This story copyright 1996 by Julie Bihn. Please do not modify or distribute without permission.
This story was written by my good friend Carol. It's been quite a few years since this event took place, and few people remember the news that surrounded it. Though this story was intended for her friends and family, I'm sure that she wouldn't mind strangers reading it as well. She always wanted to be famous. This book is to Carol and all her other friends.
To whom it may concern:
Hope this explains everything!
It all started on an ordinary Wednesday evening. Well, until that point, it had seemed ordinary, anyway. I returned to my bedroom after eating roast chicken-my least favorite dinner. As always, I carefully closed my door behind me-I was awfully fond of my privacy. I flopped down on my bed, which was in the center of my cluttered room. Bored, I picked up a mirror from my dresser, to the left of my bed, and idly stared at my reflection. As I sat on my bed, something behind me seemed amiss. It wasn't the window... I looked at my desk, which was right in front of the window. To my surprise, it was glowing different colors. Could I have left a flashlight on it or something? Upon closer inspection, I found that six glowing, winged creatures were sitting on my disorganized desk. They looked like small humans, all glowing different colors. A dark pink one was in the center, with a green one to her left and a red-orange one to her right. Farther back were a pink and a blue creature, though they were so close together that they looked like one bizarrely-shaped purple thing. The sixth was separated from the rest, sitting near the edge of my desk. He glowed a gray color, and looked angry. All the creatures looked surreal, and were about seven inches tall.
The magenta one stood up, and, to my surprise, spoke to me in English, with just a slight, unfamiliar but likeable accent.
"My name is Cali, and we are all fairies. If you don't give us something to eat, we will starve."
Even in my surprised state, I noticed that the creature had short magenta hair, a ragged-looking pink skirt and top, glowing pink skin, and no shoes. I blinked a few times, and leaned closer to the fairies. On an impulse, without asking any questions, I opened a drawer in my desk and got out a box of cookies I had hidden there. They were little cookies, a bit more than half an inch in diameter, and had candy coated chocolate chips in them. Ironically, they were the kind whose commercials claimed that they were made by elves.
I gave one of the cookies to each fairy, feeling like I was feeding dolls.
"What is this stuff?" asked the red-orange fairy. He had very long hair and his little eyes sparkled mischievously. The rest of the fairies looked at him, obviously not wanting to be too social.
"They're cookies," I said as I set a few more on my desk. All but the gray fairy took another one, and all consumed their second cookies in three hurried bites. "You guys must be really hungry," I noted, stating the obvious.
"We'll explain later," said the lighter pink fairy. She looked weaker than the rest, with a longish loose skirt and a tighter top, and no one signaled for her to stop talking. It was fifteen minutes before everyone was finished, and they had eaten over a third of the cookies. Through this time, I had never taken my eyes off the strangers. As I watched, the magenta creature, Cali, stood up, flapped her wings, and flew up to me. I was amazed to see a pair of fairy wings in action.
"Thank you," Cali said. "You saved our lives. If it wasn't for you, we'd have starved." Dazed, I didn't reply.
"She wants to know what's going on," said the pink fairy.
"We shouldn't trust her," the gray one said in a low voice. He looked suspicious, and he glared at me as I looked at him curiously. His clothes were ragged, like Cali's, but, unlike hers, his clothes didn't seem to be tattered for the purpose of fashion.
"Don't mind him," said the green fairy, sounding motherly. She almost reminded me of my grandmother, but she wore pants, and seemed to have a fiery personality. "He's just distrustful of all you humans-"
"And for good reason," interrupted the gray fairy. "Look what they did to me!"
I wondered how anyone could have done anything to make the gray fairy so bitter.
"Maybe we should introduce ourselves," said Cali-the magenta fairy seemed to be the spokesperson of the group.
"I'm Mendalar," said the red-orange one.
The green fairy said, "I'm Iris."
"My name is Fallah," said the lighter pink fairy. "That is Kama," she said, pointing to the gray fairy, "and this is Jemah." She motioned at the blue glowing creature next to her. He didn't look meek, and I wondered why he hadn't spoken yet. "But who are you?"
"My name's Carol," I said, wondering if I was dreaming. Then, feeling I should be the one asking questions, I said, "But why are you guys here? I-" I cut myself off, because I heard my door opening. Quickly, I threw a pillow on my desk, hoping I wouldn't smother the delicate creatures under it.
"Who are you talking to?" asked my younger brother as he walked in.
"Don't you ever knock? I could have been changing clothes," I replied, annoyed.
"Sorry. Can I borrow your Dave Matthews Band CD?"
"Sure," I said, rummaging through my CDs and handing it to him. My brother should have been suspicious at the unconditional surrender of my favorite CD, but he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, and he left without another word. I locked the door behind him. "Sorry," I whispered as I took the pillow off of the fairies. "Are you guys OK?"
"Why did you do that?" asked Mendalar, sounding genuinely puzzled.
"That was my brother," I whispered. "If he'd've seen you, he'd've told Mom and Dad."
"So?" asked Cali.
"So, if he told Mom and Dad and convinced them that I had-" I lowered my voice to the lowest whisper I could manage "-that I had fairies in my room, then-"
I stopped myself because I heard a tapping at my window. Thinking it was my family's indoor-outdoor cat, I parted my lavender curtain and looked outside. A little creature that reminded me of a cross between a lightning bug and a moth was at my window. It was kind of cute, with its stubby wings and its bright yellow glow.
The green fairy, Iris, flew over. "It's Candia!" she exclaimed, and, in a second, the bug was no longer outside the window. I closed the curtain, confused, and found that the creature was now inside. Mendalar was stroking its head.
"What is that?" I asked, forgetting to whisper.
"It's my pet," said Mendalar, obviously joyful. "I don't know how she got here when we-"
"Loyalty knows no bounds, even through other worlds," said Cali shortly, though she seemed to have purposely interrupted him.
Suddenly, the doorknob started to turn. In an angry response to the fact that it was locked and would not open, the door received a few kicks, and the doorknob was turned in vain several more times.
"Can I come in?" my brother asked.
"I can hear you imagining." 'Imagining' was his word for what I called daydreaming. It was our escape into another world, where we imagined adventures going on. Though both my brother and I often daydreamed, I almost never spoke while imagining. Still, I liked the excuse, and went with it.
"I hear you daydreaming all the time," I replied.
"So?" A minute of silence went by, and I guessed that my brother was gone.
"This is dangerous," I whispered. "Maybe you guys should leave."
"But we can't," said Cali. "We need some human to help us. I'd explain, but..."
Fallah spoke to me. "But you're afraid that someone will find us, aren't you, Carol? Maybe we can tell you why we're here, when your family is away."
"Like after school tomorrow?" I asked.
"Sure," replied Cali. Only later did I find out that she wasn't quite sure what school was.
"Well, OK," I agreed. "But you guys'll have to hide somewhere." I looked around, and the idea of putting them under my bed came into my mind. It seemed like a good idea-no one ever looked *there* I hadn't cleaned under my bed since I was eight. A large ruffle over the edge of the bed hid everything underneath it. I pulled the ruffle up and motioned.
"You think you could hang out in there?" I asked.
"That's what bats do," said Mendalar. "We're fairies. We can't hang like them. I've tried."
"That's not what she means," said Fallah. "She means, can we stay in there."
"I think we should," said Cali.
Fallah said, "So does Jemah."
"You mean we're going to let her keep us down there?" asked Kama angrily.
"What do we have to lose?" asked Iris. In a flash, she and Kama disappeared. I looked over and found that they were under my bed. The others followed, flying down there.
"We'll be safe here?" said Cali questioningly.
"As safe as you can get in this house," I replied, sighing. "I still have to do my homework and get a shower." (I was very responsible then, almost too responsible, and even in a strange situation, I put my class work at a high priority. Still, I surprised myself at my quick acceptance of the creatures and how soon I thought of the 'real' world again.) I glanced at my watch. It was 9:30 at night, and I was supposed to be in bed by ten. "So I have to get my shower now." I took a last glance at the glowing creatures and left, wishing that I could lock the door behind me and get in later.
I rushed to my bedroom after taking the quickest shower in the history of mankind. I threw my door open and, to my surprise, found the magenta, green, and pink fairies on my bed, next to my binder and my history textbook. I hurried into my room and quickly slammed the door.
"What are you guys doing?" I whispered.
"Your homework," replied Cali. "Fallah tells us that you have to have this done by tomorrow, and-"
"But they'll know I didn't do it! You guys don't write like me, do you?"
"It's no problem," said Iris. "Cali here just-"
"But I don't get this algebra stuff," interrupted Cali. I picked up my history questions and saw that they were all done, in my handwriting. I just shook my head, thinking 'I'll ask them tomorrow.'
Mendalar flew to me and spoke. "Before you decide to take us in and everything, there's something I think you should know." Fallah shook her head, but Mendalar kept talking. "All six of us were thrown out of our country because we're dangerous criminals."
I was slightly taken aback, and Fallah looked at Mendalar with a look that showed she thought he was crazy. Jemah seemed to understand Mendalar's logic, though, and smiled.
"We are dangerous criminals," repeated Mendalar. "Cali, tell her what you did." Cali just glared angrily at the red-orange fairy. "Okay, I'll tell her." said Mendalar. "Cali..." He lowered his voice to a whisper, and looked around suspiciously before continuing. "Cali wouldn't wear shoes."
I stared in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding."
"Terrible, isn't it?" said Mendalar. Tossing his knee-length hair, he continued, "And I wouldn't cut this."
"Iris didn't want to wear a skirt. She insisted on wearing pants. And Fallah got married. As our punishment, we got sent to Earth. A fate worse than starving, some say. But at least we got to keep some of our powers. Jemah there-" after an effort, I remembered that he glowed blue "-not only married Fallah, but he insisted on wearing our traditional male attire." Looking at him closely, I noticed that this attire happened to involve a skirt.
"You don't think that's silly, do you?" asked Fallah, suddenly sounding concerned.
"No, actually, I think it's kind of neat. Like a kilt or something. But-"
"So poor Jemah got his powers taken away," interrupted Mendalar. "All he can do is fly. And Kama! He committed a felony so atrocious that its penalty is normally being locked in prison without food until one starves. But the queen was lenient, and let him live-if you choose to call what he's going through living. They took all his magic away, including what it takes to fly, and made him glow gray. And then she banished him to your planet." He paused.
