The Miraculous Journey of Carolynn Small | Teen Ink

The Miraculous Journey of Carolynn Small

June 1, 2013
By officekid PLATINUM, Encinitas, California
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officekid PLATINUM, Encinitas, California
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Favorite Quote:
“You must be filled with expectancy. You must be awash in hope. You must wonder who will love you, whom you will love next.”
― Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The absoluteness of the blinding white seeps around her and drowns out all things else. She is there; rather, she is here. Alone except for a friend and a backpack.
Breathing in the familiar scent of strawberry flavoring and artificial sweetness, the girl heaves herself up off the plush grass and onto her steady feet; curious as to why she was strewn across the ground in a limp sort of way in the first place. Curious.
Now forcing her weight onto both feet planted firmly atop the feather-like grass, she peers around at the landscape in front of her. Her eyes taken aback by the sights and colors in front of her, she sees so much vivid color, so much vibrancy. She searches for Cap, and finds him awaking beside her. He cannot speak, never was able to, but his expressions speak louder than words ever could. So do his actions too, of course, as parents have told us.
Without much more thought she places one foot, then the other, onto a long, thin hard thing, seeming to appear as wood. However, upon further inspection and smelling of the thing, the girl realizes that it is none other than cinnamon. Cinnamon, from Apple Jacks cereal, is the sweetest kind she has yet to stumble upon. The rows of cinnamon seem to make a sort of bridge over crystal blue water with wakes of milky whiteness, which form when rocks interrupt the “water’s” current.

She is skeptical that this is water at all. Perhaps something lethal is laced within its current, or some beast lurks beneath its surface. One can never be too sure in this land. In the Land of…of…where?
Curiousness strikes the girl in a fearful kind of way. Then, she nudges the tips of her feet against the top part of the first cinnamon stick of the bridge. It is seemingly strong enough to support the girl, along with the plum-colored backpack slipped over both her shoulders, and her best friend/sidekick: Cap (a fearless roly poly of normal stature). She is fairly larger than him, but is only abut one and a half times his size. Picture yourself in comparison to a roly-poly. Yes, this girl, she is much too small for a normal human. Curious? My dear reader, you must read on to discover the fault that led her here, that caused her to be so small.
To return to Cap; he is cleverly mischievous in his methods against enemies; yet, he is quite trustworthy to this girl. They share a sort of priceless friendship, the kind you may not expect to find between a roly-poly of normal stature and a not-so-normal girl…she is far more significant than normal. Surely I know where I am and how I arrived…surely I used to know. But now, have I forgotten?
She arranges her feet on the first of the cinnamon sticks on the bridge, and begins to cross the bridge, motioning Cap to follow her; his expression of skepticism rubbing off a bit on her. However, she is determined to keep her confidence.
Anxiety begins to shadow her bravery, yet she continues on to the next plank of cinnamon on the bridge. Cap is now behind her, crawling slowly across the planks; tentatively. You see, Cap is quite brave, he is only a bit cautious at times which can come off to others as timid or scared; though, he is opposite this in most ways.
She is now on the fifth in the line of about forty cinnamon sticks, and she can nearly hear Cap’s impatience from behind her. He is a silent friend, unable to speak, though sometimes she would rather him speak than wear such terribly bothersome countenances. Cap decides that she is moving much too slow for his liking on the bridge, so coming from behind her, he forcefully nudges her to the left side and crawls swiftly by her.
“Was that necessary, Cap?” the girl says, raising her voice to a scratchy, demanding whisper. He moved by her so quickly that she is forced to grip the ragged, fringed roping on the side of the bridge. Feeling a sort of ebbing sensation on her legs, she peers down to her knees and notices a deep redness. There is broken skin among numerous scrapes and dark purple bruises. Then suddenly, the thoughts come rushing in. Thoughts of sound. Fast. She closes her eyes and can hear the sounds from past experiences, but she cannot remember what the events were that surrounded them.
She remembers the cannon fired, like a drum that has had it’s first and last beating, loud enough to be heard through the centuries.
She remembers the tremulous growl of the beast-like animal; she knows it will roar until it is put to a whimper.
Then the army of feet; clamorous, heavy feet. Feet wearing boots with steel-plated heels; she knows they will march until they are pushed to a fall.
Then, the sounds from before stop and the small noises of the bridge invade her eardrums again. She feels the slight wet of her palm from newly perspired sweat, and stands up to her feet. Curious, yet she knows she should most likely begin walking farther along the bridge in order to catch up with Cap. She begins to walk across less timidly now, confident that she will make it across safely as Cap did (she sees his dark, crustacean body stand out strongly against the vivid background colors surrounding him). She remembers the blandness of her shoes.
Two. Two things bland. 1. My converse. 2. Cap.
Staring down for an instant at the painfully vibrant ground, the girl notices for the first time the contrast of her white shoes against…everything else.

The shoes she wears are the only white-colored things she’s seen since she entered this realm. When did I enter this realm? Had it yet to be days? That Raisin Bran sun still hangs limply in the air, strung across a section of “light”. I cannot decipher day from night; for, I cannot help but disbelieve the honesty in this sun’s rays. The light the “sun” provides seems overwhelmingly dead due to its excess of color.

She wonders these things silently within the forefront of her mind, keeping her darker thoughts away from Cap so as not to trouble him.

