Bigger on the Inside
I blink. Where am I? I squint through the thick, damp fog to see in the distance. Nothing. The stillness in the air frightens me, like something could jump out at any moment. I shiver and wrap my bathrobe tighter around my body.
Slowly, tentatively, I take a step forward, trying to feel what I’m stepping on. It’s squishy and I can hear a faint SQUELCH as my weight presses on my foot. Mud. Suddenly, I hear a voice ring through the fog.
“Hello? Anybody there?” It is loud and clear.
I scream back almost immediately. “Yes! Where are you?”
Just as I finish, I hear other cries echoing through the mist. Tens, hundreds, no thousands of people calling back. Some sound desperate, some are calm and composed. Others sound excited, even overjoyed, but I’m not one of them. I’m more in between — confused.
A blue light pushes through the fog ahead of me and I hold my breath. Footsteps crunch the twigs beneath them, getting louder and louder. Suddenly, a girl bursts through the fog and bumps into me.
She jumps back and clutches my shoulder with her hand. “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you.” Her lightly outlined eyes skim worriedly over my face. I’m suddenly aware that I’m sweating. Then, she frowns. “Are you lost?”
“I guess so.” I glance behind her, hoping to see some familiar outline or shape. But I’m still clueless. “Where am I?”
She smiles and holds out her hand. “Follow me, I’ll take you to the others.” I’m about to reach for her hand when she drops it and squints at me.
“You don’t remember which cabin you’re in by any chance, do you?”
Cabin? I rack my brains for some sort of answer to her question. I find nothing. “Um, no.” Then I add:
“Sorry, but where are you taking me exactly?”
She laughs and turns around. “Keep up. And don’t get distracted.”
“Are you not allowed to tell me? Is this some sort of trick?”
She doesn’t answer.
The blue light isn’t much help for seeing. I stumble over what feels like twigs and roots. We’re clearly in a forest. But what in the world did I do to get here? It feels like just an hour ago I was at home, sleeping. I faintly remember getting up, throwing on a bathrobe, and walking down the dark corridor to my office. The rest is too blurred to recall.
“Am I in a dream?” The words find their way out of my mouth even before I decide to say them.
Still, she doesn’t answer.
We walk on for a few minutes more.
Finally, she stops and turns to me. “It’s not a trick or a dream. Anyways, check it out – here we are.”
I follow her gaze to a dark blue shadow barely taller than me and about twice as wide. As we approach it, I begin to make out the slight details of the fabric and the flap over the front door. A polished block of wood over the door resembling a name plate is blank. It looks like a tent, but it’s nowhere near large enough for someone to live in. I suppose it will have to do – at least long enough for me to understand what this place is.
My guide turns to me. “Here are my tips: get to know your cabin-mates, you’ll be with them for the month. You guys will be helping each other out and keeping each other motivated throughout the marathon. If you have any questions, just ask for Carol – that’s me. And just remember to do your best and push through until the end. It’ll be totally worth it.”
She shoots me a warm smile before waving and walking off into the distance. My heart is pounding in my chest now, and my breaths are quick – the way they are when I’m excited. I think I might know what this is about.
Quickly, I brush aside the tent flap and step inside. The moment I enter, my excitement evaporates to be replaced by astonishment. I stand staring around at the inside of the tent with my eyes wide.
Shiny, polished wooden floors catch my eyes from every angle. A fuzzy carpet sits patiently in the middle of the room, holding a small coffee table in its clutches. I hear the crackling of fire and the sporadic clacking of keyboards. Comfortable whispers and quiet, coffee-house music thickens the air.
Two sofas surround are arranged in a semi-circle around the carpet that opens up to the wood-burning fireplace. I follow the path of the chute up, and I gasp. The ceiling is most definitely NOT a tent. Wooden beams support the walls of the building, intertwining back and forth across the ceiling. I like this place already.
Several other people about my age are sprawled across the sofas. They all hold mugs in their hands, sipping occasionally as they stare at a laptop or notepad in their lap. I move closer and smile awkwardly at my fellow writers. “Hi.”
They all look up and greet me, responding in a flurry of voices.
Nervously, I clasp my hands in front of me.
“I’ve never been here before. Where exactly is this place?”
A boy with hair the colour of an orange I ate last night takes a sip from his mug before replying.
“Well, you signed up for it, didn’t you? You’re in our virtual cabin.”
Virtual? I gape at the boy. This couldn’t possibly be virtual. Unless…
I let my eyes sweep the cabin again. The browns of the wood, bright blue of the tent canvas, and white of the sofas and carpets seem to tickle my imagination. Suddenly, a swash of white flashes in the corner of my eye. That sofa wasn’t there before. And three – no, four new writers are perched upon it, noses already in their laptops and notebooks, like they’d been writing there all along. They each glance up to say their “hello”s and then turn back to their work.
I only have to think about it and there it is, my silver laptop shining expectantly on the corner of a coffee table. So many possibilities with this place. And I’m just getting started.
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