15. The fairy's missing

       The fairy’s gone.  I can’t find her anywhere.  I’ve searched the house and she's not here.  I think its Brian’s fault.  She might have overheard him suggesting we sell her for money.  It might have scared her and caused her to run away.  I wish I knew where she was.  She might be in some kind of trouble or danger.  I’ve got to find her.
        Last night we were playing a game with ping pong balls.  The fairy was hovering in front of my bedroom window and I was trying to toss ping pong balls past her to bounce off the window panes.  Her goal was to try and block my throws, and she was proving very nimble.  She can move fast for her size and would laugh merrily every time she got one before it bounced off the window.  Any balls I tossed at or below her position, she would swoop over and bat them away with no trouble.  It was only the ones that I tried to throw over her head that sometimes got through.  Gravity makes it harder for her to climb than to dive.
        Then we stumbled upon something suspicious.  I threw one lazy toss at the extreme upper right corner of the window.  She got there with great exertion and batted at it with both hands, knocking the ping pong ball further up and onto my bookshelves.  Laughing, she flew after the ball to retrieve it, and that’s when we noticed something new on the bookshelves.  “What this, Michael?” the fairy pointed to a small gray device with a flashing red LED, which had been covered by a small strip of black electrical tape, but through which you could still see a faint red glow.
        I jumped up on a chair to take a closer look.  It was a small PC camera, like what you might attach via a USB cord to laptops or PC monitors that don’t have built in cameras.  It was round, gray, had an oval lens in the front, the taped over LED power-on light, and a thin, gray, round cord.  “What in the world?” I marveled, as I pulled the cord out from under some books where it had been strung out of view.  The cord ran along the length of the shelf, behind more books, to a spot where it was spliced into a second longer cord, which extended up the corner of my room and disappeared into a tiny hole in the ceiling.  I jerked the two cords apart, disconnecting the camera from its source.  It had to be Brian.
        I leapt off the chair and pounded my heels into the carpet.  The chair fell over with a crash behind me, but I didn’t care.  Brian had run a small camera from his PC to my room and was spying on us.  Did he see the fairy, he surely did.  I went stomping over to his room and banged on his door several times, then flung it open without waiting for a response.  I shook the camera at him, cord dangling, as I enter his room.  “What’s the meaning of this?” I shouted.
        Brian looked immediately guilty, which he should.  His computer was just powering down and I knew he realized we’d discovered him.
        “Well?” I shook the camera at him.
        “Out of my room you idiot …” he started to say, then stopped mid-sentence.  He must have seen how angry I was.
        I had to restrain myself from grabbing him around the throat.  “What did you see?” I shouted.
        Then he had the audacity to grin at me.  “I saw what you have.”
        “You’re a dead man,” I screamed, and then I did launch myself at him. 
        He squawked and made a dive to get away, but I tackled him and we fell tumbling to the floor with a loud thud and much groaning on his part.  “Mom!  Mom!” he started screaming, until I got him in a headlock.  I forced his chin down to his chest so he couldn’t shout any more.  He struggled for a few moments and then feigned giving up, then suddenly tried to escape by rolling hard to the left.  I held him fast and pinned him to the floor, then pushed his face against the carpet.  He kept struggling, but he wasn’t going to break free.  He’s smaller than me and not nearly as strong.
        We heard footsteps coming up the stairs at a run, and I was just about to let Brian go, when Mom appeared in the bedroom doorway.  Her mouth fell open and she stared at us in shock.  She’s seen us fighting and wrestling around before, too often I’m afraid, but it never fails to dismay her, as if brothers aren’t going to fight.  I relaxed my grip and Brian pushed free.  He was all red in the face and breathing hard.  He sat up, rubbing the back of his neck.  I got to my feet and considered offering him a hand up, but decided against it.  He was the one in the wrong.
        “How can you boys do this to me?” Mom cried.  “I’m suffering from anxiety this morning and you decide now would be a good time to behave like ruffians and try to kill each other?  Do you want me to have another panic attack?  Do you like seeing me sick?”
        “He the one who attacked me,” Brian shuffled his feet and glared at me.
        “We’re done, Mom,” I said.  “We’ll stop.  Nothing to worry about.  Sorry.”
        “Can you please, at least act, like I taught you to be gentlemen,” she begged.
