JD followed the two sets of paw prints up the snow-covered mountain. Next to him, the dark curls of Claudette defied the chilly temperatures and bounced joyfully.
The young man wore a sleek dark brown coat, and black pants that kept the dream cold at bay. With glamorous amethyst earrings and a glowing purple tiara, Claudette completed here dream outfit with a purple leopard coat over deep purple leggings and a set of onyx boots that crunched the snow under her feet.
“Do we really have to walk this last part, JD?”
JD looked to his left with a red nose and his cheeky smile. “Indeedly we do, Miss Claudi. Portals by themselves are persnickety enough. A converging lucid portal is as fragile as a soap bubble.”
“Which is why I’m looking for a glowing bubble in the middle of a snow covered mountain. Seriously, since when are dreams this cold?”
“What? Do you think El Niño doesn’t affect the Lucid too?”
As Claudette pondered on the implication of weather patterns in Raelity and their relationship with Draem, a chorus of excited squeaks brought the kind woman back to the cold mountain range. Up ahead, two large hamsters were squeaking to JD and he nodded as he listened intently.
“What are they saying?” asked Claudette.
“Come here and you’ll understand.”
“But I don’t speak hamster.”
JD pointed to the ground. “Neither do I, but thank god for subtitle snows.”
There being written at the speed of their speech, a little crawl of text was forming beneath each hamster.
“This. This is the place,” said the hamster on the left.
“Well, actually, it could be a bit farther up the slope,” read the subtitles for the hamster on the right.
“Tubby, don’t be a fur ball. You know it’s here.”
The hamster on the right took a deep breath to compose himself and even touched his paws most Zen-like. “Peaches, you and I both know it can be a tiny bit further.”
“Tubby, darling, you know it’s here. You can smell it. I can smell it. Don’t be difficult just to contradict me.”
“I’m not contradicting you.”
“Yes you are!”
“No I’m not!”
“Oi!,” said Claudette clapping her purple gloves together and causing both sets of snow subtitles to go blank. “It is cold and you lot are the key to finding the snow portal we’re looking for. So please, get on the same page.”
Both hamsters looked at each other eyes agape; they were clearly not used to being told what to do. Much to the approval of both JD and Claudette, they began to squeak much more amicably.
“Do you think it’s here?” asked Tubby.
“Smells like we’re either there or near there,” said Peaches.
At the mention of smell, JD had to interrupt. “You mean you smell your way to the destination?”
“Of course,” squeaked Tubby. “How do you get around? We use the General Position Smell System.”
“Well we use maps and-” JD stopped mid-sentence and slapped himself on the forehead. Fishing in his coat, he pulled out a box, which he clicked open. The liquid center rippled, unaffected by the cold until a small heart shaped crystal congealed on the surface and began to spin in circles on its edge.
“It’s here,” he said turning to Claudette.
“Told you,” said Peaches and Claudette looked sternly at both hamsters causing them to behave.
JD knelt down on the snow and looked for something in his coat. After some rummaging, he pulled out a jade harmonica with several odd symbols etched onto it. He started playing a lovely melody on it, causing both hamsters to look at each other impressed at the beauty of the harmonica, especially since it sounded more on the lines of a wooden ocarina than a metal wind instrument.
“I do love it when he plays the greens,” Claudette said. “Love the blues too, but sometimes you need to add a little sunshine to ‘em.”
“Ohhhhh…..” both hamsters nodded, swaying their furry bodies to the melody.
As JD played the bright tune, a circle of snow began to melt until a single steel tube was revealed in the ice.
“There we go,” said JD, picking it up and brushing off whatever snow remained on the tube.
“What is it?” asked Claudette.
JD inspected the tube. “I believe…. this… is a…..” with a click a cover slid over to reveal a panel with letters, “a cryptex.”
“Oh! I remember those from Sherlock Holmes.”
“Sherlock Holmes?” said Tubby with a squeak. “Only place I’ve seen something like that was in that book about Da Vinci’s Code.”
“Great book,” said Peaches.
“Terrible movie,” said Tubby.
