Episode 2: Bubble Baloo

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Steven couldn’t get the thoughts of what happened that weekend out of his mind. When he’d finally dug up the wooden chest behind his backyard, he had no idea what would happen. In fact, he couldn’t believe what had happened.

“Earth to Steven! Is anyone in there?” Mike, one of Steven’s best friends, asked while waving his hand in front of Steven’s face.

“Oh, I’m just thinking about the weekend,” Steven replied.

“You mean that empty old box you found? Doesn’t seem that exciting to me.”

It was more than just that, Steven thought, but he didn’t say it out loud.

“Please listen, boys. It’s not your turn to present to the class yet. When it is your turn you can talk all you want, but for now, be quiet!” Ms. Little, their teacher, said.

Steven felt his face get hot.

“Sorry, ma’am,” they said at the same time.

The two boys listened as the girl that was presenting finished up her presentation on her book report.

“Very good, Stacey. After her is Megan, and then we’ll hear from Steven.”

Steven’s stomach clenched at hearing his name. Sure, his teacher had asked them all over a week ago to present on the books they’d been reading, but Steven had been worried about the presentation all week. Standing in front of other kids and talking scared him so bad he could feel himself shaking.

Megan walked up to the front of the class and began giving her speech. With each minute she spoke, Steven’s heart pounded harder and harder. He was shaking more than ever!

I am so scared to get up there and have everyone watch me, Steven thought.

Just as Megan finished her last words, the bell rang, letting them know that school was over.

Relief flooded into Steven and he let out a heavy sigh.

“Oh, I wasn’t watching the time,” Ms. Little said, “Steven, I guess that you are the first to present tomorrow morning.”

He nodded at his teacher, but stood up to leave the room as fast as he could. Mike jumped up and followed after.

“Why are you moving so fast?! Are you ok?” Mike asked.

“Yeah, I am until tomorrow morning. I’m terrified to talk to all the kids in front of the class. What if I shake so hard I pee my pants?”

Mike started laughing but stopped when Steven made an angry face.

“Oh you’re serious...I’m sure you will be ok. As long as you prepared for it.”

Steven nodded then said goodbye, rushing home as fast as he could. When he got there, he said a short hello to his mother, Nancy, then ran to his room.

Closing the door, Steven turned and eyed the chest under his bed. He had found the box two days ago, but hadn’t found the time to see what would happen if he opened it again. Kneeling down by the side of the bed, he gingerly pulled the wooden box out and held his breath.

Steven threw open the lid and squinted at the bright yellow light that flooded out. His heart pounded quickly in his chest, though from excitement this time, not fear. He remembered what happened the last time he opened the chest and clenched his teeth. Sure enough, a force pulled on his body, and he was tugged into the box.

His stomach lurched as he fell, the yellow light blinding him for a moment. Even though he tried not to, he closed his eyes, afraid of what he might see as he fell through the strange place. In a few moments, he felt the hard ground on his body, though this time he landed on his stomach rather than his back.

Steven was grateful that hitting the ground after the fall didn’t hurt all that bad.

Quickly, he rolled over and sat up, looking around the forest of oddly colored trees. A thrill filled him at seeing it all. It meant that he hadn’t imagined it all. He’d been here before and now was here again!

What did that elf-girl call it again? he thought.

“Tirran,” Steven said out loud, as if saying it would make it easier to remember. Then, so as to remember which tree was the one that took him home, he scratched the trunk of the tree with his fingernails. As he did so, the tree turned blue, then green.

“I’m sorry, but I need to remember which one is the one that can take me home.”

He looked around and saw that he was alone. Disappointed, he stood up and walked in the direction of the tree he’d gone in with the elf-girl, Amethyst, when he’d come last time.

The tree did look really normal, and it wasn’t very big at all. The trunk was maybe two times his waist size overall. Looking left and right, he decided that maybe knocking would be ok.

Steven slammed his fist on the trunk of the tree a few times, then waited. In only a few seconds a door in the trunk swung open suddenly, making Steven jump back in surprise.

“Ah!” he yelped.

Amethyst, who he’d met the last time he’d come, was staring at him.

“Would you look at that, he’s back,” she said. “How did you get here? We thought we wouldn’t see you again after how you disappeared last time.”

Steven didn’t know what to say.

“I found the tree that took me home, I didn’t mean to just leave like that.”

Amethyst folded her arms and stared at him.

“Sure, whatever. What can I do for you?”

“Erm, I don’t know. I’m not sure what to do around here. I’ve only ever seen the Kwilloo trees and your house. I guess I don’t want to get lost,” he answered.

“That’s probably a good idea. Well, we can’t stay here, my mom isn’t home and she doesn’t like me having friends over without someone here.”

Steven stared at her. “We’re friends?” he asked.

“Of course! We played with the Kwiloo trees forever. What else would we be?”

“I guess you’re right. So what do you want to do?”

