FairiesThere were fairies at the bottom of Abby’s garden, although she didn’t know that yet. It was an average British spring afternoon, warm enough to be outside but with the threat of rain in the air, and Abby was sitting on her back doorstep poking at cracks with a stick. Poking things with a stick is a source of unending fun for a nine year old, and cracks are a marvel to be explored, potentially filled with treasures or horrors of equal awe. For a child of her age, the most mundane things take on a veneer of the magical, behind every action and object is a fantastical world that exists only for her. Imagine her amazement then, when she heard a faint tinkling noise, like a pocketful of coins being dropped, and three tiny, beautiful winged girls shimmered into existence at the other end of the garden.
At first, Abby just stared in awe as the three figures floated and frolicked, their tiny wings fluttering and showering the air with pink and blue sparks. She could see their tiny faces, angelic and perfect with such serene expressions, and their small yet elegant dresses showing their smooth and perfectly shaped legs. They were the most beautiful thing Abby had ever seen. All of a sudden, she snapped out of her trance and leapt to her feet, turned into the house shouting “mummy mummy there’s fairies in the garden, come quick you’re going to miss them!”
Once she was out of sight, there was another tinkling noise and the fairies disappeared from view. They were still there, and they weren’t invisible; they just didn’t want to be seen anymore. After an unceremonious popping noise and a flash of light, the three fairies took on an altogether different appearance. They were still unmistakably fairies, but their bodies and faces changed, in much the same way as someone sucking in their tummy suddenly breathing out. In a matter of an instant, they gained weight and their faces became wrinkled, taking on the appearance of middle aged women. They were still beautiful, but definitely aged, like a faded watercolour.
“Oh, that’s a blessed relief, I thought she was going to sit their gawking at us all day,” complained the eldest looking fairy. “Alright, brew’s up,” she said, pulling a tiny but in proportion thermos flask from a bag hidden behind a dandelion.
“Ooh bless you Mavis, I’m parched,” piped up the shortest and dumpiest looking fairy.
“Did you bring any of those currant buns I like?”
“Always thinking with your stomach, Agnes,” said Mavis, producing a similarly sized plastic tub, containing several current buns and chocolate biscuits, and handing it over to Agnes.
The third fairy, while still elderly in appearance, had an air of innocence and youth about her. She spoke up: “Aw look at the poor thing.”
The three turned back to the back door of the house to see Abby tugging her mother into the garden by the sleeve. “I swear, mummy, they were right there,” she said. “They were dancing and flying about, don’t you believe me?”
“Oh, you are silly Abby. Such an imagination,” the mother replied, walking back into the house, shortly followed by an exasperated Abby.
“Well Sarah, you know how this works. We can’t have adults spotting us, can we?” said Mavis. “Can’t have adults running around saying they’ve seen fairies, they’ll be thrown into the loony bin.” She chuckled.
“Well, I know, but it always seems so unfair doesn’t it? We show these kids something wonderful, and they can’t share it with anyone,” moaned Sarah.
“Aye well, that’s the point isn’t it,” said Agnes, sputtering current bun crumbs everywhere. “We aren’t here to let the whole world know we exist, we’re just here to make sure kids grow up with a little imagination. Come on, how long have you been at this job, you know this well enough.”
Sarah huffed and sipped tea from a thimble sized plastic cup. “I know, I know. Just seems a little mean sometimes, that’s all. Disappearing on them like that.”
The three fairies sat in the tranquil garden for a while in silence, bar the munching sounds of biscuits being devoured, mostly by Agnes.
“Nice day for it, at least,” said Mavis after a while.
“Aye well, they don’t pay me enough to fart about in the rain,” said Agnes, to disapproving looks from the other two. “They don’t pay me enough to buy decent boots either, anymore. These buggers are playing havoc with my corns.” Agnes slipped off her boots and began rubbing the soles of her feet. “Time was, with my pay cheque I could afford a good pair of boots that would last me five years at least, nowadays I have to get the cheap ones that I have to replace every year. I don’t know how they expect us to get by.”
