Note:(This story didn't turn out how I thought it would...But I hope you still enjoy it. I think the place for this story, despite Havenmoor, is more like arriving to a different mindset the character has never experienced before, which makes her see things differently)
Azalea had only heard stories of Havenmoor. Being from a small town, most people had thought it was a myth. It was only confirmed to her of its existence when she travelled to the Capital to go to school at a university she had been accepted into.
That day had been one of the best in her life. All the extra hours spent after working in the hot family bakery, pouring over textbooks and various papers. Many stressful tests, many tears, many missed social opportunities, many odd jobs to make the money to be able to pay tuition. But all of her sacrifices had paid off, and Azalea had been accepted. It was sad to leave her family, her mother and father and younger brother to run the bakery by themselves.
She was glad they supported her, and she had promised to write, and once she got her degree in medicine, Azalea would get a respectable job in the city and be able to send money back to her family.
That was about four months ago. Now she had settled into the life of a full-time student and her university, throwing herself into her studies and community service with a new vigor. Azalea had a roommate, not one she particularly liked, but she didn’t see her much. Her roommate, Jessica, was from the city, and her parents had forced her to come, paying everything for her. She spent most of her time out with friends, at various shops and cafes, not to mention the parties. Jessica had tried to invite her to different excursions a few times, but Azalea always politely refused.
It was from Jessica she had learned that Havenmoor actually existed. Azalea had been studying her notes for human anatomy, pretending to listen to Jessica’s endless chatter. No matter how many signals Azalea gave out that she wanted to be left alone, Jessica either didn’t notice or completely ignored them. Among the blurred words, Havenmoor suddenly popped out, causing Azalea to look up from her notes.
“Havenmoor? What about it?” she asked curiously. Nothing had ever come up about it before, and Azalea wondered what perspective a spoiled city girl could have on it.
Jessica rolled her eyes.
“Weren’t you listening? I said that Joseph, the guy from my English class that invited Tanya to the Fall Festival, told Conner, who’s best friends with my boyfriend Austin, that there’s a sort of raffle you can enter to win a free trip to Havenmoor.”
Azalea reeled. “Wait, Havenmoor is actually a real place??”
Jessica stared at her. “I can’t tell if you don’t know that because you’re a country bumpkin, or you’ve had your nose stuck in a book for so long you never learned basic facts.”
She cocked her head in genuine thought, “Or maybe both..”
Azalea shook her head impatiently.
“That’s besides the point. What matters is that it’s actually real, and that you can visit it.”
“Only if you’re chosen, of course. Not just anyone can go.”
Azalea scoffed, “The point of a raffle is to choose random people,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, that’s why I said it was a sort of raffle. They say it’s random, but everyone knows it’s not. Each person that goes is chosen for a reason. I’ve heard that people who haven’t entered the raffle had gotten picked before.”
“Then what’s the point of the raffle?” Azalea asked dryly.
“Azalea, can you stop being serious and reasonable for a second?” Jessica burst out frustratedly. “It’s about the magic, the fun. Not everything can be perfectly explained.”
Azalea supposed she was right. Partially.
“Alright then. Are you going to enter?” she asked, partly to appease Jessica, and partly out of curiosity. Havenmoor had always held somewhat of a special place in her heart. Azalea had pretty much stopped dreaming and imagining after her grandfather had died. He had been a dreamer, and he had also been nearly destitute, living with her family because he had almost no money, and nowhere to go. Once he had died, her sense of wonder and imagination had died with him. The only way, Azalea realized, to get what you wanted, was through hard work, and a lot of it. Not dreaming, yet the majesty of Havenmoor had managed to stick with her.
Jessica looked at her like she had just asked if the sky was blue.
“Obviously! Like everyone does.” Suddenly a thought occurred to Jessica and she looked at Azalea suspiciously.
“Are you going to enter the raffle?”
An unexpected surge of almost indignation, but also determination filled Azalea.
“Yes, I will.” she replied defensively, and then a little more meekly, “I don’t know where to enter though.”
“Do you pay attention to anything besides the next test? It’s plastered all around the campus. You enter at the front desk.” With a final eye roll, she sashayed out of the room in her latest fluffy pastel skirt, cut right above her knees, certainly stretching the school dress code.
Without thinking, Azalea looked down to examine her shin-high, practical skirt, colored a drab grey. She hadn’t spent a penny more than she needed to. She felt a slight stab of regret, but shoved it away. Not spending money on frivolous things like new dresses wasn’t something to be ashamed of.
Azalea jumped when the door to her dorm slammed open. It was Jessica, poking her head through the door.
“Oh yeah, and the last day is today by the way. I thought I’d tell you because by the look of it you’re about to spend the next twelve hours staring at all of that.” She gestured distastefully at the large pile of books and papers sitting next to Azaleas favorite chair.
Azalea scowled, annoyed at how predictable she was, and that Jessica noticed so.
