Thursday, 18 July 2013

Beyond Imagination - Chapter Four

And now with this chapter, you're going to be all up to speed on the newspaper editions of Beyond Imagination. I won't say much about it at risk of being a spoiler to my own story, but I will say that it's high time we got to know Etta a little bit better!

Chapter Four

"The Endless Ocean"
The only thing that Milo was convinced of was that Etta had built a paper boat big enough for both of them to fit into it. He wasn't positive that it would float and even if it did there was no way it could get them across that ocean.
The only thing Milo was positive of was that none of this was going to work.
But as Milo was learning, nothing in this world was exactly what he expected it to be.
He certainly wasn't going to be the same sensible boy leaving this place that he had been upon entering it...
And oh, he was nervous as Etta convinced him to get in the boat as the two of them brought it to the edge of the water. The children of the Oasis waved goodbye to them cheerfully and Ada the Poppet stayed behind. No one was worried except for Milo and he shut his eyes tightly as they floated out into the ocean.
But after he had counted to one hundred exactly one hundred times, Milo opened his eyes to find that the Oasis had completely vanished from view.
Now, Milo and Etta were out in the middle of a vast ocean. Their little boat seemed small compared to it but the friends felt even smaller. It was overwhelming but incredible.
The ocean was crystal blue and shimmered like diamonds had been sprinkled across it. Even more amazing still was the fact that when they would lean over the side of the boat and peer into the water it acted like a mirror.
For the first moment it looked like the sky was staring back up at you. But as Milo saw while he was mesmerized by the view, the water would ripple away from the boat and reveal the world beneath it.
"Look!" Etta gasped and rightfully so. For what the two friends were looking at was truly impossible.
Beneath the water's surface, down, down, down in the deep depths was an assortment of fish in every shape, size and colour. They weaved happily through a shimmering coral reef, the little fish playing hide and go seek amongst the structure. Other fish swam down into what looked like the bottom of the sea.
"It's like a whole different world down there..." Milo said breathlessly.
They could have watched it forever and Etta leaned herself closer to the edge of the water to take a better look. She could have easily tipped the boat with one wrong move and likely would have if a grinning seal's face hadn't popped out of the water so suddenly that it sent Etta jumping back into the boat.
Milo was shaken up by all the rocking their boat was doing and he nearly fell out himself.
"You shouldn't scare people like that!" He shouted, shaking a finger at the seal just like his mother would have.
Just like he knew she was going to once he got home and she found out it was him who ruining her garden with all that digging...
"Scare?" The seal barked out a laugh, leaning himself half way into the boat. From the way he was shaped and the sewing all over him it became obvious that this was another Poppet. "I was just playing." He said simply, swimming backward and then around in a circle like he didn't care that he frightened Etta. "I'm Rupert by the way. Don't bother introducing yourselves. I already know, you're Milo and Etta."
"How did you know our names?" Milo asked suspiciously.
"The water told me." Rupert explained as if it were common knowledge.
"The water talks!?" Etta asked with surprise which was unique since she never found anything strange.
"Why yes; haven't you looked into it yet?" The Poppet asked, ignoring Milo and focusing solely on Etta.
The girl hesitated, like maybe she had something she didn't want to talk about and so Milo piped up in her defence.
"Of course we did, all there were was fish!" He asserted.
"Then you didn't look hard enough!" Rupert replied in an annoyingly smart tone. "You had better try again."
So just as the Poppet said, both Milo and Etta looked into the water this time with the idea of what it wanted to show them and not what they expected to see. At first the image was fuzzy and hard to make out, like a blend of colours that someone put together while finger painting. But after awhile of focusing the colors came away from each other and made a true life-like image.
