The Hidden Paradise
There are many things in this world that people can’t explain both big and small. One big thing that most people can’t explain is the hidden paradise known as Arcadia. Scholars, philosophers, and even explorers have searched for this place but its origins are shrouded in mystery. The only true thing that they can all agree on is that you don’t find Arcadia, it finds you.
Attorney Taylor Macaulay has just gotten off a WestJet plane from Toronto, Ontario to Victoria, British Columbia. He can’t believe that he has to be here of all places in order to make partner at Briggs, Brittle, and Becks. It is the most elite firm in all of the province. So why does he have to come here? Oh, that’s right. He thinks as he puts a hand through his chestnut brown hair that’s a little on the long side but still in perfect shape. He has to look in on the merger and tax redundancies in order to purchase the office that his firm has acquired.
He blinks his dark chocolate brown eyes in annoyance as he presses his cellphone to his ear. “Hey Becks, I’ve just arrived at the airport.”
“Good, good.” Says his soon-to-be partner. “Did Rosemary give you your itinerary for this trip?”
“Yes.” He replies. “She’s got me staying in some bed n’ breakfast. She says I work too hard.”
“That’s how you’ve gotten so far in such a short time.” Becks declares. “Don’t worry about that. Just get the job done.”
“Not to worry. I’ll be heading straight to my room to work on it.” Taylor utters and hangs up the phone before Becks can bother him with more concerns.
He looks to his phone and brings up his uber app to get a ride to the bed n’ breakfast.
When he arrives at the bed n’ breakfast which he realizes now is called the Abigail Hotel, it is actually not as bad as he thought. Taylor is not a fan of these kinds of establishments just because he feels his privacy might be invaded or it would not have the amenities that he needs. But not only does it have what he needs and more but the character ambiance of the place is charming. It’s like stepping back in time.
The proprietor gives him a small tour as an employee takes his bags to his room. The first room they see is the common room with a large television on the wall, a fireplace with many vintage chairs surrounding it, a small coffee/tea station, and last but not least bookcases lining along nearly every part of the wall. He ignores his host as he walks to the bookshelf and pulls out a book that talks about Victoria’s history. At that moment, he remembers how fascinated he is with history. With a sigh he returns the book back into its slot and turns to face his tour guide.
“Actually, I would just like to go to my room if you don’t mind.” He says plainly but politely. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“No worries.” The woman says as she gestures her hand out of the room. “But remember to slow down now and again. Live in the present.”
Taylor says nothing but finds himself slightly annoyed again. That’s just the kind of thing his secretary Rosemary tells him all the time.
In his room, Taylor looks around. It has a nice, luxurious, and antiquated feel just like the rest of the hotel but he can not help but be amused when he peeks into the bathroom to see how modern it looks. No matter. He has a desk, a bed, and by the looks of it a bottle of wine. Although not complementary, he decides to open it up, take a glass and drink while he gets down to business. The wine is from Riverstone Estates and it is a Monterey chardonnay. It has a dry, fruity taste to it with the hint of vanilla. He enjoys it very much. It makes his work seem less like a chore.
The night goes on and he has all of his files littered all over the bed with the bottle of wine empty. He sprawls out on the bed and puts his glass next to the empty bottle on the bedside table. He’s gotten a lot done and looking at all those papers, he doesn’t want to stop. Yet he finds himself drifting slowly off to sleep as he looks at the spreadsheets. No longer able to keep his eyes open, Taylor drifts off into a deep dreamless sleep.
A bright shining light beams on Taylor. He groggily puts his hand on top of his forehead to block it out. He groans in agony like his head is being beaten by a thousand jackhammers. He gets up and slowly stumbles to his window to pull the curtain. He pulls it shut and suddenly he realizes something.
“I closed these curtains last night.” He whispers to himself. “Why were they open?”
