Aladdin ran his fingers along the cracks of his wooden desk before heaving it against the wall, trying to hide the smudges spread by his hands. The springs in his bed seemed to express themselves as soon as he began to day dream, bringing him back down to earth, forcing him to focus on his painting. Aladdin stumbled past the scattered cups of tainted water and paintbrushes to draw his curtains. He realised they didn’t match the old carpet that was laid across his wooden floor. He shuffled across to his canvas that was blotted with paint and collapsed down onto his wooden stool. “What a mess” he thought. Aladdin’s chair began to sway gently as he noticed one leg was shorter than the rest.
Another excuse to get up and avoid work.
He rose swiftly, tiptoeing around the mines of mess in his room like a ballerina, to get his coat and head outside. As he zipped up, Aladdin hunched over a little and scribbled into his to get list- Lighter Coat. Feels like I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders right now. After locking his flat, Aladdin squeezed through the hallway and out onto the street. He hid his exposed hands in his pockets and realised it was far too dark for his liking. Aladdin noticed the one street light across the road was flickering as if he were in a horror movie. He picked up the pace, turning corner after corner like a racing car before realising he drifted right past the shop he was supposed to go into.
Aladdin noted the street lights flickering all along the street in perfect sync. Strange. He quickly dashed into the shop and grabbed a drink without looking, before scampering back home. Back on his street, Aladdin began to calm down and slow his pace, asking his heart to do the same. He was edging closer towards his flat building when he realised the same street light was still flickering, only this time it flickered quicker. One…two…three…fo-one…two…thr-one…tw-. Aladdin decided he’d avoid the weird street lamp and took a sharp left into an alleyway leading to the back door of the building. Looking back, he saw the lamp flickering faster than ever, as if it were an emergency Morse code message.
Odd. Aladdin didn’t remember the door painted a blood red. He touched the paint. Looks fresh…He put his keys into the building’s back door and nervously twisted it twice to the left before pushing the door but it wouldn’t budge. This time he shoved the stubborn door but it refused to give in. Kicking it out of frustration got him nowhere either, only towards the loving arms of pain. Just as Aladdin was about to admit defeat, he limped towards the door, shook the keys and shoved his shoulder into the wooden frame before stumbling into the building, the door flew open as if it weren’t the same door from moments ago.
Aladdin picked himself up, dusted himself off and realised how unusually dirty the other side of the door was, almost as if no one has used it in years. But why would the door be freshly painted red…? Still limping, he dragged himself up the stairs and towards his flat’s door. He looked up and said “please” to the ceiling. His keys slid into the keyhole as if it were butter and his door opened without even needing to push it. Was this the end to an offbeat night?
A park was patiently waiting for Aladdin when his door opened. He was stunned into paralysis, legs rooted to the ground. When he eventually gathered himself, Aladdin turned to ensure this was in fact his flat. What the fuck is going on? I must be dreaming, probably tripped and banged my head while running back here or something. All I wanted was to get a drink and come back to my shitty paintings but instead I’m in a park IN my apartment. Aladdin shut his eyes, thinking if this were a dream and he wouldn’t be waking up anytime soon then he could change the scenery at least. He wishfully opened his eyes; trees crowded with birds still stood before him. Great, might as well take a walk then. A spiral path was laid before him, weaving its way through the middle of the park to the exit on the other side. Maybe getting through to the exit would mean getting out of this dream.
Aladdin patted his ten tonne coat down, searching for a tissue as his nose began to run but his coat proved fruitless. Must be the cold. Aladdin continued his progress down the path and the noisy shuffle of his feet was interrupted by a kid.
“Hey mister, wanna play catch?”
“Uh I kinda have something to do, sorry.”
Aladdin stepped to the side to try and walk around the kid before he blocked his path.
“Can I walk with you at least?”
“Listen kid, don’t you have somewhere to be or someone to play with?”
Aladdin knew he’d regret what he was about to say.
He sighed, “Alright, fine. You can tag along, just keep quiet.”
The kid’s face lit up, “I’m Adam”
“Like the Disney movie?”
“Like the Disney movie yea.”
“Cool so you’re on an adventure then right?”
Aladdin scoffed, “Something like that. Let’s keep it moving come on.”
