Here is the author’s own recorded narration for those who would to listen as you read the story!
Of all the pixies, young Feddlebrect was the happiest.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Feddlebrect acted like the happiest pixie. There was a loneliness in Feddlebrect’s heart that he didn’t like so he tried, perhaps too hard, to be accepted by the other pixies. Then maybe he wouldn’t need to feel alone. He knew everyone expected pixies to be happy, and when he would fly in circles and sing songs and keep all his worries and sadness to himself, all the other pixies seemed to like him more. But had Feddlebrect felt free to just be himself, there would have been some days when he would have been sad, some days when he would have been silly, and some days when he would have been somber. He often wondered why he felt he couldn’t find the whole of himself. He thought he would find his true purpose when he received everyone else’s approval, but even when it seemed everyone else liked him well enough, Feddlebrect still sometimes felt alone.
On the first day of spring, the young pixies were all gathered for their assignments from the pixie King. The King would walk through the crowd of new pixies, pick one, embrace them, and take a long look at them. Then he would whisper in their ear what their job was to be and off they would fly. Feddlebrect wanted the King to approve of him so he went right up to the King. But Feddlebrect, as silly as he could be, was also very shy, so he stood behind the King just off his right shoulder and waited. He thought the King would turn and see him and pick him next, but he didn’t. After many more pixies, Feddlebrect moved a little closer, hoping to get noticed, but hoping not to ask for the King’s attention. When Feddlebrect saw his friend Treeloowee was next, he decided to go stand right behind her so that he could be next when she flew away. The King whispered into Treeloowee’s ear and off she flew to her task. And suddenly, there stood the King looking into the eyes of Feddlebrect. Feddlebrect inhaled quickly and tried to think about the best way to stand before the King. But before he could make up his mind, the King moved on to someone else. Feddlebrect was crestfallen. He stepped back, letting the other pixies crowd in front of him, and fell to the outside of the clamoring crowd and sat on an acorn.
When the last pixie had flown off, the King stood there with his back to Feddlebrect. And stood there. And stood there. Feddlebrect was now a little angry. Just angry enough to push through his shyness. He stood up, walked over to the King, circled around, and faced him. When the King’s eyes met with his, Feddlebrect would have trembled to the ground if it hadn’t been for the big smile the King had for him. “Feddlebrect!” The King embraced him and looked him in the eyes so deeply that Feddlebrect believed the King was seeing every twinkle of his being, even the shy parts, even the angry parts, even all the parts that were not happy, even the parts that were lonely, and the King still smiled. Feddlebrect felt like he could save the forest single handedly if only the King would say the word! But that’s not what the King said. The King did not appoint Feddlebrect to the squadron of pixies tasked with protecting the forest boundaries, nor did he assign him a job painting leaves in autumn, nor with the tree shepherds or the flower herders. The King did not whisper to Feddlebrect as he had the others.
Instead, he placed both hands on Feddlebrect’s shoulders and said to him, “Find an animal, love them, and be with them.” Then he flew off.
Feddlebrect stood there dumbfounded. Find an animal, love them and be with them? What did that mean and what purpose did that serve? Feddlebrect pondered this until evening, as the other pixies returned from their first day at their new tasks. He just sat and listened to their stories around the firefly light. Then he flew up to his room, carefully carved in his favorite elm tree, and went to sleep. The next morning, Feddlebrect flew slowly down with the others for the morning song that began the day. All the pixies gathered and sang along with the King and cheered for their part in the great cosmic dance, and then they flew off to their tasks. Feddlebrect remained behind.
The King, without looking at him, spoke the words again. “Find an animal, Feddlebrect. Love them. Be with them.” Feddlebrect sighed and flew away.
As he was flying, he came upon a buck. This buck had a beautiful reddish coat, and the fuzz of his new antlers looked ticklish and silly. Feddlebrect wondered if that was the animal he was meant to follow. But then as he flew down, he almost flew into a starling taking a worm to her hatchlings. Feddlebrect wondered if it was she that he was to befriend. Then a squirrel ran across the branch Feddlebrect was near, leapt over his head, and landed on a branch further away. Feddlebrect fluttered down and sat on a mushroom to think.
From behind, Feddlebrect heard munching and turned to see a large dusty grey rabbit eating carelessly in the bed of wildflowers right next to him. The rabbit was not paying very much attention and nearly bit into a poisonous mushroom.
“STOP!” Feddlebrect warned, as he leapt up and put his hand over the mouth of the rabbit. “Those are not for you to eat! They will end you, I say!”
The rabbit understood, wiggled its nose in gratitude, and hopped past the mushrooms and into the next bed of wildflowers. Feddlebrect thought, “Well this rabbit is as good as any other animal. I guess it’ll do.”
He walked over and introduced itself to the rabbit. “Hello! My name is Feddlebrect. I’m a forest pixie. We care for the woods and all that dwells within them. I was asked to find an animal and be with them. May I be with you for a while?”
The rabbit agreed but did not stop chewing. Feddlebrect sat down cross legged, occasionally plucking a flower and tipping it into a convenient biting height for his new companion.
Suddenly the rabbit stopped munching, its ears stood straight up, and its body froze! Then its back legs began to twitch! But just as it leapt to escape, an orange fox tackled the rabbit. The rabbit sprawled into a fury of kicks, scratches, but in no time the fox had the rabbit by the neck and that was that. Feddlebrect cried out in horror! He leapt up and ran to the rabbit as the fox carried it off. Feddlebrect held onto the rabbit’s face with both his hands and looked deep into its wide, glassy eye as the light faded. When his companion was completely gone, Feddlebrect let go, fell to the ground, and rolled into a heap as the fox trotted off to its den to begin its meal.
What was the point of that?! Feddlebrect was befuddled and angry as he flew back to his place that night. And that morning, he stood stiff as a pine needle while the other pixies sang their morning song. And when they flew off, Feddlebrect remained. The King didn’t look up at Feddlebrect this time, either. But again, he issued his command.
“Find an animal, love them, and be with them.”
Feddlebrect moved to say something, but then the King looked at him firmly and Feddlebrect felt that he had better obey. Perhaps he had not done his job properly with the rabbit. This time he would make it count.
Feddlebrect returned to the woods to find a new companion. As he hovered over a clump of blue flowers, he saw a wood mouse skittering from underneath them and across the forest floor. It was so fast and nimble that Feddlebrect could hardly keep up, much less to introduce himself. But whenever the mouse would stop to wash its face in a puddle or nibble on a seed, Feddlebrect would attempt to make the best of this respite to acquaint himself with his new companion. When the leaves would rustle, Feddlebrect, now ever on the alert would shout “Go!” and the mouse would skitter away, sometimes to where Feddlebrect had trouble finding him. This went on for two weeks, and Feddlebrect felt that this was the animal he was meant to commune with. That is, until the day the mouse found itself too slow to escape the talons of an owl. Feddlebrect leapt and grabbed on to the mouse’s tail as it was carried higher and higher, squeaking in terror. Feddlebrect climbed to the talons and tried to pry them off his friend, but they only squeezed tighter. Before the owl had cleared the trees, another companion was dead. Feeling a stowaway, the owl dipped suddenly and twisted, causing Feddlebrect to lose his balance, flail, tangle in his own wings, and go falling back down into the forest below.
Each time a companion lost, Feddlebrect became more and more torn in his inner-light. A stoat, a deer, two bats, and a hedgehog, each one accompanied by Feddlebrect, eventually, whether in a day or several years, met an end. And each time Feddlebrect felt more certain that either he had failed them, or the King had failed him. One day, when the badger lay gasping and clawing in a man-made trap and could not escape, and try as he might, Feddlebrect could not free it, it broke his spirit. He lay across the badger’s eyes and sang into its ear the evening song, and he kept singing for a day and a night and a day, until the men came to finish it off and collect their prize.
Feddlebrect flew in a rage back to where the pixies met for the morning song. He sat on the floor and waited all night. He did not stand for the morning song, and he did not stand when the pixies flew away. The moment the King had entered, he locked eyes with Feddlebrect. Then after everyone left, the King walked forward and sat down right in front of him. The King did not blink. The King did not smile, nor did he frown. The King just sat there with open hands resting on his knees and awaited Feddlebrect’s judgement.
“How dare you?” Feddlebrect began. “How dare you. Are you cruel? Or are you foolish? Do you know that I fly out there daily to watch these animals die!? And there is nothing I can do but watch the light leave their eyes! Nothing! You did not give me a weapon nor a bag of protection dust or anything that is useful in defending these animals you told me to care for! I have no potions to heal or bring back from death the ones that die! I am not equipped to do what you have sent me to do so you must either be cruel or foolish because you have sent someone as ill-able to do the task as I out into the world, and I’ve done nothing but watch animals die! Why?! Why would you do this!?” Feddlebrect broke down in sobs and as his tears flowed, rain fell for the duration of his lament.
The King sat silently through it all, ever looking at Feddlebrect, without smile nor frown, open to every word of rebuke. After the rain had stopped, and Feddlebrect raised his head, the King spoke softly.
“I did not send you to save them, Feddlebrect. The power of life and death is not given to us pixies. There are those beyond who attend to such things, however, we are merely stewards and companions. We bring out the best in what is within our care but when the lifecycle is done, we have no power to change that. You were given a very needed task – a task you are perfectly equipped for. You deeply know what it feels like to be lonely and scared. Dear Feddlebrect…You were not sent to save them. You were sent to be with them when they died. You were there so that they would not leave this life alone. That is all.”
What happened next happened all at once and took a lifetime to understand.
It was as if his heart, weighed down by impossible burdens his whole life, was now beating freely. His capacity for sadness was no longer seen as a liability, but the very thing that made being with another in sorrow possible. His deep knowledge of loneliness built strong reservoirs of compassion in him that those who never experience it will never know. And the responsibility he felt to save melted into its true purpose, the call of a companion. A threshold guide. The unknown could be faced because each animal did not face it by themselves. Feddlebrect now found a feeling deeper than joy in his work. He found wholeness. He knew in every shine within his body that this is what he was made for. He would belly laugh with the animals and dance around them as they went about their lives and when the time did inevitably come, he would be there, locking eyes with them, crying with them, holding their faces, helping them breathe as well as they could and speaking words and singing songs and stroking their fur in such a way that their fear would melt away. For the animals in his care, leaving this life became no more tragic than going from one part of the forest to another.
Feddlebrect still serves the forest in such a way to this very day, and he has trained many pixies to do the same. Their sacred task is to see to it that no bird nor beast should cross the final threshold alone.
The featured images in Feddlebrect are original art by Adam R. Nettesheim and used with his permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project. They are copyrighted artwork and not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Adam R. Nettesheim.
Adam is a vagabond of the arts. He is an animator by training, a media specialist by vocation and a writer by hobby. Though he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for”, in his wandering through the arts he has found the firm conviction that God has been writing His story through our stories since the beginning, and He’s not done yet. Adam and his wife Sarah have 3 children and live in Northern Colorado. His artistic interests range from G.K. Chesterton to Looney Tunes.