The trees dance in the wind. Their pale purple leaves fall off of long golden branches whose roots stretch deep beyond the pale bluegrass and deep into the core of Ziniriya. The trees sing their songs and whisper secrets in your ears, the soft melody filling you up. Birds with long silver tail feathers fly over cotton candy skies, their chirps echoing like ringing bells and laughter making you wish you were in on the joke. A stream runs throughout changing from yellow to pink to green as it bounces over rocks splashing the rocks with its sweet syrupy liquid. Everything is perfect, the never-ending summer breeze brings the smell of dewy grass, fallen leaves, and the ocean just beyond the silver line.
But that’s not what makes it perfect, it's the girl on the rocks basking in the last light of the day shaking off droplets of water after going for a swim. Her long golden blonde hair sticks to her back and her pale green eyes shine like emeralds dipped in honey. But that shine is nothing compared to the way her face lights up as soon as I emerge from the tree’s her smile is like the sun warming you from the inside out she springs to her feet and runs over wrapping me in a hug. She smells like hibiscus and vanilla.
She steps away from me and holds my hands in hers. “Hi Ibaia"
No, that's not right. That’s me.
Everything around me fades to black but when I open my eyes I'm where I'm supposed to be. Sitting on the rock my blonde hair sticking to my back. The tree’s blue leaves fall around me in a flurry and the purple grass is soft beneath my feet. The orange river babbles and the birds with long red feathers fly above me. A figure steps out of the trees, their bushy orange hair is intricately arranged framing their soft cheeks and bright brown eyes; a short white cape flows behind them. I run up to them and wrap them in a hug before taking their hands. “Hi Ibaia.”
This isn't right either. The grass was never purple and the trees were never blue.
I open my eyes again and this time the figure with the cape is sitting on the rock pink leaves falling around them and their feet resting in the silver grass. I stare out at them through the forest.
I was the girl on the rock I'm sure of. This couldn’t be it.
There's a sharp pain to the back of my head and I can feel the darkness beckon me into its arms. I close my eyes and let it swallow me up letting the ringing in my ears fade to the background.
When I open my eyes it's silent. No birds chirping, no trees whispering. Not even the babble of the river. I blink my eyes open slowly and look around the grass is gray and crumbles like ash beneath my fingers. I stand up. The river is sickly white. No more flashing colors, no more bubbles. The river is still. The sky above me is gray and the trees are black their black limbs reaching into the sky as if begging for death. The entire place is coated in cobwebs and a cold wind nips my cheeks bringing the sound of old metal doors being opened or nails on chalkboards the sound sends shivers down my spine
The whole place is dead cold and silent. Not the colorful bubbling oasis it once was. How did it get like this?
The death of this place would take hundreds if not thousands of years. It had only been yesterday since I was last there. Was it yesterday or was it a month ago? Time worked differently here. No. I refuse to believe that. This is just a nightmare. A trick of the mind. When I wake up everything will be better.
“THIS IS ALL FAKE!” I scream. My voice echoes back to me. Fake.. fake... Fake…
“It has to be,” I whisper… I tear falls from my eye and onto the ashy grass. It turns purple for just a faint second before crumbling to a bone white. There's a rustle in the tree’s behind me as I spin around.
“Who's there?” there's no response. But a quick flash of white before it's gone. “Wait!” I ran to the trees to where the figure once was. There's a flash farther up I run. My bare feet barely touch the crumbling ground. I weave behind trees and over logs. I stop to take a breath. “What do you want with me?”
I stumble out of the forest and into a small clearing there's a waterfall frozen mid-fall and an icy pool below it. The figure stands in front of it, a hood pulled over their face. A white cape blows in the cold air.
“Who are you?” I ask again. A strong gust blows the hood off of the figure's face. Their cheeks are pale and sickly white. And their eyes are glazed over kind of brown. Orange bushy hair flies in the wind behind them.
“Ibaia..” I whisper. “What happened?” I choke out. This beautiful place.. All ruined
“You did this.” They whisper. You… You…You... “Let me show you..”
There's a ringing in my ears and then I wake back up again.
I shield my eyes from the sun. It's dipping below the horizon. There are storm clouds up above unusual for an eternal summer. The grass is still blue and there are still purple leaves on the trees. But something is different. It's kind of quiet before a storm. It starts to drizzle and a thunderclap sounds from a little bit off.
This isn't right. It's supposed to be sunny. The birds are supposed to be chirping.
The figure in the white cape sits with their legs crossed on a rock. Their hair clings to their face and they shiver slightly. A girl bursts from the forest. Her blonde hair is shorter now. And her cape is green with tiny diamonds cascading down the back.
“Hey!” She runs over and hugs the figure in the white cape and rejoices in their presence. But she soon sense's something's wrong and takes a step back.
“It's cold... Why is it cold?” The girl wraps herself in her cape and sits down next to the person on the rock. “Ibaia. What's happening?”
Ibaia shrugs and pushes a strand of their curly orange hair behind their ear. “I thought you could tell me.”
They sit in silence for a few moments. “Euria, what took you so long?” Ibaia asks with frustration.
“I was only a few minutes late. I'm sorry.”
“It's not just today I've waited for you here seven times and you never showed.”
“I couldn't get out.”
A tear rolls down Ibaia’s cheek. “I don't think this is working.”
“What do you mean?” Euria asks.
“You never show up. I wait for you over and over again. I don't know why I ever thought you could change. All you ever do is hurt me.”
“Ibaia I'm sorry I'm late, but don't do this. I love you.” Euria pleads.
“Do you think so? If you cared about me you would show up.”
“You didn’t try hard enough. You haven't been trying as much as you used to. I think.. I'm going to be better off without you.”
Anger flares in Euria’s eyes. “Better off without me? You are nothing without me. You couldn't live without me.”
“I already have been.”
“FINE!” Euria’s scream echo’s everywhere. “See how you'd do without me in your life.”
Leaves fall off the trees and fade to gray as they land on the ashen ground. The wind picks up and rain pounds heavily like icicles seeping into your skin. Euria turns around so Ibaia can't see the tears in her eyes and runs off.
Ibaia sobs softly. “This wasn't supposed to happen... You were supposed to love me. To try harder to keep me here. You were supposed to know there was no way I could live without you.”
Their tears turn the grass gold before it dries up and dies. “I guess you didn't need me. But you don't know how much I need you.”
Euria stops at the shore, the pale pink waves lapping at the shore. If she crossed the silver line she could never come back. Her tears fell silently in the sand and she curled up in a ball longing for Ibaia to call her name and tell her it was all a mistake that they loved her as much as she loved them. And Ibaia did call but their voice was so weak it never reached the shore. And so Euria stepped over the silver line.
It goes dark and the ringing in my ears continents
I open my eyes.
I'm back in the icy lifeless world. The figure with the glazed eyes and white coat still stands before me. This is fake... It's not real.
“Don't you see? Our love created the place. That's why the sun was always shining and the birds were always chirping. And then you left.” Ibaia gestures. “And this is what happened.”
“Ibaia no..” I reach for their hand and I go straight through their body. They're not there, it's all my imagination. Their body freezes and then all of it disappears in a wisp of smoke.
“Euria..” A voice whispers. “Wake up..” I open my eyes yet again and am surrounded by a new version of Zinariya. It's not summer. But it's not fall or winter.
Baby birds chirp from up above and the flowers upon the trees are just starting to bloom. The river babbles quietly as if it just woke up and is ready to start the day.
“Euria.” The voice teases. The figure in the white cape is standing over me with a smile. Their hair is pulled back in a tight bun but just a strand of it falls in front of their amber eyes. “Get up.” They laugh, extending their hands to pull me up. “Ibaia..” I hug them tightly. They smell like roses and freshly cut grass.
“It's been so long.” They whisper.
“I don't know.” They admit.
I look around at the perfect picture skies, the bubbling river, and the chirping birds. “Is any of this even real?” I ask.
Ibaia laces their hand through mine and our footsteps start to match up as we walk through the clearing holding hands.
They shrug. “Probably not.”
“We ruined this didn't we?” I ask sadly. I don't even need Ibaia to respond to know the answer. “So is this in our imagination?”
Ibaia stops moving and my hands fall to my side. “Ibaia?” My hand goes straight through their chest. “Don't leave me..” I whisper.
I feel the ghost of their hands around my waist. I look up at their fading body. “I love you..” They whisper and then they're gone. I sink to the ground the perfect words crumble away, prevailing the gray lawyer underneath the birds have finished and the grass is gray.
It was all fake.
Ibaia’s voice echoed through the clearing or maybe it's just in my mind. I love you... I love you... I love you.
There's a sharp pain in my head. The ringing comes back and all of it fades to black.