The "Magic" Kingdom story - ch. 14 posted

I am written a couple unpublished novels, published some short stories, and have done 2 paid gigs ghost writing for published books. But no, not as a living. I am a software engineer. But I like to write on the side.

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This story better start taking a happy turn. You have me on the edge of my seat.

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CHAPTER FOUR - Ray

“Hey, kid.”

I stood there, frozen to the spot, unable to speak. I had no idea who this person…no, not person, but this creature…was. What it was. It had the face like a bird’s beak, orange spikey hair, and trollish ears. All around, angelic-looking ghosts drifted about, heading this way and that.

“Who…who…who…” I stammered.

“What? Are you some kind of humanoid owl or something?” the creature said, poking me with his orange and turquoise colored finger. I guess it was a he. It sounded like a he. But how could I know? I stepped back, pressing my body against the glass window behind me. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Who are you?” I finally managed, fear growing in my chest. The bathroom had disappeared, and here we were inside this…place. I didn’t even recognize it, really. Dark hallways, glowing figures, and a creature that looked ready to eat me.

“Name’s Solarium E. Clips. But most folks just call me Sonny.” He hesitated, looking me up and down, then said, curtly, “And you are?”

“I…I…I…I…” I stammered again.

He suddenly stepped back, threw his arms out wide, dramatically, and began to sing, loudly, “Aye, aye, aye, aye,” to an Italian tune I recognize from somewhere, then returned to a normal standing posture. “Silly name, if you ask me, but pleased to make your acquaintance.”

I shook my head. “Are you…are you going to…eat me?”

His gaze narrowed on me, then in a blast, he bellowed, “Bah!!! Eat you? That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day, Aye! Eat you. I’d never eat you.” He looked me up and down. “Except maybe your toes.”

I gulped, but he just laughed.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding, Aye. Yeesh. Crowd’s a little deadpan today.”

“My name’s Ian, not Aye.”

“Well, why didn’t you said so from the beginning? So, what brings you to these parts?”

These parts? I didn’t even know where these parts were. I had the distinct impression I wasn’t at Walt Disney World any longer. But then, maybe this was all just another attraction, the ghostly figures just like the ones in the Haunted Mansion.

“Where are we?” I finally mustered.

“Where are we? Why, the final frontier. The great emptiness! Space. Well, Space Mountain, to be precise. But out there,” he pointed to the windows behind me. “That’s space.”

“Outer space?” I asked.

“No, no. Outer space is on the other side of the galaxy, I’m afraid. Where my heart longs to return.” He seemed to get all misty eyed for a moment, staring off, before looking back at me and regaining his composure. “This is is just Space. Plain old ordinary Space. And we’re in the Mountain.”

“Space Mountain. Isn’t that a roller coaster?”

“What’s a roller coaster?” he said, dispassionately. “Oh, well, no matter. This is where me and my Space Angels…” He waved his arm to the shimmery figures behind him. “…like to rehearse.”

“Rehearse?”

“It means to practice.”

“I know what it means.”

“Then why’d you ask what it means?”

I felt my fear transforming rather quickly into annoyance. “I didn’t ask what it means.”

“Whatever you say, kid. Point is, it’s hard to find anywhere with good acoustics, but in the Mountain, there’s plenty of acoustics. You can dig them up by the dozens.”

I stared at him, blankly. This creature…Sonny…was completely mad.

“What?” he said, quizzically. “You don’t dig the acoustics?”

He smiled and stared at me as if waiting for me to react, but I just stared back.

“Great, kid. Nothing. You even have a sense of humor in that little noggin’ of yours?”

“I went looking for my little sister. She went missing and, well, somehow I ended up…here.”

Sonny stroked the end of his nose, contemplatively. “Hmm. Little sister, you said. Short, ugly-looking thing with blondish red hair, blue eyes, and a gaudy neon shirt as awful as the one you got on?”

“Yes, that’s her!” Excitement burst out of me. She was alive. Or at least, she had been.

“Ha! You just called your little sister ugly!”

“I didn’t. You did.”

“Ah, yes, but then you agreed!”

“No I didn’t.”

“Did, too!”