Aladdin started to head towards the exit again, walking in quick strides this time. Need to make up for time wasted. Adam was unable to keep up, shuffling his feet as fast he could while staring at Aladdin completely in awe. The path ahead spiralled until a fence standing tall blocked them from walking any further.
“What on Earth is this?” Aladdin said.
“It’s a blocker…Are you trying to leave the park?” Adam’s eyes began to tear up, causing them to glisten like fresh paint in the sun.
“A blocker? What the hell is that? What kind of park is this?”
“You ARE trying to leave. Why would you tell me to come along? I thought we’re going on an adventure.”
Aladdin walked towards the fence and tried to shift the lock but instead all he got was a small shock of electricity. Aladdin stuck his index finger into his mouth and tried to somehow bite the pain away. “Ah! What the fuck is that…? I mean why’s this fence trying to kill me? What a weird park…”
“It’s what you get for lying to me.”
Aladdin groaned, “It kind of is an adventure ok. I’m trying to leave this park and get back to reality. Now can you tell me what’s going on?”
Adam lashed out, “I already told you it’s a blocker! This is a riddle park, everyone knows that. You’re just using me!”
“Using you? YOU asked to join ME. Not the other way around!”
Adam slumped to the ground, crossed his leg and faced his back towards Aladdin. “You answer the riddle, the fence opens and you can leave the park.” Adam murmured, placing his hands on his head, refusing to look at Aladdin while speaking to him. Aladdin saw the tear roll down Adams cheek and inhaled deeply. “Look, how about we play some catch and have some fun, and then you can help me with the riddles ok? I need you to help me with the riddles because I can’t do it myself. That’s our adventure right there ok?” Aladdin said.
Adam rubbed his eyes and smiled from ear to ear. “A riddle adventure? Yay woohoo. Ok let’s play catch first. No take backsies.” he said jumping up and running towards the grass. Aladdin shuffled behind him. I’m never getting back home am I? Aladdin noticed how incredibly fresh the grass looked. Water drops twinkled in the grass as if it were winking at him. Aladdin’s trainers almost gave way underneath him. Steadying himself, he glanced up to see Adam was already running around in circles and squares, cutting shapes in the grass ahead of him. “Ok, I’m ready” Aladdin yelled.
“Throw the ball then.” Adam exclaimed still dashing about.
“Throw the ball…? What ball?”
“Don’t you have a ball? How can you come to a park without a ball?”
I didn’t exactly plan on coming here. I’m just trying to get home. “Where’s your ball?”
“On top of the building.” he said, awkwardly pulling off some 70s moves as if he weren’t in public and back home in his own privacy.
Kids really don’t care about anything do they? Not a single worry of being judged. He’s just being himself out there. Looks silly, granted, but if that’s what he feels like doing he just does it… Aladdin sniffled, “Let’s go get it then.”
Adam stopped his irregular gestures and stood still for once. “It’s kind of far.”
“Two riddles far.” Adam mumbled.
“What? How far?”
“Two riddles far!” he yelled.
“Oh my days. What were you planning on doing when you asked me to play catch in the first place?”
Adam crossed his arms and pouted, “I was hoping you’d have a ball…”
“Fine, whatever, let’s go. You’re gonna solve this stupid riddle then.”
Adam darted past Aladdin and towards the fence, “I LOVE riddles, wooooooo.”
Aladdin was left in his wake, slipping when Adam flew past him and fell deeper in regret. He helped himself up and tiptoed carefully off the grass, rubbing his arse along the way.
“What can you catch but not throw?” Adam asked curiously to Aladdin, who was still rubbing his arse when he reached the fence.
“A ball that we don’t have right now because it’s enjoying the sun on top of a building two riddles away?”
“This IS the riddle silly!” Adam giggled.
“Oh…what can you catch but not throw hmmm…?” Aladdin sniffled again.
“…That’s it! A cold!”
“Yea I think I’m coming down with one for some reason. Ever since I walked into this stupid place.”
“No clumsy, not that. A cold. You can catch a cold but you can’t throw one!” Adam said hopping up and down.
How’d he get that before I did…? Smarter than he looks. “Alright, Alright. Settle down.” Aladdin was caught off guard when Adam beat him to enter the answer in. I don’t think I’ll get used to that really.
