remembers it this way.
has broken down somewhere in the Coastals. The map doesn't
really say where he is. Tendrils of moss drip from the branches
and trunks of gigantic firs like folds of green silk, and a
blanket of fog -- so thick it's more like frozen drizzle --
wraps around them, obscuring their tops.
branch of one of these enormous firs, a woman perches like an
hide most of her body, playing hide and seek with her skin. Her
skin has an odd silver-greenish cast to it, but maybe that's the
fog. Her hair is the color of the wet needles padding the
forest floor, and it forms a brown tangle all around her face.
calls out, when he can find his voice. "Can I help you?"
forward, wondering exactly how you're supposed to approach a
naked girl in the woods. She just watches him, head cocked,
less like an owl than a hawk. She's up pretty high, but he has
no idea how she got there. No ropes or low branches make it
"Do you need
help?" he asks again. She shifts on her branch, and the needles
reveal a small, round silver-green breast. He gawks for a
moment -- at seventeen he hasn't seen many breasts -- then
blushes and turns his head. "Clothes, maybe?" He doesn't see
any. He desperately hopes there are some, and then he
desperately hopes there aren't.
at him. Her laugh is like those icy drops of water that come
off the trees. She unbends and walks down the branch. Her bare
feet grip the bark like a squirrel's. Then she jumps.
She lands in
front of him, two-footed, hands on her hips. Her chin juts out a
little as she looks at him. Her breasts are small, round, firm,
and completely bare, except for the green swirls that wrap
around them, down her stomach, over her flank -- swirls the
color of fir trees. She smells like earth.
"I saw you
out there," she says. Her voice carries a hush to it. "In that
he reminds himself, but his thoughts are slow and thick. He is
supposed to be looking for help, a cabin he thought he saw in
the woods, some place to call a tow truck. Shitty pickup made
it out here all the way from Chicago, and then broke down only
fifty miles away from the Pacific, where he'd been aiming it.
The aftertaste of frustration remains in his mouth, but it's
harder and harder to remember.
his throat. "My truck quit. I'm lost."
her head. "I can see that," she says.
slowly, she lifts her hand. She touches his forehead.
sweeps through him. For a moment, it blows all the fog away and
leaves him crystal-clear, bright and dry as a summer day. For a
moment, he feels like one of these big trees, roots stretching
for the heart of the earth, crown puncturing the sky, free to
grow as he pleases, no matter how high or deep.
feeling recedes as fast as it comes, in a sucking rush like a
retreating tide. The more he chases it, the faster it flees
until finally it's gone and he's back in the real world, on his
knees in the dirt, with the water from a season of rain and snow
seeping through his jeans.
After a long
time he pushes himself up. "She didn't even tell me her name,"
he mumbles. But even as he says it, he finds that he knows.
Her name is in him somehow, like a seed splitting, growing.
Her name is
onto the word like a gemstone he's found buried in the ground.
He digs it out every night and hangs onto it in his sleep.
* * *
where Nick grew up was not evergreen. It was mostly gray, but
not like rocks and branches -- gray like concrete, like the
sludgy snow that lined the roadways in the winter. There were
other colors, of course -- billboards and murals painted on
stained building walls, dented soda cans, the dirty whites of
shredded Styrofoam cups, black asphalt, florescent construction
crews. But mostly Nick remembers all the other colors, the
other happenings -- school, home, trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo
and the lakeshore -- as just a blur in the grayness.
grayness, there was a vague green time. He remembers his
parents -- both of them -- taking him down to the ocean, fifty
miles from where the truck broke down. Not that there's
anything waiting for him there now except a memory of a time
when all the people seemed huge and the rocks in the water were
bigger than God -- a memory of grass, a small yard not far from
the sea, with parents who weren't divorced . . . before he and his
mother moved to Chicago to live with his Aunt Geri in her
apartment full of ceramic birds and dingy blue carpet.
important, at one time, to find that yard. Before the memory
there's Evergreen. Now he's in her forest, chopping wood.
his axe into a fat cedar log, and it splits down the middle,
pink and brown, filling the damp air with its scent. He wiggles
the axe head, and the log splits into two halves on the chopping
lot better at that," a woman says behind him. She is wearing a
mossy green cotton dress and black Wellingtons spattered with
mud. Her salty-brown hair coils in a labyrinth at the nape of
her neck. Wrinkles track the corners of her eyes and mouth, but
they're kind wrinkles, the sort brought on by smiling.
Her name is
DeAnn. Her son found him after Evergreen left.
"You work me
hard enough," he says over his shoulder.
"You're a growing boy. The work is good for you."
but he knows it's true. She knows he knows it. It's been a
month since Wolf led him back to their homestead, and he's spent
it watching for glimpses of a girl in the woods and working that
Chicago dream out of his system.
and it's not because of the rain. DeAnn's eyes narrow and he
knows she knows it's not because of the rain either. But she
never asks what's going on in his head. She keeps her mouth
shut and doesn't try to act like his mother, and that's what he
likes about her. He works for his room and board, and he likes
that about her too.
watch a person, though, and let him know there are questions he
ought to answer.
says. "I haven't called my mother yet."
probably worried about you, honey."
more like it. He'd left her a note explaining why and how he
was leaving, but not where he was going. If he'd told her, Geri
would have had them on the next plane to meet him. His mom got
frantic about a lot of things. She always calmed down
can let her know you're okay without giving away where you are.
