Your coworker at the Bureau is a faerie.
That’s fine, right? Everyone else obviously thinks so—or at least politely ignores this obvious fact—even if letting her roam freely seems to be antithetical to the whole purpose of the organization you work for.
No, she doesn’t have wings, antennae, or anything like that, but she stands out like none other. In an office full of self-serious executives power posing at slide projectors and bored lackeys with slumped shoulders and a shuffling gait, she dances her way through the halls. She slips through security with a wink and a smile without ever scanning a badge at any security checkpoint. She flouts procedure while somehow managing to avoid causing any containment breach.
In a sea of gray suits and sensible skirts, she wears a gown of music that flows across her body like the surge of waves on a beach. Even when she does nothing more than deliver a folder of notes from Research, it’s with a playful flourish and a cinnamon smile.
“Here you go,” she says, her words broadcast in technicolor.
You can’t look away, and you can’t speak, but you can nod and crack a lopsided smile of your own.
She is kind enough to behave as if you thanked her properly.
Any time you ask someone what her deal is, your other coworkers just shrug. “Lillia is Lillia,” they say. “How else should she be?”
So you go about your work like everyone else, with your human coworkers and a faerie among you.
Your work is important, after all.
The world is full of things that can never be fully understood, things that offer the tiniest glimpse of vast oceans beyond our tiny island of awareness.
But don’t worry, the Bureau says. We can lock it down, categorize it, write it up in paperwork, and make sense of it all.
Since you were a small and confused little thing, you were always hoping you could find a way to make this world make sense. That drive led you to working here, formally documenting methods for the processing of metanormal phenomena.
They don’t process Lillia, though. Nobody even suggests doing so. She just…works among you like a regular person, rather than a metanormal entity.
Why does it seem desperately, hopelessly unfair that she gets treated so normally?
Tears sting your eyes. You lower your head at your desk, trying to blink them back. You ask yourself why, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop thinking about her.
Why does nobody else think she’s worth a second thought?
Just talk to her. Just try to have a normal conversation. Say hi in the breakroom, make small talk.
You want to, don’t you? But you can’t even make eye contact with her. Don’t you see how this is destroying you?
Anything. Say anything.
Please say anything at all.
In the end it’s Lillia who makes the first move. That’s the only way it could ever happen, isn’t it? So trapped inside yourself, she has to be the one to read your pain and bridge the gap.
Somehow she doesn’t even blame you for your struggle.
“I see you,” she says, her words pouring over you like sunshine on soil. “You see me too, don’t you?”
Again, you can only nod. Still, her eyes glimmer with a kind of understanding, and when she pulls you by the hand, you follow without question.
She leads you through layers of security to areas of the facility that you have never been authorized to access.
Nobody questions you, just like nobody ever questions her.
Before long, you find yourself at a containment cell indistinguishable from the others in this wing.
“Home,” she says, pulling you with her through the door.
With a disorienting warble of fish-eye distortion, you step past the closed, metal door and find yourself on the other side, as though she’d somehow shown you a secret path around the geometry of a closed surface.
Reflexively, you raise your hand to shield your eyes from the glare of the sun. Are you somehow outside?
No. The sunshine on your face, the soft tinkle of bells on the wind, the smell of spice and petrichor, and the ground beneath your feet… It’s all strangely familiar.
“It’s you.” The words slip past your lips as if speaking to her was never a challenge at all. “The real you. You’ve been down here the whole time.”
Lillia laughs though the rustling of leaves. “I thought you’d remember how to speak once I got you away from all those people.”
“It is easier here,” you admit, not quite sure you understand why. “Less, uh…” you gesture at your head, summoning a brief swirl of office noise—visible as pointed static in the air around your hand—that quickly fades.
The sky shimmers an agreement in quiet ripples.
Communicating with her less in words and more in a mix of gestures and synesthetic thought-forms comes naturally to you. It’s so obviously easier than the language of your coworkers that you don’t think to question it.
It feels like breathing for the first time in your life.
The walk back is slow and leisurely after the two of you satisfy yourselves in that cell.
“Would you bring me down here again soon?” you ask, more relaxed than ever in her company. “I think I needed this more than I ever knew.”
“Little changeling,” she responds, “you don’t need my help to visit me here. You can bypass their tissue-paper controls as easily as I do.”
You can? But—
“If you’ve forgotten how, I’ll be happy to teach you to remember yourself.”
She holds your hand the whole way back.