Happyland, Part 4: The Dramatic and Extensive Conclusion

Happyland Airport was packed with people. Some waited for plane rides out of the valley, and some were staying put until they felt they could return to town. The arrival of Juneberry and Spot caused quite a stir at first. As they passed people, Juneberry could hear them whispering.

Juneberry was thrilled to see that Ruby had reunited with her family. Lara and Tracy caught up with some old friends. 

Dr. Pelt’s patients found their owners, or the owners found them.

Even though some adults paced about with worry or stood frozen with indecision or fear, all the children welcomed the change in routine and found the whole experience to be great fun. Tracy gave them as much cherry pie as they could eat, and Michael entertained them. Juneberry enjoyed being around the children very much.

Juneberry had been watching the children play for quite some time when someone’s rude shove startled her. “Ow!” she said, but the pushy man just walked by her. He approached Michael. “You made it!” he said, with open arms. Michael stared at him in disbelief, and then—pow!—he punched him on the nose. The man fell down. Everyone went silent with shock.

Michael looked at Juneberry and said, “That’s my business partner, Carl.” “Oh,” Juneberry said. Even though she did not approve of such violent behavior, she could understand Michael’s anger. She wasn’t quite sure how she should feel about it all. She made a mental note to ask Father about it someday. However, unlike Juneberry, Ruby was quite sure about how she felt about it. She was very upset. “How could you do such a thing in front of the children!” she said, taking Michael’s arm and dragging him away. But Michael seemed pretty pleased with himself.

Everyone began to whisper about Michael and Carl, and some parents were very displeased with Michael’s behavior. But it was all forgotten at once, because everyone’s attention turned to the sky. “It’s the ship! The alien ship!” people cried. “Run for cover!” It was the ship! Juneberry gasped; she could feel her heart in her throat! 

A very loud voice from the ship said: “People of Happyland! Do not be alarmed! I repeat, do not be alarmed! We mean you no harm. Please allow us to land. We will not hurt you!” Then there were more loud noises: the sound of a helicopter and, much farther away, a plane. Another loud voice, coming from the helicopter, said: “Residents of Happyland! The extraterrestrials do not mean any harm! Please stand clear! We are landing!” Some people did run away, but most made room for the aircraft and then stood their ground; like Juneberry, they simply had to satisfy their curiosity.

The ship landed very gracefully on the ground. The helicopter touched down on the helicopter pad. There was a hush as the aliens emerged from their ship. And, to everyone’s surprise, they were accompanied by a human in a spacesuit! And another man in a spacesuit climbed out of the helicopter. The two aliens were very strange-looking; they had three eyes, for one thing! Some people screamed; a couple fainted; and some, like Juneberry, felt exhilarated.

The men in spacesuits stood protectively in front of the aliens. The one in yellow addressed the crowd: “Citizens of Happyland, I am Dr. Soyuz, director of HASA, the Happyland Aeronautics and Space Alliance. This is Dr. Mendez, chief officer of HASA’s Astrobiology division. I know that until now you have not been aware of our existence, nor of the existence of extraterrestrial lifeforms. We have been gathering data for decades, but for security reasons our missions were executed as clandestine operations and our findings classified Top Secret. Recently we successfully made contact with extraterrestrial representatives of a planet we have named Sindri, which effected a visitation from this small delegation. Sindrians are peaceful beings—I repeat, they are peaceful beings—and we have reason to believe that the Sindrian attack was provoked.”

The sound of the third craft, a plane, came closer and closer, interrupting Dr. Soyuz’s speech. “Move away from the runway!” someone shouted, and everyone cleared a path. It was Sebastian’s plane! He landed the plane and jumped out.

“Sebastian! Over here!” shouted Juneberry. Sebastian found her in the crowd. “I… I can’t believe this! Is this real?” he said. To Dr. Soyuz he yelled, “Um, sorry for the interruption, sir!”

Dr. Soyuz cleared his throat and continued. “We have not yet gained fluency in the Sindrian language, but via bilateral pictorial communications we have surmised that the Sindrian attack was instigated by a theft of some kind.” Juneberry, like everyone else, was shocked. Theft? What could a human possibly steal from these aliens? “It was me,” said a voice from the edge of the crowd. People turned and craned their necks to see who was speaking. It was Mr. Kindling! Juneberry and Lara looked at each other. The strange man from the toy store!

