Cindy sat up slowly and rubbed her head. She felt as though she'd just fallen down a very deep rabbit hole. "I must have taken a bump to the head," she mused as she watched a row of miniature blue-spotted pink bunny rabbits hopping in perfect unison across the field she was lying in.
"Cindy? Is that you?" Lisa was floating across the grass towards the spot where Cindy lay.
"I think so," Cindy replied. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something seemed decidedly wrong with the world today. She couldn't remember having seen the sun, the moon and all fifty-seven of the stars out at once before. But maybe she'd just never looked properly.
Cindy's head seemed to be filled with cotton wool, so she shook it to try to clear it, and picked some wisps of the fluff out of her ears.
"Something's wrong here," she said, "but I can't seem to work out what..."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Lisa giggled, "it's a dream-land. We're both just dreaming! Come on, I'll show you the sights."
"Well," thought Cindy, "that would explain a lot. Including the way the clouds make little tinkling sounds as the breeze blows them about."
Lisa was babbling away happily. "I've been here every night for months now, but I've never had anyone to share it with. It's all so gorgeous! I was hoping you'd turn up, and here you are."
Cindy was trying to stand up, but she found that she couldn't keep her balance. Every time she made it to somewhere approaching the vertical, she'd start falling, very slowly, either forwards or backwards, until she came softly to rest an inch from the ground.
Lisa laughed. "No, silly, feet don't work here. Just float, like I do."
"And how, pray, would I do that?" Cindy asked frustratedly.
"You just have to want to," Lisa said, drifting away. "Come and look at this!"
Cindy struggled for a little longer, and then gave up trying to think logically or coherently. It just didn't work in this place. She lay back and let images of herself flying through the air drift into her mind's eye.
At once, without so much as a "by your leave", the meadow on which she was lying contracted abruptly, and then violently expelled air. "ATCHOO!" it said. Cindy was propelled high up into the sky.
"Oh my goodness," she thought as she flew upwards.
"What a glorious view," she reflected as she reached the zenith of her parabola.
"Oh, bother," she yelled as she plummeted towards a laden tea table standing on a patch of high ground.
Luckily, her fall was broken by a flock of low-flying clouds. They clanked in annoyance as she dientangled herself, then they chimed to each other and scudded away to drink from a nearby stream.
Lisa indicated the chair next to her. "Take a seat. The tea's great."
Cindy sat down gingerly. Apart from a big and incongruously empty dish in the middle of the table, the board was arrayed with the most delicious-looking high tea she'd ever seen. Muffins and crumpets, marmalade and jam, cream and honey -- the mere sight of it was enough to cause sudden heart failure in the more delicate of constitution.
Reaching for a cup and a pot of tea, Cindy set to with a will. She hadn't realised until now how ravenously hungry she was. As she munched on an eclair, though, she suddenly noticed that her wrist-watch had gone. Had she dropped it? She'd certainly had it a few moments ago, because she remembered that the strap had got caught on one of those pesky clouds. Lisa noticed her friend's consternation and indicated the big plate in the middle of the table. Sure enough, Cindy's watch lay there, dead centre, while the crockery contrived to look totally innocent.
"It steals things while you're not looking," Lisa explained. "You have to be on your guard if you don't want to leave something behind when you leave."
The friends finished their tea with only a couple more instances of daylight robbery, then decided to take a turn around the garden.
"It's just over here," Lisa called over her shoulder. "Over" turned out to mean quite literally over a tall hedge of sorts. Twigs protruded at odd angles from it, and it looked difficult to climb. Lisa drifted level with it, caught hold of a branch, and began to swiftly clamber up.
As Cindy approached, she saw that the branches and leaves were moving of their own accord. In fact, they weren't just moving, they were writhing. She realised, with resignation, that this would normally spook her out entirely, but in this world it seemed entirely normal.
"Are you sure this thing isn't going to..." she started, and then noticed that Lisa was kicking away a vine which was trying to curl around her ankle. "Well, that answers that question," she thought.
Lisa reached the top and leaned down. "I'll help you up. Just give me your hand."
Cindy looked about for a convenient handhold, but the bush didn't appear to offer one. Wherever she tried to place her hand, the twigs would snap off instantly, or thorns would prick her fingers. She stepped back to consider her options.
Suddenly, the seething mass of foliage sprouted a single shoot which coiled round and hung just in front of Cindy's face. The tip pointed directly at her for a moment, then, as if hinged, flipped upwards in a surprisingly obnoxious manner.
"Are you coming?" asked Lisa, still perched atop the rudest shrub Cindy had ever witnessed.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I shall have to decline. I can cope perfectly well with a lawn that sneezes, and I'm prepared to confront a dish that thieves, but," said Cindy, casting a stern glance at the vegetation before her, "a fence that seethes is offending me."
// first posted 01-27-2002 09:13 AM PT