A boy moves to the country and finds that mythical friends can be the best kind.
|When his mom told him they were moving to her late grandfather’s place in the country, Curtis half-heartedly put up the expected resistance. When he saw the old vine-covered house she had inherited, he turned to his mother and asked suspiciously “Do we have electricity or is it homework by candlelight?”
Actually, Curtis didn’t mind moving. He didn’t have any friends, so it wasn’t as if he had a great life that he was leaving behind. A house offered more freedom than the small apartment they’d lived in after the divorce. In the big country house, he could run up the stairs without neighbors complaining about the noise. Curtis especially loved the unkempt landscaping of the grounds surrounding the old place.
The house was set back from the road and at the top of the gravel driveway stood a large, stone statue. It had the body of a dragon with two wings and two legs. The dragon’s stone claws clutched the edge of its marble pedestal and its wings were spread as if in readiness to jump off and fly. The creature’s eyes were not stone, rather they were made of some shiny gem, green and faceted to reflect the light. Its long serpentine tail curved up and over its back with just its arrowed end pointing to the sky. Curtis was very impressed with this stone guardian.
Although the hedge that lined the length of the driveway appeared not to have been trimmed in decades, at night it came alive with fireflies darting here and there. Curtis came to love living in the old house, even if it looked abandoned and haunted. Every night, he sat on the porch and looked up into a sky full of stars or watched the flashing torches of fireflies in the scraggly hedge.
Because he was used to spending time alone, Curtis had to feign the expected excitement when his mom announced that Aunt Jane and his cousin Ryan were going to visit over the weekend. He and Ryan were the same age and to mothers, that meant you should be best friends. Curtis wondered what his mother would say if she were expected to be friends with everyone she met that was the same age as she. He sighed at the illogical way adults viewed children.
Ryan’s visit was no less tedious than Curtis had expected it to be. By Sunday evening, he was more than ready to see Ryan leave. For one thing, Ryan had become obsessed with the fireflies and didn’t want to do anything but chase them.
“Hey, I got one”, Ryan yelled. He started to run toward Curtis with a glass jar in hand, then suddenly stopped. “Uh, nope. Guess I missed it”, he said, slipping the jar inside the front pocket of his hoodie.
Curtis felt relieved. When he had encouraged Ryan to come out and watch the fireflies, it was just because Curtis thought they were cool. He didn’t expect Ryan to try to catch them. But Ryan was as new to this country stuff as he was, there were no fireflies in the city. Aunt Jane was already in the car, waiting for Ryan when they got back to the house. Curtis waved goodbye happily. What a pain Ryan could be!
When he finally got into bed that night, Curtis was ready to sleep. He’d nearly drifted off when a strange tapping sound at the window roused him from his semi-conscious state. The old house made lots of noises, but this wasn’t one he’d heard before. He was getting used to the creaking of the floorboards and the whistling of the wind in the old-fashioned wood shutter outside his window, but this sound was different. His head clearing, he realized it was a faint tapping on the glass. Curtis rose and went to the window. A tiny speck of light flashed on and off. Firefly, he decided, and turned to go back to bed. Just then a tiny voice sounded.
“Help us! Let me in! You must help!”
Curtis turned back to the window. His eyes focused on the light that danced just outside and despite having pinched himself very hard, he was still convinced that it had a face and it was calling out to him. He still figured he was dreaming, so he went to the window and opened it, because in a dream, that would be the logical thing to do. The tiny creature flew into his room.
“Oh, thank goodness. You must help us. That other human boy captured one of us and took her away in a jar.”
“No, he was catching fireflies”, Curtis replied, vaguely aware of the absurdity of answering an illusion. “Besides, he didn’t catch anything.”
“But he did, and now you must go to him and demand her release. Fairies cannot live in jars. Lilliana will die”.
“Now, look here”, Curtis said. “Assuming that you are a fairy and that Ryan caught this Lilliana and took her away, the best I can do is ask him to bring her back. But he won’t be back for weeks, maybe months.”
At this the fairy began to sob so pitifully that Curtis could feel the depth of her distress for the first time. He was still inclined to believe that this was a dream, but he understood the rule that you must believe dreams are real, so he listened intently as the fairy told her story.
The fairies lived in the garden but only came out of the thick hedges at night, when they danced the sacred dances of old. They were often mistaken for fireflies from a distance. It had been years since any human child had lived in the house, so they had forgotten to be cautious and stay hidden. Human children were very dangerous to fairies.
“But you’ve come to my room, aren’t you afraid?” Curtis asked.
Marigold - for that was the fairy’s name - had volunteered to approach Curtis. None of the others dared, but her concern for Lilliana made her heedless of her own safety. Curtis was her only hope of rescuing her friend, so Marigold had to take the chance. She dismissed Curtis’ idea of asking Ryan to return the kidnapped fairy.
“He will never return her, he will try to use her magic”, she told him.
Curtis explained to Marigold how impossible it would be for a kid to get to the city on his own and how unlikely it was that his mother would drive him there to rescue a fairy that had been stolen from their garden. Adults don’t actually believe in fairies, even though they tell tales about them and make you leave your baby teeth out for them. Marigold quickly explained her plan for getting Curtis to the city and retrieving Lilliana. While she spoke, Curtis’ face began to screw up in the most incredulous expression and it remained that way as they left the house and as they walked out to the driveway.
He stood at the top of the driveway, facing the stone statue. Marigold fluttered above its head, her iridescent wings creating a rainbow of color in the light that emanated from her body. She looked more magical here in the night than she had in the light of his bedroom. She reached for a small linen bag tied to her waist, and sprinkled its contents over the statue. Suddenly, there came the sound of crumbling rock and with shuddering and uneven movements, the statue sprang to life and gave a great roar. Curtis jumped back in surprise and fell on his backside in the gravel.
“There,” Marigold said. “You can ride the wyvern to the city and set Lilliana free.” She said this as if a boy riding a statue-turned-live-mythical-creature to rescue another mythical creature was the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps it was, to her, but it took several minutes for the idea to settle into Curtis’ brain.
The wyvern stretched his freed limbs and lifted his wings. Marigold told him of his mission and he snorted and nodded. She told Curtis to climb upon the wyvern’s back and told him not to worry.
“He is gentle and loyal”, Marigold told Curtis. “He can track your friend and take you there, all you must do is retrieve the jar in which Lilliana is imprisoned”.
With that, the wyvern soared into the night sky. Curtis watched the world pass by beneath him with exhilaration. The wind was cool as it flattened his hair against his head. The wyvern's wings beat an ancient percussion against the air. It was not long before Curtis spied the lights of the city and within moments they were suspended outside the fourth floor of Ryan’s apartment building, peering in his bedroom window. A few taps at the window got Ryan’s attention.
Perhaps Ryan had begun to have sympathy for the little fairy or perhaps it was just the sight of a dragon with claws and wings at his window that made up his mind, but whatever decided him, Ryan handed over the jar immediately. The wyvern turned for home and they flew right back to the garden where Marigold waited. Curtis unscrewed the lid to the jar and set Lilliana free.
After that night, Curtis never worried again about making friends or being lonely. He could sit on the porch and view the starry night sky. He could sing and dance with the fairies. And, whenever the night was clear and the weather suitable, he could borrow a bit of fairy dust and bring the wyvern to life. Then they would fly through the clouds together. He decided that a fairy and a wyvern were among the best friends a boy could have.
Word Count: 1626