“It was me. I stole it,” said Mr. Kindling. “What did you steal?” someone shouted. Mr. Kindling walked to the back of his van and brought something out. “This,” he said. It was a robot!

The aliens began screaming with excitement, which caused some distress in the crowd. “Residents of Happyland, please remain calm,” said Dr. Soyuz. “The sound you are hearing is the Sindrian language. Please remain calm.” The robot stomped happily over to the aliens, who patted his head and scratched his back. “Aw, it’s their pet!” one of the kids yelled out. Dr. Soyuz and Dr. Mendez both looked very surprised, then began nodding furiously and whispering to each other. “Yes, that’s it! The robot is their pet!” someone said. Another said, “Yeah, if someone stole my dog, I’d be mad too!” Murmurs of understanding and relief swept through the cluster of Happylanders. “Wait a minute, but Kindling stole their pet!” someone shouted. “Why did you do it, Kindling?” Mr. Kindling faced the aliens, who were now standing up straight and glaring at him with a total of six eyes.

“I am truly sorry,” Mr. Kindling said, first to the aliens and then to his fellow humans. “I… I found him in the bushes behind my store. I guess he must’ve gotten away from his owners for a second. I saw him and thought, ‘Wow, that is one magnificent toy.’ I was suddenly gripped with the desire to own him, to comprehend how he worked. I wanted to build others like him. I figured it would make me the most celebrated toymaker in history.” Mr. Kindling began to weep. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone! I am so sorry! I hope no one was hurt…. I will rebuild the destroyed buildings myself, brick by brick, even if it takes the rest of my life!” Juneberry felt very sorry for him. “I’ll help you!” she found herself saying. Shyly, she turned to the crowd. “I mean, no one really was hurt, maybe only one person and only a little bit, really… and well, we all make mistakes, don’t we. I think it must be very difficult to come up with new toys all the time, and maybe business wasn’t going too well… and then the Sindrians, well, we can all understand how scared and angry they must’ve felt when they found out we stole their most beloved pet! I know I would be, if someone stole Spot!”

The aliens seemed to confer with Dr. Soyuz, who provided them with pen and paper. They drew something and showed him what they had drawn. Then he drew something and showed them. They all nodded. Dr. Soyuz turned to the crowd again. “The Sindrians will contribute their efforts in rebuilding the town of Happyland.” A few people clapped. Some were still resentful of the aliens, but just about everyone was relieved that the mystery was solved and they could return to their homes.

~~@~~

The coming months brought much change to Happyland and its inhabitants. All citizens of Happyland—plus visitors such as Juneberry, the bakers and the Sindrians—worked together to rebuild the structures that had been destroyed. Certain individuals such as Carl and Mr. Kindling volunteered to work every day on the all-night shift as a penance for their wrongdoings. In time, most people forgave them. People were very quick in embracing the fairy and her caterpillar, for they soon saw that she was a delightful girl and that Spot was a loyal and gentle pet. And, after working side by side with the Sindrians for weeks and weeks, most Happylanders came to respect them for their strong work ethic and kindness, which was communicated even without a common language.

Juneberry stayed in Happyland to help on the work sites and with anything else that the town needed her to do; sometimes this involved caring for children while their parents worked, or helping Dr. Pelt with his patients. She often told her friends that she missed her family, and wondered when she would see them again. She hadn’t quite made up her mind whether she would return home or whether she’d stay in Happyland.

Sebastian only worked on the construction sites for a day or two before he took his plane and left town. Juneberry and the bakers were sorry to see him go, but he promised to come back soon. In the meantime, life in Happyland returned to—well, if not normal, then a new normal. People had a different attitude now: They became somewhat more serious about life, less carefree; but at the same time, they also became more appreciative of everything they had, especially their friends and family, and they learned that they were not alone in the world. A few Happylanders had a difficult time adjusting to this knowledge and felt much fear, but most regarded it as the entrance to a new life with more possibilities and more excitement.