Very few people know we're here anyway."
shoulders slump. "I know. But Geri-"
shakes her head. "Not Geri. Your mother."
Nick sets up
another log on the stump. It's a big stump, whorled with year
rings so tight he can't begin to count them. He wonders who cut
this fir and why, how big it might have gotten if left to grow.
He centers the log, and then hefts his axe, marking the place
he'll strike with the wet steel head.
mother," he says. "They're one and the same. I'm staying here
for a little while longer."
green eyes -- the same color as the mist-strewn trees -- grow
troubled. "How long?" she asks. "One day you're going to have
to face the world outside, Nick. Just because you ignore it
doesn't mean it will go away."
ignoring it's working just fine." He checks to make sure she's
clear of the axe, then swings it up over his shoulder, down,
smack, into the piece of wood.
been here a month, but he's getting pretty good at this. If you
get a rhythm going, you don't have to think of anything at all.
Your head is full of smack and thunk, your muscles burn, you
start to sweat, you take off your coat and split wood in your
flannel shirt in the rain. Water steams off your skin, and you
don't notice it when DeAnn walks up the path toward the house
and leaves you alone, not until you see a head, a back, leaving
And then you
turn toward the woods and search the mist for a silver-skinned
girl with green-brown eyes. No one sees you do it, so it's
okay. Maybe you think of your mother sometimes, but why should
you step back into her nightmare?
back to splitting wood. As long as you work, you're all right.
As long as you can be close to the trees, searching for
* * *
dinner Wolf lights a couple of kerosene lamps, and they spend
some time reading or working by lamplight.
smoke occasionally, and their pink glow wavers, refracted by the
thick glass. The night Wolf found him, they walked into the
house's small kitchen and Wolf clicked off his flashlight, and
then there was only the light and smell of kerosene, the red
crackle of the fire in the big stone hearth, and Nick was
convinced that he had stepped into a faerie netherworld.
not sure he hasn't, but the gas-powered tiller sitting by the
barn seems to decide the issue in favor of the real world. But,
still, the small stacked stone and log house with DeAnn's store
of dried herbs hanging from the beams, its rock hearth and the
big iron kettle that hangs over it, makes him wonder sometimes.
"Why do you
live like this?" he asked, the second or third day after Wolf
found him. "Don't you miss TV or electricity or hot showers?"
shrugged. "Hot showers, maybe. But do you miss TV?"
after a while. There was too much work to do. Too many books
to leaf through, crammed on the shelves that lined every
available inch of wall space. If the walls and shelves both
hadn't been built of big Douglas fir timbers, they probably
would have collapsed long ago. DeAnn's books didn't look like
other people's books, though. Most of them were old and bound
in cracked leather, not cloth.
laughed when he mentioned it to her. "I'm allowed my
eccentricities," she said.
Because you're old?"
him a sour glance, then moved off distractedly toward a shelf on
the west wall of the hearth room, where she trailed a finger
down a line of books bound in deep forest green. "Well, witches
are, aren't they?"
Like -- you're a pagan?" He'd known a few pagans in high
school. Mostly they were girls who dyed their hair black and
wore T-shirts with pentagrams on them.
a book off the shelf and gave him a bemused smile as she opened
it. "Call it what you want," she said, turning back to the
book. She sat down in a rocking chair near the fire, picked up
her cup of tea, and didn't speak again all evening.
where he feels he's landed, some other world revolving on its
own plane far away from the noise and grinding metal of the
city, and that is fine with him. Every time he runs into a
machine on the farm it jars him, as if by its very existence it
has thrown the whole orbit of this small world out of its
regular ellipse. DeAnn and Wolf don't seem to mind using
machinery, but they look out of place doing it. Especially
Wolf. There's no real reason why he ought to; it's just
something about Wolf. His name, for instance. Or the way he
sits so still sometimes, watching the woods.
like you're waiting for a chance to escape," Nick said once.
Joking. Sort of. He'd walked up behind Wolf, but Wolf didn't
look that way?" Wolf said.
his head. "Sometimes."
sitting on a low, flat rock, legs crossed. He unfolded himself
and stood up. He was tall, taller than Nick, with a long, leggy
height and faraway green eyes that girls probably liked. He
dusted off his jeans and looked over at Nick, and Nick suddenly
felt awkward -- him with his white-blond spikes and washed-out
blue eyes and pale city skin. He shoved his hands in his
pockets, feeling like a kid even though nothing had been said.
back to the woods. "Sometimes I wonder what's out there," he
said. "In your world."
frowned. "You must have been off this mountain some time."
