Category: Alternative Reality

Charlie’s Room: Away and Back Again

It was winter, when the daylight was pinched at both ends. Isaac left home in the dark, feeling like he was going to work in the middle of the night. He arrived home just before dinner, and there wasn’t much daylight left afterwards for the long walks he enjoyed in the summer.

He started eating his lunch while wandering up and down the sidewalks, peering into the windows of the different businesses near his work just to get a little more time in the sunlight. One day, he was looking into the windows of the antique shop, and he saw a little cloth doll. It was either a floppy eared cat or a long-tailed bunny. It could have been a kangaroo without a pouch, but the shape was all wrong.

Curious, he wrapped up his sandwich, shoved it in his pocket and stepped inside the store. The man behind the counter looked up when he entered. “Can I help you find something?”

Isaac pointed back towards the shop window. “I’d like to see the cat bunny doll.”

The man looked confused, but stepped around the counter towards the window. “Cat bunny?”

“I don’t know what it is.” Isaac followed him to the window. “That’s why I’d like to look at it more closely.”

The man looked into the window. “Oh. That. Go ahead and look at it if you’d like. I’ll be back by the register if you need anything.” He left Isaac standing by the window.

Isaac reached in and picked up the cat bunny with both hands. Its eyes glowed blue, and the next thing he knew, he was hanging in the air upside down in the dark. Something nearby hissed, and then there was a rustling sound.

Trying to listen and remain still and calm, Isaac waited. After a moment, there was a spark of light, and then the glow of a candle. He could see two small figures crouched over it. Then they abandoned the candle to come closer.

He heard the hissing sound again, and realized they were whispering to each other. Up close, it was easy to see that they were children. He tried to understand what they were whispering, but it was in a language he’d never heard before.

Hanging upside down was beginning to get uncomfortable. “Could you let me down please?” he asked hopefully.

The children whispered a little louder to each other, and then suddenly he could understand the end of a phrase. “…translation spell.”

The children both looked at him and held up their hands. Isaac slid to the floor and sat up.

“Was that a spell? Isaac asked. “Was it a spell that brought me here?” He looked around for the cat bunny, and saw it lying on the floor close by him. He pointed at it. “Did you send that?”

One of the children picked it up. “It was supposed to bring us Caasi. But you’re not Caasi.”

The other child shrugged. “I told you it wouldn’t work. Mom said that spells can’t wake the dead.”

“But I asked for her to come back from another world. It should have worked.”

The child looked over at Isaac. “Are you from another world?”

“Maybe.” Isaac frowned. “I don’t think spells work in my world, but I could be wrong.”

“Is your name Caasi?”

Isaac thought for a moment. “How do you write that?”

The children scrawled alien characters that strongly resembled “C-A-A-S-I.”

“I’m Isaac. That’s caasi backwards.”

The other child nodded. “Maybe bringing you from another world put everything backwards. Maybe that’s why you were upside down.” The child hurried to a shelf, pulled down a book and started turning pages rapidly.

Isaac turned to the child who remained. “Who’s Caasi?”

“Our best friend. She’s so smart. She could purr and jump so high, and she always knew where we hid her treats.”

That didn’t sound much like a person. “Was Caasi a cat bunny?” Isaac asked.

The child frowned. “She’s a felare. I don’t know cat bunny.”

He pointed down at the doll again. “Like that?”

“Yes,” the child said. “But alive.”

Isaac nodded. “That’s important.”

“We miss her.” The child looked away.

The other child snapped the book closed. “It says the dead are in the underworld, and normal spells can’t reach there.”

“Oh.” Both children looked sad.

Isaac held out his hand for the doll. The child handed it to him and he looked down at it with a smile. “It sounds like Caasi was a good friend. It’s okay to feel sad when a friend dies. Is there something you can do to say goodbye?”

Both children turned to look at him. “Like what?” one said.

“You could draw a picture of her, or write down what you remember about her, or put flowers on her grave.”

“I guess so.” The child took the doll back.

“You should talk to your mom about it. She might have ideas,” Isaac said.

The children looked at each other and began talking rapidly. “Talking to mom is a good idea.” “We should send him home first.” “I’m not sure how.” “Look at the book again. It must say somewhere.”

They consulted the book, and after some arguments, managed to charge up the doll for a return trip. The doll’s eyes glowed blue when they handed it to him. Moments later, he was back in the antique shop. The doll was gone.

