Dave watched the football game, but his heart wasn’t really in it. Though his team won, and he captured the office pool, it seemed somehow unimportant. His thoughts always returned to the tiny, frail creature trapped in the aquarium.
During the game he had checked on her often, but she remained huddled in the corner of the towel, not moving except to occasionally shift position uncomfortably. She did not respond to his questions, nor did she attempt to eat any of the shreds of coleslaw he placed in the cage with her. All in all, she made a pretty pitiful sight, he thought.
At one point Kyle jokingly suggested they take her out and play with her, but Dave was horrified by the idea. Seeing his friend’s shocked expression, Kyle quickly recanted, insisting he had only been kidding.
As he was leaving, Kyle asked what Dave was going to do next, and he repeated that he didn’t know. He asked Kyle not to tell anyone about his captive, and he agreed. Besides, as he said, no one would believe him anyway.
After Kyle left, Dave went back to the aquarium and looked in on Tillianianita. She was still huddled in the corner, looking up at him fearfully. He sat down with a sigh, shaking his head. “I wish I could tell you I don’t mean to hurt you,” he said. “If only you could understand me!”
She stared at him for a moment, unable to comprehend but reading something in his eyes and expression. As if on impulse, she leaned her head back and began to sing. At once he found himself entranced by her tiny, lilting voice. He leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes, letting himself drift away, drawn into the depths of the song.
A prisoner! Captured, unable to escape. Hopeless. All is hopeless. If only they could understand...
The song faded and Dave opened his eyes, the strange sensation fading away. He discovered that his entire body was tingling with gooseflesh. He shuddered, both from the unusual feeling and the power of her strange, otherworldly voice. There was something about it, something important...he could almost grasp it, and then it had slipped away, like a forgotten dream.
He looked down at her again, and found she was staring up at him with something like hope in her tiny eyes. Those eyes...they were a bright, sparkling blue, almost too blue to be real. “God, you’re beautiful,” he sighed to himself, shaking his head.
“Thank you,” she replied in a wispy, high-pitched voice. She gave a hopeful little smile.
His jaw dropped. “W-what?” he stammered, too stunned to be embarrassed by what he’d said. “You can understand me now?”
“Only because you wished it,” she replied softly.
“The spell-song,” she explained. “Link-magic. Our common desire is the conduit through which it flows.”
He stared at her, trying to grasp what she was saying. “You--you mean you cast some kind of spell on me?” He was not at all angry, only amazed.
“Aye,” she responded. “Still, our thoughts must both be aligned. In ancient days, it might have been different, but here and now, I cannot do to Man what he does not wish for himself.”
He seemed to settle back deeper into his chair. “Magic!” he breathed. “Real magic! Then that must be how you fixed your clothes, too.”
She shuddered at that, but said nothing.
“No, wait!” he told her. “I didn’t do that on purpose. It happened when you hit my car. Really, I didn’t do it.”
She was silent for a few moments, then finally stood up and moved towards the middle of the aquarium. “I believe you,” she told him. “You have not harmed me, and yours seems to be a kind soul. I did not believe any such existed in the world of Man.”
“We’re not all bad,” he replied, still somewhat amazed that he was actually talking to a fairy. “I take it you’ve had some bad experiences with us--humans, I mean--before?”
“It is true,” she answered, a pained look on her face. “Your kind seems only interested in cruelty and pain. Before this moment, I have never even spoken to a human.”
“No, none have ever wanted to speak to me,” she replied, shuddering at the memory.
He noticed her reaction and changed the subject. “Do you have a name, then?” he asked.
She looked up at him suspiciously. According to the ancient legends, a name gave one power over another.
Seeing her hesitate, he went on. “Please, I have to call you something,” he said. “If it helps, my name is Dave Thompson.”
“Davethompson,” she repeated, with some difficulty.
“Just Dave, if that’s all right.”
“Dave,” she said. “Very well, my name is Tillianianita.”
She seemed to sing the name, rather than speak it. Dave tried to repeat it back to her, but failed utterly. “It’s pretty, though,” he admitted. “Tell you what, I’ll just call you Tilly.”
“That will suffice,” she said with an accepting smile.
“Well, Tilly, where are you from, then?” he asked curiously. “How did you happen to land on my car?”
“My home is the last refuge of the land in all the world,” she answered. “The only place Man has not spoiled. Why you spared it, I do not know, but I am thankful.”
Frowning, he thought about that for a moment. “Are you talking about Central Park?” he finally asked.
“I know not what you call it,” she answered roughly. “It is the last place where trees and hills touch the sky, where the old magic still struggles to cling to life.”
“Central Park. It has to be,” he said. “But what do you mean, the last place? There’s plenty of forest and wilderness still around. Hell, drive upstate for an hour and you can see some real pretty scenery.”
She looked at him with wide, pleading eyes. With his words he had just answered a mystery that had haunted her people for uncounted ages. “Oh, tell me it is so!” she begged. “Tell me your words are not false!”
“What? Of course not,” he told her, surprised by her reaction. “I wouldn’t lie to you. Look, I’ll show you.” He got up and went to a bookshelf, returning with a couple of National Geographic magazines. He opened one of these up, found a picture of a South American jungle, and showed it to her through the glass.
“More of Man’s cruel magic,” she said scornfully, looking sadly at the paper. “A tree, destroyed, to hold the images of what once was.”
“No, it’s real,” Dave insisted. “This is a real place. It’s not close by, but it’s real. You don’t have to go to the jungle, though. If you like, I can take you to a forest somewhere upstate. It’ll have to be this weekend, though. Is that what you want, to go to a forest?”
“You--you would do this thing?” she pleaded. “Release me to the land, wishing nothing more from me?”
“Of course,” he answered truthfully. “I would never hurt you. I only want to help.”
She fell to her knees, staring up at him unbelievingly. Was he telling the truth? She had no way of knowing, but for the first time, she dared to hope.
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