The holidays are upon us once again, and with that I am able to recall the rush of feelings associated with them. The long lines, people getting killed at Wal-Mart, the singing appliances… Most importantly, though, I remember the feelings that I had as a kid as this time of the year crept closer. I loved the magic that the holiday season always brought to me. I now have three great children of my own, and I get to relive some of that magic over again with them. That is one of the many reasons that I’m a writer of fantasy and science fiction. Sure, I dabble in mystery, horror and fiction on occasion, but my bread and butter will always be with my child at heart.
For these reasons, I have chosen to share one of my fairy tales that I wrote during my tenure with the Los Angeles Times. As with most fairy tales, this story doesn’t set out to teach the reader a lesson, but rather, to reflect on a part of the human spirit that resides in us all. It, like most other tales of its kind, brings into question the fabric of our perceived reality, and lets us suspend, or entirely release disbelief. So, without further adieu, I bring you — courtesy of the L.A. Times — “Cloud Runner”.
There once was a boy who spent all of his wishes on things he had never experienced. This is the account of how one of those wishes came true, one magical Christmas Eve. He was fast asleep when the ticking sound found its way to his window. At first, the boy thought it was an element of his extravagant dream. When the ticking came again and again, it awoke the child from his slumber.
“Who’s there?” he asked as he approached the frosted window.
Trying to peer into the deep night, he pressed his nose against the cool glass. A small head popped up over the edge of the sill, startling the boy.
“Rhone Tobias?” the little person asked. Her face sparkled in the moonlight.
“What?” he asked.
“Rhone. Are you he?”
The boy nodded with uncertainty.
“I’m here to take you away.”
“Away?” he asked.
“Of course, to fulfill your request,” the little person replied. “You wanted to see something you’ve never seen.”
The elf waved her hand and the window opened.
“Are you coming?” she asked.
Rhone’s mouth hung open in shock. Again, the girl waved her hand and he drifted gently aboard a small wooden boat.
“What’s your name?” Rhone asked.
“I am called Daffodil,” she replied. “I am going to show you something that few humans have ever seen.”
As the small boat sailed up into the starry night, the boy fell asleep again. When he awoke, Rhone found himself amid a frantic crowd of elves running back and forth between several golden ships. Large sacks were being stockpiled on the foredecks of schooners, frigates and large galleons.
“Where are we?” Rhone asked. “What’s going on?”
“No time to explain,” Daffodil said. “Come with me. It’s nearly time!”
She led him across the deck and aboard a small ship with the words “Cloud Runner” wrought in flowing silver upon its side.
“Anchors aweigh!” shouted a stout elf, manning the navigator’s wheel.
Several others gave the same order, and before long, Rhone and the Cloud Runner were sailing into a sea of pink clouds. The large galleons changed course and sailed off toward the rising sun, while Rhone’s ship turned due south and cut the billowing clouds into vaporous wisps. Rhone peered off to the east and saw distant clouds flash with explosions of blue light.
“We’re comin’ upon her now!” the husky elf at the helm cried.
Members of the Runner’s crew hurried to load the large sacks into the cannons on either side of the ship. Silvery-blue ribbons of mist gleamed inside the cannons.
“This is it!” Daffodil exclaimed.
Rhone didn’t understand but watched the strangeness with his undivided attention.
“Ready!” the captain shouted. “Fire!”
Large plumes of smoke shot out of the cannons as massive spheres of blue light arched toward a nearby cloud. The cloud soon turned gray and rumbled as the spheres exploded within its depths. Daffodil grabbed Rhone by his arm and led him to a small boat hanging at the Runner’s side.
“Come, Rhone,” she said climbing in. “You must see.”
The two sailed down through the frigid cloud and into a scene that lit up Rhone’s face. As the two of them drifted down toward Rhone’s house, a light blanket of glittering snowflakes covered the palm trees and roof of his home. The boat came to rest beside Rhone’s window once more, and the boy was lifted back into his own room.
“Will I see you again?” he asked.
“There are many requests that need to be granted,” Daffodil replied.
Rhone’s face sagged.
“Just make another request,” the elf said with a smile. Then with a salute and a backward step, she drifted into the dancing snowflakes.