Of Zombies and Wagon Trains

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All Around Champion
''as Gretel Williams, from Albany New York, wins the Olympic All Around!' The crowds roared, the judges clapped, my mom cried, and I waved. Okay, in reality, the wind roared, the thunder clapped, my Mom nagged, and I imagined. But, hey! At least I was imagining! Yes, I'll confess, I am an avid imaginer, dreamer, and self talker. But if you knew my present circumstances, you'd probably admit, I have my reasons.
What are my present circumstances? Well, not to complain, but I live in a hovel located in the suburbs of Albany, New York: which seems to me like the rainiest city on the planet. I live in this humongous puddle with my mother, a terribly discontented lady who has no idea how to wash a spoon- but expects me to be the perfect housekeeper, and my dad, who I barely ever see, since he's an alcoholic. And I go to a school, in which bullies abound and friends are non-existent.
Why does this give me a reason to spend my time day dreaming about worldwide fame in the greatest sport ever to get into the Olympics?
Well, when I am imagining, I have a different life. I can have all the friends, pets, and money that I want. Fans wait all night for a glimpse of me-(instead of Simon Robinson waiting all day for a punch at me.) I have maids-(instead of being the maid.)
Of course, I don't always pretend to be an Olympic gymnast. I've been a rock star, a soccer star, even a super hero. Sometimes I just pretend that I've got a decent life. Whatever I pretend, I'm never here in the rain and the dark and the dishes.
When I'm dreaming, I forget that chores even exist. Today was a particularly hard Saturday. I had to clean the house from top to bottom. Mattresses, floors, refrigerators, pantries, they all had to be clean. Finally, dirtier than the house had ever been, I had gone to get my shower. I soaked in the water and lost myself in dreamland. I was getting my medal ,tears (A.K.A. water from the shower) streaming down my face, as I listened to the national anthem being played, and-
'Gretel Williams!'
'Yes?' I said.
'Don't use up all the hot water!'
I sighed. 'I guess having the audience jump the stands will have to wait.' I thought as I stepped reluctantly out of the steamy haven into the cold house. But as soon as I was in bed, I was back on the podium, fans jumping the stands and everything. But I didn't imagine for long, for soon, I was asleep.

'I have to run away"

One day I my mother had nagged Dad into shopping for a suit, and I, having finished all the chores she had left me to do, had retreated blissfully into my own thoughts.
I was sitting on my bed, (A.K.A. my throne,) ruling my dolls (A.K.A. my loyal subjects)until the phone jangling broke into my dreamland. I jumped at the sound then ran to get it.
I hung up the phone in a stupor. My thoughts, so happy a minute before were now a jumble of sadness.
'An orphanage''
'Car wreck''
'Foster home?'
These thoughts just circled, swirled, and left me in tears. Uncontrollable tears. Then suddenly, through all the havoc, the jumble, the mess, one thought hit me.

'I've got to run away.'
It was so sudden, so spontaneous, like I hadn't said it myself. I had no idea why I had just said that. 'What!? Why?'
Once again the feeling, of not thinking this myself and the same thought 'I've got to run away.' Except this time it was accompanied by something else.
'We'll be coming to pick you up about noon, and we'll take you to a foster home, then you'll be transferred to an orphanage.'The man on the phone had said. I sat bolt upright.
'NO!' I yelled. 'What'll I do?' Once again the thought, only this time I understood, 'I've got to run away!' I pulled out a suitcase and began to pack. Clothes, a bag food, a picture of my parents, but no thoughts about the future, where I would go. Just a hurried rush.
But as soon as I stepped out of the house that all changed. 'Wait, what in the world am I doing?!How did I ever think this was a good idea? This is crazy!' But then I thought about the orphanage, the foster home. And I started walking. To where, who knows. But I did know where I was not going. And that was a start.
I walked down the road. Going' where? I walked to a bridge that cut across a river. Going down to the bank, I began to look for a place to eat breakfast. Suddenly, the creek disappeared. Then trees appeared. Then the grass grew longer. Then I heard a cry I had only heard in a zoo. 'A'monkey?'








Natives!
I walked cautiously through the jungle. For yes, it was a jungle, though I couldn't believe it myself. But what else could it be? I mean a monkey, (yes, a MONKEY!) just swung by my head, and that was a toucan (for real!) in that tree. I did not believe it.
I actually had found an imaginary world! And my favorite imaginary world! A jungle filled with animals, wildlife and natives.
Then I gasped. Natives! If this really was my imaginary world then there were Indians, mean Indians here. 'O.K Gretel,' I sighed 'Let's think. I'm here with no weapons, no protection, nothing to protect me at all. How will I survive at all?' With these comforting thoughts I walked even more cautiously. Sidestepping, glancing, and starting at all noises. I calmed down, then 'What have we here?' boomed a huge voice behind me. I promptly fainted.
I woke up on a straw palette, looking up at a small hole in the top of a hut. 'Where am I?'I groaned
'You are in my home!' said a small, accented voice, and then a tiny, motherly face appeared over mine. It glowed a deep brown.
'A Native!' I cried 'don't eat me!' The face laughed.
'No dear, you're thinking of the other Indians. On the other side of the jungle. We're the friendly ones. The ones that speak English. Remember?'
Then I did remember. There were 2 native tribes! One friendly, which save my life a whole lot. Then the not so friendly ones. 'But,' I asked 'How' am I dreaming' or crazy maybe? I mean''
The native laughed again. 'No. Of course not!' She lowered her voice 'A deep magic covers all imaginers. A magic that protects them. This magic is like your own personal fairy, flitting around you to make sure you're alright. If anything happens to you, anything bad, it comes and draws you into the world of imagination. Many children have found protection here, but all have their own unique world. Castle worlds, western worlds, whatever you can dream up. One child's world has zombies and wagon trains. All together. You just imagine whatever kind of food or clothes you need, and it just pops into your hand. You can enter their world, to visit. They can yours. But you always must return to your own world, this world, the jungle, eventually. When you turn 20 you get sent back out into the real world. '
I sighed with contentment and wonder. Then I thought of something. 'Is there,' I paused, and then went on. 'A gymnastics world?'








Dinosaurs
I was in high heaven, practicing my balance beam routine in Sasha's gymnastics world. I had been in the 'Imagination Nation' for about a week.
A couple minutes later, Sasha, a girl with a brown high ponytail, bronzed skin, and sparkling blue eyes hopped in with a casual 'Hey Gretel!' and jumped to the uneven bars, expertly executing a pirouette.
After practice, we got a shower and a change out of our leotards. Then we dropped by Jurassic World. Jurassic world is a guy called Timothy's world. Some evil men control the dinosaurs. And there is this secret formula they are trying to get. No one really knows what the formula is for; it's just a folded piece of line paper. Looking at it is out of the question. It's probably nothing important, you know, just the end of the world or something. Right now Tim has it, but that status could change very quickly. He's lucky to still be alive. So are Sasha and I, as often as we stop by to help.
It's a really fun world to be in, because you go from nonstop action and the chance of being dying growing more real every second, to totally chilled and relaxed while soaking in a hot spring. And by the way, the kind natives had told me that the way to get to anther kid's world is to simply say the name of their world (for example, 'Jungle.') and you just disappear.
Any ways, we went to Tim's cave. He was sitting on the ground, eating.
When he spotted us, he swallowed, and then said 'Hello.'
'Don't get up' I said. 'We just came to see if you needed any help.'
'I wouldn't get up anyways.' He responded. 'I'm sitting on it.'
'It?' Sasha asked, puzzled.
'You know,' Tim said, glancing around the room. 'IT.'
'No,' said Sasha, 'I don't know-'
'Sasha,' I broke in 'I think he means IT.'
'What?!' Said Sasha, confused and frustrated 'I don't und' OH! The form'' She hit her head.
We Sat down, laughing and talking. Right in the middle of one of my sentences, Sasha screamed and pointed at the solid stone wall. I looked and shrieked.






The Chase
I was shrieking at a hole in the wall, and a dinosaurs head sticking through it. Timothy and I immediately grabbed the formula and ran! But Sasha simply froze.
'Sasha!'I screamed 'We've got to get out of here!' grabbing her hand, I raced for the caves entrance. Out in the air we streaked towards the jungle, trying to lose them in the thick foliage. We ran through the jungle, our sides hurting as if the dinosaur chasing us had a couple of his teeth impaled in our stomach, but the crunching steps behind us told us we weren't getting anywhere. I had the formula right now, so it was most important for me to keep running and ahead of the dinosaurs. But as I ran, as we ran, we all knew we couldn't go on forever, and I didn't. My knees buckled and I fell, the formula flying from my hand.
As the dinosaur's head appeared through the trees, I grabbed the formula, and with a vicious roll to my left, watched the dinosaur's foot land right on top of the place I had just escaped. I jumped to my feet, but not for long! The monster's tail slammed me to the ground. The dinosaur, having been trained to chase Timothy, whenever he saw him, lumbered by, ignoring me. I flopped back onto the ground, treasuring the moment to rest.
After a few, all too scarce, minutes, I reluctantly lifted myself off the ground, walking towards a small drop off. But as I prepared to jump, I heard something behind me. I stopped, and as I looked, my blood froze. I was staring at the biggest T-rex I had ever seen. He was looking straight towards me.






