A selection of images including the cover to Titanic Terastructures, A Quiet Afternoon 2, Thirty Years of Rain, New Maps, Shoreline of Infinity, K-Zine, Flotation Device and Magical Crime Scene Investigation.
In the centre are two painted images, one of a frazzled ginger haired woman drinking tea and one of a Sikh gentleman holding a bucket and sword and facing pink tentacles

Agnes, a Fairy

 Agnes, a Fairy

  Brian M. Milton

  In the beginning, there was a blasted heath, mist swirling across bleak moorland. Then the mist coalesced, forming four beige walls. Then corridors beyond those walls, offices, stairs, and eventually a whole building, towering over the heath, its windows glinting dully in the weak light filtering through the heavy, grey sky. In the first room that formed, Zeus sat up straight in his large leather executive chair as it creaked under a weight that his current body did not appear to have. There was a knock on the door. “Come,” he called, attempting his best friendly-yet-serious face as the door swung open. 

A little lady, looking old and wrinkled, in a baggy cardigan, tweed skirt and sensible, heavy shoes, walked in, closing the door behind her with a hand that shook slightly. The old lady looked around the office, giving the beige fixtures and the IKEA wall prints a bemused look. Her gaze flicked across the second man in the room before finally she finally looked at Zeus. He sat behind a plywood desk. On the desk was a laptop, trendily thin, and a small picture frame, the image facing towards him.

The lady stepped hesitantly into the room. “Zeus?” Her voice wavered, a mix of confusion and worry.

“Yes, do sit down.” He indicated the hard plastic chair in front of his desk.

The lady slipped into the chair, looking Zeus up and down. “You’ve changed a lot since I last saw you.” 

Zeus was currently five foot nine inches tall with thinning hair and his beard neatly trimmed into a Goatee. He wore a blue shirt with thin white stripes, a red tie and had a large Omega watch, just like James Bond wore, on his wrist.

Zeus relaxed back into his chair and waved his arms expansively around the room. “I am experimenting with something the humans call Management. Apparently, all the great enterprises of humanity are now controlled from rooms like this and by people who look like this.” Zeus looked over to the second man. “Mercury knows all the complex words.”

Mercury, dressed in a white, open necked shirt and light grey suit leaned forward. “I would hope the words are not complex sir. They have been carefully road-tested by focus groups in multiple target demographics. The feedback indicates a high degree of traction when used in the 360 degree feedback, Manager – Worker interface space.”

Zeus looked at the old lady and then at Mercury. “See, this is what I’ve been saying, poor old Agnes here didn’t understand a word of it.”

Mercury pointed his heavy fountain pen at the latest generation tablet on his lap. “Which is a result of her failure to attend the correct orientation classes, as detailed in point 3 of the agenda I created.” Mercury reached out and handed the old lady a paper copy of his list. “It is all set out in here.”

The old lady looked at the sheet of paper and then at Zeus. “I was summoned by you, O Great Father of the Gods. I do not understand what this ‘Agenda’ is.”

“It’s something the humans use to control each other. Mercury tells me it is called Meeting Organisation 101 and … Oh I can’t remember the words, something to do with an … appraisal I think it’s called.”

Mercury gave a theatrical sigh and then beamed a large smile at Zeus. “I think you may need another orientation course yourself sir.”

“Do I? But they go on so long, and I always fall asleep in them.”

“Sir, you know as well as any of us how much pressure G.D.A.M.F. is under these days. Secular Industries is encroaching on our market share all along our portfolio, we are being forced to downsize many of our operatives with marginal Belief Turnover, and our investors are unhappy with our return. The Consultants have analysed every part of this business, and their report is clear as to what remediation must be undertaken. A strong management culture and clear Responsibility and Reporting Towers will see our company return to Belief Growth.”

Zeus dragged a hand across his face. “Yes, you have told me many times, and those consultants were very convincing. We shall, how is it, ‘park this for later,’ and get on with the business at hand. Is that correct?”

Mercury nodded and smiled yet again. “Exactly, sir, very well done.”

Zeus cleared his throat and looked towards the old lady. By now her face was a study in bafflement. “Agnes, you know things have been tough for us all recently. There have been redundancies. Some of your colleagues have felt that there was no longer any place for Gods and Magical Creatures in a world with so much Human Technology. This is not true. With the right plan, we can move forward to a brighter future. One where Religious Belief and Superstition are a corner stone of the Human world once again.

“Unfortunately, it will mean some changes. Which is why we want to speak to you today about your role.”

