Far from the White Pass & Yukon Route
by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Tulip was a fairy godmother. Most of the individuals in her extended family were likewise enchanted characters of various stripes. Tulip leaned toward loyalty and kindness. The uncle with whom she lived, a hill troll, leaned in the opposite direction. Kinsfolks claimed that he had been deposited by aliens.
It cost Tulip much effort to express composure around that uncle despite the fact that she had a quasi-mastery of equanimity calmness was needed to cast spells. Her uncle, all the same, didnt make any effort to mask his incessantly perturbed state. Daily, he showered Tulip with bruises and harsh words. Almost as often, Tulip escaped him by taking her supper at a local diner with the only sprite she trusted implicitly, Rosemary, aka the Tooth Fairy.
One evening, as Tulip and her bestie were chatting over chopping crudités and warmed abath,
Rosemary scowled, youll get no help, girlfriend, from all that plonk youve hidden beneath those blankets in your four-wheel.
Tulip regarded her beverage. It was made with unicorn horn powder, a precipitate known to be both an aphrodisiac and an antidote to poison. As far as Tulip was concerned, abath and pulverized horn was more delicious than chocolate. Say what? Arent you the fairy who had been desperate for the dental floss and anvil I had secured back there?
A long time ago
Your sisters, Lavender and Sage, the Cleaning Fairies had no problem borrowing my slop bucket or my new broom. How many scores of years do you think will pass before they return my tools?
Ok, girl, you win.
Tulip nodded. Please pass the salt.
Flavorings suit you. No matter the amount of fairies born to a generation, there is always someone punctilious with seasonings.
Told true. Please pass the cayenne, too. Tulip shook both essences onto her raw vegetables.
Its time you get the local government to stop objectifying pucks and peris.
Ive been busy conferring individuals wishes and running free loans out of my jeep.
Okay, so forget the bureaucrats. Maybe, you could shepherd the lingering dragons and ichneumons away from our village.
Ive noticed that you have wings, too.
Ill be more helpful when the last of those great serpents skedaddles.
So you can boss around the smaller denizens?
Perhaps. Split the bill?
Dont we always?
Rather than return home to her uncles rage, Tulip spent a span penning up some of the areas alarming, furry ruffians and daunting, scaly fiends. As she began to feel increasingly tired and somewhat cold, she reevaluated. Packing her land rover for her journey home, she mused over whether or not Uncle had really fallen from the stars.
The first time that he had loosened his temper on her was when she had returned from Fairy School. He had deemed her decision to become a godmother as synonymous with joining the League of the Antiestablishment. La la land was regarded as a forbidden place given that obliviousness was problematic among fascinated folk.
Whereas almost all extramundanes waxed and waned between lucidity and lunacy, no one else in Uncles flesh and blood had ever attended school and or had ever possessed the audacity to befriend the most out of control monstrosities, the Normals. Family lore maintained that aiding humans was extremely irregular.
Uncle used that datum to justify kicking Tulip when she was awake. He used it to justify fondling her when she was asleep, too.
Rosemary had repeatedly urged Tulip to move out even though Rosemary could not house her. The Tooth Fairy had a few hundred offspring. Meeting Tulip almost daily for a shared meal took more of Rosemarys resources than did any of her other activities; Tulip would have to excuse her for not also being able to provide shelter.
On route home, Tulip reminded herself that there was no win in confronting Uncle reliant on tradition or not, he was already mostly destroyed by senescence. In hardly any decades, hed be mortally felled.
Accordingly, whenever Tulip was around that kinsman, she responded to his requests with bald monologues that were filled with kind, but insubstantial words. Furthermore, after tucking him in, washing his feet, trimming his toenails, and clipping his nostril hairs, shed sing him to sleep with ballads of vindictive griots. She meant for her mothers brother to have bad dreams. Similarly, she wished hed sleep through the night and not bother her.
The next time that Tulip and Rosemary met, Rosemary proposed that they travel together to Carcross. Rosemary, who was gravid, was yearning for Artic grayling.
We could camp by the Chilkoot Trail in my off-roader. Its unlikely that Normals will trouble us, there.
Are we Americans or Canadians?
Does it matter?
Not really - we dont use permits.
