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?
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