Waking up slowly, feeling relaxed, the man rubbed his eyes from under his glasses, refreshed, stirred from a sleep that felt like the best sleep he had ever had. Stretching his legs, arms, he wondered what had woke him, his sleep, that perfect sleep, he thought, being so deep, he couldn’t remember what had woke him. And coming to think about it, he couldn’t remember much of anything else.
Looking at his hands, the watch on his wrist, the jeans he was in, one knee tore open. The Converse chucks on his feet, he couldn’t remember, or the orange shoelaces laced through them. His name, where he had come from, nor where he was. None of it was coming to him.
“Well hello, hello sleepy head,” a voice said from above him. Looking up, branches stretched out from a large, old tree like arms reaching for the sky, the leaves littering those arms a deep green, a healthy green, casting a cooling shadow over all that was under them. Wondering who had spoken to him, assuming it was someone sitting up in the branches, the man who couldn’t remember anything stood, looking up, not seeing anyone.
“Hello?” he said, his own voice unfamiliar to him, something that was strange. Not knowing your own voice, almost like never hearing it before.
“Hello, again.” The voice wasn’t coming from above, but rather in front of him, directly from the tree. Looking to the source, noticing for the first time a face carved into the wood of the tree. Eyes, a nose, mouth. All the features of a face, in the tree, the bark cut away. And while it was an amazing sight to take in, it was unbelievable to think “it” was what was speaking to him.
“Are you talking to me?” the man asked, not sure if the tree would answer him or if it was someone behind the tree merely playing a joke.
“I think I am talking to you,” the tree said, making the man jump back in disbelief. “I mean, what if you aren’t here, and I am just talking to thin air, imagining that I’m talking to you.”
“Of course I am real,” the man said, stepping towards the talking tree, not seeing any danger in approaching. If it was a killer tree, it would have killed him while he slept under it. “But, how are you real? I mean, how are you talking?”
“With my mouth. And my voice. Isn’t that how everyone talks?” The tree asked, a smile crossing its wooden lips.
“I mean, yes. But, how are YOU, a tree, talking?” Touching the tree, it felt real. The bark was rough to his hand, feeling like bark should feel. Part of him thought it was clever animatronics, like in a Hollywood movie. Maybe I stumbled onto a Hollywood movie set. Or maybe, I’m the star of a movie, who got in an accident and can’t remember his name. Maybe I’m Brad Pitt?!
“I don’t understand your question. I’m talking like you are talking. I’m just, talking. Duh!” The tree’s playful demeanor only reinforced the man’s beliefs. Nodding, thinking it was all a gag, everyone on set knowing he was in an accident, deciding to have a bit of fun with him, “pull his leg”, he was going to go right along with it. Sitting down crossed legged, he was going to see how far they were willing to go with their little joke. Mess with a guy with amnesia. Sick people in Hollyweird, let me tell ya.
“So, what’s your name talking tree?” he asked, wondering at the same time what his name was, not too sure if it was Brad Pitt, hoping it was. Brad Pitt is such a badass. I really hope I’m him.
“Birch.” Smiling, the tree was proud of his name.
“Birch?” The man laughed. The tree, old, tall, was no birch, instead being an oak. Whoever is doing the voice is clever, but doesn’t know their tree’s too well. “How’d you get your name Birch?” The last time he said the tree’s name it was with a sarcastic tone.
“Maddie named me, mister. And since you keep asking me questions, let me ask you one. What’s your name?”
“Well,” thinking, the man said the only thing that felt right at the moment, “Brad Pitt. My name is Brad Pitt.”
“No it’s not. You don’t look like a Brad Pitt at all.” Birch shrugged its eyebrows, knowing the man was just saying a name, knowing all too well he didn’t know who he was.
“How’d you know? Do you even know what ‘a Brad Pitt’ looks like?” The man felt like he was arguing with a child, but instead he was arguing with a damn talking tree.
“I don’t but I bet it doesn’t look like you. See, I think you look more like a…. An Albert. Yeah, you’re definitely an Albert.” Sticking out its tongue, Birch definitely acted like a child.
“No, I know I don’t look like an Albert. I am not an Albert.” Crossing his arms, but only for a moment, the man stood, uncrossing them, not daring to stoop down to “their” level, “Their” being the ones who he thought were working the tree. Now I’m starting to act like a child.
“Do you know what you look like? No. Which means you don’t know what an Albert looks like. AND, you don’t know who you are, I know you don’ t, so don’t lie Albert,” the man kept silent, the talking damn tree correct, he didn’t actually know who he was. “Which means you don’t know who you aren’t, SO, you could, or could not be an Albert. Until you can prove to me you aren’t, you mister, are Albert.” Sticking out its tongue again, “Albert” realized he had just lost an argument over his identity to a talking tree.
“Then Albert I shall be,” he gave in, just letting “them” win. “Who is Maddie? You said Maddie named you Birch?”
“Oh, you know Maddie. We all do. She’s the reason for all us Majestic’s.” Albert, confused, had no idea what Birch was going on about. Wow, they are good, he thought, still thinking it was an animatronic tree being used to mess with him.
“Let’s pretend that I don’t know who Maddie is,” which Albert wasn’t pretending, he really didn’t know, but since the tree, Birch, was acting like a child, he would talk to it like he would a child. “Tell me about her.”
“She is so smart. And gifted. And a great story teller. She used to sit and tell me the best stories. She could make up anything, and the way she told it. If it was sad story, I’d want to cry. A happy story I’d laugh. And don’t get me started with the scary stories.” Closing its eyes, Birch didn’t want to think about the scary stories. Nightmares for days would follow.
“Wow, she seems, cool.” Cool was the only word Albert could think of to describe Birch’s take on this Maddie person.
“Oh how she is cool. So cool Albert.” Smiling, Birch always smiled when he thought of Maddie.
“And you said she’s the reason for all us Majestic’s?” Albert asked.
“Stop asking the poor sapling so many questions lad,” a new voice came from behind Albert, making him turn to again stand in disbelief, a unicorn there. The beast, a white stallion with a sparkling horn was breathtaking in its own right, but the checkered sweater vest and monocle were confusing, making Albert raise an eyebrow. This has to be the strangest practical joke in history.
“Now a talking unicorn.” Albert was almost speechless, only able to point out the obvious.
“I do have a name good sir. I am a dignified individual, not just a beast.” The unicorn, speaking with a thick British accent, chin high, horn catching the light, shimmering and twinkling in all its glory.
“And your name is?” Albert said.
“Mr. Q, or Kwu for those who like the letters K-W-U.” Bowing in greeting, Albert couldn’t help but laugh.
“Mr. Q?” he asked, still laughing, the unicorn a bit irritated by the man’s rudeness.
“No Albert. Mr. Q, or Kwu for those who like the letter’s K-W-U,” Birch corrected the man.
“Or, just Mr. Q for short,” Mr. Q finished. “And to answer the question you asked the young sapling before I intervened, we, as in you, I, Birch, all of us here in the Fields, are Majestic’s.”
Looking around, everything around him came into realization, all the sights hitting his brain like a cement truck, almost too much to take in at once. A group of violins floating through the air off in the distance playing on their own; a man in a violet suit floating on what looked like a colorful cloud at first, but upon closer inspection the colorful cloud being hundreds of violet and silver butterflies, flying below the man, holding him in the air while he inspected his nails.
A two story farm house, run down, old, the windows broken; a storm cloud above it, rain falling in sheets, lighting cracking the sky. And that was the thing that made that scene so strange. The storm was only happening above the house, the dark, ominous cloud ONLY above the farm house.
And then the fact that he was talking to a tree and to a unicorn, a unicorn in a sweater vest and monocle, none the less. And they were both talking back. Looking from Mr. Q to Birch and back, then to everything else in the field, Albert didn’t know what to think, but he knew he wasn’t Brad Pitt, nor part of a hollyweird set joke.
“What is going on? This is a dream, it’s all a dream. Just a drug, or heavy alcohol induced dream,” Albert said to himself, trying to get a grip on what was happening.
“Nope. Not a dream,” Birch said, giggling at Albert’s sudden distraught behavior.
“Not even close sir,” Mr. Q added. “WE, as I just stated are Majestic’s. Created by Maddie, and this is the Fields, though it’s only one Field, making you wonder why the name is plural.”
“No, this is a dream. OR, this is a story, and we are characters.” The thought was crazy, but so is a talking tree and unicorn. A UNICORN IN A SWEATER VEST!
“Oh please Albert,” Mr. Q began, insulted. “Do you really think we are nothing more than some minor characters in some whimsical story being written as we speak. I am insulted sir.”
“YOU ARE A TALKING UNICORN WITH A NAME THAT MAKES NO SENSE!” Albert yelled, his confusion turning to anger and frustration.