I've been to Portland, and we have to go to Tillamook for
supplies. But I don't really know where you come from. Not
hostility? Nick searched Wolf's features for some indication of
a fight but saw only curiosity. "You don't want me here?"
his head. "DeAnn says you can stay as long as you want. You
You think I ought to leave?"
"I think you
ought to do what you think you ought to do. That's what I mean
about your world. Sometimes I wonder how people live there.
Where you're always wondering what you ought to be doing instead
of just doing what you know you need to." He stepped off the
rock and toward the house, put his hands in his pockets.
"You're not the first person from out there who's come this
down off the rock. "Was there a girl --"
and turned around. "There's always a girl. You should stay
away from her."
only okay to do what I think I ought to do when you think I
ought to be doing it too?"
He knew his
face was flushed. It always did when he got angry. Wolf just
watched him, which made Nick flush all the more.
you're so superior, don't you, up here on your ridge without
anybody telling you what to do or where to go or how to do it?
You think people have forgotten about you and are always going
to leave you alone? What about the logging companies? And
school? Why the hell aren't you in school? You can't tell me
your mom homeschools you -- I've never seen you crack a book."
every night," Wolf said. He looked surprised, like
forward. "That's not the same!" he yelled. "It's NOT THE
breathing hard. His hands were clenched in fists. His heart
thudded -- hard -- against his ribcage in that weird ka-thunk-thunk-ka-thunk-ka-thunk
rhythm he'd developed as a teenager. Do you think it's the
drugs affecting his heart? his mom had asked Geri once.
No, Geri said, that stuff's perfectly safe. Just think
how he'd do in school without it?
an eyebrow. "Who's trying to forget the world?"
have it one way and not the other!"
warned you to stay away from a poisonous snake, would you yell
at him for it?"
He just wants her for himself.
would Wolf be so cagey with him? Why else would Wolf watch him
like a dog watching another dog prowl the boundaries of his
mine," Nick said -- quicker than he meant to. "She talked to
me. She touched me."
know why he said it, and once the words were out of his mouth he
wished he'd shredded them with his teeth.
eyebrows flew upward. "She touched you?"
unsay the words. He stuck his hands deeper in his pockets and
turned his head.
why you're staying here," Wolf said slowly, as if everything had
suddenly become clear to him too, except that he and Nick were
looking at the same thing through different lenses. "You're not
ever going to call your mother, are you?"
I," he said, and even to his ears he sounded like a jerk. He
tried to soften his next words -- for his mother's sake, not for
Wolf's. "What I told your mom is true. My Aunt Geri would find
me. And she doesn't belong here. Not in these woods."
around at the thick trunks of the firs -- old growth and huge --
and waited for Wolf to say something else, to rekindle his
anger, but all he could think of was his mother and those damn
ceramic cardinals gathering dust in Geri's apartment. The same
way his mom did.
lost" he said.
more than one way to lose yourself," Wolf said.
his teeth. "Evergreen again."
shrugged. "DeAnn would say we all have to find our own paths
through the woods. But you're headed toward a cliff."
just say what you mean?"
world passed by a long time ago. She's as mad about that as you
are about your city. You think Evergreen's adopting you, but
really all she wants is to make you over the same as all those
other people you're so angry at. Unless that's what you want."
there, mouth clamped shut. Wolf stared at him a while, then
shook his head.
you'll sort yourself out. I guess you just want someone to do
it for you."
be easier that way?" It was a joke. But Wolf took it
said as he turned and started walking back to the house. "But
nobody else knows where you buried all your junk."
* * *
bullshit about witches and books and worlds gone by. What did
either of them know, lost out here in the woods and the mist?
DeAnn had taken herself and her boy out of the world as surely
as he'd stumbled out of it when his truck died.
about leaving. Maybe he'd just start walking; he knew the
general direction in which he'd left his truck now -- at least
he thought he did. But that would mean leaving Evergreen. That
would mean not finding out who, or what, she was, or why she was
here, or why she'd talked to him. Or if any of that magic shit
wasn't. Probably Evergreen was just some weird pagan chick and
Wolf and DeAnn were wish-we-were-hippies who bought into all
that New Age crap his aunt Geri despised -- crystals and herbs
and flute songs. Probably he should just get out of here
before he got in serious trouble or before Geri tracked him
had been that touch, and the gauzy clear-headedness that
followed, and anyway, weren't people always saying he was so
impulsive and never followed through on anything, and spent all
his time day-dreaming, head in the clouds?
am not daydreaming!" he said out loud, to nobody but the
squirrels and the trees. And maybe Evergreen, if she could hear
out what's going on,
he told himself. And I won't need any drugs to do it.
* * *
At first he
felt like he needed the drugs. He got all jumped up, or he felt
like sleeping, or both at the same time, which made no sense.
He stayed up late at night and worried about whether DeAnn would
find out he should be taking them, or that, if he somehow
managed to find his bottle of pills, that she wouldn't let him
take them, and then he wouldn't be able to concentrate, to do
anything that needed doing. Worrying kept him up at night even
after he'd stopped hoping that Evergreen would come.
would be when he'd see her, a brief glance out the window.
