Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for! Find out who the mysterious new arrival is below! If you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them all here.
Chapter 4: How to Save a Friend
“Wonderland is all around us, but you must have the eyes to see it.”
Welcome to Okinala, the island where worlds meet. A crazy Wonderland where the Madness Solver must work to keep the peace between worlds. Madnes Hatter has a rare gift, a special “vision” that allows him to see into the other world as it overlaps his island home Okinala. In last week’s story, he met Oz, his once childhood friend, for the first time in years since he’d left the island. But Oz was not the same person, and he didn’t come back for a reunion; he wanted the Madness Solver power, and tried to kill Madnes to take it from him. Their battle was soon interrupted, however, as thick boots and a dust coat figure entered the scene, and so the next chapter begins…
“Am I interrupting somethin’?” The new arrival asked around a stubble jaw.
Oz turned to face the new threat. His eyes went wide and he couldn’t help exclaiming. “Cosmic Hunter?”
Madnes turned to look, hand still clutching at his injured arm. “Uncle?” he exclaimed. “Since when did you get back from the Amazon Jungles?”
“I had some Tropical Cakes t’ take care of, but my fork put an end to ‘em. Didn’t you see me on the news?”
Confusion reigned. “Tropical… I’m not even gonna ask.”
“You look hurt there, kiddo.” Cosmic keenly analyzed from his stance on the patio. “Matter of fact, ya’ll look in terrible shape.” Rusty eyes narrowed. “Horsin’ around is fine, but I think you’re playing a little rough, ain’t ya?”
Oz took several steps back, and clicked his tongue. Irritated with himself, he would have to retreat now that he was outnumbered. Silently he criticized himself for acting irrationally and blowing any chance he had at winning over the power. Cheshire would never hand it to him like this. He messed up, badly. And now Madnes knew his true identity from Wonderland.
“Don’t think you’re ever safe, Madnes.” He growled. “I’ll have that power from you soon, one way or another.” Leaving behind a threat, Oz beat his wings and the rest of his body morphed into a large crow, three-feet tall, before taking off and riding the air currents.
Madnes watched Oz’s crow form disappear in the clouds before he let himself sink down and slump on the ground.
“Let me get somethin’ for that,” Uncle Cosmic indicated his shoulder.
“You knew about all this?” asked Madnes, incredulous. “Wonderland, and everything?”
“O’ course I do.” Cosmic finished patching the worst of the wounds, then gave a pat to his shoulder making Madnes wince. “Was my baby sister who was the last Madness Solver.”
“Auntie Rose?” He looked up, surprised. “But…she died so young.”
Cosmic opened his mouth, but then didn’t say anything, as if regretting he’d spoken. “Not much t’ do about them cuts on your face.” He said instead. “Better come up with a good excuse for ‘em.”
Madnes’ eyebrows narrowed down, “What happened to Auntie Rose?”
“Never you mind that, now. You’ve got bigger problems t’ worry about.” He helped him back up on his feet, every joint and limb screamed pain. “We gotta get you in better shape, boy! Just because your noggin is smart don’t mean your body is.” Madnes grimaced. “That power can give you inhuman strength, and make ya learn things fast, but you need an unfaltering determination in that spirit o’ yours, or it’ll amount to nothin’.” Madnes tried to pull away from the grip Uncle had around his shoulders, wincing.
“I don’t know what you’re saying, but fine. Let me go!”
“I haven’t given my fave nephew a hug in months. Don’t refuse me.”
“Favorite? I’m your only one!” he protested in vain.
“Your old Oz friend,” his uncle turned more serious, “Sounds like he wants that power.”
Madnes nodded reluctantly; thinking about it welled up guilt. “Who is he, really?”
“Prince of the Crowv race in Wonderland, and the Red King’s son. The king rules over much of Wonderland nowadays.”
“Oz is a prince?” he breathed, stunned. “That’s news to me.” But thinking about it further, it made a few things about the past make more sense. “Then he has enough power of his own. Why does he want mine?” His uncle shrugged.
“Dunno. But I’m gonna train you in some martial arts moves so you don’t go gettin’ your pretty face ruined again, hehehe!”
After school the next day found Madnes sitting glum on a bench and staring out at the view of the sea it offered. Behind him in the playground children laughed and screamed on tire swings, getting their frilly skirts and blouse shirts dirty. In the distance a steam locomotive hollered its arrival, and several steam cars clamored by through the streets. A single airship circled the skies overhead. Okinala was lively today. He wished he felt the same.
“Ohhh, Madnes is sulking again.” He didn’t bother to look as Alice plopped onto the bench beside him. “Your face is like a scorched toad.”
“I’m not a scorched toad!”
“Oh. An angry scorched toad.” She corrected herself. He huffed and fiddled with the brim of his top hat. “What’s got you in a glum tizzy? I hear your uncle is back, that’s good news.”
“…Yeah. He thinks I need to toughen up; he’s gonna give me lessons in martial arts or something, which is why I’m reluctant to head home.” She looked up at him, waiting for more. “…Oz came by,” he admitted under her gaze. “We sort of…got into a fight.” No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep secrets from Alice. She drew things out of him, whether he wanted to talk about them or not. But maybe that’s why he secretly found her company soothing; therapeutic. If only he could tell her about Wonderland and all of the crazy things going on, too.
“That was expected.” He looked down at her with a question, and she smiled knowingly. “I heard about you and Oz from Harrey. He said things grew sour between you. I may not have been here when all that happened, but even I know it’s a bitter thing when best friends break things off and never see each other again. All those emotions must have come bubbling up when you both met after so many years.”
Alice hadn’t been in his life then, but she came to Okinala soon after Oz left, and besides Harrey was the only thing keeping his life together. “I tried going by his house—where he used to live,” he said. He folded his fingers together, squeezing them. Guilt rattled his insides. He should have been there for his best friend; he shouldn’t have let things end the way they did between them. He let his head fall back, “I don’t know what to do, Alice. You know how much I hate admitting things, but…I really don’t know how to help Oz. He was nothing like the person I once knew, and I feel like part of it is my fault. I should’ve fought to keep our friendship; he needed me, but I was too hurt and too much of an introvert to do anything.”
Alice looked away, staring across the sprawling sea. “To solve a problem, you must know what the true problem is, first, Madnes.”
“The true problem,” he let the words mull over in his mind. “Oz won’t tell me what the problem is, even if I confront him. He’s out to punish me, and take the power away…that’s all I know.”
“He wants your power. He must have a reason for it.”
“Yes,” he said slowly, “but how can I learn what that reason is?” Wait. He accidentally mentioned his power to Alice, and she was acting as if it was normal…. He turned to face her suspiciously, “You…do you know about me?”
“Get as comfortable as you can, Madnes,” murmured Oz as his wings brushed through the clouds. “I will make you regret having that power. I won’t stop until you are overwhelmed and forced to give up. That day you will gladly offer the power to me to end your miserable life.”
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Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for Chapter 5! 😀
© copyright 2015 E. Rawls All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “News.” Check out the link if you are curious and would like to join in the challenge! Don’t worry, she won’t bite. She’s awesome!
Voting ends Saturday afternoon, New York time. Come back to Okinala next Wednesday for the next chapter in Madnes Solver!
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