Can't see the Forest for the Trees

"Hey, come on, keep up!" The girl's shout permeated the air, echoing and repeating oddly around the greenish-yellow landscape. She was running through a field full of tall, wheat-like grass, maintaining a constant pace despite turning around and running backwards in order to release the odd, echoing yell into the world. A boy ran behind her, chasing her and yet always remaining frustratingly behind, no matter how fast he ran.

"Who are you!" he yelled desperately after her, his cry echoing in the same eerie manner as hers. The sky was a strange yellow color, despite the sun being high in the sky. The yellow light, coupled with the plants of the field weaving hazily in front of him, seemed to blend perfectly with the girl's form and render her nothing more than a merrily flickering mirage in front of him. If not for her echoing cries, he would have begun to doubt her as real.

Suddenly, the girl's cries took on a different tone, and the boy could just make out the sight of her falling and disappearing into the unknown, gently waving vegetation in front and all around them.

"Ow ow ow ow!" The girl exclaimed in her echoing cadence of a voice. "Tripped there, no fair!"

As the boy cautiously approached, the girl broke into a fit of ghostly giggles that seemed to come from all around him, fading and weaving as easily as the field's plants.

"Hello?" he called again. His only answer was his own question, repeated endlessly to him along with the dying sounds of giggling, which were almost, but not quite, faded out. He slowly crept closer to the spot where the girl had fallen, nervous and excited, but yet not knowing why. He tiptoed forward slowly, for some reason indecisive now that the moment he'd caught up with her had finally arrived. Nodding suddenly, as if reaching a quick decision, he pounced forward and swept the long grass, which was taller than him, aside.

What he revealed was nothing, an empty space, a small hollow depression in the surrounding grass. He walked forward and tried to look around for the girl, but instead found himself falling, and things going black.

What seemed like mere seconds later, he was standing again, although he couldn't remember getting up. He shook his head to clear it, and look around again. Where had she gone?

At this moment, the lilting, echoing laughter reverberated around him yet again, and he could hear the sounds of a running form all around him. A deep-set feeling of panic began to envelope him, but he didn't understand why. He too began to run, crashing through the grass, chasing after echoes and adding his own to the fray.

"Who are you!" he yelled yet again, more than a note of panic entering his voice. Then, suddenly, he burst out of the grass and stopped, frozen. The ground was now completely flat, hard, and grass-free. When he turned around, the field was nothing but a hazy mess of undulating color. The air was now dead silent.

He was standing near the edge of a cliff, a sheer, ninety-degree drop-off with no warning other than the ten yards of bare terrain that held no mention of the mysterious grass behind him which preceded it. Ahead of him was a girl, her head pointed toward the ground, framed by long, wispy locks of black hair. The hair, so black it seemed to steal light from its surroundings, was not moving. There was no wind.

He stepped forward slowly, hands raised in front of him as if he was reaching for her. She seemed to be wavering, indistinct even now that they were clear of the eerie grass, which was still swaying behind them.

"Who-" he started, reaching a hand further toward her. Her head snapped up, she seemed to be staring at him appraisingly, and yet her eyes were closed. Her hands were now on her hips.

"Malcolm," she said strongly, defiantly, the echo even more distinct in the empty surroundings. Malcolm. Malcolm. Malcolm.

"Who?" the boy asked, confused, trying to take another step forward but unable to drudge up the courage. The girl's head cocked to one side, her eyes remained closed.

"Malcolm," she repeated softly, now sounding a bit confused herself, and sad. Her hands had drifted slowly upward; her arms were now spread wide, perpendicular to her standing form, palms open and fingers spread apart.

"I don't know who Malcolm is," the boy insisted, "I don't know who you are, I don't know who I-"

The girl's eyes suddenly snapped open, glowing with a feverish, golden-yellow light. Her head quickly righted itself, now completely straight up; her arms remained spread out. Her hair seemed to pulse with a sudden darkness, so black it looked blue in the golden light shining from her and filling the endless, open sky behind her. She was staring at him now, staring intensely. She stamped her foot once on the ground, like a little girl caught in a tantrum, and gave the boy a demanding look with quite the same feeling.

"Malcolm," she said yet again, this time much more distinctly, the echoes so numerous and overlapping that the boy had to hold his ears. The echoes were different now, deeper yet further away at the same time, and each of a completely different pitch, as if a cacophony of voices were all calling out. Suddenly the girl laughed, and the echoes were conspicuous only in their complete and sudden absence. She fell slowly backwards, still laughing, disappearing over the edge of the cliff.

The boy ran forward, panicking, trying to call after the girl but not being able to make a sound. The only thing he could see was the empty, endless yellow sky, the only thing he could hear was the dying sound of the small girl's laughter. He stared down the cliff, disbelief filling him head to toe. He stood there for what seemed like hours before finally turning around.

The girl was right there.


The boy woke with a start, head hitting the top of the tube he was enclosed in. His plain, gray jumpsuit was soaked with a cold sweat. A harsh blue light on the screen fastened to the tube above him told him that it was currently four in the morning. The same light also told him that his heart rate was elevated, he had excess amounts of adrenaline in his system, and several other irrelevant medical facts that he disregarded as a fancy way of saying, "You just had a nightmare!"

"I wonder what that was about..." he said to himself, wondering aloud. He had been having the same reoccurring dream for weeks now, and he still had no clue who the girl was, who Malcolm was, or what the whole thing was about. He had never even seen a field, let alone a strange, waving, echoing one like that.

The boy rubbed his temples gently, as if trying to massage away his headache as well as his thoughts. There was no way he was getting to sleep on his own again tonight.

There was a sudden beep on the screen, and a message appeared in bright red holographic script, glowing in the darkness, saying that he was not due to wake up for another four hours. The boy groaned, knowing what was coming next. With a nearly silent hissing noise that still managed to fill his entire enclosure, the small tube was automatically pumped full of a purple-ish smoke.

Pretty color, the boy noted foggily as his consciousness waned, lavender, or perhaps lilac.

With this pleasant thought on his muddled mind, the boy quickly drifted off into a dreamless, gas-induced slumber.