Once upon a time, flowers lived long lives. They are now known to be fleeting, for the most part. They bud. They bloom. They grace the world with their beauty. And then they die. But it was not always so. They lived long lives indeed. Longer than creatures with many legs. Longer than creatures with four legs. Longer than creatures with two legs. And sometimes, even longer than the long-lived beings of the deep.
Some flowers, however, would have traded any portion of their long lives if they could have enjoyed a gift that many other living creatures had been granted. The gift of motion.
So it came to pass that one particular flower, possessed of many magenta petals, and living in a lush field blessed with cool breezes, vigorous rains, and the generous light of the sun, moon, and stars, longed to move. After many decades of abiding in the field and perceiving the other creatures around her, she longed to flutter like the butterflies, to leap like the frogs, to sing like the birds, and to speak like the humans.
In the language of the flowers, spoken through their roots and through the earth, she discussed her longing often with her fellow flowers. As they all bathed in spring showers, she wondered how it would feel to shake her head as the dogs and the cats did, to shake off the rains. As they watched humans about their picnics, she wondered what it would feel like to taste food. As she braced her flowery veins for the frosts of winter, she wondered how it would feel to flee the field for shelter and sit beside a fire.
Despite being long-lived, the flowers were limited in what they could learn, for they could not move about and explore the world and discover new things. They could only learn if something new came to them. And so, the flowers learned the languages of many different creatures.
One day, a beetle trundled by, and the flower called out to him. When he approached, she told him she envied his ability to walk and fly about and wander the world according to his whim and his will. She asked him if he knew of any way that she too might gain the gift of walking and flying. For though she studied the movement of other creatures, as she had studied the language of other creatures, she found she could not learn how to move. The only way the beetle could think of for the flower to fly was if he picked her up in his pincers, and he was not certain that he had the strength. He was much regretful that he could not help the flower, for her colors were as beautiful as his, and he would have liked to help her.
The beetle’s response encouraged her to call out to other creatures. He had seemed to be sincere in his desire to help her. If some other shared that desire, some other who, unlike the beetle, could teach the flower how to move, then that creature could grant the flower what she longed for most.
She called out to spiders, moths, sparrows, mice, horses, ants, ravens, pigeons, crickets, bees, lizards, sheep, and once, an owl, who raised her hopes higher than ever.
But while most of them were willing to help the flower attain her greatest wish, none were able to help her.
The flower was undeterred, however, for she had little else to do, and being long-lived, she was patient. So when a little grey-and-white striped cat trotted by one day, the flower called out to her.
The cat approached, skipping and beaming.
“Hello, I’m Serendipity,” said the cat, “but most call me ‘Dip.’ What’s your name?”
The flower laughed. “I have no name at present,” she said. “But I will choose one once I’ve attained my greatest wish.”
“What is your greatest wish?” asked the cat.
And the flower explained. She told the wide-eyed young cat the whole story, beginning with the beetle and ending with the owl.
When Dip offered her regrets and admitted that she too did not possess the skill to help, the flower expected to move on to the next passing creature.
“My friend and caretaker might be able to help you,” the cat said. “He is a wizard whose skill in magic is famed. I will bring him to you, tomorrow.”
The flower was overjoyed. She thanked the young cat and proclaimed that if she could have moved, she would have bowed her head, and clapped her leaves together.
Dip purred happily and bounded off.
The next day, Dip returned to the field, accompanied by two of her friends. She had brought the wizard, as she’d promised, and a dog, named Fairstone.
The other flowers were silent, but watchful, as the wizard examined the flower with the magenta petals, plucking one of those petals with flower’s permission. He needed to perform tests upon the petal and study the results, before he might know if it were possible to devise some potion or powder that would grant the flower her wish.
The wizard left the field then. The cat and the dog remained with the flower, conversing with her.
