Chapter 11: The Mountains

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Mrs. Corum had a nagging thought about an area of the landscape they’d yet explored. Weeks earlier they’d thought of heading toward the tiny dot of difference on the horizon, perpendicular to hers and G-ma’s spots, heading away from the light valley. They’d started that direction but, upon realizing that it was farther off than they assumed, and finding Sara Beth, they decided to head back to more familiar surroundings. It was funny how the more familiar surroundings made them feel better, when the whole place was so wholly unfamiliar. But, Mrs. Corum supposed, perhaps not everything was totally different here. Some things, like a love of the place you know, may hold true.

But now that they’d established the true nature of where they were, it seemed more important than ever to learn as much as they could about this place. It had also been revealed, much more clearer to them than it ever had been, that the nothing in this world was meaningless – everything tied into something, from Julie’s moods to perhaps her time asleep or awake, to her overall feelings about the people she held in her mind. Whatever was on the horizon was important, and Mrs. Corum felt it was time to find out.

Convincing the others to go for the walk wasn’t too hard, except for Ryan, as expected. However after a walk to clear his head, he came back ready to go.

They began walking, and as expected, it took longer than expected to even begin to make out what they were seeing. But once they got closer, they were astounded by what they saw.

Still far away, they could make out a large mountain, that began to tower over them as they came nearer and nearer. It was made of the same material as the ground, but certainly was more jagged in appearance.

“I can’t believe it”, G-ma exclaimed.

“That’s not all”, Mrs. Corum began, “Look closely at it – you can see it’s not just a single mountain. It’s a range of them. They’re taller than anything we’ve ever seen here, that’s for sure. Although that isn’t saying much, given where we are”

“What do you think it is?”, Ryan asked.

Everyone knew what he meant – he knew it literally looked like a mountain, he was more interested in what the mountain might symbolize. Ryan may have been a bit of a bully, but he also had a keen intellect.

“I don’t know”, Mrs. Corum said.

They walked a few hours more until they saw something else that was even more amazing than the mountain range – the tops of the mountains were changing color!

It was hard to see from a distance, but as they got closer they could see subtle shifts of color on the range. First a bright color would cover the peak of the mountain, and unlike the rest of this place, any color could appear. Some peaks had colors constantly shifting or burning brighter, while others seemed to fade away over time. Periodically one of the faded out colors would be revived back to life in a bright flash of new color. Whatever it meant, it was pretty to watch. The group sat on the ground and looked up at the peaks in the distance.

Soon it would be dim, and they eagerly wondered what might happen to the peaks at night. They soon found out that the peaks began to lessen in brightness as it grew closer to dim, and once dim appeared, all of the colors began to fade away.

Surprisingly though, at times throughout dim, the colors would flash brightly again. They’d stay like this for awhile, then die out. The group of five was not in any mood to talk about the colors as they happened – they were too mesmerizing to stop watching, especially against the dim sky. The next morning, however, conversation quickly started.

“I bet it’s related to how active her mind is”, Jamie said confidently.

“But if that’s the case, why would it die out at night? When I teach about sleep in my science classes, I talk about how the brain stays pretty active at night – just in different ways”, Mrs. Corum responded.

“But it did get less active”, Jamie replied.

Before she could continue, Sara Beth offered her own thought.

“I think Jamie is right – its about activity, but not her brain – more her physical activity. I remember reading somewhere that we dream, the same parts of our brain that control how we move and what we sense are active. I think it the example the article used talked about how when we walked in our dream, the same parts of the brain were active as when we walked in real life. I think the mountains light up whenever parts of Julie are active. So if we were to come here during Phys Ed class, we’d see a lot of the mountain lit up. But most of the night, a lot of it is dark as she sleeps. Except when she dreams”

“That’s stupid”, Jamie said, mostly reflexively. She didn’t actually think about what Sara Beth had said.

“Now wait Jamie, I think Sara Beth’s theory is just as good as any. I just wish we could figure out a way to try it out.”, G-ma said.

“I think I know how we can”, Ryan offered. The others were startled to hear him talk at all. He’d never been interested in this sort of thing before. But no matter how startled they were to hear him speak, they were even more startled to hear what he had to say further.

“We know that when we do things that hurt Julie, this place changes around us.”

“Yes, but that’s dangerous”, Mrs. Corum reminded him.

“Obviously,” he said with a slight bit of distain toward her, “However we haven’t tried the opposite. What do you feel when someone tells you nice things, when someone builds you up?”

“I feel happy”, Jamie said, sure in her answer. She needed to look just as smart as Ryan did, after all.

