By Wil Collins
Gwynnedolyn is ten today and at her grandparents' home. Her granddad is away at sea, he is a captain on a freighter. Her grandmother hands her the key to his sea trunk in the attic. To Gwynnedolyn the trunk has always been magical. Only once has he ever let her see inside it. Slipping the key into the lock her expectations are high. She stood reverently in front of it, and bending down blew the dust from the top. It billowed up in a cloud around her head and she sneezed. She thought she heard a muffled gesundheit, and looked around to see who else had come up to the attic, but no one was there. Shrugging, she fitted the key into the lock. It turned easily. She lifted the lid and the first thing she saw was a pair of bright orange eyes. The eyes belonged to a scruffy looking, well-used teddy bear about eighteen inches tall.
There was a silk clothe under him, covering the other treasures in the trunk. This can't be my birthday present. Grandpa knows how I feel about stuffed animals. Oh well, it's where he said I'd find my gift, so it must be it. Struggling with her conscience, she took the bear from the trunk, closed the lid and locked it without continuing the search for other treasures. She was feeling even lower than before, and with the unwanted bear held against her chest, she sank down in front of the trunk, leaning her back against it. Her head bowed and the tears and feelings, she had held back for so long, poured out, landing on the matted fur of the bear.
How long she sat like that, feeling sorry for herself, she did not know. Suddenly, alarmed at what she thought was a wave of dizziness, she felt the floor rock. She heard the wind whistling outside and the creaking of wood moving against wood. Unexpectedly the bear in her arms seemed to come alive and struggled to get free. "Let me go! You're choking me Gwynne!"
With a start, she dropped the struggling bear and opened her eyes. "What...What, what's going on here?"
"First you soaked me with your tears and then you throw me into the bilge water, what are you trying to do, drown me?"
"This can't be happening! You can't be real! I must be dreaming!"
"Your Grandpa said you would be a hard sell, and he wasn't kidding. He sent me to you. He said you needed a little magic in your life."
"You can't be real and this can't be happening," she whispered, unable to accept what she was seeing and hearing.
"If you think you're dreaming, pinch yourself," the bear said mischievously.
Gwynnedolyn complied without thinking. "Ouch!"
"I hear today is your birthday. And I, Ted E. Bear, am to be your escort for a wonderful adventure through a world of magic.