Rated: E · Book · Children's · #1922493
A young boy writes himself an epic adventure...which starts to come true!
Jayden was off on a hunt for dragons. Most people didn't believe dragons really existed, but Jayden knew otherwise. Oh, he hadn't actually seen one for himself. But he believed.
Jayden lived in New Zealand, where the indigenous people, the Maori, believed in a dragon called a taniwha.
Jayden realised that if people from America or England or somewhere else were reading his story, they wouldn't know how to pronounce taniwha. He decided that it was best to explain - he hated it when he told his parents about something he'd read and they told him he was saying it wrong. Why didn't books tell you how to pronounce things? He'd been pronouncing the t in 'tsunami' for ages before his mum and dad told him the t was silent!
Taniwha is a Maori word, so the 'wha' is pronounced with a sound like an f, not a w. Taa-nee-faa.
Jayden felt better now that people would be saying it right.
Taniwha lived in water, at least most of the time. So Jayden decided to head to the coast to see what he could see.
Jayden hadn't realised how hard it would be to write a novel. How does he get himself to the coast? It wasn't very far by car, but it was a long way for an 11 year old boy to walk. Does he fly? Does he...
Jayden sighed. Then he sat up straight, with a clever idea emerging from his slightly-smarter-than-average brain.
Jayden called his sister into his bedroom. "Caitlin," he whispered, "would you like to go to the beach?"
Caitlin's eyes widened. "Yes!" she whispered back.
"Go and ask Mum and Dad if we can go to the beach today." Caitlin ran off to find her parents.
Soon enough, Jayden's mum popped her head around the corner of his door. "Jays, do you want to go to the beach?"
Jayden nodded, pretending not to be ecstatic with the decision, and went to put his shoes on. He knew his mum would probably take her camera and spend most of the time taking photos of birds and shells and scenery, but he didn't mind. He was on the hunt for taniwha, and all he really needed was a ride to the coast.
Soon enough, they were in the car and on their way. Even their dog Emma was in the back, excited to be going to the beach. Jayden watched out the window as the scenery quickly changed from suburban streets, to farmland, then slowly to native bush. The road was long and winding but Jayden really didn't mind. This was to be the first of his grand discoveries - the taniwha.
Finally, they got there, piled out of the car, and started on the walk to the beach. Jayden walked slowly, carefully observing every sandy dune, every clump of vegetation. What would his first clue be? A tree, knocked over by a careless swipe of an enormous scaled tail? A large wave, sent to shore by a thrashing body far beneath the surface? Jayden's eyes darted here and there, determined not to miss even the smallest of clues. He lagged behind his sister and parents as they headed for the beach.
Jayden lifted his pencil from the paper and scratched his forehead with it as he thought some more. Although you might want your parents with you when you faced a dragon, especially his dad who was pretty strong and not scared of anything, Jayden wanted to be the hero in his story, not a child who needed rescuing. In real life he might not be the fastest runner in class, or the strongest or... Jayden grimaced. But none of that mattered. He wanted to be the hero in his own story. And so somehow he had to remove his parents from the story.
While Jayden was thinking, Caitlin finally lost patience with her own company and came bursting in to his room. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Jayden heaved a sigh. "Writing a story."
He actually wouldn't mind showing off what he'd written so far, so he read it aloud to her.
"Awesome story, Jayden! What's going to happen next?"
He told her his plan for removing their parents from the story, and Caitlin quickly requested to remain in the plot.
"Can I help fight the taniwha, Jayden? Can I? Can I? Pleeeeeeease???"
After a little bargaining in which Caitlin agreed to do the dishes the next time it was Jayden's turn, he agreed.
As Jayden rounded the last corner of the track leading -
"Jayden, I can't see! What are you writing now?"
Jayden glared at his sister. "If you're going to be a pest, you can go and play in your own room!"
Caitlin's bottom lip quivered and Jayden thought her eyes looked like sad puppy dog eyes. Emma was good at making sad puppy dog eyes, but she was a dog. It seemed wholly unfair that Caitlin should be so good at them too. Jayden could only bear it for another second before he heaved yet another sigh and gave in.
"Go and get one of your fairy books and sit on that corner of the bed. You can read while I write. When I've finished a paragraph, I'll read it to you."
Caitlin didn't wait to respond, she bounded off the bed and ran into her bedroom to find a book. She came quickly back with one of her cherished fairy books and plonked herself on the corner of the bed as directed. With her back against the wall and her legs straight out ahead of her, she grinned at Jayden. He couldn't help but smile back, before redirecting his attention to his story.
As Jayden rounded the last corner of the track leading to the beach, he saw his sister Caitlin just a few meters ahead. He couldn't see his parents. In fact, there weren't many people around at all. Just one elderly man sitting on the sand further down the beach.
