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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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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P is for Pig

p is for pig

© James Pyles

Dingos don’t consider themselves afraid of anything, but when dawn’s early light revealed an army of razorback pigs, each with a warrior mouse upon its back, charging at them, they yelped and ran.

At the lead was William the Kangaroo. “Pumba, send a detachment after them. Slay them to the last. The rest, stand guard.”

The head razorback, a jolly fellow in spite of his fierce reputation, gave the order.

“Can I get off now?” An extremely shaky Bernard, clad in leather armor and wielding a mouse-sized spear, quietly addressed his mount.

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O is for Owl

o is for owl

© James Pyles

The flutter of massive wings from behind Daniel terrified him as he continued to stare at the three large eggs in the nest with him, each one as large as he was. Finally the creature behind him was still, and a prim, perfect woman’s voice said, “I hear you’ve been looking for me.”

The ten year old turned around to see a very big owl sitting on a branch just next to the nest.

“I’m Olivia. I’m sorry I was late, but I had a great deal to do to prepare for your return.”

“My what? I’ve never been here before.”

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