Nina Jouval

I woke up in an empty room. To a noise so uproarious that it rattled my skull. I can’t move. My room looks lonely with nothing but a bed. Is this my room? The worries of yesterday are weighing me down. All I can do is think about how tired I am and how wonderful it sounds to doze back off to dreamland. But the noise grows stronger and causes the walls to buzz. I try to drown out the noise by pressing my pillow hard against my ears, but the commotion persists. Then suddenly I start floating out of bed. And once my feet hit the floor the noise abruptly ceases. My ears say thank you. As I walk toward the door, I don’t seem to get any closer. I walk faster, and faster, and start to run, but somehow, I’m not going anywhere. I look up to the ceiling and see a black sky with speckled stars. I look out the window and see a bright blue sky with clouds fluffy enough to eat at a carnival. The deep dark sky suddenly begins to spin like a planetarium. Faster and faster until my mind starts doing cartwheels and I fall on my knees. I stay with my eyes closed to wait for the spinning to stop, but it doesn’t. Seems like hours have gone by. I slowly raise my heavy eyelids and the twirling stops. When I look around, I’m no longer in my room. I’m in a dense jungle. The soft, mossy ground feels comforting on my bare feet. The countless plants and trees loom above me with no sky in sight. Various jungle animals squeak, squawk, and purr… Purr? I leap around, ready to be attacked by a tiger, but it’s a charming little black cat.

She hops up on my shoulder and whispers, “What are you doing in a place like this? You don’t belong here.” I know. We start walking aimlessly and come across a bridge, but I can’t see where it ends. I start on the bridge with the cat trotting beside me. First, I see a giant multicolored butterfly the size of a grand piano. It blocks the way with its wings and stares at me with its mesmerizing motif.

I say, “Do you mind moving out of my way? I’m trying to get somewhere.”
The butterfly says, “Well where are you trying to go?”
I pause and reply, “I don’t know. Home?”

The butterfly’s wings start to shift and change. “You seem uncertain.” Before I can respond, the cat lunges at it. The butterfly lifts off with its colossal wings. I continue on the bridge and see a spotted blue boa constrictor. It slides up my leg and wraps around me loosely.

“What are you doing?” I say.

The snake replies, hissing, “You’re missing something. There’s a hole somewhere.” It tightens ever so slightly, and I panic. I squirm to get the snake off, but it keeps getting tighter. My heart races and I can’t breathe. I wish it to be gone over and over in my head and it finally loosens and disappears into the jungle. The cat hisses as the snake crawls away. I start to wonder how much longer this bridge is going to be. Why won’t it end? I see what looks like a white door up ahead and I run toward it. But then I see a figure in front of it. It’s a big, dark owl. I stop, and uncontrollably, I begin to cry. The tears are an inky black, running down my silk pajamas. I look for the black cat and she’s gone. I cry harder. The owl says nothing. It embraces me with its massive wings, encasing my entire body and I go limp. At this point, it feels like a year has gone by, but at the same time, it’s felt like no time at all. I finally let out a powerfully strident scream and I reach the white door, turning the knob and finding myself outside my room. My mom asks me what I have been doing lately.

“I’m tired,” I say.

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