My writing and other perversions
Monday, June 06, 2005

How to find the hidden places

 A semi-illustrated story, courtesy my friend Hillary.

But when I got there

It was my Grandfather's fault. He entertained me with incredible stories of fantastic adventures he had when he was my age.

About saving the Candy Kingdom from the Toothbrush King, about stopping the dreaded Ice Queen, Hillianthus, from destroying the happy talking animals led by King Libris, the lion.

About fighting alongside Jeffery and his Purloined kids in Farawayland against the evil Admiral Sword.

About being the sidekick to adventurers finding hidden treasure, stopping scientific geniuses who wanted to rule the world.

He told me so many stories and adventures, what boy could help but go and try to have some of his own?

The first one was the story he told me when I was five, about the Candy Kingdom. You had to look through a translucent lollipop, like it was a magnifying glass, until you found a doorway. Usually in the back of a candy shop, or ice cream parlor. Grandpa said he found a doorway in a cotton candy booth while at the World's Fair. He had been up on the Ferris Wheel when he spotted it, gleaming and looking delicious.

He told me the first thing you smell when you get there is cotton candy from all the trees, then chocolate from the cocoa river. Inside the cocoa river, brightly colored candy fish jumped and caught butterscotch flies. You could taste spicy sugar in the air from gumdrop bushes and even bounce along on the gummi grass.

Not when I went there, though. I smelled smoke, like burnt cookies. The cocoa river looked curdled, white waxy foam clinging to the sides of the sugary shore. It had been dammed up, and all the candy fish he’d described were gone.

What I had imagined as the cotton candy trees were merely stumps and the gumdrop bushes that had sweetened my dreams were picked clean. It seemed without the Toothbrush king to fight, the Candikins were forced to industrialize, selling off bits and pieces of their kingdom to whomever was buying.

Everything that had once been beautiful about the place, the white chocolate snow, the licorice vines, the candy animals, were all gone. I tried talking to one of the Candikins, but they were all too busy rushing around, making appointments and meeting deadlines.

Compared to the hours I spent looking through a half-sucked lollipop, finding Farawayland where Jeffery and the Purloined kids stayed was easy. All I had to do was climb a tree above a cave and jump.

As soon as I hit the darkness, I ended up falling back upwards, into another set of trees, until I magically found myself in a treehouse.

Except well, apparently Jeffery grew up and left. The kids, who had been barely under his control when he was there, discovered rap music and the thug lifestyle. When I went to Farawayland, they were all tattooed, with golden teeth. Even Jeffery’s little fairy, Chime, had a piercing through one of her wings. They beat me up and stole my wallet.

And poor Admiral Sword… He'd apparently been eaten by the shark that followed him, and his second in command, Grime, had taken over. Only, he was much scarier than the Admiral could ever be.

Grime had already killed several of the kids, and was definitely on his way to kill as many more as he could. I got out of there as fast as I could. But not after being taken prisoner by the pirates and being rescued by the arrow shooting kids. Who, by the way, held their crossbows sideways to mimic rappers. They escorted me to another tree above a cave before kicking me out, laughing all the way.

Honestly, there wasn’t much difference between them and the pirates.

And when I went through the back of the closet to the land of the talking animals, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw there.

The other animals, afraid of the lion, had banded together to lock him up. They installed a weasel instead, and he proceeded to turn the world upside down. He built an enormous palace, where he kept the lion in the deepest dungeon. He made senseless rules, and had had set up a system that kept everyone checking these indentification medallions to prove who they were.

Everyone had to wear it, except for the weasel, of course. If they didn't have it, off to the dungeons. I wasn't there for 5 minutes before I got to see the inside of the cells. They were filled almost to bursting with every kind of animal you could think of. The giraffes had it the hardest, since they had to stick their heads out the bars just to fit inside. The weael’s guards, more weasels, would walk by and clunk them on the head or make fun of them.

I managed to escape, just barely. I had to pretend to be dead, and when the wolf guard on my door tried to eat me, I had to stab him with his own sword. But before I left, I let the lion out, then all the other animals. I was glad not to stick around and see what happened next. I could hear roars and screams as I slipped back through the closet.

And so it went. When I found an adventurer to pal around with, it ended up that he was a boozy old man, intent on finding his next batch of money or women or both. The adventures usually involved begging, or trying to sell magical, holy or precious objects to pawn shops.

And the scientific geniuses who wanted to rule the world? Not any more. Either they’d gone straight and were working for some corporation, developing sinus medication or they’d been put in asylums, where the things they developed were hidden from sight and sold for their greedy kids.

All in all, from the time I was 5 to the time I was 12, my adventures were horrible and boring or both. My grandfather may have had great times, but my times were anything but great. So kids, don’t go on adventures just because your grandfather did. It’s not the same!

Epilogue, read if you like

Only after having my own grandchildren did I see what happened. The worlds you visit, they are reflections of your own heart. Even at 5, I’d been through my parent’s 3 separate divorces, from each other and then from other people. Add to that having to go to public schools where I could be shot, even in kindergarten, I was not the happiest of kids.

My grandkids claim to have been to those places, and they’re as beautiful as they were described to me. They also said there are stories of other people who stayed and helped them fix it. Unlike what I did. I guess the problem was me.

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