Eloise Finster was a lonely girl who felt she didn’t fit in anywhere. Not at home and not at school. She wasn’t one of the pretty popular girls, not with her super frizzy mousey hair, and those coke bottle glasses. Nor was she one of the brainy smart girls. She wasn’t athletic either. But she knew how to draw, even prided herself on the ability. Eloise would draw and doodle whenever she could, including the margins of her class notes, and eventually on her test papers and homework assignments. Some teachers would ignore the doodles, others might even write a nice comment or two. Mrs. Eisenstat was not one of those teachers.
Mrs. Eisenstat was the kind of teacher that makes little kids think teachers are evil aliens from another planet. The kind of teacher who should never have become a teacher. Strict without reason, lazy, bullying, and never thought her methods were to blame, it was always the student couldn’t be taught, and never that there was something she needed to change about herself. Everyone hated Mrs. Eisenstat. From her sickeningly sweet voice that always spoke to the students like they were in elementary to her grotesque paisley dresses. Always some eating some sweets at her desk, and on the phone.
Mrs. Eisenstat could have simply told Eloise to stop, she could have written ‘See Me’ across the paper, but she didn’t. Mrs. Eisenstat took points off of what would have been a good grade and wrote a rude note across the top of the page, disparaging Eloise’s drawings and insulting her skills. A test is no place for your childish scrawlings. If you put as much effort into your studies as you did these stick figures you might have gotten better than a C. Eloise’s world was shattered.
Confronting her teacher did more harm than good, Eloise had brought up the fact that she couldn’t help but draw these fanciful characters and other images, and she wanted to be an artist. Eloise knew that she would never forget Mrs. Eisenstat’s next words. They’re just cartoons, true artists draw realistically. This is nothing but a child’s doodling. Eloise couldn’t process anything else. She could be given praise from everyone she knew, but that one teacher’s words shattered her dreams.
They’re not real…
They’re just cartoons…
Friends tried to cheer her up, but nothing they said worked. Eloise herself knew her pictures weren’t realistic, and that was never the angle she was going for, but even so Mrs. Eisenstat’s words continued to haunt Eloise for the rest of the school day and even followed her home. As though that was the only thing that quantified art.
They’re not real…
They’re just cartoons…
Her parents didn’t understand, they only saw the grade on her test. They didn’t agree with Mrs. Eisenstat’s critique, but they believed she had to apply herself more and to keep the cartoons off her schoolwork.
The cartoons. The choice of words hadn’t been intentional, but they were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Eloise ran to her room and sobbed herself to sleep.
They’re not real…
They’re just cartoons…
Eloise’s dreams were haunted by these words and soon enough she woke up. A glance to her alarm clock showed it was well after midnight. “I wish they were real…” She muttered sleepily. But, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for…
“YOUR WISH IS GRANTED!” Came an excitable voice.
Eloise looked around her room in shock and saw a strange little man sitting on her bed, only he had pointed ears and a tail. “An elf?”
“Imp. Not elf” he sounded offended. “We have TAILS. And you just used your wish! Everybody gets one! You just had the luck that an Imp was listening at such a fun time! Usually I mess with people when they say things like I wish I’d worn the blue socks today. Ha ha! The looks on their faces when they realize that their one and only wish was for socks! At least you didn’t wish you were dead… That one’s no fun to grant… It’s all GAME OVER, MAN!” The imp laughed.
“I must be dreaming…” Eloise muttered.
“No, you’re not Dreaming, you’re Eloise!” The imp laughed at his own bad joke. “And I’m… Well, I’m not about to tell you my Name name, but… you can call me, Muna.” Muna bowed.
“Correction,” Eloise continued “I’m not dreaming, I’m hallucinating.”
“You’re a fun human! I haven’t had a conversation like this in ages! Tell you what, you make me laugh again and I’ll give you two, count ‘em” Muna held up two long spindly fingers “two more wishes! But you have to make them now, and no backsies!”
“This is ridiculous, you’re ridiculous.”