"What did he do to be punished like that?" I asked finally.
"The worst crime possible. He...He..." Mendalar struggled to tell of Kama's dreadful crime. "He helped a human. Now, I'll understand if you don't want to keep us, after all we've done."
"No. Of course not! I mean, sure, I'll help you! What do you need?" I asked.
"We'll tell you later, when it's safe," said Cali. "Just hide us under your bed. With the... the..." She struggled to find the word. "Those food things you gave us before."
As I put the rest of the cookies under my bed, Fallah told me, "You have to go to sleep now."
"Do you guys sleep?" I asked.
"Only when we want to," said Mendalar. "We always have great dreams when we do. It's kind of like a drug to us. Now go to bed."
I let the ruffle fall to the ground to cover my bed and turned my light out. Only a little glowing could be seen coming from underneath the bed. Not believing I was in the same room as a group of fairies, let alone taking orders from them, I climbed into bed, closed my eyes, and fell asleep.
I woke up again, hours later. I looked at my alarm clock. It was 3:12 in the morning. Nothing in my room looked out of the ordinary, except a faint glowing coming from my window. It didn't seem to be any particular color, so I guessed that it was...what was the gray one called?... Kama. I was curious but too tired to get out of bed, and, after a minute, Kama was no longer in my window, though I could tell the curtain hadn't moved.
I was too tired to get up but too alert to sleep. I couldn't understand why I somehow trusted the fairies. In all the stories I had read, their type was mischievous. Like Tinker Bell. Maybe they were going to kidnap me or something. On the other hand, I wouldn't really mind if they did. It would have to be better than going to school. Anyway, weren't 'fairy godmothers' beneficial? I moved into a different position and, in minutes, was asleep again.
My heart raced as I unlocked the door to my house. I had gotten up in the morning and the fairies had still been under my bed, though all but Kama had been sleeping. I had gone through the whole school day in a daze, wondering if I was going insane or something, but I was excited. And now that I was home, I nearly flew to my bedroom, closed and locked the door, crouched down on the floor and gazed, astounded, under my bed.
"Do you have anything else to eat?" asked Iris as soon as she saw me.
I looked at the empty cookie box in disbelief. "You guys ate them all?" I asked, surprised. Iris just rolled her eyes, and I was annoyed.
"No, you don't understand," said Fallah to me. "To us, rolling our eyes is a gesture of affirmation, like you guys...uh..."
"Nod," said Cali, supplying the right word.
"Sure," I said doubtfully. "I'll see if I can find something else for you guys to eat. But when I come back, I want some answers." I turned to go. "Uh, on second thought, why don't you guys come with me? Just to eat, so you don't get crumbs all over my room. No one else will be home for an hour and a half."
I led the way down the hall and to the kitchen, forgetting that Kama couldn't fly. Three of the fairies wound up carrying him, but I hardly noticed. I swiftly closed the dining room curtains and turned on a light, though the second action wasn't really necessary. The fairies were more than bright enough to illuminate the room.
Iris, Fallah, and Jemah, who were carrying Kama, landed on the kitchen table, which was in the center of the room. They dropped him there. Mendalar, with Candia flying after him, and Cali followed me to the refrigerator. I opened it, and the usual bit of cold air escaped. Cali and Mendalar looked shocked.
"How do you do that? Do you have some magic in there to keep it cold?" asked Cali.
"Not really. Actually, it uses electricity," I replied.
"No way," said Mendalar. "That stuff like lightning keeps this room cold? Sure. And humans can fly."
"Well, we have airplanes." None of the fairies understood that word. "They're big metal things people get in, and they take off and stay in the air and go places."
"Well, listen, Carol, all this stuff is interesting and all," said Mendalar, "but we're hungry."
"Right. I'm sorry. What do you guys eat?"
No one answered for a while; they all seemed to be thinking. Cali finally said, "Just about anything, I guess. We-" Cali gasped, and every fairy (and even Candia) stared at the same thing. I followed Cali's gaze and saw that they were looking at the family cat. The cat, too, was looking at them, debating which one to attack. Suddenly, Iris disappeared. And before I could stop the cat, he pounced and pinned Jemah to the wall. Quickly, Iris came back, flew to the cat, and hit him over the head with a soup ladle. The cat tried to attack Iris, but after a few more hits with the ladle, thought better of it. He ran off, afraid.
"You almost killed our cat!" I exclaimed, speaking to Iris.
"That's all right," said Iris, not even trying to be modest. "Don't thank me. That monster won't be back."
"No," I said. "You don't understand. That was my family's pet. Like Candia!"
Mendalar looked at Candia, then at me again. "*This* is a pet. That thing is *not* a pet. We call them monsters in our land, or devils."
"I'm sure other people would call you monsters, too," I said. "But humans keep cats in their houses here. We pet them, and feed them, and-"
"I told you guys that humans were stupid," interrupted Kama.
"Never mind their pets," said Cali. "We came here for some food."
"Right," I said, eager to change the subject. I opened the refrigerator and the nearby cupboards. "Take whatever you want."
All of the fairies (except for Kama, who could hardly see the cupboards from the table, where he was still sitting) looked at the food curiously.
"Well, this looks familiar, only bigger," said Fallah, finding a cherry tomato.
"Just eat it at the table," I said, afraid that I was sounding like my mother. I forgot to wash the fruit, though. Jemah carried it back to the table. Fallah and Iris managed to carry a banana, and, with my help, Cali got a piece of bread. Only Mendalar was having trouble deciding.
"I want something more exotic," he said.
"How about this?" I asked, taking out a box of fruity cereal.
"It's a box, isn't it? Why would I want to eat that?"
I could tell that the fairies had a lot to learn about this world. "There's stuff inside," I explained, pouring out a bowlful.
"I get it! There's pictures of this stuff on the outside of the box, right?"
"Yeah." Candia sniffed at the bowl's contents, and started to eat. I moved the bowl to the table, and the little buglike creature didn't even notice.
"Well, if she'll eat it, it must be good," said Mendalar, and soon, all of the fairies were eating. I just watched them, amazed. By the time their meal was over, everything they had taken had been devoured. I cleared off the table, and we all went down the hall and back to my room. I was afraid of my parents coming home unexpectedly and didn't want them to see the fairies.
"Now you guys have some things to explain," I said, closing the door.
"Cali will tell you the whole story," said Mendalar, leaning against my jewelry box on my cluttered dresser.
I could tell that Cali glared at him, not wanting to be the one to talk, then sighed. "Well, here goes.
"It all started on our home planet of Haron. That means 'remember' in your language, but that's not important. Actually, it started in fairyland, where we all lived. We all live to be a few hundred years old, and our world is young, and our country even younger. So the older fairies all remember the first king fairyland ever had. He was kind-hearted, but very lax. You could literally kill someone and no one would do anything about it. Unless the person had friends, and then they might kill you for killing their friend. Anyway, eventually someone killed the king, and no one ruled fairyland for a while. Then, some powerful female fairy took over. Her father had killed someone, and then her father had been killed. She was sick of the times when everyone could do what he or she wanted, so she made her own rules, just for the sake of control, and they were the law. Instead of being too lenient, she was too strict. She made rules about the kinds of clothes we could wear, where we could go, even who we could talk to. She decided that the females would wear skirts, and males would wear pants, even though, in the past, everyone had worn whichever he or she chose. She decided that everyone would wear shoes and no one could grow his or her hair longer than waist-length. She didn't allow marriages, because she felt they were against our nature. She regulated what we could eat, what songs we could sing, when we could dance...anything she could think of. Eventually, she decided that no one was allowed to leave fairyland. But the rule she was most strict about was: no helping humans. Ever. She thought that all humans were evil, and would just take advantage of us."
"That's one thing she got right," grumbled Kama.
"But some of the laws she made went against thousands of years of tradition," continued Cali. "Even though most fairies didn't want to be tied down, a few had always gotten married, as a symbol of their lasting love. And my mother had never worn a shoe in her life! So, of course, some of us started breaking the rules. The consequences were minimal for a while, until she started locking offenders up in what you would call a jail. However, fairies just kept breaking out, or, when they were released, caused real trouble. Even taking our magic away didn't stop us, we were so angry. So the queen had to think of a new punishment.
"Finally, she started sending repeat offenders to this planet. Many fairies saw going to another planet with their magic as an adventure, or a way to escape the queen, and they wanted to go. So the queen changed the punishment slightly. She arranged groups of six fairies and took lots of their magic away, including their power to make themselves invisible, and banished them to your world. It was terribly unjust because being sent to Earth with little or no magic is like being sentenced to starve. We don't think that the groups lived very long on Earth because they glowed as brightly as we do, and it takes a lot of energy to fly around and to glow. After a day or two without food, any group would starve to death."
"How sad!" I exclaimed, shocked.
"But even threats of being sent to Earth didn't keep some fairies from rebelling. We couldn't stand it anymore, being forced to go against our traditions, and losing all our freedom. So, as a quiet protest, I refused to wear shoes. Soon, I was caught by the queen, and imprisoned for six months. Iris, my grandmother, soon joined me in prison for rebelling with me and wearing pants. But we just wouldn't stop protesting, even after we had been in jail for a year, and even when we had had most of our magic taken away or diminished, so the queen decided to banish us to Earth, as soon as she found some more rebels to go with us.
"Mendalar wouldn't cut his long hair, so he soon was condemned to Earth.
"Then, the queen found out about Fallah and Jemah. Jemah had been rebelling for years, and the queen had taken all his powers but flight away from him, as well as his voice. But Fallah had done nothing against the law except for marrying Jemah. (She can read thoughts, so she can almost talk to him.) Since Fallah was a first-time offender, the queen offered her a chance to go free if she just renounced her marriage, though Jemah would be sent to Earth regardless. But Fallah wouldn't leave him, so the queen decided to send them both.
"And Kama! To make a long story short, he told me he had been flying outside of fairyland (a crime in itself at the time) when he came across a human crying. We're suckers for crying people. And so Kama asked him what was wrong, and the man said he was sad because his wife was going to die. So Kama went to the man's house, and his wife was so amazed by the sight of a fairy that she quickly healed. The man said he was very grateful, and Kama went back into fairyland.
