I have never been in the practice of considering what my epitaph might be, but I think I would accept, “Too stubborn to quit.”  It is a thousand times more flattering than the truth.  “Spiked like a sad football through the gates of Purgatory,” is evocative but not quite right.  “Pulled by the ear by women into the depths,” isn’t an epitaph, it’s my life’s story.

(And yet, if they hadn’t pulled my ear, I’d probably follow of my own accord.  It’s not sad.  I love women.  I just have bad judgment when it comes to choosing the right ones to follow.  I like them self-assured and talented, with great legs.  I can’t see what’s inherently wrong with that.  Those three qualities are all fine in and of themselves.  It’s got to be what I’m not specifying.  How do you add, “and not insane?” to the list without somehow making the whole gender angry?)

I decided to ignore Doloise’s comment.  This whole venture was madness, so what’s one more invocation of doom offhandedly mentioned by a practitioner who lives in this psychedelic mist?  Despite being a fervent believer that words can mean things, I chose to switch my faith to “and some are just social noise” for the moment.

Some snarky part of me, however, hadn’t gotten the systems change memo and was already talking back to her.  “So, having failed your inspection, can you put me back safe, sound, and pretty much the original way you found me?”

“I did not say you failed.”  Something about the way she spoke always made me feel like she was translating from some dictionary and then putting the words back together in some way she thought fit.  What do they normally speak?  I tried to think of a name without making any offensive sign-language jokes.  Her pause gave me not quite enough time before she spoke again.  “You make noises like you are not committed to your contract.  Did I not provide you with the simulacrum you requested?”

I tried to take that to mean that I had put her out a little in creating it, so as to make myself feel better.  “I am concerned for my life, comfort, and well-being, like any sentient.”  That’s it.  Treat it like a science fiction story.  The word “sentient” always conjured up scenes from Star Trek in my head.  This could be a set on some planet in Next Generation.  Totally.

“I am not concerned with your comfort. You are not some suckling attached to its host, ignorant of the dangers of the independent breath.  You are a specialist of skills necessary for this one task.”

Way to tell me off, baby.  Yeah, yeah, I’m your McMuffin.  Um.  Sorry.  My snarky brain had quit for the moment leaving only the one capable of handing the surreality of the scene.   One of the wan stepped near me and sniffed as it went by, all in the world like some butler from a British television show.  Over the top, I thought.  I’d had a shower.  Oh, and several moments of being drenched in cold fear to improve my natural aroma.  I resolved to buy one of those little cologne sprays they advertise on television as being fairly irresistable to girls.  Maybe they work on the fey, too.

I bit my mental tongue, and went back to the conversation at hand.  “I would like it if you took into consideration what I consider a natural aversion to pain.”

She seemed to do just that: consider.  Maybe it was the word “natural” that threw her.  I didn’t know how fey were wired, except that, well, as noted above, some of them did interbreed with humans, so hopefully it wasn’t from eating our livers or something.

“I could make you numb to the consequences, but I am concerned as to how that would affect the working.  Similarly, I believe it would be more interference than I am allowed in your life.  It is bad manners to break a guest.”

I was hoping to ask, “But what about leaving them bleeding?” but that also seemed like bad manners.   “What kind of portal is it, anyway?” I asked, on a sudden hunch.

I had discomfited her.  That was not good.  This was not good.  Oh, did I have a bad feeling about this… and no R2-D2 to save me.