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)