Now, she has made it across the bridge, “water” rushing below her. The sun still brightly hanging. Still. And she reaches the end of the bridge with a sense of triumph, only to discover greater obstacles.

Large spherical things speckle a creamy milk river. Things clotted together that smell of sugar and falsehood. Things that lie atop a large milky river, luckily the liquid is still and unmoving.

The previous body of “water” she crossed was farther away from her (the one she crossed over on a bridge), and much deeper, perhaps at some point in the distance forming a waterfall. This new body of milk, this is much closer to her feet (the clusters of cereal she steps on are touching the milk with their undersides) and it is much more shallow. Though she dare not fall in, for there are unexplained scars on her knees that she is not willing to make larger.
Inhaling the stench, she is nearly overpowered by the smell of apple. Apple. She steps with both feet onto the first cluster of bead-like cereal that had clearly been artificially colored. Cap is already on the eighth cluster in, leaping to the sixth. She arranges her toes on one of the cereal spheres in such a way that allows for balance; yet, agility if caught off guard by an unwanted visitor.

The stench of falsehood nearly suffocates her in the moments following her first footsteps. Glancing down once more at her beautifully bland shoes, she breathes in a breath of relief. She has not thought much of the pureness before today.
It is an observation that the girl has not thought much of, though her subconscious begins to creep into her normal swell of thinking and she realizes the sense of calmness the white brings to her.
A sort of hope drenches her and her thought bubbles, bursting most worrisome thoughts of unwanted visitors into nothingness.
Thoughts are stubborn though, you see.
Thoughts are known to disobey and misbehave, so if you tell one to leave or fetch a faraway stick out near some distant borderland of brainwork, it will not leave.
Perhaps for the sake of disobedience or simply due to stubbornness. In many instances, one must bribe a thought to exit the mind by the least expected of means: “pennies”.
There is a great deal of evidence linking this proven fact of bribery to the known phrase “a penny for your thoughts”. In fact, this is precisely the definition of “paying your thoughts”. If curiosity has suddenly grasped the reigns of your mind, your thoughts wish to be paid soon.
Thoughts are rebellious things, so in order to train them; you must share them with others. This allows for a detoxing of yourself and a lift of bothersome thoughts off your shoulders. Thoughts become pleased if you share them, as they wish to be in good company, because brains are much too overcrowded these days.
Let us return to the girl in the land of falsehood and cereal, our girl who now stands atop the fifth cluster of edible spheres since we have left her, with roughly twelve to go. Although she is unfamiliar with this land, this is familiar territory. The parades of artificial coloring drown out all possibilities of true light or honest pigments of white and black. There are an immense number of in-between colors in this realm. Far too many to count, far too many to want.
So much vibrancy that the unnaturalness of it all nearly dizzies the girl, she has to grasp the straps of her backpack to steady herself. Swiftly, she leaps to the fifth cluster. Then suddenly, the thoughts come rushing in. Thoughts of sight. She closes her eyes and steadies herself by crouching down to her knees and holding onto the straps of her backpack, no fringed rope to support her this time.
Eyes squeezed shut, she remembers the darkness and can picture the faces of the few who did not follow her in an attempt to stop her on her journey, for they had thought better of trying to overcome her.
She can make out the shadows of the many of the wicked and the few of the sweet: the truly sweet, not those in disguise.
She sees a cannon bursting, spurting fire and sparks from its depths.
Then, it is over. She opens her eyes, and is back within this land of apple and cinnamon, taking note that Cap has made it successfully across the beaded milky river. She leaps from one cluster to the next, and makes her way to the end of the river covered in circular cereal. She meets Cap at the end.
“You didn’t have to shove me, you know. Could have nudged me from behind and I would have gladly moved,” she sneered at him.
His face furrows into an impatient demeanor.
Looking at his face, she smiles and says, “But you were never one for patience, now were you?”
He rolls his eyes. And they begin walking, she is unsure of where they will end up. She trusts Cap, though. She always has and allows him to lead her.
She wonders if Cap remembers anything that has happened in the last few days. It seems as if she has only forgotten the last few days, or weeks maybe, but nothing farther back than that. Although she thinks for a second, and becomes startled.
What is my name? Her thoughts become slightly muddled, so much so that she must speak aloud to Cap even if he will not be able to answer. “Cap,” she says, her voice lifting up the last part of the word in the way that people do to indicate an upcoming question, “What is my…what is my name?” He stops, a few paces ahead of her. Turns around towards her, and walks closer to her. He presses his head against the skin on the under part of her right forearm.
Turning over her arm, the girl reads boldly printed letters, letters that she has not noticed until now. Dark, purple ink. Written on her skin in dark, purple ink there is a word that’s spelled out. A name. Carolynn Small.
She repeats it in her head as a way to help soothe the unexplained pains coursing throughout her body, and the unexplained loss of memory in her brain. Carolynn.
This girl; rather, Carolynn, has traveled far. She has fought battles and made alliances, as well as created enemies. If only she could remember all of her adventure, this may be a more straightforward story. But adventures were never meant to be straightforward. There would be no adventure in that.
A smile begins to form at the edge of her lips, simply at the remembrance of her name.
She looks up to Cap, and smiles a large, beautiful smile at him. Expecting him to continue his walking ahead, though she is surprised when he nods his head in the direction of her left arm. Curious, she twists her left arm so that she can see its underside. Dark, purple ink. She finds more letters that are cause for greater curiosity. Letters that spell “Remember the World of Trix and Promises”.