“Oh Agnes, stop complaining and put your boots back on, you’re going to attract cats with that smell,” said Sarah, grimacing.
“She’s right though Sarah,” said Mavis. “You’ve not been in the business as long as we have, it used to be thriving. There’d be fairies at the bottom of every garden; you’d have half a dozen houses to do in a day. No time for lounging around on long lunch breaks like this.” She sighed. “Kids these days though, they think they don’t need us. They’ve got their TVs and video games and whatnot to spark their imagination.”
“It’s not the same thing though, all that noise and flashy stuff they watch,” interjected Agnes. “It’s like they’re being spoon fed. We give them real mystery, real imagination. Nothing magic about electronic gismos,” she said the word as if it were dirty.
“Won’t be much longer before we’re out of a job,” agreed Mavis.
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” said Sarah, screwing her nose up.
“Yeah, you think so? There’s not many kids these days who would even pay attention if we showed up in their garden, they’d be too busy texting or what have you. There’s just not enough magic in the world any more. Why do you think it’s such a pain to hold our good looks these days?”
“Well none of us are getting any younger,” said Agnes.
“Oh, that’s nonsense,” snapped Mavis. “Time was, I could look as young and beautiful as I liked, for as long as I liked. Not that I’m vain, mind you, but no one wants to look like a wrinkly old woman now do they?”
“I think you’re still very pretty,” said Sarah, matter-of-factly.
“You’re too kind,” said Mavis, slightly flustered. “Still, my point is, things just aren’t how they used to be. Young Abby in there is a dying breed. There’s hardly even any Bogeymen doing the rounds these days. I think it’s just Cedric who does round here, actually. Kids aren’t even afraid of the dark anymore! Imagine that.”
“Well, what’s so good about making poor kids afraid of the dark?” Sarah asked timidly.
“Lots of bad things in the dark,” said Agnes.
“Yes, and one of them is Cedric!” exclaimed Sarah.
“Oh, old Cedric’s harmless. He just sits under the bed and reads, you know. Very good night vision,” said Mavis. “A few bumps and groans, and kids know not to go sticking their noses into dark enclosed spaces. Very valuable lesson.”
“You’d think their parents would teach them, but you know what adults are like,” huffed Agnes. “It’s like, they reach a certain age and just forget about everything we show them. You know, there’s some people that go crawling through tiny little damp caves and such?”
“Potholing,” affirmed Mavis.
“Right, that’s it. They go poking around in damp little holes that could collapse on them at any minute. They’re not in their right mind if you ask me,” Agnes sniffed.
“Say, did you hear about the gnomes?” Mavis asked. The others shook their heads. “All been laid off you know.”
“What, all of them?” Sarah asked.
“Yep, heard it from Barnaby last week. The company said they had to ‘reassign the assets’ or something like that,” said Mavis.
“Ooh, they’ve not taken their gold?” said Agnes, disapprovingly.
“That’s what I’m told,” replied Mavis. “I mean, those lads used to provide a vital service, showing the youngun’s there’s treasure in the world, if you go looking for it. It’s like a metaphor or whatnot, you know? But I suppose kids these days think treasure is all about money, all they want is to be famous for the sake of it, or get rich through some scheme or another. Where’s the real treasure? Like finding the perfect flower, or seeing a loved one smile? It’s like I say, our days are numbered.”
“Oh you don’t half bang on, Mavis,” said Sarah belligerently.
“Mark my words, missy,” snapped Mavis irritably. “This time next year, we’ll be lucky to still have a job.”
In typical British fashion, the bright April sun was suddenly marred by looming, dark clouds, and a few spots of rain, as big as golf balls to the fairies, started splashing down from the sky. The raindrops fell towards the fairies, at the last second evaporating away into nothing with a sound like arcing electricity, leaving them completely dry.
“See, Mavis, you’ve made it rain with your foul mood,” said Agnes. “Come on, let’s pack up and go home.”
The three fairies packed away their lunch in silence, Mavis’ ruminations matching their mood to the now dismal weather overhead. They each flew off to their separate destinations, bidding farewell on what might be one of their last days employed in their magical occupation.