"Caitlin, where have Mum and Dad gone?" he asked in bewilderment, looking around for them. There really wasn't anywhere they could hide now that they were off the track and on the beach. Caitlin shrugged. Their dog Emma was there, bounding after seagulls. Normally Dad would keep her on the lead when there were other people around as she sometimes got too excited, but she had no lead attached to her collar. Very strange.
Jayden breathed in the salty air, listening to the sound of the seagulls and the waves crashing against the shore. He felt the black sand crunching beneath his feet. Suddenly, he stopped and looked around, spinning in a full circle. He looked up and down, and even stomped his foot hard down on the sand. He looked down at the journal in his hand. The last thing he'd written had been the words 'she had no lead attached to her collar. Very strange.' But he wasn't sitting in his bed anymore. He was on the beach. With Caitlin and Emma. Jayden looked, and sure enough, the old man he'd written in to his story was still sitting there.
Jayden called out to Caitlin. "Hey! Weren't we just..... Weren't we just in the bedroom a minute ago? You were reading your fairy book, I was writing my story?" He held his breath, waiting for her answer.
Caitlin laughed. "Yes! Now we're at the beach! This is so cool, Jayden! Write some more! What happens next?"
Jayden looked around again, then down at the journal in his hand. Surely they weren't really in his story. That sort of thing didn't happen in real life, it happened in...well, stories. Caitlin ran over, Emma not far behind her with a stick hanging out of her mouth, tail wagging madly.
"Do you really think this is my story? That I can write what happens next?"
Caitlin nodded. Jayden supposed there was only one way to test it. He could write something else and see if it happened.
He plonked himself down on a handy patch of sand, and Caitlin promptly did the same beside him. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and the side of his mouth quirked up in a half smile. He was pleased she was there with him. This would be quite scary on his own. Emma barked at a seagull that teased her by flying low overhead, and Jayden thought he was quite pleased that the dog was there too. Surely a dog would come in handy in a parent-less adventure on the beach.
Jayden wanted to test the theory that they were actually experiencing his story, but he didn't want a taniwha to emerge just yet. Something a little less threatening first. Something simple but enough to prove it one way or the other. He stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth while he thought, then he set the journal on his lap and carefully wrote one more line.
Just then, the old man turned his face towards them and lifted a hand to beckon them down the beach to where he sat.
Jayden was almost afraid to look up and check. Caitlin elbowed him, nearly causing him to scribble a jagged line across the page.
"Look, Jayden! That old man wants us to go over there! Is he in your story?"
Jayden looked down the beach and, sure enough, the old man was beckoning to them. Should they go? Jayden knew very well that he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers when his mum and dad weren't there, but this wasn't real life, was it? This was just a story. His story, that he'd written. He'd written the old man in to the story, so he had control. Jayden nodded and pushed himself to his feet. Caitlin bounced up beside him and even Emma looked to Jayden, excited to see what would happen next.
One foot after another, Jayden set off down the beach towards the old man.
As they got closer to the man, Jayden could see Maori tattoos on the man's wrinkled face. He'd learned about those at school. Moko, he thought they were called. This old man had quite a lot of them. Jayden thought he should have looked quite scary with all those tattoos on his face, but his eyes were kind. They were crinkled at the corner, like he smiled a lot. Jayden gave a small wave and said hi.
The man smiled and said, "So you've come to learn about the taniwha, have you Jayden?"
Jayden nearly fell over backwards. How could this man know his name?! Oh, wait, he nearly forgot about the whole story. Everything was so real - he could feel the breeze playing in his hair, feel his feet firm on the sand, could hear the man's deep voice. It was hard to remember it was a story.
"Yes, I have," he replied. "Have you ever seen one?"
The man gestured for Jayden and Caitlin to sit, and they both sat on the dry sand. Even Emma sat, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, as if she intended to listen to the man too. Jayden wondered if he should be writing all this down or not, but decided to wait until afterwards to write about it.
Once he felt his audience was ready, the man introduced himself as Wiremu and started to tell Jayden and Caitlin a little about the history of the taniwha. Jayden was fascinated. This Maori dragon could be a fierce enemy, or a gentle protector. There were stories of taniwha killing many people, but also stories of them saving those in peril on the water. Jayden listened carefully to all that Wiremu had to say. Caitlin was less enchanted - she didn't really care much about dragons or taniwha, she liked pretty things like fairies. And the old man was just talking - it would be far more interesting to see a real taniwha.
Eventually Caitlin got up and went to find a stick to throw for Emma. Back and forth they threw the stick, Caitlin giggling as Emma ran away in anticipation of the throw and then had to scurry back in when Caitlin's arm managed a smaller distance than expected. Caitlin could hear Wiremu talking to Jayden still, but she wasn't really listening. She threw the stick in to the waves and watched Emma pause at the water's edge before going after the stick.