“And you are an angry man who doesn’t even know his name. Do you even know why Maddie thought you up? Huh, do you? And you dare yell at me. I sir walk on all four legs because I am PROUD to be a unicorn, but you don’t have to call me one simply because. Hmph.” Galloping off, Mr. Q, or Kwu for those who like the letters K-W-U, left Albert and Birch, Birch laughing at the two’s ended argument, Albert even more confused.
“I know why Maddie made me,” Birch said, voice thick with proud enthusiasm to tell about his creation. “Maddie wanted to tell her stories to someone. And her neighbor, Old Mister I-Don’t-Remember-His-Name had a tree with a face he had carved into it. So one day Maddie gave the tree life, and a personality, and a name. Guess what name she gave it?”
“Uh, Birch,” Albert said, his brain hurting from trying to figure out just what the hell was going on.
“Yeah, yeah. It was Birch. You’re smart Albert. Maddie named me Birch, and she would tell me stories, the best stories.”
“Here, she would tell you them here?” Albert asked, wondering if he was a made up creation from the mind of this Maddie person. Come on man, you are not a made up “thing”.
“No silly. I didn’t come to the Field’s till after Maddie got tired telling me stories. It was a sad day, but she moved on. I’m better now. I can still remember every single one of her stories. Every one of them!”
“And Mr. Q? Why’d she think him up?” Looking in the direction of where the unicorn had galloped off to, he was nowhere in sight, having disappeared among the tall grass of the never ending field.
“I was thought up to assist with high school English homework,” the voice came from behind Albert, startling him, the man not even realizing the unicorn had returned.
“English homework? Why would she imagine a unicorn for that?” Albert asked, none of it making any sense at all.
“She had a unicorn bookmark, and she loved to study in the woods. So she created me to assist her. Now you’re turn. Why did she imagine you? Hmmm. Please share. I would love to know why she would imagine such a rude, amnesiac bipedal creature? You’re not even unique from other humans.” Naying in an insult like manner, Mr. Q had done the trick, making Albert ponder his existence. Albert didn’t believe he was made up, but if he was, why wasn’t he unique, like a talking tree, or a prick unicorn in a sweater vest.
Though he couldn’t see himself, or remember what he looked like, to a normal person, Albert would look just that, normal. In a t-shirt, jeans and chucks, black baseball cap and thick black rimmed glasses, he wasn’t overly attractive. His eyes were just sky blue, his hair chestnut brown, and his smile was just a smile. He didn’t have any extra limbs or fingers, and he couldn’t do anything spectacular, which would explain why he couldn’t believe he was just a made up creature, or a Majestic as Mr. Q had called them.
“I don’t know why. The last thing I remember is walking down a crowded street.” Thinking as hard as he could, thinking about that crowded street, walking through and past the people, bumping elbows with folks he would never see again, looking at faces he wouldn’t remember, one face stuck out in his mind. One face that was perfectly remembered. “And then there she was.”
“Maddie,” Birch and Mr. Q said simultaneously. “Blond hair, perfect smile. Pale blue eyes that you can just swim in.” Mr. Q spoke, describing in perfect words exactly what the girl looked like that Albert was remembering. “I think I get why you were imagined Albert,” Mr. Q said, one eyebrow raised, the eyebrow above the monocle, his British voice thick with a ponderous tone. “You are the first Majestic to come to the Field’s since the Violins Magnifico.” Motioning with his head, his horn pointing off in the distance to the floating, playing violins, Albert looked at them, silent, their beautiful music just barely audible on the soft breeze that was blowing through the Field’s.
“Oh how I love the Violins Magnifico!” Birch added, interrupting Mr. Q’s train of thought. “Maddie thought them up to help her with her violin practices!” Birch, so proud to help out.
“Yes yes Birch. I love them too,” Mr. Q continued. “Anyways, where was I…. Oh yes, first Majestic in a while. You sir, are what I believe to be her, oh how I don’t understand this but I shall say it anyways…. You are her perfect man.” Not believing what he had just said, it seemed only logical to Mr. Q, Birch only able to giggle at this conclusion.
“How can I be her perfect man?” Albert asked, “I don’t even know anything about her.” It was true. All he knew about Maddie was what Birch and Mr. Q had told him about her. That, and he guessed she had been the one he could remember from the street.
“The only thing you can remember is walking down the street right?” Mr. Q asked Albert, Albert nodding his head. “And the only person who can remember is her?” Again, a nod from Albert. “See. Maddie is all grown up. And she is lonely. So, she imagined her perfect man, for one moment, walking past her on the street, and you blew it. You walked right on past her. So just like the rest of us, you were sent to the Field’s, cause she moved you from the real part of her mind, back to the imaginary.”
“How,” the coming question the only thing Albert could think to say, everything else being too much for his brain to even attempt to process at once. “Can this Maddie person imagine us real? I mean, I feel real.” Reaching over, touching Mr. Q, who felt real to the touch, Mr. Q not pleased to be touched though. And thinking about Birch, Birch had felt real to his touch.
“We are real Albert. Quite real indeed. And we are real, because Maddie is a special girl. She has a gift…” Mr. Q, about to finish his sentence about Maddie and her gift, was interrupted by Birch, the child-like tree wanting to tell its new friend Albert instead of the unicorn.
“I WANT TO TELL HIM! CAN I TELL HIM!” Birch shouted, much to both Albert and Mr. Q’s annoyance. Both said yes quickly to shush the tree up and get it to just continue. “Maddie told me all about it. When she was a little Maddie, her daddy left, leaving her with her mean ol’ mommy. But before her daddy went away for forever, he told her one thing. He told her, if she ever needed anyone, anyone at all, they would always be right here, and when he said right here, he tapped his head, and those anyone would come to be there with her. But little Maddie didn’t understand when her daddy tapped his head with his fingers, so she asked him, ‘daddy, what do you mean they will be here?’ and she tapped her own head with her fingers. So her daddy told her.”
“I’ll finish now lil sapling,” Mr. Q said, Birch not happy with being interrupted, but letting the unicorn finish, not wanting to be mean, though Mr. Q was being awful mean for not letting him finish, Birch thought. “Maddie’s father told her to use her imagination if she ever needed anyone. And she took the last thing her father had said to heart. And so, anytime she needed someone, when no one in her life would listen to her; when little Maddie was invisible and needed a friend to be invisible with her, she would think of one of us.”
“So, we are her invisible friends?” Albert asked, thinking he was beginning to understand, but still not believing that he was a made up friend of a little girl.
“No, no, no Albert.” Mr. Q was losing patience with all the man’s silly questions. “It’s really not that hard to grasp. Maddie was invisible to everyone around her. Her father had been the only one who was there for her, so when he left, she was left alone. But from what he had told her, she was able to make new people. People who were there for her. To help her. To listen to her. To help her grow. We are real, but we are created from her imagination, so when she doesn’t need us anymore, when we have helped her best we can, we go back to the imagination. But we are too ‘real’ to just go back to just any imagination. Thus…” Again interrupted by Birch.
“THE FIELD’S! Home to us Majestic’s!” Birch exclaimed loudly. Floating over on his cloud of butterflies, the man in the violet suit seemed uninterested with anything going on around the excited tree, looking more than bored with what seemed like everything.
“Why are we called Majestic’s?” Albert asked, this time the man in the violet suit answering.
“You sure do ask a lot of questions. It is rather annoying if you ask me,” the violet suited man spoke. Lounging on his cloud of butterflies, he wore a top hat, the same shade of violet as his suit, his skin bone white, black tattoo’s adorning his face. His fingernails, which he admired all the while he spoke, were black, with flecks of silver in them, the silver glittery in the light, much like Mr. Q’s horn.
“Nobody asked you Sandman.” Mr. Q replied, the unicorn not a big fan of the violet suited man, usually avoiding him in the Field’s.
“The Sandman was made to help Maddie sleep one night during a thunder storm. Her mommy wouldn’t come tuck her in or give her a kiss or nothing…” Birch began, excitedly, but the Sandman finished.
“So I came and looked over her. The lightning frightened her, but I made it better, telling her stories about Dreamscape, and the wonders of the world of Dreams.” Oozing with egotism, the Sandman was overly proud in that fact, that he had helped Maddie find sleep on stormy nights.
“Alright, I accept it then. I was made up by Maddie, and if what you say is true Mr. Q, then I’m her perfect man, or was, until I blew it.” Albert felt a pain that he couldn’t describe. It’s almost unfair. I blew something that I didn’t even know I was supposed to try at. What the hell? How is that even right?
“Way to go,” The Sandman spoke. “She loved everyone of us, you know. But she loved us as friends. You, she wanted you to love her more than a friend. She wanted someone she could love back, with all her heart, and whelp, you messed that all up now didn’t you?”
