“Aaaand N.T. with the win!”
The crowd went wild—-or, rather, Reid, Carli, and Talia went wild, cheering and dancing around, as N.T.’s sled crossed over the line drawn in the snow by Reid’s boot. Margaret trailed N.T. by a few seconds, sliding slowly on her toboggan and laughing at her own loss.
They had been playing in the snow for over an hour now, the five of them: Reid, who was covered head-to-toe in snow gear, so that all you could see of him was his brown cheeks and nose turned pinkish in the cold; Carli, who wore a tiny, white fur-lined coat and ear muffs, and blended in with the white of the snow and her hair with the green of the pine needles; Talia, who could only flutter so much in the crisp air before she needed to return to the shelter of N.T.’s rib cage, insulated beneath his feather-down jacket; Margaret, who was keeping up surprisingly well with the younglings, and kept laughing heartily; and N.T., who was just so happy to be goofing around with his friends like normal, and also looking forward to the warmth of the fireplace whenever their romp in the snow ended. Earlier that afternoon, they had ventured into the pines behind Margaret’s house and not too deep in, found this clearing among the trees with a slope perfect for sledding.
At first they sledded for fun, and Carli and Talia were hitching rides with Reid and N.T. because they were too small to sled solo. Margaret made snow angels and then began a snowman, which Reid jumped in to help her with while Carli gathered twigs for arms and a pine comb for the nose. She was even able to find some acorns and pebbles for facial features. Then N.T. and Reid began racing, and after N.T. won against Reid three times, N.T. challenged Margaret, who only refused a couple times before she was convinced by everyone to give it a try. She took Reid’s toboggan and gave a noble attempt, but N.T. on his flexible flyer was too quick!
Margaret was a gracious loser; she shook her head and smiled, standing up from the sled, and gesturing to N.T. with outspread arms; the bundled-up skeleton rose and took a happy bow, Reid’s clapping muffled by his gloves.
“Congrats! Congrats! You are truly undefeatable!” Margaret conceded, shaking N.T.’s gloved hand.
It had been two weeks since N.T. repaired the dream filter, and life had returned to what N.T. knew as normal. Already the adventure of the Encyclopedia of Dreams seemed like a distant memory, as N.T. awoke every day and began a new adventure of sorts. Today’s: snow fun with his best friends!
“It’s okay, Margaret. It’s not a fair contest anyway; N.T.’s got that enchanted sled!” Reid said to Margaret, smiling mischievously as he said it, so they would know he was only poking fun. Snow began to lightly fall, and a breeze brushed through them. The sun had been beaming all day, but now gray clouds began covering the sky.
“We didn’t enchant it!” Carli shouted defensively, fluttering among N.T., Reid, and Margaret. “We only fixed it! …By using magic.”
“Uh-huh, Carli, that sounds a lot like enchanting it,” Reid persisted, his tone heavy with teasing. He smiled and sniffled.
Margaret laughed again as Carli insisted the pine sprites could use magic without enchanting something.
“Carli, you don’t have to explain yourself,” Margaret said kindly to the sprite, who crossed her arms and bit the inside of her cheek. “Reid’s just having fun with you.”
N.T. listened to his friends banter, smiling at them, even though they didn’t notice N.T. and were absorbed in their playful argument about N.T.’s sled. After the night N.T. fixed the dream filter, Carli and her fellow pine sprites had found N.T.’s sled in the woods, where he had crashed it into the tree, and they had fixed it up for him as a thank you. While Carli claimed the sled had no special enchantments on it, N.T. felt that it rode suspiciously smoother and faster than before… Perhaps they are just intelligent engineers, he thought. It was a good sled anyway.
N.T. unzipped his jacket slightly and pulled his little memo pad from his inside pocket, and as he cracked his jacket open, Talia quickly fluttered inside it for warmth. Making sure she was fully inside his coat, he zipped it shut again, and then pulled his short pen from the spiral of the memo pad, jotting down a little note.
The rest of the crew were still discussing the logistics of a fast sled, and N.T. had to wave his arm to get their attention. Margaret noticed first, and they all turned to the skeleton.
