A Flash Fiction story inspired by Phantastes by George MacDonald whom Madeleine L’Engle describes as “the father of us all.”
“Look at him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning and it will never have any end.” George MacDonald ~ Phantastes
Anodos climbed up the stairs, weary beyond thought. He paused for just a moment at the door before entering his room and casting himself on the bed. He was grateful to be home.
I will never go anywhere at any time ever again!
He reached for his pillow and pulled it over his head. It occurred to him that Fairy Land was not very comfortable. To be sure, there were strange wondrous sights to see while one was on the move, but the sleeping arrangements were not at all accommodating–unless one were a fairy. No wonder Pocket was so ferocious about her hammock. Anodos looked at his hands; yes, her bite marks were there even though he never once tried to steal her hammock. On second thought, he did threaten to hide it, but she would not behave herself.
Anodos sat up and leaned forward, with his head in his hands.
Oh, Pocket! Pocket! Will you ever learn? And now that I am gone from Fairy Land, who will keep you from mischief?
He groaned aloud–it was a deep, satisfying groan. Anodos liked it so much he commenced to groan again; however, something on the floor stopped him mid-groan. Anodos inspected it more closely; there was debris on the carpet! It was detritus from the stream of water. Curious, he touched one of the bed posters. Particles of dirt and bits of leaves were lodged in its crevices. He walked over to his dressing table; fragments of real tendrils of dried vines mingled with the carved ones. Fairy Land’s intrusion had left its mark.
Anodos was puzzled. He had assumed that just as Fairy Land had appeared in an instant, it would leave without a trace. He never thought that Fairy Land would be messy. It entered his spotless room but did not leave it in the same condition. At first, Anodos was annoyed–Fairy Land should know better! But then he reflected that in his journey through Fairy Land, he had also left his mark.
His footsteps had bruised the grass and had disturbed the soil. His body had crushed the leaves of every bower in which he slept. He recalled breaking a large branch from a tree and swinging it from side to side as he walked. He had not left Fairy Land as he found it.
The thought bothered him. He did not intend to intrude, but there it was. He thought of Pocket. Surely if she heeded just a tithe of what he had said to her, she would also be changed–he had left his debris in her little heart.
Not only Pocket, but the old woman, her daughter…Oh! The woman in the alabaster coffin! I sang her awake, and now she no longer sleeps. I have left my mark on Fairy Land!
Anodos remembered the whisper of the beech tree: “I may love him; I may love him; for he is a man, and I am a beech-tree.”
Is love entombed forever in her heart because of me? Did she even want to love or was she better off without it? Oh, what have I done! I wish I had never passed through Fairy Land!
Anodos groaned again, but not for satisfaction; his soul was troubled and his heart was grieved. There was something familiar about his condition. He had been in this place before. He walked over to his window and stared at the wind, reflecting, remembering.
It was last week at a social gathering. The topic under discussion was technology. Someone had stated that those who influence our culture should be those who share our values. Anodos had disagreed, saying that currently there are people in high places who share our values but discredit them by their words and actions.
My opinion was not well received. A few people argued against my position. It seemed that they were more interested in proving what I said was wrong instead of trying to understand why I said it. I said something contrary to the group consensus that provoked anger and…what was it…something more.
Anodos suddenly recalled what their faces looked like. It was fear! They were frightened by what he had said. Anodos realized that, just as he had done in Fairy Land, he had intruded on their world and had left his mark. He had spoken his truth, and they were left with the scattered debris of his words.
Now he was in a quandary. Another engagement was scheduled for next week. He wondered whether or not he should attend. He felt he was faced with an impossible choice.
On the one hand, I could keep my contrary opinions to myself, giving the impression that I agree with the group. But if I do that, then I am not only being untrue to myself, but I am deceiving the others. On the other hand, I could express my thoughts and feelings, even when they are in opposition. However, that may cause others discomfort–even fear–which is the last thing I want to do. What shall I do? What shall I do?
“Anodos, Anodos, has Fairy Land left nothing in you?”
Anodos turned, startled, at the voice. There was his little sister, standing in front of him, arms akimbo, with a stern expression on her face.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “I do not know what you are talking about?”
His sister shook her finger at him.
“Is that all the understanding you have gained in a journey through Fairy Land? Truth is much, but honesty is nothing. It is a mere matter of convenience. Well, let me remind you that it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land.”
“And I suppose I should learn to forget the idea of doing so,” said Anodos, “and take everything as it comes–like a child.”
His sister smiled.
“Of course,” she said, as she made for the door. “Why else does one journey through Fairy Land?”
The next week, Anodos attended a social gathering.