I sighed, about ready to punch out his beaky little head. “When did you see her?”

“I didn’t,” he said.

“But you just said….”

He put up a finger to silence me. “You said you didn’t call your sister ugly, when you did, so I said I didn’t see her when I did. I thought we were playing some kind of word game. You know, say the opposite of what we actually mean.”

“I’m not playing any games.”

His head tilted sideways. “Wait. Does that mean you are playing games?”

I balled my hands into fists, but resisted the urge to follow through. For all I knew, he would eat me alive. “When did you see my sister?”

“Fine. No games. Lemme think.” He reached down and starting tapping his rear end as if that was where his brains were located. “Had to have been hours ago, now. She was with this other girl. Taller, but just as ugly, with dark brown eyes.”

“Where’d they go?”

“Not sure. The bigger one said they needed to get back to the Grotto, so I sent them to see Ray.”

“Ray? Who is Ray?”

Sonny shook his head. “Unbelievable. You don’t know who Ray is? He’s only the most famous inhabitant of Space Mountain there is. Nothing happens here without him knowing about it. He also makes the absolute most delicious salads ever concocted by a non-human! Oh, and the dressings he uses.” Sonny kissed the ends of his fingertips with an emphatic, “Mm!”

“Can you tell me how to find him?”

“Sure.” And then I waited. I waited for ten or twenty seconds, but Sonny just stared back at me before finally saying, “Oh. You mean you want me to tell you where to find him. I see what you did there!”

I palmed my face, ready to scream. My sister has been missing for hours, kidnapped by Ursula the sea witch, and now I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere having to listen to this jokester.

“Head down that corridor there.” He pointed. “Go about three hundred clicks and then turn left, then right, then right again, then left. His place his the seventeenth door on the right. You can’t miss it. Has a huge sign next to it that says in itty bitty letters, ‘Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe’.”

(Jump to Chapter Five )

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Good story. I am eager to read the rest.

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The suspense…

CHAPTER FIVE - Rocket

Sonny had been wrong. I could miss it. After turning left, there was no way to turn right. So I backtracked and turned right, but then there was no way to turn either way. I asked three separate floating angels, and they all sang different responses. But after nearly an hour, I managed to find it. The sign, and next to it, a pair of glass doors.

When I entered, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I mean, if this was a cafe, then why weren’t there lots of people, and tables to eat at? Instead, I found myself in a kitchen where alien-looking creatures just as weird looking as Sonny, appeared to be preparing food.

“Hey, you!” one of the creatures blurted out. “Cooks only. No customers are allowed in the kitchen!”

“I’m…not a customer!” I said, belligerently. “I’m here to see Ray!”

The creature cook looked me up and down, before saying, “You’re awfully funny looking. You human?”

I nodded.

“Ray’s through there.” And he jerked his head toward another set of double doors.

“Thanks,” I said, then shoved my way through the doorway.

On the other side, I briefly thought I had fallen through the mirror from the bathroom again. The room was black, with tiny points of light completely surrounding me. Below me, above me, to my left, and to my right. Stars. Then then, I wasn’t falling. I was still planted firmly on the floor. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed the room was full of black tables, covered in pinpoints of light, as were the walls, floor, and ceiling, giving the illusion we were in space.

“Well, well, well,” came a high-pitched voice from behind.

I spun around to find a tall, skinny being, as though it had once been a human being who had been stretched and pulled like taffy. Even the being’s head was three times as tall as it was wide, and it towered over me while stirring something in a small bowl it was holding.

“We seem to have a human infestation! You’re the second human I’ve seen today!”

“Are you Ray?” I asked, hopefully.

He bowed, gracefully. “Of course, of course.”

“You said I’m the second human. So you must have met my sister, Sarah?”

His head wobbled back and forth, and for a moment I thought it might actually tumble off his slender neck. “Met? Well, we were never properly introduced. She seemed to have been a captive, so it was none of my business who she was.”

My heart sank at this. Captive. Of course, she was captive. Had to be. Why else would she have gone with Ursula? Only, I had harbored deep inside this idea that maybe Sarah had taken Ursula to be someone nice and went with her willingly. “Why didn’t you stop her?”