“Indeed,” said Claudette. “But we would need a clue. I can see it has five letters, but what can we have as a clue?”
“Well you remember why we came here?” asked JD.
“The parcel addressed to the Crayon Parlour?”
“Precisely, my dear Claudette. Remember what the shop owner told us when she handed us the package?”
“Aye, luv. The poem.”
In joy’s delight
And elation’s kiss
Light euphoria’s night…
“With a brigade’s bliss,” said Claudette as JD turned the dials until matching the letters B L I S S. With a click the tube began to vibrate intensely and JD set it down on the snow. He walked towards Claudette and very carefully led her by the arm. “We should give that some space for it to do its thing.”
Knowing better than to question him, she walked side by side and counted forty paces before they stopped and turned around.
“Watch this,” said JD with his typical Cheshire grin and they didn’t have long to wait.
The tube stood on its end and released a plume of stream with a loud whistle for about ten seconds before it stopped and did nothing more.
“That’s it?” squeaked Tubbs and Peaches at the same time.
Claudette looked at them with her own cheeky smile. “Patience is often rewarded, children. Especially in dreams.”
As if waiting for the artist’s cue, a massive gong rang across the entire frozen mountain. The tube then split open like a five petal metal flower, with each of the petals extending to about eight feet each. Immediately after that, five doors unfolded and stood upright all of their own accord.
Each door was distinct in its material, shape and size. One door was soft thatched like you’d see in a beach hut. Next to it was a door that looked like it would open into a locker room. The next door was sophisticated with rich wood that you wouldn’t be surprised if it opened into a library. The fourth door looked like the interior of a sitcom. The fifth and final door looked like it opened into a fun house.
From the center of the metal flower, a panel opened from where five rambunctious fairies sprang towards each door.
“Knock-knock fairies?” asked Claudette.
“Well they are effective,” said JD, amazed at how loud and fast they could unleash their knocking assault on the doors.
The first to open was the thatched door from which came a lovely woman with reddish brown hair the color of lush brownie batter. She had kind smoky eyes and a smile to match it. Looking into the doorway she came through, it was easy to understand why she wore a sundress and why she let out a shriek as soon as her sandaled feet registered she was no longer walking on sand but instead its most chilly of counterparts.
“Son of a !&*%$*@!!! That really hurts like a &*%$*@ #$&@*!”
JD couldn’t help but gawk at the master sailor vocabulary the woman possessed. Seriously, taxi drivers would have blushed at the things she had to say about the meeting between her feet and the snow. The only thing that was able to stop the cursing was the appearance of a 6’2” fish dressed in a ship captain’s suit with a brown fur coat, matching boots, and a scaly smile.
“Madam,” said Captain Phish while offering her the means to warm up.
“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” she said out loud.
“Indeedly you are, Miss Blissy. Doesn’t mean it can’t get cold around here in Draem.”
“Oh hi, JD… JD??!!! What the hell are you doing in my dreams?”
“A dream, dear friend. And mind the language, kids are around.” He pointed to the hamsters.
“Peaches and Tubby!!” As she rushed and hugged them, the subtitle snow was having a hard time making out anything they tried to say.
As abrupt as it was loud, the locker door slammed open and out tumbled a man wearing a jersey and helmet. If diving head first into the snow were an Olympic sport, he would have surely medalled. Getting up on his knees, the man spat out snow. “Touchdown!!!!...... I think. Where the hell am I?”
“Greetings and salutations, Rick. And welcome to Draem. Small request, any chance to moderate the language? Younglings about.”
When Rick saw to where JD was pointing, he saw his wife and two four-foot versions of his hamsters being hugged intensely by Sheila. “Tubbs? Peaches? Sheila?”
Little or no thought went into his charge for a hug but his was the strongest of embraces and the hamsters were starting to look a little blue when both he and Sheila finally let go.
Looking around, he remarked. “Where the hell are we?”
As Sheila lovingly hugged her husband, she also felt the need to remark. “Beats the hell out of me.”
Before JD could get past the language induced cringes, the remaining three doors burst open and three kids exited and bumped into each other.
“What the hell is this?” said the older girl.
“How the hell did we get here?” said the middle child.
“What the hell are you doing in my dream?” said the youngest boy.
Taking a cue from the endless cartoons he watched as a child, JD’s skin turned about four colors before settling back into his normal pigmentation. “I suspect language is hereditary,” said Captain Fish.
“Or they’re one hell of a fine family, eh JD?” asked Claudette with as much cheek as one grin could ever hope to hold.
Finally back in control of his faculties, JD cleared his throat and addressed the family. “Greetings and salutations to the Bliss Brigade, and welcome to Draem. I am JD, the lovely young lady is Miss Claudette, and our scaly companion is Mister Phish.”
“Captain Phish,” Corrected Claudette.
“My thanks, milady,” said the common cod with his most regal of bows.
JD paused for a moment before regaining his line of thought. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here.”
“Actually, I was wondering how you got into our dreams.”
Everyone looked to Lucas, surprised by the boy’s calm demeanor.
JD fumbled a bit before replying. “Ah, that. Well…. Some religions or races attribute spirit animals to people. Although this is true, the same goes for families and said animals have been known to help in searches.” Again he pointed to the hamsters that had miraculously not rushed their family although they may have also been catching their breaths after the hug onslaught from Sheila and Rick. Sheila had been quick to figure out how to communicate using the subtitle snow and they would have gone on and on if they hadn’t realized how cold they actually were.
“Master Estrada, it seems hospitality and manners dictate we invite your friends in from the cold,” said Captain Phish.
“Quite right,” JD said. “My dear Sheila, would you and yours humor us and come inside to warm up and tell you why we’re all here?”
Sheila really wanted to respond but her breath failed her as she looked from where she stood. Although a ways away from the peak, the view was absolutely stunning. The snowy peak she stood on overlooked an azure valley straight ahead, a dense forest to the west of where they were and the dark indigo coastline. In the distance, birds flew and a radiant sun shone with all the colors you could think of.
JD stood shoulder to shoulder and took a deep breath. “Welcome to Draem, Luv. Now let’s get you warmed up in the Falkori.”
Still awestruck, she could only nod and smile at the beautiful view. Leading her by the arm, they walked up to the massive snow cat colored emerald green with huge letters on the side that read S.S. Falkori. On the side was a drawbridge leading up to an opening on the side panel with a small crab that seemed to be in a foul mood and a large unfried French fry.
“Chips, Pincher, please take Miss Bliss and her brigade upstairs and get them warmed up,” Claudette said.
Claudette then led all of them up the gangway into the cozy interior of the Falkori. JD stayed behind one moment and took a good look at the view. He breathed the cool minty air and smiled.
“What is this place?” asked a young voice.
JD turned around and found himself looking at the Brigade’s youngest member. He walked up to him and smiled kindly. “Well that’s actually a complex question. Right now we are in Draem, which is one of the countries within the Lucid. The Lucid is what we can call the world of dreams where all humanity beyond can meet. In regards to specific location, we are right now on Mellow Mint Mountain. I like to come here to cool off once in a while.”
Lucas looked around, also marveling at the view although in his own quiet way. “This is pretty cool. I’m just used to having dreams be like a movie where I’m mostly watching.”
“I know what you mean,” JD said, standing beside Lucas as they both enjoyed the view.
“It’s not often you have full control.”
“That’s quite true,” JD said. “Anyway, we should go with your family. Plenty to do.”
“Ok,” said Lucas innocently.
“It would be great if you left the snowballs as well,” JD said with a smile and a wink.
“How do you know?” Lucas asked holding out two perfectly rounded snowballs.
JD pointed to the snow at his feet. “Subtitle snow is not exclusive to hamsters.”
* * * *
Inside the massive snow cat, a large window looked down the Mellow Mint Mountain. The ever-changing layout of the Falkori was pretty simple this time around, well for the Falkori’s standards, that is. A long twenty-foot glass pane in the front of the vehicle, a wide area in the middle. Theater style seats were in front of the windows for maximum viewing enjoyment, if you weren’t afraid of heights that is. On the left wall was an assortment of beverages and snacks, though more limited than at other times.
