Friday, 30 August 2013

CHAPTER 10 and 11!

Chapter 10:  Light City


On the shore of Light City, Arnold and Lucidia reach an illuminated arch door frame in the middle of a field. Above it reads: ‘Light City Entrance’. Just before they get to it, a green glowing penguin burrows up from the sand. The penguin wears a bowling shirt that says ‘Perry’ and he plucks a ukulele while waves of light dance out with the music.

‘Hello!’ Arnold says, like a friendly tourist.  

The penguin bows and then plucks his ukulele for a short surf-reggae piece, singing: ‘in the library/ secrets of the world. You won’t remember me / you lose what you came here for.’ Perry then plucks his ukulele, gives a bow, and spins back into the sand.

‘That was interesting,’ Lucidia giggles.

‘Let’s go see if we can take a train out of here.’ Arnold looks back to see the boat approaching.

            They walk to the entrance, but Lucidia is prevented from passing through by a force-field made of light. It appears when Arnold tries as well. He bangs on the force-field, and it sends a painful shock through him. 

            ‘That penguin never said anything about this,’ Lucidia stamps her foot. They take a few steps back. 

            Arnold picks up a rock from the ground. ‘That can’t be it!’ He looks back to see the boat getting closer to shore. He throws the rock at the force-field, but it flies through the doorway without hitting it. He suddenly remembers the medallion and pulls it out of his satchel.  ‘It’s worth a shot,’ he thinks to himself.

            ‘What’s that?’ Lucidia’s eyes widen with intrigue.

            ‘I think this is what that man on the boat was after. Maybe it can help us.’ He walks over to the door and puts his hand through. They both cheer.

            ‘Let’s hold onto it and walk through together.’ He holds the medallion out for her and they pass through the Light City entrance.

‘It’s about time this medallion did me some good,’ Arnold says as he runs and laughs. They run towards the next illuminated door that stands 100 yards ahead.  



Chapter 11: Illumination


At the entrance to the second door, a floating hat appears before them. A booming voice comes from under it.

            ‘Hello.’ The voice is deep, but friendly.

            ‘Hello,’ they both say back.

            ‘Are you witches?’ The voice asks.

‘No’ Lucidia says. 

‘Oh! Are you from around here?’

‘Nope,’ Arnold says.

‘Hhmm. It’s a rare circumstance to have people see and hear me,’ he says. ‘Since you’re not from around these parts, may I offer you some advice?’ His voice becomes serious all of a sudden. 

            ‘Please do.’ Lucidia says. 

            The invisible man tips his hat and clears his throat. ‘Light City used to be called Enlightened City, but it has been cursed by an explosion. As a result of this, if you go into the third circle, you turn into light! Be careful!’

            ‘What do you mean?’ Lucidia asks, but the hat vanishes after his warning.

Arnold and Lucidia shrug their shoulders. They hold onto the medallion and pass through the second circle. A main street runs from the entrance of the second circle to the entrance of the third, lined with a series of abandoned souvenir shops and restaurants. Apartments and other illuminated buildings populate some connected side-streets and alleyways.

The streets have no cars on them, but people wander across them. Two people huddle around a third illuminated door, chanting and throwing sparkled dust into the entrance.

            ‘Light City can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful.’ A man appears from a fire-exit above them. He wears shredded strips of clothing on his body and platform shoes. He has kind eyes, and smiles at them after he climbs down to meet them on the street.  

            ‘Come with me,’ he says, ‘I’ll take you to the library.’

            Arnold and Lucidia exchange glances and decide to go with him. They follow him through two alley-ways and they arrive at what looks like an old school-house, but with glowing windows. The man politely opens the door for them and then heads back towards the main street. 





Thursday, 29 August 2013

Chapter 8 and 9! See below for the first 7 chapters!

