Golgonooza Random Elven
Wings. by Callum Pearce
by Callum Pearce
Jay glared at his reflection in the mirror. He was silently begging the image to stutter and change like an old television. He dreamed of the reflection splitting in two to reveal the normal boy he knew he was. The recent changes to his body deleted, as though they had never happened. He had been doing the same thing every morning for the last month, since his wings had started to grow. Slowly at first, getting faster by the day. He wanted desperately to scream at his reflection until it started to show the boy he was and not the creature he was becoming. Screaming, he knew, was not an option. The last thing he wanted to do was to draw the attention of the rest of his family, especially his older brother. If he saw those things growing between his shoulders, Jay would never live it down.
Jay did what he had done every day. He gently taped them down to his back and shoulders and carefully draped a shirt over them. They were delicate and sensitive, but he was fifteen; everything was delicate and sensitive. Lessons in school had warned him about the hairs and the growing pains. In fact, they had over-warned him; all of that stuff had been quite easy to get through. Friends had filled him in on some of the more interesting parts of puberty. Nobody had ever mentioned wings and as far as he knew, nobody had ever grown them. It might not have been so bad if they granted him the ability to fly, but they were thin and weak. They didn't lift him so much as an inch off the ground.
Jay had always been considered a little different from his peers. According to his teachers, he had displayed "challenging behavior" since he first started school. Teachers insisted he had been gifted with talent and creativity that the other kids would kill for. They felt that he just had no intention of fitting in and knuckling down. If he was doing something he enjoyed, he gave it a hundred percent and baffled the teachers. Especially those who had previously only heard reports of his cheekiness and ability to disrupt lessons. If they tried to get him to do anything that he wasn't interested in, then he would spend the lesson trying to make the other kids laugh. Too often at the teachers' expense.
He could never have hoped to fit in at school. He had never mastered fitting in in his own home. His brother and sister, both older, were involved in every sports team and were tall, blonde, bags of muscle. He was more interested in dance, drama, or creative writing and was a skinny, red-haired wobbly looking child. Frankly, the last thing he needed was to get through puberty and then find out that he was even more different to everyone than even he had suspected.
He looked at his timetable for school today. Religious education, oh god, Geography, no way, physical education. On days like today, he would feel the draw of the local park. When faced with a day like that, there was nothing else to do but ditch school and go and sit with the trees and flowers. In school he would be bored and irritated; in the park, he would be quietly creating worlds and populating them with characters in his head. This, to his mind, was far preferable to the mind-melting boredom of the dull lessons. To be followed by the warm-faced, stomach emptying embarrassment of trying to play football with the others in PE.
He put on his school uniform and went downstairs. Thankfully, his parents had already left for work and he couldn't hear his brother or sister clomping around the house, so he went to the phone to call the school. He cleared his throat as he waited for the call to be answered. Then he delivered the well-practiced, absolutely immaculate impression of his mother. Jay had found he could do a perfect impression of everyone in his family, even being able to hold whole conversations as any of them with their close friends. He informed the school secretary that poor Jay had come down with the dreaded flu and probably wouldn't be in for a couple of days. The secretary promised to pass the message on to the relevant people and Jay set off to the park.
On the way to the park, he checked every car that passed. That way, he could dive out of sight if he saw one of his teachers or anybody else who could spoil his plans for the day. In a small town like this, everybody knew everybody, so the sooner he was off the street the better.
As he got close to the park, his heart beating hard in his chest, he saw the big old library and a new plan started forming in his mind. He had never dared to use the family computer at home to look for answers to his recent problems. He could never even think of using one of the school ones. The town's ancient library was almost always practically empty during school times. One or two people would drift in throughout the day, but he could have hours of privacy using the computers there. He was suddenly determined to start finding out more about his current predicament. He could have carried on covering it up and putting it out of his mind as much as possible. Yet as he approached the library, it suddenly felt like the most urgent thing in the world. Accepting that he needed answers had made him crave them more, no matter what those answers were.
He pushed the large old double doors open and saw Mrs. Robinson at the main desk. She smiled sweetly as he came toward her to book some time on the computers.
"Shouldn't you be in school?" she peered at him over her glasses.
"No miss, we have a free period in the morning," Jay mumbled guiltily.
"And you're spending it in the library rather than hanging around town getting into trouble. You are a good boy, Jay."
