It’s quiet here in this classroom, but not the pleasant, serene kind of quiet. It’s the tense kind of quiet that buzzes with whiny gossiping hormonal voices drowning out the soft cool patter of new laptop keys, the kind of quiet drone that boils your brain. Your head throbs and your breath feels shallower than it’s supposed to be. It’s too much nowadays.
And then the door bursts open.
The complaining shrieks to a halt, and then they stream in. Animals.
The one that broke the door down is a full-sized T-Rex. She’s followed by two foxes and two wolves and a chipmunk and a rooster, an alligator and an orangutan and an elephant, a unicorn and an enormous hamster, two cats and a ferret and a panda bear and one shimmering dolphin weaving through the air. I duck under the desk, shocked and terrified, for a long minute, but then…
The red fox appears before me. His fur is glowing with an inner light like a ruby held to a lightbulb, and his eyes are deep and eternal in their hazelness. He’s sleek and elegant, followed by a hint of music somehow heartbreaking and hopeful at once, padding slowly towards me with unspeakable grace.
Of course I know who he is. I’ve been waiting for him.
The animals dance around the dinosaur, waiting for me. Her scales are cool and smooth. I pull myself up and sit on her back, and the rest of the smaller animals manage to find a seat too. When I look down, I see, with no surprise, paws instead of hands. I shift to a more comfortable position. I’m a dog, a male because we’re all the opposite of ourselves, kind of small, brown and white, a terrier-chihuahua thing with pointed ears and a half-docked tail. My beloved little chipmunk sits upon the dinosaur’s head, the ruby-red fox and the pastel pink-blue dolphin and the wolf as infinitely blue as the night sky close by. I rest comfortably in the shoulders of the dinosaur, and one of the wolves, white as the sacred whispers of the moon and silver as the singing wind in the mountains, tentatively moves closer to me and nuzzles my face. My best friend, this wolf. I haven’t seen her in three years.
As the dinosaur rises to her feet, the still-human teenagers watch in astoundment, and we leave. The dolphin swims beside us, the elephant canters on to the left, the unicorn gallops on ahead.
The hallway is gone; when we leave the classroom, we enter a labyrinth of stone walls, a path winding through it. The sky is blue overhead, and the sun shines joyously. We all follow this winding path up through the mountains, up and up, away from the heartbreak of our human selves. When we reach the top, we find sunlit trees and a beautiful deep clear lake for the dolphin, and intricate caves to explore and nests for some of us to sleep in, and all the food we could ever want. No one goes hungry or fights. We don’t have to miss each other because we’re all right here. There’s space for everyone, and others come to visit, and we never get bored.
We all live together, but I especially live with the silver wolf, my very best friend, who never is lonely or sad again. We’re always by each other’s side, making each other laugh. I never have to tell her I miss her or can’t wait to see her, never have to feel her disappointment when our plans to see each other don’t work out.
The red fox and the blue wolf are happy to see each other, and the dinosaur and the ferret don’t resent each other. The ferret and the white cat will always be together. The star-golden glimmering fox worries for nothing, jubilant and joyous in his new home, and so is the soft-light white cat and the gleaming magnificent rooster.
We don’t feel the need to be human ever again, and, as you might have guessed, we all live happily ever after.