THE STORY SO FAR: Jonah’s parents were eaten by a demon. He wants to get them back. So, together with his friends Stuart, a talking salmon, Humphrey, a bowtie and bowler-bedecked troll, and Calisto, a testy harpy, he’s out to do just that. He and his friends have been puddle-jumping between dimensions (literally) to find a means of defeating the demon, and now their quest has led them to Toy Land (a place where the ground is cardboard and Stuart’s aquarium is equivalent to a nuke) – not to mention to a particularly steadfast tin soldier and his quaking posse.
(You can read the story up until this point right here, but it’s not required to enjoy what’s coming up.)
THE TIN SOLDIER
“Gentletoys?” the tin soldier said. “I said seize them!” Then he looked behind him. His fellow toys had unanimously turned and fled back towards the town. The tin soldier sighed. “What a bunch of cotton-stuffed. . .” he muttered.
“We are happy to accompany you freely,” Stuart said. “We mean you no harm. Perhaps you can point us on our way.”
“I suppose I have few other recourses at this point,” the tin man said. “Follow me, please.”
As the tin man swiveled away Jonah noticed that his left foot was really only a melted stub. He also noticed that he walked with something clutched in his left hand that looked halfway between a crutch and a cane. He kept up a brisk pace regardless, even if it was with a slight limp.
“If he were my toy he’d be my favorite,” Jonah whispered to Humphrey.
Humphrey chuckled. “I’m sure he’d be thrilled to hear that.”
“I actually do have very good hearing,” the tin soldier called. Jonah grimaced, his cheeks starting to burn.
Calisto laughed. “I like you, metal man.”
“Thank you, strange flying meat creature.”
“Tell us about your realm, good soldier,” Stuart said.
“Do you mean to enslave us then, being of mass destruction?”
“Good heavens, no! Not at all!” Stuart cried. “Quite on the contrary, I assure you! We were told we might find help from your benevolent people to aid us in our quest to save all the realms from a terrible demon. However, we are currently completely adrift. We thought, perhaps, we should journey to the capitol and take up our plea with your rulers. But we honestly have no idea where to go.”
“Hmm,” said the soldier. “An intriguing story, to be sure. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no way to verify it. Nor am I certain what a ‘demon’ is.”
“What about the fact that we’re not throwing Stuart’s water all over the place?” Jonah asked. “Doesn’t that count for something?”
The tin soldier shrugged. “You might just be waiting until the opportune time.” Then he stopped dead in his tracks. “Like perchance when you are in a dense population center, where you can do the most damage the quickest. In which case I would be doing exactly what you wished for me to do.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Calisto growled. Then she dodged up into the air, spiraled down again, snapped up the tin soldier in her claws, and spirited him up into the sky. The tin soldier shrieked in a very unsoldierly way, but his cries blessedly faded the farther up they flew.
“Well that was impetuous,” Stuart said.
Humphrey cupped his hand above his eyes to shield them from the sun. “I don’t even see them anymore. Do you?”
“Nope,” Jonah replied. “Do you think they left us?”
“Oh, I doubt that,” Humphrey said. “She’s a bit like a wart, that one. Hard to shake.”
“Ah, there they are,” Stuart said. The tin soldier’s screams slowly grew louder and louder, until finally they were ear-piercing once again. Calisto dropped him on the ground, then landed beside him.
“There,” she said. “Did that prove we’re not here to do you harm?”
“Not do me harm?” the tin soldier yelled. “How was that supposed to prove you don’t mean to do us harm?”
“Because at any point I could have picked you up just like that, flown you over a town, and dropped you,” Calisto said. “For that matter, I could have done the same thing with that aquarium. And that would do far more damage than just tipping it over in any old spot.”
The toy soldier paused. “Huh. You make a good point.”
“So have we come to the conclusion that we are indeed harmless?” Humphrey asked.
“Harmless?” the soldier laughed. “I certainly think not. But perhaps you do not intend harm.”
“Did you see anything of note while you were up there?” Stuart asked.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” Calisto said. “There seems to be a castle or something like it that way.” She pointed one talon to the northwest of the town. “That might be a good place to start. And also, the sky here is very strange. It almost looks textured. Like course paper or something.”
Jonah frowned. “What kind of world is this, Stuart?” he asked. “How could the ground be cardboard and the sky be paper?”
“This world belongs to the imagination of children,” Stuart said. “Boys and girls most likely created this place in their dreams. No doubt you have taken part in it as well, Jonah.”
“Really?” Jonah said with a gasp. “I helped make this place?”
The tin soldier scoffed. “I’m sorry, but I have a hard time seeing that meat child as a god of some sort,” he said.
“No, no, not a god,” Stuart said. “Just a very imaginative boy, who uses what God has given him.”
“Well, yeah, but if I had really helped make this world, there would be a giant dragon who would swoop down and take us right to the castle,” Jonah said.
Humphrey looked up and sighed.
The beast descended with a sound and fury, its brilliant red plastic gleaming in the sun. Fake flames burst from its mouth before retreating back inside, its green eyes shimmering. It was massive.
The dragon landed with a cardboard-rippling thud and roared at the party.
“Oh lights above,” Calisto cried, covering her head.
“Cooool,” Jonah said.
“Well then,” said Stuart. “Shall we climb aboard?”
Humphrey picked up Jonah’s aquarium under one arm and clambered up the dragon’s tail with Jonah. When they were neatly settled between the dragon’s wings, Jonah looked down at Calisto and the tin soldier.
“Well?” he said. “Are you coming?”
“I think not,” said Calisto. “I can fly just fine on my own, thank you kindly.”
“How about you, tin soldier?” Stuart said. “Will you accompany us to see your king and queen?”
The tin soldier stood there in utter shock, his face frozen like an actual tin soldier’s. Finally, though, life seemed to creak back into his joints. “Well I can’t very well let you meat-things parade wherever you like across my world, now can I?” And then he bravely forced his legs to move, and climbed up behind the others on the dragon’s back.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Jonah, looking back at the tin soldier. “But since we’re not forcing you and you’re not forcing us any more, could I maybe know your name?”
The tin soldier huffed, then looked around as if to make sure none of the other toys had returned. “Sir Reginald,” he muttered.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir Reginald,” Humphrey said.
“I’m Jonah,” Jonah said, smiling. Then he turned forward, and patted his dragon on the head. The dragon growled softly. “And you I’m gonna call Pete,” Jonah said. Then he stretched one arm out and pointed in the direction Calisto had mentioned. “Fly, Pete!” he shouted. “Take us to the castle!”
With a guttural roar and a bout of fake fire, the dragon took to the air, Calisto in tow.
That’s it for this time! I am going to do my darnedest to make sure it’s not as long before the next one. I hope you enjoyed it, and happy Fourth of July to my American friends! If you haven’t checked out my book, “The Complete Cancer Diaries”, here’s an obligatory link. The eBook’s cheap. And it’s pretty good at helping people. So you should read it. =D God bless you until next time!