Thalia awoke in the middle of a wildflower field, her limbs sprawled out among the vibrant blooms and the sun glinting down at her through fluffy white clouds in a baby-blue sky. For a moment she had no thought other than that of the beauty around her. She listened to the birds singing blissfully above while delicately touching the petals of a little purple flower with her index finger, wondering if this was a happy dream.
Then the flower bit her.
“What the f*ck?!” She stood quickly to avoid the other flowers, who all seemed to be moving towards her now as if pushed by a light breeze. Except there was something almost deliberate about their movement, and the moment one touched her ankle she felt that sharp sting again, as though a very small creature had just sunk its needle-like teeth into her skin. She knew immediately that she must get out of this field. Now. She began running as fast as her legs would carry her, heading for no particular direction other than out.
Except the field seemed to carry on forever. She could glimpse the beginnings of a green forest ahead of her, but it seemed so far away and wasn’t getting any closer. She kept running, her feet and ankles on fire now with the stings of the colorful flowers, feeling as though she was running over a field of needles, with escape always too far to reach and rest impossible. For she knew that if she were to stop for one moment she would collapse with the pain and then those hell-sent blooms who seemed so friendly and beautiful a few minutes ago would surely devour her. Or do whatever carnivorous flowers did to fresh meat. She tried not to think about it too much, she just needed to keep running. Running to what she didn’t know, for the forest didn’t seem any closer than it was several minutes ago.
Are the birds louder than before? The exhausted girl couldn’t tell for sure but it almost seemed as though the melodic chirping from before had risen to a hellish cacophony. It was less like birdsong now and more like a chorus of shrieking rats who were determined to force their voices onto anyone who could hear them.
Thalia glanced up and nearly tripped over her own feet. The birds were very close to her now. And huge. She could actually see the size of their claws from several feet away. Though the most disconcerting part about these animals was the fact that they were very clearly supposed to be small, common birds--sparrows, blue jays, finches-- and yet they were the size of large falcons, and obviously responsible for those horrible, angry screeching sounds as they flapped close behind her. They seemed to be chasing her, although for what purpose Thalia could not tell. Probably to eat me just like these demon flowers. Brilliant.
She kept running because she had no other choice, but her legs were beginning to give out and she knew if she didn’t reach those trees soon she would collapse from the pain and exhaustion, and then these beasts could do whatever they wanted with her. Drops of sweat sprayed off of her as her pain-numbed legs carried her towards a perpetually distant escape. She began to wonder if it was even possible. What if the only thing she could do now was give in and hope that her death was as painless as possible? There was no room for this kind of thinking, she pushed the thought out of her mind. There was only one goal: survival. And she was going to succeed no matter what it took.
Suddenly, just as her legs were finally about to give up on her, she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. Her first delirious thought was that the flowers had grown and were now attempting to swallow her, but when she turned her head and saw the blood dripping down her arm, she realized that the birds had finally had enough waiting and were now ready to finish her off. This has been a game for them, she realized.
Of course these winged creatures were capable of grabbing her this entire time, they just liked the fun of chasing their prey before consuming it. Now they were tired of the game and wanted to get to the eating part. The talon that had just attempted to take a chunk out of her shoulder belonged to a massive sparrow, who’s eyes glinted peculiarly as it dove for her a second time.
“Hey! Shoo!” Thalia waved her arms over her head as she continued to run, trying not to focus on the laceration on her arm and the deafening shrieks of the birds behind her. The sparrow ignored her exclamation and reached for her again. This time it didn’t miss, and it’s prey screamed as it’s claws latched onto her shoulders and yanked her backwards. She felt the sparrow’s talons pierce her skin and a warmth flow down both arms when it grabbed her.
She nearly fell over from the pain but the bird held her in place, flapping its huge wings in order to maintain both it’s balance and hers. She struggled against its grip but nearly tore her arms off and had to stop before she blacked out from the agony. Tears streamed down her face as she looked into the eyes of the massive bird. “Please,” she sobbed. It’s black eyes glinted again and then two robins fluttered down and grabbed her legs in their talons, seemingly following orders from the sparrow. The screeching continued directly into her ears now as two more birds latched onto her arms and Thalia was convinced she was about to be torn apart by these enlarged fowls. She didn’t even feel the biting of the flowers underneath her now because the pain in her arms and legs encompassed everything in her. She felt like her body was throbbing with waves of cold pain as she sobbed beneath the birds, wishing for nothing more than to be put out of her agony
Then something strange happened.
The birds lifted her into the air. Thalia could feel the ground and her puddle of blood and those damned flowers disappear from under her as the birds began flapping their wings. She didn’t understand it, why move me? Why not just eat me where you had me, I sure as hell wasn’t going anywhere. Then a fresh wave of pain hit her and she passed out, unable to retain any more of her strength.
When she finally reawoke Thalia was no longer anywhere near the wildflowers. Instead, she was nestled on a bed of leaves on the floor of a bright green forest; a small, lively stream bubbled nearby on her right and she could hear a few bullfrogs burbling within it. The bright sun leaked through the green canopy above her and cast enough light for her to see that she was located directly beneath a massive Sycamore tree that seemed to be a central point of the forest, with its wide-reaching branches and stout trunk that could be home to the families of several small animals and a great hiding place for both predators and prey.