the volume suddenly decreased

She'd found the hidden doorway when she was five, and had visited the secret world behind the curtain regularly since then. That had been four years ago. Now, she stood happily with her friends of the Other Side—the pink bunnies with the razor sharp teeth, the flowers with the wide smiles, the crawling babies on the sand—and gazed at the violet sky. What a beauty, it was! The deep violet and indigo colored sky sparkled under the moonlight, only obscured by the black clouds moving in from the north. The clouds were always black at night. But then again, it was always night on the Other Side.

Her yellow dress with pink lace was stained with mud; she had gotten carried away while playing with the dolphins that could somehow walk on land and had fallen down and hurt her knee. She didn't mind the pain.

And now, she was going to leave this wonderful land forever.

Staring at the portal, she took a deep breath when she felt a tug on her dress. She looked down and saw the squirrel with the green eyes.

"Do you really have to go?"

"Yes. We're moving tomorrow—I don't think I'll be coming back."

"But why can't you stay here?" whined the bunnies, their teeth glinting in the silver moonlight.

"I can't leave my family…"

"Yes, you can! You can!" cried the dolphins, and they flopped before her, obscuring her path into the house.

"We can take care of you just as well, if not better, than your family…" hissed the flowers, extending their stems to swirl around her ankles.

She laughed. She loved her friends dearly, and they felt the same way. She didn't want to leave, but what choice did she have?

"I'm sorry. I have to go."

And all of her friends cried out at once, their voices raised in protest, in love, in desperation to keep their only Real companion. The babies cried and the clouds moved faster. She knew she had little time left before the portal closed for the day.

"LOOK!" she bellowed, "I'm sorry! I need to go!"

And she shook off the flowers' grip and dodged around the dolphins but her friends followed her. She turned back and saw the looks of determination on their faces. For the first time in the Other Side, she felt a tiny wave of fear wash over her. She ran up the porch steps, grabbed the door handle and pulled.

Nothing happened. It was locked.

Breathing heavily, she turned and faced the creatures of the Other Side. The volume of their outcry suddenly decreased and they stared back at her, waiting.

"Why is this door locked?'

No answer, besides the rapid blinking of the squirrel with the green eyes.

A small bird flew around her head, its deep red feathers grazing her face.

"You like exploring, don't you?" it whispered.

"Let me go!" she cried, batting at the bird. Her arms fell through its body as if it didn't exist. She ran to the side of the house and peered through the windows, but all she could see were the shadows of the Right Side.

"Help!" she cried to the shadows, but she knew in her heart that it was too late as her body started to change and morph into something unreal.

"You'll stay with us forever and ever," the creatures whispered in unison, "and we'll play everyday. You'll be one of us now, one of the imaginary friends."