Strange World - Book 1 - Grimoire

 

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Moment 00: Terminal

MOMENT 00: TERMINAL

 

“Seven days,” said Dr. Clar. “You have seven days to live.”

Mom burst into heavy sobs, and Dad turned, peering out the hospital window. Did I humiliate him so much? He couldn't even bear to glance in my direction. Not that it mattered since he wasn't around often. My little sister, Kat, cooed at first, but although at a young age, she saw the misery in everyone's eyes. Our parents appeared devastated, but shouldn’t that have been my right?

Dr. Clar, a kind, elderly man, looked as pained himself. He didn't revel in telling fourteen-year-old boys they were dying.

Dad didn't turn as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Can you do anything? Give him more time, somehow? We need to prepare.”

The doctor ran a hand through his silvery hair. “Again, I've only seen this illness once before in my fifty years of practice. The other hangs on by will alone—a blessing perhaps, but it's also a curse.”

Mom lifted her puffy, red eyes. “Christ! If we brought him sooner. Anthony, if only you'd listened!”

Lee!” Dad said. “This isn’t the place to shout—”

Sobbing, Mom threw a snotty rag in his direction. “How can I not?”

Dr. Clar patted my knee, and whispered, “I'll be right outside if you need me.”

He showed sympathy, but I didn’t want it. I needed a cure to my disease. I wanted to live, but it was strange that I couldn’t bring myself to cry—not a single tear.

Mom stared daggers at Dad. “It’s all your fault!”

“Please!” He trembled, his face straining to stay calm.

Mom stood and glanced at me for all of three seconds, then stormed out the door, letting it slam.

Little Kat crawled across the floor and tugged on my pants. My Sister, so innocent and unaware, held no blame for my sickness, but my parents—them I blamed. Dad came around when it was convenient, and Mom almost never lifted a finger for any reason.

Why me? I didn't deserve to die. I'd never smoked, drank, or did drugs. Then again, life wasn't fair. It was a lesson I should have learned early, but ever the optimist, I ignored the signs. When I saw those donation commercials, I always thought it'd never happen with me—I was healthy. 

In the past couple weeks, everything changed. It all started with the blackout episodes and the killer headaches.

Kneeling, I lifted Kat. She lunged into my embrace and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Brah!” she said, unable to pronounce brother.

I buried my nose in her dark hair and eyed Dad. He didn't care to lay eyes on me. Was he concerned for my health, or did he mourn the money he'd waste on all of this? Funerals were pricey, so cremation it was. He opened his mouth, and I thought he might comfort me. He didn't. Instead, he uttered the foulest words I'd ever heard and rushed from the room. They cared so little; they left Kat. How long till they noticed her gone? Children services might take her away one day, and when she reached a foster home, she'd never remember she lost a loving big brother.

A while later, a nurse came, and upon seeing my sister, furrowed her brow. She snatched Kat from my arms and tossed a gown on my bed. “Get changed.”

Kat screeched and reached for me, but I only stared, my heart shattering.

When I was alone, I changed and took my place in the hospital bed, careful not to tug the IV. Defeated, I glanced out the window and fixated on a single, brilliant star. At that moment, the star split into six orbs of light, spun around in a tight circle, and merged into one. I laid my head back, rubbing my aching head. Was it UFOs? Angels perhaps? No, it was a trick of my dying mind; powerful painkillers dripped into my IV feed.

When I closed my eyes, the thoughts hit me all at once. The painful reality weighed heavy. In eight days, I'd be no more. In seven, I'd die. And in the six leading to my fate, I'd suffer. I opened my eyes again and spotted a cockroach on the windowsill. The filthy creature crawled over Kat's toy she forgot; a red curved magnet, the kind you saw in cartoons.

Coldness spread across my body, and my fingers and toes felt so far away. Was it my time? Seven days, or seven minutes, what did it matter? Death becomes us all. Unable to stay conscious any longer, I slipped into the frigid darkness.

