‘Oh God! What are the fairies doing now?!’
Bruce leant out of the window for a better view of his back yard, but quickly remembered the neighbours and withdrew. Jostled coffee splashed down his arm, the hot liquid soaking his white shirt sleeve.
‘Brilliant,’ he said with a sigh. Now he was going to be running for the bus. At least the neighbours hadn’t seen him this time. They had enough to talk about already!

He knew he was in trouble the day he started seeing fairies in the garden. Small, cute, butterfly wings – the whole deal. What would everyone think?! To discuss such a thing equalled a snug white jacket in a padded cell. Who employed people who saw fairies? Not the finance sector, that was for sure.

He ignored the merry laughter from underneath his treasured azalea bush and concentrated on his newspaper. Hmm, the Yen was falling again. That won’t be good for exports. Eventually, the hooting and jeering faded away and Bruce felt safely grounded in the real world. Clearly, stress was getting to him and inducing odd transient hallucinations. It couldn’t be anything other than that, and with a little relaxation he’d be fine.

The day was clear and warm, and Bruce hummed happily to himself as he stood on the crowded bus. The bright fluttering of dainty wings in a street tree caught his eye.
‘No, no, no! Not here as well!’
He had never seen them beyond his back yard before. Suddenly aware of people staring, he realised how he must look. After a quick wave to a pretend friend, he straightened and acted like nothing had happened. His fellow commuters gradually stopped regarding him warily and returned to their separate thoughts. Bruce rubbed his eyes and seriously considered seeing a psychiatrist. His stress medication was obviously not strong enough.

He tried hard to act normally. To act like he wasn’t seeing little apparitions in the shrubbery nearly all of the time. In desperation he had resorted to studying his workmates and consciously imitating their habits, as he was sure he was acting differently and needed to relearn how regular people behaved. He thought he was pulling it off, and no-one seemed suspicious of him so far. If anyone realised, he would be the local laughing stock and never get another consultancy. It helped that he had not actually seen anything odd while at work. This had become his refuge; his island of solid reality.

After a week of effort, he had nearly stopped itemising the different things that could be wrong with his brain. An increased dose of prescription medicine, burying himself in work, a new corporate wardrobe – these all helped him to focus. Avoiding his back yard and garden also helped.

The weekly finance meeting went well, Bruce thought. Only once did he have to stop himself drifting away, pondering his delusions. He silently reprimanded himself, and did not repeat the mistake. Despite the lapse he was still able to bluff his way back into the meeting. Synergistic intentions. Sizable shareholder profit. Increased market share and beat the competitors at all costs. Yes, he was doing alright; he belonged here. No-one in the room suspected a thing. These were his role models, and they could never imagine anything as frivolous as a fairy.

Bruce learnt to ignore the tricks his mind played on him. His will was stronger than that; he would not give in so easily. His was the road to corporate success. In defiance, he began to use his neglected yard again. Despite his lack of attention, the garden had never looked better. The fairies sat and waved at him, having tea parties in the leaves while Bruce sat in the morning sun with his paper and breakfast.
‘Fairies! What childish rubbish!’

The fairies looked at each other and tittered behind their hands. Honestly, the world had never been this much fun before! They had fled during an age of superstitious persecution, rather than wage a retaliatory war on humanity. The mortal world had not been a safe place for the fae.

The scientific revolution was the best thing that had happened since then, as far as the fairies were concerned. A golden age of technological enlightenment and scepticism had replaced the superstitious old ways. There were no longer any mysteries. The infinite workings of the world were understood, from tiny atomic particles to the ever expanding universe. The fairy exile could be lifted, and not a moment too soon. The natural world desperately needed tending. They had begun with Bruce’s back yard.

Janet from accounting haphazardly reapplied her lipstick; her thoughts focused on the old tree in her park that had spoken to her. Michael sat through the entire marketing briefing wondering whether he had really seen gnomes torment his cat, or if he was experiencing a psychotic episode. What would everyone think?!

The people mingled with the fairies throughout the city, yet not a word was spoken of it. Each person assumed the next did not see what they could. The ‘normal’ people did not want to be branded as crackpots, so continued with their daily routines, cautious not to appear out of the ordinary.

Constructive criticism welcome.

© 2008 Damian Herde



Toowoomba, Australia

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This story is published at AustralianReader (which was the Editor’s pick for March 2008).

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