Chapter 8: Alleyway

Beside the shipment tunnel is a cavern that holds garbage and grease bins. Arnold moves over to it in case Jozef comes looking for him. He stands at the edge of the cavern and waits. There’s a tug on the back of his shirt and he turns around and sees a young woman standing there. Her clothes are worn and her dirty blond hair surrounds a grease smudged face with almond-shaped eyes. ‘Are you waiting for the boat?’ She asks.
‘Yeah,’ Arnold says in a friendly tone.
‘Can you take me?’ Her eyes widen.
‘I don’t know where I’m going.’ He tries to divert the question.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ she says, ‘anywhere’s better than this place!
‘Are you from here?’ He asks.
‘I think so,’ she says, ‘all I remember is waking up in lower town and climbing to middle-town. After that, I snuck onto a hover-car to upper-town and here I am! Now I’m just waiting to get out of here!’
‘That’s quite the story,’ Arnold says, ‘Is this where you live?’ He looks at the dumpster and grease bin.
‘Not really. I have to keep moving or they’ll find me and send me back to lower-town. But I like this spot because of all of the charcoal. Would you like to see the mural I made?’
‘Sure!’ Arnold says.
She lights a candle with a match and her eyes glow a stunning grey. She brings the candle light onto the wall. ‘It’s a portrait of a woman that’s been in my dreams this past week. She writes me messages in the sand.’
On the wall is a beautifully carved face of a woman that perfectly resembles the woman named Tina that Arnold met on the train.
‘It can’t be a coincidence,’ he says out loud to himself.
‘What can’t be?’ She asks.
‘I’ve met this woman on a train that I was on earlier today.’
‘That’s impossible,’ she says. ‘She’s in a cage in a place called Circus City.’
‘Well she’s out of the cage. I think she just got out yesterday.’
‘That’s great news! I haven’t slept in a few days, so I guess that would make sense.’
A loud horn blasts from the dock.
‘That’s the two minute warning,’ the girl says, ‘you’d better get going.’ Lowering her eyes, she blows out the candle.
Arnold reaches into his satchel, pulls two t-shirts out, and hands them to her.
‘If you want to come with me, you’d better get into something clear so they’ll let you on.’
The girl stifles out a scream, hugs Arnold, and goes deep into the cavern to change.
‘What’s your name?’ She says from the dark alley.
She emerges moments later with her face cleaned up. Her new appearance makes Arnold blush. She holds a duffel bag and smiles at him, catching his glance. Arnold’s stomach flutters.
‘You won’t regret this,’ she says. ‘My name’s Lucidia by the way.’ She takes his hand as they jog towards the boat. Arnold feels exhilarated by her gesture, but hides his surprise.

Chapter 9: Dreamscape

On the boat, a bridged walkway leads Arnold and Lucidia to a group of vendors providing food on the deck. Arnold grabs a Tupelo chicken sandwich and Lucidia gets a spring roll salad to go.
‘Is it okay if I catch up on some sleep?’ Arnold asks. ‘I feel like I’ve been up for days.’
‘Are you kidding me,’ Lucidia laughs, ‘you have no idea how long it’s been since I slept in a real bed!’ They find their room and go in. It’s painted light grey with two beds on each side and a dining table in between. The ceiling is made of glass and they see the evening sky darkening in shades. Smooth jazz begins to drown out the mechanical thud of Tironodo as they sit at the table to eat.
‘Can you tell me more about the woman?’ Lucidia asks. She smiles every time he looks at her. He isn’t used to the attention and shies away.
‘Sure,’ he says, ‘her name’s Tina and she’s from another planet. She was in a freak show as a slave making money for evil witches with her healing powers, before a man named Sgt. Pepper came to rescue her. He told Tina to stop healing people because it was draining her life source. That upset the freak show owners and an evil witch captured Tina’s voice into a sand bag and threw it somewhere.’
‘That’s terrible!’ Lucidia says.
‘It is! I was going to help them but I had to escape the train I was on.’
‘And now, here we are!’ Lucidia’s face glows with excitement.
‘Yeah, I just hope you’re not in danger because you’re with me.’
‘If I am, it would be worth it.’ She touches his arm slightly and Arnold feels a warmth rush through him. His anxiety rises slightly, but her smile calms him.
After they finish up their food, they get into their beds.
A voice comes out from a speaker on the wall:
‘Welcome aboard the Sea Star Sight Adventure! Thank-you for choosing us for your North County travels. I am your captain, Ronnie. We’ll be making our way overnight for a quick stop in Light City in the morning, and then we’ll head East to Two-way town, come back around to Tironodo and end in Circus City. There will be no stops in Sysmiosis City, as it has been deemed as a danger zone by the Sea Star Sheriff. Please remember that the Sea Star is not responsible for you or your belongings from this point on in the trip. I hope your traveling is enjoyable. It looks like smooth sailing for the rest of the evening.’
Arnold sits up and notices Lucidia has fallen asleep. He switches off the light and the room is illuminated by clusters of stars in the sky that pour down on them. The rhythm of the boat puts him to sleep instantly.
Arnold dreams of the half-wizards chasing him, but the dream scenery vanishes and he’s underwater with creatures around him. He finds himself surprisingly calm and floats upwards and out of the water, noticing the Sea Star rushing towards him. The boat rushes through him as though he’s a ghost and he soars through different rooms past all the sleeping passengers. He then arrives at his room and sees himself and Lucida asleep. He hovers for a moment before being sucked into Lucidia’s head and rushes through a tunnel with vivid colors and images that pass too quickly to name. He flies out of the tunnel and lands on a beach.
He follows footprints. The sea crashes to his left and the forest hums and chirps from his right side. Down along the shore ahead of him is a tree stump. The footprints lead there and as he gets closer to the stump, it morphs into the image of Tina. She looks distressed and points to the sand, revealing a message: You’re in trouble!
She points to the sky, which turns into an overhead view of the Sea Star. It narrows in on two men talking. One is the Sea Star ticket man and the other wears a black suit and a strange hat. His face can’t be seen.
‘I’m sorry sir,’ the ticket man says, ‘but due to the respected privacy of our guests, I can’t tell you what room those two are in.’
The mysterious man pulls something out of his pocket and holds it in the palm of his hand. As the staff member bends down to see what it is, the man in black blows a powder into his face. The man takes a step back and sneezes.
‘You will find them in cabin 10.’ The ticket man says.
Arnold turns back to the sand and Tina has written a new message:

Wake up! Run!


Arnold and Lucidia both wake up startled. Arnold grabs his bag and the two of them run out of the room. They hear footsteps in the hallway to the right so they run to the left down a narrow walk-way and into a ball room. They close the door behind them, run back to the kitchen area, and lock that door behind them.
In the kitchen, Lucidia searches the cabinets. She collects an assortment of ingredients and puts them in a bowl. ‘Hopefully this’ll work,’ she whispers to Arnold. ‘See if you can find some fish oil.’
Arnold searches around the kitchen as Lucida starts up the fire stove, adding some basil leaves, poppy seeds, lemon seeds, and bay leaves into a pot. She crushes it all together. The pot begins to smoke. She squeezes some juice out of a strange looking fruit and tosses in some cinnamon bark.
‘Found it!’ Arnold rushes over and hands her the bottle of fish oil. Lucidia pulls a piece of her hair out and places it into the pot, motioning for Arnold to do the same. He does. The solution is poured into two cups and she adds a splash of fish oil to it both cups.
‘Drink up,’ she says as she opens the window.
Bangs erupt from outside of the kitchen door and worry overcomes them.
‘We have to hurry,’ Lucidia whispers. ‘Drink this and follow me.’
They drink the sour liquid in one gulp and leap out the window. A tingling sensation rushes through them and they morph into fish when they touch the surface of the cool ocean.
They swim through the night, focusing on the bright underwater light resonating from Light City. When they reach the shore, they turn back into their human forms. After getting out of the water, Arnold is struck by Lucidia’s transformation. Her hair now shines a bright white. They look at each other and laugh with relief.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

CHAPTER 6 and 7 - see below for 1-6!

Part Two: FATE


Chapter 6: Escape


‘Meet us back at the Common Room for dinner, Arnold,’ The Journalist says as they part.

‘Get some rest, Arnold, an adventure’s at hand!’ Sgt. Pepper salutes Arnold and then marches away with Tina smiling and waving goodbye.

On his way to car 2, Arnold realizes he can’t find his room. He paces along the hallway and spots Vernon rolling down towards him.

‘Hey Vernon,’ Arnold says, ‘I forget which room I’m in!’

Vernon gives a smile. ‘Right this way.’ He leads him to room 4 and opens the door.  ‘I was actually looking for you, Arnold. Can I come in?’

‘Of course.’ Arnold holds the door open to let him in. ‘What’s going on?’ Arnold notices a worried look on Vernon’s face.

‘May I use your computer?’ Vernon asks.

‘Do I have one?’ Arnold looks around the room.

Vernon rolls over to the window and presses a button on the frame. A fuzzy screen appears over the window. He inserts a disk into a thin slit in the wall and what looks like surveillance footage appears on the screen. Arnold walks closer to the window.

‘Do you remember seeing this woman during lunch in the common room?’ Vernon asks. The screen shows the woman that had her thoughts streaming out of her head in the Common Room.

‘Yeah, I remember seeing her.’ He says.

‘Yes, well, we were paying very close attention to her. This is the footage of when you walked into the Common Room.’ Vernon touches his finger onto the screen and the video starts to play. ‘Watch the middle section of the thought stream. That’s where the most conscious thoughts are.’

Arnold watches the screen. He sees himself walking into the Common Room and the woman watches him closely.

