A Circle of Deja Vu

By: Helina Franklin

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Circle of Deja Vu cover art

She was running as fast as she could in a long, dark tunnel. She felt rough thread underneath her feet. She looked down and saw neon-green yarn under her. It was wide, wide enough to put a refrigerator on it horizontally.

But not wide enough to sprint safely.

She slowed to a stop, got on all fours, and began to crawl the seemingly great distance. Clutching a thick, plastic, over-sized, loose thread, she peered over the edge of the yarn bridge. To test the drop she brought out a-half-of-a- broken pencil, and dropped it down the trench. After about six seconds, she heard a soft “clink”. Now more cautiously, wary of the drop that lay just a few lengths from her finger-tips, she inched her way down the bridge. She was elated and grateful when she saw a light up ahead of her. Forgetting her fear of the chasms that surrounded her, she raced down the yarn towards the light.

Suddenly, she slammed into a solid wall, bruising her wrists. Gingerly she felt for a door. But there was none. Neither was there an exit of any shape, size or form. The light that she had seen had come from a small crack at the top of the dead end, far out of her reach. As she slowly slumped down against the wall, she realized that she heard nothing and smelt nothing. Her sight was limited to the neon bridge beneath her, there was nothing to taste in the air and her touch was limited to the rough yarn beneath her, and the heat.

Just as quickly as she had lost hope, she heard a high-pitched squeaking sound, like a fork being dragged across a plate. The sharp, tangy stench of rusted metal filled and overwhelmed her nose. She knew something was coming towards her, and fast. She felt around the wall behind her but it was all solid rock (or was it?). She reached her arms out in front of her to feel the air and assure herself that she was safe. But it only made her panicking worse. There was a wall headed towards her and it had spikes on it that were different lengths. She hugged herself thinking that surely this was the end. As she braced herself for her miserable fate, she felt a single, solitary, rustbrowned spike slowly but steadily press into her arm. As she waited for it to puncture her skin, wishing that she had toughened up and gotten her tetanus shot, she felt the spike reel back and land a second blow to her arm. The spike repeated this several times until it felt like she was being jabbed repeatedly by a finger. Then, something very cold and wet slid down her back, making the entire back of her shirt damp.

She awoke with a shriek and found herself staring bleary-eyed up into the innocent face of her best friend Robin.

“Are you OK, because I’ve been poking you for the past, like, ten

minutes, and you didn’t wake up.” Then she added cheekily, “Until, that is, when I slid ice down your back.”

“Yes, jeez, don’t wake me up like that please!” Maggie grumpily called back, as she hastily slipped into her uniform. “Looks like another boring day of camp,” she said, taking in her dull surroundings. There wasn’t much to look at: only the gray wall, white beds and the off-white door and the floor with a color to match.

“Come on, Maggie, let’s get going!” Robin called to her.

“Alright, I’m coming!” Maggie yelled back, while hopping on one foot as she pulled on her other shoe. As she walked out of the cabin, she took a breath of the soft spring air.

Then, as sudden as thunder on a sunny summer day, she heard a shriek. When she looked ahead of her she saw that Robin wasn’t there. She took a cautious step closer to where her friend had been, when suddenly a gust of cold air took her breath away. She looked down at the stones and the long grass beneath her then up at the clear blue sky, and glowing green tree tops. But no leaf or blade of grass was even twitching. There was no breeze. She saw a stone that looked oddly crooked and picked it up to get a better look at it. Then, a huge dark pit about four times the size of a manhole cover yawned open in front of her. It seemed like an opening for a tunnel, and it had a neon spring-green cord as a pathway.

Maggie ran down the grass path as fast as she could, until she found her teacher, Ms. Dove, sitting in a spot that looked like a fairy grove in a magical forest. Everything about Ms. Dove’s features were prissy: the way she was sitting was prissy, her outfit was prissy and even her hair was prissy.

“Hello Magpie, love your dress today, where’d get it?”

Maggie remembered that Ms. Dove had a head full of bubbles. “Sorry Ms. Dove” she replied gasping for breath,“this is no time for small talk. I think Robin disappeared down this big black tunnel that I saw in my dream and I don’t …”

But Ms. Dove cut her off. “Sorry Magpie but I can’t help you. Mr.

