Tina hastily pulled her hand and stood back.
‘Hello!??!’, made Ella from behind her sister. ‘Hello is no good for floating books. Why hello?’
‘Hey!’ the nothingness answered back.
The little girls stared at the door. Or at the book. They took another step back.
‘Hello!’, Ella tried, unconvinced.
‘Hey!’, the nothingness answered again.
‘Tina! The Book floats. And talks. Books don’t talk and float.”
‘I don’t think it’s the book talking. I felt….a sort of… person, when I touched before.’
‘You felt a person?’
‘Yes Ella. Tina felt a person.’, said the nothingness again.
‘Who are you?’, Tina took control.
‘How do you know our names?’
‘How did you get in?’, Tina went on.
‘How long have you been standing there?’
‘Why can’t we see anything? And why is our Book floating?’, Ella demanded.
‘Ookeey! One at the time. I can’t answer anything if you keep asking.’ said the voice.
‘Ok. Explain!’, Tina allowed condescendingly.
‘Ummm… I am the Invisible Man.’
‘No kidding!’, said Ella.
‘However funny, that is my name. I came from the Invisible Land. A few of us can live in both worlds. Yours’ and the Invisible Land. However, when we are in your world, we look like yourselves. We are completely opaque, and resemble normal people. Except me.’
‘What happened to you?’, Tina asked.
‘I got stuck in your world in invisible form. I cannot go back to Invisible Land, without my visibility. You have to help me!’
‘Why us?’ Ella wanted to know.
Ella was sitting at her desk. She was lost in a dream world, looking at the frozen trees from outside. The afternoon snow made everything white and sparkling. Almost like the White Kingdom they visited last year.
‘Watch’ you doing?’, Tina asked following her sister’s gaze.
‘Being happy for the snow.’
Tina smiled. She knew Ella was enjoying more than weather.
‘So, do we start? Next week we have the festivity. And we have so much to finish until then. Costumes. Prop. Going over the script one more time.’ said Ella.
‘And, of course, the almighty curtain.’, Tina continued with a deep sigh.
‘Yeah. The trouble of every year. Think mommy could help?’
‘She could, for sure. If we could find the material. What did we use last year?’
‘We had a big, blue one borrowed from the City Hall. I don’t think we can get it again, though. The City Hall had it borrowed from somewhere else too.’, Ella recalled.
The little girls started to analyze the walls and the ceiling of the room as if they wanted to repaint them again. In hopes of discovering in their perfection a piece of the so-needed material for the show curtains.
‘Well, I guess, there is nothing we can do for now. Let’s finish the costumes. And go over the script again.’, said Tina and opened a cabinet doors from near the bed.
An avalanche of colorful and shiny little things, masks, hats and half-sewed costumes rushed out their imprisonment, covering Tina’s feet completely. Ella went to a big drawer and pulled out a large piece of cardboard and a bunch of colors and crayons. She fixed the huge sheet, on top, with two of her shoes and at the bottom with two of her sister’s. Then she started to pull out little circles, stars, rhombuses, colored rustling paper garlands and silver, red, blue, golden pieces of tinfoil. She piled everything on top of the huge cardboard. Then she moved to the table and started to gather scissors, glue and pins. She dropped them inside of a shoe, as to not lose any pins.
‘Can you hand me the script notebook?’, she asked without raising her glance.
Tina somehow managed to get untangled from her own pile and reach to a notebook the size of a brick. It contained all the program for the Christmas festivity. It was a tradition Tina and Ella kept every year. On the 24th of December they would hold a play, followed by carols and exchanging of small gifts. Around a beautifully lit Christmas tree, where all their small, little town would gather. For Ella and Tina, la piece de resistance, was the play. They usually worked on it for the better half of the year. Coming up with an original story every time. Then gather the cast, find costumes and fix all the other errands. They took care of everything needed for the show.
