“Holly ordered her sweet peppermint hot chocolate after waiting in the line for way too long. She settled down in her usual spot for the last ten years. The peaceful corner table with quiet music was what she loved about her special time in the cafe. If it were up to Holly, she would spend every moment at her magical reflecting table. Every memory, every moment of happiness, fear, and anger, led up to this one spot.”
Prologue: Before the Time
Holly ordered her sweet peppermint hot chocolate after waiting in the line for way too long. She settled down in her usual spot for the last ten years. The peaceful corner table with quiet music was what she loved about her special time in the cafe. If it were up to Holly, she would spend every moment at her magical reflecting table. Every memory, every moment of happiness, fear, and anger, led up to this one spot.
She began with how it started. In the beginning — she remembered.
Chapter One: The Journey to the True Kingdom
Holly and her parents had been preparing for their home-away-from-home journey for five weeks and counting. Holly packed her red with black polka dot duffle bag to the fullest. She arranged her bow shaped purse perfectly with her dearest belongings. She placed her sixteen stuffed animals against the leather backseat. She fluffed her pink and black skirt, perfected her bow, and hopped in the car next to her many stuffed siblings. Mrs. and Mr. Casco smiled at their daughter as she opened her fairy tale book at the start of driving.
“Ya ready?” Her mom, Daisy, smiled warmly. She too was dressed up, along with Mr. Casco. Christopher, Holly’s hardworking dad, put his honeycomb-shaped key into the car. And without another word, the bright red car with a Mickey and Minnie shape engraved in the windshield drove slowly out of the parking spot. I am sure you can tell the Cascos were huge Disney fans.
Holly didn’t mind the long trip to Disneyland. She, in fact, enjoyed it. She couldn’t wait to get there, though. She daydreamed about the rides and characters and hot cocoa. She loved the Matterhorn, the big, hairy monster with yellow, glowing eyes She remembered the story her dad told her when she was young and scared of him. The monster was Harold, and all of his growling was about the fact that he had no chocolate chip cookies. The story made Holly smile.
Next, she imagined the Nemo ride with the colorful coral and fish moving underwater. She remembered the story her mom had told her about being a “mermaid” and sitting on the rocks under the monorail. Back then, when she was a little girl, the managers of Disneyland had real women dress up as mermaids. Holly wished she could have been a mermaid. Holly, through her Minnie Mouse dress and twinkling brown-golden eyes, almost envied her mom for her childhood in Los Angeles.
Mrs. Casco barely talked about living by Disneyland. Disneyland had always been magical to Holly. How? She never knew how the magic worked. The sensation of lighting the Christmas tree at night and Mickey’s Halloween party made her breathless. Every single Halloween, Holly dressed up as Minnie. In fact, she had just stopped dressing up last year as the original Disney characters because a candy giver called her “sweetie.” Holly smiled at the funny explanation of her true age. She just loved Disney! There wasn’t another thought about it.
If it were up to her, Holly would stay six months at Disneyland. The Cascos were staying only sixteen days. Another reason why Holly brought sixteen of her many Minnies and Mickeys. She would bring one stuffed friend each day. She held her Hawaiian Minnie, Golf Mickey, Fishing Mickey, Christmas Minnie, Valentine’s Day Minnie, Easter Minnie, and Christmas Mickey closer, looking back at her other eight stuffed siblings. She made a list of whom she would bring in on what day in her Minnie notebook.
The car flew by the never-ending plains and farmland. Her dad stopped at a little fruit shed and got a carton of strawberries and other sustenance for the drive. Her brother grabbed several strawberries as if to say to Holly, “And this is for taking up the entire back seat with your stuffed animals!”
Tryvis was Holly’s older brother. He was squished up against the door of the car, and whenever the car turned and the animals slid, he would flick them away. Tryvis, unlike the rest of the family, was not a Disney fan. He smirked at Holly and shoved the juicy berries into his saliva-filled mouth. Holly tried to ignore him.
Tryvis wasn’t looking forward to the “short” trip. Sixteen days! Barely enough time to get everything done!
