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by Lia5Giba

"Meredith! We're waiting!"

"I'm coming!" Meredith called, throwing one more pair of underwear into her purple backpack. She raced out of her room, down the stairs and shot through the front door. She ran through her front lawn, crashing through a cloud of brightly colored butterflies. One flew into her mouth. Meredith's tongue tasted cotton candy and wingtips before she spat the insect back out into the cool morning air. It raced away, back to the horde of butterflies from which it had came. Meredith never broke stride.

It seemed like forever, but finally she reached the blue-and-white Volkswagen bug parked on the side of the street. Meredith's mother's head stuck out a window, her black hair disheveled and framing her face. "Meredith! Come on!"

"I'm here, I'm here," Meredith gasped, slightly out of breath. She flung open the car door and launched herself into a seat. Her brother, Michael, was already in a seat, his green backpack on his lap. His legs were bouncing up and down, as if he was ready to run at a moment's notice.

"Full of energy?" Meredith asked him, smiling.

"I'm just ready to go!" he replied, a grin stretching across his face. His backpack bounced along with his knees, and Meredith could see clothes ripple and jolt inside of it.

Her mother turned the key in the ignition and stomped on the gas. Meredith could see her smile, braces gleaming, in the rear view mirror. Her mother was the only adult Meredith knew that had braces. But they didn't make her mom look silly, or childish, or anything like that. If anything, they made her mom's smile just a little bit brighter.

The car shot forward like a rocket, pushing Meredith and Michael back into their seats. Michael howled with all the delight of a child, and Meredith found herself grinning like a maniac. The world shot past them in a blur, reds and greens and blues all streaking by outside the car's windows. Meredith wasn't worried they would run into something. Her mom used to be a race car driver back in her twenties. This was nothing new.

"Ready to go to Fantasia?" her mother yelled, turning the car wheel. The vehicle jerked to the left, smashing Michael up against Meredith and Meredith up against the car window. It didn't hurt, but Meredith screamed in surprise, thrilled. The car spun to the right, then the left, then the right, then the left. Meredith and Michael were pressed up against each other and flung from side to side, but they just laughed, not able to contain their glee. Meredith hugged Michael, and he hugged her back, smiling, just before their mom made another sharp turn and they were both flung to the right, howling like wolves at the moon.

The world outside the windows was nothing but a kaleidoscope, an endless mix of color and light, and even when it seemed they couldn't move any faster, they did, and the world outside became imperceptible. Meredith stared out the window in wonder. She couldn't even see the road anymore.

And all of a sudden the car was flying, the solid asphalt road turned to clouds, the flying mixture of light and color turned to blue, blue sky, as far as the eye could see. Michael stopped laughing long enough to take a look out the window, and gasped in delight. Meredith's mother's smile in the rear view mirror became even wider, her braces sparkling like a sunlit lake.

Meredith was transfixed by the world around her. The clouds were the whitest she had ever seen. They were happy and free and beautiful, and Meredith found herself beaming at them. If she looked close enough, she almost though she could see the clouds smiling back.

And in the distance, perched on a cloud the size of a country was a castle, its spires high and gleaming, with fairytale flags on their ends, flapping in the wind. It was like the land on top of Jack's beanstalk, but without the ogre, without the danger, with only peace and enough happiness for a lifetime.

"Are you ready?" Michael asked from behind her.

Meredith nodded. "Of course I am," she breathed, turning to face her brother.

The car sped at rocket speed towards to castle, a thousand stories high, shining in the unobstructed sun. Meredith clasped her brother's hand and stared at what was to come: the beautiful world of Fantasia.

But then the car stuttered, faltered. It stopped in the air for a second, throwing Meredith and Michael forward in their seats. In the rear view mirror, Meredith could see her mother just slightly frown.

"Mom, what was that?" Meredith asked nervously.

"Don't worry about it," her mother said, pumping the gas again. The car once again proceeded forward. "We'll get there."

They coasted through the air, the sun's light fracturing as it glided through the car windows. Meredith felt her heart slow back to its normal rate. She looked out upon the castle; somehow, it seemed even brighter and more beautiful than before. And it was approaching so quickly--

But then the car jolted again, stuttering. The entire vehicle rocked from side to side. Meredith screamed as she fell out of her seat and onto the car floor. A few seconds later, Michael landed next to her.