“Stop who, my dear boy?”

“The sea witch!”

Ray dipped his finger into the bowl and pulled out a thick, drippy white sauce. He licked off the concoction, then closed his eyes in obvious pleasure. “Mmm. So good.” He then offered me the bowl. “Here, try this. It is my latest masterpiece.” I shook my head, but he just shoved the bowl closer. “I call it ‘Negative Space’!”

Tentatively, I scraped my finger along the side and scooped some up. Looking at it more closely, it was white with specks of black in it. At first, I just dabbed it to my tongue, fearing it would taste like the blood of some horrible alien life form or something. But instead it tasted like…

“…Ranch!” I said, then finished off the rest of it. “This is Ranch dressing!”

Ray’s shoulders slumped, and he gave out a long, sorrowful sigh. “Ah, so I did it again.”

“What?”

“It seems all the best recipes I come up with have already been made by someone else by a different name.”

“Please, sir. I need to know what happened to my sister.”

“Ah. Yes. Quite. Well, as I was saying, I don’t know what the captor did with her since it wasn’t my business. I mean, most of the time when a human captive comes through, they end up as some kind of meal at a big feast or something. You know how it is. Humans are the lesser of all the intelligent creatures, after all.”

My guts tightened up inside, and I had a sudden urge to vomit. They were going to eat my sister? Was I too late? Perhaps this was all for nothing. I sank to the floor and started to sob.

“There, there,” Ray said, bending low to pat me on the head. It did little to comfort me, however. I just wanted this all to end. To find out that this was all just a dream. A nightmare. “I can tell you where they went, however.”

I worked to calm myself, wiping my now runny nose on my arm. After a few moments, I said, “You can?”

“Oh, sure. The captor…the sea witch, I guess you called her? She wanted to find a place called the Grotto, which is back on Earth. So, I send her and the little human girl to Earth on one of my Astro Orbiters.”

“Astro Orbiters?”

“Yes. A rocket, really. Mostly I use them to ship off garbage, but they are fully capable of transporting living creatures as well. Here, come with me.”

And so Ray pulled me back to my feet, and held tightly to my hand, leading me through the sea of Starlit tables, out into another corridor, and then into a backroom. The place reeked of spoiled eggs and rotting meat as a series of small rocket-shaped vessels lined up, a conveyor spilling the food waste into one of them. Once it filled, the rocket shut itself up and inched forward, passing into a small tunnel. A door closed, and moments later I could hear it blast away.

A new rocket moved in to replace the previous one. Before there was time for any more food waste to fall inside, Ray pecked a few things into a control panel. The conveyor halted, and he swept his arm to indicate I could step inside.

“Are you sure this thing is safe?” I said, hesitantly, trying hard to breathe through my mouth to avoid inhaling the stench around me.

“Oh, sure, sure,” Ray said. “I’m running a business here. Can’t afford to replace these things if they’d just exploded as they entered the atmosphere! You don’t worry. But here,” and he thrust what looked to be a huge backpack into my arms. “Put this on, just to be safe. Should the Orbitor decide to dump you early, you just pull that cord there.” And he pointed to the small metal ring dangling from the side of the pack.

Fear pierced my insides like the blade of a sword. I remembered the gap as I had boarded the monorail, and how I was scared of being sucked into the crack. And now, here I was about to ride a rocket to Earth wearing a parachute? I couldn’t do it. How could I? How could anyone? The room suddenly felt like it was spinning, and I thought I might pass out.

But then the face of Sarah flashed in my mind. And Ursula lighting up a fire beneath her, Sarah screaming. I couldn’t let that happen, no matter how scared I was.

I took in a deep breath, futilely trying to calm myself while slipping the straps around my shoulder and buckling the buckle around my chest.

“Okay then,” Ray said. “Just step in and you’ll be on your way!”

I closed my eyes, imagined Mom and Dad, and how worried they must be by now. I had to do this. For them. And Sarah. When I opened them, I stepped into the rocket.

(Jump to Chapter Six.)

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Good read. I can’t wait to find this place and ride that rocket!

