Landon remembered two childhoods and this was the second time he had turned twenty years old. Sitting on a bench on the Greenbelt by the Boise River, he contemplated how ordinary life had become as a university student. Every night he dreamed he was someplace else. Every night he dreamed he was someone else.
Contemplating a water fowl, he asked, “Are you really a duck, or are you about to morph into a murderous wraith or bloodslayer so you can rip out my throat?”
The mallard ignored the BSU sophomore and slipped under the water’s surface looking for lunch.
“Lucky bird. I bet you don’t have nightmares about the Dragon Wars.”
He had been nine-years-old and his little sister Dani had just turned three when it happened. It was their week to be with Dad and he was supposed to go out to the backyard and call Dani in for dinner. She thought it was a game and ran away from him. Dad was yelling for him to hurry up but it wasn’t his fault. He got mad at his sister. It seemed like she did stuff like this on purpose just to get him into trouble.
“Dani, come in now.”
“No!” She stomped her foot. As Landon ran after her, she bolted away.
And then it was night and they were in a big, creepy forest. It was so dark, he could hardly see anything.
“Dad!” Where was he? Where was their house?
He felt something run into him. His sister. “Landon, I’m scared!”
She held onto his legs tight and he put his arms around her.
“Dad,” he cried out. “Dad, where are you?” His voice echoed among the trees and darkness as if they were truly alone. But of course, they weren’t.
Landon jumped at the unexpected voice he heard at his right.
“Perhaps I can help.”
Landon remembered them both trembling as they turned. This was the first time they met a dragon. It certainly wasn’t going to be the last and in the next eleven years, the two children would be raised by them. But that was only their first childhood.
Landon honked the horn of his beat up VW when he saw his sister coming out of the front doors of her high school. “Hey, Dani!”
She was talking to two of her girlfriends and laughing. There were so many other kids, cars, and buses, she couldn’t hear him.
He honked again. “Hey, Dani! Come on!”
She looked up and for an instant it was as if she had been transported back to Dragonworld, like she had just seen Shay alight near a grove of Tamba trees, waiting for the fourteen-year-old to run up on her back.
“Landon!” She saw him, grinned and waved. She said something to her friends he couldn’t hear and then ran over. Slipping in the seat beside him, she closed the door. “What are you doing here?”
“I thought I’d surprise you and pick you up today.” He put the car in gear and carefully pulled away from the curb, trying to avoid hitting the randomly moving vehicles and frantically running teens.
“Does Mom know?”
“Yeah, I texted her. I told her we were going to hang out for a while and that I’d get you home before dinner.”
She let him concentrate on navigating out of the bumper car arena, which is what Grandpa sometimes called school parking lots. Then he got on the main drag.
“Where are we headed?”
“Thought I’d take you out for some coffee.”
The light had just turned red in front of him and the college student hit the brakes a little too hard.
“You hate coffee.”
“Yeah but you like it and I can always have a Chai tea.”
So why did you pick me up today?”
The light turned green. Landon put the car in gear and pulled forward.
“You having the dreams again?”
After all they’d gone through together, they knew each other as well as they knew themselves.
“Yeah. Don’t you?”
“Maybe it was because you were older when we went in. I was so little, after a while, it was like my ordinary life.”
“You cried yourself to sleep plenty of nights missing Mom and Dad.”
She looked down at her lap. “I guess you’re right. Even though we got a chance to grow up a second time, part of me still misses…oh, I don’t know.”
“I know, Dani. It’s like we got our childhood back after those first eleven years but then we didn’t because we still remembered what happened, a little bit anyway.”
“Hey, remember the first time we met Gerliliam? I was never so scared in my life.”
They both laughed. “Yeah, until we realized how totally harmless he was.”
“Well, harmless to us, anyway.”
Landon hit the turn signal and changed lanes, then made a right.
“I was totally freaked but being lost in his forest, I had to hope either he really meant it when he said he could help or that I was dreaming and would wake up any second.”
“Yeah.” Dani got quiet for a second. “I was so glad you were there. I felt safe holding your hand.”
“But you still wished Dad and Mom were there.”
“Hey, you did, too.”
“You bet I did.”
They laughed a little and Landon almost missed the entrance to the coffee shop’s parking lot.
“Whoops. Okay, got it.”
“Where did you learn to drive?”
“Mom and Dad, where else?”
He found a parking spot, pulled in, and then killed the engine, but they didn’t get out right away.
“There are some days I’d give almost anything to see him in that crazy upside down tree house of his.”
“I know, sis. I miss his tiny library stuffed with who knows how many books. He taught me to love reading when I never did before.”
“I miss the smell of his wood fire and having Mr. Covingham in my lap.”
“Admit it, you were scared of the snake at first.”