Cap smiles, and trots off in the direction he was previously in route to, as if he knows where he is headed. As if there is a purpose for his direction, leaving her utterly confused and perplexed as to what these words, what this world means. Perplexed as to where she is.

Forgotten by the hero or not, there is a story for every journey.
And this is hers. And it is quite miraculous.

Walking farther away from the Cinnamon Bridge and the Apple scented clusters of cereal covering a milky white river, she comes upon a very large forest. A forest made up of the tallest trees that she has ever seen. As she walks closer to it, Carolynn ponders herself and her situation.

As she ponders, she comes to the tree marking the beginning of the forest. Within this tree, on a branch not so far from the ground but not so far from the middle, sits a bird. A large, glorious bird. Brilliant, she thought.

And it was indeed, quite brilliant. How to explain its visual brilliance through words, well, I cannot bring it fully to justice, but I should ask you to picture the most vibrant and fierce of colors. Picture this. Picture them dancing together, and mingling, creating a dizzying blend of colors that is splashed onto a blank canvas of a bird. Blank. This is what she wishes to see.

She looks down at her shoes for reassurance of blandness, as it calms her eyes from not only the vibrancy of the bird but the stark color surrounding her wherever she looks.

Carolynn’s memory is slowly growing stronger, but not a great deal stronger. The adventures that she’s gone through cannot afford to be forgotten. They simply are too important. Let us have hope that she will remember, for the sake of the story.

As she walks five paces behind Cap, she sees him stop crawling and look up to the bird. He seems to be entranced. The bird looks down at him, and flaps its miraculous wings. Then, it makes eye contact with Carolynn. Startled, she stumbles back a few steps.

Carolynn and Cap are in awe of the bird, or rather; the toucan. Yes, it is a toucan.
Suddenly, the bird’s green and gold-flecked eyes disappear into pools of colorful red. Alarming red. The bird falls out of the tree and swoops towards Cap, screeching and protruding its claws.

Panic. Utter panic courses through her veins, so Carolynn looks at Cap and screams at him to run. She runs, no, sprints for her life. She sprints away from the tree and Cap follows her, getting up to a full on sprint right behind Carolynn. As they run, Carolynn hears Cap’s pitter of legs swiftly running behind her. She hears the bird above her, screeching. She can picture its eyes, piercingly red. She runs faster, her legs a subconscious motion and a fast-moving thing below her. She runs as fast as she feels possible, and the footsteps of Cap fade out behind her and she believes that he must be slipping behind.

Turning her head back in one swift motion to see if Cap is behind her, she sees no sign of him. He is gone. And she hears no bird. She sees no colorful thing screeching above her, only the tops of numerous trees. Where is he? What did the bird do with my friend?

A split second too late, she turns her head back in front of her. Her foot is snagged in a tangle of green vines, and she stumbles, beginning her tragic descent to the leafy forest floor. As she is in “mid-fall”, she instinctively shoves her hands out in front of her to lessen the intensity of the blow. As her hands reach the ground, they do not stop at the ground. Her hands wisp through the entanglement of vines and plunge underground, as if it were a trap. The vines were a cover up of this hole. She attempts to save herself from falling further down into it, but it is too late. Her legs swung over her head and now she falls down this hole.

This hole that is surrounded by brown walls of…dirt? It smells of decadent sweetness and sugar. Chocolate. Her arms and legs are flailing as she tumbles through the air down this pit, yet vivid colors still line the chocolate walls. She closes her eyes tightly, squeezing them together so hard that the pressure begins to hurt. Then suddenly, the thoughts rush in. The full ones; thick and abundant with memories of adventure.

Frantically, she searches for some way to cushion the landing but she sees no ground in sight, until—clink. Blackness drowns her, and she is unconscious.

Lungs aching due to her sprinting away from the earth shattering screeches of the toucan, she allows herself a handful of precious seconds to slow her breathing and collect a steady flow of oxygen into her body, her eyes still closed and her back lying on something soft.

Her body should be broken in hundreds of places from the fall, but it is not. She feels no pain other than her tired lungs. She remembers the fall only moments ago. She remembers…she remembers it all.

Before she fell unconscious, something miraculous and altogether curious occurred: the memories came to her of the past month. She thinks to herself for a moment.

A month. Here I believed it has been a few days, yet it’s been thirty of them. thirty days ago I was on the cruise with mom and dad, Wednesday, August 28. Now, it’s September 27. A month ago he shrunk me down to Cap’s size, a month ago we barely made it off the island alive. A minute ago Cap was taken away from me. I have to find him. How can this be? And how do I have this sense of time? My watch hasn’t moved once since I arrived in this world. It is as if when I fell, time threw itself at me all at once.

She opens her eyes, only to see an array of skeptical faces looming over her. Bright orange and red and yellow flames of fire dance in the background behind the unrealistic, yet familiar faces. She can smell the melted chocolate.

Among the faces, there is a man cloaked in a glittering off-black, high-collared cape. The man’s hair is very odd, and his nose and ears are pointed at the tips, very exaggerated. He opens his mouth to speak, and she sees the points on his two side teeth.

“Darling, that was quite the fall you took. No one has fallen down to my lair in what feels like ages,” he hisses, then with a chuckle he adds, “do not be alarmed, my girl, I am not the creature you should be afraid of in this land. Do not let my fangs or my cape scare you, for I have just been the one to spare you.”