"It's you!" Milo exclaimed in shock, looking at Etta and then to the girl in the water's image. It certainly was her but she didn't seem like herself. Etta looked miserable and was hiding in a closet. And judging by the stickers on the wall, Milo figured that it must be her own closet.
"What's wrong?" He asked, looking at the real Etta who now seemed very sad too.
"I remember..." She said first. "That was just before you found me. I was hiding in my closet because my family is going to move." Etta explained as she focused on the image of herself. "I wanted to stay there forever, I shut my eyes and then when I opened them I appeared on that street where we met."
"Well you could always stay here." Rupert said quickly, before Milo could get a word in. Swimming back up to them and through the image of Etta so that it rippled away from the water and vanished. "If you keep going, you have to move away eventually. But you could stay here and never move away...ever."
Etta looked tempted, really tempted and that scared Milo because he knew if they never left that he would never get home. And he knew there was no way Etta could be happy just staying here either.
It was then that Milo noticed that their boat had stopped moving. He wasn't certain when it happened but he knew for sure that it wasn't going anywhere now.
"Oh Etta! We can't just stay here..." He told her desperately. "Please tell me you don't want to stay like this forever!" Milo said, searching Etta's face for some sort of answer to what she was thinking.
"...I don't want to leave my house!" Etta cried out with little tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. She was determined to stay at her own house but Milo just couldn't understand why. She seemed to love adventures so much and going to new places was always a discovery.
"I'll show you why you shouldn't just stay stuck..." Milo said uncertainly. He looked over the edge of the boat, giving Rupert the seal Poppet an annoyed look and then stared deeply into the ocean. Milo thought hard, his mind went to Etta and how she didn't want to move, how she seemed to enjoy their travels together. As he meditated on that thought, more colours started to appear in the water. Milo had to focus harder than he ever had in his life; even harder than when he was learning multiplication.
He was rewarded though as an image appeared so cleary that he gave a loud gasp. "Look Etta! Look!"
Glancing listlessly over at the water, Etta didn't seem interested at first but once she saw that it was a picture of her leaving her old home holding both her parents hands, she quickly wanted to see it. "What happened!? How did it change?" She asked franticly, looking at Milo.
"It's another adventure." He explained. "I thought about what your next adventure would be." Smiling at her Milo hoped that Etta would understand.
She didn't seem to want to, but Milo kept his eyes on her and looked so hopeful that she cracked a little smile.
"You really think it will be an adventure?" Etta asked softly.
"I know it will be! Just watch..." Milo said, pointing at the image as it showed them getting into their car to follow the moving van.
As Etta came to accept this, the friend's boat started to move again, the image going with them and guiding them along so that she could see the road along the ocean that they would follow to get to their new house. There a huge bridge they had to cross and then a land with fields, animals and quaint houses. That road led into a city with interesting people and fascinating buildings that the Etta in the picture couldn't want to explore.
Neither Etta or Milo noticed but the whole time their boat was moving because Rupert was the one pushing it along the ocean until there was perfect land in sight. It was a beach with a thick forest that you couldn't see past.
The friends were watching the vivid image in the water so closely that they only noticed the beach when the picture vanished just before Etta could see what hew new street would look like.
"No! I wanted to see the street! Everything else was so pretty..." She said, looking at Milo who was smiling at her, proud that Etta had been brave and moved on.
"Then you'll just have to find out for yourself what it looks like!" Rupert said, flopping onto the shore along with the boat.
Etta nodded. "Right, I will!" She declared with determination.
But looking past her, Milo wasn't so convinced that they would have to worry about where she was moving at this very moment. "We've got something else to deal with!" He said in shock, pointing to the forest before them that wasn't made of trees but from long, long, LONG legs that belonged to...giants!

