Candy screamed as a torrent of pink sugary syrup soaked her from head to toe. It coated the rocks she was climbing over, making them treacherously wet, yet sticky.
The wind smelled of frosting, butter heavy and bitingly sweet. She wished she could stop to throw up, but she had to find Almond. She didn’t know how she knew, but her child was in trouble. The syrup formed a crust over everything it touched.
Another splash caught her foot as she risked a jump to a large semi flat bolder just to the right. The strange liquid swirled down the crevices between the large stones. It just wasn’t right. Pink syrup coated rocks.
The shell forming over her skin and clothes crackled as she moved. Sharp edges of solidified sugar pricking her as she tried to sweep it off her arms.
“Who thought up this nightmare?”
The rock wall now at her back confined what looked like a large pink lake. Ahead of her, the boulders fused and formed solid ground. Here and there she could see green tufts growing. What looked like grass stood straight up, like spikes. Or had fallen to the side and lay shattered on the ground. It wasn’t grass, but dried shards of sugar, sculpted in to deadly sharp greenery.
The sound made her jump.
“Who are you?”
Panicked pounded behind her rib cage, and she thought she caught Almond’s high-pitched voice floating in the air.
Candy spun in circles as she pawed at the sugar on her face and hands
“A human? You don’t belong here.”
“Is this your nightmare? Where is my daughter?”
There was no answer. But a strange sound caught her attention. Again she spun. Tears stung her eyes and dissolved the sugar crystals clutching her lashes.
A strange horse wandered in to view. It eyed her warily, then bent its neck to lick the green spikes growing out of the rock.
“This is so wrong.”
“Judgy are we?”
The horse lifted its head and glared at her, pointing with a long, bright horn protruding from its forehead.
“Yes, you might be.”
“I don’t know.”
Candy turned and walk away. The creature’s unnaturally bright eyes sent shivers down her spine. She broke into a run, the sugar flaking from her shoes and crunching underfoot. Or was it? She looked down to see the rocks themselves crumpling beneath her feet, as if her weight had broken a candy coating. Her soles sank into thick mud.
“Almond! Baby, where are you?”
Her throat was dry and her call fell at her feet instead of carrying on the air blocked by the butter heavy scent.
She felt her shoes sink farther. A disgusting sucking sound followed when she lifted a foot and a nasty squish came when she pressed a foot down looking for solid grown.
She tripped in the muck, dropping her hands into the mud, but it wasn’t mud. With her face so close she knew it for what it was, thick dark chocolate. A thin brown candy coating crunched beneath her hands as it broke beneath her. She was being sucked in.
“Humans don’t belong in Candy Land,” said the unicorn. It had trotted up behind her as she thrashed in the dark, liquefying chocolate. “Their bodies emit too much heat, melting our chocolate hills.”
“Why should I?”
It stood stark still, pure white main and tail sweeping the confection ground.
“You should go home, human.”
“Please, my daughter!”
But it was too late. The chocolate melting around her body bubbled up. Candy felt the air bubbles bursting behind her head and next, she slid completely under the thick pool.
“What a pity,” the unicorn mumbled.
Chocolate filled her mouth before she could remember to close it. She was drowning as it burned her throat and nostrils. Her body tried to take in air, unaware it was killing itself faster. Down, down, it sucked her. The sensation, along with air deprivation, made her head spin.
The chocolate earth spat her out. She had fallen all the way through its sweet and bitter layers. There was the sound of crunching and a steady dripping from overhead as she landed hard on something not quite firm, but flaky.
Almond was close. She had to keep moving. But Candy’s oxygen deprived brain held her back.
“I’m coming, baby…”
She cried, her tears mixing with the chocolate on her dipped face.
It was dark, but not pitch black. A strange glow warmed the walls of this strange pastry like prison. The ceiling was solidifying above her and the dripping slowed. Crunch, crunch. The crackly and sliding layers under foot were unnerving.
“Almond, where are you!”
“Here Mommy! Here! I’m stuck.”
The warm glow of the walls broke in places, revealing dark tunnels that ran throughout this strange place. She followed one, Almonds hiccuping cries driving her forward.
After a sharp turn, a cavern opened up before her. Its walls glowing a healthy pie pastry brown.
Almond was wrapped in a ball of what looked like flour and sugar.
“Mommy, is this your dream or mine?”
“I don’t know baby.”
Almond’s head and hands protruded from the heavy ball and her tears had created a dark spot just under her chin. Candy sunk a finger in to that dark spot. It was softer than the rest, and she pulled chunks of compacted flour away and threw it to the ground.
“I love you Mamma.”
“I love you too.”
“How did you get in there, baby?”
“I don’t know. I just woke up like this.”
The ground grew littered with handfuls of white gloop. Candy didn’t care where she threw. It was slow, but gradually Almond’s shoulders and then torso appeared. Her little girl wiggled, trying to loosen the surrounding substance.
Finally, all but Almond’s feet and were free and both mother and daughter grabbed at it to be rid of the last few hand fulls.
Almond just nodded as her chest heaved with anxiety and half released sobs.
The scream pierced Candy’s eardrums as she gripped her daughter. Almond was staring at the ceiling as a bright light broke through the solid chocolate.
The unicorn cutter the solid chocolate rocks with its horn stomping on the edges to crumble them away.
“There you are. It’s time you both go home. What a mess!”
The creature jumped through the opening it made, landing effortlessly on the crusty surface. The light from the bubble gum blue sky made Candy blink.
“How do we get home? Just tell us the way and we’ll go.”
“There is only one way… What have you been doing? Tarring Candy Land to pieces?”
The unicorn pointed to the globs of white littering the floor.
“I had to free my daughter.”
“Well, she shouldn’t have dreamt herself into a half-baked ball.”
Unicorn eyes flashed rainbows around the cave and tried to bore a hole through mother and child.
“It wasn’t on purpose. Just tell us how to get home.”
“You won’t like it.”
“Tell us, and you will never have to see us again.”
Fear shiver over Candies skin as the unicorn stepped closer.
“Why? What are you going to do?”
Candy forced herself to stand her ground. But dropped Almond behind her. The child wrapped her arms around her mother’s legs and buried her face against denim fabric.
“It’s okay Almond.”
“How do you wake up from a dream human?”
The unicorn was close now, its eyes spinning rainbows as it lowered its horn slightly.
“I don’t know…”
The beast cut her off as it punched its horn through her chocolate-covered chest, stabbing her heart.
There was cold sweat soaking the collar of her shirt as she jolted awake. The room was dark. Candy found herself half laying on the cold floor, half on the low bed, Almond’s small hand curled against hers. She breathed a sigh of relief.
The small digital clock on the bedside table shone 12:42. She groaned with tired cold muscles, pushing herself up and tiptoeing from the room.
The kitchen lights had been turned down, leaving only the counter LEDs to guide her to the sink. They cast soft amber beams around the room.
“What a nightmare. I guess I shouldn’t lick the frosting bowl before bed next time.”
Joking about it pushed the dream to the edges of memory, a fussy shadow with bitter sprinkles at its heart.
She opened the fridge to check the cake and make sure that Greg hadn’t laid it on top of anything smooshable, and jumped when rainbow swirl eyes stairs back at her from the innocent unicorn face she had painted across the white birthday cake. Almost dropping the glass she still held, she slammed the fridge closed.
©2022 Mary Grace van der Kroef
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