In the dark of a grim hospital ward, five children escape to another world
They call themselves the incurables. They are five children doomed to spend their lives in Belleview’s Ward Nine, unable to walk, care for themselves, or even take a trip outside. Their days are gloomy, but they have one another, and at night they play the game. Whispering about places that could never be, they build worlds so vivid that they almost seem real. And then one night, their dreams come true.
While the others sleep, Brick closes his eyes and thinks harder than he ever has about the place he calls the Magic Meadow—a lush hill where dandelions grow. When he opens his eyes, he has been transported. The meadow is real, and with his friends at his side, he will return there again and again—to learn, to walk, to live.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
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|File size:||1 MB|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Alexander Key (1904–1979) started out as an illustrator before he began writing science fiction novels for young readers. He has published many titles, including Sprockets: A Little Robot, Mystery of the Sassafras Chair, and The Forgotten Door, winner of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. Key’s novel Escape to Witch Mountain was adapted for film in 1975, 1995, and 2009.
Read an Excerpt
The Magic Meadow
By Alexander Key
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1975 Alexander Key
All rights reserved.
For a few startled seconds after he opened his eyes, Brick didn't know what to think. He couldn't quite believe what he saw, yet he was sure he wasn't dreaming. A few seconds ago it had been nearly midnight, and he had been lying in his bed in Ward Nine at Belleview, trying almost desperately to imagine the exact kind of place where he found himself now. Then a curious sound had made him turn his head and look about—and it seemed that the impossible had happened.
Belleview had vanished. Instead of the gloom and the dark, there was now a wonderfully warm sun cutting through the mist. Instead of on a hospital bed, he was lying on thick green grass, and there were clusters of bright-yellow flowers growing about him. The rumble of city traffic had ceased. In its place he could hear the singing of birds and the musical chatter of a tiny stream running past him down the hillside. As he listened, he was aware again of the curious sound that had made him open his eyes. He couldn't identify it, but somehow it didn't seem dangerous.
Brick hardly dared move. Was this real, or had it all been created by imagination? Not just his own, but the combined imaginations of all five of them back in Ward Nine?
Whether it was real or imaginary, something very strange had happened, and he had to find out all he could about it....
They, the incurables, had been playing the "traveling" game a long time in Ward Nine. Every night, as soon as the lights were out and the hateful old building had quieted, they would close their eyes and begin to imagine where they would rather be instead of where they were. They had become pretty good at it—Brick, Charlie Pill, and Diz Dobie on the boys' side, and Princess and Lily Rose over in the girls' section beyond the big sliding screen.
They had persuaded Miss Jackson, the night nurse—who was a lot more understanding than the day nurses—to leave the screen partly open at night so that it would be easier to whisper together. Not that they really needed it open, for they had long ago figured out a way to talk secretly. But none of them had folks—no one in Belleview did—and they felt ever so much better and closer when they were not shut apart. After all, the only family that any of them had were the other four.
Princess was better at the traveling game than were the others. She had at least forty times their imagination. Give her half a minute, and she'd have you drifting down a Martian canal in a glass gondola, or maybe riding spotted dolphins through a coral forest, and all the while she'd be exclaiming and chattering away, almost making you believe the things she was pretending to see.
And then one night she'd surprised him by saying, "Brick, I like the place you tell us about better than any of the rest. It's so—so real! Do you s'pose there is such a place?"
"There must be," he told her. "If there wasn't, then how could we see it so clearly when we think about it?"
"Rats!" said Charlie Pill, who always saw the dark side of everything. "We've just been making it up for so long that we've sort of got to thinking of it as real."
"It's real to me," Lily Rose said wistfully. "And I sure wish we could be there."
They all agreed they'd rather be there than in a purely imaginative place like a castle on a cliff or a coral kingdom, or a red marble city on Mars. But Charlie Pill was doubtful.
"Okay," he said. "S'pose it's real, and say we're there. So what? It's just a hill with grass on it—"
"And flowers," Princess interrupted. "Don't ever forget the flowers. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see flowers growing on a hill?"
"Yes," Lily Rose whispered. "I've never seen a hill. Or flowers growing anywhere, except in a pot."
"Me neither," mumbled Diz Dobie, who seldom spoke. He was darker than Lily Rose, and might have been part Mexican or Indian. Lily Rose was more golden, while Princess was as pale as pale could be. Even her hair was silky white.
"Phooey," said Charlie Pill. "What good would it do us if we actually found ourselves in a place like that? I mean, heck, we couldn't run and play. We'd just have to lie there, and—and who'd look after us and feed us?"
Princess laughed. It was like the tinkling of a little silver bell. "Who cares? Why, if I could close my eyes and wake up on a hill with flowers, I wouldn't care about a thing in the world. I'd be so happy I'd be willing to die right there."
They were all silent a moment. Suddenly she said, "Brick, I've read that people can do anything if they really believe they can and—and try hard enough. If we all tried real hard, together, do you s'pose we could turn that hill into a real one, and—and sort of take ourselves there?"
