Another day had passed and Carly was still beside Logan's bed. She had gone to her home for a brief time to take a quick shower and freshen up, but then she immediately returned to the hospital. Carly refused to not stick by her best friend; she just wouldn't allow it to happen.
As she sat in her chair in Logan's room, she watched an old movie that was playing on the TV. She tried to focus on the plot line, but her mind was obviously elsewhere. Carly was wondering where Logan was. Sure, physically he was lying beside her, but where was he mentally? Was he dreaming or was his mind completely blank? If he was dreaming, was it a good dream or a nightmare? Carly had no way of knowing what her best friend was going through.
When she looked over at Logan, she couldn't help to notice that he seemed to be smiling. It was a faint smile, but it was there.
"What's going on in there?" Carly asked out loud, fully aware that she wasn't about to get an answer. She got out of her seat and stood over Logan to get a closer look. Suddenly, his eyes opened abruptly.
"Logan!" Carly screamed with excitement. "Logan, you're awake!"
Carly's excitement soon turned to confusion when she realized that, although Logan's eyes were open, he didn't appear to be looking at anything in particular. It was as if he was staring off into a far away place. Just as quickly as they opened, they soon closed again.
Carly, scared and frustrated, immediately called the nurses into Logan's room. She explained to them what had just occurred. As they checked on Logan, Carly began to cry again. Her emotions had been toyed with. For a brief moment, she had truly believed that the love of her life had come back to her. Carly had hoped that Logan's will to live would bring him home to her, but she was beginning to doubt her dream would ever come true.
"What happened?" Carly cried after Dr. Thompson arrived and reviewed Logan's charts. "Why were his eyes open, but he wasn't looking directly at me? It's like he wasn't making a connection with reality."
Dr. Thompson sighed, as he knew that he was going to have to let this young, naïve girl down with his news. "Carly, sometimes these things happen. Logan is still very much in a coma, but since his brain is still functioning, involuntary movements can still occur." He sighed again. "I'm very sorry, Carly. I really am. I know this didn't make things easier for you."
The nurses filtered out of the room and Dr. Thompson sympathetically rubbed Carly's back before he exited as well. Alone once again, Carly continued to cry. Her sadness soon turned to anger as she approached Logan's bedside.
"You know what, Logan? I think you can hear me. I think that if I talk, you have no choice anymore but to listen. So I'm going to talk and you're going to listen," Carly declared with authority. She had never spoken harshly to Logan before and didn't know where this sudden burst of empowerment was coming from. "Logan Brown, I have stuck by your side through everything, regardless of whether it was good or bad, and we both know that there have been some pretty bad times. But Logan, I can't turn into you. I can't become so consumed with grief that I let it destroy my life. I love you, but I can't let you take me down with you if it's not actually with you."
Carly took a deep breath before continuing. She turned her attention away from Logan and looked around the hospital room. The walls were stark white and the fluorescent lights were harsh on Carly's eyes. The many machines in the room had blinking lights and made beeping noises which indicated things that Carly had no sense or knowledge of. The smell of ammonia and cleaning fluids were beginning to burn her nose. This was no place for a girl like Carly to be. This was no place for anyone to be.
Carly began to speak again. "So Logan, here's your ultimatum, and it's really quite simple. This or me. You can choose to live the rest of your life in a coma if you want. That's your choice and I have no way of convincing you otherwise. But if that's what you decide, then you're doing it alone. I'm not going to stand by and watch you die."
The sadness that had turned to anger turned back into sadness once again as the tears streamed down Carly's face. She had been so emotional for the past few days that she didn't even realize when she was crying anymore.
"So Logan, pick me. You see, if you wake up, I know that things can change. I know that you've made the decision to allow things to change. And I will stay by your side and help you through anything. But you need to wake up or I'm done. I'm done and I'm walking away."
Carly collapsed back into her chair. She closed her eyes as she mentally gave Logan until the morning to wake up. If he didn't, she'd walk out the door and not look back.
* * * *
As Logan reached inside the hole to unveil the box, he could feel something strange run through his body. His heart raced and the blood in his veins began to pulse. He felt sad, but he couldn't understand why. How could he be sad when he was so close to finding his way back home?
I'm not the one that's sad, Logan realized. It's Carly. I can feel her inside of me.
Quickly, Logan retrieved the box. He knew that he needed to get back to Carly fast. Something within Logan told him that if he didn't, he was going to lose her forever. He dusted off the box before removing the white lid. There, inside, was a small, green and brown turtle.
"It's about time!" the turtle shouted. "I was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic in there! And it was getting kind of hard to breathe."