"Don't worry, I've got it!" Her mother's voice cut through the air, the first hints of worry leaking through her mask of calm. Meredith couldn't see her. She couldn't see much of anything. She could only feel the car rocking and the rapid beating of her heart.

The car uttered a groan, so similar to a dying animal that Meredith's heart twisted when she first heard it. The car stopped rocking so violently. Ever so slightly, Meredith relaxed.

And then the car began to fall.

Meredith's heart leaped up into her throat. Michael was screaming and her mother was barking commands and the car was howling like a newborn baby, and Meredith was screaming too. She could barely hear her mother's voice, but over the screams she could make out the words "Jump!" and "...calm!"

The world raced past them in a blur outside of their window. Clouds, blue sky, the sun, birds--all meshed together into a light gray sheen outside the car window, speeding by at a thousand miles per hour. Meredith shakily climbed to her feet, nearly falling as the car pitched to her side. She hauled herself up to the window and glanced out. The ground was nowhere in sight. How far up are we--

A click and a bang caught Meredith's attention. Her eyes shot to the front car door. It was open, and her mother was on the edge of the opening, her toes extended into the air.

"Mom!" Meredith cried. "What are you doing?!"

Her mother looked Meredith straight in the eyes. There was fear there, but there was also a savage determination, like an animal cornered by lions at a cliff's edge: scared, but utterly determined to survive.

"You have to jump!" her mother cried. Slowly, as Meredith watched with wide, horrified eyes, she let go of the doorway.

"MOM!" Meredith screamed.

Her mother fell forward, into the oblivion of rapidly moving clouds and sky. One moment, she was there. The next, gone.

Meredith screamed. The sound seemed to echo through the car. She whirled around to Michael, to see his reaction, his face--but Michael wasn't there. An open car door was in his place.

Meredith turned around, screaming, screaming for help. The only sound she heard was the wind whistling through the open doors, howling like an animal. Or maybe the one howling was Meredith. She didn't know. She was lost in an abyss of tears and clouds and screams and sky.

She rushed over to the window, almost losing her footing as the car tilted. She looked through the window. The clouds were rushing up to meet her, but they were growing thinner, and behind them Meredith could see the green of the earth, of fields, of grass--the green of death.

Meredith staggered back, clutching onto a car seat for support. This is how it ends, she thought. This is how it ends. This is how it ends. This is how it ends.

And then, suddenly, the car was full of butterflies. Brightly colored butterflies, almost iridescent, seemingly unaffected by the car's free-fall. One of them landed on Meredith's nose. Another landed in Meredith's raven hair. They swarmed her until Meredith felt nothing else but hundreds upon hundreds of insect legs and wings on skin. The air still whistled behind her, the car doors flapped open and closed, the car still fell. But Meredith didn't feel like she was falling. She closed her eyes and felt legs scamper upon her eyelids.

She couldn't feel the car anymore. She could only hear and feel the air around her, whistling as it swirled and coursed down, down, down, as the world became closer and closer.

Air twisted through her fingertips. It was cool and fresh and unlike the stale air that had inhabited the car. Meredith couldn't feel anything besides the butterflies. Where am I?

She struggled to open her eyes. The butterflies clamped down harder, weighing her eyelids down, biting into her skin. Meredith tried again, managing to move her eyelids open a few millimeters before they were forced shut again. Meredith squeezed her hands into fists. Stop--


A bolt of electricity shot through Meredith. She gasped, snapping her eyes all the way open, ignoring the legs she felt crack behind her eyelids. She was no longer in her car. The car was nowhere in sight. She was suspended among the white clouds of the heavens.

Meredith looked below her, and her stomach dropped. She could see the ground all too clearly--houses and backyards and the school building, all so far, yes, but also much too close.

Then Meredith looked up, pushing her eyelids back against the onslaught of insects covering her body.

Her brother and her mother were above her in a cloud of brightly colored butterflies, slowly rising into the sky.

"Meredith!" her brother screamed again.

Meredith wanted to weep. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" she cried, flapping her arms. She felt the butterflies adjusting around her, trying to find the best footing.

They were ascending higher and higher. Michael's features were becoming blurrier with every passing second. Her mother's open mouth, braces flashing, became smaller and smaller. "Meredith! Come on!" she cried.

