This is not right. Froggy is supposed to live at this very spot. How can the door not be here? It has to be here, hasn't it? I said it would be here, so it should be.
"Chris, what are you doing?" Darren says gently. He lays a hand on my shoulder, but I don't stop my desperate clawing at the hill, tearing off dead veins in the process. "Maybe I can help. What are you looking for?" he asks with an expression on his face that's full of pity. My disappointment and frustration must be showing, because he's watching me like I'm paranoia.
"A door," I answer. "A big, camouflaged, wooden door. It should be here," I say, voice absolutely wrecked. But can you blame me? I thought I knew what was going on. If Froggy doesn't live here, I might be wrong about other things, too. Maybe I don't know anything about where we are. But what other explanation would there be for the knights and the poster? They were there, just like I imagined. Why isn't that stupid door here?!
"A door to our world?" Darren tries hopefully. He starts searching more enthusiastically at that thought.
"No," I crush his hopes of going home, "a door to a giant frog's house," is my answer.
"Okay, I'm kind of confused about everything that has happened over the past hour. Could you at least try not being sarcastic for five minutes?" Darren snaps, obviously irritated, because he doesn't know what's going on. But I didn't say anything sarcastic at all.
I stop my clawing at the wall. I know it's no use, the door just isn't there. "I was not being sarcastic. There really is a giant frog and he should be living here," I lean my back against the wall and let myself slide to the ground. "Why isn't he here?"
Darren sits down next to me. "Maybe he got tired of living in a hill and moved to a proper house?" he tries to cheer me up.
"He can't just move, he's living in shame," I explain. Okay, I can imagine that sounds exceptionally weird if you haven't read the story.
I can see Darren wants to ask me what I was on when I wrote this story, but he doesn't. "So let me get this straight, there's a giant frog man living in shame in a hill in the fairy tale world?" I nod even though Froggy, apparently, doesn't live here. "Can he bring us home?"
"He can tell us how, but we'll have to do most of it ourselves. I know how we can get home, I just really wanted to meet him," I answer sadly. I was looking forward to meeting Froggy. He was on my shortlist of my favorite characters. Maybe we can meet him later on, but that's not what happened to the twins.
"What do we have to do to get home again?" Darren asks, a spark of hope in his eyes when I mention there is a way to go home again.
I push the disappointment of not meeting Froggy aside and choose this moment to tell Darren about the plot of my book. "Okay, so there is this thing called the Wishing Spell. It's a spell that will grand you a wish," I explain.
"Shocker," Darren deadpans.
"So, basically, we have to collect a number of specific items from across this land and put them together. That will activate the spell, which will grant us a wish," I tell Darren the plot of my book in a nutshell. I decide to not tell him that the Evil Queen and, maybe, the twins are looking for the exact same objects.
"That's it?" Darren asks, obviously relieved. I don't really understand what's so relaxing about my explanation, because it is going to take some effort to get everything we need. "Collect some stuff? That's all we've got to do?" He says as if it's all that's simple.
I think I'm actually offended right now. He's probably not doing it on purpose, but it sounds like he is calling my story stupid. "It's not that easy," I say. "We'll have to fight people and sneak in to castles and steal things."
Darren's relieved expression changes at that. "Well, that complicates things."
"It sure does," I agree, "but we will see all kinds of epic things on our way," I say in a attempt to get him excited about this journey.
Darren raises an eyebrow at me. "I'm questioning your definition of the word epic," he says hesitantly.
How is he not grinning like a five-year-old yet? How can he not see the epic-ness of this all. I mean, we could kill beasts with Goldilocks and see Cinderella's baby and numerous other things that, to all of our friends, will sound like we've hallucinating when we tell them. "Come on, man, we're basically in Disneyworld 2.0! We can meet all the characters we've seen in the movies. And we can visit all the magical places. What's not to love?"
I know that look. That's the look I get when he knows I'm right, but he hates to admit it. "When you look at it like that, I guess it's pretty cool," he says.
"That's more like it!" I exclaim as I give him an approving pat on the shoulder. Well, now I got Darren to stop whining I can finally take care of the more pressing matters here. Soon it will start to get dark and we need a place to stay. I'm pretty sure Froggy isn't going to show up, so we'll have to find a place to stay for ourselves. And I know just the place. "First stop: Rapunzel's tower," I say (and forgive me for grinning like a maniac while saying that sentence, but I'm going to Rapunzel's tower).
"That is so weird," I hear Darren say before he follows me.
While we continue our way to the tower I decide to tell Darren some more about what we have to do, because I know we're going to need it. I tell him we have to find: one of Cinderella's glass slippers, the sea knife, a chunk of bark from Red Ridinghood's basket, the stone crown, Sleeping Beauty's spindle, a lock of Rapunzel's hair, the jewels of Snow White's glass coffin and a fairy's tear. Again, I don't tell him about The Evil Queen and The Wolf Pack. I don't even know if they will come after us.
The twilight starts to set in and the beautiful, thick forests become scary surroundings. The unsettling noises are becoming louder. Our walking has gotten faster and faster without noticing. Darren asks me about the noises, but is tell him they're being made by giant owls and mockingbirds in order to keep predators away from their nests. God, I wish that was true.
All of a sudden there's a clearing and it's quite obvious why. In front of us is the gigantic tower Rapunzel once lived in. It's taller than the tallest skyscraper I've ever seen.
"Oh my God, this is awesome! Can we climb her hair? Please, can we climb it?" Darren begs, practically radiating childlike enthusiasm.
It's too bad we can't, because we could ask her to drag us up there instead of climbing the stairs. My feet really don't feel like climbing over a thousand steps right now.
I walk towards the tower and search for the door. "Rapunzel doesn't live here anymore. She is now queen and the tower is a place she likes to visit sometimes," I explain when I spot the wooden door. "That's why they made a staircase to reach the top room." I open the door to reveal a stone spiral staircase. I look up to see the staircase going higher and higher. "Come on, we need to get up there before dark," I order.
"Why? Can't we just stay here? We're inside now, can't we just stay on the ground?" Darren asks. It does sound tempting, but for some reason I think we're safer up there.
"Darren, even though we're not in The Dwarfs Forests anymore, at night this is not the safest place to stay. So, unless you want to be eaten by some beast, you should get your ass up there."
Darren frowns, confusion showing on his face. "But you said gigantic mockingbirds were making those sounds."
"I lied," I simply say as I start to climb the stairs.
Darren is staying on the ground, though. "But those beasts can't open a door, so why not stay here?"
I wish it was that easy. "I'm pretty sure they can. They're much more humanlike than the beasts we know of. They can talk and all that," I honestly feel guilty, because I came up with those animals. But what's a fairy tale without talking animals?
Darren obviously isn't as understanding of that as I am myself. "Why would you invent super intelligent, humanlike beasts? If they can open doors they can climb stairs and they will kill us," he all but yells at me.
I stop walking. He has a point. But climbing these ridiculously exhausting stairs must be un tempting, even for a bunch of mutant wolfs. And there's an actual room up there. You know, with doors and things like that. (That and the fact that it's Rapunzel's room.) If The Wolf Pact isn't after us for a reason, they wouldn't climb all these stairs to find us. And if they are after us for a reason, we are going to run into them one way or another. "Relax, I'm sure Rapunzel was able to lock her door for when she was writing her diary, or having sex with that prince guy who climbed through her window like a horny teenager," I say and continue my way upstairs.
Darren seems to be convinced by that because he is starting to follow me up the stairs. "That's something I really didn't need to hear about a princes, man," he says.
After God knows how long we finally reach the door of Rapunzel's old room. It's a round room and everything has been cleared out. The only thing that's left in the room is some hay. The moon shines a cold, grey-blue light over the forest. The view is both spectacular and terrifying.
"We will stay here tonight and continue our journey tomorrow," I tell Darren. I just want to sleep and rise early in the morning to see all the amazing miracles this world has to offer.
Darren and I both gather some hay to make the floor a little more comfortable to sleep on. When we're laying down on our impromptu beds I can feel myself drifting off already. Who knew travelling dimensions could be this exhausting?
Then, Darren's sleepy voice fills the silence of the room. "Chris, are we going to die?" he asks. He sounds like a child asking why the sky is blue. Under any other circumstances the question would have been ridiculous, but Darren is dead serious about it.
I don't know what to say to him. I'm so tired I can't even think of the appropriate answer. "No," I tell him without further explanation.
"Are you sure?" he questions even more quiet than his first question.
"No," I answer in sleep driven honesty before I drift off.
The next morning I wake to a stray of sunlight shining through my window. I can't get comfortable on my mattress. And when did my mattress get this hard? I open my eyes to see what's wrong. Something's wrong, alright. This isn't my bedroom, that isn't my bedroom window and this defiantly isn't my bed. This is just a bit of hay on the floor of some room and for some reason Darren is here in his PJs and I am fully clothed. And I had a very strange dream about...
Wait a minute.
I look through the window to see it really wasn't a dream. The view is just beautiful by day. The trees surrounding the tower, the tiny villages.
I guess it's time to wake Darren. I awkwardly poke his side with my foot. "Darren? Could you wake up? We should get going," I say, still nudging him with my toes. And just as I start to consider actual kicking, he starts to stir.
"Mmm, Mia, I had the weirdest dream. There was a book and it- AAAHHH!" he screams when he opens his eyes. Well I'm sorry, I know my bed head isn't the prettiest sight I the world, but I think he's being a bit of a drama queen. "You were not the person I was expecting," he tells me after he has caught his breath and looks around the room in wonder. "So this is still happening?"
"Yup, not a dream. And the sooner we get back on the road, the sooner we will have all the items for The Wishing Spell," I try to motivate Darren to get his lazy ass out of bed (hay pile?) and start exploring the shit out of this universe.
He gets up and brushes the hay off his clothes. I give him the clothes I packed, so he won't have to continue traveling in his pajamas. "Okay, let's get going!" Darren says enthusiastically when he finishes changing his clothes.
"Wait, we can't go just yet," I stop Darren from leaving already. "We're in Rapunzel's tower, don't you think this is a pretty good place to search for a lock of her hair?"
"But I was hoping we could sneak in to her castle and pretend to be her hairstylists and brush it and touch it," he says, way to enthusiastically to be talking about touching someone's hair.
I don't know if this is his attempt at sarcasm or if he's just being his weird self. I'm afraid it's the later. "...No, we're not going to do that," I say hesitantly, because I feel like we're on a touchy subject here. He looks genuinely disappointed. "Okay, look for a lock of her hair. I know it's-"
"Found it!" Darren exclaims, holding up a lock of golden hair proudly. Well, that was rather quick.
"Great," I say, "one down, seven more to go."
Darren wraps the hair in the t-shirt he had been wearing during the night and puts it in my backpack. "Looks like this is going to be easier than we expected, huh?" he says, his grin is showing he doesn't have a clue what's going to happen to him.
"Keep up the optimism, young grasshopper," is what I tell him before making my exit and starting my way down the thousands of steps.
The way downwards is spent in silence. I'm mentally planning the route we will take through the land. I think about all the amazing places and people we will see. I wonder if we will meet Froggy at some point.
I'm quickly pulled out of my thoughts when we open the door at the bottom of the tower. Standing there are half a dozen of gigantic wolves.