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Lovely. New school, new people, new town. Same cliques and same rulers. I couldn't care less about that, though; all I wanted to do was get there, go to my classes, come home, and continue on my made-up world. Which, believe me--for a girl of 17--anyone who knew about it would shun me and make my life a living hell.
Which is why, at all times, I keep to myself. It's safer to always be alone than to risk girl drama by having friends. My headphones were always over my ears, blaring bands like Aiden, Black Veil Brides, and Escape the Fate. Nobody ever bothered me, even with all the schools I've been to--guess they all got the idea, I am better off alone. Or, maybe they're afraid to get to know me. Either way, good.
So the first day at South Side High was like all others, I get to my classes, eat lunch in the library, and go home at the end of the day. Once there, I open my books and continue making stuff up for my world. I call it Aiden, after one of my favorite bands. It has awesome creatures in it; hippogriffs, house brownies, and beautiful wild horses. The lands were hilly and full of valleys with towns and villages.
I shook my head. None of that was real. Maybe I needed to quit the fantasy world, and accept the crappiness of the real one. And so, I spent the evening reading The Last Apprentice series, by Joseph Delaney. When I went to sleep, I dreamt of major drama involving girls at school, and... a hippogriff coming to rescue me from it all.
When I woke up, I got ready for school. Today, I decided I wanted to walk, get some exercise and fresh autumn air. I made my way downtown with my black hair whipping in the chilled wind, faintly hearing my boots clinking on the cement, though as always I was listening to music.
At school, in English class, the teacher had asked me if I knew what the conflict was in Romeo and Juliet. I had shrugged, saying that I didn't know. The teacher scowled and glared at me, proving she was having a bad morning. I mentally rolled my eyes. Then, in one of my computer classes, I realized I had my Aiden map in my bag.
"Can I go the washroom?" I asked the teacher, Mr. Klein, as he walked down the isles of computers. He nodded and mouthed 'quickly', so I grabbed all my things and headed out the door--taking a left instead of a right. I had to get out of that place, the day's stress was getting to me. I quietly stalked down the boring white hallways with all the same lockers and rooms with numbers on them. Eventually I got to the north doors, and left school.
I walked down a random street I didn't know, not caring where it would take me. Soon I came to a park, with only a set of swings and a single slide, and a tennis court nearby. Dropping my stuff, I sat on a swing. Then I pulled my map out of my bag and looked it over, imagining everything all around me in that different world. I stroked the map delicately, lifting my finger as it hit Tangka village and hillside.
Suddenly, my surroundings started rumbling and shaking like an earthquake, What? We never get earthquakes in Minnesota! I screamed in my mind, my mood surging to a panic. Everything started turning upside down, and the next thing I knew, I was in a completely different place!
I somehow recognized the new atmosphere, like I'd been there before. In my dreams, maybe, or in my mind. There was an endless view of green hills dotted with farms, trees and houses from some kind of fantasy world. I turned from left to right, and noticed a herd of wild white horses grazing nearby. Their sweet scent reminded me of a farm I'd once gone to, somewhere in Arizona long ago. It was ony of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen, and I never forgot it. Could this be... Aiden? That's impossible! But yet, what other explanation is there? I recognized everything because I made it all!
The fresh autumn air filled me with a sensation of freedom, happiness and peace all mixed into one big feeling. I couldn't figure out what it was. Serenity, maybe? Belonging? Either way, it was the greatest feeling I'd ever felt. For some reason I felt the need to take off my shoes and run down the grassy hill before me. So, I tossed my big black boots to the side, and set off at a blinding speed. It almost felt like my legs would fall out from beneath me, but they didn't--I just kept sprinting down the hill, so fast it was otherworldly. I kept going right til I hit the bottom, where I stopped to rest. I was expecting to be exhausted; panting, out of breath. But I felt nothing of the sorts, but a huge spark of energy that willed me to keep going. The soft, perfect grass tickled my bare toes, and I felt rebellious and confident. Birds were sweetly chirping in the trees around me, and the deep, wide brook trickled sweetly over the rocks and waterfalls. As I listened to the sounds around me for a minute, I heard the strangest call. It sounded like... a hippogriff, somewhere far away in the sky.
I turned my focus back on my motivation, to keep using my odd power of speed and invincibility. In front of me was the creek, and without a second thought I surged into the water and dove under. The cool temperature mixed with my body heat and made me feel exhilerated. I started to swim faster, to the other side. When I got out, I kept on moving, running into a dense thicket of trees. Branches whipped at my face as I passed them but I felt no pain or stinging from the contact. Just power. The speed I moved at made me feel unstoppable; untouchable. Indestructible, almost.