Taylor shakes his head and pays no mind to it as he flops down on his bed, waiting for his pounding headache to pass. His hand flops on the bedside table opposite of him and he feels a tall bottle filled with chilled water. Without thinking, he grabs the bottle, twists the top off, and drinks it down. Although it tastes absolutely foul, he can’t help but notice how much better he feels as he drinks more. Ignoring the fuzzy feeling on his tongue, Taylor drinks the rest of the bottle and finds himself feeling loads better.
He sits up and runs his hands through his hair. He looks at the alarm clock to see that it is not telling the time but flashing numbers. He grabs his cell phone to open it while it still inserted in its charger. A tap of his thumb on the cell reveals that it is completely dead. This is so odd. Taylor shakes his head and doesn’t know what to think. Well, no matter what happens he decides to have a shower, get some fresh clothes on, and start the day.
He goes down the stairs to find someone who can tell him what is going on with the electronics and to get himself something to eat. However, he gets the shock of his life. There is absolutely no one around. There’s no food, no people; the whole bed n’ breakfast looks completely deserted.
“Hello?” He yells out only to be met with silence.
He slowly walks into the kitchen and sees that there is no one there. Food is not on the counter tops, stove has not been touched, and the refrigerator is open but empty. It’s like everyone just up and disappeared. As he walks out of the kitchen Taylor makes the decision to go outside and see if he can find out what is going on. He opens the front door and is astonished by what he sees.
He sees a bright and opulent garden unlike anything he has ever seen before. It certainly wasn’t there yesterday when he arrived. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun’s warmth on his face gives him a sense of comfort that he can’t remember ever having. He should be afraid but he is not. Fascinated, he steps down from the front stoop and walks forward to get a good view of where he is.
Taylor looks around in every direction and sees that this garden is made in a unique pattern that surrounds this bed-and-breakfast. From where he is there is a path for five directions that he can go. Each direction has a special theme to its particular garden. To the far right he sees a three story, quaint building facing the west with rows of flowers surrounding it. At the far left is another building that looks like luxury mansion. It has many rows of flowers with what looks like a swimming pool lane with water lilies growing in it. He also sees some people moving around. Perhaps one of them can help him out.
As Taylor walks down the path towards the mansion, he sees every bright burst of color from the flowers on either side of him. It’s like watching magic come alive. The scents that come with them give him a euphoric feeling that he hasn’t felt ever in his life. It’s like he is completely at peace. Slowly but surely, Taylor makes it to the mansion.
At a closer look at these workers, he notices that most of them are women. They are unlike any gardeners or landscapers he has ever seen with their lovely long dresses and creatively decorated sun hats. The three of them look at him with a combined fascination and curiosity. Each woman looked so incredibly beautiful. They have skin that looks soft and naturally glittery, eyes that have a spark of mischief, and long lithe bodies. They smile at him and coyly chuckle.
He realizes now that he is staring at them and thinks he should say something to not seem like the idiot that he feels like. “Hi…um. I was wondering…”
“You look like your lost.” Says a sweet youthful voice behind him. He turns to see a stunning woman behind him dressed in the same fashion as the other women. However, there is something about her that stands out from the other women. It can’t be her long blonde hair that looks like fresh spun gold, nor could it be her dark sapphire eyes that could hypnotize even the strongest of men, even her skin looks so soft that he itches to touch it. But it is still not that. No. It’s the air she gives off. Kindly, graceful, but also mysterious, and glamourous.
“I..” Taylor stutters before be shakes himself out of it. “I am lost. Is this heaven? Or Oz?”
“No.” The woman in front of him giggles. “But I hear apart of that story is based on this place. You are in a place called Arcadia. One of the oldest places is the Nether Realm and land of the fey.”
“Fairyland?” He comments looking at her in disbelief.
“Yes. That’s why your cellphone won’t work here.” She says as she points to his pocket with the top of his phone poking out.
He looks from her to his pocket and pulls out his phone to see that she is telling the truth. She giggles at him once again. He would normally be annoyed but her laugh sounds musical which makes his heart flutter a bit. He too could not help but chuckle at himself.
“Don’t worry.” She speaks. “You are perfectly safe. I’ll take you to our King and Queen. They might want to speak with you.”
