Land of Maiju

Todd Sullivan

The granddaughter of the most powerful witch in the world held a pencil to the hole in the wall.
“Jong Eun-Yul,” six-year-old Koh Dong-gyu said. He stood over her shoulder. “It’s too short.”
“Way too short,” the students standing behind Dong-gyu said.
“It’s a perfect size,” Eun-Yul replied. The pencil did seem too short, though, but she didn’t want to agree with Dong-gyu. Anyway, how would he know how far into the wall they had to go to find the Land of Maiju?
Eun-Yul placed the pencil into the small hole.
“It’s not sharp enough.” Dong-gyu’s breath tickled her ear.
“Where’s the pencil sharpener?” the students behind Dong-gyu asked.
“It’s perfectly sharp,” Eun-Yul replied. Besides, this was the only pencil they’d found in the room. A longer one would be better, but when Stephen Teacher brought in the rest of the school supplies, it would be too late. Stephen Teacher’s disbelief in magic would cancel out their belief-magic.
Eun-Yul turned the short, dull edged pencil to the right and left, left and right. Tiny bits of plaster fluttered to the floor.
Dong-gyu reached for the pencil. “Give it to me. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Eun-Yul pulled the pencil out of the hole. She held it above her head. “I’m the most powerful witch here,” she said.
“Says you,” Dong-gyu replied. He reached for the pencil again. Eun-Yul slapped his hand away.
“I’m the only one who can open the gates to Maiju,” Eun-Yul declared, and pushed Dong-gyu. There’s no way she was going to let him do it and become the class hero.
“My brother already told me how to do it,” Dong-gyu said. He shoved Eun-Yul back. “He’s the one who told us where this hole was.”
“Everyone knows about this hole,” Eun-Yul replied. Especially after Dong-gyu told. He thought his brother was just so smart. No family was more powerful than hers. She’d show him.
Their classmates crowded behind them. They watched the two of them struggling over the pencil.
“Hurry up,” they said. “Stephen Teacher will come soon. Just open the gates.”
“My brother knows more magic than anyone,” Dong-gyu said. He grabbed Eun-Yul’s hand. “My mom and dad teach him.” He twisted her hand.
“That doesn’t mean anything.” Eun-Yul slipped her hand from Dong-gyu’s grasp and stepped on his toe.
“Yes it does,” Dong-gyu said as he hopped on one foot. “My mom and dad are the most powerful wizard and witch in the world!”
Eun-Yul’s eyes flashed. Now she was angry. Koh Dong-gyu was always talking about his brother. He was only three years older than them. What did he know? He was always going on about his mom and dad. Who were they to her grandmother, the leader of the Suncheon City magic users? And since Eun-Yul was the granddaughter of the leader of the wizards and witches, no one was as powerful as her.
No one here at least, and she’d make sure of that.
Eun-Yul pushed Dong-gyu away one final time. She quickly turned to the hole and jabbed the pencil in. Just then, the classroom door opened. Eun-Yul spun around. Dong-gyu stood directly behind her and was not as fast. She rammed her nose against his face. Stars exploded into her eyes.
“Ouch!” she exclaimed.
Stephen Teacher stood at the door. He towered over them, his reggae-style hair touching his shoulders. He smiled, and using her English name, said, “Sophia? Are you okay?”
She slipped the pencil into her pocket. “Yes,” she responded in English. She rubbed her nose. Dong-gyu faced the teacher now, too. She jabbed him in the back making him jump forward.
“Dummy!” she whispered at him.
Stephen Teacher smiled down at the students. “What are you all doing?” He pointed at the wall. There were eight kids in the afternoon English class. Seven of them stood at the wall. Eun-Yul stood in front of the hole. Humans did not believe in magic, but he would certainly see a hole in the wall.
Eun-Yul stepped on the plaster. He could see that, too. And if he saw it, he might tell their homeroom teacher, Hye-Young Seonsaengnim. Then they could get in trouble if she realized they were trying to go to the Land of Maiju.