Remember DAD_of_twin_girls to get there you have to enter through the LADIES ROOM good luck.

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I’ll just make sure my wife goes in to check to make sure no one is in there and let her know about a secret entrance. Can’t wait to show you pictures in the “Where in the World” thread> :):rofl:

Well, to quote Treebeard: Don’t be hasty!

You might want to wait for the conclusion of the story before you rush into things. :slight_smile:

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I don’t really have to ride the rocket. I just want to find the hidden area. It will make me feel special since I will know that not many others will know about it. Kind of like when I got in the hot seat at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Play It!” I know only about 30 or so people in the whole park got to sit in the hot seat. I felt privileged to be one of those.

:joy::rofl:

CHAPTER SIX - Water

As soon as the canopy to the Astro Orbiter closed over me, panic set in. I felt like all the air had been sucked out of the cockpit and no matter how deeply I tried to breathe in, my lungs couldn’t take in any oxygen. The ship moved forward, and as it did, I struggled, futilely, to pull open the release latch.

I was going to die.

The doors, now behind me, swooshed closed, and ahead of me a tunnel of red flashing lights pulsated. Without warning, I shot forward, pressed into the seat, further squeezing my chest until I passed out.

Whether it was three seconds, three minutes, three hours, I could never say. But when I woke back up, the ever-growing image of Earth approached. Alarms were sounding, and a staticy voice announced, “Final destination in one minute.”

Flames seemed to engulf the rocket around me, obscuring my view, before I felt the rocket slow. The flames died away and, below me, I could see the blue ocean, land barely visible at the horizon. I suddenly realized how unplanned this was. Is this how Sarah and Ursula had come? If so, I hoped the Orbiters were programmed to empty their cargo in the same general area, otherwise I’d be lost in the middle of nowhere, possibly worse off than if I had just stayed put in the security man’s office!

When we were perhaps a mile or two above the surface, another alarm sounded.

“Final destination. Delivering cargo in 15 seconds.”

“Um,” I said, panic returning, hoping the thing could hear me. But then, if it was just meant to deliver trash, why would it be programmed to listen to anyone?

“Ten seconds.”

“Stop,” I demanded. “Wait.”

“Five seconds.”

I grabbed the joystick in front of me and pulled back, sharply, hoping it would somehow distract the computer from fulfilling its duty. And for a brief moment, it seemed to work.

“Final destination lock lost. Recalculating.”

As I pulled harder, the rocket began ascending. I veered left, then right, then pushed downward. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, but I managed to prevent being dumped so high the splashdown would undoubtedly kill me! I breathed a sigh of relief.

“System failure detected. Back-up system engaged.”

And, my relief vanished as the joystick pulled away from my grasp, the rocket zooming back around back towards where we had been.

“Final destination in 10 seconds.”

It was no use. I was a goner for sure. I pulled tightly on the strap to the parachute, make sure it was secure. It was clear I was going to need it.

“Final destination. Delivering cargo in 15 seconds.”

I waited.

“Ten seconds.”

I held my breath.

“Five seconds.”

I closed my eyes, unsure if I even wanted to watch.

“Releasing cargo.”

And suddenly, I felt myself falling. Only, as the cargo doors below me fell away, the pack holding my parachute snagged on something, and I found myself dangling, the chill of the wind blowing over me. A few bits of scraps left from some previous trip plummeted below me. My head banged against the metal exterior, my body fluttering like a feather in a hurricane. I tried to reach up and unhitch my pack from whatever it was stuck on, but it wouldn’t budge.

Next, the cargo doors began to close. Time was up, apparently, and I wasn’t sure what might happen when my pack was half inside and half outside when they finished. But it didn’t take long to find out, because as they tried to seal shut, the strain pulled the pack strap so taut it snapped.

As I fell away, my finger snatched the pull cord. I watched as the ship, along with my parachute, rocketed away. I was falling, with nothing but the ocean below me, approaching quickly. I spun around, knowing I had almost no time to make one last ditch effort to save myself from certain death. Not that it mattered. Even if I survived the impact, I could barely swim and any glimpse of land in any direction was completely gone.