 

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Moment 01: Magna 

MOMENT 01: MAGNA-RACHA

 

Loud cheering brought me back from the abyss. I opened my eyes and couldn't see; there was only the darkness. I moved my fingers, only to find thick dirt in every direction. My heart thundered as a horrible thought reared its ugly head. They buried me alive.

“H-Help!” I tried crying, but the dirt muffled my voice.

I did my best to claw my way out, but I didn't have the energy to dig. With a heavy sigh, I sought to stay calm. Freaking might end my life.

An image of Mom came to mind. She lay on the couch, unconscious, groaning in her slumber. That's how she spent her time; a side effect of the pain meds. In her youth, she fell out of a moving car and rolled down a hill, ultimately injuring her neck. Every day since, she claimed to suffer from chronic, unbearable pain. After closing her eyes, she'd sleep for more than a day. That's what she got for mixing strong meds. Kat and I deserved better, but that's all we had—An addict mother. When not taking care of my sister, I wrote stories to entertain her.

I cut off that line of thought; memories were useless. I needed out before the claustrophobia drove me mad. “Someone please, help!”

“Aheeheehee!” came a strange voice from nearby. “What do we have here?”

“Is someone there?” I asked. “Can you get me free?”

“Suuuure thing buuuuddy,” the voice sang.

Whatever blocked my eyes moved, and I stared into a bright green sky, peppered with amber clouds. Something from behind grabbed me under my chin and lifted.

“Why you ain’t nuddin but a head!” the squeaky voice said.

My eyes dropped, and I didn't see my body. “What the heck?” I cried.

The hands holding my head spun me. A short little man with a big nose and buck teeth stared into my eyes.

“This can't be happening!” I said, trying not to freak.

The man shook me, and my brain clanked like a magic eight ball.

“What's happening is happening, buuuuddy!” He chortled. “Where’s ya body?”

I groaned and wanted to grab him, but my arm remained pinned somewhere. He turned me around in all directions. We were in a trash yard, with huge mounds of dirt, and random objects laying everywhere. 

“Where’s the rest of me?” I cried.

He shook me again. “I be asking ya that first. I reckon you be around the junkyard somewhere. Let’s have a look-see.”

He carried me away, and I tried to wiggle free. “Put me down, darn it!”

“Why would I go and do that? You may be sometin’ valuable to muh show!”

“No way, I'm not part of any show! Are you insane?”

“Just during the daytime.” He shrugged. “Or maybe night? I can’t be sure. My other half don’t tell me when he comes about or not.”

Worry filled me. This guy had too many screws loose.

“Where’s Dr. Clar?” I asked. “I want to see him!”

“Dr. whosawhatsit?” the man asked. “I don’t know no Dr. Clar!”

“Um, duh!” I said. “I’m in St. Levvie’s, aren’t I?”

“Nope nope nope. No saints about here for miles—Especially none named Levvie.”

“You’re joking right?”

“Nah. I never joke—far too serious for that, aheeheehee.”

I whimpered. A psychopathic dwarf kidnapped me from the hospital.

“Oh, lookee here, son!” he said, “Looks like I found ya torso.”

The man spun me to show a silver block of steel on the ground.

“How is that my torso?” I cried. “How am I only a head?”

“Don’t ask me compuhleecated questionnaires.

He plopped me onto the torso and with a clunk, I stuck to the metal block. I turned my head left and right. In one direction sat a huge pile of bobble heads, while in another, there were hundreds of tubas.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“The junkyard! I told yee this already, buuuuddy.” He chuckled. “And it looks like you’re that one thing.”

“What one thing?”

“Where ya stick to other metal things. Ya know!” He put a stubby finger to his chin.

He wore overalls, with a flannel shirt, but didn't wear shoes and had massive hairy feet. A brown mullet ran down the back of his neck, and overall, he wasn't taller than three feet.

