There was a painful pounding in my head as soon as I opened my eyes. The next thing I noticed after the pounding in my head was that my back ached really bad. I sat up to rub it and suddenly snapped out of my grogginess. I realized I wasn’t in my bed. Heck, I wasn’t even in my own house. I looked around in a panic. I was lying on a hard stone table-like slab. I jumped off it and continued looking around. I was in a building with stone brick walls. Light was coming in through holes and cracks in the ceiling and walls. The structure must have been old because there were vines and moss growing all along the dirt floor and on the walls. My eyes locked on an opening that must have been a door at some point. I was confused and scared and I just wanted to figure out where I was so I ran out of the door.
My confusion didn’t lessen when I reached the outside. I was surrounded by trees on all sides and I didn’t recognize anything. Just when I was about to start having a breakdown, there was a thump beside me and some dirt and dust rose into the air. I jumped in surprise and turned my head to see what had just happened. I didn’t know what I was expecting to see, but it certainly wasn’t a girl.
“I’m glad to see you’re finally awake!” she said, beaming at me. She had brown hair tied in pigtails with red ribbon and a dressy red and white skirt that seemed out of place in the middle of the forest.
“I-” I began to speak but couldn’t seem to find the words.
“Hmm? What’s wrong, Michael? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” She began giggling at her own joke. Then I got the nerve to speak.
“Who are you? How do you know my name? Where’d you come from? Where are we? How did I get here?!” All of my questions came tumbling out in a rush.
“Wow, aren’t you a curious one? Well, I guess I better start answering before you start asking more questions. To answer your first question, my name is Eliza! Nice to meet you! I know your name because you told me, silly. Anywho, I came from the roof,” she said, pointing to the top of the strange stone building. “I jumped down when I saw you come out. And, we are in the Forest, obviously! I think I answered all of your questions now.”
She stood with a pleased smile on her face. I stared at her.
“You did not answer all of my questions! I know we’re in the forest! I want to know where exactly and how I got here without remembering. Also, I’m pretty sure I have never met you or told you my name in my entire life!” I shouted, getting frustrated with this weird girl.
“Oh… I see… I’m sorry for upsetting you. Maybe I should just go,” she sighed with a dejected look on her face. She began to turn away towards the woods but I yelled out to stop her.
“Please don’t go! I just want to know what’s going on. I’m sorry for yelling. I’m just scared and I want to go home,” I confessed, beginning to get tears in my eyes. She turned her head back to me and gave me an apologetic look.
“Aw, gee. I’m sorry for making you cry. I wouldn’t have left. Anyway, I can’t explain much more, but I promise if you help me out, I’ll get you home as soon as possible.”
“What kind of thing do you need help with?” I asked, wiping my eyes with my sweater sleeve.
“Just follow me.”
We began walking through the woods. I only followed because I didn’t know what else to do. Eliza led the way and I unsurly followed. As we walked, I admired the scenery. The trees were beautiful, just beginning to turn red and yellow with the beginning of fall. I wasn’t paying attention and I ran into Eliza when she stopped suddenly.
“What are you-” I started to speak as I back up.
“Shhh!” she hissed and held up a finger to silence me. I looked around expecting to see whatever it was that Eliza was so afraid of when I spotted it. There, peeking out of the brush were two glowing yellow eyes. Then, more and more eyes started appearing from the shadows.
“Uh, what are those..?” I stuttered.
“No time to chat. We have to go. NOW.” Eliza commanded, grabbing my arm and yanking me along behind her as she began to run. Over the sound of our feet hitting the ground, I could hear growls and moans behind us.
“WHAT ARE THOSE??” I yelled at Eliza’s back.
“Zombies,” she said simply, barely glancing backward as she continued running with me in tow. We ran for a long time and just as I was about to collapse from exhaustion, we stopped. I put my hands on my knees and panted for breath.
“Well I wasn’t really planning on you finding out about the zombies so soon, but I guess now we have to get to where we’re going sooner!” Eliza beamed and brushed some dirt off her skirt.
“Where… are… we…. going…?” I said between breaths.
“Uh…. well, maybe you should just find out when we get there?”
“No, if you’re bringing me somewhere, I deserve to know where exactly.”