The townspeople and the Sindrians finished the construction in record time. The Sindrians bid farewell to the Happylanders. To everyone’s surprise, Dr. Soyuz announced that he would be leaving with them to explore their planet; just as Juneberry had before leaving her home, he, too, knew he would never forgive himself if he missed out on this adventure.

Soon after that, the hospital and post office reopened, and school officially started. The children were excited to resume their studies and loved the new school building. Ms. Hart, the schoolteacher, asked Juneberry to help her with the children, because her former assistant had been one of the people who had fled after the attacks. Juneberry was happy to help out while she tried to decide once and for all whether she should go back home or stay in town.

She was at the school when she heard a familiar voice call her name. She turned and was shocked to see who it was. “Father!” she exclaimed. Mr. Fairy hugged his daughter tight. “Oh, Juneberry, how I’ve missed you,” he said. “I’ve missed you too,” Juneberry said. “Children, Ms. Hart, this is my father, Mr. Fairy!”

Ms. Hart told Juneberry she was free to leave for the day. Juneberry said good-bye to her and the children, then said to her father,”I can’t believe you came all this way! How did you get here?” Mr. Fairy smiled. “Come with me. You’re going to love this.” He took her outside. Parked on the street was the most darling car Juneberry had ever seen!

“Wow! Where did you get this, Father?” Juneberry asked. “Your friend Sebastian made it,” said Mr. Fairy. “What? Sebastian? He made this whole car?” “Yes, he’s quite handy with machines. He made his own plane! Oh, but of course you know all about that.” Juneberry was amazed. “So that’s where he’s been all this time! Did he come with you?” “No. Some of the Happylanders have come looking for us, I guess after meeting you and finding out about fairies. Several want to settle down in the forest, away from the town. So, Sebastian is helping them build houses.” Juneberry marveled at how much was changing, not just in Happyland but all over! Before she could comment on it to her father, she heard a very manly voice say, “Do my eyes deceive me?” They turned around to see Mr. Ferry, who oversaw all construction in Happyland and with whom Juneberry had worked closely for months. “Steven!” Mr. Fairy exclaimed, and embraced Mr. Ferry. “Brian,” said Mr. Ferry. Both men had tears in their eyes. “You… know each other?” said Juneberry, utterly confused. Her father nodded his head, wiping his tears. “Yes, Juneberry. It’s part of the reason I came to visit. I mean, I missed you, too, of course, but when Sebastian told me everything that had happened and how strong you were through it all and how well you liked it here, well… I felt I needed to tell you some things.”

Mr. Fairy smiled at Mr. Ferry and put his arm on his shoulder. “This is my cousin, Steven.” “What? Mr. Ferry, you’re my relative?” Juneberry said, wide-eyed. Mr. Ferry looked just as shocked. “This is your daughter, Brian? But she’s a…” “A fairy, yes,” said Mr. Fairy. “You see, Juneberry, I was born and raised in Happyland. But I grew tired of life here in town. I wanted to live in nature. So, when I was old enough, I said good-bye to everyone I knew and left for good. I lived alone in the woods until I met the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. Your mother. She was a fairy, of course, which was unexpected, and for her it was unexpected that I was a human.” Juneberry gasped. “You’re a human?” Mr. Ferry laughed. “My dear girl, haven’t you ever noticed that your father has no wings to speak of?” It was true! She had never noticed that before! “Um, I guess I thought boy fairies didn’t have wings…” she said, more embarrassed than she had ever been in her life. The two men laughed. “Well,” Juneberry said, fluttering her wings, “I guess this explains why I can’t fly. I… I’m half human!” “Don’t feel sheepish, Juneberry. There’s no way you could’ve known about me, because I never told you,” said Mr. Fairy. And I never told you because it never mattered. As soon as your mother and I married, I changed the spelling of my name, changed the way I dressed, the way I thought, everything. I totally embraced fairy culture, and I was truly happy for the first time in my life. When your mother died, well, it seemed even more important to raise you girls strictly in the fairy way.”

