I used to wonder how I got here. I used to wonder how I managed to get from the dryness of my everyday life to here, where everything from my wildest dreams existed.
I lived in a mountain community, small, but not too far from the big, shining city we could see from certain vantage points. I had the garden I had always wanted; my friends joked about how my house was more forest than actual house. They understood me. There was a man, too, a quiet one. He lived not far from me, and when he saw me digging up my garden, or when he saw that I was trying to build something he always came over to help me fix it. His dark eyes were dreamy, I couldn’t tell whether he held affection for me too or if he was just a friendly person. But either way was nice, I had never had that kind of attention before. No one aside from my mother had ever been so kind to me and she had been gone a long time now. Could I remember when? Could I remember how? It seemed odd that I couldn’t remember the day; I had thought it branded upon my heart.
There was a place in the mountain just above our village that spewed bubbles, colorful, gleaming bubbles that caught the light and reflected it in odd places and made shadows in others. The fish seemed to like them, in the river beside my house they would jump out of the water to pop them.
There was a meadow also, the long, soft grasses of emerald green that daytime fireflies frequented. I went there with Miles, and watched our little daylight stars blink in and out of view.
And the sky- Oh, the sky! Regular nights were so much different than I remembered. The darkness was filled with colored, voluptuous clouds that moved and changed; the formation and decay of galaxies. And some nights, the nights that I would spent on my roof, aurora borealis would light up the sky with green and blue lights; sometimes even pink!
The days might have been bliss, but at night I wondered where it had all come from, this life, this world that was so much different than the one I only half remembered. I thought maybe it had to do with the train. The train that flashed before my eyes every night before I would go to sleep. I tried not to think about it, but sometimes, sometimes I thought I heard a voice, a familiar voice, talking to me, calling for me. How long had I been here?
I opened my door to my friend Alice, a new grandmother who also lived in the village.
“Alice? It’s three in the morning, what are you doing up?”
“Della? Oh Della I’ve missed you,” she said, hugging me around the shoulders.
“Really?” I asked. “I saw you not that long ago.”
“Della, it’s been months. You’ve been asleep all this time.”
I furrowed my brows. “Asleep? No I’ve been here, I’ve been gardening- you remember I took you some of those glowing lilies not long ago. Are you okay? Do you want to come in?”
“Come in?” Alice asked in confusion. “Della, you’ve been in a coma for seven months. You were hit by a train, don’t you remember?”
The image of a train slammed my eyes.
“The train,” I repeated faintly. “No, I’ve been here in Greenlace over a year now, I like it here but there are no train tracks anywhere close by.”
“Are you awake?” she asked. “What’s Greenlace? Honey, you’re in a coma, wake up!”
“I don’t- I don’t want to,” I said, fighting off the surge of memories that beset me. None of them were as nice as here. I couldn’t leave the new friends I’d made! I couldn’t remember anyone else who wanted me there.
Alice looked away, her mouth a tight line. “There are people here who want to see you back, Dells. You need to fight it.”
“Fight what?” I demanded. “There’s nothing to fight here!”
“Think about it, okay? Think about it.”
“Think about what?”
It was like a switch was flipped and she smiled pleasantly. “Oh Della, I didn’t wake you, did I? I was just having a hard time sleeping tonight and decided to go for a walk.”
“You didn’t wake me,” I said quietly. “Have a good night, Alice.”
I thought about it. I thought about what whoever had possessed Alice had said. Maybe I was in a coma. This place was so good it reminded me of a dream, but why would I want to leave it? But as I allowed myself to consider the possibility the more pieces of my old life hit me as though between the eyes. The worst thing I found, though, was that there wasn’t anyone who was waiting on me.
“It was you, Della,” I realized. It wasn’t anyone else speaking out of Alice’s mouth, it was a construct of my own mind’s making trying to get me to live. Just like everything and everyone else in this world, she was a figment of my own dying mind.
“You don’t look like you slept much,” Miles told me the next morning as he joined me in my weed pulling.
“I didn’t,” I said.
“Is something wrong?”
I didn’t answer at first. “Yes.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I pursed my lips. “No. I think...I think I’m going to forget about it. Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?”
He did. And forget about my 3 A.M. encounter I did.
At least- as long as I could. It was a while. I spent days at the river with the rainbow fish, hiking the canyon of butterflies, and running the flower booth at the occasional festival. But then I began to feel weak. I stayed at home, Miles making meals for me and making sure that I got everything I needed, and in such a small town it was inevitable that everyone would find out about my illness. It was Alice who came after most of the others had come with their casseroles to see me.
“You haven’t got much time,” Alice said to me. It was my subconscious speaking through her again, the way it hadn’t in a long time.
“It doesn’t have to be.”
“This is my home now,” I said.
“That’s what I thought you’d say,” she sighed before crossing over and kissing my forehead. “Give my best to Miles.”
I had Miles take me outside and summed up the last of my strength to make it to the roof of my house. Tonight was going to be the end, and I knew where I wanted to accept it. Under the sky which was the part I loved most about my little world.
“It looks different from normal,” Miles commented.
“Yes,” I agreed.
The sky looked stormy without clouds; the lightning the sparking of neurons that were slowing down, a reflection of my own dying mind.
“Maybe we should get back inside,” Miles said.
“No, let’s stay,” I said, taking his hand. “I want to watch.”
So he settled in next to me, arm cushioning my head to watch the sky.
“It’s beautiful,” he said.
A dying mind, I had to agree. Lights traveled up and down the dendrites, sparking in the open space between them. At first they seemed strong as lightning, now they just seemed like fireflies, slowing with my own sluggish mind.
Miles kissed my forehead, and cradled in his arms beneath the sky that was myself, everything went black.
The morning dawned bright with birds singing and those familiar bubbles floating lazily overhead.
“Good morning beautiful,” Miles said.
I sat up, feeling better than I had ever felt. “Good morning.”
“I was kind of worried when you passed out last night, but you look like you’re feeling better.”
“I am,” I said, unable to contain my grin.
His smile matched mine and I had a feeling of excitement, of beginning. Maybe I was dead, maybe this was my afterlife, but with the experience I had already had here I knew it was a pretty damn good one.
This short story is my entry to the "wonder" contest. I tried to show Della's feeling of wonder when exploring this new world, the world shaped by her dreams.