“Well?” Stephen Teacher said.
“Um,” Eun-Yul replied. She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
Stephen Teacher laughed. “It’s okay. Sit down please.”
The students went to their seats. They sat in chairs farthest away from the single student who hadn’t been at the wall with them.
“Sophia,” Stephen Teacher said. “Here, sit by Rachel.”
Eun-Yul kept the frown off her face. She kept her eyes from rolling, and smiled at Stephen Teacher. She sat in the chair next to Kang Hye-Won.
Hye-Won did not turn to her. She stared at the blackboard instead. Eun-Yul never knew what Hye-Won was looking at when she looked at nothing. But Hye-Won was the third most important reason the other students wanted to leave the school and go to Maiju.
Hye-Won was the new student. She never spoke when she could stare. And her English broke in her mouth so that no one understood her. Stephen Teacher always said that she was getting better, but that couldn’t be true. Being bad in English was only slightly improved from being really awful in English.
“Tomorrow we must be ready,” Stephen Teacher said. He smiled brightly. He pumped his left arm to get them excited. “Tomorrow you will sing the English song for your family.”
That was the second reason why the students wanted to go to Maiju. Tomorrow evening was the talent show. Every class in the school had to join in. The four year olds had it easy. They did not have to do a song in English. The five year olds had it easy, too. They did not have to sing a song in English. Even their regular classmates, the other six year olds, had it easy. They did not have to sing a song in English. Only the afternoon English class had to sing a song in English, and it was really difficult to remember.
Life was so unfair.
Stephen Teacher had taught them a song to perform. He had told them to just have fun and not worry, but the class didn’t want to look bad in front of their moms and dads. If they made a lot of mistakes their brothers and sisters would tease them afterwards. So they were all trying so hard to learn the English. But Kang Hye-Won could not remember her lines. Hye-Won never learned anything well. She just sat and stared and did not speak.
If Hye-Won did not get her lines right, the rest could not get the rap right. Eun-Yul was the best English speaker, so Stephen Teacher always asked her work with Hye-Won.
Eun-Yul kept the sigh behind her lips. If they could just get to the Land of Maiju, they could stay there until tomorrow was yesterday. Then they wouldn’t have to sing in front of their moms and dads and brothers and sisters. They wouldn’t have to sing with Hye-Won. They could just play and eat candy, and eat candy and play.
This was the first reason they wanted to go to Maiju.
“Here are the lyrics,” Stephen Teacher said. He passed around square sheets of white paper. “Practice your lines in pairs.” He held up two fingers. “Then we will do it together in a group.”
Eun-Yul sat in the desk beside Hye-Won. Hye-Won did not turn to her. Eun-Yul tapped her shoulder. “Are you ready?” she asked.
Hye-Won slowly looked at her. Her eyes were certainly open, but she seemed asleep.
Eun-Yul swallowed another sigh. “I’ll start,” she said. She read the two lines of the English rap song she had to memorize. “Home, home, where the good times are. Home, home, where the best times are.
“Now your turn.”
“Homhom mumnded wa i ting wi a big smil. Homhom bro the n sis the wa i ting wi fo a big hug.”
This time, the sigh broke free from between Eun-Yul’s lips. They had gone over this already. One day. Two days. Three days. Every time, Hye-Won got the words a little more wrong.
Eun-Yul looked at the words that Hye-Won was supposed to say: Home, home, mom and dad waiting to hug. Home, home, brother and sister waiting to play.
Eun-Yul glanced at Dong-gyu. He sat in the next set of seats with his partner. He had overheard Hye-Won and was frowning. Eun-Yul met his eyes. They glanced back at the hole in the wall and nodded. Dong-gyu was an idiot, but together they could probably get to Maiju.
Dong-gyu pointed to the teacher’s desk. Stephen Teacher had brought in the class supplies. A dozen long, sharp pencils were in a paper cup. Somehow they had to get one to drill a bigger hole in the wall and open the gates to Maiju.