That night, Mr. Fairy and Juneberry stayed at Mr. Ferry’s house. Mr. Ferry had never married but had built himself a big house, so there was plenty of space. The cousins talked all evening and through the night, catching up on decades’ worth of stories. Juneberry listened for as long as she could, but finally got so sleepy she had to excuse herself and go to bed. The next day, Juneberry introduced her father to all the new friends she had made. Some of the older Happylanders remembered her father and were thrilled to see him again. Juneberry could see in her father’s face that he was reliving many memories, both happy and sad.

Mr. Fairy stayed in town for three days to catch up with everyone he knew and to spend time with Juneberry. At last, he felt it was time to get back to Juneberry’s sisters. He had left Honeywell in charge while he was gone, and he was worried about how the household was being run. The morning Mr. Fairy was to return home, Juneberry said to him, “Father, I… I won’t be going with you.” He smiled. “Oh, I know that, Juneberry.” “How do you know that?” she asked. He patted her hand. “You are my daughter, after all.” She smiled at her father, then shed a tear. She was grateful to him for understanding, but also felt very sad that she wouldn’t see him for a long time.

“Ready to go?” said Mr. Ferry, whom Juneberry now called Uncle Steve (even though really he was her cousin, once removed). “Oh, are you going with Father?” she asked. Uncle Steve shook his head at Mr. Fairy. “Don’t you tell this girl anything?” he said, and jumped into his truck. “Well, Juneberry,” said her father, “you are to live here, with Uncle Steve. You can’t live in your friends’ camper forever.” “Oh, how kind of Uncle Steve to let me live here,” Juneberry said. Her father gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, “And Uncle Steve will be coming to stay with me and your sisters for a while. He needs to get acquainted with his cousins, and they with him. And, Juneberry,” he added, “the car your friend Sebastian made? It’s yours. He actually made it for you, not me. I only delivered it here. He built the car for you so that you may visit your family from time to time.” Juneberry squealed with joy. “Yes, Father, I will visit as soon as the school lets out for break!”

And that’s what she did. A couple of months later, when the schoolchildren had a weeklong vacation, she drove the little car to the boot house. And, wouldn’t you know it, there were more surprises waiting for her.

THE END

(All sets except runway by Nica)

Happyland, Part 3: The Adventure Drags On

“What is that?” Juneberry whispered to Sebastian. “That’s a clown,” Sebastian whispered back. “They’re supposed to be funny.” Juneberry moved away from the carousel. “I don’t think clowns are funny at all,” she said. “No one does,” said Sebastian.

The clown moved toward them, his hands up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He had a surprisingly gentle voice. “I just didn’t want to interrupt your conversation. My name is Michael. I’ve been left alone here. When the attack happened, everyone ran out in a panic, taking every car and bus and truck available out of town. The only vehicle that was left here was the little tram we use to give children rides around the grounds. I told my business partner, Carl, that we should drive it into town and pick up people who needed rides out, especially the children, but we got into an argument about it. Carl wanted to save our own skins, you see. We fought, and then he hit me over the head with something and I passed out. I just woke up a few minutes ago, and I see that he’s taken the tram, leaving me stranded. And he knows perfectly well I’ve got a family!” Michael turned away. “I’m sorry,” he said, composing himself. “I am very worried about them. I have to assume they fled along with everyone else. Do you know where everybody went?” “No, but we have some friends waiting for us at the veterinary clinic,” said Sebastian. “You should get your injury checked out.”

Juneberry stepped forward, no longer afraid of the clown. “Is your head hurting?” “Oh, no,” said the clown. “It’s just a little bump.” Juneberry smiled at him. “I think all the children must be all right,” she said, “because we’ve been at the school, and there was no one there. It looks like everyone got away.” “Thank goodness,” Michael said. “I had asked my father-in-law to pick up my little girl from school. I hope they’re OK. Luckily, my wife was visiting friends outside of town today, so she must be safe.”

“Sebastian, since Michael is feeling all right, maybe you should take Michael in your plane and try to find his family, instead of going to meet with Tracy and Lara,” said Juneberry. “I’ll go with Spot to meet the others at the vetenar—veteri—the clinic place.” “Follow me,” Sebastian said to Michael. “I’ll help you up.” Sebastian gave him a boost onto the plane, and then he said, “Just a second. Let me say good-bye to Juneberry.” “Yes, of course, good-bye, Juneberry. Thank you,” Michael said, as he climbed into his seat.