She peers down at her watch not expecting much. Since she arrived in this land, the hands have not made a single effort to crawl across the face of the wristwatch. Remembering the deafening sound, she swiftly attempts to stand on her feet. When she tries to stand, she suddenly notices the aching in her chest.

The man with the fangs and pointy-head motions to a boy to help Carolynn to her feet. A small boy, no more than eleven years of age, steps out of the circle of faces towards Carolynn and shoves out his hand, made small by stubby fingers. Carolynn reaches out for it, and with his feet planted firmly on the ground the boy heaves up her body from the cushioned, chocolate ground. He speaks to her in a higher voice than the normal boy, but a soothing one, “Don’t worry, you’re just weak from the fall. It tends to drain people. If you’re going to fall down a hole though, this one’s the one to fall down because you get a cushioned landing.” He says this and motions to the spot where she fell; padded with whipped chocolate that somehow didn’t rub off on Carolynn’s clothes.

The man with the fangs chuckles in an odd sort of way, and then notices Carolynn’s eyes staring at him, penetrating his facial features with curiosity. He addresses her harshly and says, “You mustn’t be scared of me, child. Yes, I have scary teeth and odd features, but didn’t your parents ever teach you not to stare?”

Startled and embarrassed, Carolynn responds, “I’m sorry, sir. It’s just that, I’ve never, well. I’ve never seen a real-life vampire before. Are you a vampire?”

The entire crowd of faces erupts in a deafening laughter, silencing Carolynn into embarrassment, rosy circles forming on her cheeks. The boy still holds her hand, and when he realizes her embarrassment, he smiles at her and releases his hand from hers. She shrugs back wearing a hardened grin, and whispers scratchily into his ear, “I didn’t mean it offensively, and I just meant that he looks like a vampire.” She notices the fluffiness of his golden hair resting beneath his long striped hat that comes to a point at the end, similar to a wizard’s hat, or a pajama hat that she occasionally saw people wear with night gowns. She has only just met the boy, but he seems so intensely kind and clean for living (she assumes that he lives down here) underground in a vampire’s chocolate lair that he nearly looks…fake. Perhaps he is, but this comes as a fleeting thought in her mind and is quickly silenced by thousands of more practical, rational ones. If we have learned anything from the father figure that starred in Peter Pan, it is that practicality comes before unlikely things that seem more mysterious.

As the laughter descends to a small chorus of quiet chuckles, the man with the fangs holds out his hand to the crowd. All go silent in obedience to him. A sort of chill races through Carolynn, prickling the hairs on her arms. He begins to speak, “My dear child, I am a vampire, that is true. But I am not the kind so popularly known. I live down here, in what we call The Underworld, manufacturing chocolate cereal into the world. My name, young child, is Count Chocula. Many refer to me as The Count, and all must call me directly ‘sir’. These are my workers, they include Franken Berry,” he says this and motions to a large, pink, metal creature that resembles that of Frankenstein, “Boo Berry,” a pale, ghostly being floats forward closer to him, “Chip,” a cookie-scented wolf crawls forward on its paws, slightly growling at the unknown visitor, “Lucky,” a small, green, energetic man leaps out from the crowd, skipping and humming a giddy tune, “and my three favorite workers: Snap, Crackle, and Pop,” two boys from the crowd step forward in unison. The two look identical all except for their hair color, the one with red hair wears a hat that states “Snap” while the one with bronze hair wears a yellow hat that states “Pop”. The boy who had helped Carolynn up raised his hand at the mention of his name, and Carolynn reads the writing scrawled on his striped hat “Crackle”.

Since she fell, she remembers everything that occurred within the last month, and she remembers her friend. She wonders where he could be, and knows that she must leave so she says to the Count, “Thank you for introducing me to everybody. But I must be on my way, you see, my friend, he has been taken away from me and I must find him. I have been through much within the last thirty days and I need to be on my way, I believe that it is my time to go now. Thank you for all of your help though.” She said this, and looks to Crackle as his bright smile fades.

The Count hurriedly takes her by the hand and escorts her away from the direction of the place she fell to, saying, “But my dear child! We know nothing about you! Let us feed you dinner, and then we will let you be on your way. Perhaps we might even be able to help you make it to your destination sooner.” She paused for a moment, and then followed him to the table.

They all sat at the table, and had just been fed a repulsively unhealthy meal of only…cereal. Cereal was the only thing on the menu, with options such as Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Franken Berry, Lucky Charms, Rice Krispies, and Cookie Crisp. Carolynn was nearly sick, as she had just eaten three heaping bowlfuls of Count Chocula, Cookie Crisp, and Lucky Charms. She felt empty despite the sugar inside of her. She tries her best to seem delighted and grateful, so she summons the strength to ask a question about this land, “Don’t you find it funny that this land does not have a sense of time? I find it quite curious, and hilarious. For people who are in such a hurry to waste no time, there really is no time here to go to waste,” Carolynn spoke abruptly to the odd looking creatures in front of her, her face wearing a puzzled expression.

The Count answers her from the opposite side of the table, “My dear, I am afraid that time does not exist in this land. It never has, and never will. But never mind that; tell us of your journey, I know that you must have one. Will you give us a good story? We are indeed desperate for one.”

