By: Sarah Olson
The auditorium was filled with school children happily eating lunch at round stone tables. The ceiling was glass and ivy climbed the walls. Bushes dotted the room. Instead of linoleum, the floor was dirt and mulch. One small kindergartener with curly brown hair smiled mischievously at her classmates, her green eyes twinkling. She pulled a green felt Robin Hood hat out of her backpack and placed it on her head. The entire table of six year olds giggled. The laughter spread as one by one, every child put on identical felt hats, pulled from bags or lunchboxes or even thin air.
The teachers would have been trying to stop the chaos, but they had all turned into trees.
Birds began to chirp as sweet music wound through the air, colliding with the laughter to form a lavender display of color. The curly-top kindergartener shrieked with joy and leaped into the air, gliding aloft far longer than was natural, and landed on a table top across the room. She was barefoot; they all were. Laughing, she ran like a kite at the wall of the auditorium, intending to bounce off it, but it was no longer hovered at the edge of her vision. Now she was swimming in the ocean, the summer sun warming her, touching her wet curls with gold. She felt free and blissfully alive. Dolphins and porpoises cavorted beside her; the sea spray glistened like diamonds suspended in the air. She grabbed a proffered fin and rode the dolphin to an island of pure white sand. The sand was hard, and crackled like paper when you walked on it. In the center was a box made of chocolate, filled with finger paints and glitter. The little kindergartener began to paint, her face serious and determined. A gooey rainbow took shape. She sprinkled it with silver glitter and backed away to survey her handiwork. The giant rainbow in the sand peeled away from the ground, and became a path leading solid. Her surroundings seemed to gray and blur as she passed through, and then she was in a metal box with a black carpeted floor. A panel of numbered buttons was on one wall. She began to shake with fright as the box plummeted down, down, down. It came to a stop and the chrome door slid open. Before her stood a man; she had never seen a man before. He was wearing a white lab coat and a surgical mask and he reeked of disinfectant. Behind him stood some of the older children, but their hats had turned blood red and they wore steel-toed military boots. She screamed but no one heard her. The tall man in white held her in a vice-like grip, and stung her arm with a needle, filling her veins with a crystal fluid that drained the strength from her body. She slid to the floor, limp and helpless. The other children crowded around, taunting her, chanting poisonous words. She began to sob, tears pooling around her body, the water growing and spreading, reflecting the harsh white lights of the ceiling. She seemed to melt, sinking into the pool of tears as darkness upward into the sky. Grinning, the little girl ran up and up and up until she came to rest on a spongy surface that smelled like fresh rye bread. She looked across a river of peanut butter and jelly to see an identical spongy shore on the other side. Mustering all of her remaining strength, she jumped high into the air, cartwheeling and landing with a soft bump on the wooden seat of a school desk. The classroom was decorated in cool shades of green with pictures covering the walls. Her teacher presided over the class from a fivewheeled throne, bestowing kind smiles on every child. The curly haired kindergartener sighed contentedly, opened her lunchbox, and tucked into her sandwich. Inside her backpack, her green felt hat smiled.