This story came to me when my favourite web-comic "The Dreamlandchronicles" had a very emotional impact. I publish this because of the explicit wish of the true author of The Dreamlandchronicles, Scott-Christian Sava.
There will be some oddities, because I am a non-native speaker. I hope, however, that I took-out the most glaring errors in grammar.
A day like none other
"Ack!" Not anóther DSM-IV assessment review" Nicole's eyebrows lowered a full inch. What a waste of good time, and a waste of a good day, trying to convince a couple of rusted-shut doctors of the validity of external and solcietal factors, adding to an actual physical & chemical problem. "Forget it! Paper 's ready. The co-assistant can do that. I am off!"
The irritation that had been buried since last night, came bubbling-up like a wave of heat from an airco-exhaust. She slammed her locker close and stomped away. Off, off to somewhere else, away from the campus. Away from the faculty-building Too many memories, too many disappointments.
Dan was elsewhere occupied, so, she couldn't go to him. She wished to though. He was good company - Despite his well-meaning, but sometimes irritatingly dense brother-.. and not a half-bad kisser.
A giggle bubbled-up through her irritation. Amazing, even when not around, he succeeded in lifting her spirits.
She proceeded out the magnificent, monumental doors that adorned the faculty of Psychology and sleep-research. The irritation abated, and a numb, sad feeling came over her. "What could I have possibly thought, thinking that frackin' pendant would transport me to Dreamland" She shook her head. "Childish hopes, no more. I should leave that all completely behind. There's no room for dragons, elves and rock-giants in my world. I want facts, proven, repeatable facts."
She sighed deeply. Who was she fooling. From the moment she read that first letter from Felicity, she had been hunkering to go back to that world, that old, trusted place, shattered so terribly when Felicity had been taken away by Nicodemus' henchmen.
She went back several times after that fateful incident. All to no avail. Felicity seemed gone forever. She had stopped going there by the time she was 11. Instead, she had begun burying herself in books, Learning, succeeding where others couldn't. Pushing away all childish dreams and aspirations. She hadn't played, hadn't indulged in stuff like ice-cream, fancy-fairs and dating. Just learning, studying. It got her into university, and made her into a top-student and researcher. Yet.. something was always amiss. Buried deep inside of her, there was a sense of loss, loneliness.
Another sigh. To be fair to herself. The child-like enthusiasm of Alex and Dan about Dreamland had infected her. She had fought that feeling, fought it tenaciously. She didn't want to remember the hurt again. Then came the letters, the letters.. well, the letters were the first, tangible evidence there was something more to sleep than Alpha- and Beta-waves, REM-sleep, all that sort of paraphernalia.
At first, it was only the scientist in her that got intrigued, though highly skeptical, by the phenomenon of Alex actually seeming to be able to transport himself –or part of his consciousness- to another world…or dimension? Dan's diaries changed all that. His accounts of Alex'adventures, at first seemingly flights of fancy, had a tangible quality to them that had kept her reading for two full days.
The scary thing of it all was, that what Dan described, meshed perfectly with the memories she had of Dreamland. Repressed as they were, Dan's accounts stirred something in her that had been forced shut, or so she thought. She had to admit to herself that she devoured Dan's diaries. Of course she would NEVER admit that to Dan and Alex.. The thought of their "told You so" send shivers down her spine. They would make sure to rub her nose in it whenever they could. They were trolls in that aspect. Loveable trolls, but still trolls…
A slight smile curled her lips. Heh, they would never understand how important it had been to her to see the pendant actually disappear when Alex fell asleep. It jolted all memories of Dreamland back. And Felicity's letters? They were far more than just the icing on the cake. How she had longed to see her friend again. And then, there was last night's fruitless attempt to cheat on Dreamland-rules. Her mouth became a stripe, and the irritation was back.
Her hands angrily clenched into tight fists while she buried them in her lab coat's pockets. Pfft, how could she even think that fate would be nice to her. Suddenly she thought of Dan's disappointed face. Her anger abated. Dan, despite his earlier disagreement with the experiment, had só hoped that it would have worked. Not for himself, but for her, Nicole..
