“Okay people, time for attendance!”
I jerked awake in my chair, causing the wheels to scratch my hardwood floor.
I rubbed my eyes with my hands, realizing that I was in a Google Meet in the worst time of the day.
I shook my body and released all the jittery thoughts bouncing around in my brain, and promised myself I would remember to do what I was supposed to do.
What day was it?
April 8, the computer read.
“Here,” I groggily squeaked out, turning my camera on just in time to see my teacher grin back at me.
I turned off my camera because everyone knows that after attendance, you didn’t have to turn on your camera. What was the point? When you say your name, the teacher sees that you’re there, and then you can melt back into the shadows just like how you did before your name was called.
So that’s what I did.
Voices blurred into the background while my eyelids checked the time, threatening to close.
Why did school made us wake up so early?
And with that, my eyelids fluttered closed with the thought of the day thrown into the garbage and dreams about waffles strutted in.
I stumbled and landed on a pink brick ground, the air smelling of the breakfast at diners. I looked up at the purple sky with pink clouds dotted throughout, and waffle people.
People made out of waffles.
They were waffles, with human eyes, human noses, human arms, legs, ears . . . a waffle with human features.
They looked quite peculiar too.
“Good day! How are you doing on this fine day?” one of the male-sounding waffle asked.
“Um, I’m doing okay,” I responded.
“Excellent! It looks like the scent of the air today is from the Diner! The Diner must be so proud to be the scent of the day, I just have to go interview them! Goodbye!” said the waffle man and sprinted down the pink brick path that cut through cotton candy trees.
Something suddenly landed on my shoulder and I looked over to meet . . .
A lollipop bird.
With lollipop feathers, beak, feet . . .
Almost everything was a swirly rainbow, even its eyes, which made it look hypnotized forever.
I stumbled back, surprised, and almost hit my head on the pink road.
Did the bird just talk?
“Hello? Might you be hard of hearing? My name is Sir Jelly Swirlington, and I am a botanist. My grandmother is hard of hearing and you are acting quite similar to her right now.”
I regained my balance, stood up and stared into Sir Swirlington’s eyes.
“No, I have perfectly fine hearing,” I said, a bit surprised that I wasn’t getting dizzy.
“Oh, okay. How do you do?”
“I’m good. What about you?”
“Oh, I don’t have feelings,” said Sir Jelly Swirlington. “That’s why I care for plants; even though they are living, they don’t have feelings either. I relate to them.”
“Oh, interesting. . .” I started but trailed off, not knowing what to say.
“Do you know what botanists are?” he asked.
“Yep. They study plants.”
“It’s fascinating. Did you know that the scientific name of a pink rose is Rosa officinalis? I knew that since I was a wee sapling-”
“Um, Sir, you’re a bird, not a plant.”
Sir Swirlington ruffled his feathers with a sigh. “Oh right, I often confuse that I’m a plant. We’re so similar it is quite confusing at times.”
The thought of a lollipop flower flooded my brain.
“I so do love being a botanist! It’ll all be multiple-choice questions, with A, B, C or D. You’ll have 1 hour to finish it, good luck!”
“What?” I asked, confused at what Sir Swirlington was saying.
He shook his head and yelled suddenly, “Write all of this down so you don’t forget!”
Sir Jelly Swirlington shouted, “Check this in the morning!”
He harshly slapped my face, the feathers not soft at all.
Well, they were made of lollipop, a hard candy, so I don’t know what I was expecting.
It left a raw, painful spot on my cheek and then an unexpected noise startled me awake.
“Farissa? Are you okay? Farissa?”
I jolted awake in my chair and shouted “Yeah?”
“Have you started your test?”
I checked the date on the corner of my computer.
The day of the test!
“Farissa? Can you hear me?”
“Yep,” I said, panicking because I always last-minute studied.
“Do you have the link to the Google Form?”
I nodded my head, checking the chat.
“Okay, can you start?”
I nodded once more.
“Okay, just making sure you were okay.”
I smiled but once I clicked the link to the form, I remembered what Sir Swirlington had said.
Check it in the morning.
I thumped against a hard surface and heard a loud squawk. I pushed myself up to look at the ground to meet pink bricks.
Familiar pink bricks.
As I stood up carefully, my eyes met up with a bright bird.
“How do you do? Don’t you remember me? I’m Sir Swirlington, in case you didn’t.”
Oh fizzleburt, we’re back here again.
“Dear, can you hear me?”
“Yep,” I said dizzily, “I can hear you.”
“Okay, good. We have a problem.”
“What does that mean?”
“The princesses have been kidnapped.”
I was baffled, yet again. “Princesses? Kidnapped? What?”
Sir Jelly Swirlington ruffled his feathers with exasperation. “Oh right, I forgot to tell you. Well, my friend, it’s gonna be a long story, so sit down.”