THANK YOU ALL FOR SPENDING THE AFTERNOON TOGETHER, his note said. I’M JUST SO HAPPY TO BE WITH YOU ALL AND HAVING SO MUCH FUN.
Reid, who lived all the way in Spinesville and had made this special trip to meet up with them, agreed. “Yeah, this has been a blast. Thanks for getting us all together, bud,” Reid said, nodding and smiling brightly at the skeleton. N.T. could see his reflection in Reid’s goggles.
Carli also agreed and said, “It’s nice to hang out with you when the safety of the pines isn’t at stake! I’m able to enjoy myself better this way…”
Margaret chortled at Carli’s comment. “I can imagine!” Margaret chimed, and looked at N.T. with a meaningful gaze. The night he had fixed the dream filter, Margaret had received a cell phone call in the midst of her sleep, which was so rare an occurrence, that she answered it, only to hear high-pitched gibberish coming from the other side. After waking up a little more, Margaret had understood it to be Carli, who told Margaret that N.T. was fast asleep in his attic after an adventure she would just have to explain in person. She started to worry about him, and first thing the next morning, after the roads were plowed a little, Margaret voyaged to N.T.’s cabin. Margaret was happy that he was alive and well but merely asleep, and moved him to his bed. N.T. was asleep twelve whole hours before he finally woke up!
Margaret could almost not believe the story when Carli and N.T. shared the events with her. She had known her father was an inventor and a Dreamist, but a dream filter? She had never known the talk of her father’s wildest dreams and stories was a real, functioning machine! Although she wanted to doubt the Mr. Hadfield in the encyclopedia was her actual, deceased father, what they told of Mr. Hadfield sounded exactly like the man she knew… And so she allowed herself to believe.
“N.T., I’m glad for this day, as well,” Margaret, in the snowy clearing of the pine grove. Margaret went in for a hug, and soon, she felt Reid joining in, and a little tiny Carli arm reaching as far as she could to hug their necks.
The snowfall picked up as they embraced each other. It hadn’t snowed nearly as much since the blizzard the evening of the Encyclopedia of Dreams, and the day after that crazy blizzard, as Margaret was watching the news, meteorologists were baffled by the snow storm of the decade that had come out of nowhere—-well, seemingly nowhere.
N.T. had not shared this information with anybody, but since his voyage into the encyclopedia, N.T. had dreamt of Mr. Hadfield. They were dreams that took place in skewed versions of Eveland and Hatfield—-skewed by N.T.’s own subconscious perceptions—-and always N.T. was surprised to run into Mr. Hadfield. When he woke up, N.T. often wondered if he were seeing the same dream version of Mr. Hadfield that was in the encyclopedia, or if it were merely N.T.’s dream creation of Mr. Hadfield.
He had dreamt of Mr. Hadfield only three times, but it was often enough for N.T. to think it was important. After N.T. found out he was created from a dream of Mr. Hadfield’s, N.T. had wondered what he would say to the man should he ever see him again. Why did Mr. Hadfield dream of a skeleton? Was N.T. similar to the skeleton of Mr. Hadfield’s dreams? Was there any way N.T. could encounter Mr. Hadfield’s dream skeleton, maybe in the Encyclopedia of Dreams?
N.T. wondered all that, but when he saw Mr. Hadfield in his dreams, he always forgot to ask the man those questions. In fact, when he woke up, N.T. could hardly remember what he and Mr. Hadfield discussed, although he could always at least remember that Mr. Hadfield wasin his dreams. But most of all, more than the questions he wanted to know about his origin, N.T. really just wanted to thank Mr. Hadfield. If Mr. Hadfield had never dreamed of N.T., had never believed in him or loved him, the skeleton would not even exist, and N.T. was so thankful for that. But N.T. also knew that while Mr. Hadfield had more or less invented N.T., it was the beautiful universe N.T. lived in that allowed for any of this—-this miraculous world, the beauty of science and phenomena, the brilliance of nature and life—-to exist at all. And so every day when N.T. woke up, he thanked the universe with a smile for providing him a microcosmic place within it all, within this crazy big life.
