The place you want to get to, but get lost on the way there

Everyone knows this place

It exists in the imagination

If you could only get there

Your problems would vanish

It is scary and mysterious

Usually, described as an island or a place that vanishes and reappears

You have to walk through a magical door to get there

And when you do, this banal world is left behind.

Chapter 5 Parachute

Not long into the desert voyage, the magician gave Sarah and Barney chores, instructing them to sew old sails together with fishing line.

The Majestic cruised along as smoothly as if it were sailing on calm water. Looking over the gunwale, several disheveled caravans roasted in the sun. These ancient ships of the desert were blackened by heat.

Rucksack filled the sails with wind using his Thunder Stick and The Majestic sailed at a rapid pace, setting course for two intersecting dunes in the distance.

Sarah worked tirelessly on the old canvas.

“Now the sails must be sewn at the top and connected to the ends,” instructed Rucksack. “Ideally, you should have a large sock when it’s finished.”

Barney thought of a million ways it could be used, but every idea seemed far-fetched.

The Majestic sailed over the hill, revealing a hidden canyon below.

“We’ll secure the sock to every side of the ship.” shouted Rucksack. He took his place at the stern. “Hold onto something. This could be one heck of a drop!”

Sarah thought the experience of falling would be like flying. Instead, it felt like her head separated from her body.

When the parachute opened, everyone hoped they wouldn’t hear tearing fabric.

They glided into a river that twisted like the coils of a great snake. Rucksack referenced his map several times, making sure they were headed in the right direction.

Soon they approached a three hundred foot waterfall and Rucksack gave the signal to get the parachute ready.

 “DIVE!” he shouted.

Everyone grabbed the rigging as The Majestic left the river, reentering open space. There wasn’t a ship in sight when theyglided smoothly into the East Ocean.

Sarah glanced at Rucksack who stowed the canvas parachute into the forward compartment. “Do you have a heading,” she asked tentatively.

“Our point of navigation is plotted for Volcano Island, but we won’t be sailing in the doldrums.” Rucksack said.

 The Majestic will create long ripples, much like a stone falling into a still pond. If we set sail now, any pirates in our latitude will be alerted to our presence and their first course of action will be to load their cannons. We must wait until the natural elements move the ocean. Once we have the weather gage, no one can find us.”Pink hews blazed on the horizon as the sun sank out of sight. Stars ventured into the sky and stories from long ago appeared in the heavens. Rucksack gazed at them, mumbling ancient tales to himself.

Chapter 4 Invisible Map

Rucksack walked over to the other room and returned from the ship’s galley. He had his hands full of lemons and limes. “I usually carry an abundant supply of calcium enriched fruit on my voyages to fend off the scurvy. The acidity will remain hidden on brown paper and can be revealed with heat.”

He had many blank navigational charts on his seaman’s easel in the corner. Rucksack grabbed one and started to work. It was tedious business, but with each new discovery he grew excited.

Sarah and Barney watched him drawing an invisible map with the exactness of a surveyor. It looked like he was working on nothing. Finally, after hours of invisible strokes, he finished.

“Wait until you have a chance to feast your eyes on the secrets and intricacies of Volcano Island,” Rucksack said. He held up the blank parchment, handing his sword to Sarah.

“I don’t see any lines,” muttered Barney.

“Precisely,” said Rucksack. “Let me show you how the invisible map will become visible.” He carefully held the parchment over the fire. Suddenly, green lettering emerged on the chart. Rucksack was obviously an artist. The land features and lines of navigation were drawn to proportion.

 “We need the map to make it out of the Zarkin Desert alive,” whispered Rucksack. “Despite being able to manipulate the elements, magicians have always needed to rely on the earth to survive. Well lads, we have our heading that will lead us to the next watering hole. It’s time to heave anchor.” Rucksack pocketed his charts and stepped onto the main deck. “Let’s get ourselves out of these doldrums and into the main airstream.” Rucksack spun his wand with expertise, propelling them toward the next oasis.

