2 | searching
Wendy shaded her eyes with her hand and then glanced down at the hand-drawn map she had received in the small-town bar about half an hour ago.
“I have got to be close now,” she muttered to herself, looking out in the distance again. To her left and right, a dense forest bordered the broad expanse of grass. Stuffing the map in her pocket, she slung her canvas backpack over her shoulder again and kept hiking through the field.
Just as she was about to give up and go back, she saw a hill in the distance with what looked like a stone structure on top of it.
Commonly known as the Fairy King’s Castle, the area around it was shrouded in myth, with fairy stone circles and mysterious stories. In the year and a half since her flying attempt, Wendy had explored many supposed magical places, fairy circles, fairy steps and fairy gardens, but had yet to find anything that would help her to go to Neverland. She had never seen a small bright light flit out of sight, or even the telltale sparkle of pixie dust on a flower or a stone.
She came upon the first stone circle a few minutes later. As far as she could see, it was a perfect circle and the stones seemed to have been there for a long time. It wasn’t very large, maybe a meter and a half in diameter.
After glancing around the circle quickly to see if anything stood out, Wendy carefully looked at the twelve individual rocks and, after some measurements, found them all spaced the same amount apart. She scribbled this in her notebook and then looked up to the ruins of the castle that stood at the top of the hill.
Her parents had been surprised when Wendy had told them that she wanted to do something with research about British mythology and folklore. They told her to first finish her bachelor’s in psychology and after doing that, she had started working for a folklore research journal. This job had given her the excuse to go to all sorts of magical places all over the country, doing research for the journal and trying to find any sign of fairies.
Tramping up the hill, Wendy couldn’t help but smile as she thought about what her colleagues’ reactions would be if they knew that she actually believed in fairies and had even seen one.
The castle was not very large, but it was dimly lit, the only light coming from the sunshine that peeked in through holes in the ceiling, and Wendy rummaged in her backpack to find her flashlight. Turning it on, she slowly stepped over the threshold and looked around. The man at the bar had told her that the castle was safe and that tourists often came to look at it, but she was cautious nonetheless.
It was only one room, the rest had probably fallen away with time, the walls covered in vines and moss. The stone floor was cracked and grass and wildflowers sprouted in between them. A small tree had managed to break through some of the stones and it stood almost as high as the walls.
Wendy wished that she could tell when a place was truly magical or if it was just an old wives tale. She had this hope that if she came upon a place that had traces of fairy magic that she would be able to feel it.
She definitely did not have that feeling here, although she wasn’t sure what exactly it would feel like. This place felt old and it was fascinating, but it was not anything magical. But for the journal, she had to check everything out, to see if there was anything interesting enough to write about.
After taking a few pictures and scribbling down a few notes, she was ready to leave. She turned to go, but then she saw something glitter out of the corner of her eye. She whipped her head around and saw something sparkling in the moss at the far end of the ruin, where the thrones would have been in the Great Hall of the castle.
Her heart thumping, Wendy breathed out slowly and made her way over to the other side. What could it be? Not a fairy, their lights were much brighter; but it could just be some pixie dust left behind by one. This was the first time that she had seen anything that could help her, and she stopped for a moment, reminding herself that, more likely than not, it was nothing.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward and looked at what was emitting the hopeful sparkle.
It was not pixie dust.
It was a chocolate bar wrapper.
Even though she had prepared herself for the disappointment, Wendy felt her heart sink. She licked her lips and closed her eyes for a moment. It was still just litter when she opened them again and she blinked a few times, trying to keep the tears at bay, breathing deeply to calm herself down.
Breathing in. It was going to be okay.
Breathing out. She would find a way eventually.
In. She just had to keep looking.
Out. Just had to keep looking.
But what if she never found anything? What if there were no fairies here, and they all just lived in Neverland, never leaving a trace on the mainland?
“What if...” she finally spoke aloud the fear that had been living in the back of her mind ever since speaking to John and Michael about Neverland. “What if I imagined the whole thing? What if it wasn’t real?”
She heard something behind her and feared for a second that someone had heard her, but when she spun around, she saw that it was just a sheep.
“Beh-eh,” the sheep bleated.
A brief relieved laugh escaped her lips and she picked up the garbage to throw out when she got back into town and left the Castle of the Fairy King. She felt as she usually did after an unsuccessful search for fairies, disappointed but still not allowing her hope to die.