        “We will, Mom,” I said.  “Don’t worry about us.”
        She left the room shaking her head, and I turned back to Brian.  He shied back, mocking me, acting as if he expected to be attacked again, daring me to do so.
       “Why were you spying on me?” I demanded.
        “I had a good reason,” he said quickly.
        “There’s no good reason,” I took a step towards him.
        “Before you go crazy again,” he pointed to some papers strewn across his bed.  “You should see this.”
        Brian’s change in demeanor, from one of angry challenge to one of sudden concern, threw me off.  I looked to the papers he was pointing at and saw he had a copy of the mortgage contract Mom had recently signed with Unger.  “What’s this to do with anything?” I said.
        He shuffled the papers, and pointed out clauses for me to read, which he had highlighted in yellow.  I scooped up the mortgage papers and sat down on the bed, a sick feeling growing in my stomach.
        “Look at this one,” Brian pointed over my shoulder.  “It says Mom has to make the first payment in one month, she only gets use of the money for one month before a payment is due, with interest.”
        “That’s normal,” I said.
        “But if she gets more than 30 days behind on any payment, then Unger can take possession of the house.  All he has to do is assume our original mortgage.”   Brian was looking wild.
        I closed my eyes.
        “There’s more,” Brian said.  “Look on this page.  It says Unger can call for full payment of the entire loan at any time and only give two weeks’ notice.  If we don’t pay up, then he gets the house.”
        I shook my head.  “I told her it was a bad idea to take any money from Unger.  But Brian, I had no idea the terms of this second mortgage would be this bad.  Unger’s been putting pressure on Mom to sign.  He wants her in his debt.  But what has this got to do with you spying on me?”
        Brian was getting all worked up.  “Don’t you see how this is going to play out,” my brother exclaimed.  “Mom got behind on her house payments so she borrows money from Unger to catch up, and in return gave him a second mortgage on the house.  She plans to use the money from Unger to pay off overdue money owed the bank on the first mortgage, and maybe also to make future payments.  But she has no extra income to now also make payments on Unger’s loan.  So she’ll just get further and further in debt, only now with two mortgages, at a faster rate.  Eventually she’ll fail on her payments to Unger.  How can she not without an increase in income?  Unger will show no mercy when Mom’s late.  And how could she ever pay him off if he were to ask for all the money in full?  Which I bet he will if she somehow manages to keep up on her payments.   He’s planning to force Mom and us out of the house and take possession of it for himself.”
        “He’s trying to force Mom in more ways that just that,” I grimaced.
        “What do you mean?”
        “Grow up Brian.”
        Brian grew red in the face.  His mouth dropped open.
        “I’ll handle Unger,” I said.  “Don’t worry about that.  Now, why you were spying on me?”
        Brian grinned at me.  “I knew you were up to something strange, I could tell you had something in your bedroom, something you wanted to keep secret.  You put that Keep-Out sign on the door.  I kept hearing you talking to someone, and you were acting all secretive.  There were strange noises coming from your room, sometimes when you were out of the house.  I just wanted to see what you were up too.”
        “Brian, it’s none of your business.”
        “I saw everything!” Brian exclaimed suddenly, talking too loudly for my liking.  “You have some kind of alien creature in your room!  I’ve heard you talking to it through the door.  And now I’ve seen it through my PC.  It’s tiny and it can fly!  This could be the answer to all our problems.  Don’t you see?  You have some creature from outer space that talks.  We could probably sell it.  We could get enough money to pay Unger back, or maybe buy him off.  Don’t you see?  We could sell it and get some money for Mom!”
        I glanced around the room to see if anyone was listening.  The last thing I needed was for word of the fairy to get back to Mom.  I shut his door.  “You listen to me, Brian,” I got up close and personal, putting my face in his.  “Nobody touches my alien.  Nobody.  And we’re not selling it.  We’re not giving money to Unger.  We’re not giving Unger anything.  I’ll handle Unger.  You stay out of my room.  You stay out of my business.  You spy on me again and you’ll regret it big time.”
        Brian was not subdued, “Let me see it,” he muttered softly, then said louder, “You have to let me see it, for real.”
