Once upon a time, a girl named Celia fell asleep. It was a dreary, overcast day, just as her life had become dreary, overcast and empty of color. Her limbs had felt heavier and heavier, as if begging for sleep, and she had barely been able to force her eyes open during her afternoon courses. Her exhaustion had been growing steadily over the past months, causing her anxious mother to inquire – was it an iron deficiency? She had better eat some red meat. But no matter how many steaks her mother prepared, seasoned to perfection and accompanied by the daintiest fingerling potatoes, Celia felt her head drooping and her eyelids closing. On this grey afternoon, while her mother whistled and whittled this evenings batch of the tiniest possible potatoes, Celia climbed into her giant, four-poster bed with the carved wooden posts and the white canopy and fell quietly, calmly asleep.
She slept all afternoon and into the evening, and when her mother called her for dinner she did not awaken. Annoyed that her dinner was getting cold, Celia’s mother climbed the curved staircase to Celia’s attic bedroom and shook her daughter, but still she did not wake up. Her mother shouted, shook her daughter harder, slapped and threw water over her peaceful face but still she slept on.
“Harry!” Celia’s mother shrieked, for not only was her dinner cold but her daughter could not be brought back to consciousness. Celia’s father rushed into the room and methodically tried the same remedies as Celia’s mother, but nothing would awaken their daughter from her deep slumber.
“Perhaps it’s the iron deficiency,” Harry suggested reasonably. “Why don’t we have our dinner and check on her later – she might just need a good night’s sleep.”
Celia’s mother re-heated the juicy steak and miniscule potatoes, and the family sat down to eat.
She opened her eyes slowly, blinking once, then once again. The first thing she saw was the tin ceiling, the silver metal squares worn and individually stamped with a fleur-de-lis pattern. She felt the shaking and rolling before she realized where she was, and felt her body bumping along as she ran her hands along the metal rail of her lofted bed. She slowly raised her head, eyes sweeping over the red velvet curtains, the striped cushions with red and gold tassels, and the shiny green tabletop. She was in the caboose of a train, moving at a great speed through the forest.
Celia sat up, noticing her reflection in a cracked mirror and observing with interest her longer, darker hair, fuller, redder lips, curvier figure, and paler porcelain skin. She swung her feet over the side of her berth and saw that she was wearing a white dress and black shoes.
“Hmm,” she thought, “this is curious. I wonder where I’m going, and how I got here.” Celia jumped down from the bed, smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress, and ran her fingers through her tangled hair. She peered out the back window of the caboose and watched, entranced, as the great gnarled branches whipped past, the forest long overgrown over the tracks.
The sun set and the caboose grew dark; just when Celia was starting to get nervous a little glass lamp flickered to life in the corner, magically illuminating the car. Celia watched the trees fly past in the dim light for what seemed like hours.
All of a sudden the train halted, brakes screeching into the night. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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