Amethyst shrugged. “Depends on what you feel like. I was going to go to the lake and play in the water. Did you want to go there?” she asked.

“Sure! Just show me where to go.”

Amethyst stalked out of her house and turned to close the door. The moment the door shut, the cracks around it disappeared, making the tree look like it had no gaps or other openings there.

Steven marveled at the tree for a moment before turning and following Amethyst.

“The lake isn’t far, just a little bit of a walk. I really like to go there to play in the water. There is even a waterfall that I like to jump off when I go swimming!”

Sure enough, it took only five minutes for them to walk to the lake. When they got there, Steven was amazed to see all sorts of people, or elves, rather, lounging, fishing, and playing by the lake.

“Woah, there sure are a lot of elves here. How many of you are there in Tirran?”

Amethyst shrugged.

“I don’t know, how many people are there in ‘ireeth’?’

“Earth,” Steven said, correcting her. “And actually, I’m not sure. There are a whole lot of us though.”

“Well, Tirran is a pretty big place too, so probably there are a lot of us.”

As he looked around, Steven saw that, though their hair and eye colors were different, all the elves had the same light blue skin. He looked down at himself and inspected his own blue skin. It was very strange that he looked different when he came to Tirran. Then a thought came to him.

“What color are my eyes? And my hair? I just realized I can’t see it.”

Amethyst gave him a funny look but then told him.

“Your hair is kind of goldish and your eyes are purple.”

“Purple?! I’ve never heard of someone with purple eyes before!”

Amethyst stared at him, then shrugged again.

“I don’t know what you mean, but I’m ready to play.”

She pointed to the left side of the lake where the water lapped up against the bottom of a large mountain cliff. Water rumbled loudly from above, a giant waterfall pouring down heavily into the lake.

“There it is! That’s the waterfall I love to jump down. Wanna try?”

Steven got really nervous all of the sudden. He was scared of going high in the air, and the idea of jumping off the waterfall scared him so bad that he didn’t want to think of it.

“No, I don’t have a swim suit so I don’t think I should get wet today.”

Amethyst looked disappointed. Then her eyebrows shot up and she looked excited.

“Oh, I know what we can do! Come with me!” she said, grabbing his hand and pulling him along the side of the water. “We can jump off the waterfall another day. Let’s go to the Bubble Baloo!”

Steven furrowed his eyebrows at her.

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll see!” she said as she continued to drag him forward.

The two of them moved to the bottom of the mountain wall and walked along it. When they got to the waterfall, Amethyst led Steven behind the falling water so that they wouldn’t get wet. The water was coming down so heavy, however, that even though they were behind it, the splashes still hit their faces and clothes, spraying them with the cold drops.

They came out from behind the waterfall and continued down a narrow path. Finally, she stopped at a medium-sized pond of water that was only connected to the main lake by a small river. Water flowed lazily to the pond from the lake at a slow pace. is new friend said. “We’re here! This is theBubble Baloo.”

Steven opened his mouth to ask why it was called that when his voice got stuck in his throat. Right as he was about to talk, a bubble formed on the surface of the pond and expanded to a giant one bigger than his own body. He gaped at it as it grew and grew until it separated from the surface of the lake and flew upward quickly into the air,blowing slightly with the breeze.

“That is the biggest bubble I have ever seen,” he said, his mouth hanging open slightly.

“Yeah! But that’s not the cool part, look!” she said, pointing to the edge of the pond where a little elf boy a few years younger than them stood. They watched as another bubble started to expand on the surface of the pond, growing bigger and bigger like the first. Right as the bubble was about to break away from the water, the little elf boy jumped out and landed right on top of it.

Steven gasped as the elf boy was sucked into the bubble right as it burst from the pond. With a squeal of joy, the boy was carried upward, now inside the bubble as it flew twenty, thirty feet into the sky.

“Ahh! He’s going to get hurt!” Steven shouted, running after the boy.

“Wait! No, he’ll be fine!” Amethyst said, chasing after Steven.

Steven’s heart was pounding, and he worried about how scared the boy would be high up in the air.

“He’s going to fall and get hurt!”

Elves were turning their heads around the lake and watching Steven chase the floating elf boy in the bubble.

“Would you stop?! Everyone is watching us now, for goodness sake,” Amethyst complained. She finally caught up to Steven and grabbed his arm, stopping him from running.

“He’ll be fine, see?” Amethyst said. They watched as the elf boy, still encased in the bubble, slowly came down from high in the air. In only a few moments, the bubble had come down to their level. Just as the edge of it touched the ground it gave a sharp ‘pop’ and the elf boy landed softly on his bum, still giggling.

Steven gawked at the boy.

“Well, it’s our turn now!” Amethyst said, grabbing Steven by the hand and pulling him back to the pond.

“Wait, wait, I’m not doing that. I’m terrified of heights! There is no way that you can convince me to jump in a bubble.”