"The queen found out about Kama's adventure, but one of the fairies sent to catch him gave Kama a chance to escape, by leaving fairyland forever. Kama flew back to the house of the man he had helped, and asked him to hide him. But the man wouldn't take him, even though Kama had been responsible for his wife's recovery. The man said that it had just been a coincidence, and he sent Kama away. Kama was so depressed that he flew back to fairyland, where he was quickly caught.
"The queen was outraged by the fact that Kama had dared to disobey her. She immediately took his magic away, even his ability to fly, and she took his color. (It's still in a jar in her palace somewhere.) Then she gave him a choice-to be starved to death or to be sent to Earth. He chose the latter, even if it meant being sent to a world mostly inhabited by humans.
"So we were all to go to Earth the next day. But that night, as we were all locked up, some fairy who was in the queen's favor came in with a huge book. I mean, nine or ten inches tall, and a few inches thick. He told me to absorb the knowledge from it. That's the magic I had left, to absorb knowledge from books just by touching them for a few seconds. I trusted the stranger, and I took all the knowledge from the book. Well, not literally. It's as if I read it and memorized it, you know? I discovered that it was a translating dictionary of English words and our own words. So I could speak your language!
"The fairy who helped me said, 'Just hope they speak English where you all wind up,' then he left.
"Oh, yeah. One other thing I can still do. I can transfer knowledge from a book I've learned into someone else's brain, as long as I'm touching the book at the time. So I did that to all of my companions that night. Our guard never noticed the book until it was too late. When he told the queen, she was mad, but she had forgotten about me being able to absorb written information. She figured that, at best, I had learned a few phrases. But I heard her order the guard to destroy the book.
"Then, the queen came in, said a few words, and the next thing we knew, we were a few blocks from here. Then, these two lights were coming at us. We were instinctively afraid, and tried to outfly them. But we couldn't. Then Mendalar advised us to fly higher, and the lights passed right under us. Then another pair came from the other direction. We were completely confused. We flew to the side and watched as more of those lights went by. We saw that each pair was part of a big moving metal thing, with wheels. Do you know what they were?"
I answered, "They must've been cars."
Cali seemed to think for a moment. "Oh, yeah. Cars. They were in the book I absorbed, but the definition confused us.
"Well, anyway, the metal things-the cars-frightened us, and we flew away from there. We wandered quite a while, looking for a place to hide, but we didn't find one that would conceal us properly. Then Fallah suggested that we should find someone to help us. We were all starting to get hungry, and everyone but Kama thought that finding a human was a good idea. So we all hid while Fallah looked inside different houses. She can read minds, like I said, and she could tell where we'd be safe, and who might help us. But you humans were all so hostile! Soon, we knew that, if we didn't find a place to stay, and get something to eat, then we'd starve. Fallah finally decided to go into your house, in a last hope that someone in your family would help us. Grandmother Iris can transport living creatures to different places, so she transported Fallah into your room. (Fallah would have just looked in, but you had your curtains closed.) No one was in there, so Grandma sent me in, too. From looking around and absorbing your books and diaries-"
"You read my diaries?" I asked, shocked and half-angry.
Cali shrugged-obviously she didn't think it was a big deal. "Anyway, we decided that you were our only hope. So Grandmother Iris transported us all in, and we waited on that desk over there. That's how we got here."
"But where'd Candia come from?" I asked, remembering the lighting buggish thing that somehow looked like a moth as well.
Fallah said, "She was Mendalar's pet. I don't know how she got here. Maybe the queen sent her, though I can't imagine why."
I looked at Cali again. "And how did you do my homework in my handwriting?"
"Well," said Cali, "first I absorbed the knowledge in that big history book. Why is your history so boring? You have no elves, or unicorns, or centaurs, or dragons, or anything! How can you learn that?"
"Some-ancient histories-were rooted in those kind of creatures, though we discredit those histories as being superstitious and primitive today," I replied. "But at the time, they were considered to be fact. And they sure would be a lot more interesting to learn."
"We could help you learn," said Cali. "I mean, I could take your textbooks, absorb the knowledge, and transfer it to you. It would take a few hours for a book that size, because you're not a fairy, but I could do it, and you'd have the book memorized for the rest of your life."
"But that wouldn't be fair!" I protested.
"Why not?" asked Mendalar. "If you help us, then it's only fair that you should be rewarded somehow."
"I don't know," I said doubtfully, thinking this would be wrong somehow. "And how'd you do my homework in my handwriting?"
"That was easy," said Cali. "I figured out all the answers, from absorbing the book, and then I absorbed one of your other homework assignments that you had written. So I could duplicate your handwriting. How do you humans write so neatly?"
"Huh?" I asked. (I had gotten straight C's in handwriting throughout my grade school career.)
"Like in that big history book. All of the letters were the same height and style, and they were all written without lines. And there's so many pages! It would take one of us years to write something that well."
"We don't write it ourselves," I said, amused at Cali's ignorance. "We have machines and printing presses that make those perfect letters. Cool, huh?" The slang expression seemed to baffle the fairies.
"Cool... Isn't that like when you're dead? Your body's cool?" asked Mendalar.
"No, no!" I said. "Well... Maybe for you guys. We call the dead kind 'cold', I guess."
"Oh. Gotcha," said Mendalar, smiling and rolling his eyes. I thought for a moment and remembered that meant he agreed or understood.
'Funny how they can speak a English perfectly in hours because of a book but still haven't mastered our body language,' I thought.
Suddenly, I heard the front door open. My father called, "I'm home!"
"Quick, you guys, hide!" I whispered as loudly as I dared, and in a few seconds, Iris had transported all the fairies and Candia to under my bed. I hurriedly rearranged the ruffle to hide them better, though I was still concerned about the slight light radiating through the fabric. Then, not wanting to leave the fairies, I flopped down on my bed and attempted to do my homework.
My father knocked on the locked door, but I pretended to be asleep. My father fell for my trick, and went back to the kitchen. I tried to resume my homework, but found it impossible to concentrate. Finally, I peered under the bed and whispered a question to Kama.
"What were you doing in my window at three in the morning?"
Kama didn't even look at me. When it became clear that he wasn't going to answer, Iris spoke.
"We thought that it would be best for him to do it, because he glows less than the rest of us, and the queen took away his ability to fall asleep."
"It would be best for him to do what?" I asked, confused.
"That's a story in itself," said Cali.
"Go ahead and tell her," said Iris to her granddaughter.
"Okay," sighed Cali. "There's a sign that any fairies stuck in this world are to look for. At noon-no, our noon, which is, um... 3:13 in the morning for you guys in this time zone."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Every fairy-even Kama-instinctively knows when the sun's overhead in his or her country," Cali explained. "Now, where was I? Oh. At 3:13 in the morning, at least one in our group... One anything that can tell us what they saw, anyway, has to look outside. If fairy dust suddenly falls down from the sky, at that precise time, then it is a sign from our world to this that it is safe to return home, and that the portals will be open for three days."
"The portals?" I asked.
"Any place that any fairy who was condemned to Earth came out of...found himself in, I mean, the first place he was when he arrived in this world-that's a portal. So if Kama sees the fairy dust, then we'll know that we can go home."
"Can anyone see the fairy dust when it falls?" I asked.
"Of course," said Mendalar, as if it was obvious. "But you never stay up that late, do you? Maybe on the other side of the world... And it only happens once every hundred years or so, so only a few people alive have seen it, I'm sure. Humans only live for 70 or 80 years, right?"
"Um-hum," I replied. Then, being more interested in other worlds and fairy dust than human life spans, I said, "What does the falling fairy dust look like?"
"This," said Mendalar. He got out a bottle, uncorked it, and threw its contents straight into my face.
"Hey!" I said more loudly than I'd have liked. I blinked and saw some glistening stuff slowly falling to the carpet.
"You asked for it," said Mendalar. "That's what it looks like. And it glows in the dark, too."
I searched my cluttered dresser and finally found a small hand mirror. I saw that the fairy dust not only covered my whole face, but was in my hair as well.
"What do you have that looks like our fairy dust?" asked Fallah, reading my thoughts.
"Glitter," I said. I found a bottle of white glitter that looked particularly like fairy dust.
"Let me see that," said Mendalar. He opened the bottle with some trouble and took out a handful. "Wow! This stuff is just like our fairy dust, without its magic!"
"Like used fairy dust," added Cali.
"Exactly!" replied Mendalar.
"How on earth am I gonna get this stuff off my face?" I asked.
"Would it be easier to get it off on some other planet?" asked Mendalar seriously.
"Of course not," I said, annoyed. I found a towel in my less-than-clean room and attempted to brush the dust off. Lots of it came off nicely, but even more was still on my face and in my hair. At least I was no longer covered with it.
"I'm gonna go wash this stuff off," I said, leaving my room. I snuck into the bathroom, locked the door, and tried to wash the glittery stuff off. I got most of it, though some specks refused to be removed. I thought they'd still be on my face when I turned eighty. Giving up, I rushed back to my room, still slightly mad at Mendalar.
"This won't all come off," I sighed.
"Just tell your family that you were using that glitter in your bed, and you got some on the covers and then you fell asleep," said Fallah.
"But I've never done that," I whispered. "I don't like to lie."
"They'll believe you. You're normally honest," said Fallah.
And so it began.
Fallah was right. My parents did believe my simple lie. They weren't a bit suspicious when I told them 'why' I had glitter on my face at dinner. But when my dad jokingly declared that the fairies had came to my room and put fairy dust on my face, I laughed more nervously than usual.
Once I had cleared the table, I went back to my room, saying that I had lots of homework. But when I returned to my room, I found all my homework but my algebra done.
"Sorry," said Cali, apologizing for not doing my math. "I absorbed the book, but I still don't get it."
"You guys! I thought I told you not to do that!" I whispered reproachfully. "What about when I have to take a test? Like *tomorrow*?"
"Couldn't we help you do that, too?" asked Cali. "I mean, if I transferred the knowledge-"
"No! Don't you guys remember anything I told you?" I whispered.
"I just don't see what is wrong about it," said Cali. "I mean, those...What's the name for those people who teach you at-"
"Teachers?" I asked, interrupting.