“My apologies for the abridged variety of drinks and eats,” Claudette said. “But coming so high in Draem, we could only bring what was necessary.”
Rick, Ciara, Sheila, Zoe, and now Lucas all looked on the “limited” version of beverages and snacks, a fifteen-foot long buffer for the senses.
“What are those?” asked Zoe.
JD walked up to see what she was pointing to. “Oh! Those are ginger claps. They’re like ginger snaps but bigger and louder on the taste buds.”
“What’s that?” said Ciara with her eyes popping out.
JD came over to her side of the table and saw a creamy amber slab on the table. “Ah yes, that’s maple marble. You chip what you want and pop it in your mouth, where it proceeds to melt like a piece of maple heaven.
Meanwhile, Rick was talking with Captain Phish who was telling him about some of the sports played in Draem, including hip ball, which was a mid point between football and handball; treble bass, which was a lighter version of baseball, where pitches are higher. Right now he was trying to explain how cloud riding was done when he noticed a large tarp next to the snacks and refreshments.
“What’s under there?” asked Rick.
JD walked over to it and grabbed the cloth. “That’s actually why I called you here.”
With an extravagant pull of the cloth, a four-foot pyramid looked at all of them… literally. It was made of glass and slowly rotated on its base.
“That’s Bob!” said Sheila, “and Linda, and Zander! JD! What is this?”
“We got this with a message that told us we needed to meet to be able to open this up.”
“So what does that mean?” asked Sheila.
“Mom! We gotta visit their dreams to help them,” said Lucas.
“Is that true?” asked Sheila.
JD smiled impressed at the young man’s intuition. “You’ve raised some smart people there, Miss Bliss.”
Blushingly, Sheila held Rick’s hand. “I had some great help.”
JD put his hand on Rick’s shoulder. “I never said otherwise. Now about these people, Lucas was right and then some. So the question is, where do we start?”
“I think we should visit Bob first,” said Zoe.
“Why’s that?” asked Claudette.
“I dunno,” Zoe said honestly. “It just feel’s right.”
“Then that’s where we’ll go!” said Claudette with curl bouncing flare. “Phish, if you’d be so kind, set the course!”
The tall fish saluted Miss Claudette before speaking. “Mum! Mister Bob happens to be at the village at the base of Mellow Mint Mountain!”
“Excellent!” said Claudette. “How long should it take to arrive.”
“A little under four standard hours, Mum!”
“Rats! Is there any way to make that quicker?”
As they all pondered, their concentration was broken by a loud pop from the right side of the cabin. Turning around to see what it was, a small dragon wearing a pull over and glasses proceeded to wave hello.
“Figgis!” said Claudette. “So nice to see you.”
The small dragon was a bit bashful but still smiled in Claudette’s direction. “’Ello, Madam,” he said in a kind, shy, and quiet voice. “Couldn’t help but hear you and well, I do have a suggestion.”
“I’m listening,” said Claudette.
The shy dragon looked around before speaking up. “You do remember the plans to connect the topside of Draem with the Treacle Tunnels?”
“Well there is a very quick way to get down the mountain, and well, it can be a two birds one stone type of deal.”
* * * *
The crisp sky shone above Mellow Mint Mountain with a curious green dot more than three fourths of the way up said mountain. The quiet Draem morning was interrupted by a loud roar, followed by a large fireball that shrieked down the slopes and plummeted into the rich soil of the Lucid. As the makeshift opening to the Treacle Tunnels stood gaping wide open, there was a slick trail leading all the way up the mountain. A trail that served as a massive slide for one massive snow cat dragon mobile.
Down the mountain shrieked the SS Falkori on three massive skis being pulled by three large plump dragons. At the coming onslaught, trees knew better than to be stubborn and moved out of the way. Heads and wings tucked, the dragons were aiming for maximum speed and achieving it. Even behind a thick glass pane, whooping and cheering could be heard clearly as the Bliss Brigade loved every second of their ride. Deftly, the three smaller dragons opened their right wings simultaneously to turn to the right where they slid gracefully onto the soft road that led to the village of Sans.
