The Secret of Dreamland
The Secret of Dreamland © 2016 by Foxglove Lee
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover design © 2016 Foxglove Lee
First Edition January 2016
The Secret of Dreamland/ by Foxglove Lee. –1st ed.
Summary: When Melody Mason gets trapped in a video game, she thinks Dreamland is a dream come true. Melody soon discovers that living in the game means she might never see her family again. With the help of Twyla, the heroine of Dreamland, and her little brother Andrew, can Melody defeat the sleep spell and find her way home?
[1. Fantasy & Magic—Juvenile Fiction. 2. Action & Adventure—Juvenile Fiction. 3. Games—Sports & Recreation—Juvenile Fiction.]
The Secret of Dreamland
By Foxglove Lee
Three, two, one…
As soon as the school bell sounded, Melody Mason grabbed her backpack and raced out of class. She slid down the stairs on the heels of her running shoes, pushed open the main door, and ran across the street without looking both ways.
Melody couldn’t resist the arcade.
Sure, the flashing lights made her feel a little dizzy. Sure, the smashing and crashing of pinball would give most people a headache. Sure, the teenagers in fluorescent T-shirts and acid-wash jeans made the arcade seem like a three-ring circus. But Melody wouldn’t have it any other way.
If it wasn’t for parents and teachers and all the other adults who told kids what to do, Melody would play video games constantly. She’d already spent half the school day on the couch with a controller in her hand. The night before, she’d snuck downstairs to play after her parents had gone to bed. She stayed up so late that, when her father woke her up in the morning, she felt like a zombie.
Melody was so sleepy from staying up late that she lied to her parents. She told them she felt sick when she didn’t. Her mother even stayed home from work to take care of her.
By lunchtime, Melody’s mom could tell she’d stretched the truth about not feeling well. Her mother sent her to class and reminded her to pick up her little brother, Andrew, when the bell rang.
But Melody forgot all about Andrew the second school was out. As soon as she started thinking about video games, she couldn’t focus on anything else. Not homework, not chores, not even her younger brother.
At the arcade, Melody went straight for her favourite game: MythSeekers, A Search for Fargon. There were knights and elves and warlocks and a brave warrior princess. The high score belonged to MEL—that was Melody’s screen name. She ruled this game.
Another thing Melody loved about the arcade was all the noise. It was so loud nobody told her to be quiet when she yelled at the characters onscreen.
“Get lost!” Melody shouted at the game. “Come on, you. I’d like to see you try! And you—I didn’t see you there, but I’m going to get you too!”
“Well, look who’s back,” someone said right behind her.
Melody screamed and spun around, but it was only Nelson, the arcade owner’s son.
She said, “Nelson, don’t distract me! You know I can’t talk and play at the same time.”
Melody turned to her game just in time to see her character get crushed by a falling tree.
“Thanks a lot!” she growled. “I could have defeated that level, easy.”
Melody pulled out another coin, but before she could put it in the slot, Nelson said, “Why do you keep playing the same game if it’s so easy to beat?”
“It’s not easy for everyone,” Melody bragged. “It’s just easy for me.”
“Because you’ve played it a million times,” Nelson said. “Anyway, that game is old. It’s been here almost since the arcade opened.”
“It’s not that old,” Melody said, and rolled her eyes.
“Okay, not really.” Nelson pointed to a dusty machine in the corner and said, “But that game over there—Dreamland? It really has been here since my dad opened this place.”
“For real?” Melody asked.
“For real,” Nelson said.
He walked to the machine and blew on the screen. So much dust flew off that they both coughed and sneezed. Nelson wiped the buttons with his sleeve, and got his shirt all dirty. The game hadn’t been played in such a long time that Nelson even had to plug it in.
As soon as the screen lit up, Melody was enchanted. The graphics weren’t bright or colourful, but that didn’t matter. The soundtrack reminded her of a music box her grandmother had given her—the kind with the little ballerina inside.
“Who is that?” she asked Nelson when a beautiful girl came onscreen.
“That’s Twyla,” Nelson said. “She’s the hero of the game.”
Twyla had purple skin and curly blue hair. Her dress looked like one of Melody’s nightgowns, but that made sense for the hero of a game called Dreamland.
“Your quest is to save the world from a sleeping spell,” Nelson told her. “Twyla’s the only one who’s still awake. She has to defeat the sleep ghosts and evil sheep in order to wake everybody up.”
Melody didn’t waste any time popping a coin into the slot.
The music swelled as she wandered Dreamland as Twyla. Evil sheep were hard to get by, because they jumped when she jumped. If she smacked into one, that knocked down her life force. Sleep ghosts were worse, because even after you got by them, they still followed you. And then, out of nowhere, sleeping potions cascaded down from the sky like waterfalls. If you weren’t careful, they’d burn you like acid, knocking every last drop of life force from your character.
Melody managed to defeat the first level before she ran out of life force, but not the second. She was always overly critical of herself when she failed at a game, but Nelson said, “You got really far on your first try.”
“My first time playing a game is always the worst,” she said. “I need more practice, but I’m running out of coins.”
“There’s always tomorrow,” Nelson said.
“I don’t want to play tomorrow,” she argued. “I want to play today!”
Nelson took a step back, probably because she was yelling so loudly. Then he said, “Maybe your brother has some extra coins. Where is Andrew, anyway? Playing the claw game?”
Melody had totally forgotten that she was supposed to pick up her little brother after school.
“I have to go,” Melody told Nelson without explaining why. “I’ll see you later!”
She raced from the arcade and nearly got hit by a car when she ran across the road. Even from a distance, she could see Andrew sitting on the steps with his backpack open in front of him. He had a library book in his lap, and he sat there reading to himself.
“I’m so sorry!” Melody cried.
Looking up from his book, Andrew smiled and said, “It’s okay, Melly.”
“But I’m way late picking you up,” she said, almost like she wanted him to be mad at her.
