Newt blinked and opened her eyes. The brightness of the clear red sky was nearly dazzling. She slowly came to realize that she was lying on her back among purple plants that were tall enough to hide her supine body. Her legs were straight out from her body, and her ankles were close together. Her hands were held out to her sides, and each one was still being held by what felt like a warm male hand.
We dare you to send your characters through a portal to an alternate reality.
She turned her head from side to side, and couldn’t see anyone, because of the purple plants. It wasn’t a grass, precisely, nor was it a small bush, but seemed to have some of the qualities of both types of vegetation.
The hand on her right stirred, and Newt was glad that she wasn’t the only member of their trio who had survived whatever it was that Old Mrs. M had done to them.
Dusty let go of her left hand and rolled over with a loud groan.
“What happened?” he asked with another low moan.
Harold let go of Newt and got to his knees, dusted off his red pirate jacket, and then straightened the lacy ruffles of his shirt. He offered his hand to Newt, and she gladly accepted his help, because getting up in a hoop skirt wasn’t going to be easy.
Dusty also scrambled to his feet, and the three of them stood in the middle of the meadow, looking around warily, and wondering the same thing.
“Where are we?” Dusty was the first of them to find his voice and to put the common question into words.
“We’re in a meadow,” Harold answered.
“No kidding,” Dusty replied with a sarcastic note in his voice. “We’re in a meadow where? How in the world did we get here? What’s this plant stuff? It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen, or anything I’ve ever read about, either.”
“Well, where ever we are, I don’t think we’re in Belly Button, Arizona, any more,” said Newt as she paraphrased from the Wizard of Oz. She suddenly understood how Dorothy had felt on waking up in Munchkinland.
“Well, we’re not going to find out how to get home, unless we find out where we’re at,” said Harold, flatly, “and we’re not going to find out where we’re at, unless we can find some people of some sort to ask.”
“And,” Newt added, “we’re not going to find any people of any sort to ask, unless we move from where we’re at now.”
“Exactly my thought,” said Harold. “So the only question we need to be asking ourselves is which direction we’re going to proceed in.”
Newt looked around; they appeared to be in the exact center of the large meadow, and the forest looked pretty much the same distance away on all sides. It seemed a little strange to have a meadow that was perfectly circular in shape. There was also something very disturbingly wrong about the trees, although Newt couldn’t quite put her finger on what was wrong.
“The leaves are purple.” Dusty said. “The leaves are purple, and the grass stuff is purple, and the sky” he looked up meaningfully, “is very red. So we’re very obviously not on Earth any more.”
Newt looked up at the sky also, and realized with a slight bit of shock that Dusty was absolutely without doubt correct. There was no way that they could possibly be on Earth, when the sky was bright red at midday. With a further peculiar lurch in the middle section of her body, she realized that the sun that shone precisely overhead was a beautiful sapphire blue.
The usual rule of heading downhill if you’re lost in the great outdoors wasn’t going to help them at all in this situation. The meadow seemed to be absolutely as flat as a pool table. Additionally, there was no stream in the meadow, so there was no way to determine which way “downhill” was.
Harold picked a direction by holding his index finger high above his head, then spinning around and suddenly stopping with his hand outstretched.
“That looks like a good direction to go,” Harold said. Newt and Dusty looked at each other.
Dusty shrugged. “Might as well go that direction as any other direction,” he agreed, and the three of them set off in the direction Harold’s hand had ended up pointing.
The walking was fairly easy, though Newt’s dress and Dusty’s translucent cloak kept getting snagged on the grasses. Eventually, Dusty stripped off both his transparent cloak, and the phantom hood he was wearing, and found it much easier to move through the grasses in just his black clothing. He left the cloak and hood lying in the purple grass underneath the red sky and its blue sun, to molder as it would, abandoned on some foreign, alien planet.
Newt wished she could do the same, but unfortunately her gown was rented, and she had had to borrow money from her mother to cover the deposit. If the dress came back dirty, torn, or with parts missing, she would owe her mother three hundred and fifty dollars, and it would probably take her several years to earn enough money to pay her mother back again. She settled for grasping the skirts and hoops firmly in both hands and lifting them clear up to her knees, but it made walking more difficult, especially as she was unable to see where she was putting her feet. On this terrain, it wasn’t a problem, but she could see how, if the footing were different, her inability to see her feet might become a very difficult problem. In the meantime, she was very glad she had chosen to wear her sneakers under the gown, rather than the little dancing slippers that had come with it.
Harold, Dusty, and Newt finally reached the pleasant violet shade of the forest. As usual, Dusty was the first to speak.
“The trunks aren’t brown; they’re so deep purple that they look almost like they’re black.”
“Well, what did you expect?” Newt asked. “Nothing else here is the same color that it’s on Earth.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Dusty said, “but on Earth, the trunks and the leaves of trees are different colors. Name me one tree on Earth that has the same color leaves as trunk. You can’t. And do you know why? Because there aren’t any, that’s why.”
“Palo Verde,” Harold said.
“What?” said Dusty.
“The Palo Verde tree has bark and leaves that are the same color. It’s the state tree of Arizona, which you would know if you’d been paying attention in Arizona History last year. It’s a green trunk, as well as green leaves. I saw some of them when we were down in Phoenix visiting my grandparents last Thanksgiving. They have some Palo Verdes in their yard. The tree does its photosynthesis in the bark as well as the leaves, so that if things get too dry during a drought, the tree can shed the leaves and still have photosynthesis, without losing water through the leaves.
“Even without the color being the same, it’s a funny looking tree. The trunks are twisted, as though the heat was just too much for the poor little thing, and the leaves are tiny. You can see through the leaves to the clear blue sky, even when it’s fully leaved and in bloom. But it makes an awful lot of shade, for a tree you can see through. It surprised me how much cooler it was in the shade of the Palo Verde that grew in my grandmother and grandfather’s courtyard. It was a very nice place to sit and read my book. Anyway, the point is that the Palo Verde tree has bark the same color as its leaves.”
“All right, Harold, you’ve made your point, at least two times over. So there is at least one tree in the known universe that has a trunk that’s the same color as its leaves. At least it’s a green tree,” Dusty grumped. “These abominations are purple!”
Just then there was a bone shattering rumble. The trees and the ground shook so heavily that Newt was certain the trees would begin falling at any moment.
“It’s an earthquake!” Harold shouted as he flung himself to the ground. Dusty followed quickly in his wake. Newt hesitated just a moment longer, weighing the destruction of an expensive gown against her own survival. The shaking increased, and the decision was made for her. Her quaking legs would no longer support her against the shaking earth, and she collapsed in a heap of pearl encrusted blue silk.