Cassandra opened her eyes to a large, bright green feathery squirrel. His oversized almond shaped eyes stared intently into hers.
“Miss, that was quite a tumble you took. You O.K.?” his high-pitched voice asked with a deep concern.
She was afraid to answer. Afraid to discover the truth!
Less than an hour before she was in the safety of her car, driving up the rocky dirt road leading to a small mountain top community. Her car died and since the town was less than three miles away, she decided to walk the remaining distance. Cassandra hiked for about twenty minutes when she came upon the famed Magic Bridge. It was exactly as her friends described. Mid way across, the landscape changed drastically. The bridge acted like a gateway through an invisible force field separating the desert from the mountain. Enormous pine trees that tickled the sky instantly replaced the barren desert floor littered with an occasional patch of scrub brush. Moss covered rocks and wild flowers bursting in red, yellow and brilliant white embellished the rich black soil. Clear mountain water rushed under the bridge and vanished into the dusty earth of the desert. It was truly magical.
Cassandra inhaled deeply, a flowery pine fragrance filled every pore. The soft breeze wrapped her in its warmth and she could taste the pure clean air. The sound of the flowing water, chirping birds and the gentle rustle of leaves played in her ears like a soothing lullaby. Swaying gently from side to side, she was lost in the enchantment.
Several moments passed before she stepped off the wooden bridge, onto the mountainside of the road. Her first step met with a low flying humming bird zooming from the forest and past her head. It caught her off guard, she stumbled and fell. Cassandra’s head hit a large rock knocking her unconscious. She remembered all of that, but where was she now!
Cassandra’s mind ran wild with unanswered questions: Where am I? Am I suffering the effects of a concussion, or a medication? Perhaps I died when I fell—I feel fine. They say that happens when you die. Oh God, maybe I am dead!
A pat from the squirrels paw, (or was it his wing), insisted on a reply, “Miss, Miss, you O.K.?”
“I, I honestly don’t know. Where am I—am I dead?” she asked anxiously, afraid of the response she might receive.
The strange friendly creature laughed. “No Miss, you’re not dead. You’re in Charisma, the land of dreams. Anything is possible here and you are welcome to stay as long as you please.”
Cassandra was relieved to find she was only in a dream. Somehow, it seemed logical to take the word of a talking feathery squirrel.
She sat up and felt a large lump on her head, the skin was scrapped but it wasn’t bleeding. The movement made he dizzy and it was hard to focus her eyes. That all passed in seconds and she looked around this strange world called Charisma.
It was beautifully bizarre with a hypnotic smell of lavender scenting the air. Everything was different in this place. The ground was a sage green and felt like a sponge. The sky was crimson, decorated with fluffy clouds in vibrant shades of purple. A fuchsia moon, the size of a large grapefruit hung in the northern sky, surrounded by a pale blue ring. A Frisbee sized disc served as the sun, floating opposite the moon. Glowing like a silvery-mirrored ball of light, it shot sparks of copper and gold from its surface like showering fireworks. The trunks of the trees were furry and emerald green. The leaves and pine needles came in all shapes and sizes of fragile looking feathers, painted in a variety of oranges. The moss was a deep reddish orange with the appearance of freshly fallen snowflakes that never melt. Pink, red and silver wildflowers in the shapes of bells and bows grew in perfect bouquets. They sounded like delicate wind chimes when the breeze filtered past. The stream was the color of rich amber honey and whistled and fizzed as it flowed slowly by.
The dark green and black hummingbird that startled her now wore a covering of bright yellow lace and sported a bushy white tipped tail resembling a foxtail. It darted about using its tail as a sort of rudder and softly landed on Cassandra’s knee.
“Excuse me Miss, I am sorry for upsetting you. Please accept my apologies.” She sang her words, accompanied by the chorus created by her flapping wings.
Cassandra replied, smiling at the polite bird, “It wasn’t your fault, I was lost in thought and should have been paying closer attention.”
“Maybe so—but then we never would have met. That would be quite a shame, don’t you agree?” Her bushy tail swished lightly and felt like velvet on Cassandra’s skin.
“True enough. By the way, my name is Cassandra,” she nodded to the bird and then to the feather covered squirrel.
The hummingbird sang the introductions, “I am Buttercup and he’s Scamper, it’s very nice to meet you Cassandra.”
Scamper’s happy yellow eyes and broad smile filled Cassandra’s heart with joy as he replied, “Nice to meet you Cassandra, would you join us for a picnic?”
“That would be lovely Scamper, thank you,” and she followed her new friends into the forest.
They arrived at a tree stump covered with an assortment of nuts, berries and flower petals. A green furry piece of bark held bubbling honey colored water. The taste was delicate and sweet. Unlike anything she tasted before. It was very refreshing.
The nuts varied in flavor from lavender to cinnamon and one even tasted like licorice. They were soft and chewy in texture and their scents matched their flavors.
Shiny black and yellow berries melted in her mouth. The black ones tasted extremely tart and the yellow ones were banana flavored.
The flower petals were like rich creamy caramels and dark chocolates. Cassandra leaned back on a thick bed of reddish orange moss and closed her eyes to savor one last chocolate flower petal. “What a wonderful afternoon.” she whispered.
“George, I think she’s goin be fine, she’s a feisty one. A wonderful afternoon indeed, ya been sleepin fer near all of it.” Bob’s southern voice brought her back to her world and when she opened her eyes she found herself in a small doctor’s office.
“Hey Cassandra, it’s nice to have you back. Sue and Debbie are just outside, I’ll let them know you’ve come around.” George patted her leg and headed off to the waiting room.
“What happened? What time is it?” Cassandra’s groggy voice asked angrily. She was upset and wanted to be back in Charisma, there was so much more to experience.
Bob heard the frustration in her voice and marked it off to the enormous headache she must have. He answered in his comforting drawl, “Well, when you didn’t make it to home when we was expectin, we went looking for ya. It was a gettin on to 3:00 when we found ya layin on the side of the road. We brung ya to the Doc’s right away. It’s nearin 5:00 now. But don’t ya worry none, Doc says ya got a big knot on yer head, but the rest of ya seems purty fit.” His smile beamed with the good news.
Cassandra saw the care and relief in his eyes. Her spirit softened and she felt blessed by her wonderful friends. By the end of her week’s vacation, her car was repaired and the bump on her head was almost gone. She said her goodbyes and headed down the mountain to her home.
When she arrived at the Magic Bridge she stopped her car and stepped out. “Goodbye Buttercup, goodbye Scamper. Thank you both for a wonderful picnic.”
She knew it was silly, but it seemed the proper thing to do. There wasn’t a reply, but she did see a yellow flash and a tip of a white sailing through the trees. Next a pair of bright yellow almond shaped eyes peered out from a covering of leaves and quickly vanished. Cassandra was sure her imagination was playing tricks on her, until a beautiful pink bell of a flower was thrown from the tree and landed on the hood of her car. “Thank you Scamper, I’ll treasure it always.” She smiled and retrieved the remarkable souvenir.
Was Charisma the land of dreams, or was the Magic Bridge a portal to an alternate reality?
Author’s Note: The photograph is of an unusual stump in Hobart. It looks so unreal to me so it became a great Realism Fantasy pic. Original story Date: September 2009. This story’s bridge; lovingly called “The Magic Bridge is located on the road between Crown King and Spring Valley, Arizona. The lower side of the bridge is covered with desert landscape, scrub brush and sandy soil. But once you cross the bridge you are instantly surrounded by tall pinion pines, moss covered rocks and dark soil. Magic happens on this bridge, from desert to forest in the passing of a few feet—thus the inspiration for this realism fantasy story. What if?