We watched him as he flung his hands up in the air and performed an odd angled but fierce kick at practically nothing. He then uttered a war cry, slashed the wooden sword that he was holding in his hand at a park bench, mumbled something out loud and slid the wooden stick into the side of his pants, mimicking the sheathing of a sword.  

"Poor guy" tsk- tsked my buddy, as he put out the remainder of his cigarette and proceeded to light another. "Ciggie?" he asked me, an offer which I politely declined.  

"Look at him!" he said, pointing to the kid. "Just bizarre! I feel sorry for that kid, all alone and probably going a little sick in the head."

"Probably!" I said as I watched the kid take a twirl and lash out his make-believe wooden sword, all the while striking at thin air.  

We've noticed that this kid comes here to play almost everyday. Our evenings are usually spent in this park, where my buddies and I grab some cold drinks and have a smoke as we each complain about our families back at home. Every evening we watch as kids come over to kick a ball or throw a frisbee. We observe these young minds socialize on the playground and make friends easier than an adult would. We watch friendships develop and new ones form- an introvert child, now socially accepted and happy, running freely with his new playmates. We watch children learn from each other without being judged, each portraying a willingness to teach and grow together. 

My eyes darted away from the football players and cricketers to this solitary kid. There was something rather odd about his appearance. He wasn't ever seen playing with the others and neither did anyone take notice of this kid. It was as though he was invisible to the multitude of happy children. Yet, he was happy in his self-created space. Perhaps the children didn't like him because of the way he dressed. He was a dirty-legged boy, who wore nothing more than a pair of torn, dust-stained shorts. I contemplated if the reason for his social exclusion was his stature. Most parents are concerned if their kids played with a street rat. Similarly, some could be anxious that this child would be a bad influence. Nonetheless, this dirty-legged boy was the happiest I would ever see on that playground.

Soon, the park would get dark and the children left for their homes, but the lonely kid stayed back in his own land of dreams. We stood up and wore our hats after bidding our goodbyes to each other for the night. My friends walked on ahead of me, but I stayed back for a last look at this poor child. There was something about that child that struck a chord within me, making me want to reach out and give him some love. As I stood gazing at him, he lost his hold on the stick he was swinging around, and it fell a few feet before me. 

“Could you pass over my sword, mister?” 

I picked up his sword, but I refrained from tossing it back at him. Instead, I walked over to him and gently knelt down before him. 

“What are you doing, child?” I ask. 

“Defending the village sir. Quick, hand me over my sword, I have to get back to the battle.”

“Don’t you have any playmates?” 

“None, sir” he frantically replied as he hastily put out his hand to take the sword from me. 

“Seems like quite a battle you’re fighting there! Surely you can’t fight this alone”

“Oh! I am not alone” he snickered and drew out the wooden stick for another fight. However, this time, he didn’t yell or slash out. Instead, he looked straight at me and said “Do you want to join me, sir?”

I couldn’t have ever felt more privileged. Of all the people in the park, he had finally asked me to join him in a game. I could be perhaps the only person this child had asked to be friends with. If I could bring a change in the life of this child- so be it!

“Let’s battle.” 

“Then come” he said and put out his tiny hand for me to hold. “Come and I’ll show you my village”.

I held his hand, and instantly the world around me changed. I was no longer in the park but in an entirely new and beautiful place. The ground on which we were standing was green and abundant in grass and pretty flowers. Surrounding me was a garden of fruit trees and every tree sounded with the chirping of the birds in the air. 

“This is beautiful!” I remarked. 

“Yes. This is my village- Dlihc Dnal. We have no time to waste”. Putting his fingers into his mouth, he let out a loud high-pitched whistle. In a matter of seconds, the air was filled with the sound of wings. I looked up to see four unicorns descend and stand before us. The boy petted and introduced each one of them to me with their names. 

“This one here is called Claire.” Leaning closer towards me, he whispered “she’s my favourite, but don’t tell the others.” I nodded. 

“This one is Chestnut, he’s a peach.” I patted Chestnut on her back. 

“And this one is Shy, I don’t think I’ll have to explain why I call her Shy.” The unicorn immediately took a step back, just as her name suggested. He then pointed to the last one, but didn't pet him. “That’s Bitey. Trust me, you do not want to try to even touch him”. He walked over to Claire and climbed on her back. “Grab one… just try not to get onto Bitey, he’s not very friendly towards guests”. I heard Bitey snort- an angry unwelcoming snot. 

“Right. Chestnut. I’m riding you.” I declared. The unicorn bowed before me, allowing me to climb onto its back with ease. 

Away we went to the hills. I had no idea who I would be fighting with, but I knew for certain that our battle would be legendary. Even before we could reach the hill, out flew a number of Witches- green faced monsters on their broomsticks. Their laugh echoed throughout the land, as they came around from every side. 

“We have to fight them! Attack!” shouted the boy. 

“I don’t have a sword!” I remarked, quite alarmed at the change in events. 

“There, on the ground!”

I noticed a shimmering sword on the ground far below. My unicorn, as though our minds were one, dropped down and made a dead spin over the ground and back up, giving me enough time to grab hold of the sword mid-flight.  

We flew to the clouds again to see the boy drive his sword into the hearts of two witches, who instead of dying, simply exploded into flames. Out of nowhere, a witch charged at me, but I lifted my sword just in time to watch the witch explode. I chased after another two witches, who tried to escape, but in vain. I managed to catch up to them. I looked back to see Bitey and Shy chase down a witch and a huge explosion was heard in the sky. 

“We won!” cried the lad. 

“Hurray! That was amazing!” 

“And now, we have to get to the top of the hill… Our mission is not over yet.”

“Oh yes, it is!” I heard a voice say. I didn’t have time to ask whose voice it was. We were immediately brought back to the park where we had commenced this mission. 

“It’s late!” said the boy, “I have to get home.”

“Well good, lad. We’ll continue the game tomorrow.”

“I can't”, he said as a tear trickled down his cheek. “I have to grow up.”

He turned to leave, but stopped and said “I will try to visit, whenever I can. And so can you.”

He then disappeared amongst the bushes, perhaps back home to his village of unicorns and witches.

I sheathed the stick I was holding on to into the side of my pants, and picked up my fallen hat. I realised a few passersby were staring at me as though I were a lunatic. I smiled back at them and exclaimed “If you only knew the joys of seeing life through the eyes of a child!”

-Damian Don Williams