He looked around. What was he going to tell the shop owner? He decided that the truth was always best. He walked over nervously. “The doll took me to another world, but it disappeared when I came back.”

The store owner shrugged. “That happens sometimes. Don’t worry about it.”

“Really?” The man didn’t appear to be joking. Isaac nodded. “All right. Thank you. I’d better hurry back to work.”

He rushed back through the sunlit streets, eating big bites of his sandwich as he jogged. He arrived at his desk just in time. He glanced back out the window and wondered if it was time to get a pet for Charlie. Something he could keep in his room. Maybe a fish or two?

Wrong Town

It was high noon. The two men faced each other from opposite ends of the long, dusty main road of the little makeshift town. Inside the buildings, the townspeople hid, watching from the edges of the windows and waiting for the outcome of the showdown.

Sheriff Bob narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think this is the right town for you,” he said at last.

Scott rolled his shoulders back and raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that for me to decide? I think I like it here.”

“And I think you need to find another place you like better. We don’t need your kind of trouble.” Bob’s hand hovered over his holstered gun.

“Everybody needs a little trouble.” Scott smirked and his hand darted to the handle of his pistol.

Bob grabbed his own gun and just as the guns were pointed at each other, there was a bang and a bright light and both men were thrown onto their backs in the dust a good distance away. They lay there blinking up at the sky as a tall pink rabbit dusted off her fur and looked around with a scrunched up nose.

“Am I dead yet?” Scott asked. “I didn’t think it hurt to be dead.”

“I still haven’t figured out where you shot me,” Bob said. He slowly patted down his arms.

“I didn’t shoot yet.”

“Me either.”

They sat up, only to face an annoyed pink rabbit, who was tapping a furry paw and scowling. Scott frantically started patting the dust around him, looking for his gun, but it had landed far away. Sheriff Bob kept blinking and rubbing his eyes.

“Where are all the flowers?” the rabbit asked.

“What flowers?” Sheriff Bob pinched his arm and winced. “There haven’t ever been flowers here this time of year. You need to come back in the spring to see flowers.”

Scott finally located his pistol and dove for it. Unfortunately, it had broken into pieces. Scott wailed as he tried to fit the pieces together and it became obvious it was unfixable. “My gun! What happened to my gun?”

Hearing this, Sheriff Bob ignored the rabbit and looked around for his own gun. He was relieved to find it nearby and in one piece. He hastily crawled over to retrieve it. Then he sat back on his heels with a groan.

“Your energy is low because of the lack of flowers. I don’t know who came and drained the color and life and flowers and glitter and rainbows from this town, but I promise you that I will bring them back, or my name isn’t Princess Isabella Longhair of the Fluffy Paws!” The rabbit raised a glowing paw in the air.

Scott dropped the worthless pieces of metal on the ground and backed away. “What…?”

The rabbit pointed her paw at the general store. In a burst of light, the previously sun-bleached storefront gleamed in a rainbow of colors, as though it had been made from some strange sort of neon mother of pearl. Vines burst from the ground and wrapped themselves around the edges of the boards. Brightly colored daisies the size of dinner plates bloomed in unison.

The bunny turned towards the saloon behind Scott. Eyes wide, Scott scrambled out of the way and hid behind Sheriff Bob. “What are you doing?” Bob hissed.

“Aren’t you the sheriff? Shouldn’t you be protecting the town or something? Shoot it!” Scott hissed back.

The bunny turned to look at him with narrowed eyes. Scott backed up a few steps. “Run!” he shouted.

They ran and hid in the sheriffs office. When all the townspeople finally felt safe enough to emerge from their hiding places hours later, the rabbit was gone. The town was now covered in color and flowers and glitter and rainbows. “I guess her name really was Princess Isabella Longhair of the Fluffy Paws,” the sheriff muttered.

“I guess you were right, sheriff,” Scott said, as he looked around with a grimace of disgust.

“About what?”

“This is not the right town for me. I’m leaving.” Scott took a step and then paused and looked back. “But before I go, could I ask a favor?”

Sheriff Bob folded his arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow.

Scott smiled sheepishly. “Could I borrow a gun?”

Tricks and Treats

Aspen already knew what her costume would be. She was going to be the princess under the bed and champion the rights of monsters everywhere. Who else was as brave and strong and amazing?

Her mom helped her zip up the dress without catching any of her fur in the zipper. She put her crown on, settling it right behind her third eye. Aspen grinned at the mirror.

She was missing a baby fang, but otherwise she looked very princessy. It was perfect. She smoothed out her fur and jumped down from the stool.

