“When I said that, almost all the chocolate drained out, and we were just standing in a giant hole. We were all one foot away from the top.”
Where in the World Are We???
I closed my eyes, hoping it was a dream. I opened them again. It was not.
“Zoe, do you know where we are?” I asked, praying that she would not take it badly.
“How should I know?!!! We are stuck in the middle of passing time, and there is no logical way to get out!!!”
I hunched back. She was right. “I’m sorry, just thought I might ask.”
She glared at me. “What’s the big deal?!!! Every time I say something, you get so mad at me!!”
That’s when the argument started. “I did nothing wro –”
“You are saying that!? Are you kidding m — ”
“You are just being sensitive.”
Finally, the argument stopped. We both looked at each other and attempted to walk away. But sadly, since we were still floating in the middle of passing time, we could not. We spun in circles and couldn’t stop after that. We had been there for hours and hours, but it only felt like ten minutes, and by each passing minute, it had been an hour in the real world. I decided to say something to cut the silence.
“Do you, by any chance, know any other spells or sayings that can help us get out of this?”
She glared at me, and I plugged my ears, protecting them from any screaming. All I heard was mumbling, and then she stopped and turned around. I kept my ears plugged just in case, and I saw her close her eyes and hold up the watch to the sky (that is, if there was any sky). All of a sudden, everything was spinning. There were all kinds of clocks spinning around us. All of a sudden, we started falling, faster and faster and faster until we thudded onto rock-hard ground.
“Now do you know where we are?” I asked Zoe, one more time. There was no response.
Back into the tree… or not.
“Zoe,” I called out, hoping there would be a response. She came out of nowhere, just standing there, completely silent.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said. “Time for me to ask a question. Do you know where we are?”
I stood there, silent, just as she did before, and I looked around. “I can take an educated guess?”
She once again glared at me. I stepped back, just to make sure nothing was going to happen, and then her eyes went back to neutral.
“Maybe we’re inside the tree?” I guessed.
She looked at me in a confused way, then started thinking about something. “That’s impossible. If we were back inside the tree, that means we must have gone back in time. But the clocks were spinning clockwise, so that means we must be going to the future, so that would make no sense.”
I thought about that theory. She was right once again.
“I guess you’re right,” I said. “But what if they were just tricking us?”
Zoe looked at me in her confused look again. “How can clocks trick us?”
I had no answer.
“Uhhh,” I said. “Not exactly sure.”
She looked at me, and then walked around to make sure there were no traps or creatures lying behind us or in front of us. “Well, this place seems to be completely harmless, so why don’t we take a walk around to see if anyone can tell us where we are?”
I thought about a place where someone might be. That reminded me of something that I saw when we were falling from the sky, or from wherever that white place was.
“I think I may have seen a village while we were dropping from wherever we came from,” I said, trying to see how useful I could be, but Zoe was already one step ahead. She already had a map out, and she was wandering around, looking where to go.
“I think we need to go north and past that river, and I think that village you were talking about might be there.”
I looked over to where she was pointing. “That’s kind of a long walk.”
Zoe turned back and gave me an annoyed look. “Do you want to go home or do you want to stay here? It’s all up to you.”
I felt pressured when she said that, so I didn’t know how to answer it.
“W-well, I think that if we find out that this place is actually just on Earth, and it’s a normal country with villages and towns and cities, I think it would be best to stay here instead of getting into so much fuss about getting home.”
Zoe was surprised at the answer that I just gave her, but she nodded along with me. But I wasn’t done talking. “But if this place isn’t a normal country, then I think it would be best to go home no matter what turns we have to take. I just want to make sure we don’t go too far from the plan that we made.”
Zoe disagreed with that comment. “I think that we should try our best and not worry about how dangerous our plan is. If it means getting home, it means getting home.”
I didn’t want to start another argument, but I knew that if we didn’t we would get into serious trouble.
“You know, Zoe, if we take too many turns, we will get into very dangerous situations, and that is not something that I want to happen right now. All-”
Zoe cut me off. “You have to! It’s our homes. Don’t you want to fight for that?”
She had a good point, but it wasn’t worth getting into trouble. “Please, Zoe, just listen. We can’t get into another argument. We might attract someone here that we don’t want to see right now.”
