This is a real dream. I have been waiting to write it down all day-- I had a busy day at work with no break for an LJ update, and all I have been thinking about is this dream.
I'm cutting it, because it's incredibly long. Like, 4000 words long. Short version is this: The four Faywright children grew up in modern-day New England. Their parents named them after the four Pevensie children from Narnia, although slightly out of order: Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy. They grow up, living mostly-ordinary lives with parents who tell them wonderful magical stories and encourage them to read and tell stories of their own.
One day, their parents are found dead, and the four children-- now teenagers and young adults-- are called home from school. When they get there, they discover that all is not what it seems. The story was narrated, voice-over style, by Lucy, the youngest, who was fourteen. I'm going to try to replicate that here.
I had the same dream every day for a week. It was a memory from my childhood, of playing with my mother in Narnia. Not real Narnia, not the magical land from the books: my parents had installed an old-fashioned looking street lamp in a clearing on our property, and we called the clearing Narnia. In the autumn, we would rake the leaves into a big pile, and then my mother would get out an old wooden stepladder and put it in the middle of the pile of leaves.
I would climb up it and stand at the top of the ladder and cover my eyes with my hands.
My mother would call to me, "what are the words to go to Fairyland?"
"Peaseblossom!" I would call back. "Cobweb! Mustardseed!"
"Now sprinkle the fairy dust!" my mother would call back. Fairy dust was a concoction my mother would make, out of little bits of dried flowers and red sand and thyme and dried leaves.
I would open my hand and sprinkle a little fairy dust out of the plastic bead-box I kept it in, and turn backward on the ladder and lean back until I fell down, smack into the center of the leaves.
I kept dreaming it. Every night, exactly the same, just like we used to do it when I was little. I called my mom and tried to tell her, but I kept getting her voicemail. Then I remembered it was the first week of May, which was the week my parents always went sailing together, and they could never get a signal out at sea.
Then, one night, I got a call from my next oldest brother. He almost never calls anyone, so for a minute I thought maybe someone else was using his phone.
"Ed?" I asked, when I picked it up.
"Lu, are you all right?" he asked me back. No hello, no nothing. Just "Lu, are you all right?"
"What?" I asked him. "Of course I'm all right; why wouldn't I be?"
"I keep having this dream," he told me.
"About Narnia?" I asked him. It would out before I had a chance to think how silly it would be for us to have the same dream.
"No, what makes you-- no, not about Narnia," said Edmund. Yes, he's Edmund and I'm Lucy. Our parents really liked Narnia. We have an older sister Susan and an older brother Peter. None of us are anything like our counterparts in the books, though.
"It was...you got bitten," Edmund told me. "You were bitten, and bleeding...but it was supposed to be a good thing. I know it sounds crazy..."
I stuck my tongue out at the phone. "Of course it sounds crazy," I told him. "Do you think it means something?"
"I don't know!" he answered. "Just, um, just be on the lookout for teeth."
I laughed at him, and we chatted a bit longer, but it was close to lights out, so I hung up and went to bed.
I had the same dream, again. I called out "Peaseblossom! Cobweb! Mustardseed!" to my mother, and sprinkled the fairy dust.
But this time, when I leaned back off the ladder, I fell...
and kept falling. And falling. And falling. Down, further and further, until I opened my eyes and I was in a misty, white nothingness.
"Mom!?" I called, looking around for her. "Mom, where are you?!"
I was awoken by a shake.
"Lu!" Fiona, my roommate, looked frantic. It was barely morning, I could tell by the weak light coming in through the window. "Lu, you were shouting for your mom in your sleep."
That was embarrassing. "I was?" I asked her.
"Is everything all right?" she asked me.
I rubbed my eyes. "Um, yeah," I assured her. "Just a nightmare."
The next day, I was sitting in math class doing exam prep when one of the older girls came into the room. "Lucy Faywright?" she said, looking around the room. She was probably a senior; I didn't recognize her and she didn't recognize me.
I got up from my seat prematurely.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Dunne, my math teacher.
"Ms. Hume wants to see her," the girl answered, shrugging. Mrs. Hume is our Dean of Students at Flossley Academy. It looked like the messenger girl didn't know anything else.
I looked to Mrs. Dunne, and she nodded for me to go.
I had no idea what to expect when I got to Mrs. Hume's office, but her expression was very serious, and she invited me to take a seat.
Her expression softened then, as she folded her hands over her desk. "I have no idea how to tell you this, Lucy, but we've just received word that both of your parents were found dead this morning."
I felt a chill run through my entire body. I sat up straighter. "Was it a sailing accident?" It was all I could think to ask.
"A...no," Mrs. Hume answered, frowning at me. "No, they were found dead at your home."