Eventually I came to a stop, just outside a 2-storey house. My feet took me there for a reason, I knew. I had the feeling that this was my house, the house I lived in in this world. On impulse, I felt in my pocket and pulled out the Aiden map. Smiling to myself, I saw the words "my house" written beside a small drawing of a house surrounded by tall sycamore trees. This was definitely that place.
I walked up the cobblestone path and opened the front door. Standing there was a strange looking creature covered in fur and standing on two legs. He looked to be about 3 and a half feet tall. A delighted little squeak escaped his mouth, and the creature spoke!
"Primula! I've been awaiting you arrival for the longest time! The house is completely clean, I've been working since last week making sure it was perfect." The creature grinned happily, gesturing to the room.
"Um..." I stammered--I had no idea what to say, or how to even react.
"Oh! So sorry--you don't exactly know what's going on, do you?" It asked, shaking his head at himself. I shook my head in response, and the creature climbed on top of a piece of furniture. "You made this world up. All of its inhabitants have been waiting for you to come here. Do you know what I am?"
"...well you look strikingly similar to the house brownie in the Spiderwick Chronicles... and I made up a brownie that did my housecleaning and cooking... are you him?" I guess incrediculously. He nodded, and shook me hand formally.
"I am Tric, official house brownie helper and protector, at your service." He spoke proudly, saluting me.
"So this is where we live." I stated, wide-eyed.
"Well... us, and Rey the hippogriff." Tric grinned. Uh oh... hippogriff? I have to meet a hippogriff?! I wasn't sure whether to be afraid or excited. "Yes, a hippogriff. He's like your horse, and your friend. You should be excited to meet such a handsome creature. But... obviously you already have met a creature of such grace... the exclusive, amazing, me!" The brownie bounced up and down.
At that second, a loud cry came from outside. It sounded identical to the one I'd heard earlier, near the creek. Tric the brownie led me outside and I saw the great creature swooping down to land beside me. I gasped, then laughed at myself.
"Let's go flying!" Tric said in such a hyper way it reminded me of a little child. The hippogriff, Rey, snorted and beckoned for us to board his back. Once we were all on, it waited for us to get comfortable. The smooth feathers grazed the tips of my fingers as I stroke its broad neck.
Tric sat in front of me, and as soon as we lifted off the ground I was grabbing tufts of soft feathers and squeezing my eyes shut. When I thought we were only a few feet off the ground, I took a tiny peek. The green land stretched out far below us. I gasped in surprise and clung to Rey's neck, squishing Tric in the process.
"Rimu! You're killing me!" Tric exclaimed, squriming enuogh to cause him to fall off. I just laughed and looked all around me. I was living my dream, which I'd thought was impossible!
After a nice tour of the land, we returned to the cottage and Tric got right to work on supper. The smell of stew, bread, and salad wafted through the open kitchen window and straight to my nose as I sat on the single swing, hanging from one of the biggest sycamore trees I'd ever seen. Rey was peacefully grazing nearby, snorting occasionally. I looked up at the big tree above me and noticed a ladder going up the trunk and disappearing beneath the many branches and colorful leaves. The boards nailed to the tree were sturdy and safe, almost new, so I dared myself to climb them. As I reached the point where I couldn't see the ground through all the branches and leaves, I pulled myself up to a thick, wide branch and looked around. There were many other branches similar to the one I was standing on, all almost forming a stairway going up. So I started my ascent, needing to jump a couple of times and occasionally swinging from a thinner branch above me. With the speed and flexibility I moved, I felt like George of the Jungle almost. It was like all my muscle strength had doubled since I'd arrived in Aiden. I had no doubt that I could do anything.
I arrived at the very top of the great tree, and studied my surroundings. If only I had my iPod, I could take pictures. The view was amazing; above the bunches of gold, red, yellow and brown leaves was a sight so beautiful it seemed more for a painting. The sun was setting, leaving the sky in a orange, pink color. It was slowly disappearing beneath the trees, and I saw the roof of the cottage right beside me. I've fallen in love with this place! I thought with a wide smile. I never want to leave!
"RIMU! DINNER'S READY!" The earth-shattering sound of Tric bellowing from somewhere below made me wake up and realize I was in a daze. Feeling powerful, I took a flying leap through the leaves, and eventually landed lightly on my feet on the ground as if I'd had a parachute the whole time. Despite the many branches and twigs, none scratched or even touched me.
Once inside the house, we sat at the round little table and ate the amazing meal.
"Wow! The food is so much better than back home--it's like this is a home meal and the food there was just hospital food!" I exclaimed, my mouth full.
"Well, thank you!" Tric blushed--even though he was covered in fur. I could definitely tell he was flushed. "So what are you doing after supper?"
"I'll go for a walk. Maybe check out the village, or go exploring." And figure out all my other special powers I know I have." I thought to myself. Tric nodded, as if he knew what I'd just said, and went back to the meal. By then my stomach was stuffed though I felt like I could eat endlessly. I brought my dishes to the sink, and headed outside.
Rey was nowhere in sight, so I figured he was off somewhere, flying, grazing or being with his own kind. I started my 'walk' at a fast jog, then a run, then a sprint. I moved through an area of trees of all kinds, and soon came to a huge spring, with a waterfall completing the scene.
The waterfall was going over a cliff above, with the big pool below. Surrounding the whole area were trees; oaks, elms, maples, sycamores... everything, making it look like a rainforest. I saw a path going to the edge of the cliff, so I followed it. It was a narrow path, made of dirt, but it seemed just perfect. The height made me feel almost dizzy, and once I reached the edge of the cliff, I looked down. Yep; I was high up. Without thinking twice, I backed off a bit and ran right off the edge feeling my invincibility exploding inside of me. Wind whipped at my hair relentlessly as I fell, almost flew, down...down. Nearing the bottom, I changed into a diving position and hit the water like a pencil; hardly any splash. Then I swam deeply under the water, expecting my clothes to be too heavy. But they weren't, at all. The tight jeans didn't have any effect on me, and neither did the t-shirt.
Close to the very bottom, after I'd been holding my breath for at least a minute, I came across a dark tunnel. I somehow knew my breath would last a long time, so I curiously entered the dark space. Once inside, it didn't seem dark at all. Either that, or I had perfect night vision.
Soon a light appeared ahead, like an opening or exit from the tunnel. I crawled through, and swam upward--my breath still holding steadily. When I surfaced, I found myself behind the waterfall. It was loud inside the above-water cave, but I could still hear tiny drops of water from the cave walls.
I walked to where the water was falling, and saw that the spring was just infront of me. I grinned. What an amazing place! I thought. Then I leaped through the wall of water, this time not in a diving position because I wanted it to be fun and not graceful.
When I surfaced, I swam to shore and took a drink from the pool. The spring water filled my throat and it tasted so fresh and so perfect it was almost unnatural. Too precious for the real world, I guess.
It came to the point where I was truly emotionally exhausted. It wasn't possible fr me to get physically tired, but mentally on the other hand... definitely. So I made my way home as fast as possible and found Tric reading in the living room.
"Tired?" He asked, getting up. I nodded and went upstairs to find me bedroom. When I saw the only room with the normal twin bed, I knew that was mine. The room, thankfully, was not white-walled, in fact it was the perfect kind of room for a fantasy world. Big wooden desk, wooden walls, wood floor. The bed was much softer than any bed I'd sat on in reality.
I woke up expecting to be in a boring bed, back in a boring place also known as REALITY. But I was surprised to be in the same bed I fell asleep in the night before... the one in Aiden.
The smell of bacon, eggs, and potatoes wafted in through the cracks around my door. I sat up and looked around. Same room. I smiled and hopped out of the warm bed, and dashed at an impossible speed downstairs.
"Good morning!" Tric called cheerfully from the kitchen. I smiled and said 'Hey!' in reply, and sat down at the table. Hm... maybe I should see if it's possible to actually return home... just so I have the option, I thought. I got up and went to get my map from the olden-day style counter. Wait. How do I get back? If I drew everything on the map and it became real, doesn't that mean I should draw a 'home' spot?
I drew a circle off to the side with a pen I found nearby, and labelled it 'reality'. Then I slid my finger from 'home' to 'reality', and lifted my finger. Expectedly, the earthquake notions I knew all too well began, and my surroundings soon became upside down.
I found myself exactly where I left off, on the swing in the park. My head felt dizzy and I had to hold the chains of the swing to steady myself. What time is it? I thought. I'd been gone for so long I couldn't remember where the sun was at when I left. I could've been gone for hours, months, years! A feeling of panic creeped over me. I had to get home to figure out what was happening.
I took off at a jog down the street, but I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you try to run but you're too slow, and the thing chasing you eventually catches up to you right when you wake up. The jogging here felt like the slowest walk ever, back in Aiden. But either way, soon enough I made it back to my home. It looked the same as always; the yellow curtains pulled back, the blue mazda parked on the driveway. Could it be that here, I haven't been gone at all? No time has passed? I asked myself, approaching the big old-fashioned wooden door.