The thought of him made her feel somewhat better. On the other hand, how disappointed Felicity would have been. Nicole shook her head, her anger replaced by a deep sadness.
She had no right to whine. Felicity has had it far worse. Kidnapped by an usurper, used as a double-spy, beaten badly, almost dying. Nicole straightened her back and proceeded to the campus' gate.
She should take a bus to the park, and take a walk. She stuffed her lab-coat into the backpack that she casually had taken along. Odd. She hadn't noticed taking it out of her locker. Last night hadn't been good for her ability to keep tabs on what she was doing. She had slept for a bit though, but, no dreaming.. nothing. Her mouth tensed again. Hmm, it sat deep, this disappointed feeling. Disappointed, or rather, well, to be honest, she felt cheated, seriously cheated.
The bus stopped with a hiss and that typical wobble of a full carriage. Pfffft.. all those people packed-together on a warm early summer-day. She couldn't wait to jump-out. Normally she liked the bus. A great place to take a nap while travelling from her apartment to the faculty. Not so today. Everything seemed to annoy her in one way or another "Deep breaths Nicole, DEEP breaths" all better now.
The doors folded open and a fresh breeze cooled her sweaty face, imbuing her with a temporary boost of energy. "Oohkay, a walk, it should remove this angry feeling".
Her shoulders stooped. Who was she kidding. She had fantasized about all the things she and Felicity could have done in Dreamland, all the fun to be re-discovered.
All of it a moot point now. She couldn't get there, she just. couldn't. get. there.
She slowly started walking. And kept walking until she was at her favourite place. Away from the usual crowds packed around the small lake with it's ice-cream carts and other distractions. "Her" place was a small, secluded spot with redwoods and some flower-beds and a beautiful, wrought-iron bench with an in scripted plaque "dedicated to Natalie. The one to lead me into a world of dreams and happiness "1905-1998" So sweet.
She plopped-down on the bench, got out her water bottle and took a sip. Ahh..better. Funny, how silent this spot was. The park was at the edge of the city, yet, you couldn't hear any of it's traffic and noise. The secluded spot seemed to live in it's own bubble. Nice…Silent.. Comfy.. She felt her head getting heavier. Pfffft.. a broken night wasn't nice on her constitution. She nodded off.
Ooofff! What was that ruckus behind her? Startled she became fully awake, and looked around her. "Kids playing in the shrubbery? I thought I, and some old people, were the only ones knowing of this spot" Nothing…or, not exactly "nothing" A muffled "Aww Auwwaahh" came from the shrubbery to her left.
Nicole lifted one eyebrow. For heavens' sake, who, or, rather whát was in that shrub?
The shrub started to spill leaves allover and Nicole's eyes became the size of ping-pong balls.. There was a mop of fuchsia hair, moving wildly, allthewhile lots of mutterings, vaguely sounding like curses, rose from the greenery.
This…was peculiar. Who in his right mind would take a dive into thorny shrubs?
Hesitantly Nicole approached the shrub.
"Ehh..Hello?, Are You allright?"
"Auwwie. NO, I'm not, the thorns hurt, A LOT…could You give me a hand"?
Nicole's mouth fell open and her legs went from under her when the "hand" that popped-out from between the thorny, pink blossom-adourned branches, appeared to be a rich orange velours sporting some mighty pointy nails on the fingers.
With a "whomp" she landed on her butt, mouth agape, losing her glasses in the process.
A head popped-up from the leaves, looking around with quick, almost bird-like movements.
"Nicole! Nicole! NICOOOLE! It Worked! It really REALLY WOOORKED!" The figure crawled un-elegantly from the shrubs, and fell on top of Nicole.
"Wooops, still a bit wobbly from he trip"
Nicole blindly grabbed in the grass around her, desperate to get her glasses back. She only saw a vague, orange-ey figure above her, still, there was something very VERY familiar about the silhouette.