“Stephen Teacher,” Eun-Yul said. “Come here, please.”
“Sure.” Stephen Teacher walked over to them. “What’s wrong, Sophia?”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dong-gyu slip out of his chair to the floor. Eun-Yul pointed to Hye-Won. “Rachel say the words not good.” She pointed to the paper.
“I can help you.” Stephen Teacher crouched down next to Hye-Won. “Don’t worry,” he said, and smiled at her. Dong-gyu slithered across the floor on his belly to reach the desk. He got to his knees, snatched a pencil from the cup, then ducked down again. He slithered back along the floor to his chair.
Stephen Teacher did not notice. He held the paper in his hands and said, “These are Sophia’s lyrics. ‘Home, home, where the good times are. Home, home, where the best times are.’
“And these are Rachel’s lyrics.” Announcing each word slowly, he said, “Mom and Dad waiting with a bright smile. Brother and sister waiting for a big hug.”
“Is it too hard?” he asked Rachel. She stared at him with a blank look. He smiled. “Try it again,” he said. He handed the paper to Eun-Yul. “You’ll get it!”
Stephen Teacher went to help other students. Ten minutes later, he said, “Now, we will practice together. I will go get the stereo.”
He walked out of class. The seven students jumped from their seats.
“Is Kang Hye-Won saying the words better?” Dong-gyu asked.
Eun-Yul shook her head. They crowded around the hole. “I’ll do it,” she said. She snatched the pencil from Dong-gyu’s hand.
“I can do magic, too,” he said. He snatched it back from her. “And I’m the one who got the pencil.”
He put the pencil in the hole. He turned it right. He turned it left. Eun-Yul shook her head. It’s the other way around, she thought.
“Can you hear the words?” Eun-Yul asked.
Magic had to be listened carefully to. It lived in the air and the walls. Everywhere, really. It was the witch’s, or wizard’s, job to hear the spells buzzing in the world around them.
“I think so,” Dong-gyu said. Then he chanted, ‘Land of Maiju, candy Land of Maiju, unwrap your gates and let us in.’
A sweet smell wafted up from the hole.
“Delicious!” the students cried out in unison. Out of the corner of her eye, Eun-Yul saw Hye-Won turn to them.
“Is it ready?” Dong-gyu asked. He kept turning the pencil in the wall. “How do we get in?”
Hye-Won got out of her seat and stared at Eun-Yul. Eun-Yul now turned completely to face her. She could not be sure, but Hye-Won looked like she really wanted to say something important.
“There should be a gate,” the students crowded behind Dong-gyu said. “Check and see!”
“Good idea,” Dong-gyu said. He tried to take the pencil from the hole. It remained there. He pulled harder. The pencil came out with a sudden pop. Two big hands reached out. They grabbed Dong-gyu and pulled him into the hole. The students jumped back, surprised.
“What was that?” they asked.
They looked at Eun-Yul. Her heart raced too fast to speak, but Hye-Won answered for her.
“The Lord of Maiju.”
The door to the classroom opened again. Stephen Teacher walked in carrying the red stereo. He paused and stared at the students gathered by the hole in the wall again.
“What’s wrong?” He looked at the students one at a time. “Where’s Leo?” he asked, using Koh Dong-gyu’s English name.
Hye-Won pointed at the wall. “The Land of Maiju,” she said in Korean.
Stephen Teacher did not understand, but he still looked worried. “Please wait here,” he said. He set the radio on the desk. “I’ll get Anne Teacher,” he told them, and left the class again.
“You can’t tell the homeroom teacher where he went,” Eun-Yul said to Hye-Won. “We’ll get in trouble.”
“So much trouble,” the other classmates said. They looked at Hye-Won, their eyes wide. The same blank expression remained on Hye-Won’s face. Eun-Yul did not know if she understood or not. She let out a big sigh.
Hye-Young Seonsaegnim entered the class moments later. She dropped down to a crouch in front of the students.
“What happened?” the homeroom teacher asked.
The students looked around at each other. Then they looked at Hye-Won. She did not say anything, but she stared directly at the hole in the wall.
Stephen Teacher pointed at the hole and said something in English. Hye-Young Seonsaegnim looked at the hole. Then she glanced at Stephen Teacher. She stood up and said something else to him in English. He nodded and gave the kids a thumbs up.
“We’ll find Leo in no time,” he said to them with a bright smile. When he left the room, Hye-Young Seonsaengnim crouched down by the kids again.
“Ok, where did Koh Dong-gyu go?”
The students looked around at each other.
“We don’t know,” Eun-Yul said. “He opened a portal and just disappeared into the wall.”
The homeroom teacher sighed. “Who taught Dong-gyu to do that?” She turned to the hole and placed her nose close to it. She sniffed.
“I really hope he didn’t go where it smells like he went.” She turned back to the students. “Did Dong-gyu go to the Land of Maiju?”
She studied their faces, and closed her eyes. “Oh, no,” she said, and stood. “This really isn’t good.” She stood up and folded her arms.
“Ok,” she finally said. “English class is over for now. Everyone, back to homeroom.”
The students lined up behind the homeroom teacher. Before they left the room, Eun-Yul glanced back at the hole one last time. Somehow, they had to find out how to follow Dong-gyu into the Land of Maiju.


That night, Jong Eun-Yul sat at the desk in her room. Her older sister, Jong Ga-Yul, sat opposite her. They shared a plate of carrots, grapes, and raisins. Their mom had put it out minutes ago for their study break.
Ga-Yul took her pet hamster from his cage on their bookshelf. She set him on the floor. The hamster darted between their feet. It ran around the chair legs. It went behind their bed. The two sisters ate their snacks and waited for the hamster to return. After a couple of minutes when it did not, Ga-Yul called out to him.
“Sa-gwa,” she said. She patted the floor. “Come here.”
The hamster still did not return.
“What do you think he’s doing?” Eun-Yul asked. She patted the floor and called out to the hamster also.
“He likes to hide out of sight in corners,” Ga-Yul said. “Maybe he’s imagining his own little world back there. Sometimes this works.”
Ga-Yul raised her arm. She wore the special friendship bracelets that she made for her best friends at school. She had painted each pod on the bracelet a different color, and when she shook her arm, the tiny seeds inside the pods rattled.
The hamster darted out from behind the bed. Ga-Yul broke a slice of carrot in two, bent down, and placed it on the floor. The hamster sniffed the carrot, its pink nose twitching. Then Sa-gwa picked it up in its little paws, sat on its hunches, and furiously nibbled on the edges of the carrot.
Eun-Yul watched the hamster eat. “I wonder if we can get Koh Dong-gyu to come back this way,” she said, and pointed at the bracelet.
“Is he hiding somewhere?” Ga-Yul picked up the hamster and cupped it in her hand.
“He went to the Land of Maiju today.”
“Oh, he’s on vacation with his parents?” Ga-Yul gave the hamster raisins. It stuffed them into the sides of its mouth.
Eun-Yul shook her head. “We were trying to get to Maiju today on our own. Dong-gyu opened the gates, and the Lord of Maiju pulled him in.”
“He went to Maiju by himself?”
Eun-Yul nodded.
The hamster had stopped stuffing his mouth. He pointed his little nose upwards and sniffed the air for more food.
“It’s going to be hard to get him out,” Ga-Yul said. “You remember when we went there with mom and dad?”
Eun-Yul did. She had eaten so much candy. Everything in Maiju could be eaten, from the trees to the clouds, if you could reach up to get them. At the pond, she had scooped up the sweetest, tastiest water in her hands. She and her sister played for hours in the sunshine that made them smile from the warmth. Their parents always followed close behind them.
“Remember we didn’t want to leave? Mom and dad had to magic us back to their sides.”
That had made Eun-Yul sad. No two candies tasted the same in Maiju. Each bite was different and even more delicious than the last. They had kept going deeper and deeper into Maiju until their mom and dad had forced them to return. The land didn’t seem to have an end.