All three kids agreed, “THAT WAS AWESOME!”
Even Rick and Sheila had to admit at the fun ride they’d just survived.
“We’ll have to go on foot from here,” said Claudette. “Captain Phish, please prepare us for the next trip while we tend to business here. Figgis, please help the captain.”
“Yes, mum,” said the large fish and the small dragon at the same time, saluting the young woman and her dark curls.
As they got off the SS Falkori, the Bliss family looked at the large snow cat dragon and could swear the steel structure growled as it smiled and winked at them.
“This way,” JD Said, leading the way to the village of Sans. The walk was pleasant although brief and before they knew it, they were at the entrance of the village or at least what they thought was the entrance.
“Is this the entrance?” asked Sheila.
“Not much of an entrance if you ask me,” said Rick.
“Well they don’t call it the village of Sans for nothing or actually that is exactly why they call it Sans,” said JD.
There was a clearing in front of them, a little barn, a hut, some chatting tumbleweeds, and not much else. It was as if a village had been there but was there no longer. It was the village that was there but wasn’t, which is why everyone jumped when they heard a bodiless voice.
“Who goes there?” said a gruff voice not unlike a cowboy’s.
“Ah yes,” said JD stepping towards the voice. “Who might you be? And where might you be?”
The cowboy voice seemed to float around. “Well I am the San Sheriff so although I’m not the sheriff, I am, but I’m not. Do you follow?”
Everyone was looking mighty confused except Ciara whose focus was razor sharp as she blew on her fingers in a most peculiar fashion before speaking up. “Are you here?”
“Well not really, if you ask anyone else but since there is no one, kind of hard to do that.”
“So if you’re not here, we can pass through,” she asked the bodiless voice.
“Well I don’t see why not,” said the voice.
“Honey, what are you doing?” asked Sheila.
“Mom, take a bold step forwards. Trust me.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sheila.
“Like this,” said Ciara as she took a confident step forwards and then disappeared.
“I’m still here, mom. You just need to take a bold step forwards.”
In her confusion, Rick took her hand. “Let’s do as she says, Sheila. It’s not the first time she has taken a step on her own and she knows best.”
Lucas and Zoe grabbed their parents’ hands and on the count of three took a step that almost looked like a collective electric slide. As they finished the step, the sensation of melting through a veil came upon them as a town magically appeared in front of them. Behind them were Claudette and JD and the look of joyful surprise on Miss Claudi’s face threatened at becoming permanent. “How did you know how to do that?”
Ciara blew her fingers again, nervous at being put on the spot. “I recognized the word sans from some information I read up on typography.”
“Yes, but how did you know what to do?”
“I didn’t,” said Ciara. “Sometimes you have to boldly go where no one has gone before, literally.”
JD smiled heartily impressed at the young woman. Looking to the left of her, he saw a man with a sheriff hat still a bit baffled at their appearance.
“Where did y’all come from?” he said in his Texan Accent.
“Doesn’t matter,” said JD. “We’re here to see Mayor Bob.”
“Who?” said a voice beyond a gate. “Who? Who? Who? Who? Me? Me? Me? Me?”
When the group walked up to the gate and swung it open, they saw a kind older man walking about in a garden, back and forth with jittery movements that made him seem like a poorly animated figurine. “Hello-nice-to-meet-you-I’m-Mayor-Bob-Mayor-of-Sans-even-though-that-means-the-town-is-sans-mayor-but-you-know-how-things-go…. you…. are…. in…. the…. zone…. as…. they…. say. But enough of that how can I help you be of assistance or assist?”
The manic pace followed by slow down left everyone out of breath.
JD stepped in front of the man and examined his eyes, his ears, his scalp, and even asked the mayor to say ah. He then said aha and pulled out a top hat, which he juggled and maneuvered along his arms. When his act felt as if it had gone on a bit too long, Claudette cleared her throat rather obviously and JD got the point immediately.
