The Conrad Consequences

by Richard Campbell

Conrad and the Fairy

Conrad was lonely.

Of course there were servants; Mary, who used to be his nanny but was now one of the maids—though she still thought of herself as someone who could tell him what to do when she wasn't dusting ornaments, making beds, or sweeping the stair carpet.

Cook, large, fat and jolly, who allowed him to lick the dish after she had made a cake, always leaving some mixture in the bottom of the bowl because she knew how much he loved it, almost as much as he loved the cake when it smelt so delicious as it came out of the oven.

There was the gardener, but he was very grumpy and always had a reason to forbid him to pick the flowers, or sample the fruit in the orchard because it was reserved for making cider, or jam, or preserves. At least that's what he claimed!

The gardener's boy who was older than Conrad, had a strong body, large hands and a rather hoarse voice, would have made a good friend except that the gardener kept his nose to the grindstone, and when he wasn't working, he had a sweetheart who took up the remainder of his time. So he wasn't much use although Conrad admired him intensely.

The chauffeur, who drove his uncle to town every day, was of no use either because he spent most of his time peering disconsolately into the innards of the automobile which, although an indispensable indication of affluence, was abominably unreliable and always breaking down at the most inconvenient of times and places.

That left the housekeeper and the butler, both of whom were stiff, formal, and always addressed him as 'Master Conrad'. They knew their place and would have been horrified at the thought of being familiar.

As a result he was always alone except when his tutor arrived for lessons in the morning and he (in Conrad's opinion) was of no use to anyone as he was old, crabby, pedantic and horribly religious.

He had no relatives apart from his uncle and aunt and, since he had come to live with them after the death of his parents, had been produced for their inspection every evening by Mary, when he was younger, and by himself now that he had turned fourteen. Then, after precisely half an hour of stilted conversation (timed by the valuable, antique, and frankly hideous grandfather clock which ticked forbiddingly in a corner of the drawing room) would be dismissed to his supper and forgotten as soon as he left the room.

He would have his meal in what used to be the nursery, but was now called the schoolroom, and after an hour or so with a book or a game of solitaire (well named he always thought), he would be told it was high time that he was in bed. Then it was to the bathroom to remove the grime of the day, not that he got particularly grubby because there was no one to get dirty with, put on his nightshirt and climb into bed.

He was allowed to read for a further half an hour before Mary came in to say goodnight. Neither his uncle nor his aunt ever did the same as they would be dressing to go to the theatre, attend a party, or to dine somewhere. If they happened to be at home, they would be entertaining guests, as was the custom of well to do people, and wouldn't have a thought to spare for him. After checking that he had said his prayers, he no longer bothered but always claimed that he had in order to save argument, Mary would leave the room taking the oil lamp with her.

There were gas lights on the lower floors but here, almost in the attic, his uncle had decided against the expense of installing them. Only Conrad and the servants would benefit so there was little point. When he was older he would be promoted to a gas lit bedroom on the floor below but until then an oil lamp was perfectly adequate. He was, after all, only a small boy. In fact he was less of a small boy than they thought but their daily glimpses were too brief for them to be conscious of it.

An ordinary boy then was Conrad, well most of him anyway, though in some ways rather extraordinary though no-one, including himself, was aware of it.

Because he was so much alone he was forced to use his imagination to entertain himself. Much as he enjoyed reading there was a limit to how long he could do so and solitary card games palled rapidly. So, he would invent stories based on what he had been reading recently and act them out, playing all the parts and jumping from character to character as his script dictated. It was better than nothing but would have been much more fun if he'd had someone with whom to do it.

He was especially fond of using fairy tales as the basis of his games because he loved the idea of waving a wand, muttering a spell, or intoning an incantation to get anything he wanted—notably, someone his own age to be friends with. Not having discovered the wand, the spell or the incantation despite of innumerable attempts, he had to settle for pretending.

Unfortunately, as he had grown older, his imagination had begun to flag and his stories and games had become less satisfying. Also something, some new thing, had come into his life, or rather, was trying to come into it but having some difficulty because neither he nor it had any idea what it was. He had led a very sheltered life and imagination is no substitute for the sort of knowledge (however inaccurate) he would have gained if he'd had boys his own age to talk to. His only recourse was to try to ignore it, whatever it was, but for some reason it frequently became rather prominent whether he was thinking about it or not—embarrassingly so, even under the concealing clothing that boys his age wore.

Things were in this unsatisfactory state when he went to bed one night and, eventually, to sleep.

It was at the magic hour of midnight when he woke and saw, in the moonlight shining through the open window, someone sitting cross legged on the end of his bed.

He blinked. Then he rubbed his eyes when the vision, which had to be a dream, refused to disappear.

"It's about time you woke up," the vision remarked. "I've been waiting here for hours."

The voice was something like that of the gardener's boy, slightly husky, and attractive because of it.

"Who are you?" Conrad asked in a bewildered voice. "And what are you doing in my bedroom?"

"I'm a fairy."

Conrad blinked again. "A fairy? Like out of one of my books? Like a dream?" He was more convinced than ever that he was still asleep.

"No, not like a dream, I'm real."

"You can't be. Fairies aren't real. You're a boy."

"Actually I'm both. A fairy boy. Like you."

"Me?" Conrad's voice squeaked (the first time ever!).

"Look," (the fairy? boy?) said a little impatiently, "Are you just going to lie there asking questions all night?"

"What else can I do? I'm asleep and dreaming."

The vision crawled up the bed and gave his arm a pinch.


"Do you still think you're dreaming?"

"No! That hurt enough to wake me up if I was," he responded, rubbing the mark.

"That's right. You're not dreaming, Conrad."

"Are you, really, real?" he demanded, even more bewildered.

"Well I am and I'm not. What I mean is, I'm a real fairy, but I'm not a real boy. At least not any more."

Conrad blinked again. This got more and more confusing. "I don't understand."

The boy (fairy?) nodded. "I need to explain. You see there really are fairies but adults can't see them. Most children can't either, unless they're special, like you."

"Me?" Conrad squeaked. Again!

"Yes, you," the fairy (boy?) giggled. "You've reached a special time in your life and you're lonely and have no one to be friends with or talk to. That's what makes you special, so I was offered the job. I don't like mortals much and normally I'd have said no. But," he went on before Conrad could say that he didn't understand again, "As soon as I saw your image I changed my mind, took on the job, and here I am."

Conrad felt the need to blink and feel bewildered all over again, but as he'd done both several times, rubbed his eyes instead. The vision (fairy? boy?) still didn't go away as he half expected, but remained on the bed with his legs tucked under him and a smile on his face.

"Don't say it!"


"That you don't understand."

"I wasn't going to…well, alright, I was. Er, what job?"

For the first time, the vision? boy? fairy? looked a little shy. "The job of being, er, friends with you and, showing you, er, things."

"I don't underst…I mean, what, er, things?"

"Well, I want to show you how to use your, er, wand, for a start."

"Er…I mean, wand?" It made a change from 'what do you mean' or 'I don't understand'.

"Once you know how to use it everything will be alright."

"I don't have a, er, wand."

"Yes you do. Only you don't know it yet."

"What does it do?"

"It can give you lots of fun, and, er, me as well. If you want."

"You mean you could be my friend and everything?"

"Yes. That's the job. But you have to want it very much and you wouldn't be allowed to stay here."

Conrad stared at him, now totally confused. But, not only did he seem rather nice (though bewildering) but he also looked rather nice. In fact he looked very nice. And now that he looked closely, there was a sort of transparent shimmer behind him that changed shape all the time and sometimes looked like, almost like, he could hardly bring himself to think it, but it did really look like, like…like it could be, folded?…wings?

"Can you fly?" It was preposterous question but then everything since he had woken up (if he had) had been preposterous.

The whatever it (he?) was, smiled. "Yes, I can. But not by using my wings. They're not strong enough to lift me even though I'm quite small for a fairy boy. They're just for show." He stood up on the bed. He was small, even smaller than Conrad.

He (it?) gave his shoulders a little shake. Then, unfurling, spreading, opening, were the most lovely delicate wings that Conrad could have imagined. They were the same shape as those of a butterfly, but more fragile, and far more beautiful. They moved slowly, gracefully, for a second, then with no apparent effort, the (?) rose from the bed and hovered, those exquisite, ethereal wings beating slowly.

Conrad gasped, overcome by the scintillating beauty of the fairy boy as he gently settled back onto the bed next to him, kneeling Japanese style, with his legs tucked beneath him again. It was then that Conrad noticed something else. The fairy boy's clothes (or would that be clothe?) because he wasn't wearing shirt, tie, knickerbockers, socks and boots like Conrad did during the day, all he had on was a short tunic which left his arms and legs bare. As Conrad had only ever seen his own bare arms and legs he had nothing with which to compare them, but no comparison was necessary. He just knew they were the most perfect arms and legs he was ever likely to see.

The fairy boy appeared to read his mind. "I can't see your arms because of your nightshirt but they are perfect too and I know your legs are the same."

Conrad shook his head. "They couldn't be as perfect as yours. No one's could. And anyway, how would you know?"

The fairy boy smiled and shook his head as well. "I was shown your image. Why do you think I took on the job? Do you believe me now, that I'm a real fairy boy?"

Conrad gulped and nodded. After the way he had risen into the air there could be no argument. "But, I thought, I mean I remember, you said, just now, that I'm one too?"

The fairy boy laughed. His laughter, in spite of his attractive husky voice, sounded almost silvery and Conrad loved the sound of it. "You are. But in a different way to me at the moment. I'm a Fairy, fairy boy, while you're a Mortal, fairy boy."

Conrad understood the difference between the fairy part and the mortal part but felt that there was something further that he wasn't quite getting.

"But you don't know it yet," the fairy boy continued. "That's also part of the job, to show you what you are."

"What I am?"

"Yes. Once you know, you can decide."


"Whether to stay or not"

"Stay or not?"

The fairy boy grinned. "Do you always repeat things that people say to you?"

"You're not people, you're a fairy. You said so."

"Alright then, do you always repeat things that fairy boys say to you?"

"I don't know. I've never spoken to one before."

The fairy boy laughed again, that lovely, husky, silvery sound. "Just teasing, Conrad. And don't repeat teasing, please."

"Alright. I'll say, er, why, instead."

"Er, why? Because I like you. I liked you as soon as I saw your image. That's why…"

"…I know, I know—you took on the job!"

The fairy boy giggled. Conrad didn't know which he liked more, his giggle or his laugh.

"Well, better make a start. I've been looking forward to it ever since I saw your image."

He gave that small shake of his shoulders again and his beautiful wings sort of folded and shrank until there was just that faint iridescence again. And then, and Conrad had no idea how it had happened, he was in the bed. One minute he was kneeling on top of the covers, the next he was beneath them and Conrad, his fourteen year old heart beating much faster than the fairy boy's wings had done, shyly reached out and put his arms around the perfect little body.

Before they flew out of the window, holding hands because he wasn't too confident about flying yet (though that wasn't the only reason), Conrad glanced back and noticed the book of fairy tales he'd been reading before he fell asleep. He turned to his fairy boy and laughed, an attractive, slightly husky, silvery sound. He didn't need to say anything. His wand had said it for him. Several times.

He'd always loved his fairy tales. Now that he knew how pretty it was—he'd always love his fairy's tail!

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