P.S. Hooray for the website morguefile, from which I gleaned the photos. And no, they don't all fit the story great. But they were free, and quick, and some are gorgeous. Plus, did I mention free?
Ivana hated it here. It had been only six days by the calendar of this world, but already she hated it. Her skin itched; sweat trickled between her shoulder blades. When she reached behind her to swipe it away, these inflexible human arms could not reach the spot. When she scratched, she scraped away the last tufts of her fur, leaving them in a growing heap as if she'd shed not just her skin but her self. And when the fur pulled away, it revealed pale new skin--human skin--soft but still itching.
Her pathetic claws now couldn't even draw blood--another cruelty of her transformation in this world. She would prefer scrapes and blood to this incessant itch.
And the heat. The heat was unbearable. She breathed it in. It sank in through her eyes, slithered around her shoulders and neck like a living thing. There was no avoiding it. She had not known that she could feel this way, did not want to know it now. During the day, she wandered this new place. The vivid colors she had so admired as she stared at them from her own world now felt too bright. She had to squint just to look at the flowers growing in profusion underfoot, pinks and reds and yellows clashing all around her. Above, vines of purple and green climbed up trees so immense she could barely see their tops.
Night brought tantalizing fantasies of the beloved world she'd left behind. She dreamed of frozen places, of the expanses of brilliant white, the ice nearly blinding in the radiance of the cold winter sun. She felt the breeze blow through her fur, across her nose. She howled at the moon. But here in this otherworld--when she woke up, here she was drenched in sweat, the heat a physical weight upon her, pushing her down into the vibrant green moss she slept on.
She was tired and sore and broken down. She should have listened when they told her she did not know what it would be like in the otherworld. They said she'd be alone, that there would be no one to care for her. But still she'd watched through the ice, seen the otherworld reflected in the ice's magic. How could she not be curious? The colors in that image blazed. Home was blue and black and gray and white. Here the colors popped around her, and what had seemed so fascinating and magical from across the ice now seemed only overwhelming, too garish, pounding into her head through her eyes until she closed them and breathed a sigh of relief as she saw home once again in her mind. Soon enough, though, she would have to open her eyes to reality again, a reality that she knew she had chosen.
She believed that knowledge would drive her mad.
Only a day into her sojourn in this land, she'd thrown herself into the lake, flailing through the water, seeking for a glimpse of the gate that might take her back home. She could not see it, so she knew it wasn't open, but she continued to splash anyway, desperate for the gate to appear and swallow her back.