Beyond Imaginaton - Chapter Three

As promised! Another delicious chapter of my Children's Summer Reading Program for your enjoyment. I won't lie and say I didn't get hungry writing this chapter because I certainly did; in fact, reading it again I get the strangest urge for a slice of red velvet cake.

So enjoy Chapter Three and try not to eat your computer, phone or tablet in the process!

Chapter Three

"The Dessert Desert"

Dessert is one of best part of anybodies day. It's sweet, delicious and makes your tummy sing with all of it's sugary goodness!
So when faced with the peculiar choice of a painting to walk through and explore; what kid or even adult wouldn't choose artwork that depicts the most marvellous treats that eyes have ever seen?
Well Milo and Etta certainly weren't going to pass up a chance like that! No matter what that Poppet's warning meant...
Etta was the first one to enter the painting, hopping over the frame like a bunny and letting the picture swallow her whole so that she vanished just like magic.
Milo had a different method, first he tested the painting with his hand, letting it slip in and out of the painting until he felt comfortable enough to go through. But before he disappeared, Milo remembered to wave goodbye to their tiny owl guide.
The very second he was on the other side, Milo heard Etta; breathless and excited.
"You've gotta see this..." Etta said in amazement.
The view on the other side of the painting was a sight to behold. Lying before them were rolling hills of sand that seemed to make up waves that would have been big enough to surf if it were an ocean.
But this wasn't the ocean and it was impossible to imagine that it was.
"It's so hot!" Milo exclaimed, wiping sweat off of his brow and actually thinking of taking off his hat. Which was really weird since Milo never took his hat off, not even to take a bath!
"I know..." Etta complained with a groan.
But the complaining didn't last a moment longer and no one wondered where the desserts from the painting were. Why you ask? Because slowly appearing before Milo and Etta was an assortment of rainbow coloured and larger than life treats.
Milo was the first to run for them, he was so hot in his sweater and hat that a gigantic ice cream sundae looked the like perfect place to swim and snack at the same time. But the very moment he would have landed in the most amazing dish of dessert, Milo fell flat, face first into the sand.
Which compared to ice cream was just plain yucky.
"Where'd the ice cream go!?" Etta shrieked, running up beside Milo and helping him up as he spat out sand. There were still plenty of desserts surrounding them, but when Etta would squint her eyes she could see straight through them into the endless dessert.
Maybe the owl was right... They had chosen the wrong painting and now they were stuck in in this desert!
But out from the sound of shifting sand came a voice. It was parched; sounding dry and scratchy. "I think I can answer that." It said from out of nowhere.
"Who's that?!" Both friends called out, Milo grabbing Etta's hand and Etta grabbing Milo's a little nervously.
A warm chuckle came out from behind a sand drift letting them know that there was nothing to fear.In fact rounding the corner was something that looked like a stuffed animal, just like the owl in the gallery.
It walked on all fours and had a long nose that seemed to be snuffling around the sand for something. "You've nothing to be afraid of, I'm just Ada the Poppet." She said, sniffing her way over to the two children and looking up at them.
"Your name is Ada and you're an Aardvark!" Etta said laughing, reaching down and picking up the Poppet. Milo decided that the girl was much smarter than she seemed, especially knowing that the creature was an aardvark. The way she hugged it, the creature looked nice and comfy like Milo's favourite teddy bear. "That's so cute!" Etta squealed.
Milo had a feeling that these Poppets were going keep popping up everywhere...
"Nice to meet you." He said a little to quick to be truly polite. "But what's wrong with the desserts because I really wanted some ice cream." Milo was a little whiney about the whole thing but he tended to do that when he wasn't getting what he wanted.
"These desserts are playing a mirage game." Ada started to explain. "They're supposed to be a at party to celebrate children's day for the local town. But the desserts think it's funnier to run around and not be eaten. They also don't like greedy people and they won't let you eat them if you're not sharing."
"You mean there's children are having a party and there's no treats?" Etta asked sadly. "We've got to do something about it!" The little girl decided with great determination.
"It's true." Milo agreed. "But what can we do if the desserts won't let us catch them?"