“Thank you for letting me know.” she replied emotionlessly, turning back to her book, hoping that Jessica would leave so she wouldn’t see Azalea leaping to act on her urgent reminder, no matter how relevant it actually was. Luckily, Jessica just gave her a confused look, but quickly dismissed it and disappeared from the doorway.
Azalea waited for a few minutes before poking her head out of the dorm cautiously, making sure Jessica hadn’t lingered in the hall before hurrying out of the building. The campus was filled with fallen leaves from the great big trees bordering the pathways zigzagging between the brick dormitories . They crackled and rustled as she walked, releasing more of the autumn smell into the air as they crumpled beneath her feet.
She had barely noticed the seasons changing. Usually as Azalea walked from place to place, she had her textbook or notes out, not wasting any time during passing. But now, it seemed appropriate for her to take her time and appreciate the beauty of the campus. The grey sky, bringing out the red, oranges and yellows of the leaves as they danced and swirled along the path. The groups of students that milled around the green in twos or threes, most of them wearing the school colors of light pink, dark blue, or grey.
The building where the front desk resided was huge, meant to impress and intimidate people where it was their first visit or their hundred and fifth. The high domed ceiling soared to seemingly impossible heights, letting in cold light from the glass panes at the top. According to her research of the university, it used to be the Capital’s town hall before they upgraded, about 85 years ago.
Azalea’s footsteps echoed on the tile floor as she approached the front desk, and she tried not to cringe every time her foot hit the floor. Of course she was the only one walking around right now.
The bespectacled woman looked up from her papers when Azalea nervously cleared her throat.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a scratchy voice that made her sound annoyed. Or maybe she was annoyed, Azalea couldn’t tell.
“Um, yes. I’d like to enter the raffle for the free trip to Havenmoor?” Azalea spoke quietly, but because of the acoustics of the room, it still sounded as if she had spoken very clearly out loud.
“It closed five minutes ago,” the woman told her, and looked back down to her paper.
“Is there any way that-” Azalea began, already thinking of all the things she had possibly done wrong to have not been on time.
“No, sorry.” the woman didn’t even look up from her work, and Azalea had to walk shamefully out of the building, her shoes loudly clicking and clacking the whole way, alerting everyone of her presence, and to Azalea, her embarrassment as well.
Azalea awoke the next morning, exhausted from studying many hours into the night.
Someone was whacking her head with a pillow.
“WE GOT IN WE GOT IN WE GOT IN!!!” a voice above her squealed.
Half asleep, Azalea tried to weakly defend herself from the attack.
“Wha….?” she mumbled, squinting up at what appeared to be Jessica.
“WE WON THE RAFFLE!” Jessica shouted joyfully, throwing her arms up and falling onto Azalea’s bed. Azalea let out a gust of air as Jessica landed on her.
“Can you please get up?” Azalea gasped, Jessica’s weight pressing on her lungs, and causing her fear of enclosed spaces to flare up. “Now.”
Jessica rolled off and Azalea took several deep breaths to calm herself. The other girl looked slightly hurt, but Azalea just ignored it.
“What time is it?” she asked, sitting up.
“About ten o’clock.” Azalea nearly cursed. She was supposed to already have started to the library by now. There was no time to worry about the raffle.
Quickly, she jumped out of bed and began throwing her book bag together.
“Where are you going?” Jessica asked, confusedly watching Azalea bustle around the small room.
“To the library.” Azalea replied shortly, yanking on her dress.
“But we’re supposed to leave for Havenmoor at noon!”
Havenmoor. Noon. Raffle.
The raffle she hadn’t entered.
She sat down.
“Why so soon?” she asked weakly, wondering how she had even been chosen.
“The results are the best.”
“You really don’t know anything about Havenmoor do you.”
“No. Only stories.” Jessica muttered something that sounded like hillbilly, but Azalea couldn’t tell.
“Havenmoor isn’t exactly a place, it’s more of a state. A state of mind that is, and once you go through the door, you enter into a sort of dream world, where you experience things. It’s different for everyone.” Jessica explained.
“It’s just a door?” Azalea stared at Jessica with an incredulous look on her face.
“Yes. Scientists and those psychic people found a rather high concentration of what appears to cause the state of mind. They are in the form of stones, and they used them to create the doorway.”
So Havenmoor had a somewhat more realistic origin than Azalea thought.
“Pack now, research later.” Jessica interrupted, rushing out of the room to no doubt buy a new dress for the occasion. Azalea rolled her eyes good-naturedly.
The ride there was one of the most stressful Azalea had ever had. First of all, riding in carriages was still unfamiliar to her. She preferred to walk or ride, be able to see where she was going, not be stuck in a box on wheels.
Second, the fact that she had been chosen, despite not entering the raffle.
“Why me?” was the thought that kept circling round and round her head. Azalea was just some country girl working hard to gain an education. What did Havenmoor want with her?
