Fly! Fly away! What is this horrible place? The night, fountains and wreaths of flame! Hide! The air is so heavy. I want my mother! Fly! Hide! Nothing of this can be real. It is death! It is made of death! Creatures, hot light and cold iron. So tired... Twisted nightmares, ugly light, shrill noises, they must not see me. Hide! So weak...no farther. So...tired. Guardians protect me. Hide in here, in the effigies. So scared...where is father? Where is home?! I…must...re...turn...
"Nicolas, watch your sister. I need to find a pay phone to check in with the office."
"What? Why do I always have to do it? Where's dad, anyways?"
"He's probably doing 'research' again. Just watch your sister. This is important."
"It's always important..." Nicolas looked for a pebble, something to kick out the frustration, but what would something like that do to the appearance of 'the happiest place on earth'? He navigated his sister's stroller on an ever changing course between sets of legs and winding cement curbs, losing sight of his mother for moments that seemed longer with each iteration.
"Autumn keeps dragging her feet!" His plea for intervention dissolved into the general murmur of the masses. The advantage was hers, a devilish grin and a giggle, with a little bracing and one long stretch; she slammed both her feet into the concrete. Away she was launched, her long blonde braided hair flying like a pair of whips around the fair skin of her cheeks and down to her brand-new pink Minnie Mouse T-shirt. "Stop it!" The stroller handles had catapulted out of his hands, all a part of a five-year-old's plan and well-practiced. She knew the seat belt would save her. Nicolas was not so lucky, and he jammed his chin on the back wheels as he stumbled and landed half-toppled onto a wrought iron fence.
"Watch it kid!" came a muffled snarl from inside a smiling cloth masquerade. Nicolas's young dignity could not take much more as he now faced the Mad Hatter. Everything around him felt off-kilter.
"Sorry, it was my little sister that tripped me."
"Quiet, I'm on the phone...everything's fine Paul. It's amazing here, isn't it? It was great of Harold and me to bring the kids here..."
Nicolas was left to figure it out in a hole outside the heavy summer crowd, frozen in a half-shrug and all bewildered. A dad who thought he was Magnum P.I., his little girl shouldered with Mickey ears on, worked his way around the boy. There was another girl that stood on his side of the King Arthur Carrousel, unhappy and letting everyone know about it, her parents pulling out their hair. In a particularly large family, the father and kids argued about where to go next, the mother trying desperately to regain control. They and so many others had come had come today and been counted two-by-two's as they marched along the attractions underneath the blue summer sky. They had come here for something.
"Mom, can dad take me on The Matterhorn today?"
"No! I want to ride Dumbo! Mommy, take me to Dumbo!"
"What? Hold on...take you sister on the ride, please. I'll be done in a minute...yes...sorry you can't hear anything in this crowd...did you get the Weinstein report?" His mother shooed him away with her free hand, then used it to cover her ear, and Nicolas knew it was quite useless to protest. His mom could never get far away from business, even here. She had barely even dressed down, with her beige skirt and pale blue blouse and her dirty blonde hair tightly permed; she meant business and not even her kids would slow her down, as the last five years of Jazzercise showed.
"Yay...let's go Nick."
"It's a shame that this place doesn't serve alcohol. I could go for a good chardonnay right now. How can I be in California and not be able to get a good wine?"
"ahhr...Alright...get out of the stroller." Before he could undo her belt, she had worked herself out of it, and was off in the zip of tan Corduroy's.
"Paul...Paul, just get Laura to work out the details..."
Another wait in line, then Fantasy spun around him with a newly reconstructed 400 year-old Bavarian facade (so he had been told) and meticulously manicured greenery. This trip had come a few years too late for him. He had once believed in magic and of miracles, without the encouragement of his parents. He would see magic out of the corner of his eyes, even following the tracks of elves to their burrow in the trees. He had listened to the sound of its life and ways, and it was nothing like the hum and hiss around him now. But now, of course he knew better. Magic back then had just been a way of explaining the unknown.
Pretty colors and happy endings were the stuff of marketing, something that his father had gone on and on about until he had disappeared somewhere. Marketing was his father's job. He worked for an advertising company in Denver. His mom worked for Coors. One time she had tried to explain her very important job to him. It made no more sense than her title, 'Executive assistant in charge of internal coordination and interests'. He just knew that she was on the 'fast track'. He groused and watched the Skyway pass above them, and plotted his escape to tomorrow.