Why did the Cascos stay so long? Holly’s parents did a really good job at covering it up. Well, Mrs. Casco’s maiden name was Disney. Raymond Arnold Disney was her father.
Holly stretched her legs as she slipped out of the car, four hundred miles away from home. Tryvis whined impatiently as Holly grabbed her stuffed animals. He shut the door behind them. The bright moon shone, and Holly could swear she saw three Mickey Mouse-shaped craters. The Disneyland adventure had begun.
The three Disney fans and one annoyed brother opened the door to the private hotel. Holly jumped onto her bed and arranged her belongings in her room. The room had three Disney-themed bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms. The balcony held exquisite views overlooking the Matterhorn and a couple other rides from three floors up. Holly watched the moon and stars shine down and illuminate the pleasant sight of several people here and there in nighttime Disneyland. The sight was amazing, and while Holly had seen it before, it never ceased to amaze her.
Holly took out her ballerina Minnie and held her out in the wind as if she were dancing. “Not to interrupt — whatever that is… ” Tryvis snarled at her, disguised with the ballerina dancing. “But it is time for a late dinner.” He stalked away.
Neither Holly nor her parents had any idea how Tryvis went wrong. He had been a very happy baby, almost too happy. And then one day, it was as if all his joy had been sucked out of him. That day was when four-year-old Holly started talking about her adventures. Everyone seemed to love the happy girl, and when she told Tryvis her stories, he snarled as she turned away.
Daisy and Christopher, Holly’s parents, set up the pizza and sweet lemonade onto the wooden table. Holly savored the fresh pineapple and olives on the pizza. She couldn’t wait to get on the rides at Disneyland the next morning. You see, it was Holly’s job to test all of the rides early, early in the morning, or deep into the night. Don’t tell me you have never heard of her!
Every time Disney cancels fireworks, it is not because of high winds. It is because Holly needs more ride testing time. Every other week, when the park closes down two hours early, that is all the work of Holly. Every time Holly visits the park, the rides become a little bit safer.
Holly dreamed of pixies, disappearing cats, a bear with a thirst for honey, and an unusual transformation into a frog. Holly’s imagination was magic. Her kindness was her very own magic. And her favorite thing in the world was magic Disneyland.
Whether it was the magical fireworks of Disneyland or it was the sweet Tigger Tails with soft caramel wrapped around chocolate and marshmallow, everyone who left Disneyland came back for more of their favorite things. Everyone wanted to experience the magic of the characters or the creative roller coasters. Everyone wanted to meet a graceful fairy or travel underwater into the colorful world of an orange and white fish and his friends. That morning, when Holly awoke, she spied her brother snoring noisily, a bit of drool slipping down his right cheek. She quickly wrote a note in her neat handwriting to her parents, explaining why she was leaving so early:
My dearest parents,
I am extremely sorry that I am leaving so early. But as you know, duty calls! I am getting a head start on testing all the rides, and if I have time, some restaurants. I do hope you don’t mind, but fifteen days and six and a half hours will go by quickly. And the time is still ticking! I will be back for dinner and find a nice place to eat lunch. I’ll get you a Minnie, Mickey, and Pluto keychain!
Your sweet, loving daughter
P.S. Tell Tryvis that his favorite characters will make their appearance in a couple hours, so tell him to not miss them!
She wrote the last part hastily, hoping that Tryvis would for once enjoy his Disneyland trip. He would sleep forever and just lie in bed, thinking about crazy, disastrous stuff. For Holly, it was the opposite. She wished she could simply live in the Matterhorn in the spiraling “icy” tunnels with Herold. She and Herold could be besties because they both loved chocolate chip cookies! In fact, Herold’s craving for chocolate chip cookies could melt the plastic coating right off of his skin and bring him to the nearest cookie stand.