"But they were in Florida!" I answered, jerking up even more. I clutched the arms of my chair, hard. "They were sailing in Florida! They couldn't have been--"
"Lucy," Ms. Hume said consolingly. "I know it's hard to believe. We...you have our most sincere condolences. Flossley contacted your sister, Susan, this morning and we've offered to help with the funeral expenses, seeing as you're third-generation Flossley students, and we know how difficult this is. I'll be talking to your teachers; don't worry about your exam scores. I'll ask all of them to base your marks for this quarter on your regular coursework. We've booked you a train ticket home so you can be with your family, and..."
She looked as if she was going to tear up. Which was understandable. My mother and Mrs. Hume had been in school together at the same time.
"We know you might not be able to afford to come back here, so I've taken the liberty of putting a call in to the Heads and the Trustees to see what we can do to give you a full scholarship for the next three years. I'm sure it sounds very petty of me to be talking about your education at a time like this-- if you need to see Counseling Services..."
"No," I told her. I shook my head. "No. I'll...I'll go upstairs and pack."
It was only when I got back up to my room that I started to bawl. I didn't pack so much as throw myself on the bed and cry into my pillow for probably a good half-hour.
And then, as I started to throw clothes into my duffel bag, still sniffling, I realized something else.
Susan. Susan got home from grad school last week. She was home.
I dialed the house.
"Hello, Faywrights," Susan answered, sounding clipped and businesslike, not like someone whose parents had just died.
"Suze?" I asked. My voice cracked, hoarse and high-pitched, the minute I opened my mouth. It was all I could do not to cry anymore.
"Lu?" she asked. "Are you okay? Did you--"
"Uh-huh," I managed, miserable. "Suze, they said they found them at home?!" I demanded, and realized only after I said it how angry I sounded. "You're home! What happened?! I thought Mommy and Daddy were sailing!"
"They..." I could hear a deep breath. "Lu, come home?" she asked, pleadingly, and I could tell she was just as upset as I was. "I'll tell you everything when you get here. Just...not now."
I understood. I bit my lip and nodded into the phone. "Okay," I told her. "I love you."
"Love you, too," Susan said, and I hung up the phone.
I left a note for Fiona-- I just couldn't bear the idea of having to explain out loud-- and left for my train.
I think I fell asleep. I think I might have dreamed about the ladder and fairy dust and Narnia again, but maybe I just had dreamed it so many times that the residue of it was floating on my brain.
I got a taxi home. From down the walk, I could hear Psam barking. Psammead is our German shepherd. And we used to have a cat named Gurgi. I guess my parents didn't just like Narnia.
I walked in the door, bracing myself to be leapt on, allowed Psam to give me a full licking before I wrestled her down, put down my bag, and walked into the study. There was my mother's head, bent over a thick book, like always, her dark hair spilling forward so I couldn't see her face, but I could imagine the look of intense concentration behind her hair.
I rushed forward, ecstatic. I knew it had been some kind of awful mistake, or trick. "Mom!" I squealed.
Susan looked up, and she winced. She shook her head. "It's just me."
"Oh," I said, clenching my teeth at my mistake. "Where are the boys?"
"Pete and Ed can't get here till tomorrow," said Susan. "But they're coming. Ed told me to ask you if you'd got bitten?" She had a confused, impatient look, as Ed's cryptic messages were the last thing she could deal with right now. "I'm..." She nodded to the book. "I'm just reading; you want to wash up?"
I did. I felt like there were tears caked to my face, and at least if I was crying in the shower, it wouldn't be so obvious when I got out. I went upstairs, and took a good, long, hot shower in the old clawfoot tub in Mom and Dad's room. I used Mom's towels and Mom's bathrobe...it felt a little comforting to wrap myself up in her things, but I think Susan would have just thought that was weird.
And then I went into my bedroom.
I hadn't been home since Christmas, and a pile of my presents still cluttered the bed. I ran my finger along a narrow cherrywood box, before I remembered what it was, and was hit with a pang of guilt.
I remembered Christmas morning. We always took turns opening presents, youngest to oldest, and my mother had made me save this one for last-- I remember opening it and admiring the smooth, polished wood, and wondering aloud at what the box was.
"Open it," my mother said, a twinkle in her eyes.
I did. There was a little pouch full of high-polished stones, a vial of some kind of scent, a little clay jar full of fairy dust, a packet of thyme, a pair of emerald glasses, a single silver bell, and...
"A map?" I had asked, unfolding the paper.
I opened the box now, and unfolded the map. It was all drawn with my mother's best calligraphy brushes; the ones she used for commissions, when she did wedding invitations and diplomas. There was a sudden, sharp pain in my gut.
"A map of Fairyland," my mother had said. "It's a traveller's kit. For travelling to other worlds. There's also an iron pendant..."
I pulled out the iron pendant now.
