Dream Leaper 3
A nervous sweat beaded on Shari’s forehead as she saw the ice cream shop in the distance. Her heart pounded in her ears. The crosswalk was just a few steps away…
Suddenly she was blinded by a brilliant light. “—Yaahh!” Her blood surged with fear and she covered her face.
All went white.
Faint, dreamy echoes flooded her ears.
“Nah, it just… I think I know what to do. Try uh… Yeah! Try putting the ice on the sidewalk, then have the man start out 7 inches further. Same script.”
“…There we go,” a woman said. “All set, Frank.”
“Alright, let’s do this.” Shari could hear a button click. “‘Let down your hair.’”
There were conversational muffles, too fuzzy to make out…Clear laughter.
“Hoo! Third time’s a charm! Sandy, did you write that one down?”
“Yes,” another woman grumbled.
“Great. Okay, that’s a wrap. Jeff, is Portal 7H ready?”
“Ye—um… Wait. Is it supposed to do that?”
“What the…? Oh shi--!”
The white faded. Shari peeked through her hands. It was a meeting room. Papers cluttered a sleek, black table that took up most of the floor. The walls were lined with glimmering portals, each one with a scene frozen in time. One of the bleak office walls was stapled with more paper- a storyboard. A handful of adults gawked at her with disbelief, one of them sitting beside a machine the size of a person.
Shari felt the light shift behind her. She zipped around. The portal now in front of her was fading—she could see the ice cream shop!—and it finally dimmed out of existence. Her jaw fell as a creeping tide of realization sunk in.
A woman with full lips and low cheekbones heaved a sigh. “Jeff!” she spun around sharply to a man with a buzz cut, “I thought I told you to secure the i-molecular matrix on Priority 5 Portal 7H!”
“Hey!” Jeff’s eyes flared defensively, “If I hadn’t spent that time repairing Priority 1 Portal 5B we’d probably be bankrupt! Thirteen shows Sandy!”
Sandy let out an ironic laugh, her face skewing with anger. “Heh heh, ho, okay… Your carelessness has brought another human being into our universe and all you can worry about is Fox’s financial loss. We should be stunned we’re not obliterated by some crazy paradox!”
“Sandy--” Jeff started.
“Jeff, shut up. I bet you don’t even know how she got here. If it weren’t for your father this gross breach of nature wouldn’t hav --!”
“Okay that is enough!” Jeff stood up angrily. “First of all, don’t you dare bring my dad into this—if it weren’t for him you and I would be out of a job. Second—nothing actually happened, we’re still her--!”
“What’s that?” she jolted a finger at Shari, who was still cowering on the other side of the room.
Jeff said nothing.
“And if a freaking network station is going to be responsible for tearing the fabric of space and time, I’m not going to be a part of it. I. QUIT.” Sandy spun around. She nearly yanked the doorknob off its hinges as she stormed out of the office.
Tears stung Shari’s eyes. She wanted to ask what was going on, but a timid shock choked back any sound she could make.
A pang of guilt struck a man’s face. He furrowed his brows and swallowed thoughtfully at the meeting table. Then he gathered his briefcase, lifted himself from his chair and walked out the door with a hung head. “I’m sorry, Frank. Send my check in the mail.” The chubby man beside the machine nodded awkwardly.
Shari turned as she watched him leave. She pierced Frank with a hurt glare. “Where am I?” she demanded. “What have you done with Milo and Tildalune?!”
Jeff’s hand was shaking as he faced her. “Tildalune and your brother are fine,” he said, his voice gentle and belittling.
“Where are you keeping them?” she spat.
“Shari, we’re not responsib--”
“How do you know my name?!”
“I know your name because we’ve been watching you,” he said, trying to sound patient. He stepped closer and knelt to her eye-level. Shari backed away. “Tildalune is still at your house. Your brother is probably out adventuring with that gnome.”
Frank wrinkled his forehead. “Gnome?”
“Zach made him,” a woman said. “He’s out sick.” Her voice… it sounded so familiar.
Shari swallowed cautiously. “Why have you been watching me?”
Jeff paused, as if deciding where to start. “Well, because…” he trailed off and tried again. “Tell you what. Do you know what an alternate reality is?”
She shook her head.
Jeff scoffed at himself. “God, here I am expecting a 6-year-old to know about metaphysics…” he mumbled. The woman remaining at the table rolled her eyes. “—Alright Shari, you know what a universe is? Everything and anything ever made in outer space, right?”
“Okay I think I know where to start now. This might be hard for you to understand, okay? An alternate reality is a copy of your universe, but with one or a few differences. You follow?”
“I… I think so,” Shari said, furrowing her brows as she tried to process this.
Jeff hesitated. “Let me put it this way. In our universe, fairies live side by side with people. That’s our reality. In your reality, fairies aren’t supposed to exist. Now you get it?”
“Okay,” she said with more ease.
“Three years ago, my father found a way to have portals and machines talk to each other. Now listen,” his eyes lit up, “this part is really cool. Fairies in our world can create portals to other alternate realities. Then they enter these portals and use their magic to manipulate events, or ideas that people have. Tildalune befriended you because you’re six, and adults in your world don’t believe in fairies.”
Shari thought about this for a moment.
Shari felt a numb tug at her heart. Tildalune lied to me…Now that she thought about it, Tildalune’s very presence was a creative slump repellant. Giving Milo a dream as a gift never would have occurred to her if Tildalune hadn’t somehow encouraged her to think outside the box. “So, Tildalune was using me?” She tried to throw it aside—No, he’s the liar! Tildalune’s my best friend. She’d never do that. She’s never… “W-wait, why would you want to make stuff happen?”
“Aaaaahh!” Jeff waggled his finger. “That’s the beauty of it. We watch these different worlds and let life go on as it is, right? And—see that machine?” he pointed to the giant device beside Frank, which Shari now noticed had a speaker and a row of buttons. “When we say a special password, the fairy in the original portal will create another world exactly the way we want it. Then we watch it, and when we like what we see we use it for a TV script.”
Like a spurt of fire, Shari was suddenly so angry she didn’t know which way to look. “You played with my universe to make a TV show?!”
“Hey, hey, listen! Do you honestly think Seth McFarlane and his original writers can come up with this crazy crap by themselves with the time they’re assigned?”
“Jeff, language!” the woman hissed.
Jeff ignored her. “Think of the creators of Dr. Who, The Simpsons-- Spongebob for chrissake—you really think they were able to pump out those episodes with their own lightning-fast creativity in a couple weeks? The Simpsons crapped one out every freaking weekend!”
Shari shook her head. This wasn’t getting her anywhere- she needed to know where her brother was. “Okay, okay, fine! Just tell me where my brother is—please!”
Jeff sighed as he reached up to massage his face. He couldn’t believe he was arguing with a little girl. The last thing he needed was for some kid to start a tantrum in his office. “Shari, we didn’t do anything to your brother,” he dropped his hands. “In fact—okay, maybe we can find him, alright? Where was the last place you saw him?”
“Downtown. He looked real sick.”
The ‘writers’ exchanged confused glances. “I don’t remember that,” one of them whispered.
“What about before that?” Jeff asked.
“Tildalune and I were in a computer class.”
Once again, everyone looked at each other. The room went tense.
“Did Zach do that too?” a woman asked.
Shari woke with a start, again. And so did all the writers, who were now sprawled on the floor next to her. The same woman shot up to a sit. “Oh dear God!”
“—SHH!” blurted Frank, pulling her down.
Shari blinked to bring everything into focus, and froze in a cold sweat. They were in a cage, on a small, bronze-framed spaceship. The sloped windows showed nothing but blackness, dotted with stars. A lawn gnome stomped toward him. His eyes narrowed, and he threw his head back with laughter. His voice was metallic and cold. The rest of the crew behind him joined in.
And there was Milo, a decrepit heap in a smaller cage. It stood beside a console that took up the entire wall, with a little hooked door on its side. His eyes were half open, cringing sadly at the sight of his sister.
“Milo!” the woman cried.
“Silence!” bellowed the gnome captain. Shari raised a brow at her. “And remove your pathetic disguise, human!” He yanked a laser gun from his belt and zapped her. Her entire body transformed, and she looked at Shari with wide eyes.
“Mom?!” she gasped.
“I SAID SILENCE!” the gnome boomed again. “You have all been fooled by our clever ruse! Our master dream weaving has delivered you to us with vital information. Information we need to destroy our usurpers!”
Jeff looked pretty embarrassed with himself.
“Your fairy has proven useless. You!” he pointed nastily at Shari. “You have what we know! Give us the matrix code!”
“The code our prisoners of war have instilled into your mind! Your ‘computer lessons.’ Surrender your knowledge and we will see to it you return home alive.”
“You won’t lay a hand on her!” her mom shouted.
Suddenly a strange, low sound announced an object fading into existence. It was a British telephone box. The door swung open, and out burst Dr. Who!
The humans gaped stupidly.
“You’ll never get the Philosopher’s Code, Captain Xeenon!” he roared. “My companions and I know everything!”
Two more men marched briskly out of the telephone box- Data, from Star Trek, and Doctor Emmett Brown from Back to the Future. Data had a laser gun firmly pointed at the captain, while Doctor Brown gazed around the ship with unbounded fascination. He caught sight of Shari’s mom and his eyes bulged. “Great Scot! Janet, is that you?”
“Emmett!” Janet exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
Data wrinkled his forehead and looked at Janet curiously.
“Not now, Doc.”
“Captain Xeenon,” Dr. Who began, soft but intense, “you know as well as anyone that the Philosopher’s Code will obliterate the entire galaxy the minute it’s initialized.” His voice rose passionately, “What war is worth the destruction of several billion innocent lives?”
“Doctor,” Data interrupted calmly, “there appears to be an abnormal fluctuation outside this vessel.”
The doctor swung around to look outside. Bright pink ribbons of energy weaved around the ship. The gnomes froze.
“Great Scot!” Dr. Brown stammered. “Doctor, that’s the same raw time fabric we encountered 3 parsecs ago! If we don’t fly out of here this could seriously disrupt the space time continuum!”
“—Captain Xeenon!” the Doctor whipped urgently around again. “We can resolve this later- your ship is in danger. I know what we have to do!”
“I will have no more of your insolence, Doctor. Guards, seize them, and our new prisoners!”
Shari saw Milo glance at the machine’s tiny door from the corner of her eye. He smirked and closed his eyes. Milo was asleep.
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