“Fine, fine. I’m bringing you to stop the zombies!”
“Yeah! Defeat the king, destroy the zombies, save the world!”
“King? Zombies?? The world?! I’m obviously dreaming,” I sighed, placing my hand on my head.
“Nope, this is allllllll real! But, I suppose I can tell you why you’re here now,” Eliza said with a thoughtful expression. I looked at her and gave her a nod to continue.
“So, I told you that you already know me, and you really do. See, where we are now is not where you used to be. This isn’t like one location to another, you’re in an entirely different world than you were before.”
“Like, another planet?” I asked, doubt in my words.
“No, no. More like… a different realm, another dimension, an alternate universe.”
“What? Things like that don’t exist!”
“Oh, but they do. The fact that you’re here is proof of that. You’re obviously not in your world because your world does not have zombies, right? So, BAM! All the proof you need!”
I pondered her words and decided to just play along for now.
“All right. So how exactly did I get here?”
“That’s an easy one! I came to you for help in your dreams and you agreed so I pulled you through a portal and you came through in that temple. You were asleep for a while but luckily you woke up before I got too bored,” she gave me a thumbs up.
“In my… sleep? I probably thought I was dreaming! I probably am still dreaming!!”
“Still a nay-sayer, huh? There’s nothing I can do to convince you then. If this is all a dream then you’ll have no problem defeating the king,” she sighed, turning and continued walking. I scurried after her.
“I guess? But why can’t you defeat the king or the zombies or whatever on your own?” I asked, catching up and walking beside her.
“I kill zombies all the time. The problem is, I can’t keep that up forever. The king is the one spawning the zombies. I’d defeat the king myself except he can’t be destroyed by anyone in this realm, making him pretty much invincible. I traveled the whole world looking for a way to stop him. Luckily I stumbled upon some information that said someone from another world could seal him away and stop the zombie hordes. So I went looking around for how to travel realms and found some magic and did some spells and found you andnoweverythingisgoingtobegreat-”
“Ok, ok! How far away is this… king?” I asked, cutting her off before she fainted from lack of breathing.
“You’re in luck because… we’re here!” she jumped up and down and pointed to a looming shadow of a castle just a little farther through the trees.
“What?? You expect me to just run in there without protection or anything?!?” I stared at her.
“Oh no, no, no! I’ve got this all planned out. There’s a secret entrance and I’ve hidden all we need in there!”
“Uhhhhh, lead the way then?”
She skipped ahead of me and I cautiously followed. This dream just kept getting weirder. For some reason, as the minutes ticked by, it started to feel more real too…
“Come on! It’s just up these stairs!” she said. She motioned to a hill with old wooden stairs built in to it. The boards were broken and moss covered but still in good enough condition to walk up. When we reached the top, there was a large boulder. I could see the shadowy castle much clearer now. It was only a football field away. It looked like one of those princess castles from a Disney movie, except it had black, smokey tendrils surrounding it and a menacing aura. I didn’t like it at all.
“So where’s this secret entrance?” I asked.
“Right here!” Eliza stood beside the rock, and with amazing strength, lifted it and set it to the side. Underneath it was a hole with a ladder. “This leads down into a tunnel system.” I stared at her in awe.
“What? Is it so amazing that I know about a tunnel?”
“No, it’s not that. How in the world did you lift that rock?”
“I dunno. It wasn’t that heavy. Now, come on!” she shrugged and then jumped down onto the ladder and disappeared down the hole. I tried lifted the rock before I followed, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Weird,” I mumbled.
“Are you coming or not?!” Eliza shouted up at me.
“Yeah, yeah!” I stared at the rock a second longer, then went down after her.
“Now follow me. It’s pretty dark and I don’t want you to crash into any walls or get lost,” she said grabbing my sleeve and pulling me along. It was dark, and it smelled musty and earthy at the same time. I let her pull me along in the darkness until she suddenly stopped. Light flickered to life and Eliza held a candle in her hand.
“A candle will draw less attention than a brighter light,” she told me. I looked around in the flickering fire-light and saw we were in a dome shaped room. It had some peeling art of unicorns and fairies on the ceiling and a cot in the corner.
