The Uncooperative Flying Carpet
Read the prologue and first chapter of The Uncooperative Flying Carpet and start to find out why Sabrina Summers really, really doesn't think having adventures in a strange mysterious land is a great idea after all.
The Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers
Saga 1: The Uncooperative Flying Carpet
It was a terrible day for a wedding. The rain slanted down by the bucket load, and stung the hands and faces of people hurrying down the street. The wind blew in sudden gusts and spiteful swirls. It caught at clothes and sent trash skidding along the street.
As the guests arrived, they had to hurry from their warm, dry cars along the slippery sidewalk, clutching their umbrellas and hats. The groom huddled in the doorway of the church, sheltering from the worst of the weather. He greeted people as they arrived, shaking their hands and smiling warmly. He was a tall man with sand-colored hair and gentle, blue eyes.
Across the street from the church was a small park with benches and trees. Behind a tree, a man was hiding. He was watching the chaos caused by the weather and loving it. Every time someone skidded on wet leaves, he laughed out loud. At one point, the church door banged in the wind and a small torrent of water was dislodged from the rain gutter, right onto the groom’s shoes. The man had doubled-over, he was laughing so hard.
Eventually, a long, white limousine drew up. Two children looked through the windows and a boy dressed in a suit jumped out. He was about eight years old and had vivid, carroty hair that stuck up all over the place like a hairy orange explosion on his head.
The boy looked very grumpy and sulky. He stuck his fingers inside his shirt collar and dramatically mimed choking to death, even dropping to his knees in a puddle. When he opened his mouth to wail, his two front teeth were missing. Next out of the car was a girl; she was taller than the boy and her hair was blonde, just like the groom’s. In spite of their different coloring, you could tell by the way she tried to ignore him, and her “give-me-a-break” expression, that she was the boy’s older sister. The girl was about twelve years old and wore a pink dress with a lot of ruffles. She kept yanking at the shiny skirt and wriggling as if she’d rather be wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. As soon as she was out of the car, her little brother tried to push her into the puddle. The man behind the tree couldn’t hear what she yelled, but he smirked when the boy laughed then tried to stand on the hem of her long bridesmaid’s dress.
“That’s my boy, Rory,” the man muttered.
At last the bride herself stepped out of the car and into the storm. The man’s expression changed at once. His lip curled and his eyes narrowed, glowering at the woman. He stretched out his fingers and clawed them back into tight fists. This cold autumn weather made his hand ache, especially the scar where part of one of his fingers was missing. He pulled a tiny box from his pocket. It was wooden and had ‘Property of WW’ carved into the lid. He opened it and a white mist slipped out and swirled through the air, heading to the car.
As the man’s fingers flickered, the mist grew into a malicious squall which swept around the bride, almost as if following the sweeping gestures he made. It whipped her white dress around her legs and tore the veil from her head so that it danced just beyond her stretching fingers. The veil hovered in the air like a ghost, before snagging on a nearby oak tree. He grinned, pleased with his work, then pocketed the box and pulled out a cream-colored piece of card. He read it for the hundredth time.
Sabrina & Rory Summers
invite you to the marriage of
their father, Dave Summers
at Melas Chapel, Main St.
on Friday 13th June at 2.00 pm
They hope you will be able to attend
“I guess it’s show time,” he said, as he threw the card to the ground and slipped his injured hand into his jacket pocket. Then he ripped the veil from the twigs that held it tight and walked across to the bride who was frantically patting her head. As he stepped out into the street, the rain eased off and the wind died down. His expression changed from malice to pleasant courtesy.
“I think this must be yours,” he said, handing it to her. He was not sure, but as the bride thanked him, he thought he saw a glimmer of recognition in her eyes. She glanced down at his hand and he was glad he had hidden it in his coat pocket.
I woke up with a face full of grass. It smelled lovely, actually. Fresh and, well, grassy. It tickled the inside of my nose. Then I wondered if there were worms in it, so I leapt to my feet swiping at my face and brushing bits of grass from my long, pink, ruffled dress.
From my what?
