When Annelise’s eyes opened and she returned to consciousness from her dreamless sleep she immediately looked at her watch, praying that she hadn’t missed the sprites. To her relief, she hadn’t. She’d cut it close, though. For it was only ten minutes to midnight.
“Thank you, God,” she said quietly, opening the van door and stumbling out. Her legs and neck were stiff, so she took a moment to stretch. Then she grabbed a flashlight and her camera and headed off into the forest.
Illuminating her way with the flashlight, Annelise slowly worked her way through the trees. She didn’t want to get too far from the road, but she still had to go deep enough to see the sprites.
After about a five minute walk, she came to a small clearing with a log lying in the center. It seemed like the perfect place for sprites so, after excitedly checking her watch again, she sat down on the log and waited for the show to begin.
She still thought it was a shame that no one else wanted to see the sprites. They had no idea what they were missing. Though they would when she showed them the pictures she was about to take. She couldn’t wait to have an ‘I told you so’ moment when that happened.
She kept glancing at her watch every twenty or thirty seconds, not sure if time had actually slowed down or if she was just being impatient. It just felt like it was taking forever to get to midnight.
Then, at two to midnight, a twig snapped to her right, causing her to jump. Cautiously, she turned towards the sound, praying that that gremlin she’d pissed off earlier hadn’t found her.
“Who’s there?” She called out. “If you’re that gremlin you better go away. I have a supernova for a camera flash and I’m not afraid to use it again,” she threatened, raising her camera and placing her finger on the capture button like a cowboy fingering the trigger of his gun.
“Don’t shoot. I come in peace,” Xander said, stepping into the clearing with his arms raised in surrender.
“What are you doing here?”
“Taking you up on your offer to see the fairies. It sounded like it’ll be cool.”
“Well, it’s supposed to be.”
“Wait, what was that?” Xander asked, pointing to the edge of the clearing opposite them. “It was like a firefly, but it wasn’t quite right for a firefly.”
“It’s starting!” Annelise exclaimed. “Hurry up and sit down.”
Xander immediately obeyed, and sat down next to her on the log. Then they fell silent, glancing around, looking for the sprites.
Slowly, all around the clearing and in the trees tiny flashes of colored light began to appear. The sprites were waking up.
Soon, the entire area was sparkling with fairy light. Each flash came from a sprite with its own unique color and shade. Like human fingerprints, no two sprites were colored exactly alike. There were dark and light blues, purples, greens, oranges, whites, and reds. There were aquamarines, and maroons, and turquoises, and corals. There were yellows, and indigos, and greys, and even blacks. Every color imaginable was twinkling all around Annelise and Xander and beyond. For they were sitting in but a tiny shred of sprite country, which stretched out for miles in every direction around. If someone would have been flying above at that moment, they would have been witness to a living piece of abstract art below, infinitely more beautiful than anything Van Gogh, DaVinci, Monet, or any other master could have ever dreamed of painting.
And it was all just the beginning.
Annelise glanced around for more color ravenously, every once in a while taking a quick picture, with her flash off now.
Xander, meanwhile, was looking around like Annelise, his mouth hanging open, nearly unable to believe the beauty surrounding them.
Then, while Annelise and Xander were still dumbstruck by the scene they found themselves in, the fairies rose and began to fly around, doing aeronautical acrobatics.
The fairy lights, which had been just dots before, were now lines of color, like brushstrokes of paint hanging in the air. The fairies streaked this way and that, dancing with each other as they flew. Everywhere they went was marked with a line of color, which lingered for a few seconds before dissipating.
Suddenly, Annelise and Xander weren’t just surrounded by the color, and beauty. They were inside of it. The fairy trails painted the air above them, beside them, and even between their limbs and bodies. It was as if the air was no longer invisible, but had exploded in an impossible flurry of color.
Like before, Annelise looked this way and that, doing her best to take it all in, snapping a picture every once in a while even though no picture could do such an amazingly beautiful sight justice. Unlike before, though, she now had tears streaming down her cheeks. Her heart was as full of joy as it could possibly be, and more.
She glanced over at Xander, curious as to how he was reacting to it all, to find that there were tears streaming down his face as well. And even though they barely knew each other, neither of them felt any shame or embarrassment to be crying in front of each other.
“It’s just…just…” Xander said, fumbling for words.
