I looked down. I was wearing once again the tee, jeans and sneakers that I had seen incinerated in the medical bay of the Phantom. What did it mean? Was I going to have a fictional adventure in my own world now? I heard a low buzzing sound; where was it coming from? A small device lay on the little table next to the armchair I had been sitting (sleeping?) in. My smart-phone! How everything seemed like such a vague memory now! I had ridden a dragon, fought an alien invasion, been in a Wild West shootout, survived being captured by evil vines and swimming in a giant's coffee, and now—I picked up my phone. A text message from Cheryl, my sister, awaited me. "We're on our way!" it read. The time stamp was 2:36 PM. Right now the time was—I scanned the room for a clock. I had one tacked to the wall next to my typewriter. The hands pointed to just after 4:10. She would arrive any minute! I glanced at the short paragraph I had typed, still in the machine.
"Will I be able to return, or will I be forced to remain there, permanently separated from my world altogether?”
I shook my head as the whole start of the sequence of adventures came flooding back. It was all so vivid—but had it really happened, or was it all a dream?
The doorbell rang. I descended from the attic and down the stairs just in time to greet my sister Cheryl, her husband Jeremy, and their twin sons, Galen and Marcus.
"Cheryl!" I cried, "Hey!" We hugged, and immediately Cheryl turned on her sons. "Okay boys, take your shoes off and lay them—lay, Galen!” Cheryl moved a lock of her shoulder-length auburn hair behind her ear as she chastised her younger son, “Lay them by the front door!"
"Hey Laura," Jeremy had his hands full of pizza, soda, and cookies, but he nudged me with his shoulder in greeting, "How is everything?"
"Well, it's been kind of crazy lately," I admitted before I could stop myself.
I led him into the kitchen to let him set everything down on the counter, wondering where my offhand remark had come from. Should I really present the adventures in my head as reality? Were they a story I was working on? But I had not written anything; how would it look if I talked about a story as if it was already written, when I didn’t have anything to show for it? I certainly wasn’t about to show them the arbitrary musings now sitting in my typewriter.
Jeremy remained oblivious to my quandary as he spread the things on the counter. "Crazy, how so?" he mad casual conversation as he leaned on the counter behind him. In the front of the house, Cheryl shooed the boys into the den to watch TV and told them to wait as she moved to join us in the kitchen.
"Oh, you know—" I was having trouble thinking. How in the world did Jeremy remind me so much of Jerry, Gerald, and Geronimo all at once? It was as if my brother-in-law had managed to work himself into my stories; perhaps that was why they seemed so real. "Just a new writing project I'm working on," I finished evasively.
Jeremy nodded, "Oh yeah; Cherie mentioned something to that effect."
Cheryl entered and began setting out the dishes and putting together a salad, while Jeremy went to collect the boys.
Marcus and Galen ran into the room when their father said the word "pizza." They surveyed the steamy, cheesy goodness with approval.
"I want that piece!" Galen cried, pointing to the one he thought was biggest.
"Okay, Galen," his brother replied, "You can have it."
Cheryl poured the soda into glasses. Galen took the first one. I smiled and chuckled to myself; did my young nephew know that his behavior reminded me of another Galen, one about his height?
"Okay everyone," Cheryl said, setting everything on the table. "Let's eat."
"Mmm," I said, biting into a slice of pepperoni, "You guys, this is so good! I've been out—" I stopped myself before I could give it away, and continued, "—of commission all day, and I completely forgot about your text, Cher, until just a few minutes ago."
"Oh," Cheryl laughed, "I knew you were attempting a new writing experiment, and I kinda figured how that would go, so Jer and I stopped off and got pizza."
"And pop!" Galen added.
"And cookies," Marcus chimed in, both boys giggling as Galen let out a tremendous belch.
"How is that going, by the way?" my sister asked.
"It's been quite an adventure so far," I hinted, scooping some salad onto my plate. "I'll let you know when things begin making sense."
I watched my sister; as a stay-at-home mom, I'd seen her swept off to the side and dismissed by power-women and practically ignored by the guys all through our school years. I always knew she would need someone as sensitive to her simple tastes as Jeremy. True, it had taken a lot of deliberate orchestration on my part (I admit I treated them like a couple of my own characters sometimes), but the resulting relationship was more than anyone could have hoped.
Marcus tugged at my sleeve, "Aunt Laura," he asked, "What's your new story about?"
"Yeah," Galen gurgled around a mouthful of pizza. "Goober whammy globby-man!"
"All right, messy-boy," Cheryl reprimanded him, "No talking till you've finished your meal."
Galen's voice was still fuzzy as he tried to swallow as fast as he could before protesting, "Aww, mom!"
"No talking," Cheryl held firm. Soft and simple she may be, but she had proved herself fully capable of raising boys.
Jeremy glanced toward the front door. "I think I just heard the doorbell," he said.
"I'll get it," I wiped my mouth with a napkin and stood.
When I reached the door, there was no one there. I opened the door. The night fog had rolled in, casting weird shapes and shadows under the streetlamps. I shivered, drawing my sweater closer around me. I couldn't shake the feeling that if I stepped on the porch, I would once more be whisked away.
"Hello?" I called, crossing the threshold. Something crunched under my feet, and I winced, bracing myself for the unfamiliar. I opened my eyes. Nothing had changed. I was still standing on my front porch. I looked under my feet. There on the porch was a large packet, addressed simply to "Laura." There was no return address. But the strangest thing of all was that there wasn't a postmark, either, or stamps. It was as if one of my neighbors just wrote my name and address on a packet and left it on my porch. I went inside, stepping into the front office to open the packet.
It contained paper; lots of paper. There was a note on top, neatly typed.
"It has been fun. Do not forget! —TPR"
TPR? Whom did I know with those initials? Forget what? What sort of fun did I have with this person?
I lifted the note and read the first page. It was a title page. "A Writer's Tale, by Tye P. Ryder."
TPR! The...typewriter? I flipped through the manuscript. It was my own, every bit of the adventures I had in the ImagiNation. I shook my head. There was no way I would ever forget.
I've tried to go back over the years, but nothing has worked. I suppose you can only do something like that once in your life. But once you do, it completely changes the way you write. I published "The Writer's Tale" under a penname, and it brought success and confidence. Every book I've written since then has ended up on the shelves and done well. All because I dared to let the ImagiNation tell its own story.
This is my story. Thank you so very much for reading.