Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Asher who had two magical powers. One he liked very much. The other he didn’t like at all. But they were connected, like two sides of a coin. He couldn’t have one without the other. Asher’s favorite power was the ability to travel anywhere in the world. Instantaneously. All he had to do was close his eyes and think of any spot on the globe he wanted, and magically, he would be transported there. No jetlag. No airport security. No inflated gas prices. But this magic power created a lot of energy in the little boy, which escaped him in the form of heat. All the time. Not just when he was travelling. He was so hot, he could never make any friends, because everything he touched turned to ash. Just like his name. Green fields became brown. Flowers shriveled and died when he walked by. Never could Asher hug another person or even shake hands, so scared was he of hurting someone. And so he lived life alone, in the desert, where everything was already so hot, he went unnoticed.
One day, Asher grew tired of living alone among the rocks and sand and cactus, with only an iguana who didn’t speak, but whom he named Bob, for company. That’s when he had the brilliant idea to use the abilities of his first magical power to solve the problems of his second. “Maybe I can find a place on earth so cold it will make my heat disappear.” So he thought and he thought about the coldest places on earth and said “Aha! I know where I can go” and he closed his eyes and thought very hard about mountain tops and snow capped peaks, and slow moving rivers of ice. And immediately Asher was transported to Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. And for one whole minute, Asher wasn’t hot. But then his feet started to sink into the snow, which sizzled and steamed and turned to slush. The fattest little black bird Asher had ever seen landed on a nearby branch. “You have to leave” the little bird said. “Please. The snow is starting to melt and there will be an avalanche and the towns and forests below will be flooded or crushed.”
Asher didn’t want to be hot, but he didn’t want to cause trouble either. So he closed his eyes and thought harder about the next cold place he could go. “I know!” he said. “I’ll go from the highest peak in the world to the deepest trench in the ocean, where sunlight has never reached. His eyes still closed, Asher whispered “Mariana Trench. I want to go to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.” And magically he appeared in the deepest, darkest pit in the ocean, surrounded by strange sea creatures that glow in the dark as scary looking as they are kind. And for two minutes Asher wasn’t hot. And the strange sea creatures were happy to see him, and came forward to say hello. But soon the water around Asher started to boil. And the goblin shark and the dumbo octopus, and even the seadevil asked him to leave. “We’re sorry to see you go. But you simply can’t stay” they said, shaking their glow-in-the-dark heads sadly.
Asher nodded. He understood. He didn’t want to hurt the kind but scary-looking sea creatures. “Where can I go? Where can I go?” He asked. “I know! I will go to the top of the world, where the sun both rises and sets only once a year.” So he closed his eyes and thought about the arctic circle, and hoped the sea ice and six months of darkness would cool him down. And for three whole minutes it worked. And the polar bears, curious but wary, because they had never seen a human wearing only shorts and a t-shirt before, came to say hello. But before they could get close enough, the arctic sea ice started to melt. And the polar bears no longer wanted to say hello. “We’re sorry” they said, “but we have to ask you to leave. Without the sea ice, we aren’t able to hunt to feed our baby polar bears. You must go. Please.”
So Asher waved goodbye, closed eyes, and thought of his desert home. “It’s no use, trying to cool down,” he said to himself, sitting on his favorite rock. “At least in the desert I won’t bother anyone.” Asher started to cry. A single steaming tear that rolled down his cheek and fell to the desert floor in a burst of vapor.
Because his eyes were full of more tears, Asher didn’t notice at first the little green shoot that sprung from the place where his tear had fallen. But it grew so tall so fast, it was soon towering above his head. A giant sunflower with giant green leaves wrapped around the giant green stalk, crowned with a ring of golden petals, which raised slowly towards the sun. As the leaves uncurled from around the stalk, Asher realized he wasn’t looking at a flower at all, but a beautiful giant fairy, with ebony skin and gold hair, wearing a gown the color of emeralds, who looked down at the little boy sitting at her feet.
“Why are you crying, Asher?” the fairy asked, with a voice as deep as thunder. “I want to help you.” But Asher shook his head, his wide eyes full of wonder, but also sadness. “It’s no use. I’ve tried everything. I’ve traveled everywhere I can think of. Nothing can help me cool down.”
“You haven’t travelled everywhere,” The Fairy said, turning her face once again toward the sun. “You haven’t travelled to the moon.”
“But my magical powers aren’t strong enough to take me to the moon. And even if they could, I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”
“Yes you would. Because I wish it. If you’d like, I can help you cool down, Asher. I can send you to the moon.”