Aspen was ready for a night of tricks and treats. She picked up her plastic pail and waited by the door. After taking far too many pictures, her mom finally took her out into the delightfully scary sunshine.

It was fun to be out so late in the day, when the sun was shining and casting odd spooky shadows everywhere. Tree branches cast shadows that looked like human hands reaching out to catch her. Aspen held her mom’s paws a little tighter and tried not to look at them.

Aspen rang her neighbor’s doorbell and waited. Even with her mom right next to her, she felt a little nervous. She could hear old Mr. Dragon shuffling to the door. His tail made a swishing sound when he walked.

“Hello?” he said, opening the door just a crack.

“Tricks or Treats.” Aspen smiled widely, showing all her fangs.

“Oh, how terrifying!” Mr. Dragon opened the door a little wider. “Is that the princess under the bed, visiting my old cave? I’d better show her my best tricks.”

Aspen giggled. “It’s me, Aspen. I want to see your best tricks, please.”

And so Mr. Dragon breathed fire in the shape of spiders and bats. He said a spell and one of the firebats was cool enough to sit on her hand for a few seconds before it flew off with the others, fading away into the bright sky. Aspen applauded until her paws hurt.

Mr. Dragon bowed and smiled, and then he shuffled back inside. His door clicked shut. Aspen didn’t feel nervous any longer. She raced to the next house with her mom following behind.

Hours later, her plastic pail was full of treats. She’d collected brussel sprouts and broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage and radishes and turnips. Even better, she’d seen so many amazing tricks.

The yetis built a snow maze that didn’t melt. The Scottish monsters could disappear and reappear and did a dance that seemed to take place in four dimensions. The vampires made the area around their house dark as night whenever someone knocked on their door. It was strange to stand on their front porch in the darkness and see daylight stretch like a curtain around the outside of their lawn.

The shadows were smaller and less scary by the time Aspen got home. She was so tired. She couldn’t remember ever staying up this late. Her dad took her pail and exclaimed over all the treasures.

“Daddy tax. I get all the brussel sprouts,” he declared.

Aspen gave him a stern princess glare. “That’s not fair. You can’t have all of them.”

“What a scary princess you are.” Dad grinned. “You win. We’ll share them.”

“And Mom too,” Aspen said. “Did you do tricks or treats this year?”

“Treats. We still have some peas left over. Maybe next year I’ll think of a good trick to do.” Dad gave her a hug. “It’s time to go to sleep. Do you need me to tuck you under the bed?”

Aspen hugged her mom and then stood up straight and tall. “I can brush my fangs and get to bed by myself. I’m the princess under the bed.” She started to walk away and then paused. “Could someone help me with my zipper?”

Flashback Friday: Monster Sweets

This story was originally posted on March 24, 2017. I think that relying on logic and what we expect to see can mean that we miss things.

Eglantine wandered into the poorly lit store that she’d never noticed before. It was squeezed between a coffee shop filled with scruffy people and a grocery store that had closed nearly a decade ago.   She would normally never even look twice at anything along this street, but her car had a flat tire and her phone died, so she needed to find a way to call a tow truck.

There was no one at the counter. Eglantine looked around and couldn’t find a bell to ring either. “Hello? Is anybody there?” she said. She looked around. It certainly was a strange store. I was so dimly lit that it was difficult to see what was on the shelves from here.

“Can I help you?” a low, crackly voice asked. Eglantine nearly jumped in surprise. She hadn’t heard anyone come in.

She turned and faced the young man standing behind the counter. He was tall and thin and pale with dark hair and a bit of an overbite.   He seemed harmless. Eglantine smiled. “Do you have a phone I could use? My battery died and my car has a flat tire.”

“Just a moment.” The young man reached under the counter and picked up an old-fashioned phone that he set down at her elbow.

“Is that a rotary dial? I haven’t seen one of those since I was a little girl.” She smiled and carefully dialed the number. She arranged to meet the tow truck driver in front of the grocery store in twenty minutes.

Task done, Eglantine looked around the store again. “What do you sell here?”

“Sweets for monsters,” the young man said. He looked completely serious. Eglantine looked at his black clothing and pale appearance. The store must cater to teenagers who liked dressing up as vampires and such.

Eglantine had always had a bit of a sweet tooth. She didn’t mind playing along with the theme, as long as the candy tasted good. “What would you recommend?”

“What kind of monster are you?” the young man asked.

