‘”Josh, you’re special. It doesn’t matter if no one likes you, you’re just… special.”
Josh smiled as she slowly faded away. His last word to her was, “Thanks.”’
About two years ago, there was a teenager named Josh. Josh lived on a farm where all he would do was stay in the stall all day. He lived with his sister, Cassie, who was 16; Josh was only 13. Cassie was in the middle of taking cow milk into the house so they could drink it for dinner, when suddenly, Josh came running up to her.
“I want to milk a cow,” he begged her. “You do it all the time.”
“No, Josh. How many more times do we have to go over this? You’re way too young. You’ll probably mess up or something,” Cassie explained.
Josh always wanted to milk the cows. All he would do was pet the animals in the stall all day. No one really ever paid attention to him, not even his parents. Cassie was very popular in their small house, and everyone liked her. Josh felt lonely because all day, he would stay in the stall. And whenever he tried to talk to someone, they would ignore him.
Josh went into the house where he saw Cassie and his parents laughing, as usual. He hated this life, and he wished he could live in a big house and have more things, instead of living on a smelly farm. Josh went back to the stall; he did love to look at the animals. His two favorite ones were the chicken and the baby chick. The baby chick’s name was Charlotte, and the other one was named Reggie, which he’d named. Josh was distracted while he was playing with the chickens, when he overheard his parents shouting.
“I just don’t know if we can afford to keep our house anymore. We’re so poor, and we’ve used up all our money just to buy food.”
“Calm down,” his dad said. “We can always go on a budget, we can still have our house. It’s going to be fine.”
“Do you even realize how much money we have right now?” his mom shouted.
“We have more than enough,” his dad answered, eating a piece of bread.
“You don’t understand,” she shouted, coming towards the stall. “Josh!” she called out.
Josh looked up at his mom.
“We can’t keep the house, honey. We’re too poor to — I just lost my job, and we’ve been giving all our money away to the charity and buying loaves of bread.”
“No!” Josh said. “You can’t give the house away! This is where we live, where else would we go?”
His mom bit her lip and didn’t answer. She looked nervous. Josh knew what he was going to do: run away. He packed his stuff and all his toys without his parents noticing. He packed everything he needed. But while he was running, he stepped on something.
“Ow,” he said. He picked it up, and it was a tiny bottle. It said try me. “Well, this is weird, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.” He sprayed it on himself and everything got blurry. “Woah! What is happening?” he yelled.
He started spinning, and he couldn’t control himself. There was a loud bang, and his head hurt from all the spinning. He slowly opened his eyes.
“Is this heaven?” he asked softly. “Oh wait — what am I thinking? Of course I didn’t die.”
He stood and looked up. This place was amazing! He didn’t know where he was, but he was amazed. He was in a random place where there were two giant, white gates with little flowers dangling off the side. The gates automatically opened for him. He was so little compared to the gates. Inside, there was a humongous lake! It was the biggest lake he’d ever seen. He saw mermaids and dolphins, seahorses, and more. Josh sat down in front of the lake. He sniffed the air, and it was as fresh as the yummiest bakery.
“This is amazing,” he said. “That little bottle transported me here!”
A mermaid splashed Josh when he wasn’t looking, and she started laughing. Josh started to laugh too. He splashed her back, and they both did this back and forth.
“I never have had this much fun in my whole entire life!” he exclaimed. “What is this place anyways?”
“Oceania Mysty, of course,” the mermaid replied.
“Never heard of it. This little try me bottle got me here,” he said, showing it to the mermaid.
The mermaid didn’t really listen, she just dove off. The mermaid looked really nice. She had rainbow colored, wavy hair with a light, pink tail. Josh felt like he was in complete peace. The soft, calm wind drifted slowly in front of his face. The birds were chirping. The sun was bright. The mermaids were laughing. He wanted to stay here forever.
While he was enjoying his peace, a mermaid tapped him on the shoulder. She looked the youngest out of all the other mermaids; she looked around 16.
“Hello, there,” the mermaid said. “You’re not from here. Are you trying to attack our land?”
“No, I don’t even know why I’m here. This little try me bottle randomly transferred me here… I really shouldn’t be here,” Josh said. “My parents must be worried about me.”
“Oh,” said the mermaid. “Want to come into the water? It’s as warm as a bathtub.”
Without saying anything else, the mermaid pulled him into the water instantly. He screamed, and his clothes were soaking wet. At least it isn’t cold, he thought. The mermaid was right, the water was really as warm as a bathtub. Even though his clothes were soaking wet, he started to enjoy the soothing water. He closed his eyes and gracefully drifted through the water.