"Let's go ride Peter Pan nex'!"
Nick sighed as he was drug along. Mom was nowhere in sight. He worked his sister back through the traffic to catch a glimpse of her in quite the animated state, her words lost in the din. It would be a while longer. He finally noticed his arm being jerked around. "It's Cinderella! She's real! Let's go see her," Autumn squealed, hopping in place.
"No no NOno, no no no NO...Lame!"
And there they were again in order, moving in perfect rhythm to the drum and fife; the two of them boarded Captain Hook's fancy fiberglass ship as it set sail for the sky on a disguised metal track. Nicolas was all about things like this now. He was fascinated by the buttons that operated the rides, from the crankshafts and gears of the carousel to the computers behind the curtain that must run it all. This and his was now the world of Tron.
"Where is Tinker Bell? I don't see her!" She tried leaning way out over London to check under the boat.
"She's too small I guess."
"Do you think faeries are real?"
"No..." The answer was meant to stomp out all discussion.
"What about Santa Claus? My friends say he's real."
"I don't know..."
"What about God?"
Nicolas just shook his head slowly, as they continued with through a story which unfolded in a series of twirls and jerks in silence, he would never admit he that he remembered it well. Something bugged him, or really it had been since they arrived this morning. Something even before that, since last night and the Electric Light Parade, he just had not noticed it until now. His head bothered him too. He rubbed his forehead as they left the attraction, muttering about the rough ride, then someone was yelling at him.
"Nicolas, where is your mother?" His father waved him over from the other strip of buildings, wearing blue jeans and light button-up shirt, tucked loosely to hide an expanding waistline.
"She's by the bathrooms on the phone."
"Oh boy, it's going to be a bit. OK...wait...no! Come back here Autumn!"
"Can we go to Tomorrowland? I want to check out the arcade. All they have at Marvin's Pizza is Ms. Pac-Man and Pole Position."
"I spent $18.50 to get you in here, arcades are free. Let's go to check out the shops." It was like that was what every kid came for. "It cost almost a hundred bucks for the four of us, and every fifty feet there's more to spend money on. The profit margin must be insane."
"Can we at least go on the Matterhorn later?"
Nicolas shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled along behind. His father had insisted he dress well in slacks and one of his alligator shirts, even though it was like, a hundred degrees. His stomach growled from the smell of some unseen food, which made his head hurt more, his feet ached and nothing they had done all day had made any of it worthwhile. At least the stores had air conditioning, but having to endure a shop full of princess clothing hardly seemed worth it. Autumn did not seem to care much care either, and had taken to chasing dust bunnies or something. This they both had to endure, the whistles and clucking and so much jargon that all Nicolas could do was sigh and pretend to pay attention. Relief came finally after the forth such store.
"I'm going to get Paul fired when I return, the man just doesn't pull his weight. I can't even enjoy my vacation. He's always bothering me." His mom was still animated, but at least she was winding down.
"Taiwan...Between Japan and Taiwan making everything we use, they're going to end up owning this country in thirty years."
"Can we at least get something to eat now?"
"I want to try here first. We have a bid in to Hasbro."
Now it was a toy shop strategically positioned just outside 'It's a Small World' which was so outlandish Nicolas thought he had fallen into one of those old, jerky Christmas specials. Autumn watched one parent, and then the other, and satisfied slipped away unnoticed once more. Nicolas thought about doing the same in the other direction, but was not sure which way that was. The door seemed the best bet, then Nicolas spotted his sister in the center of the store under some tower, castle...thing housed in a painted sky dome. He saw no cause, but still immediately knew something was wrong. She trembled, staring over on tip toes into what must have been a bin of stuffed dolls. Now she was a little twerp, who never listened to anyone, but she was HIS little sister, and no one else was to mess with her.
"What's going on, sis?" he spoke in the gentlest voice he could manage as he came up next to her.
"Tha' Tinker Bell's glowin'." She pointed into a whole pile of them, flat faced and noseless and a little like a rag doll with metallic sheen wings.
"Huh...I don't see anything."
"Tha' one way over there..." She stretched out to her toes and reached as far as she could for one half-buried in the back. Nicolas dug it out and checked it over slowly in his hand. It was a Tinker Bell alright, nothing special, about a foot-and-a-half tall, perhaps even a little sloppy and threadbare; no, that was not it. She was new, but her shiny wings hung a little limp and her smile actually seemed sad. This one was not put together well at all.
