There is an ancient well out in the glade — nestled among tall grass and wildflowers. The village folks said when the night is quiet enough and the cicadas aren't singing, you can hear a little tinkle, and then a little splash much like the sound of a small object being dropped into a deep pool of water.
They said that when you inch closer to the foundation of the old well, you could just barely make out a silhouette of a person hunched over the worn down bricks. But often, the shadow would slither away into the embrace of the dark, and disappear.
And in the place where the stranger had stood, looking down you'll see a glittering of coins shining in the bright, clear water — illuminated by the moonlight.
I played by the well as a young boy, and the countless times I peeked in over the rim there never were any coins glittering in clear water down at the bottom. In fact, the well had remained dry for the last 6 decades.
et now, I wondered if I were to dig at the soil at the bottom of the well, would I come up with buried gems?
Forgotten coins of different ages?
My heart weighed heavy at the thought. A shallow materialistic want tugged at the heartstrings of my soul. My pocket clinked as I walked along the dirt path that would lead me to the glade where the well would be. Unmoving, unchanged and waiting for the next well-wisher to toss in a coin accompanied with a murmured wish dripping with want.
It was not coins in my pocket, but rusted nails. Red to the core.
"Iron to ward off jinxes," my father said. He meant the things that lurk in the bushes, in the shadows, in hidden nook and corners, obscured from human's sights.
My phone pinged. I took it out and read the message.
I'm already here. Where are you?
I let out a breath. I imagined Poppy Glasgow's polished manicured nails hovering over the keyboard, jamming those words to send to me. Last night, she had walked down from her house on top of the hill to my place — barefoot, scraped knees and wild hair.
She looked shell shocked, but when she spoke, it was calm. "What they said is true. The well is magick."
It took me a full minute to register what she meant, but she continued. "I'm jinxed. I need you to remove it." Then the calm fissure broke like glass. She grabbed my arms, digging her nails into my skin. "I know what it is you do. You must help me."
That night, I agreed to abide despite my skepticism. Partly, because it was Poppy Glasgow. At school, she was the epitome of an otherworldly and unattainable glamour. She was intrigue itself, and somehow she had come right by my doorstep to seek my help.
The pile of bricks were starting to become more visible now. There was a silhouette hunched over it. My heart jumped into my throat. But before terror could seize me completely, the clouds made way for the moonlight to slice through the darkness, and Poppy was there standing in place of the shadow. She looked up. There was a bright beam to her face.
"There you are," she said. She was smiling. "Come over here."
I went over as if pulled along by an invisible string. She stood close to me, her skin pressing against my arm. She beckoned me to look down the well. "Look."
There was water. Bright and clear as crystal.
My pocketful of rusted iron felt heavier by the minute. Something was wrong.
Poppy turned to look at me. "You have to make a wish."
I addressed her face for a moment. Something was odd to her features. Her eyes were brighter, her cheeks rosier, and her lips redder. I felt something cold pressed against my palm, I looked down and it was a silver coin. Unengraved and unmarked.
"Welded moonstone," Poppy Glasgow whispered.
My heart steeled. "I don't believe in wishes. You can take it back."
She shook her head, strands of auburn hair falling to her face. I wanted to tuck them behind her delicate, pale ear. I balled my hand into a fist.
"This is how you can help me. The well needs another wisssher."
The final word rolled off her lips in a snake's hiss.
I was already rendered helpless.
Want tugged at my heart. Powerful and overwhelming. I thought of this beautiful girl before me, imploring me to help her by making a wish over a magicked ancient well.
I stretched out my hand, opened my palm and dropped the silver coin. Before it could hit the water below, I murmured my want. My secret wish.
There was a whoosh. I blinked.
A second later, Poppy was gone.
I jerked away from the well, but a rock jutting out from the ground struck my heel, and I stumbled backward. The loose bricks gave away as my weight slammed against it, and I fell down, down, down into the well. The last thing I saw was a shadowed silhouette peeking over the rim.
I awoke to the smell of fresh earth and a faint hint of wild berries. Poppy Glasgow was beside me, the same wide eyed, wild haired girl I had opened my door to just two nights ago.
"Oh, thank goodness, you're all right!" she exclaimed. "I know you. Maverick, isn't it?"
"Where are we?" I croaked. This girl before me wasn't the same one who had waited for me by the well earlier.
"I don't know if we're still in Elmwood, but we're in a cave now. And it seems we have to wait," she said.
"Wait for what?" I asked, but I stopped short before she could reply.
Bells and singing rung in the distance.
Without a shadow of a doubt, we had been transported by trickery into the Dark Court of the Feyfolks.