“That’s a good idea. I’d like to speak with them too.” Taylor articulates.
“I’ll take you to them but it might be more fun if we had an impromptu tour.” She pauses when she sees the trepidation in his face. “I promise you that everything I’ll show you is on the way.”
He nods at her and holds out his hand to shake. “My name is Taylor. Taylor Macaulay.”
She takes his hand and shakes it. “Mine is Dela. Just Dela. Please follow me.”
Taylor follows her to the first garden and listens closely to Dela’s commentary. “This particular area is called Star Pond.”
He can see why it’s called that with the points of it going in every direction. It is surrounded with green hedges and bright fuchsias. In the middle of this pond is a small fountain.
“The reason why the water pushes away from the center is because the star clans which is known as aliens to humans, gave us this fountain as a gift.” Dela explains. “It is made of a metal that magnetically pushes water away from it but still holds the water in place.”
Taylor can not help but be in awe of this. Dela walks on and shows him to a fountain that looks like a combination of fish and fire.
Dela tells him. “This fountain is reminiscent of the great war between the red dragon and the fish people. A dragon had gone wild for mysterious reasons and started attacking underwater creatures of all kinds until the entire siren clan stepped in and won the battle. It was a hard time but as a way to remember all of those brave souls who have fallen, this fountain was made to remember them.”
Taylor immediately empathizes and nods. “My grandfather was a veteran; he had fallen in the Korean War.”
Although Taylor’s heartstrings are pulled, the next garden they come to opens it up again. It is a big circle that has every kind rose that a person could know.
“This is called the Rose Garden and it is very popular for weddings in this realm.” Dela explains. “Every wedding that happens here, the happy couple plant a rose plant to ensure an eternity of love. As soon as this rose is planted, all the roses open, and tell the couple that they have found true love.”
Taylor has to admit that it is nice to hear something like that. No one would ever accuse him of being a romantic but this story touches him in a way nothing ever has before. The last place she takes him to is a valley filled with every bloom and botanical known to man. Taylor truly feels the magic in the air because now he is sure that time has stopped as soon as he looked at this place.
“This is the Sunken Garden and where this country was born.” Dela enlightens. “It started as a barren mine but out of that, one plant and there are big debates about which plant. Some say it’s an apple tree, others say its pomegranate but this special plant rises out of the cold dark ground. Then life started happening in the area and everything just followed.”
Taylor can’t ever remember seeing such a powerful sight in all his life. The mixture of all the colors and smells of this valley make him think he is in a paradise. He also finds himself feeling regret. Why did he not take the time to slow down and take a look at all the little things? Now it all starts to smack him in the face.
“Are you alright?” Dela asks a pensive Taylor.
“Yeah, I am. It’s just…” Taylor shakes his head and looks out to the valley. “My whole life, I’ve strived to be the best but when it came to really enjoying life. I never really did. I never really enjoyed anything until today.”
Dela gives him a gentle, understanding smile as she puts a comforting hand on his arm. “Life in the Earth Realm can be a challenge but it is never too late to make a change.”
Taylor turns to look at Dela, puts his hand on hers, and smiles. “Thank you for showing me all this.”
“It’s my pleasure.” She pauses and enjoys a small moment with him. “I’m happy to have such good company…”
Suddenly a strong masculine voice sounds from the small building close by. “Dela! Please bring the mortal to us.”
“Yes, your highness.” Dela calls back. As she leads Taylor to the man in the distance at the building. “You are about to meet King Blaze and Queen Willow. They are the current monarchs of Arcadia. They demand the upmost respect and politeness but I can assure you that they are benign.”
The two of them come to the front stoop of the building to see two tall regal figures. A man with long raven-black hair and startling blue eyes steps forward. He has statuesque features and strong build under his elegant clothes of an intricate light blue vest over a white tunic with matching blue pants. The equally statuesque woman who has long copper red hair to her waist and mint green eyes wears a long majestic gold dress that should be on some kind of fashion magazine stands still. The man walks forward to Taylor and raises his hand passively.
