“Whoosh!” A brush of fresh air awoke Starla to her senses. She jumped up in a panic as she watched some kind of aircraft zoom past her. Her heart rate increased when she looked around. Where am I?!
Hovercrafts flew past and people wearing matching outfits zoomed by. She stepped on the edge of a platform and looked over. It was a long way down to nothing. Glass buildings shot high into the sky. Little robots scurried by her on a mission.
“Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
“Well, you are on Planetopia of course.”
I need to get out of here. Starla ran towards the other end of the platform. No way down. She looked around and spotted an escalator going up.
The people were unlike anything she’d ever seen. Busy on some futuristic tablets, they seemed to be working. She watched holographic images appear off their screens in disbelief. This can’t be happening.
“Sorry.” She bumped into someone getting off the escalator.
The man looked up briefly and then looked back down before quickly looking back up.
“Interesting,” he said. He eyed her, “I haven’t seen clothing like that except in the historical accounts.”
“I need to get home. Can you please tell me where the airport is?”
“An airport? What’s that?”
“Never mind.” Starla ran off to find help.
“Excuse me, excuse me please.” All she got was strange looks and whispers.
She plopped down against some alien-looking tree. She buried her face. What am I going to do?
“Hello?” A girl tapped on Starla’s shoulder.
Starla looked up at her.
“Are you lost?” The girl asked.
“Please, can you tell me what this place is?”
“You don’t know? It’s Planetopia, the “Gem City of the North Tradewind.”
“Great. Well, I live in Arkansas. Do you know how I can get back there?”
“I've never heard of such a place.”
“It’s in America, North America, on Planet Earth…”
“Huhhh,” the girl gasped.
“What is it?”
“Earth was destroyed 500 years ago in the War of the Lands.”
“Yeah, and legend says only a few remain there, on what’s left…”
“No, your mommy never told you the stories?”
“About The Great Destruction or how the inhabitants of Earth today are all savages who kill each other for food?”
A woman approached.“Luna! What are you doing? What did I tell you about talking to strangers?! Is that a...a...an Earthling? Luna, we have to go. You can never NEVER talk to Earthlings, especially if you're unfortunate enough to ever, ever meet one…”
“We are going...now!”
Starla watched as the mom drug her away. What could this all mean?
“Attention Citizens! No need to panic but we have a Code 9 at hand, please make a return to your pavilions at once.”
All of a sudden sirens and lights started going off and people started running. Starla jumped up and started running too, although unsure of where.
“Aaaaaah!” She screamed as someone threw a bag over her head. “Let me go!”
She was plopped down in the middle of what appeared to be a Palace. The bag was pulled off to reveal a Regal looking, man rise up and walk towards her.
“Interesting,” he said circling her. “She doesn’t look dangerous.” He smelled her. “Smells clean.”
“Men!” The gentleman yelled. “This is just a child! What danger has she posed?”
“None, your majesty but she is an Earthling and you know…”
“Know what?! That Earthlings are dangerous? Yes, I am aware but I am also aware of my surroundings, am I not?”
“And this, this, child seems timid and confused.”
“Tell me, what is your name?”
“I’m not a child. I’m 19…”
“Starla. Starla Jennings.”
“Well Starla, Starla Jennings. How did you get here?”
“I...I don’t know.”
“Listen, Starla Jennings, we can either do this the easy way or the hard.”
“I promise. I don’t know. I was asleep, in my bed, in Arkansas and I changed my alarm for Daylight Savings and next thing I know, I wake up here, in the middle of your city!”
“Haha,” The Emperor laughed.
“Daylight Savings? Alarm? Arkansas? This child is foreign indeed. Take her.”
“Take her to the East Hall, into the Breeze room.”
“But your highness...”
“If you really are an Earthling, beware. Nothing good ever happens to your kind,” a soldier shoved her into a large room.
Starla turned around to find that she wasn’t in a prison cell, but one of the nicest rooms she'd ever been in.
She collapsed onto a bed that felt refreshingly cool. Steam started filling the room giving off an aromatherapeutic smell. Peaceful music began to play and pretty soon, she was out.
“Ma’am, ma’am!” A woman’s voice reigned down over Starla.
Starla bolted straight up. “Where am I?!”
“You are in the Emperor’s Palace.”
“I have brought you dinner.”
“Who are you?”
“I'm Mallie, your Handmaiden.”
“I'll be assisting you while you're here.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You are the Emperor’s Guest of course.”
“What?! I thought I was his prisoner.”
The woman laughed. “No, the Emperor is a historical man. He is fascinated with your arrival. We have waited many a sunfall to see the return of one of yours."
“Mallie!” A voice yelled in the hallway.
“Give me one moment child.” The woman left.
What could it all mean? Earthlings? Planetopia?
