When going through life and its daily tasks, it starts to feel ordinary. Dull. Almost like your own story is slipping away from you. A feeling that we all get to know, as if reality is a concept that is so easy to fall apart. I never knew that the feeling was so genuine, until my daughter showed me otherwise.
I had just got off my job and rolled in the carpool at my daughter’s elementary school. While waiting in line, I turned my phone and quickly flipped through my inbox. New projects, spreadsheets, and deadlines flooded my emails and text messages to the brim. That is what I should have expected when desperate for any job. A new business needed managing and I was the best qualified for it.
I drove up to the end of the line and in the crowds of kids, Savannah skipped out of the group with her pink dress swinging around her ankles and her short, black curls rocking around the back of her neck. She opened the door to the back seat of the car and grinned for ear to ear.
“Daddy’s here,” she squeaked after she closed the door back.
“And Savannah is here too.” I stretched behind me to poke her nose. “So, how was school today?”
“Good. All of the second graders had a class visitor today and he was really cool. Ms. Hudson told us he worked at the zoo.” She said as she played with the frills of her dress. “He even brought a snake to the class. It was this long.” she spread her arms out as far as she could.
I drove out of the school and into the street that takes us home. “Sounds fun. Anything else?”
“Um, well, in art class, I made this for you.”
I looked at her from the mirror as she rummaged her bookbag and pulled out a piece of paper. From what I could tell from the front, it was a little messy, but I could tell it was two people and something yellow in between them. “We’re almost home. When we get there, I'll take a closer look.”
She settled back in the seat silently until she saw us parking into the garage. That’s when she ran into the house, dropped her bookbag and shoes in the corner, and sat on the nearest couch with her picture in hand.
I followed behind and joined her. I traced my finger over the yellow circle, curious about what it was. “This is beautiful. Is that the sun in the middle?”
She smiled and shook her head. “Nope. It is the queen’s gold. We saved it from the evil wizard to bring back to the queen.” She pointed to a gray box in the corner of the paper. “That’s her castle. We have to go there.”
“That’s nice sweetheart.” I cleared my throat then got up with the picture of us still in my grasp. “I will put this in my room and keep it safe. Do you need anything before I do some work?”
“Can we watch an episode of my show together? The one with the kids going on adventures in the candy forest?” she pleaded. She let out a small pout when she saw that it wasn’t likely I would say yes.
“I’m sorry Savannah, but I have a lot of work to do tonight. Maybe we can tomorrow.”
“But you said that for the past week and we still haven’t watched it together.”
“I have?” I thought about the past week and how every day was more stressful than the last. I looked back at her and saw that she was disappointed, tired of being told no every time she asks something. That’s when I realized that I had to spend some time with her, even for a little bit.
I went to the living room and sat on the couch right in front of the TV. “We can watch one episode then I have to get some work done.”
Savannah let out a low squeal and did a dance while still sitting on the couch. I must admit, it felt relieving to get away from typing up things and other paperwork, and what better way to do it than with my daughter? I can tell by just looking at her that she has been waiting for this time for a while.
“So, what it called again? The Children of Brownieland? Cakeland?” I teased.
“No, Daddy. It’s Cookieland.” She grabbed the remote to turn on the TV and go to the DVR, and hovered over the title, but right as she did the screen turned off
Right after the TV turned off, the lights above us did too. I looked back towards the kitchen and saw that the numbers on the oven were gone along with the ones on the microwave.
“That’s odd,” I whispered to myself. I told Savannah to stay put while I checked things out. I knew I paid the electricity bill so that couldn’t be it. Did a random person cut our wires? Not likely. I opened the front door and peered out into the neighborhood. It was exactly what I thought it was, a blackout.
“Don’t worry, everything is fine,” I called out to the living room.
She got off the couch and stood behind me. “Does this mean we can’t watch the show together?”
“I am afraid so. The power should be back tomorrow and then we can watch a couple of episodes.”
Savannah stared at the ground and started to sniffle, so I kneeled to her height so I could hold her face and see her eyes directly in front of mine. “The lights will be back on soon. It could only take a few minutes, but if it doesn’t, we will watch the show tomorrow,” I said in a soothing voice.
She avoided eye contact with me as she wiped the tears streaming down her face with her arm. “No, it's not. It is the wizard’s fault. He was mad that we were trying to take the gold back, so he took our fun.”
“Yes. The wizard.” She ran over to the table and raised a piece of paper up so I could see it. It was the picture she drew. “He’s mad. He wants to ruin the fun.”
“Savannah, I don’t think that the wizard is real, or that he is trying to ruin our fun. It is just the electricity in the city going out for a little bit,” I tried to explain.
