Chapter Five
In which Emma runs into trouble.

Finding Wonder

“You came,” said the voice from the mirror.

But as it spoke, the darkness around Emma slowly lifted.

The trees and bushes surrounding her radiated a low blue light.

Odd.

Mirrors, some attached to the trees and others floating around, reflected the little light.

Odder.

But the oddest was the man right in front of her. Well, he seemed more like an older teenager – as tall as the boys had been at school. His big round glasses seem to come from a few decades back, but nothing too odd. But his looks. . .

White hair, glowing slightly blue.

Big red eyes that tinged with a hint of purple.

She had seen people who dyed their hair and wore colored contacts. But then . . . what about those ears . . . those ears were-

“Tame those eyes. My ears are no surprise.”

“Uh . . . c-can you read my mind?”

“Mind?” The long white stalks on his head twitched – they were real.

“Y-yeah.” She watched them twitch more. Was he agitated?

“Nonsense. Now come, or I’ll leave you behind.”

He spun around, walking away.

She looked as much as the low light would let her but didn’t see any bushy tail.

A little disappointed, Emma caught up with him. “Where are we, anyway?”

“You will know soon. At the time of the blue moon.”

“Do you always rhyme?”

“Some time.”

“Isn’t it sometimes?”

“My dear, it takes all kinds.”

His voice was monotone, irritating her a little. But she noticed that every time she would talk, his ears twitched. Maybe . . .

Her hand went up, but the boy walked faster. Did he know she wanted to touch them?

“Hey!” She sped up, keeping pace with him. “Where are we going?”

“Hold on and you will see so you can hear my plea.”

“Plea?”

“Absolutely.”

He kept his fast pace, forcing her to do the same. Ragged breath kept her from talking – something he might have planned, she thought.

Before Emma it, though, they had come to a clearing. Even odder than the boy was the giant hat sitting slump. It was as if a giant had left it there. She thought it could have been a top hat at one point, but the middle had crumbled in on itself.

“Come, come. We can’t waste time.”

“But . . . what is that?”

“A hat. Beyond it’s prime.”

Emma could have sworn she had never seen a movie or read a book with something like this in it. She must be tired from the long day she had. Especially with that bear-

She shook the thought from her mind and followed the rabbit boy. He pulled away the bow on the side and walked in. she followed. Might as well go with it.

Oval tables littered the large room, some surrounding a small stage, while others sat a little way from a bar. On one side of the bar, an older man with grey hair and an even greyer face sat mumbling to himself. He glared down at a broken teacup in front of him.
On the other side stood a woman – Emma thought she was a woman – with long, straggly limbs and torso, a sulking face to match.

Somewhere, far away, a song droned on and on. The intelligible voice sounded like sobbing instead of singing.

It was grim in here. Very grim. As if the air was choking Emma with every breathe she took.

She headed back to the door, but was stopped by the rabbit boy.

“I have come, you two. Come with she. Now let’s see this through and get back our glee.”
The man peeked over at her, his frown falling more. “She doesn’t have what it takes. She’s not even an-“

A knife struck the bar, pinning down the man’s tie. The straggly woman stared at him, eyes burning.

“-anything we could need.”

“She is of course,” said the rabbit boy. “And one for us a mighty force.”

“She’ll do nothing for us. She doesn’t even look like a fighter.”

“But she will be the igniter. I up and swore I would get us a maiden ready for war, who would give us back our thunder and find what we have lost – our wonder.”

The old man scoffed. “Get her out of here.”

“I will not! She’s the only chance against the rot – our salvation for-”

“For nothing worth saving!”

“Take that back, you hack!”

The two argued back and forth, their voices raising, challenging each other’s. Emma choked.

Her mind tried hard to push out the yelling – long-forgotten arguments she was never meant to hear resurfacing. But she didn’t want to remember. Especially not now! She didn’t want any more of this dream. With the yelling not stopping, she inched towards the door-

“Would you stop, narrator!” The rabbit boy spun around and grabbed for her arm.

She jumped back.

“This is no attack!” He reached for her again.

“No.” she slapped him. “This dream is terrible! I’m going somewhere else!”

“But you can’t!” He grabbed her wrist. “Go out there and you’ll be crushed, eaten, beaten like an ant!”

“Let go!” she pulled away from him.

She ran out the bow-shaped door and into the forest. His shouts and cries followed her.

Her eyes darted this way and that, but there was nothing around to help her. Just trees and bushes and mirrors.

Emma kept running, though. That’s all she could do. She hated this dream. Hated all dreams like this. She had to get away.

A root sprung up and grabbed her foot. She fell face first, hitting a stump right in the nose.

She screamed, tears falling as blood dripped over her nightclothes. But why did it hurt so much? This was a dream. It shouldn’t hurt at all!

“Oh, my dear,” a voice dripped down from above.

She peered up, holding her nose.

Two big black eyes stared down at her, sucking in the blue glow around them.

“Wh-what?”

“My dear,” two rows of teeth appeared, curling into a wide grin. “This is no dream. Not at all.”

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© E.N. Chaffin 2018. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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