The flower asked her new friends for their suggestions on what name she should adapt. She liked the first part of Serendipity’s name. But she also liked how Fairstone’s name sounded both kind and serious. Dip suggested a number of names like Lickspittle and Crumplebrow that were typically given to creatures like caterpillars and grasshoppers. Fairstone suggested names like Penelope and Radha that were typically given to humans.
The flower considered each name, thanking the cat and the dog for their help, but nothing yet seemed quite right. And she wondered if she should wait until the wizard succeeded before naming herself.
The sky began to darken, and Dip complained of hunger. So when the rain began to fall, Fairstone suggested that the cat return home to eat, rest, and care for the wizard.
“I will remain with our friend,” said the dog to the cat.
“But aren’t you hungry? Aren’t you thirsty?” Dip asked.
Fairstone smiled. She revealed to the flower why she was named as she was. She had learned a particular magical skill from the wizard that dogs did not typically possess. She transformed herself into a rock, and she spent the rainy afternoon and the damp and quiet night speaking with the flower in the language of the rocks.
The next day, Dip returned with the wizard, who claimed that he had made progress, but needed to collect another petal. And so the flower allowed it. The wizard plucked the petal, and did not linger, but left to return to his workshop and to his work.
Dip leapt onto Fairstone, and asked why she hadn’t transformed back into a dog.
“Plenty of time for that,” said the rock. “At some point, I’ll want to chew on a bone and go for a bracing run, but I’ve got some grays in my fur, little cat. I am content and at pleasure to remain a rock for now.”
Dip licked the top of the rock, right where Fairstone’s head would be, and jumped off. She leapt after a passing bumblebee, and the flower laughed with delight. When Dip meowed in frustration, the flower asked her what it felt like to utter sounds. The young cat attempted an explanation, but quickly abandoned her efforts, and turned them toward complimenting the flower.
“Once you can move,” Dip said, “you must looked at yourself—your reflection—in a puddle or a pool. You’ll see that you are quite lovely.” She purred and glanced away, suddenly shy.
“I’m sure I won’t care how I look so long as I can move about,” the flower said. “For that privilege, I would give up all my petals.”
She certainly had many to spare. Her few missing petals were unnoticeable among the several rows of vivid magenta petals stacked upon each other, arrayed just slightly offset so it appeared like a burst and a puff at the same time. Dip admitted that she was very tempted to bat the flower’s beautiful head around in play, but she didn’t want to be disrespectful.
The wizard did indeed need more petals. Day after day, he returned to pluck more and more.
After a while, Fairstone told Dip to go the workshop and check on the wizard’s progress herself. Dip wanted to stay and talk with the flower and play the game she had devised of leaping onto Fairstone and leaping off—for the dog was still a rock. But Fairstone was older and wiser. She wanted Dip to learn the wizard’s ways, so that she could help Fairstone to take care of the wizard, as he had taken care of them when they were new to the world.
Dip padded into the wizard’s workshop on her quiet cat’s feet and leapt onto the tabletop, startling the wizard, as he was in the middle of sprinkling some powder into a flask full of a silvery liquid.
The wizard clutched his chest and admonished the cat not to leap so lightly next time, and to watch for an opportune time to announce herself when entering the workshop.
Before she could ask about the flower’s request, the wizard began to show her potions and powders and essences that he had concocted from the flower’s petals. The one flower alone led the wizard to create a dozen new magical formulations. No doubt it was because of how long-lived flowers were. Over centuries, they must have soaked in the magic that suffused the world, into their roots and up into their petals. He wondered what wonders could be possible if more flowers were to surrender their petals for use in spells.
Dip grinned. “That’s wonderful!” She glanced over the array of vials, bottles, flasks, and packets. “Which one of these spells will grant the flower motion?”
The wizard cocked his head and scratched behind her ears. He began to speak about the dangers of magic unchecked, and how those who have never wielded it might misuse it. He proclaimed that it might be best if he studied more petals and studied them more carefully, before finishing the spell of motion. After all, flowers were so long-lived that a bit more waiting should be no great feat for a flower.