‘There he is!’ The woman’s thoughts say. ‘He has it! Haha! I’ll have to kill him in his sleep and get it …better get things in order…food’s here…ooooh, noodle sandwich!’

Vernon pauses the video and turns to Arnold, who walks back over to the table and slumps down. His face is pale.

‘Do you have any idea what she wants from you?’ Vernon asks.

Arnold feels around in his empty pockets. ‘I still had your pocket watch then,’ Arnold says as he thinks about it. His voice rises. ‘A bearded witch in Circus City said it’s powerful! She was worried about it falling into the wrong hands!’

‘But there are hundreds of these on the train!’ Vernon pulls out the medallion, ‘and this one’s been broken since you gave it back!’

‘What do I do?’ Arnold asks.

‘We’ve scheduled an emergency departure for you on the Gondola. You will get to Tirinodo four hours before the train.’ He hands Arnold two tickets. ‘These are good for trains, boats, hovercrafts, balloons, and busses!’

Arnold takes the tickets and puts them in his pocket. ‘Thanks.’

Vernon hands him a green satchel. ‘There’s some clothing in there, and would you take the watch with you?’

‘Are you serious?’ Arnold begins to leave the room.

‘Well, if it is powerful, it may be better off the train.’ Vernon pulls the medallion out of his pocket and holds it out to Arnold.

When Arnold takes hold of it, it lights up and starts working again. He places it into the green satchel and jogs behind the sound of Vernon wheel screeching down the hallway. ‘It’s meant to be,’ he thinks to himself. He catches up to Vernon as he opens an invisible door. Behind it is a take-off porch constructed on the outside of the train. The porch has what looks like ski-lifts on a wire leaving the train in single-file like a gondola.

‘It only runs for another minute or so and then detaches from the train. You’ll be in Tirinodo in less than twenty minutes! But it’s nearly evening there already, so be careful.’

Arnold steps onto the edge of the deck and is swept away by the next gondola. Wind gusts in his ears and he hardly hears Vernon yell ‘good luck!’ behind him as he drifts away.


Chapter 7: Tirinodo Bound


            Arnold soars above a dark body of water on the gondola. Clouds with neon lining rise from the edge of the horizon. Mechanical ragtime music blares out of the distant sky ahead of him. He looks behind him and sees ten gondolas. The rest are behind a thick sheet of fog.

A shadow suddenly appears from behind the fog and lands on the tenth gondola back.  Arnold begins to shake and his heart races. He grabs ahold of his satchel, looks ahead, and jumps forward, grabbing ahold of the next gondola and pulling himself on to it. When he looks back, he sees the dark figure leap from the tenth to the ninth gondola.

‘Don’t look back!’ Arnold says aloud. He jumps from one gondola to the next over and over until his limbs become numb. The mechanical ragtime is louder and sounds like sheets of metal being ripped as he moves towards the city.

He finally reaches the end of the gondola and jumps onto a beach that lines an ocean. Ahead to the right, the beach leads to a tall and smoggy city. Buildings tear into the sky. The tops of the buildings are smothered by drooping sap clouds that drip down the top floors. Arnold runs down the beach towards the city. Hover cars appear in his vision. He runs through traffic on the road and turns left onto another street, arriving at a restaurant called ‘Angelos’.

The building is gold and silver chromed and spans high into the sap clouds. With quite some effort, Arnold pulls the door open. He’s welcomed by a man twice his size wearing a black and white tuxedo, grease-slicked hair, and a thin, twirled mustache. He looks Arnold up and down before speaking.

‘Excuse me,’ the man says with a polite tone, ‘but this restaurant is reserved for elites only. If you’re hungry, please make your way to middle or lower town.’ He begins to close the door.

Arnold is about to plead for refuge, but the man interrupts him.

‘Wait! Are you here to apply for the position in the kitchen?’ The man looks down at him.

‘I am!’ Arnold moves away from the front door as he speaks. ‘I don’t have a resume, but I have lots of experience!’

 The man closes the door and leads Arnold to the main entrance. ‘I am matre’dee Jozef! Let me show you around.’

He leads Arnold through the entrance way and into the dining room. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, silver-lined mirrors are mounted on the walls, and men in plastic business suits drink liters of red wine like drunken hyenas.

‘The kitchen is right this way.’ Jozef leads Arnold past the dining area, through a set of swinging doors, and into a hallway that has red pasta sauce splattered on the walls. They enter into the kitchen, where two chefs stand in steam above a pot of boiling water and a sizzling wok. Jozef pulls out a leather strap and whips them. Fire erupts under the wok and the chefs perk up like re-charged mechanical puppets.  