“Ha-ha. Loooooooser. I win. Where’s my prize?” Adam gleamed.
“I’ll get you a cookie. Let’s get going.”
Aladdin’s coat flapped behind him as he stood still, taking a moment to enjoy the sun’s warmth on his skin. I don’t do this nearly enough. Adam was running rings around Aladdin, poking him in his sides to mark each lap. “Come on, come on, come onnnnn. I thought we’re going? YOU said let’s get going. I wanna play catch.” Poke. “Let’s go.” Poke. “Let’s go.” Poke. “Let’s go.”
“Jesus, will you stop?”
It was too late though, Adam’s finger was half way there and already committed.
“Alright. No cookie for you then.”
“Noooo, please, I promise I’ll be good.” Adam whined.
“If you solve the second riddle MAYBE I’ll consider it.”
Adam sprinted off ahead again leaving Aladdin a little lost and confused where to go. He dragged his tired legs behind, breathing in the variety of scents the wind ferried and anchored on his nostrils. The park really was unique; a flower garden by everything except title. A rainbow on either side of him made him feel like he was heading towards a pot of gold. Aladdin noticed birds chirping in the ancient trees and squirrels darting alongside him as if to lead him to the next fence. When he arrived Adam surprised him; for once he wasn’t running and was on the floor cross legged, ocean deep into his thoughts. He was mumbling something to himself repeatedly, almost schizophrenic.
“What’s wrong?” Aladdin asked curiously.
“I can run but not walk.”
“Clearly, I know you can. My arse is still kind of sore actually. You ought to be in the Olympics somehow. First child to win a gold medal.”
“No, no. The riddle.” He directed Aladdin to the second fence by swatting him till he was there. “See. I can run but not walk. Wherever I go, thought follows close behind. What am I?”
“Oh that’s easy. It’s worry. When you worry your mind runs, not walks.” Aladdin typed it in but got a tiny shock in return for his false answer. “OW. What’s wrong with these fences? How do kids answer these riddles? Shouldn’t it be child safe?”
Adam was giggling, “Kids don’t answer it. It makes sure they’re not unattended because it’s unlikely any kid could answer riddles without help from an adult.”
“Well you answered the first one…”
“Thanks to your nose.” Adam said, prodding Aladdin’s nose. “Ew, your nose is running.” Adam dramatically fell to the floor, playing dead. “It got me, it got me. This is the end. Tell my parents I loved them and my kitten that I hated it and always loved puppies more. Goodbye, friend.” He said, pulling on Aladdin’s coat.
Aladdin rolled his eyes, “Ugh get off me. Wait…That’s it! It kind of is worry. When your nose runs, you worry because it runs. A nose can’t walk too so the answer is ‘a nose’.” Aladdin started to jog to type in his answer but his happiness was cut short when he flopped face down onto the floor. He knew exactly what happened; he could still feel Adam’s hand wrapped around his ankle. By the time Aladdin got up, Adam was already skipping past him, tapping in Aladdin’s answer. Even when I get it right he HAS to be the one to put it in. God is he annoying. Aladdin stepped past the gate while Adam sprinted past it.
“There’s the building, I see it, I see it!” Adam said, bouncing everywhere.
Oh God. Why did I promise to play catch? I really don’t have time for this. I need to get back to my shitty paintings. “Alright then go to the top of the building and get the ball.” Adam didn’t even hear what Aladdin said, he was already on his way. Aladdin trudged on a different path, approaching the cafe that was right next door. He waited impatiently in line, hating each and every person that stood ahead of him. People ask for the most ridiculous things when ordering. With each step he took forward, the person behind him took two, stepping onto the back of his trainers and releasing Aladdin’s foot every time. His anger and frustration both heavily competed with each other as if they were arch rivals. He promptly bought a cookie and stepped out before he snapped.
“Aladdin, over here!” Adam was already on top of the building, leaping in the air as if he weren’t afraid of falling off.
Aladdin’s nose began to leak heavily. “Adam do you have any tissue’s on you?”
“Yea, here catch.” Adam threw the ball down instead.
“Oh come on; just throw the tissue you down.”
