CHAPTER V : something better
Sam woke up on a blue brick road.
”Well at least that’s not a beach this time!”
The pavement was unfamiliar, his head felt cloudier than ever and the hangover from the tea wasn’t gone a bit.
Someone was sitting at his side, a magnificent and old top hat on his head.
”Hello princess, back from the dead, are we?”
He looked like an old character from a book, straight out of another century.
”I wasn’t playing dead” Sam replied with a pasty mouth.
“Are you real?”
He asked the strange looking man.
“And more importantly, am I a girl now?”
He was pretty sure the man was joking but then again, he wasn’t sure of anything these days.
”Well in that case I’ve never seen a woman with a beard like that before. But yeah I’m real.” The stranger laughed.
Sam checked his face, and felt reassure that everything still felt the same.
”Don’t play jokes like that when I just had the biggest hangover of my life.”
”Well you do look like you’ve seen hell, this I can assure you.”
”Thanks.”, responded Sam bitterly. “So, where are we? What world is it now?”
”Do you mean what time is it? People usually ask about that. Or how is the weather, these sorts of things.”
The stranger had a nonchalant tone Sam would have thought funny if he wasn’t always waking up in the strangest places.
”No I meant the word “world”. What country is this? Where are we?”
”Just take a look around boy, you’ll see.”
Sam did as he was told.
It was by far the most peculiar street he had ever seen.
Even the island from the cartoon world was no match for this.
The blue pavement had all kinds of flowers growing out of it: violets, roses, the yellow ones, and some he had never seen before, but he did recognize the red ones: poppies.
Amazingly, people were careful not to step on them.
Everyone was wearing uncanny clothes, like some renaissance/out of a fantasy book/London in the late 18th century clothes.
”Now this is weird.”
”Not as much as you asking what world we are in. How about some tea?”
The stranger’s house was uptown, not far from the street where he had woken up, which means they couldn’t really wander into town (which was a shame considering how beautiful it looked).
He owned an old manor covered in vine and roses and which looked like it could collapse anytime soon.
But it didn’t stop him from slamming the door as hard as he could, making Sam feel a little anxious.
The inside looked rather abandoned, reminding him of the rent-free loft he had before falling into the cartoon world.
Dust everywhere, furniture covered by sheets, broken glass on the floor.
”Is this really your house? I mean, no offense but it seems like no one has lived here in ages.”
”What? Oh no, I just don’t like these rooms, why would I look after them?”
replied the man with the hat.
“Seems pretty logical to me”
he added with a sigh.
They walked in silence for almost five minutes, corridor after corridor.
It was insane how big the manor was, and from the look of it, it seemed even bigger on the inside.
”Are we there yet?”
“I could use some water, my hangover is…whoa.”
They had arrived in a gigantic room, at least twenty meters high, walls covered in books like a big library, pillows, armchairs and sofas were thrown everywhere with lamps of all sorts, and plants growing directly from the ground.
There even was a tiny place where Sam supposed the man cooked, by the fireplace.
”Now that’s where I live. What do you think?”
”It’s awesome! A little weird, but awesome still.”
”Why thank you. So, Tea?”
The man put the kettle to boil in the fireplace, picked up some herbs from the floor, and threw them in the water.
”Pretty sure that’s not how you make tea”
Sam blurted out.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude.”
”And I’m pretty sure I can do it however I want to. You really are not from around here are you?”
”That’s what I said. Why?”
”Why? Because everyone in this town knows you don’t actually need tea leaves to make tea. You just pretend its tea, and there it is. Here, taste some.”
He poured him a cup.
Sam drank a little of it, uneasy.
”Wow. That’s tea! How is it that it actually tastes like tea? Are these herbs special?”
”No, that’s just a weed which grows everywhere.”
The stranger with the hat winked at him.
“Magic”, he said.
”Magic? I didn’t see you cast a spell or whatever, are you a magician?”
”No, no need for that. Here, and I mean in the entire town and even far beyond that, you just need to wish for something, or pretend something is something else, and there it is.”
Sam was stunned.
“But first things first, now that you drank my tea, maybe you’ll tell me your name?”
”It’s Sam. Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I’m a bit confused.”
He had almost forgotten about his headache.
