I should tell you what Mitzy Bunkler looks like. Of course, nobody really knows anymore, so I can’t say that my description will be exactly spot-on, but I’ll try my best to be accurate.
Mitzy Bunkler is small. Very small. Actually, she’s probably no more than two feet high, and probably less. She’s very thin, and very straight, like a stick that’s been sanded and carved until it could be a table leg or the set of handlebars to a very old-fashioned bicycle. Now, from that bit of description you might guess that she is a fairy, but she isn’t. She’s related to fairies, of course (everything magical is related to everything else magical), but really she’s something different. A picture, you see, is a tiny whisp of imagination that forms itself into a little being — sometimes a dog, sometimes a bird, sometimes a cat, but most times a person. Most children have them, but the very sad thing about pictures is that they can’t have each other, and when the little child who created them grows up, they get forgotten about; so each picture is, at some point in time, really and completely alone.
Mitzy Bunkler’s hair is gray, and made of smoke. Her skin looks like the fog on your mirror after a hot shower. When she moves, she swirls and curls and seems to somehow catch hold of everything around her, and to most people she looks like no more than a shadow, a spot of grayness in an otherwise colorful world, and so they can’t see her. They don’t even know she’s there. But Timmy could see exactly what it was that made her so visible to him, what made her exist for only himself: her eyes. Her eyes were a dazzling, sparkling, fierce green. They were the sharpest, saddest eyes he’d ever seen, and if you saw them, they’d be the sharpest, saddest eyes you’d ever seen, too.
The eyes were the first thing Timmy saw when he opened the toy box.
Out swirled Mitzy Bunkler — irritable, cramped, and grouchy, but existing. She liked existing. Existing was actually a very lovely feeling — but she wasn’t going to show Timmy that.
“Took you long enough!” she chirped angrily. Mitzy Bunkler had a very tiny voice to go with her very tiny body, so most times her voice was like a flute. When she was angry, she chirped like an offended mother bird; when she was scared, she whistled like a kettle. Luckily for Timmy, she didn’t get angry or scared very often. He’d go deaf if she did.
“S-s-sorry!” gasped Timmy, leaping backwards onto his bed. Arnold was standing there, gaping at the strange misty form that was curling and twisting in front of him. He was so shocked he couldn’t even growl.
Mitzy’s eyes cooled a little. “Well, it’s alright, I suppose. I’m out now, aren’t I?”
Mitzy turned (as best she could turn, given that she wasn’t made of a whole lot of substance) and gave Timmy a long, hard look. Timmy felt as though he was under inspection by the school nurse on check-up day. He sat up straighter, wanting to seem healthy.
“You’ve been crying,” Mitzy declared after about five minutes of this. Timmy waited for her to say something else. She didn’t.
“Yeah, I have,” he replied.
“Because… because of being average.”
“Who’s ‘average’?” chirped Mitzy, suddenly indignant. “Who on earth — or any planet — has ever been average in the history of time and space?”
She stared at Timmy again for a long time. Then Timmy realized she expected an answer. “Um… I d-don’t know…” he said, even though he did know.
“Nobody, that’s who.” Mitzy folded her arms and smiled, looking very pleased with herself, as though that statement had been one of irrefutable wisdom.
“That’s what Mother and Dad say. They say that ‘average’ is a made-up word, except when you use it for test grades and stuff like that.”
“I’d say your parents are smart people,” said Mitzy approvingly. She glanced apprehensively at Arnold, who had started growling again. “Look, I think I’d better go for a while. Just until tomorrow morning. I’m coming with you to school.”
“Of course I am. I’m your… well, you call us invisible friends, and grown-ups call us imaginary. I’m one of those. I go where you go.”
“So how are you going to leave tonight?”
“Oh, I’m not going to leave,” she said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world, “I’m just going to dematerialize. Break into a million bits, I mean. And then tomorrow I’ll materialize again when it’s time to go to school. I’ll have to be careful about my aim, though. That’s how I ended up in the toy box. I was aiming for on top of your bookshelf, but I guess my aim’s much worse than I thought.”
“Uh… yeah,” said Timmy stupidly.
Now Mitzy laughed — a sincere, enthusiastic laugh that sounded like a load of little Christmas bells when you ring a bunch of them all at once. Arnold stopped growling at the sound of it. “Yeah.” She grinned a smokey grin. “Sweet dreams, Timmy. I’ll be here tomorrow.”
And with that she was gone — or had Timmy simply closed his eyes and fallen asleep? Timmy could never be sure.
The next morning, Timmy woke up feeling, for some reason, very excited. He couldn’t remember why, but something in the back of his mind made him feel like something very big and important and not average was going to happen to him. What was it… what was it…?
He woke up, ate his cereal, fed Arnold, and left for school just like any other day. But it wasn’t just like any other day, and he soon remembered why — when something in his backpack went BUMP.
He knew that BUMP.
With a gasp of sudden realization and excitement, he whipped his backpack around in front of him and unzipped it. There, staring up at him with great green eyes and rubbing her smokey head with one hand, was the miracle from his toy box.
“Hello!” he cried.
“Hey, you,” she said, wincing at the sound of his loud voice. “Close your mouth. You look as if you didn’t even know I was going to be here.”
“Well, I… I didn’t. I’d forgotten about you.”
The miracle’s green eyes blinked. “Oh. Of course you did. Shoulda known,” she said ruefully, more to herself than to Timmy. “Everyone always forgets me. Just hoped maybe this time it’d be different.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing!” she twinkled, suddenly bright and cheery. She grabbed Timmy by the wrist and cried, “Come on, off we go! We’ve got an adventure to go on!”
“But what about school?”
“School?” she said, grinning. “School’s an adventure for another time. Maybe later.”
“But… but…” Timmy spluttered, struggling to pull out of her strange, smokey grasp as she pulled him off the sidewalk, across the road and into the woods that surrounded the town park, “But I can’t just skip school, Mother and Dad will be angry!”
They’d reached the opposite sidewalk now. The miracle stopped and turned around to face him. “Don’t worry. You won’t miss school. I’ll take you on an adventure or two, or three, or ten, and then we’ll be back here in time for you to catch your bus.”
“But that’ll take hours!”
“Will not!” she chirped indignantly. “I should think I have a bit more power that that. Now, any more buts for me to argue with?”
“N-not really… but… what’s your name?”
The miracle’s green eyes brightened, her mouth opened up in a misty, swirling smile. “I’m Mitzy Bunkler. Now come on, let’s go!” And with one final yank on Timmy’s arm, go they did… Deep, deep, deep into the forest.
Timmy blinked. He had expected the inside of a forest to be dark and green and filled with shadows and scary noises. He hadn’t thought it would be so white and fluffy. “Where are we?” he asked Mitzy.
“Take a guess,” she replied.
“Um… We’re in a cloud?”
“Nope, but good try,” she laughed. She scooped up a handful of the white stuff and held it out to him. “Here, taste it.” Timmy blinked again. Mitzy rolled her eyes. “No really, have a lick!”
Tentatively, Timmy stuck out his tongue and lapped up a bit of the stuff. His eyes lit up and he smiled hugely. “It’s cotton candy!”
“Exactly!” said Mitzy. “Haven’t you ever wondered what it’s like to be the smallest thing in the universe?”
“Yeah, I have.”
“Well, you aren’t going to find that out any time soon, because it’s impossible to be that small, unless you’re the smallest thing itself. But this is the closest thing.”
“That’s amazing!” cried Timmy, “But… if we’re standing in a giant heap of cotton candy… Won’t we get eaten?”
“Not yet!” she cried, leaping into the air and flitting from one pile of cotton candy to another, “They haven’t even colored this stuff yet. Once they turn it blue or pink, then we’d better think about moving on.”
“But that could take ages!”
“I don’t think so!” said Mitzy, wagging one smokey finger. Even as she said it, Timmy looked up, and there, hanging in the air above him, was a giant vat of strange, sticky-looking, bright blue liquid.
As Timmy watched, invisible (probably giant) hands tipped the vat over, and a flood of blue gunk crashed over his head. Timmy squeezes his eyes shut and held his breath, but the stuff still got in his mouth and made him feel sticky all over. “Eurgh…” he groaned, smacking his lips and wiping the liquid from his eyes. “That’s gross.”
“Not when it turns into cotton candy,” said Mitzy, grinning. She tapped him on the shoulder and, just like that, all the blue was gone. Timmy gave a sigh of relief and wiggled his arms about, pleased that he could do so freely. “Come on,” Mitzy twinkled at him. “We’d better get going, they’re going to mix up the stuff into actual cotton candy now.”
Timmy looked up at the gigantic bucket that was now being pulled back away from the fluff they were standing in. “It’s so big…”
“Not really,” said Mitzy. “I mean, think about it. If we were the size you normally are, it wouldn’t seem very big at all. It’s not big… we’re just small.”
“Or maybe we’re not small, it’s just big.”
