As she ran through the woods, she couldn't help but appreciate the beautiful autumn colors that surrounded her.
The yellows, oranges, and reds of the the leaves still on the trees and of those that had already fallen were so bright around the edges of her vision she couldn't help but marvel. They weren't so obvious as she looked forward, dulled by her focus on her need to get away as her eyes locked on the trail ahead. She couldn't hear any pursuers, and she knew, if she turned around, she wouldn't be able to see any either. She just knew she was being pursued and that she had to get away. The forest melted away to be replaced by a train platform, and she jumped into a still open door right before it slid shut and the train began to move.
At about this point, a thought began to dance around the corner of her mind, but she was distracted by the lady next to her offering her a donut, which she accepted. She noticed the lady's hat (one of those old-fashioned wide-brimmed ones with a feather on it), her purple feathery boa, her large purple coat. The lady immediately turned back to gaze blankly at the empty seats facing them, and so she concentrated on eating the doughnut instead of attempting conversation. She couldn't quite figure out where the doughnut had come from, but she let the matter slide, instead enjoying the silence of the empty train car.
It was as she was getting off the train at the next stop that the thought that had been niggling around the outside of her mind finally forced itself to the forefront. The quickly shifting scenes, unusual lack of detail and little coherency was not normal. She must be dreaming. She pinched herself to be sure, and realized she didn't even have a firm grip on who she was or what she looked like. Even as her mind turned to ponder these things, the influence of the dream warned her against it, trying to replace the logic of everyday life with the soft, floaty feeling of just enjoying the story line (such that there was).
She accepted the idea readily, even as she could hear part of her brain grumbling in the background. And then, all of a sudden, everything snapped into focus. The volume of the masses of people surrounding her grew louder, the air colder. A voice boomed from a loud speaker, and her eyes caught on the posters on the pillars, advertising various products, some with unauthorized addenda scrawled along the sides.
Her heart started beating faster from the pent-up adrenaline of a long chase, her eyes automatically scanning the crowds for anyone she recognized, friend or foe. Someone gripped her arm and she looked into the eyes of a singer she idolized as he nodded at her to follow him and started to make his way to the stairs. She tried to pinch her arm again as she followed him, and this time she felt it. It felt real. It all felt real. The noises, the smells, the way her thoughts were reeling with all of the new information. There was no floaty feeling, no sleepy reassurance that she could still wake up.
She collapsed onto a nearby bench as she felt the world close in on her, her heart rate rising once again as she started to lose control on her emotions. She lost focus of the scene in front of her as her eyes filled with tears, started to shiver as the cold penetrated the jean jacket she was wearing. She was scared and shaken and sad and possibly in shock. Yes, she could identify the feeling even as she could feel her brain warring with this new sense of reality.
This had been a dream. Was still a dream? And yet she knew, in her bones, that whether or not it had once been a floaty bit of her sleep, she was absolutely and irrevocably wide awake. She frantically reached for her memories of where she should be, who she should be, and found them fading away around the corners of her mind, much like the melting of a dream when it is hit by the morning sun. Her throat constricted as she tried to hold herself together, hands tightening as she tried by force of will to try to hold on to herself; to hold all those thoughts and memories she used to have and keep them safe even as they were slipping away.
Her brain chose this moment to remind her that she had often wondered what it would be like if she could just continue her dream after she woke up. She screamed back at the thought internally in an attempt to drown it out, to delay the blame that she knew would fall on her, even if she didn't deserve it.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her out of the black hole she was falling into. The man she had been following had come back to her, and his face held no emotion as he started to walk forward again and then half-turned back, waiting for her. She let out a shaky breath as her mind rushed to make a decision that seemed to drip finality. She took another breath, wiped her face on her jacket sleeve, and stood to her feet, following the man through the shifting crowd.