After what felt like hours walking through a dark tunnel, Raina noticed a light ahead. With a cheer, the children surged around her towards it, the Cat and the Fox leading, the Shaggy Dog barking as tail held high, he brought up the rear, leaving her alone to walk out of the stuffy darkness into a high, white place that stretched into infinity.
Only it didn't.
Or, it wasn't.
Or did it?
Streaming past her, the children gained color as the land pulled itself out of nothing, surging up, forming a horizon that was a mass of jagged crayon mountains, trampling springy grass was hundreds, no, thousands, no MILLIONS of green crayon marks, underfoot.
Here there was a house, jagged, lopsided, with windows that would never line up, an impossibly tilted chimney sending up spiraling chalk smoke mingled with cotton balls, and many, many doors.
Over there were lollipop trees covered with lopsided apples that could have been pears that could have been oranges.
Or were they bananas? Grapes? It was hard to tell!
Triangle pine trees sprouted in all directions on hills that looked like upside down U's, some of them paper, some of them painted, and some of them Christmas trees— all with utterly no regard to gravity, their growth perpendicular to the angle they sprouted from as birds (Or were they upside down W's?) flapped overhead while improbably smiling rabbits, cats, dogs, and hamsters in equally improbable colors scampered and mingled with cotton ball sheep, chocolate bears, purple tigers, and orange lions with electric pink manes, while rainbow colored cows gave chocolate and strawberry flavored milk and polychrome dinosaurs stalked to and fro.
Raina looked down; the children at her feet were busily scribbling, painting, and pasting in the details of the world around her and it was… wonderful.
She stepped forward out of the shadow of the tunnel, navigating around the busy children who no longer showed signs of neglect, grievous injury, or starvation as they threw their art supplies aside, and ran off with crudely drawn balls, hoops, dolls and teddy bears into meadows starred with daisies that were little more than rough yellow circles with radiating ziggy zaggy scribbles for petals while the bees who harvested from them them were flat, smiling creatures with smiles and very, very large stingers.
Something inched across Raina's bare foot. She leaned over to take a better look: a worm made of macaroni and yarn looked up at her with a bright smile before inching along towards her other foot, minding its own business – which was to turn into a chunky peanut butter and jellyfly.
Grape, if the purple goo oozing cheerfully out from between the layers of its wings was any indication.
Underfoot, pebbles that were really beans, bits of dry pasta, and un-popped popcorn formed a path to a long, low hill covered with golden, waving grass that smelled of spice. Ahead of her she saw Mike, pack shed, head down, and shoulders slumped, as right leg dragging, he hop-limped, up the slope, the flute dangling loosely from one hand.
"Michael... Mike! Wait up!" she called, breaking into a padding run, the beans, macaroni and popcorn scattering at her feet with each step. But he didn't appear to have heard her as he made his slow, painful way to the top of the golden grassed hill, only to sit down with as much grace as a falling tree in a thunderstorm.
Only then did he seem to notice her approach, briefly glancing over his shoulder at her, goofy bear mask contrasting bizarrely with his helmet. She was almost within touching distance when he slid the flute with its odd, knobby end back into his injured leg.
Which straightened immediately even as he toppled over backwards, hands spread, mask skyward, blue eyes blank as somewhere in the daylight world, a blue-eyed pink and white animatronic bear in a white tuxedo toppled over backwards in the middle of a performance, battery inexplicably drained, leads smoking.
Raina ran forward, sprinting the last few steps, catching Mike before his head could hit the ground, cushioning it on her lap as she sat in among the waving golden grass which smelled of spice, only to find a baby in a camo onesie heavy in her arms, sucking his thumb, head against her shoulder, fast asleep.
She looked up at the painted blue sky with its crayon yellow sun. At each cardinal point she saw a soldier in full battle dress alertly facing outward, so large that the cotton ball clouds drifted past their hazy, distant profiles even as the baby in her arms slowly expanded from a toddler to a small boy who grew so heavy that she had to lay him down on the golden grass, pillowing his head on her lap after removing the mask and violently throwing it aside, not realizing that somewhere along the journey into the bag her flight suit had transformed into a blue and purple tutu.
…Spike landed on his side in bright white light. Despite the fog he'd been moving in for longer than he could remember, he screamed, expecting to burst into flame.
Only he didn't.
A second thought made him freeze and as William, curl up into a fetal ball – he was back in a holding tank of the Initiative's and everything THAT meant, and William simply wasn't up to THAT at the moment..
After a near eternity and no taserings, Spike as William relaxed, uncurling.
No, the Initiative's holding tanks never smelled of crayons. Or chalk. Or paint.
Cautiously he rolled over on his back, to stare demon-faced up at the painted sky through his rimless glasses with it's blazing crayon sun, even as bright green crayon grass, followed by chalk trees and a drippy painted river and even a crayon rabbit, swirled and formed under and around him.
Yes, indeed, the sky was a bright crayon blue.
With glued on cotton ball clouds.
The creature that was both Spike and William lay there, hands pillowing his head in the waving crayon grass with it's flat yellow and white crayon daisies – if this was a hallucination that the First had sent him and his bitterly detested real self, it was a little bit of all right – like wandering around in the outer layers of Dru's mind when she'd fed well and was in a good mood – minus the cat poop, dead rats, and broken glass.
Still, it wouldn't last.
Nothing ever did.
That was the way of things, innit?
"Might as well enjoy the weird while it lasts." He thought, watching a crayon butterfly, with impossible wings and pipe cleaner legs and antennae flit overhead, followed by what MIGHT have been a very messy fairy with even more impossible wings, even as a bright red and white flea hopped out of his matted hair and into the chalk and crayon grass, which was now populated with a tiny menagerie of crayon ants, bees, spiders, butterflies, macaroni caterpillars, and Play-Doh snails with coiled construction paper shells spattered with glitter and glue.