Mallory Square (Photo credit: flowercat)
Even for an eight-year-old girl, Mallory Luminosity had an oversized imagination. So, when she told her father that she had discovered a secret pathway to another world in the woods their neighborhood bled into, naturally he did not believe her. And he did not think encouraging children’s “foolish flights of fancy” was healthy, either. So, he simply said, “Mallory, you know that’s impossible. Now finish your peas.”
It was no made-up idea, though. She was telling the truth, and she knew it. She protested this fact, adamantly, to her father, telling him she would take him back there to show him, but he just got more and more irritated. So finally she gave up.
It was early June and the sweltering heat of another summer was just now fully lowering itself down, encasing the town inside the thick humidity of the air like an insect trapped in amber. None of the grownups wanted to move, just sitting behind the screendoors with whirring electric fans turned to high, drinking iced tea and talking quietly to each other as if raising their voices would make it hotter. Only the children were unafraid of the merciless sun, running and having adventures outside just as they always did, and Mallory was no exception.
Discovering it had been an accident. She always spent almost all of the summer going on expeditions in the woods–packing a lunch in her daisy-patterned metal lunchbox, bringing a notebook for recording field notes in her backpack, returning with flowers and leaves to press and smooth cool stones and bits of bright green moss and abandoned bird’s nests. She knew the cardinals and bluejays, the raccoons, the skittering squirrels like she knew her classmates. While she loved spending time there, she did not think there was anything in the woods to surprise her.
There was a part she loved because it frightened her. It was a section where the trees grew so close together that only little bits of sunlight could creep through. Sounds there seemed amplified, echoy. Surely somewhere just like this was where the Big Bad Wolf had happened upon Little Red Riding Hood. Mallory wandered there and felt like it was Halloween night no matter what time of year it was, like the barrier between this world and something else was thin, permeable.
She had been there that day, feeling her pulse race and imagining all the things that could reach out of the darkness and grab her, but when she got to what was supposed to be the clearing where everything felt all right again, everything was different. She wasn’t in the old familiar woods anymore. It was a world out of a dream, bizarre and fantastic and potentially deadly. She saw a variety of chimeras–horses with tiger stripes and the heads of bears, elephant-sized cats with pig’s tails. There were buildings made entirely out of endlessly stacked books, with more books spilling out in huge pools in front of them, and that more than anything else had made her want to stay. The furthest she had gotten to in her exploration was the shore of a lavender ocean, periwinkle sand that felt like snow between her toes. She hadn’t seen any people, but figured they just were hiding because they knew she was from outside, and that if she came back for good they would welcome her.
Mallory woke up early the next day. She got out the olive green suitcase that she used when she visited her grandparents and loaded it up carefully–the stuffed dog she’d had since she was a baby, three blank notebooks, a picture of her mother. This time, she wasn’t going to come back.
Quinn Collard spends her days drinking coffee, cuddling with her kitty, and spilling her John-Linnell-loving guts out all over http://museumofidiots.com.