Figgis’ Elixir.
Mark Lee Pearson

(First appeared in Alienskin 2008)

With the River Crompton polluted, the Cornish Otter had long since moved out and developers were moving in under orders of the Lord Mayor. Figgis had to act fast. He arrived at the riverside sundown, threw his axe, claimed the land and by sunrise he’d erected a laboratory.
Over the door he hammered a sign The Elysian Fields. Then he sat in the grass to play jigs on his fiddle.
They came that afternoon.
Figgis lay aside his fiddle and said, “There ain’t no way in Hell ye pullin’ it down! I put it up over night, so I’m entitled to stay. Gotta license, see.”
He thrust a scroll as ancient as the Magna Carta under the bailiff’s flaring nose and translated from the Latin,
Eny man who doth erect a dwelling hither on the moor ‘twixt nightingale and rooster is entitled to inhabit said dwelling free of prejudice and payment.
Figgis added, “It may be nine-hun’red year old, but it’s legally bindin’. If you try 'n' move me, I’ll throw a curse on ya’ll.”
The bailiff slunk away, summons festering beneath his armpit. Figgis fired up Bunsen burners and cleaned flasks.
The Lord Mayor of Crompton was livid. “I’m not afraid of Gypsy curses. Burn it. Burn the proof! Burn the shack!” He furrowed his eyebrows and sneered, “If Figgis is in it; burn him too.”
“But sire, his rights—”
“More ancient than the Magna-bloody-Carta, be damned! The sooner we get rid of that gypsy, the sooner we can go ahead with development.” Seeing the bailiff’s disapproval, the Mayor of Crompton attached his customary coda, “You are under orders.”
That night, Crompton’s most able law enforcers armed themselves with fire and stalked through the woods, ready to raise hell for the Lord Mayor. They arrived in the Elysian Fields at sundown, greeted by the vigorous pulse of the river, the hollow woodland percussion, the nightingale’s aria, and from the shack a little jig played on a rigorous fiddle. 
The Bailiff’s voice was gruff when he pounded the door, “This is your last chance to run, Gypsy!”
Figgis lay down his fiddle. From a Bunsen burner he took a flask, bubbling and fizzing with a sacred solution that had been handed down from his ancestors; the very same elixir that has kept the natural fate of the English countryside on course since the Norman Conquest. At the makeshift door began to yield, he said, “Come and get me ye bastards!”

At the Civic Palace, the Mayor of Crompton woke in a sweat. A vague hint of charcoal and deadly nightshade churned the air and, coming from the closet at the far end of the room, the sound of a fiddle. He swung his feet out of bed and padded across the wax floor to the closet. Pressing his ear to the door, he heard a susurrus chatter within. Shuffling. Movement. Thumping. In an instant, the door crashed open, splintering onto the floor and the room was filled with a ball of flame.

The following morning Figgis slid down the muddy river bank and crouched in the reeds to watch a family of Cornish otters return to their dam. A mile downstream the Mayor of Crompton’s Palace had burned to the ground. Among the smoldering charcoaled remains were the unidentified remains of several men. The Mayor and his henchmen were nowhere to be found. 
Figgis’ work was done. He packed up his equipment and pulled down his shack. He waved goodbye to the Elysian Fields and headed upstream, playing a tune on his fiddle while the continuous rhythm of the ancient English countryside beat slowly on around him.