Chapter 3 The Majestic

“Why don’t you both climb aboard?” invited Rucksack. He ascended the rope ladder hanging from his wooden craft. The sand ship had intermittent portholes capped at the sides. Barney wondered what these openings were for as he climbed aboard.

Rucksack gave them a thorough tour of his ship. “Here is the forward compartment where the gunpowder and shot are housed. As you can see, the main mast is well secured. It was fashioned from the largest tree I could find on the outskirts of the Zarkin Desert. I’m not sure, but I think a colony of termites planned to use it as a support beam for their great hall.”

They passed several ropes and tackles. Ladders led from the three deck levels all the way to the crow’s nest where a spy glass was fashioned to the main mast. “You boys must follow me now. I’ll direct you to the captain’s quarters in the stern.”

They walked into Rucksack’s messy room, littered with land and water charts. Stained glass revealed the name of his ship in bright colors; it was called The Majestic.

Sarah marveled at the craftsmanship, saying over and over “A smart craft this is and probably quite fast.”

Rucksack led them into the galley and began to ask informal questions about where they came from. They felt they could trust him; it was difficult to explain how they arrived in the desert from a different dimension using a traveling magic hat, but Rucksack was unfazed by their story.

Walking down to the third tier, Rucksack showed them his prison.

They passed lines of cannons with nicknames like Bouncing Betty and Your Worst Nightmare. “It’s nice to see you have so many cannons ready for bombardment,” admired Sarah.

“That I do, that I do,” smiled Rucksack. Soon their tour led them onto the main deck once again.

“But you haven’t shown us how you plan to transfer the map onto a more legible surface,” reminded Barney.

“Oh, I almost forgot. Back in the chart room, I have a way to keep the map hidden. Like this sword, the contents written by fire are also revealed by heat.”

They sat down at a strange table. “This desk is shaped like Rockinspike, a dragon who lives in the lava tubes on Volcano Island. “Its lair is not easy to find and amassed with treasure. There is a labyrinth of passageways leading to the heart of the island, but we will keep as much distance between us and the dragon as possible. The beast has burned countless ships and stolen for centuries.”

 “Let’s have a look at the sword.” Retrieving the blade, Rucksack lit a candle on his table with the tip of his wand. He held it over a green flame and faint lines became visible.

“I can see where we are,” whispered Barney.

Chapter 2 Ship of the Desert

Through the palm trees, Barney noticed a sail floating on the horizon. “Sarah, do my eyes deceive me or is there a ship moving toward us?” The triangle was the tip of a magnificent craft. A man sat in a chair at the stern working the sails with two ropes to harness the wind. The sleek vessel cut through the sand like butter as tiny wheels rolled the ship across the desert. Magical wind blew with tremendous force when the magician flourished his wand.

            Barney and Sarah stood rooted to the spot, having no way to defend themselves and being too slow to run.

The ship pulled alongside and the navigator stood out of his seat.

“Hello travelers, can I give you a lift?” The man looked easy to trust, despite being somewhat scruffy around the face and dressed in strange clothing. He had a tall woodsman’s hat on his head with a feather in it. The hat was lincoln green and his buckskins gave him a rustic appearance. He wore red slippers similar to the type worn by Arab nomads.

“Thank you for the kind offer; we’ve never seen a ship of the desert like yours before. Have you sailed from far away?” Sarah asked.

The young magician was tall and wiry. “My name is Rucksack and I’ve traveled from the Mint Village beneath the Albodourous Mountains.”

Barney looked at Rucksack carefully. The magician was almost identical to the one who tied them up earlier.

            Sarah decided it was safe to trust him. There was something about his eyes… “Barney and I have already met your brother.”