“Wow, you really are a pompous dick aren’t you? Must not of liked you too much, you’re here in the Field’s too, aren’t you?” Albert wasn’t liking the Sandman too much, and though he had retorted back, his remark getting quiet, terribly hidden laughs from both the unicorn and the tree, the Sandman finally looking up to glare at all three of them, Albert couldn’t deny what the Sandman had said was true. Maddie had been looking for a new kind of love, and he walked right on by her. “But I did mess it all up. She made me up to be there for her, like all you had. And right on by I walked, right to here, back to not even being a real person anymore.”
“And you had the chance to be real too,” Mr. Q said. “I’m a unicorn in a sweater vest. What chance do I stand in a crowded room?” His voice sad, it was really the first time he had ever thought of it that way. “You don’t belong here Albert. You belong with Maddie.” When he said this, Birch, and even the Sandman agreed.
“Yeah Albert, you got to make her happy and love her, and stuff,” Birch said.
“We were there for her, but the unicorn with the stupid name is right,” the Sandman said, Mr. Q muttering under his breath about him at least having a name. “None of us could stand a chance in the real world with Maddie. At least you’d have a chance to be there forever.”
“But, here I am, in the Field’s, just another forgotten Majestic.” Sitting down, Albert was unhappy. First, he couldn’t remember who he was. Then, he lost an argument to a talking tree about who he was, not being Brad Pitt, disappointedly, instead being named Albert by the said talking tree. Finally, after learning he was a made up person, he had failed in his one task as said made up person. His short existence was a sad, depressing one. “This sucks.”
“But wait!” Birch exclaimed, in the already expected, annoying excitement that Albert expected from the tree. “There might be a way for you to go back and try again Albert!” Albert, curious, looked to the tree, waiting to hear more.
“Don’t even say it tree,” the Sandman said, floating off, finished speaking to the three, knowing that if what he thought the tree was thinking of was about to be brought up, he wanted no part of it.
“Yes lil sapling, leave it be.” Mr. Q knew exactly was Birch was going to say, and thought it would be best to leave the idea alone, not even mentioning it to the newest Majestic.
“No, what is it?” Albert asked, wanting to know.
“Let me tell him, please. PLEEEEEAAAAAAASSSSSEEEEEE!” All the while Birch said please, Mr. Q kept repeating the word no, over and over, for several minutes, till Albert couldn’t stand it.
“JUST TELL ME DAMMIT!” he shouted, the two creatures shutting up, Birch sticking its tongue out, Mr. Q doing the same, then snorting as he again galloped off in anger and defeat.
“See that ooky, spooky house over there?” Birch’s eyes turned towards the house. As Albert turned to look at it, knowing the house the tree was speaking of, having looked it over earlier in his initial take of the Field’s, the Violins Magnifico approached, the violin’s playing a haunting song, only adding to the effect. “Inside, there is a nasty old witch, and they say that she holds a treasure. The treasure is said to be there to let one of us go to Maddie without her calling them.”
“What’s the treasure?” Albert asked, having goosebumps, the look of the house and the haunting violin music having the effect on him, a slight shiver crawling up his spine as his mind made up what the witch looked like, if there even was a witch at all.
“There is no treasure,” Mr. Q said, yet again sneaking up on Albert, making the man jump clean off the ground, much to the unicorn’s amusement.
“Jesus Christ in a half shell, would you stop that!” Albert yelled at the unicorn, his hand over his heart, making sure it wasn’t going to jump from his chest, the damn thing beating so hard. “And are you just saying there is no treasure so I don’t go in there, or do you know that there is no treasure?” The unicorn avoided answering, his attention on Violins Magnifico. “Well?”
“Fine, there is a treasure. But, the witch will rip the flesh right from your bones, and then drink you blood mate. It’s crazy to go in there. Suicide.” The unicorn shuddered, clearly shaken by thoughts of the witch.
Looking at the house, Albert’s mind was made up. I failed you once Maddie. Not again. Determined to go into the house and find out if what Birch was saying was true, and if it was, then he was going to love the woman that made him to love her.
“I have to go. Maddie needs me.” Looking to Mr. Q, then to Birch, they both understood perfectly why he had to do it. They were created by Maddie to be there for Maddie. And just like them, Albert was created for her, and he had to do what he thought was best for her.
“Go get that treasure Albert!” Birch exclaimed.
“And do be safe lad,” Mr. Q, whispered. “And tell Maddie hello if you do succeed.”
“And tell her I said hi too,” Birch added. “And that I miss her stories. And ask her how’s she’s been? Well, never mind. I guess you won’t be able to tell me huh? So tell her I’ve been good. And that I miss her, bunches….” Birch continued to yell things for Albert to tell Maddie, but Albert was walking through the Field’s, heading to the house to face the witch, the Violin’s Magnifico behind him, Mozart’s O Fortuna playing off their strings, only making him more determined to succeed.
“It’s time to kick a witch’s ass and get some treasure,” he said to himself, a cocky smirk forming on his lips as he turned his cap backwards, the music from the violins getting his “jacked”. Balling his hands into fists, he took off into a run. Let’s see if you can keep up Violins Magnifico. Man that’s a badass name. And these were Albert’s final thoughts as he ran to meet his only chance to get back to the woman he was made to love.
She sat on the park bench, idly watching people walk past her, the gaze of her eyes telling anyone who paid attention that Maddie was daydreaming, thinking of someplace else, rather than the here and now. Her hair, blond, almost white, was tied back in a pony tail, and her glasses reflected what mid-afternoon sun broke through the canopy of tree leaves in the park that day.
Maddie felt as though her life was missing something, but then again, she knew what it was missing, trying to pass the feelings of emptiness off as an upset tummy. She needed someone to love, and someone to love her back. She had, like most people, had her fair share of failed relationships, and it had been over a year since the last catastrophe that she had been a part of, with a certain arrogant prick named Rick.
Her mind bouncing from here to there, thinking about so much at once, she finally got it to slow down, Maddie remembering a man she had passed earlier that week on the street. He had smiled when he walked by, his face shaded by a baseball cap, his gorgeous eyes behind thick framed glasses. When Maddie had seen that smile, she blushed. She didn’t even know why. She hadn’t blushed since she was kid. After walking past him, or, after he walked right past her, she felt that emptiness, the emptiness that could only be filled by three little words from someone else.
Maddie mouthed those words while she imagined that man, imagined what he would be like. Kind, sensitive, funny, caring. Staring at her hand, the free one, her other clutching her notebook as it so normally was, a picture was starting to take shape from thin air, an old Polaroid, the black of the picture coming into shape from tiny, black flecks, almost like sand swirling around her hand.
After the Polaroid itself was formed, in seconds mind you, the image on the picture itself began to come too. Maddie watched, as at first it was hard to tell what it was of, the image white, the color of it becoming evident, as though the picture really had just been taken moments before.
In about a minute’s time, held between her forefinger and thumb, Maddie held the Polaroid, now captured on it a picture that was never taken, but one that she was simply imaging. Her and the man that had passed her. She was sitting on his lap, and he was kissing her cheek through a smile, a hearty giggle obviously spilling out from her lips past her own wide grin. The picture made Maddie smile, but, she knew it wasn’t real.
Blinking, the picture was gone. She had always had an overactive imagination, able to create anything with just the power of her mind. It was why she was perfect at what she did. An author, and a best-selling one at that, taking that over-active imagination and putting it to some damn good use. But it had been a while since she had written anything. She just wasn’t inspired like she used to be. She needed something, almost magical, to step into her life to get her back on her feet.
Hiding, Albert held his breath, praying the beast didn’t find him. In the midst of what he thought was going to be a single man, brave assault on the house holding the witch, Albert hadn’t expected any “problems” to arise before he even entered the house. But anyone would think an eight foot tall Minotaur in a pin striped suit with a Tommy-gun was a problem.
Having stepped out from around the house, acting as a guard, the Minotaur had seen the foolish man running up, followed by the Violins Magnifico, but the instance the beast made its presence, the instruments high tailed it in the opposite direction, and the man disappeared in the high grass, falling to his stomach. The Minotaur could only laugh a deep baritone laugh.
“Why the hell would she imagine that goddamn thing!?!” Albert whispered harshly to himself, utterly lost on what pretense Maddie would think up a BIGASS MINOTAUR WITH A MACHINE GUN! COME ON!!
Just lying there, prone on his stomach watching the monster through the blades of the high grass that also served as his hiding grace, Albert’s rush of “badassery”, which had mostly been fueled by the Violins Magnifico music, was all but vanished completely. He knew he stood no chance against the minotaur alone, but lucky for him, so did the other Majestic’s.
