Merlin did not feel like sitting around in a dark hotel room, so he invited me to walk with him and continue our chat while we did so.
We comfortably strolled down the street – I can’t tell you which one to preserve his anonymity – when I saw a young mother pushing a stroller.
I would say the young girl was somewhere around two years old, and her dancing eyes opened wider and wider as we approached. They fixated on Merlin’s face and never wavered.
But as we got close enough so I could track where she was looking, it became clear she was not looking at Merlin; she was looking at his shoulder.
I heard her say, “Fairy,” and?she pointed at Merlin’s shoulder.
“Really,” said her mother, “Where’s the fairy?”
“Man!” said the young girl pointing at Merlin’s shoulder and bouncing up and down in her seat all the while pointing and shouting, “Fairy! Fairy!”
I glanced to my left to check out Merlin’s shoulder, but all I saw was a growing smile on Merlin’s face. I recognize that smile, it was one that every grandparent wears when confronted with the magic of a young toddler.
Merlin must have felt me looking at him because he turned and met my eyes. His smile grew larger.
“Can’t see it, can you?” said Merlin. It sounded as if it might be a question but I knew it wasn’t.
“See what?” I asked.
“You can’t see the green Sithich sitting on my shoulder,” said Merlin.
“Well…” I began, but the excited voice of the toddler interrupted me. “Fairy, fairy!” We were only and about 10 feet apart and closing. I watched the young girl’s face as it became increasingly animated as we approached each other.
The smile on her mother’s face was growing. She was obviously enjoying the laughter and the rapturous energy that seemed to surround the little girl.
The only thing that seemed to match the young girls energy, was the return smile on Merlin’s face. When we were about 5 feet apart, Merlin’s stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, knelt down with one knee on the pavement, as if to royalty, and blocked the young mother from passing. He smiled up at her, she nodded in return. Then Merlin dropped his eyes to the young girl, and said, “Do you like my fairy?”
“Fairy!” Said the young girl as she bounced and squirmed against the seat belt holding her into the stroller with her arm outstretched towards Merlin.
Frankly, I had no idea what was happening as I could not see anything resembling a fairy. What I could see was that both Merlin and the young girl were laughing and giggling together. Merlin turned and looked at me, smiled and said “Maybe just this one time.” He reached out and took my hand.
It was if a new world opened for me. The colours became brighter. Everything around us was sharper. I could smell the fumes from the gasoline engines of the cars going by and the rumbling of their exhaust played a background of constant noise into my ears.
I felt like a bloodhound dog, because every smell in the street, from the fresh salty air coming off the ocean, to the diesel fragrant overtones of fuel being pumped into the large oil freighters, to the wonderful smell of brewed coffee that surrounded us as we stood outside the coffee shop, was richer and deeper.
But the biggest surprise, was seeing a small, green winged fairy perched comfortable on Merlin’s shoulder.
Merlin’s eyes danced as they met mine again and he said, “it’s a Sithich,”
“Sithich?” I asked in a rather breathless voice. I had just seen a real fairy and I knew it would be a hard sell to get this into or through my editor’s review. He’d never believe what I’d just seen.
“This is my friend,” said Merlin. “He is one of the smallest Fae, but this little fellow is a special friend of mine, and often rides with me in case I need a messenger. His name is Bonkyboos now.”
The little creature turned and in an ancient way bowed from the waist. He could have been a courtier in a French king’s court and I blurted that out.
Merlin laughed that special laugh that comes from somewhere deep inside himself. He usually keeps it well hidden. He?said, “Well, the little monster did hang about there for a time but tired of all the riots and revolutions.”
My eyes must have been the size of saucers as I nodded to the little creature.
“Why did you call him a ‘monster’?” I asked.
“Simply affection. This is one of the smallest Sithich you’ll ever see but his heart is one of the biggest,” said Merlin. “He did me a favor some time ago, and I’ve never forgotten the bravery that took. He’s been with me ever since and considers himself my personal messenger. That works for both of us.”
The small green Sithich disappeared from Merlin’s shoulder and landed on my own. When I turned my head, my eyes crossed as I tried to focus on it and the peal of laughter that emerged from the three of them – the Sithich, Merlin and the young girl – had me giggling.
The Sithich appeared on Merlin’s shoulder again, whispered something into his ear – I couldn’t hear what – and then in a twinkling of light, it appeared on the front bar of the stroller right in front of the little girl.
I didn’t think her smile and laughter could get any bigger or brighter. I was wrong and her joy had all three adults – well, two adults because I’m not sure Merlin was thinking like an adult at the moment – laughing along with the girl.
Merlin smiled even broader, and he turned and said, “I’m going to let go of your hand, but now you know fairies are real.” He turned and looked down at the little girl, who had never taken her eyes off the fairy.
He let go of my hand and the Sithich disappeared.
I felt an incredible sense of loss. It was as if I had a glimpse of true magic, of the real world that surrounded us, of peace and love, but had lost it. Forever.
I cannot tell you how dark and sad it I felt when that little Sithich disappeared. Seeing it was one of the best moments of all the time I spent with Merlin. Losing it felt like one of the worst.
I saw him flash that amazing smile of his at the little girl’s mother and we both stood aside to let her pass us by.
I was surprised the little girl had stopped squealing about the Sithich when Merlin leaned over and whispered, “It’s riding with her and will stay with her until she falls asleep in a few minutes.”
While I can’t say that made me feel any better about losing the sense of magic that surrounded us, I suddenly saw Merlin in a new light. He wasn’t just an old, powerful, Mage. He was a living, breathing man who loved children and the raw delight they brought to the world.
My final thought about this moment is how much I’ve thought about this event over the past few weeks and how I try to look out at the world in new ways. I’m trying to recapture that sense of wonder at seeing something new for the first time. I know there’s magic out there and I’m doing my best to recapture it.
I’ll get back to you with any progress I make.