“Okay, look,” I said. “Help me find my body and you can tell me what’s happening.”

“Sure buuuuddy.” He grinned; he didn’t have any other teeth besides the enormous front ones. “But I have to get back to da show soon, seeing I’m the ringleader and all.”

I didn't want to imagine what show he was running. He was too batty to be entertaining. 

He oomph'd as he tried to lift me. “You’re heavier now, ain’t ye?”

A low humming came from nearby, and I felt a tugging on one of my arms. Something crashed from one side of the junkyard, and a long piece of jointed steel slammed into my right side. My eyes widened as I found an arm that wasn't my own.

“Aheeheehee!” The man giggled. “You’re putting yourself back together! Just like one of those magna thingies.”

I held my hand before me and looked at the fingers. They were puppet-like; I tried to curl them. Sure enough, they moved under my command. Another humming filled my ears, and another object shot across the yard and attached itself to my other side. The new arm looked the same. Then with another loud humming from three different directions, silver missiles fired toward us.

The crazy, short man jumped, and cried, “Oh, my Bessy in a basket!”

They flew under him, attaching in three parts to form my lower body and legs. My eyes popped wide at the strange looking mannequin parts.

“This makes no sense,” I said. “I must be dreaming.”

“Uh, no,” the man said. “Aheeheehee, if anyone’s dreaming, it’s me! I never thought I’d find something so valuable as a Magna-Racha!”

“Wait!” I said. “Doesn’t Racha mean roach or something?”

“Sure, buuuuddy. You’re a magnet dude, and I discovered ya in a junkyard, so you’re a cock-a-ma-roach.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I sighed. “I’m not a cockroach!”

“Sure ya are!” he said. “You have antennae.”

He pulled a long wire down from my head, holding it before my eyes. It looked to be an antenna. He let go, and it snapped back with a boing.

“Well, go ahead, buuuuddy,” shorty said. “Stand up, will ya? Don't think I can be carrying ya!”

I didn't want to go anywhere with him, but I preferred to stand on my own, so after a careful test of wiggling each toe, I braced myself and stood. I expected to tower over the dwarf, but I found him only a foot shorter.

He grinned. “Aw, shucks. You’re just a baby, ain’t chee, Magna-Racha?”

“No!” I balled my hands into fists. “I’m fourteen years old! And my name isn’t Magna-Racha, it’s...”

I couldn’t remember my name.

“Hold on a darn minute.” I tried thinking hard.

In my mind, I could hear my mom’s voice. I sat in my room playing video games, and her voice carried from the living room. She screamed for me to bring her a can of soda. She said my name each time, but I couldn’t hear it. The harder I thought, the more my memory blurred. I blinked a few times, and couldn't understand what I'd tried to remember.

“Scoot, Magna-Racha!” the short guy said. “We gotta be hurrying! The second act is about to start! You’ll be the star!”

“Act? No way, I’m not joining your show. This is serious! I was just in the hospital, sick and dying, and now I’m in some zany junkyard with a midget!”

“Hey, man!” he said. “No need to be unpolitically core…correctatitude! I’m a half-guy.”

“Half-guy? Unpolitically correctatude?” I asked. “You’re freaking nuts! Just point me back to the hospital!”

“No can do,” he said. “Muh name's Leeroy Bob-Frank, and I need ya for my show!”

“No, I refuse.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled a gun far too large to have fit in such a tiny space. The barrel extended two feet long.

My eyes enlarged, and I lifted my hands before me. “No need for violence, Bob!”

“It’s Leeroy Bob-Frank the twenty-third, to be honest,” he said. “I never liked me twenty-two pappies, so I just go by that!”

“O-Okay!” I said as he shoved the end of the gun to my chest. “Just don’t shoot.”

“I don’t be wanting to.” He grinned. “But my show’s been-a-failing, and you’re just what the proctologist ordered! Been looking for ya, Magna-Racha.”

