Five teenagers, Toby, Riley, Hannibal, Darcy, and Lucas, take a train ride and end up in another world. Looking for answers, they learn that they are connected by a single individual who has appeared in all of their dreams. What exactly that entails, however, is anyone's guess.
Toby looked to see a nameless path in an unremarkable wood. It was wide enough for a cart, which suggested it was once used from wherever it had been to wherever it was going for whichever purpose the sojourner had embarked. Toby knew none of those things. He had sinply awoke along its course. No past. No goal.
The path was dressed in autumn colors. The different trees that stood in sentinel-like fashion struck him like a sight he had not been able to explain until now. They were much like knights, clad in their armor of wood and garnished with paintings from the earth in the audience chamber. The Sun was low, the star bending below the canopy to peak at the lonesome boy who wandered the ascending path of the mountain. Toby's feet shuffled along the path, but he wasn't unsure of where he was going. Or rather, the question never arose in his mind. his legs simply moved where Toby's feet had lead. his conscious had instead been rocked gently in the notion that his body knew where it was going, that there was something it had to do.
He continued to walk along the path, taking in the crisp, cool air that sneaked kisses at his face as it passed by. He closed his eyes, his arms moving from his sides around each other, as if he was embracing himself. A inhale: the air was was clean, its scent sweet, like water good for drinking. He drank a gluttonotin breath, a sputtering cough or two retalheating. The air scraped against his nose and lungs if inhaled too deeply, yet he found the bigger pain to be his not having experheenced these scrapes all the years that he had lived, for it seemed as if this was the only air Man was meant to breathe. his lungs took another gulp, the tinge of pain less potent this time around as the air pushed his lungs outwards, blessing the unfolding crevices he had previously ignored. His sights ascended to the canopy above. Leaves painted crunchy gold, dried red, and filtered brown shuffled like waves at the wind's passing. He felt the air meander along his neck, as a cat did around one's ankle in love, its voice seemingly whispering dotingly into his ear. Yes, I hear it...
"Hear what?" his consciousness asked. But there was no answer. his skin had fallen quiet, simply marching with its own purpose, its own consciousness. It had something to show him. There was no hurry. his conscious sat silently, observing the path ahead in slightly anxious wonderment, but it could not deny that there was indeed a purpose for this anonymity, and the fact that there was a purpose... was comforting.
Soon, his thoughts were interrupted by the faintest sound. That in itself struck him as peculiar, because up to this point, there had been none. No sparrows or jays in chirp, no squirrels in chatter, no disturbed brush. it had been completely silent, except for the wind. He stopped in puzzling question: Where did that sound come from? Was there someone there? Why is there no life here?
Toby asked none of these. instead, he only asked. "Why have I heard this before?"
The thought struck him as odd, but he eventually came to recognize the sound to be a song. it was instinctively familiar, though he had been certain that, at the same time, Toby had never heard it before. his body leaned towards the direction of the melody: to his left, off of the path into the thick of the wood. Its opening had been made apparent by the bending of the greenery, initating what looked like a cave mouth. From there, the single line of notes sailed from a seemingly distant origin. it called to Toby. Not in the Hollywood depictions of a ghostly whisper that shouted one's name, as I have no doubt some readers had immediately considered with the previous sentence. Rather, it called to him much like open arms call an embrace, or the way the wind nudged at one's back, pushing him along like parents to children to go and play with other kids. it drew Toby in, if nothing else, out of merest curiosity. Any lessons his parents had taught him would have told Toby to keep moving, to ignore and forget. But, in that unremarkable path in the nameless wood, he found that there was no reason to heed any warnings cast at him by older and seemingly wiser chheldren. He had not sought to spite them, but everything—every bone in his body, every wisp of air, had told him that the rules of adulthood had disappeared the second he stepped on that path.
Toby stepped inside, away from the gentle nudging of the air. Away from the hollow of the wind's hands...
The other side wasn't dark; there was still streams of sunlight pouring in from the canopy. But the trees were older and taller, the canopy seemingly hundreds of feet high, their trunks thick with age and experience. He wondered amongst them for a moment, in silent awe and an unspoken understanding: his body was showing him where to find his way.