“It’s not like being small’s a bad thing,” chirped Mitzy, annoyed. “Here, look.” She grabbed Timmy’s hand. There was a whooshing sound and a blast of wind on Timmy’s face — he felt rather like he was spinning. He squeezed his eyes shut and held on very tight to Mitzy’s hand. When the movement stopped, he opened them to find that they were apparently perched on the highest branch of a very large tree. Spread out beneath them was, Timmy realized, a huge carnival, with ferris wheels and roller coasters and cake walks and games. He gasped in awe at the twinkling lights and the biggest of the spinning ferris wheels. It was all very pretty.
Mitzy tapped him on the shoulder. “Look there,” she said, pointing one twisting tendril of a finger.
Timmy looked. Mitzy was pointing at a very young girl, younger than Timmy, who was walking with her mother. One hand had disappeared into her mother’s, the attached arm lifted so high she had to walk on tip-toe, dangling happily from one ride to another. The other hand was holding very tightly to a thick, fluffy, delicious cone of light blue cotton candy.
“Is that the same stuff we were in just now?” he gasped.
“Sure is!” Mitzy replied. “Watch this.”
Timmy watched as the little girl took a large bite out of the cotton candy. Her face lit up in a very big smile, and she looked up and said, “Cotton candy is good, Mommy. You should have some.”
Mommy smiled distractedly — the line for the last ride of her day was getting longer, and she really wanted to get a good place in line so she could just get this whole carnival nonsense over with. “Mommy’s fine without it, dear,” she said wearily.
“But it’s good. It makes my tummy happy. See? Here, taste it!” She reached up as high as she could, waving the cone in front of Mommy’s face.
Mommy paused for a second, looked at the cone, glanced uneasily at the steadily growing line, and then turned back to her daughter’s pleading face.
“Please?” the girl begged.
“Oh, alright,” said Mommy reluctantly. As quickly as she could, she bit out of the cottony mound.
“Isn’t it good, Mommy?” the little girl asked.
To Timmy’s surprise, Mommy began to change. She looked down at her daughter, and her face relaxed into an affectionate smile. She bent down with her hands on her knees, looked the little girl in the face, and said, “Yes, sweetheart. It’s very good. You were right, it made Mommy’s tummy happy.” And with that, she picked her delighted daughter up off the ground and carried her to the end of the now extremely long line, where they stood, laughing and chattering and taking turns biting at the cotton candy.
“You see?” asked Mitzy happily. “It’s not so bad being small. All those tiny pieces of sugar probably thought they were to tiny to matter… But all that mother had to do was taste a few of them, and they made her day a bit happier, and her happiness in turn made the little girl happy.”
Timmy nodded. “And we never think about it, do we, us being so big?”
“Hardly ever,” agreed Mitzy. “But actually, compared to a lot of things, we’re not big at all.”
Timmy looked at her. “You’ve just shown me the smallest thing in the universe, or something close enough. So now you’re going to show me the biggest thing in the universe.”
“Or something close enough,” twittered Mitzy, smiling hugely. “Watch this.”
Timmy closed his eyes and held on tight to Mitzy’s hand again. This trip was much, much longer then the last two. When he opened his eyes this time, however, he immediately closed them again, because he found himself almost blinded by an onslaught of brilliant, fiery white light. “WHERE ARE WE?!?!” he screamed to Mitzy, his volume rising steeply with his shock. He could still feel her wispy hand clasped in his.
“We’re in space,” she said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s not that bad now, take a look.”
Hesitantly, Timmy opened his eyes. Mitzy was right — the light had dimmed considerably, but it was still very bright, and he had to squint to see what it was he was looking at, and even then he still didn’t know. “What is it?” he asked.
When Mitzy answered, Timmy knew that she was smiling. She sounded almost proud. “A supernova. A star, that’s exploding. It’s dying.”
“It’s huge,” cried Timmy.
“That’s a bit of an understatement, Timmy,” said Mitzy, waving her arms about wildly. “It goes on and on and on.”
Timmy looked. She was absolutely right. Timmy suddenly felt very, very small. He tried to open his eyes as wide as he could, to take in all the yellows and oranges and reds, even blues and pinks and greens, but the explosion went on forever. There was no sound, and Timmy and Mitzy felt no heat, but there it was, happening right in front of them. A star, huge and old and very, very important, was dying. It was bigger than anything Timmy could ever have imagined. It was the biggest thing anyone had ever seen — and Timmy realized he was the first one to ever get to see it.
He turned to Mitzy, suddenly aware that his arms and legs were shaking furiously. “What now?”
Smiling in a strange, old way, Mitzy reached out her hand for Timmy’s. “Take a guess,” she said.
Timmy did. He was right.