“So how do we get Koh Dong-gyu back?” Eun-Yul asked.
Ga-Yul petted the hamster. “You might have to get help from Kang Hye-Won.”
Eun-Yul rolled her eyes. “She’s weird.”
“She’s the princess of Maiju.”
Eun-Yul’s eyes opened wide. “Hye-Won? Really?”
“Really.” Ga-Yul tapped Eun-Yul’s forehead. “And she’s not weird. She’s more powerful than you think. But she grew up in Maiju, and our world isn’t as exciting as her world. She misses the candy and blue sky and beautiful sunlight always shining in Maiju.”
“We have sunlight here,” Eun-Yul said.
“But not like Maiju,” Ga-Yul replied. Eun-Yul thought about it, and agreed.
“Tomorrow, you should ask for her help. She may know how to get Koh Dong-gyu out of Maiju.”
Eun-Yul stared at the hamster nestled in Ga-Yul’s hands. She didn’t think Hye-Won would be much help, but it didn’t hurt to ask.
“And take this.” Ga-Yul took the bracelet off and slid it on Eun-Yul’s wrist. “Maiju is more than a land of candy.” She whispered magic words, tapped the bright colored pods, and the seeds rattled loudly. “This will keep us connected while you’re gone.” She smiled brightly. “My little sister, and my bestest friend.”


The next day in homeroom, Jong Eun-Yul took her morning milk and sweetbread and sat by Kang Hye-Won. She bit into the bread and drank her milk. Hye-Won nibbled on her bread, sipped her milk, and stared at nothing.
Eun-Yul glanced at the homeroom teacher. She was busy serving the other kids their breakfast.
“So,” she said quietly to Hye-Won, “your dad is really the Lord of Maiju?”
Hye-Won chewed several times and swallowed. She slowly turned to look at Eun-Yul. Moments passed before she nodded once.
Even though her older sister had told her yesterday, Eun-Yul still inhaled sharply. “You’re real a princess?” she whispered.
After several more breaths, Hye-Won nodded, once, again.
“Well,” Eun-Yul said, “do you think you can help us get Koh Dong-gyu back?”
Hye-Won continued staring at her, but Eun-Yul felt that she didn’t really see her at all. Hye-Won’s expression was just so blank.
Eun-Yul waited for Hye-Won’s slow response, another single nod.
“Then we need to get out of class.”
Ten minutes passed as the kids finished their breakfast. Then the homeroom teacher collected the milk cartoons and placed them on the serving tray.
“I’ll be right back,” she told the class, and went to the elevator. Eun-Yul quickly rounded up the other students in their afternoon English class.
“Come on,” she said. “We have to rescue Koh Dong-gyu.”
Eun-Yul grabbed the homeroom teacher’s pencil off of her desk. It was nice and long and sharpened.
She led the kids to the door and poked her head out. She looked right and left but saw no one. With a wave of her hand, she led the kids out of the room and into the hall. They crouched low to stay beneath the windows of the Purple Class and Orange Class. On their hands and knees, they crawled up the stairs to the fourth floor. Stephen Teacher sat at his desk in the library. He was staring at his computer, then writing something in his notebook. The kids darted one at a time past the row of library windows to the English classroom. Once they were all there, they went to the hole in the wall.
Eun-Yul handed the pencil to Kang Hye-Won. “Do you think you can open the portal?” she asked.
Hye-Won stared at the pencil. She reached out and took it. She stared at the hole. She inserted the pencil into the hole. She stared forward for several breaths, then nodded her head. She opened her mouth and said, ‘Land of Maiju, Candy Land of Maiju, unwrap your gates and let princess Kang Hye-Won in.’
She released the pencil, and it spun quickly in the hole. Eun-Yul’s eyes opened wide, and the other students stepped back as the wall shuddered. The kids took another step away as the wall sharply twisted, then tore apart to allow bright sunlight to wash over them.
