A Human in the Garden
from "Metheous Sighs"
The fire shone brightly against the smithy's skin, burned brightly in his eyes. Bright explosions from his hammer strikes tossed light and flame in wild circles and whorls around the anvil.
Fairies hovered and hummed around his head. He was used to them tugging on his hair and clothes as they groomed the tangles from his scalp and beard, and mended the small burns and tears that he acquired in the course of his day's work. He kept the garden warm year round. The flowers grew bright and full for his tiny companions to dart and play, tend and groom. It was an arrangement of long standing, a contract. Simple business, that was how it had all started. Now, though, it seemed to be different. Things had changed and he was changing with them.
Sometimes the thought would cross him consciously that maybe they thought he was a flower. Mostly he kept his mind on his work and barely took note of them. That was how it used to be. Now he looked for them, checked up on them, especially…
Today something tugged at his awareness. He stopped and stared deeply into the fire, searching the coals for an answer. The fire! The fire was the answer; the little ones rarely came this close to hearth or kiln, and never when he worked his iron.
Stepping back, he placed his massive tools gently in their proper places, ready when needed. Wayland the Smith was startled, a condition he rarely felt in his many centuries.
His massive underground workshop, normally darkened and lit only by the forge fires, now sparkled brightly. At first he thought that somehow someone removed the roof of the earthen barrow and he was exposed to the night sky and its myriad stars.
A feeling flared up, something like the beginning of anger. Had someone played a trick? "The Greens," he thought, "one of the Jacks or that Puck!"
But as he looked about, the ire turned to wonder. His shop was filled with the little ones from the garden, all aglow with fairy light.
One, slightly larger than the rest, floated toward Wayland's face. Gentle wisps of smoke curled from Wayland's hair and beard.
Her voice chimed like crystal, an elemental sound pitched high, resonating with purity through the barrow. "There is a human! In the garden!"
The smith stared, transfixed by her clear, luminous eyes. "Humans are mythical creatures," he replied quietly, unwilling to acknowledge the potential for an interruption of his work.
"It's been there for most of the moon!" The fairy hovered in place. She was going nowhere now that she had the smith's attention.
Pulling his mind away from the forge, he focused on the figure in front of him. Out of the mists of memory Wayland recalled her name. "Tiana." He spoke the name aloud, surprising them both. Stopping to adjust his throat the smith felt…well he didn't know what he felt. So many questions flooded his mind. How did all these fey folk get in? And without him noticing? And why did he have to struggle to awareness of anything other than his forge? His work was important; he had a contract. He was making no progress. The work he was turning out was fine, passable and serviceable to most standards. In the past the smith had set the standards. In recent times he had barely lived up to those standards. Now he felt ashamed at the work he had forged. It was unimaginative. He was uninspired. He had lost his art and he did not know how to get it back. He had been at the forge for days, and every single thing that he produced ended in the discard pile, waiting to be smelted down and re-used. And now this. This interruption. This annoyance.
He tried speech again. "Tiana, humans are mythical creatures."
"It's in the roses!" She chimed at him loudly, and all the host of fey chimed at him, "The roses! The roses!" The cacophony rose around him.
Wayland the Smith knew that humans were in fact real. In fact, he had known many humans once, long ago. The terminology confused him. They were all humans. What the fey meant was that there was a New Man in the garden. They were all of the First Men, the fairie and the elves and the giants. Wayland especially could lay claim to the term First Men. The dragoncy had been ancient even then, when Wayland was first given fire. And the little ones, these that floated before him now, had not yet existed. Not in this form.
Wayland knew that humans, the New Men, were not mythical any more than unicorns. They were just bothersome. And now he was bothered.
Another question then: How did a human get access to the lands? And without him noticing?
Wayland sighed and followed the stream of fairie folk out into the garden. The colors seemed to overwhelm him. How long had it been since he last walked through here? The path wound around into a small valley filled with carefully groomed shrubs. It may have looked chaotic to an observer, say, a human. Wayland, however, was able to see the patterns that the little ones enjoyed, the language of shapes and size, scent and shade. If noise was a color, this would be a cacophonous place indeed.