She completely ignored what had I just said and kept yelling and screaming. We spent about twenty minutes there, just yelling and screaming at each other, and I was right. We did attract someone there. I saw a shadow lurking behind a tree.
“Zoe, look! There’s something there.”
“Is it a unicorn?” she said sarcastically.
“I’m not joking!”
“Sure, sure. Come on, you see shadows all the time, okay? It’s not that big of a deal.”
“If you say so,” I whispered to myself. Sadly, she heard.
“Come on. Let’s just go north, okay? It’s the best thing that we can do right now,” Zoe suggested.
“Fine,” I said, and rolled my eyes in disbelief that it was the best. “But I’m still keeping an eye on that person… or creature.”
“Okay,” Zoe said. “But really, it’s nothing.”
I ignored her comment and kept my eyes peeled for anything on our walk north, but every few moments I could still see him.
“There’s really something following us…”
The Shadow Man (Don Don Don)
We walked as far north as I could remember. We’d been walking for days and the river was still days ahead.
“Can we please stop to take a break, Zoe? I can speak for both of us when I say that our legs are very, very exhausted right now.” Zoe knew that was true but she didn’t admit it.
“NO!! My legs are not tired,” she said.
“Oh, COME ON! I know they are.” She gave me an evil look. I didn’t say anything after that for a long time.
“Are we there yet?” Zoe annoyingly said. I did not answer. We kept walking, no breaks, food or water.
“Zoe, you go on. I really need a break.” She completely ignored me and kept on going.
I sat on an old tree stump and waited for a long time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was waiting for, but I was waiting anyway.
“Zoe!” I called out. She turned around in confusion. “I think I may have seen the man again.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “You didn’t, because he doesn’t exist, and also, come on. We’re gonna be late if you don’t follow me.”
I didn’t listen to her and stood up. I walked the opposite direction, seeing if I could prove to her somehow that this man was actually real. She didn’t even notice me walking the opposite direction, but she didn’t care even if she did. Then I saw him again. This time he was out in the open and walking straight towards me with something sharp in his hands. I screamed, but noticed that right after I did, he vanished into thin air. I turned around and he was standing a little ways away from me. I stepped back and I noticed that there was a tree blocking my path to going any further, so I had to run. I ran past the deep forest and back into a wide meadow so there was no way to hide behind trees there. I just had to keep running. Zoe noticed me gone, and she saw the man chasing after something, so she chased after him. We all ran past the meadow and through a deep hole and up a giant hill and finally, we made it to the ocean. I had no choice but to take one of the boats that I saw out there and sail it across the ocean. I saw Zoe running, and I hid myself under an old tree that had just died with no leaves on it, just branches. I tried my best to keep myself hidden. The shadow man ran right past me and into the boat, thinking that I was already on one. She laughed when she saw the shadow man sailing out.
“Zoe, now do you believe me about the shadow man?” I asked.
She couldn’t lie this time. “Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “Now let’s go find a village so we can get something to eat. All I’ve been eating is nuts and leaves.”
“Disgusting,” Zoe whispered to herself.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said, pulling her toward the top of the hill. But as we managed to reach the tip, we saw the shadow man standing there, ready to throw something, but we weren’t exactly sure what it was.
A Way Back Home! Yay!!! Let’s Go Home!!
I stood still while I was staring into the blob of air that was standing in front of us.
“I thought you were on the sailboat,” Zoe said, very confused.
“I was,” he said in a raspy voice.
Zoe and I looked at each other, wondering why he spoke in such an awkward tone.
“Do you have a sore throat?” I asked him.
Zoe slapped her forehead. “No, that’s just how ghosts talk!” she said, as if I should have known that by heart.
“Well, how do you expect me to know?” Zoe glared at the ghost and then back at me. The ghost stepped back, knowing that this was not going to end well.
“You should know because everybody knows what ghosts are and how they talk.”
The ghost made a growling noise. We both looked up. He grinned, knowing exactly where to take us. I probably walked behind the ghost as he took us down the forest. On the other hand, Zoe was laying her feet down on the ground and dragging them.
