The Eyepiece


She found the box in an old rundown store somewhere on the backside of Kwangju in Korea. Her first foray out into the city, and she found herself inexplicably lost, with an odd little Korean man watching her.

There was a price tag on the box, but it was seventy thousand. Way out of her ... Wait, no ... Seventy? Yeah, seventy dollars. Not bad, and she could use them for Halloween.

The eyepiece had caught her attention while she wandered, trying to dodge raindrops. The man inside the store waved his hands, practically kicking her back out into the storm when she inquired about the eyepiece. It was a turn-of-the-century beauty. Black and brown with silver filigree. At first glance it looked like opera glasses, but on second look, it was not opera glasses, but something else.

Across the street was a hidden coffee shop where she stopped and ordered a latte, a piece of cake and a sandwich.

Up on the second floor couples hugged the windows, clung to the walls and purred in the corners. The third floor was blissfully unoccupied. A low table beside the window provided the best view of the town street and the rain.

Opening up the case, an old worn-out envelope whispered onto the table. Inside was a simple note written in an Edwardian hand. "To the owner of these glasses - enjoy."

"Well if that isn't a bit creepy," Beatrix muttered to herself. Named for the famed author, Beatrix had been more than a little disappointed when, at the age of seven, she learned she could not see Peter or any of her favorite characters. She surmised it was because they were old and dead. At ten, she learned she simply could not see what was not to be seen.

Still, those glasses.

A shiver or remembrance skipped up her spine. A memory of a night long past.

Through the eyepiece the world seemed similar, howbeit a little distorted. Beatrix sighed and began to remove the glasses when a dark shadow passed before her.

She blinked and looked over the top of the glasses and beheld nothing.

Through the glasses, and also, nothing.

Now, though, she could hear a murmuring in the corner. Two options - sweet and adorable with a bad temper, or big and ugly with a good temper. One could consider two more options, but the later of those options - big, ugly with a bad temper - she didn't want to consider.

Turning, she looked through the eyepiece and found...

"Nothing," she sighed.

"Of course there's nothing there," a voice greeted. "It moved."

Across from her, dunking a biscotti into a large cup of coffee, was a man dressed in an aubergine pinstripe suit. He was Korean, but spoke perfect English. His hair was shaggy, but combed out of his eyes. His shoes scuffed, but comfortable. His eyes were unopened ... Unfolded. They looked Asian not European.

"You make it seem as any day something might be there."

"A family of fairies live in the building," he answered. "Beatrix."

"And just how do you know my name?"

He pointed to the bag with her name on it. "Now, one could assume you were a fan of Beatrix Potter, but since you have nothing connected to her, I can assume you are called Beatrix."

He said Bae a trix, not Bee a trix, which to Beatrix always sounded prettier. How many times had she insisted she was Bae a trix, not Bee a trix.

"You wouldn't happen to be one of those strange fellows who always pop up in a fantasy, would you?" Beatrix looked at his head. "No white rabbit ears?"

"I'm quite real, thank you." He held out a card with one hand. "Han Jiwoon, at your service."

"And just what service do you do?"

He leaned forward, his lip curling slightly. "Just what sort of service do you have in mind?"

Beatrix took the card. "Well, you could start with the fairy family."

"The Shumaker family has been living here ever since the place was put in."

"German fairies in Korea?"

"Immigrants. They're actually Dutch, if you must know. They were shipwrecked here and have been here ever since. The local fairies haven't always been welcoming, but despite the fact they have a German sounding name, they are, indeed, as Korean as the next family."

"And the black shadow?"

Jiwoon stilled and leaned back into his seat. "You saw that?"

"Just out of the corner of my eye, but yes ... Listen, why do strange men always show up in stories to answer all the questions a person might have? Just what is your shtick here?"

He turned his phone around revealing a map. "I am in charge of new sentient."

"Sentient?"

"Those we call who have discovered the magical world." He looked down at the eyepiece. "I thought those had all been destroyed in the last war." He shook himself and looked back up. "I am officially a greeter and answerer of questions. I also am the one who deems you able to continue with the knowledge."

"Brilliant."

"You are doing much better than I expected, though. Most people who find out about this world tend to be scientists and the like. Non-believers."

Beatrix pointed to herself. "Fairy agnostic."

Jiwoon laughed. "Never heard it put that way, but I understand. Anything else?"

"What was the shadow, since you're the official greeter and answerer of questions. Will it try to kill me?"

"Most likely. It's a dokkaebi a generally malevolent creature. This particular one is especially antagonistic towards white people though. Had a bad run in with one many ages ago and hasn't forgotten it. He personally hates the Shumakers."

"Are they safe?"

"Quite. They've been dealing with him for many generations now. They're quite adept."

"So, can I pretend I don't know I know what's going on?"

Jiwoon shook his head.

"Now I understand why everyone's so annoyed in the books," Beatrix muttered. "It is rather annoying." She sighed. "Must I kill this ... What did you call it?"

"Dokkaebi, and no, why must one always have to kill something one doesn't understand?"

"Because in most stories, that is the case. What am I supposed to do?"

"Nothing. He's not harmless, but he won't harm anyone. He's just a very old creature with a bad attitude. More like a crotchety grandpa than mass murderer."

"Is there something I am supposed to do?"

"Nope."

"No quest. Nothing needs saving."

"Nothing. We do quite well, thank you very much, without your help before today, and we will continue to do so afterwards."

Beatrix leaned forward. "Are you annoyed?"

Jiwoon sniffed. "No."

"Angry?"

"Not in the least."

Beatrix smirked and settled back against the chair. "Why did you come?"

"I happened to be close by."

"Do you have a way of contacting you? After all, not only am I in a foreign land, but now there's even more.... Foreignness to it."

Jiwoon took Bellatrix's cell phone and entered his number. "If you need help for anything, call."

"Thanks."

"Welcome."

They drank their coffee in silence and watched the street, once empty due to the rain, now teeming with creatures of all shapes and sizes. "Do I need the eyepiece, anymore?"

"It helps look at the operas."

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