Holly pressed the note up against her mom and dad’s door. She hoped they wouldn’t worry. She skipped cheerfully down the hall leading to the door of the fancy condo, careful not to awake any other special guests. While walking to the secret entrance into Disneyland, she tripped on a tiny, sticky blue rock. The blue rock was a bit uneven and almost had a furry texture. From the beginning of Holly’s trip, she had felt a feeling of distress and mistakenness. She placed the tiny but sharp rock back on the ground and kicked it playfully down the pathway, unaware of her interference. The bushes shook silently as several pairs of eyes appeared on both sides. Holly continued down the path, but as happy, harmless, and innocent she had been, that record was broken. Holly had changed the natural order of effects without meaning to.
Holly loved, loved Disney. She lived for Disney. She was a Disney. So how come she had done something that the most wanted villain would have done? She had been the worst villain in all time without meaning to be.
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. How are you?” She looked around. Tryvis was in bed, Mom was packing her purse for dinner, and Holly’s dad was checking his watch impatiently by the door. Then, Holly looked at Tryvis. “How were the characters? Which ones did you see? What did they do? Did you tell them that you were descended from the great Raymond Disney? Of course they probably already know because all Disney characters can tell!” She held her fist up high and looked proud to have been descended from a Disney.
“Oh… it was great. They could totally tell that I was a Disney. They wouldn’t keep their hands off of me. I was so busy that I saw all of them.” Holly looked pleased. Then, Tryvis continued, “I was probably way busier than you! The characters even held a parade just for me because I am a Disney.” Holly looked as if she had just seen a unicorn.
“Wow, I wish I could have been there.” Holly’s parents looked confused.
“You dumbo! I was in bed all day thinking about how trusting you are! You’d believe anything and everything. One day, it’s going to get you in trouble no one will be able to get you out of — not even Mickey Mouse!” He smirked.
“So, you didn’t even see any characters. I wrote part of the note just for you… ” Holly squeaked like a tiny mouse at her rude brother. Tryvis ignored her and rolled over in bed. He reached for his bouncy shaped baseball that lit up and turned it thrice in hand, as if debating if he should throw it at someone.
Holly dressed in her nicest clothes. She smiled cheekily at Tryvis, making him scowl harder. His mouth started to get tired of the tight face, so he fell backward into the soft, luxurious pillows, exhausted from doing nothing all day. Holly tried to cram as much in as possible during the Disneyland trip, while Tryvis was just trying to get through the rough days of happiness and magic. Truly, the Casco younger sister and older brother, Holly and Tryvis, were almost exact opposites. Their only similarity was how they both looked out for each other, even if they would never admit it. Tryvis always wanted his sister safe, even if he treated her badly. Because in the very end, they were family.
As Holly and Mr. and Mrs. Casco headed out the door, Holly wondered why her brother wasn’t coming. She felt bad for his somber mood, but it wasn’t her fault. Or was it? On the walk over, Holly skipped and looked overhead at the monorail track and spied several fireworks going off as cheers rose around them. She continued walking over to Blue Bayou while the crowds were gone. The three family members had a good time looking at the Pirates of the Caribbean boats, talking, and eating a scrumptious dinner.
Meanwhile, Tryvis got into some trouble of his own. He had been looking out the porch balcony, one floor up. He was spying on his family as they walked down the boulevard, hand in hand, and wished either he was happy with them or a storm picked them up and brought them to the Arctic where they would freeze to death. He was angry with himself and in despair, for he couldn’t start being all sunshine and rainbows all of a sudden like Holly! Suddenly, a bright, shining light illuminated the dull room. He turned around and tripped on his skateboard, blinded by the light. On the floor, he sat up and pressed his hand against throbbing head. He shook his head in anger and embarrassment. He crept slowly on hands and knees up to his bed and peeked up. He immediately fell backward into his back. Hesitantly, he crawled around to the right of the bed and grabbed the illuminated, rounded, mysterious object. It felt familiar. He could already realize that someone was trying to interact with him through one of his objects. But who was the question, and why this object? Things were getting heavy and mysterious, and with Tryvis’ somber record, who could he ask or cry to for help? Tryvis crouched down, object in hand, and reached open-fingered toward the light source.
