He felt happy, warm, glad, yet he knew that he should be terrified. The emotions that played in his chest seemed to have won over the reasoning in his head; there were trails left of logic that he could follow, that told him that he should scream and panic, but whoever left those there were now long gone. The logic in him had given up, and he could only embrace the joy of being fully immersed in this golden liquid. Even his lungs didn't seem to care any more.
His eyes followed the arm that dragged him. It was a beautiful arm - or was it really? He had this nagging feeling back in his head that it should frighten him; the way the muscles were exposed, the bone beneath and sometimes above... Yes, it was a beautiful arm. A bit long, maybe. It seemed to stretch forever in front of him. If it hadn't been for that face he wouldn't...
Yes, the face. A beautiful face. Warm, gentle, likeable. It had rescued him, he was sure of it. It had just turned up when that other fellow tried to drown him - good man, good man. I liked him too, Billobi thought and smiled. A bit on the fierce side, but that's what winter will do to you. Oh how I love winter!
But the face, how kind and charming. Again, the lack of skin and the deep sockets where one would usually find eyeballs were signs that he suspected pointed to other feelings - fear, perhaps? - but he really couldn't feel them. After all, it had pulled him away from that other fellow, no matter how likeable he was.
The lovely golden sand around him - oh, how he loved it! - suddenly changed in colour. At first he thought it went darker, but it actually shifted towards orange. As the bright golden view disappeared, a string of cold started to tangle in his chest. He felt abandoned, and as the colour continued towards red, he couldn't help but feel betrayed. Why did they do this to him? Why did they have to remove this warm feeling, and replace it with this yarn of bitterness? It was his, and his alone! Give it back!
The liquid continued to change, but suddenly stopped. All was bright red now, and Billobi screamed at the top of his lungs. He was furious, his chest filled with hatred. He punched and kicked at nothing and everything, he screamed, he bit. He had never felt this disappointed before.
He suddenly became aware of the fact that nothing dragged him any longer. The arm - that bloody arm! - had released him without him noticing, and he was now floating in this bright red liquid all alone. He could feel the pounding desire for air in his chest, but he'd rather spend it on screaming and shouting. With closed eyes and clenched fists he fought the void in front of him - and felt the soft mattress of an open ribcage. There was the face again, at nose length from his own. He stared directly into its hollow sockets, and could only feel one thing: hatred. He loathed the monster in front of him, even as it extended its jaw and slowly adjusting it to Billobi's head size.
Then, things happened very fast.
A force got hold of his shoulders, and pulled him upwards. Bubbles fell off his body, and as the surroundings started to change rapidly again, he felt the hatred leave his body and be replaced by something more wonderful. Oh, beautiful golden sand, how I have missed you! he said and felt the liquid spilling into his mouth. Oh, beautiful arm, how nice of you t...
He didn't remember the last bit; it was all black. All he could remember was the choking feeling of liquid pouring out of both mouth and nose, and cold air filling his lungs yet again. The texture of a wooden floor, every fibre and every line. Reason quickly filled the vacant space in his head, and without opening his eyes he realised he was now laying on the floor next to the hole in the living room.
Slowly opening his eyes, a scene of violence played in front of him. The hideous being that had dragged him down into the golden liquid, stood at the opposite side of the room, throwing punches and biting at what Billobi hoped to be a regular human being. The sight of the monstrous figure plucked on his instinct to run for his life, but every muscle in his body felt asleep. He could only lay there, tired, unhelpful, grateful.
But like a fish stuck on the beach, the creature too started to gasp for air. It knocked the small person over, and before plunging into the hole again it stared deep into Billobi's eyes. It tells me something, he thought, but what?
Quick on the feet, the person who fought the creature started to cover the hole with whatever debris it could find in the room. Next thing Billobi knew, it held him in its arms. He didn't have to open his eyes, he knew this smell like the back of his hand.
"Ana?" he said hoarsely. The letters burned his throat as they left his mouth.
"Yes, Bill", Ana answered. "I'm here, it's over now. I'll get you home, dear."
"Hush, dear. Save your strength. Can you stand? Here, take my arm."
As he rose up from the floor, Billobi noticed a lifeless body in the back of the room. It belonged to the crazed man who tried to drown Billobi.
"Is...he...?" Billobi whispered and pointed.
"Drowned, probably", Ana answered without looking. "When I came here, he was flat on his chest next to that hole, head first. I pulled him up but he..." She stopped. "Drowned."
She led Billobi into the hallway, but as they passed the kitchen he forced her to stop. In there, he saw the body of Mr. Businessman, torn in two halves.
"The creature got him first", Ana answered, again without looking. "Please, dear, let's be on our way now!"
But a furious, high-pitched sound caught them off guard, and Ana lost her grip on Billobi. He fell on his left arm, on the wooden floor he just moments before had blessed. Turning around, they stared into the hollow sockets of the creature once again; it had merely returned to the hole to get some air. It leaned into the hallway, twisting and contracting its muscles around the bones.
Ana pointed at the creature, mumbled a single word and - nothing happened. Billobi felt fear crawling out of his chest, decorating his body like a spider web alive. The hideous creature stood there, leaning, motionless... It didn't move?
"I.. I fixated him", Ana whispered. Her breathing was heavy. "It still lives, but it can't...move. I never thought... It worked."
Although rendered stationary, both Ana and Billobi picked up sounds of breathing and small twitches in the unnatural wide jaw. It just stood there, alive but still. The breathing picked up in speed; short bursts, increasing until it suddenly stopped. The twitching ended as well. The hollow sockets stared at her.
"I..." Ana whispered. "I... I killed... I drowned it..." Her hands began to shake. "I...drowned it..."
Billobi got on his feet using his right arm, limped over to Ana and took her hand.
"Ana", he whispered. "Let's go."
She nodded slowly, hands still shaking. They limped over to the front door - eyes on the creature - opened it, and got out in the cold. Silence embraced them on the walk home.
* * *
Two weeks later, Billobi got a letter from his editor at the Inquisitive. An article from another newspaper was attached to the back. He read them both carefully, before shredding them to pieces and tossing it all into the fireplace.
"What was that?" Ana asked from the kitchen.
"Oh no you, I heard paper shredding. I don't want secret notes in this house, Billobi, not after..."
"It was from my editor", he interrupted her.
"Your editor? For the Inquisitive? But I thought you didn't want to work there any more?"
"I don't! I gave him my notice last week. He just wanted to write and tell me that I won't be getting any pay for that thing at North Street."
"But he published the article, didn't he?"
"Yes, but apparently a day too late according to him. There have been reports all over the country about these kind of holes recently. They call them 'Fairy holes'."
"That was no fairy we saw, Bill."
Billobi didn't answer immediately, as if he was sucked into a memory.
"They're like natural springs, apparently", he said. "Pops up here and there, a 'buried flask of golden liquid'. That's what the article said. And deep inside, a seed. A fairy."
"Like that thing? On North Street?"
"Like that thing on North Street. Filled with joy at first. But when people bathe in that golden sand... They suck up the joy, but leave their misery. Turns the yellow into red hatred."
"And then, the seed grows. Hatred is heavier than joy, red at the bottom, yellow at the top. Hatred feeds the fairy, until... Until the entire flask is tainted."
He had turned his gaze towards the fireplace without noticing it, clenching his fist as he spoke.
"At least, that's what the article said. I don't care."
Ana walked up to him and pushed his head against her chest. As she stroke the hair on his head, Billobi mumbled a question: "How did you do that?"
"Do what, dear?"
"Pull me up... And stopping that...creature... How did you do that?"
"Well, some of us went to school to learn things. Unlike you and my brother, I actually passed my grammar magic class."
"Grammar magic... You don't say."
He sighed in her chest, and mumbled: "Let us never throw that book away."