"Yeah," agreed Cali. "They teach you at... um... school. That's the word, right? The teachers want you to learn the information, don't they?"
"Well, yeah, but it's not fair if you guys help me remember it but don't help anyone else," I said. At this statement, Cali got a grin on her face.
"You mean, you aren't going to let us help you at all?" asked Mendalar. "Trust me, it's not going to be as easy as you think to take care of us."
"Call it a good deed," I whispered sarcastically.
Mendalar replied, "Do you ever have any dreams?"
"Sometimes," I whispered in reply. "I've heard that people always have dreams. I just never remember any of mine."
"You never remember your dreams?" Mendalar looked mischievous. "Then maybe I can help you."
"Huh?" I asked.
"You see," he continued, "that's my magic. I can make anyone remember his or her dreams to whatever suits me."
"No way," I said.
"Trust me," said Mendalar. "And anyway, what's the point of sleep if you don't have dreams?"
"We have to sleep. It lets our bodies heal and stuff."
"That's right," said Fallah. "I heard about that in a myth. A human-tale." I giggled. "What's so funny?" asked Fallah indignantly.
"Nothing-we just have fairy tales here, and those are like, stories about stuff that's not real, and you guys have human tales..." I trailed off.
"Carol," said Mendalar, "you have to remember that in some places there are only stories about humans. Not everyone believes that humans even exist."
I was rather surprised. I guess humans as a species tend to think of themselves as omnipresent. Finally, Mendalar spoke again. "Well, about your dreams. How about I just make you remember them tonight?"
I sighed. "All right, if it'll make you happy. Now leave me alone, huh? I have to study for my test."
"Do you have any plants here?" asked Cali suddenly.
"Yeah, in our backyard. Why?" Cali looked at Iris and suddenly disappeared.
"What are you doing?" I asked the fairies.
"Just trust us," said Iris. "And don't study for that test."
I sighed. "Why should I trust you?" Still, I put my books away. Cali reappeared on my bed a minute later, carrying a few stalks of grass. I remained silent but cocked an eyebrow to show my confusion.
"Just watch," whispered Fallah. She, Jemah, and Iris each picked up one stalk of grass. Each fairy placed the stalk in his or her left hand and joined in a circle around Cali, grabbing his or her neighbor's stalk with his right hand. (Each fairy held his own stalk of grass along with that of a neighbor at this point.) Then, they flew in a counterclockwise circle around Cali. They went around a few times, then each let go of the grass with his left hand and used the grass in his right to gently touch Cali on the head. They then held the stalks of grass to form a circle again, and flew in a clockwise circle. They used the stalks to touch Cali again and repeated the whole process several times. It was a pretty ceremony, though it slightly worried me, like it was a primal ritual or something. Finally, the fairies dropped the stalks of grass and slowly flew backwards away from Cali. At the same time, each fairy suddenly put his or her hands in front of himself, as if they each threw something at Cali. Cali suddenly disappeared.
"What happened to her?" I asked, worried.
"It's a long story," said Fallah. "She's still here, but she's asleep. We just made her invisible."
"How?" I asked.
"We gave her some of our energy," continued Fallah, "and that makes her invisible."
"Then why didn't you guys just do that to each other when you got here, so no one could see you?" I asked.
"Oh, it's not that simple, dear," said Iris. "If we have magic, we can turn ourselves invisible whenever we want, but only for about an hour in a row. Then we have to wait a few minutes before we can be invisible again. But there is another way to become invisible, and even the queen didn't take that away from us. But three of us have to give another fairy some of our power, like you just saw. Then the stress makes the fairy who got the power fall asleep for several hours, after which the fairy is ravenously hungry. So Cali'll have to eat a lot then. And that's the reason that we can't all stay invisible like that forever. After a few hours of being invisible and not asleep, the fairy gets really hungry. (It takes a bunch of energy.) And the longer someone's invisible (in this way, not the way where we use our own magic), the more energy it takes. After a couple days, a fairy has to do nothing but eat just to stay alive. And after about three days, even when eating as much as she can, the fairy will starve to death."
"You guys have a lot of that, don't you?" I asked. "I mean, starving."
"Well, it's hard to do all this stuff," said Fallah. "Why were you so uncomfortable during the ceremony? Isn't it beautiful?"
"Of course it was beautiful," I said carefully. "It was just..." I didn't want to speak my thoughts.
"You thought that the ceremony was...wrong somehow?" asked Fallah. I nodded slightly. (The fairies, of course, knew this meant 'yes' from the book they'd learned.)
"Well, what's wrong with it?" the pink fairy asked. "It doesn't hurt anyone, does it? And why would we be able to do something that's wrong?"
"It's not right to kill, but we can do that," I said.
Fallah pondered that for a moment. "Maybe, but this... What we do doesn't harm anyone. If it did, then it would be wrong. But there's something more to it in your world, isn't there?" I nodded again. "Then what?"
I paused. "I...I... I don't know. You guys aren't spirits of the dead or something, are you?"
All the fairies but Cali stared at me, shocked, even Kama. "What?" asked Iris.
"Well, in our stories, you guys are usually spirits of the dead, or the ones who control the flowers and stuff. Don't you guys do any of that?"
"Would you want us to?" asked Fallah softly.
I didn't reply. Mendalar broke the silence.
"Hey, do you have all your things in order?"
"Well, you're the oldest child in your family, right?"
"Of course. But how-"
"And you've had your fourteenth birthday?"
"How'd you know that?"
"That's not important. Then, since you're fourteen and your family's oldest child, aren't you going to die soon?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked nervously.
"Come on. Our human tales say that, on earth, the oldest child of a family is burned to death at the age of fourteen as a sacrifice to the god of fertility."
I replied, "Are you serious?"
"Dead serious," said Mendalar. "That's what our mythology says about humans on other planets. You're going to tell me that you guys don't do that?"
"Of course not! I...I don't think any humans do, anyway. Not in America."
"Then maybe we aren't spirits of the dead," concluded Mendalar. "Don't believe everything you hear."
"Okay," I agreed, and that was the last I said on the subject.
I walked down the street, nervous. I went into my own house, which was oddly placed right next to a grocery store. The store had machines that sold tabloid magazines all along the outer wall. I looked at the newspaper on the driveway, then fearfully hid it from my parents. Suddenly, the phone rang. My mother appeared, as if out of nowhere, and answered it. I knew that the call was from my school, and that my teachers knew I had let fairies do my homework. I flung open my door, ran into my room, and knew I was about to do something drastic.
I was on my bed. I opened my eyes and realized I had been dreaming the whole thing.
"Did you sleep well?" grinned Mendalar, who was sitting on the edge of my dresser.
"No... I actually remembered my dreams," I said.
"Some say that people can see the future when they're asleep," said Mendalar. "I've never believed that. Didn't you dream something nice?"
"No!" I exclaimed. "You made me remember my dreams, didn't you?"
"Who, me?" asked Mendalar innocently. "Next time, I'll make sure you have a good dream."
Suddenly, I heard loud rock music near my ear. The sudden noise alarmed Mendalar, who quickly dove into one of my open dresser drawers. I would have laughed at him, but the clock radio had scared me, too. I hit the snooze bar as a reflex, then turned the alarm off.
"Where's Cali?" I whispered to Mendalar.
"How am I supposed to know?" asked Mendalar, sounding cranky. "She's invisible, isn't she?"
"I'm over here," said Cali. I looked over, but couldn't see the fairy.
"So what exactly are you going to do?" I whispered.
"Fallah told me that your teachers have... answer keys?" asked Cali.
"So I'll go absorb the knowledge from the answer key and then transfer it into everyone's mind."
"That's cheating," I protested weakly.
"Moral little creature, aren't you?" smiled Mendalar.
"It's not cheating if you all know the answers. And it's not like you're going to forget what you learn. Ever."
"OK, fine," I said, almost lazily. "But it's not my fault you're doing this."
Mendalar spoke. "Not to bother you or anything, Carol, but we're all hungry."
"Then you guys can come eat breakfast with me." I walked out of my room, glad that I got myself up in the mornings. I carefully closed my parents' bedroom door and swung my brother's door nearly shut, so that my family wouldn't see my 'guests'. Then, I motioned for the fairies to follow.
In the kitchen, I absentmindedly poured myself a bowl of cereal and ate it standing up while I watched the fairies select their meals. Based on Mendalar's advice, they all decided to have the fruity cereal, except for Kama, who was less trusting. He gnawed at an apple and shortly declined my request to cut it into smaller pieces for him.
Cali looked very strange as she ate, for as she took a bite out of a piece of cereal, the bite disappeared.
"The others told you it takes a lot of energy to stay invisible like this?" asked Cali between bites. I nodded. "Then do you have any food you could put in your coat pocket or something so I could eat it when I get hungry?"
"I guess," I said. My coat pockets were big enough to hold several CDs. I was glad it was winter. I looked around for some food and remembered I had a candy bar in my room. I went back to my room and slipped it into my jacket, then put the coat on.
"It's in my left pocket," I said, hoping that Cali was near enough to hear me.
"OK," said Cali in reply. "Can you leave it open so I can get in there later?"
I shrugged, but unsnapped the large coat pocket.
"Fallah told me that you have this class near the end of the day?" asked Cali.
"Yeah," I said.
"So I'll just follow you around all day and when you're in the class I'm going to help you all in, write that on your paper."
"Sure," I said. I rushed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and hair, and then got my schoolbag.
"You guys should be out of the kitchen soon," I whispered to the other fairies. "My dad will be up in about half an hour or so."
"Don't worry; we'll be gone," said Mendalar confidently.
"You'd better be," I said, pretending to be threatening. I could tell that at least Mendalar knew I was teasing, though. I could have sworn I even saw him stick his tongue out at me, though I couldn't imagine how that would happen be an insult among fairies as well as humans.
"Come on, Cali," I said, finally, leaving the house to go to the bus stop.
That day had to be the most peculiar day of school I had ever had. I didn't comprehend a word any of my teachers said; I was busy writing messages to my invisible companion in small letters in the left margin of my papers. I took 'notes' in classes I didn't need to take notes in, as an excuse to write more to Cali.