        I could not believe he was still making demands on me.  The secret is out.  He’s seen the fairy, although he thinks it’s some kind of extra-terrestrial alien, but he’s seen it and he’s not going to be bullied by threats.  “Just stay out of my room,” I said, and turned to leave, but then had second thoughts.  I had to show him something or he would tell Mom.  “Tomorrow,” I said, hoping to buy time, and then I left.
        When I got back to my room the fairy was gone.  I immediately searched the house, starting with my bedroom and then quickly going from room to room, looking everywhere for her, hoping to see her flying about getting into some kind of mischief, but could not find any sign of her.  The thought struck me, she’d heard Brian talking about selling her to Unger to pay off Mom’s loan, and gotten scared.  I couldn’t find her anywhere and waited patiently all through the evening, anxious for her to return and show herself.  She was mad at me, and maybe scared, I was sure of it.
        The next morning I got up early, hoping to find the fairy asleep on her little bed on the desk, or nestled in the covers at the foot of my bed.  But no, nothing.  I conducted a more thorough, detailed search of every room in house, including the basement and the attic, even going through Brian’s room, although I could not imagine her going in there.  I even searched Mom’s room when she went outside to get the paper and the mail.  I could not find any sign of the fairy.  It was as if she’d disappeared from the house.  I cannot tell you how much it pains me to think she might have left the house and I might never see her again.
        I returned to my room feeling dejected and not wanting to go to school.  I’d already missed Scripture Study and pretty much made up my mind to stay home all day and wait for the fairy to stop hiding and come out.  If she was still in the house.  I examined the window once more, and upon closer inspection, saw the little slit in the screen had been pushed out.  The second fairy, Bonnie’s friend, whom I call Jennie, had cut that slit in the screen and used it to come and go when visiting my fairy.  I wondered if Bonnie might have gotten out of the house through this slit.  I wondered if she might actually have left me.  I studied the cuts, two connected cuts had been made in the screen in the shape of an L, creating a small flap.  The flap had been pushed outward, you could tell because it was frayed with little metal wires along the edges.  The last passage through had been exiting, not entering, which was not reassuring.  I pulled the flap back into place so the frayed edges were lined up and I could tell if any fairies went in or out again.
        There was no reason to assume the fairy was still in the house, much as I had hoped she was.  I left for school with a heavy heart.  There was nothing more I could do.  The day dragged by intolerable slow, and I often found myself looking about, half hoping to see the fairy somewhere, like up among the lighting fixtures in chem. lab.  In time I was back home and I bounded up the stairs to my room hoping the fairy might have returned.  Unfortunately, still no sign of her.
        The frays on the flap cut into the window screen were trailing out again.  The fairy had exited the house while I was at school.  That gave me encouragement, I learned she’d been hanging around through last night.  Perhaps the fairy’s just punishing me.  Probably she’s been hiding in the house all through the night and simply avoided me whenever I searched for her.  It wouldn’t be hard for a fairy to stay out of sight. 
        Maybe she followed me to school again and I just didn’t notice her.  She told me fairies prefer daylight to nighttime, not just because they like the sun, it’s safer during the day than at night, when owls are about.  So where was she now?  Was she out exploring?
        I hurried outside and around the house to below my bedroom window and checked for signs of her coming or going.  I didn’t see any tiny footprints in the dirt or mud, of course, since she can fly, and my window is two stories up, but I did see a large number of tiny animal tracks, like squirrels or rodents or something, all over in the dirt under my window and along that side of the house.
        I could only think of one place where the fairy might go, perhaps she’d returned to the little fairy meadow behind Madison’s house where I’d first seen her.  She did have me take her there once and we found a tiny little hammer of strange design.  There was no time to waste, it would be dark in a few hours.  I ran inside and checked and made sure the slit in the window screen was exactly how the fairy had left it, edges trailing out, so I would know if she came back while I was out.
        I hurried to my Mustang and drove straight to Madison’s house, where I parked up the street.  I was making my way rapidly down the path in the woods alongside Madison’s house, when I noticed a light on in Madison’s upstairs bedroom window.  I stopped.  Maybe the fairy went there.  She liked Madison.  Maybe she was there.
        I doubled back so I could approach from the street and went up their driveway.  Nicole, Amie and Hannah, the three youngest of the sisters, were playing in the driveway.  “Careful,” Nicole warned, wanting to make sure I didn’t step on her chalk drawings.  Hannah had a big gray cat with her.  They all stopped their play to watch me, as I steered my way around them and the drawings, and then approached and rang the doorbell.
