The dragon flapped its wings a few times. Then it jumped up into the air and flew in wide circles, spiraling higher and higher. Isaac held up a hand to shade his eyes so he could watch the dragon fly.
The dragon paused, just for a moment, and then he tucked his wings into his sides and dove almost straight down. He opened his wings at the bottom of his dive and careened towards Isaac.
His talons locked around Isaac’s shoulders and upper arms, and the dragon beat his wings against the air as they climbed higher and higher. Isaac looked down. The island seemed empty, except for the low wall that was now a thin line, dividing the island in half.
Isaac reached up and clutched the dragon’s ankles. “Please don’t drop me!” He shouted.
“Let go!” the dragon shrieked and tightened its grip on Isaac’s shoulders.
“Only if you put me down somewhere safe.”
“Not on my island!”
“Somewhere else then.” Isaac winced as he looked down. The island looked so far away. If he fell from here, he’d never get back home.
“Fine.” The dragon dove once more, and Isaac held on tight, closing his eyes against the biting wind.
And then his feet were touching something just as the dragon released his shoulders. Isaac let go and opened his eyes. It looked like he was standing in a wooden basket with sky all around him. His knees felt weak and he sat down suddenly.
The dragon was already spiraling higher. “Never come back,” he shouted as he flew away.
Isaac watched him go, and then crawled to the edge of the basket and looked down. He was in the crows nest of a ship. He stepped onto the rope ladder hanging nearby and climbed down to the deck of the ship.
A tall thin man with big bushy eyebrows was waiting on the deck, arms folded. “A stowaway? I’d send you the way of the bat and the owl I found hiding aboard my ship, but I can see that it’s already too late for you.”
“What do you mean?” Isaac asked.
“You can stand on the deck of my ship, and you’re squinting in the sunlight. You don’t see mist or a ghost ship or a skeleton crew, do you?”
Isaac looked around. The sun was shining, and the ship looked solid and deserted. “No, I don’t see any of that.”
“Then you’re one of us, those cursed to play the terrible game. I’d tell you to quit and go home, but it’s too late for you.” He shook his head. “Too late!” He yelled and shook his fist at the sky.
“Do you know the way home?” Isaac asked. “I thought we could go home once we found the party.”
“Not every one can, and few like what they find when they get there. Spending time between worlds like we do changes us. There’s no preventing that.”
The man lifted a busy eyebrow. “Did you see more than a handful of people or animals on any of the islands?
Isaac shook his head.
“Of course not. You could only see the one between worlds like you are. People that didn’t quite belong in one place or another. And they were the only ones who could see you.”
The man held up a little pencil that was missing its eraser. “I found the party, a long, long time ago. They made me the king of wishes. I was so pleased. So foolish. They didn’t say that any of my wishes would come true in the way I expected them to.”
“What happened?” Isaac asked.
“I wrote all my wishes into a little book.” The man pulled a notebook out of his pocket. “And then I watched them all go wrong. I wished for a ship and crew. My crew fought constantly and couldn’t work together to sail the ship anywhere. I wished for my favorite meal. I now have an unlimited supply of roasted chicken that I’ve somehow become allergic to.”
“Did you wish to go home?” Isaac asked.
“I did, and now I’m half here and half there, on a ghost ship that is only real to those just as cursed as I am, forever between worlds.” The man put the notebook and pencil into his pockets.
“Can’t you wish you hadn’t come here?” Isaac asked.
“I can’t change the past. The words just vanish from the page.” The man looked sad. “The only thing that worked was to erase the wishes. But I lost the eraser somewhere, and I’ve spent so many years trying to retrace my steps.”
“But can’t you wish for the eraser?” Isaac asked.
“And risk destroying my only chance to fix this half-life?” The man glared at Isaac.
Isaac thought for a moment. “Have you met the queen of everything?” he asked.