"Who are you?" Logan asked. He knew that whoever this turtle was, he was about to bring about another task for Logan to complete or another obstacle for him to jump.
Whatever the case may be, I'm ready, Logan declared to himself.
"Well, I'm Timmy. Timmy the Turtle. And seeing as you finally got me out of that box," he said with disgust, "it's apparent that you've solved all of the riddles thus far. So I offer you my congratulations."
"Thank you," Logan said. "So am I to guess that you're going to give me my next clue?"
Timmy smiled. "You've guessed right, my friend!" he exclaimed. "If you answer this riddle correctly, I will offer you an opportunity for advancement. And trust me, you want this, man. It's pretty darn good, if you ask me! I mean, this is the chance of a lifetime. With this you can--"
Logan began to realize that Timmy was a very talkative turtle. "Okay! Okay!" he laughed as he interrupted Timmy's babbling. "What's the clue?"
Timmy stopped his rant. "What am I?"
Logan looked at him. "You're a turtle. Timmy. Timmy the Turtle."
"No! No!" Timmy shook his head in disbelief. "For such a smart guy, you're dreadfully impatient. Let me finish; I'm setting the riddle up for you. You need to guess what I am."
Logan was annoyed with Timmy's insult, but what could he really expect from a talking turtle? Especially one that had been cooped up in a box underground for an undetermined amount of time.
"Let's try this one more time," Timmy said. "What am I? You can see nothing else when you look in my face. I will look you in the eye and I will never lie."
Logan was confused. This was the toughest riddle of all. Then again, if the prize for figuring it out was as great as Timmy claimed it was, the challenge needed to be difficult.
"You can see nothing else when you look in my face. I will look you in the eye and I will never lie..." Logan repeated out loud. "I don't know."
"Think hard!" Marty encouraged Logan as he fluttered through the air.
"I know you can do this," Bill chimed in as he reassuringly rubbed Logan's leg.
Frank scratched his head with his trunk. For such a wise elephant, even he was having a hard time solving this riddle! Logan and the animals continued to ponder as Tommy paced along the river. Something swimming around caught his eye and he looked in the water to see what it was. As he did so, he caught his reflection in the water.
"I know the answer!" Tommy yelled with excitement. "Look," he instructed as he pointed to the river.
Logan moved towards him in an attempt to see what Tommy was talking about. When he looked down, he saw himself staring back at him. Slowly and methodically, Logan repeated aloud, "You can see nothing else when you look in my face. I will look you in the eye and I will never lie. It's my reflection! That's the answer!"
Logan jumped with joy, but as soon as he did, there was a sudden bright flash of light, almost like lightening. Logan felt strange and then he realized that he was floating. He was floating around in nothingness. Before he could comprehend what was happening, he was thudded to the ground and became aware of the fact that he was no longer by the river with his animal friends. Standing over him was a beautiful, white swan.
"Who are you?" Logan asked as he held his throbbing head in the palm of his hand. "And where am I?"
"I'm Melissa," the swan said. "And these are my little children, Nicholas and Connor."
Logan turned to see the swan's baby ducklings waddling around next to him.
"Welcome to Achievement Island," Melissa said as she outstretched her wings and presented Logan with the enormous body of water that surrounded him. "And this is the Lake of Solved Mysteries. Congratulations, Logan. Your journey has been a daunting one. In order to reach this point, you were faced with many tasks to prove yourself to the Queen of Paradoxica. You were forced to come to terms with the fact that you need companionship in your life. In doing so, you needed to trust newfound friends. You experienced sacrifice and came to terms with the fact that there is life after loss. You were faced with enemies that you were able to defeat with your strength. You used your vast knowledge to solve riddles that, at first, seemed impossible to answer. In doing all of these things, you've grown as a person and proved that you have a will to make your life better."
Logan was mesmerized by the swan and all that she had just said. He knew that he had come a long way, but it never quite occurred to him all of the elements that had gotten him to that point. In order to get home, Logan needed to want it, but there was more to wanting something than just saying that it was something you desired. You needed to be motivated and you needed to be determined. You couldn't just give up when giving up was the easiest option. "Remember your key, Logan? The one that Bill presented you with when you first reached the Kingdom of Paradoxica?"
Logan put his hand over his heart where the key dangled from his neck, tucked beneath his shirt. He reached around his neck for the chain and removed the key.
"Bill told you that if you took a wise action, you could use the key to unlock a secret and leave Paradoxica. Well, you've done it, Logan! The Queen has the secret and is ready to present it to you as soon as I present you to her." Melissa paused, allowing Logan to take everything in. "Are you ready?"
