A streak of light came through the window, waking eight year old Ali from her slumber. She rubbed her sleepy eyes and looked at the light in wonder. To her young unfettered eyes, the beam was filled with a rainbow of colors and small floating particles that looked like magical stars sparkling in the glow.
Ali refocused her eyes again and saw a tiny figure with pink wings. In the blink of an eye, it disappeared and Ali fell back to sleep.
The next evening around the same midnight time, the beam returned illuminating her whole bed in the stream. Ali awoke and saw the winged creature again, but this time it spoke to her in a sweet lilting voice.
“Keep this key safe. We’re counting on you.” The voice whispered and in a second the beam was gone.
That night, Ali dreamed of a wondrous colorful land of rainbows and waterfalls. The continual sunshine created enormous flowers bursting with perfumed scents and vibrant blooms. The grass was vivid green and the paths were purple. She smiled as she envisioned this beautiful and peaceful place beyond imagination.
Ali awoke dancing and singing in her bed. And as she dressed, she discovered she was wearing a golden necklace with a small gold key. She vaguely remembered her dream and something about a key, but she brushed it off and left for school.
During storytime, her teacher told of a fantastical place called Kariland where woodland fairies lived. It was a magical land of rainbows and waterfalls where the sun shined all day and night and the flowers sprayed fragrant bouquets of lavender and vanilla. They lived in peace and harmony protected by a golden door veiled from the outside world.
On the way home, Ali sat in the backseat of her dad’s car putting the pieces together in her mind. Kariland was in her dream and she saw a fairy in her room. It spoke to her. Then she thought of her golden key necklace.
Could that be the key to the golden door? She thought.
Determined to solve the mystery, Ali vowed to stay up past midnight to see if the fairy would visit. She had questions and wanted answers. Nodding between awake and asleep, she finally gave in and slept through the night without the beam of light to stir her.
For two more nights, she lay awake waiting for the fairy and the light, but darkness remained. Undeterred, Ali asked her teacher about the book.
“How does the golden door open to the real world?” she asked.
Her teacher looked through the book again and answered. “It doesn’t say, but I would imagine it’s a key.”
Ali asked if she could borrow the book and studied it all day.
If a key opened the door and she had it, could she enter the fairy realm? She wondered.
Ali decided to put her theory into action. The night sky was very bright with sparkling stars and a blanket of differing shades of blue. She waited but by midnight, there still was no streak of light through her window. Using a small flashlight, Ali decided to take matters into her own hands. She shined the flashlight on the book page that showed the door to Kariland. She put her necklace key into the illustrated door and turned it to the right. Nothing. She tried again turning it to the left. Still nothing.
Then she thought about her music box key. It had to be turned around in a complete circle to open. Once again she placed the golden key in the drawing door and slowly turned it around in a complete circle. To her surprise the picture of the door popped out a little. Excited, she opened the tiny door little by little until it was fully open. Behind the door was a purple road, just like the one in the story.
She leaned into the book to get a closer look at the road and found herself engulfed in a marvelous beam of warm light emitting from the door. Before she knew it the beam shrunk her to miniature size and she curiously walked through the door.
“It’s beautiful,” she said looking around in wonder.
Just like in the storybook and in her dream, Kariland was everything she wished it would be. It was whimsical and fanciful, but it was vacant.
She romped on the purple paths high and low checking beneath every rainbow, behind every waterfall, and inside every tree, but there was no sign of the woodland fairies.
Sitting atop a pink rock in a green meadow, Ali was worried. If the fairies weren’t here and they gave her the key, maybe they were in trouble.
She ran back to the door to find it closed. Initially she was scared she couldn’t get home, but then found a scrolled paper at her feet. It was covered in gold dust and said…
“Keymaster, you are our only hope. Look in the field of golden mums, but beware of the green cactus.”
Ali was charged with purpose. The fairies needed her help, so she ran around the purple roads of Kariland to find the mum field. She ran over blue hills, around silver lakes and through many green meadows full of glorious giant flowers, but no golden mums.
Then she reached a beach at the end of the isle. The white arid sand was peaceful but devoid of the strong flowery fragrance which covered the atmosphere. She stopped and inhaled a big whiff of this air, which smelled like salt and dirt. Maybe she wasn’t in Kariland anymore.
She walked up and down the empty coastline to find no trace of anything. Tired, she sat on the sand and started shoving it back and forth in frustration. Suddenly, a small cactus appeared, then another, and then another.
“What do you think you’re doing?” one cactus said.
“Were you raised in a barn?” the other scolded.
Surprised and confused, Ali jumped up. The cacti were staring at her with mean eyes and seemed to be growing larger until they were hovering over her.
But instead of running scared, Ali stood her ground.
“What have you done with the fairies?” she barked at them with her hands on her hips.
But they closed their mean eyes and folded their prickly arms in defiant silence. It was a standoff.
Ali had a little brother who was equally stubborn. She knew how to play this game. So she walked right up to them and stood with her arms crossed across her chest, staring them down without blinking.
This seemed to go on for a while, but as the sun always shined, she couldn’t see the passage of time. Beads of sweat trickled from her forehead down her face, but she didn’t move. In her stolid state, she didn’t realize the cacti were slowly shrinking to her size, then smaller. The tide came in and made the sand softer, gradually ebbing them into the depths of the beach. Eventually they were completely covered by sand.
Ali won the standoff, for all the good it did. She still didn’t have a clue about the fairies or the golden mum meadow. She looked up at the sun and down at the tide. This time when the water receded it left a silver path of glittering sand in its wake. Renewed, she followed the silver path along the water until she reached a field of yellow chrysanthemums bathed in glorious golden light. Then she heard a voice echoing in the distance.
(C) Copyright, Suzanne Rudd 2022