Life's Greatest Mystery
By: Yvonne Lang

Most scientific discoveries come through decades of hard work, to the point of obsession, in order to find an answer. The spark of inquisition that triggers this life changing quest is often quite minor, a throw away incident. For me it was my mother's grumblings. I was a curious child and asked a lot of questions, even more than the average youngster. My mother must have had the patience of a saint, she always answered. I found out as an adult a lot of her answers were fictitious, told either as she didn't know, felt the answer was not suitable for someone my age, or simply wanted to close down the line of questioning and shut me up. There had only ever been one question she had never attempted to answer. She had just said, "I don't know son. No-one does." I had been absolutely flabbergasted that no-one knew, I checked with teachers and friend's parents, and they all agreed that no-one knew where they went – they just vanished. I could not believe everyone accepted this loss as normal. No-one tried to figure it out, no-one was trying to fix it. It was just how things were.

I could not accept this. Science could explain everything. I would find out where they went. When I qualified as a scientist I was mocked for my specialization. I was told it was an unimportant question, a waste of my skills, a waste of scientific resources. I garnered a reputation as brilliant but mad. No-one would collaborate with me. I continued alone. People wouldn't financially back me, I paid for the equipment myself. If I was small enough, I could physically see the journey. I was told that shrinking myself was impossible – the stuff of children's sci-fi films. I proved them wrong. The world was astounded. But instead of celebrating my breakthrough they were astounded what I would use my machine for. Then they said it was dangerous and posed a risk for me. I cared not, I had come this far and would have my answers. My mother tried to have me sectioned. She was unsuccessful, we don't speak now, which is a shame. But now I have an answer I will reconnect; it was her question that set me off on this quest. Her mystery to solve.

Now I know. I am currently the size of a human thumb and am surrounded by glory. The colours are amazing, a clash and patchwork of faded, threadbare, plain, patterned, and good as new. They have been used for everything. The road is carpeted in them, the material worn smooth from previous footsteps. The fairy I had accosted when I initially smuggled myself in was with me. We had quickly got the measure of each other and called a working truce. Her stockings were fantastic and bore silver stars up the thigh in reflection of her name – Silver Star. I have been invited to her tent for tea so followed her to her huge purple and fluffy home.

"You really use them for everything?" I asked in awe as I followed, my mouth agape.

"Oh yes. Initially we were caving into the demands of the human rights activists. Those firebrand fairies thought it was macabre, could encourage tooth pulling and theft if there was a demand for ivory." Silver Star rolled her eyes,

"But then we realized how much more versatile, comfortable, varied and malleable wool and cotton were. We started using them for building materials, decorations, banners, soft furnishings – socks are so much more pliable than teeth. All the fairies collect socks now. They are much more plentiful than teeth and humans don't expect paying for them. Our economy is booming."

I smiled, to overcome with joy to speak. I have solved one of life's great mysteries - I know where all the socks go.



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