"You see it?" He looked again. Tinker Bell seemed to blur out of focus in his mind, which made his head positively pound. "No...I'm going to put it back."
"What honey?" A voice with no body shouted from somewhere.
"Can I get a Tinker Bell stuffed animal?"
"...Bring it here."
Nicholas was hesitant to hand the doll over, but there was no nonsense on his squinched up sisters face. She held up the doll with both hands, and gave it a hug before skipping off to find their father. He imagined a high-pitched cry from the when she did, or laughter.
"$12.95? No honey, it's too much. You each can have five bucks."
"Dad, she can have my half."
"You're still three dollars short." Nicolas dug out a small stash of quarters out of his slacks, counted out a dozen and placed them in his father's palm. He had been saving them for the arcade, just in case, but the opportunity, it seemed, had passed. "I'll get the tax sport. I'm using the whole trip as a write-off anyways."
They left the store with Tinker Bell in the crook of Autumn's elbow. It might have been that lunch was coming, but Nicolas actually felt a little better. With each furtive little glance he snuck at the doll, it seemed to be something a little different. In a way, it could seem like glowing. Anyways, at least someone was happy. At least she would be quiet on the plane.
Nicolas Reuel was convinced that he had been cursed, and in the way every eleven-year old thinks, he was right. He knew he was ready for the bigger things that little 'kids' don't get to do, but for now all that entailed was babysitting his little sister. He blamed her often for not having a chance at Little League last spring. Truth be told, he would have spent most it riding the pine. He was not very large, or tall, or athletic, and spent most of his free time just exploring around his hilly home near Golden, Colorado, and pretending it was a different time. He had even been shorted on the age of discovery. There were no more places to find, no new science to discover. By the time he grew up he figured that they will have filled in all the details, and leave nothing for him.
Lately though, he had be facing the realization that girls were not that gross, and that they spent most of their time ignoring him. He had his mom's dirty blonde hair and cab doors ears, his father's fat nose that made his bright green eyes seem too close together, and all of this on a baby face that seemed to never want to leave, it was like having the power of invisibility to them. Nicolas looked nothing like his sister, who had received her father's golden blonde hair, which was only stringy from neglect, large blue eyes and soft cheeks, and her mother's long limbs, button nose and round face. It was like she had been reserved all the best features first, and he had taken the leftovers. She was always drawing all the attention, even waiting for the plane to take them home that night. Between twirls and flight lessons through the long and busy concourse, Autumn had long conversations with her new doll that only the two of them could understand.
"I think she needs therapy." Her father muttered this while comparing his notes to some paperwork he had brought along spread all around the fixed row of vinyl seats they sat on.
"Harold, she's not even in school yet."
"It's not healthy Laura."
"Remember Nick at this age? He was always talking to himself. It's just a phase. If it interferes with school, then you can take her wherever."
His little sister, everybody knew she was going somewhere, an actress, politician or a supermodel, something famous. She had that thing that everyone wanted. Somewhere Nicolas had lost his. He watched, and listened, and wanted it back so bad.
'Now boarding passengers for flight 775 for Denver...'
Long before he realized that it would be too dark to see anything, he had bargained for the window seat on the return trip. Still, he was not about to give it up as he shuffled to his seat, no matter what was left to see. Autumn and Tinker Bell were just fine in the middle. Their parents sat one row forward, the seats being in groups of three.
For a few minutes Nicolas sat fidgeting and hoping the two of them would get away with being alone, the odds did seem in their favor. He had started to relax a bit, and then came the sound of a suitcase scraping along cheap carpet along with the train like double-thunk of it hitting chairs and feet. He peeked to see an over-sized and altogether intimidating woman come stumbling towards them, and he sunk deep into his seat. Her carry-on was thrown into an overhead bin and beaten down until he heard something give way in a crunch of delicate glass. She rattled in between the two armrests in a half-grunt, half-moan. Autumn squealed and jumped out of seat as a heavy arm came down across her lap.
This woman grumbled a bit during takeoff, then shook her body down into the chair, kicked her feet up, and tossed her head up over her seat's headrest. Soon, her mouth was a volcano of spittle, a small, deep throated snore escaping from within. Nicolas hoped this would be the end of it, but something soon stirred inside, and she woke in a snort. Her purse was kicked out from underneath her seat, and she strained for it, producing a pack of Virginia Slims and a lighter. One was lit, and she took a long drag from it.