I looked around at the brick road, not noting anything that could serve as a chair. “Um, where do I sit?”
“Oh right, sorry, you’re not a bird,” said Sir Swirlington, and thrust his feathers out in front of him.
I felt a lurch and looked down as a purple mushroom rose up beneath me, while Sir Swirlington flew up to me, matching our eye level.
“You ready?” he asked.
As ever as I would ever be, sitting on top of a purple mushroom in Candyland while talking to a lollipop bird, so I responded, “ . . . yes.”
Sir Jelly Swirlington settled onto an invisible seat, sighed, and began.
“Once upon a time. . .”
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom unlike no other. One with pink brick roads, one with cotton candy trees and lollipop birds.
Lollipop birds were a bit rare, but that’s not important.
The king was a kind man, plump and caring, especially for his family and his people. After witnessing the joy children brought to families, he and the queen had their own and named her Fara. She was gorgeous; bright, glowing skin, shiny brown hair, a button nose and green eyes. She was a gift to the kingdom, one filled with joy and one that would fill them with prosperous years to come.
One day, the king contracted a disease from one of the champagne’s he had drank. Before that, the queen had had twins, beautiful girls who resembled herself, like Fara, but were more lively and carefree. Instead of green eyes, they had blue. Instead of brown hair, they had blonde. Instead of being serious, they joked about everything.
Some even rumoured that they were prettier than Fara.
Once the king had died a few weeks later, the queen told Fara that he wanted her to lead her sisters, to be their role model. Fara agreed, as her sisters weren’t the easiest to care for.
At first, they were boisterous and hard to keep track of as they went wherever they went, whenever. They didn’t listen to anyone until Fara came along. She helped them with their manners, so they wouldn’t get up during supper. She taught them how to read and write when they were 5 years old so they could discover stories of their own.
They grew to be teens who cared for each other and the kingdom, then into young adults who were one step away from being queens. Fara was a woman then, taking care of her baby and husband while also making sure her sisters didn’t get into any trouble.
That last statement didn’t exactly work.
One day, Fara’s sisters went out on a hike in the mountains for some fresh air. The mountains were tall and menacing, but the twins liked the feel of them. The air rushed through their hair as they walked through their usual route, but made a mistake and started walking towards the forbidden part of the mountains: the home of the giants.
The twins didn’t notice that they had made the mistake, so they kept on walking until they found a cave. The cave looked like any other cave: dark, rocky inside with stalagmites and stalactites peeking out from the edges. The twins were adventurers so they decided to stay in the cave for the night. They found a place by a creek, drank some water and settled into their dreams.
Then the giants appeared.
Big, monstrous creatures made of ice and fur, snow and hair. They had crooked teeth, deep blue eyes and razor-sharp claws to tear apart their enemies. They started many wars with other species, creating so much carnage that they almost wiped out several of their enemies.
They showed no mercy.
The giants thumped out into the entrance of the cave and saw two girls, about 18 or 19 years old. One of them growled close to one of the twins, startling her awake and shaking her sister out of her slumber. The giants crawled closer and closer to the twins until they were licking their lips and a hair away from gobbling the princesses up in a bite. The twins realized that quick enough, and ran down the mountain as fast as they could, the giants trailing close behind them.
The giants followed the twins all the way to the palace gate, where Fara and a large crowd gathered to prevent the giants from coming through. The giants argued about how the twins invaded their territory, and how they deserved to be eaten. Fara persuaded them that it was an accident and they wouldn’t bother the giants ever again, but the giants weren’t satisfied. They said they would only let them go if the twins helped them with chores in the mountains, things that only smaller beings could do. They said if Fara disagreed with that, they would start a war, so Faris had no choice but to agree.
They’ve been going out to the mountains with the giants ever since.
“We don’t have much time,” Sir Swirlington said, the mushroom beneath me lowering back into the ground.
“Until what?” I asked.
“Until you have to leave and until the giants start a war with our people.”
“You mean wake up from the dream, not leave.”
Sir Swirlington shook his head. “You thought this was all a dream? Dearie me, you’ve been mistaken.”
I was thoroughly confused. “What? This has to be a dream, it can’t be anything else.”
“That’s what you think. Anyways, remember the story, I think you’re leaving now.”
I hit my head against a soft surface, for once, waking up in my bed.
“You are so late! How did you sleep in ‘till 10? It’s a school day!” my mom shouted, thrusting the blankets off my body and pushing me out of bed.
“What’s the date?” I asked my mom.
“The 10th,” she responded.
I think I’m going insane.
“There are no buts, you have to get in that meeting right now!”
I grumbled with impatience and said, “Fine.”
“What’s that on your cheek?”
