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.
“Wait,” Isaac said to the queen of everything. “I don’t know what to wish for.”
“Hush,” she whispered. “They’ll hear you. Not everyone is unhappy here, you know. They can’t know what we’re planning.”
“But then it isn’t really fair to them if I just wish everyone home, unless here really is their home. It’s all so confusing. Didn’t you give an eraser to the captain? Why can’t he make the wishes?”
“Every wish he made went wrong somehow. He’s busy erasing out his notebook. We want you to try. Now hush, they’re here.” And the queen turned and smiled at Hannah and Anna and Timmons and Jim and the white mouse and the octopus and Billy and Teddy.
Even more people and creatures were coming. He even saw the captain somewhere near the back. Had he met them all? How did they know to come?
“It’s the crown,” the queen with the sword said. “When you put it on, it called everyone here to witness your coronation and enjoy the party.”
“It sort of put itself on really,” Isaac said.
Timmons laughed. “I think that’s normal. If I remember right.”
The white mouse tapped his foot. “Hurry up. I’m supposed to be somewhere else right now, so if we could move this all along a little faster, that would be nice.”
Jim laughed. “I think we’re all ready for the party to start. It’s right up this path. Lead the way, Isaac.”
Isaac nodded and took a deep breath. He still had no idea what to wish for. Maybe the idea would just come to him. He marched forward, and everyone followed him.
The path was just clear, warm sand that wound through the tall palm trees and banks of hibiscus flowers. It led downhill, and at the end of the path there was a banner strung high between two palm trees, that read “King Isaac.” Beyond that, there was a large, round clearing filled with tables and chairs.
“Your chair is over there,” the queen of everything said, suddenly at his elbow once more. She pointed to a throne at the head of a long table across the clearing. Isaac crossed the clearing and sat on the throne. Jim and Billy ended up sitting at either side.
As soon as he sat down, a large chocolate cake appeared in front of him. It was bigger than the kitchen table at home. “Now what?” he muttered.
“What was that?” Billy asked. “Are you talking to the food because you expect it to talk back? I won’t eat talking food. I’m sure it would be full of germs.”
“It’s fine,” Jim said. “He’s just practicing for his speech. Then he’ll cut and serve the cake, and no one will get any germs.”
“Speech?” Billy waved a hand. “Let’s hear it.”
“Wait,” Isaac said. “There’s cake because it’s my birthday as a king, right? At home we have a tradition for birthdays.”
He put the candle in the cake and lit it. He still had no idea what he was going to wish for or even if this would work at all. But he thought of the people who wanted to go home and he thought about never seeing his family again. This had been a fun adventure, but he didn’t want to stay here forever.
He just wanted everyone to be where and when they would be the most happy. Could he wish that? If he did, would it go wrong somehow and they’d all be stuck between worlds like the captain and his crew?
Everyone was watching him, silent. This was it. He’d make his wish and see what happened. And so he thought his wish as he blew out the candle.