Chapter 33: Worlds Tango
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: While Madnes had been trekking through a dangerous forest, Cheshire was investigating some mysterious readings he’d detected coming from the Wonderland portals. Crazy things are happening back on Okinala, and Madnes desperately needs help…
Madnes’ mouth hung speechless at the crowd before him—the crowd who could see Wonderland creatures in the town park. Several steam-cars from the street squealed to a halt. At Harrey’s tap on his shoulder, Madnes looked back: his friend pointed at a line of ninja bananas hurrying out of the park in a tango line, taking cover. “I don’t think everything is visible, Madnes. It’s just the park.”
Madnes eyed the bananas, now clear of the park, and indeed it didn’t seem like anybody noticed them. “But how can people see the park like this, in the first place?” He backed up, tapping a foot while observing the situation. The ground rumbled beneath their feet suddenly, and a flash of light blinded him.
He blinked repeatedly, trying to see past white spots in his vision. “It’s gone!” he heard Harrey shout. White afterimages faded, and Madnes tried to see the park, but he couldn’t spot a single tree, giant mushroom, or any Wonderland creatures. Where was the park?
Dirt, bare ground. There was an expanse of nothing where the park had just been. Harrey was right. The park was gone, along with everything and everyone in it.
He swallowed, trying to keep calm, fearing the worst. “Where the heck is Cheshire when I need him!”
Cheshire tossed his top hat aside and ran toward the open portal nearby the palace. It’d grown twice its size since he and Madnes last saw it; its surface roared and swirled with hurricane force. This wasn’t normal—he’d never seen a portal do this. “What could be causing it?” If this didn’t stop, more pockets of space would be opened in Okinala, and who knew what the consequences of such a crazy worlds tango would be!
The cat let his boots lead him in a circle around the portal, inspecting. If all of the portals around Wonderland were doing this, the balance between worlds was being disrupted, and something or someone was to blame. “I must warn the Red King.”
Cheshire turned in the direction of the palace, and took no more than five steps before his keen cat ears heard a voice. He quick climbed up the nearest tree—not something he liked to do; he hated doing anything that resembled Earth cats, but a sense of urgency told him hide.
“Yes, they appear to be in working order.” A short, rotund man with a long nose approached the portal. He tapped its metal frame with a pen before writing something down on a clipboard in hand. “Nice…very nice.”
Cheshire eyed the person from above. He recognized him as the Adviser to the Red King. Something didn’t sit well in his stomach; the short man looked pleased at the portal out of control.
When the Adviser headed back toward the palace, Cheshire had to follow and learn more—keeping to trees and bushes, his cat stealth handy.
It wasn’t until the Adviser entered the royal chambers in the palace that the man’s course finally stopped. Cheshire had climbed the palace, from windowsill to windowsill, until he could sneak inside through an open window, and then he’d followed the man via the palace air ducts. Now, he peeked between the bars of the vent and into the royal room, where the Red King drank tea and the long-nosed man waited to speak.
“All is working properly, as you planned, Your Majesty,” said the Adviser at the king’s hand signal, showing the clipboard.
“Good, good.” The Red King roved over it. “The Terraforming Process has begun, I see.”
“Yes, Sire.” The short man grinned, pleased. “The crystal focal points for the spell are stable and holding strong. It’s finally working—fantastically!”
“And the Crowv woman inside is still contained?”
“Yes, yes of course, Sire!”
Crowv woman? Crystal focal points? Cheshire tried to steady his heart’s rapid tango. The Red King was betraying the law of the portals, and tampering with forbidden power. Madnes’ suspicions about someone in Wonderland being up to no good–perhaps the king himself–had been true?
‘Madnes…I must get back to him!’ Cheshire reflexively tried to stand, and his head thumped the roof of the air duct.
“What was that?”
Cheshire held in a frantic gasp, and backed away from the vent bars. But not before the Adviser turned and ripped off the cover.
“A cat?” the man exclaimed, and Cheshire hissed and leaped at his face before he could react—claws swiping and forcing him to draw back. “Cheshire cat!” shouted the king, “Grab him!”
The moment his paws touched the floor, Cheshire bolted on all four feet across the room for the door—dignity thrown aside. His furry paws and boots slipped on the marble hallway outside the room; he kicked his limbs forward and back, grabbing for a solid grip and scurrying down the hallway as they stormed behind him.
The Adviser dove forward—human hands snatching for him, brushing across his fur. Cheshire swiveled and turned down a sharp corner, avoiding the grab just in time. His claws click-clicked on the hard surface in a frantic, awkward run. His invisible power didn’t work in the palace.
Someone materialized before him. Cheshire tried to put on all four paw brakes, but he couldn’t stop his skid across the slick surface.
Oz looked down at the cat skidding toward his boots, and then with one hand reached down and grabbed him up. His other hand pulled the hem of his royal cape forward and around the cat in his arm—hiding Cheshire from view.
The Adviser almost bumped into the Prince in his hurry around the corner. “Oh, Prince Oz! Terribly sorry to disturb you,” the rotund man blabbered. “You didn’t by any chance see a…a cat running about, did you?” He craned his neck looking this way and that, trying to see around Oz’s much taller frame.
Oz lightly moved his head. “A cat? No. But there is a dog here before me.”
Under Oz’s proud disdain, the Adviser’s face turned dark and he backed away. “Better watch yourself, Your Highness,” he said over a shoulder. “No one is safe in Wonderland…not even your high self.”
Once he’d gone, Oz turned into the nearest room—with Cheshire held tight under his arm.
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Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for more Okinala Island and Wonderland adventure 😀.
© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Tango.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your favorite 3 to win!
Hope to see you on Okinala Island (here) next Wednesday!
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