Isaac waded to shore once he reached the next island. He turned to thank the turtles and octopuses, but they were gone, and they’d taken the pieces of driftwood with them. “Thank you,” he yelled to the empty waves anyway. A tentacle reached up out of the water, waved at him, and then disappeared again.
Isaac turned around, and immediately something flew at his face. He couldn’t see. He grabbed the soft, thin thing and pulled it away from him. It was a shawl, woven with intricate gray and white patterns.
He looked up when he heard the sound of a bicycle horn. Who could be riding their bicycle on the beach? But, it wasn’t a bicycle. A white swan was honking and running towards him, flapping its wings and looking rather large and terrifying.
Isaac held the shawl up like a shield and considered running back into the ocean. Could he swim around to another part of the island that swans didn’t like? And then he realized that nothing was happening.
He peeked over the edge of the shawl. The swan was watching him. “Hello?” Isaac said.
“What are you waiting for?” the swan asked. “Drape it around me. I am so tired of feathers. Do you know how much work it takes to keep them straightened and clean when all you have to work with is a beak?”
Cautiously, Isaac draped the shawl around the swan. It shivered like it was cold and somehow shook itself into a motherly looking lady in a long white dress who fussed with the shawl until she’d tied it and it hung just so.
“Are you a were-swan?” Isaac asked. He looked up. “I guess you change back when it’s noon?”
The lady laughed. “Of course not. I’m a shapeshifter. I change to whatever I want whenever I want to. Except that someone is going to curse me to only be able to change when I’m wearing this shawl.”
Wait a minute. “You mean it hasn’t happened yet?”
“Of course not. But I know it will happen someday, because I can’t change when I’m not wearing the shawl.” The lady smoothed the ends of the shawl that were dangling from where she’d knotted it.
“That doesn’t make sense. How do you know it hasn’t already happened?”
The lady smiled. “Because I can’t lift the curse yet. I can cancel it after it happens, of course, but not before.”
Isaac shook his head. “I don’t understand how it can work backwards like that.”
“You are happy about the holidays before they happen, right? Sometimes weeks and weeks ahead of time?” she asked.
“But that’s not the same thing at all,” Isaac said. “That just happens because I know they’re coming. If I didn’t know about them, I wouldn’t be looking forward to anything at all.”
“Well, I suppose this could happen because I believe it will,” the lady said. She looked uncertain.
“You could try believing that it won’t happen,” Isaac said. “But believing things is hard.”
“Nonsense,” the lady said. “Everyone believes unbelievable things all the time. It’s what makes the world round.”
“Don’t you mean ‘go ’round’?” Isaac asked.
“That too, dear,” the lady said. She handed him the shawl. “Hmmm. Now let’s see…” She wrinkled her brow and tapped her chin with a finger. A few moments later, she began to shiver, and then she shook herself into a sheep.
“It worked!” Isaac said.
“Or the person changed their mind and decided not to curse me after all. I’ll have to thank all the magic users I meet, just to be safe.” The fluffy white sheep turned and looked at Isaac. “Now who are you? I don’t think we’ve met before. Are you a magic user?”
“No, I’m just Isaac. I’m here looking for a party.”
“Ah.” the sheep nodded. “I understand. I once was in your shoes. And now, I’m the Queen of Everything.”
“But what does that mean?” Isaac asked. “How can you be the queen of everything?”
“It’s a long story,” the sheep said.