“Pardon me,” he said and proceeded to pop the hat open. “Let’s see what we have here. Voila!”
Everyone was silent as JD held onto a glowing turnip. His face was far from the usual cheeky confident Cheshire.. He was as baffled as the rest of them until the calls of “mine, mine, mine” made everyone turn on the spot. An albino gopher with a track suit, a huge gold plated clock, and a green bandana came bounding their way, leaping in an intricate lucha libre-esque tumble, before snatching the turnip from JD’s hands and running off with it.
JD looked at the gopher speeding off in the distance and turned back to the group. “Well at least that was worthwhile to someone. Anyone care to give the hat a go? Obviously me and my touch are out of sorts.”
With no hesitation whatsoever, Lucas stuck his hand in the hat, rummaged a bit until he pulled out a little drumming monkey. The funny little creature looked around at everyone, upon seeing the jittery mayor it jumped straight at him, to clutch him in a diminutive yet very powerful hug.
Before anyone could register the monkey’s movement, let alone react, the monkey sat itself on the mayor’s shoulder holding a set of tiny bongos. He tapped them rhythmically and although not a sound could be heard, the smile on Bob’s face showed that there was certainly an effect from the monkey’s beat.
“Finally,” Bob said. “You have no idea how crazy this has all been. I was all over the place and felt completely out of sorts.”
Lucas gave a little giggle.
“What is it, hun?” asked Sheila a little surprised by her son’s laughter.
“Well we were able to get the monkey off his back and in the right place.”
A collective groan came through prior to everyone’s laughter.
“We’re happy to have been able to help, Bob,” Sheila said.
“That you did. Is there any way I can return the favor?”
“Actually, good sir, you can,” said JD. “Would you happen to know the whereabouts of Linda?”
As Mayor Bob tickled his new bongo playing friend on the chin, he looked back to answer. “I believe she’s at the Lucid Library.”
JD’s eyes sprang open. “Oh my!”
“Is that a problem?” asked Rick.
“Not at all,” said JD, “It’s just a little far away.”
“How far is far for a dream?” asked Rick.
The young man swallowed deeply. “Well as with everything in Draem, it’s relative.”
Rick pressed on, “Meaning?”
“It could take a minute or a millennium within Draem. You see the Lucid Library exists on all the lands within the Lucid.”
“I don’t follow,” said Rick.
Claudette then stepped in. “I think what my well intentioned yet excitable friend means is Draem is just one of the dream countries within the Lucid. Am I correct?”
JD nodded. “Precisely, and the Lucid Library is one of four points that converge within the entirety of the Lucid. What some people refer to as the collective unconsciousness.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little complicated?”
“I don’t think, I know,” said JD. “Dreams are magnificent things and to share one is a rare gift since the Lucid is totally endless.”
“That still doesn’t answer where the Library is.”
As they pondered what to do, someone behind the group cleared their throat loud enough to be heard and draw their attention. When they looked, a young man that looked exactly like JD sat at a table a ways away, drinking tea and wearing a cheeky smile. JD lost about ten shades of color.
“What is this?” asked Sheila. “Two JDs?”
But it wasn’t. The other man looked simultaneously younger, older, kinder, wiser, tired, vivacious, calm, and maybe a little stern.
“More like who is this?” said Claudette.
“Ok,” said Sheila. “Then who is this?”
The other man stood up and held out his hand. “My name is Fäet Odstein and your friend is at a loss for words because in part I am the one that often supplies those words.”
Looking from one to the other, Sheila scratched her head. “So are you his master?”
“Nothing that harsh,” said Fäet with a knowing smile. “I am his literary soul, the one often charged with administrating his muses.”
“I bet you have your hands full,” said Rick laughing.
“That I do indeed. He’s a little random, but he means well.” Fäet sat back down and stirred his tea. Slowly but conspicuously, the light around them began to shift.
“Ok, so why are you here?” asked Lucas.
“Why, to help of course,” Fäet said, sipping on his tea and giving a nod. “I think that should do it.”