The Tree
I leapt off the drop off, stumbled to my knees, jumped up and kept running. The blood pumped in my temples and I could almost hear my heart beating. I was managing, somehow to stay out of his sight when suddenly I stopped.
'This can't keep going on!' I thought. Grabbing the tree branch in front of me, I hoisted myself up and, still going as fast as possible, clambered to the top of the humongous tree. I sat there listening to the footsteps of the dinosaurs fade away.
'Gretel!' A shout broke into my thoughts. I looked down from my perch.
Sasha and Tim were climbing up to meet me. 'If you ever get separated from us again, I am going to get some duct tape, and tie you to me forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and'' here Sasha ran out of breath.
'You make it sound SO pleasant!' I giggled.
'Seriously,' said Tim 'we were really worried'
'Yes' said Sasha 'Really, really, really, really, really-'
'Sasha,' I asked 'were you worried?'
'Um' Ya!!!'
'Well, why didn't you say so?!' I said faking astonishment.
Sasha sat next to me on the branch, and rolled her eyes. 'Whatever Gretel, but you don't know how it is to run through a jungle searching for a friend that may be past all need of finding, just running, running. No end to the running part.'
I gave her a sideways hug 'Thanks Sash.'
She smiled 'No problem. I t did make a good adventure.'
I was about to say more when Tim held up his hand 'Shh!' he said in an urgent whisper. We paused, and then we all heard it, and my stomach grew sick. I had already heard that sound today, and I had already decided that if I never heard it again, it would be too soon. That sound was, of course, the steady stomp-stomp-stomp of a T-rex running through the forest. A T-rex seeking prey. And that prey, to our utmost horror, was us.
The dinosaur stopped at the base of the tree. Without looking up, he bent down, leaned over, opened his ginormous jaws, and took a big bite out of the trees trunk. He spat it out and leaned in for another one. In the tree we looked at each other in terror. We needed to do something. Fast.
Slapping my hand, the one with the formula in it, down onto the limb I yelled 'Put your hands on top of mine!!!!!'
Sasha and Timothy looked at each other, but realizing this was no time to hesitate, put their hands on top of mine.
'O.K.' I screamed 'Now what we need to do is, on 3, everybody yell 'Gymnastics'! 1'2'3... Gymnastics!'
There was the sound of the tree falling, the sound of the roar of dinosaur. Then with a thud, we landed on the floor of a gym. We sat up slowly, grinning at each other. Then my grin slipped away.
'Oh, Oh no. please no!' I fumbled through my clothing, my pockets, searching frantically around the floor. It was no use. 'Guys' um' the formula, it's kind of'' I trailed off, but they got my point.
Sasha fell back onto the ground with a heartfelt 'No!'
Tim gave out a long drawn out sigh, then we all got up and got ready to go back to being eaten, running.




Victorious! (For Now)
We landed, or whatever you want to call finishing being transferred from one world to another, forest to find an expected thing and one rather unexpected, but blessed thing.
First, the expected. A fallen tree. The unexpected but blessed thing was that there was absolutely no dinosaur! You cannot imagine the relief we felt upon finding that we were not supposed to start running again.
We cautiously began to search the tree, trying to be extremely quiet, for we still didn't believe our luck at the no dinosaur thing. We hardly even dared to hope that the formula would still be there.
But it was. As Sasha's face glowed with pride, we hiked back to find another cave for Tim, his having been broken into by a dinosaur. Thank goodness that in the Imagination Nation, moving is no big deal. You see, since food and clothes simply come whenever you ask them to, nobody keeps that kind of stuff in the house, cave, castle, tipi, or whatever you live in.
After finding a cave, we asked the 'magic' for 3 goblets and a pitcher of grape juice on a silver platter, along with 3 swimsuits, 2 girls', and 1 boy's. After changing into them, we went to find a hot spring. Then we settled down to celebrate our victory in our traditional fashion.
'I wonder why the dinosaur would just leave the formula for us to find?' asked Sasha, once we were settled down in the hot water.
'Well, I've found out' speculated Tim, 'that dinosaurs are rather dumb.'
I had just finished passing out the goblets and, now, raising mine I said 'Then I propose a toast; to the dumbness of dinosaurs!'
'To the dumbness of dinosaurs!' sipped the juice. As I looked around at my circle of friends smiling, talking, I thought, once again, of all that had changed in my life since coming into this place. I was accepted, I was happy. And so now, in more than one way, I was victorious.







Epilogue
In the weeks and years to come I was to have many more adventures with many more kids in Imagination Nation. I ran from tigers, natives, and, of course, a lot of dinosaurs.
I grew up went back into the real world, and found that I was up to any adventures that came my way. I got a job that took me all over the world and delivered me on the front doorstep of a great many adventures.
I had great stories to tell, as I am now telling them to you, selling them as 'fiction.' But writing down these stories, on these pages, helps me, no matter if you believe me or not. It helps to keep on imagining. To see these stories, these 'fairy tales' as history. This did happen to me. I will never stop my pretending. And, with this book to help me along, I'll never forget my years of pretending because my life depended on it. The years of zombies and wagon trains.





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