One night while Johann was studying, he had a dream.
In his dream, Johann found himself in a dark, dusty room. There was very little light, except for the faint soft light that sifted through window shutters. It was a rather small room that felt even smaller because of bookshelves that surrounded the walls. Oddly, there was no door, just a window with closed shutters. As his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, something caught his attention. He jumped, for sitting upright just beneath the window was a figure – a skeleton, fully clothed in a black tattered dress with its arms resting on its sides. Its long bony legs stretched in front covered black velvet slippers with pointed toes. Next to the skeleton was a black wide-brimmed pointed hat with a dark coloured stone and a stalk of wheat stuck on it like a feather.
He shuddered at the sight of the skeleton. Although the dark usually did not bother him, he did not like the place he was in. What made it worse was that there was no entrance or an exit. He was trapped.
As he crouched in front of the skeleton, he saw that the bones were bleached white and dry.
“I wonder how long you’ve been trapped here,” he heard himself say.
“Too long to remember,” the skeleton replied.
He gave a cry of terror as he backed to the farthest part of that strange room.
“Eesh! I wish you wouldn’t do that!” the skeleton said irritably in a voice that was apparently of a young girl. “Does wonders to my self-esteem you know.”
“Y-you’re talking!” Johann screamed.
“Yes, I’m unfortunately alive. Sorry to disappoint you!” The skeleton stood up and dusted her black dress. “I don’t mind spiders, but I do wish they wouldn’t spin their webs on me,” she muttered as she began picking grey pieces of cobwebs off herself.
“Elica,” she said holding out her bony hand.
He did a double take at her and her hand. Slowly he took her hand in his and shook it. “Johann,” he squeaked.
“Pleasure,” she dropped her hand. Then she turned and reached down to pick up her hat.
“What are you?” he wondered aloud.
“Well, if I have some flesh I would be human,” she suggested dryly.
“And what is this place?”
“Well, if you could explain how you got here that would probably give you some hints.” Elica smartly placed her pointed hat on her skull.
“I don’t know. I was in my room studying one moment and the next moment I found myself here.”
“So you didn’t do anything else, like chase after a rabbit and fall into a rabbit hole or anything?”
He looked at her oddly.
“Never mind. Okay, so you really don’t know how you got here?”
“No. So how do I get out?” Johann asked.
“The same way you came in.”
“You are not helping me here. The problem is I don’t know how I got here.”
“It is obvious you are brought here by a special force. What triggered it maybe the question you need to find the answer for and help you get back to where you came from.”
“And how do you expect me to do that?”
Elica approached one of the bookcases and chose a shelf at her eyelevel. She selected a book from that shelf and pulled its spine towards her. The book was a switch making a hidden door swing open. Outside the door was a grey desert that spanned as far as the eye could see.
“This is probably a good place as any.” she said as she removed her hat from her head and held it out to Johann. “Here, take this with you.”
“What for?” he asked.
“To keep out the sun. Oh yes, one more thing,” she reached out and tapped his chest saying, “If there comes a time you need help, just shout.”
“Just shout? Whom do I shout for?”
With a hard smack, Elica thrust Johann out of that dark dusty room into a grey dusty world. He tripped and fell headlong into that grey world, the portal to Elica’s room slammed shut and disappeared.
Johann rolled onto his back momentarily staring into a steel grey sky. He sat up and looked around. The desert was vast, with dunes of fine grey sand almost bleached dry from the sun. At that very moment he felt words in his heart. Fall rain. Time to restore. As if in reply, a drop fell from the sky and landed on his head, then another, and another. Soon gentle light rain sprinkled over him.
Remembering Elica’s hat, Johann placed it on his head and sat cross-legged on the ground. Why he did that he was not sure why, but he felt there was no direction for him to travel at the moment.
He sensed the words again. Grow.
Soft blades of young grass poked from the damp sand and stretched towards the sky.
Bloom and bear fruit. One of the grasses parted making way for another plant, this time the plant flowered producing wide leaves. A bud appeared at its tip, it fattened revealing some colour; then burst open into a flower with full pink petals and a sunny yellow centre. The leaves were polished and dark green with fresh drops on them.
The rain stopped. The sun appeared drying the rain and the flower. Soon, the flower, dried from the sun, scattered its petals replacing its lovely head with a round brown pod. The pod, heavy with seed bowed, bending its stalk and dropping into the sand. A dry wind blew over the desert burying the seed.
The seed immediately grew into another flowering plant with the same blossoms. The plant grew and grew into a large tree filled with rich green leaves and pink blooms.
Johann stood at the foot of the tree staring up into its foliage. He heard another sound which appeared to have come from beneath the tree. He fell on his knees and began to dig into the soft moist sand. If you asked him why he had begun to dig, he would not be able to give you the answer. He only knew that there was something for him in the sand. After digging along the roots of the flowering tree, he found its roots hugging a huge boulder, from that boulder a steady stream of water flowed to the roots and through the sand.
The water bubbled like a spring and filled the hole that Johann had dug. He dipped his hand into the spring and brought it to his lips. The water was deliciously cool and refreshing. At that moment, his thoughts went to that dusty library and the skeleton girl. He removed her hat from his head, pushed the pointy hat into the spring. Once he pulled it out he felt the world fall away from around him.
“Welcome back,” said a kind voice.
Johann blinked, seeing a familiar looking skeletal figure peering into his face. What was her name? Oh yeah, Elica.
“So, how did it go?”
“Your trip! How was your trip?” she asked excitedly, “I must say that you have that dazed look about you. Did something happen to you?”
“Uh…” He was at loss for words, but could not help himself smiling.
“Ah! So what happened? Give me the details.”
“I found something –” Johann began, but then remembered something else. “Oh yeah, and here’s your hat,” he said, returning her hat.
Elica placed the hat on her bleached skull. A splash sounded as water was dumped over her the moment the hat was on her head.
Johann watched with his eyes wide open. The poor thing was drenched from head to foot.
Suddenly Elica burst out laughing. “Boy that felt good!” She said lifting her face with a radiant smile.
Johann’s jaw dropped. He was not looking at a grinning skull, but a lovely girl with golden skin, dark eyes that shone and raven black hair cut evenly like a pageboy. Her limbs were covered with flesh, because her clothes were rags and short her limbs looked even longer.
“Thank you, Johann,” she said with warmth, holding out her hand.
Johann took her hand…
The next moment, Johann felt his head on his arm. He sat up. He was back. Back in his room, with his seat in his chair facing his desk piled with books.In front of him was a pencil sketch of a lovely girl with dark dancing eyes, jet black hair in a page boy’s cut and a pointy hat with a stalk of wheat. She held up the brim of her hat with both hands out of her eyes, smiling brightly up at him.