He hated having to lie to Mrs. Robinson. She was a small, sweet, gentle lady who had worked at the library since his first visit. He had been brought here with his class, in his first year in primary school. She had barely seemed to age since then. He had always appreciated the fact that, unlike most adults, she didn't talk down to young people or judge them. She took everyone as she found them. If you were kind and polite to her, she was kind and polite to you.
As soon as he could, he rushed to the other side of the library, where the computers were connected. He had a good look around this part of the building to make sure nobody was lurking by the shelves and then opened a search engine. He was finally ready to ask the questions that had been filling his mind and disrupting his sleep for the last month. Questions he hadn't dared ask until now.
Teenager growing wings. As he typed the words into the search bar, it felt ridiculous seeing it there on the screen. He felt foolish but also deep in his stomach the tingle of excitement. When he hit enter he could be faced with a world of information. What put him off pushing it was the thought that perhaps this had never happened to anyone before. The press of one button could show him that he was truly alone in the world, destined to never be fully understood by anyone. It could also open the world up to him and direct him toward his destiny. His finger hovered over the button until his arm started to ache, then he let it fall.
HELP! MY CHILD HAS WINGS.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
WHERE DID WE GO WRONG AS PARENTS?
All of the headlines looked awful. Problem pages with people begging to know what to do about the horrors of a child with wings. People dripping with self-hatred and fear because of what was happening to them. News articles about winged people being beaten to death by frightened, hate-filled bigots. He noticed in the images pictures of people holding placards with GOD HATES FAIRIES and FAIRIES DOOM SOCIETY. Just like that, he suddenly had a name. Fairy. Even whilst looking at these images and negative stories, some of the darkness was melted away by the light of this new information. It didn't seem like something people celebrated or even tolerated, but it was a name for people like him. He had never heard of such a thing. The only winged people he had heard of were angels and demons in his Bible and religious lessons. He had always known he was not an angel, so that had left only one other option, until now. He typed the word into the search bar and hovered over enter again, still letting the title settle in his mind.
He saw in the search results a lot of the same negative, depressing headlines. Some pages looked like straightforward, unemotional information and even support groups. He clicked on the more informative-looking pages and started to learn the history of the Fairies. What he read broke his heart but filled him with a determination to confront who he was. Not quite pride yet, but a craving to find pride in who and what he was. A feeling that he needed to find it in himself and share it with others who couldn't find theirs. He read about cruel and vicious persecution. He read that fairies didn't reproduce among each other; instead, they were born into "normal families." At first, it was treated as a birth defect and people like this were generally pitied or tolerated. Often treated like a cuckoo in the nest but not hated especially. Then religion had gotten involved. He slowly realized he had seen people like this in the cities when he was younger. Flamboyantly dressed people wearing what he had thought at the time were costume wings. Whenever he had seen these people he had been quickly steered away by whichever adult was with him. Eventually, he had just subconsciously learned to steer himself away from them. Nobody ever talked about them, there was just an unvoiced understanding that decent people didn't discuss such things.
Religion had spread its distrust of anything they perceived as different throughout the world. First, they had rounded Fairies up in great numbers and killed them in front of baying crowds. When the crowds grew weary of the disgusting spectacle and started to pull away from the people perpetuating it, they were forced to become more subtle. Constantly reminding their congregations that Fairies were not like people. They invaded your family, they poisoned society by their mere existence. They were immoral and full of lust and depravity. Reading this he had a vague recollection of them in early religious lessons, but the school must have decided that it was better just not to mention fairies at all. Better just to pretend they didn't exist. In England, all schools had to dedicate some time to religion, but outside of school, he had no involvement with it at all. For that reason he had never heard the kind of things they said about his kind. His kind ... he found it strange thinking of these creatures, people that he had only just started learning about, as his kind. The more he read, though, the more he felt a part of something bigger.
He didn't just read about the abuses they had suffered and the intolerance of the very humans that had given birth to them. He read about a society that shared so much with him. Young men and women made to feel out of place in school and often in their own families. Forced to hide who they were around others. Innocents who, against the anger and hatred of society, still managed to be fun-loving and caring. He didn't see people that deserved the disgust and distrust that was often aimed at them. He saw beautiful, exciting creatures that loved nature, that embraced and celebrated their sexuality. Jay knew instantly that that must be the problem for the church leaders. They always spent an unhealthy amount of time worrying about what people were doing in bed. The priests also suspected that fairies had magical powers, but because fairies had been forced into hiding they were very secretive with outsiders. So only other fairies would know.