It was also this quality in N.T. that brought such joy to the lives of the people who opened their hearts to him, and the quality that made his life so fulfilling. He was grateful to share it with others who also found the light in life, and as he reflected on all this, amidst the embrace with his friends, that a few quick tears of happiness formed in his eye holes.
As they pulled away from each other, the wind kicked up, and N.T. quickly wiped his face with his hand.
“Looks like maybe we should call it a day, folks!” Margaret commented, rubbing her mittened hands together for warmth, her cheeks blown bright red.
Reid nodded quickly. “I concur. I could really use a warm beverage right now, to warm me up…” He looked between N.T. and Margaret, clearly dropping a hint.
“All right,” Margaret smiled. “Hot chocolates at my place!”
N.T. gave an enthusiastic thumbs up, but Carli said she had to get going home. “I’d love to join you all, really, but I think I should get back to the pine sprites before this snow gets any worse… Ever since the ‘Adventure,’ my sister has been all over me making sure she knows where I am.” Carli rolled her eyes at the thought of her protective sister, but waved it away quickly.
“Aw, your sister loves you,” Margaret said, then added, “Well that’s fine, you’re welcome over any time!”
“Yup, ask her to enchant my sled too!” Reid said, and walked over to his toboggan and picked it up, while N.T. collected his flexible flyer.
Carli pointedly ignored Reid’s comment. “Well, thanks for the invite. I had a lot of fun! Get home safe,” Carli chirped, and the rest of the group waved and bid her goodbye, and then they turned their separate ways, Carli fluttering off deeper into the pines, and Margaret, Reid, and N.T. (with Talia in his coat) back towards the road and Margaret’s house.
As they trudged through the snow, the snow falling in heavy, large flakes in the early evening, Margaret turned to Reid.
“How has Spinesville been?” Margaret asked, after a few moments of quiet. N.T. had been wondering the same.
Reid, who knew vaguely of N.T.’s recent dream pursuit, thought carefully. “It’s been kind of the same…” He paused and continued, “Actually, I have noticed a few things that are kind of better. Little things, but still just unordinary enough to be noticeable. Like, my neighbor has always disliked me and my housemates, but a couple weeks ago when we got smacked with that blizzard, he helped me get my car unstuck from the driveway. My car was buried. We only had a shovel, so he brought his snow-thrower and a bucket of salt over. I wouldn’t have been able to get to work if he hadn’t helped.”
Margaret nodded, and N.T. smiled, and he started skipping along—-which was difficult, because the snow was pretty deep and his boots sank with every stride. But N.T. was delighted to hear this small good deed, because Reid had talked about that neighbor before. N.T. hadn’t been to Spinesville more than once since the dream filter was repaired and re-aligned, but he always hoped and believed the best for the town.
N.T. pulled out his memo pad and quickly wrote, EVERY GOOD ACTION MATTERS. He showed it to Margaret and Reid, who shared similar sentiments.
Then, clearly eager for the warmth of Margaret’s house and the hot drink, he wrote OKAY, LAST ONE TO MARGARET’S HAS TO MAKE THE HOT CHOCOLATES! And after flashing it to the other two, he took off running towards the house.
“Just because you won at sledding doesn’t mean you can win on foot!” Reid called, and took off, trailing N.T.
Margaret shouted after them, “As if there was any scenario in which I wasn’t the one making the hot chocolates!” She trotted behind them, bringing up the rear of their snow dash, N.T. and Reid grinning into the wind and the snowflakes as they ran back to Margaret’s house, weaving through the pines…
Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real, you wondered if it really happened? Have you ever had a dream that was so important to you, so vivid and compelling, that you wished it was real, or could be real? At one time, Ned Theodore Ed was merely a thought, a whimsy of the heart and mind, conceived in a brain of an insignificant person, who wondered if he could even exist at all. But it is the power of dreaming, and the power of believing, and a whole lot of bravery and perseverance, that made it so today, we have the pleasure of knowing and loving our dear skeleton, N.T. Ed, who is very much so real to us.
Read the entire Encyclopedia of Dreams series!
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