Following the example of the others at the large, circular table (a table resembling that of a large, wooden spool), she places down her spoon next to her large bowl that once was brimming with cereal. She looks down into the bowl and sees straggling clusters of green and yellow marshmallow floating within remaining milk: the remnants of Lucky Charms. Pondering the Count’s request, she looks out towards the expectant, yet slightly impatient and hardened faces looking back towards her at the table. She answers reluctantly by saying, “Well, I suppose that…”

“My girl, we do not ever suppose down here in my lair. We only are certain. Uncertainty is for those up above in this land,” the Count interrupts, “And you MUST tell us of your story, or there may be dire consequences.”

Confused and frightened, Carolynn answers, “Well, I am certain that I remember these things that occurred to me. But I am not certain as to how I remembered them.”

The Count turned to the faces at the table, and grimacing he states, “Just tell us the story, girlie. There are some secrets in this world that are better not understanding.”

Pushing aside her curiosity and fear, she gulps down a bit of air, clears her throat, and begins to tell them of her adventures. “I suppose—I mean—I am certain that it began with cereal like this,” she says as she stares into her bowl of clustered sugar bits. Then suddenly, the words rush in. Short and concise, they paint pictures of her memories.

“I remember all that happened, but to spare you the minor details, I will simply tell you the story in the short,” Carolynn speaks to the crowd of people in front of her; their faces impatient, their expressions curious. She carries on in a non-descriptive way, so as to save time to find her trusted sidekick, Cap, faster.

“First, I remember the waters. The large wakes of water splashing on the sides of the ship. My parents and I were on a Royal Caribbean cruise on our way to the Bahamas. I took my pet with me, a roly-poly, named…well, it sounds so odd calling him my pet. His name was, I mean, IS Cap. I’ve had him for over two years now after finding him on the sidewalk outside of my house. I needed a friend, and it seemed like he did too. I bring him with me everywhere I go, because he’s one of my closest friends. I placed him in a small fish tank, minus the water of course, and brought him on the cruise with me.

Anyways, on the cruise my mom and dad and I, well, we weren’t all on the best of terms. And that was my fault, because well, I was disobeying them. My mom would say not to eat bad food, and yet every morning on the cruise I would take out a box of a Kellogg’s or General Mills cereal and pour myself a bowl. I would continually disobey them, and my mom would never like it. One day on the cruise, when we were one day away from reaching an island in the Bahamas, I had argued with my mom quite a bit. She had told me to avoid Lucky Charms, yet I still poured myself two bowls of it for breakfast. I could tell she wasn’t happy, yet I ate it despite her.

‘Carolynn, you’re such a wonderful girl, but that cereal, it’s anything but healthy for you,’ my mom said. I didn’t protest so much as I would simply disobey. That morning, after my mom left to go to the pool and my dad went to the fitness room, I ate the two bowls of cereal. Soon after, I decided to take a nap. The nap lasted for quite some time, and when I woke up, I saw a bird.

It was quite a beautiful bird, but not as seemingly glorious as the toucan I previously ran into. No, it was more subtly beautiful, with a colorful beak but a bland body full of blended blacks and whites. I saw it through the glass of the room’s window, perched on the railing outside on the deck. I can’t describe the feeling I had when I saw it, but it was a feeling of peace and necessity. Not so much enchantment or lust or desire, but more of a need, as if I couldn’t imagine living life without the bird.

Putting down my spoon next to the bowl, I unlatched the window and swung it open outwards. Without hesitation, the beautiful creature flapped its wings and ventured inside of the room through the opened window.

It looked with its brilliant eyes into the depths of mine, and I saw a whole new world of beauty. I expected it to c*** its head to one side, but instead I did this. It was quite curious that I did this taken that I was the human in the situation; nonetheless, I tilted my head to one side out of wonder, I suppose—or, I mean, I am certain of it.

The puffin looked into the depths of my eyes, and stared into me. Something I never though possible, yet it occurred nonetheless; then, something happened which I am not sure how to describe.

I was small, the size of Cap. I seemed to be clothed in a sort of rugged, burlap toga contraption; tightly hugging my legs yet was loose from, my stomach upwards.

I was standing with tiny legs and tiny arms and tiny…me, on top of the chair where I had a few moments ago eaten breakfast. The puffin then did something that I never thought a puffin could do, it spoke to me. While standing with its feet atop the circular table in the room, it looked down at me with dark pools of calming black, and it spoke to me in a soft but powerful voice, ‘Dear Carolynn, I know you are curious and I know you have questions, but you must know that I do this for the best. You must learn how to gain knowledge from those who love you, and you must learn the importance of obedience. My dear child, I am a puffin of normal stature and you are a human that must learn that size of oneself is not the most important thing in one’s life: but rather it is the contents of one’s heart that matters.’

He spoke to me, and I simply listened. Henry. I repeated the name in my head numerous times. Just as I was about to open my mouth to speak, he spoke yet again in a soft but powerful voice, ‘I have made you small for a reason, and you must follow my instructions in order to become big again. Firstly, you must not eat any more poor cereal, unless you are offered it in the underworld, then you will know that the time has come. Secondly, you are to take Cap and follow me off the deck of this ship. You will wake up on an island and be faced with terrible danger. You will first be faced with a Captain who goes by the name of Crunch. He will attempt to persuade you, but you mustn’t let him do so, it is a trap, I assure you. Once you meet the Captain and you do not give into his empty promises, he will grow angry. He will hunt you down until one day, with his army of pirates wearing steel-plated boots; he will find you. You mustn’t be afraid this is all part of the plan, but you will be faced with a decision and whether you ever grow big again is based on that decision. Thirdly, you will fall asleep and wake up in a strange but vibrant land of color. This is the Land of Apple Jacks, where memories are lost. I will meet you soon after this, but you mustn’t trust anyone you meet. Not a soul. Just know that you will be tricked, after all, I am putting you into the World of Trix and Promises.’