At lunch, I hardly paid attention to me friends, because I was so distracted. They noticed my inattentiveness, and asked me if I was sick. They had to repeat the question three times before I replied. I couldn't help it, though. My mind was on stranger things than conversations about computer games and political correctness.
Finally, it was time for history, the last class of the day. When I entered the classroom, I noticed the answer sheet laying on the podium in the front of the room. I wrote a note to Cali on the edge of my paper, telling her where the answers were. As I wrote it, I thought, 'I've never cheated on a test in my life.'
Right before the teacher handed the tests out, she let the students ask last-minute questions. The usual queries, like, 'Is the test multiple choice?' and 'Can we retake it?' were asked. Of course, the answers to both were 'no.' Just as the teacher was explaining the assassination of Julius Caesar to us for the third time, I felt a warm touch on my hand. I wondered if it was Cali, and, in a few seconds, the touch stopped. I suddenly knew all about Julius Caesar, Cassius, and Brutus, along with the names of six Roman gods and the theme of The Aeneid, among other things. When I got the test, I filled it out very quickly, then pretended to check over my answers, though I knew they were all right. In fact, the whole class finished the 'difficult' test in less than twenty minutes. The papers were graded in class, amidst conversations about how easy the test was. For once, not one student debated about whether a response was right or not, because everyone's answer was exactly what the teacher wanted. This made her very suspicious, but the students seemed just as surprised as their instructor was.
"You're just a good teacher," said one student to explain the perfect scores, just as the bell rang. The students stampeded out the door, and the teacher announced the night's homework to deaf ears. As I got out of my seat, I felt a tug on my left jacket pocket, and in a second, the pocket felt heavier than it had previously, though it looked no more cluttered than usual. I was careful to keep my coat pocket from hitting anything on the way home, hoping that Cali wouldn't be crushed.
When I got home to my house, I tried to avoid conversation with my father. I was eager to get back to my room. So, saying that I was going to take a nap, I headed back to my bedroom and locked the door. I gently set my coat on the right side of my bed, then flopped myself down on the left. Almost immediately, Iris flew up to me, almost concerned.
"Where's Cali?" she asked.
"In my pocket." I pointed to which one, and Iris flew to her granddaughter, who seemed to be coming out of the coat pocket.
"Are you ready to become visible again?" Iris asked. She appeared to be holding Cali's hand, though I wasn't sure.
"Do you have a flower petal?" asked Cali softly.
"Yes." Iris took out part of a yellow flower petal that seemed to be taken right from one of the flowers in my backyard. The petal appeared to hover in the air, so I guessed that Cali held the petal. Then it disappeared, and I suddenly saw Cali.
"Did you have to use such a bitter one?" asked Cali, almost sounding mad.
"Sorry," said Iris. "I wanted to find one that was dying."
Fallah could tell I was confused. "She had to eat a flower petal to become visible again," the pink fairy explained.
I replied, "That's it? It took that whole big ceremony to make her invisible, and all she had to do to get back to normal was to eat a flower petal?"
"You catch on quick," said Mendalar. I decided not to try to understand the ways of the fairies. Mendalar spoke again, asking, "So, it went well? I mean, the test?"
"Yeah... I guess," I said, not really sure if I had wanted it to happen or not. "All the people who don't normally pass tests did as well as everyone who studied."
"Why do you learn those things, anyway?" asked Iris. I shrugged.
"So I can go to college."
"More school," said Mendalar. "Then why do you go to college?"
"So I can work."
"Why?" asked Fallah.
"So I can get money."
"Money?" asked Cali. Each fairy had to think for a moment to recall the definition of that word, for there was none like it in their own language.
"Money," I said. "We use it to buy food and clothes and stuff."
"Why do you make life so complicated?" asked Iris. I pretended not to hear. I had enough to think about without worrying about the absurdities in my own society.
"We do have writers at home," said Fallah. "I mean, writers who are fairies."
"Really?" I asked, interested. "What do they write?"
"Whatever they want. Sometimes they sell their stories for food, so they don't have to hunt out their meals themselves."
"So food is like money to you guys?" I asked.
Fallah could read my thoughts and therefore understood me better than the other fairies. "Yeah, I guess you could say that," she answered. "But if you get hungry, you can't eat money."
"What have I been telling you guys all along?" asked Kama. "All humans do is complicate their lives to make things 'easier'. And woe to the fairy who stands in their way."
The other fairies seemed to ignore Kama. Cali said, "But it does seem strange. You guys have money, and... What are they? Oh, jobs, and schools. It seems kind of silly."
"Maybe," I agreed. "But I have a feeling that you guys coming here just made *my* life much more complicated."
So many little things could have easily made my family suspicious. The fact that I hardly spent any time on the family's computer anymore, when before, one had to pry me away to make me eat dinner. The fact that I spent nearly all my allowance on sugary candy. (It turned out that pixy stix were one of the better forms of nutrition for the fairies, since the sticks were almost all sugar.) The fact that food kept disappearing from the refrigerator. The fact that I nearly never left my room. And, the most suspicious of all, the fact that I was suddenly interested in reading and learning about fairies. But no one in my family noticed. Once in a while, one of my parents would comment about how much candy I bought, or how I should get more involved in school, but that was about it. Thus, an entire year went by.
I lived in excited happiness, mingled with nervousness, for a long time. I had countless little adventures, for almost every day, the fairies came close to being discovered. However, I got used to the constant feeling of butterflies in my stomach. It seemed to me that the fairies would never be discovered. Then, one day, my castle of happiness collapsed around me.
I was in a grocery store checkout line with my mother when one of the talkative women in line in front of us picked up a tabloid magazine. She flipped through the pages, and I could hear that she was looking for an article on a well-known celebrity. However, something else caught my eye. I saw a pink, glowing object on the page that looked just like Fallah. The headline said, "Fairies Found in Phoenix Suburb." I gasped. My mother hated tabloid magazines and told me to never even look at them, but I knew I had to read the article.
"Mom," I said in my sweetest voice, "I need a trash magazine for school."
"What for?" Mom asked.
"We have to write an essay on a story and why it can't possibly be true," I said, lying through my teeth. (Lying had almost become natural to me, and I fancied I was rather good at it.)
"Well, all right," Mom said reluctantly as I picked up an issue of the magazine the woman had been looking at, though I didn't dare to read it until I was safely in my bedroom with the door locked behind me.
"What's wrong?" Fallah asked as I quickly flipped through the pages of the magazine.
"Look at this," I whispered tensely, putting the article on my bed. The other fairies joined Fallah, flying over to read the article. It said:
FAIRIES FOUND IN PHOENIX SUBURB
Fairies, the magical creatures of children's stories, have been spotted by several residents of a town outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Many homeowners complained about a light pink flying creature spying on them from different windows. One housewife said, "I looked out my kitchen window and saw this funny glowing pink thing. I watched it, and then went to get my camera, and when I came back, it was gone!
Some other people, however, were able to get photographs. One woman got a clear shot of the creature from her bedroom window. Another man sighted five glowing spots right above a local street as he drove down the road at night. He pulled over to the side of the road and took a picture with his camera. The photo developed clearly, despite the fact that he didn't use his flash.
After careful analysis, it was decided that the mysterious creatures were fairies, like Tinker Bell in the story of Peter Pan. Such creatures are sure to have magical powers of some sort, and should be considered dangerous. If caught, they may be able to grant wishes, though they also might be able to cause mischief, such as turning people into frogs. Using caution around the fairies, and never hurting their feelings, is imperative for one's safety.
The article had two pictures: the close-up one of Fallah, and one that the man had taken of them when they were near the road. Both pictures looked terribly fake, but all the colors matched those of my friends, and I knew the photos were genuine.
"They know about us," said Cali, reeling in shock as she finished reading the story.
"No one believes these magazines anyway," I said, though the incident had certainly shattered my sense of security.
"But someone has to believe the story, right?" asked Fallah.
"Humans are gullable enough to believe anything," said Kama darkly. "Someone'll find us in a week."
"That's not true," said Fallah, who was always the optimist of the group. "Carol's kept us safe until now. And anyway, I'll bet the portal will open up any day now, and we'll be able to go home!"
"We'll probably be caught before then," argued Kama. "Or maybe we'll just starve."
"Oh, shut up, will you?" shouted Fallah angrily. Everyone, even Kama, looked surprised, for Fallah usually didn't get mad, and never this angry.
"Sssh," I said, afraid that my parents had heard the fairy's outburst. Fallah continued to 'yell' at Kama, but in an angry whisper.
"After all Carol's done for us, you still don't trust her. And what's worse, you put her down! You act like all humans would use us for our magic. But Carol here doesn't even want us to help her do her homework. She just helps us because she's a nice person. So I'd better not hear you say another bad thing about her, got that?" Kama rolled his eyes, looking somewhat afraid. After that confrontation, Kama was slightly less hostile towards me.
Days later, just as I started to get over being afraid that the fairies would be discovered due to the article, another story popped up in another magazine. However, this time, it was on the front cover. Of course, I bought a copy. This story definitely bent the truth, though. It said:
EVIL SPIRITS ROAMING PHOENIX!
Six people have reported seeing a strange glowing spirit floating about outside of Phoenix, Arizona. With the spirit, strange things have happened. One lawyer reported catching a cold after seeing the creature. A man reported that his dog was barking furiously in the middle of the night, and he investigated. When he got outside, he found his dog dead, and he saw a glow for a second, which then disappeared. A driver was hit by another car after seeing a bright glow to the side of the road. The driver was paralyzed.
Though no one has been able to capture the spirits, many photographs have been taken of them. Look at the evidence for yourself.
Any information that could lead to the capture of one of these spirits should be sent to the address below. The evil spirits are wanted, dead or alive! A reward is being offered for their capture.
There were several pictures of 'evil spirits' on the opposite page. Two had a yellow glow, and none of the fairies I was protecting glowed that color, only Candia. The other pictures were obviously fake. One looked like a string of a hundred Christmas lights in a dark room. I could bet that there weren't 100 fairies alive on all of Earth, and they wouldn't pose for a picture in neat rows of red, yellow, green, and blue. The other photos looked equally fake, but I was still worried. The offer of a ward especially frightened me. People would do terrible things for enough money.