Tina took “the Book”, as they called it, from the bookshelf and dropped it at Ella’s feet.
‘Are you doing the placement cards? Or, should I?’, she asked.
‘No, you should. I have to finish the affiche. You’re better at it, anyway.’
And with that, Ella started to sort everything. 15 golden stars: right up corner. 25 blue dots: right up corner, near stars. 5 turquoise garlands: left up corner. All tinfoil: left up corner. Crayons and colored pencils: left available shoe. Scissors: up right shoe. And so on, until everything was easy to spot and use. When she finished, she took a dark pencil and started to sketch the outline of the affiche.
Tina gave it just a quick look. Her sister knew what she was doing. She had to take care of costumes. She took the Book back from Ella and opened it at the script’s first page. She left it opened on the floor and, bellow it, started to piece together all costumes, to see what’s missing. Wings and wig for the Angel. Missing: white robe. Black hat, mask, tucks for the Knight. Missing: cape. Blue dress, silver shoes for the Princes. Missing: tiara. Yellow cape for the Moon. Missing: light source. Turban, mustache, brown costume for the Special Guest. Missing: black glows.
Afterwards, she started to arrange the cards for the public seats. In 8 consecutive rows, with 8 columns. So she can write on each of them the placement numbers.
“Tina is so good at organizing”, Ella thought, while reaching for the scissors. In her short interruption she assessed the damage. At this point, the whole floor was completely taken over. No little spot left uncovered by their assiduous work. Not even to drop a pin.
Ella reached for the proper shoe. The shoe was empty. She looked around. No trace of scissors. Anywhere. She looked inside all shoes, again. Still nothing.
‘Did you take the scissors?’
‘No. I haven’t budged.’, Tina said. ‘See on the table. I think I saw them somewhere around.’
Ella stretched her neck to reach the surface of the table. A bit more. Just a little bit more. And…there they were. “That’s strange. I was sure, I brought them once.” With a sense of slight confusion she stood up and went to the table to retrieve them. This time she made sure she put them in a completely empty shoe, in plain sight. She needed them handy.
Tina watched her to see if she can help.
‘You’re too concerned with the drawing!’, she said, amused.
Ella smiled and retook her artistic preoccupation, grabbing a pencil and starting to measure distances and angles with it.
“Why is there a pencil measuring always involved in any drawing?” Tina thought while finishing up with the cards. The next item on her fixing list was the Knight’s mask. For now, it was only fashioned. It needed the straps attached. Tina tiptoed around the cards, to reach the costume section of the floor.
Safely there, she took all the pieces for a meticulous analysis. No mask. “Huh. I must have missed it. Let me see.” Still no mask. She took the Knight’s costume, item by item, and started to shake them. Then all of the other costumes.
‘You ok?’, Ella asked.
‘Can’t find the mask. I must have lost it.’
‘Oh, no!’, Ella made and quickly got up and join her sister. The mask was not there. She went to the cabinet and carefully opened it.
‘It’s here!’, she shouted with excitement. Tina came to convince for herself. She picked up the mask and studied it from all angles. With attention and determination.
‘Why did you run?’, she asked the mask with a funny, lisp voice. ‘Get back to your place!’
‘Hihi.’, Ella chuckled. ‘Good thing we found it. This is difficult to replace.’
‘I must have missed it the first time.’, Tina continued. ‘I see your part is coming along.’
‘Yes. Come see!’, said Ella and dragged Tina, with the force of anticipation, to her part of the floor.
‘What do you think?’
Tina bended a little to have a better view. The poster was amazing. Her sister actually managed to make a Christmas tree over the cardboard. It had sparkling globes, stars and little bells. It even had snow on top of everything. The tree was made from green paper with tinfoil decorations. Tina could not identify the white dust Ella used for snow.
‘It’s beautiful. You haven’t spend so many hours for nothing, I see’, she said. ‘Still, I think the hour of the show should be bigger. Details about place and time have to be seen from afar.’