Dip nodded her understanding and returned to the field to relay the wizard’s explanation to the flower, who seemed to accept the explanation, for there was sense in being cautious with complex magic. Fairstone agreed, but expressed some concern about the wizard’s own eagerness, but Dip defended the wizard.
“How keen is your concern, Stoney,” Dip teased, “if it’s not enough to move you from your stone form?”
Fairstone admitted that the cat was right, and the three friends spend another pleasant day together.
Dip insisted that she not bother the wizard while he performed his deep studies of the flower’s petals. He came to collect more and more.
But then, one day, he did not come. The flower admitted to being relieved, for she had lost so many petals by that time that she was beginning to dread the thought of looking upon her own reflection once she was granted motion. So Dip revisited a list of other activities, ones sure to delight.
“You must try milk,” the cat said, ignoring the rocky sighs of the dog. “And fish. Humans like to cook it. I suppose you can try that sometime, but I recommend raw and fresh.”
“Running,” said the dog. “You must try running, but only for as long as you can catch your breath.”
Dip hopped onto the rock that was a dog. “A strange suggestion from one who hasn’t run in weeks.” She tapped her paw on the rock.
“Sleeping,” said the dog. “It is a supreme pleasure to sleep.”
“Respectfully, dear Fairstone, I’ll put that on the end of the list,” said the flower. “I’ve been rooted to one spot for long enough. I will try running though, and jumping—oh—and flying!”
Dip purred with approval. She didn’t long for wings herself, but it seemed a suitable form of movement for a flower.
The next day, the wizard still did not come. Nor did he come the day after that, and the three friends wondered if it meant that his studies were done. They wondered if he was close to perfecting the spell of motion.
Dip announced that she would investigate. She went to the wizard’s workshop, treading gently so as not to startle him if he was in the midst of a delicate spell—perhaps the very spell for which she sought news. She would observe him for the right moment to announce herself with a loud but gentle “meow.”
But when she approached the door to the workshop, she heard him conversing with another, a sorceress friend of his, and she overheard him telling the sorceress that he had succeeded in creating a spell of motion.
Dip felt a swell of hope in her chest. She longed to interrupt, but it would not be polite. Nor was it polite to hear a conversation in which the speakers were unaware of her presence. But for the flower’s sake (and admittedly for her own curiosity), she remained where she was and listened.
The wizard said that he had tested the spell of motion on a rock, and it transformed into what appeared to be a tiny human, but one that was dull of wit, for it had been a smooth and dull rock. The transformation was unexpected. The wizard had only expected that the rock might tumble, roll, wobble, or at best, float.
When the sorceress asked what happened when he tried the spell on the flower, the wizard was silent for a moment. He shook his head and cautioned her about granting magic to creatures with wit, wisdom, and imagination, all of which the flowers possessed.
The spell created from the petal of only one flower was more than a spell that granted motion. It was a spell of transformation, and a spell of transcendence. It was a spell of unlocking. The wizard had made a spell whose nature and workings he could not quite understand, and perhaps never would. But he made it with the petals of a flower. And so perhaps a flower would be able to understand the spell, if it were used on a flower, to unleash the flower’s true talents, talents now anchored to soil and root.
The wizard warned that with his spell the flowers’ knowledge of magic could surpass that of humans.
He proclaimed that the spell must never be used on any flower or any plant at all.
The sorceress countered his warning with one of her own. The flowers were among the oldest of creatures in the world. The wizard’s spell demonstrated that the magic of ages was stored in their roots and rhizomes and passed into their petals. They were not to be trifled with, and if the wizard had promised this one flower a spell of motion, he must give her something.
The wizard agreed and presented a potion that he would use to trick the flower into believing she had been granted motion, at least temporarily and to a limited degree. The potion should give her the illusion of flexing her petals and her leaves, and swaying slightly on her stem. Any who were close enough would share in that illusion. The wizard would then humbly apologize and say that such was the best he could do.
