THE SECRET LANDS
"Ariana... You need to come with us."
"I know I do," said Ariana, trying to control her frustration. "But you won't tell me how... No one will tell me how."
"That's something you need to figure out for yourself. No one's going to tell you the fastest way to get to these lands."
Ariana nodded her head slowly, but her mind was a complete muddle. So many people she knew, so many people she didn't know, telling her about the secret place they had finally found, never explaining how they got there or why they went. It was a beautiful place, they told her, where everything was immortal and nature was untouchable. Every time she heard the explorers of the lands speak about them, she would notice how their tone of voice became distant and dreamy, and she would grow more and more desperate. She even thought to herself that she would give a few fingers if that's what it took to find the place.
After her brother, the one she had spoken to, left, she simply sat at the kitchen table in deep thought. Dark and disturbing ideas began to form in her red-tinged, static-filled mind. To get to the secret lands... could she bribe someone? Or threaten them? Perhaps, she brooded, she might even have to harm someone to find the sacred place. The most important reason she wanted to go was for her brother, who was seldom able to visit her. She wanted to be able to see him in the secret lands whenever she wanted.
Then she had an idea.
Perhaps it was the best idea she ever had.
Perhaps it was the worst.
But no matter whether it was good or bad, it had to wait until morning. There were many things to be done before she could begin her journey to the secret lands.
That night, Ariana had a strange case of sleep paralysis.
At three in the morning, she was jolted awake. She could not move, she could barely breathe, and something was pressing on her chest. It was a classic case of Old Hag Syndrome.
But then something unexpected happened.
Her brother appeared in her room.
"At last," he said to Ariana, "you've found out what you must do. But the question is, are you brave enough to embark on your quest?"
"Yes," Ariana tried to say, the old fear that came with sleep paralysis disappearing. But of course the sound could not escape her.
"I hope to see you there," said her brother. But he did not look cheerful. He looked grim and set, like a statue standing there at the foot of her bed. She grew frightened. But at last, after he stared at her face for what seemed like hours, he went away, back to the secret lands Ariana longed for. And at last, she could move again.
Immediately, she slipped out of bed and into the bathroom. She opened the medicine cabinet and fished out a bag of pills.
Then she took them all.
She was going to the secret lands at last.