Courtney was having a dream, she was sure of it.
It seemed to slip away from her mind whilst the dream was taking place. Before, even. She had the sense of moving, twirling actually. A spinning miasma of shades and colors which immediately sent her tummy to clench with discomfort and queasiness. She was moving, in her dream, but the details of both her journey and her destination slipped from her mind's eye as soon as her lids began to tremble with wakefulness. When she finally opened her eyes the dream was a wisp of forgotten smoke dissipating in the salty sea breeze which tickled the ends of her hair. She was on her back, atop something soft, and though the sky above was overcast Courtney winced nonetheless at the brightness which assaulted her eyes. There was a rhythmic and distorted hissing which undulated around her yet for some reason did not frighten her. It sounded vaguely familiar but her brain acted as though it was stuck in low gear, churning away through a layer of mush, and unable to get proper traction.
All at once however, as if someone opened a frosted glass porthole and allowed Courtney to peer past it to the other side, her brain kicked in and solved its first puzzle since relinquishing its futile attempt to grab hold of the fading dream.
Waves! The hissing sound which surrounded her was finally recognized by her ears as waves bubbling along the beach as the tide came in. Splendid! Courtney was pleased her hearing was not faulty after all. She rather liked her ears.
Which meant, her intrepid brain continued, the soft stuff beneath (and supporting) her was sand!
Still squinting, she turned her head to the side and peeked between her eyelashes at the beach which stretched out beyond the range of her mostly-closed eyes. The wind tickled her bangs and played with the red ribbons in her hair.
Courtney smiled. She liked the beach. Her mum had brought her to the beach once while on holiday last year, and she remembered scraps of her time wiggling her toes in the sand. She hadn't forgotten the events in her room, her bedclothes, or the scary old man, but those images seemed to fade as well, as did the fear, and all she really wanted to know was on what beach she had landed.
Something tickled her right knee, probably a stray bit of beach grass, and she rubbed her hand over it to curb the tickling.
Keeping one eye closed to ward off the bright sunshine should it think to appear, she opened the other and looked around her to assess her current predicament. She saw no other people, and her now trustworthy ears told her the air was absent voices of any kind as well.
Huh. An abandoned beach? What kind of place was that for her to end up, eh?
Her knee tickled again, and she absently brushed at it with her hand while her thoughts continued to roam on a jolly holiday of their own. Where was her mum? Who was that old man? And, most importantly, had she any slippers with her? Walking all the way back home in bare feet would be a chore.
Courtney was too young to have read Harry Potter, but she certainly believed in magic. Could that old man have brought her here, to this beach, through means of magic or conjury?
Her knee tickled again, and for the first time Courtney noticed there was something making it tickle, rather than simply tickling by itself. She sat up to address what she thought to be sand fleas, only to have her breath catch in her throat when she saw the reality.