Suddenly, Caitlin's eyes widened and she screamed. There was a monster or something. Something big and scary. In the water! She ran over to Jayden and Wiremu. Wiremu stood and rested his hand on her shoulder which made her feel a bit less scared.
Jayden watched, enthralled as the huge eyes rose further above the water, the enormous head finally fully visible. Oh. My. Goodness. Was that a real taniwha? It was a deep green colour, with brown markings all over it. Actually, the markings on the taniwha looked a lot like the tattoos on Wiremu's face - lots of swirls and patterns, brown against the green. Jayden was trying to memorise all the patterns so he could draw it later. Where was Mum with her camera when you needed her?
"Is it going to eat us?" Caitlin asked fearfully. 'It's big and I'm scared."
Beside her, Emma whined, looking back and forth between the taniwha and the humans she knew and trusted. Jayden looked back towards Wiremu and Caitlin. He didn't think they would really get eaten in his story, but he wasn't sure. Not that he'd tell Wiremu or Caitlin that of course, but he too waited for Wiremu's answer.
"No, my child." He smiled gently. "This taniwha is a protector, a guardian. He won't hurt you."
"Oh good," said Caitlin, with an exaggerated smile of relief. "I was worried for a minute!"
They watched the taniwha as it slowly moved across the beach a little way, Jayden trying his hardest to memorise how the tail looked as it came a short way out of the water. It was amazing. The creature watched them from its big eyes, but didn't come any closer to the shore, or make any threatening moves. Jayden wondered if it ate fish. It was fascinating. Then, before Jayden was ready, it started sinking slowly under the surface.
"Can you call it back?" he asked Wiremu hopefully.
Wiremu smiled and shook his head, his white hair ruffling. "I cannot command the taniwha. And I think it is time for you to be heading home, children. But it was good to be able to tell you about the great taniwha. I know you will pass on this story as stories are meant to be passed on, and the taniwha will live on in you."
He bent down and picked up Jayden's journal which had been lying on the sand, the pencil marking the page. He passed the journal to Jayden and winked, then he slowly started walking off down the beach in the opposite direction to the one Jayden and Caitlin had come originally.
Jayden and Caitlin looked at each other. Caitlin's eyebrows were so high, Jayden thought they couldn't possibly go any higher. He was sure his grin was as big as hers too. What an amazing thing to happen!
"Wow, Jayden! That was awesome! Let's go tell Mum and Dad!"
Jayden nodded and they both started running up the beach. When they got to the corner where they'd last seen their parents, they were both puffing and panting, but weren't sure if it was from the run or from excitement.
Jayden looked down at Caitlin. "I guess I'll have to write in my story that Mum and Dad come back now."
Caitlin nodded up at him, trusting him to sort it all out.
He opened the journal and then flipped to the next page, and the next. Everything they had just done was there, written in Jayden's handwriting. But... How was that possible? He hadn't written anything since the part about the old man, Wiremu, beckoning to them to go down the beach. But it was all there. Caitlin peered over his arm.
"Write the bit about Mum and Dad coming back, Jayden! I want to tell them all about it!"
He shrugged, and quickly wrote a short note after the last written sentence.
They looked up to see their parents walk around the corner of the track towards them.
"Yes!" Caitlin said, doing a fist pump.
She ran towards her parents who came round the corner at just that moment. Jayden wasn't sure what he expected, but his parents acted like nothing had happened at all. His dad clipped the lead on Emma and his mum suggested they head back to the car. Maybe they'd get ice cream on the way home? Caitlin started telling them all about the taniwha and Jayden saw his mum smile indulgently at her.
"Wow, really? And then what?"
Jayden knew his mum didn't really believe they'd seen a taniwha. He nearly laughed out loud though when she reminded Caitlin of the stranger danger rule. Yep, everything was back to normal.
Later that evening, when he was in bed, Jayden reread over the story in his journal. He was supposed to be sleeping, but if he left his curtain open a little bit, he got enough light coming in from the outside light to be able to read. He made a mental note to himself to do some drawings of the taniwha tomorrow before he forgot what it looked like. And maybe he and Caitlin would go on another adventure. He grinned to himself. Oh, the possibilities were endless with a book that made his stories come to life. He was going to LOVE this.
Suddenly he heard a whisper coming down the hall.
"Yeah?" he called quietly, trying not to let the sound travel down the hallway to the lounge where his parents were watching television. Well, his mum was probably reading.
"Can you write me a story about fairies tomorrow? Please? Pretty please? I'll be your best friend!"
Jayden grinned again, he couldn't help it. Fairies huh? He guessed he could live with that.