“I do believe it’s time to fall back and re-strategize,” Mr. Q whispered, making Albert jump, the man not hearing the unicorn even approach. Crawling on his stomach, staying low, Mr. Q had seen the minotaur appear, and also saw the cowardly move made by Albert to hide, although Mr. Q thought, Cowardly, but smart. Though running in there alone was a stupid idea to begin with. Men and their ideas of valor and chivalry. Bollocks if you ask me…
Albert and Mr. Q crawling back, the Minotaur could see them, making an escape, and he could’ve cared less. Just laughing that deep, baritone laugh and snorting, the monster returned to the back of the house, going down into the cellar until the foolish man attempted another brave assault.
Back at Birch, Albert was breathing hard, having military crawled until the grass was a bit smaller, and only after looking back and seeing the beast gone. Turning his cap back around, trying to catch his breath, he had to ask the obvious question.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?” he asked, pointing towards the house, both Mr. Q and Birch knowing that he was asking about the Minotaur.
“That sir, is Valentine,” Mr. Q began. “One afternoon while Maddie was watching a documentary on the infamous Al Capone, she had thought she heard the word ‘monster’ instead of mobster, making her wonder what would happen if a mobster was a monster. Hence, the big bad Minotaur that perceives itself a gangster.”
“And how long did that thing stay in the real world. I mean, an eight foot tall, walking BULL IN A FEDORA MIGHT ATTRACT SOME ATTENTION!!!” Albert was distraught. He had thought he was going to be facing a witch, maybe a witch with some nasty spells and magic, but he had believed only a witch. NOT A GODDAMN MINOTAUR WITH A MACHINE GUN!!!
“It was only for a brief moment. Maddie had imagined him, never even looked at him or acknowledged him, and then poof! He was here in the Field’s with us. And not a happy camper for being ignored.” Mr. Q shook his head, feeling almost bad for the beast. Almost. “So the witch took him in, and now, from what you just saw, he acts like her self-appointed guardian.”
“Well, Valentine,” Albert thought the name was slightly comical as he said it, “could rip me in half if he wanted to. So I need a new plan.”
“I got an idea,” the tree said, speaking for the first time since Albert had returned from his quick failed attempt to get the treasure.
“And what’s that?” Albert asked, curious to see what the tree would say, thinking maybe Birch was smarter than his demeanor would lead others to believe otherwise.
“We use a catapult to launch you overtop the house, with just the perfect trajectory that once you are overtop, you release your parachute, floating down without being noticed, thanks to Mr. Q and I laying down your distraction. An assault from the front, after we release a heavy barrage of smoke grenades, concealing our own entrance. You go in through the roof Albert, while we take care of big ol’ mean Valentine.” Smiling, Birch was very satisfied with his plan, while Albert and Mr. Q stood dumbfounded, open jawed, and confused.
“That’s a good plan lil’ sapling,” Mr. Q began, Albert finishing for him.
“But we don’t have any of those things what-so-ever.” For a brief moment, the intelligence displayed by Birch had been phenomenal, but only for a brief moment, the innocent child-like personality returning as it realized Albert was right.
“Oh shoot. You are right,” Birch said, frowning. “Well darn it. Now what?” And Birch’s question was on all three of their minds. Now what exactly? Albert thought, not sure what to do.
“What if we help you?” The Sandman asked, floating over the trio on his cloud of butterflies. The question puzzled Mr. Q and Birch, who didn’t see the Sandman as one to offer any sort of assistance to anyone, but Albert was willing to use any help he could get.
“Yes, what if we help?” Mr. Q quickly added, not wanting the Sandman to seem like the savior of the moment.
“I want to help! HOW CAN I HELP!?” Birch yelled, overly excited for the situation. The Sandman, annoyed by the tree, had his cloud of butterflies fly him upwards towards Birch’s top, to which the violet suited man proceeded to break off two branches from the tree. “OUCH! YOU DICK!!” Birch called the Sandman for his action, having learned the word “dick” from Albert.
“Now, why did you do that?” Albert asked, the Sandman floating back down, the branches in his hands, a devilish smile on his bone white face.
“He wanted to know how he could help,” the Sandman said, looking to the angry Birch. Taking the two branches in his hands, closing his eyes, a violet glow emanated, so bright, everyone else had to look away. Albert, shielding his eyes with his hand, the light still seemed to find a way to get through the cracks of his fingers, so amazingly bright.
When it was all said and done, the brightness fading, Albert, Mr. Q and Birch looked upon the Sandman who stood, his butterflies gone, a sword in one hand, a cane in the other. The sword, sterling silver bladed, with a violet hilt, was gorgeous, the blade shining in the light, the hilt guard an entwined work of swirling metal. As for the cane, the stick itself was black, the head of it a miniature version of the Sandman’s head, one eye winking one would notice if the face was closely inspected.
“In the name of Maddie,” the Sandman said, holding the blade of the rapier like sword, allowing Albert to take the hilt, the moment his hand touched it, a tingling feeling passing through his palm, disappearing farther up his arm, almost like getting shocked.
“How’d you do that?” Birch asked, astounded by what the Sandman had just done.
“We are creatures of magic.” Raising one eyebrow, grinning, the Sandman spun his cane, and upon hitting the tip to the ground, a small show of violet sparks erupted. “Now, are we going to stop a witch and get this Majestic to our Maddie or are we going to sit here and be nothing more than imaginary friends?”
“Let’s kill us a witch and get this lad to Maddie!” Mr. Q said, bowing down before the sword wielding man, a motion for Albert to get on him. “I would be honored to be your steed as we rode into this battle.” Eyes closed, the unicorn waited for Albert to get on, but Albert was hesistant.
“I can walk there. I mean, I have this sword, and I don’ t want to ruin your sweater vest. And…” Making up excuses, Albert didn’t want to admit that he would just find it weird to ride a talking unicorn wearing a sweater vest.
“Just get on dammit!” Mr. Q insulted, the man already wasting time. Albert listening, awkwardly got on, and the unicorn standing back up proudly, Albert positioning himself to where he wouldn’t fall, they were almost ready.
Feeling something in the air, something coming at him, carried on the light breeze that was blowing through the Field’s, Albert, lifting his hand and without looking, snatched the picture from the air, the Polaroid held between his fingers and thumb.
Looking at it, it was Maddie sitting on his lap, him kissing her on the cheek, both smiling like teenagers in love. The picture gave him butterflies in his stomach. Putting the picture in his back pocket, tucking it in so it wouldn’t fall out, Albert was ready.
“Let’s kill us a witch!” he stated proudly, holding the sword in the air, Mr. Q’s head up, his mane of white hair flowing in the wind, his horn shining. Letting the monocle fall the ground, the unicorn would have looked the part of a majestic steed, if not for the sweater vest.
“Not just yet,” the Sandman said, snapping his fingers. From around Birch, the Violins Magnifico slowly appeared, the group of flying violins almost appearing frightened, shaking violently. “Yes you, come here,” the Sandman spoke to the instruments. “Now, when Albert speaks, you will begin our epic battle theme.”
“We have a battle theme,” Birch, Albert and Mr. Q all asked at the same time.
“Of course we have a battle theme. Now, are you going to lead us into battle lover boy?” The Sandman’s words were almost as inspiring as the music played earlier by the violins on Albert’s first attempt.
“LETS DO THIS!!! MAJESTICS HOOOOOOOEEEEE!!!!!” And on that note, Mr. Q launched into a hard gallop, Albert held the sword high, and the Sandman was left standing with Birch wondering what the hell the man had just yelled. Shrugging he leaped, his butterflies returned, carrying him to the house as well, the Violins Magnifico behind the trio, playing Europe’s Final Countdown.
“…It’s the final countdown!” Maddie’s cell phone rang out, the ringer set on high, a few people around her turning her way to wonder why a girl looking like her had a ringtone like that. Smiling, she loved those looks, hence the reason her ringer was always on high.
“Hello Ruth,” Maddie said, answering the phone to her editor and manager, whom she’d been ignoring for the better part of a month.
“So she does answer her phone!” Ruth said, not too happy that it had taken so long to get in touch with her favorite author, although that said favorite hadn’t written anything in almost six months. “How are you Madeline?”
“Just fine. Just enjoying my tea,” Maddie said, taking a nice long, loud sip from her cup of green tea with just a splash of peach juice. Delicious. Ruth was a few years older than Maddie, and while the two could have been best friends, their relationship had always remained professional. Except for the night that Maddie’s first book made the New York Times best sellers list. That night a lot of Peach Schnapps had been consumed between the two. And Maddie could honestly say that would be the only time she’d ever kissed another woman. Or better yet, made out with one.
“Maddie, you really need to get back into your groove thing girl. Are you working on anything? Anything at all.” It was always business with Ruth. Maddie, setting her tea cup down, opened up her composition notebook, flipping through the pages of hand written poetry and short stories, small doodles drawn sporadically throughout.