She crossed her arms and shook her head sharply. “No, he is real. His evil dragon is in the backyard right now. It is waiting to burn us with his fire breath when we try to give the gold back to the queen.”
There was no way she thought there was a dragon outside, but she seemed determined there was one. Maybe she saw a hawk out there earlier.
“It is out there, daddy. It is really out there,” She pleaded.
“How about you show me this dragon.” I held out my hand. “It probably is an animal.”
She held my hand and guided me to the other side of the house. From the window, nothing looked out of the ordinary. The back yard was empty as always, fenced in with only a shed in the very corner right by the dogwood tree that was here before we moved in. She tugged on my jacket gently and pointed at the top of the tree. “Right there.”
At the top of the tree was a barn owl sitting on a branch, staring past our house. “Savannah, you know what an owl is. There is no wizard trying to harm us.”
“No, that’s not an owl. It’s a dragon,” she said. “You know what a dragon looks like.”
I hated that I had to burst her bubble, but I could tell I wouldn’t meet my deadline at this rate. “Look, I have a lot of work to do tonight. I don’t have time for this.”
“As long as the dragon is out, the power won’t turn on. We have to wait for it to leave first,” she insisted.
“Okay fine.” I could not believe I was negotiating with a child. “There is an old tent in the shed. Maybe we can camp out and play some games there tonight instead of watching shows together. This will be the only night I will allow it since it’s Friday and-”
She rushed forward and gave me a tight hug. “I love you, daddy,” she whispered.
“I love you too, sweetheart,” I whispered back. “Now brush your teeth and put your pajamas on. I'll call you out when I’m ready.”
Savannah skipped off into her room while I walked into mine. I hoped that the electricity turned back on by now when I flipped the switch, but it seemed that I was out of luck. There was no way that this was taking so long for no reason. On my phone, I searched it up to see what was going on and the first article that popped up was from the local news.
At the top of the website was a video of two reporters alternating sharing the news live. It seems that unexpectedly the power plant shut off due to malfunction, but the situation is still under investigation.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t the only issue we are facing today. In the area, multiple reports say that in some parts of the county, there have been people who have been having communication issues on their phones and other devices. Our sources think it may be the results of an ‘invisible solar flare’, but it is not confirmed yet,” one of the reporters added
“Maybe it’s aliens coming to get us,” the other ones joked.
"We will just have to see what happens. Stay safe everybody."
I swiped out the page and put my phone down. It was probably the best time to give up and put up the tent like a promised. I changed into some loose, gray sweatpants and a tank top and grabbed my laptop along with some blankets so she would not get cold during the night.
I went back out, but before I did, I flicked the switch a few more times. Still no use.
On my way trudging to the back porch, Savannah came out of her room and hopped in front of me. “Are you about to go outside?” she asked
“What else would I be doing?” I countered.
“Um, well.” She stroked her imaginary beard. “I’m not sure.”
“I will be done in a few minutes. Wait here.” I nudged her over, but she did not want to move.
“Please be safe. Take this.” She opened one of her hands and revealed a round piece of construction paper.
I took it and twirled it around to examine it. It was small and green, having dots and squares plastered on both sides. “What is this supposed to be?”
“It is a magical force field. The dragon cannot hurt you if you have this on. The queen gave it to me, don’t you remember?”
I sighed and placed it in my pocket. “If I keep it on me, will you stay here until I finish?”
She nodded and I put the blanket and my laptop beside her so I would be able to go out to the shed. Looking up at the tree on my way there, I could still see the owl resting, staring at me with its cold dead gaze. Something about the owl didn’t sit right with me, but I ignored it and unlocked the door to go inside. I haven’t gone in here for a few months, but it still had the old wood scent as usual. I walked throughout the floorboards. and found the tent easily and pulled it out in the grass. Luckily it was a pop-up tent, so it came out easily. I went back inside to get the blankets and told Savannah she can come too.
“Did the force field work?” she asked.
“I guess you could say that.” I unzipped the opening to the tent.
“That dragon is still there, but after a while, it has to go. How long do you think it will take for it to leave?”
“I don’t know. We will see after a while,” I said after getting my laptop. I browsed through my inbox, but the Wi-Fi wasn’t working. I went to my phone and checked my messages, but it was not turning on at all. I closed my eyes and laid down on my back, looking at the top of the tent. “Are you sure that you want to stay out here for the whole night?”
“Yes, he is still out there. What if he takes the queen’s gold to a secret location or attacks people while we aren’t looking.”
I peeped at her through one eye and saw that she was sticking her head out, most likely waiting for the owl to make a move. “Savannah, for the last time, it’s a bird and he is not going to hurt us.”