"Why not?" he said. "It's sure worth giving it a whirl."
So they tried it that night and the next. Nothing happened except that the flowered hillside became a little more real and closer in their minds. Brick was ready for anything on the third night, but Charlie Pill spoiled it all by giving up early and saying the whole thing was silly.
Long after the others had stopped, more from weariness than from discouragement, and dropped off to sleep, Brick had kept doggedly at it. He'd been told more than once that redheaded people are stubborn; if so, it sure was a help, for he wasn't about to call it quits with that sunny hillside becoming ever brighter in his mind—so bright that he could actually feel the sun beating down on his face.
Then came that incredible moment when the curious noise caused him to open his eyes....
So far, Brick hadn't moved except to turn his head a little to listen. He could still hear the noise. It wasn't loud, and he realized suddenly that he was hearing not just one sound, but many, and that it was coming closer and spreading out around him. Not knowing what it was made him uneasy. It added to a fainter but growing uneasiness that had begun to trouble him from the moment he started asking questions.
Actually, where was he? In a real place—or in a little lost world created by five imaginations? And now that he was here—and all alone at that—just what was he going to do? It was rather frightening to remember what Charlie Pill had said. Alone, he was darned near helpless. He doubted if he could even crawl very far.
While he was trying to puzzle out his situation, a grasshopper buzzed up from a tuft of grass on his right and landed on his chest. He'd never seen a real live grasshopper before, though he knew what it was from pictures. But the pictures hadn't told him it could jump so far and make such a racket, and it startled him. In fact, he almost jerked upright, and the only reason he didn't was that he'd long known he couldn't. Even so, he was briefly aware of muscles tightening in him that he'd forgotten about, and he had the very odd feeling that he could wiggle his toes, which he hadn't been able to do for ages.
But these details quickly escaped him as his attention fastened on the grasshopper. It was bright green with touches of brown and yellow, and it had large knowing eyes that seemed to be studying him. It struck him as being a remarkable creature for two reasons: it was just as much alive as he was, and neither he nor Princess nor any of the others had even dreamed of imagining such a thing here.
They had imagined birds and flowers and a warm sun, and the running water he could hear somewhere on his left—but grasshoppers simply hadn't occurred to them. Nor had they thought of including the trees that he could make out through the clearing mist, nor the various strange sounds made by things unknown.
If the grasshopper was real, so were the trees and everything else. This was no imagined spot. It actually existed. But where?
Brick could see very little of his surroundings while he lay on his back, so he struggled up on an elbow to get his head above the grass. But before he could fix anything carefully in his mind, he heard the curious sound that had been worrying him all along.
The creature or creatures making it were almost upon him.
In sudden fear he managed to lurch upright. With his movement, the grass about him abruptly exploded with a great thunder of wings, and dozens of feathered bodies hurtled into the air as if they had been shot from guns. It was beyond anything in Brick's experience, and it was so unexpected and terrifying that he cried out in panic and sought blindly to escape.
His fright was like pushing a button. Almost instantly the scene about him faded. In the next breath he was clinging to his bed in the cold darkness of Ward Nine at Belleview.
He couldn't help crying out again, for the sudden switch from the warm hillside meadow to hated Belleview was as terrifying as the other happening, and in one respect it was worse. For instead of being in his bed he was only partially in it, and was in immediate danger of falling to the hard floor.
He was already slipping when the lights came on, and he heard Nurse Jackson's swift feet approaching. Then her strong hands caught him and lifted him back into bed.
"My goodness, Brick!" she exclaimed, chuckling as she tucked the covers about him. "What were you trying to do? Run away from us?"
In spite of her light tone he knew she was really worried about him. "I—I've already been away," he admitted slowly. "I just now got back."
All the others were awake now, and were beginning to babble questions. Princess was staring at him big-eyed above her pillow. "Did—did you actually go there, Brick?" she asked. "To our place?"
"I sure did!"
"Honest? To—to our hill with the flowers on it?"
"You bet! And it wasn't anything we'd dreamed up, either. It's real!"
Charlie Pill said, "Phooey! You just had a crazy dream, is all."
"I did not!" Brick protested.
"You did too! You had a nightmare, 'cause I heard you yell. You almost fell out of bed."
"I didn't almost fall out of bed! I mean, that's the way I landed when I came back, and I yelled because I was scared. You'd have been worse than scared! I really went there—and I saw things you wouldn't believe. And—and I'd be there now if something hadn't happened."
"Oh, please tell us about it!" Princess begged. "What happened, Brick?"
"Now hold it, everybody," Nurse Jackson ordered. "Just what's going on here? Brick, you tell me."
Brick drew a deep breath. He didn't mind explaining anything to Nurse Jackson, because they all knew she was on their side. She was older than the day nurses, and in her broad dark face there was a look of wisdom and understanding that the others didn't have. The day nurses didn't like Belleview and were always quitting. But Nurse Jackson stayed on in spite of difficulties. She stayed, Brick knew, only because of Ward Nine, Without her, life would have been unthinkable.
