Dedicated to William Gross
Billy sat alone at his desk looking at the screen of his computer. He lived in a world apart from others. He left his tower of solitude every two weeks and only because he like everyone else had errands and he had no desire to die of starvation or do without the day to day necessities of life. Billy might live alone and rarely ever mingled with others but he still had to live with himself and like all other people he had a nose and he didn’t want to offend his own senses any more than he wanted to offend others.
Of course when Billy went out it was on four wheels instead of two legs but that wasn’t the reason he kept himself separated from the rest of the physical world. Yes he had lost his legs in a horrible accident many years before but the real pain that he carried with him was the loss of the woman he had loved since high school. Billy had lost her the same day he had lost the use of his legs. Of course the biggest loss had been the loss of the sweet little girl who had been the result of his love for his lady. That sweet little angel that had been the center of his and his wife’s world and his whole world had crumbled and vanished as if it had all been a beautiful dream. He had awaken to a cold hard reality that he had never been able to face. Billy had retreated into his own little prison more and more as time went on.
As he looked at the screen in front of him he felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Billy felt the stirrings of something warm in his heart. He had become someone who lived through social media where he could keep people at a safe distance without them truly touching the softest parts of his soul. Oh he cared about several of the people he talked with regularly but without the personal contact with them he managed to keep his emotions in check and his delicate heart protected.
Now something new had been added, a small child. Over the past several months Billy had looked at the photos of that sweet little face and thought what a beautiful child. A small tiny little girl way too small for her years who somehow seemed to always be smiling. The little girl’s grandmother had told him that she was pretty much that way all the time. It didn’t seem to affect her that she had been born with certain physical problems, she continued to smile and never seemed to understand there were things she couldn’t do. Like him this little girl was in a wheelchair but she still found so much in life to laugh at and explore.
Her grandmother had posted a new video of this precious child. The child’s mother was holding her in her arms and spinning her around and around under a blooming tulip poplar tree. Well to be honest it was a purple magnolia but it didn’t really matter what you called it. The tree was in bloom and the sun was shining on it in a way that it gave the tree a bright golden glow as if it were lite from within the branches and looked almost otherworldly. The petals of the blooms were falling as if by some wind that was coming straight down from the heavens above were making it look as if the purple petals of the blooms were in fact raining down. The soft delicate petals appeared to dance in the air around the mother and child as the woman continued to turn with the small girl in her arms. The child had her arms held straight our and had her head thrown back letting the delicate material fall on her face and then float off appearing to dance around her little head. She laughed as her mother continued to spin and the sound was a soft musical sound that reminded him of the most delicate bells you could imagine.
The more and more he had watched the video the more the petals had looked less and less like the parts of dying flowers and more and more like the fluttering wings of fairies and they were paying homage to the child as if she was their little queen. Toward the end of the video Billy would have sworn the mother disappeared and the little girl looked like she was floating in air suspended by all the little purple winged fairies that were her loyal subjects. The golden glow from the sun reflecting off the tree appeared to grow even brighter. The effect of the sunlight made the little queen looked as if she were dressed in flowing golden robes that spiraled and fluttered in the air as the girl continued her midair ballet. Her long dark hair was animated by her mother spinning her but the force that was driving the petals down caused the child’s hair to fan out as if too were being played with by a gentle breeze.
When he had watched the video the first time he had imagined he saw something that he knew wasn’t possible. Billy had to watch it again to see if his mind would pick up the same whimsical images and somehow knowing that he would. After he had viewed it the second time he had slammed the top shut on his laptop not believing what he had just see. If possible it had taken on an even more surreal appearance as the mother disappeared even quicker the second time he watched it and the petals from the flowers appeared to pair up and tiny little bodies had formed and joined the two. The golden glow looked as if it now showered the child in golden fairy dust that clung to the child’s skin, hair, and her shimmering golden garments. The third time the mother disappeared almost from the beginning and everything else that he knew couldn’t be there became more pronounced.
The man had watch that video now more times than he could count and every time the magical world he saw became more defined and more real than anything he had ever seen in the real world. The first time he had watched it was two days ago and the past two nights when he had fallen asleep he had dreamed of that child who now ran through open fields and danced in the wind. She always seemed to be calling to him to come and run and play with her. When Billy would wake in the morning it had been with regret and he felt an even bigger loss than he had ever felt before. The sadness of losing the feeling of the wind on his face as he followed the little fairy queen into her world of magic, wonder, and freedom was like falling back to earth and landing with a bone jarring thud. Finding himself back in his utilitarian apartment would make him feel like his heart was being ripped from his chest as he opened his eyes. This morning he had awakened to a new pain. A pain that was physical and was centered in his shoulder blades and left him almost paralyzed by the sheer force of it.
Now Billy sat in his wheelchair looking at his bed and was torn between returning to the magical world of the video and his dreams and fearing what new agony might accompany his waking in the morning. He wanted to go back to that land of dreams where he would run and fly and follow his little queen with all her other subjects but he was also afraid. Was he losing his mind and what did he do in his sleep that was causing him even more pain than he normally endured. Billy realized the pain, no matter how severe it was, was worth those hours of freedom and joy he experienced in his sleep.
He moved himself into position to relocate himself from his chair to his bed and settled in. He wanted to go to sleep. He wanted that other world even if it were just a dream. That dream world had become his heaven, his idea of the total separation from the cold world he lived in and the cruelty of his memories. Billy closed his eyes and soon was asleep and almost immediately he was first running and then flying through the air in pursuit of his golden clad queen as she led him and all the others through the beautiful world they occupied. He ran farther and faster than he had before and when he took flight he flew higher. Sometime somewhere he thought he heard something in the far off distance but he paid no attention to it. Billy continued to run and fly. He laughed and played and realized he was nothing more than a small boy himself. He decided he would stay here forever and never go back to that other place.
They didn’t find the man’s body for several days because he didn’t go out much and he didn’t interact with many people. Billy had lain in his bed undisturbed until his landlord hadn’t heard anything from his apartment in almost a week and became worried about his quiet tenant. When he was found he was lying on his back with his arms outstretched as if he were flying and there was still evident a look of total peace and almost happiness on his face even though his body had become bloated from death and was showing the advanced stages of decomposition.