World 0: Home Again

The family woke up again, but this time they weren’t in another world. They were in their living room.
“We’re back home!” Serena said, jumping to her feet. “Everything is back to normal.”
“You’re mistaken,” a voice said. The family turned as the old man appeared and stood in front of them. “Everything is not back to normal. Congratulations on working together so well.”

The family waited for Mike to brag about being the MVP.
But instead he said, “We made a great team. Everyone was the MVP.”
“Congratulations on getting through all the booby traps,” the old man continued. “Including the baby dragons and the blue balls.”
And everyone waited for Jay to make a dirty joke. But he never did.
The old man smiled at the family. “See? Everything isn’t back to normal. They’re even better.” Then, without even giving the family a chance to say thank you or good-bye, the old man vanished.

“Wait,” said Jay. “He’s right. “Everything is different now.”
“Did we just become a happy family?” asked Max. “Awesome!”
They laughed and cheered, but then the cheering stopped as Lilly hugged the father’s leg.

She looked up at him with a sad face and asked him the question everyone else was thinking, but not saying: “Are you still gonna leave us?”
The family looked at the father in silence and waited for his answer. He looked at each of them slowly, from Serena down to Lilly. Then he grabbed the mother and pulled her close, and said, “I’m gonna stay.”
The family cheered and threw themselves onto him to hug him.
“Because we’re family,” the father said. “And no matter how bad it is…”
“Or how bad it gets,” the family replied.
“We’re gonna make it.”

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