Escape
by Chuck Rosenthal

Used by permission of Whitepoint Press LLC

That night he didn’t see the light.  Nor the next.  His family didn’t really celebrate birthdays traditionally, not with ice cream and a cake with candles.  Maybe they’d go out to eat.  No one had said much about it.  In fact his mother was oddly quiet.  That meant there would probably be some surprise, likely now, something he didn’t want, like a book.  That would teach him for wanting to find something out.  Likely not an i-Pad.  He had the phone already.  Thirteen.  A teenager at last.  But sixteen was bigger.  Then he could drive.  He’d drive across the country, avoiding freeways, taking old highways and stopping in mysterious small towns all the way to New York City.  He’d follow the Mississippi to New Orleans.  In bed on his birthday’s eve, he daydreamed of driving to Alaska, or south through Mexico, into Central America, then South America, all the way to Tierra del Fuego.  He fell asleep staring across the icy ocean to Antarctica.  And awoke to shrill screams.

Mr. Puff was batting the light.  He caught it.  Pinned it.  Let it go.  He caught it again.  Released it again.  “Pan!  Help me!” it screamed.  He sat on the edge of the bed and the light flew to him, landing on his open palm.  Mr. Puff stared at him quizzically.  What was Mr. Puff even doing in there?

Now Thomas saw the light take shape.  It was a tiny girl, with transparent wings like the little people in his dream.  She had golden hair.  A short, golden tunic.

“Nasty thing,” she said to Mr. Puff, who took it, as he did most things, rather stoically.

“I’m Thomas P. Pandora,” Thomas said to her.  He wondered if he were dreaming.

“You’re not dreaming,” she said.

“I’ve dreamt I wasn’t dreaming before,” he said to her.

“Have it your way,” she said.  She pointed to herself.  “I’m Tink.  I’m a fairy.”

“Fairies don’t exist,” said Thomas.

“You mean you don’t believe in them.  But be careful.  When children stop believing in fairies, fairies die.”

“So this is a dream.”

Mr. Puff came to his feet.  He lifted onto his hind legs and took a swat at Tink who drew a tiny dagger at Mr. Puff.  Mr. Puff tilted his head.

“Is he dreaming?” said Tink.

“I’m dreaming him,” Thomas said.

Tink fluttered her wings and flew around his head, hovered in front of his eyes.  “This dream thing is going nowhere fast,” said Tink.  “Let’s get down to business.  We need you.”

“Where are fairies from?” asked Thomas.

“We’re ancient,” she said.  “We’re in your ancient books.”

“Books,” said Thomas.

“There are worse things,” said Tink.  “But you humans invented machines.  Television.  Your imaginations went blind.”  She told him that a hundred years ago one of the last colonies of fairies lived in Kensington Park in London.  Then they moved to Hollywood and Griffith Park.

“You took a plane?”

“We can fly.”  She alighted on his palm again.

“I can find them in Griffith Park then,” he said.

“You might.  At night.  I don’t live there.  I don’t like fairies.”

Mr. Puff lifted again.  Tink poked him in the nose with her dagger.  Puff sat down.  He had a job here but by holding Tink in his hand Thomas had drawn a line.  He’d wait.  Cats were very good at waiting.

“Fairies can be very ill tempered and cruel,” Tink said.

“Like you?” Thomas said.

“We need you,” Tink said to him.

“Who’s ‘we’?” said Thomas.

“Everyone in Never Never Land who’s not a pirate.”

“Never Never Land,” muttered Thomas.  “Like the cartoon?”

“The cartoon is based on a book.  The book is based on what happened,” said Tink.

“In Never Never Land,” said Thomas.

“Hook and the pirates have run amuck since Peter Pan left.  Soon they’ll destroy everything.”

“And I’m supposed to do what?”

“Fight them.”

“Where is Never Never Land?”

“What do you want me to say?  Tahiti?  Siberia?  It’s in the realm of magic.”

“None of this makes sense,” Thomas said.

“Look around you!  What makes sense?”

“Can I stop dreaming now?” said Thomas.  “I’m going to close my eyes and that will be that.”  He closed his eyes.

She poked him on the nose.  She hovered in front of him.

“Okay,” he said.  “I’ll say it.  Why me?  Why not somebody big and strong.  Somebody with weapons.  The army.”

“Never send a man to do a boy’s work,” said Tink.  “It’s your destiny, numbskull.  You have to be a boy and we’re losing time, on my end and on your end.”

“No one else will do?”

“Just you.  Save us.”

“My parents.”

“They’ll be fine.”

“Fine,” he said.  He got up and walked to his window, peered into the branches of the giant oak, looked to the hills beyond filled with manzanita and scrub.

Tink flew into the air.  Puff jumped for her but she quickly lifted beyond his reach.  “I’ve got your number,” she said to Mr. Puff.  Then she flew to Thomas’ ear.  “Tonight” she whispered in the haunting voice of his dream.  “Now or never.”

Now or never.  Before he turned thirteen.  Before his mother told him the secrets.   But if this were a dream, day dreaming, night dreaming, what did it matter?  Here it was.  Tink sensed the subtle shift.  Fairies can’t exactly read minds, but they can read emotions really well.

“We fly,” she said to him.

“You can carry me?  You’re too little.  Transport me like on Star Trek?”

“You learn to fly tonight,” Tink said.

“I can’t learn to fly.  I don’t think it’s a learn thing.  It’s physics.  Gravity.  Why aren’t other people learning to fly?”

“You almost flew the other day,” she said to him.  “On the cliff.”

That startled him a bit.  “You were there?  In daylight?”

“Most people can’t see fairies in the daylight, though you will soon if you come with me.  There, on the cliff’s edge, you almost flew.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Take it personal,” she said.  “This is about you.”  She sheathed her dagger.  Retrieved a small sack and a wand.  From the sack she fisted a handful of golden dust.  She sprinkled it on him and waved the wand.  He lifted, effortlessly, a few inches from the floor.  “You can fly, little buddy,” she said.

“You’re little, not me.”

“That’s more like it,” said Tink.  “You need attitude.”

“Can anyone learn?” Thomas asked.

Tink circled him again.  “Theoretically.  All you have to do is believe.”

“But it’s really hard to believe.”

“Some people are more inclined, like you.”  It wasn’t time to explain to him why he was special.  It would produce more discussion and that would be a setback.  There wasn’t time now.  There would be plenty of time later.  She sprinkled him again.  “Fly over your bed.  If you fail, you’ll land on it.”

He spread his arms and floated over his bed, landed softly on the other side.

“This is kind of exciting,” said Thomas.

“Get some clothes on.”

He figured he could put on some clothes.  It didn’t mean he had to go anywhere.  He put on jeans and a shirt.  Sneakers.  He pocketed his phone.  Mr. Puff rubbed on his shins.  “You’ll be fine, Mr. Puff,” said Thomas.  He raised his arms and flew to the ceiling, hit his head and came crashing down.  From downstairs, Ariel barked.

“Now you’ve done it,” said Tink.  “Your parents find you like this and you’ll end up in therapy or an asylum.  We’ve got to go.”  She had him lock his bedroom door, then splattered him with dust.

Down the hall, Sandra awoke.  She nudged William who was a hard, deep sleeper, a man who’d already lived too many dreams.

“William, Ariel is barking.”

“Coyotes,” mumbled William.

“She’s not outside.”

William sat up in bed.  It was quiet now.  Ariel rumbled up the stairs and scratched at their bedroom door.

“William,” said Sandra, “it will be his birthday in minutes.”

“He’s not a Wendy,” said William.  “He’s a boy.  And there’s no Pan to take him anywhere.”

Sandra jumped from the bed.  “William, I’m frightened.  William!”

He stumbled from the bed as she leapt to the door.  Ariel, jumped, pounded, ran to Thomas’ door down the hall, but they found it locked.

“No,” said Sandra.  “No!”

“His privacy,” said William.

“Not tonight!” Sandra said.

Ariel hit the door with her front paws.

“Thomas!” Sandra screamed.  “Thomas!”

“Thomas, wake up.  Open up,” said William.

“Break in,” said Sandra.

“Really,” said William.  “It’s a big night for him.  Let him sleep.”

“Break in!” said Sandra.  She pounded at the door.

“I’ll need a screw driver,” William said.

She threw her shoulder at the door, at the silence that raced inside her.  “Kick it in!” she said.  She grabbed him.

“I’ll need something on my feet.”

“Kick it in!”

He hesitated, but suddenly he heard the quiet too.  Now he hesitated in front of the truth.  Then he kicked the door once, twice, and the third time it broke open.  They entered the silent room, the window opened wide.  She ran to it.  A tiny light dodged in front of her eyes and she knew who it was, Tink had come for the son of Wendy and Pan.  She saw nothing else, but felt her son flying away from her, into magic, into space.

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