Erik left his home with his violin-case in one hand, and locked the door behind him. It was late, probably eleven or later. The street-lights and the lights from the windows of buildings made it impossible to see the stars, but the full moon could be clearly seen shining like a silver mirror in the Eastern sky. The other pedestrians did not seem to pay its beauty any heed as they continued along to wherever they were going in such haste at that hour, to say nothing of the indifference of those who passed in cars. But Erik paused at the corner just before turning onto the main street, taking a moment to look up and appreciate the haunted beauty of its bright gleam in contrast with the velvet darkness all around it. Suddenly, a bat flitted overhead, changing the tenor of the night, and Erik resumed his walk.
He could have taken the bus, but he far preferred to walk the ten or so blocks from his house to the park. He preferred to avoid other people, and the walk gave him longer to appreciate the beauty of the night - the bright city lights against the darkness, the shadowy trees along the streets which filtered the moonlight and the lights of the city into patterns, the glow, full of possibilities of mystery, that the city lights gave to all the buildings in the absence of bright sunlight, the depth of the shadows. No, the bus, with its bright fluorescent lights, loud motor and sometimes loud, yakking students, was far too garish. The walk was far more pleasant.
The park was much darker than the surrounding city, and much more deserted at least of people. The lamps, which sent their bluish-white light out in a radius of fifteen feet or so, were far more widely spaced apart and were only placed along the walkways. The trees, which were still in full foliage, prevented their light from travelling any farther. Off the main walkways, where there were no lamps, the moon cast a pale light over the grass, flowers and bushes, a silver sheen broken into patterns by the shadows of the trees and by passing clouds.
Erik turned off the main walkway, and headed along a small dirt path, flanked by dense trees on either side. The path lead up a hill, and ended in a perfectly circular clearing at the top. Here the moon shone brightly and the stars could be seen, because the trees which surrounded this spot blocked out the light from the lamps and far-away street-lights and buildings. A large, flat stone protruded from the ground in the centre of the clearing, and on it Erik placed his violin-case. He opened it, and lifted the instrument out with the greatest of care after first tightening and rozzening the long bow. Erik felt the delight and thanks of the beautiful cherry-wood instrument, which had been asking, nay prodding him to do this for days now. He lifted the violin to his shoulder and laid the bow to the strings.
He began with a slow, lilting Irish tune, and felt and saw them come out to listen as they always did when he came at night to play for them - silvery figures, their bodies translucent, almost transparent, shimmering in the moonlight. Some were so tiny they could hardly be seen; miniscule, dancing specks of light. Some were a few inches high, others a few feet. Some, especially the ones who came later, were as tall as a person. The tiniest ones, the ones three inches or less, came up from the grass or emerged from the flowers. The larger ones came from the trees, or from the waters of the fountain at the centre of the park. As they emerged, Erik moved to faster tunes so that they could dance. Most of them, these Spirits and Faeries of the park, danced to his playing, while a few sang in high, clear voices in a tongue not understood by human beings.
He had discovered this hidden delight of the park's completely by accident, having come for the first time simply to play his violin by himself to find some peace at a particularly low point in his life. He had come simply to find relief and release in the music in a place away from other people. He had not expected an audience. But they had emerged, the Spirits who gave life to the place, to listen and dance to his playing, and it had become something of a ritual ever since. His violin loved to sing, and Erik would always know when it was time to come and play for the shimmering Spirits because she would call to him from her case, sometimes for several days as now, and tell him that she wanted to be let free. She was always at her happiest and most delighted when singing for the Faeries and Spirits. Her own spirit would always glow brightly, flickering and dancing itself, around her cherry-wood body and the flying bow. Erik always delighted in seeing his violin so happy. She was his oldest and dearest friend.
The first grey of dawn was just beginning to light the sky as Erik reverently put his violin back in her case and began to walk home. The moon had set now, and the streets were more deserted then they had been when he had come to the park. They always seemed lonelier, especially with the vagrants sleeping on them. But Erik's heart felt lighter than it had before he had played, even as he blended with the shadows as he made his way back to his house, to his own rather solitary existence. He always felt peace after playing for the Spirits. He went to bed just as dawn was breaking to catch a few hours of sleep before that evening's concert.