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".
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 answer...how 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 right...you'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 this...fun 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.