I remember snow. It's cold and I'm wrapped in so much petroleum-based fabric I can hardly move. Everything is black-and-white, shading to gray where the snow has gotten dirty from the asphalt beneath it. Except for my trousers. They are bright red. The trees are washed-out, skeletal things, but I'm not afraid of them. The sky is dark, without any stars, but there's light enough to see. Behind me looms a tower, so big I can't even wrap my mind around it. In the distance, colossal cars speed by, throwing slush into the air. My best friends are there. I am plotting their demise, a holocaust of snowballs. I'm dimly aware of adults, but only from the knees down. They vanish into the clouds like gods.
I remember the cab of a cream-colored car. There are three seat-belts in the back: two are khaki, but one is special. One is mine, and it is blue. It hates me. It tries to crush me, so I cannot breathe. I rebel and climb into the front seat. My sister, in the carseat (now in the distant land of Way In The Back) stares at me. I don't know if she's puzzled. I don't know anything about her. She is an enigmatic interloper who might not actually exist. In any case, I am now in charge of the car. The adults have returned to Olympus, or wherever they go. The car is making a humming noise. I associate this with movement, with being 'home now' when away and 'going to church' when at home. Thus speak the adults, anyway – I am indifferent to both, as long as lunch is served. I decide that, since I am in The Front Seat, Capital of Car, it is mine. All mine. I grab the huge lever between the seats in my perfectly-normal sized hands and pull. It moves. This is proper, it seems to me. And just like that, I'm off – I can't see out any of the windows, but I can feel the motion. There is a green, crunchy sound and then an adult is there. She has torn through the Border-Door and is grasping at the Great Wheel and the Lever. In the distance, there is a high-pitched squeal. This might be from the interloper Way In The Back. I'm not sure.
I remember a dream. It is night, and the adults – and the little sister, who turned out to be real after all – are going to church. I know that there are lots of people there, and loud noises called 'music,' and other beings who resemble myself in shape and proportion, but aren't real people. Not like me and Alec and Tim are, anyway. But they are going and are leaving me. All by myself, and the lights are out in the Tower. In the hallway there are lights, and an orange glow – street-lamps, I think they're called – filters through the blinds on my window. I am in bed, but it might be a cradle. I cast a slightly darker shadow on the orange wall. Between the wall and the bed there is an abyss. It goes down forever. It is a crack in reality. I can hear things down there. A deep yipping sound. I feel something coming and hide under a blanket, peering out in fright. Two puppets rise from the abyss. One is a jester, and the other is a black cat. They are paper, on sticks. They speak to me, but I don't recall what they say. Only that the cat made a comment about how I was 'all bundled up.' They are not hostile, but they scare me. I cry and fall off the bed. I am in free-fall for over a minute. Then I land, and stare into the underworld. Beneath the bed, the safe place where I sleep, all is discord. All is darkness and evil, and there is a horrible cheering. And a million tiny black cats stream from that darkness, hopping toward me on stiff legs. 'Yeet,' they say with each hop. They will eat me, tear me to pieces. I can only flee, but the only safe place is under the covers… and they are so far away… so high…
I remember sunshine. It is bright and hot on the grass, the little oasis of grass in the huge parking lot. I'm not sure why we are at a pet store. We own no pets. This is untrue, of course, as we have a cat – but he is not a pet. He is a feudal lord, who dignifies our home with his presence. It is hot, and I am beginning to sweat, and Dad has vanished into the pet store. It is brilliant primary colors, bright red and blue and white on a clear blue sky. I don't remember why we came here. But suddenly there is a huge animal. A yellow dog, leashed to Dad. He says that the dog isn't his – ours – that he is only walking him briefly. A trial-walk, if you will. I laugh at this.
I remember sobbing into my pillow. I have never been so distraught. Never, ever. I am in love, you see, and nothing could be more horrible. Love feels like a great clawing ravenous beast in my stomach. It isn't like the Disney movies. It is NOT like the love from church, the pure perfect divine fairy-dust. It compels me, demands that I do…something. But the object of my affections isn't locked in a tower, or beset by an angry mob, or guarded by a raging dragon, or imprisoned by pirates. These would be easy. Cake, even, because I know how to deal with these things. Haven't I played video games my whole life? I know how all manner of villains and monsters are defeated. But I don't know what to do with love for a girl who has no apparent problems. And I know that, as far as love goes, this is low-quality stuff. I'm no expert on the subject, but real love – divine fairy-dust – isn't supposed to spring from a shared interest in Pokemon games. I don't know about puberty. I don't know about oxytocin, or pair-bonding, or the phenomenon of puppy love. I just know that I don't know what this compelling love is compelling me to do. I just know that I can't imagine any good coming from it. I don't yet know that this is a perfectly normal, natural part of becoming a man. This love, this beast with fangs and claws, is an invader. I try to kill it.
I remember looking into a woman's eyes and deciding that I had gone temporarily insane, because she couldn't actually be there. But before that, I remember packing underwear. I have one pair, a rexy pair (waay too rexy). We are going toward the beach soon, and I throw the underwear into my bag. Mother sees this, and says, 'do you want to be wearing those around Kaley?' This is interesting, as Kaley isn't going to the beach with us. I state this, and mother tells me a clever lie. I am completely fooled. We are most certainly going toward Edisto Island, where relatives own a beach house. We pack bags, get into the car, and drive. I stick my nose in a book. I don't remember which book, but it was probably by Brian Jacques. I have lots of those. The beach is five hours away. We stop at Cracker Barrel. This is plenty exciting; I might have wanted catfish. And a quart of sweet tea. We sit down at a table. Mom and dad are happy. I have rarely seen them smile so much, the beach must be a great place. I hear footsteps behind me. I turn out of idle curiosity, and stare into the face of Sherry. She is Alec and Kaley's mother, mother of two of the people who Existed Since The Beginning. She is grinning, too, except she isn't, because she isn't there. Because she lives in Boston, where the snow falls in heaps and makes the world grayscale. Where Clik and Clak live, laughing at the whole world. Where the world began, a land of myth and legend. I turn back to my family, certain only of my poor eyesight and capacity for wishful thinking. And then someone grabs me from behind, this doesn't happen at Cracker Barrel, I'm under attack, who is it, it's ALEC, he's here but that's not possible, I guess I really am completely crazy. But the rest of the family sees him too, not just him but his whole family, and one stranger who seems to love everyone indiscriminately. They were using the same wind we were using, going to another legendary land: Disney. My sister and I beg to go with them. We are told no. We beg again. We are told yes. 'Don't tease us like that!' my sister whines. She has never been more real. Then the great deception is ended, the only time mom and dad really lied to us. We were going to Disney. We were always going to Disney.