Dip was too shocked to feel devastated at the wizard’s treachery. Without her thinking, her paws led her back to the flower and to Fairstone. Sensing that something was wrong with her young friend, Fairstone transformed back into a dog.
Dip slumped to the ground and did not—could not—speak. Fairstone sat beside her, curling her fluffy tail around the cat.
A passing breeze bent the flower’s head toward the cat. “I have chosen a name, Dip,” said the flower. “Do you want to hear it? I should like to know if you like it.”
But the little cat said nothing.
Fairstone gave the flower a single nod.
“The name I chose is Zinnia. What do you think?”
But the little cat said nothing.
The day passed and evening fell. But while Fairstone and Zinnia chatted quietly, the little cat said nothing. They did not press their little friend. And often, they too fell silent and contemplated their own thoughts.
Evening passed and night fell. Dip did not rise to return to the wizard’s house to fall asleep near the sill of an east-facing window, as she liked to do during the summer months. The cat and the dog fell asleep in the field. And the flower, needing no sleep, watched over them both.
The next morning, the cat and the dog woke together. As they stretched, they saw the wizard approaching from the road.
The wizard greeted them all merrily, beaming and bowing to the flower, calling her “Lady” and proclaiming that he had brought her a gift, one she had been awaiting for a long while. He thanked her for her patience as he pulled a vial from a pocket in his robes.
Fairstone’s brows rose as she glanced at the little cat, for Dip must have known that the wizard was coming. Dip was inept at keeping surprises, but perhaps she had been too overwhelmed.
The wizard bowed humbly and explained that he had not succeeded completely. He began to explain the limits of the spell. And even with those limits, the flower grew so joyous that the colors of her petals deepened and darkened. Fairstone caught motion at the corner of her eye, and saw with surprised confusion, that Dip had run off and was bounding up the road.
Capricious cat, Fairstone thought, shaking her head. But she did not believe her own words.
Serendipity had indeed seemed overwhelmed after returning from the wizard’s workshop, but she did not seem overwhelmed with joy. In fact, Fairstone had feared that the wizard had failed to make the potion of motion. Fairstone had feared that on learning of this failure, Dip’s kind heart had been broken at the thought of having to tell Zinnia that her dream had died.
The dog was much perplexed, and decided to observe the wizard and the flower, and to chase down her young friend later.
But she did not have long to wait to see Serendipity again.
While the wizard explained how he had devised the potion, and while he gave instruction in its use, Fairstone sat nearby and listened, and before he was finished with all his warnings about misusing the potion, Dip came bounding down the road.
And she was carrying something in her mouth.
A vial full of silvery liquid.
A spark of a notion alighted in the dog’s mind. She furrowed her furry brows.
The cat leapt between the wizard and the flower. She set the vial down at the flower’s roots.
“Folly!” said the cat. “The wizard has deceived you, my friend. The potion he brings you is the shadow of the potion he promised you. It’s an illusion. This vial contains the true potion.”
The wizard grew pale. His eyes and his mouth drooped. He clutched his chest.
Then he held out his hand as if to reach for the vial, but he dared not take it.
The flowers were watching.
Dip relayed what she had seen and heard the previous day. The wizard shook his head. He explained to the flower that the silvery potion, while it had indeed done what Dip said it had done, transforming a rock into a little person, was a dangerous and unpredictable potion. He admitted that he worried what a living creature might transform into. He worried that it might cause harm.
“You did not mention harm when you spoke with the sorceress,” Dip said.
Fairstone looked at the flower. “Zinnia, whether this be betrayal or foolishness, the wizard was right to be cautious. Perhaps you too should be cautious.”
The wizard wiped his brow and held out a grateful hand to Fairstone.
“What need do I have to be cautious?” said the flower. “If death is all I risk, then the risk is worth it. I will take the potion.”