But then, something came flying toward me from the direction of the rocket ship. I wasn’t sure what it was, at first. It didn’t look like a plane, or the ship itself, but it was flying straight for me, whatever it was.

Below, the sea was fast approaching. I spread out my hands and legs wide to slow my fall, but it didn’t seem to do a whole lot. As the wind blew at me, I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I didn’t want to see my death, anyway.

Good bye, Mom. Good bye, Dad. Good bye, Sarah. Death would come quickly, now. My grave, the water.

(Jump to Chapter Seven.)

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no! You can’t stop like this! I need more.

Agree ch 7 needs to come quick! Trying to guess what the water is…

Sorry. I post each as soon as I have time to write some more! I probably won’t get another chapter up until Monday.

No apologies necessary!! I know it takes time—. I’m enjoying the read

Good read! I am really enjoying this.

CHAPTER SEVEN - Hug

Oomph!

The impact came like a punch in the gut and to the face. Not what was expected! I continued to descend, coughing and sputtering from…dust? I could tell I was slowing, my nose pressed against something bordering between soft and scratchy, but the air was no longer pummelling my face. Instead, I smelled the acrid scent of something that had spent too long sitting outside in the garage or something.

Finally, I came to a full stop, but rather than being dead, and also not feeling like I was actually in water nor on the ground, I drew up enough courage to lift my head, eyes squinted just enough to see. I was lying on…carpet. And, judging from the swaying motion of the ocean’s horizon in the distance, I was on a flying carpet!

Pushing myself to my hands, sure enough, the carpet appeared to be something out of a cartoon, like the one from Aladdin! Tassels dangled from each of the corners, and the pattern was an elaborate pattern of blues, yellows, and reds. As I carefully maneuvered myself around, it felt like I was shifting on a trampoline, or an inflatable raft floating in a pool. Around me, the vast ocean spread out in all directions less than 20 feet above the service.

“That was close,” I said, taking in a deep breath and waiting to cry in joyous relief. I wasn’t dead. But how? That’s when I noticed. Along one of the edges hung the severed remains of the pull cord. “It wasn’t a parachute!” I exclaimed to no one.

I sat there in silence for a few minutes, trying to make sense of it all. Space Mountain, Sonny and Cosmic Ray’s, the Astro Orbiter. These were all places in Tomorrowland. But they were just rides. Places to eat. They weren’t real! Or, at least, they hadn’t been. Not until I went through that mirror! And now, Aladdin’s magic carpet? That was in Adventureland. I’d been spit upon by the giant plastic camel hours earlier, Sarah squealing in delight as we tilted backwards and forwards, going up and down, round and round.

But there was no plastic seat, no buttons, no levers. Just a carpet that had saved my life! But, now what? Even if this all was real, where do I go from here? How do I get from Adventureland to Sarah? Where was she? I wasn’t sure. Then again, I knew where Ursula was taking her. The Grotto. That was in Fantasyland. That’s where I had to get.

Earlier in the day, I had stuffed a map into my pocket of the Magic Kingdom park. Now, I pulled it out, carefully unfolding and smoothing it out on the surface of the carpet. Suddenly, a soft, calm purring sound came. Was that the carpet? I brushed my hand across the surface again, and again, the carpet purred. I smiled. It was…alive!

“Good carpet. Thank you for saving my life!”

The carpet pulsed, slightly, as though sitting up a little more proudly than before.

I returned to the map. There we were. The Magic Carpets of Alladin. And nearby? A tree house, a Tiki Room, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. There seemed to be a few options. Going back toward Tomorrowland, cutting through the castle, or going around to Frontierland. Tomorrowland was definitely out! No more rockets, for sure! The castle was a possibility, though. Seemed most direct.

But as I looked up, I realized there was no way of knowing which way was the right way. So, I decided to ask.

“Um. Carpet?”

The carpet swayed up and down as if to say it was listening.

“Do you know where the castle is?”

Again, we swayed up and down in a gentle nod.

“Can you take me?”

