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The Fairy Godfather versus ... Himself


malign

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Once upon a time, there was a man who became a fairy godfather. For those who haven't heard of him yet, he was just an ordinary guy until the day when a pair of ruby slippers and a wand arrived in the mail. Although there was no manual to tell him how to use them, he eventually found that the slippers allowed him to fly, and the wand made people happy, when he swished it properly. Since making people happy seemed like a pretty cool way to spend his time, he set off to see what adventures were out there to be had. The thing is, everyone gets homesick sometimes.

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"Ah, home at last," the godfather sighed as he closed his front door behind him. Kicking off the ruby slippers and dropping the wand on top of them, he sagged into his favorite armchair and closed his eyes. There's nothing like going out to see the world to remind a person why they chose to live at home, he thought. He sighed again, thinking of all the people he had met, with all their problems and fights and fears. Every adventure reminded him of how little he was actually able to do, and how big the suffering is.

He wondered again whether he should get a dog, someone to greet him happily when he came home. But then he looked over at the slippers. He realized that he would be away far too often and for far too long for him to have a dog. Still, he closed his eyes and imagined being met at the door by a happy, tail-wagging dog. He would pet it vigorously and scratch its ears, push it off his chest to keep from getting licked in the face. After a few minutes, as he sat down in the armchair, the dog would eye the slippers until he told it "No", and then the dog would go lie down by the fire again, until his master's back was turned ...

Suddenly, a faint knocking interrupted his melancholy (which reminded him of the dog, for some reason.) Grunting, he stood up and went to the door. He looked through the peephole, but it didn't seem to be working properly: All he could see was a big round glistening ball. Suddenly, it blinked and drew back, becoming the eye of a small flying being, just a few inches tall, which was hovering at head height and knocking on his door again. Startled, the godfather blinked, himself, and looked back through the hole. Same thing, a slightly annoyed little person with wings, hovering outside the door. You see, the godfather had not yet encountered an actual fairy; he was himself a normal-sized human being. He shrugged, and opened the door.

The flying fairy jumped, startled at the sudden opening of the door. "Oh! Thank goodness you're here, sir. I had begun to think you were out. I must speak with you. Oh, pardon me: my name is ... well, that is, you can call me ... Enn."

"Enn? What kind of name is that?"

"Well, it's roughly half of Emm, and besides, that name was taken."

"What? Oh, never mind. Do come in."

As he watched the tiny fairy fly through his door, the godfather realized that it was a good thing he didn't actually have a dog, because that would be one nasty diplomatic incident right there, having your first envoy from the fairy world eaten by your dog. He shook his head to clear that image, because he realized that Enn was speaking again.

"We have recently become aware of your activities, and felt it our duty to warn you."

"I'm sorry; why? Is it wrong for me to try to make people happy?" the godfather asked.

"No, no, very valuable work it is, and all. You're doing it as well as any good fairy; very unusual it is, too, for a ... well, a human. We wanted to warn you that, as long as you wield the wand, you will be wulnerable, I mean, vulnerable, to the force we call ... the Enemy."

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"The Enemy?" the godfather asked.

"Yes. I'm sorry; let me begin at the beginning."

"Good places to start, beginnings," muttered the godfather.

The fairy named Enn glanced sharply at him, then cleared his throat.

"Ahem. I am a member of, in fact, one of the leaders of, a governmental organization called Her Majesty's Secret Fairy Service. We were organized centuries ago, now, when fairies first started exercising their powers for the good of others. You see, our efforts seem to have awakened an opposing force that we call the Enemy.

"It is difficult to say whether the Enemy had existed before that time, or whether it was created to balance our efforts to do good. Our philosophers have struggled with that quesion ever since, with precisely the same amount of success for which philosophers are widely known." Enn's face betrayed no sense of the deep sarcasm in his voice.

"So other methods are necessary. Every one of our agents goes through years of training in the ways of the Enemy and how to defeat them. And yet, we lose several good fairies a year to It.

"Which brings me to the reason for my visit." The fairy seemed to hesitate. His tiny face looked worn with care, suddenly. "We don't know how to adapt our training to non-fairies, such as yourself. That means that, as long as you continue your much-appreciated good works, you remain vulnerable yourself, should you attract the attention of the Enemy."

Silence fell on the little room. Finally, the godfather swallowed.

"Ah. I see. Is there anything I can do against the Enemy?"

Enn replied, "That's just the thing! Anyone can defeat the Enemy, but how they do it is different for each fairy, I mean, individual. For some, the Enemy's attack manifests as a loss of all will and volition, until they perish from lack of interest. For others, It casts a spell of despair over them. Many take their own lives.

"Those who survive report that they were completely unaware of being attacked. We don't even know exactly why some survive and some don't. Our training seems to help, but we don't know why. For all we know, any training would help, by raising the trainee's awareness."

"So, let me get this straight," began the godfather with some irritation. "Enemy bad. You can't see it; you can fight it but you don't know how; no matter what, some die. Does that about sum it up?" Enn at least had the good grace to look embarrassed. "Well, then, I'm sure your warning will be all I need, won't it? Thank you for warning me, at least if I die suddenly, I'll know why." And with perfunctory good wishes, he showed Enn to the door.

Slumping back into his chair, the godfather thought about the visit from the fairy Enn. He made the Enemy sound pretty frightening, especially because the fairies had sent such an important person to warn him. On the other hand, the job of bringing happiness had become quite important to him, over the recent months. He remembered countless smiles of people he had helped, and wondered whether the Enemy would seek him out and kill him for having helped them. Not realizing how tired he was, he drifted to sleep in his easy chair.