Suddenly the path turned and the color became rosy. Pink rose, yellow rose, green and blue rose, some purple, but always a rose. And, strategically placed, even the occasional red rose.
There at the center of the garden stood a tall, solemn, silvery steed, quietly and peacefully munching away at a sterling-colored rose bush. With each shift of his head, light spilled across his mane and coat, tail and flank, reflecting and refracting all around. Gently he dipped his head, carefully separating the branches with his long, twisting horn, moving the thorns away from his pure face.
His lips reached out and delicately wrapped about a deep red bloom, pulling firmly until the stem released its fruit. All the while the unicorn kept its gaze fixed on the disheveled human sitting in the midst of the rose garden.
The human was definitely worse for the wear, his clothing plucked and torn by the thorns, filthy from the elements; he looked to have been there for quite some time.
This would happen often in the olden days, Wayland reflected, back at a time when humans were more inclined to belief. They became enamored of the beauty of fairyland or even an individual fey and, as time passed differently in the land of sidhe, lifetimes or even generations may go by before they became aware of the passing of time. Returning to their world was always a difficult transition, and generally they were unable to handle the changes. Withering away, fading like a candle flame at the end of the wick, until only a dim spark remained and then…
Still, Wayland observed, perhaps this one wasn't too far gone. His clothing, once fine, was still in one piece. Well, mostly. His hair, although longish and unkempt, was not matted and tangled. Well, not too tangled. The fairy had been at play and there was the start of wreaths of flowers woven in braids about his ears and neck. It also looked like he'd been decorated with bits of twig and twine; a bird may have tried to make a nest in one section of his unkempt hair. Still, he looked to be in reasonable shape, for a human.
Wayland strolled casually up to the unicorn. Just for a moment the unicorn stopped chewing and shifted his large grey eyes toward Wayland in mild wonder. The smithy strolling casually?
"What…" Wayland's voice creaked and he adjusted his throat. "What do you have here?" The fairie flocked about the unicorn, plucking at bits of twig and leaves that might become entangled in his silken hair. Tiana flew directly to Wayland's shoulder and lighted upon the giant.
The unicorn's voice rang clear as a tolling bell, "We…" he stressed the word. "We have a human."
"In the garden!" Tiana chimed triumphantly. "In the roses!"
Again the fairy flew about chiming, "In the roses! The roses!"
Wayland rubbed his forehead and sighed, turning to look longingly back towards his forge. The fires would be cool by the time this was over. He thought for a moment…Pavane. The unicorn's name was Pavane. Just then a flutter of wings buzzed in his ear.
"Boo B.!" Tiana said, well pleased with the word. Wayland looked at her puzzled. "Its name!" she squeaked. "Its name is Boo B.!"
No, the smith was certain the unicorn's name was not Boo B. He turned to the little princess, puzzled. Wayland struggled to form his words. "How do you…why do you think that…" Just then the human muttered something. The smith bent closer to hear. "Booby hatch." It was more a breath than a vocalization. The human said it again. "Booby hatch."
"It says that a lot," Pavane put in.
"That's its name," Tiana rang. "Boo B. Hatch!" and all the fey chimed in, "Boo B., Boo B." It was all quite musical with the smooth humming of their wings. Wayland rubbed at his face again, a slight smile coming to his lips.
The unicorn looked at him with one raised eyebrow. Wayland explained, "In the land of the New Men, the humans, when they lose touch with what everybody else sees, they get put in a special place. It is called a booby hatch."
Pavane paused a moment, thinking. "It must be a wonderful place filled with magical and holy people," he stated.
Wayland did not pursue the thought.
The smith leaned over the human. Slowly the human raised its eyes, then its head. The human leaned backwards, trying to take in the giant form of the smith.
What went through its mind at that time, we do not know. It had already seen and been captured by fairie glamour. It had probably simply stopped to smell a flower and, out of the corner of its eye glimpsed that quick, subtle movement: a blur of wings, a moment of light, an innocent turn of head, and reality shifted as it became aware of the Realm. First a single flower fairy, then another. The human would have been shocked into stillness; then a unicorn stepped up to enjoy the sweet taste of rose petals. Its poor mind was expanded too quickly and it probably just stopped trying to comprehend. Humans are fragile creatures that way. They like their certainties, even if they aren't truths.
Now, a giant, towering above, began to bend down towards him. Back, back, and further back, eyes wide, mouth moving soundlessly, gravity took hold of the human's form. Wayland's hand swept out around the back of the man, catching him and scooping him up like a child.
The human was well past the point of struggling, his mind simply allowed the body to acquiesce to whatever happened. In other words, he went limp. Several roses of varying colors fell out of his lap.
"I keep trying to feed it," said Pavane, "but it won't eat." Wayland's massive hand caught up one of the falling blooms. He held it close to his face, staring.
Tiana whistled a few notes and several fairie spiraled about, scooping up the falling and fallen flowers, twinning them into Wayland's curling beard. A scent of the rose wafts into his nostrils and a brief smile passed deep within the forest of facial hair. The fairies spin back from Wayland in surprise. "What is his mouth doing?" asks one of the fey of Tiana.
Tiana was silent, just staring at the unnatural expression on the giant's face. The gang of fairies surrounding them lapsed into silence as well. Pavane plucked another bloom and watched, curious at the sight. The smith smiling? The fairy folk silent? This, he thought, won't last long.
Wayland turned with the human cradled in his arms, looking briefly at Pavane. No, he muses, no beast of burden here. Just himself.
As if he could read the smith's mind, Pavane said wryly, "If I was Chiron I could have done this myself. Unicorn not centaur, remember?"
Wayland opened his mouth wide and began to laugh. All the fey flew quickly upwards and into the surrounding trees, including the normally brave Tiana. The flowers that had been woven into his hair were now bouncing and shaking as the great giant of a smithy gave in to mirth. The human sighed, moaned slightly, and closed its eyes, slipping into blissful unconsciousness.
Slowly, skittishly, the fey returned from the trees, led by the brave Tiana who moved in close to Wayland. Many followed her tentatively, more circled around to flutter and hover near the silvery Pavane.
Tiana looked deeply into the smithy's grey eyes. To her surprise and delight the eyes looked back. Wayland shook himself as if waking up from a long sleep. He looked around at the garden and saw the beauty. He inhaled powerfully, taking in the full scent of flora and earth. He listened intently, hearing the hum, not just of the faerie wings, but also the buzz of insects, the soft brush of wind through leaves, the subtle touch of air on the wing of a soaring butterfly.
Tiana spoke. "Hello Wayland." Her voice changed and resonated with a stronger timbre, fuller somehow, richer and pitched deeper.
Wayland smiled at her. Had she gotten bigger just then? "Hello Tiana. I am happy you are still here." The smith's matter of fact tone was softer, tinged with affection.
"Metheous sighed!" the fairy voice chimed.
"I know," the smith replied. "I was there!"
"Me too!" Tiana's eyes twinkled and she smiled fiercely at Wayland.
The fairie mobbed about the giant's form. "Hear it! Hear all about it! All about! Tell! Tell! Talk! Talk! Hear it all!" Wayland staggered back laughing and this time the little ones laughed too. Surely there were many more of them than before, thought the giant. How beautiful they all are, he marveled. When had he stopped seeing them, he wondered.
"There is one important thing first," Pavane said pointedly. Everyone stopped and looked at the unicorn, who was looking pointedly at the human, passed out in Wayland's arms.
Wayland looked longingly about the garden, then down at the human. He let out a deep sigh. "Yes," he said, "I suppose he must be returned to his own places."
A gentle buzz arose from the gang of fey. "We will fix him," said a small sprite, and without further explanation the human was suddenly covered by whirring fairie forms, tugging and tying, winding and twining bits of thread and twig, feathers and flowers.