I opened it and walked inside. I could hear my father typing away on the computer in the office down the hall, probably in the middle of some huge idea. During those times he rarely stops to even go to the bathroom.
Tucking my map deep inside my pocket, I peered through the open doorway of the computer room.
"Oh, hey Rimu! Do you have a spare right now, or are you skipping class?" Dad asked casually, eyes glued to the screen like a cat watching a mouse, waiting for the right moment.
"Oh...um, I'm a little stressed so..." I trailed off, waiting for some kind of reaction. Mostly because I couldn't say that I spent the last 24 hours in a fantasy world I made, 24 hours that apparently never happened in reality.
"Oh, that's fine. Go ahead--I'm in the middle of something big right now, and I ain't leaving this chair." He said in one tone. "Mom's not gonna be back for another few days, by the way. Also something big." He added, typing madly. My father is a writer, you see. He writes all kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. And my mom is a fashion designer, sort of just going around the country figuring stuff out and trying to make a living.
I left the room and decided to walk to Starbuck's for my favorite, Mocha Frappucino. It was only two blocks from my house, and I was always allowed to use my dad's money. Plus, I needed the caffeine and the time alone to figure things out.
The coffee shop wasn't terribly busy--only about 6 people there, so I walled up to the counter to order.
Once my drink was ready, I started to walk home. I definitely did not want to sit all alone in the coffee shop; someone might talk to me or something. The last thing I wanted was to make myself look like someone who should be in a white-walled sanitarium. Anyway, once back home, my drink was finished and I was anxious to return to Aiden, use my abilities and feel free again. So I immediately sat on my bed once in my room, and stroked my map.
The same thing as the last two times occured. Earthquake, spinning, world upside down, another world blooming in replace. In that exact order.
I ended up inside the house, where I had left. Tric wasn't where he was before; he was nowhere in sight.
"Tric?" I called, trying to keep my voice calm. I went ouside and saw Tric brushing Rey with a light brush.
"Oh, you're back, Rimu! So good to see you." Tric said right into Rey's leg, without turning around. "And how's everything back home?"
"Fine. Same as I left it. But here... time doesn't stop when I leave. How long was I gone?" I asked the brownie, petting Rey's smooth beak.
"You're right, it doesn't stop.You were gone for about... oh, about 2 weeks." Tric answered, oblivious to my dropped jaw and wide eyes. "It's been really different without you around."
"Wait--I was only at home for less than 2 hours. Are you saying that an hour there is a week here?!" I exclaimed, while Tric just nodded. "Oh... I'm getting a headache." I lightly touched my head, feeling dizzy. At this point I was as unfamiliar with math as I was with who the president was.
"If it bothers you that much, you should decide whether you want to live the rest of your life here or back there. Here you have enhanced senses and skills, and you're immortal. You cannot die of age! You're invincible! You never get tired, you never feel pain. You're living your fantasy!" Tric started getting worked up, his voice getting higher and higher by the second. I said nothing, just comtemplated this new knowledge. I pictured myself going for a walk because I knew Tric could read my thoughts, and turned and left. Tric got the idea, and went back to Rey's feathers.
I ran at the perfect speed I knew and loved, deciding to return to the spring I'd found yesterday. Or, 2 weeks ago I should say. I did the same routine, jumping in and swimming to the cave, and jumping out. I held my breath for at least 10 minutes, exploring every inch of the underwater world in the pool. Afterward, I climbed an oddly tall tree, possibly taller than the sycamore with the swing at home.
Then I realized I could do other things. I dreamt of having a hot spring nearby, just clearly in my head, and then when I went exploring, I found a hot spring! It was like a private hot tub in the middle of a forest on some remote island. Once I was bored with being alone, I went home at lightning speed and found Tric making supper. I smelledthe pork, pasta and bread before I even went inside. Rey was out in the back, in a wide meadow of grass and colorful wildflowers.
"Rimu! Perfect timing; food's ready!" Tric called from one of the open windows of the house while I watched Rey. Tric set the table as I sat down, then joined me. He always sat on a box full of books at dinner, because he was so short. We ate in a comfortable silence, listening to Rey rendezvous with other hippogriffs in the meadow.
