Smoke floated above the candle wick and disappeared into the air. Isaac looked around at the party guests. Some of them looked faded and wispy, like the smoke. The queen with the sword disappeared first, and then the captain disappeared.
The guests started to panic. “What’s happening?” Jim asked Isaac. The parrot on his shoulder squawked in alarm.
“I wished that everyone could be where and when they’d be happiest. All of those people are going home.” At least, that’s what Isaac hoped was happening.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Billy said, looking panicked. “I haven’t finished my experiments. I almost have the moon gate working.”
“Then you’ll probably stay here,” Isaac said. He watched the queen of everything disappear. Timmons disappeared next. “Everyone was stuck in-between worlds, not knowing whether they would go back to where they started from someday or not. Now they get to decide where home is and start from there.”
It felt like there were butterflies in his stomach. Or maybe it was soda bubbles or angry bees. His head buzzed. It must be the bees, after all, he decided. Everything faded away and he was lying in the dark.
It wasn’t completely dark, but wherever he was, it was certainly colder and darker than the island clearing. He opened his eyes and looked around. He was at home, in bed. That’s right, he remembered he had been feeling sick. It seemed like ages and ages ago.
The front door slammed. “We’re home!” his mother called up the stairs. “I’ll bring you up some lunch in a minute.”
Had it all been a dream? It seemed so real. But Isaac knew that sometimes dreams seem real when you’re sick.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better,” his teddy bear said. “I was rather worried when you appeared out of nowhere. You never did that before.”
“You can talk?” Isaac picked up the teddy bear. It looked like it always had. “You never talked before.”
“You just didn’t hear me before,” the teddy bear said.
Just then, Isaac’s mom came up the stairs with a sandwich and a glass of milk, and the bear didn’t say anything else. She checked Isaac’s temperature. “How are you feeling?” she asked.
Isaac shrugged. “Better, I guess.”
His mom grinned. “Great! Eat your lunch and then maybe we can all go see a movie.”
Isaac ate his lunch and got dressed and forgot all about the teddy bear, until the next time he said something later that night. And he started seeing and hearing so many more odd things that he’d never noticed before. Odd things happened so often, that they didn’t seem quite so odd any more.
“And that was how it happened,” Isaac said, looking down at Charlie.
Charlie raised his eyebrows. “That’s it? That’s why nothing surprises you?” He laughed. “I don’t believe it. Good story though, Dad.”
“You don’t have to believe it for it to be true, you know. It just is, whether you know it or not, whether you can see it or not.” He gave Charlie a one-armed hug and smiled. “Truth is like that.”
Charlie smiled back up at him. “Maybe it is. I don’t know.”
That evening, Isaac stepped quietly into Charlie’s room to check on him. He heard the quiet, steady familiar breathing that meant that Charlie was asleep. He smiled.
“Hey,” the teddy bear whispered. “He told me he has a science project due next week. You might want to remind him tomorrow.”
“Thanks, old friend,” Isaac whispered back. “I’m glad you’re looking out for him.”
“What did you expect? I did a great job looking out for you, didn’t I?”
“You did. Thank you for that.”
Isaac smiled and quietly walked out and closed the door, leaving it open just a crack, so that he could hear if Charlie woke up and needed him.