“Ewwwww, I can see your boogers. Ewww .” Adam was making a scene now, frustrating Aladdin even more.
“Just throw the bloody tissue down!”
“Ha-ha I don’t have a bloody tissue. Only clean ones.” Adam said prancing about.
“ADAM, this is serious. Throw the tissue down NOW.” Aladdin hurled the ball directly at Adam who caught it with ease.
“Fine, fine, don’t get all moody. Here.” He tossed it down but a breeze swayed it in the air while Aladdin hopped to try and catch it. “Ha-ha kangaroo.”
“Just get down here.” Aladdin said, wiping his nose.
Mimicking Aladdin, Adam hopped his way off the building and down the stairs to the bottom. “That was fun. Let’s do it again!”
“I thought we’re gonna play catch?”
“Nah I don’t really want to anymore.”
“But you…the whole point was…never mind. I just wanna get home. Let’s get to the last fence. I’ve got to get back to my paintings.”
“Oh you paint too?”
Too? “Yea even though I’ve been having trouble lately…Let me see one of your paintings.”
“It’s because you’re thinking too much kiddo, you need to step back and relax.”
“Kiddo? You’re funny you know? Where’s the painting Picasso?”
Adam pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket, still scrunched up and a mess. He handed it over to Aladdin with great pride, as if he spent months on end painting it. Aladdin cast an eye at Adam while unfolding the paper and flattening out. Adam repaid the look by sticking out his tongue. Aladdin scanned the paper, glanced at Adam and then the paper again. There was a stickman painted on a messy background of colours with a ball in his hand. Adam beamed, thrilled with his work of art.
“Wow. Even I’m not this good.” Aladdin said.
“I knew it, I knew it. The others are on my fridge. Mummy says I can be a great painter one day if I keep practising.”
“Yea, just keep practising, you’ll get there.”
This time around, Adam actually strolled side by side with Aladdin, sensing that their time together was nearly over. Aladdin could see the exit sign now, arched between two trees as if it were a rainbow itself. Almost there. I wonder what this riddle is…who even comes up with such an idea for a park. Even though it kind of was fun…like those human sized chess boards and pieces-
“I know the answer. I know the answer.” Adam taunted.
Aladdin didn’t realise Adam had beaten him there again. Too much daydreaming. He saw the riddle scribbled across. This doesn’t make sense, surely a typo or something? He read it out loud, thinking it would somehow make more sense, “Throw me off the highest building, and I’ll not break. But put me in the ocean, and I will. What am I?” If it doesn’t break out of height then it’s not a solid, must be a liquid…but how does water break in an ocean…
“I’ll never tell you and you won’t get to leave. Na-na-na-booboo.”
Aladdin couldn’t figure it out so he pulled out the cookie from his coat pocket and held it out for Adam to see as if to brag. Adam leaned in to take it but Aladdin pulled his hand back. “Na-ah. I’ll give it to you if you tell me the answer.”
Adam hesitated, wanting the cookie but also wanting Aladdin to stay. He observed Aladdin’s desperation written boldly on his face, the need to go home. “It’s tissue…”
Aladdin tossed the cookie to Adam and ran for the first time to the type it in, without looking back. “Ha! Beat you!” The fence opened and Aladdin stood in the middle of exit, one foot on either side. Adam was still on the other side of the fence. Aladdin could see the tears on his cheeks again. He kneeled down. “Hey, hey. Don’t worry you’ll find someone else to play with you and buy you cookies and scream at you. Someone who’s…meant to be here yea? But I have to go and you’ll be just fine either way yea?”
Adam nodded slowly, “Promise you’ll paint me and the park first.”
“I promise.” He hugged Adam and looked back before walking through the exit.
Aladdin was back in his apartment now. He tried to take off his trainers faster than he could, throwing off his coat in the meantime. Darting to his paintings, he wondered if any of what he just went through was even real. Positioning himself in front of them, he realised he missed them as if they weren’t inanimate objects. He took a step back and fell into an epiphany. He swatted away all the tainted cups of water and brought three paintings to the front, shifting around the order in which they were in until they fitted like a puzzle. A park/flower garden…how did I not realise? He knelt down and signed it on the bottom corner of the now mosaic- Adam’s Riddle Park.