Dave couldn’t help but smile as he saw her reaction. “Listen,” he said, “I’m sure you don’t like being stuck in that aquarium. Do you want me to let you out for a bit?”
“Aye, and thank you!” she replied enthusiastically. “I fear I would not survive long in such a cage.”
As he reached his hand inside, she pulled away from it, afraid he might grasp her roughly, as Kyle had done. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful,” he told her, making no attempt to pick her up. Instead he simply set his hand next to her, palm out.
Hesitantly she crawled into the open palm, kneeling down near the center, away from his fingers. He lifted her up carefully, making sure he didn’t make any sudden moves that could frighten her. She weighed almost nothing at all.
He paused to look at her, intending to hold his gaze on her for only a moment, but couldn’t resist staring. She was so beautiful, with those shining blue eyes, angelic features and long white hair. The silky body-cloak did nothing to hide her slim, graceful figure, either. Though she was a fairy, her curves were as feminine as any woman’s, and despite her diminutive form, she was as perfectly proportioned as he could have hoped for.
Dave knew he would have found her attractive at any size, but there was something about her minuteness that made her seem--what? Looking at her hopeful smile, he struggled to sort his feelings. She was defenseless, cute, vulnerable...yes, all those things, but there was something more, something he could not quite grasp.
“Dave,” she said after a moment, “I want to thank you for helping me tonight. It is more than I would have believed possible in the realm of Man.”
With that he finally managed to tear his eyes away from her miniature form. “Uh, sure,” he replied nervously. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t keep holding you like this. Here, let me put you down.” He moved his hand to the table’s surface, so she could climb out easily.
To his surprise, however, she stayed where she was, leaning back against his thumb and gazing up at him. “I feel comfortable here,” she replied with a convincing smile. She looked down and ran her fingers across his skin. He barely felt the touch, but a shiver ran up his spine just the same. “Your flesh is warm and soft,” she told him, “and it bears the most intricate patterns. Do all Men bear this kind of body-art?”
“What? Oh, the fingerprints,” he sputtered. He was so fascinated by her presence in his hand that he barely heard the question. “Yeah, we’re born with them,” he explained awkwardly. “It’s funny, though. Everyone has a different pattern, totally unique. When we touch something, we leave the mark behind, and police can use that as evidence to catch criminals.”
She gave him a curious glance. “I do not understand. What does that mean? What are police, and what are criminals?”
“Uh, well, police are, uh...” He hesitated, realizing she had no idea what crime was. That meant she wouldn’t know anything about laws, or keeping the peace. How could he explain something like that? It was like describing color to a blind person. “Have you ever seen someone do something bad or wrong?” he asked after a moment.
“Yes, often,” she replied. “Men use their magic and golems to rend the grass and flowers. The fields cry out each time they are shorn, and all I can do is sing away their pain. They regrow, but always it is the same: Man comes again after a few more sunrises. Only the darkening skies and cold of winter bring any end to this terror.” She shuddered.
Oh, geez, she’s talking about the lawnmowers, he thought to himself. And people just wanted the park to look nice! “I’m sorry,” he told her. “We didn’t know.”
“There is much we do not know about each other, it is true,” she replied with a little sigh. “After all, that is my purpose here. But continue with your words.”
“Oh yeah,” he went on. “All right, say in your society one of your people were doing something wrong like that. Like, say a fairy was helping destroy flowers or something. What would you do about it?”
“That would not happen,” she answered plainly. “It could not.”
“All right, something else then. I don’t know. Whatever a fairy would do that’s antisocial.”
“I do not know that word,” she replied, frowning. It was obvious she was trying to understand, but had no frame of reference.
“Okay, I’ll go another way. Say there was something one of your people was supposed to be doing, and he refused to do it for some reason.”
“None can tell another what they must do,” she said. “They know their duty, and their place in the Great Cycle. If they feel they have no place, they simply seek their purpose elsewhere.” In a low voice, too softly for him to hear, she added, “As all my people have done, save myself.”
“All right, this is getting nowhere,” he said, trying not to get too frustrated. “Among us humans, things don’t work that way. We have the same kind of freedom to do what we want, at least in this country, but not everyone has your sense of morals. I envy that, really, but it’s just not something that’s hardwired into our brains. Some men are what we call ‘evil.’ They do what they want at the expense of others. They hurt, steal, and even kill.”
“But why?” she asked, still trying to comprehend. The memory of the two men smiting each other with their death rods flashed swiftly through her mind. “Why would you do this to each other? What purpose would it serve?”
“It’s hard to explain,” he told her. “You said you just know your duty, right? Do you have that feeling all the time? Or is it taught to you as you grow up? Assuming you grow up, that is,” he added.
“Yes, we do grow up,” she confirmed. We are born, grow old and die, as all Gaia’s creatures do, and Men as well. When we come into the world, we are linked to the land, and know our purpose is to serve and nurture it.”
“Then there’s the problem,” he realized. “Men don’t have that at all. We have no idea why we’re here. In fact, we call it the great mystery of life. If we knew the answer, it would make living a lot easier, I think.”
She looked up at him with a horrified expression. “You--you do not know your place? You have no purpose or direction?”
“I’m afraid not,” he answered sadly. “I wish we did.”
She stood up and paced across his palm, leaning against his fingers as she thought about what he had said. Dave watched her walk, trying to keep his hand steady, and marveling at the graceful way she moved. She did not seem to notice his intense gaze, however.
Presently she looked up at him once again. “This explains much,” she said. “The acts of Man, both random and ordered, are beginning to make sense. You have no purpose, so you seek to make your own. You are driven by whatever suits you--towards what I do not know.”
“Neither do we,” he admitted. “I’d like to think we do sometimes, but I’m never sure. Reaching out into space, for example...I always thought it would be cool to visit another planet, but I never really thought about why.”
“Many of your words are strange,” she told him, “but I think I understand your meaning. Still, I am weary, and I must begin the healing process.” She reached around and inspected her broken wing. Sadly, she added, “It will be many sunrises before I will fly again.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked, reaching out and lifting the drooping limb. Like a wasp wing, it was formed of thin fibers supported by a few thick ribs that formed a kind of framework. It looked like the main support branch had been snapped in half.
She sighed. “It will regrow,” she answered, “but if there were some way I could hold it in place, the healing would be much faster.”
Back to Main Fiction Page