Her little brother’s smile never faded. He just said, “You want to play more video games?”
“Yeah,” she said. “But I ran out of money.”
He unzipped the pocket in his backpack where he kept his change, and told her, “You can have mine.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
Handing her the money, he said, “I just like watching you play.”
Her little brother looked up to her so much that Melody wished she could be a better sister. But, even more than that, she wanted to play Dreamland. So she took her brother’s money and grabbed his hand. He dragged his backpack behind him while she walked him across the street and back to the arcade.
After dinner that night, while her parents cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, Melody pulled her history test from her bag. “You need to sign this,” she told them.
Every time Melody failed a test at school, her parents were very disappointed in her.
Her father said, “If you studied after class instead of running straight to that arcade, your grades would be better for sure.”
“I did study,” Melody lied. “I’m just not good at remembering things.”
Her mother said, “If you can remember every bad guy’s weakness in your video games, you can remember where in the world King Tut’s tomb was discovered.”
“That reminds me,” Melody said. “There’s a new game out. Well, actually, it’s an old game, but I just found out about it today. It’s called Dreamland, and…”
“No more video games!” her father said.
“That’s not fair!” Melody cried. “Mom? Tell Dad that’s not fair.”
Melody’s mother shook her head. “No more video games until you get your grades up. Your little brother keeps saying he wants to stay home from school to play. I’m afraid you’re becoming a bad influence.”
Melody felt throwy-upy when her mother said that. She felt angry, too.
“How can I be a bad influence?” Melody asked. “I pick up Andrew every day after school and I take care of him until you get home from work. That’s a good influence, not a bad one.”
Her parents just looked at each other, and Melody knew she couldn’t win. Her father signed her test paper and handed it back without looking her in the eye. That made her feel like he was more disappointed than usual. She even went up to her room and did her homework without her parents asking her to.
Would a bad influence do a thing like that?
Melody couldn’t stay away from video games. Not even for one night.
After her parents fell asleep, she snuck downstairs to play MythSeekers. She’d played the game so many times it was starting to feel boring. She took out a racing game, and even an educational math game, but all she wanted was to join Twyla in Dreamland.
Turning off the TV, Melody crept quietly upstairs and dumped the contents of her piggy bank onto the bed. Twenty-one dollars and ninety-three cents. Nowhere near enough money to buy a new video game.
Andrew probably had more than her. He always saved his birthday money, and he only spent it to buy presents for Mom and Dad, and Melody too.
‘I know,’ Melody thought. ‘I’ll take some of Andrew’s money to pay for the game. I’ll pay him back later, so it won’t be stealing.’
She tiptoed to Andrew’s room. He was fast asleep, but his piggy bank was sitting right there on the bookshelf. She snatched it and walked out of her little brother’s room without jostling the bank. There were coins inside, and she didn’t want them to jingle and wake up her family.
When she got back to her own room, she splashed Andrew’s money out on her bed. Her brother had lots of cash, and she took what she thought the game would cost. A little voice in the back of her head kept telling her it was wrong to steal from her brother, but she told the voice it wasn’t really stealing if she planned to pay him back.
The voice said, “Your brother is very generous. If you ask to borrow the money, he’ll probably say yes.”
The voice was right about that, but Melody wasn’t taking any chances. It was easier to just take the money and put his bank back in his room without him knowing.
After school the next day, Melody picked up her brother and said, “We’re going to the game store.”
Andrew never complained, no matter where Melody dragged him. He said he liked going anywhere with her.
Melody worried the whole way there that her brother would ask where she got the money. She’d already made up a lie, but it turned out she didn’t need it. The game store didn’t have any new copies of Dreamland. Since it was such an old game, they only had used copies. She had enough of her own money to pay without using the cash she’d taken from her brother.
After they left the game store, Melody rushed home to play. Andrew sat patiently on the couch while Melody sat on the floor, right up close to the TV. Sometimes her dad joked that she was trying to get inside the game that way, and sometimes Melody said she’d rather live in a video game than in this boring world of school and homework and tests.
After a while, Andrew asked, “Can I please play?”
“No!” Melody shouted. “I bought this game with my own money, so it’s mine!”
That reminded her: she’d have to sneak the cash she’d taken back into Andrew’s piggy bank before he noticed it was gone.
When Melody heard her parents’ car in the driveway, she turned off the TV and swore Andrew to secrecy about where they’d gone after school. They weren’t supposed to walk to the game store by themselves, but what her parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.
“We brought pizza!” Melody’s father called when he walked into the house.
Andrew jumped up and down. He cheered, “Yay! Pizza! Pizza’s the best!”
“But you only buy pizza as a treat,” Melody said.
Her mother replied, “Since it’s Friday night, your dad and I would like to go out for dinner and a movie. Instead of hiring a babysitter, we thought maybe you could be responsible for Andrew.”
“Really?” Melody asked as the smell of extra-cheese pizza filled the house. “But you’ve never let me babysit at night before. Only after school.”
Setting the pizza box on the kitchen table, Melody’s father said, “Your mother and I think you’re old enough. Can you look after Andrew and get him to bed on time?”
Andrew whispered, “Say yes,” but loudly enough for everyone to hear. That made their parents laugh.
“Of course I’m responsible enough,” Melody said.
The voice at the back of her head reminded her about the other day, when she’d gone to the arcade after school and left Andrew waiting on the steps. And earlier that day she’d taken him to the game store, which was against the rules. So maybe she hadn’t been as responsible as some big sisters, but staying home on a Friday night and eating pizza with her little brother? She could handle that, easy!
At nine that night, Andrew was still sitting on the couch watching Melody play Dreamland. He’d asked a few times if he could try, but it was her game. She didn’t want to share.
“Weren’t you supposed to put me to bed an hour ago?” Andrew asked.
Melody jumped. She’d gotten so into the game she forgot all about her little brother.
“Can’t you put yourself to bed?” Melody asked.