‘Do I have to make the date bigger as well?’
‘I don’t know. It’s not like the date changes each year. Yeah! Why not? Maybe you should.’
Ella started to erase the part with the date. Then she began to, lightly, draw the new, bigger letters.
Tina watched as she worked for a while longer, then returned to the cards to gather and store them. Only, the cards were now scattered all around. As if a strong wind blew them over. None was in its original place.
‘What ….happened…?’, she managed to ask with a fading voice.
Ella stood up and looked over the mess.
‘Heeey!’ she exclaimed. ‘When?…. “What?’
‘When I was looking over your work. Are there any windows opened?’
Both Tina and Ella looked at the door and the windows. Everything was closed and shut. No wind.
‘Maybe you disturbed them when you got to me’, Ella suggested, timidly. Although the possibility seemed distant, even for her.
‘No. I came from the cabinet. Remember? Just after we both found the mask’
‘Right! Then, what happened?’
Tina, with her characteristic pragmatism, went to each window and checked by hand if they were tightly closed. When it reached the door, she opened and closed it, a few times, with all the might she could master. The breeze caused by the door was barely able to lift, for a little, a few cards.
‘That’s strange!’, she amended.
‘So strange.’, Ella agreed.
‘Maybe there’s a cat in the room’, Tina joked.
Then she stared to gather all the cards. Good thing this happened after she finished them. She could easily order them now. Ella rushed to help. As they were collecting cards from under furniture, they also watched the door. Time to time, one of them stared at the windows to see if they were still closed.
However, the bedroom remained warm and cozy. The cold and the night from outside were staying where they were supposed to. Outside.
‘Can you help me. There are a few deep, under the bed. I think I need you to hold the bedding so I can see beneath.’, Tina said while she slowly disappeared under the bed.
Ella quickly rose all the bedding at the edge of the bed. Then dropped on her knees and hands. Tina pulled the cards, one by one. Ella took them from her sister’s hand and, carefully, placed them on the bed. After the fifth one, Tina got out from under the bed.
‘Hiuh. I think we have all of them.’
‘We should put everything back, for now. We’ll work on the rest tomorrow.’, Tina said and looked around the room to see where to start the cleaning. Ella went to her affiche and rolled it tightly, ready to put it back in the drawer.
‘Hey, can you hand me the Book? I want to make sure I put it safely.’ she asked.
No answer came.
‘Tina?’, she insisted and turned over.
She saw Tina staring at the room door. There, the Book was floating in midair. Magically levitating and slowly moving. As if it made a discreet dance. Ella blinked a few times. The book was still afloat. She tightly closed her eyes for a few seconds. When she opened them back, the book was still there.
‘Ugghh…Tin…? ….the Bo… the Book it’s moving!’
‘Aaaa….’, Tina made. ‘So you see it too. I wasn’t… sure.’
‘The book … is moving!’, Ella went on with a slightly hoarse voice.
‘I’m going to grab it!’, bravely decided Tina.
‘No!’ Ella shouted.
But, before she could do anything, Tina put the palm of her hand right above the book. The hand stopped before it reached the wood of the door. Tina was pushing against a solid object. Her hand was not passing through air.
There was something in front of the door.
Teddies, little dolls and kittens
Either stuffed or made from knittings,
Pretty toys that come to bow
To the mighty tomcat Meow.
And at night they’re all awake
They’re alive and joy they take
In doing the chores at hand.
What they break, they quickly mend.
Hurried, busy little fellows,
It soon dawns over the meadows!
Be careful tiny friend!
A kid’s gotten out of bed!
When the clock strikes midnight next
The toys that are never vexed
Shall awake and play till dawn
And keep silent in the morn’.
* Translation Credit: Oana Amaricai
(Part I here. )
Tina woke up first. She looked around. Had their parents done something? Moved them while they were asleep? But where? None of their rooms looked anything like it.
