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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 2 - Confirmation)

Updated: Jan 18



The shuttle boat motored slowly along the calm waters of Crescent Lake. Sunshine pierced the captain’s window, defused throughout the seating area.

Charlie and Frank were seated in the back row, their eyes shielded with sunglasses to hide their identities, as well as a baseball cap for Charlie and a large, curl-tipped mustache for Frank.

Hollywood Studios lay ahead. Only one more stop and a short trip down the narrow waterway before they arrived at their destination.

“But my dream, it seemed so…real,” said Charlie. “As if…I were right there…there on the carrousel. Watching it happen.”

“Uh huh,” replied Frank, his left brow raised and curiosity peeked.

“It was fall time in my dream. Late October, just like it is now.”

Charlie looked port side, admired the calming wake of the boat, then turned back towards his friend.

“What do you think? You think I’m crazy, right? I can see it in your eyes.”

The old man looked at Charlie with a gleam in his eyes, stroking his fake mustache for amusement.

“Tell me more about this…dream,” replied Frank, checking to assure other passengers were not listening.

“Well, the little girl and her parents were riding the carrousel—”

“The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, I presume?”

“Yes, the one at Disney World behind Cinderella’s Castle.”

“Go on,” replied Frank.

“Everything was normal,” said Charlie, “then, suddenly…things weren’t normal.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning, a large shadow swept in over the castle, blanketing ALL of Fantasyland. It turned everything…every, single, thing, gray.”

“Everything?” said Frank.

“Yeah, everything: the people, attractions, balloons, the food, the sky, the ground… everything. Only the girl and the horse she was riding remained in color.”

“What about, you?”

“What about, me?”

Frank peered over the top of the sunglasses resting upon his nose, patiently waiting for his young friend to mentally catch up.

Charlie, caught off guard by Frank’s comment, said, “Oh. Yeah, huh-huh. Right. Actually…I’m not even sure I was there?”

The old man’s face was cloaked with confusion.

“It’s like I could see everything…but I wasn’t there.” Charlie paused, searching for the right words. “Kind of like…like watching a movie.”

“What happened next?” asked Frank, still stroking his ridiculously long, fake mustache—which thoroughly amused his inner child.

Charlie, now officially a teenager, shook his head in embarrassment, fingers crossed, he hoped nobody else was watching. He continued. “As I said, everything turned gray…”

“Except the girl and her horse. Yes—go on.”

“Right. Anyway, these five shadow figures on enormous black horses, very intimidating horses, slowly came riding out of the fog. They were led by this…ghost lady, dressed in white. She was riding some kind of dragon-horse thing with purple eyes and big claws with bright green flames permeating from its mouth as it breathed.”

“The old man gazed out to his right towards the horizon, then said, This lady…could you…could you see her face? Would you recognize her if you saw her again?” Frank’s eyes focused with great interest, searching for a helpful answer from the boy.

“Not really…all I could see was…was long white hair, swirling around her head. In a weird, slow motion, kind-of-way. It was pretty creepy.”

Frank rubbed his chin. He looked upwards, then back at the boy. “So, what were you able to see? Did they bare any weapons, showcase magical powers, or ever speak?" The old man was searching for something.

“No, nothing like that. But, they did charge the carrousel,” said Charlie. “And…and they left a trail behind them, while galloping along.”

“A trail? A trail of what, exactly?”

“A smokey…mist-like, twisted trail—like a horizontal funnel cloud, made up of nasty looking, ghost-like creatures, with sharp teeth and giant claws.”

Frank squinted in thought. “Interesting.”

“And they all had glowing green eyes.”

“A dreadful sight for such a young girl. She must have been frozen stiff,” said Frank, still, deep in thought.

The boy continued, “Yes, and that’s not all.”

Frank’s eyes expanded. “No?”

“No. In my dream, the carrousel continued to rotate, putting the girl’s back to the inevitable evil headed directly towards her. She couldn’t see a thing and became extremely scared.”

“How dreadful,” Frank reacted, staring intently at the boy.

“There’s more. The carrousel passed around one last time, and Samantha, I think that was her name? Was staring straight into the end of her existence. She turned her head away. The six ghost riders leaped high into the air—descending upon the carrousel, ready to end ALL happiness the carrousel had spread amongst its passengers. But then…then…”

The boy lost his words. He stared with blank expression towards the waterway bank.

Frank removed his sunglasses, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder, he encouraged him to continue, “What? What is it, Charlie?”

“There was—”

“Was what, Charlie?”

“There was this giant BLAST of rainbow colors. It…it shot out from the center of the carrousel, pushing the evil riders backwards, while at the same time, erasing them from existence.”

“So the ghost lady and her five dark horseman were gone?” The little girl, Samantha, and her parents were OK?” Asked Frank.

“OK, and all back in full color. In fact, everything had returned to full color; the people, the attractions, the food, the balloons…everything,” replied Charlie.

“Hmmmm,” said Frank. “You said this ‘BLAST’ of color…it came from the hub of the carrousel?”

“Yes,” replied Charlie.

“And Samantha, did she…tell her parents what she had experienced?”

“Not a word,” said Charlie. “I think she was too terrified to say anything.”

The boat slowly continued down the waterway, as if it were never ending.

Frank remained quiet for nearly a minute, staring at the gentle wake of the boat. Deciphering the young boy’s dream. Finally, he turned, the earpiece of his sunglasses in his mouth. Raising his right arm, he motioned upwards with his index finger, quietly proclaiming, “I’ve got it, Charlie.” The wise Imagineer had an answer. It made sense.


******

The shuttle boat was docked.

Frank and Charlie’s family had made it into Hollywood Studios—wandering for nearly fifteen minutes on Hollywood Boulevard, they eventually turned right, then headed down Sunset Boulevard.

All along, Charlie’s parents thought Frank to be nothing more than a private guide—a cast member who was taking them for a unique Disney experience they had randomly been chosen for while walking through the lobby of their resort. It was a total fabrication. A ruse. But, being they were at the most magical place on earth, Ed and Susan Zastawits believed every bit of the old gentleman’s story.

For an additional ten minutes they strolled leisurely behind Charlie’s parents, before Frank placed them under a memory knot: a mind blocking spell, of which, its recipients would have no recollection of what happened over the duration of the spell.

Soon after, they reached the Tower of Terror, where, at his father’s request, Charlie’s parents and brother decided to give the big thrill ride a go. Charlie, at Frank’s suggestion, passed. Michael and his parents darted off to the ride queue, leaving behind the chosen outsider and Frank. They would be gone no less than ninety minutes. Perfect.

Charlie and his friend eagerly grabbed a nearby bench, where they could continue their discussion privately—without any prying ears to interrupt.

Frank lowered his sunglasses upon his nose, giving the boy a look of deep thought. There was a moment of silence. Then he said, “There were five dark horseman?”

“Yes, what about them?” the boy asked.

“There are five Dark Thorns. All of whom, as you know, control a segment of Walt Disney World.”

Charlie removed his sun glasses, pausing in thought, then returned his glance to Frank and replied, “Yes, that makes sense.”

“And the ghostly lady in white, whom the little girl could not identify—”

“The lady with the long white hair?, Charlie interrupted, “swirling around her face, and riding a horse-like creature with a dragon’s head?”

“That’s the one,” said Frank. “I have to presume this is the shifty leader of FOTO, the Forest of Thorns Order, whom we have been trying to identify for quite some time.”

The teenage boy’s eyes lit up. Something clicked inside his brain. Frank’s words brought everything to light.

“Of course, that’s it. The illusive one. The one you briefly mentioned before. Leader of the entire Thorn army: Dark Thorns, captains, and all the Thorn spies and soldiers beneath them.”

Wearing a grin, Frank placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Exactly, my boy.”

“What about the other things in my dream?” Charlie asked, “you know, like the wave of darkness that swept in over the castle and turned everything gray, the smokey trail of ghastly creatures…or the color burst that shot out of the carrousel? What about that?”

The old man pushed his sunglasses back into position, tilted his head upwards, then stared towards a wisp of cloud, slowly drifting across the sunlit sky. The cloud’s shape slightly resembled the Partners statue in an abstract, torn-cotton, kind of way.

“My guess,” said Frank, still staring at the cloud formation, “the wave of darkness represents what will happen to the parks if FOTO gains control of the Magic Dream Expander, and ultimately, WONDER.”

Charlie’s face donned an expression of concern. “Oh…and the smokey trail of creatures?”

“Most likely, the evil FOTO is attempting to spread throughout WONDER.”

The boys eyes grew large as saucers, his mouth agape.

“I hate to ask, but…what about the color burst that shot out from the carrousel?”

Frank smiled into the sunshine, warming his time-worn face. “Yes, there is that, isn’t there. I believe it represents a ray of hope, my boy.” Turning his attention back to Charlie, the Imagineer continued, “and you…your mind, young man, is somehow…how should I say this?, connected to it.”

“My mind is connected to what?, said Charlie.

“To the magic.”

“The magic of what?” asked the boy.

“Of WONDER,” said Frank.

“The magic of WONDER?”

“Yes, Charlie. I believe, in some sort of, unexplainable way, your mind—as crazy as it may seem, has formed a bridge…a magical, subconscious bridge, between WONDER and reality,” said Frank.

“That’s crazy,” said Charlie, shaking his head. “I mean, I don’t have any special powers or connections with WONDER…at least I haven’t noticed anything? Have…have you?”

Frank stared up towards the sky once more. This time, a cloud in the shape of a lion drifted by, its reflection, dancing across the old man’s sunglasses.

“Look in the drawer, Charlie.”

The boy crinkled up his nose and said, “What drawer?”

“The one in the table sitting next to you,” said Frank, still staring into the sky, void of expression.

“Next to me, where? We’re on a bench…in Hollywood Studios,” said Charlie, thinking his friend had lost his marbles.

“Did you even look to see if there was a table next to you?” Frank asked.

“No,” replied the boy, unwilling to check.

“I would look if I were you,” said Frank.

Charlie rolled his eyes, then reluctantly peeked over his left shoulder.

“What the—”

“I told you, Charlie. Now do you believe me?” said the old Patron.

To the boy’s surprise, a small, white end table with gold feet sat next to the bench where he was seated. Intricately detailed with golden floral patterns, colorful gems, and noble steeds. The handsome horses were set within a border of ivy, which ran from one corner of the table to the next. Each was carved in a graceful galloping position, and wore armor—including a shield, where the crest and shoulder meet. Upon each shield was a mighty lion, standing on its hind legs; a noble pose indeed.

Charlie, slack jawed, continued to study the mysterious table.

That table wasn’t there a minute ago…I know it.

“Well, go ahead, boy, open the drawer,” said Frank.

Charlie spun his head to Frank, then back to the table, then back to Frank, then to the table again.

“Go on,” said Frank. The wise Patron pushed his sunglasses atop his head, encouraging the boy with a large, kind stare.

Charlie turned while seated on the bench, reached across with his right hand, and grasped onto the gold lion’s-head knob. He gently pulled open the drawer.

The inside was lined in purple velvet. Centered within the drawer was a small, white jewel case.

The boy paused, looking back to his friend for direction.

“What did you find? Show me.”

Charlie reached down and removed the jewel case from the drawer—which magically closed. He presented the mysterious case to Frank in the open palm of his hand.

“Well, go ahead Charlie, open it up,” said Frank, looking like he knew what was inside. Which, he did.

The boy opened the case. A brilliant burst of golden light radiated out from its center.

Charlie and Frank immediately lowered their sunglasses, shielding their eyes.

The chosen outsider reached in, feeling his way with his fingers, he removed the contents from the case. The light receded, exposing a golden ring. In its center was a deep red oval. Within the oval stood a mighty lion, ready for action. The same lion, in fact, as appeared on the shield of each horse carved into the white table.

“It’s a symbol of courage and hope, Charlie,” said Frank, after removing his glasses. “Go ahead, try it on.”

Charlie slipped it over his right hand ring finger, but noticed it was two sizes too large.

“It…it’s a little big for me,” the boy said in disappointment.

“Really? That’s surprising,” said Frank.

The ring shrunk to fit snugly around the boy’s finger.

“What…hey…now it fits!” said Charlie, starring with surprised expression at the ring.

“Did you expect anything less from an Object of Magic, my boy?”

Charlie turned towards Frank, “No, I guess not?”

“Of course you didn’t. Now, put it back in the box. Keep it in a safe place until you arrive.”

“Until I arrive?” said Charlie, clearly confused by Frank’s words.

“That is correct, lad.”

“But…I’m already here.”

“Are you?”

The loud roar of the neighbors lawnmower startled the boy awake.

Charlie sat up. Confused. Drowsy. His eyes, unable to focus.

He scratched his head, rubbed his eyes with both hands, then threw back the covers.

“That was interesting,” Charlie mumbled to himself.

He glanced over his left shoulder, just like in the dream.

I doubt it. What a silly thought…well, maybe? He thought to himself.

Charlie reached down, pulling open his bedside table drawer.

His eyes went large, adrenaline rushed through his veins, his mind, filled with wonder.

Sitting in the drawer was a white case. The same white case from his dream.

He reached into the drawer, picked up the case, then…opened it.

A brilliant gold light burst into the closed-blind room, filling it with a radiant, warm glow.

Charlie shielded his eyes, turning his head away.

Fighting off the light, he blindly reached in with his right hand, retrieving what he thought to be, the ring from his dream.

The bright light receded, leaving behind a dimly lit room and confirmation his dreams had formed a connection between WONDER and reality, as Frank had stated. The Lion Crest Ring.



© 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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