Well, that was hardly helpful. “Does it matter?”

The young man looked confused. “Of course it does.” He waved towards a dark shelf that looked like most of the others. “Just look at the lollipops. Vampires like blood pops, werewolves like meat pops, and zombies like brain pops.”

Those were terrible flavor names. And they didn’t really hint at what the flavors really tasted like. Kids and their strange obsessions. “What’s your bestseller?” Eglantine asked.

The young man pointed to a box on the counter filled with bland looking packaged bars of some type. “This far from Halloween we sell a lot of spectral energy bars.”

Ugh.   Protein bars. “Do they taste good?”

The young man blinked. “They don’t taste like anything.”

Eglantine laughed. “I believe it.” She checked her watch. The tow truck driver would be here in a few minutes. If she was going to buy herself a treat, she’d need to decide on something soon. “So, what do you think I would like?”

“If you like jam, we have a new shipment in,” the young man said.

“Sure,” she said.   “I’ll get a baguette on the way home and have toast and jam and hot cocoa.” She smiled. She could already see herself curled in her favorite chair watching the weather channel and enjoying her treat. “Pick out two. Surprise me,” she said.

“All right.” The young man walked around the counter to a nearby shelf and picked up two little jars. He put them into a little plain paper bag with handles and set it on the counter. He rang up the purchase on an old-fashioned register. “How will you be paying?”

“Cash.” She handed him a bill that would comfortably cover the cost. “Keep the change,” she said. “Thanks for the help.”

She hurried over to her car. Just as she arrived, the tow truck pulled up. In all the hassle of dealing with the tow truck and the repair shop, she forgot all about the jam until she was driving home that evening. “Oh, I need to stop at the bakery.” She was able to just make the turn in time.

Before going into the bakery, she decided to peek at the jars the young man had picked out.   Lizard Scale Jelly and Banana Peel and Parsley Jam? What did they really taste like? They sounded terrible. Well, if they tasted bad, at least the jars were cute. She could put them on her desk and use them to hold paperclips and stamps. Really, teenagers these days were so strange.

Flashback Friday: Super Strong

This story was originally posted on October 28, 2017. I think problems seem smaller when I can find a way to help someone.

“I can be anything I want to be, right?” Alex asked one night at dinner.

“Of course you can,” Dad said. He paused. “But you probably shouldn’t choose to be a veterinarian. Or a doctor. That might not go well.”

Alex frowned. He clutched his fork a little too tight. It broke in half and the metal pieces landed on his plate and cracked it. Alex burst into tears.

“It’s all right, honey,” Mom said. “There are still lots of things you can do.”

“Like what?” Alex asked. He sniffled and blew his nose on his thick canvas napkin. It tore down the center.

Mom handed him a new fork. “Well, um, you could be a newscaster,” she said. “Or a writer.”

“That’s right,” Dad said. “They have those programs now where you can dictate everything and you don’t have to type or hold a pencil.”

Alex frowned. “I just want to be like all the normal kids. You know, do the craft projects for the holidays. Play sports after school.   Write down my own answers on assignments.”

Dad sighed. “Life isn’t fair sometimes, huh?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah.”

“You’re not the only kid at school who can’t do all the normal things though, right?” Mom asked.

“One kid has to keep his eyes closed all the time, because he has laser eyes. And this one girl can’t talk at all because her voice shatters glass,” Alex said.

Mom smoothed Alex’s hair. “You see? It’s not just you.”

“It’s still not fair.” Alex picked up his new fork and speared some lettuce. The tines curled under.

“Maybe you can find a way to use your talents to help other people,” Dad said.

“Like what?” Alex asked. He ate the lettuce and bent the fork’s tines back into place.

“Well, you could read to that boy with the laser eyes,” Dad said.

Alex frowned. “But I’m not supposed to touch the books. The pages keep ripping when I turn them.” He speared another bite of lettuce and the tines curled under again.

“But he can pick up the books, right?” Mom asked.

Alex nodded. “There’s nothing wrong with his hands.”

“Then maybe you can help each other,” Mom said.   “I’ll bet there are a lot of stories you both want to hear.”

“You’ll find more work-arounds for your problems if you can work with other people,” Dad said.

“It would be nice to help people,” Alex said. “Do you really think I can?” He straightened the fork’s tines again.

“You’re the strongest person I know,” Dad said.   “I’ll bet there are lots of ways you can help people. All you need to do is look around and notice.”

“But what if I see a problem, and I can’t help?” Alex asked.

