The world had changed, and was no longer quite as sweet.
His wings still carried him with ease through the chill breezes, stiff after traveling so far. Bare skin tingled; his nose, cute as a button, was already red. It took a long time, sometimes, to find the source of his attention, and many a time he would arrive stiff and cold, more an elemental sprite than a fairy.
But they always smiled.
Innocent smiles, full of hope for whatever their adult lives could bring.
This time, he alighted silently on a slippery rooftop, bare feet almost instantly numb with the cold. Dropping to his knees, he bent his torso over the edge of the roof, peering into a dirty window to see a girl snuggled up in her bed. Both bed and house looked to be well-worn and used, judiciously kept. Even for a naïve fairy, he could tell that her family was downtrodden.
Her dreams, however, were blessedly beautiful, shining in his eyes like sugar-spun clouds, marzipan stars. With a gesture, he brought a shining flute to his lips, preparing to play the tune and summon the protection for her sugar energy; what her parents referred to as her “imagination.”
But as he moved his arms, he heard a familiar rattle at his hip, and paused. Out of the corner of his eye could he see the cellophane bag still tied sweetly with ribbon, hanging from his belt, its burnt and misshapen contents staring at him with red candy eyes. Special cookies.
What is there to do, when a fairy has lost his way? Of course, he had given a proud face to the girl who had freed him, flying off into the sunset. Memories of her kiss lingered as he flew, and uncertainty had settled into his heart. Being a rather simple creature – he was, after all, merely a protective fairy of children’s dreams – he had no idea what to do in the wake of his loss. His brother was gone, who had always taken charge. The two cuckoo fairies that accompanied them on their travels were gone.
He wished Badiane had never come into their lives.
After several days’ flight, he had abruptly veered off to seek out a boy’s brilliant dreams. Playing his flute had given him a sense of peace again, and he left, renewed, once more dedicated to protecting the children. Nevermind the kiss; nevermind her sweet smile, and exuberance.
Some nights he would take his secondary form to sleep, and children would look out their windows before bedtime to see a hummingbird. They never knew he was imagining pink hair and wide, curious eyes of the same hue. Sugar pink.
Once again, the years passed. Before, he had never noticed them; he didn’t know what the passage of time had meant. All he had done was follow his brother, play his flute, and remain forever the naïve winged child. Now he recognized the ticking clock and its hands, not merely ornamental; he spied the digital numbers through the window, and saw them change. Many of his children grew up, left him for the solid reality of adulthood.
But there were so many of them left. And only one of him.
Sometimes, if he left himself dwell, he would realize he didn’t sense her anymore.
Rainbow wings carried him on, his music tickling the ears of his children, sweet piping to his brother’s deeper bass. He was soon inclined to notice that they began to dream less and less happily, and consequently, he played his music less and less. Aware of the problem, he doggedly continued on, and, soon enough, began to haunt the very same house of five siblings for fear of finding no one else to play for.
Still naïve, he never actually recognized the strangeness of the weather for anything to be concerned about. Nothing bothered him until the children began to cry, disturbed by something amiss; and he looked into the sky to see what he always saw. Clouds. Black and inky they may have been, but they were still clouds, and nothing to be afraid of.
So he put the flute to his lips, and he played his song, unaware of the creeping cold until it chilled his limbs, and stilled his heart. Barely conscious, but just so, his eyes saw nothing but ice and snow. It was fearfully like the scenario Badiane had envisioned for the world, one he had sworn to prevent. Now it was here.
But underneath the cold and the snow was an underlying frisson of warmth and comfort; a primal magic his own spirit could recognize. Do Not Worry. Do Not Fear. Everything would be fine. It was a silver glow that reminded him of a hot summer day in a large city, standing in front of a bakery. Where a young girl had stopped and stared at him plainly, un-awed by his presence.
He wondered if he’d ever see her again, or visit her dreams with his song; but the years had passed too quickly. By now, she would be an adult, putting away childish things.
When the ice and snow melted away, he lifted himself from the soggy ground, and began to search for another dream.
