In a moment between heartbeats and an instant between blinks, when my mind had released this world but not yet made it to the Dreamland, Good appeared.
"Let me tell you a story, little one," she whispered, and I nodded my permission because I loved listening to her voice.
"Once upon a time there was a princess who was as beautiful as dawn," she began. "Her feet were light as clouds and her skin as soft as summer rain, and wherever she turned her face there shone brilliant sunshine. So they called her Morning Star."
"What happened to her?" I asked, for even in that instant that wasn't an instant I knew no story had a happy ending.
"There was a Wolf," Good said, and that explained everything.
"It killed her," I posited.
"In a way," she said. Her blue eyes twinkled ever so faintly in the light of that place that wasn't a place and that time that wasn't a time. "But not quite. You see, the Wolf was evil, but he was a gifted mimic. He could appear as glory. Or pride. Or justice. Or pleasure. He kept his true nature concealed by living in the shadows, but because the princess was made of light he could never hide before her. In her presence, everyone saw him for what he was. He hated her for it."
I giggled at the idea of this Technicolor princess, but already a slowly seeping dread was leaking into the back of my heart for her. No one stood up to evil and got away with it. Especially when evil had good costumes.
"How could she be made of light?" I asked, each syllable a shifting cadence of time and personhood, the "how" adolescent and mellow, the "light" an effusion of ten different BBs, the "she" a child's bell-clear soprano, high and filled with wonder. "Wouldn't she just float away?"
"Well, she wasn't made of just light," Good confided, leaning forward to kiss my cheek. "But her essence was light. When she was happy, she glimmered like shooting stars brought close. When she was in love, she shimmered like a field of fireflies. Like the afternoon bursting through a thundercloud. And when she was angry...you should have seen her. She grew brighter and brighter until it was like there were two suns in the sky. There was no shadow deep enough for the Wolf then."
"It sounds like you loved her," I observed, hugging a teddy bear that became a Walkman that became a journal that became a smartphone.
Good's eyes were a sea of blue on shimmering blue that her smile didn't quite reach.
"She was one of my best friends," she answered. "I miss her all the time."
I patted her on the arm.
"I'm sorry about your friend. The Wolf seems very mean. Maybe she wasn't strong enough."
"But that's just the thing," Good replied. "She was. That's why she had to be the one to confront him. The Wolf had been a problem for a while, and all of Morning Star's friends decided that only Sunlight was up to the job of banishing Shadow. So they gave the task to her. Her duty was to battle the Wolf in the plain of the heavens, binding him there so he could never break free and visit his discord upon the Earth."
"But he did," I supplied, eyes as big as saucers.
"But he did," Good agreed solemnly. "He wasn't strong enough to kill the princess, but, like her, he knew how to use magic. So one day when the princess was wounded, the Wolf used a terrible spell that he'd been saving for that exact moment. A spell that hurt her very deeply, even though she didn't die."
Worse. WORSE, WORSE, WORSE, WORSE.
Wait, Good didn't say that. Who was it, then? I guess it doesn't matter.
But maybe it was me.
"Then what did the spell do?" I asked.
"It imprisoned her."
Good wiped her fingers beneath her eyelids and paused for a long moment.
"He made her forget who she was," she said finally. "And put her in a world where no one would understand her. Where she was no longer beautiful or powerful or terrible. At least not in the same ways. And he set two little wolves to guard her, just as she had guarded him. 'If she ever starts to remember,' he told them. 'Rip at her with the fangs I gave you, until she can think of nothing but your teeth and her fear.' Each bite pierced a little piece of her spirit. If they bit hard enough and long enough, he hoped, maybe they'd be able to bite her soul right out of her. What threat would she be then?"
"Well," I shook my head with my lips pressed together. "You might want to forget about your friend, because it sounds like he really offed her."
Good's laughter brought some of the hope back into the world and made me hear, as it always did, the faint ring of wind chimes.
"You know, I don't tend to write people off," she answered, her face transformed for a second by a mischievous grin. "And in any case, the princess had three things going for her. Strengths the Wolf couldn't take away, and that he was hoping she wouldn't learn how to use before he got loose of the chain she'd used to tie him to the stars."
"What were they?" I queried. I hadn't exactly been sold on this burning-princess thing at the outset, but Good was a total drama queen and she knew how to drive home a pitch. I was hooked.
"One," Good elaborated, raising a finger for theatrical effect. "She had a magical pen. Not one she could carry. But one deep inside. One that was part of her blood and her heart and her whole being. It made her a storyteller, even in this realm that was so foreign to her. And few people are more powerful than storytellers."
"Two," she continued. "She had a grandmother who loved her. And believed in her. And armored her in books and kisses and chocolate-chip cookies."
I guffawed at that one.
"How could a grand ma help you against an evil wolf with magic powers?" I shot with a cocked eyebrow. "No offense or anything. But I have a grand ma who does all that stuff and I've never caught her fighting any wolves."
Good stared at me for a long moment before enveloping me in a hug that felt like the heat from a summertime camp fire.
"Oh, but BB," she whispered. "There is no greater defense against the wolves of the world than a grandmother and her chocolate-chip cookies. This is one of those things you don't understand yet. You just have to trust me on it. Okay?"
I looked up at her careworn face with my eyes that were two, or maybe twelve, or maybe twenty-two years old, and I agreed.
"And three," Good finished. "Her magic was stronger than the Wolf's. Even with making her forget, and with putting her in that terrible place, and with sending his own wolves to hurt her, he knew he could only delay the time when she would come for him. One day, the sunrise inside her would grow so big and so bright and so wonderful that she would wake up. Remember it all."
"I guess that Wolf's really in for it then," I noted. "She's probably gonna be pissed."
Wind chimes and gentle glinting tears.
"I think you're right, BB."
"So when do you think that'll be?" I asked. "You know--when is she going to wake up?"
Good surveyed me evenly and then cast a glance to the edge of the void, where the faintest glimpse of dawn was spilling over the horizon.
"I guess whenever she's ready."