farmer. His features were rough and ready and his face twisted into a scowl as he stared the Englishman down. Adrian gave his best apathetic look hoping that the man glaring daggers at him would bugger off, but he was out of luck.
“You’re upsetting the huldufólk,” the man accused.
Adrian rolled his eyes and gave a tired sigh, this was far from the first time he had been force fed this local superstitious nonsense. “Look, I don’t believe in fairies, or elves, or whatever the hell your little folk are.”
“Huldufólk,” the man corrected quickly, “You’re destroying their homes.”
“Whatever,” Adrian snapped, “Your imaginary creatures can just go and live somewhere else.”
“They live in the rock formations you are clearing away; you are destroying their habitat and belittling our culture in doing so. You are disrespecting them.”
The old man was mistaken if he thought he could shame Adrian. “Look, I get that you have your myths and legends, mate. We all have to have something for the tourist trade to chew on. But we also need houses. These are modern times, we have to look to the future and you need to accept that your little town needs to grow. You’ll be thanking me when it does wonders for your economic growth, and in turn you can get more tourists to sell your fairy stories and trinkets to.”
“These are not just stories,” the local hissed, “There are other areas where you can build where you won’t be upsetting the balance. You must realise that we speak the truth, how else do you explain the misfortune of your building project?”
“Oh we’ve had misfortune, but I don’t believe that fairies flew in and fucked it up,” Adrian laughed bitterly. “I think locals are trying to spook my builders and in turn it means they’re churning out shit work as they’re looking over their shoulder for little men in tights instead of paying attention to what they should be doing.”
“You’re a fool,” the old man declared as he quickly rose to his feet, shaking his head as he walked away.
“Whatever, mate,” Adrian muttered more to himself than his departing companion. He took a long swig from his pint. The people here might be less than desirable, but he had to give it to them, their alcohol was good.
He’d barely drunk half of his pint when another shadow fell across his face. Here we go again. Adrian looked up expecting to see another pensioner coming to talk his ear off about fairy tales and ugly rocks. He blinked in surprise as he took in the slender figure in front of him.
“May I sit with you?” she asked, immediately drawing his attention to her perfectly sculpted lips.
While Adrian didn’t want to have to go over the same old argument again, he was happy to go a few more rounds in the ring if it was with this stunner. She wore a deep green dress that hugged her body in all the right places. As his eyes roved over her appreciatively, he nodded at her and she took a seat. Her hair seemed impossibly perfect, shiny black curves falling in elegant waves past her shoulders. Her skin was pale with a pure porcelain quality. She smiled at him and that small movement caused her crystalline eyes to sparkle in the light. Adrian would have visited the town more if he had seen this woman before.
“Look, love,” he said with a confident grin, “If you’re here to talk to me about your little folk, then I’ve heard it all before.”
The woman gave him a sympathetic smile, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Good, because if I hear about them one more time then I think I’ll go stir crazy.”
The woman laughed and it was such a sweet sound that Adrian found himself smiling warmly at her. Things were finally looking up.
“So what can I do for you?” he said with a wink.
“Well, it’s no secret that you’re out here building new homes and I wanted you to know that I agree with you. There are people who need homes out here.”
“It’s a shame your neighbours don’t share that thought,” Adrian scoffed.
“It only takes one person to believe,” the woman smiled, “And I believe you are the man for the job.”
“I’ll drink to that!”
Adrian’s luck was on the climb. He fumbled with his keys as the beautiful woman stood at his side, and he gave her a quick lopsided grin as he opened the door. He flicked the light switch and was relieved to see the hallway flooded with light. Oh yes, his luck had definitely changed. He grabbed the woman around her petite waist and pulled her inside, causing her to erupt into a fit of giggles.
“Sorry it’s a bit cold in here,” Adrian apologised as he led her inside.
“Oh, I’m sure we can think of a way to warm each other up,” the beautiful woman teased as she took the lead and grabbed Adrian’s hand, pulling him into the darkness of the first room she came to.