"Have you decided yet?" Tric asked as I was deep in thought about what he'd said before. Yep, he definitely has some serious psychic abilities. I shook my head in response, but said nothing. I didn't want to make that kind of decision right then. Too much stress and thinking for me never ended up good. A breakdown, and days of being depressed usually followed something like that. Tric left it at that, and at that point I was mentally exhausted again. So, I went upstairs to my bed, which I'd been looking forward to laying in every since I'd left. This time, there was an oddly perfect pink teddy bear on my pillow, that looked to be hand-stitched. I picked it up gently and held it in my arms. The bear was truly perfect, black round buttons for eyes and a large brown circle of corduroy for a nose. The fabric wasn't too soft or too rough--it was like no fabric in the real world, something found only in Aiden.
"Mrs. Pax made that for you last week. She lives in Tuku village." Tric apperaed in the doorway suddenly.
"Oh!" I freaked, dropping the bear to the floor and jumping about a mile.
"She's been wanting to meet you for... a very long time." Tric told me, in such a serious way it made me uneasy.
"Oh... well," I stammered, not knowing what to say.
"House 13, 4th street. Go see her." Tric said, pushing me out the door. I paused, then turned to descend the stairs. I took out my map once I got outside, and looked for Tuku village. It was about 20 miles away, by the looks of it. I will definitely be using the map transporation thing this time, I thought, touching my house on the map and moving my finger to Tuku village slowly. In a few seconds, I'd blinked once and found myself surrounded by buildings and people.
House 13, 4th Street...those words repeated in my head as I walked ahead, deciding I'd start looking that way. The village only seemed to have about 4 streets, maybe 5. I looked at the first street sign I saw, and it read 1st street. So I kept walking, since there looked to be no other streets behind me, until I found 4th street.
There. I found the street. I turned to the left and looked at the nearest house. The number was 5. The next one was 6, so that meant I had to keep walking that way. So I slowly strolled, almost sauntered down the narrow street until I found house 13. The yardwas the perfect old-lady habitat, with a garden, fountain, lilac bushes, and an arbor. I walked up the stone path and knocked on the door once, then waited for a response.
A woman appeared within seconds, with a cheery smile on her face.
"You must be Primula!" She cried with delight. Despite her old age, her voice was soft. I felt strange to be associating with an actual human being in Aiden, instead of just creatures.
I nodded, and Mrs. Pax invited me inside.
"Tric's probably told you, but I've been wanting to meet you forever." She cooed. The way she said forever, it was different from how people usually said it, not actually meaning 'forever' but just a really long time. When Mrs. Pax said it, it was like she actually had been waiting forever. Creepy.
She reached over, then, and touched my shoulder. I caught a strange flash of myself lying in a white room, with a candle, on a white cot. My eyes felt blurry and my head was dizzy. The room was spinning. I felt something lighten from my shoulder, then, and I found myself back in the old lady's cottage. Her eyes had gone from a pale brown to a brilliant violet. She looked calm, but strangely dark. There was an odd look on her face. She looked pleased, malevolent almost.
I backed off; recoiled like a spider who'd had a rock thrown at it. Mrs. Pax's eyes were changing color rapidly, sapphire blue, grass green, violet, and then blood red. But suddenly they turned a magnificent yellow, and the pupils changed shape. Mrs. Pax was not human, that I knew for sure. I reacted fast, turning and running out of the house and down the street, at the fastest speed my feet would allow. I went down the main street, hoping I couldn't be followed if I was. But as I looked around me frantically, every person I saw had the same golden yellow eyes. I dashed, turning a corner into a dark alley.
The people were following me quickly, and I dug around in my pocket for my map, full of panic and terror. As fast as possible, I stroked the map and returned to the cottage.
"Tric!" I screamed once inside the house. Tric was sitting on the couch, in a daze. His eyes were glazed over, almost translucent, seeing nothing. He was practically a vegetable. "I need to get out of here." I told myself. My world, the place I ran to for safety, was now filled with some kind of evil I could not identify. Or, it had been the whole time. I held up my map, and willed it to take me home.
When I opened my eyes, I saw white. Not snow, or light, but white. Exactly what I saw when the dreaded Mrs. Pax touched my shoulder. White walls, white cot, even the white candle. Where am I? Some people walked into the room then. My father, and a man in... white. I'm starting to really hate this color. I thought. My brain felt really fuzzy, like I couldn't think straight.
"Hey, Rimu. How are you feeling?" My dad asked me in the kind of voice people use when talking to a baby or angry child. I tried to say something but no words came out. I just nodded faintly, feeling completely useless. The other man pulled my dad outside the door to talk. What was wrong with me? Why did my brain feel so numb? I couldn't even properly think. Where've I been this whole time--was I even awake?
And then it all slowly came together. I've been in this place for a long time, ever since I 'went' to my world.
I was in a sanitarium.