Black was always the colour of her dreams, because then they would be too dark for her to remember come morning. Which was why Lena, was mildly surprised to be woken up by a little boy in nineteenth century clothing nudging her in the ribs with his foot.
“Up, I said get up!” With a final stomp of his foot, she was, for lack of a better word, up. Oddly, she didn’t remember getting up, she didn’t even remember going to bed that evening. Lena swallowed, she had a slight taste of burnt sugar in her mouth; a familiar feeling, she hated blackouts. “It is quite rude to not meet someone’s eye when they are speaking miss.”
Lena raised an eyebrow at the little boy, preoccupied with her own thoughts. Why was there a child from the nineteenth century that talked like one of the nuns from her old private schools? She looked around; why was she in a field of cotton candy clouds in a glass box with a child? Absentmindedly she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
“Perhaps you misheard me,” this was maybe an eight year old boy, why was he suddenly her height? She looked to the Grecian pedestal that spontaneously grew out of the clouds. Oh, she thought, Emma is going to love this. His tiny hand clasped her chin and forced it to face level with him, dropping the hand to his side he continued. “Isn’t that better? Do you not feel the mutual respect streaming through the room?”
Eight year olds do not talk like that, even ones from the nineteenth century that look like they’ve just drowned in a time machine. Holding back a wince, she was immediately aware she could not move her head from this position, yet the boy was definitely no longer touching her. His mocking disdainful tone was making her skin crawl, not to mention the dark expression that kept creeping through that statuesque smile; the one that had not left his face since she woke up.
“A polite guest would respond when a host asked a question, I do not think I am asking much. Do I not present enough entertainment value for you?” Lena swallowed, if he had anything to do with the fact none of her limbs could move, he had everything to do with her not being able to speak either. “I mean, I am not being too demanding for you am I? Please take your time pondering an appropriate response. We have all the time we need here.” Even if she was trying to speak, she knew she wouldn’t be able to; however unsure she was of what the child wanted, there was no doubt in her mind she did not want to give it to him. From the aggravated sneer that was starting to over power the moulded smile on his face she gathered he wasn’t getting what he wanted either.
She had barely blinked when suddenly he was drumming his fingers impatiently on the glass wall to her left. His small form was turned away from her but when he started to speak she could hear him as easily as if he had been whispering in her ear instead of across a room.
“My, my, my, I must say, this is a true disappointment,” he shook his head, “I really had hoped that since you were the first of my new guests to arrive you would prove to be something of a delight, a new surprise for me. Instead she brings me a simple-mind with a quicker journey than the rest.” He seemed to look at her without moving. “Always a bore the ones with the quick journeys, never much to play with.” Letting out a heaving, and what seemed to Lena, overdramatic sigh, he placed his hands on his hips and looked out towards the glowing lolly-pop in the sky. “More guests will arrive soon, I hate to leave you just standing there, but I must prepare the toys.” Turning towards her, he tapped his chin with a finger, suddenly his face lit up like a flashbulb.
“I have it! I’ll leave you with something to read!” Snapping his fingers he was gone, and there was a contract straight out of the Charlie and the Chocolate factory movies a foot away from her. Or at least the bare minimum of what could pass for a contract. Like most things Lena found from reading in her life, it went on tediously about similar things that had already been covered earlier on. The most necessary things she found were the sub headings of each paragraph. Unfortunately it took her a while to figure that out as the entire thing was written in gold sparkling ink, and was written in twisting letters harder to read than Emma’s chicken scratch shopping lists. The basics of what she found necessary was this:
I am in control. Never doubt that.
You have to play along if you want to leave.
Never separate unless I put you somewhere else.
The more you differ from the rules the worse it gets.
Break the rules and you will receive Punishment.
You get three chances, just three.
Each player gets two places of their own, a Trap and a Haven. Both are located in The Mindset.
Do not touch the Bases.
If you seek my presence speak my name, my full name, and I will appear.
Sign your name at the bottom in the appropriate amount of time, or face the consequences.
And lastly, do not think. Not even for a second.
And so it was more and more obvious as she got down the shrinking in size text of the contract, that the little boy was the star psychopath in her own living cotton candy, glass box, huge contract driven murder Olympics. It seemed like a book Emma would read, she really was going to love this.
Thinking more in detail about the situation, Lena saw more problems, she had no idea what the little boy’s form of punishment was but he could definitely deal it out. She didn’t have to hold back a shudder because the only thing she could move was her eyes. With no idea what a Mindset or Bases were, she didn’t have knowledge on her side, and at this point she was very much into ignorance anyways.
The cryptic ending probably should worry her as well, however the only reaction she was having at the present moment was an increasing frustration that she still couldn’t move coupled with a relief that no matter how much time had passed, she was still conscious of everything going on around her. Well, she looked at the lolly in the sky, mostly everything.
