He tries to convince himself again that he doesn’t believe in this sort of thing. He says it out loud “You do not believe in this kind of shit.” and looks back. Its still there, perched on the edge of his oak desk. He has a degree in physics, he is a professor of it and has spent his life fighting against such nonsense, but its still there. He is overworked, that’s all it is, its stress, he needs a break. Still there. He doesn’t even believe in God, never mind this crap. “I’m a fucking atheist!” he shouts at it. The tiny little girl flutters her wings and smiles at him in response. She waves a wand, sparkles jumping from it, tracing its movements. ‘A wand!’ he thinks ‘It has a fucking wand?’ “Jesus Christ!” he mutters “if I am gonna have hallucinations can I at least have one’s that are not so bloody corny?”
“Fuck!” he screams and brings his hand down on the fairy girl, feeling her tiny, fragile bones crack and splinter under his palm, feeling her pathetic little struggles. For a second he even imagines he can hear her cries. There will be more though, he knows this, there always are. He watches the twisted, broken body twitch, its life fade away. He should phone his shrink, its what she said he should do when this happened and he should stop thinking of her as a shrink; she is a doctor he reminds himself and well qualified and he is clearly not well and she is trying to help him. “It happened again” he tells her when she answers.
“And did you engage? she asks,
“No.” he says but the pause that follows shows he is lying and he knows that she knows this.
“Ok.” he confesses. There is another pause but this time it is more like the doctor is thinking.
“Can i ask you to do something?” she says,
“An exercise”, pause, “think of it like an exercise.”
“Imagine they are real.”
“Ok?” he replies but feeling angry, of course fairies are not real but he wants help, knows that he needs it, this doctor is his lifeline back to reality.
“Would you still kill them if they were real?”
“Well of course not!” he snaps, as though this were a dumb question and for him it is. He tries to explain the biology of it, how for a creature to fly there has to be a certain proportion between body mass and chest cavity size, that these things, these damn hallucinations do not follow known laws of physics. There is another one now, was bound to be, a male, weeping over the dead one. He lifts the coffee cup, ready to crush his hallucination’s skull.
Yesterday his cleaner had mentioned some stains that she could not remove. He’d told her that there had been a bug or two that he had squashed and she had looked at him strangely, said something in Spanish and crossed herself and he had decided that it was probably worth paying out another quid an hour to get a decent cleaner. Should probably report the bitch to immigration too. There had been no bugs.
Now he looks at the boy fairy weeping over his lost love. It looks up at him, sees the mug hovering there and shrugs. It is a shrug that says ‘I have nothing left to live for anyway,’ that says ‘go on then, do it.’ How many has he killed this week? 17? 18? something like that. No, not killed, they’re not real. it is all in his mind.
“There’s another one,” he tells his doctor.
“Listen to it.” she says. Shit is he going to have to find another shrink too? Listen to it?
Then comes the noise, the crash. He has never had his door kicked in before, never been the victim of a home invasion, but there is no mistaking the sound, no misunderstanding what is happening. Brash, violent young voices rage in the hall below him and he hears his old grandfather clock crash to the floor. His first thought is to hide, but where? Under the desk? Ridiculous. In the cupboard? Shit, no. He has never thought about this before, has nothing he can use as a weapon and he cannot fight even if he did. They burst into the room, spitting loud, ugly words. There are three of them, one has a bat. They laugh at his obvious fear and weakness. This will be fun they think, they intend to take their time with him. Then they stop and freeze, staring at him, or rather around him. Terror runs across their faces like water down a window pane and they turn and flee. the bat is dropped and they scramble in panic over each other to get down the stairs and out of the flat.
There is silence again and he sits puzzled beyond explanation, still shaking. Something gentle lands on his shoulder. He turns and looks, it is a fairy and it is smiling at him. He smiles back.
“We were seriously considering giving up on you.” it says.
Picture taken from Terry Jones’ Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book
Champion by nature was a short story I wrote that I was invited to read live for Resonance FM on March 5 2010.