Mackenzie heard her name called in the distance from a strangely familiar voice. She did not know where she was headed amongst the large cottonwood trees, she just knew to keep walking towards the warm voice. Reaching out her hands to either side, the waist-high grass along the skinny game trail tickled her wrists and palms as she walked. She paused while a startled cicada buzzed across her path. Fragrant wildflowers, whose aroma drifted on the warm air of summer, were interspersed amongst the grass.
She came upon a clearing from where the voice seemed to beckon. The clearing contained a circle of evergreen trees in a field of yellow and fluffy white dandelions. She looked down at the weeds with a smile on her face. Oh, dandelions. I just love them so much. Mackenzie entered the circle and saw several small boulders and stumps large enough to sit on. She brushed off one of the stumps, to be sure it was free of debris, and took a seat. A firepit, surrounded by large rocks with leftover coals from a recent fire, lay in the center of the makeshift seats. It felt like a good place to Mackenzie, as if she belonged.
A whisper from another voice could be heard on a cold breeze that brushed against her body. Goosebumps spread across her arms and legs. “Mackenzie — Mackenzie. Do not stay there. You belong with me.”
“Who’s there? Who said that?”
Standing up, Mackenzie slowly moved in the direction of the whisper. She was scared, yet drawn toward the whisper. She walked beyond the circle of evergreens and onto another game trail leading into a dark forest. As Mackenzie entered the shadowy forest, the air suddenly became frigid. She could see her breath and felt alone amongst the dark trees. A blue glow was in the distance which she felt pulled towards.
“There you are. You should come with me, Mackenzie Granger,” said a voice behind her. Mackenzie quickly turned. A young woman dressed in black looked at Mackenzie with a warm smile. “Do not listen to her. Come, my dear child — Follow me back to where it’s warm.”
“Listen to who?” asked Mackenzie.
“The dark queen — The one who was calling you.”
Mackenzie turned and followed the young woman. They walked away from the blue light, out of the forest, and back into the warm circle of evergreens.
“Please, have a seat,” said the young woman as she motioned for her to sit.
Mackenzie sat down. The young woman, with a smile on her face, reached down and picked a fluffy white dandelion from the ground.
“Dandelions — unwanted by most — hold great power for those who know how to use them,” said the young woman.
“Power? What power?” asked Mackenzie.
“You will learn soon enough. After all, the fate of this world depends on it.”
“What are you talking about? Who are you? I feel like I know you somehow,” said Mackenzie.
“I am a friend, and I will explain soon. But now, you need to wake up and get ready for school.” The young woman blew on the dandelion.
Mackenzie sat up in bed.
Mackenzie quickly rubbed her itchy nose. A little dandelion puff was now stuck to her hand. She brushed it off and watched it float to the comforter spread over her body. I guess that explains the dream. The silly little thing must have been tickling me.
Getting out of bed, Mackenzie started her morning routine and put on her standard dress school uniform, all the while thinking about her odd dream. It was “red” day at Harvest Lake Elementary School, a small public school where she attended fifth grade in Wichita, Kansas. Finding her red shirt, she stretched the collar down and over her sandy blonde hair. She put on her khaki shorts and pulled a pair of knee-high socks, which had a very bright yellow flower pattern on them, over her rather skinny legs.
After dressing, Mackenzie let out a huge yawn, stretched her arms above her body as far as they would go, and headed to the kitchen to eat breakfast. She finished eating and loaded into the family van with her two little twin sisters and mother. The van pulled up to Mackenzie’s school and dropped her off.
Mackenzie grabbed her backpack and sprinted to her class, her bag flopping on her back as she ran. She sat down at her desk just as the bell rang. A peculiar girl was sitting in the usually empty seat next to her.
The girl had near-black hair with a noticeable white streak in front, as well as very light, almost pasty, skin. The girl was not in a school uniform like everyone else, but, instead, she wore a black lace dress. Mackenzie found this odd but thought maybe the new girl was unaware of the standard dress code since she was obviously new to the school.
The new girl looked over at Mackenzie, made eye contact, and gave a little wave with her fingers. “Hi, I’m Guinevere,” the new girl said softly.
Mackenzie smiled and said, “Hey.”
Guinevere smiled back.
The class continued until it was time for morning recess. Everyone headed outside to the playground. At recess, Mackenzie headed over to her favorite area by the playground fence where she often played by herself. She smiled at the ground and began to spin around in one spot in the midst of hundreds of weeds. Most of them were blooming. Some were purple, some were pink, but most were yellow: yellow dandelions, Mackenzie’s favorite.
Mackenzie stopped twirling. Her hair had forced its way in front of her face. She tucked it behind her ears.
Guinevere was standing five feet away from her and staring.
“What are you doing?” asked Guinevere.
“Nothing,” said Mackenzie, slightly embarrassed.
“Can I join?” Guinevere asked.
“I mean — I guess so,” replied Mackenzie.
“Awesome!” shouted Guinevere as she began twirling as fast as she could.
Mackenzie didn’t quite know what to do at first. She decided to start twirling as fast as she could as well. They both started laughing uncontrollably, all the while twirling until they both fell down.
“What a beautiful garden you have!” proclaimed Guinevere.
Mackenzie had a huge smile on her face. “Thanks! I’m Mackenzie, by the way.”
“Have we met?”
Mackenzie was confused and gave Guinevere a strange look. I don’t remember telling her my name or ever meeting her.
Guinevere continued. “Is it magical? It looks magical to me.”
“Your garden. Is it magical?”
“Uh — I don’t know. How can you tell?”
“Pick a dandelion, blow on it, and make a wish.”
Mackenzie picked a yellow dandelion and was about to blow on it, when Guinevere said, “No, silly. Not the yellow ones — the ones with the white puffs on them.”
“Oh — Okay,” said Mackenzie. She searched until she found a white dandelion puff. She was about to blow on it when she remembered her dream. “Weird. I had a dream about a woman blowing on a dandelion last night — It was so strange."
“Dreams can be magical too. They know your heart just like wishes do. It’s okay — Just make a wish. Be sure to close your eyes though!” she said with excitement.
Mackenzie nodded her head, closed her eyes, and put the dandelion puff up close to her puckered lips. She blew as hard as she could. The puffs flew off the dandelion and drifted away on the Spring breeze.
“What did you wish for?” asked Guinevere.
Mackenzie replied, “I wished I could talk to animals like in a book my mom reads to me.”
Guinevere said, “Well — this should be interesting.”
“What?” asked Mackenzie.
“Your wish — It should be interesting.”
“If you say so.”
Someone yelled, “Hey, stay on my left!” Mackenzie looked around but didn’t see anyone.
“Did you hear that?” she asked Guinevere.
“Hear what?” Guinevere answered.
“I thought I heard someone yell, ‘stay on my left’,” Mackenzie said, quite perplexed.
“Maybe they were above you.” Guinevere raised her eyebrows and pointed to the sky. Mackenzie looked up.
A flock of geese flew in a “V” formation above the schoolyard. Mackenzie could swear she heard the lead goose say, “I said stay left!” Mackenzie’s mouth opened wide in disbelief.
“Can you hear them too?” Mackenzie exclaimed.
“Yes,” replied Guinevere. “They are very loud.”
“You can hear them talk?” asked Mackenzie, still in shock.
Guinevere looked at Mackenzie and said, “Talk? Of course. I use dandelion magic all the time.”
The bell rang. Recess was over and everyone started running to get in a single file line to head back inside. The two girls ran together.
“My friends call me Gwennie. So, call me Gwennie,” Guinevere yelled to Mackenzie as they ran.
“Okay, Gwennie,” Mackenzie said, still in disbelief at what just happened.
Mackenzie stood in front of Gwennie in line. Turning around to smile at her new friend, Gwennie was no longer there. Where did she go? thought Mackenzie. Recess was over and they were in class. The desk next to Mackenzie was empty.
Mackenzie raised her hand and interrupted the teacher. “Mr. Jones!”
Mr. Jones replied, “Yes?”
“The new girl didn’t come back from recess,” Mackenzie explained with a little worry, hoping her new friend had not become lost somehow.
“What new girl are you referring to?” Mr. Jones asked.
“Gwennie — Guinevere — the girl who was sitting by me,” Mackenzie explained while pointing at the empty desk. The class started to giggle.
“I’m not sure what you are trying to pull, Miss Granger, but it is time to start class. It’s not like you to make things up. Are you feeling okay? Do you need some water?” asked Mr. Jones.
“No, Mr. Jones. I’m fine — I think,” she said with flushed cheeks as she sank down in her chair trying to hide from her classmates. Mackenzie fought back tears as she was quite confused and embarrassed.
As the day went on, Mackenzie wondered what had happened. She asked several students if they had remembered seeing the new girl. Most of them thought she was being silly, but none of the other students knew what she was talking about. Where was Gwennie? thought Mackenzie. And, why did no one remember seeing her?