"Miss...Miss Woman, Tinker Bell is getting sick from your cigarette." Autumn cried in a small, determined voice. "Can you stop, please?"
"Look kid, I'll do what I want. This flight is over two hours. Leave me alone."
"Nick, she's getting totally sick. Help her."
"What am I supposed to do?" Autumn tugged on his sleeve, almost climbing him in desperation. "Please, just put it out. Just look at my sister, it won't kill you to wait."
"Screw you kid."
"Tinker Bell's really mad. Somethin's gonna happen." Nicolas watched Tinker Bell too despite reason. The doll seemed more than before, even turning blue, and then the strangest thing happened. In a puff of ash and char, the cigarette exploded. Shocked, the woman shot up, knocking her temple square against a pair of air nozzles before folding back into her seat. She came back up eyes squeezed shut in pain, rubbing her forehead.
"What the hell was that? What did you do to me little girl!?" The woman shoved the cigarette's now splayed and crumpled end into the armrest ashtray. Nicolas could not hold back a smirk. It was straight out of a Loony Tunes. There was even soot ringing the woman's fast reddening face. Nicolas shook the images of the steam from her ears, and cartoonish devil horns which had sprouted from the welts.
"Nothing! Tinker Bell did it!" Autumn protected the doll with her small body.
"I'll get you...you witch! Where are you parents? I'll put you over my knee!"
"Daddy!" Her father sat up, and pulled the blinders off of his eyes, still dazed. Their mother prairie dogged from her seat at the scream.
"You leave my sister alone!"
"Madam, I'm going to have to ask you to move." It was the young stewardess, who had heard the commotion from the galley, and had come to investigate.
"But this girl, she did something to me. Look at my face!"
"Come with me now, please."
"It's not my fault!" The woman was ushered away hurriedly by three stewardesses, her luggage and purse left behind. Autumn giggled, and Nicolas swore this time he heard a second, higher pitched echo for a reply. Upon landing in Denver, the Reuel Family was offered a profuse apology as the plane was cleared before them. Autumn and Nicolas were offered, and accepted a trip to see the cockpit and meet the captain. Nicolas was even able to sit in the co-pilot's chair as he rattled off the gauges he knew.
"See, this is how people fly Millie. Maybe Mr. Pilot can show you how. "
"...and can you believe Reagan? He bombs Libya back into the Stone Age on a suspicion and then he blocks congress from doing anything about apartheid in South Africa."
"After six years, are you really surprised? He'll do anything for his war mongering friends." Herold backhanded the corner of the morning newspaper with plaid pajamaed indignation, reclined just enough so the light of the morning sun through the corner windows did not interfere with his reading. The backrest of the dark varnished oak chair dug into his shoulders slightly.
"I'm so sick of his cowboy diplomacy."
"Come '88 we'll finally replace him with a good Democrat and the needs of THIS country will finally be taken care of. After eight years of his example, America will never elect another conservative...hey champ."
"You want something?" His mother had spent her morning piddling around the kitchen in her Adidas joggers, but the sounds and aromas of breakfast were absent. She had hated that kitchen from the start. It was too small, and too ugly to host parties with, particularly the canary yellow cabinets, and she could not tear down the wall that separated it from the living room without disastrously combining the kitchen with the master bedroom upstairs.
"...nno." His parents separately wondered how he had even managed to get dressed, or even why, or how he had made it down the stairs without losing an arm. In fact, a missing limb would have been a nice touch to the zombie impersonation.
"Are you sure?" His mother offered him something lumpy and brown, saran wrapped, "I bought some oat bran muffins."
"She's out back with her Tinker Bell. She wasn't hungry either."
"You OK there champ?"
"I didn' sleep v'ry good. Tah music kept me up." Nicolas shuffled aimlessly past the traditional oval oak table.
"What music?" His mother gave an exaggerated shrug, and glanced at his frowning father.
"It wasss like a chorus of an'els cryin'. An' every time I slep'...all kinds of strange, magic places and music tha' nobody's heard..." then he stopped. He had wandered into the sunbeam, and turned his face towards its light.
"Look, I'm sure you were just tired from the trip. It was jet lag..."
"Yeah...just jet lag." She tried to guide Nicolas to a seat at the table, but his spirit was somewhere else, separated, and he had to find it. "How about you sit down and have some toast."
"No...there's somewh'r I need to go...ou'side." His parents passed each other a look in silence as he instead slipped on his Velcro shoes and walked out the door.
