We moved slowly down the dark back roads in the direction of home. Like a boat on a quiet stream, we drifted. The road like a wet canal in front of us, lined with trees. Large twisted silhouettes leaning down to peer in through the windows as we passed. They whispered to each other in the night concerning what they saw. “I saw a father and two children”, “Two girls”, “The oldest is sleeping”, “The younger as well”, “No. She’s awake, just sick with a fever. She is dreaming but she is awake.” The voice of the trees rippled in the shadows as the car drove on. “Can they hear us?”, “No”, “Perhaps the child.”, “Yes, the child.”
The young girl was in fact awake. Was in fact listening. Bundled under a blanket with a loose pink stocking cap pulled down to her eyelids, she gazed straight ahead into the night. Dreaming. Speaking occasionally in fevered delusions.
She had begged to come along on this adventure. I had reluctantly agreed. We had been called out late in the evening to rescue a friend from the trials of a dead car battery. So, we had packed the car and sailed away on our mission. The young girl watched anxiously as her father pushed a giant metal whale from its cave. Watched it sparkle like a dark brick of ice in the dim star light. And then watched on in awe as he reanimate its mass using grinning cables that sparked and growled. She had sat, bundled in her blanket fort and had watched her father perform the mysterious incantations. The stomps, ceremonial head scratching. Finally the whale had coughed. The whale had come to life. It hummed a long “Thank you”, and waving into the night the tired crew was off again. Sailing home through the gossiping trees.
I turned and looked at her and saw her dark shadowed face smile sleepily. “Thank you for letting me come, Daddy.” She said softly.
“Of course.” I said in quiet reverance to the night sky overhead. “Thank you for coming.” I released my grip from the wheel and reached my hand into the backseat. I searched the folds in the blanket till I found her hand. A small cool flower with boney petals. It squeezed my fingers, watching the road magically drift by in front of us.
We sat like that for a few moments before she continued. “Dad.” She said softly.
“It’s good that our car can drive itself home on its own.”
I nodded, as we slowly rounded a corner. The steering wheel seemingly turning by its own cosmic power. An enchanted machine, in an enchanted world. A world of mystery and magic and constant surprises. “Yes Lydia.” I glanced over my shoulder. “That is amazing.”
Her tiny eyes were already closed. Her dreams now mingled with dreams. I squeezed her hand once more and continued sailing.