Gertie and Bridget deal with a pest
The lack of hair clogging her vacuum should have been a sign, as well as the absence of the need to clean off her brush. But she hadn’t noticed. Granted, schoolwork was hard, she had been spending time in the gardens gathering potion ingredients, and she’d been away for a weekend to visit her family, but she should have noticed.
A figgle was a small creature, limber as a rat with the soul of a cat and the size of a swollen sock. And one of the most annoying pests to get rid of. Humanely at least.
Figgles were magical, and couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. Not even an eye like Bridget’s. The only way to spy a figgle was in a mirror. They had sensitive eyes and came out of hiding when the light was dim. If a room was empty they might creep out at dusk to eat, but usually they waited until their home’s occupant was safely asleep at dawn.
And then they would eat their hair.
Gertie wore a beanie pulled down over her ears, where it would stay until the end of the winter and the bald spot behind her ear grew in. She was staring into the one floor length mirror in her room, trying to see any corners where the little pest might be hiding, when Bridget opened the door with her copy of the key.
“I brought the mirrors- ugh.” Bridget shivered and dumped an armful of mirrors of various sizes that she had borrowed from roommates and dorm-mates alike onto Gertie’s bed. She pulled the comically-large sweater that she liked to wear from where it was tied at her waist and slipped it over her head. “Why is the outside in here?”
“Oh, my beanie.” Gertie rubbed the wool against her head, pushing it up her forehead. “It’s charmed for warmth.”
“So you’re too hot.”
“Anyway,” Bridget motioned to the pile of mirrors. “Should we set them up?”
The sisters placed the mirrors strategically, so that no matter where the figgle ran in the room they’d be able to see its reflection. Make-up compacts with mirrors were set on desks and the bureau, handheld mirrors were taped on walls and the bed posts, and mirrors that had been stuck in the showers for face-shaving were re-stuck under the desk and on empty spaces on the wall.
It was while the sisters were putting the only other large mirror they had - the one provided by the school for Bridget’s room - under the bed on its side that they found where the figgle had been hiding.
It screeched as Gertie brushed against it with her hand and dashed out into the room.
They couldn’t see it directly, but its reflection shone true in the mirrors. It sat in the middle of the carpet, sitting up on its thin back paws, its grey feathers in a ruffle and its large pointed nose snuffing in the air.
“Bridget. The cage,” Gertie whispered through gritted teeth.
Bridget moved to where she had placed the small rat cage with an art mirror taped to one of the sides and picked it up.
The noise was enough to startle the figgle and it dashed out of view of the mirrors.
It was hard to track its movement across the room, but the girls saw it in one of the compact mirrors when it stopped on top of Gertie’s bureau, sniffing the hairbrush Gertie had left out as bait.
Bridget swung the cage toward it, bringing her hand from the opposite direction to try to push it inside.
The figgle struggled against her hand and jumped, curling on her arm with a hiss and batting wildly at her wrist. Bridget yelled and dropped the cage and Gertie pushed the beastie off her sister’s arm and back onto the ground.
It squealed in surprise and dashed back under the bed.
“This is why people buy traps!” Bridget shouted, her free hand covering her bleeding forearm.
“Do you want to kill it?” Gertie shouted back, going to her closet for some bandages.
“No!” Bridget shouted back. She accepted the bandages with a grumble. “No, it doesn’t deserve that.”
“We can do this.” Gertie crouched and looked at the figgle’s reflection under the bed.
It wiggled its butt, scooting farther back into the corner so only its snout was reflected.
“We can do this,” Gertie repeated, sounding less sure this time.
Bridget sighed, kneeling beside her sister, her right forearm bandaged. The bleeding had already stopped. The bandages had a potion on them that would heal minor cuts up in a manner of minutes.
“Have any more hair to spare?” Bridget asked.
“I can help,” a timid voice said from the door.
The girls turned. It was Ernest Yillnog.
The Yillnogs were some of the most powerful witches in the world. They were police, high ranking military members, healers, scientists and the like. They all went to private schools, specifically for witches, not to public boarding schools that happened to feature magical elective tracks like Flories Boarding School. But Ernest did.
Ernest was different than his family. Despite his power - and he was certainly the most powerful boy in school - he couldn’t use it for healing, or fighting, or inventing new spells, or discovering secrets of the world. No, he could only use it for music.
Sure, it meant that he held concerts in the student gamerooms sometimes, which was the only time people seemed to pay attention to him. It meant he could make things move with a strum of his guitar or with a snap of his fingers. It meant him cleaning his room was a lilt on a flute and he was done. But he wasn’t good for much else.
Except, of course, talking about his family. And their accomplishments. And how much about magic and spells he’d known from a young age, despite not being able to practice most of it. About how he didn’t need a partner for projects. About how “the actual definition of seeing is seeing the future in your mind’s eye, not through a magic eye”, or how “enchanting should be done using power that comes from the enchanter, not sources like the sun or moon or heat of the earth”.
Ernest had managed to piss off almost everyone in the school, but he didn’t seem to mind at all. And he certainly never offered to help.
“How can you help?” Gertie demanded.
Ernest didn’t answer, instead he started to whistle.
The sisters watched the mirror under the bed as figgle crept out with its ears pointed forward.
Ernest kept whistling, snapping in rhythm with the music. The figgle stopped in the center of the rug in Gertie’s room, sitting on its hind legs and stretching upward, sniffing at Ernest, still standing at the door. Bridget grabbed the cage again and edged slightly closer to the creature. It didn’t even notice her.
Bridget put the cage behind the figgle, picking up a nearby shoe with her free hand.
As Ernest’s whistles came to a high, pointed trill, Bridget used the sneaker to push the figgle back into the cage. She slammed the door shut, despite its whines.
Bridget lifted the cage to look in the mirror inside. The creature had pressed itself against the woven wire of the cage, staring up at Ernest with wide, begging eyes. It missed the music.
“What do we do with it?” Bridget asked.
“I’ll take it,” Ernest said, holding his hand out for the cage. “I have all manner of creatures in my room. Frogs and birds and rats and tarantulas-”
Gertie shivered at that one as Bridget handed over the cage.
Ernest looked inside, studying the small figgle, and continued. “They mostly stay there for my music, or if they leave they come back at night. Which is good, because it means they’re not bothering anyone else.”
He smiled, and it was such a sweet little smile that the girls instantly felt ashamed for the way they excluded him.
“Ernest,” Gertie said, “Can I thank you for your help? Do you want to get dinner with us?”
Ernest grinned, and nodded. “Let me put him away, and I’ll be back with my jacket and wallet.”
Earnest took the figgle to his room, and set the cage down on his dresser. The figgle took stock of its new environment, its nose wiggling. Something smelled delicious.
Squeezing against the bars of its cage, the figgle reached out and grabbed Ernest’s comb. It chewed on the hair happily. This would do just fine.