Mayhem stared at her. She couldn’t have said what he heard her say. “Magick is missing?”
Maybe she was kidding. Maybe this was a game. Maybe the baby was hiding just in the other room…but she wasn’t giggling. She wasn’t trying to fake a straight face. She was this close to bursting into tears, and his heart stuck in his throat. He glanced at the clock.
They had just over an hour before Mother was due back. One hour to figure out where Magick had gone. One hour to get him back. He sighed and laid down his controller. Standing up, he held out one hand.
She didn’t say a word as they walked to the solarium, but he could feel her hand trembling. He gave a squeeze, and she gave him a grateful small smile. When they entered, she pointed to the disaster that remained in the room.
Her mouth opened and closed, wordlessly, soundlessly, and those giant tears she’d held back spilled from her eyes and down her cheeks.
He knelt before her, pants into the mess of paints, and held both her hands, looking up at her. “We’ll find him.”
“Poppins Dust,” she whispered.
She pointed down, and Mayhem noticed the glitter in the wetness of the paint for the first time. “Poppins Dust.”
“Poppins Dust,” he repeated. “Poppins Dust. Poppins Dust!” He stood up and hugged her tight. “Oh, Mischief, I know exactly where Magick is!”
She looked up at him, clearly confused. “I, I don’t understand.” She shook her head. “Mayhem, I don’t understand at all! What do you mean you know where he is? Where is he? Where is Magick?”
Mayhem stepped out of the mess, carefully, precariously, and he pulled his sister along before pointing into it. “He’s in there.” She shook her head again. He wrinkled up his face, trying to think of a better way to tell her, to explain it. Then he saw the body of the flask and the telltale label.
“Stay here,” he ordered. She nodded, and he tiptoed through the pooling paint to the glass. He picked it up, careful of the sharp edges, and he made his way back to his bewildered sister. “See?” He pointed at the backside of the flask, where a smallish label lay against the back of the raised letters.
Mischief sniffled and shook her head. “I don’t see it.”
Mayhem grabbed one of the many clean-up rags Mother kept in the solarium and delicately wiped out the interior of the flask until the glitter no longer masked the label. “See that? The label?”
His sister squinted. “Yes, but I can’t read it. It’s too small.”
“Mischief,” he nudged. “You know how to make it bigger.”
She blinked. Twice. Then her eyes widened. “Oh, yes, yes, I do, don’t I?”
Mischief snapped her fingers, and a long length of ash appeared in her hand. She sat the flask down on the floor, tapped it twice and whispered, “Grow!” And grow it did, until the broken glass stood as tall as their missing sibling. She leaned forward and pointed her wand at the words.
“‘Use of Poppins Dust’,” she read aloud, “‘can result in the misplacement, or rather displacement, of person or persons who come into contact with the product contained within this container. Should this occur, please contact your nearest witch doctor or practicing witchy woman for assistance.'” She glanced up at her brother. “Like Mother?”
“Yes, like Mother, but, er,” he looked at the cuckoo clock on the wall nervously, “I think we would both rather not have to involve her in this, don’t you?”
She gave him her best ‘eek!’ face and tapped the glass again. “There’s more!” She squinted and cocked her head to the side. ‘If such a magickal person is not available, please consider the nearest artistic endeavor to begin the search for any displaced persons.'” She was quiet for a minute, and Mayhem knew that meant she was digesting the new information. It was a good thing, her thinking, because it meant she was taking the matter seriously.
And he was pretty certain that this counted as one of those times that everything should be taken seriously.
“So…” she dragged the word out, “Magick could be in any of these pictures.” She gestured to the gallery of art on the solarium walls and frowned. “How are we going to figure out which one he’s in?”
Mayhem smiled. “Follow the yellow dust road,” he sang, pointing to the wet mess in front of them.
“We have to go in there?”
She wrinkled up her nose. “But it’s so messy.”
“Says the girl who made the mess.”
Mischief stuck her tongue out at him.
The process had been messy. Getting into the mess, into the particular place that Magick had slipped between, had required a generous application of Poppins Dust on both of the remaining siblings. And since the entire bottle had spilled its innards across the vast ocean of Mischief’s carefully arranged paint pots…
So they had appeared together on the other side, covered in bright blotches of paint and glittery magical dust that blended them into the scenery surrounding them. So much so that Mischief stood there, wringing the excess from her hair just to be able to see.
“I may never paint again,” she muttered, wiping an errant stream from her forehead.
Mayhem, certain that Mother would ensure that his sister never got the chance, nodded his agreement and looked out into the vastness of their new terrain. In the midst of all the chaos, all the smudging and smears, a very distinct smattering of steps made their way through the landscape. Small, yes, but no mistaking who made them.
“I see them, too,” she whispered. There was a note of hope, and that was a good thing.
“Well, we had best get going, then.”
Time moved differently in alternate planes. Mayhem knew it, but he hated that there was no way, without going out and coming back in, of knowing how much of a difference there was. Mother could already be home. Or they might have days here in the measure of five minutes there. No telling, and that bothered him.
Mischief skipped ahead, oohing and aahing over the indigenous flora and fauna, wandering back to show him what she had found. She hadn’t forgotten their quest, despite all appearances, but the nonsensical dance kept her from getting overwhelmed and possibly ending up in tears again.
“That doesn’t help Magick,” she had confided in one of her return boundings. “It doesn’t help anyone.” He hadn’t replied. There hadn’t been a point. She hadn’t wanted a response anyway.
Time was becoming an ever larger factor for Mayhem. Yes, they were following Magick’s footsteps, but how long had it been since he had been there? How far behind were they now? Had he been here long enough to be hungry? Was he lost, too? He was a baby; how could he possibly try and survive out here alone when they weren’t having much success finding him together?
He kept these thoughts and concerns close to his chest, as he watched his sister do her thing while they continued to follow the only clue they had.
The deeper they traveled, following the footsteps of their errant sibling, the more Mayhem realized that the original spattering of painted landscape wasn’t as sporadic as he had first thought. No, the more he examined it, the more he saw that the pieces fit. Long strokes for tree trunks, soft brushes for leaves. Little, brisk wisps that made up the grass nestled in between tree roots. A grey gash here and there to form rocks along the path. White and grey puffs for clouds against the fading blues of the skies.
He had heard that the Poppins Dust could do this. Mother had spoken about it before, he had overheard, to a group of her friends who were sharing recipes for other ointments and potions. Something about a movie she had found inspiring, and about the depth of the layering the potion could imbue on anyone involved. At the time, he had thought it was like a drug, like feeling funny on the gas the dentist gave you when he pulled teeth or filled cavities.
Now, standing in the middle of it all, he understood exactly what she had meant. This place was real, much more real than any drug-induced dream state. He could feel the uneven ground beneath his feet, smell the flowers Mischief had brought him, and feel the breeze that moved those puffy white clouds. And the realness of it gave him hope that Magick had found a safe place in the middle of all this wherever they were.Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in