She'd press her face to the glass and wrinkle her nose like a
kid. He slept in Wolf's room, so he had to get up quietly for
fear of waking the other boy, and by the time he made it to the
window, Evergreen had already laughed and tripped away, into the
darkness. In the morning it always seemed like he'd dreamed
her, a female Peter Pan. But every night it happened, again and
again, and Wolf snored on his bunk, and DeAnn slept in the other
to think of himself as her Lost Boy, and maybe that was why she
laughed at him, because it was so corny.
increasingly sure that Evergreen was faery. The
old-fashioned English spelling of the word seemed like the only
one to do her justice. He scoured DeAnn's books, and DeAnn
watched him over the top of her half-moon spectacles. "Found a
subject of interest?" she'd say.
Anything to put her off. Wolf watched him like he knew what he
was doing, but he never said anything. So Wolf was that much
like any other kid. Or maybe Wolf just wanted to see him sink
himself. DeAnn's books on the subject -- and she had a lot of
books on the subject -- were not flattering, so it was no wonder
that Wolf was convinced Evergreen was as dangerous as a snake.
Nick had grown up thinking of fairies in terms of those cutesy
butterfly costumes five year old girls wore for Halloween. But
DeAnn's books had chapter titles like: FAERIES -- To
capture them; FAERIES -- To avoid capture; How to escape the
Otherworld; Making it Back; Tricking a Faery Out of Its Gold;
and SPRITES, PIXIES, AND BROWNIES -- Treating Bites, How To.
"So much for
fairy tales," he mumbled one night, shutting the book he'd
shoved close to the kerosene lamp in order to make out the
old-fashioned typeface. The leather binding creaked, and he
tucked a few thin, tattered flakes of page back in under it. He
leaned backward in his chair to find DeAnn standing behind him.
interest in folklore, have you?" she said. She didn't sound
wonder these books haven't all disintegrated," he said.
something in particular? Or has your fire just been ignited?"
Her voice grew a little milder. She sat down beside him.
Across the room, Wolf sat by the fire, whittling. Long strips
of bark and wood curled to the floor at his feet. He didn't
raise his head, but he glanced at Nick out the corner of his
eye. He looked a little ridiculous sitting in the straight
cane-backed chair -- too tall for it, too tall for the house.
Out of place inside, where he wasn't dwarfed by the trees.
assume I don't like to read?"
shrugged. "You didn't seem to have any inclination to until
now. I've seen it happen, of course, but your choices . .
flipped open the cover of one of the books he'd been looking
at. "Faeries and Their Kin." She wrinkled her nose as
she leafed through the pages. "Never cared for this one
She shut the
book. "For one thing, he's so damned academic about it. 'The
Faery and his Habitat.' Might as well be observing a
think they're real."
off her glasses. "Oh, I know they're real." She looked at him
with those hard/soft eyes. "And so do you."
and looked away, only to find himself staring at Wolf, who was
looking at him now. Nick turned toward DeAnn again.
some stories," he mumbled.
said. "You've seen Evergreen."
He stood up,
casting a daggered glance at Wolf. "Wolf told you," he said.
"Wolf wants to keep me away from her, and so do you."
never told me. But the only people who ever find us are always
looking for her." She sighed and stretched out her legs. "I
didn't figure you'd be any different."
his arms over his chest. "And did you give them the run-around,
too? Let them believe you're letting them stay when really
you've got them shut up in a prison?"
He glared at
DeAnn. DeAnn's mouth twitched as if she might smile, but then
her expression settled back into careful neutrality. Another
woman -- his Aunt Geri, for instance -- might have laughed. His
mother would have started screaming back at him, or worse,
said. "And I'll give you the choice to leave, too. You've
always had the choice. You're just not used to thinking
in those terms."
supposed to believe you or anybody cares? I'm seventeen. I'm
still a kid."
up. "Sweetie, I'll tell you a secret. Nobody has to give
you your freedom. It's not a thing to be taken. It's just
something you have."
your truck all the way here from Chicago and you still believe
that? How did it feel to get behind the wheel that first day?"
hell. He'd walked out of school, shaking with the determination
to do something, anything, to get himself out of an intolerable
situation. Geri was sitting on him every night, did you do
your homework, look at what your grades are doing to your
mother, are you in trouble again, it's your father in you, I
know it. He was grounded from going out with his friends --
the few that he had -- and all he did was school and work. To
make up for that old truck he bought with no one's permission,
even though it was his own money. To make up for the pills Geri
had found in his dresser drawer. Not the Ritalin, though he
popped that like anything -- lots of kids did, it was like speed
when you did enough of it.
out of school and jumped on the El. Ridden it to a suburban
parking lot where his truck was waiting on him. But once he'd
cleared Chicago and made it out onto that straight, flat stretch
of interstate that led through all the old cornfields he had
never seen, the shaky, scared feeling turned into whoops of joy.