Fallah could tell that I was concerned, and tried to comfort me, but knew no soothing words to tell me. She finally said, "Maybe things will get better," but no one really believed her.
More articles appeared in various tabloids. I had a difficult time keeping up with them all. Those articles seemed insignificant, though, compared to a story about the rumor of fairies in the Phoenix area that ran in the local newspaper. I knew many people trusted what newspapers said, myself included. Despite the fact that it clearly stated the idea of evil spirits or fairies were merely rumors created by the superstitious and gullable, the article completely freaked me out.
"Hey," joked Mendalar half-heartedly, "I guess we're famous now."
Fallah replied, "Well, at least they don't know where we live."
"They'll find out," said Kama under his breath. And, for once, Kama's pessimistic prediction turned out to be accurate.
One day, as I lay on my bed, I heard a tap on my window. Excited, Candia flew up and behind the my curtains to look outside. Mendalar flew after her, because all the fairies had decided that it was unwise to go to the window except for important occasions, like at 3:13 in the morning to look for the fairy dust.
As Mendalar went behind my curtains, he gasped.
"What's wrong?" asked Iris.
Mendalar replied, "I think...maybe you should look at this, Iris." Iris flew to the window, and pulled the curtains open a crack. Looking through, I saw there was a yellow fairy outside my window. Iris dropped the curtain again.
"You have to hide," said Fallah to me.
"He will fly away if he knows a human's here. Come on!" Fallah fairly pushed me into the closet, and Jemah closed the door behind the two of us. I looked through the crack between the two doors of my closet and saw the unfamiliar fairy suddenly appear in my room, not a yard away from where I had been laying on my bed. The fairy spoke, but his words made no sense to me.
"Our native language," whispered Fallah. "He's mad at us for being discovered. Mendalar just asked him how he kept from being found." The yellow fairy was silent for a moment, then spoke again.
"He says that he showed himself to some businessmen on purpose. Now Mendalar's yelling at him, asking him why he showed himself if he could make himself invisible. The fairy says he didn't just want to survive, he wanted to live well, too." Fallah paused as Mendalar spoke again. Then she translated, "Mendalar's asking him why he's mad at us, when we had to show ourselves to live, and he could steal food while he's invisible. The fairy just said he does what he can to survive, but none of us believe him."
Mendalar suddenly spoke in English. "And how'd you communicate with those businessmen?"
"Well, I had been around for almost a year, and I picked up enough English to get by," the strange fairy said, also in English. "I-Hey! How do you guys know English?"
Mendalar answered, "Well, Cali here, she-"
"Oh, yes," said the fairy, "Cali." I could see the yellow fairy fly a bit towards Cali, and I imagined the leer that must've been on his yellow face. "She always was a fine creature."
"Why'd you come here?" asked Cali, flying away from him.
"I just wanted to tell you guys that you spoiled my business."
"Your business?" asked Cali and Mendalar at once.
"Yeah. You know about my magic, right?"
"Sorry, but no," said Cali, sounding less than sincere.
"Well, I can change the words in any written book, letter, note, whatever. So, I made myself known around the business circuit. Soon, rumor had it that if someone printed out a million brochures with the wrong phone number on them, I could change them all. Of course, I didn't charge too much, though I never accept...that green stuff humans use..."
"Money?" asked Cali.
"Yeah. But let's just say that, after a year or two, I was very well off. And then you guys had to spoil it all!"
"US?" asked Mendalar.
"Yeah, with your posing for the pictures, and the..."
"Hold on," said Cali. "Look at the articles." Cali struggled to open a drawer and take a folder out. She opened it, and showed the stranger all the articles about the fairies that were inside.
"Look at these," scoffed Mendalar. "Three quarters of the pictures are of you."
"But you guys started it!" protested the yellow fairy. He pointed at a picture of Fallah. "She started it. Where is she? I'll teach her to..."
Jemah started to fly towards the yellow fairy, looking mad, but Mendalar stopped him. "Why don't you just change the words in the articles?" he asked calmly.
"A picture is worth a thousand words. And anyway, I can't change words if they're the truth. But thanks to you guys, I have to stay with one company, instead of wandering around, negotiating as I please. Someone would turn me in to the government for the million dollar reward."
"What?" asked Iris.
"The government is offering a million dollars for any fairy brought to them alive. You can bet that there's lots of people who'd turn me in. Or you guys. Look what you got me into!"
"It's as much your fault as it is ours," said Iris. "Maybe more. Showing yourself to all those businessmen..."
"At least I know how to make a profit off a bad situation," said the fairy.
"I'll send him on his way," said Iris to herself, and the yellow fairy suddenly disappeared.
"You can come out now, Carol," said Mendalar.
"Is he gone?" I asked.
Iris replied, "Yes. I think. I sent him as far as I could."
"But he's able to make himself invisible whenever he wants," finished Fallah.
"So he could come back here and watch us, and we wouldn't even know it?" I asked, frightened.
"Of course not," said Cali. "If he's made himself invisible the natural way-without the ceremony-other fairies can see him."
"You think he was serious about the reward?" I asked nervously.
"Probably," said Kama. "Humans are so greedy..."
"He wasn't exactly the honest type," said Fallah, trying to think of some reason why he might've been lying about the huge reward. Still, we all feared that it was real, and that someone would capture the fairies for the money.
So many more articles on the fairies turned up in tabloid magazines that I wished I could get some subscriptions. A few more articles appeared in the local newspaper as well. One scared me more than anything, though. It was a black-and-white photograph of two glows in the window of what I knew was my house.
I explained to my parents that I had had filters on a pair of flashlights, and had shone them out of my window to see if I could see any bugs on the ground one night. They believed me, not really wanting to learn the truth.
Soon, cars going past my house slowed down as they went by. I could tell that they were looking for little glowing creatures that the local news had said could make a person rich. Complete strangers came over at times, offering a plate of cookies, and asking to be invited in. If I was at home alone, I always said it was a bad time or that I was just leaving, but my parents were thrilled at meeting our 'neighbors'.
"It's nice that all these people are so friendly," my mother said. I invariably ignored the visitors.
Then, one day, a passer-by that I could not ignore came, when I was home alone. A police officer knocked on my door. I let him in, and he showed me an official-looking piece of paper.
"This is a search warrant," he said. "Mind if I look around?"
"For what?" I asked.
I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop the man, so I let him look. First, he looked through the entire living room and kitchen, then worked his way down the hall to the bedrooms. I ran ahead to my room, and the policeman trailed closely after me. I dashed to my bedroom and slammed the door behind me, locking it. I ducked under my bed to see the fairies, who were petrified with fear.
"Let me in!" the man shouted. "This is against the law!"
"The door's stuck!" I shouted, buying time.
"Iris," whispered Fallah, reading my thoughts, "you must transport us to another room." In a second, the fairies were gone. I pretended to struggle with the door, as if it really was stuck, and unlocked it. The officer burst in.
"What happened here?" he barked, looking at my very untidy room. Half of my clothes and possessions were strewn on the ground carelessly, and the sheets had even been tossed off my bed, due to a restless night's sleep. "I couldn't even find anything in here," the man continued. Nonetheless he tried to, moving dirty clothes around, searching my mostly-opened dresser drawers, and looking carefully through the closet and under my bed. I thought he knocked a few things over unnecessarily, like my lamp, but was afraid to comment. Finally, when my room was even messier than it had been when he came in, the officer was satisfied with his search.
"I guess they're not here," the policeman said, walking to the living room. I followed. "Which means there's only one thing to do." In a second, I found my hands behind my back, handcuffed, and felt a cold chill due to the metal gun pressed against my neck.
"This is illegal," I gasped.
"So is posing as a policeman," the man said. "I know you know where they are. Tell me, and I'll let you go."
"I don't know what you mean..."
"The fairies. Where are you hiding them?"
"What fairies?" I asked.
"You're hiding no secrets. I know they're here. I saw them with my own eyes."
"They left," I said, trembling. "I don't know where they are."
"Very well," the man replied. "I can't have you telling the police about this." I braced myself in fear, knowing that he was going to pull the trigger.
Suddenly, I heard an ear-splitting gunshot, but felt no pain. Later I would find a bullet hole in the ceiling. However, my eyes were on the gunman. I soon saw why he had missed his shot. Cali was pulling on his hair, Fallah and Jemah were trying to wrench the gun away from him, Iris was trying to hit the man in the stomach with her favorite ladle, and Mendalar was tickling him. Even Candia tried to stop the man. I wasn't surprised that Kama wasn't there.
"What the-" shouted the man, distracted, saying a few things that I shouldn't write here. He roughly grabbed my hair and put the cold gun to my head, preparing to shoot me despite my struggles and the efforts of my friends. Suddenly, the man dropped his gun in shock and let me go as he shouted a few more expletives. I could tell he meant to say, "What bit my foot?" He kicked his foot into the air, and a gray thing went flying into the wall. Suddenly, Fallah picked up on my thoughts and flew to the telephone in the kitchen. As Jemah and Mendalar held up the gun, Mendalar threatening to shoot the man if he moved, Fallah dialed '911' and told an operator our location. Cali found the keys to the handcuffs and unlocked me. I picked up the gun and aimed it at the man, then handcuffed him, but that was unnecessary. He was too scared to move, and too afraid for his life to risk trying to catch the fairies, even for the million dollar reward for finding one.
"Go hide," I whispered to the fairies and, in a minute, all the glowing creatures had flown away except for Kama. He was still laying on the ground where he had landed when the fake police officer had kicked him off his leg. I picked him up. He still felt warm, but didn't move. Not wanting to leave the room, I finally put him in a nearby hatbox while the 'policeman's' head was turned, hoping he would be safe there.
When the real police came, the 'suspect' (as they had to call him) was babbling about fairies attacking him. As one officer read the impersonator his rights, another asked me, "Do you know what caused him to think he was attacked by any sprites?"
"No," I lied, with my eyes cast down.
Soon, my parents came home. When they saw the police and the bullet hole in the ceiling, they were shocked.
"Oh my gosh-are you all right?" my mother asked.
"Yeah," I replied, still sounding dazed. My parents lavished me with blind attention, but I later had to tell them what happened. The story I told slightly differed from the truth, of course. I told them that the man had asked to come in, and, since he was dressed like a police officer, I had let him. He had looked for valuables, and I tried to stop him. The man had tried to kill me after handcuffing me, but I managed to free myself from the handcuffs (after picking up the key from a shelf) and take the man's gun. I had held him with it while I called '911', and the police had come and arrested him.
