The room was dark, perpetually, except for a single table lamp; it wasn’t enough to make Angelic feel safe.
She remembered the night sky, lit with stars twinkling, like glitter tossed in the air. She felt safe in that kind of dark, but this was a stacking darkness that swallowed, and Angelic felt she was being devoured, the only light being one that led down the back of a monster’s throat.
The small table lamp cast a dingy yellow over the man’s worktable, spilling over tools, and paper stacked haphazardly. Some of the glow spilled beyond the table casting silhouettes of basement shelves lined with books, more tools, random collectibles, and the large glass jar she was trapped in. On the far wall were maps, articles, and images of creatures like her, other fairies. To the man who captured her, she was merely a possession, a trinket to be kept hidden.
He stood up from the worktable with a small vial of sugar water; her daily dose of prison food. He opened the jar, and Angelic could see his crystal blue eyes.
He slid the vial down. “Drink.”
Angelic begged the man for mercy, though she knew he could not understand her words or mercy. This had become habit. He would open the jar, and swing the vial, knocking her down with a laugh. She would cower as he squeezed nectar from the vial, the spray torrenting her like a storm. He would tighten the lid back and sit her atop the shelf with a satisfied look on his face.
Angelic was amazed at how similar his face looked like her family’s faces, only bigger. He would sit at the workbench for hours, and Angelic, in between heavy sobs, would lick the nectar off her body, and from the bottom of the jar. She needed to stay alive; to fight.
At the bench, she had watched him weld all sorts of things, practical things, but to her, it was meaningless, since she could not make sense of the creations he boasted about.
Today, though, he held up a bouquet of flowers welded from forks and spoons with a big grin. “For the wife.”
The silverware turned to nature haunted her. She remembered flowers, crawling inside blooms, and falling asleep as wind had rocked the cradle of petals. It was memories like this that sustained her. She would give anything to feel the wind against her bare skin–even if for a moment. She closed tear-strained eyes and forced the memory of nature’s elements into a dream. She held a tenuous grip to the dream-world, the only escape she had.
Waking up, realizing in early moments that she was still captured, her body would seize into a sickening fright, her gut spasming in dread. She would squeeze her eyes closed, holding desperately to the dreams where life outside the jar—the dirty basement—still existed.
She had memorized life in the jar, counting the specks of dust floating in the air, watching where they landed. There was a single penny inside the jar with her. She laid next to it, tracing the edges of it, and used her fingernail to scrape the sides, making a scratching sound. She scratched one way, then the other. This was her only way of making music. She remembered music and dancing with her people under Harvest moons.
She had stood up, and with all her might tried to lift the penny in her hands, then overhead—but was not yet successful. She had decided to work with the penny every day, to keep her body strong, and maybe become so strong she could escape—somehow. Eventually, she was able to lift the penny up and overhead eleven times before collapsing on the glass ground. It was something.
One day, a little girl had opened the door to the basement and stood at the doorway—with a hallway, brightly lit, behind her. Angelic had clutched her own hands. This was the first person she had seen since her capture—other than the man. Ninety-nine scratches on the jar made by Angelic’s fingernails denoted the days of solitude.
Angelic had pressed her face against the jar to see the little girl better. “Hookah glee!”
The girl had walked inside the basement, closed the door, and sat on the first steps leading down into the room. Angelic could tell the girl was young because of how small she was compared to the man.
The girl had watched her for a long time, and then spoke in her native tongue, words that Angelic could not understand. “I want to help you.”
The girl had stood up and left. And soon this became routine, the girl coming to see her late in the day. She would sometimes just stand in the doorway, and other times sit on the steps, talking. Angelic would fall asleep to the kind rhyme in the girl’s voice. The girl would sometimes sing and play a small instrument and Angelic would sing too, swaying her hips with the little girl's songs. Music and dance were something they both understood, if not the words they spoke to each other.
On this night, the little girl came all the way down the steps, looking back up to the door, cautious. She picked up the jar, trying to open it with clumsy fingers. Angelic’s heart raced, believing freedom neared, but the little girl could not open the jar. It was too big for her hands. “I’m sorry,” the child said, placing Angelic back on the shelf.