I stood on the chair, my tiny legs growing tired, and my mouth hanging wide open out of confusion. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, except that I should obey this bird. This beautifully bland bird.

I took a rubber band, which had conveniently shrunken to the size of my wrist, and noticed that the rest of my outfit that I had previously worn had come back onto my body and fit me snugly. Pleased, I looked down at my white converse, tapping them together as Dorothy once did, hoping perhaps it might be the same situation.

After three taps, and no California, which is my equivalent to Kansas, I decided that I best follow the bird off the deck as he told me to do.

He had taken Cap out of his confinements on the night table and placed him next to me on the chair. I wondered if Cap could speak, and as if Henry read my thoughts he said in reply to them, ‘No, my child, I’m afraid he is inept with speaking contrary to me; however, his expressions and actions speak louder than words ever could. You can learn much from his actions.’

I peered over at Cap, and for the first time, I saw him as a large pet. Like a Great Dane, an animal that is almost as large as I am. It proved to me that if you change the perspective of your world to fit that of another’s, this could make your previous one seem so small and irrelevant.

Henry then handed me a tiny backpack, and I swung the backpack over both my shoulders, and he held out his claw for me to jump onto. Once I did, I motioned for Cap to jump on with me, but he was already on the second of his webbed feet. The bird flapped its wings and we flew out the window, swooped off the deck, and fell into the wakes of the sea. Then—clink. All went black.”

She speaks this to the eager faces at the table, wondering how much she should tell them of her story. Henry said that the time would come, and she wonders if this is the time. In any case, she has her backpack on her still, and is ready to open it if she must. It carries something “miraculous” as Henry had said. He told her to only use it if she needed to, and she would know when to use it. She had left that part out of the story. Inhaling air deep into her lungs, she sighs and continues with her story of previous adventure.

“Everything played out as Henry had said. I awoke on the island with Cap by my side; I looked down at my arm and found dark, purple ink on it. On one arm had my name; on the other arm was what world I was in. I believed Henry to have written it there, and I still do believe it was he who did it.

As Henry had said, I had a run in with a short and stout, but fiercely cruel-looking captain. He did as Henry had said he would do, and he offered me abundance in riches. He had said, ‘I’ll give you my stash of rubies and gold coins, if only you’ll stay here on this island!’ I responded to him sternly three times, until the fourth time, he grew angry and quite red in the face. Not the kind of pinkish color that appears on one’s cheeks out of embarrassment; rather, the kind of deep color that begins in one’s eyes and rises out from within them, spreading to the pores on their face: anger.

Three days passed and I saw no sight of him. Cap and I wandered the island, and set up camp within a cave. It wasn’t camp so much as it was somewhat of a shelter from the outside, and I was nervously awaiting the return of the Captain.

We slept there for three nights and three days and on the fourth morning; I arose from a deep slumber only to hear the sound of a deep, fierce growl. It was the growl of a beast. A beast within the cave.

Cap had heard the sound too, and leaped awake and strode fearfully next to me. I picked up a long wooden stick I had carved into a spear at its tip, and I held it out in front of me so that my back was to the cave’s entrance.

Emerging from the shadows of the cave that were darkened, a four-legged wild beast snarled its fangs and prowled towards Cap and I. A tiger.

‘Get back! Get back!’ I screamed at the thing, although it just got closer. Before it got the chance to do anything terrible to us, I heard another sound. The sound of feet meeting the ground. The sound of soldiers marching.

Suddenly, a fleet of pirates in steel-plated boots stormed into the cave. I watched in horror as Captain Crunch emerged towards the front of the group, and snarled, ‘You should have listened to me, girlie. Tie her hands with rope, boys. Get the small black pet too, both of whom disobeyed my wishes and are intruders to MY island.’

With this, the men began to swarm around Cap and me. Growing furious that they might attempt to hurt Cap, without thinking much, I jumped in front of Cap in order to protect him.

Then, subtly the sounds of the men’s screams and boots lessened, and gradually faded away into nothingness.

After this, I awoke in the Land of Apple Jacks and had no recollection of the past events on the island. I still am not certain as to how I arrived there. But I saw a toucan in the forest that chased me, and it took Cap away from me. Soon after, I fell into a hole. That hole over there,” she said as she pointed towards the place where she had fallen.

Looking at the faces, she hears nothing but silence. Then, the Count speaks in response to her, wearing a grave expression, “You have been through much. ‘Tis a shame that you are friends with Henry though: that poor old sap. He used to be one of my closest friends, until he decided to excommunicate me from the cereal group we both attended in an effort to ‘keep things healthy’. I wondered why he would do such a thing, when it occurred to me that he believes that Count Chocula cereal is unhealthy, while Puffins cereal is quite good for you. This is a preposterous concept, but one that he believed to be true.”