Jozef laughs out loud like a proud zoo-keeper as they leave the kitchen.

‘Over here is where the shipments come in fresh off the boat.’ He leads Arnold farther down the hallway and opens a door. A long tunnel leads to a dock in the distance.

‘This is our Shipment Tunnel. It is the safest way to ensure that the dirty hands of the poor don’t tamper with our foreign delicacies.’ He laughs again.

‘I see.’ Arnold forces a giggle.

‘And over here is where you would do your prep work.’ Jozef closes the door to the tunnel.  

‘Could you show me where the washroom is?’ Arnold asks.

‘The staff washrooms are right over there.’ Jozef points to a door down the hall. ‘I will check on the guests and then we can finish the tour.’

Arnold walks in slow motion towards the staff washroom. He watches as Jozef walks through the set of swinging doors and then runs to the tunnel door and escapes into the Shipment Tunnel. The tunnel is made of limestone and is about fifty yards long. When Arnold arrives at the end of it, he sees that a boat has docked.






Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Chapter 4 and 5 (see below for the first 3)...more to come soon!

Chapter 4: The Speechwriter

Arnold reaches the 5th car and realizes he’s lost.

‘Hello,’ a man says from behind him, surprising Arnold with his high-pitched voice and strange appearance. He wears a bow tie with no shirt on and has a handlebar mustache. His body moves awkwardly in gym shorts and suspenders. Broken glasses surround his crossed blue-eyes.

‘Do you know where the Common Room is?’ Arnold asks.

‘I can’t find it either,’ the man says, laughing, ‘but I have a map of the train in my room if you’d like to join me.’ Arnold nods and they walk through a few trains and arrive at the man’s room.

The room is similar to Arnold’s, but has more books, papers, and empty coffee cups scattered around. A radio transmitter-looking machine with buttons, electric binoculars, and a keyboard catches Arnold’s attention.

‘What kind of work do you do?’ Arnold asks.

The man drops a pile of coffee cups. ‘I’m a speech writer.’ He stands as though posing for an honorary photo.

‘And what’s that?’ Arnold points to the machine.  

The Speechwriter walks over to it.

‘This is here in case someone doesn’t do what they’re supposed to and I need to intervene.’ He giggles. ‘I just punch in some security codes, put these goggles on, grab this remote, and talk into the microphone!’

‘Wow!’ Arnold says. ‘I never knew that existed.’

 ‘It certainly does,’ the speech-writer says, ‘but you can’t tell anyone about it, okay. There are a lot of people who would love to get their hands on it.’

Arnold nods. “I won’t tell anyone.’

The Speechwriter spots the map under some papers on his desk. He picks it up and examines it. ‘The Common Room is two cars down beside the spy deck.  

Chapter 5: The Voice

Arnold and the Speechwriter arrive at the Common Room. The room is nearly full and lunch is being served. The walls have a green honeycomb pattern with cathedral ceilings and one circular doorway into the kitchen. Out of fifteen tables only a few empty chairs remain. None are together, so Arnold and the Speechwriter find their own seats. Servers balance plates on their hands and heads in perfect form as they whiz by.

Arnold spots an empty seat beside a woman with emerald eyes. ‘May I sit here?’ he asks.  The woman looks up at Arnold and smiles, but doesn’t say a word.

‘Forgive her.’ The man sitting beside her speaks up. He has a mustache and wears a bright red army suit jacket. ‘She’s the victim of an awful curse and cannot speak. Please, have a seat.’ His voice is kind.

‘Thanks.’ Arnold sits down and greets the table. There are three people: the woman beside him, the army-suited man beside her, and another man across from him who has a video camera as a head. A red light shines out of one of his eyes as he speaks.

‘My name’s Allen,’ he says. ‘This is my good friend Sgt. Pepper of the Queen’s common army.’ Sgt. Pepper stands up and bows to Arnold. ‘And this is our lovely friend Tragic Tina, whose voice used to heal, but it has been stolen by an evil witch.’

A waitress rolls by and drops off a plate in front of each of them.

‘Eat up my friend! We can feast and then tell tales until the sun drifts beyond our tired eyes.’ Arnold eats his food down like a shipwreck survivor having his first meal in weeks.

When they all finish their meals, Arnold looks into Tina’s eyes, which cause a feeling of euphoria to rush through him.

‘Would you like to join us for some tea Arnold?’ The Journalist takes Arnold out of his short trance.   