”That’s okay, I’m Eze. Or you can call me Hat, some people do, I think.”
He looked lost in thought for a moment, then came back to Sam:
“Where did you say you came from, again?”
”I didn’t. It’s a bit complicated. I…”
“I think I come from a different world. Well, not just one, I travelled to others to and then I woke up on that street. I sound crazy.”
He wasn’t sure Eze would believe him, but it was worth a shot.
If someone could help, it might be him.
”Well trust me I know a lot about crazy, kind of an expert in that whole area. I’ll take your case.”
”Your case. I’ll take it. We are going to send you home.”
“You can? Seriously?”
”Did I stutter?”
”Alright then it’s decided. I’ll just need something in exchange, a little compensation for my services.”
”Okay, anything you want, I just want to go home.”
”I’ll tell you when I need it. More tea?”
Eze was a true story-teller.
He told him how the magic of his world worked, how to get it to work by himself, and a lot of things he nodded to but didn’t quite understand.
Basically, you had to wish for something you wanted, and it just made itself up.
But to use that magic on a bigger scale, he needed to use a medium to pass it through so the world would hear it and make it happen.
For example, Eze had drawn the entire room; flowers growing from the floor and sofas everywhere, and all the things he had wished for and drawn had appeared.
Simple as that.
Sam knew he wouldn’t try to draw anything: he had the skills of a five-year-old when it came to crayons and paper.
He chose to write a song instead.
Problem was, there were no guitars in this world, or at least not the same kind he was used to.
He had to explain how it was played and how it sounded, and try to draw it as much as he could to show Eze the basic of the instrument.
The tea wasn’t strong enough to keep him awake all night, so Sam fell asleep on one of the sofas.
When he woke up, there was a table with breakfast on it, and amazingly, a guitar next to it.
Sam took the guitar and started tuning it.
”Awesome! It really is one! Even the sound; I missed it so much you can’t imagine, thank you!”
”Don’t thank me for breakfast”, responded his host bitterly.
“Glad you like it though.”
After plucking a few chords, Sam tried a melody, added some lyrics, and by the end of the morning the song was ready.
”What will you call it?”
”Something Better. I think that’s pretty much the whole point of that.”
He laughed, and realized he hadn’t smiled like that in a long time.
“Thank you so much, Eze, for everything. Now, how do I get back to my world?”
”Let’s adjourn to the garden first, we don’t know how things could go and I certainly don’t want you to blow up in my living room.”
Sam was a bit scared; he definitely wanted to get back home but the part where he could just explode wasn’t very appealing to him.
”Just kidding, everything’s going to be alright, you just do what I tell you.”
This wasn’t really reassuring, but he had to try no matter what.
The real garden was at the back of the manor, and as for the rest of it, it looked abandoned, except for a table and a chair.
Eze sat on his chair, took a little shiny stone from his pocket and said:
”I’m sorry what? No way, what is it? Is that for the spell?”
”It’s a communication device. Someday soon I’ll get bored, this way I can talk to you and we’ll work out your payment.”
”And I have to swallow this? Can’t I just keep it with me?”
”No I don’t think you can bring anything from this world to yours. This way I think we can stay in touch. Don’t worry you won’t…hum…digest it.”
None of this was very reassuring, but Sam had to keep his end of the deal, so he did as he was told.
After he nearly choked on the stone, a little blue light shone weakly from his chest.
”This means it worked.”
“Great. Can I talk to you too with that?”
“It’s a one-way thing I’m afraid. Now step back a bit, start your song and focus on what you really want. It’s been a pleasure.”
“It’s been a pleasure for me too.”
The two of them smiled awkwardly at each other, and Sam began his song.
First softly, his voice resonating across the garden; the wind started blowing and it looked like the wild flowers all around were cheering him on.
Sam closed his eyes, singing the last verse with all his might, concentrating on the thing he wanted the most: to get home.
The wind was infuriating, creating a small tornado around him, amplifying the sound of his voice and of his guitar.
Colors burst and melted inside the tornado.
Before he had finished his part, Sam had disappeared.
Eze had held his breath until the end, not entirely sure if he could do this.
A little relieved at last, he spoke to himself:
”Well, let’s hope it worked.”