There was a fairy that lived beneath the waterfall
- among the ferns
and moss and baby monkeys that came from miles around to play in the sun
Brad didn't really hate the fairy (he had, after all, risked his job for
the creature) but it made him feel frustrated and confused, and sometimes, in moments of weakness, he thought
that he did.
“Fairies” he spat angrily before realizing he just didn't have the words
to finish the sentence. It didn't matter much, it was Saturday afternoon
and unable to deal with being at home he had come into work
to sit alone at his desk and fret pointlessly over what had happened at
Though it was more than half a world away from where he was sitting Brad
had been to the waterfall and meet with the fairy just days earlier-
he had handed over his business card (a specially made one, no bigger
than his thumbnail) and (ever so carefully) shaken its hand using the
tip of his little finger.
He thought about this and said, “Fuck!”
Brad wasn't the sort of guy who usually swore out loud when he was
alone, but today he was feeling flat and sad and shaky, and knew it
wasn't just the dengue fever or side effects from his malaria pills.
It was guilt, and specifically it felt like a swarm of parasitic worms
were having a disco in his stomach.
“Fuck” he said again loudly, and then, muttering- 'It's always the
nice ones that make it it difficult'.
He was referring to the conversation he had with the fairy the day
before last when, in his capacity as a human resource professional, he
had indicated that the forest it lived in would soon be defoliated
(first through aerial spraying then old fashioned slash and
burn), the waterfall leveled by men driving heavy machinery and the
stream diverted into purposeful plastic pipes which would ultimately
make it possible for the glade to become part of the largest pineapple
plantation in the free world.
Brad felt bad because the fairy hadn't whined or complained or
carried on when it got this news.
Sure the shock had been enough to make it fall from where it was
fluttering in front of his face into the stream, but fairies are very
strong swimmers, and after it had crawled out of the clear water onto a
sunny rock and had the chance to shake the water off its dragonfly
wings and out of its little mop of red hair it had looked up at him in a
way that seemed to show it was willing to listen.
Brad thought he saw something in its eyes that looked like fear, but
less friendly fairies he had known would have just flitted away or had a
bee hive to drop on his head at this point, so just for its attention he
was grateful. He knew then that he had succeeded, because his arguments
for defoliation and mono-culture had been crafted by a team of people
with PhDs in fairy lore, and just as they had assured
him, when he had finished explaining them to the fairy, he looked down
and saw it nodding its head.
“I see” it said. When fairies speak they sound a lot like people imagine
them to- high pitched and strangely speed up. Happy, hyperactive
creatures they very seldom sigh, but the odd thing is that when they do
they sound like like humans.
The fairy had sighed and said, “I understand
Three weeks later the fairy was moved from the doomed forest by
means of a small airmail package that had been specially labeled to warn
anyone might handle it that the contents were fragile.
Brad had lied to the fairy and told it that his employers at United
Fruit Corporation understood that once the forest was gone it would need
somewhere new to live, and were, as responsible corporate citizens,
committed to finding it a new home. He said that inside a photocopy
machine at their head office was a little alcove perfectly suited to
a dynamic 21st century fairy such as
This wasn't completely untrue- there really was room for a fairy in the
photocopy machine, though he
had absolutely no right to offer it a place there as he had done. He had
been sent to the waterfall for the sole purpose of making it possible
for the company to meet what it had been advised was its minimum legal
obligation when it came to dealing with fairies. Research had shown that
over 95% of forestry workers didn't recognize the existence of such
entities and were naturally not at all adverse to rolling over them with
a bull dozer. His job was simply to make the fairy aware of this
and, precedent had shown, that if it choose to hang around after that
it would do so at its own risk.
Arranging for it to be parceled up and posted to a new home on the other
side of the world was something he had undertaken completely on his own.
He had greased palms and pulled strings, and prayed for the very best of
luck, because that's what it would take for everything to hang together.
It wasn't just being found out by the company that he worried about
(though urban fairies were caught flitting about on CCTV fairly often
security guards, like bull dozer drivers, tended to ignore them) his
plan depended on the large extent on the fairy being grateful and well
For all the risks involved what he was doing was essentially a
compromise. He worked in an environment where the belief that scouring
an ancient ecosystem from the face of Earth was a fair price to pay for
dominance in the world market for sugared
pineapple treats could not be questioned, and burnt tree stumps and
mangled forest creatures were getting into his dreams.
Saving the fairy was an opportunity he had seized because it seemed like
an act of resistance he could get away with, but what he had hoped would
be a quick way to quiet his worries had turned out to involve dunking himself in a swamp of
complicated and flimsy lies.
And as the day that the package with the fairy in it was due to arrive
drew closer it was the unit on fairies he had taken in business school,
and what he had learned there about the terrible fate of the supertanker
Exon Valdeez, that was increasingly keeping him awake.
The Exon Valdeez had been a futuristic crude carrier run by early model
computers and a minimal number of Taiwanese sailors who were
perpetually cold and homesick.
