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Happily Ever After
"...and they all lived happily ever after. The end." Jason's father finished with a smile. He closed the old storybook, smoothing out the pages that Jason had left dog-eared during his many afternoons spent reading through his favorite adventures and mysteries.
"That does it for tonight, son- its time you got some rest." Jason looked mildly disappointed, but settled himself deeper into his covers pulling his aging teddy bear close to his chest and as his father turned out the lights, he gave a contented sigh and drifted off to sleep.
Me? I'm Mop- that threadbare stuffed animal Jason is clutching warm under the covers. Yes, I know, strange name for a bear- Mop. But it was Jason's first and favorite word; and I, being his first and favorite bear, was given the name accordingly. My job, as a child's stuffed bear, is to accompany him in his dreams so that he doesn't get lonely in the wonderfully strange world that is the human imagination. And tonight, like every other night, I followed Jason into the land of dreaming.
I found myself surrounded in a wood where Jason and I used to play when he lived in the next neighborhood over. Only...something wasn't right. What was wrong with the sky? It looked almost like the sun was giving off the very absence of light instead of the bright glow that usually lit the break in the trees where we stood now. And...the trees... Oh no. Their scraggly deformed limbs curling at science fiction angles typical of chaos, it could only mean-Jason was in a nightmare! Oh no, this was very bad. This was very, very bad. I ran to Jason and spoke to him as only I can in these dreams,
"Jason! What's wrong? What is it?" I was answered with a faraway mutter,
"I don't know Mop, it's all so..." he trailed off, eyes looking at some horror only he could see. That was strange, I couldn't help Jason face his fears if I didn't know what it was he was afraid of! I squinted, and... There! A dark shimmer in the empty field where Jason's eyes were still fixed. I focused all of my concentration on revealing the darkness that lay beyond the concealing veil and with an audible /snap!/ the meadow was gone and Jason and I stood on a medieval stone drawbridge...face to face with a dragon. A shiny black-scaled beast with hot, rancid breath towered before us- stretching his leathery wings in an impressive display of evil might. Jason, still in his pajamas, stood agape with eyes round as saucers staring at the terror before him. I quickly ran the short distance between us and yelled, "Fight Jason! Imagine that you're Sir Jason, a brave knight fighting the treacherous dragon to save Princess Kate- imagine it and it will be so!" at the mention of the cute little blond neighbor girl he occasionally had play dates with, the parapet window flew open and she appeared in medieval dress as Jason's much needed damsel-in-distress. Jason looked up and was instantaneously transformed into Sir Jason. By the sheer power of his imagination, Sir Jason sat atop his ebony steed in chain mail and a flowing royal blue cape with a yellow crest emblazoned on the back reminiscent of the publisher's mark imprinted on the cover of his precious storybook. He valiantly raised his gleaming sword and pointed it at the dragon.
"You shall leave here and never return to Princess Kate's castle- leave now and I shall spare your life!" he bellowed with authority. The dragon, overwhelmed with rage knowing that he'd been beaten gave one last roar before heaving his enormous wings and flying away into the boiling black sky. Princess Kate ran down her castle stairs, greeting Sir Jason with a smile that cleared the dark clouds- and when the two children met in an embrace it was back in Jason's beloved meadow and they were just two happy children on a carefree play date in a sunny clearing.
I smiled as I watched the two- Jason having already forgotten all about the nightmare. My smile faltered as I thought back over the frightful scene- children aren't supposed to have nightmares. They're one of the few things left in this world that has remained kind-hearted and good, wholly untouched by the darkness of greed and cruelty. The meadow began fading, the pines going watercolor-light until Jason fully woke up from the dream and we both entered back into morning.
Jason's eyes groggily opened, narrowing when gently assaulted by the morning rays pushing through his spaceship curtains. He sat up, stretching his arms high above his head and then, as is routine for us each morning, he hugged me tightly and said cheerily "Mo'ning Mop!" He grinned at me and began getting dressed. "You know what today is Mop?" I did, though I couldn't answer him- it was Saturday. "It's Saturday!" he exclaimed, "d'ya know what that means? No school on Saturdays! " he paused for dramatic effect, slowly making his way over to the bed where I laid, "and d'ya know what THAT means?" if I could have moved my inanimate face, i would have transformed it into a mask of puzzled curiosity. There was nothing special about this Saturday as far as I knew. In a lavish sweep of his hands he exclaimed, "No Bobby Manheim on Saturdays! Woohoo!" he giddily jumped onto the bed, landing on his back.
Bobby Manheim? I searched my brain for any mention of the name when suddenly- it all made sense! The flag flying from the dark castle in Jason's nightmare read B.M., Bobby must be bullying Jason at school which is why he had that terrible nightmare! Hmm...but how to help Jason? Aha! I know just the dream to fix this.
All weekend, while Jason played outside and enjoyed his lack of schoolwork and Bobby Manheim, I perched on the bed where I crafted my most incredible dream yet for Jason.
Sunday night, Jason had to go to bed earlier because he had school the next day. I now could see the worry in his eyes when he thought about the following day and the confrontation that was sure to accompany it, but as his eyelids drooped until finally closed, I followed Jason into his dream- nervous for but ready to take on my complicated but crucial task.
When my eyes focused, I found myself aboard one of the spaceships from Jason's bedroom curtains- Jason of course assumed the captain's position at the head console and was barking out orders regarding an enemy ship that had shown up out of nowhere. Leading the attack against Jason, was Bobby Manheim, leading a miniature fleet of spaceships mirroring our own forces. The main screen zoomed in on a rain of projectiles launched by the notorious Manheim fleet- each missile and rocket was etched with memories of mean comments or remarks made by Bobby towards Jason and they rocked the ship upon contact throwing me to the ground. Stabilizing myself, I shouted,
"Jason! You can't run from him! I know it's going to be difficult, but you have to stand up to him!" Jason glanced at me with frightened eyes, but thinking over what I had said, they took on a determined fierceness- with a great show of bravery, Jason made the order for a counter strike. "Fire!"
Brightly shining bursts of light rocketed away from our ship towards the enemy fleet until...impact! Bobby Manheim then could be seen leading a swift and total retreat- we had won! My eyes shone with pride at Jason's bravery in standing up to his fears. I took his hand and led him from the celebrating flight deck back to our calm meadow where Kate was waiting. I left him there to spend the rest of his dreams playing safely in childhood happiness. As I returned to the waking world, all of the worry in Jason's face had gone an had been replaced instead- with a smile.