“Fine, suit yourself!” Amethyst said, running fast and jumping into the next bubble. She was immediately swept up in the air and she screamed in delight.

Stephen felt lightheaded just watching her go up in the air.

“Steven? So you came back!” a voice said behind him.

He turned to see Pearl, Amethyst’s mother, standing behind him.

“We thought you had left us for good. Did you make it home in time for your mother to not be worried?” she asked.

Steven nodded. “Yes, it was all ok.”

Pearl looked at him curiously.“You look a little sick, dear. Are you alright?”

Steven gulped loudly.“Amethyst just went up in a bubble, and I’m scared for her. I know that she wants me to try, but I’m too scared to. I have always been afraid of being high in the air. I can’t even go hiking on a hill without getting sick.”

Pearl smiled and nodded.“It’s ok to be scared, Steven. You don’t have to do things that make you feel uncomfortable.”

He nodded.

“But—” Pearl then said, “Sometimes having courage is better than saying no.”

“What do you mean?” Steven asked.

“Being afraid happens to all of us, but being afraid also can stop us from learning. It can stop us from having amazing experiences.”

Steven thought about that for a moment.

“But having courage is hard. I think it might be too hard. I get so scared that I’m afraid I’ll do something silly,” he said.

Pearl nodded at him. “I know that having courage is hard, sure. But you only need to feed courage just a bit before it takes over. Take the first step, and the next ones come right along.”

Steven stared at her.

“Just one step, and courage can take hold,” Pearl said, then nodded to the pond. As she did, she turned to walk away. “I must be going. I have dinner to prepare for the family.”

Pearl left him staring at the pond.

“I don’t even know if I can take the first step,” he said to himself. He tried to move his foot but his stomach was so sick, and he was shaking so hard.

“Just the first step and the next come along,” Steven said again.

Even though his stomach felt like it was full of butterflies and his heart was pounding hard, he focused on the pond and took a step toward the water. Sure enough, he kept focusing, finding courage inside to keep moving. The next step was still hard, but it was a little easier. Steven had to know if he could have the courage to jump in a bubble.

“Just one step, just one step, just one step,” he kept saying.

Finally, he found himself at the edge of the pond, and before he could stop himself, he jumped right out into the water right as a bubble was forming. His chest tightened, and he tried to scream but he was too scared to. Right as he reached the water, a bubble swallowed him right up, and he shot into the air.

He screamed as he felt his body fly upward. Steven closed his eyes, the sick feeling in his stomach again. After a moment, he tried opening his eyes. The moment he did, his eyes widened and he gasped. The lake was far below, all of the elves were small now, and when he looked around he saw beautiful mountains and forests all around. To the north the mountains looked like ice on the top.

“This is beautiful! I didn’t know Tirran looked like this! I thought it was all forest and nothing else!”

As he floated high in the air he realized that what Pearl had said was true. He took the first step, had the courage to jump in, and now he was being rewarded with this amazing experience. Steven also realized that even though he was still nervous he didn’t feel sick anymore. He’d learned to overcome this fear!

Suddenly, the bubble started to go down slowly, then sped up as it made its descent. His chest tightened in fright again, but he took a deep breath and tried to calm his pounding heart.. Just as he’d seen with the little elf boy, the bubble touched the ground and popped. Steven landed on his knees with a bump.

Amethyst ran up to him and hugged him.“You did it! I know that you were scared, but you did it!”

A grin spread on Steven’s face.“And it for sure was worth it! Let’s do it again!”

As the two ran to wait in line for their turn again, Steven saw Pearl watching him with a smile on her face. When their eyes met, he thought he heard the elf woman’s voice in his head.

Courage is just taking the first step, then the rest will come.

He smiled at her and waved. She waved a blue hand back and turned to leave again.

Steven went up in a bubble at least ten more times before he started feeling fully comfortable, but the things he saw were magnificent. Tirran was a world so large he couldn’t imagine. It made him even more excited to explore and learn more about the land!

Soon, it was time for Steven to leave. He and Amethyst walked back to her house, and he found the tree that would take him home.

As he stepped up to the tree, he felt nervous about falling through the portal, but then he remembered that having courage begins with taking the first step. So he did. He found that falling through the tree and out of the box wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

The next day, it was his turn to present his book report. Steven felt nervous again; he was shaking and sweating from fright.

“Steven, it is your turn now to present.”

His chest tightened at the thought of speaking in front of all the kids. Then he thought about courage.

Courage is taking the first step, then the rest will come.

So he stood up, took a deep breath, and took the first step to the front of the classroom. Soon enough, he was there, speaking as clearly as he could about his report. The more he spoke, the less scared he was! He actually found that he was having fun telling about what he learned. Then it was done, just like that.

“Well, Steven, that was very good! I can tell that you did a lot of preparation, and I am very happy to see that,” Ms. Little said.

Steven grinned, then moved to his seat. He was so happy that he’d had the courage to take that first step. In the end, giving his report made him feel really good.