"Oh.. sorry.. Your glasses. Hold on" The figure jumped-up and scoured the surrounding grass. "Ah, there You go" Someone carefully placed the glasses on Nicole's nose. She sat up, looked around and suddenly her eyes got locked on a girl, or young woman with green eyes, a shock of fuchsia hair and..fur..short silky-smooth fur, and stripes and, and ,and… Nicole felt her breath stop. No..It couldn't be..
"Ooohkay." Her lack of sleep had got her, she was hallucinating. She had hardly any time to come to her senses before the Cat-Girl hugged her tightly. If she was asleep, or hallucinating, or, finally dreaming, why did the smell of this girl seem so real, so familiar?
"F..Fe…Felicity?" Nicole freed herself from the rather tight embrace and looked at the happy, AND HAIRY! face in front of her. "I can't believe it! You're here." She started rubbing her temples, and shook her head. "Ohkay, I am hallucinating, I finally succumbed to some stress-induced psychosis, not too strange after the last strenuous days" She tried to shake the fuzzy feeling the falling had given her. The cat-girl would be gone when she came to her senses again….
"No, silly, I am here, really, really here. Here, I'll prove it to you" And with a quick movement, almost too fast to follow with normal eyes, the creature was behind her and tickled her on the only spot where she was ticklish.. a spot that even Dan didn't know of…
Helplessly giggling Nicole fell to the ground again. "Whahahah. Hihihihihi.. oeoeoh. Hihihi.. Feliciteeeeee stop it.. Whihihihihi. Felicity please PLEASE.." Nicole wriggled like mad to get away from the merciless tickle-assault.
"Ohkay, OHKAY You win You are real!" Out of breath she sat up again, straightened her glasses, and took a good look at the young woman opposite her. She was exactly what Nicole had imagined Felicity to look when about 18. This was not some elaborate joke by Dan and Alex with a girl in a cat-cosplay…..No! The fur was real, her smell was real. Hesitantly she reached-out and tenderly touched Felicity's cheek, stroking the short, silken hairs. Yes.. fur, soft fur. It was real, Felicity was here. The furry hand covering hers was real, she could feel it's soft, warm face leaning into Nicole's hand was real. The tears starting to drip from the peridot eyes were also very real.
"Wow, wait.. why are You crying?"
Suddenly Felicity threw her arms around Nicole and started sobbing inconsolably.
"I..sniff..I am so happy..sniff, I can not help it.."
To her astonishment Nicole felt her eyes water-up too. Waves of happiness, almost too much to bear, came over her. Felicity was here..in the "real world" Her dream-friend was real.. so very VERY real, and, ehrmm..so very really wetting Nicole's sweater up with tears..
"Whow now, easy, easy, yes I am here, so are you. Here take this tissue….."
Felicity loudly blew her nose. Almost starting to sob again through her happy smile.
"Huh? This is made of paper, not fabric.. strange.." Felicity looked inquisitively at the tissue.. "This is so cool, what great things this world must have to pilfer"
Nicole's eyes went big. "Oh no, no pilfering here! Please, this isn't Dreamland. People can die here"
Felicity looked up with a bit of sadness in her eyes. "So can Dreamland's inhabitants in Dreamland. You saved my life with your letters. I didn't want to live anymore. I had betrayed my friends, caused a lot of harm.. I..I just wanted dead, so I would not hurt anyone anymore…" Felicity slumped down, and took Nicole's hand, weaving her fingers through Nicole's.
The sudden seriousness in Felicity, startled Nicole for a bit.
"No, no, don't say that. You were the classic case of an abused child. You basically didn't know any other way of getting through life. Nicodemus deformed you, mis-used you. You are not guilty, he is."
