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Raduvad

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Posts : 31
Join date : 2010-11-02
Age : 39
Location : Auburn, CA

PostSubject: Cartoon Eyes   Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:13 pm

Okay, going to try this again. Posting Chapter 1 (the version after Steven's edits) and the spankin' new chapter 2. Whoo! Have at it!

Cartoon Eyes

Episode 1: Reality, For the Most Part

Somewhere in the mid-nineties
Somewhere in Northern California
Somewhere after 10 a.m.

“Sondra?” Jeremy asked, in a sudden panic. “Sondra Brenner is going to be at the party? Why didn’t you tell me?”
His mother gave him the look she usually reserved for her children when they said something crazy, the one that said she wanted to pat them on the head and tell them everything would be okay.
“I didn’t know I needed your permission to-”
“Sondra Brenner…” Jeremy said, “Sondra Brenner is…”
“Let me guess,” his mom said, still giving him the look, “the prettiest girl in school?”
Jeremy opened his mouth to speak but wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Well, yeah,” he said eventually, “but it’s not just that. I mean she’s…deep, you know?”
He tried gesturing with his hands but found them insufficient.
“She’s really cool too. And she’s been all over the place so she probably knows all kinds of…”
“And you know this because you’ve spent many long hours of conversation with her?” his mom asked, smiling. “You’ve discussed her views on philosophy, religion and politics? You’ve asked about her family and her personal goals? Her aspirations for a career?”
Jeremy’s face turned white.
“She let me buy her a coke once,” he muttered, staring at the floor.
“Uh-huh,” his mom said, and went back to placing a small stack of pastel paper napkins around the long table, pairing each napkin with a paper plate and a set of white plastic utensils.
“I hope I have enough of these,” she said, “I didn’t realize eleven year old girls even knew this many people.”
Jeremy nodded absently and glanced around the room, nearly every square inch of which had been strewn with some kind of brightly colored streamer, pink plastic decoration, or ribbon-wrapped gift box. A turbulent sea of sparkling red and purple glitter littered the wooden floor like shining sawdust and the three long windows that normally showcased only the tree-crowded backyard sported a shimmering, multicolored sign that hung at a slight angle and loudly announced Jeremy’s sister Kim’s eleventh birthday. The room looked as though an enormous, lavishly decorated birthday cake had conducted a long and costly battle against a particularly viscous piñata.
“Can I help do something?” Jeremy asked, and his mom swung a wrinkled white grocery bag his way.
“One cup to each plate,” she said, “and thank you for asking.”
Jeremy muttered a noncommittal answer and removed the first of the red plastic cups from the bag. He flipped it over a few times trying to figure out if he liked them face up or face down and eventually decided on down, so the ceiling fan above the table wouldn’t blow any errant dust or glitter into the fruit punch during the party.
The table where Jeremy, his mom, and his sister normally ate meals hadn’t been big enough to fit everybody on Kim’s birthday list, so Jeremy and his mom had brought in a vinyl-topped folding card table and placed it beside the normal wooden one. They draped a rectangular, faded blue tablecloth over both ends and it had mostly turned the two tables into one, though an annoying, slight crease remained that no amount of corner-tugging or smoothing out could put right.
Jeremy finally gave up trying and simply covered the crease with napkins borrowed from his mother’s stack, figuring that most of his sister’s friends probably wouldn’t bother to use the things anyway.
“I can’t believe you invited Sondra Brenner without telling me,” he said. “All my cool shirts are dirty.”
“Then I guess you should do your laundry more often,” his mom said. “But really, I didn’t even know until this morning. Carolyn called and said she and David had some kind of last minute business meeting later today. They were already planning on dropping Arthur off for the party and needed a place for Sondra to stay. It seemed like a reasonable enough request. Of course, this was before I knew you were hopelessly in love with their daughter. Did you want me to call them back and tell them you’re not comfortable with Sondra being here?”
“No!” Jeremy nearly screamed.
“Because I can,” his mom persisted, grinning, “if you think that…”
“No, it’s cool. I can handle it. I mean, it’s okay with me if she’s here. It not like it’s a big deal if…”
“I figured. Well, you can relax. She’s not coming to see you. When Cameron gets here the two of you can hide in your room the whole time if you want. I promise I won’t start telling embarrassing stories about you until you’re out of earshot.”
“Oh, great,” Jeremy muttered, “now I have to be out here.”
“Oh, like you would have missed seeing her anyway,” his mom said, and flung a folded napkin across the table in his general direction.

