Cobble. Stone. Cobble. Unmph! That’s a back. Snappy’s back. Oops. Another reason for her to send me away.
“Sorry,” I begin to sing.
“Careful,” Snappy snaps. Snappy’s eyes disappear behind her lids. “You don’t want to get disoriented here, Penelope. Focus.”
Her arm is heavy. She places it on my shoulders, knocking my head down to the cobble. Cobble. Stair. I lift my foot onto the roughened red step. Door. Door? The… institute… for the… M.I. The M.I. Institute helps people like you. Snappy said that.
“Penelope,” Snappy says. “Let’s go!”
The door holding the sign has slid open, and she’s inside, pointing at a chair. She’s rolling her eyes again. So, I scuffle over and plop down. She kneels beside me, looks me in the eye.
“I’m signing you in and taking a piss. DO NOT MOVE. Pancake, you listening?” She asks.
“Do not move, Pancake,” I say. And, I won’t move… maybe if I make her laugh more, she’ll take me home. I look to the sky and shake my head wildly.
“Really? Is that supposed to be me?” She asks. She stands back up, and off she goes… Oh! His eyes are pools of light green secrets, fire breathing boys, and chocolate. Wait. He’s moving too fast. If I could just catch him. Up, up, up. I leave the natural light of the waiting room and crash into a fluorescent-filled hall, lined with beds and wheelchairs.
A fire breathing boy had water aerobics yesterday and boiled all his classmates. Then, a chocolate girl let them drink from her fingertips. Bleh. Hmm, but chocolate. Green Pools waves his hand in front of a metal pad, beside a door, and it swings open.
“Excuse me,” someone is calling from behind me.
The door shuts behind him. I wave my hand and Unmph! The door didn’t open; maybe I’ve done it wrong. Circle motions. Mmm mmm. It won’t budge. I wave my hand in front of the pad. Aaah! My heart thumps in my throat. A blonde woman covered in cartoons stands to the left of me.
“Excuse me,” she says. “I didn’t mean to startle you, Darlin. What’s your name?”
I hope she makes this easy. It’s almost lunch. “Pancake,” I say.
“Are you hungry, Darlin?” she asks.
“No,” I say. I look to the woman’s left, but what I need is at my right. There, the keypad. I point at it and look at her. “In?”
“You’d need a key. Come with me. I’ll get you situated. We can get you some pancakes?” She says.
She’s looking at me funny. “Pancake eats pancakes.” I follow behind her, taking a look at the keypad and door.
“I see, you are a pancake,” she says.
What? That can’t be her name?
“Yes. Pancake,” I say and point at the nameplate swinging across my chest. She looks down and nods.
“Penelope, what a pretty name,” she says. We stop in front of a room, and she unlocks the door. “Go ahead and take a rest. I’ll bring you something to eat and find out where you’re supposed to be.”
I walk into the room. There are stark white walls. Walls like beds, quilted. Quilted floors and ceilings too, far too empty. I don’t like it. I turn around, but the door’s been closed. I slap at the window. The cartoon covered woman sits at a desk. She’s on the phone. She looks up and places her finger over her mouth. Slap. Slap. Slap. She looks up, a vein pumping on the side of her neck to the rhythm of my protest. Where’s Snappy? She’d get me out. How? I catch Cartoon’s eyes, look into the air, and shake my head. “Cartoon, let’s go!”
Thump. Thump. Thump. A fist pounds on the window from the right. “Keep it down in there!” His voice rumbles like thunder. “If I have to open this door…”
Open the door. “Yes. Green Pools isn’t in here!” I say. Slap. Slap. Slap. I move; I find trouble; I get out of trouble, make Snappy proud.
Thump. Victory, he’s opening the door and bringing the Cartoon with him. See, no help needed. Snappy and I go home. I step back to let them in. The door swings open. Pancake! Doh! I slap my hand to my head. I back away from Thunder. He’s holding an uncomfortable-looking needle. How is this helping? Snappy can’t leave me here, can she? Wait, Snappy! Pancake!
“Snappy calls for pancake,” I say.
“We’ll make this real snappy. I got some syrup right here,” the man says as he advances.
“Careful, don’t spook her,” Cartoon says.
The dragon boy can fly, who knew. I have the worst headache, can’t seem to pick up my thoughts. Green pools! Green pools!
“Pancake! Pancake!” I yell. No, “Green… Snappy! Snappy!”
“What’s going on in there?” Green Pools asks.
“Hey, that’s my sister!” Snappy yells.
“No worries, doc,” Thunder says, grabbing my arm and plunging the needle in.
“Wait,” Green Pools calls out, as he comes in from the hall, Snappy behind him.
“Snappy!” I slur, “Please, I’ll be good. Take me home”
“I’m right here, Pancake,” Snappy says.
What did he put in my arms; it’s dancing in there. I’m so sleepy. Is this a dream? I can’t keep my…
The back of the sofa shines brown and squeaks under the pressure of Snappy squeezing at its fluff. Brandon, Moxie, Ari. Dragon, Chocolate, Snow. Chocolate dragons in the snow. “Ha,” I say, cupping my mouth with my hands.
“I hope this won’t stop you from staying at The Institute for the Magically Inclined,” Green Pools says. “I have the perfect group for her.”
“Snappy stays too?” I ask, sitting up.
“So dramatic,” Snappy says. “When have I ever just left you… anywhere?” We look up at the ceiling and shake our heads. She turns back to Green Pools and says, “Have many chocolate dragons in this group?”
“You’ll fit right in with the other families,” Green Pools says.
India Kinaire is a novelist out of Virginia. While her focus is fantasy, she enjoys writing mysteries and blending unexpected genres. Kinaire has also explored songwriting over the years. She is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Full Sail University.