Felicity dabbed at her nose for a bit. "You have become such a wise person, and you are so pretty…. I feel dumb and ugly"
Nicole chuckled. "Join the club. I felt that way for a long time. None of it true. What I told you, is just something that I studied, and before Dan, I could not fathom anyone considering me even remotely attractive. I was the nerd, the geek, that strange girl with the weird, blondish type 3-hair..
Felicity, sweetheart, you survived Nicodemus' abuse, you helped Alex in many ways. You've, as I understand Alex account of events correctly, played a crucial role in recovering important artefacts, so, no, you are neither dumb or ugly. You are very pretty, stunningly beautiful even, ..although ..the fur and those ears are going to raise a few eyebrows…
OH SHOOT!" Nicole slapped her forhead. "This world has it's geeky boys fawning over fictitious cat-girls, but I am afraid that a real catgirl won't have a peaceful moment".. Nicole slumped. The reality of a Dreamworld inhabitant in 21-century USA suddenly, and devastatingly dawned on her.
"Aww, don't worry. I'll find a way. Maybe a cloak ,or a mask…..?"
"Felicity, sweety, neither cloaks or masks are standard fare over here…"
"Hmm..boring world then?" A teasing smirk flashed over Felicity's face.
"No, no, it has it's own charms.., but it is in NO way ready for your existence..
Felicity jumped on the parkbench' backrest in perfect balance, and appeared to think deeply.
"Iiiiif I wear clothes like in your world, we would have only my face to worry about.. How about that thing you wear?"
"Whaddaya mean? my hoodie.. yeah, that could work, but You'll have to wear shoes too."
"Ugh, shoes are not comfy..but, I have a size 9.."
"Huh? How do you know about our measuring system?"
"Alex taught me"
Nicole stifled a giggle. Alex? Teaching someone? Inconceivable" She shook her head. "No, no, I am not laughing about You. You'll have to wait here while I go to the mall to get some less-ehrm.. "interesting" clothing for You. Bare-belly gipsy-look is a bit too conspicuous." So, Ohkay, hoodie, wide cargo's to hide the tail, and sneakers seem to be the best choice. Let's hope that the people will think Your face is some kind of odd geek-make-up thing…"
Felicities eyebrows furrowed "What's wrong with my face?...Aaand what is this "geek" creature You are talking about?
"Oh, nothing, nothing wrong with Your face at all, buuut, furry faces are only for men over here, and geeks? Well, think of them as lovesick trolls that cannot leave one alone".
Felicity made a face. "Ugh, do not remind me of that love-struck troll boy". Nicole giggled at the memory of She and Felicity, running from that troll-kid with his smelly bouquet of stinky-weed. Their giggling became full-out laughter, and before they knew it, they were rolling on the ground, holding their bellies, unable to stop the howling laughter…
"Oh my.. Felicity's about 5. 5", and *hrmpf* quite a bit more toned than me."..Nicole thought ruefully, while rummaging through a rack of cargo-pants. Luckily Dan liked her size very much, but having seen the cat-like sinewy physique of Felicity, she felt a teensy bit guilty of her own inability to resist frozen custard. "Cargo's Medium..cargo's Small. Hmm. I think I'll stay with Felicity's preferred colourscheme. Let's see if there are emerald or azure cargo's"
She looked around her. Ugh.. she really didn't like shopping for clothes. She always kept herself to knitted sweaters and standard pants, jeans if she felt rebellious.. No fancy fashion for her. Too much of a hassle. Felicity, on the other hand, liked pretty things, so it would be rude to force her in too bland clothing, although it would help with staying inconspicuous. "Ooof.. what have I started.." She hunched a bit.
A voice behind her startled her "Ma'am, can I perhaps help? You look lost, and are apparently looking for something specific?
A shop assistand had appeared out of nowhere..that was almost eerie.. how did they do that?