‘Sure,’ Arnold says He hears a familiar voice come from behind him. He gets up and turns around to see Vernon rolling over to him.

‘I thought I’d find you here,’ Vernon says, ‘I forgot to get my pocket-watch back from you.’ He puts out his hand. Arnold takes it out of his pocket and hands it to him.

‘Enjoy the rest of your evening!’ He rolls away as quickly as he came, Arnold looks around at the other tables as they finish up their meals and talk amongst themselves. He sees a pale woman at one of the tables whose thoughts pour out of her head. Five sentences streamed out at a time and she talks with a man whose face is hidden by a shadow. Both of them wear black cloaks. The rest of the table is taken up by an old man working on a puzzle. He wears a deer stalker hat and smokes an unlit pipe.

Arnold sits back down at his table and is handed a tea by The Journalist.

‘So where are you all from?’ Arnold asks, sipping at his green tea.

‘Tina is from the planet Zylinov, which is where I found her,’ The Journalist says.  ‘As for Sgt. Pepper…’ He nods to Sgt. Pepper, who takes over.

‘I’m from a town called Turnabout Town.’ Sgt. Pepper says. ‘I read an article by the Journalist and I came to Circus City to help them in their struggle.’

‘What exactly happened to Tina’s voice, if you don’t mind me asking?’ Arnold says.

‘It all started when we arrived on this planet,’ The Journalist says. ‘We noticed that Tina’s voice had a powerful influence on the people here: she would sing them a song and they would be cured of whatever ailed them. This brought a lot of attention to us and Tina’s healings started to aggravate the witches, wizards and medical doctors who had been losing a lot of business because of her. They shipped us to Circus City and made us part of the Freak Show, charging people 50 coins to see The Amazing Healer as they called her. They made a fortune off of her gift, but Tina grew weak.’ He pauses to sip at his tea. 

‘That’s where I come into the story,’ Sgt. Pepper says. ‘I had heard about the brutal treatment they had received and traveled to Circus City to help their cause. When I arrived in Circus City, Tina was nearly dead; the Freak Show had sucked her energy right out of her! And since her life force was waning, her power to heal was also leaving her. I told her that she needed to stop healing people or it would kill her.’

‘That really upset the evil ones who had been profiting off of Tina,’ the Journalist said. ‘The head witch of the Freak Show stole Tina’s voice right out of her, placed it into a bag of sand, and threw it up into the sky. We’re sure that it landed somewhere eventually, but we have no idea where. Now the three of us are bound together by this loss and will search until we find the bag of sand that holds her voice.’

 ‘I’m happy to help,’ Arnold says, surprising himself with his new found sense of confidence. 

‘Well,’ the Journalist says, ‘fate has brought us to you! We would love you to join us!’

They all nod in agreement and ‘cheers’ their tea mugs.





Monday, 26 August 2013

My Novella - Gonna post a few chapters at a time!


One-Way To Two-Way Town

By Richard Tyo




Chapter 1: The Letter


Arnold arrives home from work ready to leave his world behind. His thinning face droops below a tangled nest of hair and he slumps onto his couch as his mind races.  ‘How could they fire me after all I’ve been through?’ With a sigh, he dawdles into his room and starts reading his new adventure novel in bed.

His focus wanes as sleepless nights taunt him and a tired gaze shifts over to a picture on the wall of him and Linda. Thoughts wander to their last morning together. ‘Could I have done anything different?’ He catches himself ruminating through the questions that have taunted him for two years now.

He had laughed off an idea that his counselor had the other day, but now feels it may be worthwhile to write down what’s on his mind. He grabs a paper and pen from his night-table and begins to write.  

I’m at the end and I don’t know what to do. How do I go on living and forget? Laura died for a stupid war that we didn’t even understand! I need something to get me out of this slump…something to take me away from here.

            After writing he folds the paper, places it on his night-table, and drifts off to sleep.

Chapter 2: Ticket to Ride


Arnold awakes with dreamy images floating in his head. He glances over to his night table and is shocked to see that his letter’s gone. In its place is an envelope that has A.L. written on it. He springs out of bed and tears it open to find a small silver ticket inside. As he holds it, his hand begins to shake. Then the whole house rumbles and the sound of thunder passes by outside his bedroom door. He runs and opens it to see a train with blue metal siding and a green tin roof passing through his house. It comes to a stop and a door swings open. Mechanical stairs unfold down to Arnold’s slippers.

‘It must be a dream’ he thinks as he steps onto the bottom step. A man in a blue tuxedo appears from inside of the train. He has a grey beard and a train wheel instead of feet.