“I’ve got one thing coming, but, yeah.” Maddie had been working on a short. The story being one she’d been working on for a bit of time. The ending just wasn’t coming to her.
“What do you mean, ‘yeah’?” Ruth asked.
“I’ll get back to you on that Ruth, got my tea to enjoy,” Maddie said, hanging up, a smile on her face knowing just how angry her manager was at that moment. Pushing her tea away, she wasn’t really in the mood for it, and she was still waiting on the waitress to bring her the bagel and cream cheese that she had ordered twenty minutes before.
Going to the last page of the notebook, seeing where she had left off, she had to figure out what was keeping her from finishing it. It was by far the best short story she had ever written, in her opinion anyway, since no one had ever read it. I just need my inspiration to come along. That’s all I need.
Valentine had been alerted by the witch that the idiotic man was again attempting an assault of the house, but this time he was accompanied by the unicorn and Sandman. And the violins. Valentine hated the violins.
Coming around the house just as the “heroes” and the damn violins were closing in, Valentine dug his hooves in, and opening fire, unloaded a barrage of rounds from his Tommy-gun, the only noise louder than the rattle of the expended shells being that of his deep, psychotic, baritone laugh.
Albert, seeing the Minotaur appear, knowing what was coming, wasn’t sure how they were going to get past the monster. Expecting that the Valentine was going to open fire on them, Albert hadn’t been expecting for the rounds to stop in the air in front of the still moving group, the bullets colliding with what appeared to be a magic shield. Every time a bullet was stopped, for a brief instance, a ripple of blue could be seen, showing the magic shield that was protecting them.
“What’s stopping those bullets?” Albert asked.
“We are magical creatures after all,” Mr. Q said, eyes narrowed, the thrill of the assault passing through him, helping him in channeling his magic, his horn shimmering the same blue tint as the shield ripples. “When we get close Albert, roll off. I’ll take care of Valentine!” Albert just nodded.
Close enough that the smell of gunpowder was thick in the air, Albert rolled off, staying low in the grass, the magic shield not protecting him anymore as Mr. Q galloped forward to face the Minotaur one-on-one.
Picking up speed, pushing all his might into his magic, pushing that magic through to the shield, Mr. Q made a bee line for Valentine, the Minotaur in turn focusing all his rounds on the unicorn, none of the bullets doing any damage, all stopped by the magic shield. In the moment before the two collided, Valentine, tossing the gun, not needing it, dug his hooves in even more, and tearing the fedora from his horned head, hands and arms extended, waiting for the unicorn to meet him, he let out a mighty roar, saliva flying from his mouth.
In an ear deafening clap that rivaled even the thunder roaring above the house, Mr. Q crashed into the awaiting Minotaur, the magic shield shattering into a trillion blue specks, all dissipating in the air as the two mythological creatures flew through the front of the farm house, into the home. Rolling around inside the home, in the cobweb infested living room, tossing, snorting, grunting, the two beasts battled, leaving Albert and the Sandman outside, waiting to see who would emerge victorious. But more so on Albert’s mind, he wondered where the witch was.
And as though his thoughts had been screaming out to be heard, the front door of the home swung open, and though Albert and the Sandman were expecting one of the mythological beasts, instead stepped out a woman who couldn’t have been older than her mid thirties, but the strangest thing about her, she looked as though she had stepped right out of a black and white movie. Stepping through the door, the only two colors on her whole were grey and black.
Instead of walking, it appeared almost as though she was floating, but once clear of the doorway and the crumbling overhang that hung over the decrepit porch, the witch showed her true form, eight long spider legs extending out from under her black dress, the legs just as black as the dress upon her grey figure.
“Company. I’ve been expecting company,” the witch yelled, having to over the thunder claps from above and the battle still taking place inside her falling-apart home. The lightning flashes above made her appear ever more menacing, though it wasn’t difficult to be frightened by just her in general, the witch standing well over nine feet tall with her spider legs extended, the full body of a spider exposed, the abdomen and all. It was like something out of a horror movie.
Inside the home, the two beasts were leaving ruins of anything their tussle came into contact with. Valentine swung with his mighty fists, connecting with Mr. Q’s sides, but the Minotaur had taken a tremendous blow before they even entered the home, when the unicorn had driven his magical shield directly into the Minotaur. Now it was just a matter of waiting to see if the gangster beast would tire before pummeling the sweater vested unicorn into submission. Or worse: death.
The unicorn, realizing he was going to have to do something, working himself free of the Minotaur’s grip, and spinning quickly, turning to put his rear towards Valentine, all the while dodging more blows, Mr. Q, with the last of his strength, in a great kick, connected both back hooves with Valentine’s face, the monster stopping dead still, then, like a statue that had been pushed over, fell, smashing through the floorboards, the floor too weak to withstand that much weight coming down at once. Mr. Q, moving quickly to not follow the Minotaur down, was quite pleased with himself, though tired and in plenty of pain.
“Undignified beast, walking on two legs. NO RESPECT FOR YOURSELF.” Preparing to go outside, having seen the witch walk past him and the Minotaur earlier, paying no heed to the two battling beasts, Mr. Q pondered how Albert and the Sandman were fairing. But before stepping out, Mr. Q, looking down into the hole, seeing the defeated, still unconscious Minotaur, lying upon the stone basement floor, had one more thing to add. “AND GOOD DAY SIR!”
Back outside, the witch controlling the very lightning from above, laid down a mighty barrage of strikes, wherever the white hot bolts touched, flames erupted, the grass floor of the Field’s around the home quickly becoming a death trap to Albert, who was having to dip, dive and dodge the bolts. The Sandman, flying on his butterflies, had the witch’s attention, blasting her with orbs of violet energy from his cane, and though the bolts were being directed towards the Sandman, Albert almost felt as though he was the primary target, most of the bolts connecting just mere inches from the man, keeping him on the move.
“Why don’t you just die already!!” the Sandman yelled, blasting another energy orb at the witch, more irritated than anything that his magic was nothing compared to hers, the witch doing nothing more than wincing at every orb that connected with her body.
“Now, now,” the witch said, laughing, her voice a demonic screech. “This is a fun I have been looking forward too!” With both hands out, a giant bolt called forth from the cloud found its way to the Sandman’s butterfly cloud, the beautiful insects bursting into a quick ball of flame, disappearing, leaving the Sandman to fall to the ground many feet below.
Albert, using this as his opportune distraction, sprinted to Valentine’s discarded Tommy-gun. Picking the gun up, the weapon heavier than expected, Albert was forced to drop the sword, but the gun seemed a better weapon choice to him anyways.
Pulling the trigger, the Minotaur had made the task look simple, but the recoil rocked Albert’s body, forcing him to grip the gun with all his strength, his muscles quickly getting soar. But it was worth it, the bullets fired entering the witch’s spider abdomen, the witch screaming out in agony, quickly turning to see her attacker.
“I’ll rip your goddamn head from those shoulders and use it as a volleyball!” the witch sneered through gritted teeth. Making a dash towards Albert, her spider legs clicking as they moved almost too fast for the eye to see, Albert had to abandon the heavy gun and move, but not before picking up his sword, rolling just as the witch trampled over where the man had just been standing.
Running, thinking that he had to do something, Albert turned around, only to look up into the witch’s grey eyes, the spider-woman looming over him, having caught up to him with no effort, anger from the pain he had caused her showcased on her face. Lifting her arms high, summoning lighting to her clawed fingers, she wanted to deliver the killing blow onto the man herself, instead of sending a bolt from the cloud above.
And like the Minotaur, Albert had to wonder how or why the witch had come into existence, had to wonder why Maddie would imagine something so dark and evil. And though he would never know, the story behind the witch’s creation was a simple one.
Night of the living dead, by Romero, one of Maddie’s favorite films, even though she was only nine. Her mother would most definitely yell if she knew Maddie was watching, but that was only if her mother cared enough to walk into the room at all. Maddie couldn’t remember the last time her mother had given her a goodnight kiss, or even a goodnight. Most nights she would fall asleep with only the television to comfort her.
Rolling over, Maddie could remember a time before she had a television in her room, a time when she would sit and think about things, about her mommy, and how she missed her daddy. Then the Sandman came and told her stories. He made it better to fall asleep at night. No need to think of all those sad, bad, and miserable things.
When Maddie’s mommy got a new television, she allowed Maddie to have the old one in her room. It was only a matter of time before Maddie didn’t need the Sandman anymore, the yarns played out on the television whispering her to sleep. And that night, it was Romero’s yarn that was whispering to her.
