Cotton candy clouds and chocolate rivers… if only, right?

“Candyland is only a place in name” is what everyone says. “Hansel and Gretel couldn’t have visited a house of gingerbread. The birds would have eaten it.”

Doubters rule the world leaving Dreamers like me to wallow in, not the imaginary, the extraordinary. If it weren’t for the fact that Doubters prance across the great wide world with their eyes closed and their minds indisposed, they’d have discovered the wonder of Sugar Sweet Island.

It’s rare for a girl of seventeen to own her own piece of property the width of a hat, let alone an entire island. And boy, don’t I know the sweetness of privacy in a home overrun by two little brothers and their unruly Rottweiler that I kindly look after. My Doubter parents turning a blind eye to our home’s antics are the reason I’m so thankful for Sugar Sweet Island. It’s “Lisa, clean this!” or “Lisa, watch the kids do that… please.”

But I kind of have to thank the folks for the pressure. I can only visit my island in times of great stress, so give me a spill of fruit punch on the eggshell white carpet or ten closet racks full of chewed up shoes and I’m there. Not by entering a wardrobe or by exploiting fairy dust, no. I only have to fall asleep.

I know what you’re probably thinking — it’s all nothing but a good dream, the wishful subconscious thinking of a child. I’d expect that sort of reasoning from the Doubters among you, but I’d like to believe that there are still some who haven’t lost all faith in the inconceivable. Other Dreamers like me.

Anyways, I have proof of Sugar Sweet’s existence. When I wake from a visit, I can bring back pieces of candy cane trees with me, or a plucking of licorice grass, or a sugar bee manufactured waffle cone filled to bursting with ice cream snow slush.

But, lately, my island has been showing a different face: candy clouds melting with syrupy rain, contaminating the flowing chocolate, beds of red licorice turning black (not such a bad thing if I wasn’t averse to black licorice) right before my eyes, candy cane trees growing holey at their bases so that they topple and crumple into teeny-tiny shards that cut the tongue like razor blades.

On my next visit to Sugar Sweet, evoked by my brothers dousing the dog with mom’s leg hair remover, I make sure to arm myself with a weapon by clutching it in my hand as I drift to sleep. That weapon is a massive umbrella that once belonged to my great-great grandmother. They just don’t make umbrellas like they used to. The monster I’m transporting has survived hurricane winds and tsunami rains without so much as flipping belly-up into that annoying ‘U’ shape that can only serve as an oversized bowl.

When I get to Sugar Sweet, there is more damage than I could have ever imagined. Most of the trees are gooey peppermint skeletons, their gaps looking as revolting as rib cages poking through decaying corpses. The sticky sweet aroma that usually enticed me is now making me sick to my stomach. And the syrup is just falling and falling away, more than a drizzle, a relentless downpour.

I set up the umbrella on a slice of land that has managed to take the least harm from the rain. Right under the umbrella with a heart of steel, the last patch of red licorice, a circle of perfect crimson. The patch is being threatened by the black blades around it, suffering the risk of being blotted out.

Everything else trickles away.

I wake up from that dream visit on the day of my eighteenth birthday. Truly, I think nothing of the celebration while it’s happening, though it’s the one and only time besides Christmas when my parents sit down with us kids for more than half an hour. Through birthday cake and present unwrapping, I think of nothing but my dying island.

That night I can’t even attempt to return to Sugar Sweet because I have no stress (none evoked by my everyday job of being toy-sling fight referee anyway), only pleasant memories. Next day, the boys get into my stash of nail polish and dump all ten bottles onto a scrap of construction paper, attempting to create art. That night, it should have been easy to make a visit. But it doesn’t happen. Not ever. That thriving patch of red licorice under my great-great grandmother’s umbrella is the last clear memory I have of Sugar Sweet Island.

Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate. She went to school a veterinarian student and came out a writer, though she still spends plenty of time with animals. Her fiction has appeared in the Fast-Forward Festival and she has a poem forthcoming in Star*Line. Her first novel KOMORI is now available on Amazon.

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