"I'm coming, Mom!" But Meredith wasn't moving. Tears welled in her eyes and finally gushed out onto her cheeks. She could feel small butterfly proboscises caress her skin, trying to lap up the salty liquid. Meredith flapped her arms more, shaking a few butterflies off in the process. She stayed put, while her mother and her brother kept rising. They will make it to Fantasia, Meredith realized, a small bud of hope blossoming.

But I won't, Meredith thought. In an instant, her single hope was crushed flat. I'll be stuck here, wasting away. 

"Take me with you!" she screamed, twisting and turning against the butterflies on her skin. "Take me with you!"

Her mother and her brother just watched.

"NO!" Meredith roared. She thrashed against the stifling hold of the butterflies, slapping every inch of open skin, feeling wings and legs and bodies turn to dust under her palms. The butterflies tried to evade her, fluttering away from her arms, but Meredith lashed out, catching them in midair. She crushed them in her fist, then turned to swat more. She needed to be free. She needed to join her family.

"I'm coming, I swear!" she screamed, her voice starting to shred itself--

Suddenly, she was free. The last remaining butterflies, as one organism, left her body and flew skywards, toward the clouds and light.

And Meredith, without the butterflies, began to fall.

She opened her mouth to scream, to cry out, but her voice was rubbed raw. She could only manage to reach a hand toward her family, her brother, her mother, as she fell through clouds and towards land and away from hope. Between wispy clouds, she could barely make out her mother's and Michael's faces. Their eyes were wide, and their mouths were open, but Meredith couldn't hear what they were saying. She was in free fall, her heart was a jackhammer, and nothing could catch her, nothing, nothing, she was going to die, she was going to die--

Meredith's eyes snapped open and she shot up in her bed, her heart still pounding. Her skin was clammy and cold, as if she had raced through a dozen frigid, misty clouds. Her rapid, heavy breathing filled the otherwise quiet room.

It was a dream. It was all a dream, Meredith thought, trying to reassure herself. But she didn't relax her posture. It had all felt so real. These days, her dreams felt more real than reality. As if her unconscious brain was still living in the past, and dragging her down with it.

Meredith put a hand to her forehead. Details of the dream were already slipping away, but she could still recall how she had felt. Tears, screams, panic, despair. Meredith tried to hum, to say a simple, quiet word, and found that her throat felt raw. Did I actually scream? she thought.

She looked around. All the other girls around her were still asleep. They were all just like her: alone, without a home, doomed to spend their childhood in an orphanage rather than playing board games with their family, or laughing with their parents over dinner, or getting a kiss on the forehead at night, when it was time to go to sleep. Meredith had had all of those experiences and more, tucked away in a small corner of her brain, memories she wished not to revisit. She didn't want to be reminded of Michael's mischievous eyes, or her mom's charming, joyful metal smile, or the times they had spent as a family. She didn't want to be reminded of the blue-and-white Volkswagen bug that had crumpled so easily against that other car, of her mother's worried shouts, of her family's lifeless eyes.

But it seemed, as it did every night, Meredith's unconscious mind had other plans.

She rubbed her eyes and her forehead. The details of the dream were gone, and the rest of it was fading fast. Why could she never remember them? Every night, the same process. A dream, an awakening, and then the forgetting. Perhaps if she tried, she could remember what happened. But Meredith wasn't sure she wanted to.

She sighed, then laid back down in her bed, raising the covers to her chin. She took one last look around the room, and allowed herself to wonder what exactly was going on in the other girls' dreams. If they had dreams at all.

Meredith snuggled into the covers and yawned, her heart beating once again at its normal tempo. Goodnight, world, she thought, closing her eyes, readying herself for another cycle of dreams. And hello, family.

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35 Reviews

Points: 844
Reviews: 35

Sun Apr 26, 2020 12:46 am
IamI wrote a review...

Hello. This is my review.

Happy review day. Let’s get started.