"You've got to sneak up on them!" Ada laughed, climbing out of Etta's arms and onto the girl's shoulder.
Tricking dessert? Milo wasn't convinced he could actually do that. He'd never done it before which made it seem harder than it actually might be. But if he were supposed to have a party and there were no desserts than he would want someone to try and bring some to him too!
So he just had to try!
Looking at the first dessert he could find; a luscious chocolate cake with loads of chocolate icing and lots of candies on it. Milo turned his back pretending to not care. The boy even whistled to himself and took a few tiny steps away. When he was sure the cake thought he was leaving Milo jumped back around and spread out his arms as if he were hugging the cake.
Suddenly the mirage was gone...
But, oh joy! "Yippee!" He cried. That very same cake was in Milo's arms and was very real.
Etta followed Milo's example and the two of them gathered up desserts in their arms until the piles were as tall as them and they had to poke holes through the cupcakes to see where they were going.
There was...
Red velvet cake, strawberry pudding, pumpkin doughnuts, chocolate bars, cotton candy, ginger cookies, raspberry ripple ice cream and tummy tickling treats no one has ever tasted before.
"The party is at the Oasis, let's go!" Ada said after they couldn't carry even one more crumb.
As they traveled along with desserts to bring to the party, Milo turned to Ada and asked her a question. "Will you tell me what a Poppet is?"
She wasn't as secretive as the owl had been and so the answer came quite plainly. "A Poppet can be many things. It can be a name for someone you like, it can be a puppet or a doll. But Poppets like I are here to guide you on your journey. Think of us as friends." She said kindly.
"Well, if Poppets are going to help me--" Milo started.
"And ME!" Etta added quickly.
"...If they're going to help US get home, than I hope they're all a nice as you Ada." He said patting the creature on the head.
Ada ticked his fingers with her long nose and chuckled. "Well I would hope so too friend, but we're not all this nice. In fact you must beware, some of my fellow Poppets are tricksters. They don't want to cause harm but they can't help playing jokes! Promise me you will be careful." She said with motherly smile.
"We promise, cross our hearts!" Etta chirped in happily.
Milo was going to add his promise too but before he could there came a sound of rejoicing that could only be tons of excited kids.
"We're here!" He said, crossing from the hot desert sand and into a grassy, lush oasis where him and Etta were relieved of their desserts and drowned in hugs and 'thanks' from the children.
The party was lively with music, dancing and games. Milo and Etta had so much fun playing with everyone that at first that they completely forgot about eating. In fact, it was a long time before anyone thought about the desserts at all. But when they finally did there was enough for everyone to share and enjoy together.
When everyone was smiling together and their new friends were just as happy as they were; it made for the perfect party.
Both Milo and Etta agreed that the treats were twice as nice because of it.
And just as the last lick of ice cream was gone and the last slice of cake had been devoured; a few of the children came forward with a gift for Milo and Etta.
"We would like to give you a present for bringing us our desserts and being good friends to us even though we've never met." They said happily, like their hearts were singing.
"You're welcome!" Both friends said together.
Etta was the one to receive their present and Milo wasn't sure what it was, but looked suspiciously like a huge sheet of paper with a pretty floral pattern on it that was accented with shimmery gold.
"It's magic paper!" Etta exclaimed, holding the sheet out to examine it thoughtfully.
How she knew this defied Milo's logic, there didn't seem to be anything particularly magical about a square sheet of paper.
But Ada sniffled the paper and nodded in agreement with Etta. If she seemed to think it was magic too.
Who was Milo to disagree with an aardvark? Especially one that displayed undoubtedly magical qualities like this talking stuffed animal.
"That will help you on the next part of your journey." Ada said, turning her head towards the Oasis' water that had once been a pond but now looked like a never ending ocean.
"I'll fold it into a boat and then we'll use it to cross all that water!" Etta explained, lying it flat on the ground and starting to fold in the edges of the paper.
"A paper boat won't float!!" Milo yelped.
"Haha!! That rhymes!" Was the only thing Etta would say as she worked diligently.
Ada seemed just fine with this idea but Milo couldn't understand how they were ever going to cross an ocean like that in only a boat made of paper...

