Chapter 3: Planemo Rogue
Rain ran for her life. The sound of a thousand blowing gales howled behind her, the invisible monsters getting closer with each step. She closed her eyes and screamed, though she never stopped running. The ground had turned into a steep hill again, and if she stopped, she would fall.
“Not that way!” the cat shouted from behind, its hissing voice adding to her panic. “Go back, go back you stupid little girl!”
Rain did not. The monsters were behind her. All around her the world was growing colder and darker, but when she finally glanced backwards, she saw empty air. For a split second she thought she was safe, and then she heard the crunch of footsteps. The white path was advancing, chasing after her, its green color frosting and turning to clear glass. The frozen ghosts were going to catch her.
Then the cat was latched onto thin air and growling like a lion, its fangs sinking into an invisible foe. Steam gushed out of its mouth. Rain screamed again and put on another burst of speed, and when she blinked, she was standing in a maze of glass sculptures. Huge walls of ice and glass closed in from all sides; plants, animals, and strange people with little horns growing out of their heads stared blankly down at her, their faces a mix of confusion and sorrow. Rain tried to back away, but somehow the maze had closed shut behind her. She was stuck.
“Help!” she screamed, feeling her tears freeze against her skin. It was so cold. “Someone please help!”
“Run little girl,” one of the statues gasped, its mouth not moving. “Take the right path and run.”
Rain ran. When the maze forked, she took the right path, passing by more frozen statues. From somewhere behind her, she thought she heard a howl of pain, though she wasn’t sure if it was from the cat or one of the ghosts.
When the pathway forked again, she paused. There weren’t any talking statues to guide her way. Three glass flowers towered above her, their pedals as big as walls and perfectly transparent. The first flower was a rose, the second a wilted tulip that pointed to the right, and the third a broken lily that leaned to the left. Beyond them she could see her stream, raging ahead like a wild river.
“We’ve found you,” voices wheezed from behind. The crunching of more footsteps followed. “A pretty new statue for our garden.”
“Help!” Rain mouthed, though all that came out were the chattering of her teeth.
“We like pretty statues.” The crunching got closer.
Rain turned around and saw an empty path, though when she looked at the ground, she could see footprints advancing, pressing against the now glass pathway and cracking it. Each step was like a lightning strike on a bad, stormy night.
“Run!” a sing-song voice hissed out. “Through the rose!”
Rain blinked and saw a purple-and-grey streak zip by, towards the frozen flower blocking her path. She turned and followed it, scrunching her eyes shut. She wasn’t sure if time slowed or stopped as she sprinted towards the sculpture, but the world around her got colder and a frozen breath touched her cheek. The cracking of broken glass filled her ears.
She struck the glass wall with a hollow thud. The cat said another bad word, and the frozen ghosts behind them screamed in fury. Then she was falling.
Rain was suspended for so long she thought she might have accidentally learned how to fly, and then she hit the ground. She slid and stumbled, the sound of moving water now filling her ears. She blindly reached around for something to hold onto, but her right hand only found cold, slippery ground. Her left landed in the stream. Rain yelped at the burning cold and jerked backwards, finally opening her eyes. She was on her back, and the sky was above her, still a piercing shade of blue. The sun was in its normal spot, as if nothing strange of horrible had just happened.
But the sky had changed. Now the moon was out, full and bright despite the early-afternoon hour.
“Are you okay?” the cat asked between deep breaths. It was purring and licking itself all over.
Rain looked around. They were on the stream, though now the stream wasn’t a stream but a raging river. She could see through the floor, and it took her a few seconds to realize they were sitting on a giant glass rose pedal. It had broken off when she and the cat had run into it.
“No,” Rain said, already starting to cry. That had been really scary, and now she wanted to go home. She wanted her mommy and daddy. They would tell her everything was alright and make the sting in her hand go away.
“It’s alright, Rain,” the cat said, now snuggling up against her. Rain began to pet it. “We’re safe now.” The grey-and-purple tabby chuckled. “And we found ourselves a boat.”
“I want to go home.”
“You can’t. You crossed the threshold.”
Rain cried and petted the cat for a long time, though the sun never moved. Together they floated down the stream, passing by meadows and orchards. The world grew warm again, and a host of pink flamingos flew over head, their numbers so big they made the entire sky look like pink lemonade. The only thing they didn’t cover up was the moon. They flew behind it.
“I’ve never seen a moon like that before,” Rain said, though she had also never seen a group of birds like that before. Flamingos only lived in zoos, as far as she knew.
“It’s a rogue moon,” the cat said. “A good omen. It’s why your little stream is now a river.”
The current carried them onwards, the miles passing by quickly. Rain was now so far from home she was afraid the cat might be right, that she’d never find her way back. Soon two mountain peaks were jutting out of the horizon, and not long after, they were between them. Rain wasn’t sure how that could be possible, since it would take hours to reach them in a car and they were only floating down a river.
“We have to climb the mountain,” the cat said. “Don’t worry, I know a path, and there are no ghosts here.”
“Why?” Rain asked, though she followed the cat off their pedal-shaped boat. She wanted to stretch her legs, and now that the air was warm, she was afraid the boat might melt.
“Because you have a witch’s name, and this mountain is where witches go to ask the moon for favors.”