Here’s the negatives:

General criticism

The ending was one of my biggest issues (I don’t normally remark on story, but I had strong enough feelings to mention), the fact that it was all a dream is makes everything that came before irrelevant. There’s no reason to do this, why not end it with the characters dying or with Merideth being carried away by the butterflies? This would keep the story’s emotional impact. There are also some things that could use some further explaining, like ‘why does Merideth’s mother have braces?’ And ‘what is ‘Fantasia’?’, I will blunt my critique here with the admission that I’m a middlingly observant reader, connecting the dots when reading is not a specialty of mine, and if the answer to either of these was located in the text (I’m pretty sure Fantasia is an allegory or metaphore for the afterlife, and the butterflies the actual idea of death, as I’m writing this I realize there is more I might need to say in my positives section) I have no one to blame other than myself for not reading close enough.

Specific criticism

This section will be shorter. You’re style is thankfully laking in odd or excessive, that being said there are a few. Here they are:

“Merideth’s tongue tasted cotton candy and wingtips.” Something about these two things being mentioned together the way they are seems odd, maybe change it to something like “a butterfly flew into her mouth and fluttered around inside; the wingtips tickled the top of her mouth. It tasted like cotton candy.” A bit heavy on my own authorial revisionism, but you get the idea.

“The world outside was a kaleidoscope, an endless mix of colors and light, and even when it seemed they couldn’t go any faster, they did...” this sentence has good bones and I like it, so I wouldn’t change it too much, maybe just separate it into two sentences, something like “the world outside was a kaleidoscope, an endless mix of colors and light. Even when it seemed they couldn’t go any faster, they did...” I separated it mainly because the slightly larger pause allowed by a period would seem more natural, I also did this because I think the “, even when it seemed they couldn’t go any faster,” part is an incorrectly used parenthetical expression. Just a refresher (or in case you don’t know what I’m talking about) a parenthetical expression is the use of to commas one either side of a phrase to denote that it is nonessential information.

Here are the positives:

General praise

First of all, I must complement you on your pacing, the story doesn’t drag and it kept me interested all the way through (which is part of why I hated the ending so much). Your opening was also excellent, if somewhat cliche, and sets the pace of the story well. I also must complement you on your voice, it is energetic and usually quite clear, it gives the story character and the ability to do that is something that I feel is under appreciated when thinking about style (hopefully I’ll remember this and write a musing on writing about it, but that’s for later). In short, this story is youthful in the best ways, almost bringing to mind Tui T. Sutherland (though, as you might have figured from what I’ve said so far, I don’t find your style nearly as grating, I feel you really shouldn’t be talking about dragons fighting in a voice reminiscent of a first grade teacher reading to her students, but maybe that’s just me, at any rate, those books were fine and I enjoyed them. I’m different now.). I also want to complement your allegory and literary metaphor, if only because it is far above what I could pull off in the same amount of words. I’m a very style focused writer, so I focus on how I’m saying things, and I can’t help wondering if that’s to the detriment of everything else. But how I ramble, let’s carry on shall we?

Specific praise:

I must complement you on your use of repetition, ones that stand out to me are Merideth repeating “this is how it ends, this is how it ends“ as she is falling to her supposed death (again, I dislike that ending very strongly) and the repetition of “then left, then right” as they are driving. And while it may not exactly be repetition I particularly like “the green of earth—the green of death.” Bit as the car is heading towards the ground. Your use of sentence length to increase the drama of the story (I am thinking of “and then the car began to fall.”) also deserves comment.

With that appallingly excessive word vomit out of the way, I really must say the more I read of you the more I believe there’s something worth watching for from you.

Keep up the good work!

That was my review. Goodbye.

Lia5Giba says...

Thanks for the reviews, really! I appreciate your comments, really. I know you said you didn't like the ending, but the entire dream was supposed to be a metaphor for Meredith's brother and mother dying in a car crash. Fantasia is a metaphor for heaven (or wherever you believe one goes when they die), and the butterflies are basically like death angels. (That sounds morbid, but I guess that's how I'm phrasing it.) I get that you don't like the ending, but the dream is just Meredith remembering her mother and brother in a fantastical environment, a metaphor for everything that's happened in the real world. I think you already figured that out, though. I get that the ending can be interpreted as anti-climactic, but I think to keep the story as mainly a metaphor and realistic, I'm going to keep the ending, and the dream as a dream.

Really though, thank you for your comments. :D All of this probably sounds condescending... and I really, really don't mean it that way. I appreciate your feedback, and while I won't change the ending, I'll think about the other things you said, too.