“There is also pain,” Fairstone warned. “Flowers do not feel pain, but all of us who have been granted the gift of motion, must also bear pain. For pain halts us from our motion, so that we may examine ourselves for injury.”
“Then I will risk that too,” said the flower. “Whatever happens, and however long or short my journey hence will be, I must embark upon it.”
Dip nodded her head. She held the vial steady with her paws and pulled the cork carefully with her teeth.
The wizard warned that she need only use a drop, no more. Dip carefully tipped the vial.
The vial was full, but somehow all the liquid drew up into that one drop that the cat so delicately tipped over onto the flower’s roots.
The transformation took hold at once.
Dip leapt back at the sound of snapping roots. From the ruffled head of the flower, emerged a delicate pair of petals, but they were not petals. As they unfolded, all could see that they were delicate feathery wings, glistening with magical dew, from beneath which, the torso of a tiny figure uncurled from waist to shoulder to head. She stretched up her tiny arms as if in a yawn. More petals were wrapped around her waist and chest, serving as her clothing. Her hair was colored magenta, just as her petals were. And her skin was tinged a powdery lavender. The petals of the flower fell below her waist like a gown.
She flicked her wings.
Startling herself, she cried out. And then startling herself again with her cry, she placed her tiny hand on her throat and began to laugh.
Dip and Fairstone glanced at each other, grinning, and they too began to laugh as Zinnia launched herself into the air and twirled. She only pulled a few of her petals with her, wrapping them about her legs.
As she left the flower, the rest of the petals began to wilt and wither. The leaves and stem likewise shriveled and grayed. Before their very eyes, the flower died.
But Zinnia lived.
The wizard fell to his knees before the dead flower and groaned. The vial of silvery liquid was empty now. All the liquid and vapor within had condensed into that one single drop.
The flower-who-was-no-longer-a-flower spoke. “The spell is out of the bottle now, wizard.”
But the wizard hung his head and did not look up.
Fairstone raised a brow. “Do you mean to say…?”
Zinnia nodded. “I know the spell. I learned it the instant it touched my roots. It is a part of me. It was made from me, from my petals. If I wish to, I can awaken other flowers.”
“Please be merciful to the wizard, Zinnia,” Fairstone said.
Dip grunted. “Why should she be? And why should you be? You were the one who warned me to watch over the wizard. I thought you meant that we should take care of him. But you had your suspicions.”
“Yes, but who among us are not flawed, my young friend, yourself and myself included?”
“He does not even gaze upon the wondrous being his potion has freed from her prison,” Dip said, gazing up at Zinnia, who hovered clumsily down, and kissed the cat’s nose. She laughed at the sensation.
Fairstone put a paw on the wizard’s knee. “Look, my friend. It is all right. We can make amends with the flower.”
But the wizard gasped and shrunk away from Fairstone. He looked at her with wide eyes and asked her why she was barking at him so.
Fairstone glanced among her other friends. “But I wasn’t barking. I was speaking.” She padded over to the wizard, who glanced about, blinking and rubbing his eyes, and breathing heavily.
“It is cold where he stands,” Fairstone said. “It is empty.”
Dip approached. She stepped beside Fairstone and shuddered. “Why is it empty?”
When she spoke the wizard gasped again. He eyed the cat with suspicion and backed away from her. Tears began to stream from his eyes.
“He can’t understand our speech,” Fairstone said. “And look, the glow about his head, the glow of magical knowledge, it is dimming. It has nearly vanished.” Fairstone looked away from the wizard and toward the fairy. “But your head, Zinnia, now glows with a steady light, the light of one who is learned in magic. Could the wizard’s magic have been drained away from him and into you?”
“But why should that be?” asked Dip. “The wizard suffered no harm when he used his potion on that rock.”
“Perhaps we have all been drained, all of us who were close to the spell” Fairstone wondered aloud. But when he tried to transform into a rock, she succeeded. She still possessed what little mastery of magic she had possessed before.