Crow can most likely help you better than I. Toodaloo!”

Maggie stared at the woman in disbelief. “B-but” Maggie stammered.

“Sorry honey, come back when you want to talk about that beautiful black and white dress of yours, absolutely genius!”

Maggie turned around and started racing back to the gaping hole. She then tripped and fell, her knee hitting a sharp rock. She limped to a small pond about fifty-three yards away and sat down on a large smooth stone, softened by the pond’s gentle waves. She looked at the cut, and saw that it was bleeding much more than she felt and knew that it would bore her a scar.  She begun to cry. She wept out of guilt, and frustration, and she wept out of fatigue.

Face damp with tears, Maggie stared at the fish in the pond and

watched the sun glinting across their scales, illuminating rainbow colors, then stopped crying. She knew now that she had to save her friend, whether or not she had anyone to help her.

As Maggie wiped the remnants of her tears away she heard a rustle in the weeds only a few feet away from her. Maggie slowly turned her gaze towards the weeds. She saw nothing. Grabbing a stick (that looked oddly straight and flawless), Maggie pushed aside some of the weeds. Still she saw nothing. Any sadness, fear, or fatigue that was still lingering in her mind was now almost completely replaced by curiosity.

“The grass is so tall, anything could be in there,” Maggie said out loud to herself, trying to create a mysterious air that wasn’t there.

Suddenly, like a bolt of lightening, a strip of white with deep brown streaks darted across the field. As Maggie stared at that specific point as hard as she could, she heard a soft padding on the rock next to her, and whisked around to face the thing that was eluding her. Or more like the who. And Maggie was very surprised to see who it was. She was staring eye to eye with a cat. The cat’s face looked as if someone took a pouch of dark brown powder and hurled it on to it. The cat’s tail, paws, and ears looked similar. It’s eyes were blue, and it’s fur was a cream color.

The cat made a majestic bow which was just the cat sliding it’s right paw forward while crouching, but to the cat it was majestic, and that was all that mattered. “Greetings Magpie, you are presented by Syrah Syarah” the cat said to Maggie, while staring straight into her eyes.

“How can you speak? And how do you know my name?” Maggie said very slowly, almost whispering. As she tried to clear her mind of the shock of just witnessing a talking cat, the cat quickly and briefly answered her questions.

“The first question that you asked me was how I can speak yes? Yes. OK. The answer: I have traveled many places, thus I can speak in many tongues. Your second question: how do I know your name. Yes? Yes. OK. The answer: I know your name because it is my duty, as I am learned in the ways of wizardry to make sure that the humans in this area are free of any disasters. Understood? Great. Are all of your questions answered? Perfect.”

Maggie recalled all of the events that she had experienced that day, and realized that a talking cat should actually make her happier about her bleak dilemma. “OK Syrah, or should I call you Miss Syarah?” Maggie replied, now semi recovered from witnessing a talking cat.

“Syrah would be fine. But you most likely will not see me anytime soon. I have many weird things to workout. Goodbye Magpie.”

Maggie watched Syrah leave in disbelief. But then, realization just dawning on her, she called out to Syrah. “Wait!” Maggie cried across the open field of tall grass and cattails “Did you say that you have many weird things to do?”

Syrah, who thought shouting to be an unruly act, daintily trotted over

to Maggie, while hopping over any rabbit holes along the way. “What was it you said?” Syrah replied with a tilt of her head.

“I said, did you say that you have weird things to do?”

“Uh, yes, I did. Why, did that bother you in some way?”

Surprised at Syrah’s formality and to-the-point-attitude Maggie said “No, not at all. I was just going to ask you if people falling down holes that you saw in your dream counted as something weird you had to do?”

“Yes, of course. Tell me what happened” Syrah replied to her, now sitting with newfound interest. As Maggie told her the story of Robin falling down the hole, and her dream, and Ms. Dove, Syrah’s expression went from worried to “really?” to a laughing smile.

“You have nothing to worry about Magpie, for your friend is in good hands”.

“What do you mean?” Maggie said, feeling confused.

“Well, I think,” Syrah added, and turned around checking the cattails behind her out of a restless longing to leave, even though she had nowhere she needed to go.