“Only until I found out how friendly he was. You were always a little scared of him, Landon.”
“You know I don’t like snakes.”
“Just like Dad, except Mr. Covingham isn’t an ordinary snake.”
“Nothing we saw or did there was ordinary, Dani.”
They were quiet again for a bit.
“I know.” She was almost whispering.
Landon opened his car door. “Let’s go. We don’t want to spend all afternoon in the car.” He stood up and Dani had to get out too so she could hear him.
“I wouldn’t mind, brother. We’re the only two people in the world who’ve gone through…well, all that.”
“You know that’s not true.” He closed the door and got onto the sidewalk. Dani did the same and they walked into the shop. The smells of coffees and teas instantly assailed them. They stopped “talking shop” long enough to place their orders. Then the siblings found a small table in the back without too many people around.
“You mean the Davidson kids, right?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t even sure they were from our version of Earth, Dani.”
“You Googled them, didn’t you? Landon you promised Shay and the others we wouldn’t try to contact them when we got back home.”
“Do you want to know about them or not?”
“Of course I do but if they’re still kids…”
“Sure I do, Landon. She was only five years old when she and the other four met Gerliliam for the first time.”
“She’s older than you are!”
“What?” Dani had raised her voice to a near shout and several people turned to look at her.
“Sorry,” she apologized to her brother. “But that’s impossible.”
“Do you want to hear how it’s possible?”
“No. No I don’t. We promised Shay we wouldn’t do anything like this when we got back. We gave our word, Landon.”
“I know. You’re right. But sometimes it just eats me up that we have no one to talk to. It’s so hard to keep a secret so big.”
Dani reached over and put her hand on her brother’s forearm. “I know it is, and you can talk to me any time you need to. You know that.”
“I do. Sorry. I just get carried away sometimes.”
“Hey. Why don’t we tell Grandpa, not for real, but just like they’re made up stories. He can write about them, I mean, about us. Remember all those games you two used to play together?”
“I don’t know, Dani. This feels too personal. I mean, we lost some of our closest friends in the war.”
She got quiet again and thought it over. “Maybe you’re right. Besides, it would be just like Grandpa to wonder if we really believe the stories.”
Their orders came and they took a few moments to sip their beverages.
“Um-hm?” The coffee was a little too hot and she’d burned her tongue a bit.
“Do you think we’ll ever get to go back?”
“Well, Shay didn’t say yes but she didn’t exactly say no either. I guess that means it’s possible.”
“But it’s been eleven years.”
“Eleven years in our world, Landon. Time is way different in the other realities. That’s why some of the kids grew up fast like we did and some hardly aged at all.”
They stopped talking to take another few sips.
“Three books. Can you believe it, Dani?”
“You mean Gerliliam’s three books, the ones that told the whole story and ended when…”
“That’s when our story and the Davidson’s ended in Dragonworld. Do you ever wonder where the old dragon got those books? I mean, who wrote them? He could read about stuff we hadn’t even done yet.”
“Come on, Landon. You’ve seen stranger things than that.”
“I suppose, but I was just thinking, how do we know there were only three?”
“I don’t know. I guess if they ever need us again, somehow a fourth book will show up on Gerliliam’s shelf by his crooked stone fireplace.”
The brother and sister spent a long time talking, long after they’d finished their respective cups of coffee and tea. Finally, Dani got a text.
“Mom. She’s wondering when you’re bringing me back home.”
“Yeah, I just got one from her. We should be leaving.”
“I’ll text her back, Landon.”
A few minutes later, they were back on the sidewalk next to Landon’s car. “Looks like we’re going to get some rain.”
Dani looked in the direction Landon was staring at. The horizon was black from one end to the other and the wind had picked up.
“What’s that sound?”
“I think it’s just thunder, Dani.”
“Are you sure? It sounds like someone turning the pages of a really big book.”
After all, if it’s going to be the next chapter of the one I wrote for my grandson, then it probably needs to tell a more complete story. Still don’t know if this is what he had in mind, but I guess I’ll find out when I read it to him next week.
This story (sort of) immediately follows The Outside-In World but is really a leap forward in time for Landon and a shift into a world that is more like the real one, one where Buddy doesn’t exist but a completely different experience for Landon and his sister does.
Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for almost a year-and-a-half now. To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of that story is a link to the next. Each subsequent story has a link to the next chapter, so all you have to do is keep reading and clicking and you’ll eventually get back here.
Addendum: I described the content of this story to my grandson and he didn’t like it, so I’m removing it from the “canon” of the stories I write for him. He didn’t even want me to read it to him. I’ll write a different story in a bit that should suit him a bit more. I’ll probably keep the concepts I’ve used here though for another series involving Gerlilium and the Dragon Wars.