Following my last short story, I would like to share another one, inspired by the classics and a conversation with my high school best friend Lauren.
Lauren Sage, since the age of four, had always dreamed in living color, for she was an avid reader. Throughout her time of experiencing dreams in living color, thirteen years to be exact, she had perfected the rare and mystifying art of lucid dreaming, which meant she could manipulate situations and take control of the dreams.
As a home-schooled student, she was determined, but she knew the ill side-effect of having too much time on her hands, which meant she spent hours in bed with book after book after book. Living alone with her grandmother, she had become so enveloped in the fictional fantasies of princesses and witchcraft that she had secluded herself from anyone, excepting her grandmother. The only trips she took to town were to the local bookstore, and she never went alone.
Grandmothers, as we all know, are sweet, caring figures – never villains or antagonists. So, Lauren’s grandmother had grown to understand Lauren’s strange, hobbit-like behavior. However, she still hoped, like all grandmothers, that her granddaughter would flourish and become a proud, confident, successful young woman. Little did Lauren or Grandma Sage know that Lauren was about to wake up from her thirteen years of slumber.
Lauren got out of bed just like every other day. She looked from book shelf to bookshelf to book stack to book heap. She made her way to the bathroom, thinking of the precious new worlds awaiting her at the bookstore. She took a quick shower and brushed her teeth. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t exactly look at herself. She tried so hard to wish herself away, as sorrowful as that sounds.
She put on makeup and went to the kitchen, expecting Grandma Sage to have breakfast ready, except there was no sign that Grandma Sage had even gotten up yet. Lauren walked to her grandmother’s room, and the first thing she saw were the tissues scattered around the trash can beside the bed.
“Oh, Honey,” wheezed her grandmother. “I’m afraid I won’t make the trip to the bookstore today.”
Lauren was immediately flabbergasted, taken aback. “Grandma, but how am I to get new books? I’ve read all of last week’s at least twice.” Most grandchildren would care for their grandparents, right? Well, Lauren didn’t. Instead, she fidgeted at the idea of staying home and not acquiring new books. “I’ve never been there by myself, Grandma!”
“Honey,” Grandma Sage said after a near-wrenching cough, “You’re seventeen-years-old. Surely you can manage a short trip to the bookstore. Hmmm?”
Lauren fretted a bit. She opened her mouth in reply, closed it, fretted some more, and finally considered, “If Dorothy can get to the Emerald City in one piece, so can I.”
“Alright, Honey. Just don’t stop if you see a walking hay bell, a green old lady, or a talking lion. And I’m sure a rusted tin man can do no harm, as long as you leave him be.”
“Oh, Grandma, I’m sure they’d be just so gentle and sweet. To think, a green old lady.” Lauren winked at her grandmother.
“Off you go then,” Grandma Sage said with a flick of her wrist. “Don’t get in any trouble. I mean it.” She rolled back to bed, and Lauren went to find her grandmother’s purse so that she could be on her way.
Lauren didn’t pass any strange creatures from fiction on her way to the bookstore, but she did see the strange men and women from her own world. Does everyone always stare at everyone else? When she caught someone looking back at her, Lauren would throw them a nervous smile. Finally, she reached the bookstore, inhaling the aroma of unopened books as she walked in. She gave off a glow, and suddenly all the half smiles turned to gold. But she was entranced and walking blindly. A tall, dark, mysterious man in his early twenties bumped her shoulder.
His stack of books went tumbling to the ground. Lauren hesitated to help, but some human instinct, or another natural force, pressed at her to help him. She reached for a book, and as she handed it to him, she took in his figure. He had princely features, but there was something strangely modern and enticing about him, also. He looked as if he cared strongly about his body. He was a strange mixture of cleanliness and askew. In one way, Lauren could see that he cared about hygiene, for he was clean-shaven and not a hair was out of place.
But in another way, she could tell that he had a relaxed persona by his clothing – artsy. He was dark-haired and had a nice smile. Then, she looked into his deep, blue eyes. And they were looking back!
Lauren staggered and stumbled and blushed just as any other girl would if they were caught looking at someone in that manner. “I’m sorry!” She yelped.
But the fellow stood up slowly, and then he helped Lauren up to her own feet. “No, no, I’m sorry. It was my fault. You were just minding your own business. I should’ve been more careful.” She fell for his voice. Then, he turned as if to go to the counter but turned back, “What’s your name?”
Lauren gasped, blushing again, “Lauren Sage.”
“Cool. I’m Caspian.” He smiled.
When Lauren arrived home from the bookstore, she opened the front door and put her grandmother’s purse back where she found it. Instead of checking on Grandma Sage, she went straight to her room and started reading her first new book. Lauren had decided to spice up her reading by picking out a nonfiction book about deciphering dreams.
She spent hours upon hours in bed, but nonfiction never could tickle her fancy quite as well as fantasy. She read that dreams have a tendency to reflect real life, but Lauren laughed and thought about how her life was completely boring; her dreams were not. The book just made her tired. Lauren finally turned out the lights and went to sleep.
Lauren felt as if gravity was shifting around her, but soon she realized that she was falling. She started screaming, but no amount of screaming could save her now. She fell down the long rabbit hole a few more minutes. Then, she landed harshly in a heap on a yellow brick road in the middle of a forest. She looked all over herself. There were no injuries. Then, Lauren noticed that the colors of her dream were fading. They were turning to shades of gray. Lauren screamed just as she had when she was falling.
“Lauren! Lauren! Calm down!” She turned, and there he was running out from behind a graying tree – Caspian. Presently, she felt better.
“What’s happening?” She inquired. “I always dream in the most delightful colors. These grays can’t be from my imagination.” She lunged at him for comfort, but then she realized that they had only just met. She blushed an unusual shade of gray.
“Lauren, it’s going to be alright. Tonight you’re going to realize just how wonderful life can be.” Serenity flowed from his lips.
Embarrassed, she forced out, “What do you mean?”
Caspian smiled slyly. “As every hero has his journey, so must you.”
Lauren tried to understand, but he spoke with little sense. So, she made a face as to say, “Go on.”
“I’m your Dream Catcher. It’s a figment of one’s imagination that helps untangle the dreamer’s Web of Dreams. Only some remember their journey consciously after they finish the quest. I’m your guide, Lauren.”
“So, you mean to say that my dream going gray is a good thing? Or are you here to fix it?” Lauren still didn’t follow completely, but she tried to understand. “You’re the Cheshire Cat taking me to the Mad Hatter? You’re the Ghost of Christmas Present guiding me to become less of a Scrooge? You’re Jiminy Cricket here to be my conscience? You’re my Silver Shoes and Ruby Slippers about to…” She stopped.
“Lauren, we don’t have time. I’m sure you could list plenty more, but you must follow the not-so-yellow brick road.”
“Will the Wizard be at the end?” She jumped.
“No, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the journey all the same.” He started walking.
Lauren and Caspian had been walking for at least two hours. They hadn’t seen any sign of life yet. Not one little squirrel was scurrying about. This frightened Lauren, but she kept quiet. They walked a little further, and the weather changed drastically. There was snow all over, but Lauren still felt warm. How can it be winter here and summer back there? This also frightened Lauren.
The only part of the ground that had no tell-tale sign of snow or ice was the brick road. Lauren took in the rest of the scenery. They were in Snow White’s forest, she realized.
“We’re coming to the end of the road. I’m sure you’ve noticed a few things on the journey,” Caspian said. “There is no wild life in the wood anymore. They’ve all been taken captive. And a certain portion of this world is locked in permanent winter.”
“I don’t think permanent winter could be so bad, but why have the animals been taken captive?” That’s such a strange idea.
“They were talking bad about Princess Misty Velvet. You need to know a little about the history of this place before we continue on. Years ago there were Seven Dwarf Kings, each to run his own country. All was well, the governments were manageable, and the animals loved their kings. Then, Misty showed up.
“Since this world is only inhabited by dwarves and animals now, Misty thought she was better than everyone else. She got a big head and used her bright smile and manipulative words to fool the kings into giving her their power. She now owns all of Dream Realm.” They came to the last of the brick road. “What do you see, Lauren?”
She looked all around her. “This is Snow White’s wood, but in place of her house is a grand castle. It’s truly beautiful with the snow. If only there were color…”
“Lauren, it was her wood. When Misty arrived, she killed Snow White. She actually dropped a house on her. She forced the dwarves to get rid of it and build a castle in its place.”
“That’s horrible! Surely she didn’t mean to kill Snow White.”
“Of course she didn’t mean to, but Misty got to thinking about it, about how Snow White was really her only threat in this realm. Misty, like I said earlier, got a big head. Everyone here calls her Nurell now, (It means “unpleasant to the ear” in Dwarf.) but she calls herself High Queen Velvet. She’s the reason the color is fading, she’s the reason there are no animals, and she’s the reason everything is going cold.”
“How can she do such a thing?!” Lauren was really worried now.
“She learned the art of magic from Snow White’s very own nemesis, and then she killed her and took the mirror.”
“We need to get into the castle. I need to see more!” Lauren exclaimed, half out of terror and half out of excitement.
Then, Lauren blinked. “We’re in her bedchamber,” said Caspian. Lauren looked around nervously. She scampered over to the mirror on the far side of the room, expecting to see her reflection. There was nothing. “No one can hear or see us,” Caspian explained.
“Aha! So, you are like the Ghost!” Then, the door clicked open, and Lauren jumped. She remembered that no one could see them and felt silly. She looked over at the figure and immediately thought that the woman was beautiful. She looked like Aphrodite incarnate. She had the most beautiful skin, and she was wearing the most eccentric purple gown. Purple?! She’s in color? “Caspian, why is she in living color?”
“That’s where it all went. She took it all for herself. She took the heat and the color of this world. Because of it, she doesn’t age, Lauren.”
Lauren tried to look past her goddess-like beauty and gasped as she realized that that could be her in a few years. “Is Nurell me?”
“Of course not. She’s everything you want to be.”
“But I don’t want to be hated!” Lauren was distraught.
Just then a female dwarf walked in carrying a tray with tea on it. “The guests have arrived, High Queen.”
“Ah, swell. Let them in to the dining hall.” Nurell spoke with the utmost kindness, yet she seemed so full of herself. “I’ll be down to meet them in thirty minutes or so.” Nurell picked up the freshly made tea from her bedside table and sipped it. It was the most polite-looking sip Lauren had ever seen. The dwarf is gone, so why is she keeping her composure? “There is a distinctly odd presence in here, isn’t there, Mirror?” She got up and walked to the mirror. She couldn’t possibly mean me and Caspian, Lauren thought.
“Only you are in my sight, High Queen.”There came a voice from the mirror. For some reason, Lauren expected a floating face. However, only Nurell’s face was reflected.
“Alright. I’ll trust you. Mirror, do you have any news for me?”
“Actually, High Queen, I do. The Dwarf Kings have been meeting in secret without you.”
“They’ve what?!” screamed Nurell. “They are not permitted to meet. How?! How can they possibly meet?!”
“I’m unsure, High Queen. They have some way of communicating without being in each other’s countries.” If a mirror could squirm, it would surely be this.
“Tell me what they’ve been speaking about! Or you’ll be shattered into a million pieces in seconds!” Nurell raised her arm. Her eyes were glowing but not with living color. Where did that wand come from?
“They discussed how to overthrow you!”The mirror was shaking, but he was safe for now because Nurell just laughed.
“Those insignificant beings have no power over me.” She turned toward the door to leave and raised her arm back over her head. Lightning shot from the wand, and the mirror was no more.
“What a horrible witch!” Lauren screamed. “He was just trying to help her.”
