You know when adults tell you that you should probably think before you do? At times, they're not wrong.
The rain beat down on the hood of my car, feeling the warm heat coming from the vents coupled with the lingering smell of cigarettes gave me this weird feeling of invincibility. I'm young, I'm brilliant, and I'm invincible! At least for the moment. Driving home from the party that night seemed easy enough, I hadn't had much to drink and we only lived a quick two minutes away, what could go wrong?
Just as the thought entered my brain the universe gave me my answer: An older couple holding onto bright orange umbrellas came seemingly out of nowhere, just in time for me to realize there were red lights hanging just above them. I slam on my breaks just before I feel the car begin to lose traction. Hydroplaning had always been my worst fear, I only had to deal with it once and luckily it was on an empty road not next to a construction site.
The car flipped multiple times, at least that is what I'm told. I lost consciousness by the second roll. I remember hearing the sound of crunching metal, then silence. When I felt myself coming to temporarily there were flashing lights, more loud sounds of crunching metal, people screaming, my passenger hanging beside me by their seatbelt, "Ron," I tried to scream, but it only came out as a jumbled whisper. More red entered into my vision, I try to move my hands up to wipe my eyes but couldn't. The signals just weren't sending. I was in such a position though I could just catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror, I almost wish I hadn't looked. Blood ran from my chest down onto my chin and face.
"Why," I tried to ask myself, or maybe the universe, either way I knew I wouldn't be getting an answer. One more loud sound came as they were able to cut my door open, a firefighter reached in and grabbed me, and then blackness again.
The beautiful chirp of birds in the distance began to wake my senses, the smell of the great outdoors and a slight chill. I open my eyes to find myself in a campground, a small tent with a small fire pit dug just a few feet away. The trees were beginning to change from a deep green into bright golds and reds, which explained the chill I felt.
"But wait," I thought to myself, "Summer break just started." I reached up to rub my head in confusion. I breathed a sigh of relief, "It must have just been a bad dream." Taking a moment to look around, I recognize the place but don't remember getting out here. It's the same place my parents used to bring us as children, about two hours outside of the city and in the middle of the mountains. Suddenly I could hear the stream running just a little ways away. Finding my feet I head that direction as I begin to feel an insatiable thirst drying my lips and throat.
The cool stream water felt heavenly as it ran past my lips and down my throat. As I knelt next to the water I began to feel as though I was being watched, but could not place where it was coming from. After a couple more drinks from the spring I stood up slowly, again taking in the scenery. All of a sudden a quick but loud Beep rang out. Startled, I look around in a panic.
"What was that," I ask out loud, "Is anyone there?" After a couple of seconds nothing but the birds singing, water flowing, and wind whispering in my ear I make my way back to where I had left the small tent. As soon as I get closer I see someone else by the tent. "Can I help you," I ask before realizing, "Ron!" Suddenly I'm struck by the vision from my dream and run as fast as I can to hug him.
"Where are we?" he asks, squeezing me tightly.
"Camping," I respond, hoping he remembered more than I obviously did. As the hug broke I could see he was just as confused as I had been. "Come on," I said, pulling him towards the spring. "Let's get you some water and then we'll figure out what's going on."
The spring was a great call, Ron drank as though he hadn't had a drop of water in his life. As Ron knelt by the spring I took another chance to look around. Something felt off...strange...different. Again the feeling of being watched came over me. Looking up I could see what appeared to be a strange bird staring back at me. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, a bright mix of green and blue with seemingly transparent wings.
"What are you looking at," Ron asks, suddenly standing next to me.
"Ssssh," I respond, "I'm not sure." I take a second before trying to take another step forward. Just as my foot hit the ground in front of me another loud Beeeeeeeeep rang out and whatever I had been staring at began to break apart, little fairies (or sprites?) began to fly towards me from their perch on the tree and their giggles turned into the most loud and shrill screech that I had ever heard. Their screeches began to drown even Ron out. I tried to shake my head and hands to free myself, but to no avail.
"Phee," I heard someone yell. I try to open my eyes but all I could see were the swarming black dots. Beep, beep, rang out again.
