Chapter 1 - Is it all a dream?
It was the most exciting night of the year – it was Christmas Eve. The gentle snowflakes warmly greeted the crisp and cold windows of the Weaver estate. The smell of hot cocoa and fresh pine entwined with the crackle of the fire place and the sounds of children running about.
“Lorelei,” a woman with a bright red and white Christmas sweater came up to a girl sitting upon a couch while gazing at the blurred lights of the cold city outside.
“Yes mother?” she didn’t take her green eyes off of the cold window. There was frosting on the window that created fun light patterns from the festive lights outside.
“Some cocoa?” the mother smiled warmly, placing it on the wooden table next to her.
“So what did you get me for Christmas this year?” she lifted the corner of her lips as if blackmailing her mother.
“Be careful!” the mother whispered. “What did Santa get you this year is what you meant to say!” her mother raised an eyebrow at her.
A small boy ran over to them. “I hope Santa gets me a dragon spaceship!”
“What’s that?” Lorelei narrowed her eyebrows.
“You wouldn’t get it,” he mocked her with a cheeky laugh.
“Hey, I’ve watched more stuff than you have growing up!”
The boy, her brother, ran away to play with the neighbor’s kids.
“Aren’t you proud of our Christmas tree this year?” the mother sat beside her, hugging her daughter festively.
“I do, I already posted it with the new Christmas Filter. It got over three hundred likes in a few hours,” Lorelei grinned proudly.
“Oh please, you’re entering College next year,” said the mother, before she was abruptly cut off.
“Exactly! And a major in psychology at that. Did you know that getting ‘likes’ gives you dopamine which makes you happier?”
“Oh don’t try to be snarky with me, missy,” her mother clamped her cheek and gave them a wobble.
“Whatever!” Lorelei pouted in defeat. “I was just complimenting your tree in my own way, that’s all.”
She was a quirky and charming girl – she grew up reading books and buying cute magical dresses, rather than sticking to the trends that all her other friends embraced. And if she ever teased you, which she would do often, it was all to make you try and like her more.
“Lorelei!” her father’s raspy voice called out from the kitchen.
“Coming!” her voice sang through the house as she ran over to him. She had an adorable dress, tight around the waist with frills that reached down to her knees.
“I can’t for the love of me figure out if these cupcakes are done,” the father in his cozy red hat squinted his eyes trying to look into the oven.
“Ugh, dad!” she quickly wore gloves to take them out. “They’ll burn if you keep them there longer, you could have called mom too.”
“I knew you’d be faster,” he said nonchalantly.
“So are you dressing up as Santa again today, or…?” she asked him, hoping for a unique answer judging by the way she innocently raised her eyebrows. If anything she was a master at making cute puppy eyed faces.
“Dressing up as Santa? Who would do such a thing?” he grabbed his drink and walked into the living room saying, “Santa comes in through our chimney like every year.”
Lorelei sighed, dropping her shoulders and pressing her glossy smooth lips tighter.
She grabbed her cocoa and headed upstairs to her room for a moment. Her room was as girly as her makeup drawer – fluffy pillows, teddy bears, heart shaped rugs and clothes absolutely everywhere.
After a few small sips of this magical drink, she stood in front of the mirror, correcting her light brown hair, and making sure her incredibly well made wavy hair was falling back perfectly. She had curled them slightly just for this occasion!
She struck a pose, and then another one, smiling at herself.
“At least I look cute!” she said out loud.
“Yeah you look cute!” her reflection replied.
“Aww, I do?” she cupped her face shyly.
“Yep! No denying that! You’re the prettiest girl in the whole world!” the reflection praised her more.
“Wow! That’s saying something!”
“Now strike me another pose, girl!”
“How’s this?” she stood on one leg with her arms creating a heart shape over her head.
“Like this?” she perked her hip out and stood like a model.
“No no no!” her reflection berated her, wagging a finger. “You can’t pose like that in a cute dress! Save it for later.”
“Oh,” she frowned. “How about…”
“I’m telling mom you’re talking to your reflection again!” her brother invaded her privacy.
“Wait!” Lorelei chased her brother. She ran after him through the corridors and before he could reach the stairs, she caught hold of his shoulders.
“Heeeelp!” her brother yelled out.
“Shhh!” she put a finger over his mouth. “How about a deal?”
“What deal?” he said quietly.
“I’ll secretly give you an extra cookie of mine if you don’t say a word about it to her,” she smiled sweetly and endearingly. She loved cookies as much as her brother, and for the longest time when they baked them in the house they would split them evenly between themselves. If either of them ever got more cookies than the other it would always be a big deal.
“Two cookies,” said the brother.
“Wow, you drive a hard bargain! Okay, two cookies.”
They shook hands on it.
Downstairs, everyone was having those delightful cupcakes that Lorelei saved from impending doom just a while ago. They had pretty white frosting with rainbow colored sprinkles over them.
She rightfully took one and joined the living room where people exchanged in conversations and stories.
She sat close to her mother, nibbling away while listening to what they were saying. The men were talking about renovations, the women were talking about hair products for their pets, and the children were pretending to fight evil against all odds where love and justice prevails and all that! And honestly, to Lorelei what the children were doing was massively more entertaining than what the adults were talking about. It was Christmas, for Christ’s sake! They could talk about renovations and hair products some other day, right?
“Be careful you don’t smudge your face,” said the mother. “We’ve been passing around tissues ever since those cupcakes came out.”
Lorelei pointed the white frosting at her face and smudged the tip of her nose with it.
“Hey mom, want a kiss?” she leaned over towards her.
“No!” she pushed her back with a light chuckle, grabbing a tissue nearby and cleaning her daughter’s face. “My god you’ve aged in your hips but not your brain it seems.”
“Mother!” Lorelei’s jaw dropped briefly.
“It’s okay, no one heard that,” she smiled.
“Right,” Lorelei leaned back and folded her arms.
She closed her eyes, but that made the noise louder. She opened her eyes, but now everything was too bright. “I want some tea,” she said, wanting to get away from the cacophony.
“Get one for me too,” said the mother.
The evening passed fairly quickly – mostly because the kids had to go to bed early. But not Lorelei, she was old enough to go to sleep whenever she wanted to, and she was proud of that.
The neighbors left, and everything got cleaned up and tidied up before the big morning.
The lights were dim, the Christmas tree flickered, and it was quiet and peaceful. It was so quiet, that one could finally hear the howling wind outside. It was a pleasant contrast to the warm and serene indoors.
She stayed downstairs, her legs kicked up on the armrest of the couch, scrolling through her latest smartphone.
Time passed, and her mother emerged from the shadows of the corridors.
“Lorelei, you’re still here?”
“Yep,” she said without looking. That’s always the type of question she got when she was still roaming about in the midst of the night – ‘you’re still here?’ and ‘you’re still awake?’
“You know Santa can’t come to claim his cookies and leave gifts if someone is still here.”
“Then why are you still here?” Lorelei put on a smug smile.
“Tsk,” her mother stroked her head briefly. “Get on upstairs.”
And Lorelei did just that – she went upstairs without another word. She knew how it was – the Christmas gifts had to appear in the middle of the night so no one would see. There was no magic in that, there was no magic in any of that! Her magic got stolen from her when she was nine years old and ever since she’s been demanding answers of what is even real anymore?
She stayed on her bed, kicking her feet from the edge and texting her friends. When it got late enough, she scrolled through some pictures that were posted by the people she was following earlier – mostly pictures of gingerbread cookies and cute outfits.
Her cheek was planted in her pillow, and she got hypnotized by the screen that she was staring at.
Her first adorable high pitched yawn emerged, and that was the sign that it was late enough to sneak downstairs for her secret mission.
If Santa wasn’t real, then surely he wouldn’t mind her breaking some Christmas rules, would he? At least, that’s how she rebelled against it.
She tiptoed as quietly as a snowflake, and as nimble as a cat. The tree illuminated the living room enough – she quietly waltzed around the couch, brushing her fingertips over its fabric along the way. Then she walked past the fireplace, poking and touching all the decorations. She was being naughty while no one could see. Her lips weren’t smiling, but her heart certainly was.
She finally made it over to the tree, underneath which were beautifully folded gifts, and heaps of them!
She crouched down beside them and scanned them all while guiding her gaze with her finger.
“Let’s see here,” she whispered to herself.
“Meow,” her cat caught her in the act, brushing its soft white fur against her ankles. Lorelei’s heart skipped a beat, and she almost fell over in a manner that might have knocked the Christmas tree into the corner and made all the noise in the world.
“Shh,” she quietly pet her cat. “Don’t give me away.”
She found a gift with her name on it – Lorelei.
“Got you!” she picked it up.
As soon as she did, the lights from the hallway turned on. Her heart dropped again! Give this girl a break!
She quietly but quickly put the gift back down and hid behind the tree, facing the corner of the living room. There was no other place to hide fast enough – she had to hope for the best.
Eerie footsteps made their way into the living room, much like an evil villain pursuing an innocent girl in a haunted mansion. At least, those were the thoughts this innocent girl was having (she was not so innocent though, was she?)
The mother spotted the cat and came over to it.
“What, it was just you?” she picked it up in a warm embrace – the cat curled its body along her arm. “I thought Gregory got up to steal the gifts! One has to be extra careful around this time.”
Lorelei was holding her own lips shut with the palm of her hand. The flickering lights from the tree were casting a blurry shadow along the corner of the wall, but it could still easily be missed. For now, she was safe. As soon as she heard her mother’s bedroom door close, she snatched her gift and tiptoed up the stairs and back into her room, locking her door with a soft click.
“Yes!” she grinned, hugging the gift against her chest. “I knew I could count on myself! Like a modern day Princess Ninja, silent and stealthy, yet beautiful and graceful – deadly, yet enchanting!”
After she was done praising herself, she went over to her desk by the night window. The desk was decorated with pictures of her family in heart shaped frames, a few flowers, mistletoes and other cute decorations covered the edges of the desk, leaving the center bare.
She snapped her fingers and the lamp turned on, a soft glow emerging on her face.
“Better put it back later, so…” she inspected the packaging to try and open it in a way that could be assembled back later.
She tugged the red ribbon, but it wouldn’t come off. It seemed as though some sort of glue was holding it together in place and the only real way to open it would be to rip it to shreds like an excited child.
Her eyes got super close to the edges of the wrapping paper, gently tugging and pulling it apart.
A sound that displeased her ears rang through the room! She accidently ripped the paper about an inch in.
“Nooo!” she grit her teeth. “Aw, come on, I had this!” she mumbled to herself.
She opened her desk drawer to find a pair of scissors. She snipped them around dramatically as if she had everything figured out. “This should do the trick!”
She did her best to cut the glued sections without harming the paper, biting her lip and keeping the most focused expression she could muster.
Rip! Another blunder. Her shoulders lifted, her neck shrunk and her body cringed every time she messed up.
Minutes later, the wrapping paper came undone.
“There!” she gave a sarcastic smile, “the work of a true surgeon!”
The wrapping paper was torn up and cut up conspicuously along all the folds and creases.
“At least… the ribbon is fine?” she scratched the back of her head. Then she took a deep breath and sighed out softly.
There was a letter on top of a large book. She inspected the letter, twisting and turning it curiously. It was a sealed envelope. What could her mother have written in there? She raised an eyebrow, fidgeted with it and came to the conclusion that it was way too difficult to open without ruining it.
“Oh come on, I’ll never be able to cleanly open this one,” she frowned.
The letter intrigued her greatly, but so did the story book. Written in large golden letters across a beautiful valley filled with fantasy-like nature and creatures, ’The Songs and Tales of Fantasia’.
Her expression was slightly blank. Every year she kept getting the best new tech, beautiful French dresses and expensive makeup kits, but this year was a story book. The corner of her mouth turned into an exaggerated frown.
“Maybe ten years ago when I still believed in all of this,” she said quietly. “And even though I want to believe in all of this…” she narrowed her eyes and fiddled her hair. Lorelei was easily conflicted when it came to fairy tales and fiction stories – she was saddened by the fact that they weren’t as real as she believed them to be and yet intrigued by them for what they potentially could be. Her first heartbreak was not from a boy, but from Santa Claus not being real. This was also why she began reading so much on psychology.
“Oh come on girl! You’re all grown up now, chin up and chest out!” she whispered loudly to herself.
Much like talking to the mirror, when she needed uplifting from someone, she needed it instantly or else it might be too late! The only obvious solution became to become that person that talks to herself when no one was looking.
She grabbed the tip of the hard cover, and lifted it open. A gentle breeze flew past her face, strong enough to move the tips of her hair.
“Huh?” she raised an eyebrow. She closed it again, then opened it again. The second time she could barely feel anything. “Come on, do it again!” she joked at the book. She opened and closed the cover a few times, but nothing happened.
The breeze smelled nice too – it smelled like a forest filled with berries.
“How interesting…” she came closer to smell the pages, but they just smelled like clean paper. “You’re a tease, aren’t you?”
Flipping the page once more, the heading said ’Journey To Fantasia’.
She read it out loud.
“To enter Fantasia, read these words aloud. By means of belief do I cherish the unreal. By means of trust do I bequeath myself inside. In darkness and in light, I permit this book to steal. That which I believe in shall be my guide.” Lorelei didn’t think much of it. She grabbed her phone and opened her browser, typing in the name of the book, since there was no author on it.
While the web page loaded in, she flipped a single page of the book. All she saw was ‘Chapter 1’, before a blinding light enveloped her eyes! The letters of the chapter danced almost violently around her in a bright golden color, taming her body and pulling her into the book!
She screamed and struggled, but even she could not hear her own screams – not at all. It was as if her body faded to sleep to wake up in a vivid dream of her falling through a tunnel of light and fairy dust – enough fairy dust to choke on and irritably brush out of her hair.
Her senses were disoriented, her being felt temporarily morphed, and her sense of consciousness could not resist what was happening. Truly akin to a dream, she floated through an endless galaxy of sounds and flickering lights and Christmas trees and snowmen and pumpkins and sparkly things and more sparkly things and fuzzy little talking creatures that cheered and angry little clouds that bickered and what in god’s name was going on?