Jake was still screaming, for quite a long time. He didn’t stop until he discovered his scream had taken on a musical quality. He felt a force upon him, something so strong he felt compelled to scream in notes.
The scream had been the thing that was drowning out the weirdness that surrounded him. But now it itself was a source of weirdness, so he shut his mouth very tightly, refusing to do anything. And once again reality jumped in.
The scene he found himself in was very strange. It was not the empty house he had been snooping around, and it certainly was not Crawley. And the people, if they could be called people, didn’t look particularly human. In fact he could’ve sworn that a group of paintings had been walking by, but he daren’t look in case it was real.
The only human looking face was the owner of the voice that had said that she was the Guild Mistress, whatever that was. And didn’t she say they were on the Guild Planet?! That was not a thought to dwell on. But there was a quality to her face that he didn’t like. Jake would have called it a manic stare. However to every other normal person it would be more accurately described as friendly and caring. Jake couldn’t even look at her clothes, they looked like something out of a medieval nunnery.
Even so, Jake averted his eyes to her hands. Hands were good, hands were safe. You could rely on hands because they can tell you a lot about someone, their age and occupation for instance. This Guild Mistress’ hands weren’t so bad; relaxed, artistic (he noticed paint flecks) and not a little strong. Perhaps he could trust her after all.
“Hello,” she said.
“Grrrnff,” he replied.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Nffng” He mumbled.
“Good. Well, perhaps you’d like a little explanation about this, er, situation?”
He replied with a dumb grin, not sure what to reply to that one. He didn’t think an explanation would make things any better. In fact he had been thinking about closing his eyes and willing himself to wake up. But somehow he knew it was futile and maybe by closing his eyes something even worse might appear when he opened them. He didn’t blink; instead his eyes took turns in blinking. That’s Jake, ever so economical.
“How are you feeling Jake?” asked the Guildmistress.
And for a moment Jake almost grunted or mumbled or squeaked something but instead he found his voice again, “Like I shouldn’t be here.”
The Guildmistress laughed, if you can call tinkling little bells laughter. “Not at all! You are meant to be here to begin your Journey.” Jake was surprised at this. Not at what she said but in how she said it; as in there was nothing sinister or malicious. Normally Jake would have found this very suspicious, but some barrier was broken down inside him and he genuinely felt OK with her.
She started walking away. Well it wasn’t exactly walking it seemed more like floating, and she beckoned Jake to follow. Jake didn’t even hesitate, he just followed. Followed down a looooong long hallway where no end of artistic types (and their art!) were walking up and down the hall.
“Jake,” she began “You have been chosen, because of your skill, for a task of great importance. The task of bringing Imagi-Nation into the world.”
“Imagination?” Asked Jake.
“No, Imagi, Nation. Although yes, they are much the same. Imagination is, after all, a realm in itself.”
“What? An unreal reality?”
“No! Not at all! It is very real indeed. It is imaginary, but certainly not unreal.”
“Fascinating”, Jake said, though he didn’t quite understand it.
“Anyway,” Jake started to retort, “What makes you think I can do this? I have as much imagination as, well…”
“An unimaginative person?” suggested a passing watercolour.
“Yes! See, I haven’t even got enough imagination for that !”
The Guildmistress, looking pensive, reached into the folds of her robes and took out a piece of paper, “I have evidence to the contrary.”
To Jake this sounded like a threat and he made a grab for the piece of paper, but the Guildmistress swiftly returned it the irretrievable realm of her robes.
“What is it?” he demanded.
“Something of yours, and if you promise not to take it from me I shall show it to you. OK?”
“mumblemumble OK mumblegrumble.” He replied reluctantly.
The Guildmistress brought out the piece of paper again and showed what was drawn on it. It was nothing but scribbles but Jake recognized it, it was a drawing that he had done as a kid, one of those random scribbles that don’t look like anything, though proud mums and dads would keep it and show it off as though it were a work of Da Vinci or Van Gogh. His mum had but he didn’t know where it went to when he’d grown up.
“But that’s not a proper picture, it’s just scribbles. You don’t need imagination to do that!”
The Guildmistress stopped suddenly in her steps, and began to berate Jake with such authority he couldn’t help but listen, “Jake Fish! You have too long forgotten the wonder of the world, you have forgotten your contact with Imagi-Nation. And that is why you are here.
“These ‘scribbles’ are something, even if you don’t recognise it. Jake, listen to me very carefully, when you were a child these scribbles were of something, something meaningful to you. You don’t recognise it now but you will. By the end of this journey you will make sense of these scribbles and see what is there to be seen. And then you will have found, once again, your connection to Imagi-Nation.”
She had said it in such a skillfully willful way that Jake could not reject it or avoid it. It was what it was and there was nothing Jake could do for it not to be. The Guildmistress handed to Jake the paper, and Jake securely stowed it away in a pocket. Even if he didn’t believe in it he felt it would be important.
“Well, here we are! My office!” The Guildmistress indicated to Jake to turn around. And as he turned around there was a very simple door, only distinct by one little line in the wall. And at some unseen command it opened into a grand vista of the office and a big window behind it showing what lay outside the Guild Hall. And Jake was shocked.*
*by now you might be thinking of Jake “So what? That’s him.” But don’t you wonder that you might be shocked too?