The Bard’s Court

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.

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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.

At Last

Mini bottle with white lacy floral motif, and metal tube of lotion with the same design on yellow.

Overly friendly envelope glue and laundry starch.

And the “handcreme”, though nice and rich, smells even more deliberately boring.
I’m not one for lotions, but I’ve been gardening today–my neighbor (who probably wore some slinky Chanel back in the day, but doesn’t bother with all that silliness now) gave me a Dior sized heap of lily-of-the-valley bulbs–so my knuckles are thirstier than a pumice stone.

I have no idea why Margot Elena thought anyone would want to smell like this.
Lollia This Moment is a much better choice–not weird or fusty at all–and the bottle is cuter.

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Also not frumpy:

Lavender & Thyme

Cut crystal flask with a purple and gold label, and blooming lemon thyme from my garden. (My herbs did really well this spring!)

A nice clean herbal, but almost too soapy to wear on the skin–I feel itchy in it, like I haven’t rinsed enough.
This one stays in the laundry room, to spritz on wet towels before they go into the dryer. (Did you know fabric softener sheets make your towels less absorbent?)
Doesn’t last long, even on cotton, but the folding is more fun.

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Insolence

Small frosted Guerlain bee bottle with purple label and pink eau, with strawberries.

Scintillating strawberry baby powder.
Brilliant, with a delicate dissonance that shifts between sparkling floral dust and sweet berry syrup, for hours and hours.
Chaotic, with the lure of a candy shaped bar of soap, and easily worn by anyone from age 9 to 90–

–unless if you happened to be in elementary school in 1980.
Because this smells exactly like Strawberry Shortcake doll hair.

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Here’s another dissonant Insolence that works well:

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Sole 149

Squat jar of perfume with domed lid in a yellow Pucci line design, and a tomato plant.

This one has stayed true to memory–or maybe I’m finally spiraling upward from this latest mini relapse–with sun after rain on a vegetable garden, green and fresh and perfect.

Sole 149 is as green as Envy, with the same jasmine on rosy wood stems, but wet tomato leaf takes the place of the fruity celery, turning the bitterness more herbal than citrus.

I love the vibrancy of the top notes–the verdant piquant strangeness of the tomato plant is so unexpected yet immediately recognizable–and the shower clean drydown is soft and nice.
The jasmine in the middle is a little thin, but perfectly suits the translucency of a Pucci silk scarf.

Wear on summer evenings.

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A garden song–a cover of one of my favorite by Joni, here turned shadowy.

Poe’s Tobacco

A white cat sniffs an apple on a green leather bound collection of Edgar Allan Poe, with a TokyoMilk bottle featuring a raven.

“Long Covid” is a thing.
I’m getting better, just more slowly than I thought. It’s been 10 months, now.
(The guy hasn’t got his taste back properly, and says the sky looks pinker than it should.)
The waves of exhaustion come and go, with joint pain popping up in odd places–a ghost in the machine–and shrouding sensations that make me doubt my nose and my playlists.

Sometimes my most beloved songs seem flat, the blues going gray.

I took a break from the sniff tests for a few months, nervous that my receptors were too scarred to function properly.
I’ve found comfort in my old favorites–Tank Battle has been a constant through this two-steps-forward-one-step-back recovery–spraying more, pressing my nose deeper into my skin, rejoicing at the familiar notes in the muted performance.
Not all have stayed the same, though.

Poe’s Tobacco–which used to be an autumn go-to, with apples and amber and tea–now seems more summery, orchard blossoms and sun in trees, and maybe some jasmine I wasn’t aware of before.
The tobac still gives it depth, but the woods lean more floral now, and less toward books in shadowy corners. I’m sad about it, that the niche-but-accessible cleverness has worn off.

A nice, easy to find vintage–but not quite as offbeat and fun as I remember.
I hope it’s just me.

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A haunting rendition that still rings true.

Sunflowers

Amber eau mini capped with white, with a yellow flower crest, sitting on a pile of salted seeds, against a flag blue background.

“Take these seeds and put them in your pocket, so sunflowers will grow when you die here.” -Ukrainian curse

Elizabeth Arden’s iconic 90’s soapy melon salad smells of Scooby-Doo fruit snacks, Beanie Baby pellets, and Bill Clinton’s saxophone spit, and nothing like sunflowers, or war.

I’m a bit sideways today. The world seems unreal, sometimes.

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The Ukranian Armed Forces asked a soldier–Taros Borovok–to write them a fight song, the day Putin invaded. He praises the Turkish combat drones that slowed the Russian forces that day.

Brune Melancolia

Black and white solid perfume canister, with orange and yellow rose.

Sad rose yogurt.

The citrus opens too tart–soured by the sandalwood, maybe–but then berries and a bit of spice get stirred in, sweetened with floral syrup.
The moody violet/cassis finish on the skin is nice, after the first disappointing hour–the start seems like something you’d taste in the dairy aisle at the happy-hippy food co-op, rather than a fragrance.

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The most melancholy song ever–

And Soul

White bottle with gold cap and graphic anatomical heart, on a linen tea towel, with hand sifter, sprinkled with all purpose flour.

Orange flour water.
Seriously, this stuff has a weird dusty bread dough thing going on.
The bottle says Oolong Tea, Bamboo Reed, Orchid & Air (whut?) and White Musk, but I get sweet uncooked enriched buns, with that puff of powdery steam when you punch the rise down.

Doesn’t last or project much. Leaves a smudge of sugary floral musk on the skin for a few hours, but that’s all.
A good gift for home cooks.

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I’m hungry, now.

Moroccan Leather

Memo Paris black white and gold promo card and test spray on a jade dyed leather wallet bought in Marrakech.

If leather grew on trees, with patent leaves on on suede stems–
This is the finest full grain, sultry green, almost pulpy, tanned by smoke bark plants and orange blossom, with smooth iris and ginger underneath.

Both animalic and verdant, yet also clean and polished. I really like it.
Lasts half the day a few inches off the skin, and turns all clothing to mossy nubuck hide for a week.

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A great tune by Moroccan artist Chawki-