"Ehrm..maybe.. I am looking for some practical, sturdy, yet good-looking clothes for a.." She stopped talking.. Yes, for a what? A teenager? A child? What would be the most handy for Felicity..? "Ehrm.. a girl my length, but quite a bit less..ehrm..roundish, and prone to a lot of moving about" She smiled slightly.. Yeah "prone to a lot of moving about..that sort of covered Felicity nicely"
The shop assistant looked her up and down for a bit, her eyes narrowing, then smiled. "Hmm.. Nothing wrong with Your body miss. Would You mind if I took Your measures? I could then take them as a bottom-line"
"Oy..'BOTTOM line...I do NOT want to know my bottom's 'line'..thank you very much" Nicole repressed the thought, kept her mouth shut and nodded sheepishly.
The lady flitted around Nicole, a soft touch here, a bit of lifting an arm there, gently pressing her measuring-tape against Nicole's shoulders, legs, around her neck, her chest, mumbling numbers and measures. She knew what she was doing, there was no doubt about that, quite the difference from the average high-school girls helping-out in the more popular shops.
"Here, how about these?' The lady held-up some foul-green looking cargo's.
"Uhm, not really, at least not that colourscheme. Do You have something like that in emerald, or in aqua-blue?"
The lady stood there thinking for a bit. "Might I ask, is that person for whom You are shopping perhaps a red-head?"
Nicole thought for a bit..well..yeah, a red-fur.. better not say that. "Eh..yyyeah" she started hesitatingly, and then, as if deciding "Yes, as a matter of fact she is, the really really orange-y kind"
The lady smiled. "Oh I find that so beautiful. Let's see. I'll be right back." She flittered away and was back in a flash. "How about this?" She held up the perfect aqua-blue pair, exactly the blue Felicity was so fond of. "And to top it off -I saw You rummage through the urban-chique hoodies- here, in gorgeous green, blue and warm yellow. I took the ones closest to your measures. How about it?"
"Wow" Nicole was a bit taken-aback by the speed and efficiency of the lady, and yes, she had chosen a beautiful combo. No way could Nicole have found these on her own. She just didn't have that shopping-talent. "Yes, they are very her.. the hoody especially, with those yellow stripes, and blue panels. She's gonna love this."
Elated Nicole left the shop. "That worked-out remarkably well. Now for some shoes. Comfy, size 9, with space for some ehh.. "enhanced" toenails." She giggled. Socks would be so useless, they'd be shredded in no-time short.
Felicityy! Nicole whispered as loud as she dared. The redwoods moved for a bit, and an orange flash glomped her from above. "Uhrff" Nicole felt the air squeezed out of her. "Yes, yes. You are happy I am back..now, oooff.. please, I need to breathe"
Felicity let her go, looking almost shy. "I was afraid You'd be gone very long, and I'd be alone tonight.." She dug a toe in the ground, rotating it, embarassed, and looked up.
"OOOHH goodies!" In a flash the old, happy-bouncy Felicity was back. "Oooh this is so nice, and sooo many pockets to stuff with-...ehh..ohh..yeah.. 'no pilfering' " She gave Nicole a sly look.
"No You don't, not when I am still around." Nicole tried to look stern, but uttrly failed. "Yes" she finally grinned "pockets are mighty handy, but please, promise me, no looting, nicking, pilfering etcetera as long as you are here in my world.
Felicity was already trying on the different garments Nicole had gathered. "Oh the colours are just great, I love them. You searched for them especially for me.. You are such a great friend, and..." She stopped mid-sentence "And I have missed You so dearly from the moment Nicodemus took me..." Before Nicole knew it, Felicity was again hugging her tightly, so tight, that it seemed that she never would let go ever again, small sobs making her slender body shiver.
"Where were you" Felicity said muffled in Nicole's neck. "When I finally was let go by Nicodemus, I waited for days, came back every month, hoping You'd be there. But..after 2 years I realized You were growing-up ,and I was stuck in Dreamland, never, ever to see You again.." Sobs started to well up again.."I am sorry, I cannot help but cry from happiness..I missed You soo much"
Clumsily Nicole tried to console Felicity, stroking her back and her neck.
