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Chapter 1

The sharp rasp of the branch against the window made Nati jump.

She leapt from her bed and ran to the window, pulling the curtains away hastily. She didn’t know why she was so rushed. She knew it was a branch.

A few droplets of the rain from outside had dampened her curtains. She heard a loud clasp of thunder, shaking the whole wall and roof.

Her shoulders slumped in unforeseen disappointment. She didn’t know what she had been expecting but something didn’t feel right.

Nati moved away from the window in a trance. In fact, nothing had felt right for months now.

She buried herself in her bed, snuggling under the thick covers, finding comfort in the familiar thick sheets. Her heart was racing, and she felt like she should know something.

But what? What was she missing?

An eleven-year-old girl should not be having mental breakdowns most nights over things she didn’t understand. She should be going to the movies and hanging out with people in her classes. Not, cocooning herself in her bed, afraid of something she didn’t even know.

Nati took a deep breath to calm herself. There was no reason to get her parents worried about her again. They had taken alarmingly quick action a few weeks ago when she’d come to them at night saying she felt she was losing her mind.

Before she’d known it, she was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting to be examined. She hoped she never had to go back there again. The doctor had spent over an hour poking her ears and telling her to drink strange teas that tasted like muddy rainwater.

When she had tried to tell her parents she thought the doctor was poisoning her, they had paid no attention. Instead, asking what type of “herbal remedies” the doctor had suggested.

Every night since then, Nati had pretended to drink that unnatural gray water twice a day by throwing it into a plant beside her when her parents weren’t looking.

Nati closed her eyes, forcing her mind to shut up and get some sleep before it drove them both mad.

She was just about dosing off when she heard a significant bang against her window.

She cracked one eye open, not really wanting to go back to the window again for another branch. But both her eyes snapped open when she saw her blinds, usually quite still, flowing in the air like as if being pushed by a breeze.

Nati sat up, throwing the comforter around her waist. She felt her stomach churn with anticipation. Though what for, she had no idea.

She shook her head. Usually, she’d be a ball of fear right now. What was different?

The window cracked open, ever so slightly so that if you weren’t listening for it, you wouldn’t be able to hear anything.

In the blink of an eye, Nati saw a shadowy figure jump, literally jump, through the window and close it behind them. In an instant, the blinds were no longer moving and the room appeared as it once was.

Well, as it once was before there was a grumpy-looking man standing in the middle of it.

Nati jumped so that her back forcefully hit the bed behind her and tried to scream but found that nothing would come out.

Momentarily distracted, she gripped at her throat, wondering why on earth she couldn’t hear anything when she knew she was screaming.

“Quiet down would ya?” a rough voice said.

Nati was paralyzed with fear at the back of her bed. She wasn’t sure if the man was also keeping her frozen to the spot but she knew she couldn’t move even if she wanted to.

“About to blow this whole thing,” the man muttered to no one in particular, as he walked around the room.

He stopped at a shelf of stuffed animals and raised one of the rabbits by its ears.

“Really? Very original,” he said sarcastically.

He threw the rabbit back so that it landed sideways on top of a bear.

Nati who was slowly coming to her senses, leaned forward. She worked her jaw up and down and found that still nothing was coming out. She crawled closer to the man, trying to get his attention.

The man’s eyes flicked toward her as she pointed to her throat.

“Oh right,” the man muttered. He hesitated. “Promise you won’t scream?”

Nati nodded, although she wasn’t very sure how honest that was.

“Alright, whatever,” the man said. “It’s not like this could get any worse.”

“Wh-who are you?” Nati croaked, trying to find her voice.

But her question faded away when she saw the man cup his hands as if about to drink water, but instead it filled with light, illuminating the room. Tiny sparkles of light dotted the walls as if they were caught in the middle of a disco ball.

Nati stared, mouth wide open, in awe of what she had just seen.

“But how…” she said, pointing at the wall. She reached forward to grab one of the lights, but it just bounced away from her touch as if it had a mind of its own.

Nati followed the light as it darted and weaved through the other dancing spots, finding stillness on the roof.

She looked down and was finally able to make out the figure in front of her. The man was short. Remarkably short, in fact. Nati was only eleven but she was pretty sure she was taller than this man.

But his height isn’t what stood out to her the most. Instead, it was a white beard that lengthened all the way to basically the floor, sweeping it at its tail end.