"Herold, not this again, he had been doing fine for so long."
"I see it Lara."
"It's worse than ever..."
"I'll put in a call to Dr. Fowler."
The Reuel family lived in a large but rather plain looking two-story home on the rolling hills of Lookout Mountain, which was considered to be a part of Golden Colorado, which itself today would just be considered a suburb of Denver, but this was many years before. The new couple had bought this home when Nicolas was an infant and money was just trickling in. Now it flowed, as seen in the matching set of BMW's in the drive way (to impress the clients), and the new modern furniture that sat hodgepodged with the simpler old which lingered. The carpet needed replaced, that was the next big project, but the walls at least had its unseemly wallpaper torn down and painted over with a nice off-white texture. Still nothing had been done to alter the boxy exterior of the home, which seemed to be a layer of brick red paint over some cheap wood siding with plenty of windows and asphalt shingles.
Around their home, meadows of yellowed grass gently rolled and the narrow roads curled along with them. Ponderosa Pines gathered on the northern sides of the hills and mountains and traveled between in singles or small groups on their own time; scattered homesteads as individual as their owners found places in between. Squirrels ate from the trees, mule deer and elk grazed, all for the cougars and bobcats to feed on, and the occasional black bear ruled it all. It was a great place for the imagination of a young child. If you were older and looking for the high life, you were out of luck. There was a restaurant, and the graveyard of Buffalo Bill, that was about it. Town was five miles of white knuckle switchbacks dropping 1300 feet to the edge of the valley where it lie. The view was breathtaking, the snow made it impassable. Blackouts were common in the winter. Everyone kept a well-stocked pantry and plenty of thick blankets, and kept an eye on their neighbor for assistance and sport.
Snow would not a problem anytime soon. This Sunday morning it was warm enough for a t-shirt and last year's jeans turned into cutoffs. The sounds of critters skittering everywhere out of sight, the smell of musk and pine, it was a reassurance that he was home. Nicolas drifted out of the nebulous boundaries of his backyard, not altogether awake still. The sounds of nature, from the crunch of earth to the rustle of the wind and everything that resided there, the very landscape and the colors reminded him of the music of his dream which echo carried him that morning to somewhere. He could not let it go again. He remembered a distinct yearning, the sound of excitement and hope fluttering from a piccolo flute. He squinted in the too bright sun as he tried to follow something that flowed all around and through him, and overwhelmed he eventually sought shade in a grove of pines nearby. His sister was also there, sitting on a squatting boulder in a pink shirt and hand-me-down Oshkosh overalls.
"What are you doing out here? Mom's gonna be pissed," Nicolas yelled from above on a tiny ridge line. Autumn startled badly, her head jerked up towards him, then she became excited and hopped of the flat-topped rock to deliver a huge grinning hug.
"It's OK, Milly wanted to come. She's keepin' us safe."
"You're in trouble, let's go," Nicolas went to grab her wrist, in full grown-up voice and mode. "And who's 'Milly' anyway?"
"She said she needed a snail shell last night when we got home, an' so we're here for one. I don't know where she went..." Autumn spoke anxiously, like she had just been caught in a lie. Her big brother could not care less.
"So wait, Tinker Bell, you lost her already?! This is a new record. Come on, we need to find her. When are you going to start paying attention? Some bear is going to eat you..." Nicolas herded his little pest along for the search, kicking over rocks and scattering pine needles with his sneakers.
"Where did you leave her last?"
"You're starting to sound like dad. Milly will come back." He flinched a bit at this gut punch.
"Well...maybe...what?!" He saw the Tinker Bell doll on one knee, plain as the beams of the morning sun that lit her cloth skin through the pines, her fat fingerless hand probing underneath the crevice of a boulder. Tinker Bell turned her head toward him as he gasped. 'How she could even see with stitched eyes, or hear for that matter,' but before he even understand this thought, she let out small squeak as she fell to the ground limp. "No, I saw you! Don't even try to fake it, I saw you!
"She's scared." Autumn lunged towards the doll, scooping it off of the bare dirt.
"How does a cloth doll stand up? Its knees are just stitches. Wait, did I just ask... What are you doing with it?"
"Milly is real. You have to really look at her."
The doll was shoved as close to his face as his little sister could manage, as he stood there incredulous with his weight on one leg, arms crossed and feeling quite taken for a fool. Last month, he had snuck downstairs late one night to watch an old black and white movie about a ventriloquist and his dummy, which was actually evil and alive. He knew that just a Hollywood trick, not magic.