“Should do what?” asked Sheila.
A silence then dominated their group as they took in their surroundings. They had disappeared from the town and were in a grassy grove with countless pyramids of different sizes that shone stark white.
“Where are we?” asked Rick.
“The Cane Cubicularum within the Lucid Library,” said Fäet as if anything he had just said made any sense.
“How did we get here?” asked Zoe.
Nodding toward Fäet “He’s in charge here,” Ciara replied, before going back to blowing on her fingers.
Fäet smiled calmly. “The stories are the ones in charge, I am just here to help.”
“You wanted me to change the topic,” said JD a little embarrassed.
Fäet walked up to the young man and put a hand on his shoulder. “More than anyone, you know that sometimes it’s better to have fun instead of complicating things. There will be a time to explore the complexity of the Lucid.”
“Just not now,” said JD.
“Just not now,” agreed Fäet. “Oh and in answer to the question currently whizzing around in your head, Xander is in the Patience Pavilion just beyond the hill.”
“Thanks,” JD said. “I’m sorry I had to need your help.”
Faët looked abashed. “My brother, you gave me life and a name. You’ve helped me more than I can say.”
“If you say so,” said JD still a bit embarrassed.
“I do say so and as always, I put it in writing.”
JD nodded. “Then we best be on our way?”
“That would be a lovely idea, so your Bliss Brigade can finish their mission and I can finish my tea.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said JD.
“A pleasure,” Fäet said and they walked in opposite directions.
“That was a bit weird,” Zoe whispered.
“Well so am I,” said JD with his trademark smile.
“There’s Linda,” said Sheila.
Sitting atop a fifty-foot sugar cube pyramid, there was a lovely young woman with a slightly sad look on her face until she saw Sheila walking her way. She bounded down the sugar pyramid. “Hey, hun! How did you get here?”
Sheila opened her mouth to reply, but before any words came, her eyes caught the sky above them.
“I thought we were in a library,” Sheila said frowning a smidge.
“And we are,” said Claudette. “Libraries here don’t necessarily need ceilings.”
“Huh,” said Sheila awed at the beauty of dreams.
“What are you doing here?” asked Linda, herself marveling at Sheila’s entourage.
“Well we had to come to visit some of the people we care about.”
“So you heard of my condition?”
Before Sheila could answer, JD popped open his top hat. “We heard you might need some magic.”
Sliding his arm into the hat, he pulled out a deck of cards that flew clumsily from his hands. However, instead of falling to the ground, a small cardnado formed. Everyone went for cover except Zoe, who looked at the hat on the ground, then reaching in she pulled out a golden lasso. Swinging it over her head she lashed at the cardnado snatching up a single card.
Everyone was amazed and somewhat confused, even more so when the small tornado of cards collapsed into itself and landed in a tidy stack.
“Wow, that was nuts,” Lucas said.
“Language!” said Sheila.
Lucas huffed. “Mom! What is wrong with saying nuts? You call Dad nuts all the time.”
Sheila raised her eyebrow "I think you know that is quite different.”
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry."
"It was kind of cool though. You don’t see tornados made of cards every day.”
“Understatement for the win!” Lucas said with a cheeky fist pump.
“Ha, ha, ha……” said Sheila, as if she were barely amused, before giving a warm smile.
“Anyone care to know how Zoe just helped Linda?” said JD.
“What?” said Sheila confused by the bit of news.
Linda was smiling while putting her arm over the shoulder of a little man that looked like the Jack of Hearts had just escaped a poker deck.
“Who’s that?” asked Sheila.
Zoe presented the small red skinned man. “This is Sulinman.”
“Who?” asked Rick.
“Her new bodyguard. He’s made of pure cinnamon which has been shown that it can help regulate blood sugar.”
Everyone stared at Zoe with their mouths open.
“What?" said Zoe with a cheeky smile "I saw that online somewhere. When I smelt the cinnamon aromas that came from the cardnado I thought I’d give my theory a try.”