Kang Hye-Won looked at Jong Eun-Yul. Jong Eun-Yul looked back at Kang Hye-Won and remembered to breathe.
“Ok,” Eun-Yul said. “Let’s go in.”
The kids stepped through the portal into a green field. Eun-Yul heard the sound of a bell ringing. She looked back through the portal into the classroom. The sound didn’t come from there. She looked up at the sky, and across the field to a nearby hill. Only a pleasant breeze blew from that direction, and the ringing sounded too close to her ear.
Then she turned to Hye-Won and saw her slightly parted lips. The noise wasn’t a bell ringing at all, but Hye-Won laughing. Eun-Yul stared at her classmate in surprise. Had Hye-Won ever even smiled before? Here in the Land of Maiju, she seemed so different. The sun shined bright upon on her, brighter than upon anything else.
Hye-Won bent down, pulled up a clump of grass, and bit into it. Her eyes sparkled with light, and she opened her arms wide. “I’m home!” she said in a clear voice. She spun, and laughed, and ate the dirt and grass, and spun and laughed some more.
All the kids had been to Maiju at least once, but always with their parents. This was the first time they’d come alone, and they were free to gobble up as much as they could grab.
They bent down pulled up clumps of grass. Eun-Yul joined them. Everything in the Land of Maiju was edible, and it all tasted delicious! The grass had the sweetest mint flavor, and the dirt was like the richest chocolate that melted in their mouths.
Minutes passed while the kids stuffed themselves in silence. Hye-Won’s sudden bright peals of laughter ringing out again made Eun-Yul look up. She glimpsed the classroom behind them. It seemed further away now, but she didn’t remember moving. We’re here for a reason, she thought, and quickly licked the chocolate from her fingers.
“Kang Dong-gyu,” she said, and stood. She turned to Hye-Won and asked, “Can you call your dad?”
Hye-Won nodded. “Of course! He always has time for me.” She raised her hand to the sky. “I’m not sure if he’ll help you, though,” she added, “but you can try and see.”
Hye-Won spread her fingers wide as if she would grab the sun shining brightly in the blue sky. ‘Lord of Maiju, candy Lord of Maiju, give me a kiss and say hello! Maiju Lord, Candy Lord Maiju, I’m back for a while so come say hello!’
Eun-Yul looked around. Yesterday in the classroom, all she’d seen was Lord Maiju’s hands when he snatched Koh Dong-gyu through the hole. She could not imagine what the rest of him looked like.
The sunlight on Hye-Won grew brighter. Then brighter and brighter still. Eun-Yul squinted and held her hands before her face to shield her eyes from the light. She looked up and gasped. The sun was falling towards them!
“Daddy!” Kang Hye-Won cried out in excitement.
The sun slammed into Hye-Won and wrapped itself around her. It was only after it started to dim that Eun-Yul recognized a person in all that light. He wore a crown studded with twinkling stars on his head, pants that seemed to open into the deep blue sky, a green shirt that ruffled in the breeze, and an orange cape alive like fire. He wrapped his arms around Hye-Won in a close hug.
“It’s too soon for vacation, isn’t it?” he asked her. “Why are you back now?”
Then he laughed and lifted Hye-Won up into the air. “But I don’t care, oh how I don’t care. I miss you and your endless chatter. I miss you and your forever smiles. I miss the light in your eyes when you shine them upon Maiju. I miss you so much, my sweet little princess!”
Hye-Won fell into a fit of giggles as he spun her round and round. Then he looked at her classmates gathered around him, and he set her down.
“Who are your friends?” Lord Maiju clasped his hands together and smiled down at them. “I’m so happy to see you!”
He picked up the nearest student and spun him high over his head.
“And you! And you! And you!”
One at a time he picked up each of them, and when he held them above his head, they giggled as happily as Hye-Won had. Eun-Yul was last, and when his hands touched her, a warmth spread through her body. It grew and grew until it came out of her mouth as uncontrollable giggles. She felt fantastic in his hands, and she never wanted him to put her down. He spun her, and she spread her arms like a plane and flapped her hands.
The bracelet rattled. A memory came back to Jong Eun-Yul. She looked back at the hole that led to the classroom, and it seemed ever further away than before. They had a very important job to do, and she must not forget it.
“Koh Dong-gyu!” she exclaimed. “We have to find him and go back to school.”
Lord Maiju set her down.
“Why would you want to leave here so soon?” he asked. “Back to the real world, the mundane world? Teachers with their assignments, parents with their chores. Stay in Maiju and play. Play in Maiju and eat. Eat in Maiju and have fun under the sun that never sets. This is the land of Maiju made just for you.”
Lord Maiju caught a dragonfly racing past him. He swiftly stuffed it in his mouth, and he beamed a smile down at the kids. “Take a bite, you’ll discover, the brightest flavors you’ll ever see.”
Lord Maiju snatched dragonflies from the air and handed one to each student. Eun-Yul took hers, and the dragonfly’s wings buzzed in her palm. Just as the Lord of Maiju had done, she popped it in her mouth and chewed. The sweetest explosion of orange made her reel. Her breath quickened as the sugar rush sent tingles of pleasure from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.
“Delicious!” she breathed out in awe. She had to have another, and another. The other kids had the same reaction, and they immediately tried to catch more dragonflies buzzing past them. Eun-Yul tried to grab one from the air just as she’d seen Lord Maiju do.
Her bracelet rattled.
“No, no, no!” Lord Maiju said, stomping his foot. “That bracelet just won’t do in Candy Land of Maiju. Give it here; I’ll hold it for a while. Don’t worry, when you’re ready to go, it’ll be safe and sound and returned to you. I promise! I’ll keep it here, and just call out the name Lord Maiju when you want to have it again.”
Lord Maiju pulled back his fiery cape to reveal a pocket in its inner folds. Eun-Yul looked into the pocket and saw it dropped deep down into a vortex of revolving colors that seemed to have no end. She didn’t want to look away from the beautiful spinning colors. When she finally tried to, she found it difficult to turn her gaze from the rainbow in Lord Maiju’s pocket.
Lord Maiju extended his hand. “Give the bracelet to me, and let’s get down to the fun job of playing!”
Eun-Yul snatched her wrist from his grasp, and the bracelet rattled.
“I can’t,” she said. “My sister gave this to me because I’m her best friend.” She looked around at the other students, then back at Lord Maiju.
“Please help us find Koh Dong-gyu. We really need to get back to class before the homeroom teacher comes back. We’ll get in trouble if she sees we’re gone.”
Lord Maiju began to say something, but Hye-Won stepped forward and hugged his leg. “Daddy, please help us. Mommy sent me to the mundane world to make new friends.” She glanced back at Eun-Yul and the other kids from their class. “It’s been so very dull in their world, and it’s so hard for me to stay awake. Nothing ever happens. Nothing amazing, that is. But maybe now things will change, maybe they’ll be able to help me be happier in their world.”
Lord Maiju stared down at Hye-Won. Suddenly, he turned his bright smile upon her. “One day you’ll take my place here. You’ll need to understand where the next generation of customers are coming from so that our Candy Land of Maiju remains a top destination to the citizens of the mundane world.”
He stroked her black hair and winked. “I did the same to once, you know. It was as difficult for me as it is for you. But don’t fret, little princess, I’ll let you in on a secret.” He bent low and whispered to Hye-Won, “It’s how I met your mom, a mundane citizen of the mundane world. But I couldn’t be happier, no I couldn’t be.”
He straightened and looked at the kids around him. “But it can’t be as easy as all that, oh no! Koh Dong-gyu is somewhere near, somewhere not so far away. You must get him to come back to you, must get him to go home with you. I won’t stop you, I promise, but you must make the effort, you must try and see. Will Koh Dong-gyu come back with you?”
