The Sketchbook: Prologue

April 7, 2012
Click, click, click. The sound her shoes made echoed throughout the corridor as she walked toward James. She wore a dull grey skirt and a jacket striped with the same and a slightly darker shade covered her white blouse. Her brown hair was put in a bun had a few grey streaks. Small, rectangular glasses rested on the tip of her pointed nose and a thick, white notebook was tucked under her left arm. Dark and narrow, her brown eyes squinted at the boy in front of her. "I trust you won't be dressed like that daily," she commanded more than asked. James looked down at his jeans and black Mickey Mouse shirt.

"I found it appropriate, considering the place I'm applying for a job," he replied with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. James was twenty-two years old, and was applying for a job as an engineer at Disney World over the summer before his senior year. He had wavy, blond hair and deep green eyes. A gray and blue backpack rested on his shoulders and his arms were crossed over his chest.

"Sarcasm won't be tolerated, Mr. Moretti. I suggest you shape that up if you truly desire a job here," the lady snapped. "Now, follow me. I'll show you the rides you can expect to have to operate. Rides varying from Splash Mountain to the the Pirates of the Caribbean. You also may get to see Walt's Apartment. It will be like the one in Disney Land, but with real items from Walt's house. His couch. His television. Even his sketchbook," she seemed to whisper the last part, the part about the book.

"Sketchb-" James began.

"Shush!" She hissed in his ear. "Keep your mouth shut! You're speaking of the book that Walt sketched all of his best ideas. Even new movies like Tron Legacy. And movies not yet filmed. If word leaked, do you know how many people would try to steal it?"

"Do you know that telling people that kind of thing before reviewing them is dangerous?" he smirked.

"I have reviewed you, which is why I told you, Mr. Moretti. I am smarter than you take me for." She watched a family as they ate at a café. The boy laughed, the girl blushed. "Splash Mountain is here, and the worker's entrance is around there. It's simple, really, just like most rides here."

"Push a button, pull a lever?" James asked.

"More or less," she answered mysteriously. "To the Apartment." She turned around and walked back the way they'd just come.

"Yeah, definitely." The two continued their stroll through the Magic Kingdom, the lady pointing out things here and there, James nodding and listening. For the most part, he knew everything she said, as he'd been here before, but he didn't want to be rude and tell her, so he continued to listen and pretend to be interested.

"The building has been standing for a while, originally for a different purpose, but has been renovated to an Apartment style. Most of the items we plan to use from Walt's house are inside, but we won't be opening for a couple months." The door made a quiet creak as the lady opened it and the floor thudded under her heels. "Everything in here was in his house, except of course the information built-ins." She gestured to small pedestals with information on Walt's life and belongings. "And that's the sketchbook we spoke of." Her long finger pointed to a small, leather notebook lying crookedly on a corner table next to the brown couch. It was strapped closed and had rough, yellowing pages.

"May I . . .?" James began, pointing his thumb to the leather pad. The woman hesitated, but slowly nodded. James walked over and ran his fingers over the smooth surface of Walt Disney's sketchbook. It was held closed with a golden clasp and red velvet strap. Black mouse-like ears were stamped to the cover, giving it a hint of design besides just the leather and velvet. He unsnapped the velvet strap and opened the book to the first sketch. It was a beautiful picture of seven short men waving at a carriage driving away in the background. The second page had a picture of a sleeping pride of lions being leapt over by a cub. A boy pulling a sword larger than him from a boulder was sketched on the third sheet. Pages and pages of sketches James classified as movies he'd seen and enjoyed. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Princess and the Frog, Tron: Legacy, and even sketches that he didn't recognize. A woman riding on the back of a large, bird-like lizard, a boy falling with nothing but a baseball bat, and a family battling each other with laser guns. "This is amazing," James whispered, turning the page. His face screwed up as he looked at the last page. "What's this?" It looked like it was once a sorcerer, but somebody had quickly scribbled over it in an apparent fury, distorting it, cloaking it and giving it jagged teeth and long claws. It held a scythe in one hand, and a book of sorts in the other.

"It was there when we found it. We have no idea what happened." the woman said, putting on a mask of sadness.

"And this?" James pointed to the bottom of the page. On it, the words "Stories new and stories old, let me see these stories told." were scribbled quickly. "Stories new an-" James was cut off by the woman once more.

