There we were. Trapped between reality and make-believe. The whole situation seemed to defy logic. Then again, that’s childhood.
It’s fascinating how things like perspective and imagination change with age and time. As a little kid, I was a dreamer. My imagination was always creative and fertile.
Somewhere along the way, my imagination was diminished. The tragedy, I never knew it. I never saw it coming, and I didn’t realize my imagination was taken from me.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized it. I was doing a favor for my neighbor Samantha. She found herself in a bind and needed somebody to watch her kids, four-year-old twins, Noah and Gabby.
Now I know absolutely nothing about kids except that they are needy, whiney, annoying, little things. It was a torturous night watching the twins. I have no idea how Samantha was able to convince me to babysit.
These were not your normal kids. They didn’t want to watch television or play with an IPAD. They didn’t even want to play outside. Instead, they wanted me to tell them a story.
In the middle of my storytelling, Gabby shook her head. She had a sad expression on her face.
“Just stop,” Noah said.
“What? I thought you two wanted to hear a story?”
“We do. You’re just not doing it right.”
“Why is it that grownups always forget?” Gabby asked. I’m not sure if she was asking her brother or me.
“How to use their imagination? You do know what that is?”
“Of course, I know what an imagination is,” I remember snapping at the kids. For whatever reason, I remember finding the twins and their question very offensive. To prove to them just how smart I was, I remember saying, “Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”
Gabby and Noah just looked at each other.
“You know nothing,” Gabby said sadly.
“C’mon, sit on the couch with us. We will tell you a story.” Noah said. He grabbed my hand and led me to the couch. He sat on one side of me, and Gabby sat on the other side.
This is where our story begins, and everything that I once knew about reality ends.
“Pick up your feet.” The twins said.
“Look, we’re on an ocean. See all the sharks?” Gabby replied.
I remember my ankles and feet felt wet. I pulled them up on the couch. To my surprise, the living room was flooded. The couch started to rock back and forth. The toys grew mouths and fins.
“It’s not an ocean. We’re on a volcano.” Noah said. Suddenly, everything changed.
One thing was clear. The couch became a boat. The carpet kept changing from the vastness of blue oceans to hot cindery lava. The toys and shoes left on the carpet turned into wild creatures that were trying to eat us.
The twins were laughing and shrieking. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. I went to stand up.
The floor didn’t exist. I fell into the water. Saltwater stung my eyes and infused my lungs. I started to sink. Everything was disorienting. It took me a minute to get my bearings together.
We were no longer in the living room or even Samantha’s house. We were in the middle of the ocean. The big, pink, flowery, gaudy couch was now a big, pink, flowery, gaudy raft. The twins were lying on it. They were reaching for my hands.
I could see Gabby’s Doc Mcstuffins doll turning into this huge electric eel swimming straight towards me. Its mouth looked as big as my body. It moved at an uncanny speed.
The twins were screaming at me to get back onto the raft. I was holding onto the side of the raft, treading water. I was soaking wet. I could hear the Sea Gulls above us. It was surreal.
It took only a few seconds for that stupid doll which was no longer a doll, to be right there. I could have reached out and touched the stupid thing. Honestly, I don’t ever remember being so scared.
I hoisted myself up on the raft at the same time the creature reached me. Its mouth chomping down right where my leg was a millisecond earlier.
“I told you to keep your feet up!” Noah scolded me.
The sea monster disappeared underneath the water. Cautiously, Noah moved to the side of the raft and peered in the ocean.
“Hold on!” He yelled out, grabbing my and Gabby’s arms. We scooted to the middle of the raft. At the same time, the sea monster jumped out of the ocean. It was right underneath us. It hit the underside of our raft, sending us a hundred feet in the air.
I put my arms around the twins, holding them tightly. At the same time, I was trying to hold onto our raft. I didn’t want the twins to get hurt. I had to protect them. Gabby was shrieking, and Noah laughing.
The raft was no longer underneath us. We were hurled higher and higher in the air. I was screaming as I watched our raft splash into the ocean. The Doc Mcstuffins sea monster devoured it.
I skidded across something soft, fluffy, and white. The twins were a few feet away from me, laughing.
“That monster came close to getting us that time.” I heard one of the kids say.
“Where are we?” I stood up. I felt like I was standing on a cloud, assuming that a cloud has substance.
“Where do you think?”
“It feels like we’re on clouds. That’s impossible.”
All of a sudden, the fluffy whiteness that I was standing on started to stretch apart. Holes appeared in it. I could see the ocean below. I couldn’t keep my balance. My foot fell into one of the holes, with the rest of my body slowly slipping through.
I watched in disbelief as the blue oceans below turned into a sea of hot flowing lava erupting from a huge volcano.
“No, no, no!” Noah was saying to me. For the first time, there was real fear in his voice. “Don’t think. You’re the one that brought us up here mixed in with the clouds. Why?”
I had forgotten. The carebears–they were my heroes. When I was the twins’ age, I would think of the carebears every time I felt threatened. They would take me up to the clouds with them. We would play in the clouds. Slide down the rainbows. I knew everything would be fine.
The clouds regained their substance. I was no longer on the verge of falling out of the sky. The clouds became fluffier, warmer, more inviting.
Rainbows appeared out of nowhere. The twins were having a blast, taking turns sliding down them.
“Come join us, Nicki.” Gabby grabbed my hand. In the distance, I could see the sunshine bear.
Suddenly, we were in a tower in a castle, trapped. There were slits in the stone that Noah looked out.
“A red dragon is flying around with flames coming out of its nose. It looks mean.”
“Why are dragons always red and mean?”
The twins giggled. Everything changed again. We were still in the castle but not trapped. We were on top of the tower. The dragon turned pink.
“Eww not pink.” Noah pouted.
“Pink is the best color.” Gabby retorted.
“Why not bright orange with pink polka dots.”
The twins agreed. The dragon changed to a bright safety orange with pink polka dots. It breathed tie-dyed fire. It was a friendly dragon it let us ride on it. It flew us around the mystical world giving us a tour.
Our last stop was back in the living room. Once again, we were sitting on the couch.
“And that is how you tell a story.” The twins said.