9. Flight of the Bed
Our house sat on the forest end of Windfall Drive. There were eleven and a half houses on our side of the street and twelve on the other. The “half” was because of a house on the corner of the block, owned by two elderly ladies who were both named Miss Trinket. They were identical twins and didn’t seem to like anyone, most of all each other. Miss Trinket got her mail addressed to Windfall Drive and her sister, Miss Trinket, insisted on getting her mail addressed to Slope Street. According to my dad, it all started forty years ago with an argument over who should mow the lawn.
“Miss Trinket doesn’t think she should do it because Miss Trinket has slightly longer legs than her, and it would take her less time. However, Miss Trinket thinks Miss Trinket should do it because she has a bad back and Miss Trinket doesn’t. Ever since the argument started, they refuse to live at the same address, so Miss Trinket changed hers to Slope Street. Understand?” my dad asked. My answer was always no, no matter how matter times he explained it.
Sometimes their grass would get so long that Soy refused to walk by. “Who knows what’s inside there?!” he would say. Most likely it was just bugs and maybe snakes, and Soy liked both of them. Still something about not being able to see inside rubbed Soy the wrong way, so we took the long way around or went through the woods instead. Besides that, there was always a Miss Trinket outside on the porch waiting to get mad about something. They yelled at the mailman every single day for scaring their dog, Marshall. He was a small border collie with white and black hair, and he was always laying down next to one of them. I sometimes wondered if he could tell them apart. If animals really could talk, that might have been my first question.
Once a summer, my dad sent me over to mow their lawn for them, secretly hoping to make our side of the street an even twelve again (he said that the other side of the street looked down on us). Mowing their lawn didn’t make our street whole, but it did make me the only person who the Miss Trinkets liked.
They would each make me a lemonade if it was a hot day, and deliver it to me when the other one wasn’t around. One of the Trinkets made hers too sweet and the other made hers too tart, but when I combined them the lemonade tasted perfect. The best part was that they always paid me separately, as well.
“Remember, I’m the nice one,” a Miss Trinket would say as she handed me money.
Two minutes later the other Miss Trinket would say the same thing and hand me the same amount of money. I decided that they were both the nice one, partly because it was true, but mostly because I had no way of picking.
Flying on my bed, we rocketed down the middle of Windfall Drive, past twelve houses to our left, and eleven and a half to our right. Luckily for us, there was only one person outside that day, and it was a Miss Trinket, with Marshall by her side. She was sitting on her porch with a lemonade in hand, looking out over a foot of grass.
Marshall lifted his head and wagged his tail as he looked up. Miss Trinket gave me a friendly smile and wave as we zipped by her. I waved back as best as I could from the smushed bed. She put a finger over her mouth to tell me that she knew how to keep a secret, and gave a wink. Say what you will about a Miss Trinket, but they are pretty good people to have on your side when you’re flying down the street on a magical bed and don’t want it getting back to your mom.
Flying was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was like being on a roller coaster that jumped its tracks and decided to explore. My excitement changed to worry when I spotted the bookstore getting closer and closer. I’d forgotten that my street ended abruptly at Finnegan's Books, and we were running out of road. It looked like a house, but it was one story taller than all the others.
“Press the button again!” shouted Deli from behind me.
I looked above me at the smartphone, but it was hard to see now. I stretched and shimmied until I could just reach it. The brown button now read: FLOPBACK.
There wasn’t a second to spare as I pushed it. The mattress flattened out in an instant. The pillow steering wheel was moving easier now, so I lifted it slightly as we shot up higher. The bookstore was passing safely below us when Soy spoke.
“How are you so good at steering?” he asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking back, “I’m just doing what feels right.”
Deli seemed to be smiling, but it can be hard to tell sometimes with frogs.
The sky was clear blue as far as I could see. I saw the wind blowing crumbs off of Soy’s shirt. We were flying faster and higher by the second.
“Keep climbing,” said Deli.