My parents decided that I shouldn't be left home alone again, despite the fact that I was nearly sixteen. This made me sad, because it meant that I could no longer have lengthy conversations with the fairies.
As soon as the police were gone, and my parents were convinced that I was all right, I rushed to my room, holding Kama in my shirt, trying to hide him. Kama opened his eyes just as I closed my bedroom door. I pulled up the ruffle of my bed, and the fairies were there under it, as usual.
"You bit him, didn't you?" I asked Kama.
He couldn't respond, so I let the others see him.
"His leg is broken," said Mendalar after a brief examination.
"Jemah can fix it," said Fallah, and I brought him some tape and toothpicks.
Soon, Kama's leg was set. He was obviously still in great pain, and could hardly speak, but he managed to say to me, in a low voice, "You've been through a lot for us, and you've kept us alive. You're pretty decent-for a human." I took that statement as a compliment, and blushed.
No one spoke for a while. Finally, Fallah whispered, "Jemah thinks we're still not safe. And I agree."
"But what are we going to do?" asked Iris. "We can't find another place to live. Someone would spot us, and give us to the government."
"Maybe the portal will open soon," said Cali, not sounding too hopeful.
Mendalar spoke slowly and deliberately. "Maybe Carol should turn us in, and get the reward money."
"No," I whispered in protest.
Mendalar continued. "Someone's going to find us sooner or later. And we've all said that you should get some reward for your trouble, right? If someone's going to profit from our existence, it should be Carol."
"We're not going to give up," I said firmly. "Not even if-"
I cut myself off as I heard a knock at my door.
"Carol?" asked my mother gently. "Can I come in?"
"Just a minute," I replied, signalling for the fairies to hide. Soon, they were under my bed. I let my mom in.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Oh. I want to talk to you about something."
"What?" I sounded and felt nervous.
"There's been a lot of talk about fairies around here... You know I don't believe in them, but I'm wondering if you've been advancing rumors about them."
"Goodness, no!" I exclaimed truthfully.
"All right. I'm trusting you not to go around speaking nonsense." I couldn't help but feel a bit guilty, even though I hadn't been spreading rumors about the fairies. With a hug, my mother left, and I dared to breathe a sigh of relief. My relief lasted until I saw the day's newspaper. Somewhere in the back pages of the first section that I had learned to scan quickly for stories was an article saying that, not only was a one million dollar reward now being offered for the capture of each fairy, but now it was a national order to report any knowledge of the fairies and turn them in if caught. (They had been blamed for several murders and crimes in the past few weeks.) Failure to report them could result in being thrown in jail.
I turned white in fear and took the article to my bedroom, to show it to the fairies. When they had read it, I softly muttered, "Now I'm a criminal."
"It's not so bad to break the law for the right reasons," said Cali. "We all did it."
I thought for a while. It was one thing to hide the magical creatures, but quite another to break the law to do it. Trying to ease my conscience, I asked, "If you guys were caught, couldn't Iris transport all of you back here?"
The fairies remained silent for a while, and I had a feeling that I had said something wrong. Finally, Iris said, "I'm getting old, dear. Our powers sometimes fade with age, and I'm in a different world besides. I'd be lucky if I could transport myself a mile away from here."
I was shocked, and found myself almost speechless. "So, if you were caught-you couldn't escape?"
Mendalar sounded like he could care less as he said, "Oh, you can bet that we'd try, but we'd probably be so well guarded, we'd never make it. You sure you don't want to turn us in?"
"If I did," I said, "I'd never be able to live with myself. And anyway, do you think that they're just going to take you all and leave me alone? They'd probably think I was hiding more of you. At least if I don't give up, I won't feel guilty. You guys don't really want me to turn you in, do you?"
"I just don't want you to go to jail for helping us," said Mendalar. "None of us do." The others, even Kama, nodded. I appreciated their use of human body language, for once.
"It doesn't matter," I said, trying to believe that I was telling the truth. "I'd be in just as much trouble either way."
"You know you're lying," said Fallah. "But we admire you for it."
I smiled in spite of myself. "Thanks," I whispered.
"There's another problem," said Mendalar quietly. "I think everyone's going to be watching your house now. So it's not safe for even Kama to look outside from the window."
"And even if it was," said Iris, "I'd have trouble transporting him there. It'd take too much energy every night..."
"What can I do about it?" I asked.
"We hate to do this to you, but it would be best if I woke you up at 3:13 every morning so you could look outside for the fairy dust. We're really sorry, but..."
"It's all right," I said. "Just wake me up at the right time, and I'll check outside for you.
"Thanks," smiled Mendalar.
That was the last real conversation that I had with the fairies for a long time. That very night, my brother asked me who I spent my time talking to, and he was convinced that it was somebody-or something-real. I insisted that I wasn't talking to anybody but myself, but my brother remained skeptical. He even told my parents about how I talked to myself, causing them to worry about me. They suddenly watched me even more closely than they had before, and never left me home without a parent, even if my brother was with me. They made me feel like I was about five.
Mendalar woke me up at 3:10 every morning, and I got up and went to my window, half-asleep, hoping to see the fairy dust. I never did, and Mendalar signalled to me when I could crawl back into bed. It took me nearly an hour to get back to sleep each time, though, because I was so worried, and the waking up just reminded me of my problems more.
More and more articles on the fairies appeared, despite the fact that few new pictures turned up. More visitors also came to my house, and a few came close to discovering my secret. I spent every day in fear.
My lack of sleep (I probably got under four hours worth a night by now) started to take its toll. First, I was constantly in a bad mood. I lost most of my friends over this-even my close pals withdrew from me. Then, my grades started to slip. I had a D minus in geometry and invariably failed all tests in all subjects, even English. Cali did all my homework, now even struggling through my math, so I managed to get B's or C's in most of my other classes.
My family was very worried about me. They tried taking me to therapists, but nothing but a lack of sleep was physically wrong with me. A psychiatrist came up with the hypothesis that I was hiding something, and that theory just added another worry to my burdens.
One day, I came home from school to find my parents looking through and cleaning my room.
"What are you doing?" I shouted. I was a very different person than I had been just a month ago.
"Honey, something's wrong," said my mother. "We're trying to find out what it is."
"The doctors said you weren't on drugs, honey, but we think there may be something..."
I interrupted my mother. "I'm FINE!! There's nothing wrong with me!" I suddenly cracked and broke down crying. My mother ran over to hug me.
"It's all right, honey," she said, hugging me as I sobbed. The thought that eventually comforted me was that it didn't seem like my parents had found the fairies.
When my tears had finally subsided, my father said, "We do trust you, Carol, but we're afraid that something's wrong, and we're worried."
'You think you're worried,' I thought bitterly. But I said, "I'm not going to kill myself or anything."
"We hope not," my mother answered, not sounding overly convinced.
I left my room for a while to find the cat. (I couldn't stand helpless watching my parents rummage through my favorite belongings.) I found the cat in my brother's room, looking up at the top shelf of my brother's closet. I knew by the gaze that something living was there, and saw the fairies, all six of them, looking afraid but otherwise OK.
Relief washed over me, temporarily overpowering my worries. "I thought they found you..."
Fallah shook her head, and Cali busily worked at something. Finally, she showed me her work, a note written in handwriting eerily resembling mine on a loose piece of notebook paper:
We heard the door open, and we knew you were at school. So Iris transported us through your wall, and we were in here. But if they come in here, they'll see us. We want you to close the closet door.
I took Cali's little pencil stub and added a sentence to the note:
I wish I could talk to you guys.
Then I closed the closet door sadly. I had to wait a few hours before my parents were done searching my room, and they left it a cleaner place. They also left my room free of paint, glue, markers, and scissors. They even took all my plastic bags, afraid that I would suffocate myself.
Things just got more miserable for me. I was hardly able to spend any time in my room. One of my parents was almost constantly watching me. The only way I was able to communicate with the fairies at all, in fact, was by notes. I hardly even saw them except for when I slipped food under the ruffle of the bed. It was even getting hard for me to sneak them food at all, and the fairies sometimes had to go hungry. I saw them get thinner. Mendalar still came to wake me at 3:10 in the morning, though it was almost to honor the tradition. Usually, I was still awake at 3:10 in the morning.
I knew I couldn't go on much longer like this. I wasn't getting anywhere near enough sleep, and I was starting to hallucinate. Once, I petted what I thought was our cat in my
room-the fairies told me it was only my backpack! It was even getting hard for my eyes to focus on the fairies' notes. Just when I thought my mental disintegration would kill me, one night, I thought I saw some beautiful shimmering glitter floating down slowly from the heavens to the ground, right at 3:13 Sunday morning.
"Mendalar," I whispered, "look!" Mendalar looked out the very corner of the window, and I was relieved that he saw the dust as well. The portal really *was* open!
Mendalar flew over and whispered the good news to the others. All the fairies were visibly excited, though they tried to be quiet. They did talk to each other in tense whispers. I couldn't help but feel a bit sad, though, even though the fairies had caused me so much trouble. I didn't want to lose my friends-the only friends I still had by now.
"Oh, but things will be so much better for you once we're gone," said Fallah to me.
"Will they?" whispered Mendalar very quietly. "Her parents will still think she's crazy. I mean-" Mendalar suddenly stopped himself, for he saw something he hadn't seen in a while-me lying on my bed, asleep.
My parents knew that I had gotten very little sleep in the last week, and they didn't even wake me up when they left to go to church. I opened my eyes at about 11:30 in the morning, and found myself blissfully home alone. I was thrilled, for now I'd have a chance to say goodbye to the fairies before they left.
I let the ruffle of my bed up, and the fairies who had been sleeping (as in, all but Kama) quickly woke up.
"So, you guys will be leaving soon?" I asked sadly.
"Carol, let me tell you a story," said Mendalar. I listened attentively as he sat on my bed and started.
"Once, a few years back, I was flying around fairyland, and I decided that I was going to go see a human. I didn't know who; I just thought it'd be nice to meet one.
