Night time catches the magic of the day just gone,
And if you dream hard enough then you too can form
The dark around you to anything you wish done.
When the light was switched off in her room, and her parents had taken care that the only door was shut, little Lucy lay her golden hair down on her pillow. She lay there and quietly waited tucked deeply under her duvet in the warm and safe dark of her bedroom. Minutes passed and the clock ticked secretly by the Night’s Ninth hour. Rain began to fall against her window its pit-pat synchronising with the clock’s ticking to form a rhythmic duet. The darkness in the corners of Lucy’s room shifted to a deeper shade of mysterious.
As her tired eyelashes reached down to kiss the very tops of her cheeks, a noise came. A noise that rustled like the footsteps of a mouse, yet it was quieter and softer still. However, she did not allow the itching joy inside her to turn into a smile, instead, she waited just a little more, because she knew what was about to happen. Lucy’s eyelashes reached her cheeks, and her ears twitched ever so slightly in excitement.
On Lucy’s floor some fairies had stepped from the shadowed corners of her room. They whispered gentle words and hoped their spells would help the child in her sleep. Without knowing that she heard each word of each spell and did not fall into a slumber, they turned their backs to her bed, and ran out into a circle. Confident that they weren’t being watched they swept out rolls of brown fabric long and far to reach each corner of the room, in preparation of their coming celebration.
As they were busying about this joyful duty, Lucy lifted the corner of her duvet away from her eyes and she couldn’t hold back the smile anymore. She saw little women on her floor all dressed in the season’s fashion. Some wore flowers upon their heads as hats. Others had bird feathers tucked behind an ear – the kind Lucy was used to seeing on Peter Pan or Robin Hood. Several even had their very own wings. Some like a Dragonfly. Some like a Damselfly. Some like a Butterfly. These wings seemed crafted from the finest glass and shone with beautiful colours. They were so beautiful that Lucy couldn’t look away from them and almost missed what happened next.
The fairies drew together in a circle and four fairies, on the edge of the circle closest to the sock drawer, began playing some music. Lucy watched as all the fairies in the circle began to gently sway. Then three of the fairies stepped forward. Their dresses held every colour of spring, and after each of one their steps grass grew like ripples on a pond. These three held their heads high and swept into the most gorgeous display of ballet that Lucy may ever have dreamt of seeing. Pirouettes, plies leading into leaps, things Lucy could not name, and things no man or woman could ever conceive.
And now the others began to join in. Soon every fairy was dancing atop the earth brown fabric – except, it wasn’t brown anymore. As each foot rose and fell it added to a beautiful tapestry of dance, grass soon covered the whole piece, flowers began to bloom: forget-me-nots, dandelions, buttercups, and a small sapling began to grow slowly, slowly, slowly in the central hill of this miniature field.
A mouse and his family crept out of a corner of the room to view all this beauty, and his three babes tried to copy what was before them. These small ones picked blue, pink, and yellow forget-me-nots from the edge of the spreading field, and tucked them into fluffs of hair near their ears. After handing their mother a daisy, and a buttercup to their father, they began to dance joyfully as only the young can.
Time was passing swiftly with Lucy’s clock hinting towards the Tenth hour, and as it crossed that threshold the fairies springtime dresses immediately swirled, mixing the colours till each shone white. Then suddenly they stopped. They had changed. There was strawberry red, emerald green, and an array of full colours that brightened the room in the splendour and warmth of summer. The smallest and – from what Lucy could tell – the youngest of the fairies lead the dancing now. They found partners, linked arms, and whisked around the room in frivolity; their faces resplendent in smiles. Lucy felt the joy raise her heart like nothing ever had, nor ever would again.
Still on its hill, the oak sapling grew, and now was a young tree as the fairies made their summer dance. Twigs grew into boughs and hung heavy with leaves that were green and fresh. A wind from behind Lucy gathered itself and blew breezily across her and between the boughs; the young oak began to slowly dance itself, supply swaying to the rhythm of the wind. Enthused by its friend’s movement, the wind rushed around to encourage the oak’s sway, but as it pushed past Lucy, the wind caught a corner of her duvet and came tumbling down to the foot of the oak tree – all entangled within the goose-feather-filled blanket. It flapped free, flew straight up and wrapped around the oak in a furious howling gale. The young oak twisted its trunk towards Lucy and slowly stretched out a long bough, twigs wavering like fingers.
Lucy sat up, her eyes wide. She pushed herself as far back to her wall as she could. Branches came towards her. She quickly looked around. Knowing there was no running from this tree, she pressed closer to the wall, and so waited in fear. Slowly it came. One of the twigs touched her, then a second, then a third. Still unable to flee she began to shake. The oak that once looked so small loomed large before. The cover on her bed rose around her like a pink sea, and she shrank smaller and smaller. It took her in its twig-formed hand and lifted her towards its island in the centre of her room, over the still dancing fairies – who continued their display in apparent ignorance – and over the flowers, and fields, and meadows. If not in a terrified state, she may have enjoyed the beautiful sight passing beneath.
