Observable Phenomenon – When Fey Get Bored

August 8th, 2008

When I was in my teens, I used to dress up in medieval costumes with my friends, drive to the city, and hang out with a bunch of similarly-minded folk reenacting a selectively edited version of the Middle Ages: feasting, singing, battles and chivalry were in – rats, disease, and oppression were out. But one of our favorite parts of medieval re-enactment happened before we ever even hit the road. On our way out of town we would contrive to stop at the local grocery store, where – clad in harem pants, tunics, and tabards, with goblets hanging from our belts and leather pirate boots flapping – we spoke loudly with faux-English accents and shopped for random grocery items, pretending it was business as usual, while delightedly observing the confusion and discomfiture of the grocery store staff. We referred to this activity as “freaking the mundanes,” and it was fun for years and years and years.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the fey population of Los Angeles does something similar – in the inverse. When they get bored, they freak the humans by letting their disguises slip – just a little bit. They flicker from looking like everyone else in town, to suddenly looking quite out of place – but just for a moment; then they’re gone, with no explanation. Today, for example, I noticed a girl browsing at a bookstore. A normal enough looking girl… until I realized the artwork on her t-shirt was actually alive; it wriggling and shimmered in three dimensions, hovering just above the fabric of her shirt.

At the bookstore café a few moments later, I watched a girl in a top hat and a cinch-waisted Victorian coat pick her way delicately between the tables. She carried a tiny birdcage the way someone else might carry a handbag, dangling from her forearm by a chain. Inside, a bird the size of a cherry-tomato chirped, emitting small soap bubbles that floated out between the bars of the cage, then settled to the floor like day-old helium balloons.

I might have tried to approach her, but a boy with intense blue eyes and shoulder-length red hair politely interrupted me. He asked which computer system I was running on my computer, but didn’t pay any attention to my response. And he didn’t even flinch when I noticed loooong curly-toed shoes peeking out from under the hems of his faded blue jeans. By the time I recovered from the distraction, the girl was gone. And when I thought to ask the boy if he’d seen her, I realized that he’d disappeared as well.

At the cash register, I found a place in line behind a young dreadlocked man. When the cashier called out “next,” he lifted his face to see over the tops of the other customers’ heads and the dreads shifted, falling down his back. For a second, I watched silver knot-work crawl up the rim of his ear – like high speed footage of vines growing up the side of a building. I must have stared because he looked back at me and winked before rearranging his hair and approaching the counter.

I sometimes wonder if they’re really fey…

Or if the grocery store employees from years ago have reassembled and come to LA to exact revenge.

Entry Filed under: Observable Phenomena