“For the last time!” I said. “I'm not—”

He pulled the hammer back on his gun.

“Yes, it being so!” he sang. “You’re my Magna-Racha! Now march!”

With a whimper, I turned and walked. For the first time, I noticed the huge white circus tent not far away. Beyond it, I could see rows of booths, and a Ferris wheel that leaned at an angle. As we got within a hundred yards, I heard a faint pipe organ playing a haunting melody—twisted carnival music.

We kept walking, all the while the huge gun jammed between my shoulder blades. Absurd people walked everywhere. Many were over nine feet tall, and a few even shorter than Bob-Frank. Others appeared to be wearing masks with animal features, but as I peered closer, I realized there were no seams; no edges to the masks. They were the people’s actual faces. One man had a large pig nose while another had bunny ears, and there were more than a dozen others with long tails wagging back and forth.

“This is insane!” I muttered under my breath.

“Aheeheehee!” Leeroy kept laughing.

Patrons looked away from their game booths to examine us while others ignored us all together. No one made a move or said a word to help me. They didn’t care that Leeroy held me hostage with a huge gun.

I kept walking, seeing more tilted rides, and crazy games. One booth had a game where you throw plastic balls into little fishbowls. The only thing; inside those fishbowls were miniature humanoid shapes, and the upper half of the attendant looked was a giant goldfish with bulbous eyes, gills, and all.

“Mommy!” a boy cried. “I want a picture with the silver bug man!”

“Stop,” Leeroy said. “There’s always time for fans.”

I pursed my lips and turned. Toward us came two people. The short little boy looked normal enough, and behind him walked a muscular woman with biceps bigger than my head. She towered over the child by four or five feet.

“Okay,” Leeroy said. “One picamature is three clips.”

“Three?” the boy asked, making me do a double take. His voice came from his mother's mouth.

“Okay, dear. Here you go,” the little one said in a feminine voice and handed Leeroy three paper clips.

I cocked an eyebrow. Either I'd died and gone to a strange hell, or I'd got stuck in a terrible dream. The lumbering child hobbled over and put his arm around me, squeezing me in tight to his or her side.

“Go with it, Magna-Racha!” Leeroy still aimed his gun at me.

“O-Okay, okay!” I put my arm around the boy-woman-thing and tried to force a smile.

The small one who I guessed to be the mother, reached into her purse and pulled out a large black box, then a tripod of legs; again, it couldn't have fit.

She placed the box on the tripod and aimed the camera at us.

“Say fuzzy zucchini!” the woman-boy said.

“Fuzzy zucchini,” I muttered through clenched teeth.

A blinding red flash went off, and a sudden pressure filled my head making it ready to pop.

When the blistering dots vanished, everything stayed tinted red for several seconds.

Leeroy shook the mother’s hand, and the big child skipped around them, making the ground shake with each mighty step.

“Anything for fans!” Leeroy said. “I thank ye much for ya patronage-itude! Aheeheehee!”

“Bye bye Mr. Racha!” the huge boy said. “We’ll see you at the show! I can’t wait for your act!”

I raised my hand and curled my fingers in a hesitant wave. Together they frolicked away,  then Leeroy lifted his gun again and poked it into my ribs.

“Ya did good, Magna-Racha!” he said. “So, let’s keep on keeping on. Aheeheehee!”

I nodded and swallowed hard. Into what mess had I gotten myself? They used paperclips for a currency of all things.

With another painful jab, I spun on my heel and walked again. We continued for another few minutes, and as we passed food booths, I smelled strange, yet compelling aromas. My stomach growled. Given I hadn’t awoke, I'd no idea when I'd last eaten.

“Can we stop for a bite?” I asked.

“No!” Leeroy said. “You’re fed after da show, just like all the other acts.”

I grumbled. “Seriously? You’re not a ringleader; you’re a Nazi!”

“A what?” he asked. “You mind ya manners, Magna-Racha!”

“Please stop calling me that!”

