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Map of Dreams Chapter 2
She and the creature battled it out, but Judith hadn’t even fought for two minutes before the creature grabbed the branch right from her hand and tore it to shreds as though it were a sheet of paper. Judith grabbed another branch, taking better care to not allow the creature get a hold of this one, and held up longer. But eventually she tired and collapsed. The creature bent down, took one end of the branch in its teeth with Judith still clinging to it, and hurled it across the field into another tree. Judith fell to the ground, sore, but unharmed. The creature charged toward her, and right before attacking, Judith felt some kind of deep power rise through her veins and into the branch. She built the strength to stand up again. She gasped when she saw that the branch was glowing. Then it turned into a shining sword. Had she done that?
Judith had a strong feeling she could defeat this beast now. So, she gathered up her courage, and took her stance. She swung her sword at the creature just as it struck her leg with its claws. She shrieked, and fell over again. She saw the beast lunge at her, so she quickly seized the sword again and stabbed it in the chest before it could attack her. It bellowed in pain, and then its body turned to stone. Judith stood back up and yanked the sword back out of the stone. Then she saw the body crumble, and the bits of stone absorbed into the grass.
She was exhausted. She slowly trudged her way through the remainder of the forest, dragging the sword across the ground behind her. When she reached the end of the Forbidden Forest, she collapsed onto her knees. She was extremely proud that she had defeated that evil beastly creature. But something wasn’t right. After a moment of pumping adrenaline, Judith felt a burning sensation rippling through her injured leg.
Daniel appeared not too long after the creature was vanquished. “Wow, you managed to kill the creature that you created to represent your sixth grade math teacher,” he said. “I’m impressed.”
“Yes, all is well in the Forbidden Forest now that the creature died, but I’m injured, in case you didn’t notice,” Judith said, panting in exhaustion. “What can I do to help that?”
“You…you can do nothing,” said Daniel. “However, Anastasia might be able to help.”
“Anastasia…Bird?” Judith said, wanting to clarify who this Anastasia was.
“Yes. Remember that you dreamt her to mend your heart whenever somebody hurt your feelings? You were nearly ten when you created her.”
“Yes, I remember her.”
Daniel looked around as if he were searching for something. “If I could get you to a calm area with fresh water…,” he mumbled.
“Oh, she still lives underwater?”
“Yes. And she always will,” said Daniel. He went over to Judith and picked her up in his arms. Judith was surprised that someone invisible could pick up something solid like her. Oh, well. At least she wouldn’t have to walk now, which would have been near impossible for her to do, considering that one of her legs was injured. Besides, this was all a dream. Nothing was supposed to make sense; that’s the beauty of fantasy.
“Now hold on,” Daniel instructed. Judith wrapped an arm around the back of his neck, and instantly felt securer. Who knew a ghost could be so strong?
“I’m ready,” she said. And with that, Daniel floated away, Judith still in his arms.
Before long, Daniel had found a nice little river, calm and quiet. “This will do nicely,” he said, gently laying Judith on the ground beside it.
She reached into the river and drew a circle in the water with her finger. “It’s nice and cool,” she said.
“Yes, I know,” said Daniel. “Now, are you ready?” Judith inhaled deeply, held her breath, and nodded. “Then go.”
Judith obeyed him, and rolled her body into the river and let herself sink. As she sank deeper down, she started to hear light, angelic music play. What is that? she thought. When she reached the river floor, she found herself in a beautiful palace built entirely out of diamonds and crystals. Everything sparkled and was simply picturesque. Sitting on a throne in front of her was the most beautiful fairy Judith had ever laid eyes on. Her eyes glistened and her hourglass figure was stunning.
“Welcome, Judith,” the fairy said sweetly. “Welcome to my home. What brings you here?”
Judith risked taking another breath, despite the fact that she was underwater. She could breathe. Apparently, alterations of the laws of physics occurred quite a bit in dreams. “Uh…I’m injured,” she explained. “I hurt my leg, and I thought you might be able to help.” Judith stretched out her leg to show the damage.
“Oh! Is that all? That’s no problem. I get that a lot. A leg injury shouldn’t be hard at all.” Anastasia withdrew some fairy dust from what seemed out of nowhere, and sprinkled it across the wound on Judith’s leg. Judith’s leg sparkled from the fairy dust, and then it sank into her skin, not leaving one sparkle behind. Judith could feel the fairy dust moving about underneath the surface of her skin, medicating it with who-knows-what. She watched as the three clean gashes in her leg gradually became lighter and lighter until all that was left was her regular, tan skin. It was amazing. With just that little bit of fairy dust, Judith’s leg was completely healed. Not even as much as a faint scar was visible. It was unbelievable.
Anastasia sighed, satisfied. “Now, if that is all you need, you really should be going.” She extended her hand out and daintily lifted a finger, which created a current in the water that carried Judith up to the surface again, where Daniel was patiently awaiting her arrival.
