The feeling of warmth and light fluttering across the face, that was what she felt first. Then, as the rest of her senses yawned open, she perceived the mild breeze, the crisp of mountain air, the scent of woodland, and the warbles of something not quite like a bird.
Propped up against a large buttress root, she laid in the velvety grass which quivered from indistinct billows in the air. Her consciousness stirred as tingles crept up her arms and an ache swelled across her shoulder blades. Her eyes flickered somnolently open at the rising discomfort and unfamiliarity of her surroundings.
Sweeping grass which reached her bent knees filled her vision. As she slowly lifted her gaze, verdant pillars arose beyond the borders of the grass. A forest. Muddled, her eyes reflexively widened as she tipped her head back and peered up and all around. Her neck strained to discern the tops of the trees which were hidden behind luxuriant branches which sprawled the skies. Following the path of the branches, she leaned her body forward as she twisted around. As she took in the sight of the prodigious tree she had been propped against, the girl nearly fell completely into the thick grass which grew exclusively beneath its canopy. Resembling that of an oak, it towered hundreds of feet above with a circumference that would’ve taken dozens upon dozens of human wingspans to cover. Its branches stretched farther than it owns height and made the girl feel as if she were under an enormous verdant tent.
Is this a dream? She brushed her fingertips across the coarse, deep umber bark. Fine specks puffed into the air upon her touch. She furrowed her brows at the highly realistic detail and sensation. Although her dreams were often realistic, the scope of her visions were both limited and incomplete in details. They were a distorted reality where the surroundings shifted from place to place as opposed to palpably walking though space. It was a fictional landscape assembled from the reality of the just-lived day, and the construction of some memory from long ago, whether in real life or from a story. She had never dreamt of a forest before nor had she been in one recently. If anything, it would make more sense if this were another one of those school dreams where she finished her work and ended the semester in a breeze. Sometimes, she would wake up thinking she had really finished some assignment, too.
Whipping her eyes about warily, she expected some jump scare or random person appearing. It was simply too peaceful and uneventful of a dream. Continuing to surveil her surroundings, she stood up and cautiously took a step. Her boot seemed to disappear in the tall grass, and her ears perked up at the soothing swish of the grass. She lifted her foot up and placed it down again, watching the grass part and enfold around her calf. Then, she stepped with her opposite foot. She looked alertly around again before taking measured steps away from the tree.
Striding through the grass, a little flare of joy surged in her center as she was reminded of a wheat field. She had always wanted to run through a wheat field and carve out a little hideout among the tall stalks. Right now, she was sorrily tempted to do just that in the grass. But, laying out in the open wasn’t the best idea until she figured out why it was so quiet.
Although the idyllic forest was filled with natural sounds of various creatures, she couldn’t extinguish the gnawing feeling that something was terribly off. An unsettling prickle slid up her spine, and her steps gradually quickened. Halfway through the ring of grass, she hastened into a run and felt the air whisking about her face and the dappled light sending flashes of warmth across her body. Her head whipped around, searching for some pursuer or indication that the dream was really beginning. But only forest tranquility surrounded her. This felt too slow, too real. Unnerved, she accelerated, moving faster than expected. In a manner of seconds, she burst into the woods.
Various animals scattered in fright or annoyance while others stood in shock or interest as she dashed past. Her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when she saw them. These fantastical creatures before her flaunted vivid and unnatural colors. All of their auras seemed almost spectral, luminescent even in the day. She slowed her pace to a standstill and gawked at a particular group of creatures. They were reminiscent of antelope with their large sleek ears, elegant branched horns, and supple spindly legs. But they were unearthly with their silver eyes, light taupe hides, and white streaks across the length of their sides.
This is definitely a dream, she impassively concluded. Despite being able to move three dimensionally with all five senses engaged, there was no way that what she seeing was real. And to add onto her certainty, a lime green squirrel with light tawny spots entered her view. Its white tufted ears twitched happily as it nibbled on something resembling a chestnut before clamping the nut in its mouth and scampering away on white-tipped paws.
Not only the creatures, but the foliage as well was unfamiliar. Right below her feet, plants with leaves like fire wisps rose above the grass tops. She inched back at the sight of the alarming incongruence of fire on top of unburnt grass, and her foot hit another plant. Its thin petioles formed lattices interweaved with adjoining mini leaves and florets. The spiderweb-like structures drooped from a sturdy stem, the entirety resembling that of weeping willow with wings. When she struck the plant, which reached half of her thigh, the sturdy mesh structure shimmered as if it was covered in a veil of glistening water. She blinked at the gorgeous plant in awe. A strong urge to poke it arose in her chest. But the girl trepidatiously shook her head. This couldn’t be right. Nothing still had happened yet.
She fiercely looked around, willing for the imagined assailant to appear. But the forest simply continued its normalcy. Miffed, she began meandering through the undergrowth and agilely stepping up and across enormous tree roots. This was just a dream. A strange, extremely realistic one, but there was no need to be so tense. She would wake up eventually and forget all these details. Then again, she wondered if she were experiencing her first lucid dream. Settling upon that theory, the knot in her gut loosened.
Swatting away a bunch of silky sapphire blue ferns and palm plants with flower-tipped stalks in their centers, her eyes landed on a huge boulder in the center of a small glade. It was blanketed in moss and intermixed with milk, rose, and cerise colored baby flowers and thin, silvery grasses. The way the sunlight hit this flora-veiled boulder was distinctly striking. It was as if the light danced above it, casting flecks of light beyond the boulder’s borders. Bewitched, she approached it and waved a hand airily in the frolicking light, watching it coruscate. Letting her hand fall, she touched the soft blossoms and ran her fingers through the satiny grass.
Instantly, the rock quivered, causing the girl to recoil backwards on her behind in surprise. Slowly, the rock emerged out of the soil and walked away, scattering downy white plant tufts in its wake. The girl blinked. There in front of her, was a wolf. It was the size of a pick up truck and had plants growing all over its silvery white fur. The wolf gazed indolently from the corners of its emerald edged, golden eyes as it ambled its way into the forest depths out of sight.
Still in shock, she sat there beside the exposed mat of flattened grass where the wolf had rested. Her heart beat loudly; her rapid pulse pounded, drummed inside her ears. She lifted a tremulous hand to her chest and felt the blood pumping frenetically through her body. She gripped her shirt. This sound… A few seconds passed. Shouldn’t I be waking up right now? The wolf’s emergence should’ve startled her awake at least slightly if she were dreaming. And if she were lucidly dreaming, then it didn’t make sense why she was so surprised as the dreamer could control the events of the dream.
While waiting for her vision to dim as her body would awaken, a creature flitted near her right cheek. She spun her head in the direction of the disturbance and came face to face with a dragonfly. A real dragonfly. This was no insect, but rather, it was a small, elongated dragon with iridescent scales of jade and shamrock green. Its triangular tail blades were flashing shades of blue outlined in rich periwinkle that matched the color of its wings. The belly and head were celadon, and the creature examined the girl with curious, ocean blue eyes. Rather than appreciating the beautiful cuteness of this little dragon as she would have if it were a picture, her former nagging anxiety resurfaced. She wasn’t waking up.
As if sensing the girl’s feelings, the dragonfly emitted a lighthearted growl. “Piii rawarr~?”
The sound shook her core. Dialogue was silent in dreams. She could write off the forest sounds as imagined background noise, but this dragon’s questioning tone was as clear as a bell. And the dragonfly was so close that she even felt the palpable air lightly whoosh in her face.
Tentatively, she stretched out her right hand to the creature. The little dragon stared at her hand for a quick second before seeming to smile and plop itself merrily on her palm, evoking a fluttering smile from the girl that broadened in a grin. She really couldn’t deny its adorableness. They gazed into each others eyes, the dragonfly tilting its head inquisitively at her. She could feel the tickling warmth of its belly and softly beating heart. Their transient connection lasted a few moments before the creature fluttered away into the brush.
But the girl remained in the same position, staring at her palm like in a daze. Just as the last of the dragon’s warmth left her hand, she brushed herself off and stood up. Turning around in one place, she peered at her surroundings again with an unfathomable gaze.