“Are you sure about this?” Sebastian asked Juneberry. “Will you be all right on your own?” “Oh, yes,” she said. “We fairies are hardy, don’t you worry. Spot and I can find the others. We passed Bell Street on our way here, I saw the sign.” “Well,” Sebastian said, “I hope to see you very, very soon, then.” “You will,” said Juneberry.

Sebastian boarded his plane. “Hold on, Michael, here we go!” he said, and started the engines. Juneberry and Spot moved back to make way for the plane’s takeoff. Juneberry was surprised at how noisy the plane was, and how much wind it made. But when the plane rose into the sky, she sighed with amazement. “I had no idea that humans could fly so well,” she said to Spot. “You learn something every day.”

Juneberry and Spot followed the road back into town. They encountered no one. They walked and walked until they finally reached Bell Street. Here, too, it was very quiet, and the buildings seemed empty. Juneberry wondered if her friends had already left, when she heard the distant sound of voices. She and Spot ran toward them. She had found her friends!  They were standing in front of the clinic. There were several animals with them—Dr. Pelt’s patients, Juneberry assumed. Lara and Tracy were very relieved to see their friend again. “But where’s Sebastian? Is he OK?” asked Lara. Juneberry explained what happened. “Well, I hope we will see him again soon,” said Tracy. Juneberry looked around. “Where’s Ruby? Is she OK?” “Yep, good as new,” said Lara. “She’s inside with Dr. Pelt. She just has a sprain, that’s all. The doctor is bandaging her ankle.” Just then, Dr. Pelt emerged from the building. “Well! You must be the famous Juneberry! It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Nice to meet you, too, Dr. Pelt,” said Juneberry. “Thank goodness you’re here.” “Of course! I would never leave my patients, especially in a time of real crisis such as this one,” said Dr. Pelt. “I hope I can find their owners. And your friend Ruby is taking a bit of a rest now. As far as I can tell, she and the baby are just fine.” Juneberry smiled with relief.

Then Dr. Pelt turned to Spot. “And you must be Spot! Tracy and Lara have been going on and on—and on—about you. I must say, you’re not frightening at all. Why, you are simply fantastic! In all my years as a veterinarian, I have never seen such a splendid specimen.”

“So, what do you know, Dr. Pelt? Where is everyone?” asked Juneberry. “I believe they have all assembled at the airport, at the far reaches of Happyland Valley. Everyone has left town. Well, not exactly everyone.” “Dr. Pelt says that there is one person who refuses to leave, even though he has a van,” said Lara. “Who?” asked Juneberry. “Mr. Kindling,” said Dr. Pelt. He owns the toy store next door. I have my patients to look after, and only a bicycle to bring me to work, but I do not know why he insists on staying on. I’ve asked him several times why he doesn’t just get into his van and look for the others, and I’ve asked if we could share the van to take these animals out of here, but he will not answer me. He is an odd fellow as it is, but today he has been acting very strangely, even for him. I have decided to leave him alone.” “I’ve tried knocking on his door,” said Lara. “But he won’t answer.”

Suddenly there was a crash and beeping sound, coming from the toy store. They all looked over, and they saw a face at the door. “It’s Kindling,” said Dr. Pelt. Dr. Pelt waved to him, but Mr. Kindling only stared.

Mr. Kindling began looking around nervously. Then he turned around and said something. “He just spoke!” Juneberry said. “Maybe he needs help!” She ran to his door. “Mr. Kindling, hello! Please come with us to the airport! That’s where all the Happyland people have gone. Will you join us?” Juneberry heard the man mumble something, but he remained standing with his back to her.

“My young fairy, I would leave him alone,” said Dr. Pelt. “He has obviously decided to stay to guard his shop. It is his right.” Juneberry reluctantly returned to her friends.

A minute later, they heard the sound of a motor. “What is that Kindling up to now?” said Dr. Pelt. “No, no, it’s coming from the road,” said Lara. The sound came closer and closer, until they could see that it was none other than Michael!

