Warmth. All Dorrie felt at that precise moment was warmth. It was raining down on her face, shining through her eyelids. It took every ounce of strength in Dorrie’s body to open her eyes and not soak up the yellow heat.
Above her was a powdery blue sky, a couple wispy clouds floating around in it. Dorrie groggily sat up and looked around. She was in a calm, peaceful meadow. Healthy, green grass surrounded her and stretched on for hundreds of yards in each direction. She heard birds chirping cheerfully, their babies peeping, yearning for food.
Dorrie was beginning to think she was dreaming when she saw a pink waterfall in the distance. Okay, this may be peaceful, she thought, but what the heck’s goin’ on here?!
“Dorrie?” a voice with a hint of metal asked behind her. Even though Dorrie had only met the owner of that voice less than twenty-four hours ago (or so she thought), she knew it all too well.
She whipped her head around and saw her robot, Image, standing behind her. “Image!” Dorrie breathed in horror. Image took a step back, momentarily startled. “What? What’s the matter?” she asked worriedly. Dorrie slowly got to her feet, not taking her eyes off of Image. “So…this isn’t a dream, I’m assuming?” she said slowly.
Image laughed, a sound very similar to a wind chime. “Of course not, silly!” she chuckled with a smile. “What would make you think that?”
Dorrie gestured to the pink waterfall, annoyed. Image glanced at it, then looked back at Dorrie. “What about it? It’s just a waterfall,” she said nonchalantly. Dorrie’s hands balled into fists. She hasn’t even spent a minute with Image, and she already wanted to rip her throat out.
“Yeah,” she growled, “but it’s pink! What kind of waterfall is pink, Image?!”
Image took another step back, noticing Dorrie’s fists. “Hey, calm down!” she said, holding up her hands in surrender. “It’s not my fault! Morix said Earth waterfalls were either blue or pink, so I picked the prettier of the two.”
Dorrie sighed. As usual, Image wasn’t making any sense. “Image,” she drawled, sounding out every syllable as if she were talking to a kindergartener. “Please explain.”
“Well,” Image began, “before you fell through the Portal, I had to make a place for you to rest in after. For a lot of people, just randomly falling through some weird tunnel can be kind of stressful.” No, duh, Dorrie thought bitterly.
“So this whole meadow is of my creation. I wanted to put a waterfall in, but I didn’t know what color the water was. Here the water is green, but Morix—my best friend—told me it wasn’t green on Earth. He said it was either blue or pink—he didn’t remember. So, like I said before, I chose the prettier of the two. Which is pink, obviously.” Dorrie rolled her eyes. “So, what do we do now?” she asked.
Image opened her mouth to answer when there was a loud ZAP. Two boys, identical, popped out of nowhere in midair. They both fell to the ground with a thud. Dorrie looked at them closely. Sure enough, one of the boys had a lock on their jaw. If he was the robot, the other boy must be his Kid.
Image jumped, startled. “Morix? What’re you doing here?!” she exclaimed. The robot boy got up and brushed himself off. He was wearing a suit identical to Image’s, streaked with silver and gold, whereas his Kid was wearing normal clothes—a striped polo and khaki shorts.
“Hey, Image,” the robot named Morix said sheepishly. Image walked up to him, her hands on her hips. “Why are you in my Rest Place? Didn’t you make your own?” she snapped. Morix looked at his feet. “Well…Gavin came earlier than I’d expected and…I didn’t really have enough time to make a Rest Place for him.”
Image gave him a look. “Fine, you guys can stay here. But we split up once the search begins,” she said sternly.
Dorrie looked at the boy, Gavin. He was massaging his neck with a pained expression on his face. He must have felt Dorrie’s eyes on him, because he looked up and met her eyes.
Dorrie’s heart skipped a beat. Gavin’s liquidy chocolate eyes stared into her cold, ocean blue eyes with such intensity that it took her breath away. They were staring straight into her soul…Dorrie had to break the connection between them in order to get her mind working straight again. After a second, she snuck another peek at Gavin.