“You need to go faster, Zoe. You’re taking way too long.” Then, I stopped. I looked at her then, and asked her, “Where’s your clock time-freezing thingie?” She gasped. It wasn’t on her neck.
“It must have fallen off when we were in the middle of passing time.” Zoe looked at me strangely. “Whatever happened to trying to find your brother?”
I gasped. “I completely forgot about him. He could be here or there, who knows.”
We ran the other way. The ghost chased both of us down to the same valley we passed earlier.
“Why are you taking us to the same spot?”
“Lyra, this is the same spot that we dropped to when we fell out of the sky.”
I smiled. “Then that means we might be able to get back in the tree and save my brother, and the entire world, if that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Zoe nodded. “That is.”
“Can we find a way to send us to a certain spot in the tree, or do we just get sent anywhere?”
Zoe thought about that. “I think there’s a chance that we can navigate a way to get to a certain place.”
I smiled, trying to keep my hopes up that she was right.
“I think we fell about thirty feet north from here.”
I fell on my back.
“More walking?” I said in a very tired and exhausted voice.
Zoe knew that it would be hard for me, but she couldn’t let my brother down.
“Maybe we can freeze time,” Zoe suggested.
I reminded her that she didn’t have her clock.
“Okay, so maybe freezing time isn’t the best idea, but we have to find some way to do it.”
Zoe held up her watch that looked almost exactly like the clock, and she said the same line that she did earlier, back when we were time travelling. I held onto her and I screamed. Everything turned white again. We were in the same position as before.
“How do we get out of this again?” I asked Zoe.
She remembered how we got out the past time that we did this. “You have to dream about where you want to go, and want it bad enough that you just fall right into that place.”
I looked at her, astonished. “Does that mean that you dreamed to be in the forest with that ghost?”
“No. I dreamed to be at a beach with my Grandma’s ghost, not an evil shadow man person.”
I looked at Zoe sternly. “Dream as hard as you can to get back into the tree.”
Zoe looked glum at me. “You have to do it too, if you actually want this to work. It’ll only teleport one person. Whoever’s believing it will teleport. So that means if we are both believing, then we will both teleport. We just have to try together.”
“You do mean-”
Zoe stopped me, “I mean both of us. We both have to try, okay?”
I sighed. “Fine, I’ll do it.”
We both dreamed of being in the middle of Candyland inside the tree, and we both dreamed of lying on the whipped cream valley. Then, all of a sudden, everything spun around faster than it had before, and we landed right where we dreamed: smack in the middle of the valley covered in whipped cream and frosting.
“It worked!” I screamed so loudly that a flock of bird flew past us, angry that the noise got louder.
“Sorry!” I yelled to them, but they didn’t even squawk back.
“Isn’t this where I found that weird alive map that one time?” I asked Zoe.
“Yes. Yes, you did. Maybe it’s still here, and maybe it can help us.”
I smiled and looked around. I remember when she held it on her way out, when she was vanishing. It dropped in a puddle of melted chocolate. I stood up and ran south, exactly where she was standing.
“Why are you running over there?” Zoe screamed. Finally she added all the ends together and she realized that that map was the map of the tree, and that my brother was hidden east, and that meant that we had to go to the night time side of the land.
“Lyra, we have to go to the night time.”
I looked back at her, pretty much thinking exactly what she was thinking.
“But what about the map?”
“You dropped it in the puddle, so I’m trying to look for it over here. Can you help?”
“Okay, the truth is, Lyra, I dropped the map on the way there. I made a fake hologram of it to make you jump into the puddle.”
“Why? It’s just a chocolate puddle. I would just lick myself off, like a cat.”
Zoe sighed, because she was afraid to tell me the truth. “Because Max is actually hidden at the bottom of that puddle, and I thought if you would find him… you know what? Never mind.”
“Well, why don’t we start eating a bunch of whipped cream around the puddle, and then it would make a bigger puddle for both of us to jump into?”
I did feel betrayed that Zoe had hidden something so important from me, but I knew that she was just trying to help me, so I decided to let that one pass.
“I didn’t tell you, because there was so much on our minds and I knew that you didn’t trust me very well back then, and I knew that if I told you, it would just hurt your feelings even more than I already have.”
