The Boy and the Elephant

There was once a little boy whose name was Nathan and more than anything in the world he loved to dance.  If they had let him, he would have danced until dawn every night—but, of course, they said he had to go to bed.
            One day Nathan was walking through the forest, a jig springing from his feet with each step, a whistle on his lips, and his greatest desire to dance until dawn on his mind, when he found that he had jigged into the center of a circle of mushrooms.  Too late he remembered that such a ring is not what it appears, and before he could blink, his body was no longer in the mortal world.
            And so it was that Nathan found himself a prisoner in Fairyland.
            The fairies had been wickedly clever—the boy’s capture had not been by chance.  For there is nothing the fairies like better than to be entertained in their nightly revels by dancing.
            The boy was not their only prisoner.  An elephant had stepped wrongly while on tour with a traveling circus.  And thus it was that the boy and the elephant found themselves dancing by night before the fairies and their lords—and by day, locked in a cage.
            Night after night they catered to the whim of the fairies, dancing separately and together, both exhausted from the demands put upon them, and talking far into the day about how it once had been to dance.  Thus, agreeing that it is a sad thing to be forced to do what one loves, the elephant and the boy became fast friends.
            There came a night when the elephant stumbled for the first time.  It happened just before dawn, and was so slight a slip that none but his dancing partner took note.  The next night, he stumbled, too.  It did not take even until the third night for Nathan to realize that his friend was far too weary, and growing wearier.  And so he decided enough was enough—Nathan and his friend would escape.
            But how?
            He began by observing the nightly rituals of the fairies.  He watched them come and go, disappearing through circles like the one he had stepped through.  Nathan especially noticed the reverence the fairies had for the fire flowers they picked under the shining of a full moon, and the special powers such flowers seemed to have in brightening and renewing the fairies.  He noticed that no fairy could be seen after the break of day, and that they did not return until night when their revels would begin anew.  And then he studied the lock that held him and the elephant fast.  All this he let swirl about his mind until he came up with a plan.
            On a night that he danced under the full moon, he picked a fire flower, and hid it in his pocket.  The next night he pressed the flower into the lock of his cage as he and the elephant were let out to dance.  And when daylight fell, and they were alone, he found that the flower had worked its magic.
            The cage swung open, and Nathan helped the elephant to his feet.  Together they stepped through the closest fairy ring, and found that they were back in the mortal realm.
            Nathan clicked his heels, and the elephant trumpeted.  Many years had passed in the short time they had gone to Fairyland, and no one was left who each could call they.  But the boy and the elephant were not alone; they had each other, and they were free—and it felt like more than enough. 

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