softened. "I thought so," she said. She touched his cheek.
snapped him back to the moment. He recoiled from her fingers,
leave the door unlocked tonight?"
stricken. "Oh, honey. That door's never been locked in the
* * *
So now he's
watching the window, waiting for Evergreen to press her face
against it and stick out her tongue like a five year-old. He's
lying on the cot on the floor, fidgeting his fingers the way he
used to do in school. Thumbs rolling over each other, dreaming
On the other
side of the room, Wolf says, "So you're going tonight." He
sounds dull. Resigned.
said I could leave whenever I wanted."
calling her that. But she isn't."
his fingers. "What?"
my mom. She's just DeAnn. I wandered up through the woods the
same as you. Except a long, long time ago."
who comes here comes looking for Evergreen.
That's what DeAnn said. Nick rolls over on his side to look at
Wolf, but the room is too dark to see.
worth it, going to find her," Wolf says.
quiet for a moment more. "You'd like to have her, wouldn't
has Evergreen," Wolf says, disgusted. "I hope you do find
her, just so you'll learn."
on his back again, fidgets his fingers. "She's probably just
snorts. "You're a moron, Nick. Go to sleep."
be any such thing as faeries. That's just -- head in the clouds
what they told you?" Wolf's bed creaks. He must have rolled
isn't it? I mean, real life true? There are no faeries in the
"You said something about it when you were a kid, didn't you.
And somebody told you it wasn't true. Like they said the
bogeyman wasn't true, or the monsters under the bed. So when
you told them about the faeries, they said that's not true, and
when you kept saying it, they got scared and said why don't we
take you to a psychiatrist. Didn't they."
silent for a moment, staring at the ceiling but with an eye to
the window, which is still just as full of black as the room.
"Is that what happened to you?"
"They try to
convince you that you don't know your own truth. When they
can't convince you, they've got drugs to do it for them."
Had he ever mentioned faeries to Aunt Geri? He thinks hard for
a moment. But it's been so long, and the drugs and the
not-caring, the not-caring as a form of self-defense, have made
all those long years into a blur. Still, there's something
inside tugging at him down deep, like a little kid pulling on a
grown-up's sleeve. But he can't identify it in the dark, so he
pushes it away.
"I want to
see Evergreen," he says.
"Maybe DeAnn is wrong then. Maybe you've just got to see it to
cut through all that junk in your head."
He sounds as
if he's talking to himself. Nick fidgets, checks the window,
says, "So she's really a faery?"
says. "She's been here too long."
"What is she
know. Nobody does."
sound jealous? Does he remember her touch on his forehead, or
see her face at the window at night? How old was he when
he wandered through the woods to end up at DeAnn's door?
tonight," Nick says. "Nobody's going to stop me."
going to try," Wolf replies. "Be nice to have my room back."
over in a rustle and creak of bedding and mattress springs.
Nick stares in his direction, stung a little.
there's a tap-tap-tapping at the windowpane.
Evergreen, sticking out her tongue at him.
off his covers and stumbles out of the room -- moving too fast
to accommodate the dark. Wolf sounds like he might be sitting
up, but he doesn't follow him.
The door is
unlocked, just like DeAnn said. Nick glances toward her room,
then takes a deep breath and opens the door.
And now he's
alone and free in the darkness. "Evergreen," he whispers.
like a sudden beam of light -- silent and luminous, the same
color as moon on fir trees. "Shh," she giggles, putting a
finger on his lips. "You'll wake the house. And then that
DeAnn will come out, and you'll have to go back."
act like anyone who's been here longer than the Indians.
She acts and looks like a sixteen year old. He wants to bend
down and kiss her, but she skips away from him.
she says. "I want to show you something."
around and all he can focus on are the round curves of her
butt. Then she disappears into the mist. So he follows her.
He follows her through wet brush, beneath enormous fir boughs
laden with sleety pendants of ice, past the woodpile and the
tilled-up muck of the garden, out into the woods. He follows
her down skinny hill paths that dip and climb, where she
vanishes and reappears like the freezing drizzle that quickly
paints its rime on his eyelashes, his eyebrows, the tips of his
we going?" he calls, shivering in his denim jacket.
see," she says, but they keep going and he doesn't.
he says, but she doesn't answer.
she's beside him. "Why are you so scared? It's only the
She puts her
hand on his arm. Her touch raises goose bumps.
The moon is
shining the way it's never done since he's been in Oregon.
Illuminated in its glow is the trunk of the biggest tree he's
ever seen. How many people would have to join hands to circle
it? He feels like an ant in front of it. A termite. He looks
up into its boughs but sees only needles and darkness.
this a Sitka spruce," she says, trailing her finger down a ridge
of its bark the way a human girl might trail her finger across a
boy's arm. "They can't hear what it names itself, and they
think they know everything. People."