“This is the life,” he murmured, giving the mermaids surrounding him a thumbs up.
The mermaid who was just talking to him came up and said, “Ya know, we don’t get a lot of visitors around here. I’m so glad that you can spend time with us.”
“Me too,” Josh said, spitting out some water. “This is like heaven — but better!”
The mermaid laughed. “Trust me, it’s not as good as heaven.”
“I didn’t get your name,” Josh said out of curiosity.
“My name is Namie.” She happily greeted him with a pose. “And you’re… ?”
“Oh,” Josh looked down. “My name is only Josh. No one really likes me though.”
“Josh.” Namie smiled at the name. “Josh,” she repeated. “I like it.”
“You do?” Josh stepped back, and his jaw dropped open in shock.
“Oh, don’t be silly! Come on! Follow me!” The mermaid pulled his wrist farther into the water. The next thing Josh knew was he appeared in a humongous, dark cave. “This is the cave of secrets.” The mermaid showed him as he stared at it in awe.
He couldn’t help but ask, “Why is it called the cave of secrets?” He picked up a dead flower flowing his way. “It’s so plain.” Josh was right, the whole cave was pure dark with not a spot of decoration or happy colors.
The mermaid looked him in the eye. “I actually don’t know. No one really told me, we just… call it that… because…”
“Because what?” Josh asked immediately.
The mermaid shrugged. “I’d love to show you around this place more, come on! Let’s continue!”
“Wait — ” Josh caught her attention. “I really should be going, my parents must be calling the police by now!”
The mermaid looked down. “Oh, well, I don’t know how you’ll leave.”
Josh held up the tiny bottle. “Hey, this got me here, and it’s gonna get me back.”
The mermaid waved goodbye as he poured it all over himself — “WAIT!” she yelled, right before he disappeared. “Josh, you’re special. It doesn’t matter if no one likes you, you’re just… special.”
Josh smiled as she slowly faded away. His last word to her was, “Thanks.”
Josh appeared back in his regular small house, where he found Cassie sitting at the table, braiding her hair. She looked upset for once. Josh was hoping she would notice him. Josh just stood there for a minute, and a couple seconds later, he sighed and hid behind a plant. He regretted seeing his family now. Cassie didn’t even notice him when he was right there. He stuck his head out from the plant, and Cassie still was there. He continued to watch when he saw his parents approach her.
“We can’t find Josh, honey. We’ve looked everywhere!” his mom said. Her eyes were watering, and she couldn’t hold her tears back anymore.
Josh looked at her, sadly waiting for the right time to pop out. Even Cassie shed a tear, and she never cried.
“Well, I wish we could have told him sooner,” his dad said calmly, “that we do really care about him, and we have been so rude to him.”
Cassie chipped in. “I was rude too,” she admitted. “He can milk a cow if he wants,” she said sniffling.
The whole family was silent for a minute, just staring at the ground. Josh shed a tear out of happiness. Those were just the words he wanted to hear in his whole entire life! They really did care about him! He wiped the tear off his sleeve. He knew this would be a good time to come out because it was pure silence. He crept up from behind the plant and jumped out right in the center for them to see.
“JOSH?!” they all cried, screaming with excitement. One by one, they ran up to give him a hug.
“Where have you been?!” his mom said, panting with nervousness and crying all over his shirt.
“How’d you get home?” his dad asked, catching his breath. “Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“Do we need to call the medics?” his mom yelled, checking all over his body.
Josh laughed at how freaked out they were. “No, of course not!” He laughed uncontrollably.
His mom and dad looked at each other in confusion. “What could be so funny at this moment? We looked ALL over for you, searching high and low, calling the police, endlessly tracking you down, and you’re laughing?” his mom said firmly.
“What happened?” Cassie asked, looking worried.
Josh looked nervous. Should I tell them? he thought — Wait, no! They’ll never believe me!
“I just ran away,” he answered quietly.
Little did he know, when he was talking to Cassie, his mom found the little bottle on the floor he had used to transport to Oceania Misty. “Hmm,” she answered, reading the title. “Oceania Misty? Is this where you went?”
Josh looked at her in shock. “You believe in that place?” he questioned her.
His mom explained to him that many years ago, when she was a kid, she found the same exact bottle and transported to that amazing place as well.
“Wow, that’s amazing.” Josh stared at her in amazement. He finally admitted, “Yes, that’s where I went.”
His mom understood. “Just never scare us like that again,” she said, calming down.
The whole family promised they would always pay attention to him as long as he lived. They all did a group hug, and from then on, they were always happy.