Beyond Imagination - Chapter Two

Well, it's time to share Chapter Two of my Children's Summer Reading program story, Beyond Imagination with everyone here on my blog! Yesterday a new chapter was released in the Vaughan Weekly, The Guardian and The Journal Pioneer newspapers and I'm going to be posting all the chapters that have been printed so far to keep everyone up to speed!

This chapter is very yummy; but not so yummy as the next chapter. Unless you're a fan of pickle flavored ice cream.

Chapter Two

"Artwork Good Enough to Eat"
Milo wasn't often very sure of anything, even at the best of times. So since he was positive that this had to be a dream, it absolutely must be.
Right? Wrong.
The way Etta kept bouncing up and down with her mop of wild red hair swinging around while she irritatingly tugged on Milo's arm was too real to make this a dream. But since it wasn't, Milo was left to figure out two very important matters.
One, how to get his street back to normal so the only person who looked like him was in fact him. Two, he had to get away from Etta long enough to run home where she wouldn't find him.
"So, how're you gonna fix it!" Etta shouted in the boy's ear and then changed the subject quickly. "Do you sometimes feel like maybe you're a lot like everybody else? 'Cause sometimes I do" She asked.
"...Yes, sort of..." Milo admitted hesitantly, although the little boy knew that he always considered himself ordinary. How someone like Etta could feel like everyone else though was beyond his imagination. There wasn't anyone Milo met who was remotely like Etta.
"Then if you fix that, maybe all the other Milos will go away." She replied, but Milo wasn't really paying attention, he was thinking.
After all this situation was particularly puzzling for a boy of Milo's age, but he was a sensible child. Sometimes Milo was so sensible that he would drive his mother crazy by correcting her when she was a hurry or trying to make a joke.
But a sensible mind was just what would work in a mixed-up situation.
"If all the other Milos are like me because I feel that I'm no different than them..." He said thoughtfully. And then Milo's eyes grew wide and his ace got bright with an idea!
Looking over at the nearest Milo, who just happened to be the one with the pickle flavoured ice cream, the little boy shouted as loud as he could. "I DO NOT LIKE PICKLE FLAVOURED ICE CREAM!" And with a very magical poof the Milo disappeared, leaving behind a funny looking little boy with freckles who was enjoying his ice cream as though nothing had happened.
"You did it!" Etta squealed, her little face was all squished up in her great excitement as she hopped from one foot to another.
Milo secretly wondered if she could stand still for more than sixty seconds.
"Yup, there's something about each of these other Milos that isn't like me. So if I find out what it is, than I'll be able to put everything right again!" He declared in his most rational voice.
"Well what's keeping you then! C'mon!!" Etta cried, grasping Milo's hand and pulling him down the street. They went so fast that Milo only had the chance to shout out at each child that looked like him as he saw them.
"I can't jump rope yet!" Milo yelped.
"I haven't learned to whistle yet!" He proclaimed to another before hastily adding. "But I will!"
Etta giggled like a hyena at that one, which made Milo blush just a little bit.
"I can read chapter books!" Was the most cheerful thing Milo called out, proud at his excellent skill when he came by a child reading a picture book. Then again sometimes he still liked reading picture books just because they were fun.
"I don't like spinach!"
"I'm a very good singer!"
"I like chocolate better than lollipops!"
And he kept on doing this until Etta stopped running and they both fell down laughing on the broad stone steps of a building at the end of the street.
A building at the end of the street? There had never been one here before...
Milo was sure he was going loopy now, but looking up he saw a huge museum that looked grand and regal. Like some place his mother would take him downtown to look at pictures that people painted hundreds of years ago.
He would have spent more time looking at it too, if it wasn't for Etta pointing back down the street where they had come from. "Look! Look! You did it Milo!"
And he certainly had, every child who had once looked like him was now themselves again and didn't seem fazed in the least. Milo grinned, a broad grin that he didn't even know could fit on his face. He felt special; there were so many reasons he wasn't like any of those children that he knew he would never feel not unique again. It was a great!
"Wow, you're pretty cool after all Milo." Etta said , spinning like a ballerina. But mid-spin the girl stopped and stumbled a bit, Milo caught her and quickly saw that she was staring up at the building where they had stopped. For a minute it seemed like she was speechless but in all the strange things that had happened so far; Etta being truly quiet was the only real dream.