Mackenzie was too distracted to pay attention during class. She kept wondering if she felt okay. Did she hit her head during recess and didn't remember? Finally, the last bell rang and school was over.
She walked with her class outside to the pickup lane assigned to each classroom. Mackenzie’s mother had the passenger van window open and was trying to get her attention. Mackenzie, after being paged several times, headed to the open side door of the van and got in. “Sorry. My brain condition is acting up I think.”
“Brain condition?” her mother asked.
“Yes, it‘s acting up today.”
“You don’t have a brain condition,” her mother said as Mackenzie was placing her backpack on the floor of the van.
“Oh — well — that’s disappointing,” Mackenzie answered. Her mother smiled a little, perhaps thinking her daughter was just being quirky.
They picked up her younger twin sisters from daycare. Once home, Mackenzie got out of the van and said, “Come on you two, let’s go play in the backyard.”
Beatrice and Bridget, who Mackenzie called Bee and Birdie, were her “non-existent”, twin three-year-old sisters. Mackenzie often pretended to be an only child. Sharing is easier for Mackenzie when she’s alone.
“Well, I’ll be. Thanks for noticing your sisters — Maybe you do have a brain condition,” Mackenzie’s mother said.
Her mother gave Mackenzie a little grateful hug before the three young girls ran off to the backyard to play. The twins started playing on and around their large backyard fort. The fort was completely surrounded by a field of yellow dandelions which Mackenzie often referred to as her “garden.”
Mackenzie climbed up and into the fort where she sat down with her feet dangling over the ladder. Can I really talk to animals? Was Gwennie even real? She began to look for the animals around her.
A bright red cardinal landed in a beautiful crab tree covered with dark pink flowers on the other side of the fence surrounding their backyard. The cardinal began singing a little song.
“Look at me, I’m so pretty indeed,” the cardinal sang.
Mackenzie smiled and said directly to the cardinal, “You are pretty.”
The cardinal, surprised Mackenzie could talk to him, stared at Mackenzie with his eyes wide open and screamed at the top of his lungs, which is rather unusual for cardinals.
Mackenzie, who was surprised at the screaming cardinal, screamed as well. The cardinal quickly flew off.
Mackenzie’s mother came running out of the house. “Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yes, Mom. Just talking to the animals,” replied Mackenzie.
“Okay. Maybe talk to them with a little less screaming,” her mother said and walked back into the house.
A screaming cardinal. This is, by far, the weirdest day of my life!
Mackenzie saw and heard the sliding glass door on the back of the neighbor’s house open. A large red-hued golden retriever ran out and started running and sniffing around in the neighbor’s backyard.
The dog’s name was Barkley and he belonged to Jacqueline Jackson, Mackenzie’s best friend. Jacqueline went to a different school: a local science magnet school. The two girls often played together on the weekends.
Barkley headed over to the fence where Mackenzie and the twins were playing. Mackenzie could easily see him from the fort.
“Hi, Mac!” said Barkley.
“Hi, Barkley!” Mackenzie said with a huge smile on her face.
“Oh, we can understand each other! You must have met Gwennie!” exclaimed Barkley who started wagging his tail.
“Yes. I met Gwennie. At least I think I did. I’m still pretty confused.”
“Well, you must have met her, because you are talking to me. I’ll let the other animals around here know so they don’t freak out when you chat with them. Hey, Mac! Do you want to play catch? I love to play catch. Remember when we played catch?” Barkley asked with enthusiasm.
“Yes, I remember. Maybe later. I have a lot to think about right now.”
Barkley trotted up to the fence and started smelling through the fence holes. He said to Mackenzie, “Is that the two little puppies I smell?”
“Yes, your sisters,” said Barkley.
“Yes,” she laughed. “The twins are down there.”
“Thought so. You take care of them,” Barkley said energetically. The sliding glass door opened up again; Mr. Jackson could be heard yelling, “Hurry up, Barkley!”
“Okay, I have to go,” explained Barkley.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to the bathroom. Please don’t watch. We dogs do like a little privacy, you know,” said Barkley with a bit of a whisper.
“Okay, I’ll turn my head,” she said.
After a rather awkward few seconds, Barkley yelled as he started running to his house. “Done! See you later, Mac!”
Barkley ran back inside the house. Mr. Jackson was in the doorway and waved. Makenzie smiled and politely waved back.
After the twins played for a while and Mackenzie sat and listened to the animals, it was time to go inside. The family ate dinner together. When they finished, it was almost time for bed.
Mackenzie was now in her favorite flower-print pajamas. The lights were off in her room, the hallway light was on, and she was lying in her bed with the comforter pulled up to the middle of her chest. She stared at the ceiling with a huge grin on her face.
Everyone in the house was asleep, except Mackenzie. Wow! What a day. A very strange day. But, what a day! she thought. She looked over at her little device which had a digital clock on it. It read 12:00 am. Oh no. I’ve got to go to sleep. I’ve got school tomorrow.
There was scratching at her window.
Mackenzie’s heart began pounding in her chest as she pulled the comforter quickly up to her neck. She was frightened. The scratching turned into a soft tapping. It was the same tapping sound over and over. Da da da da da…da da. Her heart began to slow down, as she was less frightened now. In fact, she had become a little curious about what or who was at her window.
A muffled little voice, with what sounded like a Boston accent, whispered, “Mac Danger? Are you there? Open up. They need to talk to you.” She slowly got up enough courage to slide out of bed, stand up, and creep to the window where the whisper and tapping were coming from. When she was about five feet from the window, she suddenly saw two bright, gold eyes staring at her. Unable to move, unable to talk, Mackenzie stood petrified with fright.
“Oh — it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. I’m friends with Gwennie,” the muffled voice whispered.
Gwennie? Not this again.
Mackenzie, her eyes opened as wide as they could go, started to slowly scoot her feet in little steps to move her ever closer to the window. As she neared, she could tell the voice came from a small form. It took her a few seconds, but she suddenly recognized the familiar shape. It was a raccoon. Thank goodness!
It was not a small raccoon. She could tell it was quite plump. Relieved it was not a terrifying creature of some kind, Mackenzie was less scared now. But, still, a talking raccoon was tapping on my window, she thought. Then again, all animals seem to talk to me now. I really need to get used to talking animals.
She was not exactly sure what to do at this point. Against her better judgment, she decided to open the window so she could hear the plump creature a little clearer. As quietly as she could, she unlocked the window and slowly lifted it open.
Once Mackenzie had the window fully open, the raccoon said to her, “I’m supposed to give you this. The screen is in the way. Can you take it off?”
“I guess,” she said with a little hesitation. Mackenzie started slowly and quietly undoing the little clips on the screen panel. Finally, she was able to pull the screen completely off.
“Here,” the raccoon said. The raccoon laid something on the window sill. “There are a lot of these out here. I’ve never seen so many in one yard.” The object was a white, puffy dandelion. The raccoon paused and continued, “You are supposed to use dandelion magic and go talk to them.”
“Talk to who?” asked Mackenzie.
“You know — them. That’s what Gwennie told me to tell you,” the raccoon replied as he started to leave.
“Wait. Is Gwennie real?” Mackenzie asked.
“As real as me."
“That is not very reassuring. What is dandelion magic?” she asked.
“You should know, after all, you are talking to me, aren’t you?”
“Yes. But how do I go talk to them?”
“Just wish to be with Gwennie.” The raccoon paused for a few seconds. “Are you sure you are Mac Danger?”
Mackenzie replied, “My name is Mackenzie Granger.”
“Oh — close enough. Good luck. My name is Tubby, by the way. I’ll see you around.” Tubby the raccoon climbed down, rather awkwardly, and slowly crawled away into the dark.
“What is going on?” Mackenzie asked herself. “What do I do? Wish to be with Gwennie? Maybe I don’t want to. I hardly even know her. Does she even exist? Is this real?”
Mackenzie grabbed the dandelion from the window sill. She put the screen back on and closed the window as quietly as she could. Turning, she put her back against the wall and slid down right next to the window.
She sat there in her somewhat dark room for several minutes, taking in all the events from today and tonight: having a wish come true, listening and talking to animals, and meeting Gwennie at school.
Mackenzie opened her hand and looked at the dandelion she was holding. There was enough light coming into her room from the hallway that she could see the flower with its little puffy seeds attached to the stem as it sat in her open hand. It never occurred to her that such a small thing could hold so much power.
She grasped the dandelion with both hands around the stem, the puffy white seeds sticking out above her hands. Mackenzie got up some courage and took a deep breath. Closing her eyes, she wished she was with Gwennie and blew as hard as she could.
“Oh, good. She made it,” Mackenzie heard someone say.
She heard another, somewhat familiar voice say, “I knew she would!”