I knew someone, a beautiful artist, who dreamed herself far away one final time. I never saw her once she found the trick to disappear; I wouldn't know how to find her even if I went looking. When I read stories from other dreamers, they conceptualize coming back to life in another form. Could she already be back here, as another person? Or maybe as another lifeform, like an animal, or even a plant?
I dream, sometimes, of following in her footsteps.
In this towering wood, I am accompanied only by the sounds of nature - wind blowing against the rustling leaves, an occasional hoot or chirp, my own footsteps on branches or the soft, mossy ground.
With each step, I would get closer to my goal, should I have had one. In reality, I'm on a path, too far for me to make it to the destination. At some point, I'll turn back and head home.
Ahead, a strange wood shape peeks out from between the ferns and brush. I approach it without much thought or caution; it´s day time, and I'm not in a horror movie, as far as I know.
The shape takes form as I get closer, and I realize it's a small shed. Could somebody be living here? It looks clean and neat, but there's no obvious sign of life, like lights on, or smoke from a fireplace.
Suddenly, I feel the slightest weight on my shoulder. I turn, hesitatingly, to see an impossible sight - there is a small, humanoid, winged creature, who, it seems, brushed my shoulder with his tiny hand.
I feel my eyes widen, and the creature smiles, eyes twinkling and teeeth shining white. I shuffle through my memories rapidly, racing to remember the fairy tales from my childhood. What were the tricks fae played? What were the warnings to heed? How could you distinguish a "good" one from an "evil" one?
Which type of story had I unknowingly entered?
"Hello, little human," he intoned, voice deep and musical. The accent was unplaceable, and I realized I had never thought deeply about how a fairy or fae would know human language, let alone my own language.
"...Hello, friend," I reply after a moment, in a manner of wishful thinking.
The world seems to shrink a bit in this moment, hardly noticeably. The sounds of nature seem to fade away, becoming dull background music. The light around also seems to dim ever so slightly, though directly on us, we are still illuminated.
I take in his outfit - he looks so regal and elegant. Is he a member of a royal fae court? A prince, even, or king?
Maybe, I allow, maybe this is my wish come true. Maybe, I have a chance to leave the world as I know it behind.
"Indeed...¨ he agrees, his answer revealing no insight into whether or not he actually agrees with what he says.
"As you may be aware, you have made it into the district that belongs to our people...you've found our first entryway." He gestures towards the shack, which has now transformed before my eyes into a large, baroque gate. It is as tall as at least two tall humans, and extends across a handful of arched trees.
When he notices my confusion, he laughs.
"Did you notice the sign, about half a mile back?"
Again sifting through my memories, I can't recall anything out of order along the path... trees, tall and small, ferns, rocks and sticks strewed across the floor. Ah! But there was an odd arrangement of rocks... back by the turn off... now wasn't there?
"Oh.... well, I guess so."
"Tell me, before I continue, who you are." He sits in the air, crossing his legs, and putting his chin on one of his hands, bobbing as his wings flap effortlessly to keep him hovering. His expression continues to be unreadable, though seemingly friendly enough.
What can I say about myself... and what is my goal here? Am I trapped? Should I go with him? My options, when I reflect honestly, seem simple enough. Of course I want to enter the fae realm. This has literally happened as if a dream was granted to me. An escape from my day to day life. A reawakening in other world - maybe not as a different form, but a new life nontheless.
"My name is..." I hesitate. I know better than to give my true name - I've read enough tales, where giving your name to fae offers them complete control over you. And while I'm adventurous, I'm not dumb.. at least, not that dumb. However, what name can I give?
"My name is Vivi," an option finally occurs to me, and while this small gentleman seems unconvinced, he also is apparently nonplussed.
"I'm a student... I study education. I want to be a teacher, next year, when I graduate."
He looks pleased with this answer. "Teacher Vivi... how lovely. Well, given this information, and your apparently friendly demeanor, you are most welcome among us. We are a highly educated band, and we enjoy and value learning from all kinds."
Finally, he seems rather genuine. Though I do find msyelf caught on his phrasing - all kinds...? What other kinds could he mean?
"Ah, how rude of me. I didn't introduce myself as well. I'm Henry, and I am a distinguished noble in the royal court of The Hidden Domain, which, as you've found, is no longer quite so hidden..."
He laughs slightly at his own joke.
I notice, then, how the forest around us continues to feel strangely distant, and the sun seems to fall much more rapidly than could be normal. A warning flag inside me starts to raise, but I focus my gaze on Henry, whose name is surprisingly ordinary - and most certainly fake - who seems to be outlined sharply against the background, along with the clearly defined gate.
"I am most delighted to make your acquantaince. Now, shall we carry on to the main court, before it gets any later? Sunset does fall quickly around here, and we'd hate for something untoward to happen to you here, outside our realm of protection."
Again, the phrasing set off alarms in my head, but what else could I do but follow this man called Henry through the gate? And frankly, what would I prefer to do, apart from this option, as well?
Shaking off my worries and second guessing, I follow Henry through and past the grandiose gate, entering into the enticing, mysterious world beyond.