“What are you doing here, Michael?” said Juneberry. “Everyone, this is Michael. Sebastian and I met him when we went to the carnival… Michael, where is Sebastian?” “Well, he and I were flying around looking for my family, and we discovered that all Happyland residents are at the airport.” “Yes, we just found out too,” said Juneberry. “But why did you come back here?” “Well, while I was there, I also found out that—” “Michael, is that you?” said Ruby, limping out to them.

“Ruby!” exclaimed Michael, and ran to her. “Thank God you’re all right!” They embraced. “You mean Ruby is your wife?” said Juneberry, delighted. Michael held Ruby’s hands. “Yes, Ruby is my wife. I thought she would be with everyone else, but—” “Yes, when the attack happened, I went in search of Bianca,” said Ruby. “Please tell me you’ve found her!” “Yes, yes, don’t worry, she’s just fine. You see, I was in the middle of doing a show, so I asked your father to pick her up. They’ve been together all this time.” “Oh, what a relief. What a relief,” said Ruby. “But how did you know I was here?” Michael chuckled. “Well, Sebastian and I were talking, and when we compared notes, I realized that he had spent the whole morning with you! And someone lent me this motorcycle, so that I could come get you.”

“But where is Sebastian?” Juneberry asked. “Ah. Well, some of us feel it’s safest at the airport where we can all be together, but some people want to get as far away from here as possible, in case there is another attack. So, all the planes are busy evacuating those who want to leave. Sebastian decided to help out. I told him I’d bring back news of you.” “I’m sorry, everybody, but I really need to get to my daughter,” said Ruby. “Please excuse us.” “You mean you’re going to ride in that contraption, in your condition?” said Tracy. “Why don’t you lie down on one of our bunks? We’re all going to the same place, after all.” “Thank you so very much for that, and for all your help today. You saved me,” said Ruby. “But I can’t be separated from my family again. And I feel just fine, except for my ankle.” Michael helped Ruby limp to the motorcycle and into the sidecar. “See you soon, good people,” said Michael. He and Ruby waved and drove away.

Juneberry was suddenly hit with a wave of emotion. “What is the matter, young fairy?” asked Dr. Pelt. “Oh, I just miss my own family, is all,” said Juneberry. “I hope they’re all right.” “I’m sure they are,” Lara said, patting Juneberry’s hand. “Your family lives deep in the forest, well hidden from view. I’m sure they are the safest people in the world!” “We better get going,” said Tracy, “because our own safety is still questionable.” “Quite right,” said Dr. Pelt. He and Tracy rode in the back of the camper with the animals, and Juneberry and Lara sat up front. As they pulled out and passed the toy store, Juneberry called for Mr. Kindling one more time. “Like Dr. Pelt said, leave him alone,” said Lara. “I guess he doesn’t want to be with other people.” “OK,” said June, sighing. “We tried.” And off they went to the airport.

TO BE CONTINUED

(Sets by Nica)

Happyland, Part 2: The Adventure Continues

According to the bakers, the journey to Happyland would take a full day and night over the mountains. Juneberry had never been over the mountains before. The bakers were curious about fairy life and asked her many questions. After Juneberry had talked at length, Lara said, “Huh. You’d think humans and fairies would be very different from each other, but we’re so alike.” “Well, except for the wings,” Tracy said. “Can you fly, Juneberry?” Juneberry fluttered her wings a bit. “I can move them a little, but I can’t fly,” she said. “None of my family members can fly.” “Huh!” Lara said. “I always thought fairies could fly. See, you learn something every day.”

Meanwhile, Juneberry learned that Lara and Tracy had grown up in Happyland and were best friends. They traveled around baking and selling pies to whomever they met and to people who lived here and there beyond the valley; once in a while they went into town to deliver pies to Happylanders and to buy supplies. They hadn’t been in Happyland for many months and were looking forward to an extended visit.

When the sky began to turn dark, the bakers unhitched their horse, Click, and prepared to camp for the night. “You can take my bunk,” said Lara. “I can sleep on the floor.” “That’s OK,” said Juneberry. “I have six sisters and I live in a boot. I’m used to sleeping wherever I can find a space.” Thinking of her sisters made her miss them terribly. As she stepped down and walked toward the back of the camper, she tried not to cry. But there was a surprise waiting for her!