With the volume down low, Maddie didn’t really focus on it, her back turned to the t.v. as she felt her eyelids getting heavy. Maddie had seen those nasty zombie’s trying to get into the white farmhouse over and over, knew what was coming, how it ended. She just liked having it on as she tried to go to sleep for the night.
Opening her eyes for what she thought was going to be the last time for the night, just to see the lights on the wall from the black and white film playing out on her television, an unfamiliar shadow crawled down the wall that caught Maddie’s eye, pulling her from her almost sleep to a more awake state of being.
Rolling over, Maddie had never seen such an icky, hairy, or just plain big spider in her life. Just crawling down the screen, the zombies walking beneath the spider’s legs didn’t scare Maddie what-so-ever, but that spider, it was a different story.
Screaming, she couldn’t help it. The spider was just too big and Maddie was afraid it was going to jump off that screen. Jump off onto her bed, and then who knew what it would do. Crawl up to her, with those long, nasty legs. Fangs dripping venom, all eight of its creepy eyes reflecting her frightened face.
Her mother, still in her night gown, who herself had been sound asleep when she was stirred awake by the blood curdling scream she had heard from her daughter’s room, Maddie’s mommy was not happy the least bit when all it had been was a spider. One little spider.
Scolding her daughter for overreacting, then for the movie on the television, Maddie’s mommy pulled the plug on the television, telling her daughter no more television at night, and then told her to grow up. “It’s only a damn spider Maddie. Grow up.”
Slamming the door behind her as she left, leaving Maddie in the dark room alone, little Maddie crying, upset, hurt that her mommy hadn’t come in to protect her from the nasty spider, instead telling her to just grow up, Maddie was hurt. But in the darkness, she could hear something. Thinking it the Sandman, the clacking sound she could hear from the dark corner of her room told her differently.
“It’s time to go to sleep baby,” the voice said from the darkness. But it confused Maddie. It sounded just like her mother, but she had just seen her mother walk out of the room. The slam of the door had only made that fact more real. Yet, Maddie could hear her whispering from the dark. But what was the clacking noise. The clacking of something moving maybe?
“Mommy?” Maddie asked, just for the sake of asking the question. Stepping into what little moonlight sneaked into the room, Maddie’s mother was most definitely in the room, but there was something off about her. The tint of her skin color, the blond in her hair gone, turned grey. But maybe it was just the moonlight?
“Hehehe. Of course baby, now. Go to sleep.” The last words to come from this different mommy’s mouth weren’t just words. They were growls. And they scared Maddie worse than the spider. Where was the Sandman at when she needed him? Why did the men she loved and needed disappear when she needed them the most?
Arm’s raised, lighting captured between her hands, the witch was ready to strike down the man below her, the man that had hurt her. Smiling, the thrill of the kill was the most sensational feeling that had ever made its way through her body.
Holding the sword up, knowing it was probably futile, Albert thinking the witch’s magic stronger and deadlier than the Sandman’s sword. Falling backwards to the ground as his eyes were glued to the witch’s hands, the light trapped between them mesmerizing, like lightning caught in a glass ball.
Just seconds before the blow found its recipient, just before Albert was to be shocked to death with the voltage familiar inside lightning, Mr. Q was suddenly standing above Albert, the unicorn rearing high on its hind haunches, steed looking more mighty and grandiose than ever before. Colliding with the falling orb held in her hands, the witches lightning orb was stopped by Mr. Q’s magic shield, the brilliance emanating from the two lights, the intense white light mixing with the soft blue light, it was beautiful to partake.
And then a wicked explosion, a blinding explosion, Albert’s vision left blurry afterwards. When he could finally see again, the witch was gone, and Mr. Q was on the ground, his horn broken, eyes closed, making Albert fear the worse.
Crawling to the steed, petting his mane, the man let out a sigh of relief when he realized that Mr. Q was breathing, but unconscious. Looking to the Sandman, the violet suited man on his knees, recovering from his fall, Albert was on his own, though he was questioning his worth.
“What are you waiting for you bloke?” Mr. Q asked, eyes still closed, the words a struggle to get out. The pain shooting through his head from his broken horn was unbearable, but he somehow found the energy to get the words out.
“I don’t think I can do it. I’m not magic like you or him,” Albert said. He was scared, and starting to feel like he had failed Maddie again. He had just fallen over, watching the witch prepare to kill him. I did nothing to protect myself. How could I protect Maddie?
“You don’t have to be magic Albert. Just go. You have love on your side.” Barely opening his eye, Mr. Q looked upon Albert for one brief moment, his words having no use to persuade the man to try. Try and find the treasure.
“What does love have against something like that?” he asked concerning the witch. Dropping the sword, Albert was losing all hope quickly. The Sandman, sick of the man’s depressed whining, planted a foot in the man’s shoulder, kicking him over. “Hey!” Albert asked, wondering why the hell he had just gotten kicked by someone whom he had thought was his acquaintance.
Reaching down before Albert could move, the Sandman grabbed and pulled out the Polaroid of Maddie and Albert, holding it in front of the man. “This is what love can do you idiot!” the Sandman said angrily. “Love can do the impossible, create things out of nothing, travel worlds. Save lives. Create life you fool. She is waiting for you. Maddie is waiting for you!” Poking Albert in the chest with his cane as he said “you”, the Sandman got through a little bit better than the unicorn had, which might have angered Mr. Q if the steed had fallen back in exhausted sleep.
Inspiration back, Albert got to his feet, picked up his sword, turned his cap backwards, and taking a deep breath, found a way to convince himself to finish what he had started. What he had dragged two other Majestic’s into. He had to finish it for all of them.
Turning, going to enter the house, finish the witch off once and for all and claim the treasure, but before he took his first step to head towards the house, he turned back to the Sandman, snatching the Polaroid from smiling Sandman’s hand.
“That’s mine,” Albert said, returning the smile, putting the picture back into his pocket after looking at it for a moment. Giving a farewell nod, he was off to kill the witch and claim his treasure.
“Good luck kid,” the Sandman whispered, resting both hands on the cane, turning his attention to the still sleeping unicorn. “And I’ll say this while you’re asleep, good job Q. But lose the sweater vest. It’s ugly.” Making his way off towards Birch, snapping his fingers, his butterflies gone, the Sandman would need some entertainment while he walked.
Coming up from hiding in the non-burned patches in the Field’s grass, the Violins Magnifico went to the Sandman to follow him, playing a random symphonic masterpiece by Tchaikovsky, the Sandman whistling right along with the song as he walked off. Opening one eye, having heard everything, Mr. Q smiled. “Well, your suit is tacky,” the unicorn said before allowing himself to fall back to sleep.
Making his way into the destroyed home, one hand upon the sword, the other out in front, forefinger and pinky extended out like “devil horns”, to anyone who didn’t know, Albert looked like he could handle his own with a sword, but the truth was, he had no idea what the hell he was doing trying to fight a nine foot tall spider woman with magic powers with an oversize, shiny “sandwich tooth pick”.
The battle that had occurred between Mr. Q and Valentine was all too evident, the furniture destroyed, holes all throughout the house, the most obvious being the one in the floor. Looking down in, Valentine was still unconscious on the basement floor, Albert breathing a sigh of relief upon the sight. Only the spider bitch to deal with.
Creeping through the house as slowly as he could, it was almost no use, the floor boards creaking beneath his feet, the rusty old nails squeaking loudly, every squeak making him wince, making Albert think that the witch was just waiting to pounce and pin him down with one of her long, black spider legs.
“God I hate spiders,” he said to himself, vowing to kill every eight legged little bastard from there on out, if the queen of spiders didn’t get him first that is. Seeing nothing on the first floor that could either be a witch or a treasure, though he had no clue what the treasure even looked like, Albert came across the spot where the steps had been at one point, leading to the top floor, but the stairs themselves were gone, having collapsed into the basement, leaving a cobweb infested space where they had once been.
Standing there over the collapsed staircase, Albert could see the basement door directly across from him, and below the door, the stairs leading down into the basement had also collapsed, the wood from both cases laying crumbled, broken on the stone floor roughly seven feet down.
Trying to figure out which was his best route to go to find the treasure, Albert thought he could hear something, though faint at first, he passed it off as just the sounds of the house, then thought it could have been the witch sneaking up on him. Looking all around, trying to stay as silent as he could, though he was in the open, an easy target, he was able to listen in more carefully, the sound being that of music playing below him.
Kneeling down, it was hard at first to hear the music, but it was just loud enough to faintly pick up. And along with the music, he could hear singing. The witch is singing, he thought, her chilling voice sending a chill up his spine. Realizing he had no better choice but to go down, Albert looked below, not liking the idea of jumping down onto the broken wood from the stairs, so instead, he returned to the hole made from the collapsed Valentine.
