Charlene climbed slowly to the top of the stairs, wincing each time a creak issued underfoot, fearful of waking her parents for it was well past midnight. In the dream, the wizard had told her to visit the attic, and upon waking she knew that she must. It was cold up at the top of the house and thin draughts crept in mysteriously from outside. Charlie reached out, gently grasped the attic door handle and, turning it slowly and carefully, pushed open the door.
A gust of cold night air flew past her like an escaping ghost. Charlie stifled a little gasp before treading uneasily forward. Once inside, she closed the door and felt around for the light switch. Before she could find it, however, an eerie pool of illumination appeared towards the centre of the big old room. Charlie was amazed to see Solitary Happ resting quietly in a straight-backed chair that stood on a worn but still-bright rug surrounded by various pieces of old furniture. A very tall candle burned on the table beside him. The wizard gazed thoughtfully at Charlie, who was overjoyed to see his long white locks and flowing blue robe peppered with tiny stars.
“Some think innocence a fleeting quality, but I regard it as a prize indeed,” he said, rather obscurely. His sombre expression broke suddenly into a broad smile and the lines in his face deepened so that he looked even wiser. “Come, be seated, child. We don’t have all night. I have students to attend to, and you have dreams to encounter.”
Charlene hurried forward obediently and sat at his feet. She felt waves of power moving through the air around the wizard, who reached out to gently touch her crown for a moment.
“Those of us who live in the mountains abide by the stars,” he began, and the stars on his robe suddenly glowed fiercely. “Humanity views them like dead things, cold points of light in distant space. Yet alive they are, and filled with love. We listen to the stars; men as yet merely gaze and ponder! Stargazing is not enough, my dearest child. Turn your ear to the heavens, not merely your eyes, listen and accordingly be filled with wonder.”
“I will,” Charlie said.
“The human eye looks out upon the world,” Happ continued, “but few there are as yet who can gaze into the eye and witness the soul. We Men of Power turn an ear to the stars and our eyes to the soul.” He studied Charlie with a steadfast twinkle. “Your inner light is strong, as bright as a star! It gives me hope, and supports me, even. For even the wisest must ever rekindle their hope, and find comfort in children.” He waved his hand and suddenly the roof turned into a great panorama of stars, a vault rising to infinity. Charlie gasped again. Happ laughed.
“What is the soul?”
Happ took a swift, deep breath and closed his eyes briefly. “Within each of us burns the Eternal Fire, an unquenchable flame, a Will, a great immensity. It kindles, and oh how then it burns! Intense as the Sun! Fear slinks away! Death may not touch it!” Happ’s eyes narrowed. “Only Love may approach the hearth intact. As we live and yet live more, so we cultivate the Fire and gradually it burns away all dross until only Itself remains and we are It.”
“So, am I living and yet living more, and burning?”
Happ laughed and clapped his hands. Instantly a white dove materialised between them and flew up into the stars! Startled, Charlie took this to be his answer.
“Soon, you will come to stay with me in the mountains,” Happ said, “and I will show you views beyond imagining, and horizons beyond the world.”
“What is beyond the world?” Charlie asked.
The wizard paused. “In a sense, nothing. For everything is here and now, both the everyday and the commonplace, and That which lies beyond the furthest reaches of the most distant galaxy. As you make your way in the world, so your reach gradually extends beyond it, until truly there is nothing you cannot touch or experience. That day is far hence of course, Charlie, yet your grasp is limited only by your mind and your mind is a fertile one!” He gazed into the distance as Charlie sat patiently. “Beyond the world lie the Flames of God and your love will bring you there when you are ready.”
“But I am only Charlie and the world is so huge, I can hardly stand to think of so much more as well!” Charlie cried suddenly. “I was afraid climbing the stairs just now!”
The wizard smiled kindly and patted her head. “But climb them you did, and Now you are Here, do you see? Merely keep climbing, child, and going forward, and work with the commonplace and allow your thoughts to conquer and aspire. Life is great, eternity is great, but so are you. You are here, Life is here, Eternity is here. They are neither separate nor remote. It is only the eye and the mind that cause them to seem so.”
But still Charlie felt afraid. “I think it’s all too much for me. I know I should want these adventures but it all just makes me want to run back to my books and stories!”
Now Solitary appeared happier than ever. “Excellent, excellent! I am really not supposed to have favourites but I have to say I am especially fond of you, Charlene. Good, good, return to your tales, imaginings and word-dreams. Imagination is the key! – the key to Life Itself! For we are all God’s images, born of His Imagination, and when our dreams are commensurate with His, we shall know ourselves as we truly are, not merely carbon and clay but of the very stars themselves! Bring life into your dreams; bring dreams into your life!” He fell silent briefly. “For beyond all this lies a great Awakening.”
“But you say I have to wake up, so dreams are still just dreams, aren’t they?”
“Cultivate your imagination, for it is a good thing,” Happ explained. “Have you heard of the phenomenon known as lucid dreaming? It is when you are dreaming but know you are dreaming, so in a sense you are awake. When your life is a lucid dream, I shall be satisfied.”
Charlie pondered this. The wizard sat patiently, his candle burning yet never shrinking. Charlie thought he might sit for a thousand years if necessary. Eventually she asked, “Where are the mountains you speak of, Solitary?”
“Well, you have no doubt heard of the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world. Indeed, they are sometimes called the roof of the world and perhaps I mean those, perhaps I do. But then again any mountain will do if it is high enough and indeed any horizon if sufficiently distant and any view if sufficiently grandiose. I and those like me are not so concerned with facts and figures as most: it is really the principle of the thing, do you see? I would take you where the rock is hard, the cliffs towering, the sky vivid, the snow deep, the stars a little nearer. We shall light a fire there on the mountaintop that shall not be extinguished, and reflect on much of import. Later we may descend into the sheltered valley below, where a little temple lies far from prying eyes and candles burn protected from the winds of the world.”
Charlie shivered suddenly. “It sounds cold.”
“Well, not all high places are inhospitable,” the wizard said. Charlie looked up in sudden eagerness. “But first, I want you – indeed, I need you – to return to those books of yours. For words on a page can prove to be steps up a mountain, and sometimes words speak louder than actions and if wisdom indeed stems from experience, there is much experience to be gained from books. Stories well chosen and tales well told can prove the greatest and most valuable experience of all. Wisdom words shall propel you to the heights, and there I await you with a new knowledge and a new language.” He reached inside his robe and produced a book. It was quite large and clearly very old. Solitary Happ blew some dust from the cover and Charlie sneezed.
“What is that?” she asked, expecting perhaps some hard-to-follow tome. Happ handed it over. “A Collection of Fairy Stories,” she read aloud in puzzlement.
The wizard nodded reassuringly. “We have spoken this night of great matters, but nothing could matter more than tales and stories. Magic, wonder and adventure: what more do we need, child?”
Charlie thought for a moment. “Love.”
Happ sat back in evident satisfaction. “Very good,” he said.