‘Where are we?’, Ela asked as well, glancing around.
Tina opened her mouth to answer, but stopped, confused. Everywhere hills, valleys, mountains, trees, everything opened up in sight. Only, every stone on the road, the road itself, giant trunks of century-old trees, everything was white.
‘Is it snow?’, asked Tina reaching to what seemed to be a heavy curtain that hung on the side of the road. How come she wasn’t she cold? She was wearing only a blue house gown.
Ela didn’t answer distracted by her own amazement. Her gaze pierced through the white branches of a white tree, towards the white sky sprinkled with white little clouds, tracing the white flight of a white bird into the bright light of a white sun. ‘How is it that I can tell things apart when they are all white?’
Tina placed her palm on the curtain. She withdrew it almost instantly. The whiteness around it was soft, fluffy and warm. It had taken the shape of her hand. As soon she withdraw it, the curtain regained its initial form.
‘Aaah… hmm! No snow! For sure.’, she mumbled.
‘Fragrant!’, Ela exclaimed. ‘Flowers and fruits! That’s the smell!’
‘Right so!’ confirmed her sister after experiencing herself.’
‘Ugh… pretty wired… So, where would we be right now?’
‘Umm… no idea. What do you think? Surprise from our parents?’
“Think no… I mean, I get the feeling that our parents had nothing to do with this.’
‘Yeah, me too. So what now?’ Tina went on.
Something of this new air told them they were not in danger. They could not explain why they weren’t at all afraid. But rather preoccupied with the mystery of the place. They watched the ghostly scenery again. As if by magic, the thought emerged at the same time. Had to follow the road! Solely possibility, if they were to find any answers. And on they stepped.
The surroundings were neither quiet, nor barren. Probably, not uninhabited either. All the sounds of a normal nature setting were present. Hiss of wind, flutter of wings, buzz of insects in the thick grass, whispers of leaves in the trees. The only unfamiliar thing was the strange curtain that meandered along the road. It made no sounds. Its height, though impossible to fathom, did not hide the horizon. And, of course, the whiteness, present in everything and anything. The only colored spots in the entire landscape were the little girls.
Soon, the road led them into a glade where the perfume of flowers was even more alluring. A garden! A garden full of flowers, of such richness as the girls had never seen before.
Ela left the road. She stepped curiously among them. Some were completely unknown to her, though she knew quite many types. She really loved flowers.
‘Wait. I’m coming too!’ Tina rushed.
But, in her haste, she tripped over a bush of bluebells. The fall took her by surprise. She didn’t have time to balance herself in any way. She landed, eyes closed, anticipating the shock. But, instead of the deaf thump she expected, Tina felt nothing. No noise, no pain, no injury. Just a soothing sensation of comfort.
‘Hey!’ she exclaimed.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Uhum! But you have to see for yourself. Fall into the grass!’
‘Sure! Think I’m gonna have your luck?!’
‘Nooo…it’s not luck. You’ll see, it won’t hurt! Ok, then, just sit on the grass.’
Ela sat next to her sister, as told. The flowers, the grass, the ground, molded after her body, forming a soft cradle.
‘Hmm’, muttered Tina, enlightened now as to why she hadn’t been hurt.
‘This place is very strange’, Ela declared.
‘Where do you think the flowers went?’, asked Tina. ‘There were flowers where we now sit.’
‘Well, as with many things around here, I have no idea’, Ela said getting up.
Beneath her the mystery unveiled. The flowers came back, just as they were before. None of them was touched in any way. No breaking or bending. Not one petal was out of place, as if nothing happened.
‘Uh…., do you think we’re dreaming?’, asked Tina, as she got up.
‘Could be… though… both of us the same dream?!’
‘Anyway, we’ll find the answer at the end of this road! It has to lead somewhere!’
‘Definitely!’, Tina smiled and restarted the game.