I looked down. Huh? This was my hideous and totally embarrassing bridesmaid’s dress from last month. So why was I wearing it again now? Last thing I remembered was … what? I put my hand on the back of my head to feel for bumps. Had I been in an accident? Had I fallen asleep at my dad’s wedding and just dreamed the whole of the last month? If so, I needed to get more interesting dreams, because all I had dreamed about was going to school, doing my chores and being asleep. My fingers moved across my head. I could feel no bumps, so that was a good thing. What I could feel was that I had a strange wig on my head. The hair was totally different from mine. Mine is pretty long, like armpit long, but this was insanely long and it was in the most complicated arrangement of braids and swags anyone could imagine. I pulled some of it forward and looked. I’m blonde, but this was Blonde, capital B. And Long, capital L. It reached to my waist, even though it was draped and pinned up. I dropped it and carefully placed both hands on top of my head. There was a weird spiky thing growing out of the center of my skull.
Immediately I knew what had happened. This was obviously Rory’s work. Somehow my little brother had sneaked into my bedroom at night, put a wig on my head, and dressed me in my bridesmaid’s outfit. He was going to be in so much trouble when I got my hands on him. I heard a groan I recognized from behind me. I spun around to grab the little pest but stopped, arms outstretched when I saw my BFF, Persis Perkins, spread eagled on the ground next to Rory. What were they doing here? And while I was asking questions, where was “here” exactly?
Rory opened his eyes and wriggled until he was sitting up. He yawned and stretched, then struggled to stand up. He’s always been hopeless at waking up. It’s a family thing. He made little fists with his hands, ground them into his eyes, and started to yawn again.
Mid-yawn, with his mouth wide open he happened to look over at me. His head slowly went down and then back up as he looked me over. Rory burst out laughing, pointed at me, and slapped theatrically at his leg, just to make sure that everyone understood I looked funny.
I’ve heard being an only child is great.
Meanwhile, Persis had also gotten to her feet and stood next to him. She was too busy staring at him to notice me. I’ve known her ever since we were at Melas Elementary School. We hit it off right away and always stood up for each other. She stood up for me again now.
“You don’t look so great yourself, Rory,” she told him firmly. He stopped laughing and looked down at himself. Now it was my turn to laugh and point. I checked him out and snort-laughed.
“Ohmygosh, those shoes,” I gasped, hardly able to talk. Whoever had decided to dress me in a crumpled, pink marshmallow had really gone nuts with my brother. Rory’s entire outfit was shiny. He wore a tunic shirt with big blousy sleeves, which was shiny and white. It was tucked into shiny blue pants that were so wide they flapped when he moved, but were tight around his ankles. A broad red cloth cinched him in at the waist and a buttonless vest completed his outfit.
Oh, and those shoes that made me laugh so much? On his feet he wore gold slippers encrusted with glittering pieces of mirror, which curled around from the toe like a pug dog’s tail. They were incredibly exaggerated, and were surely never worn by people in real life. He bent down and started to tug at the shoes.
Next, I turned my attention to Persis herself.
“You got off lightly,” I told her. She looked down at herself and nodded. She wore a plain, old-fashioned dress in blue and white check, and around her shoulders was a red cape with a hood.
“Yeah, I guess so, Brina,” she answered. “But what I want to know is why are we dressed like this—and where are we?”
“I don’t know where we are,” I answered. I was starting to wonder if we should be scared. This was a pretty weird situation after all.
“Why are we wearing these clothes?” Rory grunted. He was now sitting on the ground, with one leg waggling in the air, as he yanked at the curling toe of his right slipper. He looked up at me as he spoke.
Persis looked at me.
I looked at them. I shrugged. I had no idea. Why were they even looking at me? How would I know? Were we safe? Were we in danger? Were all three of us having the same crazy dream?
Whatever was happening to us, at least we were all together. Nothing is as frightening when you have someone else with you, I always think. That was why … oh dear, something was coming back to me. I remembered talking Persis into come along with me to do something—something that I couldn’t quite remember—because I was scared to do it by myself. Now she was in as much trouble as I was.
