Delft ended the morning with a thunderous sneeze. The force of his sneeze made him flicker into his Grey Hairstreak Butterfly form. He heard a gasp.
“That wasn’t there a minute ago! Where did that butterfly come from?” A little girl with blonde curls held out a finger. Delft fled.
Just his luck to flicker into his visible form when some big human was looking. Delft flittered and fluttered, his butterfly form much slower than his invisible fairy form. His tiny feet landed on a yellow butterfly bloom. The girl sidled closer, moving slowly, as if he would not notice her. She was as big as a house to him, and he chuckled at her attempt at sneaking.
“Annaleise!” A boy called. The second she looked away, Delft flickered back into fairy form, now invisible to any but a magical or fairy eye. He held a finger to his nose, he felt another sneeze coming.
The boy appeared from behind a huge boulder, panting from running up the hillside. His brown hair was sticking up in all directions, and his shirt was half-tucked.
“I’m here! Oh, where did it go?” Little Annaleise could not see the butterfly anymore, and she was downcast.
“Annaleise, don’t disappear like that! Mom told me to look after you, and how can I do that if I can’t find you?”
“A butterfly came out of thin air, and I followed it.”
“You mean that fairy right there?” The boy pointed right at Delft. Delft’s sneeze escaped with an explosion, and he flickered into a butterfly again.
“There it is again! It disappeared and reappeared! It’s magic!” Annaliese clapped her hands. “Why did you call it a fairy?”
“When it doesn’t look like a butterfly, it looks like a little man with wings, black hair and a red coat. Come on, Annaleise, let’s go home for lunch.” The boy laughed. “The fairy will still be here later. Mom will be worried.” The two children disappeared around the boulder, heading down the long slope.
Delft dove into the grasses, and zigzagged to a huge beech tree. His friend Barnor was atop a Rudbeckia. He blended into the patch of yellow in his Pearl Crescent form, partially covered in golden pollen.
“Even with invisibility and shapeshifting, you still almost got caught!” Barnor snickered. He had seen the girl following Delft, but he hadn’t been close enough to overhear.
“That boy is a mage!” Delft exclaimed.
“No!” Barnor disagreed, flicking into his wood elf shape, his red hair gleaming. He brushed pollen from his mossy coat. “Magic has died out of the human race!”
“He saw me in my fairy form! He told his sister I looked like a little man in a red coat!”
“Oh, no!” Barnor was horrified, gazing at Delft’s red coat. “We will have to tell the Horned King.” The Horned King lived deep in the wild Ozark Mountains.
The last golden rays of the setting sun bathed the Horned King where he towered over the elves, stately in his stag form.
“Something will have to be done about that boy,” the Horned King’s deep voice proclaimed. All the fairies nodded agreement.
“But what?” thought Delft, with another sneeze. The fairies all agreed to move farther from the humans. In his dreams that night, Delft fled from the boy endlessly over green Missouri mountainsides. Something had been started that day, that could not be undone.
Copyright 2015 Brenda Davis Harsham
Note: This flash fiction is dedicated to the child in all of us, and to my grandfather, who was a math teacher, a school principal and a collector of butterflies. All three photographs were used with gratitude toward and kind permission of Heather’s Photography.