Fairy in a Jar

I woke in my empty bed alone, and heard again that which had disturbed me – a slight rustling from the direction of my desk. Some insect or such, was my immediate thought. Not worth bothering about, for whenever I hear some mysterious noise, and turn on a light, whatever made it is usually gone. Almost, I went back to sleep, but the rustling continued, and then came a sound that shocked me to consciousness – a gasp.

I sat up in bed and turned on the light. Certainly I was not expecting the sight that greeted me. On my desk, her leg pinned under my open diary, was a tiny humanoid girl, her crystalline wings beating as she tried to pull herself free. She froze and stared at me with fear in her blue eyes, which shone in the sudden light that spilled over my shoulder, and must have made me look like a hulking shadow.

I was surprised.

She tugged at her leg once more, and my diary shifted a bit. In the back of my mind, I wondered how she had managed to get trapped in this fashion. Then I remembered that this particular diary had the irksome habit of opening itself, no matter how often I laid books upon it overnight. Sometimes it would – well, not spring open – but open with enough force that the movement would startle me, and then make me angry in a way that only inanimate objects have the power to do. The diary did not care, of course, proudly displaying empty days unsullied by plans or engagements.

Perhaps that is how my mysterious visitor had become trapped? A diary ambush as she explored my desktop?

I became worried she would escape, and no one would ever believe what I had seen. I leapt from bed, scanning around for something to catch her in, and spotted my change jar on the bedside table. Upending it, I spilled the coins out onto my bed, and went toward her brandishing it. She squealed, and her movements became more frantic. I closed the jar down over her and, with the lid ready, lifted up the diary to release her. As she drew her leg clear I tipped the jar, spilling her into it, and screwed on the lid.

Well, this was quite a thing. Still disbelieving of what I was seeing, I held her up to see her more closely. She was, for all intents and purposes, a tiny woman with wings. Her hair was raven black and tousled from her ordeal, her skin as smooth as a porcelain doll, and she wore a white dress with trailing threads. Her wings beat slowly as she rose up in the glass, feeling about for a way out, obviously greatly distressed. I thought of all the grubby fingers that had touched the grubby coins which had so recently bulged against the glass, and it sickened me that such a delicate creature would be besmirched by their residue. I started thinking about transferring her into something else, but was terrified of losing her before I could prove to someone else that I wasn’t mad, that she was real, and that I had, indeed, caught a fairy. Even I doubted myself, wondering if I had truly woken, or if I experienced some wild and vivid night time fancy. If I could see her in daylight, perhaps that would prove that she was real.

Inside the jar her exertions grew ever more desperate, and she pushed against the lid with no chance of budging it. I worried she would use up all her air, and knew I should, at the least, put an air hole in the lid. Glancing around my desk, I saw my pen knife, and picked it up. Immediately she panicked, as if she thought I would do her in, and it made me feel so bad that I put the knife down immediately. Besides, I thought, I was not sure I could work a hole into the lid slowly, and instead might need a swift downward motion with the knife to poke it in, which would shock and jolt her. I also did not like the chance that when the knife point came through, it would hurt her. Still, I had to get air to her.

I resolved to very carefully unscrew the lid, just enough to let in a bit of fresh air, but not enough for her to squeeze through. This I did, and as soon as there was the slightest gap available, she flew up and stuck her fingers through it, trying to raise the lid up even more. She could not, of course, my strength being that of a giant in comparison, yet I could not screw the lid back on with her tiny hands in danger of being crushed.

‘I don’t want to shake you,’ I told her. Her wings looked so delicate, enough to break if I jiggled the jar, and besides, I was struck by the notion that I did not want her to be afraid of me. I already felt like a monster – the way she looked at me, and the manner in which I had trapped her, made me feel like some ogre-like captor.

She floated to the bottom for a moment, tears running down her cheeks, and I closed the lid.

‘I just want someone else to see you,’ I told her, trying to be reassuring. But what then, what next?

I could take a photo, I supposed, but who ever believed photos of supposedly mythical beings?

It is a great crime to trap a fairy …

Where those words came from, I’m not really sure. Had I read them in a story, or had they been told to me? They issued up into my mind, perhaps part of some unwritten law, simply occurring when applicable.

… but those who free one will always be rewarded.

Perhaps from one of the tales my parents read me as a child? Perhaps I just made them up to satisfy a growing urge, despite the sadness it would cause me.

I took her to my balcony doors, and opened them onto the night. It was cool, the night, nearly Spring, and stars twinkled brightly over tree tops and powerlines. I sat down on my chair and took a last look at her.

‘No one will ever believe me,’ I said, and she went still, blinking at me uncertainly. ‘But I’m sorry I trapped you.’

I set the jar down and removed the lid. She shot upwards immediately and darted away into the dark, such a whir that I could hardly make her out. I stood, looking after her. My heart grew heavy, for maybe I had wanted more – for her to hover before my face, and smile her thanks before she left? – but I could not blame her for wanting to be away. I had not given back anything except what I had taken, and how could she trust that the compulsion to trap would not overtake me again? Still, I was grieved. I wondered how, after this, anything could ever be normal again. How could I rise to the mundanity of the morrow, and go about my work with any kind of focus, after this experience?

And then I heard a giggle, and a fluttering of wings. Although I did not see her, something changed in the air around me. The weight upon my heart seemed to lift.

Suddenly I was very tired and forgetful.

I went inside and got into bed, spilling coins onto the floor. The clinking made the girl under the covers give a quizzical little murmur, and I put my arm around her, glad for her warmth after the cool of night.

‘Are you awake?’ she asked.

‘Yes.’

‘I thought I saw something,’ she said drowsily. ‘The strangest thing.’ She turned slowly in my embrace to nestle into my chest.

‘What was it?’

‘I …’ She frowned, with her eyes closed, and yawned. ‘Something about … I was here, with you, but something was … different …’

She drifted off to sleep, and I smoothed her dark hair back from her face.

‘Sounds like a dream to me, my love.’