“No! I thought we already, went through this! I’m Muna! And you’re Dreaming!” The imp laughed and squinted his beady eyes at Eloise, “ooooooh, you’re good. So, what’ll you take? Hmm? HMMM? HMMM?”
“I want to make things never happen… like yesterday.” The words were out of Eloise’s mouth before she knew it. “And I’d like it if Mrs. Eisenstat was as sweet as that fake voice of hers!” Eloise sneered and stared at Muna.
“Ooooohweee! This is going to be fun! I love messing with mortals! But a few things wrong, Dreaming.” Apparently he’d given Eloise a nickname. “I can’t touch free will and you didn’t phrase it in the form of a wish!”
“Ummm… I wish, those things I said… ish?” Eloise hesitantly replied, now feeling this really was just some hallucination.
“Eh… good enough! I may have gotten a few details wrong, but wishes are always subject to interpretation. Well, that’s your problem now! It’s done! But ooooh, I’ll be keeping an eye on you! Toodles!’ And with that, Muna vanished in a puff of sand.
Eloise woke up the next morning all muddled and cloudy minded, like she hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before. “Ug… whatever I ate last night, I need to lay off it if the result is dreams like that… So vivid though, I never remember my dreams…” she muttered and went about her morning routine. Eloise was in the shower, musing about her odd dream and doodling a little picture in the steam on the shower door when she heard a voice.
“Uuuuhggg…. Come on, Dreaming! Why haven’t you used them yet! You weren’t this boring last night!”
“Eloise! Is everything alright up there?!” Came the worried call of her mother.
Eloise looked out the door and saw Muna sitting on the toilet. She screamed again – though nowhere near as loudly as before. “Just slipped, mom. I’m fine!” The shower was off and Eloise pulled a towel over herself. “What the flying frig… you’re real?! And peeping on me!”
“Like your human body holds any interest to an imp…” Muna rolled his eyes and broke out in another one of his giggle fits. “Even now you still make me laugh! Buuuuuut, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t peek at all! Not that I could with all that steam.” Muna smirked.
Eloise glared at him.
“Fine, fine, I’ll turn around and you get dressed…” Muna waited until Eloise had finished before continuing as if there had been no interruption at all. “But, enough of what I may or may not have done, or been doing just now, Dreaming. Show me what you got! Don’t make a waste of last night!”
Eloise stared at the now dripping character she’d painted in the steam. It was one of her favorite creations to draw. A grinning badger wearing sunglasses. Unbidden, the words of yesterday entered her mind.
They’re not real…
They’re just cartoons…
Elise reached out a hand to the portrait and concentrated. “Not real…” She muttered, not believing a thing, even with Muna sitting on the toilet and watching her.
“Who ya callin’ not real?”
Eloise turned and stared, “it can’t be… Bernie?”
“In tha flesh. So ta speak.” And he was in the flesh, in a way. Right before Eloise stood a living breathing cartoon badger that she herself had brought to life. Eloise turned back to Muna, but the imp was no longer there.
“What’s going on up there?! What are those voices?!” Came Eloise’s mother’s increasingly frantic calls.
“It’s just me, mom! You know… Cartooning and voice work go hand in hand. I, um… I figured the shower’s good for singing, so why not try out cartoon voices too?” She turned to Bernie and made a shooing motion. “Go… just poof away!” And the badger was gone.
School was a horror for Eloise. She couldn’t concentrate and everything just seemed to be going wrong. Her homework was missing, her #2 pencils broke and she couldn’t find a sharpener. A few pens broke and stained everything in her bag with ink. She didn’t realize it, but Muna was there, pulling strings and causing mischief to get Eloise to use her powers. The imp was bored and hated seeing good wishes go to waste. The little things all added up, but it was her nemesis, Mrs. Eisenstat that pushed things too far. It was a study period, and with her books all sticky and inky, the only thing study hall was good for was drawing up some new ideas, and after the day she had, Eloise just wanted to get lost in a fantasy land.
