The therapist pinched her mouth tight beneath a button nose and completely unnecessary wire-rimmed spectacles. Her lotion-scented fingers held her ballpoint pen like a weapon.

 

“Ms. Yeager.” She spoke with the authority of a woman who routinely lectured eight year olds on the futility of dreams. “Please tell us about your first week on the outside.”

 

My name is Baba Yaga, not Barbara Yeager.

 

The group breathed a collective sigh around me. Yep. I’d just been formally thrown under the painted wheels of the social services bus. I glared at a wet, cross-legged kelpie to my left. Useless bastard. Even the smart-tongued Scot, a beast who’d once dragged tots fearlessly into the water and traded barb for barb with me, remained as silent as the dead. His green claws shook as he feigned weaving weeds into some kind of an arts and crafts project.

 

“Well.” I tapped a razor-sharp nail against the large purplish wart on my chin. —To hell with the lot of them. “ I suppose I’ve got a few applications pending.”

 

“That’s good.” She scribbled harder. “Where?”

 

I was tempted to tell her how I’d lived the majority of my life in a magical hut that sauntered and strolled around on a pair of chicken legs. From time to time, admittedly, the hut had galloped off in a stubborn huff — but we’d always managed to resolve our differences. We’d had miles worth of fencing too, beautiful stuff made from the best sun-bleached human bones, with the skulls grinning widely at the top. And, gods’ damn it, I had soared —I tell you, soared — through the midnight sky in a mortar whose size I altered with no more than a flourish of my wrist…the pestle made a decent rudder, too, in case you were wondering.

 

The goblin across from me rewarded my desperate look with a thick-shouldered shrug. She twitched one long ear in my direction, and raised a hairy eyebrow. My magic had saved her life more than once, the ungrateful wretch. I cleared my throat, pitched the bones of my fingers together in the shape of a lopsided tent, and rattled off the name of a few fast food chains that came to mind, a local convenience store, and some place that ended in “Mart.”

 

“I see.” The button nosed tyrant’s mouth slanted in a deepening moue of distaste above her precisely starched white collar. This one cloaked her emotions about as well as a cranky toddler — believe me, I was qualified to judge… I’d eaten more than a few cranky three year olds in my day.

 

It was ridiculous, really…the whole Reality Integration Project. We had existed for ages as merely echoes in fairytales, hushed stories and morality plays used to scare good sense into bad children. And when the humans finally found incontrovertible proof of our world and our existence, what weapon did they use against us?

 

Eminent domain.

 

“Barbara.” The woman’s face remained dreadfully pretty and plastic, even when she spoke. I had recently discovered this was due to a curse, placed on her head by a family of disgruntled basilisks whose surname was Bow Tock. “Surely even you can see you are aiming too low. You must have more marketable skills…haven’t you been working on a development plan?”

 

A reticent troll, with teeth long as fingers and skin made of solid bark, chuckled behind me. Until this point, no human ears had heard him make a sound. Of course, he’d also never heard a 120 pound perfumed bag of flesh, silicone, and condescension talk down to a several thousand years old witch.

 

It’s a bit startling at first…then, unfortunately, you just get used to it.

 

“A development plan,” I replied. My blood was boiling. How about you give me my damned house back and I put you in the oven? “Let me see, dearie…marketable skills, eh? I can make babies taste finer than filet mignon when given the proper seasonings, and I’m notoriously good at whipping up last minute potions and poisons.”

 

A frog at the back put his own two cents in on my behalf. “It’s the truth, Ma’am. She’s the best…that’s how I ended up this way. ”

 

The therapist sighed, making the frog cringe. She wanted to help us, really she did, but we just weren’t making sense. If we wanted to make it in the real world – a place where fairytales couldn’t existthen we had to accept our non-existence.

 

“So,” I answered slowly, “let me make sure I get this straight…You’re saying that the first step of Reality Integration is getting us to acknowledge we aren’t real?”

 

“Yes.”

 

…So I ate her.