“Mom or Dad always puts the toothpaste on my toothbrush,” Andrew said.
“So what? Do it yourself.”
“I can’t reach the tube,” Andrew told her.
Melody said, “Well then stand on your step stool!”
Andrew replied, “It’s still too high up. If you pause your game, you can read me a story like Mom and Dad do.”
“Don’t be a baby,” Melody said. “If you want a story, read one yourself. You like reading.”
“Please?” Andrew begged.
Melody snapped, “No! I’m almost on the last level. Stop talking so I can concentrate.”
As soon as those words had left Melody’s mouth, the television screen flickered.
For a second, Melody worried she’d broken it. Her parents would be very annoyed if they came home from their movie to find the TV busted! But what could Melody do? It just kept getting brighter and brighter. The way it flashed made her eyes hurt, but she couldn’t look away. She just kept staring at the screen in wonder, amazement and fright.
The soundtrack warped, along with the picture. It sounded like the game was laughing at her! Tears filled her eyes, but they didn’t fall down her cheeks. She stared through the mist. The flashing screen made her weak. Her head felt like a bowling ball. She couldn’t hold it up, and soon she felt herself falling backwards.
But when her head should have met the floor, it didn’t. There was no floor anymore! She was falling through clouds that looked oddly familiar. She could hear gushes like waterfalls, and smell something sickly sweet, like grape cough medicine.
Melody fell until she stopped. She didn’t remember landing, but she knew without opening her eyes that she was no longer tumbling through space. Her arms and legs felt too tired to budge. Her eyelids were too heavy to open. She didn’t try to move, and she didn’t try to see where she was. She just let herself sleep. The way she was feeling after that fall, she hoped she would never wake up.
Cold water struck Melody’s face and she sat straight up, gasping.
A familiar voice said, “Hey! Rise and shine!”
Melody rubbed her eyes. The world seemed too bright. She asked, “Where am I?”
She could faintly make out the purple silhouette of a blue-haired girl in a white nightgown.
“A kid!” the girl said in a not-so-nice tone of voice. “They sent me a kid? Great! Just great!”
“Who are you calling a kid?” Melody asked.
The girl said, “I’m calling you a kid, KID!”
As Melody’s eyes focused, she realized why she recognized the voice. Twyla was standing right in front of her—as a real person, not a video game graphic. Twyla’s voice wasn’t computery the way it was in the game. She looked and sounded just like a human, if humans had purple skin and blue hair.
And she was calling Melody a kid?
“You’re a kid too,” Melody said. She tried to stand, but her legs wouldn’t let her. “I bet I’m even older than you. Tell me your age.”
Whatever age Twyla said, Melody would have lied and said one older. But Twyla didn’t say an age. Her eyes looked very sad as she said, “I don’t know how old I am. I don’t even know how long I’ve been here.”
“Been where?” Melody asked. “Where are we?”
Twyla looked confused, and then said, “We’re in Dreamland. What did you think?”
The feeling came back into Melody’s arms and legs, and she lifted herself up off the ground. When she looked around, she recognized the place they were in. It was the waiting area where Twyla began every world. When the player pressed START, a huge set of doors would open, tossing Twyla into the next level.
“How did I get here?” Melody asked.
Twyla said. “They must have sent you to take my place.”
Melody shook her head. “What do you mean to take your place? And who are THEY?”
Twyla shrugged. “I don’t know who they are. Whoever sent you, and whoever sent me. Before I got into the game, I was just a plain old human like you. There was a different hero in Dreamland, and I should know. I played night and day. I even used to skip school to spend my time at the arcade.”
“That’s like me!” Melody said. “I love video games. I wish I could live in one!”
Twyla raised an eyebrow. “Be careful what you wish for.”
Suddenly, the giant doors started to open. The ground shook beneath their feet.
Melody started to fall, but Twyla reached out to grab her.
“What’s happening?” Melody asked.
“Somebody must be playing your game,” Twyla said. “We’re starting the final level.”
“We?” Melody asked.
Twyla held on tighter. “In about three seconds, the ground is going to shift and we’ll be thrown into the world. Either you can stay at the start and I can do the level myself, or we can work together.”
“Do I really have a choice?” Melody asked as the floor began to tilt.
“Not really,” Twyla said. “Just do what I tell you and don’t get in my way. I know what I’m doing.”
“So do I!” Melody shouted as they tumbled to the threshold. “I’m good at video games.”
“Yeah, you’re good at playing them with a controller,” Twyla cried. “Playing from inside the game is totally different.”
Melody couldn’t say anything more. The ground tilted on such a harsh angle they couldn’t stand. Hugging each other tightly, Twyla and Melody jumped off the edge and fell through the clouds. The wind roared so loudly in Melody’s ears she couldn’t even tell if she was screaming.
Melody hugged Twyla tight as she prepared to land on the cold, hard ground. She was sure her bones would break on impact, but they landed on a surface that wasn’t hard at all. It felt more like a trampoline. Melody laughed as they bounced up in the air and then hopped onto soft green grass.
“Is this the last world?” Melody asked.
Twyla nodded. “You’ve never played it and I have, so you need to stay back.”
“But I’m good at video games,” Melody said, jumping quickly in front of Twyla. “Wow, the graphics look just like real life when you’re inside the game.”
“I guess I’m used to it,” Twyla replied. “Anyway, I don’t remember what the real world looks like. I’ve been here too long.”
“Well, I could definitely live in this world,” Melody said. She turned to look at Twyla. “No school, no looking after my little brother, just playing the game all day and all night. I could sure get used to—ouch!”
Searing pain shot through the back of Melody’s arm, and she turned to find that a giant mouse had scratched her.
“Get lost!” Twyla shouted, stamping hard on the ground.
When the mouse scurried off, Melody asked, “What was that?”
“One of The Pied Piper’s mice,” Twyla said.
“The Pied Piper?”
“He’s the one who put the sleep spell on the world,” Twyla said. “Didn’t you know?”