I steered the bed upward until I could see all of Stagwood Forest below us. To the west, it thinned out and then faded into the slope of Saltridge Hills. The forest was thicker to our right, where it spread out until hitting Merrywater Creek.
I decided to test out the bed a little more. Better to learn how to fly it when there was nothing else around. I turned the pillow to the right, and the whole bed started to fly right. I turned the pillow slightly left, and we shifted back. When I pushed forward, the bed sped up and the wind blew through my hair, making my cheeks flap. I pulled towards me, and we slowed down, which made the bed begin to dip. Lifting and pushing forward, we floated right back up.
I was so focused on learning that I barely felt the tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, I saw that Soy’s face had turned green, and it looked like he was about to throw-up.
“I’m starting to get car sick,” he said.
“This isn’t a car,” reminded Deli.
Soy didn’t have time for a rebuttal. He got sick over the side of the bed. I concentrated on keeping the bed straight from then on.
“You okay?” I shouted, so he could hear me over his vomiting.
A few moments later he was laying back on the bed. “You can’t zigzag around like that!” he scolded me. “I almost fell off the bed!”
“I’m sorry, Soy,” I answered.
I felt pretty bad about making him sick, but it felt much worse to think that I had endangered all of us.
“Where am I supposed to be going?” I asked Deli, to change the subject.
She hopped over to the phone and looked at the screen. I watched her leg stretch out and press the button that said: CRUISE MODE. A map application came up that looked like one my parents used on their phones all the time. She typed out the word, “Pavidale" and entered it.
The pillow popped out of my hands and dropped, attaching itself to the bed. All of a sudden, a see-through bright orange shield started to rise from all sides of the bed. It locked together above our heads. We were completely encased.
“Luckily, your bed has more than enough lore to spare for the shield, too. It will make sure that nobody falls off,” Deli told us happily. “And Soy, if you need to throw up again, let me know, because you don’t want the shield up when you do.”
“And we’re going to... Pardivale?” I blurted out.
“Pavidale. Yes. Right now, it’s over Iceland,” she told me.
“Right now?” I asked.
“Right now,” she said and left it at that. “The bed knows where to go. It will take care of the rest. But remember this: the shield is better at keeping things in than keeping things out, so pay attention to anything that might get in our path. Take back control anytime by pressing the CRUISE MODE button again to turn it off.”
Soy reached his arms out wide and looked around. “What could we possibly hit out here?” he asked.
“Birds for one thing, planes for another… or dark clouds. Those would be the worst of all,” she answered gravely.
“What’s so bad about dark clouds?” I asked Deli. I had a feeling that we wouldn’t like her answer.
“Dark clouds can be a source of a magic that we call rile. Rile is the opposite of lore. It fuels nightmares, and it gives the worst kind of creatures their magic. There’s no telling what we’d find inside if we passed through a cloud with rile,” she said.
“Okay,” I interjected, “but we learned in school that clouds are just water vapor. And that they’re white because of something to do with how they scatter light.”
“We learned that?” Soy asked.
“And that dark clouds, or rain clouds, are only dark because they have more water inside,” I finished.
“When did we learn that?!” Soy questioned.
“Last week. That’s why you should pay better attention in class sometimes,” I responded proudly.
“And you looked out the window, saw a frog with glasses, and got a dragon chasing us on your flying bed. That’s why you should pay better attention in class,” Soy responded.
Soy must’ve been saving that one up.
“That’s how most clouds work,” said Deli, “but these clouds are different. They don’t operate by the same rules, just like a dream doesn’t operate by the same rules as the real world. Lore and rile are stronger than you can possibly imagine.”
“How do we know a dark magic cloud from a regular one?” I asked.
“Magic clouds take the shape of something unusual. Extraordinary even,” she answered.
Soy and I both looked around the sky. There were no clouds around with interesting shapes. And I still had more questions.
“Deli, if there are clouds with rile inside, does that mean that there are clouds with lore inside too?”
Deli smiled back at me.
“That is an excellent question,” she said.
The bed dipped a few feet, riding on an air current that was invisible to me.
“But I don’t have to tell you,” she said, lying back, “because you’re going to find out soon enough.”
Deli took over a little while later, leaving me to patrol the sky until the sun began to set. She told Soy and me to get some sleep while we could, so we’d be rested. I tried to remember whether frogs were nocturnal or not. Then I wondered whether it mattered, since Deli did say that she wasn’t a real frog. Those were my last thoughts before drifting off to sleep.
I hadn’t had a nightmare in a long time, but that night I did. I dreamt about big red dragons who were attacking me from the sky and from underground. And then I saw the shape I had been drawing in class when Deli appeared. I didn’t recognize what it was then, and I didn’t even know why I drew it. It felt like maybe I had dreamt of that shape once before, but I couldn’t be sure. Then the shape was floating right above me. I hear a thousand small voices shouting for me to grab it. It was shining now, and I wanted to grab it more than anything. I felt the breath of the dragon behind me as I ran towards it. But just as I reached out, Deli woke me with a startle. She said that she had seen something following behind us. After we looked more closely, we decided that it was nothing.
“Probably just a plane passing by,” she concluded.
I went back to sleep easily. The rest of the night I dreamt of flying around the world on top of an enormous marshmallow. It was much nicer than the dragon dream. By the time the sun rose, we were almost there. I didn’t tell Deli or Soy, but I knew almost nothing about Iceland. When we first caught a glimpse of it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought it was the most amazing place that I had ever seen. There were big green mountains and hills with snow on top. We flew over huge lakes and waterfalls cut into the side of rocks, and the air smelled nicer than any air from back home.
“This reminds me of Scotland!” Soy said.
“You’ve been to Scotland?” I asked him.
“Yep, my whole family went when I was a baby,” he replied proudly.
“How can you possibly remember it then? I can’t remember a thing about being a baby,” I said.
He put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Some babies are smarter than others.”
I took my position at the head of the bed, and Deli jumped up beside me. “Press the CRUISE MODE button again,” she commanded. I may have been flying the bed, but I didn’t feel much like I was in charge.
Right after I pressed it, the bed started to shake. The orange shield receded slowly, and I felt the temperature drop. The pillow popped up into my hands, and I grabbed it, doing my best to steady the bed. Deli pointed to a large cloud which was now directly in front of us. I noticed that it was in an odd shape: long in the body, but still thick, and there was a wisp of cloud coming out of the top.
Soy recognized it before I did. “It’s a whale!” he shouted.
I steered the bed upward, heading for the tail. We followed its curve and headed up the back. I had underestimated how fast we were going and we passed right over most of the body in a few seconds.
We were almost at the head when Deli yelled, “Drop us down!”
I pushed down hard on the pillow, and we broke through the top edge of the cloud, just a little past the blowhole. There was a flash of white, and I felt a cool wet breeze. A split-second later I felt warm, like it was a spring day. The white surrounding us turned to open space, and I realized that this cloud wasn’t solid. It was hollow.
I looked down and saw green speckled with small squares, and there were shapes moving around in-between them on tan lines. There was also a blue circle. My brain searched, trying to match what I was seeing with everything I knew about clouds. But it was somewhere else in my mind that I found the answer. What I saw reminded me of a map. I was looking down at a village.
We were falling faster and longer than I’d ever fallen before. My stomach felt like it was inside my throat. I tried yanking up on the pillow, but it was not responding to my touch; it felt like there was something stronger controlling it. As we got closer to the bottom, lights flew up from below us and began whizzing by the bed.
“Do something!” yelled Soy, “I don’t want to die inside a whale cloud!”
Deli hadn’t moved since we entered the cloud. She looked as calm as ever.
The back of the bed hit first, and then the front came crashing down. To my surprise, water shot up from all sides and splashed down onto our heads.
“Welcome to Pavidale,” Deli announced.