Inspired by a theory that had first gained credence in the early 70s,
that having one around could help things run more smoothly for both man
and machine, the company had also installed a single fairy on board, one
of many they had displaced during the building of an oilfield in
Admittedly fairies from that part of the world had been known since the
time of Sinbad for their particularly devious and macabre sense of
humor (who had famously refused to put to sea with any
on-board) although like all of them it was fundamentally good hearted.
It had noticed that none of the sailors looked very happy and thought
that, as they were sailing off the Alaskan national wildlife
preserve it might cheer them up if he messed with the tanker's steerage
system in such a way that they came close enough for them to enjoy the smell of pine on the breeze and perhaps
spot a grizzly bear.
It was about three that morning, with utter blackness all around and the
couple of guys who were supposed to be on watch fast asleep, that the
ship plowed into a bristling cluster of submerged rocks, tearing open
one side of its hull with a sound that must be something very close to
that of almighty God undoing his zipper and heaving its half out of
water its barnacles and rust and sea weed of its underbelly suddenly
exposed and vulnerable right in the teeth of an Arctic gale.
The crew were able to get away though the computers went down with the
ship providing, in a world where the existence of fairies
remains highly controversial, ideal scapegoats.
The Yemenite fairy was last seen swimming for shore (they propel
themselves the water with their wings) where it was no doubt found a new
home for itself among the salmon streams and glaciers.
Overall it was the sea creatures of the Alaskan panhandle that were
worst off, they found themselves smothered and poisoned by a slick of
oil the size of which the world had before seen. The beaver population
was reduced by a full two thirds, and as far as anyone could tell the
northern subspecies of the little blue eyed penguin (which was already exceedingly
rare) was entirely wiped out.
As the day that the package containing the fairy was due to arrive grew
increasingly, began to freak out which for a buttoned down corporate drone like him meant drinking twice the usual amount of coffee and developing dark smudges around his eyes.
He was stricken by the foolishness of what what he had done, and he
wished he could take it all back- the forest could go to hell, it was pineapple that paid the rent, and while he had started by
seeing his self appointed mission of finding the fairy a new home as a
symbol of hope in a cruel world he began to to think of it was a bad
seed that would eventually spout and destroy his career.
He could see how it would be, the fairy spending its days snoozing in the
dark interior of the copy machine (though undeniably hyperactive when
they're out and about given the chance fairies will sleep for up to 18 hours each day)
its wing's folded, its tiny legs bunched up, it's tiny eye lids
flickering with syrupy dreams of fruit
flavored ice cream and the knowledge that, apart from making it
possible for more people to enjoy this wholesome treat, everything it
had left behind in the forest, from the ferns to the minnows, were being
provided with new homes where they could be productive and happy.
Because of him it believed, for example, that the cosmetics company that had acquired most of the baby monkeys had
promised to let them
play with all the face paint they wanted, and he knew that he had been
an idiot to not see that on a long enough time line it would find out
the awful truth].
Brad thought of the chaos that had that a single well meaning fairy had
caused on that supertanker way back in 1989, and knew
that if it ever found out the truth about what they had done to it's
forest and everything that had lived there, the results would be strange and
Three days after the fairy arrived they had to evacuate
To Brad's relief the authorities did not suspect the involvement of a
fairy, instead first blaming terrorists using high tech biological
weapons before later switching to the theory that it was some kind of
complex computer glitch in the sewerage system at fault.
The whole block was quarantined and the building itself sealed and
pumped full of some kind of noxious bug spray which slowly killed every
one of the millions of enormous glowing beetles which, one very ordinary
Tuesday evening had began steaming relentlessly upwards from every
toilet and sinkhole in the place until the entire 30 story building heaved
and swarmed with them.
They were outlandish looking beasties, their heavy orange wing cases
were covered with green blotches that glowed in the dark, and although
no one could remember ever having seen such a thing before prominent
entomologists later testified that the creatures were
local and had indeed thrived and multiplied in rock fissures underneath
the city for millions of years.
But for the question of why they had chosen Tuesday the 16th of October 2008 to leave
their natural habitat and storm the corporate HQ of United Fruit
Corporation they simply didn't have an answer.
Once it became clear that no one suspected that he had caused the
disaster by loosing a wild fairy in the office Brad started to focus
on how he could back there before anyone else and make sure that it
stayed that way.
It was more than a month before he got the chance and even then they
made him wear a gas mask. Brad had never worn one before and was
startled by his reflection when he saw it as he rode up in the lift. He
had turned up that day in his usual suit and tie and this thing on his
head gave him a look of a mechanical pig with an office job- vast eyes the color of pond scum, a mechanical, rasping snout, dress
On level twenty, where the fairy had been living, the dead bugs were
thick on the floor, and stepping on them sounded like walking over fresh
snow. Even through the respirator there was the dead bug smell which was
something like roasted chestnuts. With nowhere to go the bug spray had
liquefied and clung to the walls and computer screens as tiny oily
droplets and made everything slightly yellow.