            ‘Welcome!’ the man says. ‘Do you have your ticket?’

            Arnold shows the silver ticket to the man.

The man looks at Arnold’s pajamas. ‘Come on in!’ He shakes Arnold’s hand. ‘My name’s Vernon. You’re in Cabin 4.’ He rolls off making a train noise with his harmonica. Arnold enters a red felt hallway as an orchestra-engine whistles and the train begins to pick up speed. He arrives at CABIN #4, opens the door, and goes inside.

            The room’s bigger than would be expected on a train. It’s a large rectangle with a bed in the far left corner, an empty bookshelf to the right, and a table in the middle that’s filled with post-cards, snacks, and strange gadgets. He takes his slippers off and feels the soft carpet under his feet. Folded clothes appear on the bed, so Arnold goes over and changes into a blue shirt, some beige shorts, socks, and sneakers. He takes a toasted tomato sandwich off the table and eats it as he walks towards the window. Open green fields pass outside the window.

            Strange jazz music pours out of the speakers above his head. He looks up to see swarms of colorful lights floating out. The lights bend and jolt with the rhythm of the free-jazz. Swirls chase swirls, stretching to tunnels of colors shifting and dancing with themselves. Green yellows mix with purple brown neon. The colors throw themselves around Arnold, at times passing through his limbs.

The colors mesh together into a spinning wheel of light that picks up speed, flies out window, and explodes into the morning sky. The trickles of debris scatter onto the land up ahead and form into a mirage-like image in the distance. The image begins to grow into a large circus.

            An announcement comes through the speakers:

            Next stop, Circus City...’

There’s a knock on the door.

            ‘Come in!’ Arnold yells, still watching out the window.  

He turns around to see Vernon wheeling in. ‘I hope your stay has been good so far, but I must inform you that everyone must get off for an unscheduled safety check.’ He hands Arnold a pocket-watch. ‘The alarm will go off when you need to get back on the train.’

‘Thanks!’ Arnold says. The train stops.

Vernon wheels off in a hurry.

Arnold makes his way through the train to the mechanical stairs.     








Chapter 3: Circus City


            The free-jazz that swarmed Arnold earlier now manifests in the atmosphere of Circus City. The city is congested, with narrow alley-streets in between multi-sized circus tents of differing patterns and colors. The clouds reflect back distorted images like fun house mirrors.

Wizards and half lion men bet on dice while clowns in business suits preach religion. Arnold gets knocked around like a bumper car and ends up at a fight between a glowing gnome and lizard-acrobat. When a fire-breathing falcon appears, he pushes his way through the crowd and accidentally enters a tent. The tent’s floor is ice and he slips on his way in, falling hard onto his back.

He hears the pocket-watch land on the ice, and before he can reach for it, a blue turtle grabs it with its mouth. Arnold tries to catch the turtle, but it’s pulled away by a string and slides under a red material. Looking up, Arnold sees that it’s a red dress worn by a bearded witch sitting at a desk. She wears a thin snake-necklace and her hair is floating as though caught in the wind. She smirks at Arnold as he gets up from his fall. Her red dress is draped among scattered books on the floor and her desk holds a crystal ball, a few books, and lava candles.

‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ She asks. Her tone is friendlier than he was expecting.

Arnold gets up like an amateur trapeze artist, trying not to slip on the ice again. ‘I’m sorry for intruding,’ he says. ‘I was just trying to get away from the crowd.’

The woman reaches down and brings up the pocket watch. A light glows around it in her hands. ‘Do you know the history of this medallion?’ She asks.

            ‘No,’ Arnold replies. ‘I thought it was a pocket watch.’

            A Viking appears in the far left corner holding an accordion. He lets out a hardy laugh and then disappears back into the shadows.

            The bearded woman laughs. ‘This is far more than a watch!’ A pile of papers slide out from under her dress, then some leaves, a hippo-badger, a book, and a black dog with a human face. The dog says ‘hi’ as he slides out of the tent and into the hysterical scatter of Circus City.

‘What is it then?’ Arnold had never seen real magic before.

            She stands up, pulls her dress back, and tosses the medallion back to Arnold. It turns into a snowball on fire in the air and then lands in Arnold’s hands as the pocket-watch. ‘It acts wildly in this environment. Be careful with it!’

            ‘Shouldn’t you take it if it’s so important?’ Arnold asks, feeling he may be a bad candidate for this responsibility.

            ‘I’m frozen to the ground in here. I can’t take it anywhere! You need to get it out of Circus City as soon as possible!’

