(For Heather Almond, Ryan, Quinn, and Jake)
Once upon a time, a little boy named Ryan had a baby sister he loved a lot. And even though his sister couldn’t talk yet, Ryan knew Quinn loved him too because she smiled at him and threw her hands up in the air when he walked in the room.
While they played out in the backyard and their mom worked in the house, Ryan knew his job was to protect Quinn. One afternoon, Ryan played with his baseball bat, and Quinn crawled around in the grass, rolling a ball. Suddenly, a beetle scurried over a rock toward her. Its pincer jaws clicked, and its black, hairy legs scratched. Quinn’s eye grew wide, and she squealed. But Ryan jumped in between his sister and the bug. He swung his bat, swooshing through the air. The beetle scampered backward. With a battle cry, Ryan swung again – one, two, three – advancing. The beetle, obviously outmatched, ran underneath a log and didn’t venture out again.
One week later, while they played in the yard again, a snake slithered out from under a bush, slinking toward Quinn. Seeing the snake, Ryan dropped his toy truck, ran to Quinn, and grabbed her underneath the arms. Ryan hoisted her up and ran for the porch. And though Quinn dropped her teddy bear and screamed, he kept running until he got her safely in the house and told his dad. When Ryan’s dad came back inside, he brought Quinn’s bear and Ryan’s truck with him. “I’m really proud of you, Ryan,” he said, as he handed the toy back to his son. “A brother always takes care of his sister.” And Ryan smiled.
A few days passed, and the night was cold. Ryan and Quinn’s mom had put them both to bed, and she and Dad had gone to bed too. Snug underneath the covers, Ryan lay awake looking at the stars twinkling outside his window. And he heard something! It sounded like wind chimes on his grandmother’s porch. A few moments later, he heard it again and again. And soon, the sound was so frequent he couldn’t seem to hear any pause. Even though it was cold, Ryan threw off the bed covers and slid down the side onto the floor. It felt icy underneath his feet, but curiosity had gotten the best of him.
Ryan tiptoed out of his room and down the hall. The floorboards squeaked, but he could still hear his dad snoring, so he hadn’t woken his parents. Down the hall, Quinn’s door stood open, and a sliver glow spilled out onto the floor. The tinkling sound of chimes came from her room. Ryan’s breathing quickened, and to stay quiet, he ran on his toes to his sister’s door. Peeking around the frame, he saw the bright, full moon flooding the room with light, and a twinkling, silver trail lead out the window. Ryan rushed over to his sister’s crib and, seizing the bars, pulled up until he could look inside. Quinn was gone! Frantically, Ryan searched her room, but Quinn was nowhere to be found. A cold breeze blew through the room, and he realized the window was open. Ryan drug a chair over to the window and climbed up. He could see movement at the end of the silver trail, which was stretching upward, higher and higher – toward the moon. And the sound of Quinn’s laughter rushed down the trail. “Wait!” Ryan called. “Wait!” But Quinn’s laughter was receding, further and further away. Ryan reached out, hoping the silver trail was solid, but his hand slipped right through it with no resistance. And Quinn’s laugh seemed even further away now. “No,” Ryan cried. “Come back! Bring her back!” But the trail still shined, and Quinn’s laughter seemed as far away as the moon now. Ryan stood up on the chair and quickly looked around. He knew he had to follow her because a brother always takes care of his sister. But the chair was not near tall enough to reach the moon.
And then he saw them. Piled in the corner near Quinn’s dresser were Ryan’s old blocks. Jumping off the chair, he dashed over and grabbed an armload. Bringing them back to the window, he piled them on the floor and went for another load. After several trips, Ryan realized that he was wasting too much time. He needed a lot of blocks but could only carry so many without them falling out of his arms. And there, by Quinn’s toy box, was his Tonka dump truck. So Ryan stacked the blocks in the truck, and then in two trips, he had enough to start. So block-by-block, he stacked them, building a staircase that stretched up through the night sky, all the way to the moon.
Ryan stepped off his stairs onto the surface of the moon. Everything was white – the ground, the hills, the craters, and even the lakes those craters held. Ryan blinked. It was a bit hard to see, but he followed the silver trail, which lead him to a giant, white palace with silver windows and doors. Ryan ran up to the palace and knocked.
The door opened, and hovering in the doorway was a small creature that looked a whole lot like a little girl. She was thin with smooth, light blue skin, stark white hair that hung to her knees, and grey-blue eyes. Her feet didn’t touch the ground, but she hung in the air, floating without effort. She wore a fitted white shirt, grey pants, and silver sandals that were studded with shining stars. Around her head, she wore a headband featuring a star that hung in the middle of her forehead. “Well, hi,” she said, her voice cheery and welcoming.
“Hi,” Ryan replied. He liked the girl but felt very worried and so got right to the point. “Have you seen my sister? I went to her room, and she was gone, and there was a silver trail that lead me here.”
“Your sister?” the girl asked.
“Yes,” Ryan insisted. “Her name is Quinn, but she can’t really talk yet.”
The girl looked puzzled but opened the door wider. “I don’t know if there’s a Quinn here, but come in. I’ll let you look for your sister.”
Ryan stepped through the door and heard the sound of chimes. Unlike the outside and the whole surface of the moon, the palace was filled with bright colors. There were balloons soaring up to the high ceiling, stuffed animals and live animals, swing sets and slides as big as Ryan’s house, toy cars big enough to ride in, and a whole collection of construction vehicles. A tiny boy giggled as he drove a fire truck around the room, blaring its horn, and a few children played games alongside others who looked like the moon girl.