“Of course, the only item to survive your pens leaking and come out unscathed was that infernal sketch book.” The teacher snatched up the book and rudely went through each picture making the worst of commentary – and this was in front of all the classes in the study hall. “Terrible.” A page was torn out, crumpled, and tossed on the floor. “Horrible. Ugly. Disgusting.” Each page met the same fate, crumpled into a ball and then tossed on the floor. Then the teacher reached a certain page. “Is this supposed to be me?” Mrs. Eisenstat scoffed and then angrily demanded, slamming the sketch pad to the desk. The sketch pad was open to the offending page and had been smeared by uncaring fingers. On the page was a disturbingly cutesy image of Mrs. Eisenstat with a candy bow on her head. “Well, Ms. Finster? Answer me!”
“It should be…” Eloise muttered.
“I didn’t catch that.”
“It should be!” Eloise screamed and was on her feet in an instant. The girl had finally lost it. “You stand there. You berate me and everyone in your sickeningly sweet talking to a toddler baby voice. How else should I draw a caricature of you? Everyone hates you! You’re the worst teacher to ever grace these halls! If you actually were a sweet, you’d actually be sugar free!”
There was a cookie on the ground, and no sign of the teacher. Eloise stalked over and picked it up in a shaking hand, snapping out of her daze at the sound of terrified screaming erupting all across the room. Eloise looked up. “That, didn’t happen.” She muttered and suddenly the screaming stopped. Everyone returned to their studies. No one, not the students, not the other teachers, not even the principal or Mrs. Eisenstat’s family acknowledged that the foul woman existed. But contrary to Eloise’s beliefs, Mrs. Eisenstat actually made for a rather tasty cookie.
After that, things went very well for Eloise. She could draw in peace, and study whatever she wanted. If she got something in History wrong, well, suddenly there wasn’t something to get wrong. If anyone else bothered her, they were turned into snacks and all knowledge of them was gone. Soon enough, she began replacing the people she erased with cartoon constructs. But it wasn’t enough. Eloise had started off content with her skills in art and her style. But soon she saw other art as a challenge. Instead of adapting or changing her style to get better, Eloise remained with her cartoons and soon enough she was the only artist that mattered anymore.
Well, she was the only artist for that matter. Eloise lived in a massive cartoon castle and was waited on hand and foot by cartoon and human servants alike. No one would mess with her lest they be erased from history or turned into sweets and consumed by the self-proclaimed Queen of the World. Anything Eloise didn’t like, no longer was and soon enough, she didn’t even bother erasing people or more specifically, knowledge of people, as she found the fear of knowing was the worst punishment possible for the survivors. A favorite move of hers was cartoon holes to nowhere. She even took on Muna’s nickname as her real name. Dreaming.
No weapon could hurt her as there were no weapons nor was there knowledge of how to construct them. People – real human people could no longer remember a time when Eloise wasn’t the queen. But, there was one thing they did know. Things had been different and there had been a before. Something had to be done, but no one knew how or what or if, everything was speculation. But one thing remained consistent. People were out there and had abilities. Queen Dreaming couldn’t be a singular anomaly. Groups worked in secret to find other anomalous humans, and for ways to take down the queen, nothing mattered anymore. No one had anything to lose.
Muna, meanwhile, was in deep trouble. Very deep trouble. Things were… boring! Not for him, oh no, no, no. Things were fantastic for Muna, but it was the other Imps. It had been fun watching Dreaming but she was taking the joy out of wishings for all the other imps. A compromise was made. The next human to make a wish that could directly affect Dreaming would get it granted. Then the imps would have a grand show on their hands! If there was one thing the imps liked more than granting situationally funny wishes, it was a fight between wish gifteds.
But no one was putting their words in such childish terms. Survivors were trying their hardest to recreate what was lost to them despite not even knowing what they used to have. Their only hints were the cartoony versions of weapons that Dreaming possessed. Most people even thinking it was all a creation of hers. But just like Dreaming was once a kid with a bad day, so to, were other children.
“I just wish we could have all our knowledge back… Some way to defeat Dreaming.” were the words of one such young man before he tearfully went to bed one night. It had become the boy’s nightly mantra, he never expected anything to come from it. So he was quite surprised by what happened next.
“Your wish, is granted!”