"A silver knife. A red ribbon, and a bundle of heather..."
I pulled them all out."
"And a fey-glass." That was a handmirror.
I reached into the back of the box for it, but it wasn't there. I rummaged through the various pouches and vials and things that my mother had collected to make my traveller's kit, but the pretty little handmirror with the silver curlicue frame was nowhere to be found.
I kept looking, if only because it pushed the next part of the memory to the back of my head, postponed it from replaying where I would have to see it.
"Mom," I had said to my mother. "I'm fourteen. Fairyland was fun when I was little, but don't you think I'm a little...a little old for this now?"
I had tried to be nice about it, but it had been embarrassing. What did she think I was, a baby who still believed in fairy magic? But she had looked so hurt, and just nodded, and bustled off to the kitchen to make cocoa and missed Edmund and Peter and Susan opening their last gifts.
And now the mirror was missing, and I could never apologize for treating her present that she had worked so hard on with disregard.
I turned on my stereo, loud, so Susan wouldn't be able to hear me crying again, and curled up on my bed, and bawled.
I cried myself to sleep. This time, I didn't dream about falling from the ladder.
When Susan woke me up, it was dark out.
"Do you want some supper?" she asked. "I've heated up some meatloaf Mrs. Dines brought over."
"Have you seen my fey-glass?" I asked her.
"Your what?" Susan asked. I realized it was a horrid way to reply when she'd made me dinner.
I rubbed at my nose. My upper lip was caked with snot. "My fey-glass," I repeated. "You know, the mirror mom gave me for Christmas?"
Susan frowned. "Was it...it has a sort of curly silver frame?" she asked me. Susan may have been eight years older than me, but putting things into words was not her strong suit.
"Uh-huh," I answered. "Have you seen it?"
She nodded, crossing her arms over her chest. "It was in Narnia," she replied. "When I was out there before. All smashed up."
I got out of bed, still in Mom's bathrobe, and ran out to Narnia...the streetlight was on a timer, and it filled the clearing with a golden, electric glow that flickered off the tiny pieces of shattered glass in the grass.
"Oh," I said, looking at the mirror. There was an empty, sinking feeling in my stomach. I don't know what it was, but it was as if I had pinned some kind of hope onto that mirror.
And then I saw a flicker that didn't look like lamplight. It looked like-- I wanted to say there was a face peering out of the mirror. I stepped forward; the grass rustled beneath my feet.
"What is it?" Susan asked from behind me. Of course she followed her grief-mad, bathrobe-clad sister out into the grass to look at a broken mirror.
I shook my head. "Nothing," I answered. "I thought I saw something." I reached for her arm and forced a smile. "Come on, Suze, let's get dinner."
We ate in silence, in the dining room, which was dark and lonely with only two people when it usually held six or more. We cleared the table in silence, and started to do the washing-up in silence. Psam trotted in to look for meatloaf scraps, and Susan, against every rule Mom and Dad ever had, fed the big hairball by hand.
She went back to washing the dishes, and then, while I was putting away the cups, I heard a thunk. She had stopped, letting the plate she was working on drop back into the sink.
"I can't do it!" she exclaimed.
"Susan..." I said, feeling my stomach turn with regret and a sort of horrible feeling that I couldn't do anything to help her.
"No, I promised Pete I'd wait for him and Ed to get here, because Ed doesn't know either, but I just can't--"
"What?" I asked. I realized she wasn't talking about Mom and Dad. "Know what?"
She threw her hands up, and little droplets of dishwater splashed me in the face. I tried not to flinch.
Psam let out a growl. "Shush," I said to Psam, and rubbed her head.
"Mom and Dad didn't die. They...Lu, they were--"
"Taken?!" asked a high-pitched, screechy voice from behind us.
We both jumped, andI knocked Mom's recipe book off the counter. Amazingly, it landed before any of the little shoved-in scraps of paper could fall out.
There were these horrible-looking, short, hair-covered...creatures. They looked sort of human, and sort of...I don't know, like those pictures you see of aliens who are green or grey and hairless and have big, giant black eyes. But these were covered with downy hair like cornsilk, and one of them was pink, and one of them was blue. And they had huge, razor teeth.
I could feel myself gasping for breath. Susan recovered faster than I did.
"What are you?" she demanded, reaching for a kitchen knife. She motioned for me to get down. I slid down to the floor.
Psam growled again, but the blue thing barked at her, and she whimpered and curled up beside me.
"Some watchdog you are," I muttered, and scratched her scruff.
The pink thing grinned, its big, shiny teeth horrible. "I'm Peaseblossom," it answered.
"And I'm Cobweb," said the blue one.
"And we're your jailers," said the pink one again.
Susan snorted. I felt Psam nip at my shoulder, and I brushed her away.