“All right, I’m healed. Now, what do I do?” asked Judith, standing up.
“Just look at your map. Follow your destined path, and you’ll always find a way,” said Daniel, vanishing once again.
Judith thoroughly studied the map. She couldn’t believe it, but according to what she saw, it read that the exit was a short two miles away. How could escaping be that simple? She felt as if it was a trick, but she decided to go, anyway. “Which direction do I go?” she asked herself, gazing at the map. The next few roads she had to travel down were placed in a complicated pattern, and she had no idea exactly where to start. “I need a compass!” she begged to no one in particular. Once again, Daniel appeared, this time, directly in front of Judith’s face. She yelped in surprise, and fell backwards. “Look, is this going to become a regular schedule for us, or something?” she said rudely.
Ignoring her remark, Daniel said, “I heard you need a compass.”
“Yeah, I need a compass, but there isn’t one on the map. Aren’t all maps supposed to have compasses?”
“Calm yourself, Judith. Maybe you don’t see one on the map, but that doesn’t mean there is not one present. Just be aware of your surroundings. Believe in your dreams. There very well may be a compass right in front of you, but just a simpler version of one. Discover it, and that’ll help guide you through the rest of your journey.” After saying that, he disappeared again, and this was one too many times for Judith. She had lost count of how many times he’d come and gone. It was beginning to annoy her. Within seconds, she realized that worrying about some talking spirit was not going to get her anywhere. So she focused her attention on the map again.
Judith read on the map that she had to go north to reach the exit. But where was north? That’s what she wanted to know. She needed a sign or a voice telling her where to go. Finally, she just threw her head back in frustration. Strangely, doing so is how she received the answer to her current question. In the stampede of clouds floating in the sky, there rested one lone cloud, bending into the shape of an arrow. The cloud in front of it bent into the shape of an “N.” This was all extremely ironic, but Judith didn’t care. She was one step closer to returning home. Right now, that was all that mattered to her. Judith ran down a road that the arrow pointed to, until she came to a steel door. Was this it? She looked at the map and clarified it was. She loosely rolled the map up and tucked it under her arm, and eagerly pulled on the enormous bronze, serpent’s-head-shaped handle, but it wouldn’t budge. This was no longer feeling like a game. Judith wanted to escape this place more than anything, but now, how was she supposed to escape if the door wouldn’t even open?
“It’s not fair!” she cried, tears emerging behind her eyelids. She leaned against the door and slid to the ground. She sat there and cried a little until Daniel appeared again.
“Is something wrong?” he asked sincerely.
“Oh, I think you very well know what’s wrong!” Judith shouted through her tears. “I want to get out of here, but obviously, that’s not an option, since this stupid door is locked. Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of portal here?”
“I assure you, there is a portal…behind the door,” said Daniel sheepishly.
“Then how do I access the portal?” asked Judith in desperation. “I’m begging you, Daniel, just open the door!”
“What do you want me to do about it?” he asked. “I am but a figment of your imagination. I am just here this time to warn you that you are running out of time. You have sixty minutes remaining to escape.”
Judith didn’t believe what she just heard. She refused to believe it. It was beyond ridiculous. “What? But what happened to my twelve hours?” she demanded.
“Time flies by quicker than you think it can,” said Daniel plainly. “But, if you truly desire to escape, I’d be glad to tell you that there is one other way.”
“Yes! I want to escape out of here more than anything in the world! Just tell me what I can do!”
“If you go to Prince Carl’s castle, he can use his powers to open this door.”
“Excellent! Now, where is Prince Carl’s castle?” asked Judith.
“Don’t fret; I will send you there myself.”
Without a word, Daniel lifted his hand and painted an invisible path on the air, and a sudden gust of wind carried Judith away down that path. She landed on her feet in the throne room of some massive palace. She saw a throne made entirely out of jewels of assorted colors. “You’ve got to be kidding; he’s not here?” she exclaimed. She was tired from running around, and didn’t like it that she had to search for every little thing in her dream. This was real life, not a video game. She waited for a few minutes to see if anything would happen. She was starting to assume that nobody was present at the moment, and she considered sitting down in the throne while she waited; it just appeared to be so comfy and welcoming. She crept toward it, but something stopped her.
“Who dares trespass here in my dominion!” a large voice boomed. Judith felt nervous. A muscular figure appeared in the throne, and Judith gasped. She backed away from the throne, which she was starting to assume was forbidden to sit in. She didn’t want to get on this being’s bad side, even though it seemed as though she were already on his bad side. “Why, you are Judith Carter!” he exclaimed upon noticing her, his voice sweetening.
She nodded. “Yes, I am,” she replied, sighing in relief at his sudden change in tone.
“Foolish mortal!” the prince shouted.