Almost instantly that changed; the sky grew bleak, a small downtown block built itself up around her, around the glass box really. The glass blurred, as if fog had surrounded the glass, yet the buildings looked untouched and clear. Then her best friend, not to mention room mate, crashed through the ceiling.
“Emma!?” She started to run to her then stopped, not because she could move again, though that was a bonus, but because Emma had just crashed through the glass box. The entire thing should have crumbled and cracked down, yet besides the sight of her, there was nothing. Not a sound, not a shard of glass, nothing.
“Oh good! You’re here too!” Emma jumped and made a sound Lena had thought unique to a piglet. “You do realize what this is right?”
“Uh…” before she could respond a man rolled through the wall, got up, swept nonexistent dirt off his knees and looked up confused.
“Cool, a best friend and a tall drink of water.” Lena raised an eyebrow, this was the woman whom since they were fifteen could not utter a word if there was an attractive man within five feet of them. Not that grease stained mechanic was model good-looking, but her friend’s sudden bashful social skills, though a tiny addition to the other unusual occurrences since she woke up, were still unsettling. There was another question, had she woken up yet?
“Have either of you seen a kid?” She had, but she was a bit distracted by the half terrified half excited expression that just flashed across her friend’s face.
“You’ve seen him! Awesome! This is going to be the best dream ever!” Another victory jump. “Lena, you saw him too right?”
“I-” She started.
“What do you mean I’ve seen him?” the man interrupted.
“Oh, you know.” She waved his question away.
“No, I don’t or I wouldn’t be asking.” Obviously ignoring the guy was not an option, furthered by the glass box they were all in.
“How did you get here?” Emma asked turning towards him.
“I don’t know! Why does it matter?”
“Because the journey is the best part.” Lena had to stop herself from physically recoiling from Emma at that. The little boy wasn’t even here for that, something inside told her he would adore Emma, something that made her sick.
Emma looked from the new stranger to Lena. “Oh, come on guys? Roderick Wright? Carlton's Palace?” She threw her hands up in frustration. “Lena you gave me the first edition for my birthday? Are you kidding me here? My subconscious sucks at making informed characters apparently.”
“You think this is a dream.” The stranger crossed his arms.
“Of course it’s a dream silly, Lena hates reading, and I have no idea who you are but you are a hunk so obviously you are here to dice things up.” At that Lena’s eyes widened. “Who else would create the exact setting, give or take a few modern touches, from my favourite book?”
“Uh huh, that’s great, and I am flattered to be called a hunk by a woman I just met in some creepy kids scheme,” he looked from one of them to the other, “but I am real, this isn’t a dream, and I think both of you are way too calm about being trapped in a box by someone we can triple in age.”
“We aren’t trapped,” Emma said nonchalantly. Lena slowly turned toward her friend, question almost through her lips when the man interrupted.
“Come again?” He snapped.
“We aren’t trapped.” She raised an eyebrow, “Wow, my subconscious really overestimates how much I love to be in the informant, all knowing role.” She sighed. “You both have noticed the huge contract we are all standing in front of correct? Well, that little boy is named… right, we shouldn’t say his name. Uh, okay, so we will call him C, C was put in here, well not here specifically-”
“Look, I don’t need the back story, I just need to know how to get out of here. I have a life, I am sure you do as well. Could you do me a solid and get to the point and stop looking so damn happy to be here!”
“For someone who wants answers you sure lack the social skills to get them,” remarked Lena. At his glare she shrugged. “Just an observation, one I am sure you’ve heard before. Pity you don’t heed the advice though, you would probably be much further in grasping your desires.”
“Well, good to see my subconscious has you down pat,” Emma laughed. “Seriously though Lena, you can’t just say things like that to people, even in my dreams.”
“So, now that I have been flattered, frustrated, and mildly insulted, can someone please explain how I went from fixing a toilet in a tenants bathroom to chasing some creepy eight year old through a field, and then ending up here with you two?”
“Your journey was chasing Carlton through a field?” Emma smiled, a moment later it dropped from her face. “I just said his name didn’t I?”
Lena nodded, as right in the middle of the three of them, a hefty piece of cement dislodged itself from the ground and levitated above them, chiselling itself into the shape of a child, then more so came the features of the boy who had woken her. “Always one for the theatrics, that’s what Roderick wrote.”
She watched as Emma shook with anticipation. Then it came to her, Emma’s favourite book, the one she had practically tripped over all of Lena’s bedroom furniture to get to on a shelf the first time she was over; The Changeling Palace: The Many Stories of Carlton Wynter by Roderick Wright.