The man was sitting on the bridge looking down at the water when he saw the faery. It was a little white ball, almost fuzzy, drifting up towards him. It rose until it was on a level with him and then it stopped. “What are you doing?” It asked.
He looked down at the paper in his hands. “It’s all over.” The ball of light transcribed a little circle in the air; there was some kind of emotion in the maneuver but he couldn’t tell what it was.
“Are you going to jump?”
The man looked down at the water and sighed. “I’m tired. Tired of this, tired of everything. I’m sick of feeling this way.”
“Maybe I can help.”
“How?” He squinted at the ball.
“I can free you from that body. You can be like me.” The ball transcribed another circle in the air. The man thought the emotion might be excitement. He thought about it for a while, the two of them sitting there in silence. His stomach ached and his chest was tight. He thought about walking home, about his apartment, about going home and being alone. He looked up at the ball. It was hanging suspended in the air, light and ethereal and free.
“If I change my mind, can I go back?”
“Of course,” the ball said. “You just slip right back in. Flesh is easy to operate once you know what to do.”
“So, what do I do?”
“Just close your eyes. Relax. Let me inside and I’ll do the rest.” The man closed his eyes and felt the brightness of the ball coming closer. He took in a long deep breath and let it go slowly. The light beyond his eyes grew and grew until it no longer felt like it was outside his eyelids. Somewhere deep inside him a connecting piece of something snapped. Then another. Then another. In rapid succession, restraints he had never known severed and whipped away from a part of himself he had never recognized as his center. Then it was done.
The light faded and he found himself floating next to the ball, looking at his body. The head and shoulders lay slumped forward over the paunch and the mouth hung open, slack and gaping. He was free. A young couple holding hands came strolling along the bridge. “What color am I?” He asked the ball of white light.
He tried moving and found it effortless. He floated over to the young couple. “Hey there,” he said. They stopped and turned to the water. Looking right through him, they spoke in murmurs to each other. “Hey,” he said again. He couldn’t seem to make out what they were saying. The words didn’t separate or form up together for some reason.
“They can’t hear you.” The ball of white light was at his side. “Only the really desperate can see us. It takes a certain confluence of time and place and person. That’s why I was so excited to find you.”
“Hmm.” He thought about this. Weighed it. “I feel so light. What happens now? What can I do?”
“Ah, you can do this!”
The ball of white light transcribed another circle, then rocketed suddenly upwards. He made a little circle of his own, then fired off after it. The two lights blazed up into the night, into the low cloud cover, on through the glowing moonlit vapor, then burst forth into the airy ether of the atmosphere above the world, shining purple and white. The stars winked in brilliance and the moon bathed the cloudy floor below them in light. He was free. He tried to laugh but realized he had no voice. He tried to smile but no longer had a mouth. Instead he made a circle. It wasn’t as good. The ball of white light dropped away.
He looked down and watched it for a second, racing back towards the earth, then he turned to follow. Back down into the clouds, then through, then out into the low night and on towards the bridge. He tried to catch up but wasn’t fast enough. It got there first.
He floated there before himself, trying to think, trying to take it all back. He tried to get inside but couldn’t. He tried to yell but couldn’t. He made a circle. His body sat there, inert, slouched over itself. He made a circle. There was a flash of white light in the eyes, then they blinked and the head came up. His face looked right through him. He made a circle. It crumpled up the paper and threw it off the bridge. Then it lumbered to its feet and walked away.
He followed it, wandering at random through the city, touching things, licking its fingers. More than once it stopped for no reason and began to laugh. Eventually, the panic fading, he gave it up. Anyways he knew where it lived. Instead he drifted back to the bridge and settled in to watch the young couple. They looked like they were fighting. There would be others, he thought. This would be fine.