Bouncing back onto her feet, she let out a great big "Ooooo" and then an exaggerated "ahhhhh".
"What is this place?" Milo asked curiously, climbing the stairs up to a set of doors made from heavily carved wood that looked way too heavy to open. "This was never here before..."
How could things just appear out of no where? Milo had thought that this was his street because it certainly looked like it, but maybe he was just as lost as Etta. The thought was a little overwhelming and it made Milo want to find home more than ever.
Now that he was lost too, he no longer wanted to lose Etta. They would stick together.
Considering whether or not they should try to go into this place or not, Milo's mind was made up for him as Etta came barrelling towards the boy and pushed the door open.
And what a surprise, it wasn't heavy at all!
But because of that and his new friend's momentum, Milo and Etta went tumbling inside, somersaulting and rolling straight into a long hall.
Left lying on his back and staring up at a ceiling that felt like it was spinning, Milo could hear soft, funny music and everything around him smelt old but clean. Like when he would go to his Granny's house. Slowly sitting up, the first thing Milo saw was a tiny little stuffed animal.
It was an owl, a blue owl with great big eyes, exaggerated stitching and purple fabric feathers on it's belly. Milo thought it was kind of cute, especially when it would blink.
Blink? ...Blink!! Stuffed animals can't blink!
Oh no! That was entirely, certainly and completely ridiculous!
"Who are you?" The small stuffed Owl said, his 'w' sounded like he was trying to whistle at the same time as talking.
"YOU TALK!" Etta cried excitedly as she leaned over Milo's shoulder to get a good look at the little creature.
"Of course I talk..." The owl said, as though the whole thing was elementary. "All Poppets can talk."
"What's a Poppet?" Milo asked smartly, despite thinking the whole thing was absurd.
"I'm a Poppet; that's all you need to know for now." Mister Owl explained very vaguely. "Now, who are you?" He asked again, tapping a little stuffed claw on the floor.
"I'm Milo and this is Etta." The little boy explained, standing up slowly and looking around. "Where are we? Can I get home from here?" He asked hopefully. "I want to get home for supper."
Watching Milo as he walked around, the owl nearly turned his head all the way around while keeping an eye on the boy. "You can't go straight home. You can only go forward and never really go back the same way you came. But if you really are set on going back you must take the opposite way around and trick what's already happened into letting you back in again." The owl explained sagely.
Milo wasn't sure he understood that and from the dazed look on Etta's face she didn't understand at all and might be hurting her brain trying to figure it out.
Looking around the room where they stood, Milo saw that it was one huge hallway. It was long; in fact it looked like it would never end if they were to walk down it. But more interesting than that were the paintings on the walls. They were two times taller than Milo and Etta, even if she were standing on his head. And each one had a fantastic picture!
There was broccoli trees, orange juice lakes, a mountain of grapes and fields made from mashed potatoes. Each one was different and each one made Milo hungry!
But the most interesting of all and had drawn both him and Etta to it was a painting that depicted a vast, endless amount of cake, ice cream, fudge, cookies and desserts that Milo didn't even know the name of!
"That makes my tummy very interested in it." Etta said, licking her lips as she looked ready to eat the picture. As she reached out to touch it, Etta found that her hands didn't meet the artwork but went straight through. Her hand had vanished!
A mix of chuckling and hooting came from beneath them. It was that owl again and he looked very amused...
"Is this how we continue on?" Milo asked with an eyebrow lifted, considering what the little creature had said before. A smile crept on the boy's face as he thought himself very clever for figuring it out.
"Indeed, you must choose one of these paintings. But remember, reckless choices now will make for more work later. They always do." The owl said again in his very wise, old voice.
Milo was glad real owls couldn't talk because if they all said things like this one; the world would be very confusing. And so without really considering the Poppet's advice, Milo looked at Etta who looked back at him as the two of them smiled at each other.
They knew what they wanted...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Beyond Imagination - Chapter One