“Welcome.” He says politely. “I am the ruler of this country. My name is King Blaze and this is my wife Queen Willow.”
Nervous and not knowing how to respond, Taylor softly bows his head and places his hand on his heart. “Thank you, your majesties. My name is Taylor Macaulay.”
When he lifts his head back up, the King and Queen give him a rich laugh. The Queen looks at him and says, “Don’t worry. We know you are not from around here Mister Macaulay but we would like you to join us for tea.”
Taylor smiles at them and speaks. “I’d love to.”
“Good.” King Blaze bows in recognition and turns to Dela. “Thank you for bringing him Dela. You may go.”
“Yes, your majesty.” Dela nods and starts to walk away.
“Wait!” Taylor calls out and looks to the royals. “Excuse me a moment.”
He dashes towards Dela and asks. “Can I see you again?”
She smiles at him and states. “Yes. You’ll see me after you dine with the King and Queen.” He gives her a little smile and she nudges her head towards the royals. “They’re waiting for you. You better catch up.”
“Okay. See you later.” He says and as she walks away, he rushes back towards the Royals.
The King and Queen take him to this outdoor patio that is rocky and minimal but the view is just the opposite. There is a colorful line of flowers leading towards a large body of water. He didn’t know if it was a lake or an ocean but it is breathtaking. King Blaze and Queen Willow sit at the table with three chairs looking towards the whole garden.
As soon as Taylor sits with his hosts, a smaller, bald elf with pointed ears dressed in a tuxedo brings in a tier of high tea delights.
“Thank you, Robin.” King Blaze says to him. Robin nods his head and walks away. “Some of our finest foods you will find here. Please help yourself.”
Taylor starts with the top of the tier with the buttery scone. After cutting it in half, Taylor spreads the clotted cream and what smells like strawberry jam on top of it. As soon as he bites into that, he feels his heart flutter. He could swear that he is in love. The sweet creamy taste will stay with him forever. He looks to the second tier and sees three little cakes. Each one seems to call for him even though he does not have a sweet tooth. He turns to see a little box in front of him which he assumes is a candy.
“You can take that with you.” Queen Willow says. “You never know what kind of chocolate bonbon you’ll get.”
Taylor chuckles and puts it in his jacket pocket. He looks at the last tier and sees all these odd shaped sandwiches. He’s never seen sandwiches like this but he is excited to try them. He grabs the sandwich that looks like a roll and bites into it. The taste of red pepper and cream cheese fill his mouth. That hint of spice and melt-in-your-mouth cheese makes him soften. He has never had anything so satisfying.
“You must have a lot of questions, Taylor Macaulay.” Queen Willow pipes up.
“Well, yes.” Taylor says sheepishly. “I realize that Dela told the truth and I am in Fairyland but how did I get here? And why?”
“We of the Fey clan believe that everything happens for a reason.” King Blaze begins. “You are obviously here not by accident. I have a theory about that just by the way you interacted with Dela just now. I hope you’ll indulge me. It looks to me like you spend most of your human life not being able to slow down and enjoy the little things. Even the way you sit so stern and straight in your chair, tells me that you don’t relax too often. Would you say I’m wrong?”
Taylor shifts uncomfortably in his chair. He is prepared to argue with the fey king in front of him but begrudgingly knows that he’s right. Taylor sighs, “No your right. I’ve worked all my life. Trying to get more and more but it’s never enough. When I do make it I never stop just barrel right through everything.”
“Ah!” Queen Willow nods as if she sympathises with his situation. “We understand completely. My husband and I try out best to give the best to our people here. We are always trying to make good impressions to others in this realm. Although you push and you can get far but you lose sight of the journey and forget to see the beauty that is in front of you.”
“What should I do then?” Taylor inquires.
“We suggest you slow down for a start.” The Queen says.
“Yes, just take time to be truly be mindful.” The King says. “Look up from the work, clear your mind, and have some patience. You may surprise yourself.”
He doesn’t know why but what these two are saying makes sense. Since being here, he has relaxed and not thought about his job once. But can he keep that up? That is the question.