She shrugs, though is curious as to what the Count is thinking. She can tell that something is laced deep within his pointed head, perhaps something lethal. Before she has a chance to speak, he speaks to her again, stating, “Too bad you won’t be having any more grand adventures. I know you don’t mean any harm, but you see, in the World of Trix and Promises, our leader does not like intruders, especially those who tend to dislike the cereal that we produce.”

The hair on her arms begins to prickle upwards as a chill runs through her entire being; she asks him as if she knows the answer, “Do you know what happened to Cap—sir?”

He chuckles. The kind of chuckle you hope to never hear from a person, or creature for that matter. Smirking he snarls, “You know that I do, the question is, will you want him back so much so that you’d trade your backpack? I know what’s inside, and I know that you do not. Do not try to fool me, girlie. Quite clever of you, though, leaving it out of the story like you did.”

His eyes turn a deep red sort of color, as did their faces. Without hesitation, she rips open her backpack and closes her eyes, awaiting something miraculous.

Clouds of black and white swirl around the table, stemming from the backpack. She is unaware of what is happening; yet she knows she did right by opening the backpack.

Chaos breaks out among those who had sat at the table, including Snap, Crackle, and Pop whose eyes also turned a certain shade of unpleasant red. She can hear the darkened screaming of the Count from the other side of the table as the clouds of dust thickened, though she does not mind the sound. She is only curious as to what the backpack will bring to her. And she is pleased to see what it brought her. Very pleased indeed.

Perched atop the table stands a bird not so magnificent in color; in fact it is blander than anything else. He smiles at her, and she smiles back at him. Henry has arrived, and she could not be more pleased as to his timing. This is quite miraculous.

“Henry…you know how I feel towards unwanted visitors, you more than anyone should know this,” the Count speaks to Henry in harsh words that slice the air and seem to hang there for a bit.

Waddling closer to the Count, Henry speaks in a soft but powerful voice, “This once was my world, sir, and I think it to be in your best interest if you grant us her crustacean friend.”

Jabbing a response to Henry, the Count says, “Why are you here, old sap? Haven’t you gotten too old for this ‘helping people’ business?”

“That is something I will never grow too old for, and you know what is best for you now. It’s up to you whether or not you wish to do it,” Henry responds.

The Count grows angry, the kind where red rushes throughout his face stemming from his eyes. He motions for his army of, well; I suppose they are his minions, to come closer to him. They do and this is when she notices the steel-plated boots that they wear. Perhaps she was oblivious before, or perhaps it is the redness of their eyes, which accentuates them.

She turns to Henry for reassurance, and waddling swiftly towards her from the opposite side of the table, he tells her, “Cap is here, in the Count’s lair. He lives here in the Underworld; that is true; though, he is the king of this land. He is the king of the World of Trix and Promises. Climb onto my foot, Carolynn, we must go and find Cap.” Jumping onto his foot, she looks down upon the minions from flying above the table; they begin to chant.

She can hear the echoing chants of the minions and the Count as she and Henry fly away to a larger part of the Underworld that has a sick stench of overwhelming chocolate. She hears the faint chorus of, “ta kólpa kounélia” as they fly farther away from them. She asks Henry what they are saying and he tells her, “It means ‘the rabbit’s tricks’ in Greek, and they are too fearful to come this close to its cave” he swoops down towards the mouth of a cave and continues, “We are here. Be warned Carolynn, a rabbit lives in this cave. A dark one.”

Landing at the mouth of the cave, Henry places his webbed foot to the graveled ground and Carolynn hops off of it, frightened to the very depths of her bones. But if this is where Cap is, then she is willing to summon up every ounce of bravery she does own in order to find him. She hopes that he is…safe.

Emerging from the shadows, as the tiger once did, is a rabbit. A tall, thin rabbit. One that towers over Carolynn and stands on two feet, as if it thinks it is a person. How curious.

As it is a rabbit, you may think it to be white, but you are mistaken dear reader, as it is blotched with color. Color from the tips of its elongated ears to the pads of its feet; sickening color. She glances down to her shoes for bland reassurance.

The rabbit then speaks to them in a condescending tone of voice, but one that rhymes,
“Among this kingdom, I am its jester.
Among this cave, I am its protector.
Whoever it is, that stands not alone,
Tell me your names and I won’t throw a stone.”

Henry responds in a soft but powerful voice, “Jester, I am aware of who you are, you are the creature who creates the Trix and jumbles out promises. My companion and I have come quite a long ways, if you would please tell us where your hostage is, it is her friend you see and we must retrieve him.”
“Retrieve him you must, for his time will soon come,
When I throw out my lyre, and beat hard on my drum.
The young lad is scared, that much is true.
But tell me, Henry, why should I hand him to you?”

Swallowing at the thought that the puffin’s name is known when he never did mention it, Carolynn realizes the rabbit is much more dangerous and curious than he appears to be. Then, in the lightly shaded part of the cave, Carolynn sees Cap. He looks distressed and weak, but alive and restless. She nearly bursts towards him, but remembers to keep calm. Frightened is she when she realizes the rabbit notices her gaze, and speaks to her directly,
“Careful now, child, you mustn’t pass this cave’s line
I drew it here early at the beginning of time.
I’ve lived here much longer than he and than you,
I know your desires, but must bid you adieu.”

Frantic and hoping that the rabbit will stay, Carolynn answers him in the way that he spoke to her: rhyme,
“But sir, I must ask you a question or two. I must get to know a few things about you.
Your color astounds me and the way that you speak, it takes me aback and it makes me feel weak.”