Leeroy pointed me towards the large tent, and when we approached, a frogman pulled open the curtain. I walked inside where bright lights shined down onto bleachers filled with hundreds of fans of all literal shapes and sizes.

“Go to the center ring and perform!” Leeroy kicked my behind, and I stumbled forward.

I looked back, and he lifted the gun again. With a quick nod, I rushed out, and a spotlight shined upon me. The crowd cheered and clapped, and then Leeroy’s voice boomed through the tent.

“Laddies, and gentlewomen!” Leeroy said as I took in the vast audience. “Performing for you, in his grand debut, is my good friend, Magna-Racha! A magnetic roach-boy! Everyone get ready for the performance of a lifetime, or it will be his last! Welcome to the best carnival ever! The big top…of Strange World!”

 

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Moment 02: Disappearing Act

MOMENT 02: DISAPPEARING ACT

 

The crowd chanted: “Magna-Racha! Magna-Racha!”

I glanced at Leeroy Bob-Frank and he motioned with his hands. If I didn't do something, he planned to shoot me. As the crowd continued their cheers, I scanned the audience. Every person was a freak show on their own. Many had humanoid shaped bodies and large animal heads. Most were more animal than human, and many resembled nothing I’d ever seen, with tentacles and other strange appendages poking out at every angle.

One last patron cried, “Magna-Racha!” and the crowd fell silent as death, except for a shrill chirping coming from one corner.  A pony-headed man, or at least I thought it was a man, stood in response. His mouth opened, and he shouted. “S-Sh-Shut your trap! We’re t-trying to listen to M-Magna-Racha!”

The cricketing silenced, and the pony-man sat once more and yelled. “The floor is yours Mr. Racha!”

“Um,” I whispered, but cleared my throat and spoke louder. “My name is—”

“We know your name!” someone shouted.

Leeroy furrowed his brows and contorted his face in a rage, sending my nerves through the roof.

“Well...” My mind was blank. Never had I spoken before a group without running away and hiding. Now I might keel over, feeling my face in Leeroy's crosshairs. I didn’t want to perform. “I'm a human boy, and I'm in a nightmare.”

“You're a what, stuck in a what?” a heckler called.

A slight tugging came from high above my head. Upon lifting my eyes, I spied a steel spike holding the support pillar together. It was across the tent, but I sensed a force pulsating from it. If my body was magnetic, it only made sense I could attract metal—Which meant I needed to pull that spike.

“I can do it,” I murmured.

"What?" someone cried. "You're speaking too low!"

“For my first trick,” I threw my hand into the air and focused on the spike. Nothing happened. Several seconds later still nothing. The crowd whispered, and the anticipation grew thick.

“Come on,” I said.

The spike twitched and then wiggled. "Please!" I strained my mind and with a sharp clank, the spike flew loose. The pole buckled, and half the tent crashed onto Leeroy and his patrons. 

The audience shouted and cried in a mixture of anger and surprise. My cue had come—Exit stage left. I turned and ran. I dove under the fallen tent, and crawled on my hands and knees, hoping to emerge into daylight.

“Oh no ya don’t, buuuuddy!” Something seized my ankle.

I rolled onto my back and struggled to get free as Leeroy's face popped out from under a tent wrinkle. “You ruined muh show, so now you owe me a lifetime commitment!”

“Fine! I commit to staying far away from you!” I kicked with my free foot and connected with Leeroy’s forehead, making him screech and let go. I threw myself back and crawled as fast as possible. As soon as my head popped outside the tent, I scrambled and crashed into a muscular man with a tiny head; his shoulder muscles had swallowed his neck.

“Who. Are. You?” He leaned forward to look at me.

I lurched away and held my hands before me. “S-Stay away!”

“Are. You. Scared?” He emphasized each word. “Don’t. Be. Scared. Of. Munke.”

“That’s your name?”

“Sure. Is! What. Is. Yours?”