The building they stopped at was quite unremarkable. Sort of squat, very mediocre. When she asked about it, the reply she got was:
“Why make a showy building when the real thing happens behind the door?” but then one of the other winners, a tall blonde boy added, “Wouldn’t want everybody to know where it was. Not just anybody is allowed here.”
Azalea gulped nervously. Were they sure they got the names right? If only she was at the nice quiet library studying the respiratory system in her favorite chair.
Inside the building was like stepping into a whole different world. It felt almost sacred. The very air felt alive, quivering with energy ready to be released...somehow. The walls were dark and bare, giving an ominous feel to the hallway. The room they entered was relatively small, a matching black to the rest of the building's interior.
Why does it have to be black? Azalea thought to herself, as the shadowy colors were putting her very much on edge. It seemed everyone else besides their grey robed guide felt the same way. Nobody talked, nobody laughed, and barely dared to breathe.
Without words, the guide gestured to the door in the far end of the wall. It too was black, but a more glossy kind. Azalea could see a blurry reflection of herself from across the room. Above the door’s lintel were the words written in a thin font:
Enter the Dream
At first no one moved.
Then the blonde boy stepped forwards, and strode right up to the door, opened it swiftly, and stepped in, closing it just as promptly. Jessica was the second to go. Then two more.
Only Azalea was left.
Cautiously she approached the door. It seemed to loom larger with every step she took, yet it called her, beckoned her to it. Her reflection got clearer and clearer. Her hand rose to the golden doorknob, turning it slowly.
Next thing she knew, she was in an enormous space. On a...parchment paper. The crispy yellowed sheet stretched out as far as she could see. Even the area above her seemed to be parchment. It was unlike anything she had seen before. A scratching noise made Azalea jump. She whirled to see where it had come from, but could find nothing. The scratching continued. Something caught her eye from the corner. Whipping her head down, she was writing beginning to appear on the parchment. Her writing. What was it supposed to mean? She wrote everyday, many different things.
The scribbling began to quicken, interrupting her confused thoughts. It was more frantic, more random, the parchment was rapidly filling up with black ink, words running into words, sentence over sentences, numbers colliding with numbers. How could this even occur? Azalea began to be frightened as the yellowed light began to fade as it was filled with blackness, the sound now tumultuous, seemed to be reaching a crescendo. It felt as if the world were ending, as if she were drowning in a sea of ink, she could almost feel the blackness dripping down upon her, the metallic smell consuming her. Azalea was frozen, unable to move even a finger, paralyzed with terror.
Finally a scream escaped. And once it had begun, Azalea could not stop. She screamed and screamed, for what seemed like hours. Although her body felt no pain, her mind felt as if it was burning.
A voice entered her head
This is what will become of you if you will not open your mind to the dream.
Azalea kept screaming.
Suddenly, she felt something grab her hand, though she couldn’t see it, Azalea could tell it was a hand. Then it yanked her. A blur of colors passed by her eyes, she felt stretched and squeezed at the same time. Her mind felt separate from her body. Detached, yet she could still feel the warm hand grasping her. Everything was pulled back together, her hand the anchor.
She was in a glimmering forest, more vibrant than a new spring day. The trees all stood tall, and proud, almost as if they were their own individual, gathered there all for….for her. No, for the person whose hand she was clinging to.
“I heard you screaming.” she said, still gazing up through the trees to the eggshell sky, muttered with the fluffiest clouds Azalea had ever seen. It was like they were inside a painting.
“Somehow, I grabbed you and pulled you out.” An iridescent bird fluttered onto the soft, waving grass, flowing around like water, even though there was no wind. As the bird hopped about, it’s feathers shifted to different shades of red- bright, deep, shining, dark, even sparkling, like it had microscopic jewels embedded in its wings.
“I couldn’t bear to hear you suffer like that.” Jessica raised her arm, and the bird perked up, looking at Jessica. Then it flew to her and gently settled onto her arm.
Azalea found her voice.
They stood in silence, admiring the beauty of the nature that was inside Jessica’s mind.
“It’s wonderful,” Azalea told her, “I never thought that-”
“I could never have anything besides dresses and parties in my head?”
Azalea paused uncomfortably, slightly shocked at the accuracy of the statement. “Yes, I suppose. But I’ve learned now. If I’m to get anywhere, I need to also enjoy life, otherwise I will never be truly happy.”
“I feel you could do many great things if you open your mind a little, Azalea.” Jessica said.
She smiled, a little embarrassed to be subject to praise from such a person like Jessica.
“I might need help though. I’m not too good at “opening my mind”’ Azalea confessed, again, slightly embarrassed.
“I’m sure I can be of assistance. Let me show you something.” Jessica let go of Azalea’s hand and ran a ways, then stopped and beckoned for Azalea to follow. She ran a little to catch up.
“I think we’re going to be friends.” she said.