“Magic,” Jillian muttered as she trudged down the forest path. “I need a little magic in my life.”
And she did. Midterms hadn’t gone very well. Not bad enough to put her upcoming graduation in danger, but still enough to ruin her spirits. Brent had just broken up with her. She was still in need of a final project for her documentary film class. All in all, not the best time to be her.
Then she noticed the spark. How could she not notice it, especially in the dimming light? It dipped, and swooped, and glided, and twirled along the pathway. Much like a leaf, it was. Only far too shiny to be a leaf. And Jillian didn’t think its light was reflected…the spark seemed to be generating it.
Then it paused, probably seventy or eight yards off. Jillian froze. Was it watching her, now?
The spark moved, covering the distance between them in three seconds. It hovered in front of her, bobbing softly up and down. And she could finally see what it was. It was a miniature woman, naked, with shimmering gold skin and wild shock-white hair. Only not quite a woman, exactly. Women didn’t have pointed ears. Or wings. A pixie?
It smiled at her. The smile was so open and pleasant that she returned it reflexively.
“Hello,” she said, and then fought down the urge to slap herself. Here she was, Jillian McCann, confronted with a mythical creature — she, who had just been asking for some magic in her life. And the best she could do was “hello?”
The pixie (for that seemed to fit best) grinned, waved.
“Umm…” And Jillian suddenly realized she was at a total loss for what to do next. Well, how often did you run across a pixie, anyway? It must have realized her discomfort, for it floated a little way down the path, facing her. And then beckoned.
“You want me to come with you?”
A vigorous nod. Jillian was afraid its little head would fall off. A few minutes later, they were deep in the woods. The pixie flew over the main trails, Jillian thought out of courtesy. But eventually it strayed from the path, and she was forced to follow up the side of a steep hill where the ground was thick with undergrowth. “This had better be worth it,” she grumbled.
As she reached the crest of the hill, she could see the next hill over, a smaller one. Nestled between the hills was a roughly circular open space, with a stream running along the side and flowers dotting the landscape. And hundreds of lights twisted about the air above it. Hundreds.
“It’s beautiful. But why show it to me?”
The pixie shrugged, as if to say, Why not?
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll tell somebody?”
And Jillian could have sworn she heard a small peal of laughter.
Suddenly, all the lights stopped in midair. And then in a moment, Jillian found herself surrounded by smiling pixies, looking her off, waving at her. She hadn’t realized until then that their bodies gave off a discernable heat. Being encircled by them was like being bathed in sunshine all the way round.
She waved happily. Some waved back. Some did cartwheels in midair. Some buzzed their wings. From all, she got a distinct sense of welcoming.
“Oh, I wish I could share this with people,” Jillian sighed. Then a thought struck her. “Wait. I have to leave at the moment, but…could I come back tomorrow? With my camera?”
Some pixies smiled, and buzzed approval. Some shrugged. No one seemed to reject the idea. Shortly they left, taking their warm glow with them, and Jillian was left shivering in the cold night air, her guide floating alongside. The pixie saw her back to the path, waved, and zipped off.
Well, Jillian reflected as she left the woods, that’s some magic. And a documentary subject.
She came back every day for a month, sometimes from sunrise to sunset, sometimes just when she had a spare hour. She found out what pixies eat — pollen, grass, and the occasional flower petal. She recorded the hatching of a new pixie from a tiny gold egg on the underside of a tree leaf. She got good footage of their houses, cleverly disguised as knots in the tree trunks surrounding the glen. She captured them playing in the stream. And every night she would take her camera home, upload the day’s work onto her computer, and edit the best bits with her previous footage.
It was going to be a spectacular documentary.
Except for one thing she hadn’t counted on. When she premiered her documentary at the end-of-semester film festival, no one else saw the small winged bodies frolicking about the landscape.
Her professor’s comments were scathing — “This wasn’t an exercise in postmodern fiction!” Brent walked out with some of his friends, all laughing about his perfect timing in dumping the crazy girl. And that’s what I am, I guess, Jillian thought as she stared at the screen. Crazy. Except I can’t be, can I? Haven’t I spent the last month practically living with them?
She looked up and saw Wes, one of the less remarkable students in her class. “Hi.”
“I loved your film.”
She snorted. “Yeah, yeah. Great postmodern blah-di-blah.”
“No, I really mean it. That hatching? It was amazing. Who could have thought things like that happened?”
She looked up at him dully. “You expect me to believe you saw them? When no one else did?”
“Well, I didn’t want to say anything.”
“Number one, I think you’re piling on at the end with a horrible joke, and so you’re a rat’s ass. Number two, if you actually did see them, then you’re a despicable bastard for letting me hang there by myself. Take your pick which.” Jillian rose and stormed toward the door.
But she stopped at the glumness in his voice. “I guess I’m a despicable bastard, then.”
Well, one way to be sure. “Okay, fine, then. What did they look like?” She’d never described them in the film, after all. Why describe what you were so confident your audience would see?
“Goldish skin, very shiny, like they were made of sunlight. Pure white hair. Poin–”
She grabbed him in midsentence and hauled him out of the room, towards the forest. And when they arrived at the glen, he was struck speechless by the sight. “It’s more beautiful than you made it look, Jill,” he whispered, and her heart melted. Just a little.
As he went down to meet the pixies, Jillian’s guide fluttered up.
“They couldn’t see you,” she said.
The pixie smiled, shrugged.
“Why couldn’t they see you?” she asked. “Why didn’t you tell me they wouldn’t be able to see you? It’s so perfect here, I wanted to share it with people!”
The pixie picked up a stick and scrawled on the ground: WHAT’S HE?
Jillian stared for a moment. Then laughed in release. Then went to join Wes.
They spent all night surrounded by one kind of magic, and spent the next months discovering another, more human form. And for years after they continued to visit the glen in the forest, and spent long afternoons seeing things that most humans are never lucky enough to see.
They hoped that one day, their children could see the pixies too.
Let me know what you think of the story. If you like it, please feel free to forward the link to your friends! If it wasn’t to your taste, better luck tomorrow — a new piece of short fiction goes up every day.