Charlie looked confused. “That’s it? That’s the whole story?”
Isaac laughed. “Of course not. That’s just the beginning of the story.”
“So, you went back to the forest and found the cave again?”
“No, I never went back to the forest,” Isaac said. “Finish eating your soup, and then we can go sit in the living room while I tell you what happened next.”
Charlie ate quickly, and soon they were leaving their dishes to soak while they sat side by side on the couch. Charlie curled into his father’s side, and then poked his arm. “What happened next?”
“It was autumn, and my family decided to have one last picnic before the weather turned too chilly for picnicking,” Isaac began.
“But didn’t the last story happen in the spring?”
Isaac nodded. “But this story happened later.”
“Now where was I?”
“That’s right. My family was going on a picnic, but I had to stay home, because I’d been feeling sick…”
Young Isaac woke up when the front door slammed. That must be everyone leaving without him. It wasn’t fair. He loved picnics. He sat up in bed. Maybe he was feeling better now, or at least well enough to go to on a picnic.
He slid out of bed and rushed to get dressed. Then he hurried downstairs and out the front door. He looked both ways. They were gone, and he didn’t remember exactly where they were going.
A breeze rushed down the street. Isaac shivered. Maybe they were going to the park on the right. It was closer, after all. As he started walking down the street, he looked up and saw the moon.
He turned and squinted. The sun was still there, too. How strange. Maybe something interesting was about to happen, and they were both up there waiting to see it. Will I be going on another adventure? I think I’d like that.
He turned the corner and hurried down the sidewalk to the park. He avoided the puddles from the rain the night before. Jumping over the edge of the last puddle, he followed the path into the park.
The park was empty. Usually, on a day like this, there were at least a few children playing on the slide or swinging side by side. There wasn’t even anyone walking their dog or napping on one of the benches.
Isaac followed the path to the large lawn that surrounded an ancient, mossy oak tree. It was possible that his family was hidden on the other side of the tree, sitting on a blanket. He rounded the tree.
No one was there. Instead, he stood at the edge of a little dip in the path. A puddle stretched from side to side, blocking the path. It was time to turn around and go home or check the other park.
Instead, he crouched down. It was strange how he could see his reflection, and a bit of the tree and sky at the same time that he could see the bottom of the puddle. The little plants growing in cracks in the path looked like seaweed, and pebbles and twigs and leaves looked like strange sea creatures.
It looked like there was another world in the puddle, hiding behind his reflection. Isaac poked his finger into the water. His reflection broke. The bottom of the puddle was just full of sticks and weeds and pebbles and leaves. He waited and watched the water calm.
Once again, his reflection shared space with another world hidden beneath. I wonder if I could jump through to the other side while my reflection is there? Maybe he’s another Isaac in another place holding the door open for me.
Isaac stood up and smiled at his reflection. Then he jumped into the middle of the puddle. He didn’t get wet.
When Isaac jumped into the puddle, he had expected to hit the bottom of the puddle with a splash. Instead, he kept falling. The reflections lengthened, bleeding their colors down into the water as he fell past the edges of the puddle. The colors diffused, fading into lights and shadows.
The inside of the puddle was impossibly wide and deep. Isaac floated downward in a bubble that occasionally tossed him from side to side as it moved in an invisible current. Why wasn’t he floating up? Isaac looked up, expecting to see the outline of the puddle high above.
Instead, it was dark. He could see darker shapes dart around, but he couldn’t even really see their outlines. He looked down. Far below him, there was something glowing. Bright points of light appeared, danced around, and disappeared. Had he somehow managed to turn himself upside-down?
Isaac kicked his legs and waved his arms. He managed to turn himself sideways. He kicked and twisted until he rolled over and was facing the approaching glow. Something large swam between his bubble and the light.
Isaac looked around, feeling panicked. There was nowhere to hide. He couldn’t steer his bubble anywhere. Would the walls hold if something tried to eat him? They looked less substantial than a soap bubble. If only he’d managed to be stuck in a nice glass float instead.
Two smaller shapes followed the larger one. None of them seemed to see him. Was he invisible? Did the bubble camouflage him somehow? Maybe the big fishy things just weren’t hungry.
“But I don’t want to go to school,” one of the smaller shapes said as it glided past overhead.
“If Daddy is the king of the sea, can’t he cancel school?” the other asked.
They continued on their way, and Isaac was left to wonder who the king of the sea was. Sharks were pretty scary, but octopi were smarter and whales were bigger. They didn’t look like octopi though.
The bubble floated up and up. Isaac began to worry about what would happen when they reached the surface of the water. If the bubble popped, he might be left in the middle of the ocean somewhere, surrounded by sharks or hungry seagulls or sea monsters.
And yet, Isaac wasn’t really afraid. His last adventure had gone so well. Surely there wasn’t any real danger in being lost in a strange world. He might even be dreaming. He had been pretty sick.
So, when the glow came closer and closer, Isaac remained calm. And just before the bubble popped, he took a deep breath. Then he was surrounded by a bright light, and he couldn’t see for a moment.
He was floating on his back, surrounded by water that was suddenly very wet. His clothes were heavy, and they felt like they were dragging him down. Just as he was trying to kick off his shoes, three dolphins surfaced nearby.
Isaac turned and threw his arms around the largest dolphin. It squeaked.
“Children,” the dolphin said. “I am tangled up in something, but I don’t see anything.”
“There’s nothing there,” one of the smaller dolphins said.
“Let’s swim faster, and maybe it will fall off,” the other small dolphin said.
They swam fast, but Isaac did not let go. He could see a bump on the horizon that grew bigger, and bigger. It was an island. The dolphin swerved to swim around it.
Isaac let go and started to swim towards the island.
“It’s gone at last,” the mother dolphin said as they swam away. “Children, avoid that spot from now on.”