Holly checked her Minnie Mouse watch. “Oh my! It is time to go check some more rides! Doodle-dooh!” She skipped off in ambush of fun. On the way there, she got an ice cream sandwich. She opened the wrapper, expecting a regular Mickey shaped cookie, but instead a Mickey with fangs holding a tiny staff appeared before her. She looked confused. “It isn’t Halloween!” she murmured under her breath. After eating a bit of her tart ice cream sandwich, she didn’t think much of the funny shaped Mickey. This was only the start of them taking the glory from Him. I’ll give you a hint. Him is the big boss. The one that everyone knows about — the one that’s all powerful — Him.
Chapter Two: True Disaster Eats Mice Cheese
Hints gathered up and layered upon layer upon layer. Holly took several hours just to try to piece together what was happening to the magic. Babies started crying at Mickey’s touch. Even the snickerdoodle and chocolate cookies were losing their magic. As a result, Holly got up earlier and earlier with each day to come. And on the eighth day, Holly was up by four and going to bed at nine. Every day, she would pace around the area where she found the sticky, blue little rock. “It has to be a sign, or a warning, or even a secret passage!” Holly would whisper to herself.
Not all of this mystery was new or bad to Holly. She enjoyed suspense and trying to figure out what was happening in the magical kingdom. Day after day, guests stopped piling in, and rumor had it the movie makers of Mickey’s Darkta Holiday Cruise, the new movie, had gone dark. Everyone, even Holly’s mom and dad, seemed not to notice how dark Disneyland had become. Holly didn’t have really any real answers until the eighth day of Holly’s trip.
While she was pacing, something extraordinary happened. She slipped on another one of those sticky rocks. She fell on her knees, head facing the floor. She bent down to pick it up, and as she tilted her head upwards, a fur ball made a sneeze. As she opened her eyes… big, black, adorable eyes stared back at her. She fell backwards, again and opened just one eye. Can it be? She hesitantly rubbed the blue alien. Stitch had come for help.
Tryvis continued to hold the bright ball in his left hand.
“Oh, Tryvis! What a handsome boy.” A mysterious, evil voice filed through the room. A voice that just screamed disaster and evil. This voice tried to butter Tryvis up, making her seem to tell her wicked truth. “I can see why your sister is all happy and jolly. She is very sick. She has too much happiness and goodness. The illness makes her a stealer. She stole your happiness! You can’t let her do that!”
Tryvis looked horror-struck. He always wanted the best for his sister, except now, because of the sickness. She was stealing his happiness. At first, he looked scared and worried for his little sister, and then greed and hatred filled his face. He wanted his happiness back! “What do I do?” Tryvis looked determinedly at the little ball.
“Oh! I just knew I could count on you to save us! What a brave, brave, boy! Your sister hasn’t only been stealing your happiness, she has been stealing ours too!” A softer voice made a sad whimper, but then she went on. “Please help us!” A sound of bubbles trickled out of the ball as a purple hand reached out of the ball, signaling an arrangement.
“Do we have a deal?” crackled a purple monster. Tryvis shook the slippery hand without hesitation.
Nearly a mile away, Ursula pressed the “off” button next to her crystal ball as she crackled and sneered and snickered evilly. She had a deal, a deal to make evil back in the movie business. A deal to completely destroy the minion — Tryvis.
Ursula grabbed her shellphone and headed into the poor connection boot. “Guess what, we’re in business.” An evil crow made an obnoxious sound in the background.
“Now, now, Diaval. This time, we’ll praise Chernabog in triumph. We are going to use the boy. He is foolish enough to trust that ocean lizard!” She giggled violently up into the heavens. She wrapped her crippled fingers around the heavy trison bar, waiting for the lightning bolt symbol. She stroked Diaval evilly, holding her staff. Her horns struck up jaggedly, making a fearsome shadow.