Not long after, amid the round winding of loops, a palace appeared. As they approached it, the girls could see the rich crenels and fine adornments. White, petrified jewlery were guarding every tower.
They stepped on the alley that led to the main entrance. Each rising column was sustained by frozen, ivory figures. On either side of the alley were blossomed trees and rich lianas. At gentle breezes white petals searched the ground in whimsical dances.
Door rose threateningly before them. Two door knobs were hidden amidst ornaments. Tina, strongly, grabbed one and knocked. They held their breath as they waited in the sea of whiteness. It become eerily quiet. The door began to open. Ever so slowly, like a sleepy giant. And, if the white realm had been strange, what the girls were about to see was at least as surprising. If not, the most curious thing ever. A gray puppy, with eyes half shut, dressed in a pink overall, walking like people do, on his rear paws, was the one who opened the door.
The stares of the girls were quite rude. But the creature was well worth being studied. Though it was the size of an adult, it was merely a toy puppy.
‘Huh!’, managed Tina to exclaim.
‘Welcome, young ladies. Please come in, the fairies await you!’, came the hoarse, lazy voice of the puppy.
‘Huh!’, went Tina again. ‘He talks!’
Ela came to her senses first. Their lack of civility was beyond any limit.
‘Nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Puppy! If you could kindly explain who are your mistresses and what is this extremely odd place… ? And, more importantly, were are our parents? We’ve been calm and all, but really, we don’t know these surroundings!’
‘Your parents are very well. At home, where you left them. And you are perfectly safe in the White Kingdom. The fairies will explain everything. Please follow me.’
That said, Mr. Puppy led the way. He followed an intricate path through corridors, vast halls and slim columns. Among them, a motley population passed hastily in all directions. Black kitties with white boots and coddled gazes, pink, white or brown bunnies, yellow mice, penguins in elegant frocks, old men with long, white beards, dolls in dotted dresses, reindeer with red vests. And so many others that the little girls didn’t get to see. They kept close to their guide. And each and every one of them, though they were toys, moved and talked just like people do. Two dinosaurs, one dark blue, other light blue, with beautiful, gentle eyes crossed them. Mr. Puppy stopped, waiting with polite patience for the giant tails to pass.
‘If it’s a dream, it’s a beautiful one’, said Ela, her eyes following a spotted puppy, twice as big as her.
‘Do you see that this palace has colors? It’s not white like everything else outside. Only a few white decorations on the columns.’
‘Ssst!’, Ela cautioned her, though the noise around was loud enough to cover their conversation.
But, she stayed with her sister’s remark. The crowd in the palace was made of countless intertwined, colored spots: red and white, blue and yellow, pink and green, dark brown and light brown and purple. In the most fanciful shapes and combinations.
Almost unexpectedly they found themselves in throne hall. Not very different from the rest of the palace. Perhaps larger. It hosted the two emerald thrones.
‘Welcome to the White Kingdom!’ came a crystalline, welcoming voice.
Two fairies of unseen beauty rose from the emerald thrones and walked lightly towards the girls. One of them was dark haired, with deep blue eyes and fine, porcelain features. Her black hair fell in heavy weaves along a graceful body, wrapped in white veils. The other one had golden sparks in her hair. Eyes just as blue and deep. Marmorean hands came out of the same kind of white veil dress.
The girls couldn’t take their eyes off the unearthly beauties in front of them. Especially those hypnotically, ravishingly blue, shadowed by long, dark lashes eyes.
Coming soon! Fairytale with Toys and a White Kingdom (Part 3).
The little girl went to the mirror, made a cheerful grimace and winked herself. Her brown hair was more rebellious than mommy would have liked, so she tapped it with her hand, leaving it even more ruffle. Then, she hasted outside the room, slamming the door against the wall. Ran down the spiral staircase, eager to get to dinner. The next day was Christmas. She wished she could skip today and jump straight into the magical night.