Why are you pregnant, again?
I work in bedrooms.
With little kids.
Their dads often stay awake and wait for me. Theres more than one way to grant a wish.
Hmmm. In any case, I thought youre out of vacation time.
No limit on maternity leave?
Nope. Besides, my business is championing also-rans and has-beens. The tooth things supplementary income.
Cook on a spit?
Im not eating raw fish. Also, Im telling you, now, if any social system becomes compromised in my absence, youre accountable.
Super! Tidy up the resident beasts. Were going on a getaway.
Ah, what about your kids?
I hired a tribe of babysitters from Pitt Island. Their visas are up to date.
A fortnight worth of adventures later, Tulip and Rosemary returned to Skagway.
Why couldnt we have stayed here? We have wonderful salmon!
Gestation makes me fickle.
Uncle was inconsolable. He threw his slippers at Tulip when she came in the door. One of them hit her in the head.
He bellowed. Children ought to respect the laws of nature. Youre supposed to keel over when something strikes you. He then grunted in emphasis. Youre nothing more than a self-assured bovine thats okay thieving my frozen dewberries and moose pemmican. Ill go hungry in ten or twenty years time if you dont immediately restock what youve stolen.
Tulip refrained from pointing out that bovine are herbivories and that she more resembled a kudu than a cow. She refilled her uncles pantry until it was brimming with comestibles.
The next morning, she equally filled her SUV, noting to Uncle that shed be away for a couple of weeks she had been asked to find the Yeti missing from the Alaskan Sea Life Center. On the one hand, Tulip had to drive the one thousand miles between Seward and Skagway. On the other hand, that trip meant she didnt have to live with Uncle for a while.
A short way down the road, the fairy pulled over. She had gotten too out of shape to fly one thousand miles and her lapsed friendship with the captain of the Ice Princess meant she couldnt accelerate her travels via the water, either. That captains boat, one of a minority cruising Alaska Bay, had become unavailable to her ever since she had refused to break a calved iceberg that had blocked it.
Tulip stuck her ring finger out in the direction of Fairies Inc. Over the last handful of days, she had had too little sleep and too much abath. Maybe she was a genetic throwback of Uncles; maybe she, too, was alien. Sleep, or the lack thereof, and alcohol were not supposed to impact her kind.
As Tulip stood there, her finger extended in a gesture considered rude by humans, she lamented having to track down a Yeti. To her, happiness was warding bowhead whales or restoring Porcupine Caribou to their rightful grazing lands. Tulip was fluent in Cetacea and liked befriending deer.
What happened next popped Tulips socks. While she counted the quantity of tins of Uncles dewberries that she had stashed in her glove compartment and of his pemmican that she had stockpiled in her back seat, she heard her standard issue intergalactic cellphone ring.
The voice on the other end spoke gibberish (Tulip had not opted for the translation feature.)
Tulip hung up.
Her special contraption vibrated once more.
Again, Tulip disconnected.
Eight times, her special piece of equipment rang and eight times she hung up. Eventually, Tulip stopped answering.
Tulip inventoried her inedible detritus and all of her foodstuffs. Among broken doohickeys and worn out thingamabobs were tinfoil hats and containers full of freeze-dried Byrsonima crassifolia. She and Rosemary had fashioned the former one evening when all but seventy of Rosemarys children had fallen asleep. The latter had been a gift from an elf that lived in rural Panama.
Tulip and her beloved elf had parted ways after she had denounced his theories about extraterrestrials as being no better than the quicksand premises about the cosmos that Tulips academic advisor had once promoted. Whereas Tulips fairy godmother guide had left Tulip alone, Tulips ex-lover had sent Tulip protective comestibles.
Unlike those other two, Tulip believed that a united front of pixies, brownies, leprechauns, gremlins, imps, fairies, ogres, goblins, and jinni could successfully face off against interplanetary invaders as long as the Normals stayed out of the clash and as long as no roe deer or reindeer were sacrificed to the effort. Tulip also believed that interstellar mobiles were overkill.
Nevertheless, the ringing of her infinity device automatically modified her plans. Astral problems trump an escaped Yeti.