The dark witch with dark magic and with a dark plan strode around to the prison bench, waiting. The ugly witch stared at the clock, knowing that the Cascos had been at Disneyland for two days. She revealed her palm, trying to get a burst of evil magic. “Oh, well.” The unique design of her very own prison restrained the witch’s magic. All that she could conjure was a little dusty wind of yellow-green.
“Oh guard! I see a rat! Get it away from me!”
“Well, he might just bite out all of the evil from you. And again, there is too much evil for just one rat to devour.” The Evil One rolled her eyes. “I’m coming… ” He tilted his head almost through the bars, spying for the little rascal. Meanwhile, Diaval scuttled along the ground. The guard clearly wasn’t smart. The dim light didn’t help, along with the black bars. While he was leaning down, the gloomy witch snatched the keys from the guard’s waist. He was so busy looking for the rat that he didn’t even notice her grabbing his keys.
“Oh my! I think it flew up to the ceiling!”
“That’s impossible!” Maleficent quickly unlatched the prison door. She stepped out into the deserted hallway and placed a spell under the guard.
“Nothing happened,” the mysterious witch cited.
“Nothing happened… ” the guard repeated.
“Maleficent is still in prison.”
“Maleficent is still in prison.”
“Good, good — good.” Maleficent smiled evilly.
“Good, good — good.”
“No! Don’t repeat any more!”
“No — don’t — ”
“Ugh. Useless.” The Evil One relatched the door, keys in hand.
The useless guard awoke and said, “I just had the strangest dream!” He shook his head and stood his post again.
Diaval crowded approvingly. Maleficent stroked him and muttered, “Brainless.”
Holly peered expectantly at Stitch, waiting for his quiet response. Holly wiped her brow after seven hours of sleep last night. Her time to sleep went lower and lower, for she was eight days into the trip. Stitch eagerly took Holly’s hand and pulled her close to the first rock. He tried to touch the original rock that Holly had first kicked. An invisible force blocked Snitch’s hand.
Stitch motioned towards Holly’s hand. She picked up the rock carefully. “Wh-what? I don’t understand!” Holly stared at Stitch in the eye, placed his paw in both of her hands, and spoke convincingly. “I am going to figure this out. Whatever evil, whatever is happening here — I will figure it out.” Snitch looked sympathetically at Holly and pulled her over towards a bush. She tried to back away, afraid of what terrors or mishaps she might find. Curiosity always got the best of her.
She pushed back a couple of leaves and found an unrecognizable bear. His red shirt was ripped on the side. His fur and short tail was ruffled. He clutched his broken honey pots — and yet he greeted Holly with some sort of a smile. “Oh, Pooh bear… what happened?”
“Christopher Robin wasn’t able to save me this time,” he said in his poor, soft voice he always had. “She knows that it is out of place. She knows her time has come. You must put it right! And if you don’t — ” Pooh’s eyes grew fearful, yet Holly looked confused.
“Who? What back? How do I do it!” Holly huddled around Pooh, nearly begging for information. Pooh’s face drained of color and held his fist against his forehead, as if an invisible force withheld his speech. Holly, on the edge of her seat for information, looked back at Stitch, but he simply shrugged. It was as if Stitch had completely forgotten the topic that they were talking about. Holly’s eyes went big, and Pooh hung his head.
“It restrains me. I can’t say. I’m not able to! The same reason Stitch couldn’t!” He tried to hint, but his paws formed back into a stressful fist. Holly looked sympathetically at Pooh but disappeared behind the bush, heading back to the hotel.
“Oh, bother.” Pooh was left, hands still holding his head against his ripped red shirt.
Holly made it back for a lunch with her parents, and yet, Tryvis wasn’t at home. He must have run an errand, she guessed. Half an hour later, with mud on his boots, Tryvis appeared, hungry. “Hi, big brother! Whatcha doing for the rest of the day?”
He said nothing, except take off his fancy coat and throw it on the ground. He stepped on it. Muddy boot stains with the imprint of his shoe stuck against the black striped leather.
Tryvis’ little sister made a disgusted face and smoothed her own skirt and blouse gently, as if treasuring every moment of them before Tryvis, too, stepped on her clothes. The family of four ate dinner, none of them knowing what was to come.