Zoe was right, and it was the right thing for her to do, but now that we both knew where my brother was, we had to get to it faster. We both stuck our fingers in the whipped cream and licked it. It tasted better than we both thought it would.
“Are you ready?” said Zoe.
I smiled the biggest smile that I almost ever had. “Let’s get licking!” I yelled.
We both stuck our faces into the whipped cream and licked as if it was the last thing we would do.
“Keep licking!” I kept yelling, and, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”
Zoe was panting. She almost sounded exactly like a puppy, tired from playing catch all day. “We’re almost there! I feel the chocolate on the tip of my tongue.”
I smiled and started helping her with all of my might. We licked and licked until we could only taste whipped cream, no matter what we ate.
“I’m starting to think we made this puddle for a baby shark,” Zoe said jokingly.
“Let’s just jump in no matter what creatures we’ll find! Who doesn’t want to swim in chocolate?”
We both held our noses and jumped in. We opened our eyes to see that we could actually breathe under it, and that our eyes didn’t hurt our get covered in chocolate.
“Look, those are memories of Me and Max riding on my favorite roller coasters in the best theme park.”
Zoe smiled. “Those are some of my memories of my old parents before I found the tree.”
We kept going deeper and deeper. “Come on, let’s try and see if we can swim just a little bit faster.”
I smiled to hear that I heard Max’s voice down below us. Zoe knew I was smiling, and she followed my action.
“Come on, just a few more feet and we’ll be there!”
We swam all our mights down to as far as we could. Soon enough, our heads banged on rock candy ground.
“Max, are you here?” I asked. There was no answer.
“Max!” Zoe yelled. Soon we saw two hands emerge from below us. “Max, is that you?”
We each grabbed one hand and yanked it up. It was Max, and he was covered in dirt and had cuts all over.
“Max, what happened to you?” I asked, while we were all swimming back up.
“I was forced to be locked up down past the rock candy ground, and forced to be there in the dungeon. The good news is, I found a way to escape the executioner.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re safe.”
When I said that, almost all the chocolate drained out, and we were just standing in a giant hole. We were all one foot away from the top.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
Zoe already had an idea. “Let’s grow a lollipop tree!”
I thought she was crazy. “THAT WOULD TAKE FOREVER!!”
Zoe smiled. “You’d be surprised.” She took some seeds from her pocket and planted them in the rock below us. We waited and waited.
“Can we just find a better plan?”
Zoe shook her head. “Keep waiting.”
She stomped on the ground, and a lollipop tree grew beneath, so I grabbed it, and one by one yanked Max and Zoe up out of the hole.
“Well, now that we’re all safe,” Zoe said, “We should get you two back home.”
Zoe’s clock was now hanging on her neck again.
“Come on. I remember the way. I’ll never forget it,” I said, hoping they would actually follow me. They did, and we all got safely back to the same willow tree.
Zoe held up her clock, and it looked like she was scanning it onto a little box next to the bottom of the tree. All of a sudden, a little door opened, and all three of us crawled through. I stood up proudly next to Max to see that our house was in the same state as we left it in, except for the fact that our Mom was frantically looking for us.
“Mom!” Max screamed. She turned around.
“Lyra! Max! Where have you guys been? Some of your friends told me that you were in Tokyo, visiting the emperor.”
“No, we went through more of an adventure than that!” I smiled, and my mom smiled back.
She turned to Zoe. “Who is this?” she said sternly.
“My name is Zoe Tamal.”
My mom gasped. “My real last name is Tamal! My sister had a child, and then one day she vanished!”
Zoe was shocked.
“Lyra, that means you’re my cousin! Same for you, Max!”
We ran around squealing and laughing.
My mom said something.
“You can move into my house until I find your mom. Lyra, Max, take Zoe up to the bedroom and get her settled into one of the rooms.” We took her upstairs and into our bedroom…
We all got our water and went upstairs to our bedroom, and my mom came and gave us good nights.
“‘Night, Mom,” I said, not even trying to go to sleep.
“‘Night,” Max said, already half asleep.
“Goodnight, Aunt,” Zoe said, getting ready to sleep. We all closed our eyes, except for me. We all were about to go to bed, until I screamed: