For Felix Colley my favorite red-tie wearing Englishman. This is written how I imagine he might finish a story that begins with one’s parents being eaten by piranhas.
She had to admit it was a very strange day, but then it isn’t every day that you lose your parents to piranhas…and are happy about it.
Andrea stared down at the sparkling blue water, threads of red diffusing in star-bursts. The water jumped and splashed, boiling with the flicks of tails and teeth. Delicious glee consumed her.
That was Andrea’s first clue she was Dreaming. In the Dream, it always took a little time to adjust and reclaim her sense of self. Just a moment ago, they had been enjoying a nice picnic with ham sandwiches and honey buns and cool lemonade. Then her father suggested going for a dip in the river. Andrea had declined, but her mother and father had thrown off their shoes and jumped into the inviting crystal water.
And that was the end for them. But those weren’t really her parents, just figments the Dream threw up to make her feel bad and trap her here forever. Fortunately, just recognizing she was Dreaming was the key. Now she just had to find a way out. The wizard would help her with that.
Usually the wizard appeared as soon as she figured out she was Dreaming, but he must have been delayed. Andrea waited for a long time, then realized she was doing what the Dream wanted her to do. The wizard would catch up or not, but she had to go.
Andrea looked around to see where she should go and what could help her outsmart the Dream. There was a small albeit deadly river in front of her. To the left, a large Christmas tree stood with a pile of presents. Both sun and moon were in the sky. The moon blew her a kiss.
Andrea turned her attention back to the tree. She felt like she should open one of the presents. She knew that was not the smartest idea, but the bright paper and large ribbons called out to her with voices like bells, pulling her towards them.
On tiptoe, Andrea walked closer. She dug through the boxes, resiting the urge to pick them up and rip the paper away. Under a big box in yellow with a blue ribbon was a small deep red box with a silver bow. That was the one that caught her eye and the one her hand reached out to grab. It was light as a feather.
It wanted to be opened. Andrea ignored the plea and put it in her pocket. She turned around. Behind her, mountains appeared in rainbow colors, leading like steps up into the clouds.
“A stairway to heaven,” she told herself. “That must be the way out.”
She knew this because she was afraid of heights. The Dream would make that the way out. The Dream was a game. Some things would help her; others wouldn’t. It all happened in the realm of her head, so she knew exactly what everything was, if only she trusted herself and didn’t let herself be tricked.
Crossing the river was going to be a challenge. No way was she getting into the water. Andrea walked down the bank. The mountains followed her on hundreds of scuttling feet. She walked for miles and miles and ended up right back where the Christmas tree was.
All the presents and decorations had disappeared. One lone star sat on the highest pine sprig. Andrea looked up at it and got an idea. She climbed up to the top of the tree and leaned. Her weight bent the tree over, and she landed on the other side of the river.
The mountains kept running away from her as she walked towards them. She tried walking with her eyes closed, but she kept peeking and the mountains leaped away. So she turned around and walked backwards. When she felt herself ascending, Andrea turned around again. She went up red slopes and yellow slopes and bright green slopes, passing blue cliffs and orange valleys.
Then the mountains dropped right out from under her. She was falling, plummeting straight to the ground. She hoped the clouds would catch her, but no such luck. As she sank through layers of puffy vanilla softness, Andrea remembered the present in her pocket.
When she pulled it out of her pocket, she saw the paper had turned blue and turquoise though the bow remained silver. It was a magic present; the wizard must have left it for her with the hopes that she would be smart enough to find it.
The wind tried to steal it from her hands, but she clutched it tight. Andrea tore off the bow and gave that to the wind, then ripped away the dark blue paper. Inside was a cardboard box and inside the box was a little square of purple cloth with tassels at the corners. It grew and grew until it was big enough for her to climb on.
Andrea clung to the edges, peeking over the side. Golden deserts and silver seas flew by under her. They passed emerald forests and fields upon fields of ruby flowers. Then the obsidian horizon reached out and swallowed her.
She opened her eyes and saw the ceiling of her bedroom. The sun was coming up and shining through the window. On the desk, on the bookshelves, on the window sill, hanging from the ceiling and piled in the corners were all the things Andrea had ever brought back from her sleeping adventures. She heaved a sigh of relief.
“I made it out,” she told her room.
She sat up. Spread over her bed was a carpet with purple and white pattern. It waved at her before it settled down to become another relic of the Dream.