Realising she’d gone into the unfinished living room, Adrian felt his mood dampening and he was just about to suggest they go upstairs where it was more comfortable, but then his eyes accustomed to the gloom. He couldn’t help but watch, hypnotised by the sight of the woman slowly and sensually removing her dress. As the green fabric pooled to the floor at her feet, she unclipped her bra and slowly dropped it off her shoulders before letting that fall to the floor also. Her lips were curled up in a mischievous smirk as she watched Adrian flounder in his infatuation. Slipping her thumb between her skin and underwear, she pulled the slither of lace down and Adrian fought to keep himself from pouncing on her right away.
“Aren’t you going to undress?” she teased.
Adrian nodded dumbly and began tearing his clothes off in a much more desperate manner than his partner had managed to achieve. The sight of his school boy eagerness was rewarded with more giggles. Once he had stripped down, he pulled the woman close to him, feeling the warmth of her skin against his own. He didn’t give a shit about the cold now. Her eyes were dark and full of the need he felt within himself. His mouth went to hers and all thoughts were driven from his mind as he gave in to his sexual desires. The sultry woman from the bar took on a whole new manner in the dark; she became a ferocious animal, pushing Adrian up against the wall and nibbling at his ear lobe as her hand leisurely traced down his chest. Normally Adrian liked to be the one taking control, but he wasn’t going to complain at this point. His hands explored her body and he couldn’t wait to become familiar with every inch of her.
“This is where you are going to give the people somewhere to live,” she whispered in his ear.
She wanted to talk property development now? Odd woman. But Adrian wasn’t going to complain that he’d somehow managed to find a woman with a housing fetish. He could already feel his body responding to her touch and he desperately wanted her. His beautiful partner seemed to be as lost in her lust as Adrian; he could hear her whispering in her native language. He had no idea what she was saying, but her tone was full of a primal need and he couldn’t agree more. Adrian felt his skin tingling and it made him shiver with anticipation.
“This is going to hurt,” she teased as she pushed him up against the wall again and trailed kisses down his torso.
“Promises, promises,” Adrian breathed heavily, his breath catching as he felt the wet of her tongue on his skin.
The tingling sensation on his skin began to border on pins and needles. Perhaps the cold house was affecting his body more than he realised. However, there was definitely one particular part of him that felt as though it was on fire. It became harder and harder to focus on the sweet feeling of her mouth exploring his body as sharp pains began to sweep across his skin. His heart seemed to skip a beat, it was fumbling over its own rhythm and his chest suddenly felt tight. Struggling to breathe, Adrian went to push the woman away, but his limbs felt like dead weights and they wouldn’t listen to his brain. He choked and gurgled, trying to get words out, but failing. His tongue felt like a limp lump of meat in his mouth. Panic filled him as he felt trapped within his own body. As if sensing his fear, the woman rose to meet his eyes and smiled sympathetically.
“I said it would hurt,” she whispered as she stroked a finger across his cheek, “But it’ll be worth it. You will be making a home for people to live in.”
Adrian let loose a strangled sob, unable to form words or even express the intensifying pain that was rolling throughout his body in torturous waves. He could feel his eyes going wide as he tried to silently plead with the woman before him. She was so calm about his predicament, as if she was completely unaware of what he was going through. His body was as rigid as stone and he could feel the cold icy numbness spreading to every inch of his body. The pain became excruciating and the sounds that ripped from his throat were animalistic whimpers.
“Shhhh,” she hushed him softly, “Think of the home you are making. A home to replace the one you stole, a new home for my people.”
There was movement in his peripheral vision, something that seemed to be coming out of the space that his body occupied but he couldn’t focus on it. All he could see was a dark grey mass. The woman stepped backwards to allow for this new development, all the while she smiled. Adrian felt and heard something that could only be described as an internal cracking sound and then everything went dark.
The woman smiled at the new rock formation that graced the room, exactly where the old one had stood. She leaned in and kissed the cold stone softly. The huldufólk would not be moved from their homeland.