“Where are we?” Ryan asked.
“We’re home,” the girl replied. “The Moon Fairies’ home.”
“Moon Fairies?” Ryan repeated.
“Yes, I’m a Moon Fairy; my name is Luna.” She smiled.
Then above all the commotion, Ryan heared Quinn’s laugh. He quickly spotted her riding on the head of a giraffe. An elephant reached out with its truck, took Quinn by the middle, and set her down on its back.
“Quinn!” Ryan called. “Come down!” And Quinn smiled and threw her arms up in the air.
And the elephant brought Quinn over and set her down. Ryan hugged her tight. “Okay,” Ryan said. “I know you’re having fun, but we have to go home. Mom and Dad may have already woken up, and they’ll be worried.”
“Go?” Luna asked. “But Quinn can’t go. We still have many games to play.”
The room fell quiet, and the other Moon Fairies circled around Ryan and Quinn.
“But we have to go,” Ryan retorted.
“But we won’t let you,” Luna insisted. “We like to play with children. We love Quinn, and she is happy here.”
“Yes, you will!” Ryan shouted, now angry. “She belongs at home with her family! We love her! You stole her, and I won’t let you keep her! She’s my sister!”
“Well,” Luna snapped. “If you insist, then we will let you have her back – if you pass three tests.”
“Tests?” Ryan gulped.
“Yes.” Luna’s stare looked severe.
But Ryan straightened up tall and held his chin high. “I will pass your tests.”
“Very well.” And Luna clapped her hands. The Moon Fairies cleared the toys and shooed the animals and children into side rooms until the only items remaining were a trampoline, a mountain of foam blocks, and a bat. “Let the games begin!”
And when Ryan turned, Quinn was gone. He gasped, for she hung from the ceiling, stuck at the waist. “Quinn!” Ryan shouted.
“Go get her,” Luna challenged.
Ryan dashed across the room and hauled himself up on the trampoline. Quinn was high above his head, but get her he would. Ryan bounced – higher and higher and higher. Quinn laughed and reached for him. “Hang on, Quinn,” he called between bounds. “I’m coming!” His legs burned, and he felt very tired. But Ryan bounced higher until finally he reached Quinn. Grabbing her, she pulled off the ceiling with ease, and they bounced down again.
“Well played,” Luna said as Ryan climbed off the trampoline. But as he turned to help his sister down, she was gone again!
And he heard her laugh, but this time, he could not see her. “Go get her,” Luna commanded. Quinn laughed again, and Ryan realized she was under the blocks. Ryan raced over to the block mountain and began throwing them to the side. Block after block, he hurled them away from the pile, digging. “Keep laughing, Quinn,” he pleaded. And she did, and finally, he found her at the bottom of the pile near the floor.
Ryan held tightly to her hand. “They won’t steal you again,” he whispered.
“Again, well played,” Luna called.
Ryan looked around. No one gave any indication that they were trying to take Quinn. Ryan looked back at Luna.
“Protect her,” Luna said.
A door across the room opened, and out of the darkness leaped a giant lizard-like monster, covered in all black scales. Its eyes flashed bright yellow, and a ridge of black crescents spiked up off of its back. While its head rotated side-to-side surveying the room, a long, red tongue flicked out rhythmically, as if the monster would eat a child like a lollipop. “What’s this?” Ryan shouted. The creature’s head whipped around, and its eyes locked on him and Quinn. “A Lune Monster,” Luna called. “From the Dark Side of the Moon.”
And the Lune Monster ran toward them, its legs circling as it raced forward. Ryan ran, pulling Quinn with him. But she couldn’t run well, so he grabbed her by the waist and carried her like a large stuffed animal. Making it to the other side of the room, Ryan nearly tripped on the bat. Setting Quinn down, he snatched up the bat and turned to face the Lune Monster. He breathed deeply and stepped forward. “Back!” Ryan yelled. “Leave my sister alone!” The monster kept coming, faster and faster. “Stop!” Ryan bellowed, but the Lune Monster was nearly upon them now. Winding up, Ryan swung the bat. Whack! The bat knocked the Lune Monster away and onto its back. Ryan advanced and swung – one, two, three. The Lune Monster regained its feet and retreated, seeking shelter in the dark room.
Ryan dropped the bat. It clattered on the floor as he ran to Quinn, who smiled and reached up for a hug that Ryan gave her. When he looked up, Luna hovered above them. “Well played,” she congratulated him.
“Can we go home now?” Ryan asked.
And Luna smiled. “Yes, Ryan,” she said. “You love your sister, and we would never keep her from someone who loves her so much.” Then Luna took off her headband and gave it to Quinn, who cooed and awed at the star.
So Ryan and Quinn left the Moon Fairies’ Home and made their way back through the great whiteness of the Moon to Ryan’s staircase. Because he was afraid she might fall, Ryan carried Quinn down the steps, and by the time they made it back to her room, she was asleep.
After descending from the last step, Ryan put the sleeping Quinn back in her crib, Luna’s star headband still clenched in her little fist, and he tore down the staircase. Then closing the window tightly, he lay down on the rug beside his sister’s crib, wrapping up in one of her blankets and using a stuffed bunny for a pillow. And then Ryan fell asleep with a smile because a good brother always looks after his sister.