The little girl pressed her face against the jar. “I want to help you, but he will hurt us.”
Angelic pushed her body against the jar, seized by the girl’s eyes. The girl’s eyes welled with tears. She repeated the girl’s words when the man opened the door. The little girl rushed up the steps to the man yelling. The door slammed hard, rattling the jar and Angelic’s heart; she remembered the girl's words, turning them to prayer.
‘I want to help you, but he will hurt us.’
One hundred and twenty-two scratches denoted Angelic’s days of solitude and several days since she had seen the little girl. Angelic did not stand up to scratch into the glass today. She no longer wanted to know how many days she had been trapped. The scratches blended, disappearing into an unknown history.
Angelic fell to the bottom of the jar, still repeating the girl’s words, like a last rite of passage, a mantra, exhausted as hope left her body cell by cell, memory by memory. Even her dreams had become preyed upon by darkness, and despair. When the man came with the vial of sugar water, she did not lap it up. Instead, she laid in it, until it crystalized around her, no longer caring.
‘I want to help you, but he will hurt us.’
Angelic stared blankly at the penny. Her muscles twitched, but she did not react. The penny laid flat, unmoved. She closed her eyes, and every moment, and the days and nights blended into fits of sleep, delirium, and stages of grief. Bugs crawled over the jar, and Angelic did not notice them, as she had before. A mouse pressed its nose against the jar with twitchy whiskers, and Angelic barely turned to see him.
Her mind had nearly liquified from the lack of stimulus when the girl opened the door, taller now, with stronger hands; Angelic did not turn to look. The girl walked down the steps, and grabbed the jar, rushing outside with it gripped in her hands. Angelic felt the jostling but was too weak to brace herself inside, her body thrashing about.
The young girl sat down at a clearing in the woods, putting the jar between knobby knees, and with all her might, she turned the lid, contorting her face. Angelic sat up, her hands on the glass. Redemption felt too late, but it was here. It was here, Angelic thought, and she mouthed the prayer, the only thing her mind had held onto:
‘I want to help you, but he will hurt us.’
The little girl began to cry and sat the jar down. The lid was locked on. “He can’t hurt us now. He’s dead!”
The fairy shook her head. She did not understand what the little girl said. The little girl picked the jar back up, and again seized the lid, and it turned! The girl screamed. “Finally!”
The little girl put her finger inside the jar, tears slipping down her face. “You are free now! You are finally free!”
‘You are free,’ Angelic repeated, trying to muster the strength to grab hold of the little girl’s finger. Her body was limp with a weighted depression. The girl scooped Angelic onto her finger, sitting her on a bed of soft grass. Angelica’s eyes burned with the colors around her, and a faint sound in the distance stirred her.
It was the howling of the wind.
Angelic looked up at the girl, grateful. “Oja Kelpfier Mao! Oja Kelpfier Mao! Angelic then stood up, feeling unsteady on her legs, weak from slumber.
Angelic threw herself on the ground to feel the soil on her body. Her heart burst in raptures of relief, but fear also gripped her body. Every sensation was beautiful yet overwhelming. Her eyes tried to adjust to the light. She rushed back to the little’s girls’ hands, gripping a finger.
The little girl scrubbed her off. “No. You are free now.”
Angelic opened her eyes again, as something stirred inside her heart like embers crackling with fire.
"You are free now!"
Angelic howled loudly. She knew the siren call of her people, had always known it, and nothing could take that away from her, not even days of solitude piled so high that her heart had to remember to beat.
The little girl stood up, backing away as a swarm of other fairies came, swooping Angelic up, and to where, the little girl did not know. She only knew that it was somewhere organic, humane, and beautiful.
The little girl threw the jar hard against one of the forest’s trees in front of her. It crashed and broke which satisfied the little girl's heart.
The little girl walked back home, chanting the fairy’s words, not knowing what they meant, only that they were a universal call to something pleasant and primal, and that she, too, was finally free.
‘Oja Kelpfier Mao’
Tiffany Lindfield is a social worker by day, trade, and heart advocating for climate justice, gender equality, and animal welfare. By night, she is a prolific reader of anything decent and a writer.