Chapter 1

If I met Buttercup in not-real life:

It was a typical, horrible Wednesday full of back-to-back lectures and discussions and lectures and discussions. As I was walking from one class to the next, I was re-reading that one passage in William Goldman's The Princess Bride in which Westley leads Buttercup through the Fire Swamp, every Florin/Guilder child's nightmare. Coincidentally, just as I was reading about Buttercup falling into Snow Sand, my feet stopped feeling the ground and I stumbled and fell face-first into what looked like a pile of sand on the edge of Ring Road. My roommate quickly whipped out her phone to Snapchat my embarrassment, but even before she could let out a laugh, I was gone.

It was like I was falling through a cloud. I was just falling through this soft powdery mass, falling farther and farther from anything resembling life, and I just really wanted to sleep. Except, shoot, I have to start on my Rhetoric In Practice Project for my Writing 39B class.

Using ninety percent of my willpower, I forced my eyes open and realized two things: (1) I was in someone's arms and (2) The person was rocking me. I looked up and immediately noticed that her hair was the color of autumn and her skin was like wintry cream, whatever that is. Buttercup. William Goldman's Buttercup from The Princess Bride. Butter-dimwitted-cup was holding me and rocking me like a baby. I gawked at her innocent, confused face for a good minute before looking around and realizing that I was no longer on Ring Road, or anywhere near campus.

There was white sand everywhere; it was as if we were engulfed in a sand tornado and the world was just spinning and spinning and spinning. I shut my eyes again, reasoning that this was probably just some weird side effect of the ultimate combo: overdosing on caffeine, fatigue, and stress. I opened my eyes and there was Buttercup's flawless face again. She was now whimpering and bawling her eyes out in the most beautiful way, if that is possible. I rolled my eyes.

"What is it?" I asked.

More whimpering. More tears. More beautifulness.

"I am apart from my dear Westley."

More eye rolling.

"Do you know where we are?"

Miraculously, she became quiet for a moment. Her eyes lit up like she just came up with a wonderful rationalization of all this craziness and a way to return to our own realities. For the first time since I found myself in her arms, I felt a glimmer of hope.

"Don't worry. Westley will save me."

And all hope was lost.

"Really-"

Before I could finish my sentence, there was a thunderous rumble like a thousand drums being pounded on simultaneously and all the sand that was surrounding us began to disappear without leaving a trace. The ground became solid again. Oh, the earthly feel of grass and soil. It was dark, but with the lights from the moon and the stars, I was able to make out what looked like a small cottage in the distance. Other than that, it was all grass and hills.

I got up and pulled Buttercup up with me. Her tears had long dried and she was now smiling and going on and on about her Westley. I grabbed her wrist and began power-walking towards the cottage. It was our best bet.

"Perhaps there will be someone there who can explain everything and help us," I reassured myself. (Buttercup was still singing something about her Westley.)

As Buttercup and I got closer to the cottage, I noticed a bright light glowing from within, beaming out the tiny window. White smoke and bubbles were floating out the chimney and the smell of cinnamon and vanilla filled the air.

"Hey, maybe there's food," I whispered hopefully.

My stomach growled. Buttercup's stomach growled. Buttercup had finally become quiet and in the still of the night, all that could be heard was our stomachs growling. And they got louder and louder.

"Aye, aye, aye, who be making such noises in the middle of the night outside our home?"

A hiss and multiple shrieks came from within the cottage. Deep, roar-like laughter echoed. The banging of some pots and pans and a plate shattering. Some shuffling. Chairs and tables being moved around. Footsteps. And finally, the creaking of the wooden front door.

Buttercup and I turned and stared at each other, our eyes filled with fear. For once, we were on the same page.