“No,” Melody admitted. “I’ve never heard of The Pied Piper. Who is he?”
“He’s the villain we’ll need to beat at the end of this world.” Twyla inspected the back of Melody’s arm and tsked. “You’re bleeding, kid.”
“I am?” Melody asked. And then she said, “Hey, I’m not a kid.”
Twyla rolled her eyes. “After we’ve defeated The Pied Piper, I’ll officially hand over my Dreamland powers to you. Then you won’t have to worry about getting hurt. You’ll lose energy instead of blood.”
“Thanks,” Melody said.
“Thanks? Really?” Twyla asked. “Do you know what that means? It means I’ll leave the game and you’ll stay in it.”
Fear rolled through Melody’s stomach like a rumble of indigestion, but she stayed strong and said, “Good. I’m glad.”
“Me too,” Twyla sighed. “I’m tired of being a game piece. I can’t wait to be a plain old human again.”
“What do you mean a plain old human?” Melody asked.
“Well, it’s better to a hero than a human,” Twyla replied.
Melody felt a little insulted by that comment, but before she could say anything, a dream ghost came at them. Twyla didn’t need to be warned. She seemed to sense it coming. Without even looking, she did a backflip and screamed at the ghost to scare it away. Even after she’d frightened it the first time, the ghost kept coming back and Twyla had to scare it all over again. It took five tries to chase it off completely.
“See what I mean?” Twyla said. “A plain old human couldn’t jump like me, or shout like me. When you get your hero powers, you’ll have a spring in your step and a voice box that can cut through sleep.”
“And purple skin?” Melody asked. “And blue hair?”
Twyla laughed. “Well, I wasn’t born like this. My parents would have freaked!”
After she said that, Twyla seemed very sad. She was probably thinking about her parents and how she hadn’t seen them in years. That made Melody think about her own parents, and how she would feel if she couldn’t see her family every day.
Suddenly, living in a video game didn’t sound like the best thing in the world.
But she couldn’t dwell on that for long. An evil sheep came charging at them and she wasn’t sure if Twyla had noticed.
“Twyla!” Melody shouted. “Watch out! Evil sheep!”
The sheep charged at Twyla, one after another. Since Twyla had a spring in her step, she could jump over them, but what was Melody supposed to do? She knew that if she jumped, so would they. Then they’d bash right into her. She would end up cut and bruised, since she didn’t have special skin like Twyla’s.
“Duck!” Twyla cried.
At first, Melody didn’t understand.
“Get flat on the ground!” Twyla said as she jumped high over the sheep.
Melody did as Twyla said. She got right down on her belly and, sure enough, the evil sheep jumped over her.
“It worked!” Melody cried.
“Stay down,” Twyla told her. “Crawl on your belly. More are coming.”
Melody looked up long enough to see Melody jumping over sheep while scaring away ghosts. How did she do that? She was dealing with so many villains at once, and Melody wasn’t helping at all.
“Don’t you ever get tired?” Melody asked.
Twyla panted. “Of course I do! But once you’re in the game, there’s no time off. No vacations, no holidays, no weekends. It’s intense physical activity day after day, never a break.”
Maybe Melody didn’t want to be the hero of a game after all. Sure, she had to go to school in the real world, but at least she could sleep in on weekends.
Melody was just about to admit she was changing her mind about staying in the game when Twyla shouted, “Get up. They’re gone.”
“Good,” Melody said, picking herself up off the ground. “That was hard work.”
“You’re not done yet,” Twyla said as she grabbed Melody’s hand. “Hold on tight and jump when I tell you to.”
“Jump?” Melody asked. They came to a cliff where the ground dropped off into nothing. “I don’t know about this.”
“Trust me,” Twyla said, holding Melody’s hand so tight her knuckles jammed together. “Okay, jump! Now!”
Melody hesitated, but the spring in Twyla’s step propelled them so high in the air her head felt inflated like a helium balloon.
As they fell into nothingness, Melody asked herself if she could really trust Twyla. Maybe Twyla had been lying about wanting to leave the game. Maybe she actually wanted to stay. And if Twyla fell into nothingness wearing her special hero skin, she’d just lose a life and start over at the beginning.
Melody was just a plain old human. She only had one life, and she didn’t want to lose it.
Melody couldn’t stop herself from screaming as she landed beside Twyla on a soft, fluffy cloud.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“On a cloudavator,” Twyla said.
“It’s like an elevator, but a cloud.”
Melody could feel the cloud rising, carrying them into the sky they’d just fallen through.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Twyla said. “We need to jump to the next one.”
Melody could see another fluffy cloudavator in the distance, but there’s no way they could jump that far. Even with the spring in Twyla’s step, they’d never make it. But she knew she had to stick by the hero.
Twyla knew what to do. The next cloudavator moved horizontally, not vertically, so Melody jumped when Twyla said, “Jump!”
Melody’s heart leapt into her throat as they made the leap together.
When they landed on the horizontal cloudavator, Melody breathed a sigh of relief. But there was no time to pat themselves on the back. They had to make another jump soon after landing.
The third cloudavator took them high up into the sky. The sun set in the distance. The moon and the stars shone overhead, and the music all around them turned eerie.
“Where are we now?” Melody asked.
“Almost at The Pied Piper’s lair,” Twyla told her.
Melody gulped as she listened to the strange flute music playing in the distance. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“He’s not an easy villain to defeat,” Twyla said. “But I’ve done it many times. If we focus and pool our energy, we can do it. I know we can.”
Melody put her hand in Twyla’s and let the hero lead her toward The Pied Piper’s lair.
There were giant mice outside the stone castle, and Melody took a step back when she spotted them. Her arm was still stinging from where she’d been scratched earlier. She didn’t want that to happen again.
“Stay close,” Twyla said, wrapping her arms around Melody. “We need to jump on their heads to get to the castle door.”