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17 Reviews

Points: 174
Reviews: 17

Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:52 am
Lethargic says...

This is a really neat story. I’d say your biggest strength here is that you write really vivid descriptions. Everything is in such vivid detail which really helps sell the ending with the reveal of everything being all a memory. Meredith’s desperation to be reunited with her loved ones is also really well realized. I don’t have any negatives!

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17 Reviews

Points: 174
Reviews: 17

Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:52 am
Lethargic says...

This is a really neat story. I’d say your biggest strength here is that you write really vivid descriptions. Everything is in such vivid detail which really helps sell the ending with the reveal of everything being all a memory. Meredith’s desperation to be reunited with her loved ones is also really well realized. I don’t have any negatives!

User avatar
17 Reviews

Points: 174
Reviews: 17

Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:51 am
Lethargic says...

This is a really neat story. I’d say your biggest strength here is that you write really vivid descriptions. Everything is in such vivid detail which really helps sell the ending with the reveal of everything being all a memory. Meredith’s desperation to be reunited with her loved ones is also really well realized. I don’t have any negatives!

User avatar
17 Reviews

Points: 174
Reviews: 17

Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:51 am
Lethargic wrote a review...

This is a really neat story. I’d say your biggest strength here is that you write really vivid descriptions. Everything is in such vivid detail which really helps sell the ending with the reveal of everything being all a memory. Meredith’s desperation to be reunited with her loved ones is also really well realized. I don’t have any negatives!

Lia5Giba says...

Thank you so, so much! Really!

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426 Reviews

Points: 4834
Reviews: 426

Sun Mar 15, 2020 11:40 pm
Wolfical wrote a review...

Hello Lia! Wowww. I absolutely adore this short story! <333 Here are a couple quick specific comments about the text:

Meredith's heart leaped up into her chest.

The heart's already in the chest! Maybe go with "throat"?

There was fear there, but there was also a savage determination, like an animal desperate enough to kill even its own kind in order to survive.

Not sure if that simile has the best effect. It makes me think that the mother is willing to let her children die in order to survive herself. I don't think that's what you were going for! There are other reasons why an animal can have that fierce, determined look. Imagine a predator cornering its prey on the edge of the cliff. The prey is frightened, but its eyes are still darting around and glancing down behind them, looking for a way out.

She could feel small butterfly proboscises caress her skin, trying to lap up the salty liquid.

I love that! <3

During the first the first half of the story, I knew things were just too happy. There were cotton candy-flavored butterflies, the siblings were hugging each other, they were going to a place called Fantasia, everyone was smiling. Looking back, I can imagine that Meredith's desperate yearning for her family was projected on how she saw them in her dream. She was seeing them for the first time since the accident (aside from other dreams) and she lapped it all up, hugging her brother and loving each and every detail of her mother, down to the gleam of her braces that made her smile brighter. It makes it especially sad!

When I learned that it was all a dream, therefore, I wasn't surprised. Are you okay with that, or do you want the reader to be surprised? If you want the latter, I think you'll have to try and push the fantasy world building more. For example, the kids wouldn't act surprised when the car starts flying - it's an integral part of how the world works. In dreams, anyway, I think we tend to go with the flow and not question it when crazy wacko things start happening.

It wasn't until the backstory was explained in the "real world" that I realized that the butterflies and Fantasia were symbols associated with death. I was kind of mad at Meredith for fighting against the butterflies! They were keeping her afloat, and were the key to reuniting her with her family. They tasted like cotton candy and tenderly lapped up her tears. So that's definitely something that surprised me, that these fairy tale symbols of butterflies and Fantasia ended up representing death. Meredith must have been close to death in the car crash because of the cloud of butterflies trying to take her away, but she fought for her life, which meant, ironically, plummeting to the earth.

This is a beautiful piece, Lia! The ending is really powerful and sad. Fantastic work!

Lia5Giba says...

Thank you so, so much! I was not expecting this review! Thank you for your advice, I am definitely going to take it. And thank you for interpreting the symbols--honestly, I had something along those lines happening in my head, but you kind of made it clear. Thanks. :)

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35 Reviews

Points: 421
Reviews: 35

Sun Mar 15, 2020 3:26 pm
Lia5Giba says...

"I never expected that I should be a queen so soon."
— Alice's Adventures in Wonderland