He tries to
ignore the venom in her voice. "How long has it been here?"
shrugs. "Longer than you. Not as long as me. I remember when
it was a sapling." She gives the trunk a pat and flashes him a
grin that fades as she turns back to the tree. "There aren't so
many of them now to keep me company."
says, trying not to get shaky, "so, it's true? What Wolf and
DeAnn say about you?"
her nose. "Oh, probably not. They're not very friendly.
People, through and through. Even that changeling boy."
her head. "Does it surprise you? Do you know anything about
us, or are you people, too?"
know what you mean."
tried to pluck your faery eyes out, I know that. But are your
eyes still there, Nick? Did you hide them for me?"
know what you mean. I don't know who they are. All I
have are the eyes I was born with, Evergreen."
name is like grabbing onto a rope. He hopes it can pull him out
of this place of not understanding anything, and being cold and
a little scared.
No, he isn't
scared. This is the girl who touched me. This is that
him with her head cocked. Finally, she sighs. "Silly little
one. I'm not talking about those eyes. I'm talking about the
eyes behind your eyes. The eyes that led you here."
"I want to
ask you so many questions," he says, taking a step toward her,
his hands out. "Like why you called me off that road. And what
happened when you touched me. And --"
and puts her hand on his mouth. "You talk too much."
falls. She takes her hand away, then turns around. "Come," she
says. "Let me show you the world you've stumbled into. But if
you try to see it with the eyes they made you see with,
you won't see anything at all. Understand?"
but she's already walking, so he hurries after her. The Sitka
spruce towers over them as if watching them go, and Nick can't
resist craning his neck back to look up into its darkness.
still not seeing," she says over her shoulder.
"What am I
looking for your dreams."
* * *
It's been so
long he can't remember them, the dreams he used to dream when he
stared out the window, after his mother and father had split up
and they'd all moved away from Oregon. And as for that time
before, that Oregon-time, he barely has any memory of it at all,
aside from the hazy recollection of ocean, rock and wind, and
holding the hands of a woman and a man so much bigger than he
What he sees
when he follows Evergreen into the forest is birds. Not
fragile, fake, ceramic. No chipped cardinals, no tawdry blue
jays stamped Made in China. No, these birds are real.
They swoop through the dark forest, chittering and calling, a
And yet . . . .
birds at all.
he breathes. He stops walking to stare. "That's what they are
-- they're faeries."
suddenly at his shoulder. Her breath on his neck feels like the
damp touch of mist. "Not faeries, Nick. Dreams."
by his face, like a huge dragonfly with ruby wings. As it flits
in and out of Evergreen's glow, he can see that it has the body
of a woman. Its crimson hair streams over golden skin. It loops
up into the trees in a long, lazy spiral, until the night
stay here with them," Evergreen says. She holds out her hand for
a little emerald boy-fly, and he perches on her open palm and
stares at him with yellow eyes. "Imagine, you could be a dream,
"But I want to be with you."
and the little green dream leaps from her palm.
quick enough. She catches him by his wings. Dangles him above
really?" she says.
The way she
holds the boy-fly makes him squirm. But he remembers the way he
felt when she touched him. "There's nothing for me out there,"
a decision to make lightly, dear Nick." The dream-fly twists
its head to look up at her, pleading. Something twists inside
Nick, too, and he bends closer, pulse quickening, to see the
It's a boy's
face. A boy no older than five or six, frantically trying to
pump wings that Evergreen is pinching. His chest moves in and
out with every frightened breath. He stares up at Nick with
those deep amber eyes, black pupils like flies trapped inside
you doing?" he asks Evergreen.
you this dream, Nick."
don't trap a dream, you'll never see it. It will fly away and
lose itself in the trees. Now look, look, at this one."
hesitates, frowning at the dream that dangles, angry, from
Evergreen's thin fingers. Then he bends down until his face is
so close to the little dream that his breath makes its wings
shiver. And in its eyes, a scene begins to take shape. A long,
black street, walled in by buildings that frown down at him like
stern and unhappy parents, blocking out all but a sliver of blue
sky. The sidewalks are alive with activity, though --
construction workers popping out of an uncovered manhole;
mothers pushing babies in strollers; old men and their wives out
for a walk.
of the buildings, a boy -- blond, spiky-haired -- stares out a
filmy window. Nick remembers staring out the window, too, and
then his teacher would call him, and he'd jerk back to the
moment without knowing anything that she wanted to know, or
remembering what he was looking at. He remembers only that he
was someplace . . . else.
But in the
dream's eyes, he can see what the boy is watching. He's
watching a neighborhood full of faeries.
skitter and whirl, dodging the big wheels of cars. They hide in
window casements and lounge on the eaves of roofs. They scurry
up and down the rungs of the ladder inside the manhole, sticking
out their tongues and making funny faces at the construction
workers, who don't notice them at all. The boy watching them
from the window smiles. The faeries -- some of them winged and
some not, a few with tiny horns sprouting out of their foreheads
or hooves for feet, and all of them dressed so individually as
to defy describing their dress as a group -- these faeries begin
to notice him when he smiles. They drift together and
congregate in groups, staring up at the window and pointing at
him. Then they begin to beckon to him, Come out, come out
and play with us!