“Will they follow us?” Melody asked.
“No,” Twyla replied. “They’ll just keep running.”
Melody looked back and said, “But there’s a cliff behind us.”
“They’ll run right off it,” Twyla said. “They’re under The Pied Piper’s spell. They don’t think for themselves.”
Melody held Twyla’s arms tight and they both jumped into the air. The spring in Twyla’s step got them going, and every time they landed, their feet bounced off a giant mouse’s head. The mice didn’t even seem to notice. They didn’t leap like the sheep, or follow like the sleep ghosts. Melody started thinking maybe this game would be easy to defeat after all.
Not a chance!
As they peered through a window in The Pied Piper’s castle, Melody saw something that made her freeze with fear: bodies all over the hard stone floor!
She asked Twyla, “Are those people dead?”
Twyla shook her head and whispered, “They’re sleeping. The Pied Piper put the whole world under a sleep spell, remember?”
“Here’s what we need to do,” Twyla went on. “First of all, don’t step on any of the sleepers.”
“Why not?” Melody asked.
Twyla furrowed her brow. “Why would you want to step on people?”
“I wouldn’t!” Melody replied. “I just thought there might be a reason.”
“Well, there is a reason,” Twyla went on. “They bite in their sleep.”
“They do what?” Melody cried.
“They sleep-bite. Don’t get too close.”
“Okay,” Melody said. “What else do I need to know?”
Twyla pointed upward. “The Pied Piper will be way up high. At first, he’ll be throwing down vials of antidote. They look like crystals, but they’re actually glass with liquid inside.”
“Why is he throwing them?” Melody asked. “I thought he wanted the people to stay asleep.”
“He does,” Twyla said. “He’s throwing them so they’ll shatter on the stone floor. Don’t let them hit you, or the glass will break and the antidote will spill all over the place. You need to catch the vials and then pour the liquid down the sleepers’ throats.”
“But you said they bite in their sleep!” Melody cried.
“They do,” Twyla said. “So don’t get too close.”
Melody felt a little panicky. “This sounds really hard.”
“It is. And then after we wake up all the sleepers and they leave the castle, The Pied Piper will jump down and try to crush us with his feet. He’s got very big feet.”
“Oh great!” Melody moaned.
“Hey, you said you wanted my job. This is my job!”
“I don’t know if I can defeat him,” Melody admitted.
“You won’t be alone,” Twyla said, encouragingly. “I’ll be right here by your side. We’ll beat him together, and then I can retire and you can take over as the hero of Dreamland.”
“Great,” Melody said. She wasn’t feeling as enthusiastic as she had been earlier. Maybe she couldn’t be a hero like Twyla.
But when Twyla crawled through the castle window, Melody followed along. She didn’t know if they could defeat The Pied Piper, but she had to try.
“Here we are!” Twyla cried as she hoped over sleepers. “Come on, Pied Piper! Do your worst!”
Right away, a crystal-shaped vial fell out of the air. Twyla caught the purple tube easily and showed Melody how to pour it down a sleeper’s throat without getting bitten.
“Another one’s coming,” Twyla said. “Look, a blue one! Grab it before it hits the ground!”
Melody put her arms in the air, but light glinted off the crystal sides of the vial. It shone so brightly she couldn’t bear to look.
“Don’t close your eyes!” Twyla cried.
“I can’t help it,” Melody said, waving her hands above her head, hoping to catch the vial by chance. “I can’t see!”
“It’s going to hit you!” Twyla cried.
Twyla was right. The vial landed on Melody’s head and the glass smashed, spilling antidote all down her hair and her face.
“Are you okay?” Twyla cried.
“I’m fine,” Melody said, bending to shake glass shards out of her hair. “It didn’t hurt too… much…”
Suddenly Melody felt more tired than she’d ever been in her entire life.
“Don’t lie down!” Twyla shouted.
“I’ll just take a little nap,” Melody said as she curled up on the stone floor. “Five minutes. Just let me sleep for five…”
Melody could feel her muscles relaxing and her mind falling into sleep. But before she shut down completely, she heard a voice that wasn’t Twyla’s. That voice called out, “No, Melody! Don’t lose your life!”
Whose voice was that? Is sounded so familiar…
“Melody!” it called out again.
That’s when she realized the voice was her brother’s. Andrew was calling to her!
She tried to open her eyes, but her lids felt heavy as iron.
What was Andrew doing in Dreamland?
And who would keep him safe if Melody fell asleep?
Melody woke up tasting something sweet.
Twyla had wedged her knees under Melody’s shoulders and propped up her head.
“What happened?” Melody moaned.
“You got hit with the antidote,” Twyla told her. “Since you weren’t under the sleep spell it acted like a potion. I poured more antidote down your throat and that woke you up.”
“Thank you,” Melody said.
As soon as she’d spoken, she heard her brother’s voice crying, “Melly? Are you okay?”
“Where is he?” Melody asked Twyla.
“Who? The Pied Piper?”
“No, my brother! Where is he?”
Twyla didn’t answer. She was obviously distracted by antidote crystals falling from the sky. She got up, crying, “I have to catch these. Help if you feel better.”
Melody pulled herself up off the cold stone floor, but she was too dizzy to catch things.
Her brother called her name: “Melody! You’re okay!”
“Andrew?” she shouted, carefully stepping over sleepers. “Where are you? How did you get in the game?”
“I’m not in the game,” he said. “I’m playing the game!”
Melody looked up at the castle wall, because that’s where his voice seemed to be coming from. As Twyla raced behind her, Melody realized she could see her brother through the wall if she looked at it the right way.
“Andrew!” she said. “I see you!”
“I see you too!” he said.
Melody ran toward the wall. When she got closer, the wall disappeared. She could see her brother sitting on the floor of their living room, holding the video game controller.
“I’m home!” Melody cried as she raced to her brother.
But before she could reach him, Melody ran face-first into something smooth and cold. She wasn’t in the living room at all. She was inside the TV!