Hello Everyone!

It's that time of year again; the sun is shining, everyone is relaxing and the Summer Reading Program has made it's newspaper debut! This year, I've taken a whole new spin on the Program's theme and instead of Pirates I went with a full-out imagination smorgasbord! I wrote this as a tribute to two of my favorite Children's novelists, Roald Dhal and Dianna Wynne Jones as well as my favorite animated film-maker Hayao Miyazaki. Channeling the imagination and free-spirited nature of their works, I crafted a story with characters who are lovable, humours and hopefully and little zany.

You can read "Beyond Imagination" each week in Vaughan, Ontario's Vaughan Weekly newspaper, Charlottetown's The Guardian newspaper and Summerside's The Journal Pioneer. Each Wednesday, a new chapter is published and I will be keeping up with the story on my blog.

Over the next three days I'll be posting the first three chapters as they have been in the newspapers. So without further ado, enjoy chapter one of "Beyond Imagination".

Chapter One

"Digging Deep"

In an exceptionally ordinary town, on a remarkably ordinary street, in a particularly ordinary house, lived a boy who was a strictly ordinary.
Who, because of his oridnary-ness never thought he could do anything special.
But the mistake that people made in convincing him of this was that often times it is the most ordinary of people who make rare and astounding discoveries.
This distinctly ordinary boy could truly be anyone. Could be you, really, if you thought about it hard enough, but for the sake of our story we will choose just one. This boy's name happens to be Milo and his small mind has yet to understand what he can really do if only given the very opportunity it needs.
And so, let us join Milo on Wednesday, in the very middle of his ordinary week.
He's the kind of boy who likes to wear his striped sweater and cap all the time even in the Summer when he has to put it on with shorts.
Standing in his backyard, Milo pondered what he might spend such a Summer day doing.
It was still quite early in the morning and with a tummy full of breakfast pancakes it seemed like the world was his. Or at least the patch of nice green grass behind his house.
Now Milo had heard, as many children do, that China is on the opposite side of the world. And if so then why not dig a hole straight through the world? He could even make a stop-off at the center of the earth if he dug fast enough to get there before his mother called him for lunch.
So pulling out a shovel from the garden shed, Milo set out on his mission, carefully selecting a spot to dig right between Mother's roses and gardenias.
Milo started to dig... And he dug so fast and quick that the neighbours thought there was a dust storm brewing. But as they craned their necks over the fence, all they could see was a deep hole between two patches of prize-winning gardenias and roses.
For Milo's part, he kept shovelling dirt until his hole was so big that he could stand up straight in it. But even after all that work he still couldn't see anything more than dark soil and even with his ear pressed against the ground, Milo couldn't hear a thing.
It was a sort of disappointing thing for a boy like Milo who had so little adventure in his life.
But as the hot noon sun rose high in the sky, when Milo's mother called him in for lunch, the boy was pleased.
After all, digging was a hungry work.
But just as happy as Milo was to eat he was doubly excited to get back to digging. There was something entertaining about the unknown prospect of what Milo might find and while he didn't know what it would be, it had to be more exciting than another day kicking around a ball in the backyard.
This was fun but Milo had given up the idea that he was going to find anything in particular and instead just decided to make his pile of dirt as high as possible. So digging commenced in a very serious manner to achieve this goal.
That was until a very curious thing happened.
There was, coming from the hold a certain sort of...scraping sound.
It was strangely familiar and Milo was bright enough to recognize it as the noise of another shovel digging.
Was it another child? Perhaps a youngster from China digging their way through to Canada?
"Hello! Hello there!" Milo called to them, now digging so furiously that his little knuckles turned white.
No answer. How peculiar...
And as little shafts of light started to break through pebbles and dirt...Milo's eyes grew wide.
Of all the things he expected to find, this wasn't it. For as the sunlight made his vision blurry Milo could have swore that he had seen himself on the other side of the hole.
...Maybe he was going dotty?
The boy was determined to find out what it really was and so very bravely reached through the hole and with a very strange combination of pulling and shoving managed to come out on the other side.