And without warning, the carpet zoomed forward, knocking be flat on my back. I thought I’d fall off, but the tassels on the back seemed to grab hold of me as we soared upwards, did a triple helix, and then sped toward away from the direction of the sun. The ride was exhilarating! Carpet, or Carp, as I decided to call it, didn’t just fly straight, but dove down close to the surface of the water in time to catch view of a breaching whale and a family of dolphins slicing through the water below. Then we’d soar upwards into the mist of the clouds, sending chills through my body. We’d go over, sideways, and under through the endless daylit sky.

After what seemed like hours, I could start to make out something in the distance. It was…land. An island, maybe? Was this it? Was this the location of the castle? If so, once we passed through, we could continue on to the Grotto.

But then…

BOOM!

An explosion rang through my ears. Then another, the second even louder. I felt something hot shoot past us. I leaned out over Carp’s edge to see two ships below.

“Hold up, Carp,” I said, and it obeyed, leaving us hovering above. The ship to my left fired. I could see the burst of fire light coming from one of the ports on the side, the cannonball flying over the the ship on the right. “Pirates!” I exclaimed.

And, as if on cue, the pirate ship fired again, this time aiming straight for us!

“Move!” I shouted, unsure exactly how to control Carp.

It didn’t matter. Carp scooted out of the way in just the nick of time.

“We’ve gotta get out of here!” I said, and Carp started forward again, taking us directly over the water spanning between the ships. I watched. Something peculiar caught my eye. Not on the pirate ship, but on the other ship, the one being fired upon. There was a bright, neon-shirt wearing girl standing on the deck! It was…Sarah!

We flew by, picking up speed. What was Sarah doing there? Was she being held captive on that ship? And why were the pirates firing? If they hit the ship, they’d go down, Sarah with them!

“Carp! Go back! We have to go back! I see my sister!”

Carp eased up at first, as although struggling with fear at the idea of obeying my command.

“You have to turn around! My sister!”

In almost a sigh, Carp twisted around and shot back toward the ship carrying Sarah. I heard another BOOM and then with a sudden shift to the left, Carp went one way and I went the other. Moments later, I was in the water, struggling to say up. Carp sped around and lowered a tassel to me. I grabbed hold, Carp tugging me through the water to the ship.

“Ian!” I heard Sarah shout as I rose up, dangling, dripping wet, from Carp’s tassel. The carpet lowered me to the desk, where, as another BOOM reverberated around us, Sarah gave me a gigantic hug.

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CHAPTER EIGHT - Boat

“Sarah! Are you okay?” I grabbed hold of her, tightly, as if she might otherwise disappear. “Did she do anything to you?”

Water rained down as the cannonball splashed into the water next to the ship.

Sarah gave a look of confusion. “Of course I’m okay,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Ursula! She…captured you! Mom and Dad are besides themselves. I thought you might be dead!”

“What are you talking about?”

And now I’m sure I was the one who looked confused. “How did you get here?” There was another BOOM, and beside me, Carp jerked backwards as though startled and scared. “I think we have to get you out of here!”

I loosened my grip and glanced over the railing to the pirate ship just a few hundred feet away. Several filthy looking men were scrambling around, apparently loading up another cannon as their boat swayed gently in the ocean waves.

“Ian. It’s okay. They can’t hurt us! We’re…protected!”

“What do you mean?”

Sarah pointed, and I glanced over my shoulder. There she was. Ursula. The sea witch in her human form. She just stood there, peering down at the two of us, a sickening grin across her face.

“Stay away from her!” I shouted, shoving Sarah behind me, as though somehow I could keep her safe from what I knew to be a monster before us. But who was I kidding? She was twice my size, and could do magic.

Ursula pursed her lips. “How sweet. Big brother’s here to save the day. Only, big brother doesn’t even know who the enemy is!”

“I know who you are,” I said, trying to dig deep to keep up my courage. Carp, by comparison, had retreated, shivering, behind a railing. “You’re Ursula!”

Ursula tented her fingers, tapping her forefingers together, thoughtfully. “Of course, I am.”

“You’re…evil!”

“Tsk, tsk,” she said, taking a step closer. “You should know better than to trust what you’ve seen in movies. Always making the bad guys seem so…well…bad. But really, now? Who do you think tells those stories? The good guys?”

