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3.02.2016


Brief Interviews with Fairy Women
CARMEN LAU


In celebration of this past weekend’s Tell a Fairy Tale Day, fairy tale author Carmen Lau interviews fairy women about mermaids, human love, admiration, murdering men, semen, and more.


Interview 1: S.
California, USA


S. doesn’t want an interpreter with us, and I warn her that I’m nowhere near fluent in sign language.

—Run the transcript by me after we’re done, she signs.

We are on a beach in Morro Bay. There is no one else on the pale sand. Her hair, a very light blond, has a moss tint to it. Residue of origins or a box dye?

My pencil scuttles to keep up with her fluttering hands.

—That story about the mermaid turning into sea foam? Complete BS. You don’t turn into sea foam the first time something bad happens to you. You just stay human. You don’t have your tail; you don’t have your tongue; your feet hurt. Every single day, they hurt. Every month, cramps and headaches and so much blood. I remember when I was my old self. My tail was one single whipping muscle. I could swim through a hundred-foot wave, pretend I was flying. It was awesome.

Do you regret falling in love with him?

—Sure, but what can I do? I can’t begrudge anyone his happy ending. He chose her, and they’re happy together. That’s amazing. I regret throwing everything away to be with him, but that’s different. That was my choice.

How’s your love life now?

—Human love, what is it? I lost him, yes, but they’ll lose each other eventually, too, just like everyone loses every individual they love. To circumstances, to personal changes, to death. Things are always changing. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, never mind the tail thing. My love life? I’ve learned to love myself.

How can you love yourself when you’re always in pain? When you’re no longer the powerful creature you once were?

—Love isn’t the same as admiration. Admiring something is longing for it. I am what I have now. I have myself, in my scarred and aching state. Right now, that is all I have. So love rises from necessity.

You’re saying love for another isn’t worth attempting?

—No, only that love is a process that entails constant loss. You can only love that which you have, and you always have your present self.

What’s your favorite thing to do?

—Sit here, watching the waves come in and out. You’d never know from looking at that serene blue that it’s a dog-eat-dog world down there. Even steeped in magic, it’s brutal.

End of Interview 1


Interview 2: Z.
Berlin, Germany


Z. is killing a man. She did not used to detest men, was only indifferent to them, but out of her need for them, she hates them now. And so she kills them.

Even so, she looks me in the eye and says, “It’s not that I hate them. Sure, I wouldn’t kill them if I didn’t have to.” Rolling another cigarette. Amber Leaf. She is careful not to smoke the dying/dead men’s tobacco. She takes their money, yes. Money is something no one can pass up these days, but to smoke their tobacco would be violating an ideal.

It is because she is idealistic that she must kill them. This is a thought I have not revealed to her yet, though I know I am right. Without ideals, as many immortals are anymore, how could such a drastic act seem necessary?

“As well, the ones I pick, no one will miss.” Her hand is shaking. Dark eyes darting. Not because of what she’s doing. Because I am here, an observer. What used to be private is now observed. That which is observed has the potential to be judged.

“It’s unavoidable,” she says, puffing. Z. favors plain white dress shirts, plain beige trousers. A black coat in which she is slight. A beautiful face, straight from a classical Chinese painting, framed by a mess of short black hair. She puts some music on the laptop. She likes Elton John.

They’re businessmen, tourists. No one will miss them?

“No one misses those assholes.”

She invites them over for drinks. She restrains them. She rapes them. She does not feed or water them. They run out of juice, they run out of juice.

“I was born in the Guangxi province maybe 1900? 1910? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, I don’t like to remember those days. I was always precocious, a cute little kit. I wanted to be human, wanted nothing to do with fox life. So I learned a few tricks and never looked back. Country-hopped. India, Thailand, England, Ireland. Germany. Now I can never be a real fox again. The human guise, if you leave it on too long, you can’t take it off. See there, you can see my shadow’s got a snout, but this (She grasps her beautiful face.), you can never take off. I can never go home—My home’s gone; my family’s gone. I’m stuck.”

Is it really so bad to live in the human world?

“It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need them.” She gestures. (An aside: Notice how quickly she’s adopted my American accent, my choice of words.) “I need their semen to survive. Semen, of all things. Anyway. Some jing girls have it easier, you know, because they actually want it from men. And they can actually love their men. They fall in love; the men fall in love; the girls even become human. Really human. No shadow.”

What’s it like to appear as a lovely young woman for ages upon ages?

“Not bad. You get tired of being perceived a certain way. Then you find ways around that.”

Like killing men.

“Do you think that’s why I do it? To kill their perception of me?”

To kill being perceived by them.

“Maybe. Maybe I just don’t like being looked at and thought about.”

Will you kill me?

“You’re a girl.”

What’s the difference? I, too, am perceiving you. I, too, think about what you mean. I, too, interpret you.

“But I don’t need you to survive. You have no power over me.”

But I am writing about you. Isn’t that power?

“No. Semen is power. Words are words. You can say whatever you want about me.”

I can say you’re a monster.

“Fine. You’d be right.”

I can say you’re afraid, that everything you do is out of fear.

“That’d be less true. It’s more complicated than that.”

I can say you’re pretty simple.

“You’re being an asshole.”

You said I have no power.

“I—”

End of Interview 2




CARMEN LAU is the author of the collection of short stories, The Girl Wakes, published by Alternating Current Press and winner of the Electric Book Award. She has had stories published in Catapult, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Fairy Tale Review, and other journals. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UC-Davis. Her story, “Nothing Has Changed about Me,” was chosen as one of Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions, and her story, “Ghost,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Find her at carmenslittlefictions.wordpress.com and at @artemisathene on Twitter.

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