            “I’m amazed he left you alive,” Rucksack said. He pulled a beautiful sword from a sheath around his waist. “Conundrum told me the tale of the Serpentine Sword; I never knew he had it. How my Godfather came by this heirloom is still a mystery; it belonged to the Great Hunter.” Rucksack showed the sword to them. It had a silver snake’s head at the hilt with two ruby eyes. Golden scales decorated the handle, interspersed with diamonds. At the hilt, the blade was wide and jagged. The teeth were not the result of wear, but forged with intention.

“Legend foretells the Serpentine Sword is meant to unlock a house of keys on Volcano Island. That’s where I am headed; this sword will point me in the right direction. I assume you haven’t seen the inscription on the blade,” Rucksack remarked.

Sure enough, there were lines of latitude and longitude scrolled across the steel. They were not lines of impurity, but created from magical fire. Barney gaze carefully at the blade.

It was difficult to see because his shadow kept getting in the way. “If only I had some parchment and ink to copy with,” murmured Sarah.

“You needn’t worry,” replied Rucksack. “I have something we can write with in my cabin, but first I will cut your bonds.” He slashed the ropes with the sword as easily as if it had been a pair of scissors.

Chapter 1 Ocean of Sand

The ace of spades sown into the black stack of the magic hat slowly unraveled like a twisting clock ticking in reverse. Sarah and Barney held onto the brim of the hat as they spun counterclockwise to the desert floor. An ocean of sand stretched in every direction as far as their eyes could see. Both of them felt extremely nauseous after teleporting through space and time.

“I think we can safely let go now,” offered Barney. “I was listening to your story when you gave me the traveling top hat. Somewhere in time, you and I vanished.”

Sarah nodded, fumbling with the hat, then gave it to him.

When Barney wore it, his atmosphere changed. A steady breeze blew around him. Soon he and Sarah walked over too many dunes to count. They tried to fumble with the playing card to transport home, but nothing happened. Their desire for water was maddening.

Unexpectedly, an enormous bird flew overhead. “There’s a man flying on its back,” whispered Sarah.

As the phoenix descended, a green tip was visible on the horizon. The two of them headed for the speck. As they approached, the island grew larger, and before they knew it, they could smell fresh coconuts.

Something strange happened in the brambles nearby. Leaves took shape and blackberries became the eyes of a man. Vines wrapped around each other, coiling into the waist of a wiry magician. Thorns turned into toenails and leaves became locks of brown hair.

Romulus stood before them wearing a buckskin traveling cloak. His eyes were vacant. Looking quite mad, he drew a long stick from his inner pocket. “Where have you come from?” he asked suspiciously.

They tried to answer, but no words came out.

“You have recently known magic. How did you come across a powerful magic hat?”

“We were separated from our caravan several miles back,” whispered Barney.

“You lie,” snarled Romulus.

“We’ve come from a different dimension by extraordinary circumstances,” offered Sarah.

Romulus wasn’t sure why he believed her, but the truth was undeniable. “Conundrum is a master of magic. He may have grown an entire island in the desert so I could survive the journey.”

Sarah and Barney walked in front of the magician who held a wand at their backs. The groves grew randomly, creating mazes without any exit. Soon they reached a shimmering pool.

The magician sucked the water out with the tip of his wand. Standing up, he drank from it, knowing he had several gallons in reserve.

Romulus plucked the magic hat from Barney’s head, placing it on his own.

Suddenly, Sarah and Barney felt ropes binding their arms to their sides.

            A moment later, Romulus vanished.

a melancholy song — The Lonely Author

a melancholy song outside my window a bird sang a melancholy song of infinite beauty and endless love her lyrics resonated like a gentle percussion of bubbles popping in the recesses of my bones she serenaded me you will never see the stars if you fail to peer into the galaxies of her eyes why […]

a melancholy song — The Lonely Author

I’m swayed by the wind

I’m swayed by the wind

My body creaks

Deep within

the stillness

The river washes out

all forest sounds

Its quiet laughter

speaks to me

Give yourself over to greatness

Don’t fear the next line

I’ve been trying…

and now I found it

I have solace

in my secret spot

I feel the need to read the great poets.

