Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a witch that sought after a girl locked high in a tower. This particular witch was in charge of making sure that from the moment of birth, every person in the land of Limbo boarded a magical train that took them on an unpredictable but necessary journey. She had sent the girl in the tower on the train many years before and was shocked to discover that she had returned to the land of Limbo and cast a spell that barricaded her inside the unbreakable iron doors of a high tower.
Meanwhile, the girl locked in the tower knew she was being sought after. She had spent many days on the magical train and had little desire to re-board. The girl knew about the fast pace of the train and about the violent twists. She couldn’t face the possibility of once again being whisked on a journey where she could neither control nor prevent the sharp turns along the way. And so it was that she cast a spell that locked her high in a tower with the desire to remain ever stagnant in Limbo.
Every night at midnight she would hear the witch outside her window. Her ethereal voice seeped through the cracks in her spell and called to her, asking that the girl come down from her tower and board the train. The girl ignored her calls and floated into fitful dreams of angry and cold storms.
The girl in the tower remembered the train vividly. The view out the window had, at times, been astonishing and overwhelming. For a long time, there were endless fields of green, dotted with sunflowers and houses lined with white picket fences. Being on the train provided her with exhilaration and a sense of adventure. She rode along smoothly. The girl in the tower remembered those days with a warm heart and a distant glow of happiness.
That was before the scenery transformed dramatically. The magic train began to take sharp turns toward a storm brewing in the distance. It was dark and menacing. Yet no one else around her seemed to see the storm coming. They sighed as they looked happily out the window and saw the sunflowers and white picket fences.
The girl in the tower watched as the storm grew closer and, as it did, the train ride took sharper turns and became more erratic. Until one day the storm was so loud and fierce outside her window that she couldn’t face the fast-pace anymore and threw herself off, returning to the land of Limbo where she had remained for many days.
At midnight, many nights later, she heard the witch calling to her again. This time her voice was razer-sharp around the edges. The smooth, ethereal tone of her call had transformed into a demand. She told the girl to come down and to wait at the station for the magic train to take her back on the unpredictable but necessary journey. For the first time, the witch told her that though she may not be able to stop the fast pace of the train, as no one could, she would eventually be able to control what she saw when she looked out the window.
The girl tossed and turned that night, thinking of what the witch had said and waking breathlessly to discover she felt claustrophobic in the confines of the tower. She rose from her bed and stared out the window. She could see the train waiting for her and so, for the first time in days, she reversed her spell and ventured outside the tower, into Limbo where everything was comfortable and safe and familiar. The witch appeared next to her immediately and grabbed her by the arm, forcing her toward the station. The girl told the witch she was not going to board the train but the witch had heard this excuse a thousand times before for hundreds of years. So, she let go of the girl. She told her that she would leave her at the station to do as she wished.
The girl stood, terrified of boarding and confused by the witch’s change of heart. She knew that the witch was giving her a choice. She could remain in Limbo, in its comfort and safety or, like everyone else, get back on the train. As she was considering returning to her tower, she turned and saw an old woman standing behind her. The woman was looking toward the train wistfully, with an odd smile creasing her face.
She asked the old woman what she was doing in Limbo. In return, the old woman stared at her before admitting she had finished her long and unpredictable journey and had come back to Limbo once and for all. She told the girl from the high tower that she had seen many things on her long journey, including the fierce storms. The girl was shocked that the old woman had seen the storms too; everyone else on the train always seemed so stoic, so happy with whatever they saw. She asked the old woman what happened after the storm.
The old woman looked knowingly at the girl and told her that as soon as the storm passed, it was back to the sunflowers and white picket fences. Just as it had been before. The old woman smiled fondly at the memory of the unpredictable but necessary journey and told the girl from the tower that it was time to board the train. That, from now on she could only return to Limbo once the journey was over.
The old woman stood next to her and smiled again, the same wistful smile that almost reminded the girl in the tower of what it was like to see endless rows of sunflowers. Catching her in this moment of weakness, the old woman pointed to the train and gently reminded the girl from the tower that when she reboarded, she would still be in the middle of a ferocious storm. But, like everyone, she would have to wait, patiently, for the storm to end and will herself to see the sunflowers and picket fences again.
And so, with the knowledge of the sunflowers after the storm, the girl took a tentative step on the train. As soon as she sat down, it lurched forward and she once again saw the storm brewing fierce around her. So, she closed her eyes and waited. She waited for the sunflowers.
Back at the station the old woman watched as the train disappeared before returning to her true form as the witch. She smiled wistfully to herself, longing for the days of the unpredictable but necessary journey and remembering a time, like the girl, when it seemed the storm would never end. But, as it turned out, it had.
And she never saw the girl again for many, many years until she returned to Limbo as an old woman herself.She asked the girl from the tower if she ever saw the sunflowers again. The old woman from the tower nodded, with a familiar wistful smile creasing her face.
She had seen the sunflowers again and so, despite the storms and the ragged, sharp turns in the train tracks, you could say the girl from the tower lived.Happily. Ever. After.