The fairy shrugged. She had long supposed that those special receivers, one of which she obediently carried, were gimmicks awarded to Fairy Godmother School graduates so that they could be tracked. The gibberish she had heard on hers made her begin to think.
So, she downloaded a driving app. It was less than seven hours to Juneau, and from there, if she arrived when there was ferry service, just half of a day to Gustavus. From Gustavus to Hoonah, shed need another ferry and then from Hoonah, assuming her car could handle the roads, she could drive to Elfin Cove, her teachers home.
Before getting back into her sport-ute, Tulip again stuck her ring finger out in the direction of Fairies Inc. Her regular phone remained mute.
Therefore, she buckled up and headed back toward her hometown. She wasnt certain when shed next be able to detour and she felt pressed to deliver, to Rosemary, the cooler she had filled with Northern Pike, lake trout, not many bottles of tobacco sauce, and a jar of gherkin pickles. When pregnant, Rosemary was a hangry fairy. .
Back on the road, Tulip motored until she reached Juneau. Fortunately, she arrived on one of the two days when there was ferry service to Gustavus.
Near Gustavus, Tulip lingered to pick strawberries. Eating herself sick on a combination of those fruits and the last of her uncles dewberries, she decided, preternatural message or not, to camp for the night.
Tulip slept poorly. It tore at her that she had abandoned Uncle. It required days, maybe a week, to hunt down and capture a Yeti. Still, she could change her mind and return home after such an undertaking. Inversely, there was no telling how long she would be away when on a quest involving tramontane life forms. Sure, Uncles brutality was horrific, but he was all that she had left of her mothers kith and kin. What's more, hed likely anyway be dead in less than half a century.
That night, concealed by towering Sitkas and hemlocks, Tulip cried. Shed befriended nasty hedgehogs, given advice to insurrectionaries employed by Alaskas Department of Fish and Game, and forgiven Rosemarys emotional unavailable on countless occasions. She did not want to have anything to do with creatures from the void.
Tulip almost fell short of actualizing her mission. She woke to the suction of a mooses proboscis. That bulbous thing, attached to a curious animal, was merely performing respiration through Tulips open window. The giant critter attached to its other end had failed to notice that tiny Tulip had become covered with phlegm and was in danger of becoming inhaled.
Tulip quickly rolled up her window. She beeped at the large deer, chanted some friendly, ineffective words at it, and watched it back away. Perhaps it was cosmic justice that she had nearly been killed by the snout of a critter whose relatives dried and seasoned flesh she had nicked from Uncle.
After scarcely any hours, Tulip found a ferry to Hoonah. She slept in her car as that boat crossed the water. From Hoonah, Tulip drove to Elfin Cove.
That drive, which traversed roughly blazed paths and unmapped tributaries, took her through groves of through cedar, spruce, and hemlock. Because she had waned to keep her car with her as long as she could, Tulip had opted out of a floatplane.
The area through which she drove smelled of decaying needles, pinecones, and leaves. The foraging and trampling of elk, as well as the scat left behind by raccoons and black bears, revealed a domain largely unexplored by Normals.
Despite the majesty of her surrounds, her nose repeatedly grew red and her eyes repeatedly became runny. Tulip wished that instead of passing through so much beauty, she was listening to Rosemary rant about children. Even though Rosemarys outbuildings were overrun with Rosemarys fry, Rosemary always had enough pineapple upside down cake for Tulip to have some, too. Fairies know that tropic fruits fix many things.
After more than a week of crisscrossing back country, Tulip came to a certain juncture, where an unremarkable hut stood. In front of that structure, Tulips erstwhile counselor danced. That older fairy was snapping pretty blasts of pink and green electricity into the air. It had been that paranormal who had taught Tulip about the electromagnetic spectrum and about life beyond their planet.
That same proctor was as angry as hornets upon discovering that her former pupil hadnt translated her received directive. That fairy reprimanded Tulip, shouting that celestial ordinances should be treated with urgency. After she stopped shouting, she decoded Tulips dispatch. That transmission, which was compelling in itself, also had an immediate fulfillment deadline. The fine for failing to meet that cutoff was only the destruction of the Solar System.
