Awakening in a sky-suspended realm with no earth beneath her, Lily Brandywine found herself unable to recall falling asleep and unsure of where she was, but an ominous dark form stared across the void, “You were the ruination of the world, and I will strip away everything and everyone you hold dear as penance.”
The form dispersed as the world around her took shape, as if witnessing the birth of the universe in a time-lapse. In the beginning, she saw there was darkness. Then came a chiming, rhythmic and soothing that lulled the chaos into order. A star was born, but the world couldn’t hear its voice. So the star reached out with its brilliant light, breaking through the darkness to land upon the unseen shores of a rocky world. The trickle of water flowed nearby, glistening in the dawning Sun. Another rhythmic chime sounded in the hazy awakening of an emerging consciousness.
“Where am I?” a soft and youthful voice spoke into the blurry world beyond.
“I’ve never seen you here before. Who are you?” an older, deeper voice responded.
“I... don’t know,” the softer voice sounded with confusion.
The world went dark, revealing itself again as the curtains closed and reopened. “My name is... Lily, I think,” she said, blinking to clear her vision.
Consequently, the world became clearer with each passing moment. Lily rubbed her eyes to coax the dryness out. Squinting, she looked out into the early morning Sun, whose brilliance hurt her eyes. White domes with colored metal bands dotted the landscape. A tall dark-haired woman with tan skin and a light tan robe stood before her, smiling. The woman had two different colored eyes, one blue and one brown.
“You think? Have you hit your head Lily?” the woman said. Her voice bore a hint of concern.
“I don’t remember where I was. It’s all hazy.”
“Come with me child, we must get you to Lucy,” the woman said after placing her arm around Lily to give her wobbly legs stability.
Soon after, Lily stood up, leaning against the woman. She staggered forward on wobbly legs but lost her balance, falling forward. At the last minute, the woman grabbed Lily’s shoulder to avoid catastrophe.
“Oh, my God! Where is the ground?” Lily hyperventilated.
“You honestly aren’t from here, are you? Just how did you get here?”
“Pull me up quick!” Lily shouted, grasping at the woman’s arm to aid her ascent.
“There is no need to panic, child. I have hold of you,” the woman said as she pulled Lily upright. “There you are now. Nothing to worry about,” the woman said. Her calm tone soothed Lily despite narrowly dying.
Soon after, Lily peered at her surroundings with eyes wide in amazement and confusion. She was on an island, floating in the air. Many other small islands dotted the surrounding sky, connected by bridges. Water from an ornate stone fountain flowed through a small channel before falling off the side of this sky-island. Lily marveled at the sight of beauty. This never-ending waterfall fell to hazy clouds below, misting into the air. Delightful rainbows formed in the mists, giving Lily a brief smile.
Suddenly, joy gave way to alarm when the reality of Lily’s near death registered. “Mountains! Where are the mountains? Oh God! I almost died!” Lily said.
“What is a mow-n-tan, child? I’m not familiar with this word,” the woman said in a stoic tone, scrunching her eyebrows in confusion at Lily’s exasperation.
Meanwhile, the rhythmic chiming rang again, soothing Lily’s nerves with its sweet, sonorous sound. Lily’s head spun about, looking for the source of the music. As she looked around, her face relaxed into the melody, but alarm once again replaced Lily’s calm.
“What is that? What the heck is that thing?” she shouted as she looked over her shoulder.
In the distance, about thirty feet away, was a large buzzing dragonfly the size of a building. It hovered midair, trying to pluck a gigantic acorn off a tree with drooping branches. The acorn chimed a melodic sound as it jostled.
“Child... Lily I mean, those things are—”
Suddenly, a thunderous crash silenced the woman as cobblestone underfoot cracked and the edge of the land tilted sideways, breaking off near the edge. Lily scampered up the cracking ledge to the remainder of flat land. A yell pulled Lily’s attention back. To her horror, the woman was dangling by one hand from a small tree that grew along the edge! Lily threw herself onto the ground, her short arms draping over the side to reach her.
“Pull yourself up! Grab my hand! You can use the tree for leverage! Use it before it’s too late!” Lily shouted down to the frightened woman.
“I cannot! I don’t have the strength! I’ve never lifted my own body weight before!”
“You must find the strength! My arms are too short but yours are much longer! You can reach me, I know it! Just dig your legs in!”
In response to Lily’s encouragement, the look of panic on the woman’s face lessened. She pulled herself up along the steep incline of the now sinking chunk of sky-island. Soon she was within reach of Lily’s fingertips, but trembling in fatigue to grasp her hand.
“That’s it! Just a little more! See if you can wrap your leg around the tree to push off more! “
At last, the woman tried to reach her long leg up over the slim tree trunk, but another thunderous crash sounded throughout the air and the surrounding land shook. The woman darted her head back to meet Lily’s eyes and reached forward, stretching and grunting. Her hands grazed Lily’s fingers, and a smile crept across her face in relief that she might be okay. As she gazed at Lily, a loud crack of wood echoed through them both like a shot fired into their chest. The woman’s eyes widened with paralyzing fear as she went into shock. Lily stared in horror as the slim tree trunk uprooted from the soil and the woman’s fingers slipped from her grasp.
While the woman plummeted into the clouds below, her eyes remained fixed on Lily’s, both women paralyzed by helplessness and fear. Lily stood up in shock, walking across the rumbling ground in a daze. An abrupt noise broke her mental fog: a man called out to her and waved in the distance. She called out to the man, her voice echoing across the grassy yard with increasing volume until it sounded like a ringing chime. She cocked her head to the side in confusion. The man beckoned her forward with his hand, but she hesitated.
Before Lily could take another step, a large dragonfly swooped in and carried her off. Jolted out of her daze, Lily screamed and flailed, but her arms thudded against the hollow walls of a translucent pod. Her face scrunched in anger as she attempted to kick her cage. The dragonfly swerved to the right overtop the dome-shaped building. A familiar view gave Lily pause. She crouched down and looked through the bottom of the pod. The man from earlier passed underneath and she could make out his face. As the man ran inside the dome, she realized it was her father! Desperately, Lily kicked the bottom of the pod and it shattered from underneath her. She clutched the sides with her fingertips as she fell out, slipping with each motion of the dragonfly.
“Help! Someone help me!” she screamed.
“Lily! I’m here, my dear, don’t worry!” a man’s voice echoed from below her.
Another dragonfly swooped up and caught her: her father rode upon its back. “Where is Mother?” Lily asked.
“Your mother is down below...” Lily’s father pointed as he turned the dragonfly in a descending spiral towards the top of a large open domed building.
Shadowy swirls plumed up like a tornado from its top. “Father I don’t understand! We are getting too close! Father, you have to turn back!”
In that instant, Lily screamed as she tipped over the side into the shadowy whirlwind below. Her father circled downward above her as if also caught in its winds. She turned about to face the oncoming darkness and inevitable impact. Tears streamed from her face as the wind sprayed them out into the air behind her. She knew she was doomed and simply accepted her fate, giving in. As the world around her went dark, even the rumbling thunderous sounds of the sky islands cracking went silent. Then a bright light pierced the darkness, followed by a voice.
“As the Sun rises, so do you yet live. As my daughter lives, so is there yet hope... wake up!”
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