After running into glass, her nose hurt even more than her head where she’d been hit by a vial of antidote, or her arm where she’d been scratched by a giant mouse. She called out, “Andrew! Can you see me? It’s Melody! I’m right here, on the other side of the glass!”
“I see you,” he said, even though he wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at Twyla, who hopped up and grabbed another vial of antidote, then fed it to a sleeper.
Twyla called out, “I need your help!”
“I know,” Melody replied. “Just give me a minute.” She turned to her brother and banged on the glass. “Andrew, I’m stuck in the game. You have to help me out!”
“No!” Twyla cried. “You can’t leave. You already said you wanted to be the hero of Dreamland. Now you have to stay!”
Melody gazed at her brother through the glass. Tears filled her eyes, and those same tears spilled down her cheeks when she imagined living inside this game forever. She might never see him again.
Wiping the tears from her face, she choked back the ones in her throat. She didn’t want The Pied Piper to see her crying. He’d think she was weak. She needed to be strong, and the strongest thing she could think of was telling her brother the truth.
“Andrew,” Melody said. “I have a confession to make.”
His fingers stopped moving on the controller, and he looked Melody straight in the eye. “What’s a ‘fession, Melly?”
“A confession,” Melody said. “It’s when you’ve done something wrong and you admit what you did. My confession is that the other day I stole money from your piggy bank.”
Andrew’s eyes grew wide, and Melody knew she’d destroyed some of the trust her brother had in her.
“I’m sorry,” Melody went on. “I didn’t spend it. I was going to use it to buy Dreamland, but then the game didn’t cost as much as I thought it would. I’ll give you all your money back, but I wanted you to know I took it and that was wrong and I’m sorry.”
When the controller fell from Andrew’s hands, Twyla stood still behind Melody.
“What’s he doing?” Twyla asked. “If he doesn’t play we can’t defeat the game!”
Inching closer to the TV, Andrew said, “Melody, I have a ‘fession too. Sometimes when you’re not home I play your video games without asking.”
“That’s okay,” Melody said. “I forgive you for that.” Just in case her brother didn’t understand, she explained, “Forgiveness is when someone did something wrong but you don’t feel angry about it anymore. I love you and Mom and Dad so much and I don’t want to be angry with you and I don’t want to stay in this video game!”
Andrew hugged the TV and said, “I love you too, Melly!”
Melody’s heart grew very warm, like she could feel her brother’s love through the glass.
Meanwhile, antidote vials smashed behind Melody’s back and Twyla cried out, “This family stuff is all very cute and cuddly, but we need to get back in the game!”
“Twyla’s right,” Melody told her brother. “Pick up the controller and help us win.”
“But if you win, won’t you stay in the game?” Andrew asked. “I don’t want you to live in Dreamland. I want you to live here with us and pick me up from school every day and never forget me.”
“I’ll do all that,” Melody said. “I promise!”
“And will you help Mom and Dad read me bedtime stories?” Andrew asked.
“Yes!” she cried. “Every night! I promise to be a better sister. If I get out of this game, I promise to be your hero.”
Andrew took up the controller and said, “Melly, you’re already my hero. Now go defeat The Pied Piper!”
As soon as Andrew pressed the buttons, Twyla leapt for a vial and handed it to Melody. They worked as a team. Since Twyla was better at jumping, she caught the crystals and Melody fed the liquid to the sleepers.
The Pied Piper started throwing more and more, and it got harder for Twyla to keep up. Sometimes she had her arms full of crystals by the time Melody could run over and take them from her.
Melody breathed a sigh of relief when they’d woken all the sleepers, but Twyla said, “Don’t get comfortable. This is the hard part.”
“I thought that was the hard part!” Melody said.
Twyla shook her head as the ground started to tremble. Melody wasn’t as steady on her feet as the hero. She fell to her knees on the stone floor.
“Stand up!” Twyla said. “Here he comes!”
When Melody looked up, she saw two giant feet falling to the ground.
“Watch out!” Twyla cried.
Melody’s muscles locked. She tried to get out of the way, but she couldn’t.
“His feet will crush you!” Twyla warned her.
When she still didn’t move Twyla tackled her, knocking her to the ground just as the giant feet landed on the stone floor.
The earth shook beneath them as Melody said, “Thanks.”
“Well, I didn’t want you to get crushed,” Twyla replied. “Now, when he starts throwing vials, catch them and throw them back.”
“Why?” Melody asked as Twyla helped her to her feet.
“Remember what happened to you when you got hit by the antidote?”
“Sure,” Melody said. “It put me to sleep.”
“Right,” Twyla said. “So if we hit The Pied Piper with enough of the stuff, he’ll fall asleep too. But he’s much bigger than you, so it’ll take at least ten crystals to knock him out.”
“Okay,” Melody said. She had to jump out of the way to avoid getting crushed by giant jumping shoes. “I’m ready. Bring it on, Piper!”
She couldn’t see his face, so it was hard to know if he’d heard what she’d said, but he did start throwing the antidote right away.
“Got it!” Twyla called, but Melody was already jumping to catch the vial.
They smacked into one another mid-air and the crystal crashed on the ground.
“I called that one,” Twyla said, sounding very irritated.
“I’m sorry,” Melody apologized as another vial smashed behind them.
“Get up! Keep playing!” Twyla told her. “The game doesn’t stop just because you make one mistake. You have to learn from it and keep going.”
Twyla jumped high into the air, caught one of the vials, and threw it back at The Pied Piper. His big yellow shoes rose off the floor and his thin legs in dark green pants shuddered. The music turned frenzied, like the whole game had been struck by lightning.
“Good,” Twyla said. “We got him.”
“Now what?” Melody asked.
“Now we keep doing it!” Twyla replied as she jumped for another vial.
Before she could throw that one at The Pied Piper, he tossed down another crystal. Melody couldn’t jump as high as Twyla, but she managed to catch it. They both dosed him with antidote at the same time.