Distressed beyond words, Tulips mentor shoved Tulip back into her SUV. She waited until her pupil was out of sight to return to her multihued displays of electrostatic discharge. It was not so much that that little person disowned her stewardship of the girl who easily talked to faunae or that that she thought of herself impervious to the kinds of outcomes visited upon straying magical denizens as it was that she kowtowed to her superiors. Her overseers had earlier warned the lightning-flinger to forget that she had ever met Tulip.
Meanwhile, Tulip arrived at George Island. Given her advisers wrath, Tulip had remitted and had hired a ride equipped with pontoons. Before leaving her automobile next to that small commercial crafts airstrip, she had stuffed her backpack with nanche, with a tinfoil hat, and with a photo of Rosemarys youngest two hundred kids.
After landing, she hiked through a temperate rainforest. Ordinarily, Tulip would have stopped to dialogue with humpbacks, sing with sea lions, and signal to eagles. Her route would have been circuitous. That day, conversely, it was all she could do to keep the corners of her eyes from sagging, her brows from knitting, and her lips from thinning. She dared not frolic.
Her limited storehouse of incantations changed nothing among the ancient stands in which she found herself. Her pushing on mighty trunks, too, proved ineffectual. In that place of arboreal giants, both her magic and her brute force were useless. After hours of jumping and waving, Tulip sat down. Both her deep space handset and the thickets around her stayed silent.
Just before twilight, a slim note floated down from the canopy. That missive, which had her name on it, redirected her to Willoughby Cove of Lemesurier Island, that is, to a spot on a small tract of land positioned in the Icy Strait, between the North and South Passages. George Island was not, after all, her final destination.
Tulip tested her wings. She was too exhausted for even a relatively short flight. Donning her tinfoil hat, she fell asleep under the trees.
Before she was rescued, Tulips phone batteries died and her food ran out. Fortunately, the airplane pilot who had brought her to George Island had returned to see if she wanted a ride back to Elfin Cove. For a price, that Normal was willing to take her to Lemesurier, instead. Most humans believed that beings of Tulips ilk were flush with gold. Accordingly, Tulip felt only a little bad about paying him with magically-gilded gravel.
Lemesurier was quieter than George. It drew only professional hunters, fishermen, and murderers. Tulip didnt want to walk among its copses. Shed rather swim back to Gustavus and hitch her way home than continue her expedition to the rocket. Tulip tossed her small, intergalactic machine into the water. Minutes later, the appliance reappeared in her pocket simultaneous with the starship appearing beneath the trees.
Had Tulip teacher, who was proficient in sorcery, not bewitched her, Tulip would not have boarded the otherwise unoccupied projectile. She was claustrophobic as well as wholly unschooled in astrophysics.
Tulip was talented with nature. She was good at making peace among savages, be they men or monsters. Her work demanded fields, streams, and thickets, not a chair that could whisk her toward the heavens.
Nonetheless, Tulip adjusted the provided helmet and fastened the provided seat belt. She considered that maybe, after all, Uncle was an alien, and that maybe, after all, her assignment was his doing, was his revenge for her delinquencies. Tulip wanted to hop out of that missiles cockpit, but she couldnt justify letting the universe go up in flames merely because of the machinations of a heartless troll and because of her own fear of confinement.
Little is known about Tulips journey or about the time she spent in a faraway realm. That the Earth still exists and that all of the Solar Systems globes still seem to be spinning in their correct solar orbits indicate adequately indicate that she succeeded.
Optimists suggest that the fairy godmother reached the designated galaxy intact and was greeted by organisms whose give-and-takes of ideas was enacted via a series of snort, grunts, and squeals resembling wapiti sounds and via a patterning of chirps and grunts resembling the sounds of river otters. Tulip spoke both Wapiti and Otter.
Pessimists, contrariwise, suggest that the fairy godmother did not reach the designated galaxy or that she reached it, but was confronted by organisms whose vocal instruments could not mirror her singsong speech. Some cynics say she was eaten. Others say she was disintegrated. Still others shrug and suggest that duty is duty and that death comes to everyone, no matter the source. Essential, Tulips modus operandi was of little concern to them.
Either way, there continues to be a significance attached to Tulips enterprise. Not only have Normals stopped interacting with supernatural beings, but until the invention of the IP telephony, all unworldly gadgets precipitously disappeared.
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