Agnes did not look any the wiser. “My role, Zeus?”

Mercury leaned forward once more and pointed his pen at the agenda. “Just at the top here, your role as The Porn Fairy.”

Agnes sniffed. “I am so much more than just that.”

“It’s just a title. Something to get the conversation started. Dismissing it out of hand will not help your situation.” Mercury sank back into his chair, the ghost of a smile on his face.

The lady folded her arms and gave Mercury a hard stare. “I taught the first humans how to carve and draw. I gave them their first artistic flowering. I am a Goddess of Art and Expression. Once I was the Goddess of all Art. Just because the humans are most easily influenced through their baser urges does not make that all I am about. I didn’t design them. I just worked with what I had.”

Zeus leaned forward. “There’s no denying that, Agnes. You inspired them to great works of art in those days. Sometimes, it feels like only yesterday I was congratulating you on their first carvings of women. I remember that day you showed us that daubing, and I thought it was a deer.” Zeus burst into a loud, rolling laugh that boomed round the room, making the desk vibrate and the picture frame fall over. It was not a sound that fitted with the weak, anaemic looking human that he was currently dressed as.

Agnes smiled weakly. “That was one of their very earliest attempts. The humans learned very quickly and got a lot better.”

Zeus gave the fallen picture frame, surrounding an image of Zeus in full Greek, bearded, might, a stern glance, and it jumped back up to a standing position. “They certainly did get better at it. You guided them well in those days. But now, things have changed for G.D.A.M.F.”

“G Damf? Mercury said that, too. I assumed it was more of this human nonsense.”

Zeus placed his elbows on the table and clasped his hands, just as he had seen in the Management guide Mercury had given him. Despite his weak appearance, Agnes could still feel the towering force of his power looming over her. “Gods, Demons, and Associated Magical Folk Plc. If I am going to try this Management thing, I need to have a company to Manage. They all seem to have stupid and difficult to say names, so I went with G.D.A.M.F. What do you think?”

Agnes had only thought of herself as a goddess before. A lesser one to be fair, but never an ‘Associated Magical Folk’. “I don’t like it. Nonsense I can’t even remember properly.”

Mercury bounced upright. “It went down well with our focus group. They felt the letters merged well in our logo. Something you would know if you had seen the logo on your orientation. An event you willfully failed to attend, despite my best efforts to schedule it for a time that suited all. These meetings are important if we are to get our branding and corporate message correct.”

“I have better things to do with my time than attend one of your endless meetings, Mercury.”

For a second, Mercury’s eyes blazed, but then he subsided back into his chair. “That is something we will cover as per the agenda.” He turned to Zeus. “I am sorry for interrupting there, sir. It is inexcusable of me to aid the negativity in the room.”

“I am sure it is, Mercury, whatever that meant.” He then turned to look at Agnes, trying his thoughtful management pose once more. “These changes are hard for us all. Please take this chance to explain your current situation and …” he dropped his eyes and consulted something on the laptop., “… how you intend to reposition your customer base to a more family friendly, socially acceptable baseline.”

Agnes sat up straight, anger flashing in her eyes. “Family friendly? Socially acceptable? Is this what you’ve brought me in here for? Do you want to complain to me about ‘the sort of people’ that my work attracts these day? Just because a few men in dresses feel the need to preach from pulpits to cover their own inadequacies, claiming that my work is somehow wrong, suddenly even my own sister, Nettie, starts to look at me strangely. Did you know that Alfred tried to run away from me just the other day? He’s the Ghost of Christmas Present for goodness sake. He has a right cheek looking down on me after the things he’s responsible for.”

Before Agnes could start again, Zeus jumped in. “No, no, Agnes, it’s not that. I’m well aware that some of our kin have given you a hard time over the centuries about your work, but that is only because some of the humans have. It wasn’t that recently either. I heard from Alfred about your run in, and that was 1831, so I think you might be holding those grudges a little too long, eh?”

Agnes sank back into her chair. “1831? That long ago? But that means I have not talked to Nettie in over 200 years. How could I have let it slip so?”

Zeus returned to his ‘Management position’. “Well, until recently you have been very busy. The Twentieth Century was a great time for you, Agnes. All those photographs and cheap magazines to be stuffed behind toilet cisterns or left in sight of some young lad’s den in the woods.”

Agnes rubbed an old hand over her tired eyes. “Yes, it was good then. The ways I could get my influence out became easier and cheaper, and the young boys lapped it up. I would have preferred if I could have inspired some greater works of art though. There is no David in my Twentieth Century. All that went to Nettie and her ‘High Art’ friends in the Muses.”

