Her name was Linsey, and she had red hair and blue eyes. As a child, she lived with her mother and father in a cottage at the edge of the woods.

Her mother would often send her to the village on errands, and every time Linsey left home, her mother would give her the same warning. "Remember, child, if ye meet the Fair Folk in the woods, never say anythin' to them that's no a question. If ye do, then, they can do their wicked magic on ye, and take ye away under the hill, and ye'll never come back!" The thought of never coming back scared Linsey, and so she always tried to do what her mother told her.

But nothing good can last forever. One day, when Linsey was only seven years old, she came home from the village with a fever. The next day, it was worse, and she had a red rash on her neck. On the third day, her mother was complaining of chills.

Linsey had brought scarlet fever back from the village. By some miracle, she survived it, but her mother, who had stayed awake many nights to tend to her daughter, did not. Her last words to Linsey were, "Remember, child…questions!"

After some time, Linsey's father married a woman from the village. This new mother was cruel to Linsey: she forced her to do all the cooking and cleaning, while she herself sat outside in the sun, and in all the time she was there, she never spoke a single kind word to Linsey.

To escape her stepmother, Linsey took to wandering the woods and making up stories about the things she saw, to tell her mother when they met again in Heaven.

There was a stream in the woods, which ran by a hill, and Linsey's wanderings often led her there. One day she knelt to drink from the stream, and afterwards, noticed that her necklace was missing. It was a small wooden cross, a christening gift, and now it was gone, though she hadn't felt it slip off. It must have, though; so she searched for it.

As she searched, she noticed a path she had never seen before. It ran between the trees and ended at the foot of the hill. Curious, she followed it—and there was her necklace, right at the end of the path. As she bent down to pick it up, a piece of the hill seemed to slide to one side, and a doorway opened into the hill. Linsey snatched up her necklace, put it back on, and went in.

The room inside the hill had shiny gray walls that reflected Linsey's face the way the stream did. Looking at them, Linsey thought she saw something else move. She turned and saw an open doorway at the far end of the room, and the man who had just come through it. He was tall and thin, with fair skin, yellow hair, and ears that were strangely pointed at the top. Linsey realized that he was one of the Fair Folk her mother had warned her about. Remember, child—questions!

"How are you today, miss?" he asked, his voice sweet as honey.

"How are you, sir?" Linsey replied, nervous.

The man chuckled. "Would you like to come under the hill?"

Now that she thought about it, Linsey did want to see what was under the hill. "Can we go together?" she asked carefully.

"Are you ready?" said the man, holding out a hand. Linsey took it and walked with him deeper into the hill.

"Where are we going first?" she asked, not noticing the doors that shut silently behind her.


Linsey and the man walked down the path inside the hill, which sloped gently downward and opened occasionally on shimmering doorways. At last they came to a large round room full of long gray tables. Another of the Fair Folk sat at each table, working on something mysterious. Everything in the room shone like stars, and the Fair Folk seemed to have halos around them, like angels.

"What do you think?" the man asked.

Linsey was so excited about the glitter and strangeness of the world under the hill that she forgot to ask a question. "It's beautiful!" she cried, then clapped a hand to her mouth, hoping that none of the Fair Folk had noticed her slip.

But they had. Two of them stood up, grabbed her arms, and hoisted her onto a table. She struggled, but there were cold things holding her arms and legs down that kept her from moving. She felt a sharp pain in her arm, and everything went dark.


"So you authorized a time jump in the middle of a quarantine?" the Secretary of Health said.

The young hospital director squirmed in his seat and rubbed his fashionable surgically-pointed ears, which were turning an embarrassed red. "It seemed reasonable, sir," he said.

"Reasonable, Underhill?" the Secretary echoed. "To jump back hundreds of years and infect a whole village, on the off chance that you could bring back a survivor—you call that reasonable?"

"Sir, it worked," said Underhill defensively. "We have a survivor; my scientists are sequencing her genome as we speak, to find the key to her resistance. Soon streptococcal infections will be no more than an unpleasant memory."

The Secretary was still frowning. "You know we can't keep her here."

"The survivor? Don't worry about her." Underhill was regaining his composure. "Our technology permits us to return her to her home decade. She'll be fine."

He would never learn that he was wrong.


The rising sun warmed Linsey's face and woke her. Sitting up, she realized she was at the bottom of the hill in the woods. She remembered tall, fair-haired men and a round shining room—had that been a dream?

No matter. The important thing was that she get home before her stepmother realized she was gone. Linsey trotted along the path, pausing once to stuff her necklace down the front of her dress to keep it out of the way.

As she reached the house, she stopped, confused. The house looked much neater than it had when she left. The path leading to it was clean, the shutters were open, and smoke rose from the chimney.

A boy, no more than ten years old, stood to one side of the path splitting firewood. Linsey approached him slowly. He looked familiar.

He heard her coming, looked up, then backed away as if he'd seen a ghost, holding the axe in front of him defensively. "Who are you?" he whispered.

"I'm Linsey. Who are you, and why are you living in my house?" Linsey asked.

The boy dropped the axe and sat down on a log. "My name's Tom," he said. "Are you a ghost?"

"Of course not," Linsey scoffed. "I just stayed out in the woods last night."

The boy shook his head. "You have to be a ghost," he said. "My father told me I had a sister named Linsey. But before I was born, she went into the woods and disappeared. The Fair Folk stole her away."

It was Linsey's turn to sit back in shock. Ten years had passed since she'd wandered in the woods and met the men under the hill. She knew she wasn't a ghost, but what had they done to her?

She left Tom chopping wood and went into the house. Her stepmother was there, sitting impatiently in the chair Linsey's father had built for Linsey's mother. When she saw the little girl, she gave a gasp and fainted.

Linsey's father came inside and saw her. At first he was scared, then he opened his arms to embrace her, then he backed away again. Linsey knew why he was scared; Tom had told her, and so had her mother, once upon a time. Those who go under the hill never truly come back.