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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 6 - Moving Time)

Updated: Mar 11

In the most ordinary of places, Frank and five other members of the Patron council quietly waited to enter the Walt Disney’s Carrousel of Progress.

The colorfully designed outer perimeter of the showroom was in motion, rotating counter-clockwise. One doorway passed…then another…then finally, the third stopped before Frank and the others.

The cast member tending the chains approached from the right, unhooking and removing the barrier. Julie smiled at the six distinguished Patron members, who she recognized immediately. “Good to see you back for a visit, Mr. Wellington. I see you brought friends this time.”

Frank returned the young cast members smile. “Yes, uhh…Julie, nice to see you again as well,” he said, squinting to read her name tag.

Julie motioned with her right hand, “Please, won’t you come in and enjoy the show.”

Frank and the others nodded and grinned to show their appreciation, as they passed the cast member, entering the showroom.

After the last Patron member had entered, Julie quickly turned and secured the chain back in place, just as a small group of guests approached.

Julie smiled, “Sorry ladies and gentlemen this is a private showing. Another showroom will be along in just a minute. I promise.”

A middle aged father turned to his wife and two young children, then said, “Looks like it’s going to be a minute or two.”

“No worries, we have all day to explore, right kids?” his wife replied.

The children nodded in agreement, as the people behind them chuckled—all appreciating the fact they were in Disney World.


Frank, Alfred, Clara, Henry, Gloria and Chester walked to the front of the curved showroom and sat down. Gloria and Clara sat together, chatting away about days gone by. Same was true amongst the men, who reminisced about a time when Walt was still walking the grounds in Disneyland, and the animation studio halls

They all knew what was to come next, something quite different from the normal attraction experience. The lights dimmed, and yes, the spotlights came up. But, that’s where things changed. Instead of the usual narration describing a brief history of Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, a different narration began—the logo centered amongst the stage curtain morphed into a magical window, from which appeared an overly large and distorted image. It was a middle-aged man, sporting a mustache, red tie and green smoking jacket.

“Hello John,” said Frank.

“Hi there, Frank,” replied John. “So glad to see you again. Say, have you heard about the progress we’re making in America these days, why—”

“Please, not now, John,” said Alfred.

“Sorry, John,” added Clara, her kind eyes and facial expression warming the heart of a good friend. “We have a more important topic to discuss. Would you be so kind as to let us in?”

“Oh, why…yes. Give me just a moment, and I’ll have you in here lickity-split,” replied John.

The magic window returned to its natural, solid state. There was a short series of clicks, a clunk…then a giant THUNK. The large Walt Disney’s Carrousel of Progress logo began to turn counter clockwise, initiating a larger series of clicks and clanks. Following one complete rotation, there was another larger THUNK, then…slowly, the logo sign and curtains rose, while the stage began to part at its center—creating a gap just wide enough for the six occupied seats to fit through.

There was a single click, the sound of a motor below began to hum. The six front row seats started to move forward, passing through the stage opening. Frank and his friends looked around in amusement.

“I always enjoy moments like this,” said Gloria, looking from side to side with a smile.

“It is fun to look at, isn’t it,” replied Henry, who was also admiring the handy work of their fellow Imagineers.

The occupied seats completed their entry into the hidden core of the attraction, the curtains lowered, and the stage returned to its unified position.

Frank Wellington and the others remained seated. The six seats spread apart, each rotating slowly to face the center of the circular room as they continued to move farther towards the outer perimeter wall. Simultaneously, each chair locked into place. The center of the floor opened, leaving a large gaping hole, twelve feet in diameter.

There was another unusual sound of a motors humming—this time, coming from beneath the floor. The Magic Dream Expander slowly rose upwards until the hole in the floor had been seamlessly filled with another section of flooring. There was a loud CLUNK, the flooring locked into place.

A highly advanced animatronic version of John, the father figure who hosts the Carousel of Progress attraction, entered the room through a hidden doorway and approached the Magic Dream Expander.

“So,” said John, addressing the whole group, “what did you come here to tell me today?”

Frank cautiously looked around the room and said, “You’re sure nobody else can hear us?”

“Why, if they can, I’ll buy you a root beer,” said John.

Frank and the others rose from their seats and circled around John. It was quite a unique collection of eccentric individuals, all effective Patrons in their own right.

While Frank commanded attention with his long, wavy, grey hair, colorful shirts, and bright personality to match, the other five Patrons had equally unusual characteristics.

Alfred Jinx was a hands-on, old school, guy. Always dirty, always grumpy, but always quick to lend a hand for a good cause.

Gloria Windsfield had an air of pristine, as one would expect for a lady of her maturity and upbringing. Her English accent and conservative wardrobe made it appear as though she had just walked out of a Mary Poppins book. Though everyone knew that was not true, for in fact, she was a big admirer of Frontierland and enjoyed dealing with trouble in good old western fashion.

Henry Hipkins was a thin, clean shaven, elderly gentleman with metal-rimmed glasses, and slicked back hair, who liked to where cardigan sweaters and carry a sketch pad and pencil wherever he went. He claimed it was so no idea could escape his mind, though really, there was much more to his sketch pad than appeared.

Clara Pimms was a Midwestern girl who turned her dream of working for Disney into reality when she proved to a team of Imagineers that women are equally creative as men, by diagramming a mass transit system for Epcot during its development stages. And though her concept was never used, from then on, her ideas were well respected—even by Alfred. Many times, the two were teamed together for projects, in fact, Clara had worked so much with Alfred through the years, that she even adopted his interesting sense of non fashion. To them, work was the focus.

Finally, there was Chester Studwick. Stunning in appearance for such an elderly gentleman, his well-trimmed beard, sculpted anatomy, and Scottish accent made it hard to see him for what he really was. An animatronic genius, and creator of their host, John. Chester’s contributions to WONDER were nothing short of magical.

“We are here to move the magic dream expander,” said Alfred.

“Move it? To where? But…but why?” said John.

“The FOTO army is tightening its grip, their shadows are growing in number and size,” said Frank.

“Yes,” added Gloria. “You see, John, for years we were able to keep WONDER safe, hidden away from the dark powers that be.”

“However,” said Chester, “over the past few years, and even more so recently, the Dark Thorns and their faithful army have found ways to expand the reach of the shadows they create throughout WONDER. Even develop them to the point where they can now bring shadow villains into the real world, like last year, when Bella Bark tried to strike down the Watch of Wonder.”

“But she was eliminated, correct?” replied John.

“As far as we know,” said Henry, “but this, in no way, has slowed down FOTO’s ever-increasing presence within, and now beyond, the boundaries of WONDER.”

“It became clear to us that this was a serious problem, just over two years ago, when Charlie, our chosen outsider, was here pursuing the first of five Kingdom Crystals.”

“Like when he and his brother, Michael, had to fight off those pesky King Cobra’s on the Jungle Cruise attraction,” added John.

“Precisely,” said Frank.

“Or last year, when the boys were unexpectedly pulled into WONDER through the waterfall on Pirates of the Caribbean, or sucked down a whirlpool and dropped into a shadow realm, when riding WONDER’s Western River Expedition attraction?” said John.

“Unfortunately,” said Frank, “ all these events lead back to FOTO.”

“And they continue to grow in numbers with each passing day,” added Alfred.

“Alfred is right, John, these unexpected occurrences are only going to increase as FOTO continues to create new, and even more dangerous, shadows throughout the World of Natural Dream Enhanced Realities, and now…reality as well.”

“Which means,” said Chester, “more shadow villains will be released wherever Dark Thorns choose, and Thorns, led by their captains, will roam about freely, wreaking havoc and creating chaos amongst innocent guests—until finally, evil has consumed all good we have created.”

“What’s more, the Dark Thorns and their leader have found a way to tap into the minds of those who have consumed our micro dream particles—utilizing what they discover for evil intentions,” said Alfred.

“This…we can not allow to develop any further,” said Gloria.

“I see,” said John.

“There next move,” said Frank, pointing at the Magic Dream Expander, “will be to come for that.”

“Now I understand your reason for being here,” said John.

“Yes John. We must protect the magic of WONDER, all that is within it, and all which surrounds it,” said Frank.

“Which means, now, more than ever, we must move this magical machine, said Clara.”

“Yeah, before those no good thorny bushes get their dirty rotten hands on it,” added Alfred.

“What do you need me to do, Chester?” asked John.

“I have programmed your internal circuitry well,” said Chester. Your duty is simple, John. Tell nobody what you witnessed here today.”

“If someone comes here asking questions,” said Gloria, “you know nothing. Understood, John?”

The magically advanced animatronic nodded.

“Good. It appears he understands,” said Chester. “So what’s next on the list?”

“We discuss where to move it,” said Clara.”

“I say we—”

“I already have it figured out,” interrupted Frank.

“Oh, you do, do ya,” Chester replied.

“Yes, in fact, I have given it deep thought for quite some time.”

“And what conclusion have you reached?” said Gloria.

“Yeah, tell us where this ideal hiding place is, I’m sure I can think of something better if you give me a minute or two,” said Alfred in patronizing tone.

Frank put a finger to his lips, then pulled a folded map from his shirt pocket.

“What is that?” said Alfred.

“I know,” replied Gloria, “though I have not seen it in quite some time.”

“Well?” said Alfred.

“It’s the Magic Map of WONDER,” said Henry.

“What? What are you talking about?”

Frank unfolded the map and placed it on a nearby table, ignoring Alfred’s remark.

“Looks like an ordinary map to me,” said Alfred.

Frank smirked, then tilted his head back. The light charm dangling from his necklace illuminated, triggering a tiny electrical storm to envelope it. A burst of light shot out of the charm and into the map.

Everyone stood still in amazement, watching what happened next.

The map graphics separated from the paper, rising up and transforming into a holographic structure. Layers upon layers of neon-lit, geographic details filled the room. The three dimensional map was a representation of WONDER and its outer layer, the Magic Rim, which included all properties of Walt Disney World.

“It appears I was wrong about the map,” Alfred said apologetically.

“I guess so,” replied Gloria, rubbing it in at Alfred’s expense.

The grumpy Patron grunted at Gloria’s comment then said, “A person can’t know everything, you know.”

In response, she giggled.

“Here,” said Frank, using a laser tool to point towards a tiny, bright-yellow dot on the map, “is where we are.”

“How does the map know where we are?” asked Alfred.

“It doesn’t,” said Clara. “The bright dot you see tells us where the Magic Dream Expander is hidden.”

“And because it’s right here next to us, the dot marks our location as well,” said Alfred. "Yada-yada-yada, I get it. So now what?”

Chester looked at Frank, who gave his friend the “go ahead” to address Alfred. “I believe Frank is asking permission from us to move the Magic Dream Expander.”

“I see nobody better fit in this room to do it than Frank,” said Gloria.

“Nor do I,” said Henry.”

“Alright then,” said Chester, “everyone who agrees that Frank should be the one to move the machine, raise a hand.”

All but Alfred raised their hand, who stood with a scrunched up face while scratching his head.

The other five Patrons, and John, all stood silent, observing their stubborn friend.

“Alfred?” said Chester.

“Ohhh, alright. I guess since Frank was the one to redesign the Magic Dream Expander, he should be the one to move it. There, you happy now?”

Frank smirked, then closed in to give Alfred a big hug.

“Now-now, no need to get all mushy about it,” said Alfred. Just do what you gotta do, so we can keep that magic machine away from those filthy rotten Thorns and their no-good leaders.

Frank released his grip on his friend, then placed his hands on Alfred’s shoulders. Looking deep into his eyes, he said, “I will, my friend.”

“Everything is ready to go, sir,” said John, signaling Frank to enter the Magic Dream Expander.

“The colorfully dressed Patron walked back over to the table, picked up the map, folded it, then placed it in his shirt pocket as he walked towards the magnificent machine.

One of the pyramidal panels temporarily vanished, and a doorway magically appeared in the spherical, inner layer. Just as Frank was about to enter the machine, he stopped, turned and walked back to Alfred. He carefully pulled the map out of his pocket. Handing it to his friend, he said, “I can think of no one better to hold onto the map.”

Alfred gently took the map with both hands and looked up into Frank’s eyes. “Thank…thank you. I’ll be sure to take good care of it.”

Frank made a funny face. “Take care of it? Nonsense. I just want you to hold onto it so the others can see where I move the Magic Dream Expander.”

Everyone in the group cracked up, as they patted Alfred on the back.

Alfred shared in the laughter as well, though deep down inside, he felt a tremendous sense of pride, and…an incredible amount of respect for his good friend, Frank, who had just served him a big slice of humble pie.

Frank returned to the streamlined machine and entered through the two geometric shapes, then sat in the transparent, hovering chair.

The Patron had a few last words with John, before the animatronic exited the machine.

The other Patrons observed Frank’s actions through the two layers of clear, geometric shapes, as he typed in coordinates for the Magic Dream Expander’s new location on a holographic keyboard—barely visible from outside the machine.

Frank sat back in the chair, both doorways of the machine closed, giving the appearance of two seamless shapes, one encompassing the other.

The machine slowly rose several feet off the ground, the pyramidal, outer shell began to rotate horizontally, slow at first, then picking up speed.

Simultaneously, the inner, spherical layer began spinning in random directions.

The rate at which each layer moved increased substantially every few seconds.

All the while, Frank remained perfectly still in the core’s floating seat.

The faster each layer moved, the brighter they became.

Frank gradually faded into an active mass of white, yellow and chartreuse light.

Everyone in the room covered their ears as the Dream Expander began to hum, sizzle and buzz at such high pitch, it was almost unbearable.

Faster and faster.

Brighter and brighter.

Louder and LOUDER.

The Patrons all turned away from the machine, no longer able to look into the bright mass. Though John continued to watch with a smile. His animatronic eyes were much more tolerant to bright light than human eyes.


Zing-zing-zing-zing-zing-zing echoed through the room.

Alfred and the others turned. The space Frank and magical machine had occupied was now empty.

“Quick, the map,” said Gloria.

Alfred pulled the map out, opened it, and scrambled to place it on the table.

“But…I don’t have the light charm,” said Alfred, reaching around his neck in a panic.

“Wait, give it a second,” said Henry. “I don’t think Frank would have left us empty handed.”

“He’s right. Look,” said Clare, pointing at the map.

“The ink…it…it’s moving,” said Chester.

“Right,” said Henry. “It’s talking to us though geographic details.”

“I know where he is,” said Alfred.

“Yes, it’s the perfect hiding place for the Magic Dream Expander,” said Gloria. “They’ll never find it there.”

“Especially if they don’t have the map,” said Henry.

“Speaking of which,” said Clara—pointing to the map, “we need to hide that as well.”

“We can hide it in the Library of Dreams,” said Alfred. “It’ll be safe there for sure.”

“I believe you’re right, Alfred. The Dark Thorns and their twisted army have no idea where our library is,” said Clara.

“Even if they did know, I’ll have the map tucked away so well, they’ll never be able to find it,” said Alfred.

“As good a place as any,” said Henry.

“You’ll get no objection from me,” replied Gloria.

The five Patrons and animatronic John looked at each other and silently agreed.

“Consider it done,” said Alfred.

© 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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