Interviewee: Talia Klein
Interviewer: Shelby Moore
Date: September 23, 2020
Int: I want you to tell the story, beginning to end, to the best of your ability.
T: There isn’t much to tell. The story really isn’t as exciting as people seem to think. I still don’t understand exactly what happened.
Int: I just want you to be honest, Talia. Tell me what you remember. Can you do that?
T: I think so.
I hadn’t planned for an adventure that day. I just thought we were going to climb the old oak tree in the backyard, like we so often did on those soft, golden summer evenings. I knew I was getting too old for imaginary friends and I just wasn’t in the mood. Of course, Dragon was not one to compromise.
“You climb that stupid tree every day,” he whined, his feathery indigo hair fighting a losing battle against the breeze. “Don’t you want to play? Don’t you want to go on an adventure?”
The rational side of me usually shut him down, or tried to, with varying results. Being the age that I was, rationality was not exactly my strong suit.
My adventurous half was particularly insistent that day.
“Come on, Talia. You’re so boring. Besides, I have a great idea. See that castle over there?”
I shrugged him off, trying to focus on something else, anything else. Last time we went on one Dragon’s adventures, I got in trouble and my mom didn’t let me have dessert for a week.
“I only see some trees,” I replied. “Go away, Dragon.”
“No, no, beyond the trees. Look! I can see two towers from here.”
I squinted, giving in to his game for just a minute. “I see four.”
Dragon grinned. He loved a challenge. “I bet you can’t see the cat in the window.”
I sighed. “Really, Dragon, I want to stay here today. I’m tired. We can look for fairies in the garden, if you want."
But I could tell Dragon was thinking up a quest and once he had a quest in mind, he could not be deterred.
“Do you know who lives in that castle, Talia?”
“An evil old witch?” I asked dryly.
Dragon looked disappointed. “How did you know?”
“It’s always an evil witch,” I grumbled. Dragon tried a different strategy.
“The witch doesn’t matter. What matters is what she’s hiding.”
“And what is that?”
He grinned. “Something ancient and magical and full of lost secrets that are just waiting to be discovered.”
I waited for him to elaborate, but he spoke no more.
“Really, what is it?” I begged. But Dragon only shrugged. He knew I could not resist a mystery.
“You’ll have to come with me to find out,” he said.
“Fine, I’ll go. But I have to be back in time for dinner. I’m serious.”
Dragon only flashed that wicked grin and grabbed my hand.
“Wait,” I said. “We’re bringing Luke this time.”
Luke was my best friend. Usually he accompanied us on adventures, but lately he had not been getting along well with my imaginary counterpart.
Dragon sighed. “Do we have to? He hates me.”
I glared daggers at him. "He does not. Besides, you're just jealous."
“Fine. Go get him. But we’re leaving in five minutes.”
T: And I went with him and we completed my fantasy quest. It was just like every other one before it. Dragon created a diversion to distract the guards and we sneaked into the castle, outwitted the witch (who was remarkably dull-witted), and stole the treasure. I was even back in time for dinner. It was really nothing, I don’t know how it happened.
Interviewer: So what was the treasure? What did you have to find?
T: (chuckles) It was all in my imagination, I didn’t really-
Int: I want to know.
T: Fine. I think it was a magic mirror or something like that.
Int: But that wasn’t what you came back with.
I still don’t understand how it happened. It’s one of those stories you hear on the news that makes you pause for a moment and think. Then you decide not to think about it because it doesn’t make sense and you don’t have time in your busy life to devote to things that don’t make sense.
We emerged from the woods, Luke and I passing our prize back and forth between us and taking turns gazing into its swirling depths.
“See, it was fun, wasn’t it?” Dragon said, smirking.
I nodded begrudgingly, but I didn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me smile. I had just remembered that I hadn’t wanted to accompany him on this adventure in the first place.
“What are we supposed to do with this mirror anyway?” I asked.
“This one…” I gasped. The object in my hands was no longer a mirror. It was a painting.
“But it was just-” I began, but Dragon cut me off.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“It was a mirror, we had to find the mirror, you told me!” I cried, incredulous. I looked to Luke to back me up, but he only shrugged.
“I told you no such thing,” Dragon said archly. And he was right. Thinking back on the evening, I remembered he had never stated clearly what it was that we were supposed to retrieve.
“But it was a mirror..” I protested weakly, but I knew it was no use. Whatever the object had been before, it was now undeniably a painting. Striking colors blended together to depict a fiery sun setting over craggy, desolate mountain range. The clashing of the cotton candy sky with the unforgiving landscape made chills skitter down my spine.
“Well, I’ll be going, then,” Dragon said cheerily. “I’ve got a train to catch. Later, friends!”
And he was off.
I turned to Luke.
“You saw it too, right?” I said. “Dragon must be trying to trick us. He’s so annoying sometimes.”
"Dragon isn’t real, Talia,” Luke replied, not meeting my eye. “I’m tired of playing with your stupid imaginary friends.”
With that, he got on his bike and sped off. I was hurt, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it because I heard my mom calling me inside for dinner.
T: I saw it on the news the next morning. I hid the painting in my closet, but my mom found it about a week later. She was horrified.
Int: So she turned it in?
T: Almost immediately. She knew she would likely be blamed, but she wanted to do the right thing, bless her.
Int: And you still have no memory of entering the museum that day?
Int: I think that’s all for today, Talia. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
T: It was a pleasure.
Interviewee: Luke Hammond
Interviewer: Shelby Moore
Date: November 12, 2020
Int: You’ve recently changed your story. What prompted this?
L: I wouldn’t say I changed my story, exactly. I just have a better understanding of the same events.
Int: So walk me through it. What do you understand now?
L: I understand that we were two kids with wild imaginations and we wanted to make some trouble. When that trouble became too much, we made up a story to make ourselves innocent. We thought we would get in trouble and our parents would ground us.
Int: But it wasn’t really both of you, was it? You’ve stated that the story came solely from Talia.
L: Yes, it did.
Int: And you went along with it. Surely you realized no one would believe a story like that?
L: Yes, well, children don’t think like that. Of course I thought it was a little strange, but I didn’t want Talia to get in trouble for lying and I thought that if we gave them a story, the media attention would disappear.
Int: But it didn’t go away.
L: It didn’t.
Interviewee: The boy called Dragon
Interviewer: Shelby Moore
Date: December 4th, 2020.
A young boy slouches at a table in the center of the room, deep indigo hair startling against the cold grey wall behind him. Black smoke pours from a cigar dangling loosely between his lips.
Int: Eleven years ago, two children walked into an art museum and managed to steal one of the most valuable works in the world without leaving a trace of evidence. One maintains to this day that she was simply on an imaginary quest to a castle with her imaginary friend named Dragon and she remembers nothing about a museum.
Dragon: Yes, I have heard this story many times. I do not have all day, so if you have questions, do ask them now.
A heavy pause.
Int: Who are you?