Hopping down in, after sitting on the edge of the collapsed floor, feeling the weakened floor boards giving way, not allowing Albert much time to consider his outrageous idea, the man just dropped down onto the minotaur, more gracious than anything his fall didn’t wake the beast. Rolling off Valentine as quickly as possible, making sure to not poke the monster with his sword, Albert breathed a deep sigh of relief, glad his stupid idea had actually worked.
Looking around, the basement was built like a stone labyrinth, but the way to go was simple, Albert just following the witch’s singing. Sneaking, moving on his tip toes, staying as quiet as possible, the witch’s haunting singing to the music was chilling, unnaturally beautiful, but still chilling.
Here’s a lullaby to close your eyes….
Albert could see a faint light ahead of him in the stone hallway he was sneaking down.
It was always you that I despised….
Leaning against the wall, Albert listening to the witch’s singing from the room just around the corner, he was almost hypnotized, closing his eyes to listen, a moment to allow the witch to continue. Continue before they faced off for one last time, with only one walking away.
I don’t care enough for you to cry….
“Here’s a lullaby to close your eyes,” the witch finished singing, the music dying to silence, the eerily sound of the echo being the only sounds left in the stone labyrinth, till even those were gone in silence. “You think you are good enough for my Madeline?” The witch knew that the man was around the corner, she could sense him, his fear of her. His love for Maddie. She knew he was going to face her, the fool, she thought.
“To be honest,” Albert said, stepping out from off the wall around the corner, looking into the room, the witch’s back to him, the faint light being that given off by two lit candles. The only thing in the room was a wooden table, and besides the candles, Albert couldn’t see what else was on it, the witch standing overtop the mysterious cause for the music. “I know I am not good enough for Maddie. She’s a special girl. But I will try my damndest to be the best man for her that I can be.”
Pointing the tip of the sword to the witch, Albert waited for her to turn and face him, wondering why she was stalling.
“You can try all you want. All you want, but it won’t ever be good enough.” Turning around, the witch’s hands were scorched, terribly damaged when the lightning ball she had attempted to kill Albert with exploded from Mr. Q’s interference. Looking Albert in the face, a single tear rolled down her grey cheek.
“Who are you to try and stop me? We are all supposed to do what is best for Maddie. Be there for HER!” Angry, this witch was delaying what Albert had to do, and that was to just get to Maddie.
“I do care for her! More than any of the rest of you! Madeline would never admit it, and though she hated her mother, despised her, my little girl hated that bastard of a father more!! The one who walked out on her, leaving her with that horrible woman who would dare call herself MOTHER!” Albert’s guard lessened from the witch’s monologue, he was nearly caught off guard by a lightning quick strike from one of the witch spider legs, Albert dropping low, rolling backwards through the door way, the leg slammed into the stone wall across from her with such force, pieces exploded away, cracks running across the wall’s surface.
Seeing no alternative other than to attack, Albert struck, swinging down with the sword, cutting clean through the leg, about three feet of the appendage falling to the floor, still wiggling on its own, the witch screaming in agony as he redrew her damaged leg back.
Jumping through the doorway, swinging blindly with a clenched fist, missing, the witch was crying more openly, the tears being those of fury. Albert, back on his feet, knew he had the upper hand, the witch’s hands damaged and him making a heavy blow severing one of her legs.
“Just give up,” he said, more up to talking her down than trying to fight the angry spider woman. “Allow me to go. I promise, I won’t walk out on Maddie. I never would do that.”
“LIAR! YOU ARE ALL LIARS!” Throwing more blind punches, just swinging madly, the witch refused to strike with her legs, afraid of what the man was capable of, surprising her with that first attack. Jumping at Albert, with one last lunge, the witch felt the worst feeling in her gut, Albert falling back, sword up, the witch falling onto the silver blade.
Pushing her to the side, rolling away, Albert almost felt pity for the witch, looking upon her tears, the sword in her belly, black blood just barely dripping out, a thin line running down the blade.
“I’m sorry,” Albert said, his apology not needed, but sincere. “I didn’t want it to come to this. I just want to get to Maddie.” Seeing the witch’s finger motioning for him to bend down, he wanted to at least oblige her with one last dying wish. Knelt down, he didn’t expect her to grip his throat in a death grip, pulling her face towards his, the clacking of her legs attempting to move deafening as the sound echoed in the hall.
“I’ll rip your still beating imaginary heart from your worthless chest!” Sneering, the witch tried to get to her feet, but the pain in her gut made it impossible, and the grip of death on her was just as strong on her as her grip on Albert’s throat.
Reacting instinctively, Albert grabbed the sword’s handle, pulled it from her belly, and swinging it in an ark, sliced through the witch’s arm, cutting off another of her appendages, and after getting some space between him and her, he had to put up a bit of a struggle to get the amputated arm off, throwing it to the floor.
“BITCH! I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY SOMETHING TO REDEEM YOURSELF BEFORE YOU DIED!! I MEAN SERIOUSLY, what the hell!” Kicking her arm towards the witch, Albert could hear her whispering, but didn’t care, he had defeated her. Turning his back to her, he walked back to the room, and looking into it, on the table was a music box, the box white and pink.
“It was always you that I despised,” the witch whispered under her dying breath, knowing that she had failed in her own self-righteous mission, trying to keep Madeline safe from any more men that might leave her, breaking her heart.
Staring at the music box, Albert knew it was the treasure that he had gone into the house for. Looking it over, then looking over himself, he was covered in the witch’s blood, his clothing torn up from the battles, and he was still clutching the sword in a mighty grip. Releasing the blade, he let it fall to the floor with a clang, and smiling, he had done it, placing both hands onto the lid of the music box.
Realizing he was holding his breath, Albert smiled, letting out a breath while he lifted the lid, the music beginning to play as the lid was opened fully, a little plastic ballerina spinning on one toe to the music. The box itself was empty, but a tiny mirror was inset on the inside of the lid. Looking at the mirror, Albert noticed he had no reflection, and thinking this strange he reached forward, touching the mirror, feeling like he had just got zapped with millions and millions of volts of electricity, his eye’s shutting closed quick, his breath stolen from his lungs, the music so loud it felt like it was in his head.
The witch saw a flash of light erupt from the room, knowing what had happened. The Majestic man had touched the mirror, doing what she had been trying to prevent since her arrival in the fields. The man was gone, having used the magic trapped in the box to go back to the real world, to go back to Maddie.
The music still playing as the light disappeared, the witch smiled, a part of her actually glad she had failed. Maybe the man was being honest, maybe he could make Madeline happy, maybe he wouldn’t break her heart. Crawling across the floor, leaving a trail of her own blood as she made it into the room, she looked up at the table, the lid open, music coming from the music box as the little ballerina spun.
Pulling herself up to a kneeling position, the witch looked upon the box knowing the truth behind it, being the only one who did. The box was the only real thing ever sent to the Field’s by Madeline. A box that she had found in her mother’s closet, a gift that her mother had claimed was from her “bastard husband and Maddie’s worthless father.” That day, that was the only day that Maddie hated her father for abandoning her, so she damned the box to the Field’s.
Closing the lid, the witch knew her time was very short, her last breath of life in her lungs as she fell back to the floor. Eyes closed, she let out that last breath with a final verse, allowing death to take her.
“Here’s a lullaby to close your eyes…”
Tapping her pencil, Maddie just didn’t know what to write. She had major writer’s block, and pissed off, she tossed her pencil, the writing utensil landing several feet away, catching the attention of a man who was enjoying a muffin. Picking the pencil up, he walked it over with a smile, and returned it to the very agitated woman, who found a way to return a smile.
“Thank you,” Maddie said, just catching a glimpse of the ring on the man’s left ring finger, telling her he was already another woman’s man. Damn, he’s cute too.
“No problem miss,” the man said, returning to his muffin without another thought. Maddie watching him walk back to his table and sit down, she let out a lonely sigh. She had been returning to the same corner café, ordering the same peach tea each day, a week passing by since her last phone conversation with Ruth. Maddie just felt like she needed to be there, but couldn’t explain why. It wasn’t helping her with her writing, at all. It just seeming to be a futile and pointless attempt to let something unexplainable happen.
Calling over the waitress to get her check, the girl whom Maddie thought looked too young to be out of high school, she thought about asking the girl’s age for a brief second, but decided not to, the idea rude. Thanking the girl, another item was with the receipt, which both things puzzled Maddie.
“Your tea was taken care of by a gentleman over there,” the waitress said, pointing behind Maddie. As Maddie turned, there was no one there. But the tea being paid for wasn’t what puzzled her. The Polaroid sitting underneath the receipt did. The Polaroid that she had thought she only imagined. Maddie always knew she had a very overactive imagination, and many imaginary friends growing up, but how is this real? she thought as she held the picture.