Thankfully, he wasn’t looking at her anymore. His dirty blonde hair shifted slightly in the warm breeze, brushing against his coffee-colored skin. Dorrie’s heart fluttered and she looked away.
“Dorrie, did you hear me?” Image said. Dorrie looked up. “What?” Image rolled her eyes. “I told you that the search for your Key to Life will begin in approximately four minutes.” She looked at Morix. “How about you, Morix?” Morix looked at his watch, which was engraved into his left wrist. “Um…about seven minutes. You guys get a head start,” he said with a grin. Image rolled her eyes, but smirked.
“Where are we going first?” Dorrie inquired. Image shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “It depends on who you are. In three minutes, we’re going to be transported somewhere that was programmed for you to begin. It’s different for each person.” Dorrie nodded as she mulled this over. What if we appear in a volcano? she thought. What’ll happen then?
The palms of her hands were getting sweaty. The nervous look on Image’s face wasn’t helping. Suddenly, a question popped into her head.
“What’s my family going to do while I’m gone?” Dorrie asked. Image and Morix looked at each other guiltily. Gavin looked at them expectantly.
“Um…” Image began, looking at Dorrie sheepishly. She turned to Morix for help. “Well Dorrie,” he explained, “the thing is, we don’t have a solution for that. We can’t freeze time, because that’s impossible. And we can’t make another Dorrie that’s exactly like you, either. So…” Morix’s voice trailed off.
Dorrie gaped at him, bewildered. “You mean, life is still going on?! My parents are just gonna go up to my room in the morning and find out that I’m gone?” Image looked down, but nodded. Gavin wasn’t too happy about it, either.
“What?! My parents are going to freak, Morix! This is just too much!” he cried, whipping his arms around as he spoke. “Yeah!” Dorrie piped up. “So are mine! How long is this gonna take?”
Morix shrugged. “It depends,” he muttered. “Why does everything have to depend?” Gavin exploded. “What happens if I never find it? Then what?” Image sighed. “You’ll find it, sooner or later. After each month of searching, we’re programmed to give you hints about the location of your Key.” “So you know where our Keys are?” Dorrie snarled. “Tell us!”
Image held up her hands and shook her head back and forth rapidly. “No, I don’t! Seriously! The hints just come to us from the Key itself!” she pleaded defensively.
Gavin clenched his teeth. “But hints are just stupid riddles! I’m no good when it comes to riddles!” “Don’t worry,” Morix said calmly. “Robots are allowed to help you. We are here to help you; that’s pretty much the whole reason why we have to tag along. Since we don’t know where your Key is either, it’s okay.”
Dorrie still wasn’t satisfied. “So, let’s say it takes me three months to find my Key. What happens after I unlock Image’s lock?” she asked.
“Well, if you’re not a Cavity, you’re sent right back to the Portal,” Image said. “So what should I do when my parents ask me where I’ve been for the past three months?” Dorrie asked, her voice cracking. “We’ll figure that out later,” Image said. “But as of now, we have thirty seconds until the search for your Key to Life begins!”
For once, Dorrie didn’t have anything to say. So the pressure’s on, she thought. Image grabbed hold of her arm. “What’re you doing?” Dorrie asked, trying to pull away. But Image was strong. Very strong. “I have to hold on to you while we’re being transported,” Image replied.
“Good luck, guys,” Gavin said. “Maybe we’ll see you later on. Bye, Dorrie.”
Dorrie blushed and squeaked out, “Bye, Gavin. Bye, Morix.”
Morix stepped up to Image and touched her arm gently. “Be careful, Image. Protect Dorrie, okay?” he said, his faintly glowing brown eyes staring directly into Image’s. Image smiled sadly. “You too,” she whispered.
“How many more seconds?” Dorrie asked, shattering the moment. Image looked at her watch. “Five…four…three…two…”
She looked up at Dorrie, a sly smile on her face. “Let the search begin,” she breathed, and the image of the beautiful meadow began to warp into something else.