“It’s indescribable,” Annelise finished for him.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded. “Annelise, thank you for this. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome. Thank you for coming,” Annelise replied. “It wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t sharing it with someone.”
“No, it wouldn’t be,” Xander agreed.
With that, they fell silent again, just taking in as much as they could.
An hour of silence and wonder later, the sprite display began to die down. Slowly the colors disappeared and the streaks thinned, until the night returned to its normal darkness.
“So it’s over?” Xander asked when the last of the lights disappeared.
“Yeah. They’re off finding food, and whatever else they need. And pretty soon they’ll migrate out west for the Seelie Lights, which Athena, Dianna, and I will be seeing while we’re out there,” Annelise answered.
“Why do they paint the night like that? I mean is it for a reason, or is it just something they do because they’re sprites?”
“They do it every night to celebrate.”
“To celebrate what?”
“Another day of life. Another day on this earth.”
“That’s beautiful. Most of the time when I wake up I have to literally force myself out of bed. I’m not really in a very celebratory mood.”
“I know, right? They’re the ultimate morning people. Other than the fact that they’re nocturnal, and not people.”
“How do you know so much about the fae? I mean between this, and the gremlin before, it seems like you know just about everything about them.”
“I hardly know everything,” Annelise said modestly. “I’ve just read about them for most of my life now, I guess. I’ve loved the fae ever since I was little. And we had to take a class about North American Fae at our high school, so that helped.”
“We had a North American Fae class at my school, too. But ours was an elective. One that none of the three of us took,” Xander said with a chuckle. “You know, I wish every day could be like this. Full of magic, I mean. I’m sure all the pre-Atlata people thought that the world would be so much more fun, or interesting, or action packed if there was magic in it. But now that we do know that magic does actually exist, it hasn’t made much of a difference. Everyday life is still so boring most of the time.”
“Yeah, it can be,” Annelise agreed. “I want my life to be full of nights and days like this one, too. But still, there is a sort of magic in everyday moments. The only thing is that magic isn’t flashy, or even noticeable until after the fact. Until we’re looking back, it’s hard to see that magic. My grandparents, for instance, just bumped into each other on the street one day. I mean they literally bumped into each other. And two years later, they were married. Stuff like that may not be a sky full of color, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing, or beautiful.”
To that, Xander smiled, and looked away from Annelise, to the ground.
“You’re kind of odd, you know,” he told her.
“Um, okay,” Annelise replied, not really sure how to take that. She didn’t think he meant it as an insult, though. Or maybe she just hoped he didn’t mean it as an insult.
“That probably came across as really jerky to you, and I didn’t mean it that way,” Xander clarified. “I don’t mean it in a bad way at all. You’re just like no one I’ve ever met before. In a good way.”
“Well then, thank you for the compliment,” Annelise said with a grateful smile.
“You’re very welcome.”
Silence fell until a few seconds later Xander sighed, and looked over at the tree line.
“We should probably head back then. Unless something else is going to happen here,” he said.
“No, the sprites are done for the night. So yeah, we should get back.”
So with that, they stood up, and began making their way back to the vehicles and their sleeping friends.
“How long have you guys all known each other?” Annelise asked as they walked.
“Percy and I, since second grade. Tyler we didn’t meet until Jr. High when his family moved into town. Since then we’ve pretty much stuck together. What about you and Dianna and Athena? Wait, let me guess. You’ve all known each other since kindergarten.”
“Nope. We’ve known each other since we were four, so even before kindergarten.”
“That makes sense. Half the time it seems like you guys shared a womb.”
“Close, but not quite,” Annelise chuckled. “We might as well have, though. They’ve been in my life for as long as I can remember. We took dance lessons together when we were little, and went through school together, and basically spent all of the rest of our time together too.”
“That’s cool,” Xander said.
The rest of their short walk back passed quickly, and a minute later they broke through the trees and found themselves back at the vehicles.
“Thank you again for that Annelise,” Xander said to her.
“You’re welcome. Have a good night Xander.”
“Thanks. You too.”
With that, Xander walked back to the tent, and Annelise went back to the van.
Annelise yawned as she crawled into the back and stretched out across the floor to get some more sleep. As she closed her eyes, though, for the first time in her life, she knew that no matter what she dreamed, there was no way that it could beat everything that she’d just seen and experienced.