Utterly surprised at this, the rabbit engages with the girl, in delight of her compliments towards him, because he is a prideful rabbit you see. The girl and him, they speak for some time. During which time, Henry is perched on the edge of some rock near the cave’s mouth in awe of Carolynn and proud of her speaking with the rabbit. After some time of speaking and complimenting the rabbit, Carolynn has an idea to pass the rabbit. A plan laced with wistful blandness and insightful intelligence.

Her shoes.

They have been too small for the rabbit to see, so she whispers to Henry if he can make her shoes big again. He nods in agreement and does so. Perhaps you are wondering why he simply does not make her larger in her entirety, well she is wondering the same thing, but that would not make for an adventurous story.

Her shoes become large and white and bland. Dull against the color.

The rabbit shrieks in a breath of fear and speaks hastily to the girl,
“Whatever those things are, once worn on your feet.
You must tell me their color, for I find them quite neat.
I must admit that I am in unspeakable awe,
Of all you have shared with me, I feel of great flaw.”

Carolynn smiles at him, grinning a beautiful smile. A smile filled with white. The rabbit has not seen such lack of color, and is taken aback by the utter beauty of its pureness.

He tells her that he wishes to keep the shoes, and she tells him that only if he hands her Cap, knowing he will not be able to resist the blandness.

Reluctantly, though not so much that he is angered, the rabbit leaps into the shadows of his cave, picks up Cap by the finger and places him next to Carolynn. She gladly places her white converse into his hands, and he snatches them from her. She glances over to Henry, who nods at her, smiling at her, proud of her trickery.

She hears the shrill, joyous cries of the rabbit from inside the depths of the cave. And she is pleased. A nudging sensation of warmth presses at her left calf, and she looks down in utter amazement and joy to see her best friend. Kneeling down to him, she embraces him, puddles of wet forming in her eyes and spilling down her cheeks. Searching for his expression, she sees one of warmth and love.

As the two continue to embrace each other, Henry scoops them up onto the webbed part of his right foot, and he swoops out of the darkness of the Underworld, nodding farewell to the minions and Count beneath him. No, the Count cannot fly. He simply wishes to be perceived as if he can. He is, as most creatures in this kingdom are; fake.

Henry glides upwards, up through the pit that Carolynn fell through on her way down to the underworld. He maneuvers through branches and the tops of leafy trees in the land of Apple Jacks until he reaches a cloudless sky. A sky that is filled with a false sense of heat and Raisin Bran sun, a sun that frowns upon them as they fly.

Carolynn sees this and wonders why she ever ate the dreadful cereal at all. She begins to appreciate the blandness in her life, and they fly farther above many more lands. In the midst of gliding above a curious island with ships tinged with gold, they begin to fly above the sea with large wakes of water. She sees a ship, and begins to feel quite tired.

Her eyelids begin to weigh heavy over her pupils. Fighting it for as long as she can, she finally gives in and the falsehood fades from her vision, with Cap by her side.

The metal latch of the door wakes her up; her eyelids lift, unveiling a world once familiar to her.

“Sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to wake you; you must’ve been asleep a while, must be all the sun. I’ve been gone for nearly four hours, did you sleep that long?” her mother, in a turquoise shawl wrap speaks to her in a kind voice. A voice she has missed. She sets down the room card on the circular table where she once ate cereal, before she drifted off to sleep. Before…sleep? Had she been dreaming? Perhaps practicality should be the answer, versus the unlikely thing that seems more mysterious.

“I’m not sure, mom. I think I have been asleep for a while,” she responds, massaging her right temple with two fingers. She still is lying down where she had fallen asleep; on the coral-themed, plum-colored couch. “Where’s Dad?”

Huffing out a sigh, she says, “Well, after his workout he got all cleaned up and is upstairs in the dining hall. He’s waiting for us there, it’s almost seven o’clock, sweetie. We should change into something nicer, maybe I’ll pick a dress out for you.”

“Mom…” she says, interrupting with a tone of reluctance. Then she remembers the patience, “Alright, pick out whichever dress you want me to wear.”

Turning towards her, her mom responds, “Wonderful! Oh, I have just the—Carolynn,” her voice goes slightly flatter than before, “what did you have at the table? Was it that cereal again?”

Gulping down pride, she peels off the thick blanket strewn across her body, and moves it to the corner of the couch, swinging her legs to the side so that she’s sitting straight up and looking into her mother’s eyes. “I was eating that stuff, Mom. And I’m sorry. I know of all the artificial things laced within it, I know how false it can be, and how bad it is for me. I will tell you this once and I won’t disobey this rule again, I will not eat it ever again. I promise,” she said, her eyes beginning to puddle with a bit of wet.

Sighing her mother replies with a grin, “Oh sweetheart, you shouldn’t worry. I’m so proud of you and the girl that you are. All I can ask of you is your best, and I know you know better than to continuously eat that cereal, thanks for understanding.” She nudges her shoulder, gets up from the couch, and chuckling she says, “Oh, and maybe put some shoes on for dinner, kiddo. I like going barefoot, but shoes are always a nice thing to have on at events. Oh and maybe clean off that purple stuff on your arms too.”

Dancing her toes in an up and down motion, Carolynn feels the breeze between her toes and realizes the bareness of her feet. Peering down at them, the hair on her arms begins to prickle, as there is an absence of white converse that once were there when she fell asleep.

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