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There Are No Guards at the Borders of Faerie

Eric James Stone is a Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and Writers of the Future Contest winner. Over fifty of his stories have been published in venues such as Year's Best SF, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and Nature. His debut novel, the science fiction thriller Unforgettable, has been optioned by Hollywood multiple times. The son of an immigrant from Argentina to the U.S., Eric grew up bilingual and spent most of his childhood years in Latin America. He majored in political science at BYU and then got a law degree from Baylor. He did political work in Washington, DC, for several years before shifting careers to work as a programmer and sysadmin. Eric lives in Utah with his wife, Darci, an award-winning author herself, in addition to being a high school science teacher and programmer. They have two children. Find him at ericjamesstone.com.

There are no guards at the borders of Faerie. No one will ask for your passport, or if you have anything to declare. You won't have to take off your shoes, place your laptop in a separate container, and stand--arms raised--inside a scanner that bathes your whole body with millimeter-wave radiation, creating an image on a remote monitor of your naked body that has supposedly been anonymized to protect your privacy. Whether the purpose of your visit to Faerie is business or pleasure does not need to be revealed. You will not need to pay an entry fee. No one would have told your child she needed to wait for her mommy or daddy.
There are no signs on the borders of Faerie. No placard proclaims: Welcome to Faerie. Nothing warns: Now leaving the human world. No notice declares: You must be at least this tall to enter Faerie. There's no red circle with a diagonal line through the silhouette of a child. Nothing would have let your child know not to take one more step.
There are no maps of the borders of Faerie. It is not possible to draw a line in the sand between Faerie and any human land. Siri can't give you turn-by-turn directions to Faerie, and it's not on Google Earth. Even if you could hack your GPS to accept imaginary numbers for latitude and longitude, you wouldn't get anything from it except an endless repetition of Recalculating. There is no point to pinpointing possible locations based on news stories of mysterious sightings, of unexplained occurrences, or of missing children. You will never find the border of Faerie if you are looking for it.
There are no walls along the borders of Faerie. Neither barbed-wire nor chain-link fence lines the edge. Nobody ever promised to build a wall and make Faerie pay for it. No no-man's land filled with land mines separates the human world from Faerie. There are no entrance gates beneath the inscription Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, for it is not those who enter who should abandon all hope.
There are no cares within the borders of Faerie. Nobody wants to click their heels together three times while saying "There's no place like home." No human tears dim the gleam of Faerie cities, be they alabaster or emerald. And your little girl definitely does not cry herself to sleep each night calling out for her mommy. You would no longer regret losing her, if you ever crossed the border yourself. But you would not care if you met her again, if you ever crossed the border yourself.
Fortunately for you--or not--there are no guards at the borders of Faerie.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Author Comments

I wrote this story for a Halloween story contest with other members of CodexWriters.com. It was based on the following prompt: "Unguarded borders." As I started thinking about it, I realized it might give me a chance to do something I'd thought about but never quite figured out how to do: write a story entirely in the negative. When I started writing the story, I didn't have any plot or characters in mind; I simply started explaining what was not involved with the borders of Faerie. Eventually I realized that "you" was referring to a specific person who was searching for a missing child who had accidentally wandered into Faerie, so I needed to go back and revise the story in order to introduce that concept in the first paragraph.

- Eric James Stone
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