Illustration by Harris Burdick
It all began when someone left the window open.
*A SMALL NOTE: This website won’t cooperate with me and do proper indenting for each new paragraph. If this bother you while reading, I apologise greatly. It bothers me, too, as I spent a great deal of time writing this only to not have the indents anymore. I hope you still manage to find enjoyment in my work. Thank you!*
THE PALE CURTAINS fluttered against the bedroom wall as the wind blew by the open window. It was a cooler summer night, as compared to the three day heat wave they had had. Breezes felt soothing today.
Zach was seated at his desk, positioned beside the window. On his wooden desk were numerous writing utensils; a stack of lined, loose-leaf paper; a lighted, grey desk lamp; and a container with paintbrushes of various sizes. Few haven’t been touched, but many brushes were stained with dried paint. Scattered around the main working area were tiny bits of erasers, a blue handheld pencil sharpener, and some broken graphite tips that never made it to the floor below.
Getting yet another writer’s cramp in his hand and wrist, Zach put his pencil beside the short stack of papers in front of him and stretched out his fingers. As an artist and a writer, it was a feeling he was all too used to having. One would find him, more often than not, in his room sitting at his desk, either writing or making a picture. Whether it be old or new, Zachariah Lee was always working on one of his unfinished creations.
He had taken an interest in art from a young age. In first grade, while his other classmates would moan and cringe at the mention of their art class, Zach would always be the first to show even a little excitement, let alone immense interest. He put the most effort into his art assignments and projects, making Miss Chang proud every Monday and Thursday class. His interest, and enjoyment, kept climbing as he aged and the art of fiction writing introduced itself to him. It started at four-sentence adventures about a shark and a jellyfish and evolved into short stories popular around the junior class. The visual and creative arts had become Zach’s passion throughout his life, and he was determined to keep it that way.
As of right now, Zach was working on a detailed pencil drawing of a dove, using the wallpaper covering his room as a reference. The room, and the house, were outdated; the Lees hadn’t gotten around to redecorating completely just yet.
On the walls was a wallpaper that could have belonged to an “old cat lady”, as some would say. It was an odd forest green colour for the background, with paler green vines (that were the same colour as the curtains) twisting up and down the length of the walls. Over the vines were pure white faceless birds, their wings spread out away from their small bodies. If one stared at a group of birds for too long, they would begin to melt into amorphous heaps of white.
The furniture in Zach’s room was also white, in order to accommodate with the strange wallpaper; his dressers, his bed frame, the inside doors, and his desk matched the “doves” along the walls. The aforementioned curtains were different, more of a pale green or a “seafoam green”.
While he had admitted the antiqued wallpaper did not mirror his personal taste, Zach had eventually grown fond of the birds. He always had to explain them to new (and sometimes recurring) friends.
“Before we bought the house,” he had explained, “it belonged to some old lady when this wallpaper was still in fashion. We just never bothered to change it.” “I don’t care anymore, they don’t bother me.” “If you look at them a certain way, they look kinda cute.”
Suddenly very tired, he leaned against the back of his chair, observing the work he had done so far. He’d been working on this dove for two days now, and was starting to fill in details of the body. The feathers were nearly done on the tail, and he would soon be working his way up the bird’s body until he reached the face. There, he would make the eyes and detail the beak. With the current interruptions he was having (dinner, having to sleep, school, homework, etc.) the finished product should be in another couple of days.
Speaking of sleep, Zach looked at the alarm clock on his bedside table. The glowing white numbers read 12:35 A.M. No wonder he suddenly felt tired. He switched off his desk lamp, engulfing the room in darkness. But it wasn’t total darkness; because of the window, the orange light from the streetlights outside fell into the room and on the floor. The light cast funny shadows of various objects that happened to be in the way of the light streaming through the window. He blinked a few times to let his eyes get adjusted to the sudden dark after practically staring into a bright light for a few hours. Zach took one more look at the desk before telling himself, “No, I’ll just work on it tomorrow.” Obeying his own command, he slipped under the sheets of his bed and lay down, falling asleep quickly.
ZACHARIAH WAS SEATED at his desk, focused on his bird drawing. His friends Sam and Oliver were seated on his bed behind him, talking amongst themselves. The room was exactly the same as it had been earlier that day; friends, Zach, drawing, all of it. The only difference, he noted, was that the window was closed.
Whatever they were talking about, however, was unclear to Zach. Their words sounded like they were speaking to him from under a pillow, as they were muffled to his ears. He was too focused on his artwork to be bothered with their plans.
His hand was moving quickly across the page to create the sketch, faster than he has ever drawn before. It was like a sped-up video of him drawing the bird over the course of two days, but it was happening all at once. Zach didn’t stop when he had the outline done, and went directly into the details of the feathers, starting at the tail. Soon enough―too soon―he was complete with the entire dove.
It was here he noticed that Sam and Oliver were gone. There was silence behind him now, and he hadn’t even seen Sam nor Oliver get up and leave his bedroom. Normally, one of them would say “goodbye” or tap him on the shoulder to get his attention in order to properly say goodbye. He lifted his head from the art and looked behind his shoulder, temporarily blinded from a bright sunbeam. The bed was unkempt and devoid of his friends. His head twisted around to look all around the room. And that’s when it happened.
It all began when someone left the window open.
The window had been shut when he last looked at it. Sam and Oliver had mysteriously disappeared out of his room; he never heard them leave or saw them stand up out of the corner of his eye. Zach tore his eyes from the open window to look back at his dove drawing.
That had gone, too.
For a moment, he panicked. Actually tearing up at the sight of a fresh, blank page, his mind raced with frantic thoughts. He just finished it. It was right here. Where could it have possibly gone? It was a drawing on a piece of paper! It can’t just have gotten up and flown away!
A shadow suddenly covered the beam of sunlight streaming through the window. When he looked, Zach saw a dove, similar to the ones on his bedroom walls. He remained still as the dove landed softly on the windowsill, silhouetted darkly by the sun. It then hopped into the room and onto the floor, staring up at Zach.
This was no ordinary dove, he noticed. It wasn’t pure white. Rather, it had grey streaks on its wings, allowing one to see the details of the feathers. The grey continued on its back, almost giving it a natural shadow. The dove appeared to be outlined in the same grey, almost giving it a visible “aura”, if you will. The outline, however, look slightly grainy, as if it was drawn on by a blunt tip of a pencil.
Zach could only stare in amazement at this peculiar bird, having now realised what it was and where it came from. He straightened, slowly, to look the blank page on his desk.
A flash of white flew by out of the corner of his eye, startling him. When Zach recovered from his jump, he saw the dove had landed on the desk, square in the middle of the page. Its pale wings flapped a little to adjust the feathers. It appeared to have a small smile on its face as it cooed, cocking its head to the left.
A slight smile on his face as well, Zach cautiously ventured toward the bird. It did not move. He pulled out the desk chair, scraping it against his hardwood floor in the process. He thought the noise would scare the dove, causing it to fly back out the window; the dove did not even blink.
Huh, he thought, this is odd. Why isn’t he flying away?
As a final test, Zach slowly reached forward, wanting to touch the bird’s soft-looking feathers. At this, the dove flew from its previous perch, but it flew up towards the ceiling. It circled around the space above Zach’s head.
He watched it with wonderment, mouth agape and smiling. Now that he realised that this was his creation, he felt a surge of pride. Somehow, he had managed to make his dove drawing come to life. It’s a shame that Sam and Oliver weren’t here to see this.
Sam and Oliver. He had completely forgotten about them. He stood up abruptly from his chair, knocking it over in the process and causing a loud thud.
AN ACHE IN his head, Zachariah moaned quietly and sat up where he was. Confused, he looked around, finding himself on the hardwood floor of his bedroom. His blanket was askew, half covering one of his feet, the other half hanging off of the edge of the bed.
It was all a dream… he realised as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The day didn’t go by as fast; in fact, it was still very early daytime when he glanced at his alarm clock. 2:16 A.M., read the glowing white numbers.
Once he was wide awake, Zach sprung up and checked his artwork-in-progress. Everything was exactly the way it had been when he went to bed earlier. The unfinished dove was still on the page, waiting for its artist to pick up the pencil and start drawing again.
Zach let out a sigh of relief and placed his hand over his palpitating heart. It was a dream after all. A feeling of bittersweetness swept suddenly over him. While he was glad that the dove in the picture didn’t actually fly away, he was so transfixed by it while it was happening in his dream. It was as if he was watching magic for the first time. Elated was the only way to describe how he felt.
A slight smile pulled at his lips as he stares down at his little creation. Even if he wasn’t able to make the bird actually fly off the paper, he still felt proud of what he was making. Maybe, if given the opportunity to have another phenomenal dream like that, he would be able to have the dove take flight once more.