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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 16 - More Than A Parade)

The air was still and pleasantly warm. Guest had gathered along the Boo-To-You Parade route. Domed street lights glowed blue, the castle, tinted in hues of turquoise and purple, as the narrator’s voice rose up, flooding the spirited hub.

“Gather around and hear the tale, that started long ago on the Sleepy Hallow trail. Where the air is still with the chill of fall, he’s the one who leads them all. From witches laughter and ghoulish growls, to ghosts and monsters all around. With a glowing pumpkin to light the way, he’s lurking to find his perfect grave. He’s the breeder of Halloween fear. Beware, the headless horseman is here!”

The street lights transitioned from blue, to purple, then red. Holding an illuminated pumpkin high in his right hand—his caped jacket flowing in the breeze, the headless horseman appeared. Trotting around the hub and down Main Street U.S.A., the hooves of his black steed clicking and clacking along the way, the mysterious horseman captivated the crowd in iconic, Halloween fashion.

There was a moment of silence, and then…the joyful sound of Boo-To-You music exploded into the air. Guests, young and old, clapped and cheered—bouncing up and down with child-like excitement.

Everyone was smiling from ear-to-ear. Everyone that is, except Charlie and Michael. 
Their experience had gone quite differently.


Charlie and his family had found their way to a perfect spot for watching the Boo-To-You Parade. Just beyond Casey’s Corner—curbside, the boys and their parents waited anxiously for the festivities to begin. The two brothers looked around, taking in the castle’s spooky overlay of color and the energy of the crowd, as the narrator’s voice rose above the happy sounds of guests.

The headless horseman was introduced and came trotting on his black steed around the hub. Holding his glowing pumpkin head high in the air, he passed Charlie and his brother with wicked grace as they watched with frightful delight.

But something was wrong.

“Michael, look towards the castle,” said Charlie.

The younger brother’s face turned from a smile to confusion and fear as he glanced towards the hub.

Some thirty feet behind the headless horseman the shadow of another horse and rider had split off from the elongated shadow cast by its predecessors. At first glance, the mysterious shadow appeared to be nothing but that of the headless horseman and his steed. But upon second glance, Charlie noticed the shadow was strangely independent of the cast members, and…had broken free. It moved along the parade route, silently stealth-like—pulling the color out of everything in its wake, like the protective film coating on a newly purchased cell phone screen. People, buildings, even the landscaping, was being transformed into muted grey tones.

Instantly, Charlie’s mind flashed back to the dream he had had before their vacation.

“It’s like what happened in my dream.”

“What dream, Charlie?” asked Michael, confused by his brother’s comment.

“The dream I had before we came here on vacation,” replied Charlie. “It…it’s just like what Samantha saw in my dream. Everything is turning grey.”

“Yes, I can see that everything is turning grey,” said Michael, “but what does it mean? You’re not making any sense, and who’s Samantha?”

“It must be a sign. Yes, that’s it,” said Charlie. Michael…run!”


“Evil has found us. Run!” Charlie shouted, as he tugged his brother by the arm, taking off in a mad dash towards the park entrance.

Michael, tugged back after just a few quick steps—trying to make sense of his brother’s odd behavior. “Wait, Charlie. What about Mom and Dad? We can’t just leave them behind.”

“No time, Michael. Mom and Dad will be fine. Trust me.”

Charlie tugged on his brother’s arm even harder.

Michael’s feet gave way, as he was no match for his big brother’s strength.

“Hurry up, before the wave of grey reaches us!”

Michael, giving in to his brother, jerked his arm free, then looked back one last time at their parents. Shaking his head, he turned and said to his brother,“OK, let’s get out of here.”

The boys took off in a full sprint down Main Street U.S.A., trying to stay ahead of the wicked shadow, which was quickly gaining ground.

Don’t look back, Charlie, it’s only going to slow you down,” said Michael, “Try and keep up with the headless guy on the horse.”

Guests lining the street stared and pondered how parents could be so irresponsible as to let their children run wild during the parade.

Cast members in charge of maintaining the boundaries of the parade route, scurried and scrambled as they attempted to catch the two misbehaving boys running down the center of the street—ruining the experience for other guests.

“Hey, you kids, get back here,” one cast member yelled, as she swooped in from the west side walkway, failing to grab hold of either boy.

Two more cast members—one from each side of the road, charged the boys as they sprinted past the Main Street Bakery.

