Smoke curls, belching upward from the Achrom Factory. Lights peek from meagre windows but do little to brighten the surrounding darkness. A whistle blows and heavy doors swing open to allow a procession of dark-clad Pixies out into the night.
They trudge from street to corrupted grove, until at last the Soaking Stone looms ahead through the blackened trees.
A middle-aged male with pale blue hair, named Perri, stops and rubs his thigh muscles. He looks back towards the Factory. Pixies pat him on the shoulder in commiseration as they pass, having all experienced the agony of walking in those first few weeks after losing their wings.
‘Has anyone seen Juniper?’
The moment he voices the question, he finds himself given a wide-berth by his fellow Pixies. The group is determined to teach this new member that you don’t ask where someone has gone.
Perri stretches his calves and chances a guilty glance above the Soaking Stone to where cloud gathers in permanence, pouring out the water which becomes the beautiful falls. Other Pixies trudge on, looking at the ground, most too sad to look to the skies at what they miss.
Downcast, Perri re-joins the other Pixies, accepting that he may never see Juniper again.
The splash and trickle of water from the falls above hitting the massive stone grows louder until finally, crossing the crest of a hill, the Pixies throw off their tiredness and hurry towards the water pooling at the base of the Soaking Stone.
Happy moans, growls and whoops fill the air as the Pixies splash into the water, letting it take the ache from their limbs and soothe it.
Perri joins other Pixies in clambering to the top of the Soaking Stone. There, they fling themselves out towards the lake, suspended for a moment as though in flight, before plummeting down with cries of excitement and fear into the water beneath.
Wiping tears from his eyes, Perri teeters on the edge, knowing it’s time for him to experience the closest thing to flight he will ever know again. Sucking in a deep breath, he does it! Joy lights his face in the few wonderful seconds before the fall. Then soon enough he dives and splashes into the lake below.
Swimming toward shore, he watches Pixies tug at fronds clinging to the base of the Soaking Stone, eliciting throaty giggles from a chubby, green Imp which delights in hiding itself and being found. Other Imps gather in groups to lift Pixies off the ground with their stumpy white wings, dropping them into mud or letting inertia carry them into the cold water falling upon the Soaking Stone.
Perri pulls himself up and out, joining in with his fellows.
About the shore, fat, golden-yellow and dark grey Funguars wave stumpy golden legs in the air as they twist onto their backs, ready to have their plump bellies tickled. Perri finds a handful of green fronds and algae, offering it to the nearest and chuckles as the creature snatches it from him, gorging. Mid-laugh, Perri looks around and realises for the first time that perhaps being a Pixie might not be so bad.