"I left fairyland and flew for a while until I found a house. The window was open, so I flew in, and found myself face to face with a human! He was probably about 45 years old, and didn't have much hair left on his head. But that's not important. I flew right up to him and said, 'Hi! My name's Mendalar. What's yours?'
"And then he said, 'Get away from me!'
"And I said, 'Why? I didn't do anything...'
"And then he picked up a shoe from the ground and tried to hit me with it.
"'Hey,' I said, 'don't you know that we help people?'
"He said, 'Sure, right.' And then he tried to hit me with his shoe again.
"Well, you can bet that I flew out of there like an orange streak. I had half a mind to just stay outside his house and wait for him to fall asleep so I could give him a nightmare. In fact, that's what I decided to do. So I hid against another wall of the house. (It was a big house; I guessed the man was pretty well-off.) I didn't make myself invisible 'cause I figured he couldn't see me, anyway. And then the window in the wall I was hiding against started to open. I flew away, thinking that it was that man, but it turned out to be a little girl. About thirteen, I'd guess. And she asked me to stay.
"And so I, being the trusting fairy I am, flew right back to her window and into her room. And she looked at me in astonishment, then closed her window. Now, that made me a bit nervous, since that was the only way out, but I shrugged it off.
"And the girl said, 'My father is out there, working in the field. If he saw you, he would be angry.'
"'So I noticed,' I said. 'I met him earlier, and he tried to kill me.'
"'He doesn't like magical 'creatures,'' said the girl. 'But you won't leave just 'cause my father doesn't like you, will you?'
"'Of course not,' I said. And so we got into a conversation. I had never really been friends with a human before, and I was amazed to find that some of them were a lot nicer than I had been told all my life.
"So we talked until her dad came into her room. In an instant, I made myself invisible. Her dad kind of looked over in my direction, as if he had seen something that was no longer there, then looked away. Then he talked to his daughter.
"'Honey, you haven't seen any fairies around, have you?'
"She dodged the question, saying, 'You always told me that there's no such thing as fairies.'
"'Yes, that's true,' her father replied. 'But if I ever catch you trying to find one, or ever thinking about one, then you'll wish your mother had never given birth to you.' Then he left and slammed the door behind him. I was about to talk to the girl, though I was still invisible, but he came back in again.
"'And I want my supper in twenty minutes!' he yelled, sounding angry.
"'Yes, Father,' the girl said meekly, though even I knew no one could make a meal in 20 minutes."
"We can now," I interrupted.
"But we couldn't then," said Mendalar. "So anyway, I decided that it'd be best if I left so I wouldn't endanger the girl. But I had told her my name before, and she called me, wondering where I had gone. I made myself visible.
"'How'd you do that?' she asked.
"I answered, 'All fairies can do that. I think I should just leave, so you don't get in trouble.'
"But she answered, 'Oh, no. Please don't leave. I've never met a magical creature before. I don't care if I do get in trouble.'
"So I said, 'OK, fine.' And I wound up helping her make dinner (being invisible, of course). I felt like killing her father, though. After she worked so hard cooking for him, she had the food done a good two minutes after he was ready to eat. So he slapped her on the face and sent her to bed without supper. I tell you, I almost went over there and slapped him, or worse. But I changed my mind and followed the girl back to her bedroom.
"When she got into her room, she softly closed the door behind her and laid down on her bed. I made myself visible again, and she looked up.
"'I can't believe that man," I said, talking about her father. 'When I first came in here, that guy tried to kill me! He was-'
"'Sssshh,' she quieted me. 'If my father hears me, then he'll be mad.'
"'What, you can't talk without his permission?' I asked.
"'Who would I talk to?' she answered. I shrugged.
"'You know,' I said, 'I think I'll give your father a nightmare tonight.'
"The girl was surprised, and so of course I had to tell her about my magic. Though I had a lot more powers then than I do now. But the girl didn't want me to make her father have a bad dream.
"She explained, 'Bad dreams put him in a bad mood, and when he's in a bad mood, then he's...he's even meaner.' The poor thing looked so scared... So I resigned myself to-get this-giving him a good dream.
"But first, I decided to get the girl something to eat. She hadn't eaten all day. So she told me when her father was in his bedroom and probably sleeping. Then I took a few trips to bring her food. I ate some stuff, too, 'cause I was really hungry. Then, I was about to leave to make her father have good dreams when the girl stopped me.
"'What's this?' she asked. (She pointed at what looked to her like a very fine, short piece of orange thread.)
"'That's one of my hairs,' I said. 'Must've fallen out.'"
"Wait," I said, interrupting. "So you have orange hair?"
"Of course," said Mendalar. "Cali has pretty magenta hair, Kama has gray hair...
"So anyway, I said, 'Yeah, that's my hair,' and she asked me if she could keep it.
"I said, 'Sure,' since I couldn't do anything with it. And then I told her I was gonna go home, but would be back tomorrow. But before I left the human world, I gave that stupid human a good dream or two.
"I came back to that girl's house many times. If she had to do some household work, I helped her, and her father was usually in good spirits. Then, one day, she showed me what she claimed she had been doing to maintain her sanity on the nights when her father was too angry to go to sleep. (If her father was mad and awake, the poor girl was scared to go to sleep herself, so she spent whole nights awake.) Now, where was I?"
"How she kept from going nuts," I sighed. I recalled too many sleepless nights myself.
"Oh, right. So she showed me what she had been doing. At first, I had no idea what it was. It was something about an inch long, and not very thick, and orange. Then I looked closer and realized it was a few of my hairs, braided together. She told me that if she got enough braided she'd make a necklace.
"And I asked, 'How are you braiding them?' My hair was fairly short at the time, and to tie the hairs together would have been a nearly impossible task. But she said that she used a tweezers and that it took her hours just to braid three little strands of hair like that. But she seemed to enjoy doing it, and so I started giving her one of the hairs from my head about every other day.
"Eventually, she had a braid long enough to go around her neck. But it was very fine, since our hairs are a bit finer than those of humans, and the string wasn't too strong. So she made another, and eventually a third. I decided not to cut my hair because it was easier for her to braid long hairs.
"Everything went great for a while. The girl became happier, since before she met me, she hadn't had a friend in the world. Even when her father was mad, she didn't get depressed. But then one day when I came, I found the poor girl on her bed, crying like you cry when you're miserable but trying to stop crying. I always made myself invisible when I snuck in through her window to visit. I tapped her on the shoulder, and showed myself. She saw me and tried to smile, but couldn't stop sobbing.
"'What's wrong?' I whispered. But she didn't answer.
"Finally, she said, 'It was worse today.' I understood what she meant. Let us just say that her father wasn't very gentle or caring, and the girl was bruised all over.
"She continued, 'And he told me he doesn't want me to be talking at all. Anytime. And he knows about you...' She broke off as her father burst into her room.
"He said, 'Don't tell me that he's in here.' I quickly made myself invisible, but it was too late. He had seen me.
"Well, that man just picked up his daughter, shook her, and then shoved her against the wall. Then he said, 'I'm gonna kill you!' I wasn't sure if he was talking to his daughter or me. But either way, I wasn't going to let him get away with it. So I flew right at him and pulled his hair-what he had-as viciously as I could. He couldn't see me, and I yanked his hair back to his neck. His head went back as well, and he cried out. I had more magic then, and I finally managed to pull him down hard enough to knock him out.
"The immediate threat had been taken care of, but goodness knows what that guy would do to his daughter when he woke up. So I made myself visible and spoke to her. I said, 'You're not safe here.'
"She was trembling with fear as she said, 'So?'
"'So,' I said, 'I want you to come back to fairyland with me.'
"She said, 'Doesn't time flow differently in there? I could spend what seems to be a day in there and find out it was a lifetime.'
"But I told her, 'Maybe, but it could go the other way around, too. And anything would be better than living here, wouldn't it?'
"She fearfully nodded, and, without another word, she picked up the necklace she had braided and followed me back to fairyland.
"When we got there, she was afraid to go in, but she trusted me, and I led her inside. She was so amazed at all she saw that she forgot to be afraid. And she still lives there to this day."
"But I thought the queen hated humans," I mused.
Pretending to be secretive, Mendalar said, "I'll tell you something. We managed to turn her into a fairy. Now, do you see where I'm going with this story?"
"No," I said.
"We all talked about this while you were asleep, and we want you to come home with us," said Mendalar.
"What?" I was shocked.
"You wouldn't have to stay in fairyland. You're a writer, right? The humans there appreciate artists and writers. You'd learn the language-hey, Cali could transfer it to you-and I'm sure a family would take you in. Or we could get someone to turn you into a fairy. You could be like one of us! You'd have magic powers, and you could make yourself invisible, and haven't you always wanted to fly?"
I didn't answer.
"Things'll be miserable for you here, Carol," said Mendalar. "They'll still be hassling you about the fairies... What if another guy with a gun comes in? What if you get in trouble, with no one to save you? Without us?"
"But what if the new leader's as bad as the old queen? What if there *isn't* a new leader?" I asked. I thought I was being irrelevant when I suddenly asked, "Where's Iris?"
"She's gone back, to see how the country is now," smiled Cali. "But if things *are* all right, would you come back with us?"
"I don't know," I said, almost nervously. "Let me think for a while."
I was relieved because the fairies would soon be safe, but I was disturbed by the big decision I had to make. Still, I had my mind made up on what I would do, even before Iris returned to tell us that the new king was kind, just, and would even turn me into a fairy himself, if I wanted him to.
I spent the next two days, while the fairies were still on earth (to keep me company) and the portal was still open writing furiously. During classes, on the bus, after school, even while eating breakfast, I wrote. Finally, after two days, I was finished with the short book. Cali absorbed it, not having enough time to read it properly, and was amazed.
"That's our story!" she whispered in response.
I said, "My friends and family might want an explanation for how weird I've been acting lately...and for why they'll never see me again." The fairies smiled as they looked into my school bag, which I had previously packed with a Bible, a change of clothes, a partially finished story, a few pencils and some other things.
"I'll transport us to the portal," said Iris. (The king had given her all her magic back, and then some. She looked younger than she had when we first met.) I wrote Iris's last statement in the book, scrawled a note for the beginning, and disappeared, never to be seen on this earth again. But I'm sure I lived happily ever after.
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