"It—it's like this," he began. "You know that game we play?"
She smiled. "Of course. It's a wonderful game."
"Well, there's this place we've been imagining. It's a peachy spot, sort of on a hillside, with lots of sun and grass and flowers, and a little stream of some kind flowing down on one side...."
"Say, that sounds real nice," Nurse Jackson said approvingly. "I wouldn't mind going there myself."
"That's what we thought we'd try to do. You always said the mind can do anything."
"And it can! If you'd ever seen people get well, when all the doctors said it was impossible ... But go on, Brick."
"Well, we all kept trying to go there for several nights, and tonight I kept on after everybody had gone to sleep. Then—then all at once I felt the sun on my face, real hot, and I heard a funny noise. And when I opened my eyes, I was there!"
There was a sudden breathless silence around him. He could feel everyone staring at him, waiting. Then Princess whispered, "Wha-what happened next, Brick?" And Lily Rose said, "The funny noise—what was that?"
He told them about the grasshopper, and how the worrisome noise had come closer and closer until he moved, and the grass all around him seemed to explode. "I didn't know it was just a bunch of birds," he went on. "Golly, I was never so scared in my life! All I wanted when it happened was to get away from there. And I did—zing! I landed right back here in bed—or rather on the edge of the bed, because I'd turned somehow and almost missed it."
Again there was an excited silence around him. Then Diz Dobie whispered, "Whew! That was something!"
"Aw, I don't believe it," Charlie Pill muttered. "If—if you didn't dream it, you're just making it all up."
"It's the truth," he said quietly. "Everything happened just like I said." He could sort of feel the others' thoughts, and he knew that Charlie wanted desperately to believe it all, but that he was afraid of being disappointed. Poor Charlie couldn't help being a pill, which was one of the reasons they called him that. After all, when you're in pain most of the time—though Charlie seldom admitted he was—you could be excused for a lot of things.
At that moment Brick would have given all he owned—which was only a few old books—for something that would convince Charlie Pill of the truth. He knew that Princess believed him, and that Lily Rose and Diz Dobie did too. Then he glanced at Nurse Jackson. She was still standing at the foot of his bed, looking at him curiously. Her eyes were troubled.
"You—you don't think I was dreaming, do you?" he asked.
"Of course not!" she said stoutly. "I'm sure it happened—and I just wish I could have been along!" She chuckled, but her eyes remained troubled. He suddenly realized that she really wanted to believe him, but that she was even more doubtful than Charlie Pill.
How could he convince her? "Those birds," he began. "The ones that scared me so. I didn't get a good look at them, but they were sort of fat and brown, and they popped up around me like guns going off. What d'you s'pose they were?"
"They sound like quail," Nurse Jackson said thoughtfully. "You must have flushed a big covey of them coming through the grass. Lordy, I haven't seen a covey of quail since—" She stopped and blinked. "Brick, what's that under your neck? I declare if it doesn't look like a leaf!"
For the first time he was aware of something small pressing uncomfortably against the back of his neck, just inside his pajamas. He groped around and got his hand on the thing. It turned out to be a torn bit of a leaf and a crushed yellow flower with some of the petals missing.
"Why, I—I was lying on a whole bunch of flowers like this. I guess, when the birds scared me ..."
She came slowly over and took the crushed flower with a hand that was not quite steady. "Brick," she said in an awed voice. "Do you know what this is?"
He shook his head. "I never saw one till I found 'em growing all around me at that place."
"Brick, it's a dandelion! But it's winter here, and you won't find one growing anywhere in this part of the country till next spring. Do you realize what this means?"
Charlie Pill gulped excitedly. "I know what it means. It proves he sure enough did go there!"CHAPTER 2
By the clock on the opposite wall it was long past midnight, though Brick hardly noticed it. In the sudden realization of what had happened, everybody began to talk at once, and Nurse Jackson sank down into the nearest chair, slowly shaking her head while she stared at the battered dandelion.
"Well!" she said, still shaking her head. "Well! It's almost too much for a poor body to accept—but here's the proof, right here in my hand." She got up and passed the dandelion over to Princess and Lily Rose, who were begging for it. Then she sat down again. "It really gets me," she went on. "The more I think about it, the more it gets me. Brick, you actually teleported!"
"I—what?" he said uncertainly, wondering about the word.
"You teleported. That's what you did. I've read of it being done, but I never believed it till now. I sure wish I knew where you went! Have you any idea?"
"It—it was to that place we'd been imagining," he told her. "That's all I know. Only, it's not an imaginary place at all. It's absolutely real."
"Oh, I don't doubt that for an instant," she said quickly. "You brought back an absolutely real dandelion, and I'm sure the birds and the grasshopper you saw were just as real. But where is this place? Somehow I think it's important to know."
She paused, then asked, "Brick, what else did you see besides what you've told us?"
Excerpted from The Magic Meadow by Alexander Key. Copyright © 1975 Alexander Key. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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