"Don't ever speak the incantation aloud, or your life will be changed forever. For the worse." She huffed. Her tone had a hint of mystery to it and her mouth seemingly grinned. "I expect to see you at nine A.M. sharp. You leave twelve hours later. One hour lunch break from one to two. Any problems?"

"No, that's good," he replied. 'Minus the eleven hour work day.'

"Hmm?" she asked.

"Huh? I-I didn't say anything." he stuttered, slowly backing out the door. "H-have a nice day." he said quietly. The door clicked behind him and his phone started ringing. He pulled it out and answered his mom's call.

"Hey, James! How's the job hunt?" she asked.

"Scored a job as an engineer at Disney World. Great pay, though I get the pleasure of enduring a twelve hour work day." he rolled his eyes as he walked under Cinderella's Castle.

"Ooh, fun," his mom said in a sarcastic tone. His footsteps seemed to echo underneath it, and the loud speaker seemed even louder.

"Attention guests, attention guests, the park will be closing in ten minutes. Please make your way to the nearest entrance. Have a nice day!" Parents and their children rushed out, and employees seemed to just disappear.

"What? I didn't catch that." By the time he made it to the front gate, nobody was around. Not a guard. Nor a worker. Not even a stray guest.

"I didn't say anything." The hair on the back of his neck stood up and he felt as though he were being watched. He turned around and, for an instant, thought he saw the woman watching him from under the Castle, and then she seemed to evaporate. The gates rolled closed behind him and his red F150 honked when he unlocked it. He started it up. "I gotta go. Talk to you later. Love you. Bye." he rushed the goodbye. His mom had been dragging out goodbyes ever since he came to Florida for college. He turned on the radio and turned out of the parking lot. As he drove, all he could think about was that weird wizard sketch it the book, and the way the woman seemed to evaporate from under the castle.

He walked in the apartment and put tossed backpack on his couch. "Stories new and stories old, let me see these stories told." he said in a mockery voice. "Oops, I said it out loud." He rolled his eyes and walked into his bedroom. He changed out of his jeans and into a pair of black gym shorts. His black shirt left fuzz in his hair when he took it off and the air conditioner gave him a chill. He slipped on a blue Under Armor shirt and fixed his messed up hair.

He thought about the book. The saying. The woman's reaction. She seemed almost angry that he tried to say it. "What could happen?" he asked himself before trying to shove it from his mind. But shove as he might, it wouldn't slip from his mind. "What could happen?" He walked into the living room, grabbed his backpack, and walked out the door. 'I don't know, but I intend to find out,' he thought.

The truck parked about two blocks away from the Magic Kingdom and James ran to the front gates. Closed. Inside, he saw a figure walking briskly toward the gate. James ducked around the wall and listened for the clanging of the gate opening. The figure emerged from the gate, and James thought it looked like the lady. James gasped, and slapped his hand over his mouth. She looked around, but James remained hidden in the shadows. She walked down the steps, and James snuck back around the corner and slipped through the gate, just before it closed. He sprinted through the park, making an attempt to keep his steps quiet, but not having very good results. Under the Castle, his steps echoed and James was worried the lady might hear him. The door creaked as it opened, and he stepped into the apartment. He closed the door and turned around. In the dim moonlight, he saw the book lying on the table, closed and clasped. The floorboards thudded under his quick steps. His slender finger slipped under the book and he picked it up. "Stories new and stories old, let me see these stories told," he whispered. Nothing. A slight jingle echoed from outside, but James shrugged it off as just his nerves. He licked his finger and turned to the first page and said it louder. Still nothing. The doorknob turned and the door creaked. Panic filled the boy's head. It shrouded him. He couldn't think straight. Pages flicked until he came to a new one. Thoughts racing, heart pounding, he placed his flat palm on it and shouted "Stories new and stories old, let me see these stories told!"

The door opened fully and the lady stepped in. "Idiot! What have you done! You could ruin my plans!" she screamed. Light enveloped him and the hand he had placed on the book glowed green. "Do you know what might happen?" Her fingers elongated into claws, the color drained from her body, and her teeth sharpened. A horrible screech came from her and her claws tore up the floor boards as she lunged at him, and her claws sank into a cloud of smoke where he had been standing.

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