“Then why does it have wings and a tail?” she retorted.
“All owls have wings and a tail,” I said. “Now get back in here. How about we play a game to get it out of your mind. I could also make us some dinner.”
“Then why did you let us camp out here if you didn’t believe me?” she said. I was going to say something back, but she continued before I managed to let out a word. “You never believe me even if you are out here and see it right in front of you. The queen told me you would do this.”
I pulled her close to me and held her in my arms. “I am sorry, but none of that stuff is real. If they are still there in the morning, we can discuss it more in depth.”
She stayed on me until she got off and sat up. “Can I do one more thing out there before we play a game?”
“Okay, but you have five minutes.”
“Can I get the force field back first?”
“Sure, if it makes you happy.” I dug around in my pockets and pulled it out, but it felt harder. I held in the air and saw it was a green crystal with symbols scattered around it.
“Thanks, daddy.” she took it from me and clasped her hands around it.
“Is that what you gave me before? I thought you gave me a piece of paper.”
“No, it was this.” She played with it in her hand. “When did I give you paper?”
I blinked and for a second, I saw her with the paper again, but it quickly flashed to the crystal again.
“What are you about to do with it?”
“Get the dragon to leave. The queen wanted me to get the gold, so I have to do it.” She had a dull expression, not letting a single thought show on her face like it usually does. “She told me the gem’s power works better at night, so I have to do it quickly. I would ask for you to join, but you don’t believe me.”
She got out the tent and I scurried behind her. By the time I shuffled out, she was standing at the base of the tree, raising her stone out at the sky.
I looked up, and almost fainted at what was above me. A creature with brown scales and two pairs of large wings snarled at us on a branch, surprisingly not breaking it. He pointed his long snout at Savannah and flashed his sharp teeth at her. I ran up to her to drag her back inside, but she turned around and held her palm to stop me.
I don’t know why, but that girl was not my daughter. My daughter was outgoing, innocent. She would dance around the living room when she was happy and forget to brush her teeth at night. This girl here stood tall and proud, not afraid to confront a dragon even if it meant risking consequences I don’t even know of.
Yet my little Savannah was still there, holding that weird piece of paper, waving it at that owl.
“What are you doing out here?”
“What do you mean?” They both asked. They continued to hold on to what they had, getting ready to climb the tree. They both were there, yet I felt my Savannah slowly slipping away. As her goofy laugh became fainter in my mind, the world turned darker by the second until the only thing I could see was the bright red flame seeping from the dragon’s throat.
Everything started to swirl and my head felt as weak as my legs did as I fell to the ground. I tried to keep conscious, but I slipped into the darkness that engulfed me.
I don’t how long I was out, but my vision cleared back up and I was able to move my body again. I lifted myself up and blinked a few times, trying to follow the jingle I heard not so far away from me.
“So, you are finally awake? Took you a long time.” Savannah said. She slouched at the base of the tree, swinging a small pouch in on hand and clutching the little gem in the other. “By the way, I got the gold while you were out.”
“It was real this whole time? Why couldn’t I see it?”
She stopped swinging the pouch and let it drop to the ground. “Real is a big of a stretch. More like this is her reality.”
“What do you mean by her reality?”
“How about you answer a question for me first.” she got off the tree and crossed her arms. “Do you like the reality you are in now?”
“I don't even know what is going on right now. Could you explain that first?” I yelled.
“This was a mistake, wasn’t it...” she trailed off.
I gripped her shoulder and pushed her into the tree. “Where is my Savanah? What did you do to her?”
She flinched and quivered under my arm. “I’m sorry sir. She is fine, I promise. I was just trying to help you.”
“You have fifteen seconds to explain before I make you regret meeting me.” I pushed her further in the tree.
“I thought that you were tired of things. Everything on this planet seems like they needed a break from reality. I thought by putting you in your daughter’s, it would give you time to relax. Now seeing that you fainted, it didn’t work.”
I loosened my grip and let them fall to the ground. “Is there any way I can see her?”
“It may take some time, but you can. Everyone is kind of experiencing their own realities right now, including her.”
“How long will it take for me to see her again?”
“That, I am not sure. Everybody thinks differently,” she said. She ducked under me and crawled into the tent a few feet away from me. “But for now, how about you play those games like you promised. Personally, I like the card game goldfish. If you beat me, we can talk more about this. Deal?”
Part of me thought it would be best to run away and hope that this was not happening, but something inside of me told me to get in there and beat her in a round or two of the game. “Fine. Deal.” I joined her and laid down, getting ready for a long night of camping and chatting until my reality breaks away from me.