That night, the wind blew. It whipped the hairs of people riding roller coasters. Rain poured down. People slipped on the normally beautiful landscape of Downtown Disney. The bright lights streamed across the walkway above on the shops fell, starting a small fire. Minnie’s bow kept on falling off as children went to hug her. And at Goofy’s kitchen, the Mickey Mouse waffles were cold. The bacon was all fat. The characters didn’t go to several tables.
Tryvis seemed to become sicker and sicker with each day. Holly’s parents didn’t notice anything, though. It was as if everything was normal. In fact, Daisy Casco even said something really weird. “Oh, Darling!” she had said as Holly went out the door. “Do be careful of the smoke from the fire! They were just putting it out.” After that, her mom went back to making breakfast for Tryvis. Holly looked shaken. Why isn’t she alarmed that Disneyland might go up in flames? After that, Holly Casco didn’t give it much a thought.
With five days left to test rides, Holly still didn’t figure out the mystery. On day eleven, an unhappy Stitch appeared again. “What do you want now?” she responded impatiently. Stitch looked a little hurt and stared down shyly at his feet. “I’m sorry, it’s just… why can’t you tell me what is going on?”
“Go back to the beginning since it started,” Stitch whispered, almost embarrassed by interrupting Holly’s annoyed behavior.
Holly sat next to Stitch behind a bush. Stitch’s eyes gleamed with a tiny bit of mischief and knowing the answer.
“What started? My trip? My life? Disneyland?” Holly tried to think. When did she first see Stitch? She didn’t see Stitch at all until a few days ago. “I never saw you until a few days ago.” She pointed out what was on her mind.
“But you did see part me. And one of Winnie the Pooh’s favorite artifacts. We combined sci-fi and fantasy.” Stitch had never talked this much, especially to a human. But when good and evil are at risk, including all of the good characters’ lives and popularity, someone must take charge to think and act outside the box.
“Oh my! The rock!” Stitch nodded gleefully, his adorable smile beaming proudly of his hints that no other characters could think of. “That’s why you and Winnie the Pooh came to see me first. The fur was yours, and the sticky mixture was… honey?” Stitch nodded again. “But what do I do with it?” This was when Stitch changed faces, looking troubled. “Well, I think I’ll sleep on it. Clearly, you can’t tell me, so I might dream about it and get answers — I get all of my great ideas from dreaming!”
Stitch nodded, as if saying, “Well, this is a good start. I’ll report to the others! Bye!”
“Bye!” whispered Holly. She checked if the coast was clear and then headed back to the hotel.
As she neared the condo, Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, and Lady Tremaine posters littered the crowded street. No one seemed to notice the difference. Okay, Holly tried to gather her thoughts. What do I know? It all started with the rock. But what do I do with it is the question. No one seemed to notice the poster change or the difference in the magic. I am not sure if this is good or bad. The park seems to be more crowded every time! Well, I have decided — this isn’t good.
A crowd gathered around something… or someone! Holly tried to peek through the legs of cheery adults, but they wouldn’t budge. “Excuse me,” she whispered. Or at least it sounded like a whisper, because of all the racket the crowd and thing was making. It seemed to be a character. Holly followed the crowd. Along the twisting pathways, the character was taking the fans, Holly looked above at all the crooked trees. That wasn’t correct! Lanterns normally lit the way! Holly whimpered under her breath.
Holly followed the crowd into a clearing. As they circled around her, all Holly could bear to see was the ambiguous shadow. The character was holding a clear glass of water, spinning the drink around in her hand. And Holly ran. She ran as fast as she could. Holly didn’t care who she knocked over — she just had to get out of there! The character that ate all of the Mouse Cheese gleamed with green eyes, crackling behind her smirk. She looked sneakily at Holly’s back. Overhead, a crow spoke annoyingly.
Holly knew it. All of the good characters knew it. The bad characters smiled at it. Change was coming to Happiest Place on Earth — something dark — something bad.