I rushed to the bathroom and looked at the mirror.
Where the bird had slapped me.
“Okay class, we’re gonna have a pop quiz on the different types of plants!”
You have to be kidding me.
“You’ll have 1 hour to finish it, okay? Any questions?”
. . .
“Okay then, good luck!”
I clicked on the link to the form, but then the header was an image that I’ve seen before.
A purple mushroom.
The question below said:
ᵀᵒ ˢᵗᵃʳᵗ ᵗʰⁱⁿᵍˢ ᵒᶠᶠ ᵉᵃˢʸ, ʰᵃᵛᵉ ʸᵒᵘ ᵉᵛᵉʳ ˢᵉᵉⁿ ᵗʰⁱˢ ᵇᵉᶠᵒʳᵉ:
It’s the simple things that change your life, and when I saw that question, off I went into dreamland.
I landed on the pink brick road, once again, when Sir Swirlington acknowledged me oddly.
“Flirlegurt pe las returw?”
I shook my head in misunderstanding, confused. “What?”
“Oh whoopsies, that’s the giant language, pardon me,” he said.
Life is interesting.
“How do you do?”
“I’m fine, but I have a question about the tale you told me yesterday.”
Sir Jelly Swirlington clapped his wings together and exclaimed, “Yay! You remembered! Ask me any question you’d like.”
“Why does - this is gonna sound a bit offensive - but why do I have to care about a war between your kingdom and the giants? It’s just a dream, so it doesn’t matter anyway, right?”
Sir Swirlington sighed heavily and said, “Dear, I’ll explain it to you this way. You think it’s a dream, and I would too if I were in your position. The thing is, all the worlds are connected. Do you know Alice and Wonderland?”
“The White and Red Queen are creating conflict right now. Do you know Harry Potter?”
“The Death Eaters are conversing about continuing the legacy of Voldemort.”
“How do you know all this?” I asked with curiosity.
“I’m a messenger, a being who passes messages between different worlds,” he said. “I can sense what is happening in those worlds too.”
“And - this will sound rude as well, but - why do I need to care?”
Sir Swirlingon ruffled his feathers. “All the worlds are connected. If every - what do you call them? Fantasy worlds? - if every fantasy world is destroyed, so will your world. Everything will be gone.”
My mouth was wide open, aghast. “But how does that make sense-“
“Dear, nothing really makes sense here. Some things you just need to accept, as there is no way, it just is.”
I stayed silent.
“Did you hear me?”
Yep,” I said hurriedly. “I need to get out of here right now. I have a test to do. I don’t belong here, this is all a dream. Get me out of here.”
“Dear, you’ve been mistaken.” Sir Jelly Swirlington said. “Even if this is all a dream, you can’t get out. You’re in, so you can escape once you’ve solved the problem that caused you to be here in the first place.”
“There’s no possible buts here. You’re in.”
“There’s not a single possible way for me to get out?”
He shook his rainbow bird head.
I sighed with defeat, and we sat in silence for a bit once I had realized what I had to do.
“Well, then,” I started, “What are we waiting for?”
It’s been a few years since I travelled into that world, but it's been the thousandth time I’ve thought back to that. Who knows where I’d be if Sir Swirlington hadn’t recruited me to help with the crisis.
You might be wondering if and how I fixed that problem in Sir Swirlington’s world, but I’ve written a whole book on that, so I wouldn’t want to spoil that for you.
I’ve travelled to many “fantasy” worlds in my time, and I realized I wasn’t the only one. I got to meet McGonagall, the Big Friendly Giant and the Cheshire Cat. It was a lot of fun, meeting them, and I had such memorable times with them, but that’s also some stories to save for another time.
Writing isn’t just a talent; you need to be able to recognize the different worlds that are out there, find a way to travel to them and remember them enough to write about them. It’s not as easy as you might think, because you can’t take any notes because the nature of alternate universes does not allow things, like pens, to work in theirs.
My favourite authors were Lois Lowry and J.K. Rowling as a young writer, because they did such a good job of travelling to lesser-known worlds and weaving them into our own.
If you ever aspired to become a writer, just remember; even if you’re the best writer in the whole world, you have to learn to travel. Without that, you can’t write books that inspire others and recruit new writers to share the secret - and sometimes burden - of our job.
This is a secret that I have trusted you with, and we must keep it flowing. We wouldn’t want our world - and all others - to shatter, would we?
To end this off, my favourite Roald Dahl quote. He was an inspiration to me, as his travelling skills were phenomenal, and he always will be. Everyone is counting on us: Alice, Harry Potter, Sophie Foster . . . let’s not let them down.
Although an angry Sophie Foster would be amusing, it would be best not to cause that.
Anyway, on with the quote:
"𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘤 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘵."