The Research Fellow carefully placed the latched wooden box in the vivarium. He slipped the pin out of the latch then, moving with speed, placed the lid back on the vivarium and clipped it into place. He removed his rubberized silk gloves. He looked at his hands thoughtfully. He washed his hands carefully in the washbasin by the window, dried them on the clean towel beside it. He thought for a moment, poured the water out the window into the yard. He took off the layered silk mask covering his nose and mouth, and returned to the vivarium.
The vivarium covered most of the table. It was specially constructed in Droh in accordance with the most modern miasmatist theory, and required four stevedores and an ox cart to transport out here. It was made of the clearest, thickest glass he had ever seen. The edges were brass-bound and sealed with pitch, and the lid was built of multiple layers of dense silk gauze and brass wire, with a gummed seal and clips to hold it in place. There was a little double sliding hatch mechanism for introducing food and water safely. The reservoirs for the two built-in pump sprayers had been filled, one with distilled water and the other with wood alcohol, and he'd personally tested the patented lighting mechanism of the latter himself. He'd set the whole thing up under a northern sky light, as directed. Several days earlier he collected several buckets of assorted rural stuff from the surrounding countryside and landscaped the interior of the tank with what he hoped was a charming landscape of moss and ferns and bits of old log. He'd misted it gently each morning since, it seemed to be holding up well...
In the vivarium, the lid of the wooden box fell open. He couldn't see the interior from this angle. He dipped the point of his pen in the inkwell beside him and prepared to write his first entry from live observation. He waited. Minutes passed. The inhabitant of the box remained hidden within. The Research Fellow felt a sudden resentment that the craftsmen of Droh hadn't included a device for giving occupants of the vivarium a good poke to get them to hurry up.
The Fae stuck its head out of the wooden box. It looked about, looked up at the brass mesh of the lid, looked through thick glass at the makeshift laboratory that had once been a farmhouse. It looked at the Research Fellow. The Research Fellow froze, expecting the tiny, fragile looking thing to retreat to its box in alarm. Instead the Fae pelted over the mossy interior toward him. It pressed its miniature face and hands against the glass and stared at him wistfully with its glass-bead eyes.
The Research Fellow noted all this in his journal. He wrote down that it was of thus-and-such height (about the length of his finger) and that it was bilatally symmetrical even with regard to the hornlike grows on its head, and that it appeared to be of probable butterfly origin. He estimated that it was in the early third stage of Faeriscite infection. He did not write that its regard held the particular stress of one intelligent mind gazing upon another as he wasn't sure it sounded scientific and he didn't want to sound foolish.
The Fae continued to stand against the glass, watching him. He wrote every down every detail he could think might have some research value, and still it watched him, silent and still. Eventually he closed his journal and simply watched it back. An hour later he went out for lunch.
That afternoon, the Research Fellow returned to the makeshift laboratory with a bolt of heavy fabric which he hung, curtain fashion, from the rafters in front of the vivarium. He laid out his writing supplies on a table behind the draped fabric. He slid a small plate holding a variety of foodstuffs through the double hatch. The Fae had run to the glass when he'd appeared. It ignored the food, staring at him hopefully. The Research Fellow retreated to his vantage point behind the fabric and peered at the vivarium between two selvedges. He saw the Fae regard the fabric for a moment - rather sadly, he thought - then drift away from the glass. It held out its arms and began turning in slow circles. It looked like it could turn in circles all day.
The next morning the Research Fellow returned to the laboratory. He dragged the chair out from behind the curtain and placed it in front of the vivarium table. The Fae ran up to the glass and stared at him. He sat down, cleared his throat, and with some awkwardness, launched into the opening lines of "As I was out walking one morning in springtime," which wasn't, he had to admit, a song he was proud of knowing but at least he could remember most of the words (even the rude ones) and it didn't have any difficult high notes like "Hail to Thee, Academy Mine." He really wasn't a very good singer.
The Fae began to dance. It might be singing, behind the thick glass.
Oh well, maybe he could find a penny whistle somewhere...
© 2018, Heather Hudson