"This is stupid..."
"Stop bein' like dad and try."
There was a time when Nicolas was younger than his sister when his aunt used to babysit him. She was a bit of a nut, better than that she did not charge. He had not thought about her for years until now. It had been her that read him the old fairy tales, and not just the kids ones, but the good stuff like 'The Brothers Grimm' and other scary things. It had been her that inspired him to imagine, she was to blame. She always used to hum when she worked. Its melody was chaotic, like she made it up as she went along, and made from many parts that ebbed and flowed.
Why did he remember this after all these years? He never had found out what song it was, but now it had wormed its way into his head as he stared at the doll. It still had that hazy glow, made obvious by the shade of the grove. Suddenly it came into focus, and he screamed in shock as Tinker Bell burned of light in his sisters hands, the flattened cotton body consumed in seconds and leaving a vibrant form behind. His little sisters hands offered him a 'real' fairy, about as long as his hand and forearm, wearing nothing but a simple loose dress made from what seemed to be lavender iris petals, which had grown together into one single piece. It flowed in its bell shape over her body down to just above her knees, its shape so stiff you could not tell what was held by skin or air, yet seemingly rolling on a breeze that that did not exist. That glow that seemed to have once surrounded her still shimmered upon it.
"Autumn, you OK? I don't believe this. Drop the doll!" Nicolas tugged at his sister's arm and swatted at the creature, causing it to fall slowly to the ground like a leaf. He wanted to save her, run to the house and hide, but Autumn dropped to her knees with this creature, becoming forty-seven pounds of dead weight holding him in place. The creature, this fairy, from along its back to near the knees, unfolded a double set of identical translucent wings, long and narrow much like a dragonfly's. At first glance he had thought them to be a part of the dress, their sheer translucence had blended so well into the dark dress's glow. With noticeable effort, it flew the dozen or so feet to Autumn, and tried while flying to help her up, with dusty hands, skinned knees, and bruises new and old across its long, thin limbs. It had thought about his sister before itself, and he could literally feel the fur grow and his ears stretch as he turned into a mule.
"Milly!" Autumn got on her hands and feet, and pushed herself upright. The 'fairy' then took a seat on her shoulder; its right arm wrapped her neck.
"Leave her be. I am sorry for my lies. I did not want to involve any more men into this."
"Men? Who else knows about this?" Now it was talking, wispy and high pitched as he might expect would come out of something so small.
"Just this one, your sister, my friend."
"She's a girl."
"Yes. I do know this, as am I. What would you call yourselves then?"
"Call ourselves...what, you mean hu...mans, never mind."
"Indeed. I am Militha'onga, of the Water Skimmers," she stated with such pride Nicolas wondered if she was some kind of royalty of whatever she was. Her oversized, bright green eyes flashed as she spoke, set wide on something of a broad, flat face, and appeared almost comical set against her dainty nose and long, thin pointy ears. The long, continuous arc of her jawline, small mouth and dipping chin gave her face an oval look not unlike the dolls she had hid in. Her hair, the same shade of green, was short and spiky and added to this shaping, and stood out against her fair skin.
"You're ARE a fairy?" Nicolas leaned in for a closer look, and hesitantly tried to touch her with one finger.
She rolled those large eyes, and sighed, "If you must..."
" 'Tis the name of men, and an offense. To you so would be the Grass Leapers, and the Flower Tenders, and the Moon Chasers..."
"OK, I'm sorry. Give me a break. How was I supposed to know?"
"You are right. He is a...ah 'total pain'."
"Totally," Autumn giggled as she stole back a glance. "All brothers are." Nicolas threw up his hands at this grievous insult, wishing he had his eight bucks back as he paced a bit.
"This is truth, I have thirteen of them."
"So, I've gone nuts then."
"I've gone nuts then..." Autumn did her best to mock the look on his face while she spun her finger around her ear, catching strands of blonde hair.
"OK, let's just say this is real. Why just Autumn and me, and no one else? There were millions of people that saw you."
"I do not know. Are your parents druids?"
"No, they're yuppies. They worship money."
"Are they 'goblins' then?"
"It seems that way." It was an innocent question, and the thought amused Nicolas, until what had been implied made an impression. He wanted to mount a defense in their absence, but could not find the words.
"This is how the powerful enchantments of my people work. They give what others desire."