Turning back around, still no one at the table, Maddie didn’t understand. Confused, the whole matter surreal, upon looking back at her own table holding her notebook and pencil, Maddie was surprised to see the man from the Polaroid sitting across from her, smiling.
“Well hello there,” the man said, a smile on his face. Wearing a black oxford, grey dress vest and black cap, he mixed dress well with the casual, his black rimmed glasses only drawing Maddie to look deeper into his sky blue eyes.
“Are you real?” Maddie asked, having never seen the man before except for passing him on the street and having a strange Polaroid of the two together. Looking at him, head tilted to the side while she tried to unravel the mystery of what was happening, she couldn’t help but smile, the man’s smile contagious.
“I feel real, so you tell me if you think I feel real.” Getting to his feet, walking around the metal table sitting outside the café, the same table that Maddie had sat at for a week waiting for something to happen, she got that something she had been waiting for.
Picked up by the man, his hands finding their way into hers, she was on her feet, and before she could stop him, he was pulling her in for the most passionate, electrified kiss she had ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Feeling as though small shocks were traveling from his lips into hers, then through the rest of her body, Maddie lost her breath and could feel her heart just pounding in her chest.
“My god,” she said, once he pulled away, both of them keeping their eyes closed for a few more minutes, “that was too real. Surreal.” Smiling bigger than before, Maddie opened her eyes and had a loss of words, not sure what to say beyond “surreal”.
“You don’t know what I had to go through just to get that kiss,” the man said, leaning in and kissing Maddie on the cheek before returning to his seat across from her, Maddie taking a moment longer to regain her composure, then also taking her seat.
“I don’t. But first, what’s your name?” She had to at least know the name of her surreal stranger.
“Someone decided I looked like an Albert. So, name is Albert, and this pleasure is all mine Maddie,” reaching a hand across to shake hers, Maddie couldn’t help but giggle as she returned the gesture, lightly shaking his hand.
“You don’t look like an Albert what-so-ever,” and in her opinion he REALLY didn’t look at all like an Albert. “You look more like, an oh, I don’t know, a Brad maybe.” This made Albert laugh.
“It’s just funny you say that, but I have to tell you, I grew to like Albert.”
“Then Albert it is. But who gave you your name, Albert?” Maddie was curious. Everything else about this man was strange, so the origin of his name had to be just as interesting.
“You may remember him. He’s about thirty feet tall, has a child like demeanor.” Maddie at first was confused. How the hell can someone be thirty feet tall? And then like what Albert was saying was a spark that had ignited a fire in her mind, everything came flooding back to her. Birch, Mr. Q, or Kwu for those who like the letters K-W-U, and the Sandman. Valentine, and the witch. The music box. Her Majestic’s.
“All of you. You were all so real to me. You were all there for me.” Shedding a single tear, Maddie questioned herself, wondering how she could forget, pushing all her memories to the back of her brain, making her friends, the Majestic’s nothing more than figments of her childhood imagination, or so she had convinced herself.
“Hey now,” Albert said, reaching across wiping the tear away. “No need for tears. They are still there for you. Without them, I would have never of made it here doll.” Maddie, looking from Albert to her notebook, had to ask the only question that was on her mind.
“You defeated the witch to become real again?” It seemed crazy, but she knew it was all real. It was unexplainable, but she knew it was all real.
“You got it. Said I wasn’t good enough for you.” Albert took Maddie’s hand in his, and with his free hand pulled her notebook over, opening it up to the last page, reading the last few lines she had written, her story still needing an ending.
“And do you think you are?” Maddie knew that Albert was something she had imagined, and she knew that she had imagined her perfect man when she had brought him into reality for that brief moment on the street. But even Maddie didn’t know what it took for her perfect man to be well, perfect.
“To be honest, I don’t. But, I’ll try my damndest to make you smile every day. To wipe away every tear like I just did, and to make sure your story ends with,” and at the same time, both Albert and Maddie finished his sentence, “happily ever after.”
Grabbing her pencil, he began writing in her notebook, making her smile, and a look crossing her face, without words saying just what is it are you writing Albert? When he finished, he closed the notebook with the pencil in it, and pushed it towards Maddie, a playful grin on his lips, with a look of satisfaction in his eyes.
“And just how did you end my story?” Maddie asked, going to open the notebook, her curiosity overwhelming, but Albert keeping his hand on top of the notebook, waiting to say what he had to say before letting her continue.
“When you read this, imagine it in your head doll. Do that for me alright?” Albert asked, his little plan coming together, but Maddie still not sure what to expect from what he had just jotted down in her composition book.
“Alright,” she said, a bit of puzzlement in her tone. Finally allowed to open it, she cleared her mind, and let Albert’s words take her away.
The Majestic’s knew that Albert had made it back to Maddie. They had felt the kiss between the two all the way across the planes, passing from reality into the Field’s, world of imagination built by their beloved Maddie.
But Albert felt as though he owed everyone a debt of gratitude, his success being nothing without admitting it was all due to them, everyone of the individuals left back in the Field’s to only wish they could see their Maddie one last time.
And as she read the words written in her own notebook, the words written by a man that she herself had created, she smiled, feeling a tingle in her whole that she hadn’t felt since she was a child. With her mind’s eye, she was in the Field’s with her Majestic’s, with her friends.
Birch, casting a cooling shadow over the sitting Sandman, the violet suited man spinning tales much like he used to when a restless Maddie needed to fall asleep.
In a house that had been built to be haunted was changed to a beautiful home, a home that Maddie had never saw as her own, but in the Field’s it looked more welcoming. Inside, the sweater vested unicorn had found that he had a real talent to sing, and taking his teaching methods taught the Violins Magnifico a new tune or two.
And Valentine, the mobster minotaur. Thinking of how silly his creation had been, Maddie made the creature much more pleasant to deal with, the minotaur taking up singing as well, his deep baritone voice complimenting the unicorn’s perfectly.
And finally the witch. Albert knew reading just the mention of the spider legged woman would spur unhappy memories in Maddie, Albert still unsure of the witch’s creation, but better off not knowing. But, just like the rest, the woman was a Majestic like the rest of them, and even she needed happiness.
So, with Albert’s final written words, knowing that Maddie reading it, Albert wished for the witch to take the name Mother, and to have normal legs, long beautiful legs, and for her black and white color to be replaced with the color of a woman in her prime. And Mother, the woman who had been hell bent on protecting Maddie, had a new job. Look after the Majestic’s, loving them the way only a mother could…
“Will all that really happen?” Maddie said, closing the notebook, wishing she really could see all her friends again.
“If you want it too doll.” Albert, getting to his feet for a final time, pulled Maddie to hers. “Come on, I’ll make you dinner.”
“Where are you going to make me dinner?” Maddie asked, getting up.
“Turns out you not only imagined me, but also gave me an apartment not far from here. And a bank account. With a whole seven hundred dollars in it.”
“A whole seven hundred dollars in it huh? And just what name did I imagine for you, since you have this apartment and bank account?” He had to have a name to have either of them, she thought.
“Brad Pitt as funny as that is,” Albert laughed, Maddie as well.
“Welp, Brad, what’s for dinner?” Maddie, taking his hand, left the notebook on the table, not too concerned with how her story would end, content on just letting it play out for her to be surprised.
“Albert,” Albert said, “I prefer Albert doll.” Pulling her in, he snagged one last kiss before the two began to walk to his apartment.
“My apologies Albert. Off we are then?” For the first time, Maddie felt like she had found somebody real who was actually going to be there for her, even if she had imagined him.
“Off we are Madeline. Off we are.” And for the first time, Albert felt a feeling of success, having finally made it to the woman he was meant to love. And though neither of them would ever know it, the Field’s filled with wild roses, the velvet of the flowers springing up like an ocean, telling the Majestic’s left behind that Maddie was happy. The flowing red telling all of them that Maddie had finally found love.
“I knew you would do it Albert,” Birch would whisper.
“Way to go kid,” would slip out the Sandman’s black lips.
“Good job indeed,” Mr. Q would let out through a smile.
And without saying a word, just letting a single tear fall to the Field’s velvet floor, Mother knew that for the first time in her existence, she knew what the perfect failure felt like, having failed to stop the man, but knowing that she was all the more happy she had.
Walking up to the notebook, opening it and grabbing the pencil, the boy didn’t even read what was written. He didn’t have to. He knew just what to write without even having to read what was in that notebook. Jotting down the words, he closed the notebook, slid the pencil behind his ear, claiming it as his own, and skipped off down the street, leaving the notebook to soak in the coming late afternoon rain.
If anyone were to walk up before the rain ruined the book, they would find an unfinished story written by a best-selling author, a small narrative written by an imaginary man who had fought to become real, and a final sentence written by that boy. The final sentence being…
They all live Happily ever after…