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One Summer Night

Chapter Text

The Girl.

 

Woke up in the dirt.

 

Surrounded by shadows, and the giant skeletons of rocks.

 

White light emanated from a rotted-out church.

 

 

No one stood by its wide-open doors.

 

 

Was she…

 

Dead?

 

 

But…

 

She couldn’t remember how she’d died.

 

 

In fact…

 

She couldn’t remember anything at all.

 

 

Dress tattered, wings in ruins, the Girl painfully crawled onto her side.

 

Her hair was loose, and covered in gravel, white ribbons shredded to bits.

 

 

Looking up at the clouded sky, she could’ve sworn she heard a faint cackle.

 

 

Gold dust lifted off of her fingers, and floated to the ground.

 

 

Planting her hands, she pushed up against the persistent complainings of her bruised and battered body until she could sit firmly upon her knees.

 

 

Why was it only her in this place?

 

What were those lights whirling and swirling on the horizon, neon hues of purple, green, and yellow?

 

Would it really be so bad to follow them, to find a way out of this empty world?

 

 

Even if she was supposed to be dead.

 

 

She couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere, someone out there…

 

Still needed her.

 

 

A surge of energy rushed through her veins.

 

 

The Girl shoved herself to standing with a powerful thrust of her arms.

 

 

One last glance at the pulsating doorway behind her.

 

And she was off, running blindly for the Carnival she could hear in the distance, feet stumbling over the rough cracks.

 

The wind whipping strands of hair into her face as she went until her sunset eyes stung.

 

 

It hurt to sprint like this…

 

To go against the current of Death.

 

 

Every fiber of her bones wanted nothing more than to spin right around, and head for the glowing tunnel.

 

 

But I can’t do that!

 

Not now…

 

 

She had to know.

 

She had to know who needed her.

 

 

Eventually she would go back.

 

 

But not this second.

 

-

 

The hard rock faded into gray smoke.

 

Her legs tread the beaten, softer path until darkness overtook the faint twilight.

 

Bulbs sparked along the ridges of a wooden bridge, a magic sign flowing out of nowhere.

 

‘Town of Everlock’, written across the forehead of a bleeding-eyed jester.

 

 

Red curtains billowed to the ends of the road, and she hurried to part them!

 

 

No one.

 

Not a soul.

 

 

Noticed the wild child in torn lace half-skid, half-collapse to a stop.

 

 

Chest heaving for breath, the petite Girl was dazzled by the sight of so many people clothed in enough bright colors to make a disco ball jealous.

 

They milled around from stall to stall clutching fluffy stuffed animals under their arms and taking licks of fluorescent-hued cotton candy.

 

There were free popcorn venues everywhere, and more games than she could count.

 

 

Her irises were as large as dinner plates.

 

 

It was just all…so…HUGE!!

 

 

 

They must really be celebrating something, her mind supplied in bewildered explanation.

 

A…a birthday…or a wedding…maybe.

 

 

In a bit of a daze, she began to make her way through the crowd.

 

 

Where are you…

 

 

Chattering from every direction.

 

The relentless grinding of the Ferris wheel.

 

Many, many grinning faces.

 

 

Everyone seemed happy.

 

 

Yet she knew that the one who had subconsciously cried out for help had to be here.

 

 

Hiding in amongst the sea of contentedness and good will…

 

 

There.

 

 

In front of the desserts.

 

 

A tiny little girl with the palest-lavender hair she had ever seen.

 

Lemon-yellow eyes perused the line of cakes, and tarts.

 

 

Although it could barely be seen by the long-haired adult behind the counter, the Girl knew.

 

 

She was worried about someone.

 

Someone in very dire straits.

 

 

“Excuse me miss”.

 

 

She startled.

 

 

“Huh-!”

 

“Hello”.

 

 

The Girl gave her a gentle smile.

 

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Trying to buy a chocolate-whizz”.

 

 

She pointed at the delectable pastry placed at the center of the cart.

 

 

“I have to get this ring over the top of a hook, but I can’t do it…”

 

 

Unshed tears flickered at the corners of her eyelids.

 

 

“My mamma’s super-sick…but she likes fudge.

 

I’m supposed to visit her soon-“

 

 

“It’s okay”.

 

 

The Girl reached into the shallow tray, and withdrew one.

 

 

“I’ll throw it, and see what happens”.

 

 

First, though: “Excuse me, sir, do I have to pay you anything?”

 

“Nope, it’s all free!”

 

 

Then she tossed it.

 

 

Clink!

 

 

Bouncing just off the rim…

 

 

The little girl’s shoulders tensed.

 

 

“Okay…”

 

 

She picked out a second one.

 

 

Threw it with a whoosh!

 

 

Clink!

 

 

Grazed the side of the fixture by inches!!

 

 

“I’m gonna be late…”

 

“It’ll be alright”.

 

 

She took the child’s hands into her own.

 

 

“If this next throw doesn’t work, we can always just ask.

 

He said everything was free”.

 

 

Clink!

 

 

It rolled over the tip of the thick curl…

 

Achingly close to falling perfectly over it…

 

 

Only to flip off, and careen to the rear of the counter.

 

 

Their eyes met, and the Girl laughed nervously.

 

 

 

“…I don’t suppose you could let us have that cake?”

 

-

 

Bounding along with rabbit-like energy, chocolate delight clutched in her arms-

 

The Girl was glad she’d managed to still make everything work out.

 

 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!!”

 

“It’s nothing, really-“

 

“No, it’s everything!!”

 

 

She spun on her heels.

 

 

“It’s everything...”

 

 

Red beacons split the fog in the distance.

 

 

She carefully plopped down the cake, and glomped the Girl into a hug!

 

 

-Her heart skipped a beat.

 

 

“…Bye”.

 

 

“Um-“

 

 

Wait!

 

 

“What’s your…name?”

 

 

“Charlotte!”

 

-

 

As she vanished toward the shrouded building, the Girl felt a tap upon her shoulder.

 

She swiveled-

 

 

Nothing.

 

 

A tap on the opposite shoulder.

 

She swiveled again-

 

 

Nothing.

 

 

…Huh?

 

 

Faced front-and-center.

 

 

-Leering clown face inches from her own!!!

 

 

“Hi, toots!

 

Awfully new around here, aren’t you?”