Isaac closed the book of fairy tales with a shudder. “That was an awful story,” he said.
Charlie laughed. “It wasn’t that bad. It all turned out fine in the end, didn’t it?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t change how scary it was before that,” Isaac said. “You’re scared of the dark even though you know you’ll be fine in the morning.”
“That’s different,” Charlie said. “I’m not really sure until it happens.”
“How is that different?” Isaac asked.
“I’m not scared of yesterday’s dark,” Charlie said. “Just today’s.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Isaac said.
“So, the story wasn’t that bad, right?” Charlie said.
“No, it was awful. It gave my brain more terrible ideas for what could happen. I’ll probably have nightmares,” Isaac said.
“It couldn’t happen in real life,” Charlie said. “Weird stuff only happens in fairy tales.”
“Weird stuff happens all the time,” Isaac said.
“Maybe, but not that weird,” Charlie said. He yawned. “Is my nightlight plugged in?”
Isaac tucked Charlie into bed, listened to his prayers, and turned out the light. The nightlight glowed brightly as he closed the door, leaving it open just a crack. As he got ready for bed, he couldn’t stop thinking about the story.
“What’s wrong?” Marianne asked when she came in later. “You look like you’re a million miles away.”
“I read Charlie that story about King Midas, and I can’t stop thinking about it,” Isaac said. “It was horrifying.”
“It turned out all right in the end though,” Marianne said. “And it taught him a lesson he needed to learn. So I guess it was a good thing really.”
“Surely there was an easier way to teach him a lesson?” Isaac asked. “That was just awful.”
“I don’t think we get to pick how we learn lessons,” Marianne said. “Besides, this wasn’t even real. Stop worrying about it.”
“You’re right, I’m being silly,” Isaac said. And he tried to smile and act normal and they talked about their day and everything was fine. But, in the back of the mind, he couldn’t stop thinking about the story.
That night, he had an awful nightmare. He was in the garden, and everything was green. But when he looked closer, it was all made of folded up dollars. Even the flowers were origami roses and lilies and irises. The story had come to life.
“But I didn’t even touch anything,” he said. “I just thought about them.” And suddenly, in that way that things seem so obvious in dreams, he knew that it was his thoughts turning things into money. He tried not to think about anything at all.
“I’m not thinking…I’m not thinking…I’m not…” but as hard as he tried, it was impossible not to worry about Marianne and Charlie. And the moment he thought of them, his heart sank and his stomach felt like lead. He knew that it was too late.
He raced into the house anyway, ignoring how everything looked like it had been pasted over in sheets of dollar bills. Somehow he knew they were in Charlie’s room. He ran down the green hallway and threw open the green door.
Green curtains rippled in the breeze. Charlie’s window was open. Charlie and Marianne were green statures in the center of the room. Before his horrified eyes, the gust of air from the opening door hit them and broke the Charlie and Marianne statues into a rustling cloud of dollar bills that fluttered to the floor.
Isaac jolted awake. “No!” he said, and blinked. It wasn’t real. Of course it wasn’t real.
Beside him, Marianne murmured. “It was just a dream. Go back to sleep.”
Even if the dream wasn’t real, the feelings of horror and terror were real. He couldn’t go right back to sleep when his heart was still racing and he felt like throwing up. “I just need a drink of water,” he said.
“Dreams are just our brains playing with possibilities,” Isaac muttered to himself as he sipped from a glass of water in the kitchen. He looked out at the garden in the moonlight, still waiting to be planted.
But, just in case they were a way to teach lessons, he hoped he’d learned his. He’d never want to see that in real life. He shivered. Fairy tales are scary.