The young, blond man with glasses on the east side of the road was tall and lanky. Dashing towards Charlie he shouted, “I got the big one in front, Joe. You grab the little one.”

Joe, also young, was a heavier set fellow with brown curly hair, and was moving a little slower. “I’m on it, Chad,” he said, awkwardly sprinting towards Michael. “Come here, kid,” he shouted, fully extending out into a dive.

Little did the cast member know, Michael was smaller, yet swift and very athletic. In one split second, he side stepped his attacker, who grabbed nothing but air and a chin-full of Main Street pavement.

Chad dove next—latching onto Charlie’s lower left leg with both hands. “I got you, kid. You’re in big trouble now. Wait till we find your parents.”

“Oh, this can’t be happening,” said Charlie, struggling to break free. His mind was fearful of what might happen if the shadow were to catch him. More so even, then having to deal with the cast member attached to his leg, or his parents.

Michael closed in rapidly from behind—using Chad’s back and shoulders as a springboard, he leaped high into the air.

The cast member’s grip was broken from Charlie’s leg, who now found himself trailing his brother. The older boy took off, once again, in a full sprint towards the park exit.

As the boys approached Town Square, the chosen outsider took one last glance over his shoulder, only to be petrified by what he saw.

The shadow horseman and his steed, exploded forward towards the boys. Their silhouette became a blurred, smokey mass—blending into the surrounding area, as it leaped over the two failed cast members laying helplessly in the street. Instantly, they were turned to ash and floated away.

Guests consumed by the shadow horseman’s wave of grey had done the same, as did the buildings of Main Street U.S.A. and Cinderella’s castle. The Halloween music heard throughout the park suddenly went silent. The mysterious rider had left nothing behind but a blue-moon sky of grey ash and barren land, filled with dead, twisted trees.

As the rider closed in on Charlie and his brother, the piercing blue eyes of his steed emerged from within the dark, blurry mass.

Charlie yelled out, “Michael, help!”

Michael slid into a sudden stop. Reversing directions, he sprinted back to his brother.

Diving in desperation, he reached out in an attempt to grab hold of Charlie, ensuring they stayed together no matter what came next.

The smokey mass shot through the boy’s bodies—both fell to the ground, leaving them with a sensation of cold emptiness.

Everything remaining evaporated into ash-like nothingness, including guests, Town Square, the train station, even the headless horseman leading the parade.

Charlie and Michael remained on the ground, weakened by the shadow horseman’s attack. Their hope to escape the evil rider had been erased in an instant.


“Good golly,” said Ben, “it looks like we’re too late.”

“I told you we should have stuck closer to those kids,” said Oteza, concealed as a pencil in Ben’s shirt pocket.

“They are in his world now. No doubting that,” added Midnight, who’s face was literally the face of the playful wrist watch Ben was wearing.

“Great, so what do we do now?” asked Oteza.

“I think it’s time we call on the knights,” said Ben, in serious tone.

“The Knights of the White Horses?” Midnight said. “I say, that is a noble idea.”

“Indeed it is,” said Ben. “Come, let’s go see if we can stir up a little help for those two young lads.”


Colors were muted, borderline gray. The air, still and cool. Slowly, the ash-filled haze cleared. Charlie and Michael found themselves animated and sitting on a dirt road, which just a moment ago, had been paved and filled with the energy of the Boo-To-You Parade.

The moon hung high above a creepy, cartoon rendition of the Magic Kingdom, marking the midnight hour. It’s silvery, blue glow, cutting through a cluster of clouds shaped like a pair of hands trying to squeeze out the light.

Charlie stared into the animated sky. The moon and cloud formations seemed eerily familiar. Like he had seen something similar before. Then it struck him. Ichabod Crane. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, that’s it, he thought to himself. It was an older Disney animated movie Charlie and his family watched every Halloween season to set the mood.

The young boy turned to his brother, also bewildered by the moonlit sky, and said, “Looks like we’ve been pulled into some kind of nightmarish slice of Deep WONDER. What? What is it, Michael?”

“The moon. Those clouds. They…look familiar.”

“You see it too?”

“Yeah, why does it feel like I have seen them before?”

“It’s from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow cartoon, Michael.” Remember? The movie Mom and Dad turn on to kickoff Halloween each year.”

“You’re right. So…what does it mean?”