Then, she slowly lifted her right hand and clenched it. Her nails dug sharply into her palm, but she continued applying increasing pressure until it trembled. It was at this point that she felt like hitting something. Hard. Fixing her eyes upon a nearby tree, she strode swiftly over and brought her fist backward before propelling it forward harshly upon the smooth, caramel bark. The golden leafed tree trembled, and the ecru dapples on its bark contorted inward upon impact. Her fist shuddered at the crushing blow to her now grazed knuckles, but she didn’t care. The splitting pain indicated that she was alive. This wasn’t a dream.
Tilting her head upward, she watched the sunlight coruscate through the tree’s foliage and cast golden streams upon the forest floor. Her head drooped to the left as the rest of her body followed. With heavy steps she returned to the colossal tree from earlier. As she gazed at the splendor of the ancient tree from the edge of the encircling grass, she sucked in a tremulous breath. Her mind skipped from belief to disbelief and back again, not quite permitting herself to surmise that this was all real. That she really did wake up in a godforsaken prodigious forest with fire grass, blue ferns, and golden trees, that spectral deers, bright green squirrels, mammoth flowered wolves, and miniature dragons did really exist.
She couldn’t fathom her situation. Am I no longer on Earth? The thought both terrified and electrified her. How did I get here? A wormhole? But I was just crossing the street… She began walking toward the foot of the ancient tree, wondering if it would provide any clues. She didn’t believe she had died or reincarnated. Although she couldn’t see her face, this body was indeed hers from Earth. The conservation of matter and philosophy of reincarnation would rebuke the keeping of one’s original body. But even as she tried reasoning it out with logic, faith, or science, she still doubted this preposterous situation. It was too simple. Too easy. Too peaceul. This place did not look like a space-time distortion occurred. This must be a trick. An illusion. A candid camera.
But suddenly, she detected rapid movement accelerating behind her, breaking her musings. But she saw no activity in the forest behind her. Perplexed, she stared deep into the woods. Then suddenly, from behind a rustle of foliage, a small fox-like creature manifested itself, sprinting past her towards the ancient tree.
Aww, how cute, she couldn’t thinking as she looked at the mysterious and adorable animal with large eyes and ears, a small body, short legs, and fluffy twin tails. The animal’s fur was the color of biscuit with a caramel streak running from its forehead and white-tipped tails and paws.
However, before she could question the peculiar look on its face, a gargantuan beast sprang out in pursuit from behind the brush, stopping all thought. The all-black beast seemed to be made of shadow and was almost as large as the wolf from earlier. It appeared to be a demonic bear with large pointed ears and shaggy fur that tapered into wisps. As it moved, the tips of its fur dispersed into the air, leaving a trail of smoky tendrils in its wake. It tore after the fox-like creature, passing in front of the girl and paralyzing her in place as she gawked vacantly at the dusty, black tendrils left inches from her face.
The forest around was hushed, but inside, she was mentally cursing everything. This was the true jump-scare worthy scene, and yet here she was, watching in horror as the beast chased after the fox. Wake up, wake up, wake up… Faint sweat trickled on her back; her soul felt like it was hanging outside, yet she still wasn’t waking up. If she wasn’t completely petrified of catching the demonic beast’s attention, she likely would’ve screamed out at the injustice of the situation and started swearing at the bear. But that bluntly reasonable side of her commanded her to stay put in case her suspicions were right.
Although the smaller animal moved relatively fast for its size, the larger monster outpaced the fox, nearly reaching it before they arrived near the base of the tree. As soon as they reached the buttress roots, however, the smaller creature deftly evaded the bulkier monster by dipping in-between and under the roots. Frustrated, the monster jumped backwards out of the roots, and the fox, seeing an escape, leapt out. It scurried around the trunk, but the beast was ready, poised to rush at the exposed animal. Rearing up on its hind-legs, the monster lurched towards the fox with long, shadowy claws.
Startled by her own voice resounding in the quiet, she gasped in trepidation, eyes widening as she saw the monster flinch and narrowly miss clipping the small animal. The fox scampered away as the beast plummeted flat on its chin and belly. The monster laid still on the roots as the girl’s thoughts went blank, and she held her breath in apprehension.
As if cut from a horror scene, the monster’s head unnaturally whipped 180 degrees in her direction, and she felt her soul depart as the beast’s glaring, red eyes bore into her. Then just as quickly as the beast had pinpointed the girl’s position, it vaulted from the roots at its new target: her.