From somewhere deep inside the human's mind he was able to find his voice just momentarily. "Booby hatch," he breathed with eyes closed. The fairie had fixed him indeed, thought Wayland.
Some time later, a giant, a unicorn, and a flock of fairies moved down the street of a human town. The giant moved with purpose as the rest flowed around him, buzzing with conversation and observation. No humans noticed them, although there were many humans all about.
The fey circled closer and closer into the sphere of the giant, one by one settling about his shoulders and arms, neck and head, some slipping into his pockets with nonchalant timidity. As they lighted upon him they grew quiet, some covering their gentle ears with slender hands.
For the noise around them was chaotic. Huge machines of iron moved in all directions exhuming unnatural smells and smokes. The smile that Wayland had found and worn back in his garden was gone, replaced with a look of sad wonder.
The group walked randomly down the streets, sometimes at the edges, sometimes in the centers, magically missing or avoiding the human elements, and all the while unnoticed.
Even Pavane walked in tight proximity to the giant. Everything seemed to be moving very quickly, and yet with no joy.
Wayland seemed to have a goal and finally came to a stop in front of a large brick building. He stepped forward with the human still cradled gently and protectively in his arms. He looked quietly into the peacefully unconscious face of the man. Slowly he set the human on the steps of the building. Many men and women moved in and out of the squared structure, all dressed in some type of uniform. Many had belts with hard looking objects hanging and clattering about their hips. All looked very stern and official.
Wayland released his hold on the man. He turned to Pavane and said, "We are not doing him any favor."
"Still," Pavane spoke quietly, "if they listen to him, he could bring some joy to them."
"Booby Hatch," the human uttered.
The giant and the unicorn stepped backwards and waited.
It took some time before anyone noticed the human on the steps. Wayland stood stock still waiting, caring. He silently willed one of the humans to look and see Boo B.
A tall, slender man walked up and stood still near the unconscious man. He blinked twice and jerked in surprise as he noticed him. Suddenly another noticed and another. Soon there was a flurry of activity, with much checking of pulse and looking for papers that would identify him.
"Pulse is regular," one said. "Mr. Thurber, can you hear me, sir?" said another. A stretcher arrived and he was carried into the building, to be seen no more by the group.
"What will happen to Boo B.?" asked Tiana.
Wayland released a deep sigh. "If he's able, he will act as if none of this ever happened. If not…" his voice trailed.
Tiana looked over the smith's shoulder at the street. "What happened to all the horses?"
Pavane lowered his head, looking at the concrete all around. He pawed it once or twice, then also released a deep sigh. Neither he nor Wayland realized they had been holding their breath.
"Are we finished? Can we go home now?" Tiana spoke plaintively, sinking inside the folds of the giant's shirt. The fairie were all nestled, protected within various wrinkles and pockets, curls of hair and Pavane's mane. Wayland laid a huge hand gently, protectively over Tiana, placing his other on the shoulder of the unicorn. Giant and unicorn turned to face each other. A brief sparkle of combined magicks and the group slipped between the elements of the universe. A blink found them back at the garden.
Quietly the fairies separated themselves from cloth and hair, humming softly about their business. Some moved to check with the bees, "How is the honey today?" Some to groom the roses, "Over here Pavane, a big bloom!" Some floated gently and silently to the ground, picking up the scattered remnants of Boo B.'s fixing.
Wayland stood still in the midst of it all.
The unicorn said, "Don't you have work to do?"
Turning, Wayland looked at the rocky barrow that held his workshop. Between here and there, he thought, is a path of beauty. It is not so far, but I will take my time.
The giant sat down. From the trees and brush all about, the fairie emerged without sound. The fey floated to him quiescent. Pavane was joined by two other unicorns, Sala and Silletoe.
Tiana brought a perfect red rose to Wayland. Smiling, he carefully received the offering. He inhaled deeply, cleared his throat and began speaking.
"As you have heard, Metheous sighed…"
copyright 2005 Jeffrey J. Michaels www.jeffreyjmichaels.com Please do not reprint in part or whole without prior permission.