        Madison answered.  She looked me up and down questioningly.  I was momentarily taken aback because she was wearing shorts.  I typically only see her in dresses at church on Sunday or long pants at school.  “Have you seen Bonnie?” I asked.
        “No, why do you ask?”
        “She’s disappeared,” I answered, and immediately regretted it.  Madison didn’t need to know that.
        Madison sucked in her breath.  “I haven’t seen her.”
        “All right then,” I turned to go.  There was nothing more to do there.
        “Wait,” Madison followed me down the steps.  “Where are you going?”  She continued after me as I retreated down the driveway, careful to avoid the cat and the chalk drawings again.
        “I don’t know, just trying to find her?” I said.
        “Can I help?” Madison asked.
        I stopped at the curb and looked her in the eyes.  “I guess.”
        She followed me out into the street, to the trailhead, and then into the woods alongside her house.  “Where are we going?”
        “The place where I found her.  It’s out back in the woods.”
        Madison took another deep breath, but didn’t pause in following me.  “When did you see her last?”
        “Yesterday evening,” I said.  “I think she overheard Brian talking about selling her.”  Madison sucked in her breath again.
        I stopped and turned to look at her.  “Would you stop doing that?” I said.  She looked disturbed.  For some reason, maybe because she seemed genuinely concerned, I told her the whole story as we stood there in the woods.  I told her about the ping pong ball game I was playing with the fairy, about finding the PC camera, about the confrontation with Brian, about what he said and why.  I even had to explain about the mortgage papers, and how we were in debt and maybe losing the house, and how Unger was trying to manipulate Mom.  I don’t know why I unloaded on her, especially her, but it felt right at the time.
        “I’ve misjudged you,” Madison said as I finished.  “And I apologize for thinking you are conceited and prideful.  The girls at church told me your father was killed in Afghanistan, and that you’re talking care of your Mom, and your brother.”
        “Missing,” I corrected her, and then started on down the trail again.
        She followed.  “Yes, well, anyway, I’m sorry.  Is there anything I …”
        “We’re okay,” I interrupted before she could say any more.  It really bugs me when people feel sorry for us.  “Besides,” I said to her.  “You were right about me.  I am prideful.  But with good reason.”
        “No, no, be serious.  It says a lot about you,” Madison said.
        I couldn’t believe it.  Madison was actually being human.  We walked in silence through the woods and came out at the far end of her backyard near the water ponds.  I didn’t wait there, but immediately stepped into the woods again and we made our way deeper back through the trees along a lesser trail, until emerging into the little fairy meadow.  Madison had followed me the whole way.
        The sun was shining into the meadow and the green of the fern covered ground was bright and breathtaking.  There was a little fog starting to gather around the perimeter of the meadow and the landscape looked surreal.  It was eerie.  We circled the small meadow and then approached a small jumble of rocks in the center.  There was no sign of the fairy, or that she or any other fairies had even been there.
        I looked around despairingly.  Where was she?
        Madison took my hand, “Come on, let’s sit for a while, maybe she’ll show up.”
        So we sat upon a fallen log and waited.  It was beautiful there and I felt a moment of peace with Madison, until the day started settling into twilight.  Soon the sunlight faded and shadows darkened around us.  I was momentarily hopeful that maybe the fairy would show back up, as the sky dimmed and the lighting there in the meadow took on a mystical quality.  The green of the Douglas firs was so dark and the ferns so rich in color, and you could hear the sound of an occasional crow cawing in the distant woods.  You could also, if you listened, hear the gurgling of the water from the small waterfall at the head of the nearby ponds in Madison’s back yard.
        “How did you come to be here that night?” Madison whispered, her voice breaking the silence, but not the mystique of the moment.
        “Remember, the guys and I came to TP your house.”
        Madison nodded and looked down.  She took my hand.
        So I continued, “I saw your baby sister, Amie, out by herself way off in the far corner of your back yard.  It was after midnight, and I thought maybe she was chasing and playing with a butterfly, or a small bird or something.  I know, doesn’t make sense.  I went after her, to bring her home, and followed her all the way out to this meadow.  That’s when I saw the fairy.  She had fallen to the ground and I picked her up.”