Their mouths hadn't bothered to consider closing giving Linda ample time to thank Zoe again.
“Honey, you just have a wonderful way of surprising me,” Rick said.
“She’s a veritable Wonder Woman!” said JD.
“No spit,” said Sheila.
“Langauge!” said Lucas.
“I said spit,” defended Sheila.
“Yeah, mom. But we all know what you meant.”
Caught red tongued because she hadn’t used her hands, Sheila’s face blushed so much it made her look like a human thermometer close to boiling point.
“Wife of mine, for this occasion, I think our youngest caught you completely off base.” Rick chuckled.
A giggling over the hill brought them all back to the field.
“That sounded like Xander!” Sheila said, surprised by the sound and happy to change the topic.
“Let’s hurry, mom!” said Lucas back on his mom’s side.
As they all ran over the hill a sight took them all completely by surprise. There, running around a field were at least eight small identical boys.
“Is that Xander?” asked Claudette.
“Or Xanders?” added JD.
“Well, yes,” said Sheila a little puzzled.
“Sheila, luv. It seems our dear Xander got a bit splintered. Not to worry, we just need to grab all of them and huggle him together again.”
“How do you huggle someone back together?” asked Sheila.
“Well it seems to me that we need to have someone hug him together. You up for it, Rick?”
Rick cracked his knuckles and gave a sports loving smile. “Let’s do this.”
All of them started skipping down the hill and laughing. The Xanders were all chasing bugs with nets and as they leapt, the group found out that the butterflies actually stuck to them.
“What are these?” asked Ciara.
“Butterscotchflies,” yelled Zoe.
“How do you know?” asked Lucas.
When they looked at Zoe, they didn’t need further explanation than the wing that still stuck out from her mouth. Zoe caught one of the Xanders and took him to her dad.
Lucas and Ciara caught another. Claudette was even able to snag two by the hand and made them dance into Rick’s arms. He held onto all of them, although it wasn’t hard since they all turned to hug the huggable man. JD and Sheila caught two more and before long all Xanders were all accounted for, all hugging Rick and laughing with the beautiful joyous giggles only a happy child can express.
“Now Rick, I’m going to need you to give them kids a real big squeeze,” said JD.
Rick looked at Sheila and she nodded for him to do so. When he flexed, he felt one pop after another until only one Xander was left.
“Oh, that feels much better,” said the little boy.
Smiling, JD pulled out his magic hat and twirled it intricately until flipping it and popping it open in front of Sheila.
“You may do the honors,” JD said.
And with her family smiling at her, she reached into the hat, pulled out a headband and she had to burst out laughing. “Is this-?”
“A Miyagi-Daniel headband,” JD said with a smile.
Sheila knelt down and Xander ran to her and jumped into her arms, giving her a hug that only a child can give. She kissed his forehead and tied the bandana on his head making him look like a little karate master.
“This will help keep everything in its place,” said Claudette.
Xander looked at the lovely Claudette and then ran to hug the sweet woman. Sheila turned to look at JD. “Thanks,” she said.
With a bashful smile, he gave a small bow. “My thanks to you, luv. It’s because of you that we were able to bring a little bliss to these lovely people.”
JD looked at Xander hugging Claudette, Sheila’s kids playing with the butterscotchflies, and then Sheila hugging and kissing her husband. He gave a funny little nod and looked up to the Draem sky.
Up above he saw the SS Falkori floating like a massive blimp. From the port side, Captain Phish leaned out and gave a show below. “Master Estrada! The pyramid is doing something funny!”
“Define funny,” shouted JD.
“Well almost as funny as the hamsters dancing although after you left, they had their way with the maple marble and are indisposed this moment after stuffing themselves.”
“That doesn’t really answer my question!” said JD noticing the glass pyramid had not been mentioned.”
“I think you’ll have to come up and see for yourself!”
“All right! But it might need to wait for the next daydream, I need to pick someone up first.”
“Righty-o!” said Phish.
Taking his sight back to his friends all around him, JD nodded contentedly for the moment. “Not bad for a daydream.”
And that’s when everyone woke up.