“Someone grab that magnetic cock-a-ma-roach!” Leeroy shouted from under the tent. “Grab Magna-Racha!”

Munke cocked his pimple-like head. “You. Are. Magna. Racha?”

“Yes—I mean no! I mean—Bye!” I scrambled, but he snatched me from the ground and held me aloft by my antennae. Munke pulled me close.

“You. Part. Of. The. Circus?” he asked. “What. Is. Your. Act?”

“The disappearing kind!” I swung my arms, trying to punch him, but it only caused me to spin in his grasp.

"Oh." He looked at the moving tent flap. Leeroy was coming at any moment.

“Let me go!” I said. “So, I can, ya know, disappear!”

“Of. Course.” He dropped me on my behind and I bounced to my feet.

I spun on my heel and made a break for it as Leeroy popped out and shouted, “Munke, you numbskull! I said to stop Magna-Racha!”

“But. He. Is. Disappearing. Act.” Munke said. The huge guy had a brain akin to a peanut. 

My feet pounded the dirt beneath me as I sprinted through the carnival crowds. I ran past games, food, and other sideshow acts. Leeroy and Munke were on my heels; I heard their footfalls not far away.

A nearby tent looked dark inside—the perfect place to hide. I rushed into the tent and ducked behind a barrel. Munke thundered by, but Leeroy doubled over catching his breath. My heart froze as I waited. Might he keep going or come searching? I held my breath.

“Welcome,” came a woman's voice.

I spun right into a long tentacle which wrapped around my waist and lifted me off the ground. I wanted to struggle and kick, but a brunette sat across a table from me. She was breathtaking except for having eight octopus appendages jutting from the middle of her back. A glowing crystal ball sat before her, reflecting a dim light on her face, accenting her dark lipstick, eyeshadow, and blush.

She slammed me onto a small barrel. “Have a seat.” With one tentacle she adjusted a pair of bifocals that floated before her eyes.

I grabbed the tentacle holding me in place. “Please, I don’t belong here.”

“I can see that, boy,” she said in a water-logged voice.

“Boy? You can tell I’m a boy?”

“Yes, but there is more, no? You are not from Strange World.”

“Right!” I leaned forward. “Can you help me get back?”

She cocked a pointy eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to return? You're dying.”

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. In the real world, I only had seven days to live. I sighed and shrugged. “I don’t want to spend all my remaining days in a strange dream.”

“Dream? You're under the impression that this is a dream?”

“What else could it be? Everything here is crazy! They even think I’m a cockroach!”

“It's the antennae,” she said. “I'll also clarify Strange World is anything but a dream.”

“So what am I supposed to do?”

She shrugged, and her tentacles all followed the motion. “If you want a fortune; you must pay.”

“But I don't have clips!”

“I do not require currency,” she purred. “Only a promise.”

I rolled my eyes. “Don't like where this is going, lady. To what do I have to agree?”

“You will travel from here, yes? You will enter the forest to the west. There you will find one in trouble. Save him from his fate. He will one day be very important.”

I stared with furrowed brows. Why should I save someone when no one could save me? I'd just have to lie. I didn't plan on staying in Strange World.

“Sure.” I shrugged. “I’ll do as you ask.”

The demi-human octo-fortune teller looked at me with scrutinizing eyes, but then nodded. "In your world you lay, away from your body this day. Why have you come, I do not know, I'm sure in time it will show? Danger hovers near, but if you stay here, you won't disappear. Death may become us all, but without a hero Strange World will fall."

"You did not just send me on a world-saving quest." I crossed my arms. "One, that's cliché, and two, I'm not a hero." 

"I didn't say you're a hero, or you must save Strange World. But I must ask, do you wish to die?"

“I think I'm dead either way.”

“Find the one I asked you to save, if you wish.” She smiled, revealing her pearly whites. “That will set you on the path to freedom.”