Nicole swallowed to get the lump from her throat. No use in bawling too here. "I..I.. went back to that place where You were caught almost every night until I was about 9, or 10. But then..yeah.. I grew up. I decided Dreamland was fantasy, and a child's fancy. I have to admit though that I never let go of the sense of dreaming, although I didn't dream again, apart from the usual jumbly mess a brain produced while in REM... I started my study on dreams, sleep, and it's physical intricacies for a reason...I guess.. Maybe, sub-consciously I hoped to de-code how to enter Dreamland... That's the reason I tried your suggestion with the sword-necklace.. It didn't work, as You've undoubtedly noticed...
Felicity sniffed loudly. "Can I have one of those ehh tissues? " Nicole smiled and handed over a packet. "Here, take these" Felicity's head tilted "They come in packets? Wow..but what to do with them if they are used? You can't just throw them away. That would make a mess.."
'Ehhhrm..Yes..that's true' Nicole shuffled her feet in embarassment. "You'll see that this world's inhabitants have a nasty habit of fouling-up their surroundings.
Felicity lifted one eye-brow "Sooo..this world You consider 'real' is rather messy then?"
"Yes ,I am afraid so. Once kids quit visiting Dreamland -either by choice ,like me- or by just becoming "adults" they tend to get blinded by the rat-race, and do anything to stay on top, even if it means fouling-up their environment with the left-overs of limitless consumption"
Felicity stopped mid-lacing her sturdy walkers, looking pensively at Nicole. "And no-one acts upon that?"
"Oh, yes, we have rules, laws, but -like in Dreamland- the ones high-up, or the ones in our variation of nightmare realm, tend to get away with a lot. Dreamland has the advantage of magic, instead of dirty ways to provide energy. Magic doesn't function here.."
"That so?" Felicity looked mischievous at Nicole "Then explain how I could get here through one of the active portals in Dreamland, portals that are fueled by magic? Given Your assumption magic doesn't work here, I should have bounced back to Dreamland, the moment I started the incantations -which were quite hard to nick from Orion..glad he has the habit of copying them and storing them in his hut.."
Nicole's mouth fell open, unable to say anything for a couple of seconds.. "WHAAAAT? You stole from Orion, and dabbled in magic to get here?"
"Yup!" Felicity gave broad, almost smug, grin. "C'mon, I am a thief by nature, a rogue ,it's what I do in Dreamland. Being able to use a limited form of magic, is one of the perks of being a rogue. It's what You wrote me about adventure games and those..what were they called "PPG's? Or something?
"RPG's", and they aren't "or something" they are games, things to play with, make-believe. I never fathomed there would be a real-world protagonist from that stat-system popping-up here. Oh, and don't mention the fact that I play RPG's to anyone, You hear? Dan and Alex would have my hide..."
Felicity giggled. "Well, Alex is involved in a real-life RPG at the moment, so he'll have enough on his hands, with a love-struck elf, a possibly not-dead dragon ,a kingdom to rule.. plenty stuff to keep him busy when asleep overhere."
"Love struck elf?" Nicole bent-over to Felicity "Spill! Did they already kiss? Did they already plan the marriage? You know?"
"Ooohh.. You're gossiping! Naughty Nicole..but, yes, they kissed, and quite impressively so.. I secretly watched.. hihihi.. just couldn't help myself" Felicity giggled ,and then grinned broadly.. "Oohh..I missed this, the gossiping and giggling.."
Nicole bit her bottom-lip ,trying to stifle another attack of the giggles.." So did I, so did I. Only studying and working hard had me forgetting the fun of just gossiping and babbling.. I am so utterly thrilled to finally meet You again. I..I.." *snif* Happy-tears started too flow again, and this time it was Felicity's turn to console. She tenderly embraced Nicole and started rubbing her back and shoulders.. "Yes, there is still magic and wonder, despite this world apparently having forgotten about their dreamtime exploits.. Smoochies?" She rubbed her cheeks against Nicole's. "Yes, smoochies please" Nicole giggled through her tears.