“As I walked along the trail, I could hear the crunch of leaves and the singing of birds. I had always loved hiking and went hiking whenever I could. Snap! I tripped on a twig and fell face-forward into the leaf litter. Phew, at least the leaves saved me, I thought, and then I was jerked upward. I tried to scream for help, but no sound came out.”
As I walked along the trail, I could hear the crunch of leaves and the singing of birds. I had always loved hiking and went hiking whenever I could. Snap! I tripped on a twig and fell face-forward into the leaf litter. Phew, at least the leaves saved me, I thought, and then I was jerked upward. I tried to scream for help, but no sound came out.
Suddenly, the pulling stopped and I was dangling in the air, about 400 feet above the ground. Then I was pulled sideways. I screamed, but again, no sound came out. After what seemed like 30 minutes of watching the ground speed below me, I felt myself plummet down toward the ground. This time I felt no urge to scream, only a strange urge to sing that got stronger as the ground grew nearer. 100 feet from the ground now, I saw a clearing dotted with trampolines. 75 feet and I could see the shapes of people jumping up and down on the trampolines. 50 feet, and I could hear singing. Finally, there were only 5 feet between me and the floor, and I stopped falling. I felt something around my waist loosen, and I landed on the ground with a thud.
I stood up, but then collapsed to the ground again as something gained control of me. In a panic, I fought at it, trying to shove it out of my mind, but nothing worked. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. A rasping voice in my head said, Ahhh welcome, Lily. Another puppet for my collection. I could imagine the voice smirking as the presence controlling me picked my body up and walked me to the nearest trampoline. The urge to sing was as strong as ever, along with a new urge to bounce on the trampoline. I was pushed by an invisible force onto the trampoline, and started to sing in time with all the other people, in the same weird, slurred voice.
I could still think. All I could do was think. My mouth moved on its own. Words of all languages spilled out of my mouth and added to the swirling torrent of sound. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but no matter how hard I tried to gain control of myself, I couldn’t do anything. I went on like this in an endless loop, tracking the days and nights and growing hungrier and thirstier as the days wore on. Every 2 days, water was delivered by the same invisible force that had brought me here. After 5 days, everyone stopped again.
Suddenly, all noise stopped as the rasping voice entered my mind again. Well I can’t let you die can I? I know most of you have done this before, but my new recruits need to know the rules.
What rules? I thought, and as if reading my mind, the rasping voice continued.
The rules are to stay in place until your food is delivered, AND EAT ALL OF IT AND NO MORE!!! If you don’t follow these rules then I will give you something disgusting, and you will have to eat it all.
A large picnic blanket flew down from the sky, laden with large bowls of slightly cold and overcooked vegetable stew. It looked delicious after 5 days with no food, and staggering with fatigue, I grabbed the bowl nearest to me. There was a spoon lying next to it, and I picked it up as well. I thought back to the safety lessons I had learned as a child and remembered that after not having food for a long time, you could only eat small bites of food at a time. As much as I wanted to gulp down the food, I forced myself to eat slowly. I saw some people shoveling food into their mouths as fast as they could — the newer people, I realized, the ones that came here after me. They obviously didn’t know that they needed to slow down. I wished I could tell them, but I couldn’t talk. After the meal was finished, everyone’s minds were taken over again, forcing everyone’s bodies back onto the trampolines, to begin the endless loop again.
The days wore on. I could see the fatigue that I felt reflected on people’s faces as we jumped and sang without stopping. Yet they couldn’t do anything about it, and neither could I.
Days passed, and the world started going hazy. I lost track of the days. The only thing that kept me from collapsing was the need to obey the rasping voice. New people came, and the park expanded to accommodate them, but nobody left. I had seen people try to escape, but the bond was always too strong. I could see the hiking trails that wound around the trampoline park, and I could see the people walking along them that never even showed the slightest sign of noticing the trampoline park.
More days passed as I watched the trickle of people, and then one day, a tall lady with a long dress and some shiny things poking out of her back — were those wings?! — walked up. Nobody on the trail noticed… Wait a second, I thought, and I realized that she more like flew up to the fence of the trampoline park. A fairy! I realized. A real fairy! I thought they were only mythical creatures!
We are mythical creatures, said a calm, gentle voice in my head. I knew immediately that this voice belonged to the fairy, because it was so unlike the rasping voice that I heard so often.
Wait a second, I thought. Can you mindread? Can you see my thoughts?
Yes, I can, replied the fairy.
Can you help me get out of here? I thought at her, and I saw her lips curve into a small smile.
Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key, she said.
What is your name? I thought.
I am Annika, she said, right before disintegrating into a puff of rainbow sparkles.
I was always thinking of Annika’s words now. They were stuck in my head, and I could hear them clearly through the eerie singing. They repeated in my head over and over again.
Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key.
Key to what? My escape? How could imagination be the key? The thoughts that followed were always pessimistic. I didn’t know what to do, and so I thought about it. It seemed familiar…. Oh! It’s that riddle that goes: imagine you are in a box, there is nothing around you, and the box is steel. How do you get out? And the answer is stop imagining! I guess I can try to imagine myself out of here.
I imagined as hard as I could, thinking of the hiking trail I had been on, thinking of home. Nothing. I nearly gave up on myself when another idea struck me. Songs have meaning right? So maybe I can imagine I understand the language, and I will find a way out. I tried that. I listened closely to the music, thinking, I know this language, over and over again in my mind. Slowly the words started to gain some meaning, and finally I could understand the words clearly. The song went like this: Remember to hold on to hope, It will help you cope with dangers, use hope to save yourself…
Well, I haven’t been doing much but giving up on hope, I thought, but if it will save me, I will not give up hope.
I wasn’t thinking of anything but how I would get home. I was very hopeful and optimistic about the future. I knew I would get home if I was hopeful. Suddenly, just like the day when I got dropped into this miserable place, I got jerked upward, but there was no invisible force doing this. There was a golden harness latched around my waist, and it seemed to be pulling the dark creature that had controlled me for so long outside of my mind. I realized I could speak again, and I shouted down to the people below, “Don’t give up! Be hopeful!” They seemed to hear me because they tilted their heads up into the sky to look at me. I repeated my message until the people became no more than specks in the distance. I grinned to myself. I was on my way home.