“Come on, Lauren. We have to witness the dinner.” Caspian pulled her toward the door.
The dining hall was massive. It could fit well over eight people, but only eight were there. Nurell sat at the head of the table, glowing. She hid the fact that she had killed an innocent mirror just minutes prior. The Seven Dwarf Kings satin their country’s appointed chair. Lauren saw the strangest names: Surkel, Nursha, Orazeel, Wastria, The Hetherlands, Ixico, and Great Trittan. The dwarves were quiet until Nurell spoke up. “So, I hear you’ve been planning my downfall.”She laughed to herself.
The dwarves, Lauren could see, were a little nervous. But Nurell went on. “You don’t seriously believe you can defeat me? Look at me. I have everything. I even own you and all of your countries. Your wives make nice maids, by the way.” She laughed some more. “I know all of your world’s magic and my own world’s magic. Plus, you’re all a little on the small side, don’t you think?”
The Dwarf King of Surkel had had enough. He stood up at once. “The size of the body has nothing to do with it! It’s the size of the heart that matters!”
Nurell sprang up from her seat, also, and slapped the Dwarf King so hard that he fell to the ground.“Bartholomew, do not speak out of turn!” She sat down gently and giggled.
Dwarf King Bartholomew had to pick himself up off the floor because the others were too terrified to help. He murmured something that sounded like, “And you have no heart.”
After the silent meal, the Kings and witch moved to the sitting room to partake in conversation. It was mostly just Nurell speaking again. But occasionally the Dwarf Kings would make comments about how things used to be before Nurell took control. They compared old times to new. Nurell loved to hear of their misery.
Nurell got up to start the fire once everything was quiet again. It crackled a bit, and Lauren noticed that as Nurell turned, the Dwarf King of Wastria whispered something into his pipe. The flames reached up like a hand and grabbed Nurell’s dress.
The flames had turned red at the touch of the dress! Nurell ran around screaming, “Fetch me a pail of water, maids!” The flames were creeping higher and higher toward Nurell’s face, and finally a maid ran in and tossed the water at her face. The Seven Dwarf Kings formed a circle around Nurell.
“What are they doing?” Lauren asked Caspian. Then, the dwarves started whistling a tune of ancient wizardry. Lauren felt an unexplainable force pulling her toward the circle.
“Go,” Caspian said. “It’s your chance to untangle your Web of Dreams. You know this tune, and they need your magic.”
Lauren walked to the circle, completing it. She whistled with the dwarves and watched everything unfold. Nurell literally started melting before Lauren’s eyes. All that was left, in the end, were the soggy ashes of the purple dress. Then, there was a flash of light, and color filled the room and, possibly, the rest of the world. Lauren looked outside, and the snow was melting.
Seven maids ran in, and each hugged a dwarf. They had been set free. “Now,” Bartholomew said, “it is our duty to set the animals free.” Off they went. Lauren ran to Caspian and hugged him. She reached for his hand to hold it, and she was immediately sent home.
Lauren woke up, looking for her grandmother. There Grandma Sage was lying in bed, still sick. “Oh, Grandma, I had the most extraordinary dream! A witch! I helped kill her, though, I did! Those poor dwarves…”
Grandma Sage smiled at her granddaughter. “I bet there were several colors, weren’t there?”
“No, Grandma,” Lauren almost cried. “There were no colors.” Then, she looked around. “As a matter of fact, there are more colors here.” Maybe real life is more magnificent than dream life. “There really is no place like home.” She sighed, just as she heard the phone ring. “I’ll be back, Grandma.”
She ran to pick up the phone. “Hello?”
“Is this Lauren Sage?” It was Caspian’s voice.
“Yes, this is she.”
“This is Caspian. I was wondering if you would want to go to the movies tonight.”
“Oh, yes!” She blushed. Then, she felt silly because she realized he couldn’t see her.
“Alright. Sounds cool. Meet me at the bookstore at six?”
“I’d love to.” She smiled.
“See you then.” Caspian hung up.