A young woman stepped out of the wall in front of Laura, causing her to jump about a foot in the air. She landed hard, her heart beating fast. “What on earth?”
“My apologies for frightening you, but I need to talk to you before we go into the room,” the woman said in a tinkling voice, like ice cubes falling on glass.
Once she calmed a little, Laura noticed the interloper’s milky skin, her extremely thin, tall, body, with its excessively long arms and legs, and the gossamer wings folded on her back. She wore a pink ballerina-like costume draped with a shimmery robe whose colors seemed to vary between purple, pink and blue, with an occasional flash of green. Curly blond hair held back by a sparkly tiara and pale blue eyes completed the picture; this was surely the fairy who was giving tonight’s presentation.
If Laura had any lingering doubts, the fairy’s next words dispelled them. “Our spies have watched you since you were a tiny girl. You have much to learn, but you’re our only hope. If you don’t save the world, our fairy kingdom is doomed. Already, we’ve lost so many of us.”
Laura shrank away. How could everyone pin their hopes on her? She was just a kid. She had no idea what to do to even save herself. “How can I do anything?” she asked, hearing the whiny note in her voice, but unable to suppress it.
The fairy held a finger to her mouth. “Shhh,” she whispered and looked around. “Do not worry. I have only come to tell you that we will help in any way that we can. When you are ready in a few years, we will find you again. Now, do not expect much from this presentation. We have much to hide from the other witches.”
“You trust me?” Laura asked.
“Oh, yes,” the fairy said. “As I said, we have watched you all your life. We know you better than you know yourself. The way you stepped in a took care of your brother — well, you are nothing like your mother, that is certain.”
“Is that a good thing?” Laura felt offended. She had adored her mother.
“Oh, yes.” The fairy’s laugh sounded like church bells. “You do not let your power go to your head.”
“No,” the fairy touched Laura’s nose with the tip of her wand, “we do not have time to argue. She was a good woman. She would have done the job we need, but she could not time travel on her own, unlike you and your father. You are very special, you and your brother. We saw your uniqueness and pointed you out to the Witch Council.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “And you are even better than we thought. But now we must go.” The fairy opened her wings. She grinned mischievously. “Does not hurt to look like the pictures to trick enquiring eyes.” Batting her wings, she rose into the air and slipped through the closed door.
Laura opened the door the normal way and found a chair at the back. The room went completely silent as the fairy flew to the front. Laura sensed the wonder of everyone, even, she probed a little, Zeke. Maybe the fairy’s presence would be enough for him to disown his dark side.
“Hello, young witches,” the fairy said, in her tinkling voice. Laura smiled. “Who is in charge of the projector? I have a USB memory stick with slides and videos to show you.”
The kids all gasped. Who’d expect a fairy to use modern technology? The fairy laughed, this time making a sound like a knife tapping a crystal goblet. “We are here all around you. Of course we use computers and cameras.”
Jeremy took the memory stick from her. Soon, a photo appeared on the screen. It looked like a park.
“We,” the fairy said, “live in the plants and undisturbed ground. Places like this one.” Then she showed a photo of a city street. “When the land is paved, and buildings cover it, we have to move or die.”
The teenagers moaned. They all knew that fairies were their strongest allies in the fight to save the biosphere.
The fairy nodded. “We survive on nectar. We eat nothing else. We drink the dew off flower petals, but they must be unsprayed. Herbicides and pesticides, diesel fumes, and all of the other chemicals weaken and kill us.”
She explained that fairies occupy land the world over. They travel from one spot to another on the backs of birds and insects. The greatest populations inhabit the remote areas of the world, especially the rainforests. While the British Isles used to have the greatest density of fairies, now only a few hundred still live in England, and a few thousand on the other islands. A map of fairy densities illustrated her point.
Laura sensed the fairy was leaving out important information. If fairies could walk through walls, they could go more places than she was admitting, but Laura didn’t explore this knowledge any further because she didn’t want to miss the rest of the presentation.
“We are divided into seven kingdoms, each with its own royalty. Our kingdom is ruled by Queen Rubythroat.”
The most beautiful face Laura had ever seen appeared on the screen. A rich voice spoke. “Hello, young witches. I am so glad to convey this message to you, our best hope for the future.”
The screen went dark, to be replaced by a picture of a tunnel. “My home,” their speaker said. “This is the entrance, and this is my main room.” The screen changed, to show a space filled with toadstools of various colors and shapes, the walls shimmering all the colors of the rainbow.
“What about your magic?” Zeke asked, interrupting her. “I’ve heard that you can transform people into pigs.”
“Ah, I was just getting to that,” the fairy switched to her next slide. It showed a chart of fairy powers: making wishes come true, flying short distances, disappearing, transforming themselves, speeding plant growth, and a few other minor things. She batted her wings at them and rose into the air, then winked out and appeared behind them. Landing and walking back to the front, she said: “as you can see, we have little magic compared to yours. And no, we cannot turn anyone into a pig, not even you, Zeke.”
Laura felt Zeke’s surprise that she knew his name, then a little angry burst. Laura heard the fairy in her head, saying that she wanted to make him angry so he wouldn’t question her words. In other words, she was lying, which Laura had known immediately. Who else realized that?
The fairy tapped her wand on a chair to get their attention, as the room had erupted in conversation. A photo showing a group of tall thin individuals appeared on the screen. “These are some of my friends,” she said. “Next we have a short clip of them in action. I hope you do not mind, but I set it to The Flight of the Bumblebees.”
The young witches stopped talking. The fairies on the screen spread their wings and slowly rose in unison. One by one they shrank until they were tiny. They flew around, appearing and disappearing. One of them changed into a bee. The others became butterflies, birds, and beetles, landing on flowers, trees, and each other.
When the film stopped, the fairy seemed to have vanished, until someone noticed Zeke swatting at his ear, where a bee was threatening to land. Everyone laughed and the insect turned into their fairy. She landed next to him, instantly human-looking again.
“Any more questions?” she asked.
A boy in the back of the room shouted: “How old are you?”
“In human years? Three hundred and ten or twelve, I believe. In fairy, I’m twenty-one.”
A girl up front asked: “is it true you used to switch human babies for fairy babies?”
“Of course not. Why would we want a human child? They are trouble. We only take them in and care for them when people leave them out in the cold to die. Usually they are to sick to cure, but sometimes they live and stay among us.”
Jeremy walked to the front of the room and tapped his watch. “We’re out of time. Let’s thank our guest. If you want to talk with her, she’s staying until the end tonight for a more serious discussion of our alliance with the fairies and the dangers we face together. We’ll take a fifteen minute break then gather in our circle. Help yourselves to refreshments.”