Hye-Won squeezed her father’s leg, then rejoined her classmates. “We have to find a way to call him,” she said. “What do you think he wants more than the candy in Maiju?”
That was a good question. Eun-Yul sat down, ripped up some of the grass, and nibbled on it. The mint flavor was even sweeter and more delicious than moments ago. She reached over, pulled up a dandelion, and stuffed it into her mouth. The white leaves melted on her tongue like cotton candy and tasted like honey and milk.
Eun-Yul sighed with pleasure. What was better about their world than this Land of Maiju? No desks to sit at all day, no teachers with lessons, no English song to sing for their family later today.
Eun-Yul stood. “I have an idea,” she said. She went to each student and pulled them away from the plants and flowers and bugs they were snacking on.
“Do you remember the song we’re supposed to sing today?” she asked.
The students looked around at each other and nodded.
“Hye-Won,” Eun-Yul said. “Do you know the words yet?”
Hye-Won looked uncertain. “I think I do. I certainly heard you repeat it to me enough.”
Maybe it would work. Eun-Yul told the kids to hold hands. “Ok, ready,” she said. They began a low hum, swayed from side to side, and began to tap their feet. The student who went first started to sing in English.
“Wake up early morning, out the door, on the way and to school.”
Then the second student.
“All day studying hard, sitting down all day learning hard.”
Then the third student.
“Friends to talk to, good friends to eat lunch with.”
Then the fourth student.
“But something still missing, in the classroom and down the hall, someone’s still missing.”
Then the fifth student.
“Soon the day is over, the last bell rings, down the stairs and out the school you rush.”
The sixth student was where Koh Dong-gyu should have come in at. Since he wasn’t there, Eun-Yul sang his line. “To the bus you go, yellow school bus taking you down the street and away to home.”
Then she continued with her own lines.
“Home, home, where the good times are. Home, home, where the best times are.”
Eun-Yul looked at Hye-Won, who sang, “Home, home, brother and sister waiting to play. Home, home, mom and dad waiting to shower you with hugs.”
Eun-Yul smiled brightly, and the first student began the song again. To their surprise, the Lord of Maiju joined them.
“Wake up early morning, out the door, on the way and to school.”
“All day studying hard, sitting down all day learning hard.”
“Friends to talk to, good friends to eat lunch with.”
“But something still missing, in the classroom and down the halls someone’s still missing.”
“Soon the day is over, the last bell rings, down the stairs and out the school you rush.”
Before Eun-Yul could sing the next line, Koh Dong-gyu came running from behind the hill. In a loud clear voice, he sang, “To the bus you go, yellow school bus taking you down the street and away to home.”
“Home, home, where the good times are. Home, home, where the best times are.”
“Home, home, brother and sister waiting to play. Home, home, mom and dad waiting to shower you with hugs.”
“He’s back!” The students cheered. They ran to him. They all embraced, jumped up and down, and shouted with joy. Lord Maiju followed them, and the smile he shined among them warmed their celebration.
“Family is more important than candy, and home is more important than Maiju.” He rubbed each of their heads one at a time until he got to Kang Hye-Won. He picked her up in a tight embrace.
“Away you go, my little princess, to the mundane world. Study its ways, learn its customs, and come back one day to keep Maiju alive for the next generation.”
He held her hand as he led them back to the hole leading to the classroom.
“Home, home, brother and sister waiting to play. Home, home, mom and dad waiting to shower you with hugs. Go back to the love of your family.”


Todd Sulllivan has published short fiction in several venues, including Kzine Magazine (2019), Aurealis Science Fiction and Fantasy (2017), SciFan Magazine (2017), Pole to Pole’s “Dark Luminous Wings” Anthology (2017), Expanded Horizons Magazine (2017), Aurora Wolf Literary Journal (2017), Hellbound Books’ “Big Book of Bootleg Horror 2” (2017), Scarlet Leaf Review (2017), Eastlit Journal (2016), Tokyo Yakuza Anthology (2015 & 2014), and Tincture Journal (2013).