“Yes!” I said, more confidently.

“Ian,” Sarah said, trying to wrench free from my grip. “Please. She’s nice!”

“Listen to your sister, Ian. Stories aren’t told by good guys. They’re told by the winners. Always setting out to make the losers look pathetic. But then, they always seem so bent on leaving out their misdeeds, don’t they? That just wouldn’t do, telling a story about a hero who is just as nasty as the villain! And, so, I’m afraid, I fell on the losing side of the story. But that didn’t make what I did wrong.”

There came another loud burst. But this time, as the cannonball flew overhead, Ursula snapped her fingers, the projectile bursting into a shower of red sparks falling harmlessly over us like an exploded fireworks display.

“See? If it wasn’t for me, this ship would be on the bottom of the sea by now, or your little sister, here, would have been taken by those horrible pirates for themselves and make you to walk the plank! But because of me, we’re perfectly safe.”

“That doesn’t change what you did! You kidnapped my sister!”

Ursula gave a shocked expression of fake disbelief. “Moi? Kidnap your precious Sarah? Now, why on earth would I ever do that?”

I opened my mouth to answer, but…well, the truth was, I had no answer to give. At least, none that made any sense. Why would Ursula kidnap Sarah? There was nothing special about her, was there? Not like Ariel, daughter of Triton. We weren’t royalty. We were no one important at all, for that matter. Just a family on a vacation.

“She didn’t…err…kidnap…ugh…me,” Sarah said, finally detaching herself from me with a lurch. “She’s been helping me!”

“Helping you?” I said, flabberghasted as the thought.

“Yes. I mean, she’s helping me get back home. To you, and to Mom, and to Dad!”

I looked to Sarah, then back to Ursula, then back to Sarah. “But, you vanished after she went into the restroom.”

“Ah, yes,” Ursula said, with a wave of her hand. “”Tis true, tis true. But you seem to have things backwards. Because it was your little sister who went through the mirror, and, well, if I hadn’t been there right at that moment, she would have fallen into this Magic Kingdom with no hope of ever escaping. So, you see, it is fortunate that I came along, really. I followed after her, only me around knowing the kind of magic it would take to return to your world. And, believe me, it wasn’t for my benefit. No. I have better things to be doing, believe me!”

This…this couldn’t be true. It didn’t make sense. I looked around, for any sign that Sarah might be lying to protect herself. I didn’t know what. But how could Ursula possibly be…good? Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the pirate ship had changed course. Instead of sailing beside us, its bow had turned toward us, as though preparing to ram us. Ursula, too, seemed to notice this and waved her hand around, breezily. As she did, our ship began to change course as well.

“See what I mean?” Ursula said. “Here I am, trying to save your sister from those bad guys over there so that we can go along on our merry way. And you keep looking at me like I’m the evil one? What does that even mean, anyway? Evil?”

I found myself unable to answer.

“Nothing!” she shouted. “It means nothing! Its merely the word given anyone who is on the opposing side. Right now? Those pirates are evil. And to the pirates? We’re evil! You, just as much as me!”

Now, our ship started directly toward the pirate ship, which was quickly approaching. We were going to ram, and I wondered what it meant when both sides were evil. Where was the good in both of our ships being smashed to bits? Who was I to trust? Pirates? Pirates weren’t good guys. But neither was Ursula. And yet Sarah said….

Another boom came from the ship bearing down on us, their enemy fire, this time, making impact with our ship, piercing a hole the main sail like it was swiss cheese.

“Make your decision, little Mr. Hero. Who will you trust? Me? Or them? It makes no difference to me. I mean, I know how to swim!”

And then, her legs began to transform, each splitting into four separate tentacles, her slender body widening, her fact transforming, becoming the sea which as I had always known her to be.

“Make your decision. Stick with me, and I’ll keep them from smashing this boat into bits. Stick with them, and, well…sayonara to sissy!”

Sarah, this time, grabbed my arm. “Please, Ian. She’s my friend!”

But I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that. Ursula was evil. And so, in one last attempt to save ourselves, I clutched tightly to Sarah and threw us both off the side of the boat.

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