by Abby Gayle
Ruby wakes up in a strange room. Written for the "Show Don't Tell Contest"
Written for the "Show Don't Tell Contest"
Ruby’s eyes fluttered open. She stared at the grimy ceiling above her. Ruby turned her head to the side, away from the disgusting ceiling, but the walls weren’t any better. If anything, they were worse, with grease and stains covering them and small holes all around on the wall, presumably from previously placed thumb tacks and pushpins. Ruby sat up.
This is not my room, she realized with a gasp.
Ruby frowned as she tried to remember how she got into the bed. She revisited the previous night several times, trying to figure out where she was and how she got there.
“I got home from school,” Ruby muttered to herself. “Then I watched that TV show with Nana and did my homework.” She paused for a moment. “Oh yes, then Robert Dorsey texted me to ask how I was doing . . .” Ruby blushed, despite being alone in the room. “Then I texted Anna to tell her Robert texted me, then I finished my homework . . . and then I went to bed.”
Ruby groaned and smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand several times.
“Come one, there’s gotta be something I’m forgetting!” Ruby exclaimed. “Some sort of clue or something. Think, Ruby, think!”
Ruby stopped talking to herself to think some more about what could have happened. When she was just about to give up in an extremely loud voice, a faint music thrashed her ears. At first, she wasn’t sure it was music, but the longer she listened, the more she could tell that it was. If the piano wasn’t as out of tune as it was, Ruby was sure that it would’ve made for an amazing performance.
Ruby tossed the thin, used-to-be white blankets aside and hopped out of the bed. She ran to the door, but however hard she yanked the knob, it wouldn’t open. Ruby sank down onto the floor and blew her dark bangs out of her eyes.
Ruby’s eyes caught sight of a dresser on the other side of the room. Curious, she stood up and made her way over. Ruby brushed several layers of dust away before she could see the proper color of the dresser, a lovely oak brown. Lying on the top of the dusty dresser was an envelope. The envelope seemed to have been recently placed on the dresser, as it had almost no dust covering it.
Ruby snatched the envelope. On the outside, in a fancy handwriting, was her very own name. Ruby proceeded to rip open the envelope as neatly as she could and pulled out a letter. Ruby’s eyes darted across the page. The further down she read, the wider her eyes opened and the closer her jaw got to the ground. She stumbled back and bumped into a wall.
“No, no, this can’t be,” Ruby told herself. “It can’t be,” she repeated, less sure of herself.
Ruby grabbed the envelope and dumped out whatever might be in there. Only an old fashioned-looking key, one of the big, clunky ones she had seen before in movies with old houses, fell out. Ruby snatched it, dashed back to the door, and fit the key into the keyhole. Ruby turned the doorknob and opened the door. She let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding.
The piano music sounded louder now that the door wasn’t blocking the way, but Ruby could tell it was still quite distant. She glanced over at the bed, at the few small other items in the envelope.
“No, I probably won’t need those. What I need is someone who can tell me where I am,” Ruby said. “And for that, I need a someone. I bet whoever’s playing that piano is a someone.” Ruby chuckled, then ran out of the room.
Her bare feet pounded against the floor as Ruby weaved through several deserted hallways before she reached a staircase. Ruby could tell she was nearing the piano when she cringed nearly every time a key was struck. An occasional high note spread a cold shiver across Ruby’s arms, raising hairs and launching goosebumps.
I have to find that piano player, Ruby thought. I have to find someone to talk to about this.
Ruby slowly stepped down, one creaky stair at a time. With each step, she could hear the music more and more.
I’ll get it over with, she decided. When I get in there, the player should stop playing. Then I’ll be safe.
At the bottom of the staircase, Ruby ran toward the horrid sound the instrument was making, even though her ears repeatedly begged her not to. In the final stretch, Ruby burst through the door to the room where the piano was.
In the middle of the room was an old grand piano. It was barely standing up on its rotting wooden legs. The keys were worn, and several of them were missing. The top wasn’t doing much better, covered in cobwebs. The rest of the room was empty and as dirty as the rest of the house had been. Sitting at the piano was a little boy, maybe five or six years old, with curly blond hair covering his head. The boy stopped playing and turned around.
Ruby gasped. She pointed a shaky finger. “Y-y-you?” she asked. “You’re . . .” Ruby felt faint. She sat down on the floor, her eyes wide.
“Yes, Ruby?” the boy asked. He cocked his head.
“You’re n-not real,” Ruby whispered.
“It depends on how you look at it,” he smiled. He slid off the piano bench. “Here, I am. Of course, it’s been quite boring without you.”
“Without me?” Ruby burst out. “Without me where? Where even am I?!”
“Where are you? Well, this is — er, used to be the parlor,” he answered.
“Listen, Bobby, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ruby said. “Please start from the beginning.”
“Well, it all began when you were really little. I don’t remember it back then, but several others told me, before this place got ruined,” Bobby started. He sat down next to Ruby. “Then, eventually, I was made. You made me. Remember?”
“Somewhat. Go on,” Ruby said impatiently.
“Well, you made me up ‘cause you had no friends, and we went everywhere together. Then came the fateful day when you got too big for fairy tales and imaginings. This place got destroyed, a little at a time.”
“But what is this place?” Ruby interrupted.
“This place is your imagination,” Bobby answered plainly. “Most everything you ever imagined left. Your subconscious decided this wasn’t a good place to take you during dreams anymore, either, since everyone and everything was gone. Yet, I wouldn’t let you forget me. I didn’t want to leave you. I knew you’d come back someday.” Bobby turned toward Ruby and hugged her.
“So I’m dreaming?” Ruby asked after she pushed Bobby off of her.
“You must be,” Bobby answered with a shrug. “Either that, or you started imagining, but if that were the case, you should know.”
“How come I don’t remember any of this?” Ruby asked. She stood up and began pacing. “I mean, if I imagined this place, and I kept coming back, why didn’t I remember?”
“You chose not to,” Bobby answered.
“If this run-down place used to be so amazing, why would I forget it?” Ruby asked, angry at herself.
“You tell me.”
“Well, I think I was starting school,” Ruby answered sadly. “Everyone was telling me to keep my head out of the clouds . . . so I did.” Ruby sniffed back a tear as the memories from her youth with her imaginary friend came flooding into her mind. "Wait, b-but I got this letter. When I woke up here."
"What did it say?" Bobby asked.
"It said that my Grandpa Mason died an hour ago. But that's impossible. He wasn't even old or anything!"
"Ruby," Bobby began. He sighed. "Ruby, whenever you get messages like that, it's something you heard in your world that your brain wants you to know while you're here."
"So . . . he really is dead?" Ruby asked. She started to sit down, but she never touched the ground. Instead, she floated off the ground.
“What’s happening?” Ruby cried out. She kicked her feet around, trying to get down.
“You’re leaving, going back to your world,” Bobby said. Ruby could hear a sad tone in his voice. She looked down at her hand, and gasped when she realized it was fading.
“Why am I going so soon, though?” Ruby asked.
“Because you’re waking up,” Bobby answered. He waved goodbye. “Will you come back, please?”
“I will,” Ruby nodded vigorously.
Ruby’s vision went black. She sat up and opened her eyes. The wall in front of her was bright white. She spotted her desk, covered in homework and other random papers. The dresser to her left, although it looked like the one in her dream, had almost no dust on it at all. Ruby closed her eyes and smiled.
“I promise,” she whispered. “I promise.”