“Is she here yet?” Cameron asked, as Jeremy opened the door, “I don’t see her mom’s car in the driveway but I figured maybe she got dropped off.”
“Did who get dropped off?” Jeremy asked, trying for innocence while Cameron impatiently danced from side to side in the doorway.
He made a poor attempt to smooth down his course black hair and stood on his tiptoes to see over Jeremy’s shoulder.
“What do you mean who…?” He started, then, “oh, so we’re playing it cool, huh?”
He brought out the pair of embarrassingly outdated, black plastic sunglasses that he’d won at a school assembly event a few years before. They had been too tight then, and fit even worse now, pinching his temples like an angry black crab, but that didn’t stop Cameron from wearing them almost everywhere, much to Jeremy’s dismay.
“I can be cool too,” Cameron announced, crossing his arms, inclining his chin and leaning against the doorway.
“Cool, huh?” Jeremy asked. “I’ll warn you if you start getting close. But I think you’ve got aways to go. You look like a retarded Clark Kent in those.”
“Hey, As long as I get the x-ray vision,” Cameron shot back, and Jeremy began thinking that maybe staying in his room for the whole party might not be the worst idea in the world.
“So is she here yet?”
“No,” Jeremy said, relenting. “All the other little kids have shown up, but not the one we want.”
Cameron nodded. He formed his right hand into a gun for no apparent reason and pantomimed shooting at the door.
“The little kid with the hot older sister,” he said. “What’s his name again?”
“Arthur,” Jeremy said, flashing his friend an impatient look, “pretty cool little kid, actually. I think he pretty much spends all his time reading, he’s crazy smart, but he doesn’t come off all weird about it or anything.”
“That’s good, I guess,” Cameron said, meaning that he didn’t care even the slightest bit.
Something suddenly occurred to Jeremy and he stared into Cameron’s dark glasses.
“Wait, you know what kind of car Sondra’s mom drives, but you don’t even know her brother’s name? It sounded like you had a whole file on her or something.”
“I’m working on it,” Cameron said, somewhat defensively, before taking a brief moment to think. “Cars are just more interesting than little kids, I guess.”
Jeremy couldn’t argue too strongly with that. Neither of them were really into cars but they were even less into having to baby-sit, something they both had to do from time to time for their younger siblings. On a typical day, Jeremy’s mom didn’t arrive home until around 6 PM and Jeremy had to make sure that Kim got dinner. He also had to make sure she started on her homework when she had it, one of the more unpleasant things he’d ever had to try.
Kim wasn’t much into homework.
Or listening to her brother.
Or doing much of anything that wasn’t something she expressly wanted to do. “I guess you can go try and find a place to sit over there,” Jeremy told Cameron, gesturing to the joined tables where a small mob of noisy kids sat amidst a sea of scattered plates, utensils, and vibrant decorations.
Cameron stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Slouching against the back of the couch, he said, “I think I’ll wait awhile. It looks pretty crazy over there. How old are those kids again?”
Jeremy glanced over.
“Kim’s turning eleven today, so I guess most of them are around that.”
“Man, eleven. That seems so long ago. It’s crazy she’s only three years younger than us.”
Jeremy smiled.
“She’s turning eleven on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And she was born at 11:11 AM.”
Cameron blinked behind the dark glasses.
“So?”
“My mom says it’s a big deal. That it’s astrologically significant.”
Cameron blinked a few more times.
“Astro-what?”
Jeremy shrugged.
“I don’t know. It’s weird. She’s been freaking out about making her wish this year, because all the stars are supposed to be lined up or something.”
“Who is?” Cameron asked.
Jeremy gave him a look.
“How tight are those-?”
Someone’s slight knock sounded against the door and Jeremy’s heartbeat leapt into a chaotic, double-time march. Cameron spun around so fast that his right foot tripped over his left and he crashed to the carpet.
“I didn’t hear anybody drive up,” Cameron fiercely whispered, springing to a crouch near the base of a coat rack as though trying to dodge a helicopter’s searching spotlight. “Can you tell who it is?”