Now, he was searching again; it had been weeks since he had sensed that magic that lured him to a sleeping child. Had so many lost their dreams? It was disheartening. He had never understood the notion of death until he watched his brother forcibly transformed into a fragile mortal bird, and, consequently, had never wanted to end his own existence. But with the span of recognized years weighing him down, hurting his spirit, he was beginning to long for it to just stop.
But he flew on.
Across an ocean he soared, his wings quick as the bird his brother had become, though no longer as bright. He recognized this land and its fertile fields, no longer choked with cities and cars. Somewhere, near a bay inlet, he had met a girl and made the sweets dance for her. Now all he saw was a rising crystal tower, and a woefully small city that would have been swallowed
by the old.
Lost in his thoughts, his face sad, he didn’t recognize the call at first. The tickling of a beautiful child’s dream, making him warm; his fingers itching to play. It was a serenade without sound, calling to him. He hovered in mid-air, scarcely believing it; in this city of cold crystal, he had found a dream worth protecting.
And he knew this one.
He knew it as if it had been only yesterday.
“Chibi-Usa-chan,” he whispered breathlessly, beginning his ascent. She was alive! She still had her dreams! His heart was racing, and he imagined what she might do – perhaps laugh, giving him another kiss. How odd that he was now hoping he could stay just a little while longer than usual.
Pink hair out of the corner of his eye. He swooped down, smiling widely in anticipation of her eyes, his flute poised to play. He could make up a different song, one to make the flowers sway to his tune for her. Sitting as she was in the garden, her back to him, she still looked exactly the same as when he’d left her there on the beach. Even if in this instance, she was looking off and away.
And that was when another appeared to steal her smile.
Halting, the fairy watched with a sickening sense of sorrow as a beautiful Pegasus cantered up to his pink-haired memory, nudging her face with his nose. She laughed, and the sound was sweet; but it carried a finer note, the signal of change. Of growing up, and giving up childish things. His Chibi-Usa was not the child he had known at all; not for very much longer.
“E-li-o-su,” she sang, stroking the velvety nose of the Pegasus. “I missed you.” So engrossed in murmuring sweetly to him, she didn’t even notice the fairy behind her, looking as if his world had disappeared. The sense of betrayal was acute, though it wasn’t her fault; she was merely growing up. “Ne, ne, Elios!”
“Maiden.” The horned boy of Elysion was now there, holding her hands. “You’re very impatient, my maiden. After all, you’ve only just come back.”
“But I wanted to see you! Elios…I wanted you to know my dreams.” She looked away, shyly, as the fairy clenched his flute tighter, unable to speak up, unable to call her name. “Remember?”
Her dreams…he knew her dreams. He could tell them both about her beautiful dreams, so strong and pure and bright. About seeing them as she stood beside him, watching the sweets dance; about watching in horror as Badiane drained them away. She had the most lovely dreams he had ever seen.
They were parting now, his Chibi-Usa-chan, and the horned boy. Releasing one another to their duties, and as she ran inside, skirts lifted high, Elios turned towards him. “Perle.”
“Elios. Why? Why did you have to be the one? I saw her dreams as well, and they were so beautiful.” Twisting his hands around the flute, the fairy stared woefully at his opposite. “You and I are merely the same. But I don’t know what to say.”
“But you don’t love her, Perle. You love her childish dreams. That’s what you were created for. You and I are the guardians of different dreams. All you’ll have are those childish things.” Reaching forward as Perle came close, nimble fingers grasped the bag of cookies; with a quick jerk, they came loose. “Continue being the happy hummingbird, Perle. She put away her childish
things, and with it, you.”
The fairy swooned as the bag came loose, a ghostly image of a smiling child going with it, laughing. “Perle!” Just as quickly, he was blinking, rubbing his eyes with his fists like a proper child. “Ano…what am I doing here? Elios? Did I find a dream here?”
Elios held open his hands in a shrug. “I don’t know, Perle. Everyone here is a grown adult, and therefore, my duty to protect.” He watched with a sad smile as the fairy shrugged and flew away, hummingbird wings bright as the day they’d been created, the ghost of a little girl no longer whispering in his ear.
She was no longer that little girl.
On the bench, a moldering bag of cookies fell to dust and blew away with the spring breeze.