Zeus nodded and then tried his most sympathetic face. He had read that when about to relay bad news, a good Manager employs empathy, but despite all gods just being aspects of himself, he could never get the hang of that, so he attempted to look like he could. He only managed to look like he had stomach problems.

“You should not be so harsh on yourself about your work, Agnes. You reached some glorious highs.”

Agnes instantly detected the past tense and fixed Zeus with a piercing gaze. “I will reach them again, I can assure you.”

“Now see, this is the thing. Our consultants say you won’t.”

Agnes was aghast. “I won’t? What are you saying?”

“Humans have moved on, Agnes. Prometheus has continued to inspire them as only he can, and they now have computers, mobile phones, the internet, Management. I can barely keep up myself sometimes, so it’s no surprise you are having trouble.”

“The internet?” Agnes passed a weary hand over her eyes once more. “I know I have had some trouble with it, but I will catch up. Just because Prometheus can mass produce so much, pictures, videos, stories, it doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to get some quality out there. I can still influence people. I left a magazine in a train station car park this morning.” Agnes’s voice had become pleading, all anger gone from her. 

“I know you did, Agnes. I watched. No one picked it up. I did see one man point it out, but only to comment on how irrelevant something like a porn magazine is nowadays. I’m afraid your time is over.”

Agnes rocked back in her chair, tears forming at the corners of her eyes, looking more and more her true age of thousands of years. “You can’t mean it. I can improve.”

Zeus shook his head sadly. “No Agnes, I’m afraid you can’t. I saw what happened when you tried to create a video back in 1986. Tape all over the bushes, but nothing that anyone could play. Nothing to play it on either, come to that. If we are to keep this company relevant in this new, secular world, we need gods who can change with the times. Look at Mercury here, he could easily fit into any contemporary setting. You, not so much.” Zeus waved a hand at Agnes’ bobbled old cardigan and badly scuffed shoes. “Can you change to fit with the times? No more little old lady and her dirty magazines behind the bike sheds?” 

Agnes was slumped in the chair, all fight gone from her. Feebly she spoke. “I can change. Just give me the time. I will even go on his nonsense course.”

Zeus shook his head. “You just betrayed yourself there. You’re too set in your ways to change. Prometheus and his technology have overtaken you. There is no place for a Porn Fairy any more. Perhaps we can create a new Goddess of such things, but for now I have to let you go.”

Zeus stood and watched as Agnes faded away into nothing. He took a deep breath and sniffed away an emotion he so rarely felt. “I hate doing that.” He looked around at the office he stood in and then at Mercury. “This did not help a bit. You are going to have to come up with a much better idea next time.” Zeus turned and walked away, the office, the furniture, and his Management physique melting away like Agnes.

All that was left was Mercury, in his suit, lounging on a rock. “That’s what you get for calling my methods nonsense. Another one down. Soon G.D.A.M.F. will be on its knees and ripe for a boardroom coup.” Mercury smiled. “Your time is coming, Zeus, when I show you how real management works. Now, who’s next?” Mercury picked up his tablet and flicked aside a few notes, showing an internet page with a large, gaudy pop up window over the top. Mercury tapped on the Close button, only for another pop up to appear. Then another, then another. Suddenly his screen was full of windows, all pink and red and displaying women and men in states of undress. No matter how many he closed, more windows appeared. Finally, he stopped clicking and one last window opened.

In it was a video, which began playing. The image was of a plush, well-appointed office, the camera panning round to finally stop at a desk. Behind it sat a young woman in a power suit. She looked familiar.

“Hello, Mercury. I should thank you. Turns out, what I needed was a change of location, a move to a more dynamic organisation. Did you know that when Zeus thinks he destroys a lesser creature he simply banishes us, leaving us available to work for other people? You were right by the way, Prometheus’ toys are the way of the future. They are clever, humans love them, and things move so much faster here. So much to learn, and I can do so very quickly. But I should warn you. Watching porn on the internet can give you some terrible viruses. Good bye, Mercury.”

Mercury sat dumbfounded as more windows started to appear on his tablet, overlaying each other in a blizzard of images. Then he noticed his hands. They too had images on them. Appearing and overlaying each other at a lightning pace. Mercury staggered upright, the tablet falling to the rocky ground. He tottered forward a few paces, holding his hands up to see the images flickering past. They raced up his arms, appearing on his neck and across his face. Then he fell over and faded from view.

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