“There’s kind of a door in the way, genius.”
“Look through the glass part at the top.”
“Then they’ll see me.”
“Jeremy,” his mom called, “could you get that please, I’ve got my hands full here.”
“I know mom. I will,” he called back, realizing belatedly that whoever stood on the other side of the door could most likely hear him as well.
Cringing a little at the realization, he urgently whispered back to Cameron.
“Get off the floor. Stop being a psycho!”
Cameron used the coat rack to quickly prop himself up, nearly knocking the thing into the nearest wall in the process, and went to resume his casual, “cool” lean against the couch.
“So open the door already,” he said, “what’s taking so long?”
Jeremy rolled his eyes, shook his head, and reached for the doorknob, just as another knock, this time carrying significantly more force, stuck the door.
“Jeremy!” his Mom called again.
“I’m getting it,” he called back, and turned the doorknob, thinking, Say something cool, say something cool, say something…
He took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself like a solider entering battle, and swung open the door.
The girl on the doorstep was not Sondra Brenner.
“Oh,” Jeremy said, “hey.”
“That’s your greeting?” the girl said, with an exact, critical look. “Gotta say, I’ve had warmer receptions.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Jeremy stammered.
Turning to Cameron, he gestured feebly to the girl and said, “This is Lauren. We had a couple classes together last year. She lives in the house next door.”
“Yep, that one right there,” Lauren said, pointing without really looking to a brown, two-story house on the next property.
She titled her head slightly to better study the two nervous boys near the doorway and her shoulder-length hair swung slightly to one side like an even, auburn curtain.
“You thought I was going to be Sondra Brenner, didn’t you? I heard she was coming to this.”
“How did you…?” Jeremy started.
“You mom told me when she invited me.”
Jeremy gave her a quizzical look.
“My mom invited…?”
“Uh huh,” Lauren said, “she said you were supposed to come over and invite me a couple days ago but you never showed.”
“She did? I was? I mean, I didn’t? I don’t remember her saying-”
“Well, she said she dropped bunch of hints.”
“Hints?”
Lauren grinned at him, clearly enjoying the exchange.
“She also said you might not get them. And that’s what I figured too. Probably too preoccupied with dreaming of the lovely Sondra, writing her name a hundred times on your wall.”
She turned to face Cameron, raising one high eyebrow at his sunglasses, and tapped a finger in Jeremy’ s direction.
“He’s totally in love with Sondra Brenner,” she said, “you know that, right?”
“Oh yeah,” Cameron said,” I know. He’s pretty much obsessed. It’s kind of sad, actually.”
Jeremy gave him a withering look as Lauren asked, with a little, sustained shrug, “So, were you guys planning on letting me in or-”
“Oh, sorry,” they said as one, moving in unison and bumping into each other twice before managing to clear the doorway.
“Yeah, go ahead,” Jeremy said, “they’re still working on setting up but…”
“It’s okay,” Lauren said, slipping inside, “just as long as I don’t miss cake and ice cream.”
She stopped and turned with an impish smile.
“And of course I wouldn’t want to miss you squirm under the amazing, magical spell of…”
She swept a hand to her head and swooned like an old-time movie star.
“…The divine Sondra Brenner.”
Jeremy turned to gauge Cameron’s reaction, but his friend’s attention had returned to the driveway.
“I think that’s Sondra’s mom pulling up.”
Lauren, standing near the coat rack, peered dubiously at Cameron over the high rims of imaginary glasses.
“You know what kind of car her mom drives?”
Jeremy laughed nervously.
“I’m not the only one madly in love,” he said.
Lauren made a sympathetic face.
“Oh, you poor, poor boys.”
She gave Jeremy a solemn once-over, then turned to Cameron.
“Well. I guess if you think you’ve got any kind of shot you might as well take it, but you should probably lose the glasses. They kind of make you look like of a moron.”
Cameron opened his mouth to protest, raised a finger in agitation, held it there for an silent, ineffective moment, and stomped away.