“Yes please. I want to cool down more than anything.” Asher said, so excited and so grateful to the fairy he almost hugged her. But he stopped himself short, afraid he might turn her too, to ash. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” He whispered over and over, his eyes and fists clenched tight as a whirlwind of dust swirled around him faster and faster lifting him up through the sky and rocketing him to the moon.
It wasn’t until Asher landed on the moon that he thought about his situation clearly. It was true that Asher no longer felt hot. In fact, with a night time temperature of -350 degrees Fahrenheit and dressed only in his same shorts and tee-shirt, Asher almost felt cold. But Asher was also completely alone. At least in the desert he had his iguana, Bob. The moon, on the other hand, was deserted. And after exploring all its craters, Asher sat down to rest.
“Maybe now that I’m cool, the fairy can bring me home,” he thought. Standing up, he cupped his hands around his mouth to make the sound travel farther, and yelled for the fairy with all his might. “Fairy. Sunflower fairy. I’m cool now. Can you please bring me home?” He waited and waited, hoping for a sign that she had heard him, but none came.
He tried again, more respectful like. “Excuse me. Most powerful Fairy. Your Majesty. Your plan has worked beautifully and I am cool now. Would you please be so kind as to bring me home?” But to no avail.
By this time, Asher was getting scared, and tired, and a little bit hungry. And so he tried again, but angrier. “Hey fairy. What kind of help is this? I never said you could keep me on the moon forever. Bring me home. Now!” But either the fairy couldn’t hear him, or she was ignoring him completely.
So Asher sat down again. And cried again. And this time a tear so cold it was almost ice slid down his cheek and splashed on the moon, where no green shoot sprouted.
“What do you think you’re doing, making all that noise?” an angry voice shouted. But unlike Asher’s angry voice, which roared like a bonfire, this one sounded high and crisp. Like icicles falling.
“Who are you?” Asher asked, too surprised to be offended. “Where did you come from?
“My name is Freja. I live on this star. The fairy sent me here to warm up. Back home everything I touched turned to ice. It was awful.”
“I know how you feel. Sort of. Everything I touched turned to ash. That’s how I got my name. How long have you been here?”
“I don’t really know. It’s hard to tell time in space. But you’re the first person I’ve seen. Actually you’re the first person I’ve ever seen. On earth I hid myself, so I couldn’t hurt anyone. Not even penguins.”
“You were worse off than me then. At least I had an iguana named Bob. But I can be your friend now. Why don’t you land on the moon?”
“I can’t. I’m afraid I’ll cool down again. The star is keeping me warm. But how about we play guessing games and tell each other stories?” she suggested. So this is what they did. For the first time in their lives, Asher and Freja each had a friend. They were so busy laughing and talking and playing, they didn’t notice Freja’s star moving until it was too late.
“What’s happening?” Asher asked, as Freja’s star started jerking back and forth so violently she almost fell off. She dropped to her knees and looked for something to hold on to. Suddenly, the belly of the star ignited like a rocket ship. And Freja screamed.
“I think it’s transforming into a shooting star,” Freja said, sadly. “I’ll probably never see you again.”
Terrified of losing his only friend, Asher shook his head determinedly. “It’s much worse to be alone now, after having a friend, than before when I didn’t know how much fun I was missing,” he thought. “Hold on Freja! I’ll save you!” he said, jumping from the moon to the star as the star shot through the sky.
Together Freja and Asher sped through the universe, riding on the star, like an intergalactic roller coaster, swerving between planets and under meteors, and over stars. And the entire time, Asher and Freja held on to one another as tightly as they could, too afraid to let go, laughing with equal parts fear and delight.
Finally, the star turned towards earth, and hurtled towards the Atlantic Ocean, where it crashed with a wave as high as Mount Everest, descended as deep as the Mariana Trench, and set all the arctic icebergs to bouncing. Still wrapped in each other’s arms, Freja and Asher slowly floated to the surface, where they found the Sunflower Fairy waiting for them. She was standing in a boat, with coats and mugs of hot chocolate. “You’ll be needing these now,” she said, helping them inside, and wrapping the warm coats around their shoulders, to stop their shivering. Freja and Asher cradled the mugs in their hands, lifting the hot chocolate to their noses, the gentle steam warming their faces.
“You’re going to be needing things like boats and jackets,” the fairy said, smiling at Asher. “You healed each other with your hug. Your magical powers are gone.” But Asher didn’t care. He reached out and took Freja’s hand, which was just as warm as his own.
“Friends are much better than magical powers,” he said, as the fairy disappeared again.
But this time, he wasn’t alone.