Chapter 35: Vanished
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: Cheshire overheard the king’s plan, and now he’s in danger of being discovered and must get back to warn Madnes. He barely escaped the clutches of the Adviser, and strangely enough it was thanks to Oz, who hid him away. In return, Cheshire told Oz of his father’s plan to terraform Earth into a second Wonderland, and of a mysterious crowv woman being involved. Oz later confronted his father about the woman, demanding to know who she was–if she’s his mother who supposedly died. The king didn’t give a straight answer, and instead claimed the benefits of the terraforming spell for Wonderland’s people, especially for the crowv. But Oz only cares about one thing: finding his mother.
Meanwhile, strange things are happening in Okinala. One being that Madnes witnessed his town’s park, including the children’s playground, vanish in a flash of light. Nothing but bare ground left behind…
“Beware…” the rocking-horse-fly had rasped in Madnes’ ear, what seemed like a lifetime ago. “Okinala sinks further in danger. The Red King wills to take all for himself. Beware the portals!” The insect whined like a prophet in trance. “Seven crystals—you must destroy them all! Aaall…!”
Madnes opened his eyes from the memory, and stared at the playground’s bare soil—the benches, the streetlamps, the swings, all man-made things gone along with the grass and trees. And then, slowly, tiny mushrooms and other flora he recognized indigenous to Wonderland began to sprout, flourishing in place where the park and its playground once stood.
“Whoa, it’s like a piece of Wonderland is growing,” marveled Harrey. “Look, even the grass is growing strange colors! I wonder if pink worms will grow?”
“It’s not something to be excited about, Harrey,” he grumbled under his breath, staring at the forested meadow that now replaced the park. The people around him also watched, and some ventured to touch and step on the foreign piece of land. A scream cut through the air.
“My sister, my nephew!” A lady ran across the meadow, searching frantically, face wide with tears. “Where are they?”
Madnes wished he had an answer, some kind of hope to give her. But everything and everyone who was in the park was gone, as if turned to dust. He turned away and let the brim of his hat shield his eyes.
“Are they…?” Harrey tentatively asked, following by his side away from the vanished playground.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” he replied honestly. If this was just the beginning, then more people and land were going to vanish. And he had no clue as to the cause. You can’t stop something without finding what’s causing it, first.
“Madnes.” He tilted his hat back at Alice’s voice, watching her trot up to them, appearing as if out of thin air. “The same thing just happened at a farm across town,” she said. “This is the work of a powerful force, Madnes. Someone in Wonderland must be doing this.”
He stared past her, contemplating. “The Red King wills to take all for himself. Beware the portals… Destroy the seven crystals…”
He looked back at Alice and Harrey’s questioning faces. “A strange insect told me that. At first, I thought it was crazy—like most Wonderland critters are. But now…”
Alice nodded. “Someone is up to something, like you surmised earlier. It could be the Red King’s doing.”
“But where could he get the power to do this, and why?”
“Questions we’ll have to find answers to, if we hope to stop this in time,” Madnes confirmed.
“We better hurry it up then,” Harrey suddenly shivered. “If this keeps happening, soon we won’t have an Okinala home to come back to…”
“Your families,” Alice reminded, “you have to warn them, and all the people on Okinala.”
Madnes agreed. Through the crowd of gathering people, some terrified and some eager to catch a glimpse of the transformed park, Madnes let his gaze scan about, until he spotted the person he needed. “Inspector Coolette.”
“Hatter boy,” the inspector acknowledged them briefly as they trotted up. “Staying out of trouble, I hope, for your sake?”
“Okinala isn’t safe anymore—you must warn people,” Madnes said without a breath, his hand waving back toward the stand of strange trees and meadow.
“Why do you think I’m here?” Coolette sniffed. “We’re roping this place off.” A cluster of police fanned out, ropes in hand, beginning to tie off the area from the public.
“That isn’t enough. An evacuation needs to be placed in order.”
The inspector’s eyebrows fluttered. “This is an island, boy. Evacuation is no small order and no easy task. Do you really think we have enough ships and airships to carry everyone away?” He shook his head briskly. “No, no. That is a last resort, only. We can’t let ourselves get stirred up by a few odd phenomenon.” He nodded, as if agreeing with himself. “Yes, the scientists will come up with an explanation, and then we can think about what course of action is best—if any is needed at all.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Madnes exclaimed. “A park disappeared and grew back into something you’d only find in a fantasy novel! How can you not panic?”
“I help keep public order, Hatter boy. My job isn’t to get the island residents in a state of panic that could do further damage. Now,” the inspector shooed with a hand, “Go. Off with you. And no spreading rumors or hysteria.”
Madnes opened the glass door to his office building, hurrying inside, with Alice, Knight Pelur, and Harrey close on his heels. Harrey held in tow the orphans, Ash and Drisel, holding their hands as they raced to keep up.
He knew the inspector was right about one thing: causing island-wide panic wouldn’t help matters, especially when there wasn’t enough transportation to evacuate everyone. It would only make matters worse. No, what he had to do was stop whatever was causing this. That was his job, and the only way to save Okinala.
If only his mom hadn’t been so stubborn, and Harrey’s uncle too. They refused to budge an inch from their homes and fly to mainland, not when there was so much uncertainty about what was happening. A hurricane people understood—they knew the danger and consequences. But this…no one could understand it and, therefore, people like his mom and Harrey’s uncle refused to leave.
The doorbell rang as he stepped inside.
He spotted the gray tabby, standing on two booted feet and waiting for him by the counter. “Cheshire, you’re a sight for sore eyes!” Relief washed over him. Cheshire could fix this; he would know what to do, how to set things straight. He’d never been more glad to see the cat.
His footsteps halted just before reaching Cheshire. The hair on the back of his neck rose, his pulse quickened. Madnes lifted his gaze up from the cat, up to the person standing tall behind him, swathed in a black frock coat that concealed royal clothes.
The person who tried to kill him, who almost killed Alice and Ugly Duckling, and who successfully ended orphan Nagato’s life. The person whose fault everything was. Cold rage stormed inside him, waiting to be released.
Please share with friends via social media buttons and help spread the word about #MadnesSolver! Follow the newsletter and blog to keep up-to-date. 🙂
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: “worm.” 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!
(the adds are by WordPress, not me, in exchange for using this sight free.)