The bough wobbled and bumped above mounds rising in the meadows. Hills were being birthed. She cried until her well ran dry, but the journey over the beautiful, transforming place that was once her room continued. She saw a trickling stream with fairies drinking fresh from its spring. She heard a sheep’s voice wavering and a horse’s hooves thrumming. She smelt the spray from a waterfall, and the bough changed its course. It began to rise upwards. Lucy held on to the twiggy fingers with her hands as she was pushed against the barked surface of the branch by the force of ascent. She closed her eyes tight and wished she could go back to bed, but she could not, no matter how hard she wished, and she was being lifted higher and higher by the tree. The cacophony of water on rock faded to a babble and then to a trickle, and then it stopped entirely. She opened her eyes – always wishing for a dream – and looked down. The sight ran up to her eyes and snatched her breath. The waterfall, the hills, a mountain bedecked with snow, horses galloping freely through meadows, the fairies still dancing (but now about a totem of stone), streams running and joining to form a river which opened into a sea that rocked and rolled and billowed. A turquoise set around an island gem arisen from the centre of her room’s carpet. It spread under her bed and its waves crashed into the cliff-face of her sock drawer.
She regained her breath just as the bough slowed and stopped. A breeze brushed her back and neck. She dared not turn around, for she feared what she might see. A second arm-like bough came down, picked her up gently at the shoulders, and set her down on the grass. Now what she saw there may not be described as a face, but Lucy was convinced – and maintains to this day – that the oak smiled at her. Its leaves rustled as an angry wind raced through them, and the oak responded by creaking in a manner that displayed its disagreement quite clearly. Again, you could not describe this as a conversation as we have, but the wind and the oak did reason together.
Lucy had nothing to do, but to sit and wait as these two rushed and creaked, howled and shook, rolled and shivered. With each passing moment the wind began to settle down, and the oak creaked, shook, and shivered less and less. Then, they stopped. In a final agreement the wind left the oak’s ears and descended to breeze through the meadows and chase the horses. The oak twisted one last time and sank ever so slightly as if it needed to sit down and rest. Lucy looked at where she had seen the oak’s mouth, as it were, and smiled. The oak smiled back, but it was not a happy smile. It was the sort of smile given when someone will not be seen, either for a long time or, ever again.
A distant sound made both girl and oak twist round. It was a very distant bong, and Lucy thought it strange. Her clock had never made a sound like that before, but it was unmistakably an hour being struck. Again it sounded. And again. The oak shook its leaves and the green was chased out by browns and reds and yellows. Its bark lost its youthful brown and darkened and cracked to that of an older tree. Another toll rang. And another. Lucy cried a final tear and it fell into the oaks hand that held her. As the final six callings to Autumn sounded around the island, the oak and the girl looked at each other. Lucy would never forget this magical place as long as she lived, but she understood that she may never see it again. The oaks bark a sad smile one last time. The Eleventh hour of the Night had come and the fairies had changed their dresses once more.
The oak lowered Lucy back down and as she neared her bed it grew larger and the island grew smaller, until at last she was sitting in the comfort of her duvet and facing all the dancing fairies. They continued to ignore her, but the wind gave one final gust before whispering through the tiniest blades of grass. The waters retreated from under her bed, and some of her socks were left washed up on the edge of a drawer. Fairies slowed in their dancing as the whole island was covered in a gentle mist which caused everything to shimmer as molten silver. The oak shook itself as it shrunk, or faded – she was not quite sure which. Lucy waved in return. The silver sheen shimmered as the nature beneath it rolled, and danced, and breathed, and lived. Finally, the clock struck the last chords of that night, and the final wonder Lucy saw before the beauty shrank from her sight was the oak older and wiser, with the fairies dancing around about his trunk resplendent in Winter’s cold white and shivering blue.
It was gone. Lucy looked to where the fairies had first come from. Nothing stirred. She could see no remnant of the magic that had only just now finished. Sadder than she had ever been before, Lucy lay her golden hair down on her pillow and quietly waited. The clock ticked and tocked away to itself, but no rustling sound like the footsteps of a mouse came forward to her straining ears. Slowly, slowly her eyelashes came down and gently kissed her cheeks – and this time they remained till the morning, for Lucy was fast asleep.
The sun’s light called forth the dawning of a new day, and Lucy awoke at its voice. As she sat up she heard a bong. And then another. And then five more rang out in succession. Was she dreaming? Was last night’s magic and beauty real? Lucy sat in silence for a moment, but her thinking was disturbed when a small mouse ran out into her room and stopped abruptly. Lucy stared in wonder at it. She was sure it had a look of disappointment etched on its whiskery face. Yet that was not all, for upon its head it wore a blue forget-me-not. The mouse then turned round and pattered home rather sadder than it had first appeared, Lucy thought.
Lucy relaxed on her bed, and she smiled. She lay there smiling and daydreaming of all the wonderful sights she had seen. When her parents came to wake her up an hour later her clock welcomed them in by striking Seven joyful bongs! That convinced her fully and finally. There were wonders to behold out there in the world, and she would never stop seeking them wherever she might find herself.