"A heart monitor," I asked myself, "why would there be a heart monitor?" Blinking rapidly helped to clear my vision, bright lights flooded an already bright white room. An overwhelming sense of fear came over me as I began to try and scream while thrashing my head around.
"Phee, Phee please," my aunt sobbed, "don't try to talk just yet, please steady your head. You were in a bad accident, the machines, they're here to help you." I looked in the direction of her voice but could only see a shadow in the blinding lights.
"No," I screamed inwardly, "No, I want to go back. This isn't real!"
"Rrrr, Roooon," I tried to say with the tubes interfering.
"Oh," my aunt sobs, "Ron is in another room, he's..." she trails off, "he's still sleeping." I could tell by the tone in her voice there was something more.
Beep, beep, beep, beep. The machine rang loudly and quickly. Blinking some more helped a little in bringing everything into focus a little better, but only to slightly more detailed shaded shapes.
"Doc...Doctor," my aunt yelled, running to what might have been the door.
"Phoenix," came an unfamiliar voice, "Phoenix, can you hear me?" An even more intrusively blinding light hit me.
Blinking, I tried to answer the strange person.
Beeep, beeeep, beeeeep. The sound began to slow and the lights dim. Another rush of peacefulness came flooding over me.
Again the cool breeze made my body tingle, goosebumps rose all over my arms and legs. I wiped my eyes, terrified of what I would see when I opened them. "Ron," I sighed loudly as I fell into his arms.
"Phee," he answered my tone, "what just happened? One second you were fine and the next you were gone. Like, still standing there but you wouldn't answer me. I was so scared!"
"I...I don't know." I rubbed my eyes again to make sure I was still seeing correctly. Looking up in the tree I could see the bird was no longer there. I couldn't hear any beeping either, just the sound of the birds chirping and the water and wind. The sun had begun to set, which was weird because I thought it had just been midday.
The temperature had most definitely dropped, sending shivers down my spine. "Here," Ron said as he handed me his jacket, "you look much colder than I feel."
"Thank you," I say, wrapping it around me. "Let's go find some food, I'm so hungry." Ron nods in agreement and we begin to make our way towards the gathering of trees past the spring. "There's bound to be some berries or something we can find." As we search the wooded area we find more animals than we do edible plant life. I realize most of what we find are trees and plants I had never in my life seen before.
"If you're looking for food," a tiny voice said somewhere from the trees," the purple dils are rather appetizing."
"The what," Ron asks looking around. Almost as though the universe were answering his question, a large vine lowered from a tree beside us.
"The purple dils, you sill rafta," the voice giggled. Looking at the vine it was clear that they were referencing this strange plant. An almost luminescent green vine covered in bright purple buds and yellow leaves. "They will fill you up for dayssss," the voice went on.
"Who are you," I ask, looking around the forest bed.
"They call me," the voice began again as a rustling came from above, "Nathaira. Pleeeeeaaaaassssssssed to meet you." Suddenly a snake dropped from the branch above me onto my shoulders. "And you are..." the snake asked as it pushed its face through my hair to reach my ear. The feeling of the slight lick of its tongue on my ear ran yet another shiver down my spine.
"I...I'm Phoenix," I answered, frozen in fear as the snake made its way down around my arm. "And this is Ron," I said motioning towards him. I could tell Ron was terrified, snakes had never been his favorite animal to come across.
"Niceeee to meet you," the snake says again bringing its head up towards the vine." All of a sudden a loud growl seemed to shake us all as the same time as my stomach growled. "Go ahead," Nathaira continued motioning towards the vine, "I promise you'll feel much better."
Reaching for a bud on the vine my hand was quickly stopped by Ron's. "I don't think I would trust a talking serpent," he said as he pointed out the ridiculousness of the notion. "Where are we," he asked again, seemingly more to himself. "How did we get here?"
Nathaira perked up at this. "Why," the serpent began, "you're in Somnium, a placeeeee of wonder and myssssstery." The serpent again began to make its way back up my arm towards Ron. "As to why you're here," they hissed, "that'sss the myssstery you'll have to solve."