“Speak your mind, Mister Macaulay.” Queen Willow says.
“I just don’t know how I can do what you suggest.” He contemplates. “I mean it’s not like you can just turn off a type-A personality.”
“True.” King Blaze speaks. “But I have a feeling you will get help with that very soon. Why don’t you go and get some rest? You look like you can use it.”
The king isn’t wrong. After all that walking and exploring, Taylor has to admit that he is pretty tired. However, at the same time he feels the same kind of accomplishment he has from working all day. But first he is going to take one last look at this view and try that checkboard looking cake in front of him.
He leaves the Royal family’s home and walks down the steps. They have given Taylor a lot to think about. They said that he will find someone to help him enjoy life but who? And how? Suddenly he catches a glimpse of Dela walking towards him. This time she has her sun hat off and a shawl around her shoulders. Taylor smiles and waves as he sees her. She walks towards him as he places his hands in his pockets.
“Hi.” He says happy to see her.
“Hello.” Dela returns his smile. “How was your visit with our king and queen?”
“Good. Good. They have given me a lot to think about.” He pauses and looks at her. “But I would love some company. Would you come back with me to my hotel?”
“Certainly.” She says and they walk side-by-side towards the inn.
Inside the bed n’ breakfast, Taylor has started a fire in the fireplace and poured some wine for him and Dela. They sit comfortably in front of the fire just watching it at first but it is Dela who breaks the silence.
“So, what are you going to do when you get back?”
“I’ll be going back?” He turns and looks at her.
“Well yes. All mortals go back.” She answers but seems almost pained to say that.
“What if they don’t want to go back?” He questions. “What if we mortals didn’t want to leave? What if we are happier here and fear what we have to go back to?”
“The sad thing is. Humans can’t stay.” Dela explains. “None of us really know why but humans have to live a full life before being able to come here permanently. It has always been an unknown rule of the universe.”
“Would you be able to come back with me?” He asks and she turns to look at him with a look of surprise. “I mean if you wanted to, could you come with me?”
“I can.” She answers and inquires. “Do you want me to come back with you?”
Taylor looks down at his wine glass and blushes. “Well its just. I can’t think of anyone else who has ever taught me how to relax as you have today and I just.”
“I know.” Dela interrupts and puts a comforting hand on his. “You want someone you know to help. That’s understandable. I promise you. What you are looking for is right in front of you.”
She gives him a kind, loving smile. He couldn’t help himself; he leans in to kiss Dela. As soon as his lips touch hers everything around him seems to disappear. Until he wakes up to find himself on his bed, in his room with the empty wine bottle he drank and a litter of papers all over his bed.
Was it all a dream? He reflects on this. But how? It was so real.
Back in his office, Taylor is packing up all of his belongings to head into his new office. He has made partner and he could not be happier. It is what he wants but something still lingers in the back of his mind. It’s a voice and it constantly repeats to him.
“Slow down…Be mindful… Look up…”
It’s that dream. He can’t get it out of his mind. It was so vivid and real like it wasn’t a dream at all but a vision.
“Mister Macaulay?” Says a strangely familiar voice that shakes him out of his thoughts.
He looks up to a woman he remembers all too well. That long light blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and delicately lovely skin. It can’t be…“Dela?”
“No.” She coyly chuckles at him as she adjusts her glasses. “My name is Delia. I am your new assistant.”
His heart brightens as he sees her smile. Maybe it isn’t Dela but the resemblance is remarkable. Even her laugh sounds the same. He takes her hand to shake and has a feeling that he has found the one person that is promised to help him enjoy life. The funny thing is all he had to do is slow down, be mindful, and look up.
Special Thanks to:
The Abigail Hotel: For a wonderful stay and a tasty breakfast. 906 McClure St, Victoria, BC V8V 3E7 (250) 388-5363, https://www.abigailshotel.com/
The Butchart Gardens: For the most magical time on Vancouver Island. 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, (250) 652-4422, https://www.butchartgardens.com/