Brad hadn't expected it to be easy to find the fairy. He thought that
that all the noise and chaos that had gone along with the bettle infestation/terrorist scare might have frightened it into hiding.
Even at the best of times fairies generally prefer to either stay hidden
or flutter about in a way that makes them very difficult to spot, so
he was genuinely surprised to walk past the deserted break room and see
it plunked on the edge of the ping pong table, its legs hanging limply
over the side, its back a little hunched, its wings no longer quite
transparent but instead the same brittle yellow of week old
He saw it before it saw him- it was sipping black Nescafe out of a
tiny expresso cup it held with both hands, it had a really nasty hacking
Stuck to the wall beside where it was sitting was a postcard someone had
brought back from a forest in Thailand, and at first
Brad thought that it might be pining for home, but then he
saw it wasn't looking at it or anything really, just past it's feet to the bug
coated floor below.
“Hey” Brad raised his hand awkwardly, and the fairy
started to say something but was drowned out by another fit a coughing.
“Hey” it choked miserably, not looking up at him.
Full of guilt and fear and curiosity Brad pulled a chair up to table.
The fairy didn't need any more prompting to tell its story. Of course it
had no way of knowing what really happened to baby monkeys in cosmetics
labs or that its favorite banyan tree had been pulped and turned into
Hello Kitty toilet paper, Brad might have looked frightening in his gas
mask, but as far as it was concerned he was the man who had saved the
the forest, and deserved an explanation.
Yes it admitted, it had used its fairy powers to summon the beetles up
from the sewers, but it wanted Brad to understand that in doing so it
had only meant for the best.
It said that for all its first day at the office it had been confused
and vaguely upset. Homesickness or culture shock would have been the
obvious answers of course, but it didn't so. This was
something else, something it had felt before, although somehow it just couldn't pinpoint where or
And it remembered how, years ago in the forest, there had been this
mother warthog with a clutch of grown up hoglets and legs that were shot
with arthritis that had come down to the creek to lie down and die
because it was shady there and she could lap at the water without having to
move her head too much.
Of course the fairy had no problem with things dying, it was just the
way things sometimes went in the forest, but it felt very sorry for this particular
warthog- up until a few days earlier it had half a dozen little hoglets
snuffling and stumbling along beside it, but was now it alone in the dark
and unable to move or do anything about the ants that were starting to
crawl over the skin of its back.
So that night, after the sun had gone down, the fairy summoned up every
glow bug available, and they had swarmed into the glade and lit the place up to a warm
comforting green that somehow seemed make things a little better.
And when it remembered that dying warthog lying in the stinking mud
by the stream the fairy knew what it was that was making
him so uneasy in its new home up on level twenty- the people working up
there all had that same look about them.
They were bloated and misshapen, they waddled rather than walked,
their spines were twisted weirdly and they smelt of the least
wholesome sort of urban hygiene- when they spoke with each other they
were snitchy and duplicitous and not once had he seen any of them play.
To the fairy, seeing all this from inside the copy machine, things
looked desperate- there was a whole building full of these people, and
God knows how many more of them outside. Experience had taught it that
glowing insects could be a successful remedy for the grief of dying
mammals, but this time the job was so much bigger- it would take a
thousand times as many to get it done.
Although Brad and the fairy never discussed the matter it was
understood that it would be moving on after all that. It left the office
soon after dawn the same morning they declared it safe for cleanup crews to go
in and start shoveling away the bugs and hit the road for the
It didn't quite leave the city, but stopped on the very edge in
a place of scattered convenience stores where the air smelled of both
exhaust fumes and sunbaked grass.
How it found the coke machine outside the changing rooms at the local
cricket club is not clear. Even by the sometimes desolate standards of
soft drink vending machines at local cricket clubs it was a nearly
forgotten one, standing alone by the brick wall of a shed in the
middle of a field in an outer suburb where, once a week in the warm
third of the the year, kids came to play.
Very little has been written in praise of outer suburbs or lonely coke machines over the the years, but surprisingly the
lifestyle out there was suited to the fairy from the cloud forest of
From inside the machine, where the fairy spent the rest of its days, the
shade of fluorescent bouncing off the cans wasn't all that different
from what it had been used to in its cave behind the waterfall, and it
was amused by the sound (tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, clunk!) the machine
made on the infrequent occasions that someone tried to buy a drink.
Watching kids play cricket was not so different from watching birds
catching fish, and over all the fairy was happy.
People who just wanted a coke were often rewarded with a can of lemonade
and fizzy orange drink, and if they were owed twenty cents worth of
change it was always forty cents that clattered out.
Once or twice the caretaker thought about calling up a technician to
see if he could get whatever was wrong with it fixed, but in the end it just didn't
seem important enough to be worth the effort. People were just too busy
with their own things to give much thought to a single eccentric Coke
machine minding its own business by the side of an empty cricket field
in the outer suburbs, and so most of the time the fairy was left
It didn't mind.