‘I’m on the next train out of here,’ Arnold reports like a field soldier.

            ‘Make sure that you get on it!’

            Arnold nods. A brief sense of importance comes over him for the first time in a while, but fear mixes with it.

‘Try to find Light City if you can.’ She nudges Arnold with a cane and he slides out of the tent and enters back into the mad mass of Circus City.

Like a rubber duck on the crook of a wave, Arnold moves with the crowd. He ducks through freaks and bounces off steroid-clowns and 10 foot tin-men. ‘Do you know where the train is?’ he asks every few seconds. No one answers. 

A giraffe kicks Arnold and he flies into a bustling market square. Fast-talking merchants sell never-ending fruit plants and tickets to the freak show.

Towering behind the market is a circus-tent castle. Glowing fire-works explode from the castle, drizzling liquid streamers onto the market. Arnold strolls around attempting at fitting in while the sounds of the market overwhelm him.



                        ‘Freak Magazine!’

            ‘Get your tickets to the Medicine Show!

                        ‘Fresh Chicken!’

                                                ‘Get your train tickets here!’


A boy in rags approaches Arnold.

            ‘Hey,’ the boy says, startling Arnold, ‘you wanna trade my magic nickel for that watch in your pocket?’ Arnold politely says no and walks on, uncertain how he’d seen the medallion in his pocket. As he walks, he becomes more paranoid of how the freaks, wizards, and vaudevillian phoenixes with assorted masks look at him.

            His stomach growls as he walks by the food stands. He reaches into his pant pockets, finds a nickel, and walks over to the chili-dish stand.

            ‘Excuse me,’ Arnold says, ‘I was wondering what I could get for this?’

            The man is about to answer, but Arnold’s arms are gripped firmly and he gets swept away by a growling creature. Claws scratch at his face from behind and he closes his eyes. He opens them in the air as he’s thrown onto the hard ground inside a tent. He sees a grizzly cheetah with four half-wizard’s torsos sewn onto its back growling at him.

            ‘Swine!’ The first half-wizard hisses as he speaks. He’s an owl-lizard wearing a worm necklace. ‘You can’t trade in the market circle-square without a permit!’ He grinds his teeth. Arnold covers his ears in agony from the sound.

The second half-wizard locks eyes with him next. He’s poorly sewn onto the grizzly cheetah’s back and cockroaches crawl along the torso’s edge. The third half-wizard remains silent with hollow eye sockets sunk into his dead-king half-wizard face. He sends telepathic shock-waves to Arnold’s mind and then spits a fire-beetle at his neck, but Arnold swats it down.   

            ‘2000 days in the dark cage!’ The white vampire-clown half-wizard yells form the back. His make-up drips like blood down his face and he sucks it into his mouth. Arnold’s eyes start to sting from tears.

The cheetah draws closer and the half-wizards grab at Arnold.

At that moment, Arnold’s pocket-watch alarm goes off. It shakes its way out of Arnold’s pocket and vibrates while pouring out beams of white light. The cheetah hisses and jumps back while the four half-wizards turn away.

            Arnold pivots and runs, slipping on slime as he passes them. He breaks through the door and escapes into an alley-street. After a quick right-left-right turn down alley-streets, he looks for the train. He remembers someone selling train tickets, so he looks in the sky for the castle-tent, spots it, and runs towards the market.  

            He enters the market square and spots the train ticket salesman behind a set of dragon jugglers.  The ticket man wears a conductor’s hat and overalls.  He stands on a small platform and yells into the crowd while Arnold makes his way to him.

‘I need to get to the train,’ he says to him when he gets close. His eyes dart over the man’s shoulder like the fugitive tourist he is.  

The man smiles. ‘Hop on,’ he points to the platform he’s standing on. The platform is hovering slightly over the ground and makes a buzzing sound. Arnold takes a step onto the platform and they drop into the ground as though they’re on an invisible elevator. The platform sounds like a drill as it pushes underground, and Arnold feels warm pressure on his body like they’re sinking into tar. Once underground, they accelerate ahead and then stop. Arnold spots the train as they rise up to ground level. He yells ‘thank-you’ and runs to the train.

Vernon paces beside the train watching the crowd. ‘Last call for North County train 4731! Last call for North County train 4731!’ When he sees Arnold approaching, relief washes over his face. ‘We almost left without you!’ He says.

Arnold climbs up the steps and gets in as Vernon closes the door behind him. ‘We’ll be serving lunch shortly in the Common Room.’ Vernon rolls away down the hallway.