The Pied Piper got zapped again. The music sounded panicky. They must have drained his power reserves.
Twyla and Melody moved to the outer edges of the castle to keep far, far away from The Pied Piper’s giant shoes. As soon as they landed on the stone floor, the whole place shook. He threw down two vials of antidote right away.
Melody struggled to make her way toward the closer of the two, since the ground was trembling beneath her. She focused all her energy on catching the vial, and she did it! When she threw it at The Pied Piper, she could hear her brother cheering in the background.
Despite the pain in her head and the scratch on her arm, Melody powered through the game. Twyla kept telling her she was doing a good job, and that made her feel really good about herself.
Sometimes she thought video games were the only thing in the world she was good at, but she was starting to wonder if she could be good at other things, too. All this running and jumping reminded her of track and field, which she’d never tried out for because she thought she’d be rotten at it. But look how great she was doing catching vials in mid-air and throwing them back at The Pied Piper! Maybe she would try out this year. Maybe she’d make the team.
If she got out of Dreamland, that is…
“Almost there,” Twyla hollered.
The music swelled, and they practically had to yell over it.
“How many more?” Melody asked.
“Maybe just two,” Twyla replied.
Right on cue, The Pied Piper threw down two more vials. Twyla jumped and caught hers no problem, but Melody slipped and the crystal shattered on the ground.
“Don’t be sorry,” Twyla said as she hurled her vial at the Piper. “Just try again. You can do it.”
The music changed once more. It still seemed loud in a way that Melody could feel throughout her entire body. But there was something else too. A high, fluttery tune played on some kind of flute.
“Oh no,” Twyla said as her eyes glazed over. “It’s the sleep song.”
“What does that mean?” Melody asked.
Twyla just stood there like a sleepwalker.
“Twyla?” Melody asked. “Can you hear me?”
She didn’t say anything. She must have been hypnotized!
“Andrew?” Melody called. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I think it’s up to us. Let’s do it!”
The Pied Piper threw down another vial, to the exact spot where Melody had dropped the last one. A little piece of her didn’t want to try, because she was so sure she’d fail again. But she knew she had to. Twyla couldn’t play in her sleep.
Melody jumped for the vial, leaping over the broken one on the ground. She grabbed it just in time. The Pied Piper’s giant foot came down like it was trying to crush her. She had to jump out of the way so he didn’t step right on top of her.
Rushing toward Twyla, Melody launched the last vial of antidote at The Pied Piper. She wrapped her arms around the hero of Dreamland as the crystal smashed against their enemy. His flute music fizzled out and the thumping music grew so loud it filled Melody’s ears.
Twyla’s eyelids flickered and her eyes unglazed. “Did we defeat him?” she asked.
“I think so,” Melody cried, though she could barely hear herself over the victorious song playing outside the castle.
The Pied Piper shrunk down and turned into a sleeping baby sucking his thumb in a crib. The castle doors swung open. All the sleepers they’d awoken cheered for Twyla and Melody, and carried them into the sunlight. Dreamland was no longer under the spell of slumber. Everybody celebrated their victory.
Melody should have been happy, but she felt afraid about what might happen next. Would Twyla leave her alone in Dreamland? Would she never see her family again?
The citizens of Dreamland sat Twyla and Melody together on a giant golden throne. They handed Melody a sceptre and placed a crown on Twyla’s head.
“What’s happening?” Melody whispered to Twyla.
“The people of Dreamland are showing us how grateful they are that we saved them from eternal slumber.”
“And after that?” Melody asked.
Twyla sighed. “After that, it starts all over again.”
Melody’s heart thumped loudly. “Does it start again for you or for me?”
Twyla gave her a serious look. “I don’t know.”
While the people of Dreamland applauded their accomplishments, Melody clutched Twyla’s hand and said, “I can’t stay here. I don’t want to be the hero of a video game. I just want to be my little brother’s hero, and go to school and eat dinner with my family and do normal stuff like everyone else.”
“I know what you mean,” Twyla said. “I have parents in the real world too. They don’t know what happened to me. They don’t know if I’m safe.”
Melody should have felt proud as she looked out across the smiling faces of Dreamland. Instead, she felt indecisive. If she stayed in the game, Twyla could go home to her family. But then Melody would never see Mom or Dad or Andrew again! But if she somehow escaped the game, Twyla would have to stay and her parents would never know what happened to her.
Melody’s heart felt full of love and compassion when she hugged her new friend and said, “I wish Dreamland didn’t exist. Then we could both go home to our families.”
“Me too!” Twyla cried. “I wish Dreamland didn’t exist.”
They repeated the words in unison, shutting their eyes tight.
“I wish Dreamland didn’t exist. I wish Dreamland didn’t exist…”
Suddenly the victorious music started to crackle and ooze. For a second, Melody thought The Pied Piper had woken up and they’d have to defeat him again. But then there was a burst of lightning across Dreamland, which tore the sunny skies in two.
As Melody looked out across the crowd, smiling faces disappeared one by one. The graphics melted. The music slowed down, like a beach radio running low on batteries.
Melody held Twyla tighter and asked, “What’s happening?”
“I don’t know,” Twyla said. “I’ve never seen this before.”
The sky erupted like fireworks. Blasts of light exploded in the distance. It should have been scary, but Melody looked on in wonderment.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“We need to hide,” Twyla replied, tugging on her top. “Come on! Let’s get under the throne.”
“No,” Melody said. “I want to watch.”
The explosions came closer. They were so sparkly and colourful Melody couldn’t help but stare.
“I don’t want you getting hurt!” Twyla cried as she crawled under the throne. “Come on! You need to hide with me! Come on!”
Another burst of lightning streaked across Dreamland’s sky. The white light shone so bright she couldn’t see a thing. She couldn’t feel the ground beneath her feet. She was falling again, tumbling through space, this time feeling warm and loved. Her head didn’t hurt anymore. Neither did her nose or her arm. She just felt happy, like she was having the best dream ever.
Suddenly her feet met something soft and she bounced on a cushion.
“Melly!” Andrew cried. “You’re back!”
She opened her eyes to find that she was standing on the couch in her living room. She’d never be so happy to be home.
Andrew ran to her and she jumped off the cushion. As soon as her feet met the floor, he wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her tight. She got down on her knees so they could have an even better hug. That’s when she realized if she got to come home, that meant Twyla was still in the game.
“Don’t ever go away again!” Andrew said.
“I won’t, buddy.” She hugged him as tight as she could. “I just feel bad for Twyla. I got to come home and she had to stay.”
“Actually,” said a voice behind the armchair. “I’m not in Dreamland. I’m right here.”
Melody looked toward the chair as Twyla emerged. Her Dreamland colours faded away, and her skin returned to its natural shade of dark brown. The blue left her hair, which stayed curly but became black. Her body grew bigger and taller—and older, too! By the time Twyla was finished her transformation, she looked like a teenager.
“Wow,” Melody said. “You must have been in Dreamland for years!”
“I know,” Twyla replied. “I miss my family so much. I can’t wait to see them again.”
Melody wished Twyla could stay, but she said, “You’ll see your family soon.”
Twyla looked down at her nightgown. It didn’t fit at all anymore. She said, “I think I’m going to need a new outfit.”
Andrew raced to the bag of clothes in the hallway. Their mother kept meaning to take them to the donation bin, but she hadn’t because she still liked them a lot—even though they were too small. Andrew came back with a pair of jeans and a nice top for Twyla.
While Twyla changed in the next room, Melody found a map. That way she’d be able to show Twyla where they lived.
“Oh no!” Twyla said. “I’m so far from home. I live in a different town, all the way over here. It’ll take forever to get there, and I don’t even have money for a bus ticket.”
“You can have my money,” Andrew said.
Twyla looked very moved by Andrew’s offer, almost like she was going to cry.
But Melody said, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you take my video game system and all my cartridges to the game store? They’re open late. You can sell all my stuff. That’ll get you more than enough money for a bus ticket.”
Twyla gave Melody a hug and said, “Thank you. I’ll pay you back, I promise. I just want to get home to my family.”
“You don’t have to pay me back,” Melody said as she unplugged her system. “I think I need a break from video games. A long break!”
Twyla laughed. “I know what you mean.”
They exchanged addresses and phone numbers so they could call each other and write, and hopefully visit sometime soon. Before Twyla left, Melody looked inside the video game system for the Dreamland cartridge.
It was gone.
“Andrew,” she said. “Where did you put Dreamland?”
“Nowhere,” he said.
“You must have taken it out. Tell me the truth.”
Andrew wasn’t the kind of kid who would lie when Melody was being so serious. So what happened to Dreamland?
Twyla and Melody exchanged a look, and Melody could tell they both felt spooked.
They said goodbye for now, and Twyla left for the game store. The real world must have been weird for her. She’d gone into Dreamland when she was even younger than Melody and she came out as a teenager. Twyla had missed so much of her life while she was playing the game.
Melody watched Twyla through the front window, and then said to Andrew, “It’s way past your bed time. How about we pick out a book and I’ll read to you until you fall asleep?”
Andrew smiled widely and rushed upstairs.
At first, Melody missed video games a lot. But every time she thought about playing, she remembered Dreamland. The last thing she wanted was to get trapped in a game, unable to escape.
One day, she saw Nelson at school and he asked her why she hadn’t been to the arcade in a while. She couldn’t tell him the truth, so she just said she needed to take Andrew straight home after school. Then she asked Nelson if anyone else had played Dreamland at the arcade.
“Dreamland?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “That old game in the corner. Remember it was all dusty and you had to plug it in because nobody had played it in a while?”
Nelson stared at her blankly, like he had no idea what she was talking about.
Melody got so curious that she and Andrew stopped by the arcade after school.
“It was right there,” she told her little brother.
Andrew read the name of the game that had taken its place. “The Red Barron?”
“Dreamland was there,” she told him. “I’m sure it was. Did we destroy Dreamland? Did it vanish without a trace?”
Andrew shrugged his shoulders and asked, “Do you want to play MythSeekers while we’re here?”
Melody glanced at the machine she used to love playing, but she wasn’t in the mood.
Taking her little brother’s hand, she said, “Let’s go home. We can make crafts to give Mom and Dad.”
Andrew smiled brightly. He looked up at her and said, “Sounds like fun, Melly.”
Ever since her adventures in Dreamland, she’d started caring much more about her brother and her father and her mother. If Melody couldn’t see her family for years and years and years, she’d miss them as much as Twyla missed her own parents.
Dreamland was an exciting place to visit, but she wouldn’t want to live there!
As she held her brother’s hand, Melody told Andrew, “I haven’t always set a good example, but you’re the best brother a sister could have.”
“And you’re my hero-sister,” Andrew said. “The best sister ever!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Foxglove Lee is a former aspiring Broadway Baby who now writes fiction for young adults. She tries not to be too theatrical, but her characters often take over. Like Rebecca from her debut novel Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye, who’s convinced an evil doll is trying to ruin the summer of 1986. Or Sylvie from Sylvie and the Christmas Ghost, who’s spending the holidays in a haunted house!
Foxglove’s fiction has been called
SPECTACULAR by Rainbow Reviews
UNFORGETTABLE by USA Today!
Also by Foxglove Lee
For Middle Grade Readers:
Ghost Turkey and the Pioneer Graveyard
For Young Adult Readers:
Sylvie and the Christmas Ghost
Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye
For New Adult Readers:
Truth and Other Lies
Embarrassing Period Stories
The Secret of Dreamland
- ISBN: 9781310520044
- Author: Foxglove Lee
- Published: 2016-06-27 04:35:11
- Words: 9514