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{Note that the following passage contains a realistic description of depression. Please do not read it if such a description might trigger you. In particular, it does not represent the current state of the author, for those who might care. You'll have to wait for the conclusion for that. :-) }

The godfather's sleep was uneasy, though, unlike his chair. He dreamt, and although they weren't nightmares, the dreams were quite vivid. They weren't fearful; it was more like someone else's fear, felt from afar. He dreamt of a huge army of black goblins, led by a dark horseman. He dreamt of hollow laughter from a person unseen, more disconcerting than an angry shout. He dreamt of an urgent need to do something he didn't know how to do, of searching corridors and endless rooms for something he couldn't name or recognize.

He woke, stiff and bleary-eyed, as dawn broke over his living room. Groaning, he pulled himself upright and went into the bathroom to get ready for work. That's right, work. The godfather had himself a real job, in addition to his volunteer wand-work. Something had to pay the bills. Unfortunately, that's all it was, a way to feed himself and put a roof over his head. He would much rather have spent all his time making people happy, and that didn't happen often on his job. Instead, he spent his days at a desk, poring over far too much paperwork, and went home exhausted.

Each night that week, he dreamt the disturbing dreams and woke more and more tired. His attention span at work became shorter, and he was irritable with his co-workers on more than one occasion.

Came the weekend, and he stepped into the ruby slippers, picked up the wand, and flew out into the world to do good (and do it well.) The problem was, he was so tired that it was difficult to concentrate. He had a hard time doing his fairy-work, detecting the sadness and locating it on the streets below. Finally, he picked up an unusually strong signal, and traced it to an alleyway in a dirty, poor part of town. In the alley, a thief had another man by the throat, demanding money. One swish of the wand, and the men were friends. In fact, the former victim was offering to buy the erstwhile thief a meal at a nearby diner. Heart aglow, but unexpectedly tired, the godfather decided to return home for the evening.

But at dinner, he had an odd thought. He wondered how long the wand's effects lasted. Did the people he met stay happy for just a few minutes, an hour, a day? He had known that it couldn't be permanent, but now he realized that he had never thought to experiment with it. What right did he have, interfering in people's lives, without even knowing what would happen? For all he knew, that thief might have finished his meal, drawn his knife again, and taken that man's money, anyway. What made him think he could step in and make things better?

That night, the dreams were different. But now, instead of seeming threatening, the laughter seemed to be aimed at him, as if all the minions of hell knew how incompetent he was. Maybe that's why the Enemy had never attacked him, he wasn't doing enough good to be noticed. He imagined the Enemy's laughter joining in the chorus. He woke with it ringing in his ears.

The next week was terrible. He didn't wake up with his alarm, so he had to cut short his morning routine to make it to work on time. Then he hurried home, ate a quick dinner, and went to sleep again, only to encounter the same dreams. Soon, he stopped even trying to get to work on time; no one cared about his work anyway, and it didn't matter if he had shaved or not.

He didn't even go out, the following weekend. He tried to catch up on his sleep, but he never felt rested. There seemed to be no point to doing anything, so he didn't.

His work suffered. His manager called him into his office, but all he heard was "Blah blah blah many good years blah blah unacceptable blah blah blah without significant improvement blah let you go."

"Well, there you have it," he thought. "They've finally figured out what a failure I am, and now I'll lose the house, and who will come along then and make me happy?" He went back to his house, sat in his chair, and twirled the wand dejectedly between his hands. "Maybe the world would be better off without me," he thought.

And the wand came to life in his hands.

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The wand swished and sparkled a little, then stopped. The godfather waited. He had expected a miracle, but he couldn't feel anything, at first. Then he began to remember.

He remembered his mother hugging him, laughing at something he had done.

He remembered his father's warm smell, and the way he would smile down at him.

He remembered running through the park, arms out, making airplane noises in the sun.

He remembered the first time he had ridden his bike without the training wheels, he remembered the first goal he had scored on the high school soccer team, he remembered the girl who kissed him that night after the game.

He remembered happy times; more happy times than he could count, more happy times than he had been aware ever existed. They came back to him in waves, crashing over him, jostling each other to be remembered first.

At first, he was overwhelmed by the experience, by the memories. Gradually, he came back to himself, and realized what he had just been thinking of doing. How could he have let himself doubt so much? He knew better than to give in to despair like that.

He also realized now what happened to other people when he swished the wand at them. It made them remember their own happy times. Times that everyone has, but that most of us forget, gradually. Because those good times are past, we sometimes feel sad in remembering them. But in fact, they represent the promise of good times to come, the same way that a rainbow is said to be a promise that every rain storm will end.

The wand's gift was permanent, after all, as long as the person understood how to use its lesson the way it was intended. Any time that rising tide of despair threatens to engulf you, there are always the memories, promising you that good times will come again. You just have to stand up and fight, wielding the memories like a sword against a tide of enemies.

And then it hit him: he had been attacked, after all! This was the Enemy that Enn had spoken of. It didn't come from outside of a person, but from within. The Enemy lurks in everyone; we all need to fight It in our own ways. But the weapon is always the same. The Enemy can't stand happiness, will fall back utterly defeated by the bright light of a simple smile. No wonder the fairies had never managed to train themselves to avoid it. You can't teach happiness; it has to be experienced.

He laughed. In fact, this new knowledge could be used by all the good creatures to fight the Enemy within each of them. He had discovered the secret that the fairies had missed. Now that was a job well done!

Fortified, he returned to his work and made up for the time he had lost, so much so that his supervisor promoted him. Now he spends his work hours mentoring new employees, subtly teaching them his happiness technique. He also teaches classes among the fairies, and thus he can now do good in both realms. He still goes out flying with the slippers, too, of course, because he never tires of seeing new smiles. They add to his storehouse of happy memories, and he feels stronger every day. Now, the Enemy will never defeat him.

So, of course, he will live happily ever after.

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