“Hey!” Starla jumped out of her thoughts to see the girl from earlier standing in the room.
“Come on, we have to get you out of here!”
Starla followed her down hallways and around corners.
“How do you know your way around?”
“Don’t worry about it, we have to keep moving!”
They turned a corner only to bump into a guard.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” The guard grabbed Luna.
“Run Starla! Run!”
Starla took off down the hallway only to be caught by two guards who quickly escorted her back to her room.
She flopped back down on the bed.
Great. I’m either the guest of honor or their next victim, which is it?!
The Emperor himself walked into the room.
“I heard about your escape. You know, you're free to go. The door has always been unlocked.”
Starla looked up.
“I’m sorry for my guards. It's not often we have visitors of “your kind” enter our home. However, if you're okay with it, I'd like to ask you a few questions.”
“Where is she?”
“Where is who my dear?”
“The little girl, Luna, what did you do with her?”
“Luna,” the Emperor laughed, “Luna is a special one but don’t worry, you have my word, she is safe, back with her mother.”
“As you wish.” The emperor opened up some kind of technology revealing live footage of Luna being scolded by her mother for her actions.
“Now, my turn for the questions.”
“I can’t promise I’ll answer.”
“I see that you're upset with me, rightfully so. I have to know, are you sure you don’t know how you got here?”
“I told you I was asleep and woke up here.”
"I see. I’ve heard of such tales. But not since I have become the Emperor. When my Great Grandfather was ruler, it's rumored he saw many mystical mysteries.”
“There is a tale of a hero, named Daniel the Dreamer. Legend says he could go to other worlds in his dreams.”
The Emperor laughed, “look around, is anything impossible?”
Starla glanced out the window at a world she didn’t recognize. He was right, everything she believed to be true wasn’t.
“I'm not the enemy Starla. I am a man, unlike my father, who believes in the mystical world. I believe you may be like Daniel, a dreamer. A hero even. Someone with magic.”
“I’m just a College Freshman trying to get back to my apartment.”
“That’s the thing about heroes. They don’t often know they are until they have a summoning.”
“Well, I just want to go home.”
“I fear the only way you can find your way back is within you.”
“You don’t have a spaceship that I can take?”
He laughed. “We're not aliens, Starla. Our Aircrafts go far but Earth is not one place we go.”
“Let me show you.” He brought a holographic screen up that showed a live feed of Earth. It was desolate: ravaged lands and burned buildings.
“Luna told me; I didn’t believe her. Can’t be…”
“I’m afraid it is. But maybe not for you. If you can find a way back, maybe you're the key.”
He whispered, “Legend speaks of a new hero, a Successor to Daniel, one who'll restore Earth and unite the two Kingdoms once more.”
“That’s not me.”
“There has been no one like you to come here since Daniel. Stay one more night. The Breeze Room has a way of making people dream. Perhaps, tonight will lead you back.”
Starla made herself comfortable. She was about to drift off to sleep when she heard a knock.
“Luna? What are you doing here?!”
She came and sat on the bed. “Is it true?”
“That you're the one we’ve been waiting for.”
“Don’t know about that.”
Luna sighed. “Mom doesn’t believe either, but I’m a believer!”
“A believer in what?”
“The stories Starla! Of Daniel, the prophecy, and…”
“You mean you know those stories too?”
“My dad likes those stories.”
“Well, maybe you should go home to him.”
“I can’t. If I tell you my secret, will you tell me yours?”
Luna whispered, “My dad's the Emperor.”
“Promise. I never had a daddy at home. I always wondered why. 5 years ago when I was 7, I started looking for him. Mom had all these clues and I followed them here. That’s when I realized it was him.”
“I started breaking in. That’s how I know my way around. I talked to him. He was always busy and sending me back but I got close enough to tell. Can’t you see it?”
Starla leaned in and examined her. “A little.”
“We have the same eyes. He’s my dad.”
“Does he know that?”
“I tried to tell him but he never listens.”
Starla placed her hand on Luna’s arm. “Listen, sometimes people don’t want to hear things because they're scared.”
“I don't know, maybe he’s scared he won’t be a good dad. And what about your mom?”
“She doesn’t believe anything.”
“Maybe she needs help believing.”
“I think that’s something you’ll have to figure out.”
Luna got up and walked towards the door. “I’ll come back tomorrow. Sorry about earlier. I’ve heard stories of bad things happening to Earthlings. I guess you are special."
Starla laid down and fell asleep. She tossed and turned for hours, as she dreamed of a man dressed for battle. He was brave and fought valiantly against evil souls, bringing great peace.
He felt familiar. Then all of a sudden he was calling her name. “Starla! It’s your turn! Starla, you are chosen! Starla!” Starla jolted straight up. She looked around. There were no foreign items around. She was home! But was it all just a dream?