They must have written something I can’t see for myself.

The common man is not that common

He is unknown

There is a stranger inside of me

who tells me to go places I have not gone

After the work day

I go to the library

pulling books off the shelves

madly searching

for a line

some juice

to get through the next week

The best poets are alone

They’ve been hurt

and they aren’t afraid to feel

The sun sets on everything,

So it helps to love the darkness

Chapter 7 Nurses, Babies, and a Water Slide

“Is it from being in the caverns too long or is the tunnel narrowing?” asked Rucksack.

The unicorn nodded.

Unexpectedly, the magician slipped into knee deep water. Sloshing through the shallows he saw large egg sacks pasted to the walls in brown slime. They pulsated and squirmed. Rucksack realized they inadvertently wandered into the colony’s nursery. Overweight termites inspected the eggs.

You might think nurturing insects would be harmless, but they are about as safe as the fourth grade teacher who made you write your spelling words repeatedly while other children played at recess. They are strict, grumpy, and as a result, always hungry. 

The larvae were coddled and comforted in a corner playpen. Some of them were playing catch with one of their relatives’ remains. “Let’s get out of here,” whispered Rucksack. They moved in the direction of the fastest moving current. 

Sensing intruders, the nurses screamed. Rucksack was so disoriented he lost his balance and fell into the current. It was all he could do to hold onto the enormous top hat on his head. The wide tunnel narrowed into a tube, sucking them into a drain where there was no longer any air to breathe. 

“Better hold your breath and hope this medallion is lucky because we may get flushed to the center of the earth!” yelled Rucksack. It’s an unforgettable experience to be sucked through underwater tubes at high speed. The magician thought he would panic in the first few seconds and swallow a mouthful of water. Remarkably, he didn’t and suddenly he had the sensation of falling. He hit the lake before he realized what happened. Everything went dark as he pumped his legs and pushed his feet to reach the surface. 

Rucksack broke out of the water, smelling fresh air. He saw Nuptial swim to the basaltic shore and shake its silvery mane. His soggy cloak made him invisible in the darkness as he reached the lake’s edge, climbing over the sedimentary rocks skirting the volcanic dome.

“We’ll have to find a way out,” muttered Rucksack.

Echoing shrieks and multiple splashes caused the magician to hesitate before entering the crevice in the wall. The noise spurred him to move faster through the passage. The magician desperately looked for a way out, but couldn’t find one.

He remembered the medallion around his neck. It was his last desperate thought as he closed his eyes and turned the dial clockwise. An inscription blazed on the metal. Use the Thunder Stick. He had completely forgotten his wand meticulously tucked inside his cloak. He pulled it out and braced himself for combat, but the enemy didn’t come. He stood dripping water in the sandy tunnel. The quiet was unnerving.

All of a sudden, a large pool of saliva trickled onto his shoulder. He raised his wand above his head and closed his eyes, praying beyond hope something would happen. The magician felt the stick charge in his hands and a blinding light shot from the tip in an infinitesimal second. Several bolts erupted from the wand, striking the insects with electricity. All five termites lay smoking in the sand as a sound of thunder deafened the air.

An avalanche of rocks fell around Nuptial and Rucksack with nowhere to run. The ceiling opened and torrents of water flowed over them. They were protected by something; almost as if they were inside a fish bowl watching the total destruction of the cave from a safe distance. The magician didn’t realize he still held the wand directly above his head, generating an invisible shield.

After a few moments, the chaos from the reverberating thunder died away and the ceiling vanished, revealing a clear skylight where tons of earth was displaced. A rocky slope of debris led into an enormous crater. They found themselves in a wide-open cavern. The floor was coated with mud and the rim looked like the jaws of a monster where stalactites and stalagmites grew over thousands of years. Nuptial kept getting stuck as it pushed to get a view of the wide world beneath them where a vast river flowed and a deep green forest grew. It was long past time to return home.

The End