Round One of The 2022 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge
Group 72: Horror — a night court — a mosquito.
Warning: Willie Shakes was a misogynist and antisemitic AF.
The Bard’s Court
Contains tragedy, fairies, and an ass.
The doors open at half past sundown. The sky is mauve and smells of summer.
Mosquito points to her name on the list and is ushered inside with a reminder to turn off her phone.
The gallery is filled, the murmur of gossiping royalty as loud as any hive. She spots two queens in high crowns, four princess tiaras, and an array of dukes—coronets foreshadowing character—from Theseus in shining laurels to Buckingham’s tarnished circlet.
As she passes, the Danish prince whispers, “Buzz, buzz.” He’s a brat, but at least he acknowledges her presence.
She waves to Mustard Seed, fluttering in the flower section, but sits on the left, between Cobweb and Moth. Wasp touches antennae in greeting. The night fairies stick together, their ebon iridescence no less jewels than the mortals’ gemstones. They are also born of a queen.
Who hasn’t shown up yet.
“Where is Titania?” Mercutio voices her thought as he takes the seat behind them. He nudges Wasp, and winks at Mosquito, making her blush. The Veronese prince is their favorite, with his songs that make the dark fliers dreamy and beautiful.
Cobweb sighs, hearts in all her eight eyes. “I doubt she’ll be here.”
Mercutio raises an eyebrow, but she says no more. The Book only allows her five words. Wasp and Mosquito have none, though Wasp, at least, is mentioned by name.
“Mom is on a date.” Moth has the most lines of any fairy, even Puck and Ariel. “He’s a complete ass.” Moth also has the most sass.
Unease knots in Mosquito’s abdomen as their prince’s grin falters. “She should be here,” Mercutio mutters.
“Why are you here?” Moth asks him.
“Tybalt has accused me of consorting with Romeo.” The smirk returns. “Jealous bitch, isn’t he?”
Mosquito is a bit jealous, too. She kisses his cheek, and he doesn’t swat her away.
He tastes of sugar and rhymes.
The lights dim, and the masses shift, falling into silent rows at their seats. They stand as the judge enters and sit again when he announces that the moon has risen, and court is in session.
The first cases are quick. The Prince of Naples is sentenced with hard labor as a lumberjack—a trumped up charge, but he’s too love-dumb to care. A few marriages and the Spanish queen’s fast-tracked divorce from her cheating English husband.
Hermia’s case is announced, and the fairies all share a glance–they know her. She lives near their woods.
“Her father is really willing to have her executed, rather than letting her marry the boy she loves?” Moth asks, appalled.
The Duke of Athens intervenes, and the Book is consulted. The gold letters F-O-L-I-O flash under the spotlight as the cover is opened.
“The Bard does give you the option of joining a convent,” the judge says, a finger on the text.
“Chastity or death?” Mercutio’s whisper is a horrified rasp. “They’re the same, are they not?”
“Our honorable judge has a penchant for nuns,” Moth says, proboscis quivering in disgust. “His Honor offered to give Sister Isabella’s brother a stay of execution for her virginity.”
Hermia sobs at the verdict and runs from the room. Only her boyfriend follows to offer her comfort. Mosquito gestures at Moth and Cobweb, and they slide out after the couple, vowing to ask their king to intervene.
Wasp shifts seats, moving closer. They both tuck their wings tight to their bodies, suddenly cold.
The ruling is no fairer for Shylock.
Faced with the death penalty, he settles, allowed to renounce his faith instead. His banker’s license is revoked. The gallery sits silent as he signs away his wealth.
His wide brimmed hat is yanked from his head, and his curling sidelocks are shorn off.
He leaves, head bowed, stripped of his identity.
Mosquito hates them all, the mortals who say nothing—they have words, and don’t use them. She wipes her tears away, trying to be brave for Wasp.
But the judge’s sympathy has chilled, and her sister is damned by A Winter’s Tale, blamed for a king’s jealous misogyny. Wasp has no lines of defense.
Petruchio objects to the capital punishment. He likes wasps, often calls his wife one. Instead of her head, he suggests cutting off only her tongue, reasoning that was where the worst stings originated.
His expertise of anatomy is lauded, and the judge agrees to the leniency.
Wasp submits. The Book allows her no words for her tongue anyway.
She writhes as the ichor foams from her jaws, pale yellow and glittering with fairy dust. Her wings thrash and scrape the floor.
Pease Blossom faints.
Mercutio holds Mosquito back, swearing eloquently, all the curses she cannot: at the judge, the apathetic royalty in their fancy jury box, her missing mother who might have stopped this madness.
He falls silent when the judge raps the gavel.
Buckingham stands, pinning Mosquito with a glare. “I seek restitution for damages and loss due to the shivering ague.”
Mosquito hisses. The duke is an ugly man, and his blood had tasted of horseflesh and guile.
Behind her, Mercutio lunges for her phone, swiping through the contacts for her mother’s number.
“She gave the moon-calf a case of it too,” a voice calls from the back—Stephano, deep in his cups. “Made him shake all over.”
They were liars both—Mosquito stayed clean. She’d never once tested positive for malaria, Zika or West Nile.
Her phone is shoved into her hands, ringing on the other end. Titania answers, voice full of laughter and flowers. “Darling, hello! Hello?”
Mosquito grips the device, crying.
“All I hear is buzzing—” the Fairy Queen says to someone.
“I’ll Bottom-dial you all night long.” A man brays with laughter.
The phone is wrenched away. She is hauled before the judge, but the Bard has given her no verses, and all anyone hears is her whine.