"And I wanted a friend Nick! And here she is!" Autumn smiled at the fairy on her shoulder, and bounced her into the air with a hop, sending them both into laughter.
"I have completely lost my mind. Oh look, and there's the white rabbit to come and take me down the rabbit hole to Wonderland." It wasn't white, except for the tail, and the strip on its stomach as it stood up to get a better look at the trio before hopping away leisurely.
"Do you know of those places between worlds? You can aid me!" Militha'onga fell off of Autumn's shoulder and fluttered within inches of Nicolas's face. The excitement and fear were plain in her eyes. Her hands were cupped together underneath her chin.
"OK, Wait...so why were you two out here away from the house again?"
"Milly needs a snail shell."
"I need it to return to my home. Do you know of another way?"
"Oh crap! We're hundreds of miles away from your home. I'm sorry."
"No, the distance means nothing, but time is short. A shell, and of exceptional size." Militha'onga flew the short distance back to the boulder she had been working under, landing to come up stretching from head-to-wings-to-toes.
"Autumn, I'll lift some of these large rocks, you look underneath." In roughly an hour four snails were found. The fairy selected the two largest and inspected both as Autumn knelt on the earth, holding one in each hand.
"And what will this shell do?"
"It is necessary to hear the ley lines. I have seen one device before." She spoke as she worked, slowly turning each about the size of her hand over and feeling every bump on the spiral of each, much to both snails perturbment as they hid inside.
"It's to make magic?" Autumn bent herself within inches of the snails, gawking, looking for the hidden magic herself. She had handled plenty of snails before, but all of those had been just plain snails. She had never seen a magical one before.
"OK, and...so, what are ley lines?"
"Do you know nothing of your world? They span the space between earth and sky around both our words, some strong, some not so, and bind in many places. The ones of my world use them to speak across the distances, and to travel those distances, At one time, we used to use them to travel to this world."
"So you're an alien? Like, from far away?"
"No! She's a fairy!"
"Shut-up Autumn! She doesn't like that."
"You shut-up jerk!" Not to be outdone, Autumn really leaned into it with hands on her hips.
"BOTH OF YOU CEASE THIS! What is wrong with you hu'mans?" The command echoed in his brain. He had never thought before that a voice so strong could come from something so small. He watched his sneakers, scuffing some residual dirt of a heel. "We were once from here long ago, but man drove us away with all your fighting. All you do is fight. It is all your short lives seem to be for."
"She started it..." Autumn crossed her arms and pouted in rebuttal.
"Here, care for this." Both snails were taken, one placed into Nicolas's hand slimy side down, the second was left to its own devices.
"Don't you just want the shell?"
"And what would you do with the rest of him? Barbarians..."
"So this is it?"
"Oh no, I need rainwater, and a wooden bowl to place it in. Also of what you would call argentum, it is a bright shiny thing that if fashioned flat you can see yourself in."
"Glass? Oh, I know…a mirror!" Autumn raised her hand high over her head like she was in school already.
"No, that's not right."
"It has a nobler sister that shines like the sun."
"Gold...wait you need silver. I'm sure we can find something in the house. Let's go. Man, I can't believe I'm doing this..." Militha'onga just nodded while Nicolas and Autumn began to make their way back through the various short grasses of the field. She took a long look around her, with an apprehension that excited. This was her choice, and she chose to trust, taking flight hesitantly, and struggling to catch up.
"Is your whole world like this place? Or is it as before, with the terrible iron beasts that consume everything living to make like them? Blowing smoke and bursting the skies, and their triumph, parading in dress with a thousand lights and their captives. False likenesses of vanquished heaped everywhere for anyone to claim. It was a horror! Tell me this is not so."
"Well I don't know, kinda...there are a lot of different places...don't get me wrong, it sucked there..."
"No, it didn'!" Autumn pleaded.
"It's all fake though."
"Illusion then? Please, explain."
Both siblings made disjointed attempts to answer on the short way home, often interrupting each other mid-sentence, changing the topic and ultimately accomplishing little unless their purpose was to confuse Militha'onga more. She tried to keep up with both with eyes and nods as she rested in Nicolas's arm exhausted. As he held the fairy, he wondered how she tired so easily, as she weighed almost nothing. 'How many angels can dance on the head of a pin'? Something his grandfather used to say. He had never explained what it meant, but he did not think it had anything to do with weight, or size. None of this could possibly be happening, but it was, and it was a lot more fun than a trip to Disneyland.