        “The fairy had fallen to the ground?  Was she hurt?”
        “I don’t think so, the fairy was sitting on her bottom, but she wasn’t hurt.  She had her hands out like she was scared.  Things were rustling and rushing all about in the nearby bushes and ferns, your dog was barking and causing a lot of commotion, she was frightened.  Maybe something was after her.  It might have been rats.”  I didn’t mention the fairy’s talk about gnomes.  “Anyway, when I reached down for her, she kind of jumped into my hand, like she was anxious to get away, like she wanted protection.  I saved her.”
        “Did the fairy say anything about what she was doing there, or why’s she’s here?” Madison asked.
        “No, but the fairy did insist I take her back here a few days ago.  I think she was looking for other fairies, her companions.  We searched around the meadow and she found this little hammer.”  I pulled the Mustang’s car keys out of my jeans and showed Madison the small but heavy little hammer, which I’d attached to the key chain by the leather straps at the end of the hammer.
        Madison scooted closer to look at it and our shoulders touched.  It felt nice.  Madison stared at the hammer a moment, and then handed the keys and hammer back to me.  “This is all so strange,” she remarked, looking out at the trees.
        “Bonnie told me 15 fairies came through some kind of portal, from the realm of fairies, on an expedition of some type.  She talks like it was a great honor to be chosen for the expedition.  There’s some type of portal around here, near or in this meadow, where the fairies passed through from their home realm.”
        Madison sighed.  “So do you think the fairy might have gone home?”
        “No, the conditions aren’t right, as the fairy explained it to me anyway.  They won’t be for some time.  Everything has to be just right for this portal phenomena to work.”
        “I wonder where it is?” Madison looked around speculatively.  “I don’t see anything?”
        “The fairy said it’s underground, and protected by fierce creatures that she calls gnomes, and surrounded by a ring of mushrooms that the gnomes plant and tend too.”
        “Look,” Madison point to an opening under a nearby fern.  “Mushrooms.”  I saw them then, plain as day, a trail of mushroom.  Glancing around we could discern a complete circle of mushrooms, obscured by ferns to a large degree, but there nonetheless, completely surrounding the stones next to the log upon which we sat.  The circle of mushrooms was large, with a radius of at least 12 feet.
        “I guess we’re in the right place,” I mused.
        “Kind of spooky,” Madison said.
        We sat in silence for a while and listened to the creaking of tree branches as the wind picked up.  It looked like rain was coming and I was becoming more and more depressed.  I didn’t realize it showed, but then Madison scooted closer.  Our hips touched and she put an arm around my shoulder.  I didn’t mind.
        Twilight only lasted for a few moments it seemed, and then darkness settled in.  Some clouds were moving in too, and smothering any star or moonlight that might have brightened the night.  I was starting to feel cold and thinking we should be leaving, when we heard a murder of crows making a ruckus out in the woods to our left.  I felt Madison shiver.  It was getting more than just a little spooky out now, especially with the talk of strange creatures about in the woods, like fairies and gnomes.
        “Let’s go,” I suggested.
        Madison nodded and disengaged.  We stood up.  “I’m sure Bonnie will show back up some day,” Madison said.
        It bothered me Madison said some day.  “Maybe she’s back home now,” I said.  Fairies don’t especially like being out at night.  I took Madison’s hand to help her through the ferns and dead fall and we worked our way back towards her house through the darkening woods.  Just as we left the meadow, heading for Madison’s backyard, two crows flew overhead and circled the meadow.  Then a few more appeared.  Suddenly I didn’t feel at all safe.  Crows were congregating and things just didn’t feel right.  We followed the short trail through the woods and emerged into Madison’s backyard, and instead of taking the path through the woods around her house, we cut straight across her back yard straight towards the back door of her house, where we said our goodbyes.  It seemed a little awkward.  I was embarrassed by the closeness we had shared.
        I hurried on home and was disappointed to find the fairy had not returned.  The slits in the screen were still trailing out just as I’d left them.
        So I guess she’s gone.  It worries me that she might be out there in the woods somewhere, alone, afraid, in danger.  Those crows were bothersome.  I miss her.  I hope I see her again.  It makes me sick to think I might not.  Could I have lost her?
      December 1, 2012
      Back to Post 15 with comments

No comments:

Post a Comment