A black cloud burst from her mouth and blinded me. I coughed, choking on the thick smoke. A few moments later it cleared, and I sat on the barrel, all alone. No trace of the fortune teller remained—Not even the table or crystal ball.

Had I imagined the encounter? I must have. Strange World was nothing more than a stupid, medicine induced nightmare. The question was, how to awaken? 

“Magna-Racha?” Leeroy called. “Where did ya go, buuuuddy?”

My nerves spiked. He sounded friendly, but he wasn't tricking me. I rushed to the back of the tent, and under I crawled, emerging into a field of violet-colored grass that stretched as far as the eye could see. The carnival proved dangerous, so off into the unknown it was.

I rubbed my eyes. “Why is this happening?”

“Me. No. See,” Munke said from within the tent.

With all the energy I had left, I ran into the field and didn’t look back until I passed a hill, hundreds of yards away. I fell to my knees, trying to catch my breath. “For a dream, this is exhausting.”

The entire carnival was visible from my vantage point. It spread for at least a mile in both directions. Leeroy might search forever and never find me. I thanked my lucky stars I'd escaped.

With that settled, I descended the hill heading away from the mad carnival. The landscape before me looked unlike anything I'd ever imagined. Violet fields appeared never-ending, and every so often, great cylindrical towers protruded into the sky like buttes. The tallest was bigger than a fifteen story building. Even stranger were the SUV-sized animals roaming. I pegged them for big rodents—chinchillas. They hopped here and there, grazing.

“This keeps getting stranger and stranger,” I breathed, continuing my trek.

I kept my distance from the giant chinchillas and headed for the nearest tower. Maybe, if I climbed one I'd spot something in the distance. A hole to hide in, or even a non-hostile town—anywhere I could hunker down until I woke.

Twenty minutes later, I made it to the base of a tower, and my mind blew further. I approached the sheer, smooth side. It was aluminum. I almost bent over backward trying to gauge it. The climb before me was long. I placed my palm on the tower and felt a magnetic pull. After a heavy sigh, I climbed, placing one hand over the other. Up, and up I went. Halfway, my arms grew tired. 

Despite knowing better, I dropped my eyes. A cry escaped my lips and, I hugged the aluminum wall, and my heart pounded in my chest. I'd climbed sixty feet or more, and if I fell, I'd die. Even though I knew I was dreaming, I didn't take that chance. I had to get to the top. The octo-woman's words echoed in my mind. She wanted me to find someone in the forest and rescue them. Ridiculous. Still, I'd never been so aware in a dream. It was lucid, and surreal.

Will gathered, I moved my hand above me and continued climbing. A while later, I crawled over the top of the tower. I sat and exhaled, dreading the climb back to the bottom. To make matters worse, the sky was darkening. Another absurdity rested in the center of the plateau—a giant soda can tab.

“You have gotta be kidding me.” I stared into the distance.  In one direction sat Leeroy’s carnival. Opposite were mountains, and to my right, was what appeared to be a city with beams of light extending into the evening sky. 

“There!” I pointed, giddiness filling me. I glanced back and spotted a forest with cobalt blue trees.

The fortune lady made me promise to go to those woods. She shouldn't have believed I could do it. I had no reason, and I’d be waking up soon. As much as I craved to go toward the city, a tug of guilt had me staring at the forest. I tried to take my eyes away, but something glued them.

“Not going that way!” I grumbled, crossing my arms in defiance. “No way, no how!”

A great shadow loomed over me, and there came a horrendous screeching. The shadow swooped in and latched onto my shoulders with clawed feet. I cried and flailed as we flew over the edge of the soda can butte. We headed west; straight toward the blue forest.

 

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Moment 03: Forest of Blues

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Moment 04: Hammed

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Moment 05: One Day Closer

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Moment 06: He Had a Farm

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Moment 07: Envoy of the Barn

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Moment 08: Facing the Pitchfork

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Moment 09: A Stoy Untold

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Moment 10: Five Days

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