Everything around Logan went white when Melissa wrapped her wings around him. When she released him from her feathery hold, Logan realized that he had been transported to yet another place.
"Where are we now?" he asked as he inspected his new surroundings.
Snow blanketed the land as it slowly drifted down from the sky, glittering as it fell to the ground. Logan knew that he should have felt cold, but he wasn't. The warmth he felt inside of him was regulating his body temperature.
In front of Logan, Melissa and her small cygnets stood a giant ice castle that sparkled in the sun. It was the most spectacular sight that Logan had ever laid his eyes on.
"Welcome to the Queen of Paradoxica's castle," Melissa declared proudly to Logan. "You've come a long way. Your key will unlock the gate. Good luck, my friend."
And with those words, the swan and her ducklings disappeared into thin air. Logan looked down at the ground, expecting there to be webbed prints in the snow, but there were none. His feathered friends had left no trace that they had ever been there.
Logan gazed at the castle, giving it a long look up and down before approaching the iron gate. Carefully, he slipped the key into the lock, almost surprised to find that it fit like a glove.
Down the icy hallway Logan traveled, his heart racing with anticipation. When he reached the Queen's chambers, he took a deep breath before knocking on the door. He realized that he was about to come face to face with the one responsible for putting him through the ringer and causing him to fight his inner demons and to find his inner strength.
"You may enter," a voice from inside stated. "For an instant, the voice sounded familiar to Logan, but he knew that that couldn't be.
When Logan entered the Queen's enormous room, he was immediately mesmerized by the great creature that stood before him. An exotic white tiger stared back at him with kind eyes.
"Hello, Logan," the Queen said.
"Your highness," Logan replied as he took a polite bow.
The Queen gazed at Logan, almost like she was waiting for a moment of clarity from him. "Logan," she said as she stared deep into his eyes.
Suddenly, Logan couldn't move. He felt paralyzed. The familiar voice. The kind eyes. He didn't think that it was possible, but it was.
"Laurie?" he cried out.
"Yes, Logan. It's me," the white tiger said with a nod.
Logan dropped to his knees is disbelief. He knew deep within his heart that this was his departed twin sister.
"Logan, our time is short," Laurie said. "And there is much to explain," she went on.
Logan stared at his sister, ready to hear all that she had to say, all that she couldn't have said before.
"You were brought to Paradoxica because you were headed down a dangerous path. The alcohol. The carelessness. The recklessness. It needed to stop," Laurie told her brother. "You needed to realize that your life must turn around."
Logan continued to gaze at Laurie, taking in every word that she spoke.
"Logan, life is about living and you can not live if you don't stop wallowing in the past. You need to let me go."
"But Laurie --" Logan interrupted.
"No. You must listen to me. I know that you love me, but no amount of grief is ever going to bring me back to your world. You must love others, such as the ones that love you."
Like a scolded child, Logan turned his attention down to the ground. "Like Carly," he whispered almost inaudibly.
"Yes, Logan. One such as Carly. She needs you and you need her. Open yourself up to the possibility that there is more to life than pain and suffering. There's love. It exists in all of us, we just need to find it and nourish it." Suddenly, Logan's entire body began to tingle.
"What's happening to me?" he asked, obviously frightened.
"You must go now, Logan. Know that you are strong and can make it through anything, no matter how difficult it may seem to be. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourself."
Logan held his arms out in front of him and saw them beginning to fade away. Quickly, he looked back up at Laurie.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you, too," Laurie replied before Logan disappeared, making his exit out of the Kingdom of Paradoxica and back to his home.
When Logan opened his eyes, the first person he saw was Carly, asleep in a chair next to him with her head rested on his bed. He couldn't stop himself from smiling when he realized how much she loved him. Carefully, he extended his arm and gently stroked her soft, brown hair. Carly stirred slightly and soon lifted her head from Logan's bed to find him staring back at her.
"Hey," Logan croaked.
Carly's eyes widened and soon began to tear. "I thought I lost you forever," she cried as she took Logan's hand in hers.
"Same here," he replied.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
"Better than I have in a long time," Logan told her unquestionably. "Car, I love you."
Carly sharply inhaled. "I love you, too, Logan."
As the two lay together in the hospital bed, Logan caressed Carly's arm as he stared out the window. It was then that he noticed the squirrel perched on the ledge.
"Thanks, guys," he whispered to himself, hoping that his unbelievable animal friends and sister knew how appreciative he was to get a second chance at life.