A magical boyhood

The freckle-faced boy with the sandy hair twirled the long-handled wooden spoon in his tiny hands and intoned his most secret of secret words.

“Babba-codabra, misa-loo, bumpup-tada!”

He smiled to himself, the little mischievous grin that he saved for his most precious of moments. He twirled in place, the gold-star studded navy cape fluttering behind. The boy adjusted his matching wizard’s hat, the cone shape smashed in on one side from a magical mishap earlier in the week.

From across the magic circle – a hand-knotted rag rug his grandmother had made – came a squeaking, tired roar. The patchwork cat with large, blue button eyes stretched and purred at the boy before pouncing on him and nuzzling against the freckled face.

“C’mon, Patches. Let’s esplore,” the boy giggled.

He grabbed one of the many books from his tiny, boy-sized bookshelf and thumbed through the pictures until he found a suitable frame to explore. He tossed the book onto the rug then pulled the patchwork feline to him.

“Bubbley-de, bubbley-be, doobie-do,” he intoned, with as much seriousness as he could muster with the playful cat nuzzling against his ear.

A cloud of gold and blue smoke puffed up from the edges of the magic circle and in a flash, the boy and his patchwork cat were standing in the middle of a fairy forest. Trees in multitudes of colors grew in alphabetical shapes. The purple and pink grasses swayed gently, despite the absence of a breeze. The air smelled of bubble-gum and apples. Tiny blue and green bunnies frolicked with yellow and orange squirrels and chattered together in amazement at the sudden appearance of the newcomers.

The sandy-haired boy laughed in delight. He let go of his cat, with one last happy squeeze, then set off through the forest in search of more adventure. The patchwork cat followed, yawning at the playful animals it passed.

Lights of all colors flitted around the boy’s head, causing him to giggle and duck his head. His wizard’s hat slipped from his head, but his following companion caught the rogue headwear upon his own head. The little magician giggled to see his friend so dressed.

The pair spied an ivory and gold castle ahead. Together, the friends bounded through the forest, skipping through the colorful grasses and singing the alphabet song.

At the open gates of the castle, the patchwork creature paused, mewling his concern at the tiny wizard. But the boy just laughed and pulled the kitty to his chest. The young wizardling sauntered into the mouth of the castle, without a care in the world.

The darkness inside fell slowly over the both of them and soon they were both snoring peacefully.

Mother pulled the colorful alphabet-covered blanket higher over the pair and kissed the boy on his forehead. She set the cape and conical hat on top of the small, boy-sized bookshelf and whispered, “Dream on.”

 

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Dexter Liu’s ending

The medical lab was sparklingly white in the bright overhead light. Dexter thought it would probably glow even if all the power in the ship were turned off, it was so sterile and polished.

The stasis pods lining the walls were full; the crew of the starship slept peacefully and unaware inside. The frosted glass covers allowed Dexter to see the men and women who were at his mercy.

The steady lights on the individual control panels indicated that all was well with the crew and no one had begun their wake cycle. None of the pods sat empty, either, leaving Dexter to question whether it was a malfunction or the shadowy forms that had led to the overhead lights being on. Dexter Liu knew enough about space travel to know that during stasis trips, minimal power was used during the flight.

Dexter searched the glass canopies, looking for signs of familiarity in the faces of the crew. He found none. He touched each canopy, his fingers leaving greasy smudges on the glass. He bowed to each one, his supposed ancestors, apologizing for his actions.

Then the bare-footed man turned from the stasis pods and fled down yet another corridor, continuing his flight to the bridge.

Sound followed Dexter. He heard the same alien voices, calling his name, taunting him in the unfamiliar language. He heard the swooshing of doors, opening and closing in his wake. He heard the computer, chiming and chirping to itself from distant rooms. His uneasiness grew. He ran faster.

Dexter’s path from the medical bay led him to a nearby access tube. His fingers trembled as he pulled the panel from the wall. He ducked his head inside. The interior was illuminated by micro-lights, evenly spaced along the edges of the ladder, reminding Dexter of the landing lights at his home space port. He shook off the memories and began to climb.

Halfway up the tube, a gush of air flew past Dexter’s upturned face. He paused. Fear swarmed inside, but he roughly pushed it aside to continue his journey.

The last access point of the tube was just three corridors away from the secondary bridge door. He was almost to the end of his mission. Dexter prayed that this time his expensive override code would work to open the locked room.

The dim hallway lit up dutifully as Dexter Liu crawled from the access port. He glanced quickly around, searching for signs of the shadowy aliens. But he saw nothing unusual. He jogged the remaining distance to the door, listening to the mocking sounds that followed him still.

The electronic lock was easily manipulated and the door swooshed open with a quiet huffing sound. The voices fell silent, leaving Dexter in a stunningly loud vacuum. He felt his nerves quiver as he stepped inside.

The bridge was blue and white, with chrome fixtures. Dexter paused to take it all in, but a quick glance at his watch put him into overdrive. He rushed to the main computer bank.

Dexter’s fingers flew across the keys. He modified the flight plan, taking the ship further into the depths of space. He smiled to himself. The ship’s new course would have it running out of fuel near Aryth, a world far more civilized than his ancestors had originally planned to settle on.

While he waited for the warning chimes of his chrono-watch, he punched up the crew manifest. The short list of officers held none of the familiar names of his predecessors. A rapid search of the remaining crew gave him no answers, either.

It wasn’t until he searched the entire ship’s record did he find his ancestral name. Seventeen of them, just as the Liu family history claimed. But not as officers and crew, but as exiled slaves, sent to do hard labor on a penal planet.