The boy in
the classroom doesn't look frightened at all. At the window, his
face disappears. He must be walking through the classroom.
Nick's heart pumps harder. What is he doing? Doesn't he know
what the teacher will do to him if he gets up and walks around
in class? Doesn't he know that's just one step closer to a trip
to the psychiatrist and a pharmacy scrip?
shifts, and his stomach lurches. He blinks, and now he has a
more distant perspective. He can see the front door to the school.
It edges open a little and then a little more, until finally the
spiky-haired boy slips out the gap and walks down the steps.
He's a little thin thing, wispy as a sprite himself and with the
same glint in his deep blue eyes. His eyes aren't the color of
faded denim. They're saturated with blueness, like two patches
of silk. He smiles when he sees the little people, and they
smile at him.
joins them in their dance in front of the school window,
sticking out his tongue and wiggling his butt at the teacher,
and the principal, and all the kids still stuck inside. They
dance around the sidewalk, making farting sounds with their
winks out. Nick is left staring at Evergreen, who tosses the
dream up into the dark sky like an afterthought. It looks back
over its shoulder and sticks out its tongue at her as it spirals
upward, coating them both with a fall of sparkling pixie dust.
the dust from his face, rolling the golden grit between his
fingertips. It looks like quartz sand. "I never left the
school and danced with the faeries. Was that supposed to be
it was you," she says. "Here's another."
shoots out to grab a different dream. He barely gets a glimpse
of it before Evergreen has it in her fist, but then she opens
her hand, and a tiny boy dream hunches inside, hair the color of
ripe wheat, wings flickering sapphire against the pale
silver-green of Evergreen's skin. Slowly Evergreen uncurls her
fingers, but the dream makes no attempt to escape.
one," she breathes.
boy, holding his mother's hand. A father, licking an ice cream
cone, laughing. The wind tosses the man's golden hair, and the
woman's dark curls dance around her face as she smiles. Waves
crash onto the sand, spraying their legs with plumes of white.
The little boy laughs, kicks the foam across the beach, digs his
chubby little fingers into the damp sand, spreads it over his
legs, his arms, until he is covered in a golden blond the sea
laps up, sweeping him clean.
the big rocks, clear and real instead of fuzzy and half-dreamt.
There is the ice cream, cold and sweet and strawberry in his
mouth. There is the touch of a mother and a father who care,
and the clear eyes of a boy who is free to run around like
crazy, chasing the waves, falling on his back, getting up again
to spend a long time looking out over the sea, bucket and shovel
What do kids
that little think about?
more than years that separate him from the four year old on the
beach. He swipes the mist from his face only to find that it
tastes like salt.
"Why are you
showing me this?" he says to Evergreen. "It's just shit, it's
all it is. Shit."
He turns to
stomp away, but there's nowhere to go. A dream buzzes past his
face, and he swats at it with his hand.
a sapling swaying in the wind, Nick," Evergreen says, "but you
came out here for a reason."
"I was just
driving," he mumbles. "Like an idiot."
out here looking for your dreams. Didn't you."
around. "Yeah," he says, "and now I've found them, and all they
are is tinkerbells! What use is that?"
raises her hand where the sapphire dream crouches. Hesitantly,
it stands, then leaps. In an instant, the dream is gone, and
Nick feels a hole open up inside him. He hunches his shoulders
against the cold and turns so he won't have to look at
Evergreen. She walks up to him anyway.
have to be gone, Nick. Look at me. Have I aged even a year
over the centuries?"
at her, at her smooth skin and her teen-age face.
telling me I can be like you?" he says.
up her face. "Well . . . not exactly." Then she smiles. "But, oh
Nick, I'm so lonely. And we can be friends, can't we? We can
live here among the trees and the dreams and you can dance with
the faeries. You can have any dream you dream, Nick, no matter
what they say. Look, Nick, just look!"
he follows the line her finger makes. Beneath an overhang of
fir boughs shaped like a roof there is the beach again, the
mother and father, but no boy. The mother and father are
frozen, as if waiting, but waiting for what?
blows and he can taste salt. But he's not crying now, so what
is it? Spray from the ocean, for God's sake?
A touch on
his hand surprises him. It's Evergreen, twining her fingers
with his. "Come on, Nick," she whispers. "Let's go."
him toward the tableau under the firs.
He drags his
feet. He doesn't know why. Now she is pulling him through the
needle carpet, and his heart is pounding, ka-thunk-thunk, ka-thunk.
he whispers, but she doesn't seem to hear him. She is
surprisingly strong. The toe of one boot touches the beach
sand, then the other. The sea wind rubs its salty fingers
against his mouth, depositing happiness. Nick runs his tongue
over his lips, tasting it.
breezy happiness. A delirious, dancing, crazy happiness, caused
by nothing more than the feel of wet sand against the bottoms of
his feet and the prospect of ice cream -- strawberry, his
up to take his mother's hand, but before he can touch those
faraway fingers, he hears somebody calling him.
followed him anyway. Just like he knew she would.
spins around. The beach bleeds away, a fairy tale, ending, but
without the happily ever after.
and nightgown slap her ankles in the wind. Her hair is down.