“And when you feel happy, what sorts of things do you go out and do?”, Ryan continued.

“I usually do something – go out and play, or draw, or dance”, Jamie replied.

“If we all try our best to make Julie happy, then I believe we should see two things happen. The first would be a change in the sky or ground, but not an earthquake, but something good. The second would be a change in the mountains after the sky had changed – when our good thoughts made Julie want to go out and jump, or play, or just be active”.

When Ryan had finished his speech, the others sat in silence. Finally, G-ma spoke.

“It couldn’t hurt to try”, she said, “After all, We’ve never actually tried going the other way. In fact, until your little stunt the other night, we’d never really tried to influence Julie at all”.

“Then let’s do it”, Sara Beth said. If she couldn’t be with her best friend, perhaps she could still interact with her like this.

All five of them were then tasked with trying to figure out the best way to make Julie happy. Each felt that they would need to tailor what they thought, did, or said to the moments that they found themselves in this place, however in the case of moments that were negative, they’d need to reframe them in a better light.

Sara Beth went off in one area with Sonic, and the two of them proceeded to re-enact the day that they last saw Julie. However this time, instead of the fight, Sara Beth talked to Sonic about how much his aunt Julie loved him. Sara Beth made sure to use Julie’s name, hoping that hearing it come from her in her mind might make Julie even more happy. After all, Sara Beth hadn’t ever called her by name in the real world.

Mrs. Corum went off in another area and began to give a lecture on how people should be nice to each other, even if others were different. She hoped that would make Julie realize that she had always been on her side.

G-ma simply went off and started talking about her sweater, and how she couldn’t wait to teach Julie how to knit one day, so she could make her own. G-ma peppered her comments with wise words of encouragement and praise, talking about the hidden talents she knew that Julie would possess.

And Jamie, who had been copied here, as best she could remember, during an impromptu and unexpected night of silliness between her and her sister, began to dance around and chant inside jokes that only her sister knew the backstory to. That night had been just as special to Jamie as it had been to Julie since it was one of the few times that Jamie felt she held the prime place of attention that the interloper Sara Beth had stolen.

Ryan, for his part, decided that the best he could do would be to stay as silent and still as possible, away from the rest of the group. He figured that if he couldn’t leave Julie’s mind completely, the best possible course of action would be to try to avoid making any sort of impact while the others went on their “Pro-Julie” rampage. He’d stay centrally located, watching the mountains and the sky.

After a few minutes, Ryan began to notice something different about the world. The grey sky began to lighten, with subtle patches of blue appearing. Whatever they were doing, it was working. Ryan hoped they’d kick it up a notch and it would work even more. Diligently he watched as the sky got even more bright. Several minutes after the sky had begun to brighten, the mountain ranges began to light up with renewed vigor. Ryan felt a sense of relief and surprise – he’d actually be right, or so it seemed. He called the others over to see what was happening. They all crowded around where he was, allowing him to move toward the back as they stood watching the mountains.

“They’re even more beautiful than last night”, Jamie said.

“I can’t believe what we did worked. I wonder what Julie is doing right now”, G-ma wondered aloud. “Whatever it is, it’s pretty active”.

“I bet she’s riding her bike – she used to love to do that after a good day at school,” added Sara Beth, “I actually used to get a bit jealous of that – she’d spend all afternoon riding while I was stuck at daycare”.

“Ryan, you came up with an excellent theory”, Mrs. Corum said as she stood watching the mountains.

But Ryan didn’t hear her. He was too busy with something else that had happened amidst the activity. A blue spot overhead had opened wide enough to let a single ray of the golden sunlight through. With the others preoccupied with the mountain, Ryan walked over and quickly placed his hand out into it. Now that the others weren’t engaged in their positive emotions, Ryan figured the light wouldn’t last long, and he was right. A few moments after it appeared, it began to fade. But by then, Ryan had gotten what he needed.

“Let’s do something to celebrate”, Ryan said enthusiastically as he re-joined the group, taking them by surprise.

“I’m not sure what that would be”, G-ma said, “It isn’t like we could go out for cake and ice cream, or play games – we have no pieces.

“My grandmother taught me a game”, Ryan said, “Its kind of a mystery game where everyone gets a part and one person knows the parts and runs the game. We don’t need anything but ourselves.

“Then let’s try it – I’m ready to relax a bit”, G-ma said, with the others quickly agreeing.

For the remainder of the afternoon, they played Ryan’s grandmother’s game. It was surpassingly fun, and for a few moments, everyone forgot about the fact they were trapped in the mind of Julie McKay, just as Julie had forgotten for a few moments that afternoon that she was trapped in the life of Julie McKay.

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