“What do you mean by I think?” Maggie said, increasingly frustrated by Syrah”s nonchalant attitude toward the situation that Maggie thought was dire. The cattails appeared too spiky, and too brown like they were filled with insects, and the coy-fish in the pond looked restless as if they would jump up and bite at her any moment.

“My, you’re a jumpy one!” Syrah said, frowning curiously “what I meant was that your friend probably didn’t go down the hole, and that you’ve been getting worked up over a theory.”

“Well, so, you’re saying Robin’s probably fine, and that the hole was probably a just a giant boar burrow?” Maggie said with a skeptical expression.

But to her surprise, Syrah replied to her “Yes. Exactly. You took the words out of my mouth.”

“Well then where is she?” Maggie snapped at Syrah, slapping her hands on her laps out of frustration.

“Hmmmmmmmm” Syrah exhaled eloquently while closing her eyes and mentally counting to ten to calm herself down. She knew how to speak with people who were in Maggie’s situation. “Well, I suggest you go back to your cabin, and wait for your friend there. It’s getting late, and you should get some rest.”

“You’re right. I should.” Maggie said, and begun to dismally walk towards her cabin while Syrah cheerily trotted back into the forest where she first appeared, and disappeared into the dense clutter of trees, plants, fallen logs, and mushrooms.

Maggie felt deflated as she walked across the cold and wet grass, with her head down and her hands behind her back. “I am a bit tired” Maggie admitted to herself, as the familiar sight of the squat structure that served as her cabin came into her view.

As she stumbled into her side of the cabin, not unlike a zombie, and fell onto her bed, not even bothering to change into her pajamas, or to remove her ballet flats, she pictured all of the events of the day and drifted into sleep.

Then, abruptly, like a hurricane on a sunny summer day, she found herself running through a dark tunnel on an oddly familiar strip of rough neon green yarn and she also felt a feeling of panic and fear that somehow she felt she remembered from a past that she had forgotten. Then, out of a weird impulse, she got down on all fours and began to crawl the distance. When she saw a thin sliver of light coming from up ahead of her, Maggie sprang up, free of her impulse to crawl, and sprinted towards the displaced beam of light. Then, she slammed into a hard and cold wall. Specific points on her body, mainly her wrists and ankles began to ache unusually, as if they were reminded of aches previously experienced. Suddenly, the powerful stench of rust filled her nostrils, and a high pitched squeaking noise filled her ears. She knew that she was in danger. Like they had a mind of their own, her arms began to scratch at the dead end, desperately looking for some type of exit, though she knew that there would be none. As she braced herself for her miserable fate, she felt a single, solitary, rust -browned spike slowly but steadily press into her arm. As she waited for it to puncture her arm, wishing that she had toughened up and gotten her tetanus shot, she felt the spike reel back and land a second blow. The spike repeated this several times until it felt like she was being jabbed by a finger repeatedly. Then she felt the eerily familiar feeling of something very cold and wet sliding down her back. She awoke with a shriek, and found herself staring bleary eyed up into the face of her friend Robin.

“Awake now, sleepy head?”

“Yes, jeez, don’t put ice down my shirt like that!” Maggie grumpily called back as she hastily slipped into her uniform.

“Looks like yet another boring day of camp.” Maggie said out loud to herself, as she combed out her hair.

“Com’on Maggie, let’s’ get going!” Robin called to Maggie impatiently.

“R’right, I’m coming!” Maggie called back.

When Maggie stepped out of the cabin and looked around at her peaceful classic spring surroundings, she felt a strong pang of deja vu, but ignored it. For she thought it was probably just because her life at the camp was so predictable. As she finished that thought, she heard a yelp and felt a cold breeze that shouldn’t have been there, that took her breath away. After a moment of looking for its origins, Maggie found herself kicking aside a crooked looking stone, though she did not know why, and a large tunnel about as wide as four manhole covers, yawned open in front of her, and it had a neon green cord running through it.

Maggie slowly sat down on the damp grass ground, and memories of the previous day began to race through her mind, and Maggie wondered if it was because of her habit of jumping to conclusions that got her into this situation. Magpie felt hopelessly trapped in a circle of deja vu that she somehow knew could never end.


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