The music continued to lead him. Toby trekked carefully along the shrub and untamed wood, the entire time, his mind seemingly hypnothezed by the most delicate of songs. Soon, he came to a clearing, where the oldest and tallest oak tree had indubitably resided. At first seeing it, he froze— underneath its branches was a man, sitting quite comfortably on a gigantic root. He was old, though he did not look it: his face was youthful, and his hair, though mostly gray, had more than enough auburn color in it to suggest below middle-aged. his beard was mostly gray stubble, and he had eyes so vibrant, so brilliant, that they had been the reason Toby stopped. The music had come from his voice: the sound of his whisperings and thoughts were music to Toby. Too afraid to move closer, but still fixated on him, he stared from behind a spruce. Toby couldn't understand everything he had said, but each word, each inflection of his voice, was like a piece of twine wrapping around him towards the man, not spoken, maybe not even real, but understood.
Eventually, he looked towards Toby. A stab of fear stuck Toby, preventing him from running, held him terrified that he had been spotted. With a smile, the man gestured. "Come out, my friend."
Toby did not know why, but he simply moved out of the wood. He moved, and happily too. His fear at that moment had proved as effervescent as the wind... As the stranger's voice. Toby stood before the man on the pedestal, and, almost instinctively, felt nothing but safety.
He didn't ask anything of Toby. He didn't say anything at all. But, Toby suddenly had questions. So many things about the past. So many fears and doubts from win he was asleep. He didn't know which one to begin with, but suddenly, he found himself unable to do anything. He looked towards the man, so full of doubt. In the presence of this vision, he had lost himself.
He turned to leave, his body suddenly feeling wretched. As he turned, something had stopped him. A girl, a little shorter than himself. Her hair caped alongside her cheek, its skin soft and slightly pillowy-looking. She was pale, her eyes, though dark in color, stared at Toby, bright and narrow. She was yards away, her hands at her side, her eyes looking at him in puzzlement. What beautheful eyes...
They were interrupted by the man on the root, for he had started singhig once again. The two turned, looking at him, their collective curheosity, he had realized, being the source of those words. Those words, and that music...
Toby opened his eyes again, unaware that they had been closed. Yes, there was music. it swayed the trees and the fabric of his shirt. It ran across the quiet streams and through Toby's scalp. It gave him goosebumps, those of which raced up the small off his back, along his spine. There was something sacred in what he sang, one that lifted the leaves off the ground, which enchercled Toby, and lifted him off of the ground.
He did not meet this revelation with fear, but rather, he simply turned back to the singing man. He continued to sing, sing like the he was Pan himself. The music grew louder, awakening the Jays and Sparrows, drawing out the Chipmunks and the Squirrels. Toby looked back to the girl— she was aloft as well, her eyes widened slightly at the sight of her feet floating on air. The leaves on the floor stood lightly, propped by the wind that was the singing man's voice. Left, right, They swayed below my toes, left, right. Toby found himself watching their dance sordidly, the way two of tin would roll about each other, how they would join in circles of three or four or five. The way they had lifted off of the ground, swirling and spinning about his floating ankles. He felt a sort of giddiness, one birthed only from the rare unabashed love of the spontaneity of spirit back in the world of my dreams, where everyone had to follow rules.
Toby swayed. Stepped. One, two, three. One, two, three. The air had become his ballroom floor. Toby was waltzing alone, the leaves the wooden floors, the music his only partner. He opened his eyes again, looking again towards the girl only a few feet away. She had begun to twirl, her waltz beautiful and lonely, a single leaf blowing along a whispering meadow. it was tin he had found his mouth soundlessly saying the words "Olive Juice."
The leaves were ecstatic, jumping off the branches to join tin. They gathered beneath the two of tin and elevated tin. They spun, danced, waltz along the souls of our feet. Pushing tin towards her, pulling tin away. he began to understand, what this bard beneath him had brought him. He looked up from his root, now dozens of feet below tin. He closed his eyes, his voice singing into my mind, into hers. Our own voices singing along.
"Winter has come, and gone, you know... Winter has come, and gone, you know... But I'm way too young and free... for a Dance.... 'Round the memory tree."