“I am angry with the wizard for deceiving me,” said Zinnia, “but I did not mean to drain his magic.”
“Zinnia, take my magic, if you can, and give him back his,” said the dog. “You are both right to disdain him for his betrayal. But if we had tried, we might have convinced him against his folly. Those of us who are grown sometimes forget the good lessons of our youth.” She looked at Dip, who refused to cast her gaze on the weeping wizard. “But we might be reminded again, by those who care to remind us.”
“His condition is not my fault!” Dip said, purring angrily.
“No, it is not,” Fairstone agreed. “It is his fault. He was right to be cautious. And right to be fearful. But the magic he made belonged to Zinnia. If he did not wish to give it back to her, he could have destroyed it. He was careless and covetous. In truth, he should have studied the potion further, found some way to give Zinnia her wish without fearing that he would grant her power over him, or any other creature. But wizards are not as long-lived as flowers. I suspect he was eager to use the potion, perhaps for noble purpose, perhaps not.”
“I trust that you two will watch the wizard,” Zinnia said. “And I hope that you will still be my friends, even after I take your magic, Fairstone.”
Zinnia placed her tiny hand between the dog’s eyes. “Ah, I see how it happened,” she said. “I need not take, when I can share.” She pulled her hand away, and as she did, a gray fog followed her hand. Fairstone’s magic.
Fairstone frowned. “But…I can still feel…” She transformed into a rock and back into a dog.
“I need not take your magic. And I need not keep the wizard’s magic.” She flew toward the wizard, carefully, for he was still weeping and still fearful. She reached out with her hand and a ball of smokey-white fog formed around her hand. She touched the wizard between his eyes and released the ball of fog. It hung between his graying brows.
Zinnia hovered backwards.
“It’s there,” she said. “I have given it all back, every drop, I swear it, my friends.” She glanced between Fairstone and Dip. “Why does he not receive the magic back?”
Fairstone approached the wizard. “Because he cannot see what is right before his eyes.” She leaned against the wizard’s legs, and he dropped his hand to head.
“He is blind to magic?” Dip asked.
“Can we help him?” Zinnia asked.
Fairstone sighed. “I will lead him home. But it is not fair that you should follow. You should celebrate your newfound movement, Zinnia. You should fly and race this little cat, and win! And you, little cat, should show our newly freed flower the delights of food—not just milk and fish—and of running and of swimming—”
“—you can teach her swimming,” Dip said. “When you rejoin us. And may it be soon, honored friend.”
Fairstone bowed, and she led the wizard back up the road toward his home and his workshop.
“In all these weeks of speaking to a rock,” said Zinnia, “I had not learned how noble my new friend was.”
“Yes, the wizard doesn’t deserve her.” Dip sighed. “Nor do I.”
“Nor do I deserve such sweet and good friends,” said Zinnia. “But I have them, and they will help me to not become the fearful creature that so worried the wizard that it turned him to treachery.”
Dip wrinkled her nose. “But we could not help the wizard. How are you so sure that we can help you?”
“Because our lives are not yet done, Serendipity. So long as we live, we can learn.”
Dip smiled softly. “What would you like to learn first?”
“How to make my friend laugh.”
Dip’s smile grew broader. And as they spoke together and began to stroll about the field, the other flowers, who had remained silent in the wizard’s presence, called out to the two friends.
In time, Zinnia would help to awaken more flowers to their freed forms. Each new being took a name, and the flowers from which they emerged would wither and die. And each type of flower was henceforth known by the name of the first being to emerge from that variety: rose, daffodil, iris, daisy, and many more. But the new beings who awakened from those flowers were no longer flowers themselves, and so they adopted a new name for their kind, given to them by the first of their kind, who took the name from the noblest being she ever knew.
They called themselves “fairy.”
Copyright © 2020 Nila L. Patel