There was a crunch in the shadows, a lurid flutter of butterfly wings and a stifled scream. I didn’t turn, I didn’t flinch. After a while the sound doesn’t get to you. I pulled on the sweating, ice-cold beer, chasing away the heavy humidity and the summer heat. Dappled sunlight fingered its way through the mango trees, and I caught a glimpse of it at work.
Its hunting pose brought out the real beauty of the beast, its melodious, contented purring belying the ferocity of its attack. It crept, sinuous and feline, through the trees, and dropped with a fragile grace onto the buttressing roots, its wingtips iridescent. It resumed its stalking, winding through the trellised tomatoes and climbing beans, picking ginger-footed above the pumpkins. Prowling, ever-hungry, its tail flicked as it crawled into its burrow, dug out under the wall.
The rise of easy, cheap genetic engineering and 3D printers led to a great deal of experimentation. Stables offered screaming pre-teens unicorn rides instead of ponies, pocket-giraffes supped from drooping fox-gloves and fairies danced, pollinating gardens. It was, technically, illegal, to release these creatures into the wild – but accidents do happen. Sometimes on purpose.
The fairies were the worst. Hives sprung up, hidden in attics or rooftop gardens. They were immune to most pesticides, and besides, who wanted to spray chemicals around their children? They were tolerated, if not encouraged. Their cultures grew and evolved, and blue-tattooed warriors flew out in conquering war-bands. A girl was taken. Killed and hidden in the eaves of her parents’ home; colonized, scavenged.
And so it was conceived – the Fairy Hunter. Cat, spider, dragon-fly – just beautiful.
It does take a little getting used to, though, the crunch of bones in the darkness.