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I woke up in a sort of bewildered state on a gray cobblestone path. The Sun was so yellow and dazzling it was almost glaring in my eyes, and I had no knowledge as to where I was. My environment was totally unfamiliar and I did not know how I had come to be there. I turned my face so my cheek was resting on the path and my eyes could have a rest. I giggled a bit as I could now see a patch of green grass that was bolder than I’d ever seen. I guess the grass was truly greener here. I lay there for a little while, enjoying the pleasant cool temperature. It did not occur to me that I should move until I saw something lying in the grass off in the distance. As I pushed myself off the ground, I felt light as air. Like someone had cleaned out my insides and I was no longer dragging around extra weight with me. There was an extra spring in my step as I almost skipped to the bizarre object. It was a tattered and trodden old novel. Its title read Gone with the Wind. It was almost disheartening to see it lying there in the grass, cover torn halfway off, pages ripped out and with holes in it. There were pieces of text underlined, circled, arrows drawn pointing every which way that you weren’t sure what to read. I flipped the pages. They were all like that. It looked as if it had been read too many times.
Curious, I rejoined the path with Gone with the Wind in my hand, and walked to see another novel lying on the ground. This one was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Slightly less worn, but not in the greatest condition, the novel lay in the middle of the gray cobblestone path. It seemed as if it emitted human qualities. A quality that made it look almost depressed, downcast. It evoked a strange emotion in me, and I added it to my growing pile. Along the way, another novel was yet again strewn along the side of the road. Binding facing up, pages bent, The Secret Garden was just sitting there. I picked it up and rotated it in my hands. The book was in good condition except for the bent pages and the broken binding. What is this place? I wondered. I added it to my pile that was starting to be quite a handful, and continued walking. It occurred to me to take in my surroundings. I was walking down a gray cobblestone path. To the right of the path was an endless stretch of bright, jade grass. To the left of the path, was also a long stretch of the vivid emerald grass. There was no foliage, nor vegetation. The only thing that matted down the bright green strands was scattered novels. Hundreds maybe thousands of them lying in the grass, placed so purposely, it looked as if the grass itself was its shelf. I started to pick up a scent as my feet began to move without my consent along the path once more. It was the musty and familiar aroma of the pages of a dictionary. As I listened, I could hear in the distance the flipping of pages back and forth. I felt the desire to run, but still I vacillated. I had no idea where I was, or what I was doing there. Did I really want to go running into things? Taking wider, not faster, strides I hurried myself to the end of the path, curiosity getting the best of me.
As I was approaching what looked to be like the end of the path, I was blinded by a blaring blue light coming from straight in front of me. The intensity of the light almost knocked me off my feet, taking a few steps back to brace myself; I shielded my eyes with my arm, trying to move onward still. A silhouette started to appear in the sapphire light. It was the outline of a woman, and as the light dimmed I could see she was rather striking.
“Welcome,” the woman began, “to Pikeland.”
I could see now that the woman was dressed in a shimmering golden gown that cascaded to the floor and seemed to float around her. Her golden tresses hung down in wispy, delicate curls to her shoulders and she peered at me with gentle eyes that almost seemed to change color the more I looked at them. She smiled kindly and waited patiently for me to answer her.
“Thank you,” I responded. The woman recognized the wary look in my eyes that showed I was not yet sure about this Pikeland.
“It’s alright,” she responded soothingly. “Nothing is going to happen to you here. We invite young scholars to come visit us and utilize our resources.” She gestured with her hands to the trees that were growing in the grass filled fields. I swore they weren’t there before, but, then again, I wasn’t sure of anything at that time. Growing on the trees were what looked like to be dictionaries, thesauruses, books, there was even a tree for pencils. It was an orchard that looked like it belonged to an ELA classroom.
“I am honored,” I answered, bending my knees slightly as if I was curtsying. I reddened slightly, I was in the presence of what I believed to be a goddess and I was acting like a foolish child.
The woman smiled, as if she understood my thoughts. “You’ll discover here everything you will need to read and analyze books, write books or poetry, and exercise your creative mind,” she explained. Still blushing and not really knowing how to properly respond, I held up the books I had found along the path. The woman’s lips formed a tight line as her brow furrowed and she took the books into her hands. Inspecting them one by one, she seemed to grow more and more displeased. “Annie,” she called.
“Yes, Miss?” A young girl about the same age as me came running up behind her. She had a light complexion and a cluster of freckles dusted over the bridge of her nose. Her naturally curly, brown hair poofed out at the ends and it formed almost a circle around her heart-shaped face.
“Please take these to the book repair section,” the woman ordered.
“Yes, Miss. Right away, Miss,” Annie replied. She smiled at me, her face lighting up. The woman nodded as if to say she was dismissed and Annie scurried away gently cradling the damaged books.
The woman then turned to smile at me, “You may go and do as you please.” She motioned to the trees and desks behind her and stepped out of the middle of the path, so I could pass.
“Before I go, what do I call you?” I inquired. As far as I could remember, she had not mentioned her name to me.
“You may call me Cynthia, or Cindi, if you are so inclined,” she clarified. With that the blue light began to appear again, but this time it was not covering Cynthia. It was enveloping me within its azure folds.
“Wait!” I cried out for assistance as I did not know what was happening to me. “How do I get back here?” In the next instant, I was within my bed, the covers tightly shielding me from the outside world. I groaned and looked at the clock. How could that have been a dream? It was so tangible. It was 7:15 a.m. and…wait! It was 7:15 a.m.! I was going to be late for my first day of school! I jumped out of bed, ignoring the tired, achy feeling I got when I woke up. The moment I stepped on the ground I noticed the difference. I felt like I was a hundred pounds heavier. I was no longer light as air, and my feet were dragging along the floor. I quickly ran a brush through my tangled mess of dead cells, and threw on some clothes that in hindsight did not match, and rushed to the bus stop. The whole ride to school, all I could think about was the dream, and how it felt so realistic. I wondered if I would ever be able to re-dream it. As the bus pulled into the school parking lot, I pulled my schedule out of my jeans pocket and entered the school with the rest of the crowd. My first class was with someone named Pike. Why did that sound familiar? I wondered. I stood outside the door, waiting for the teacher to arrive and read the quote:
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”
-John Greenleaf Whittier
I agreed with the quote, and couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if Cynthia had answered my question about how to get back to Pikeland. How would my life be different? Was there even a way to get back? All of a sudden, the teacher flung open the door, and I was stunned by the face I saw standing there. It was Cynthia! She smiled that same kind smile and invited me and the other students into the classroom. I was too stunned to move, so people started to move around me, pushing their way in. As the last person walked in front of me, I was the only one left standing in the hallway. Cynthia looked at me expectantly.
“Cindi?” I asked.
“When you are ready, it will come back to you,” Cynthia answered. That was all she said as she gently took my hand and led me into the classroom, the tardy bell beginning to ring. She sat me across from a girl with curly, brown hair that puffed out in a circle around her head.
“Hi, my name is Annie,” she said, holding out her hand me to shake.
“Hi, my name is Alissa,” I said, accepting the hand shake as we shared a knowing smile.