Nati thought her jaw would be permanently forced open.

“The time for answers is later,” the man said. “I’ll explain on the way. But first, we need to get out of here before they find us.”

“Who?” Nati asked, her mind swirling with a bundle of questions.

The man glared at her. “Later,” he emphasized. “Now be quiet and follow me.”

Nati was shocked. “I’m not following you! I don’t know you!”

But as she said it the words felt wrong. Almost as if she did know this man. Although that was ridiculous because he was the kind of person she wouldn’t forget.

“We have to go now or else it’ll be too late,” the man said.

Nati was completely dumbfounded. “Go where? I’m not going anywhere!”

He paused and looked at Nati. He looked as if he were restraining himself from saying something else.

“Fine. We’ll do this the hard way then,” the man said angrily.

He reached into a pouch that was slung over his shoulder and moved so quickly Nati couldn’t make out what he was doing.

Before she had the chance to open her mouth in protest, the walls began shaking. The rain from around them thumped like a drum, beating in a rhythm that mimicked her heartbeat. The weird dancing lights vansished, engulfing them in darkness.

Nati felt the bed shake as if it were trying to throw her off it. She gripped the sheets with her life but still found herself being thrown sideways off the bed. Her grip was so strong that the sheets undid themselves and came tumbling beside her.

“Stop it!” Nati managed to scream but between the loud crushing of rain and sound of walls breaking, she couldn’t even hear herself.

The floor cracked with a definitive snap and she felt herself falling to the earth. She could feel pieces of broken wood tumbling down with her as they fell through an empty abyss. The house felt as if it was caving in on itself. The air felt oddly constricting as if it were sucking into itself and reforming.

Just as she thought her lungs would explode, everything stopped. Her body hit the floor with a thump, but the floor was surprisingly softer than she expected. The rain was coming down in full force now, so in seconds her clothes were all soaked to the brim.

Nati gripped into the earth and felt her fingers curl around blades of grass. She stood, squinting against the rain as she looked at what used to be her house.

Her house was gone, completely vanished from sight. A sharp lightning strike took it’s place, illuminating one large toilet.

Nati blinked. Toilet?

Her mind had filled in the word but that couldn’t be right. Why was a toilet three times her size suddenly sitting where her house once was?

She stared in complete bewilderment at the massive toilet. It was ordinary except for a collage of swirling lights shining from it and disappearing as mist in the rain.

“You better hold on. It’s gonna be a rough ride,” the man said.

The toilet began to shake. It’s force so strong that the ground underneath them was also trembling.

“No way” Nati replied.

And then, just like that, she fell into the toilet.

Chapter 2

The truth

There she was moving through this toilet that by now she knew wasn’t a toilet at all. Nati felt a rush in her lungs as if all the air was being sucked out. Wind violently pushed her hair so that it was wrapped around her eyes and face.

In the midst of the chaos Nati felt my heart drop as flashes of people began to light up the darkness. A woman with a round, kind face, and apron, sweeping the floor. A boy no taller than the man falling with me, was twirling in a garden. She saw flashes of these people, all of them should have been unfamiliar but she had a feeling that she knew them. Her heart raced as more people swirled around her, making her feel confused and eager to reach out and grab on to someone.

Nati could see next to her the small man was going with her to wherever this toilet ride was taking us. Except while her limps were flailing around madly, the man looked almost bored. He was sitting as if he were on a chair, with his eyes half closed and arms crossed.

The strangest thing though was that Nati didn’t feel scared. Yes, she was completely shocked and uncomfortable but she knew what she felt wasn’t fear. In a way she felt a relief which she couldn’t explain. As they kept moving through toilet she began to see colors flashing. The people had faded leaving bright flashing colors in their wake. Nati began to think that maybe she was having some kind of out of body experience.

“Hold on!” the man screamed, although his body language remained composed. “We are almost there!”

“Hold on to what?” Nati screamed a little madly. “There’s nothing to grab!”

The man didn’t answer but instead Nati was blinded by a bright light. The light kept getting stronger and strong until Nati was squinting so hard that her forehead a

My idea is that the “parents” are not really the parents and were sent by this land to watch over her while she was exiled. And the doctor’s tea is actually a potion to keep her from figuring out who she is.


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