"Jailers?" Susan asked. She pointed her kitchen knife at the pink one. "Where's Mustardseed?"
"Mustardseed defected," Peaseblossom answered. "And you...and you...and your brothers, when they get here...none of you are to leave the house...ever...again." Its voice raised in pitch as it spoke, until it was shrill, and it erupted in a fit of cackles, which was obviously contagious, since Cobweb started, too.
And now Psam bit down hard. "Hey!" I hissed at her, trying not to draw attention, but it hurt. I reached my arm out.
It was bleeding. My heart skipped a beat. What had Edmund said? "You were bitten, and bleeding...but it was supposed to be a good thing." I scowled at Psam, and, when I looked at her, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny scrap of paper on the floor. A recipe?
"Can we...leave the room?" Susan asked.
"Oh yes," said Cobweb. "But you have...twenty-four hours to give us the dust."
"The what?" Susan asked, but she gave me a look. The fairy dust? That silly mixture of stuff Mom used to make?
Meanwhile, I was trying to slide back toward the piece of paper, and clapped my hand over it. My arm was stinging, almost burning where Psam had bitten it.
"You know what," Peaseblossom said. "We want the dust. So do a lot of much more...threatening...personages. The Queen already has your parents, pretty. And who knows what she'll do with them?"
Susan grimaced. "I don't know what this dust is!" she shouted at them. "If you want it so much, why don't you just take it?!"
I peeked at the note. It said, in very tiny, peculiar handwriting:
1) Rescue this note from the place with all the notes.
I frowned. I had no idea what that meant.
"You know very well why we can't, Missy," said Cobweb. "It has to be freely give-- what's that?" it asked, its eyes flashing. It had no pupils, no irids, just black globes, so you couldn't tell when it was looking your way.
"Nothing!" I snapped, and thrust the note into the recipe book.
And then I felt cold. Rescue this note from the place with all the notes. "Just a recipe," I added.
The things seemed to lose interest as quickly as it was attracted. "Now," said Peaseblossom. "If you will please direct us to your beer?"
"In the basement!" Susan snapped.
The thing smirked at her. "Your locks won't keep us in, so don't even think about it," it said, and it headed toward the cellar stairs.
"What the hell was that?!" I demanded of Susan, getting to my feet with the recipe book as I rifled through it to find that note.
I snatched it up.
2) Find the first fairy gift.
I didn't know what that meant.
"They're fairies," said Susan. "They...look, Lu...we were going to tell you, when you got older."
"Tell me what?" I asked. I shook the note. "I don't kno what's going on! I don't know what any of this means! You're telling me those are fairies!"
"They are," Susan replied. "Look, you've got to believe me, Lu..."
I narrowed my eyes at her. "What, are you going to tell me that if I don't believe in fairies, we won't ever get Mom and Dad back?"
"No!" Susan exclaimed. "No, no, it's not Narnia, Lu. You don't get kicked out for not believing in Jesus. Magic isn't a thing you put away when you grow up. It's more that...everything you play as a child is to prepare you."
She was biting her lip. Her voice was tight, her cheeks were pale, and her eyes pleading. "It's more that you grow up and find out that everything you imagined as a child is real."
I held out the note. I didn't know what to say, but I didn't want to try to fight with her-- there were...there were pink and blue furry things it my house. It was hard to believe they weren't real. "Well, we're still not-- what does this even mean? How am I supposed to do anything when I don't even know what's going on?! If you're telling me-- there's no way we'll get them back! No way."
Susan read it over calmly. "The first fairy gift?" she asked me, and she gave me a chastising look, as if I should know.
"What?" I asked. And then it hit me. "The dust?"
I crumpled the note up and put it in my back pocket, and took the stairs back up to my bedroom, two by two. I considered briefly that I had no reason to trust the note, but Ed had said that being bitten was good. And I had found the note because of the biting.
I looked over my bookshelves, covered with dust-- ordinary dust-- and trinkets, until I found the little transparent plastic bead-box that my mother had first given me. But there was no more dust in it; there was only a string of beads, fake pearls, that had broken and were now scattered inside the box. I tipped the box to one side, to listen to the beads drop.
When I tipped the box, the light hit it funny. I stopped. No, it wasn't the light-- it was the same face I had seen outside, in the mirror. But then it was gone. I squinted, to look for it, and when I did, I noticed the writing on the label of the box.
It was my mother's writing, in felt-tip pen...not her fancy pens. It said, "Don't be afraid of failure, because there is no way you can fail."
I took a deep breath and put the box in my other back pocket. Maybe I needed it; maybe that's all it was, was a reminder. I took the note back out.
3) Look for me. I'm right behind you.
And that's around when I woke up. There was a little more after that but it was anticlimactic, so here's what you're getting.