The hate preachers imagined them turning up like Nosferatu in their bedrooms. Leading them astray into a life of sin and debauchery. A lot of bigots have very vivid imaginations and a blind fear that everybody, everywhere is just waiting to corrupt them. They proclaim faith and the protection of a higher power. Yet their behavior suggested a knowledge that they could be easily derailed, that their faith was paper-thin. Jay had never noticed anything magical about himself. He suspected this was just another way to make people scared of his kind.
"Everything going okay there, Jay?"
He quickly minimized the browser window and spun around in his chair to face Mrs. Robinson.
"I ... I ... was just doing some research for a school project."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me young Jay, I was just checking if you needed anything."
"No thanks, miss."
As she shuffled away to carry on her tasks, he noticed his hands were shaking and his stomach was rolling. He wondered how long she had been there and how much she had seen, but he needed to read more. After looking around to make sure he was alone again, he opened the browser window and continued to read. He read about the secret clubs and societies they had built over the years. Safe places where fairies could truly be themselves, and he wished he could be there now. He read about people in the big cities who dared to wear their wings on the outside of their clothes and insisted that people accept them. Fairies like those he had been steered away from as a child. Some were met with distrust, disgust, and eventually violence. Others had managed to carve out a reasonably normal life. They would have to settle for being tolerated or avoided rather than ever fully accepted. More and more, they were making themselves known in the world. These people filled him with pride. He almost felt as though he was marching down the streets, wings to the wind, daring people to comment.
This seemed so far away from where he was now, but he knew that he needed to get there. Not just to live his own life fully, but to help other young people going through what he was going through now. To be somebody other young people could turn to when the world turned away from them. That was the future, though; right now he needed that for himself. Where was his guide into this terrifying new world?
As he finished up in the library for the day, he felt exhausted. He felt as though he had lived through the history of the fairies, rather than read about it on the flickering screen. Violent images filled his mind, innocent people facing so much brutality throughout their whole history. Only to end up hiding from the world in dark clubs or congregating in the forests at night. All of them led to these places by the same urge. The urge to find others like themselves, to celebrate their similarities and appreciate their differences. To belong to something, when the world told them they belonged nowhere. As he was about to leave the library he saw Mrs. Robinson was putting her cardigan over the back of her chair behind the main counter. He was sure he could see something twitching between her shoulder blades under her blouse. She turned to him and wished him a good day with a big smile. Just as he was about to turn away she winked at him before carrying on with her work.
The cold air hit him as he left the library. He looked around to make sure there was nobody around and rushed to the park. Being around the trees and plants in the park always made him feel relaxed and comfortable. This, he had read, was typical for fairies. It felt strange that he was already accepting that name for himself. Everything he had read about how they suffered and how hated they were had not put him off the label. In fact, he felt more determined to find out more about his people. He wondered if he had seen what he thought he saw with Mrs. Robinson in the library. It occurred to him that he had always felt that she was a bit different from other people. It was like she had a different smell or a different aura. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on, a difference that he had always just been able to sense. He realized too that he had met a few people like this in his life, people who just had a different feel to those around them, and he wondered if he had been around fairies before, without ever knowing. He couldn't just march back into the library and ask her. What if she was deeply offended by the suggestion? After what he had read it seemed like a very offensive thing to call somebody if they weren't winged themselves.
Maybe he could look for someone else that gave him the same feeling and follow them. Maybe he would meet the ones that wore their wings outside proudly and they could tell him places to go. He had already suggested to the school that he wouldn't be in tomorrow either. He sat in the park and started to plan a trip to the nearest city. The idea terrified him but filled him with excitement. If he could just find one of his kind, he could finally start to get some proper answers about who he was.
That night he had barely been able to eat dinner and spent most of the evening in his bedroom. He was excited about tomorrow but also terrified. Most of what he had read about Fairies described them as evil or damaged. He knew deep down that he wasn't evil, but still, when so many people hated them he couldn't help but wonder if there was something to hate about them. Maybe he just hadn't fully developed yet. Perhaps he would become an evil burden on society later or even a tolerated clown. Forever playing up to his nature for the amusement of others, the normal folk. Even some of the supposed supportive pages talked more of tolerance and pity than acceptance or love. He had no intention of being tolerated by anyone. How dare they? What exactly made them so perfect that they could look down on everybody else? He imagined marching out of the house the next day and hopping on the bus into the city with his wings flapping behind him. Daring anybody to say anything. Of course, he knew he wasn't ready for that yet, but the idea excited him more than it scared him. He knew that he wouldn't sleep well tonight, but he climbed into bed anyway and lay tossing and turning until morning.
As he dressed and packed his school bag the next day, he found himself staring at his travel pass for quite a long time. This little piece of plastic, which would usually do nothing more than deliver him to school in the mornings, was now going to take him to the city. It felt like the most precious artifact in the whole world. Shining more than usual, heavier than usual, this was the key to his future, to understanding who he was. There was no certainty that he would even be able to find one of his kind, but he was filled with a determination that he had never felt before.
He left home and walked to the train station with his emotions spinning through every part of the spectrum. One minute his stomach was turning with excitement and giddy anticipation. The next it was churning the other way with dread and fear. When he was finally sat on the train, he began to feel slightly calmer. In his seat, he felt more resigned to the fact that one way or the other, he was doing this. A friendly-looking old woman ambled towards him. She was smiling and mumbling to herself. When she saw Jay and the empty seat beside him, she started to walk determinedly toward him. On her way, her bags bumped against people's legs, and she trampled luggage that had strayed into the aisle. At no point did she take her eyes off Jay. When she reached him, she half-lowered, half-fell into the seat next to him.
"Off to the city are we? How exciting," she smiled a gummy smile at Jay and fished around in her pockets.
She thrust a small crinkled bag towards his face so he could smell the cola cubes that were stuck together at the bottom. His first intention was to decline. Although it was cola cubes and the smell was already tickling his nose.
"Thanks, they're my ..."
"Favourite, I know."
"How do you know that?" Jay was scanning his brain to see if he remembered this woman who was now perched next to him on the train.
"Well, I should think that's quite obvious. A boy like you should have seen me coming a mile away."
Jay stared at her. There was something odd about her that he couldn't quite put his finger on. There was a sort of familiar feeling, even though he was sure he had never met her before. The old woman grabbed his face and turned it so that she could look deep into his eyes. She stared for an uncomfortably long time and then started rummaging in her handbag mumbling away to herself. Eventually, after searching through a hundred useless objects that she was, no doubt, certain would come in handy someday, she pulled out a small business card and thrust it in his direction.
"You might want to look for these people. I think they may be able to help you with your questions."
Jay took the card and turned it around in his hand. On one side was a large logo. A pair of wings filled with rainbow stripes. On the other side the number and address of the FYC. Underneath the title, it read: Fairy Youth Centre. Jay instinctively covered the card as soon as he read those words. His head swung from left to right as he checked to see if anybody else on the train had noticed. Everybody seemed to be in their own little world; nobody was paying attention to him and the old lady.
"But how do you know ..."
"You may be able to hide your wings from these people. Them that don't want to know. No amount of cellotape can hide them from an old witch like me."
"A witch?" Jay had read about witches in old stories but had never believed they existed in the real world.
"You're still a baby, just starting out on your life. When you learn to accept who you are there will be other changes. Your eyes will develop so that you see other magical beings easily. It's all about acceptance see; it's why these lot," she gestured towards the other passengers on the train."they will never see anything they don't expect to, otherwise they would have to accept it. Watch."
The old witch clicked her fingers and pointed at a man a few rows in front of them. A small green and blue dragon appeared in a puff of smoke on top of the man's head. Looking quite annoyed to be there the dragon stomped around a bit. It grumpily coughed a small fireball into the man's hair, then farted another one past the passenger next to him. Relieved to have emptied itself, it flew up to the top of the train and exploded into millions of glittering particles. Nobody gasped, nobody looked up from their phones or newspapers. The man who had just been host to the dragon simply scratched his head and then stood up to slide the train window shut. The witch was giggling away to herself. Remembering the dragon's annoyed-looking face, Jay chuckled too, a little.
"See," the witch went on. "Most of them won't see anything they can't accept; it's why people try to drive us all into the shadows. The very act of seeing something is already a sort of acceptance. They find it easier to close their minds to anything magical, anything that they don't understand. But times are changing, boy. People like you will be leading that change."
Jay felt that feeling of dread again. He knew, from what he had read on the internet, what people thought of people like him. Now he was facing a life of having to fight just for the basics that everybody else took for granted. Equality and acceptance would be something he and others like him would have to get in people's faces to demand. They would have to be loud and visible in a world that wanted them to stay silent in the shadows. Just existing openly would instill fear and shame in the people around him. He may even have to do all of that without the support of the people he loved. Part of him knew that his family would probably not be accepting and open to his revelations. Yet here he was, on the train, getting ready to kick those doors open and explore the world anyway.
"Quite daunting isn't it? Staring at the long path that lays before you," the witch wrapped her soft wrinkled hand around his. "Especially when so much of the path is covered in a thick fog. That will clear eventually. The more you understand of yourself, the more you learn to see what's really around you, the clearer the path will become. You just have to keep pushing forward until it all becomes clear."
"I don't know if I'm ready," Jay mumbled.
"You're ready boy, you're braver than you think. You wouldn't have gone to the library yesterday unless you were. You certainly wouldn't be sitting on this train listening to an old witch mumbling away. You're on your way to an unknown world, alone and scared. That bravery will serve you well in life. Especially life as a fairy." She patted his hand.
"I can promise you, though, when you look back on your life at my age. If you treated people well and cultivated true friendships. No matter what pain and hardship you go through, you will remember the laughter far more than the tears. Pain fades away with patience. The memory and feeling of an uncontrollable laughing fit will stay with you until you close your eyes for the very last time. Trust me as someone approaching that final breath, rapidly."
"Don't say that."
"Just another adventure, another chance to kick open a new door and enter the unknown. You have so many of those opportunities before you. Just remember to enjoy every single one. If you're not enjoying it though, you'll be learning from it. Either way, you will be treading your path and enhancing the view."
"Why do they hate us so much?"
"Hard to say boy, people are complicated. Some people fear anything different from them. Some are just filled with hate and anger. Those people will direct that pain at anyone they feel they can bully just to get it out of themselves. With those, at least when we're getting it, we know that somebody else is being let off the hook. Then some people have just been taught from birth to distrust anyone who doesn't follow the same rules as they do. Others envy the fact that you don't have to." The train was slowing down, and Jay could see the sign coming towards him.
"I'm sorry, I need to go, this is my stop. Thank you for talking to me." The train pulled in to the station.
"Be safe boy, make sure you visit the youth center. You will find there are many places for us magical folk when you know where to look, but some places you aren't ready for yet. Everybody's path starts with one step, and that group is as good a first step as any."
"Thank you, Mrs erm ...?"
"Yeah, Mrs. Erm, that will do." The witch giggled like a child.
"Goodbye, Mrs erm."
"Goodbye, fairy boy."
Jay rushed off the train. He was gripping the card for the youth center tightly in his hand. He was terrified that it would get knocked to the ground and lost in the crowd that bustled him about at the station. He turned and waved to the old witch just before a fresh crowd hit him like a wave and carried him toward the station exit. The flood of people took him outside to the entrance and then dispersed, leaving him alone.
Head spinning and stomach-turning again, he dared to take a look at the card in his hand. Although he had only ever been to the city with adults before, he was sure he recognized the street name. He was pretty certain that it wasn't very far from the station. So he started in the direction he felt was right. Getting closer to where he thought the place was, he noticed the rainbow wings logo above several bars and restaurants, even a couple of shops. They must have always been there around the city but he had never noticed them before. Now he seemed to be seeing them everywhere. As he turned into the road he was looking for he saw a building with big rainbow letters on the side, FYC. Below that a large picture of the rainbow wings that were now becoming so familiar.
The entrance door was heavy and slow to open. The hallways were empty and quiet. At every step, Jay wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction. He could hear meetings going on in the rooms;, nobody was around in the entrance area. He saw a sign for the reception and followed slowly, each step feeling like he was walking through custard. His stomach felt heavier and his feet dragged slowly down the hall.
"Hello, darling. Are you all right there?" Jay turned to see a beautiful, tall fairy coming out of one of the doors he had just passed.
"Is this your first time here?" The fairy had made no effort to hide his wings; the roots of his hair were dark green, the rest black. His eyes were purple and sparkling. He looked stunning to Jay.
"I ... I ... got this card," Jay stammered, handing over the card he had been gripping so tightly since the train.
"Don't worry, you're safe here, I promise nobody bites." He took the card from Jay and held it up to look at a small stamp in the corner.
"Oh, this is one of old Mary's cards." He looked upwards. "One more lost boy on the way to your next adventure hey, old girl."
"Mary, so that was her name. She didn't tell me."
"Yeah, she was always a modest one, old Mary. She started this place and many places like it. After her son was killed, she decided to make sure that every city had a safe place for young magical folk to go. We're up and down the country now with the youth center. Since she started those, bars have started opening too. They're for older fairies than yourself, of course."
"Was her son killed because he was a fairy?" Jay asked.
"Yes, it seems so. But that was a long time ago. Things are different these days. Largely thanks to her and others like her. Besides, she will be with him again soon, probably within the hour."
"That's not a very nice thing to say."
"I'm sorry, that probably seems quite heartless. Witches tend to know when they will go. We've all had a lot of time to get used to it. She was going home to start the next adventure in her bed. She was really quite happy about it all if that helps."
"She was very kind," Jay mumbled weakly.
"Come and sit down, tell me what brought you here."
Jay sat with the fairy and emptied his heart. He told him everything about the changes in his body and the feelings they brought with them. He talked about his family and friends. He told of his recent discoveries at the library and how they were opening up a world that he didn't even know if he was ready for. The fairy smiled and listened, encouraging him when he needed it. This wasn't often; this was the first time Jay had ever been able to truly discuss with anyone what had been going on with him. The beautiful creature in front of him seemed incapable of judgment. Jay understood that this fairy had probably walked a similar path when he was first realizing who he was. So everything just poured out until he was weak from talking and empty of emotion.
In return, the fairy told him more about the history of the youth group and fairy social spaces. He explained what other changes Jay could expect to see in his body. Eventually, the wings would become stronger. His eyes would change color and they would show him the world differently. These things would happen as he came to a place of acceptance about who he was. The very act of accepting these things about himself made them harder to hide from other people.
"So would you like to meet some others of your age? You don't have to if you don't feel ready, but I'm sure they'd love to meet you."
"Are there some here?" Jay looked around the building.
"Not quite here. All of our buildings have access to the forest, it's a safe space Mary made for us. A place where all the magical folk can be themselves without fear. I can take you to the part where the young ones hang out. If it's too much for you, you are always welcome to visit another time."
"No. I think I want to go there. I think I need to." The words left his mouth before he had even dared think about what they meant.
"I'll see if I can introduce you to a few people when we get there. After that, I'll let you find your feet on your own. I won't be far away if you need me. I'm Julian by the way. Shout my name and I'll be there."
Julian led him down a corridor to what looked like any other office in this nondescript building. He opened the door and then started looking through his pockets. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity to Jay, he pulled out a large key and held it out in the open doorway. Julian turned the key once left, then right and the office beyond the door seemed to melt and disappear.
Where the office once was, he now saw trees and flowers in a forest clearing. Tables were set up around the sides with colorful food and drinks filling every inch of space. Music was playing, but it seemed to be coming from the forest itself. It seemed to be everywhere, yet he could still hear people chatting. Fairies moved about; some flew above the crowd on wings that must have been much stronger than his. From what he had seen on the internet, he had expected that the male fairies would all be more flamboyant and effeminate whilst the females would be more masculine. Standing here, staring into the clearing, he could see that wasn't the case at all. Not far from where he stood two males were kissing. One was naked from the waist up with painted skin and make-up, the other was wearing a smart suit with holes ripped at the back for his wings. He saw in both the males and females the full range of dress senses and personality types, different ages and backgrounds. Everyone so different yet all sharing something about themselves that many couldn't share anywhere but here, among their kind. A young woman with blue skin pushed past from the offices into the clearing. Noticing his surprise, Julian explained that she was a pixie, then proceeded to point out all of the other creatures around the clearing. Pixies over here, witches there, gnomes fighting over one of the gaming tables, a warlock serving colorful drinks. Creatures he had never even dreamed of, all celebrating together. Every so often, one would raise a glass or blow a kiss to a large photo hanging between two trees. It was a massive picture of Mary, the witch from the train.
As he looked around the clearing he saw some fairies sloughing off their real-world drag. They were like stunning butterflies emerging from gray cocoons. Contact lenses were carefully removed, then the clothes made to cover their wings slid to the floor and they flew freely among the trees. Others adjusted their usual uniforms just enough to get some air on their wings. They were all so beautiful and happy, nothing like the things he had read about on certain parts of the internet. Jay found that he was already starting to unfasten the buttons on his shirt.
This was it, it was now or never. He didn't know how his family would react, nor his friends and neighbors. He didn't know what difficulties he would face if he chose to fully embrace this world. He only knew that right now, he was among his people. Coming out to everybody in the world was secondary and would come when the time felt right. When he stepped through that portal he was coming out to himself, and that was more important than anything else. His acceptance of himself had to be so great that people would just get caught up in it and pulled along for the adventure. He had to love himself enough to fill the gaps that others would leave. Part of Jay still felt the urge to turn and run, but instead, he took a deep breath, stepped forward and left the safety of his old world behind him.