ook—the moon. A small bowl brimming with cream. Listen—can you hear it? A piano, the keys softly walked. Stars rippling across the sky in time. Pull back. A sleeping, steepled town. Further. The street winding empty like it seldom does these days. Further. The buildings huddle close, the trees closer still. A handful of lights behind shuttered windows, like glowworms in cocoons.
Listen—a viola slides in, easing us…off…to…sleep.
But look—up there. Over the hedge. The high window of the nearest rowhouse. Push back the branch of the gnarled chestnut. That dappled glow. But before you can reach it, the light snaps off. The music hushes.
Get a little closer. Closer still, hands and nose pressed coldly to windowpane. A captain’s bed. Sheets drawn tight like a death shroud over the sleeping form. Breath gusting through the empty chambers of his body.
Let him sleep.
But he’s just been pretending. Waiting for the wadded comfort of night to settle over us like cotton batting. A plumed head emerges from under the bed. A sheepdog, a torch clamped firmly in its mouth. The boy slides from the bed, taking the torch. Offering received.
They pause, like this, in anticipation. The music hangs. The arms of some great scale sway drunkenly above us.
The torch winks on.
A splash of light, a circle on carpet. It glitters, like the barely remembered stars from long ago, outside. A portal. It seems to beckon. One step and we’ll be falling, straight through the floor, sliding helter skelter round and round, down and down, exploding into a world of colour and light. Old friends, new adventures.
But listen—there’s no music. Just a siren in the distance. And look—in the harsh glow of the flashlight, you see it’s not a sheepdog. Just a mutt. Not a boy, a man, bent with age and disappointment. They’ve been looking for intruders. Not adventure. This is a bad neighbourhood, after all. They play the light of the torch across the wall. Shadows like slow monsters. Duck—before you’re seen. Back over the hedge, out of the light. Up and down the streets, fumbling for something, someone you might recognize.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.