Wolf, dressed, stands beside her.
rolls her eyes. "What do they want," she says.
you'd let me go!" Nick yells at them.
closer, carefully picking her way through the wet needle-trash
covering the ground. "I never said I wouldn't follow you.
That's the problem with free will, Nick; you can't always
organize the actions of other people."
He kicks at
the needles on the ground. "You're trying to organize mine."
her head. She has moved entirely into Evergreen's nimbus now,
and he can see all the wrinkles that line her face, stamping it
with age and mortality. So different from Evergreen.
says. "I'm just trying to show you an alternative."
Love and happiness?" He snorts. "I've had a whole life full of
think going back to some kind of fairy tale past is going to
help?" She swipes at the salted brown strands of hair blowing
past her face, pushing them away. "You think what she offers
you is anything more than an illusion? Past is past, Nick. Not
even her magic can bring it back."
"So what if
I want the illusion? You're trying to tell me the real world
has any room in it for me? Fuck the real world, DeAnn! You
think I got in a truck and drove out here so I could go crawling
back to my Aunt Geri? You think I came out here so I could get
a job down in Portland shoveling fries or fish or something?"
a mother, Nick. You want to see some pretty pictures, go look
in a photo album. Don't let Evergreen add you to them
permanently. It's forever, Nick, and don't think it isn't.
Other people will grow old and die, and you'll watch them do
it. If she ever lets you out of her grasp."
his mouth, with it full of feeling and not thought, but before
he can get anything out, Evergreen shoves DeAnn away from him.
stumbles backwards; Nick blinks in surprise. "Leave him alone,
you old hag! The world doesn't want him, or me or any of us!
Have you seen the trees around your farmstead? Saplings, cut
down in their prime, murdered. And you -- have you told
him who you are, DeAnn? Have you told him why you are in
backs up with her arms crossed over her breasts and a
self-satisfied smirk on her face. For a moment, DeAnn stares
back at her, moon-pale, but then she firms her sagging jaw and
lifts her head.
"I had the
choice, and I made it. But you're not giving him the choice,
are you? You can't bear the thought of losing anybody else so
you've resorted to trickery and lies. Is that a proper use for
your magic, Evergreen?"
have you to speak to me so?" Evergreen shrieks. "How could you
know anything of how alone I really am?"
down, sobbing, onto her knees. She presses her cheek against
the forest floor, and her hair tumbles forward and hides her
face. Her crying sounds like the keening of birds.
at her. Then he looks up at DeAnn. "What does she mean, DeAnn?"
sighs. "Once upon a time, I was like Evergreen, too. But I
gave it up."
old to him, older than before. He frowns. "Why?"
smile touches her mouth. "Oh, the usual. I did it for a man."
"And then he
left and you were old," Evergreen spat, lifting her
head. "You did it wrong. You went out into their world instead
of taking them to yours."
her head, then reaches out to touch Wolf lightly on his sleeve.
"No," she says, her smile growing brighter, "I did it exactly
right. He may be gone, but he left me his son to raise. Wolf
is worth the years."
her eye and smiles, too, a crooked, embarrassed grin that speaks
of a love unfettered by resentments. DeAnn rests her hand on
Wolf's arm, squeezes it.
spits in the dirt. "That's what I think of their world," she
says. "Leaving us all alone!"
to cry again. She looks so small, huddled there in the dirt.
Nick slips out of his jacket and kneels beside her to wrap it
around her shoulders. She looks up at him, startled, the green
swirls on her face sparkling with tears.
He gets back
to his feet before she can touch him.
"It's up to
me," he says. Isn't it?"
* * *
remembers it this way.
building a cabin beneath a giant spruce. Sometimes Evergreen
watches him as he splits the dead, leftover wood to make it into
something new, and that's all right. Sometimes he invites her
to sit with him while he drinks hot coffee in a cracked mug
DeAnn gave him. The mug has a picture of a fairy garden on it,
and drinking out of it reminds him of the dreams. Sometimes as
he watches the dream-sprites playing in the trees it doesn't
seem so impossible, that all those wounds of childhood might
heal. Some day.
And some day
maybe he will go back for his mother and serve her coffee out of
this chipped fairy cup, too.
But for now
he splits wood in the mist beneath the evergreens. The logs
fall apart, and he stacks the pieces into walls.
gets a little bigger every day.
he'll call it home.
About the Author:
Angela Boord recently moved to the
frozen wilds of upstate New York, where she lives with her husband and five
children in a house the movers called "The Brady Bunch House." Her infant twins
provide editorial input and are teaching her how to type in her sleep. Angela's
work has also appeared in Strange Horizons, Andromeda Spaceways
Inflight Magazine, and Ideomancer.
Story © 2006 Angela Boord.