Billy threw the door open. In the middle of the otherwise empty room, there was a tall, white door frame attached by wires and pipes to a semicircle of machines behind it. The door frame was filled with water, like a vertical pool. Isaac had no idea what was keeping the water in place.
“Go on, you can look a little closer, just don’t touch. I’d hate to have you transported to the bottom of the sea.” Billy waved his arms grandly towards the door frame.
Isaac didn’t need a second invitation. He walked in a circle around the door frame and then inspected the machines. It was all so strange. He walked back to the door frame and looked closer. He could almost see something on the other side of the water that wasn’t the other side of the room.
He pulled the mist goggles on. The image slid into focus. “It’s an island on the other side of the water,” Isaac said. “I think the water is just a doorway.” He squinted. It looked like there were banners and balloons marking a path into the forest. It must be the island with the party!
“Let me see.” Billy held out his hand for the goggles. Isaac handed them over. Billy put them on and squinted. “They must be for all kinds of water, not just mist. I’ll have to test them on ice later,” he mumbled. “But why isn’t that the moon? I designed it to reach to the edge of the world. That should land me on the moon. It makes no sense. I’ll have to recalculate.”
Isaac took out his map and unfolded it. One island left. It was on the edge of the map. Was that the edge of the world, too? How did this world work?
Isaac cleared his throat. Billy ignored him and kept talking to himself. He tried again. When that didn’t work, he tapped Billy’s shoulder. “Can I test your moon gate? I’d like to go to the island.”
Billy looked at him intently as though he was trying to look through him. Finally he nodded and pulled some paperwork out of his pocket. “You’d have to sign a waiver, of course. And I’d need your medical history.”
Isaac took the forms and a pen and went to work filling out the paperwork. Billy took the papers and had Isaac leave the pen outside the door to the room. When he came back in, Billy was standing behind the circle of machines.
Billy waved. “When you’re ready, step through the gate. You might want to hold your breath.”
Isaac nodded. He was too nervous to say anything. Instead, he took a deep breath and then stepped through the gate.
The gate and room and scientist all vanished the moment he stepped on the sand. He stumbled, but caught himself. He took out his map and checked it. All eight islands had a big red x.
He looked over at the forest. He could see the path marked with balloons and banners. The queen of everything and a lady with long hair and a sword were coming down the path to greet him. Both were wearing golden crowns. Isaac stepped forward to meet them and suddenly felt something heavy settle on his head.
He reached up and felt something smooth and cold. He lifted it off his head to examine it. It was a golden crown, glowing in the sunlight. He turned it around in his hands and glimpsed an engraving on the inside of the crown. When he turned it just right, he could read what it said:
King of the Unseen, the Unheard, and the Unnoticed
“But what does it mean?” he murmured.
“You’ll find out eventually,” said a voice at his elbow. He jumped and turned. It was the queen of everything.
“We all did,” agreed a mournful voice at his other side. He turned to see the woman with the sword. Was this the queen of dreams he’d heard about?
“But how do I…” he began.
“Hush, there isn’t time,” the queen of everything said. “Everyone is waiting.”
“We heard from the captain,” the other queen added. “He said that you want to help.”
“What can I do?” Isaac asked.
The queen of everything adjusted her shawl. “There will be cake at the party, you know.”
The other queen nodded. “What’s a party without cake?”
Isaac nodded. “I like cake.” He really didn’t see where this was going. “Did you want some cake? I’ll share, of course.”
“Just listen,” the queen of everything said. She pulled something out of the knot of her shawl and cupped it in her hands. “Look what I brought.”
Isaac leaned in close to look. It was a small candle and a single match. The queen held them out to Isaac, still half-hidden in her hands. The other queen stood nearby, looking around sharply, as though she expected them to be attacked at any moment.
Isaac took them and quickly put them in his pocket. “But what are they for?” he whispered.
“What happens when you put a candle on a cake and light it?” The queen of everything whispered back.
“If you blow it out, you get a wish. But isn’t that only for birthdays?” Isaac asked.
“Today’s your birthday as a king, isn’t it?” The queen adjusted her shawl again.
“But what should I wish for?” Isaac asked.
The other queen approached them. “It’s time. They’re coming.”
Isaac looked down the path. A large group of people was coming to meet him.