No One Named Tim

Someone grabbed her by the wrist, and she felt herself pulled up through the depths. Her arms and legs were sluggish and didn’t want to move, like they were stuck in thick syrup. Suddenly she found herself dragged onto pebbly ground, and the pressure of her body on her lungs forced the water out in heaving coughs. She began breathing again. Though her vision was still fuzzy, she could see a boy kneeling down next to her.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You were drowning.”

Princess Joan had never heard of drowning. “Drowning is stupid,” she said. “I hate drowning.”

“I suppose I hate it too,” he said, though her reply seemed a bit odd to him. “How did you get out into the middle of the lake?”

“I fell off my unicorn.”

“Ya. Right.” He replied. Evidently she was still delirious, and he didn’t want to upset her by contradicting her.

As her vision sharpened, she could see his dark hair and eyes. He wore a lose tunic and knee breeches, and he was soaking wet. She sat up.

“Where am I?” asked Joan.

“This is Wet Lake, not far from Hillvaleham.” the boy said as he sat back and started to pull on his dry boots. “Don’t you remember anything?”

She thought back to her sparkling clean castle, the billowy cloud, the singing white birds and her frolicking unicorn. “I remember everything,” she said sadly.

He asked her name and then introduced himself as Tim. Joan looked around and saw nothing she recognized. The prince wasn’t here, but maybe this boy had seen him. “I’m looking for Chaz,” she said.

“What’s chaz?” asked Tim. It sounded like something you’d gather in the forest, or maybe from the bottom of a lake, and carry in a bag.

He’s a prince.”

“Oh,” Tim replied and quickly rearranged the image in his head. “Never heard of him.”

“I need to find him,” she said with determination. After all, it never took long to find anything up in her kingdom on the cloud. “He’s down here somewhere.”

Down here? The comment confused Tim, but he decided not to say anything. She had just experienced a traumatic incident and probably wasn’t thinking too clearly yet.

“Everybody ends up in town sooner or later. Maybe you can find him there.” Tim stood and helped Joan to her feet. “I’m heading into town now. I can help you.”

He slung his sack over his shoulder and led her to the road. Joan kept staring at everything. It was all so different than the cloud kingdom. Not accustomed to seeing color, the world here seemed dark to her.

“Are you hungry?” Tim stopped to ask.

“Oh yes,” she replied with enthusiasm. It would be snack time up in the cloud kingdom. Joan would have her choice of many delicacies: rice, bread, cauliflower, white turnips.

Tim opened the sack he carried and pulled out a handful of marshmallows. “They’re fresh,” he said proudly. “I just found them this morning.”

Joan almost threw up. “Gross.”

Tim was confused. Everyone liked marshmallows.

“They’re delicious,” he said, stuffing one into his mouth to prove his point.

This time Joan did throw up. After taking a moment to recover, she asked, “Don’t you know where those come from?”

“Yes,” he said. “Everyone does.”

This girl sounded confused, and Tim didn’t want to insult her by stating the obvious: marshmallows come from the sky. He closed his bag so she wouldn’t get sick again.

They entered town through the market. Joan’s eyes eventually adjusted to the dim light beneath the cloud, and she became amazed at the sights. A swarm of people buzzed about in a whirl of movement, noise, and color. The energy was infectious. She wanted to see everything at once.

She rushed up to a cloth seller and touched the bright fabrics. “These are the colors of rainbows!” Joan exclaimed. She was not used to seeing colors in anything else. “What cloud did you spin the thread from?”

“What are you talking about?” the confused merchant asked.

“Cloth is always white,” Joan continued. “It’s made of thread spun from clouds. How did you get the rainbow into it?”

The man looked at Tim for help.

“She suffered a fall earlier,” Tim explained.

“Must’ve been a long one,” the man replied.

“You have no idea,” agre­ed Joan.

Tim urged her away before she could mention anything about unicorns. “Come on. I need to sell my marshmallows.”

“People buy those?” she asked.

Tim started to think he might need to get her to the medicine woman. Maybe her brain had gotten waterlogged. Before they got very far, another distraction caught Joan’s attention. She stopped at a cart of flowers. Her eyes widened.

“Those are beautiful,” she whispered, amazed.

In front of her, the rainbow sprouted all of its colors in the flowery designs. She reached out her hand and brushed her palm lightly over the petals. They tickled. There was nothing like this up in her perfect kingdom. She breathed in deeply, and her blue eyes widened with astonishment.

“They smell like they look,” she said. “This is better than…” she paused, trying hard to think of the best thing she knew. “This is better than candy.”

Tim smiled and looked at her curiously. Who was this girl who had never seen flowers? Who had never seen colors?

“Where did you say you were from?” he asked.

“From the castle on the cloud.”

Tim half believed her.