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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 dappled mist.

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 the waterfall.

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 completely”.


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 itself.

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 behaved.

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 Yemen.

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 closer Brad, 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 terrible.


Three days after the fairy arrived they had to evacuate the office.

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 code executive.

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 newspaper.

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 cough.

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 when.

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 suburbs.

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 Laos.

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 alone.

It didn't mind.

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