Won’t You Join Me to Play Today?

Jack’s Adventures Part I: Childhood

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a boy named Jack who lived in a red cottage just on the edge of a woodland. Jack lived there with his mother, father, and two siblings. He was the last-born child and had a real sense of imagination. Everyday Jack wondered in the woods to play in his secret world. And each day he begged his siblings to go, but they refused. “We’re too old for that stuff,” they would say. But each day Jack would ask the same question, “Won’t you join me to play today?”

Jack’s world of Forestia was a magical place. In Forestia there were fairies, elves, dwarfs and sprites, not to mention talking animals. Jack’s best friend in the whole world of Forestia was Harrison, a talking rabbit, and together they got into as much mischief as possible, but when the sun’s light dimmed, Jack returned home to sleep and rest his imagination.

Jack was prohibited from entering Forestia after dark. It was too dangerous for a boy of his age. There were beasts that ate little boys and witches that drank putrid potions of the blood of children. Harrison made Jack promise every night as he walked him out to the Woodland’s Edge to return straight home and not to come back until after the first light of dawn. Jack never had an issue following that rule, after all, he was frightened by the dark.

On one lovely blue day, Jack awoke from the sun’s rays passing through his bedroom glass. Jack gave a deep stretch, yawned and went down to breakfast. Today his mom made his favorite, porridge. Jack wolfed the porridge down ravenously and like he did every day, he asked his siblings, “Won’t you join me to play today?”

In harmony, they declined the offer. “We’re too old for that stuff,” they said.

Jack slumped in his chair to throw a fit. He immensely desired for his siblings to join him in Forestia so they could meet all the lovely friends he’d made. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be happening today.

Once Jack grew tired of his fit and realized that his siblings wouldn’t be changing their minds, he left the table to ventured into Forestia. There on the Woodland’s Edge was a crab apple tree. Harrison stood here every day and greeted Jack with a warm fluffy hug. Jack, however, was not as cheery to see Harrison as Harrison was to see him.

“What’s wrong my friend?” asked Harrison.

“My brother and sister, they will not play with me. I ask but they say they are too old.”

Harrison hugged young Jack tightly and Jack began to cry.

“Do not cry, my friend. Today I will show you a wonderful secret I have discovered,” Harrison comforted.

Jack wiped the tears from his face and followed Harrison to wherever this secret discovery was hidden.

Deep into Forestia they walked until the red house was invisible from the trees, and they were lost to their sounds. They crossed over the river by an old shabby log and followed the clovers inland. The birds chirped and they sang sweet songs about the morning dew and fair maidens that occasionally passed through. Jack paused to dance to their tunes and lost himself to their catchy melodies.

Dance, oh dance to our humming tunes

Sing, oh sing till your heart gleams

Dream with us dream, allow your mind to loom

For into Forestia you go!

 

“Come now friend, I have something truly wonderful to show you,” Harrison said as he hopped ahead.

Many large oaks they passed and each covered in more moss than the last. The anticipation was starting to get to young Jack. He needed a hint of what this secret was and touched his friend’s soft tail to inquire for an answer.

“It’s just up ahead passed the large stones,” Harrison ensured.

The grey stones stood before them. Jack ascended over them like they were gravel in his path and once above them, it revealed a world of wonder. Thousands of speckled purples and pinks, yellows and blues, greens and reds filled their eyes. They were at the home of the fairies.

“Welcome to the Luminous Lands,” Harrison said. “Where fairies danced upon their homes made of flowers and all the plants in the valley shine forever.”

Fairies giggled and laughed at the sight of poor Jack. They had never seen a boy so young in the Luminous Lands, and they took turns tugging on Jack’s curling hair and pinching his red shiny nose.

“Oh my, how have you found such a beautiful sight?” Jack asked, as he marveled at fairies buzzing around, little trails of dust followed.

“Found em’ last night breaking into my tea storage,” Harrison said. “They enjoy English Breakfast.”

“Hello there! I am Thistle, Lord of the Fairies and overseer of the Luminous Lands, Chief Lumineer. What brings you upon our preparation for our lunar celebration?”

“We are just passing by in the land and wanted a look for ourselves at this incredible place,” Harrison said.

Thistle fluttered his wings and took a spinning dive into the palm of Jack.

“Do you wish to join us in the celebration tonight?” He asked. “You will hear songs and we will feast until the sun rises again. Thimble and Needle have arrived back from their magical quest to find the moon’s daughter.”

“Oh, how I wish I could join but the dark of night is no place for me,” Jack said. “I must wait until the first light of dawn before I come back into Forestia again.”

Harrison shook his furry head in approval.

“Well then, explore and have a look around. You may just find something you thought was lost, but is now found.”

Thistle fluttered his wings and sped off leaving a trail of gold dust behind.

Harrison and Jack looked and they looked. There were spectacles beyond their imagination. Iridescent plants of all silhouettes and masses, remarkable to say the least.

After their journey in the Luminous Lands concluded, Harrison escorted young Jack back to Woodland’s Edge to say farewell.

“What a pleasant day that was, but you should return straight to home and don’t come back until after the first light of dawn. I will await you tomorrow.”

And Jack did just that.

That night Jack’s dreams illuminated with small winged specks. He could only imagine what sort of celebration they were having that night. He was content with what the world of Forestia had revealed to him that day.


The next day began with patches of clouds quilted into the sky. Jack yawned and exited from his bed to the kitchen for breakfast. It was his second favorite that his mom made today, cream of wheat. Jack devoured the cream of wheat. And when the contents of his bowl were empty, he asked his siblings again, “Won’t you join me to play today?” Yet again they declined the offer. “We’re too old for that stuff,” they said.

“But I want to show you, Thistle, he’s the Lord of the Fairies. He’s rather funny. I think you’d like him,” Jack said.

“Fairies don’t exist brother,” they said. “Don’t you know that?”

Jack slumped in his chair deeper than he had the day before. He very much wanted his siblings to join him in Forestia so they could meet all the lovely friends he’d made so far. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be happening today.

Jack departed the kitchen for Forestia, and there on the edge of the Woodland’s Edge was Harrison to greet him underneath a crab apple tree. When Harrison offered a warm fluffy hug, he noticed poor Jack sniffling his nose.

“What’s wrong my friend?” asked Harrison.

“My brother and sister will not play with me. I ask and I ask but they say they are too old.”

Harrison hugged young Jack a bit tighter than the previous day and Jack began to cry.

“Do not cry, my friend. Today I will show you another wonderful secret I have discovered. It will surely beat the Luminous Lands we saw yesterday” Harrison comforted. “Follow me and let your sadness where off.”

Jack wiped the tears from his face and followed Harrison. Deep into Forestia, they went until the red house was invisible from the trees. Harrison and Jack crossed over the river by a log and followed the clovers inland. The birds chirped and they sang sweet songs about twinkling sprites and unicorns that pranced through. Jack paused to dance to their tunes and lost himself to their melodies.

 

Dance, oh dance to our humming tunes 

Sing, oh sing till your heart gleams 

Dream with us dream, allow your mind to loom 

For into Forestia you go!

           

Jack entered the Luminous Lands and greeted Thistle with a warm welcome, but they continued forward to the next secret that was waiting to be uncovered. Harrison bounded and he leaped until finally, he stood stationary on a cliffside.

“Look there, look there,” Harrison instructed. “It’s the Magical Mountain home of the dwarfs!”

Jack had not met a dwarf before, although Harrison often talked about them. He imagined dwarfs were little men no bigger than himself that carried large wooden pickaxes mining for gold and silver. On the cliffside was an entrance. Jointly they entered the hole discovering that it was indeed a mineshaft. They followed it until it met its end, where they met a magical friend. Laughing a very jolly laugh and smoking a very fine pipeweed was a dwarf.

“Hail the’ hail the’ it is me, Brownbeard the keeper of Magical Mountain, a miner of precious jewels, and owner of the Opalite Citron.” Brownbeard was no taller than Jack, as he imagined, and held a pickaxe made from the very steel ore he mined. His long brown beard, which he was well known for, dropped to the floor beneath. “How may I be of assistance? Do you come to hear my fancy tales or rob my blind of all my wealth?”

“We are just passing through and wanted to say hello,” Harrison said. “A story or two would be more than okay if I say so myself.”

Brownbeard told them stories of his family, the Beards Clan, and their great quests for amethyst crystals within Forestia’s rock. He showed them the Opalite Citron. It was a magical color of white and blue that was set in a crown of gold. Brownbeard let Jack wear it on his tiny head before he reclaimed the cherished procession and returned it to its home. And when the light began to dim in the tunnel, they decide it was time to make their way home, saying farewell to their newfound friend.

When they came to Woodland’s Edge, Harrison offered a hug and Jack was thrilled beyond wonder. Yesterday he had seen fairies and no he’d just met a dwarf. He could hardly wait to share this information with his siblings There was no way they’d pass on playing with him tomorrow.

“What a pleasant day it has been, now my friend, return straight to home and don’t come back until after the first light of dawn. I will wait for you here until you return.”

Jack did as Harrison instructed. That night his dreams circled between magical mines filled with riches beyond and a celebration of glowing fairies.

He was content with what the world of Forestia had shown him that day.


The dawn of the next day came, but the sun’s rays did not wake Jack up like usual. Instead, the sound of rain pattering against his glass beating like a drum, caused Jack to stir in his sleep until at last, he woke.

Jack stretched and slowly made his way for breakfast. This time it was his third favorite, blueberry scones. When his mother presented such warm delicious treats, Jack gobbled his down like it was his last feast. His siblings sat and stared out the window looking miserable as ever.

“Won’t you join me to play today?” Jack asked. “I’ve met a dwarf named Brownbeard that I’d want you to meet. He has a crown called the Opalite Citron. He will let you wear it if you’d like.”

They shook their heads and dismissed the offer a third time. “We’re too old for that stuff,” they said. “Besides dwarfs don’t exist. That’s all in your head. When are you going to understand that?”

Jack felt words slip from his mouth.

“You never want to play with me, why? I’ve told you of the things I see and all I want to do is share with you all the love and joy that it brings.”

“Brother, don’t you know that the forest can be a deceiving place?” they said.

Jack wilted in his chair. He had no idea what the word deceiving meant, but why didn’t they believe him? Forestia was a place where they could all adventures together, as a family.

Once his siblings cleared, Jack snuck out to Woodland’s Edge, again alone. There Harrison waited to greet him underneath the crab apple tree. His furry hands shook in excitement. But when Harrison offered his warm fluffy hug, he noticed poor Jack’s rosy red cheeks.

“What’s wrong my friend?” asked Harrison.

“My brother and sister will not play with me. I’ve asked three times but they say they are too old. They said it’s all in my head, but it can’t be. You’re right here.”

Harrison hugged young Jack one more time a bit tighter than the previous days, but Jack began to cry once more.

“Do not cry, my friend. Today I will show you another wonderful secret I have discovered. It will surely beat the Luminous Lands and the Magical Mountain we saw yesterday,” Harrison comforted. “Follow me and let your sadness be off at once. One of these days they will come to play with you.”

Jack wiped the tears from his face and followed Harrison. Deep into Forestia, they went until the red house was invisible from the trees. Harrison and Jack crossed over the river by a log and followed the clovers inland. The birds chirped and they sang sweet songs about the triumphs of knights and their quests for the holy grail. Jack paused to dance to their tunes and lost himself to their melodies.

Dance, oh dance to our humming tunes 

Sing, oh sing till your heart gleams 

Dream with us dream, allow your mind to loom 

For into Forestia you go!

     

Jack and Harrison passed through the Luminous Lands and greeted Thistle with a warm welcome. They stopped at the cliffside to greet Brownbeard with a handshake and continued deeper in Forestia.

There they came upon a den dug into a grassy hill. Behind a veil of trees there laid a fierce beast that man loved the least. Protected under an armor of green scales, the beast was no match for anyone to defeat, for no arrow could pierce its heart. When Harrison and Jack drew near, a chill ran up their tiny spines of fear.

“Halt there, halt there. If you mean to hurt me, then be off at once. But if you speak friend, you may enter. It is me, Dragovich the dragon. Ruler of fire and king of all creatures. What business do you have in my lands?”

“We come to gaze upon your magnificence,” Harrison humbly said. “And remember what used to be in the world of Forestia.”

Dragovich spread his emerald wings into their full size. He roared like a beast, spitting fire from his mouth.

“Does this live up to your expectations?” asked Dragovich.

“My, oh my, this is the best thing I’ve ever seen,” Jack said. “May we ride you into the sky?”

“I don’t see why not,” Dragovich said. Jack and Harrison climbed upon the dragon’s back, ready for what was to come.

Dragovich leaped into the air, flying higher and higher into the sky. It was an occurrence like no other. And when Dragovich had flown above all of the lands in Forestia, he returned to his den so that his riders could dismount. The sun’s light was dimming down, it was time for Jack to return home.

“Thank you gentle dragon for that wonderful ride. I’ll always remember it even when I’m old. You are the mighty Dragovich,” said Jack.

“You are a kindhearted little boy. I will always memorize you,” said Dragovich as he scrambled back into his lair.

“Let us return you home,” Harrison said and they strolled the whole way back to Woodland’s Edge. When they made it there, Harrison offered a hug.

“What a pleasant day that was, now return straight to home and don’t come back until after the first light of dawn.”

Jack thrice more did just that. His dreams circled glowing fairies and magical mines and flying emerald dragons. He was content with what the world of Forestia had shown him that day. His siblings would stand no chance against the curiosity of a dragon. They would play with him tomorrow. He knew that.


The next day originated in a violent storm. It was dangerous for poor Jack to visit his friends in Forestia, his mom made him stay inside until the dark clouds vanished.

Jack did not yawn from his drowsiness, he was not tired, instead, he sat and looked out his bedroom window and waited to be called for breakfast. Today it was his least favorite, toast. Jack marched into his seat at the table, joined by his two siblings who laughed amusingly.

“When the storm stops, won’t you join me to play today?” asked Jack. “I’ve met a dragon named Dragovich. He’s a really nice and we can go flying on his back.”

His siblings giggled and responded, “Jack we are too old for that stuff. Besides, don’t you know dragons do not exist? Neither do dwarfs or fairies. You’re making this all up and you will be disappointed when you realize it.”

Jack slammed the back into his chair.

“How do you even know it isn’t real unless you come with me to see for yourself?” He asked. “All you do is sit inside.”

“We were childish once like you,” they said.

Jack cried and cried. He was fed up with his siblings. If only for a day that played with him, Jack would be okay with that. He just wanted to share all that he’d seen so they could adventure as a family.

Jack’s mom entered the kitchen and sat down at the table to comfort Jack.

“You three shall all go outside today when the rain clears and play with Jack. He’s asked so nicely three times already and surely you can do something together like a family,” she said.

Jack felt an instant feeling of butterflies explode from the depths of his stomach. He would finally get to show his siblings Forestia.

Jack lingered and anticipated by the window until the storm finally passed. There was lightning and thunder and then it was no more. The sun’s rays broke through the clouds and shinned its presence on the red house and its land.

All three of them suited up in their most comfortable clothes. Mittens, hats, and scarfs to keep them warm from the rains doing. For the first time as a family, they ventured out to the Woodland’s Edge underneath the crab apple tree. Jack strutted with anticipation to where Harrison usually waited, but today he was nowhere to be seen.

Jack called and called for his friend, but there was no answer.

“Harrison, my friend, he’s not here,” Jack said. “He’s a small rabbit about my size.”

His siblings gave him a look of disbelief before they snickered and sneered.

Maybe he was with the fairies, Jack thought, after all, it is much later than he was used to coming to Forestia. Perhaps Harrison grew impatient waiting for him and venture off alone.

Deep into Forestia they went, until the red house was invisible from the trees. Together they crossed over the river by a log and followed the clovers inland. The birds chirped and they twitched. Jack stopped to dance to their tunes and lost himself to their melodies.

His siblings turned embarrassed.

“What are you doing brother?” They asked.

“Don’t you hear their songs?” Jack asked.

“There is nothing but the sound of that stream behind us,” they said.

Jack sang out loud,

“Dance, oh dance to our humming tunes 

Sing, oh sing till your heart gleams 

Dream with us dream, allow your mind to loom 

For into Forestia you go!”

 

His siblings faces went flush blank, and Jack turned bright red. Why couldn’t they hear the songs? They were playing so clearly through his ears. He couldn’t be going crazy.

Jack proceeded to take his siblings to the Luminous Lands, but he found no fairies present. All that remained were charred logs with a sooty rock circle around them. The luminous plants that he’d seen days before were nowhere to be seen.

Jack insisted that they follow him to the Magical Mountain to meet Brownbeard, but when they came upon the mineshaft all that they could see were signs of caution.

“We cannot go in there. It’s dangerous,” they said.

“I go in there all the time. That’s where Brownbeard lives. He’s the dwarf I was telling you about,” Jack said, but they did not believe him and they refused to go into the mineshaft.

His siblings looked at Jack as if he were deranged. Who would go into a mineshaft in pure darkness?

Jack’s embarrassment was starting to get to him. Why had none of his friends come out to say hello? Were they upset with him for showing up late? Harrison never abandoned Jack. In a last chance of hope, he walked to the dragon’s den. Perhaps all his friends would be waiting there to surprise him and meet his siblings. All at once Jack thought would be the easiest way for introductions.

And then, once his siblings saw the mighty beast, they would believe everything that he told them. But when they arrived at the dragon’s den, all that was there was a desolate burrow.

“Dragovich, it’s me, Jack. I’ve brought my brother and sister to gaze upon your might,” Jack said but no roar greeted him. Dragovich was nowhere to be found.

“We told you that it wasn’t real,” his siblings said. “None of what you saw was real.”

“You have to believe me,” Jack pleaded. “My friends were all here just yesterday. We’ve played every day together.”

“I’m not sure we can believe anything you say,” they said as they headed back towards home.

“But what about me? I cannot see in the dark. I am afraid to be alone. Wait for me?” Jack asked but they did not listen. The siblings continued through the dark forest until they exited from Woodland’s Edge back to their red house with not a care in the world about their brother’s safety.

The sun was all but gone and Jack dropped to his knees in tears while the remaining light dimmed away.

When the twinkling of the stars appeared overhead, Jack motioned upwards, teary-eyed, and saw that there was something beautiful in the darkness of night. In all of his life, he’d never seen the stars. What could be so terrifying about the dark? He wondered.

The moon’s pale face lit the forest in front of him. He could find his way home, but when the hooting of owls echoed overhead, Jack stopped and heard the snapping of twigs in the brush beside him. His heart pumped vigorously and his skin began to crawl. A pair of yellow eyes watched him in the dark underground. Jack knew at once that it was a monster. The very things that Harrison tried to protect him from.

The creature stepped beneath the moonlight and gave an aggressive howl. It was a silver furred wolf. A growling erupted from between its breast bones as it inched closer to Jack. The wolf was hungry, there was no doubt about that.

“Don’t hurt me. I’m just a little boy,” Jack pleaded.

“But I’m terribly hungry tonight,” said the wolf. “I’ll swallow you in one bite if you come without a fight. I’m old and haven’t the energy to chase after my food any longer.”

“I shouldn’t be in the forest after dark, Harrison was right,” Jack said as he accepted his fate. Within no time he’d be in a wolves belly.

The wolf’s jaws gaped open large enough for the boy to enter.

“Just walk right inside,” the wolf said. “It won’t hurt a bit. You will not have to worry about disappointing your siblings any longer.”

“How do you know about that?” Jack asked.

“A wolf sees all things, even in the daylight. Their brains don’t paint as pretty of a picture as yours does. They aren’t worth eating. They have nothing left to imagine. We wolves take it from them, and replace it with fear. They walk through life sad and lost, as will you when I’m finished with you.”

Jack thought over the wolf’s comments.

“They cannot see?” asked Jack

“They will see as much as you will. The empty pit of the inside of my belly. Now climb in and learn to welcome what you see,” said the wolf.

“Oh no,” Jack said as he moved closer to the wolf’s mouth. There was an awful rotten stench that filled Jack’s nose. This was it, this was the way Jack thought he’d die. If only he had listened to Harrison. He wouldn’t be here now.

When Jack’s hope seemed to be lost, there was a sudden rumbling from the soil and the wolf’s head spun to meet the face of an emerald dragon.

“Leave the boy alone!” Dragovich roared.

Jack’s eyes met Harrisons as he and Brownbeard dismounted from the dragon’s back. Thistle and the other fairies stretched out into a castle wall between Jack and the wolf like little soldiers protecting their King.

“Let me have at him!” Brownbeard said as he swung his ax at the wolf’s tail splitting it in two.

“Ouch!” The wolf cried in pain.

“If you’re going to eat him, you’ll have to eat us all too,” Harrison said as he hopped next to Jack. “Hold my hand. Do not be afraid.”

Dragovich spewed his wicked fire all over the wolf. The Fairies of the Luminous Lands threw little glowing balls to blind his eyesight. And Brownbeard chased the wolf off like a mad man. When the wolf had finally disappeared wounded and beaten, the friends regrouped.

“You all saved me from that terrible wolf. My friends have saved me. If not for you, I’d be a prisoner in his awful belly,” Jack said.

“The dark is no place for a child. There are monsters that hurt children out here,” Harrison said. “Why have you disobeyed my one rule?”

Jack recounted the events of the day and explained that his siblings left him here alone before dark.

“You were all nowhere to be found? I looked so I could show them, but you didn’t appear. Where were you? They don’t believe me.”

“We were with you the whole time,” Harrison said.

Dragovich, Brownbeard, and Thistle met Jack at his side.

“That’s not possible,” Jack said. “They couldn’t see you at all.”

“Did you doubt that we’d show up?” asked Harrison.

“I mean, I did, but you­­––”

“We are always with you Jack, even when you are sleeping at night. We protect you from the evil in the dark, but if you start to doubt us like your siblings, we will all fade into your memory,” Harrison explained. “Although we may not be real to others, we are very real to you. Remember to always believe, no matter what others may say. Just because you can’t touch something with your hands, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Some things always reside deep in your heart where only you can see them.”

“I won’t ever listen to what they say,” Jack announced. “You are all my friends, friends for life.” Jack thanked Thistle and the other fairies, Brownbeard and his ax, and Dragovich for their courage and bravery. He reserved his final thank you for Harrison. And when he wrapped his little arms around his fluffy friend, he had the feeling of never wanting to let go.

“You’re my best friend,” Jack said. “Forever.”

Harrison walked Jack back to Woodland’s Edge where they saw the glow of a lantern bobbing down the hill. Both Jack’s mother and father worriedly rushed to their lost son.

“Same time tomorrow?” asked Harrison.

“After the first light of dawn,” Jack said and smiled as he ran towards his parents.

Harrison grinned and watched the reunion. His work here had been completed.

“So proud of you,” Harrison said as a tear dropped from his furry cheek.