This sudden outburst of rage made Judith’s heart race. She took several steps back, intimidated and frightened by this powerful man.
“You’ve ruined everything!” the prince thundered. “You could have listened to your family, but you decided to not grow up. Now, look at you! Your life is in jeopardy. Of all dreams, I had to get stuck in yours! Frankly, that’s not very fair to either of us!”
“I’m sorry,” said Judith, shaking with fear. “I’m trying to fix it. I found the exit, but it’s locked. Only you can open it, so please help me! I’ve learned my lesson; I just want to go home.”
“First, I must test your loyalty,” said the prince. “I’m going to ask you a few questions, and you must answer them all correctly, or else I won’t help you. I am a merciful prince, but I do not mother my captives.”
“You’re a character in one of my dreams, and you want to interrogate me? You’re crazy,” said Judith.
Ignoring her, the prince commenced his test of loyalty. He asked Judith a series of eighty-three questions, each one more intricate than the next. Judith was scared when he prepared to tell her the results. She was even more worried about what time it was. Answering eighty-three questions when you have a limited time to answer those questions puts a lot of pressure on a person. “Judith Carter…,” the prince said when he’d calculated the results, “you have passed the test!”
Judith gasped. “Really?”
“You are a smart girl, Judith,” he said to her. “I see you’ve learned the error of your ways, and thus, I will gladly open the portal for you.” The prince took his spear, and shot out a lightning bolt of power from the tip of his index finger. “The portal is open,” he told Judith. “Hurry, you have two minutes left. Good luck.” He summoned his royal carriage. An extremely shiny silver carriage appeared in the room, being driven by two flaming horses. “Take the young Miss Judith to the exit of her dreams…now!” he ordered. Judith climbed in, and the horses quickly galloped out of the palace. They raced forward when they were out in the open world again.
Once they reached the exit, the horses along with the carriage disappeared in an instant. The wind seemed to whisper in Judith’s ear, “Thirty seconds!” Judith saw the portal closing swiftly. This was it.
Before she stepped into the portal, she felt a cold hand touch her shoulder. She twirled around and saw Daniel standing there in front of her. “Thank you,” he said softly.
“Thanks for what?” asked Judith.
“You corrected the error in your way of life more easily than any other child has before. I’m grateful that you’ll go on now, and live a happier life.”
“Oh,” said Judith. She gasped when she noticed that Daniel’s ghostly form was fading away rapidly. “Wait…what’s going to happen to you?”
“Once you step through that portal, Judith Carter, I, and everything else in this world, will have disappeared for always and eternity.”
This news made Judith feel like crying. To her, dreams were her most prized possession. They had come to be like her friends. But she told herself she had to let her dreams go. Imprisoning her dreams in her head for sixteen years is what got her into this predicament in the first place.
“But do not worry about me,” continued Daniel. “Remember, I am only a dream. I do not have any special purposes or ambitions. But you, Judith, do.”
Judith shifted her gaze to the portal again, watching it close.
“If you desire, you may stay here until you die. I won’t stop you,” said Daniel. Judith closed her eyes. She was honestly starting to want to stay in this world, where everything was peaceful, beautiful…and all her own. How could she leave it all behind?
But Judith knew she had to decide right then and there whether she was going back to the real world to reside with her family, or if she was going to stay in this dream world with all her friends and fantasies. She finally came to the conclusion that she would leave her dreams and go back home to the Blarney Castle. “Goodbye, Daniel,” she whispered.
She took one last look around, and then slipped through the portal just before it closed forever. The next thing she knew, she was in her bed. The clock read 4:48 P.M. She excitedly leapt out of bed, and ran downstairs, amazed that she was home, and even more amazed at how she had really been gone for twelve hours.
“Mom, Dad?” she called out. “Where are you?” She made her way to the living room where they spent the majority of their time, and sure enough, found them sitting on the couch. “Mom! Dad!” she screamed in elation. She ran over to them and hugged them both. “I’m back!”
“You left?” Mr. Carter asked.
“Yeah. I got trapped inside my dreams, and only had twelve hours to escape. But I’m back now.” She noticed the confused and concerned expressions on their faces.
“Okay, if you say so,” said Mr. Carter.
Suddenly, a little boy came jogging into the room. “Hey, who’s yelling in here?” he asked. The little boy was Judith’s little brother, Derek.
“Twerp!” she cried. She hugged her little brother tight, and started crying. She began kissing his head as though she hadn’t seen him for ten years and couldn’t bear to stop. She was overjoyed. “I promise, I’ll never tease you again, Derek!” She kissed him again.
Squirming under her grip, Derek asked, “Um, are you on some new medication that I should know about?” and looked at his parents questioningly. They only shrugged.
Judith felt relieved. Now, she could clearly focus on what was really important: filing through her college options, and spending time with the family she had just realized she loved more than she thought.