“Well, the last thing I remember was …” I wrinkled up my face and tried to bully my brain into working properly.
“I know,” Persis said. “We’d, uh, we’d decided to follow your stepmom to see where she had been sneaking off to.” She cast a glance at Rory, to see if he remembered the same thing. He was red in the face and sweating as he struggled with his shoe, but still heard her.
“That’s right,” he piped up as he rolled from one side to the other, now with both legs in the air and one hand on each foot. He paused to gather his breath and glanced up from where he lay. “You said, ‘I’m telling you, Persis, there’s something weird about Bridget’,” he said. Persis and I rounded on him in unison, our knuckles on our hips.
“We were following Bridget,” I said to him. “We. So what about you?” He didn’t care that we were angry at him for eavesdropping. He had other things to worry about. He started to drag the heels of his glittering slippers across the grass, gouging channels in the earth.
“I,” he mimicked, “I was following you following Bridget,” he explained.
All right, now we were getting somewhere. It seemed that my friend and I decided to follow my new stepmom because … because why? Then I remembered. It had all started after Bridget herself had sneaked out of our house. But then I remembered something else: I had been officially grounded when I had followed her. Oops.
My thinking was interrupted.
“RRRRrrrrrrrrr!” Rory screamed out. He lay on his back and pummelled the ground beneath him with his clenched fists and smashed his feet up and down. “I HATE THESE CLOTHES!” he screeched; his face was scarlet and his eyes were bulging. “GET THESE CLOTHES OFF ME!” he continued, with tears streaming from his eyes.
Persis and I wandered over to him and took a foot each. We talked over Rory as we began to wiggle his slippers, speaking louder to make ourselves heard over the wails and howls of his current tantrum.
“Hey, I think I was grounded; do you remember that?” I asked.
Persis nodded, and started pulling instead of wiggling. “Yeah, that’s right. Something to do with being rude to your stepmom, wasn’t it?”
I nodded and joined her in the pulling.
“Mmm, yes, it was.” We moved to stand next beside one another, each of us holding a foot. We crouched to steady our legs, leaned back, and pulled with all our might. There was a terrific thump as we both pulled so hard that we flew backward a whole yard and landed on our behinds. We each had a slipper in our hands and as we sat up, we grinned and high-fived using the shoes instead of our hands. Then we looked at Rory, expecting to see his cheesy feet and hear a ‘thanks guys.’
Instead Rory’s feet were waving in the air, still shod in the golden, glittering slippers, which winked and twinkled in the sunshine. I looked at the shoe in my hand and as I stared, it turned to dust.
Icky! I flicked my hands and brushed them clean on my dress. It looked like whatever we did, we were stuck with these clothes and this hair until we managed to get back home.
Home. The word set me thinking. We’d already been through enough, and it wasn’t fair that Rory and I had even more to deal with.
Dad, Rory and I had been by ourselves since my mom left us, just after Rory was born. That was even before any of us knew what a pest he could be; back then, he was just a cute, helpless baby. One day she was there, the next she wasn’t. Weeks and weeks later, her older brother—our wonderful Uncle Don—had come to the house. He had introduced himself to Dad and then he gave us the terrible news. Mom had sent him an email. She had left us. She had simply decided that being a parent and a wife weren’t enough for her, and that she wanted to be free. Of course, I was only four years old so I don’t remember any of this, and Dad would never talk about it, but last year, Uncle Don sat down with Rory and me and said we deserved to know the truth. Boy, that was some afternoon!
Uncle Don sat on the edge of my bed. Rory sat on his lap, his arms wrapped around Uncle Don’s neck. He had always been fascinated by our uncle’s thick, auburn mustache. He kept trying to reach for it, but Uncle Don brushed his hands away.
“So, tell us about her, please Uncle Don,” I said. “Dad won’t be back for hours. Please. We want to know.”
“All right, Sabrina, if you’re sure.”
Rory and I both nodded. We were sure. We had a right to know what had happened, didn’t we? Was it us? Was it Dad?
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