• Mimi smiled. She was back again, at the place full of feelings and sounds and sensations that you couldn’t find anywhere else. She closed her eyes, feeling a bright warmth on her skin. A soft breeze blew past her and ruffled her long hair.

    Mimi felt smaller than she was used to in the Dream World. Looking down at herself, she saw the little, chubby body of a young child, perhaps five years old.

    I’m so little! She thought to herself. But she didn’t mind being small - it brought her all the closer to the wonderful things around her.

    Parting the tallest ones with her hands, Mimi relished their softness. This dream feels so good!

    She started to run, feeling the blood pump through her short legs. She tripped and rolled through the grass, feeling joy race through her like magic. She stuck to the ground here, where at home with just a thought she could rise. She thought flying harder, trying to lift herself. But she stayed on the ground. Doesn’t matter, she thought. I’ll go home later.

    She heard bubbly laughter from behind a curtain of tall grass. “Mommy, isn’t it a beautiful day?”

    What was that? It felt different from thinking to each other like they all did at home - it was loud like a bang, but it was words... the loud-words continued, in a different voice. Bigger, older... like Mommy’s thoughts, only in noise-words.

    “It certainly is, sweetheart. Where shall we have our picnic?”

    Mimi followed the noise-words and pulled the grass aside. Her foot caught on something as she stepped forward, and she fell over onto the ground.

    She heard a loud screech in the first noise-voice. “Aaah! Who’s that?”

    “It’s just a little girl! She doesn’t look much older than you.”

    Mimi looked up to see a small person standing in front of her. Big blue eyes, blond hair, pale wings. A pixie shape! Mimi knew what Pixies looked like, sometimes Dreamers were pixies.

    “Are you okay?” the little pixie helped Mimi to her feet. “You tripped! My name’s Izzie. What’s yours?” Mimi blinked.

    Hi Izzie! I’m Mimi! She thought, filled the thought with a greeting-feeling. But Izzie didn’t hear. “Mommy, she’s not talking!” My name’s Mimi! Izzie, can’t you hear me? Her leg was feeling something pointy and pulsing. Izzie looked down. “Mommy, Daddy, she’s bleeding!”

    What’s bleeding, Izzie? Why can’t you hear me? What Dream am I in that people can’t hear thoughts? Mimi looked around, confused, at the three pixie people.

    “Can you speak, dear?” the woman pixie asked, crouching beside Mimi.

    Speak? Is that noise-words? HEY! Mimi thought as loud as she could.

    “I don’t think she can,” the man said. “If she could, wouldn’t she have by now? Can you understand me? Nod your head if you can.”

    Mimi nodded. The man smiled. “Good.” he looked at the other two. “I think we should take her to a healer. She’s bleeding and can’t speak... she could be really hurt.” he looked back at Mimi. “Can you walk?”

    Mimi took a few hesitant steps and nodded. She’d heard Dreamers think of this sharp feeling - they said it was pain, and that it had been taken away from the Dream World. She stumbled again after a few steps.

    “Hold my hand,” Izzie said. “I’ll help you.” she took Mimi’s hand with a smile, steadied her.

    Thank you. Mimi hoped her eyes said what Izzie couldn’t hear.

    They walked for a while, soon leaving the grass behind for a street. There were sharp things in the street that caused more pain in Mimi’s feet. She was starting to not like this sensation at all.

    “What’s going on?” A tall person with dark hair came over. He was taller than the man pixie even, but looked younger. “Who’s this?”

    “We don’t know, Artemis,” said the woman pixie. “She just walked up to us, and fell on her face. She’s bleeding and can’t speak, so we’re taking her to a healer.”

    Mimi stepped back and forth, trying to avoid the sharp things that poked into her feet. She realized at that moment. The portal’s gone. I can make another now. I’ll go home and figure things out, and then I’ll visit again another time.

    She held a hand out in front of her and closed her eyes, picturing a portal to take her home. But nothing appeared. Her eyes went wide.

    “She has no shoes,” Artemis noticed. “Her feet will bleed if she walks on anything sharp.”