A burst of blood curdling laughter erupted behind them.

Charlie and Michael snapped their heads around.

“It means you are in my world now,” a deep, echoed voice called from beyond the dim, smokey light.

The moonlight cut through the darkness, showcasing the source of the voice. Standing before them was a tall, dark silhouette of the shadow horseman upon his wicked steed. The horse’s blue eyes were filled with intensity, piercing the muted surroundings as smokey breath shot through its flared nostrils.

Slowly, the surroundings were poured over by a haunting indigo hue, setting the mood for an unpleasant experience.

Nerves shattered and hopes dashed, the young boys turned and ran for their lives—

hot air bursting from their mouths, they sprinted down a desolate Main Street U.S.A., trying to flee the inevitable evil behind them.

Pulling on the reigns, the shadow horseman let out another burst of wicked laughter, as his horse raised its front legs high into the air and whinnied.

The dark rider and his evil steed took off in a full-out gallop, leaving a trail of dust, as they barreled down the haunted version of Main Street U.S.A. In some ways, it bared faint resemblance to the Queen’s work in progress he had seen earlier that day, where they had met. Tromping along, the horseman and his mare closed the gap on their target.

Prisoners of their own frightful thoughts, Charlie and his brother continued running, looking back, running, and looking back—as fast as their numb legs could carry them through the twisted, shadowy mix of Deep WONDER, conjured up, and controlled by the dark rider.


Dashing through the castle, Ben made his way to the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. He snuck past the cast member tending to the entryway, and leaped onto the ride. With stealth-like moves, the short, red-headed man bobbed and weaved between the elaborate horses and their riders—finding his way to the mirrored hub of the illuminated attraction.

“No one’s looking,” said Oteza, “go ahead, Ben. Now’s your chance.”

The wee Irishman opened the door and began to step through, as Midnight said the magic words, “Knights of white horses, let thy be found.”

Just as Ben’s lead foot came down beyond the entry point, he instantly vanished.

The door quietly closed.

Nobody noticed, as the carrousel continued to rotate—the horses, moving up and down to the joyful music flooding the attraction.


The rider’s horse leaped high into the air, neighing fiercely as it descended upon its victims.

Michael grabbed on tightly to his brother’s arm—tugging hard, he cut sharply to the left. The horse came down with a loud CLUMP, where seconds ago, the boys had stood.

The horseman reached for his sword with his left hand, still holding the horse’s reigns with his right. Drawing his weapon, he leaned forward, slashing wildly, in an attempt to cut the boys down.

But Michael’s athletic moves proved effective.

The mad horseman screamed out in frustration, as he overshot his target. Tugging hard on the left reign, the rider and his horse abruptly changed direction—spinning around a hub filled with gravestones and dead shrubbery. Quickly gathering momentum, they closed on the boys, who were headed towards an old, rickety bridge which, in the normal world, was well kept and led into Liberty Square.

“I didn’t see the Partner Statue back there, Charlie?” said Michael, running just ahead of his brother.

“It’s gone, Michael. All of it,” said Charlie.

Michael stopped in his tracks. Turning back to his brother, he intended to inject sarcasm into the conversation. But his thoughts immediately changed to fear, as he pointed and said, “Charlie…loo…look behind you.”

The older brother turned, only to be shocked by what he saw.

As the rider rushed towards them, a horizontal funnel cloud followed behind—and from it, emerged an army of distorted shadows resembling colonial soldiers on horses who had long since been laid to rest. The horseman’s army moved quickly—as shadows would, along the ground, the facades of buildings, trees, and anything else a shadow could be cast upon.

With the horseman and his soldiers quickly closing in, Charlie yelled, “Keep running Michael, we need to get across the bridge.”


Everything had changed. Ben and his two companions were in a much different place. A place of WONDER. It was daytime, the setting, perfect. Before them stood a peaceful village, surrounded by a forest filled with playful animals such as deer, rabbits and squirrels. The lush trees, tall grass, and colorful flowers, rhythmically swayed in the gentle summer breeze. Rays of golden sunlight, shining brightly upon Ben’s back, reflected majestically on every surface it touched, as sounds of the locals filled the air.

“Looks like we’ve found the right place,” said Midnight, as he leaped off Ben’s wrist, transforming from a watch, back into a cat.

“I believe you are right, Mr. Kitty,” said Oteza. “Ben, if you would please, I’m getting a little tired of the pencil thing.”

“Oh, right, heh-heh,” said Ben. He pulled the pencil from his shirt pocket.

SHHOOP! Oteza instantly changed back into a walking stick. “Ahh, much better,” she said, resting in Ben’s left hand.

The three Patrons looked around.

“There it is. I’m sure we’ll find ‘em in there,” said Ben, pointing.

“And why is that?” asked Oteza, not confident in Ben’s choice.

“Because, Missy, that is where knights hang out,” replied Ben, in confident tone.

“A watering hole? In the middle of the day?” said Oteza.

Midnight stood silent. Not wanting any part of the conversation.

“I suppose you have a better place we should look, Missy?”

“Call me Missy one more time and I’ll—”

Just then, three knights stumbled out of the pub. Climbing onto their majestic white horses, they slowly began to ride away.

As the three valiant riders awkwardly passed by, Midnight blurted out, “Good afternoon gentleman. Uh, sirs…I mean, knights…whatever. My friends and I have come seeking your help.”

The knights pulled the resigns of their noble steeds and turned to look down upon the large black cat, his curly red-headed friend, and a walking stick with and ostrich head, for which the knights thought to be very odd and out of place.

“What was that you say?” said one of the knights. His silver armor glistening in the sun.

“We, Patron members and keepers of WONDER, have come seeking your help,” the cat said.

The three knights turned to each other and shared an intoxicated laugh.

“Oh! Ho-ho-hee-hee-hee-ha! You uh…you three, are here to ask for our help?—HICUP,” said the foremost knight with black hair, mustache and beard.

Again, the knights laughed.

Ben giggled along politely, but Oteza was not having it.

“THAT. IS. ENOUGH,” the ostrich stick said with serious tone.

Instantly, the knights went silent.

“We are here out of necessity to help our two young friends, Charlie and Michael. They have been pulled into a VERY dark place by the shadow horseman. Without our help, and yours, I’m afraid they may never make it back.”

The noblemen bowed their heads in shame, as the one with long blond hair and a chiseled, scruffy jawline spoke out. “Sorry, me lady. We…we didn’t know. My name is Sir Ludington. Who was it again, you said is in need of rescue?”

Ben cleared his throat, then said, “The chosen outsider—Charlie, and his younger brother Michael.”

“The chosen outsider, you say?” said Sir Ludington. Impressed by Ben’s comment, he turned to give his fellow knights a look of understanding, then returned his attention to Ben and the others. “Well, in that case, there is but one thing we must do.”

“And what is that?” asked Midnight.

“Gentlemen, and, Madame?” said Sir Ludingtion, unsure how to address the walking stick.

“You can call me Oteza.”

“Glad to make your acquaintance, Oteza,” said Sir Ludington. “The gentleman with dark hair to my left is Sir Traverse, and the curly, red headed fellow to my right is Sir Pentwater.”

Both knights politely nodded upon their introduction.

“People call me Ben. I guess you could say I like to—”

“We generally don’t take him too seriously, but he has a big heart and will do anything for his friends,” Midnight rudely interrupted.

“Now, just a minute their fluffy, since when do you think you’re better than me?” said a red-faced Ben.

Sir Ludington jumped in to shorten the argument, by asking, “And what is your name? I have to say, it’s not often we see a talking cat in this part of WONDER.”

Ben, distracted by the knight’s comment, quickly forgot what he was saying.

“I am Midnight, Frank Wellington’s ‘WONDER cat’, as he likes to call me.”

“By Jove, Frank Wellington, you say,” said Sir Ludington. “Why it’s been ages since we sat down to break bread and share a toast together. How is old Frank? Doing well and in good health, I hope?”

“Yes, Frank is doing quite well,” Midnight replied.

“I guess you could say he was doing well, Ben interrupted, but—”

Losing her patience, Oteza jumped in. “But, there is no time for that now, Sir Ludington. Right now, as in this minute, we need to concern ourselves with rescuing the boys.”

“Sorry, you are right, Oteza,” said Midnight. “Sir Ludington, you were saying there is but one thing to do?”

“Oh…yes, of course,” the knight replied. “We must gather the knights and ride out to save your two young friends.”

© 2024 Charles E. Zitta. Charles E. Zitta and Disney and the Wonder Within blog novels are in no way part of,  endorsed or authorized by, or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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