“Here,” Eliza said, handing me a strange dull green locket.
“What’s this?” I asked, examining it in my hand.
“It’s to seal away the king with.”
“What? How am I supposed to-”
“I don’t know everything. It’s magic so it’ll work one way or another,” she said, grabbing a large broadsword.
“Why do you need a sword then?”
“For the zombies, duh,” she rolled her eyes.
“Zombies? How am I supposed to defend myself? I didn’t know there’d be zombies!”
“First of all, of course there are going to be zombies. The king’s not going to be left unprotected. Second of all, you’re not going to defend yourself. You’re going to defeat the king and I’ll take care of the zombies.”
“You wouldn’t be any help anyway. We have to get going or else you won’t be able to get back-” she covered her mouth mid-sentence. “I mean-”
“What?? I won’t be able to get back where?!?” I asked feeling panicked. Eliza sighed.
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but the longer you stay here, the more grounded you become in this realm and the less grounded you become in your own. Which means if we don’t defeat the king and get you home soon, you’ll never be able to return and the king will never be defeated. Now, move it!” she hissed and began to walk deeper into the tunnel. I was more afraid than I’d ever been in my life. I kept telling myself it was a dream, but the more I repeated it, the more real it became. Even so, I followed Eliza and the flickering candle.
The end of the tunnel was blinding. Light flooded through a newly ripped canvas that had once been a painting of a black stallion on the wall. We had reached the end and Eliza had blown out the candle. Before I could speak, she took her sword and tore through what I thought was a dead end. In actuality, it was the backside of a hanging painting in the king’s hall. We burst through it into an empty hallway. It wasn’t empty for very long, as the loud rip of canvas alerted the king of intruders. The hall began to fill with zombies from both ends.
“Quickly! Follow me!” Eliza shouted before charging one end of the hall. I tried to follow and avoid zombies and her blade as she slashed through them. She was pretty terrifying. She cleared her was to the end of the hall and burst through the two heavy wooden doors. The room through the doors was the throne room. In the center of the room sat a slender man with pale skin and a fancy tuxedo. I expected a more kingly kind of guy but this man wasn’t even wearing a crown; he was wearing a top hat. He didn’t look surprised when we burst the doors down.
“Ah, Eliza darling! So good to see you again!” he stood from his plush throne and walked gracefully down the stairs.
“Well, you’re not gonna be seeing me for long!” she shouted, slashing at a zombie from the hall.
“Oh, that’s a real pity. I see you brought a friend. I guess I’ll just end you both without asking questions,” he sighed dramatically and gave me a wink.
“Micheal, use the seal! NOW!” Eliza screamed. The king raised his hand and more zombies seemed to swarm to the door. Eliza continued trying to hold them all off.
“I don’t know how!!” I yelled back.
“Oh, how precious,” the king chuckled. Suddenly, Eliza went down under the zombie swarm.
“Eliza!!!” I screamed. The king’s chuckles grew into a maniacal laughter. I didn’t know what to do so I held the necklace tightly in my hands and closed my eyes, wishing she was gonna be ok. Everything happened all at once. The laughter stopped abruptly and turned into a yelp. The locket heated up in my hand. I stared at it as the dull green began to swirl into a bright emerald. I barely saw as the king was swept into a vortex and sucked into the locket. I turned to see if Eliza was ok as soon as I could process the situation.
There she was, standing near the door, without a scratch on her. The zombies were nowhere to be seen.
“You did it! I knew you could!” she beamed at me with a twinkle in her eye.
“You’re alive!” I gasped.
“Of course I am. It seems like you’ll be leaving for home now. Hand me the locket,” she held out her hand.
“Huh?” I looked around and realized I had a swirling vortex of green around me. I handed her the locket, still confused.
“Well, this is goodbye. Thank you for your help. Maybe we’ll meet again,” she said.
The world around me began to fade.
“Here, something to remember me by,” she said, pulling a ribbon from her hair and shoving it into my empty hands. “Toodles!”
I woke up in my bed, alarm beeping. I groaned and pressed snooze.
“That was a crazy dream…” I mumbled. I went to rub the sleep from my eyes and found I was clutching a single red ribbon.