Darian brought over our funnel cakes. "You sure you can eat all this?" "Yeah." I took mine and sipped my coke. The county fair was busier than last time I came here. It was a lot bigger too. We'd only ridden half the rides so far. I'd won a mahogany colored teddy bear from one stand and a t-shirt from another. Darian hadn't done as well. He hadn't won anything yet, and he'd tried more stands than me. "I'm surprised you'd want to come here with me. I figured you'd wanna go with one of your friends." Darian seemed disinterested in his food. "Everyone's busy." "All of them?" He didn't sound like he believed me. "Even Jenny? You two were always together." "Jenny and I don't really hang out much anymore." "Oh, really? Why's that?" "She's always busy with soccer." "So, who do you usually hang out with these days?" "Aaron, I guess." "I don't think I've met him." "Huh, I thought you had." I took a bite of my cotton candy absentmindedly. The texture stuck in my mouth--an unpleasant feeling. Like moth balls or a spider's egg sac. The thought of it repulsed me, but my hand continued to stuff my mouth full. I don't remember getting cotton candy. Darian stood up. "I'll be right back. Bathroom." I nodded and kept eating. This place was boring me. When I was younger, I remember wanting to come here every year. It was magical then, but most of the rides were designed for little kids and the stands were cheap cheating gimmicks with stupid prizes. Coming here had only put a dull hue over the vibrant lights in my mind. I felt a tap at my shoulder. Startled, I jumped in my seat. "It doesn't do well to dwell on dreams and memories." That voice. Aaron. "What are you doing here?" "There isn't much to do around here." He sat down beside me. "You're alone." "Darian's here too." "Why don't we ditch this place and go somewhere else? There's nothing for you here now. This is a child's place." "Then, why are you here?" "I already told you. There isn't much to do around here. Especially when you're alone. Let's go somewhere else." He picked up the remains of my cotton candy. "It's an unusual shade, don't you think?" I stared down at it. It wasn't the usual white or pastel pink or blue. The shade was a perfect swirl of ruby and sapphire. The colors were too bright to be real. They almost glowed. "Open your eyes. The entire world is more beautiful than this." Aaron tossed the sticky fluff to the ground. It faded to a dull gray. Everything was dimming. The color was sucked right out, spiraling down to somewhere out of sight. Aaron's skin oozed a ruby color in tiny droplets. His clothes were drenched with bottle blue and splotches of fiery dye. The rest of him turned to a monochrome gray, fading out of focus. "Open your eyes." I looked down at myself. My clothes matched his in a perfect mirror, but the liquid on my skin was a gorgeous sky blue. It burned, stinging like a deep scrape. I went to stand and tripped over the seat I was in. Falling back, the world faded and flickered in between gray, red, and blue before it all turned to red. I opened my eyes. The bottom of the hill again. Nine AM. Another dream within a dream. I followed the pattern and got back on my bike. Weary, I could feel the bags under my eyes. There was no point in checking for differences. Whether I was awake or not, I couldn't tell anymore. The world was mostly gray, but I couldn't remember if it was supposed to be or if those beautiful colors only ever existed in my dreams.
Valley | TOC