Chapter 3 – Message in a Bottle
Red stands up and walks over to the big metallic tub. He reaches out for the bottle and Snacks runs down his arm to scoop up the bottle. Red sets them both down. He taps his staff on the cork gently and the bottle opens itself up.
“Ahem.” A voice says from within the bottle.
“One of these guys…” Snacks says while rolling his eyes.
“Testing. Microphone check.” The voice continues.
“Get on with it.” Red says tapping his staff causing the bottle to shake.
“Everyone’s a critic.” The bottle says quickly. “Mr. E. Now, Creation’s, er Worlds Greatest Psychic, Mystic in Training, and Lord Snacks, THE King of the Rats (drum roll and trumpets blaze), the two of you are about to embark on a most dangerous portion of the Journey. You must make haste for Sir and the Society of Fear have entrenched themselves in the Human culture. It is going to take all belief in and of the Magicals to save the dreams of children, young and old alike.”
The message shoots out of the bottle and unfolds to read in flashing letters:
“Why do they make these things so dramatic?” Snacks asks.
“Beats me, you know I prefer the simple voice to theatrics. Wasn’t always that way but, eh, you there bottle, is that it? No starting point.” Red directs his attention to the bottle.
“Really, no applause. Tough crowd in this economy. It’s a good thing I save the best for last…” The Bottle replies as the message explodes to open another portal.
“Now that’s more like it.” Snacks chimes in, producing a gold coin that is half the size as he is. “Here you go!”
“Why thank you Lord Snacks? The kindness of rats is known worlds over, your reign over the rats has been most welcome in, um, most worlds.” The Bottle replies.
“You’d give him the coin all over again even if he said it in exactly the same way.” Red says sensing his little Friend’s anger over the treatment of his people in other worlds. Red raises his hand up near his shoulder where Snacks is perched in the hood of Red’s cloak and a pink light flows from his palm, Snacks immediately smiles…
“Oh, the Pink Light of Love trick!” The Bottle shouts bouncing up and down. “Do me! I’m next!”
Red looks at the Bottle, smiles, raises his staff and turns the bottle into a potted bamboo plant.
“Nice touch Red!” Snacks cheers.
“I couldn’t let him get away about commenting on the Rat Kingdom, could I?” Red replied as they walked past the now-silent bamboo plant. “It’ll wear off in a few hours. Shall we your Highness?”
“Oh Red, you don’t have to say that.” Snacks says blushing.
“I know. Take a compliment.” Red replies. He raises his staff points it at the portal, closes an eye and looks down it as if measuring the distance. “Let’s try something a bit different so that we don’t fall asleep this time, eh?” The staff emits yellow light and touches the portal, which opens up and wraps around them and POOF.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Red and Snacks are transported to a porch, where they are now seated on some beach chairs overlooking the ocean around sunset.
“Now that’s more like it.” Red says.
Snacks snaps his fingers and a pea and carrot appear in each hand. He lets out a huge grin and says, “Most definitely.”
Red reaches for his breast pocket and produces the Golden Key that Grandma U. gave him. “Alright so let’s look at what we have going for us.” Red begins.
“We know we are dealing with, CHOMP, Sir and the Society of Fear, CHOMP.” Snacks reports with a mouthful of carrot.
“Check.” Red replies.
“We have the Golden Key. BURP!” Snacks says snapping his fingers again and producing a Snacks sized water jug.
“Right.” Red answers, a quill now in his right hand. He starts to twirl the quill and Snacks is almost hypnotized.
“Snacks!” Red calls out.
“That thing you do with the quill, it calls me for some reason…” Snacks says shaking it off.
“We all wish we had feathers and want to fly on some level I think.” Red mutters. “Okay, so she gave us the Golden Key for a reason. It’s not big enough to bludgeon Zombies with.”
“I’ve an idea!” Red exclaims hopping to his feet. “Let see if there’s any doors we should explore here.”
Snacks brushes his hands of his snacks, the water jug vanishing and they see behind them a dwelling with a huge sliding glass door.
“Oy, Red. I’ve a bad vibe about this…” Snacks says.
“Have your Roar ready old boy.” Snacks follows after Red and crawls up his leg and makes his way to the hood. Red walks over to the sliding glass door, whatever lay behind it, is darkened. Red reaches for the handle, which moves as his hand nears it. Red tries again. “What the…”
“I’ve seen this before.” Snacks says. He exits the hood and runs down Red’s arm to the door. Rather than reaching for the handle he touches the glass and they are now looking out at the porch where they were just standing.
“Good work Snacks!” Red says brushing Snacks back. Snacks returns to the hood and they survey the area. The dwelling is much larger than either of them imagined. A large chandelier floats overhead and a spiral staircase rises up as far as the eye can see.
“Looks like we go up?” Snacks asks.
Red produces a silver slot machine coin that reads Lucky 7. “Heads we go up, tails we go there.” Red says pointing at a bookshelf with some lighting peaking out below it. He flips the coin and the coin turns into a fox tale. “The book shelf it is…”
The fox tale flows towards the shelf and starts dusting the books.
“What would have it been if it was heads?” Snacks asks as they walk towards the case of books.
“A hummingbird, I think. Been years since I used it.” Red answers.
“Oy, this looks like home.” Snacks remarks.
The tale stops at one book where no dust is moving. It brushes furiously, finally giving up and with a POP, returns to the Lucky 7 form and drops on the shelf on the dust, none of it rising.
Red runs his finger lightly over the dust and it doesn’t move. He looks over his shoulder at Snacks whose tapping his ear. Snacks gives a wink and runs down Red’s arm and blows the dust…
“Eh, can’t a bloke get some rest?” A Voice speaks from the dust.
“All in time, Star.” Snacks says.
“Eh, you don’t say.” Star replies. The dust starts to take the form of a face, the eyes opening slowly. “King Snacks? That really you?” Star starts to grin. “And if it isn’t Mr. E. too?”
“Nice to see you Mr. Dust.” Red says with a tip of the hat. Snacks is standing on the shelf next to the pile of dust now which is quickly taking the shape of star.
Star Dust shakes himself off and hovers up, emitting a bright, sparkling light. “What brings Mr. E. and The King to see me right here, in this Here and Now, right now?”
“We’re looking for some clues on getting to the moon.” Snacks states, crossing his arms and leaning against a book.
“The moon, huh? I haven’t seen her in quite some time. I couldn’t tell you how to find my way back to her…” Star replies.
“Well, maybe we have to get much higher and ask a different source.” Red says, his eyes glowing a bright yellow.
“No Red…” Snacks replies with a look of concern.
“It’s the only way.” Red answers without hesitation.
“What’re you two going on about?” Star asks.
“The Keeper.” Snacks says with a chill.
“And the Book of Dreams.” Red continues. “As good a place as any to find a way to save the children and their dreams.”
“That certainly is a much higher authority on matters. I hear that the Keeper is very focused on his weaving and unweaving tangles, all of which are an important part of the Universal web, these days.” Star adds. “You sure you want to disturb him?”
“I owe him one.” Red replies, his eyes softening. “I remember quite clearly my first meeting with the Keeper in the Flesh. It was the second Journey that I was assigned to by Grandma U.”
“I’d already returned, having braved the Cave of Unexpressed Phantoms, and was given the duty of doing Psychic Readings in a tourist district on the far side of the Universal Market Place. Many a spirit flowed in and out of my space those days and low and behold so did our friend, the Keeper. He was disguised of course and I didn’t realize it was him until right after he walked outside. I’d hurt my leg a few days earlier, in fact, that was how I started using this staff, and hobbled after him only to see him disappear in the crowd…”
“Well, so long as you’re acquainted.” Star stated. “I wouldn’t want to be the one to disturb him in the midst of his audits or cleaning or weaving or whatever it is he does with the Records.”
“Oy, Star, would you be able to get me some of your twinkling dust? I’d like to be able to pop in and tell the Missus hello and kiss the little ones if we’re out long.” Snacks asked shyly.
“For King of the Rats, you’ve sure a soft spot for your family. Lucky thing you’re a such a great grappler…” Star floats up a few shelves to a small tea cup where he brushes some of the dust on the saucer.
Red produces a small jar and catches the dust, now twinkling as it falls in the air. He hands it to Snacks’ with a smile. Snacks hugs the jar briefly, turns it round and round until it gets small enough to fit in his pouch, then puts it away.
“Well, sentimental moments aside, Snacks, are you ready?” Red jokes with his friend. Snacks leaps lands on the lapel of Red’s jacket. He scurries up to Red’s shoulder and bites Red’s ear.
“Snacks!” Red yells. “No more biting. Use your words, will you?”
The three have a laugh and Star starts to settle back into dust form. “Off with you both now. Time for me nap.” Star says with a yawn. As he does so, his face fades back into the dust.
“Now that right there, that’s magic Red.” Snacks says using his words.
“Tell me about it…” Red replies, his eyes glowing. “Now about this Keeper.”