Never had she been so happy to see Spot. She slept well that night, with Spot at her feet and the oven warming up the camper.

The next day, they made their way into the valley.

Soon, Juneberry could see the town from a distance. “Wow! A whole town! Is it really full of people?” Lara said yes. “Why is it so smoky?” asked Juneberry. “Smoky? No,” said Lara. But soon she saw what Juneberry was seeing: There was smoke rising from the town. “Oh, no, maybe it’s a fire!” Tracy said. “Come on, Click, giddyup!”

When they finally reached Happyland, Tracy and Lara gasped. A whole section of Main Street had been reduced to rubble.

Lara and Tracy were especially horrified to find that their beloved school had also been destroyed, along with the post office. They looked through the rubble but found no one. Evidently, everyone had fled the town.

Suddenly, they heard someone shouting for help.

The bakers and Juneberry ran to the man in goggles. “Do you have a mode of transport?” he asked. “Yes,” said Lara. “We have a camper with plenty of space.” “Oh, thank heavens,” he said. “I’m Sebastian. This is Ruby. I just flew into town a few hours ago and found her lying here. Her leg hurts. She’s with child, so I’ve been afraid to move her on my own. And my plane is too far away for her anyway.” “What happened here?” asked Lara. “You mean you don’t know?” Sebastian said. “No, we just got here ourselves,” said Tracy. Sebastian shook his head. “Ladies, I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but the town was attacked by an alien ship!” “A WHAT?” Lara and Tracy looked at each other and took a step back. “Ladies, I am not crazy,” Sebastian said, patiently. “I know how it sounds.” “It’s true,” said Ruby. “I saw the attack from the other side of town, and I rushed over to the school to make sure my daughter, Bianca, was all right. The children must’ve been evacuated. There’s no trace of anyone here. My husband was supposed to pick her up today, right around the time of the attack, so they’re probably together. Bianca was planning to go to the carnival after school. Could we please check? The carnival is set up at the other end of town.” “Yes, of course,” said Tracy. “We’ll go right now. And, by the way, I’m Tracy, and this is Lara. And that’s Juneberry.”

“Excuse me,” said Juneberry, a bit shyly, “but shouldn’t we move Ruby now?” “Oh, of course!” said Lara. They all gently lifted Ruby and placed her on the lower bunk of the camper. Tracy tended to her while the others talked about a plan of action. “Is there another hospital in this town?” asked Juneberry. “Unfortunately, no,” said Lara. “But you know what? There’s a veterinary clinic a few blocks away, on Bell Street. Maybe there’s something there we can use, or maybe Dr. Pelt is still there, who knows.”

“My plane happens to be at the carnival,” said Sebastian. I flew in just to spend the day there, actually. I’ll go check if Ruby’s daughter and husband are there while you take Ruby to this Dr. Pelt. If I see them, I will bring them to you. If I do not, I will keep looking from the sky to try to figure out where everyone went.” “That’s a good idea,” said Lara. “Come on, Juneberry, let’s hurry to the camper.” “Actually, may I go with Sebastian? I… I’ve never seen a plane before.” “All right, Juneberry, good luck!” said Lara. “See you very soon, I hope!”

Juneberry and Sebastian walked quickly along the road to the carnival. “Did you see the aliens?” Juneberry asked. “What do they look like?” Sebastian shrugged. “I didn’t see anything. I landed my plane, saw that the carnival was desolate, and I walked into town. There was no one around. Then I found Ruby. She said that the ship shot a beam three times, destroyed three buildings. Then it moved away and disappeared.” “How awful and strange!” said Juneberry. “Yes,” said Sebastian, “it’s a real mystery.”

When they arrived at the carnival site, they found it completely empty. It was eerie and sad without any people. But then they came upon Sebastian’s plane.

“What a wonderful thing this is,” said Juneberry. Sebastian was pleased. “She’s a great little plane. Built her myself,” he said. “Really?” Juneberry was impressed indeed. “Wait,” said Sebastian, turning serious. “Did you hear that?” Juneberry shook her head no. They listened for a moment… and then they heard a soft “pssst” coming from behind them. They turned around, and—

TO BE CONTINUED

 (Sets by Nica)