In the dining room the table was already set and her sister was waiting patiently, sitting straight in her chair. Tina tried to calm her agitated breath and adopt an elegant attitude. As she took her seat, she threw an accomplice look to her sister. ”She didn’t comb her hair, yet again”, Ela thought to herself. But, despite the expected rebuke, dinner unfolded without incidents. Perhaps the parents were also caught up in the excitement of the following days. And were too busy or too amused.
Minutes after dinner, the little girls were sitting tight against each other on the large, beautifully set bed in Tina’s bedroom. They were whispering, although nobody could hear them.
‘Do you believe Santa is watching us?’, Ela asked, glancing furtively at the big, bright window.
‘Not sure’, said her sister, unwittingly imitating Ela’s look.
‘Think we left traces from going through the chocolate?’, said Ela in a firm voice, suddenly preoccupied with more practical concerns.
‘Hmm, I think not… We’ve been careful to leave everything exactly the same.’
‘Anyway, we shouldn’t do this when they’re out .’
‘Riiiiight’, Tina chuckled, ‘Can’t you see that we’ve been doing every year and they haven’t got a clue?’
‘Do you recall when we used to keep watch to see Santa coming with the presents?’
‘Yep. Me five minutes, you five minutes, and so on for half hour. After which we’d fall sound asleep. And wake up to find the presents already under the tree.’
‘Time passes sooooooo slowly’, Ema whined. ‘Couldn’t today be tomorrow?’
‘Wouldn’t that be nice? ‘
‘Can’t WE make it tomorrow?’
‘How?’, said Tina. Her eyes bright with the anticipation of the game she sense being invented on spot.
‘Let’s put a dot to it.’
‘Yes! Let’s put a dot to this day. Make it finish!’
‘Yes, yes!’, Tina enthused, clapping her hands. ‘And how exactly do we do that?’, followed the grave and serios question.
‘Well.. easy! We just put a Dot to it. Like so’, said Ela and stood up. She gathered her hands above her head. Then separated and lowered them in an ovoid shape. Then gathered them again, just above the bed. She straightened her back with her face flushed, smiling at her sister. ‘Like that!’
‘Yes, but it won’t work unless we put it together!’
‘Absolutely!’, Ela continued enthusiastically one of their favorite games.
‘Nooo, not fair! That doesn’t count! There’s more than one word in it!’
‘And „no doubt” is one?’
‘Let’s just put the dot’, Ela gave in.
‘Yes, but no good on the bed.’
‘On the floor. So it can work’, the little girl exaggerated, with the emphasis that children often add to their games.
That said, the sisters rose from the bed and faced each other. They joined their hands and drew a circle of sorts in the air. After that they sat back, satisfied with a job well done.
‘What do you think you’ll get this year?’, Tina retook the conversation.
‘I hope for a pretty doll with long hair, so I can try fancy hairdos every day! And you?’
‘No dolls. Especially not with long hair. I wouldn’t have the patience to fix it. And I’m no good at it.’
‘I would do your’s too!’, Ela rushed to solve such a small detail.
‘Nooo… I want an interesting game. Something that would really captivate the imagination’, explained Tina in words that she didn’t fully understand. But heard ”the grown ups” use. ‘Anyway, let’s not rush with the discussions. We can’t know.’
‘I want a fairy costume’, Ela went on, ignoring her sister’s call to reality. ‘A full costume, with a dress and silver shoes…’
‘Yes, yes! And with a magic wand and… and… magic stardust’, Tina got carried away.
‘One that can cast spells!’, both girls said as one.
‘Hmm, but a princess one would do too’, Ela amended reasonably.
‘Yes. But still, a fairy one is nicer!’
The discussion must have went on, sliding on the miraculous slopes of assumptions and guesses. For how long and what turns it may have taken, that we do not know. But, a while later, in the bluish evening, two little girls were sleeping in the large bed of a warm bedroom, surrounded by the sweet mystery of dreams.