    “I can help!” Izzie said, beaming. She shook her golden hair and sprinkled Mimi with dust, still holding the little Dreamer’s hand. “C’mon! Now you can fly with me!”

    Mimi felt light, and a moment later she was pulled off of her feet and towed into the air by Izzie. “Just relax,” she said. “I can pull you!”

    Mimi smiled at Izzie. Thank you again.

    Artemis stayed with them as Izzie led the way towards a big building. “We’ll take you to Mister Kalcifer!” Izzie said. “He’s a real good doctor. He’ll help you!”

    Artemis opened the door to a room. In the room, a boy covered in stitches was sitting on the table, his head hanging limply. Thin, glowing strings held the rest of his body steady, but they were tangled near his head. He moved his eyes towards the group entering and lifted a hand in a shy greeting. “Hello...”

    Mimi lifted a hand in return. Hello.

    A tall devil looked up from where his fingers were working at the boy’s strings. “Ah, Mrs. Madison. I could use your help. Darlek’s strings are very fine, and he’s managed to get them tangled again. I’m worried I’ll break them, but you have much smaller hands - could you try?”

    Izzie’s mother smiled at him. “I’d be glad to,” she said. “And that leaves you free to see to this little girl.”

    The devil looked over. Mimi ducked behind Izzie’s father in fear. Devils occasionally came to her part of the Dream World, but they were never nice and always wreaked havoc.

    “Don’t worry,” Izzie said, darting over to where Mimi was and pulling her back out. “Mister Kalcifer isn’t mean. C’mon, he can help you!”

    Mimi looked up shyly at the demon. “Who is this?” he asked.

    “We don’t know,” Mr. Madison said. “She’s hurt her leg and can’t speak.”

    He looked down at her. “Hello, miss,” he said kindly, seeing her fear. “Could you sit up on this table for me?”

    Mimi climbed up onto the table, letting her legs dangle down. Izzie fluttered up to sit beside her.

    Mr. Kalcifer sat down at a chair facing the table. He took Mimi’s leg in his hand, gently touching her ankle. “No broken bones. It’s just a cut. Could you pass me a bandage?”

    Izzie smiled at Mimi. “See? He’s a good doctor. You’ll be fine!”

    Mr. Kalcifer carefully bandaged Mimi’s leg. “Now, you say she can’t speak?” He made eye contact with Mimi. A moment later, she heard his voice in her mind. Can you understand me?

    Yes! Mimi quickly thought back. I don’t know how to make noise like that, and none of them can hear my thought-speak.

    Mr. Kalcifer nodded. “I see. She can speak mind-to-mind but not verbally.” You don’t know how to speak?

    No. What Dream am I in? I thought the people in all the Dreams knew how to hear thinking.

    His eyes widened involuntarily. Dream? Are you a Dreamer?

    Mimi nodded. Uh huh. Aren’t you? My name is Mimi.

    Mimi... none of us here are Dreamers. This is the physical realm. You got lost, didn’t you?

    I guess so. The physical realm? This was the physical realm? Oh! That’s why I can feel here and not anywhere else! And that’s why I can’t get home! Bridging the gap, unless it was a natural opening, was really hard. But in the physical realm, her mother would find her eventually. First... Mr Kalcifer, can you teach me to speak?

    Okay. Relax. Mimi closed her eyes. She felt Mr. Kalcifer reach through her mind and activate something in her throat she hadn’t even realized was there. “Mimi,” he said through her. Her voice was thin and quiet through disuse. That’s how you speak. Now you try.

    Izzie shrieked with joy. “She talked, she talked! Mommy, she talked!” Everyone in the room was watching her - the three pixies with joy in their eyes, Artemis with interest, and Darlek with curiosity.

    “Mimi,” Mimi said again, enjoying the feel of moving her lips. She talked slowly, figuring out how to make the sounds she needed. “Thaaat... iis... myy... naame. Mimi.”

    “Mimi!” Izzie suddenly hugged Mimi. “Wanna be my friend?”

    “Yeah!” Mimi said. Friends.

    Mimi did not, at that moment, know that she had just met the girl who would become her very best friend in all the world, and stay that way for many years.