Zack lived in the land of Kadera. His life was pain free and easy. In the mornings he would bounce out of bed with a song. Kadera was a land of light. In winter the snow sparkled and was perfect for tobogganing and constructing snow people and houses. In spring the rain was clear and warm, the children would dance, sing and splash in the puddles. The summers were long and green and they swam and played games till dusk. They had naps under leafy elms and oaks, drank pink lemonade and ate sweet berries. They played games among the branches of trees, swinging from branch to branch. As the days grew shorter the trees put on vibrant coats of gold, saffron, auburn and carmine. Hills were a challenge to conquer. they would run or cycle up them and then soar back down. It was not possible to be unhappy in Kadera. If a child fell and scraped a knee the injury healed quickly and left no scar. Zack was blissfully free, he ran like the wind was carrying him, scurried up trees like a squirrel, laughed heartily and sang without constraint.
The only thing that disturbed the peace of Kadera was that once in a while a child would disappear. Some one would be there in the evening and then in the morning they would be gone. The children would talk for a while about where their friend could be but then the snow or rain would begin to fall or some one would spy a rabbit and they'd be off to new adventures.
Zack was playing in the woods one clear summer day. He was high in a tree when he spied a stranger. Curious, Jack scurried down and landed at the strangers feet. The stranger was unlike anyone Zack had ever met, he had to tilt his head back to see his face. There was a dark shadow on the stranger's face and it appeared to be growing out of his skin.
"Whoa, you're tall!"
The stranger cleared his throat, held out his hand and replied, "I'm Jacob and who are you?"
"My name's Zack"
The stranger smiled and said "very glad to meet you Zack, I have come to open your eyes."
"But my eyes are open, I can see. You are standing right before me, the leaves on the trees are green and the sun is shining. What else is there?"
"Ah Zack, the things you don't know could fill an ocean and I can teach about them."
"Well then lets get on with it."
Zack and the stranger sat down with their backs against the tree and talked until the world around them grew pink and gold and Zack grew sleepy.
Jacob, seeing the his young friend's eyes droop said. "That's enough for one day. Meet me here tomorrow and we'll continue but don't tell anyone. This must remain secret or you will never see me again."
Zack agreed to keep the secret and ran home to a good meal and a soft bed. He slept soundly, his dreams were full of wonder.
He returned the next day, and many days following.
One day Jacob said to him, "I cannot tell you anymore, it is time to show you. You need to come with me and experience these things."
"I'm not sure. This place is good, I'm happy."
"Oh but you are missing out. There is a whole world out there to see. Spectacles you can't imagine."
Zack thought about it. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave his golden land.
"If you stay here you will never know what is beyond this place and I will not come here again."
Zack was beguiled. He wanted to see and experience the things Jacob had told him about.
"Let me go home, say good-bye to my friends and tell them that I am going away to have adventures."
"No Zack. You must come now or not at all. You're not afraid are you?"
Zack was unsure, torn.
"I'll look after you and show you the world. I won't let any harm come your way."
"Okay. But promise me that I can come back if I miss this place."
"I will never keep you from happiness."
So Zack and Jacob left the woods with their backs to the sun. They walked for days. As they traveled the world became barren. Zack began to worry that things may not be as Jacob had promised but he did not know his way home, he was lost. After a while they came to a drab place full of concrete and dingy buildings. He asked "what is this place?"
Jacob replied, "it is a city"
Zack was astounded, this place was grey, it stank and the noise was appalling. It did not look like the gleaming, joyous, exciting place Jacob had told him about. They came to a unadorned, unpainted house and entered.
Jacob said "Here is your new home."
Zack stared at the worn furniture, the grimy windows and scuffed floors. He felt tears behind his eyes and then his face was wet. "I want to go home."
"I don't think so. I have paid your way, for rooms and three meals a day. Now it is time for you to pay me back."
Jacob brought him to a room upstairs, shoved him in and locked the door. The room was filled with unhappy looking children. He stood there with tears running down his face, unable to look up. He found a corner, slumped down and fell asleep.
Zack's waking hours were filled with dull work and his sleep with terror. When Jacob was displeased with him he would beat him.
Zack dragged himself out of bed each morning. He no longer looked anyone in the face, he felt foolish, ashamed. Joy was gone. There were no more songs, games or stories. His old life was a fantasy. He learned to make himself small, keep his head down and speak in a low voice. Jacob renamed him Brone.
After many years Brone met a man in the market place named Joshua who struck up a conversation with him. Brone told the man about his life and Josh offered him a way to freedom. Brone said he just wanted to go back to his land of Kadera. The man told him that he couldn't go back. "Once a person leaves Kadera they can never return. All people start in a place like Kadera but no one stays there, sooner or later they must leave. Some leave at a young age, before they are ready. Others stay until they mature. For the young ones, like you were, it is an alarming experience that marks them for a long time. But there is a way. A new place, a new life." Brone listened politely but could not accept the man's words. He had been betrayed before, lead away by sweet words and glorious but empty promises.
Brone bid Joshua good-bye and went back to his dreary life.