“Then you could try to find someone who can help,” Dad said.

“Okay,” Alex said.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mom asked.

“A space pirate,” Alex said. “Do you think I can?”

“Maybe,” Dad said. “If you find the right crew.”

“You might need to invent a good spaceship first,” Mom said.

“I could do that,” Alex said. “At least I think I can.”

“Well, then you know where to start,” Dad said.   “Now who’s ready for lasagna?”

“Me!” Alex said. “Can I help?”

“Sure,” Dad said. “You can help me check to make sure it’s done. What do you think? Does it look good?”

“I think it looks great,” Alex said.

“Then it’s ready. Thanks for your help,” Dad said. Alex grinned.

An Abnormally Good Hair Day

The week before her appointment, Brooklynn told all her friends about the haircut. She told them that the hairstylist was probably partly magical and maybe a little sparkly. She said that the hair salon was only visible to humans on the day after a blue moon. And most importantly, the hairstylist promised her a haircut too beautiful to be seen.

On the day after the haircut, her friends all waited at the park where they usually met to walk to school together. “What do you think it will look like?” Carrie asked.

“Like her hair is shorter.” Jane rolled her eyes. “That’s all a hair cut does. It just makes your hair shorter.”

Susan giggled. “But will it look nice?”

“I would never let anyone cut my hair. Too many things could go wrong.” Bella tossed her long blond hair over her shoulder.

Jane snorted. “Hair grows. Even terrible haircuts aren’t terrible for long.”

Just then, Brooklynn came around the corner wearing a giant hat. The hat covered every strand of her hair and was securely fastened to her head by a wide ribbon tied in a bow under her chin. It was impossible to see her new haircut at all.

“Is it really that terrible?” Susan asked. “You can show us, we won’t laugh.”

“No, it’s actually too beautiful to be seen.” Brooklynn patted the side of her hat. “It’s really the loveliest haircut you’ve ever seen. If I took my hat off, the sun would be so shocked by the beauty of my haircut that it would forget to shine. I really can’t risk it.”

Bella twirled a strand of her long hair around one of her fingers. “That doesn’t even make sense. Haircuts don’t make your hair prettier really. They just change how long it is.”

“Nope. Haircuts can make your hair look a lot better.” Brooklynn pointed at her hat-covered hair. “Yesterday you could look at my hair, but today it’s too beautiful to be seen. In fact, my hair is so lovely now that it glows. If I took my hat off, you’d have to squint because that’s how brightly my hair shines.”

“Real hair doesn’t glow. Are you sure the hairstylist didn’t glue a wig on your head when you weren’t looking?” Carrie leaned forward and pointed at Brooklynn’s hat. “Or maybe you’re just making this all up, and you’re embarrassed to show us that your hair looks exactly the same as it did yesterday. I bet you didn’t get a haircut at all.”

Brooklynn clutched at the edges of her hat and laughed. “Of course I got a haircut. I’m not a liar. I’d show you, but it’s really too beautiful to be seen. If I took my hat off, the ground would shake because the earth would be moved by how beautiful my haircut is. I’m trying to keep you safe, because we’re friends. Even if you don’t believe me.”

“I think this can be easily resolved.” Jane folded her arms and sighed. “Just show us your haircut, Brooklynn. You can’t wear a hat in school, you know.”

“You can if you bring a note. My hairstylist wrote me one. Honestly, my hair is really too beautiful to be seen.”

“Then what’s the point?” Carrie asked. “If no one can see it, it might as well be too ugly to be seen.”

Brooklynn shrugged. “I feel beautiful. That’s good enough for me.”

Suddenly Bella darted forward and tugged at the bow holding Brooklynn’s hat in place. Brooklynn grabbed the edge of her hat, but she was a moment to late. Bella tugged the hat away and stepped back.

The sky went dark. The ground shook. Streetlights flickered on, but their light was pale compared to the glow coming from the top of Brooklynn’s head. It was like trying to look at the sun.

Brooklynn snatched her hat back and put it on her head. The ground stopped shaking and the sun was shining once more. “I told you,” Brooklynn said crossly as she tied the ribbon into a bow again. “My haircut is too beautiful to be seen.”

The other girls blinked.

Bella wiped the tears away. “How long does it take for a haircut to grow out?”

“Weeks.” Jane squinted at her watch. “We need to get going. We’re going to be late to school if we don’t leave now.”

Brooklynn led the way, and her friends followed after her, still blinking.

Translate »
%d bloggers like this: