Song: “Once Upon a December” Instrumental by Andres Angel
I opened my eyes and was stunned to see a man standing in front of me. He was dressed in blazing white and his skin was brown and wrinkled, but his eyes twinkled like gems. The gate to my cell was swinging open behind him. The bang had been him breaking in.
Before I could even ask him who he was, he reached down, scooped me in his arms, and we were being carried away in a storm of white light.
When the light faded, I was standing in a cave of shimmering stones. There were mounds of diamonds, emerald pillars, and shavings of sapphire were floating down from the ceiling like glittering snowflakes. There were birds flying with crystal wings, rabbits hopping with rose quartz ears, and turtles with bejeweled shells. It looked like Wonderland and the Cave of Wonders had had a baby. It was weird, but wonderful, and for some reason it all felt so familiar.
“Where am I?” I asked the man next to me.
“You don’t remember?” he asked me. “This is the Cave of Synastima. It’s where feelings come from.”
I giggled as I watched a quartz rabbit bounce onto a bejeweled turtle.
“I don’t remember,” I admitted. But everything in me wanted to and felt like I was supposed to.
But the man didn’t seem disappointed.
He just smiled and said, “It’s part of a world I created. You used to love to play here.”
“You created this?” I asked. “And I…I used to play here…?” A glass parrot landed on my shoulder and I squinted from the colors refracting off it. Where had I seen it before? A feeling of nostalgia was tickling me, like a feather stuck in the back of my mind. I turned to the man. “Who are you?”
He grinned and seeing his teeth sent a sliver of homesickness up and down my spine.
“I’m your father,” he said.
I shook my head. “What? That’s impossible. I don’t even remember my father.”
“Obviously there’s a lot of things you don’t remember,” he replied. He snapped his fingers and the cave vanished in a flash.
Suddenly we were in a ballroom with a floor made of gold, a giant crystal staircase, and diamond chandeliers. The man was dressed in a royal blue suit, white pants, and a blue top hat. I looked down and was shocked to see myself in a flowing purple and black dress studded with lavender jewels.
The man held out his arm and without thinking, I grabbed it and we started dancing around the ballroom.
“I made this world and everything in it,” he started to explain. “The caves, the guns, and everything in between. On earth they call me the Gunsmith. But you used to call me ‘Papa’.”
My eyes trembled at that last word and my knees buckled. I remembered.
“So you see,” he went on. “You’re special. Because I’m special.”
I fought back a stubborn tear at those words. He was really trying to mess up this makeup that had magically appeared on my face.
We danced around the floor and new guests appeared out of thin air: men and women, fauns and nymphs, elves and dwarves, seamen and sirens, all dressed in gowns and suits and all dancing to the music playing from nowhere.
“I see you remember how to waltz,” Papa said to me.
“I didn’t even know I could waltz,” I replied, looking down at my feet as they followed his across the gold tiles.
“There’s a lot you don’t know you know,” he said.
I furrowed my brow as I looked up at him. “Wait…how can you be my father? You’re…black.”
He grinned again. “Your mother’s Chinese.” We spun in a circle then he dipped me.
“I’m Blasian?!” I cried as he brought me back up. “That makes so much sense! That’s why I never felt like I fit in anywhere! And that must be why me and One connected so quickly.”
“You have a lot more in common than you realize.”
My mind was swimming in a sea of wonder and drowning in a feeling of enlightenment. It made so much sense of everything. I was mixed. I was from another world. My father was some sort of divine being creating realms with a snap of his fingers.
“But why did you take me away?” I asked him. “Why didn’t you let me stay here with you? What happened?”
“There’s a time for everything, my jewel,” he replied. “And now it’s time to play.”
Before I could protest, he took my hand and twirled me away from him.
I spun in circles and when I stopped, I was standing on an ocean shore. I was in shorts and a tank top and my father was back to his blazing white outfit again. The sand stretched for miles of untouched brown on either side of me and the ocean was an endless expanse of glittering blue glass in front of me.
My father sat down on the sand with me and pulled out my revolver.
“My gun!” I cried. “Did you fix it?”
He chuckled as he opened the chamber and emptied the rejections on the ground.
I snickered, intrigued at what was happening.
He caught it in my eyes and snickered back at me. “Where do you think you learned this game?”
I shrugged sheepishly.
“But you forgot how to play,” he went on. “You’ve been doing it wrong for a while.”
“Can you blame me? How was I supposed to remember my father was an extradimensional wizard?”
He pulled a velvet pouch from his pocket and set it on the ground in between us.
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“Something that will never run out.” Then he winked at me. “So it’ll always be enough for you.”
“That’s good to know,” I chuckled. “Cuz towers of gold are still too little.”
“These hands could hold the world,” he finished. “But it’ll…”
“Never be enough,” we said together.
My heart leapt in my chest. No one ever finished song lyrics with me. I was always left singing alone to songs no one else recognized. I had gotten that from him! We used to sit around like this and speak in song.
“You wanna know my favorite things about you?” he suddenly blurted.
“What?” my heart leapt again, but not in a good way. This was taking a turn. “No, that’s really okay.”
“I like your humor,” he said, looking straight at me. “Even though your sarcasm is really hope dipped in disappointment, I still like your jokes. It makes me feel…” He reached into the pouch and pulled out a blue feeling. “Joy.”
I swallowed as he slid the feeling into my revolver’s chamber. “You really don’t have to do this.”
But he went on like he hadn’t heard me. “I like your fashion sense and the way you put outfits together. It makes me feel pride.” He pulled out a purple feeling and loaded it into the chamber.
“Seriously,” I warned him. “Feel free to stop at any time.”
But on and on he went, loading my gun with all the things I made him feel: joy, pride, wonder, gratefulness, delight, and love.
He flicked the chamber and let it spin a few times before locking it in place. “Let’s see which one comes out, shall we?”
“No,” I protested, jumping to my feet. “I don’t–”
“Yes you do,” he looked up at me.
“But you don’t know what I’ve–”
“I know you better than you know yourself,” he stopped me. “You’re my daughter. I don’t care what you’ve done.”
“No…” I whispered.
“You’re better than you know,” he said. “And you deserve more than you think.”
I shook my head. “I don’t! I don’t! You should’ve left me in my cell. I didn’t ask you to save me!”
“And yet I did,” he replied. “Because you’re always worth saving. Even if I have to save you from yourself.”
I stared down at him and felt my body shaking uncontrollably from what was going on inside of me. I wanted to run away and run straight to him. I wanted to scream and laugh. I wanted to die and dream. I paced back and forth wildly as this emotional war waged inside of me.
I stopped pacing and stared at him, biting my lip until I was sure it would pop.
“Sit down and let me love you,” he told me.
We stared at each other for what felt like an entire minute. This was a dream. I could end it right now. I could run into the ocean and drown and wake up back in reality and this would all be over. It wasn’t real anyway.
But I wanted it to be.
I needed it to be.
Something broke in me and before I could stop myself, I threw myself onto him and wrapped my arms around his neck, burying my sobbing face into his chest. Tears from a broken well of childhood came gushing forth and I wailed like a wild animal into him.
Finally, after I’d rendered his shirt due for a new visit to the laundromat, I sat back and crossed my legs.
“So I’m guessing you’re not gonna give me that missing piece?”
He shook his head. “How else will I bribe you to come back here?”
I grinned. Then I took a deep breath and sat up straight. “Gimme your best shot.”
He winked at me and aimed my revolver at my chest.
I shut my eyes and smiled, feeling like I was falling into a lake and waiting to hit the water.
The feeling hit me in my heart and blasted me back into my cell. I clambered on the floor like I was falling and gasped for air.
I touched my chest and felt my pulse racing. This feeling was radiating through every inch of my body like electricity shocking my soul to life. But by the time I could even wrap my mind around what I was feeling, it leaked out of me and all I felt was the cold air of my cell.
I took a second to catch my breath then looked at my right hand where a new word was tattooed on my wrist and up my arm: