Z is for Zebra

z is for zebra

© James Pyles

Daniel put the yo-yo back in his pocket as he reached the fenced pasture. The only horse he knew by name was Champion. The ten year old pulled up some grass from his side of the fence and coaxed the horse over. Of course the three others started moving toward him as well.

“Just came to say good-bye, old boy.” He patted the horse on the nose. “I mean, now that you’re just a horse again and everything.”

Suddenly, Champion and the other horses started acting spooked and moved away from him.

“What the…”

“It’s probably me, Daniel.”

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Y is for Yo-Yo

y is for yoyo

© James Pyles

Little Danny Harris had turned four years old a few months ago, but his Uncle Ethan and Aunt Abby couldn’t travel to California for the birthday party. So when his Mom and Dad took Danny to Dad’s Uncle’s farm in Idaho, the older couple doted on him.

“Here’s ya go, Danny. A brand new yo-yo.”

“Ethan,” the Dad interjected, don’t you think he’s a little young for a…”

“Excuse me, Uncle Ethan.” Both men were a surprised that the little boy interrupted. “My name is Daniel.”

“Sure it is, Danny”. Ethan tousled the child’s hair. “Sure it is.”

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X is for Xylophone

x is for xylophone

© James Pyles

Wichita Township wasn’t very big and it didn’t take Daniel long to find the main street. It was still raining, night was falling, and very few people (or whatever) were out. That was good, since he wasn’t anxious to attract attention, but he still needed to find some place to stay.

If the person who was supposed to meet him at the end of his train ride lived here, the ten year old had no idea how to find him, her, or it.

The shops looked quaint, the kind you’d expect to find in a small town in the late 19th century. There were clothing shops, taverns, inns, bakeries, and…and…a toy shop. Actually the letters painted on the display window said “Matty’s Toy Shoppe”. Unfortunately, the sign in the window said “Closed.”

Something compelled Daniel to look in the window anyway. Rag dolls, cloth puppets, marionettes on strings, a yo yo or two, toy drums, toy horns, there was even a small xylophone.

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W is for Whale

w is for whale

© James Pyles

Daniel was cold, shivering, vomiting seawater, but alive on the beach at the sea’s edge. It was still raining, but he was past being bothered by the continual wetness. Slowly, the retching ceased and he was able to catch his breath. Why was he alive?

“Glad to see you’re doing better, kiddo.”

The ten year old looked in the direction of the voice.

“Name’s Achilles. No heal jokes please. I don’t have any.”

It was a whale. He was blue with a white underbelly but not like any whale Daniel had ever seen or studied.

“Glad I found you down there. Didn’t think someone as famous as you would end up in my neighborhood.”

“I was drowning. You saved me?”

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V is for Violin

v is for violin

© James Pyles

The sound of the rain beating against the wooden planks of the pier made hearing the music almost impossible. Daniel limped closer to the couple, the male figure holding the umbrella over himself and the woman playing the violin.

What was that melody? It sounded so familiar and yet it seemed incomprehensible. The ten year old’s ears were ringing. They had been since he woke up after the attack, but he only realized it just now.

The Queen’s voice echoed in his head:

“The answer is within you. Just listen to the…”

“Listen to the what? The music?”

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U is for Umbrella

u is for umbrella

© James Pyles

After he opened his eyes, it took Daniel long seconds to remember what had happened to him. His head hurt. He ached all over. There was sand. Some reeds. What was on top of him?

Part of the passenger car, really, just a bunch of shattered boards and upholstery, but it formed a kind of shelter around him. Good thing none of the metal parts of the car landed on him.

When his thoughts were clearer, he started moving his fingers and toes, then slowly his arms and legs making sure everything still worked. Except for general aches and pains, he didn’t feel anything that said he had broken bones.

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T is for Train

t is for train

© James Pyles

“A train whistle.”

Daniel’s only experience hearing a train whistle, at least as far as he could remember, was from the third Back to the Future movie. Doc and Marty were trapped in 1885, and they had to steal an old steam locomotive to push the DeLorean up to eighty-eight miles per hour.

The ten year old peeked through the flock, he was near the front of it anyway and there it was.

“A real 19th century steam engine. An old fashioned train.”

It was sitting at a platform. No sign of a town or any other structures, but there were people waiting to board, if they were people at all.

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S is for Sheep

s is for sheep

© James Pyles

Daniel’s eyes widened with terror as the enormous bird of prey descended toward them with the speed of a hawk.

“This is going to be close, Daniel.”

He could feel the grip of her pinions tighten around him, securing the boy to her body, then she suddenly changed the angle of her descent, making an almost vertical dive for a group of trees at the edge of the plains. She twisted so she presented her belly rather than her back to the roc’s talons in a desperate effort to protect the ten year old.

He felt the shudder of an impact and heard Olivia cry out, and then Gerald was ascending.

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R is for Rabbit

r is for rabbit

© James Pyles

“The rabbits. But how?”

Daniel was staring at what looked like hundreds of rabbits, all standing on their hind legs, all with glowing red eyes and if possible, with facial expressions twisted into cruel hate.

“They have their ways in and out, Daniel. My guards use the doors only when visitors are present.”

For an instant, it seemed ridiculous to Daniel that a bunch of rabbits could threaten predators such as a lioness and an owl, but their size and sheer numbers made them a threat, and both the Queen and the owl made no move against them.

The ten year old turned to Olivia. “You knew”.

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Q is for Queen

q is for queen

© James Pyles

Daniel was awoken abruptly as Olivia touched down inside the tower.

“Wha? I was asleep?”

It was then he noticed that many of the great owl’s feathers had gripped him and held him in place on her back while they were in flight. They had also kept him warm since soaring through the snowy mountain passes was quite chilly.

“We’ve arrived, Daniel. You can get down now.”

Still disoriented from just waking up, the ten year old almost fell to the floor. He looked back and saw a large, open window which obviously granted the owl entrance to the tower. He looked out the window, down at the vast castle below, and the sheer drop beyond that.

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