His mysterious twin was missing and this new place looked very much like his own backyard.
"Mom..." He called to see if she would answer. Maybe Mother was distracted "Elaine!" It always got her attention when he called her by her first name.
Still no different this was.
Milo was interested and also very, very, VERY intrigued.
So he wandered out to the front yard to find his Mother but what greeted him instead was beyond what Milo had ever even daydreamt. It was his street for sure but every house and every front yard matched his own and the street stretched out endlessly in just that way.
Even more fantastical than that was the fact that every child, no matter what they were doing in their front yards were identical to Milo.
It didn't matter if they were jumping rope, making chalk drawings or playing hopscotch. Even the ones eating pickle flavoured ice cream looked like him...which was just silly because Milo knew he would never do that.
There were no cars and everything seemed very calm, so the boy decided that the very smart thing to do would be to explore. So walking up the street he peeked in windows and waved hello to the other children. None of the Milos would wave back though, it was almost like they didn't even notice him. And everything was so silent that it felt to Milo as if he were the only one who could speak.
"Are you the one that did this?" A voice rang out that struck Milo as annoying.
It sounded like a girl but as Milo swivelled around to try and find her, he couldn't see anyone but the replicas of himself. "Did what?" He called out dumbfounded.
"You know..." The girl chided. "...THIS! Everyone looks like you, so you must have done it. Do you think I would make everyone look like you?" She asked sternly.
Milo was greatly confused by this. "Would you?" He innocently replied.
"NO!" Was what the girl shouted back.
Now Milo really was frustrated with this girl. Not only did she seem rude but he also could not find her! "Where are you?" Milo demanded in his tiny voice.
"I'm right here, silly goose!" The girl's voice sounded much closer when she said this which caused Milo to turn around.
What he saw first were feet. Feet? That's not're supposed to see a person's head first and then their feet. But sure as can be; there was a pair of little shoes staring Milo in the eyes.
"Down here!" She told the stupefied boy.
Looking down Milo saw that the girl was standing on her head and then something struck him. "You weren't there just a minute ago!" He accused her.
"Of course I was," The red haired girl replied smartly.
"Oh yeah? Than how come I couldn't see you?" Milo asked, hands on his hips as he took a step back to observe this girl who was around his age and decked out in mismatched clothing. "Obviously it's because you didn't know where to look." She told him, finally turning right side round so that her feet were on the ground, although her hair seemed to stay in upside-down position.
"I'm Etta!" The girl exclaimed, holding out her hand to shake Milo's. He was too shy though and instead stared down at his shoes.
"I'm Milo..." He said hesitantly.
"Why were you standing on your head?" He asked Etta, not convinced that this girl was quite normal.
"To see things in a different way." Etta explained quite simply, one finger on her chin thoughtfully. "I'm lost you see and I thought I might find something or someone that way." She added.
Milo was prepared to say a very smart statement explaining away Etta's logic when she launched into another run of words before he could even start.
"But guess what? You found me, Milo!" Etta exclaimed, grabbing his hands and hopping around in a circle. "I'm lost you know and you're the first person to find me! Congratulations!"
Milo had never been quite and so he stopped their hopping and let go of Etta's hands. "Uh...Thanks, I think..." He muttered. "Do you at least know where we are?" He asked, hoping that maybe Etta could be just as helpful as she was annoying.
"Of course I don't know where we are. I'm lost, DUH! If I knew where we were, I wouldn't be lost." She reasoned, crossing her arms and tapping her foot impatiently.
Milo couldn't figure out why she seemed so irritated by him; he was only being logical. Etta was the one who didn't understand what was going on. He was sure of that much...
"You know, two heads are better than one. And three heads are better than two...but I guess since we only have two heads that will just have to do." Etta said, speaking to herself. "And even if you're a little bit...boring...I think we can figure this out."
Milo raised an eyebrow at Etta, unsure if she was paying him a compliment or not. Nothing seemed very sure with the things she said. "Figure what out?" Milo finally asked, afraid of what she might answer.
"How to get home, silly goose! Don't you want to get home?" She asked.
Milo nodded, of course he wanted to get home.
"Then from now on we're going to be a team!" Etta explained with a look of mischief.