Jeremy’s little sister Kim, buried inside a ruffled pink and white birthday dress with her short brown hair yanked into tiny pigtails, presided over the two tables, seated on stacked cushions at the head of the larger one with her little dog Charlie, a Yorkshire Terrier, in her lap. The fuzzy dog peeked from beneath dense curls of his black, blond and brown hair, tasting the air and tilting his head from side to side, attempting to follow the many conversations. With a firm grip on her squirming dog, Kim strove to conduct herself as a medieval queen might, deciding whom to speak with and when, with a put-upon air of indifference. Due to the high volume of the talk at the table, however, and the fact that her haughty, aloof attitude went largely ignored, she soon gave up on it entirely and started shouting.
“Thanks for coming to my party, Caitlin!” She called down the table to a green-eyed girl in a brown and white dress.
“You what?” The girl called back, one hand to her ear.
“I said…” Kim leaned over the table and Charlie had to scramble to avoid being flattened. “Thanks for -”
“Sweetie,” Jeremy’s mom interrupted, walking in from the kitchen area, “are you sure you want to sit so far away from all your friends?”
Kim had insisted that she be at the head of the big table, even if that meant sitting with the few older kids, who couldn’t sit comfortably at the card table brought from the other room.
“No, I’m okay mom,” Kim said. “I just wanted to say hi to Caitlin.”
Jeremy’s mom gave her daughter a tired smile.
“Okay, well it’s almost time for cake, so you -”
“Cake!” Kim squealed, sounding even younger than she was.
Charlie the dog raised his head, cocked back one ear and listened, as though the word “cake” might soon be followed by “doggy treats,” “milk bones,” or possibly, “snausages.”
“And I know you want the cake right,” Jeremy’s mom said, “so why don’t you…oh, there’s the door again. Jeremy could you get it while I get things ready?”
Jeremy and Cameron, who had been sitting next to Kim and across from Lauren, stood up at once and headed for the door. This time they barely managed to avoid a collision. Charlie started barking as Kim turned to see what all the fuss was about and Lauren made sure to roll her eyes before turning to watch the boys at the door.

Cameron sprinted past Jeremy as they crossed into the living room.
“I’ll get it.”
“No you won’t.”
“I got up first.”
“No you didn’t. Besides, it’s my house.”
Cameron slowed for a moment to think of a response and Jeremy took the opportunity to vault past him. He reached the door at an angle, sliding on the throw rug covering the small wooden entryway, and only narrowly avoided slamming into the wall. He used the doorknob to stabilize himself and opened the door, hoping he didn’t look half as anxious as he felt.
On the doorstep, the small round face of a thin young boy with oval glasses peered up at him.
“Oh,” Cameron said, skidding to a halt behind Jeremy, “another kid.”
Jeremy shot Cameron a look and cleared his throat.
“Hi, Arthur,” he said. “Glad you could make it.”
Cameron suddenly became interested again.
“Oh, yeah. Hi Arthur. I’ve heard you’re awesome. Or, I guess, I’ve heard about you. Hey, isn’t your sister-”
“Sondra’s in the car,” Arthur said, “She’s doing something with her hair.”
“Oh,” Jeremy said, “well, that’s -”
“Important,” Cameron said quickly, then studied the ground, obviously having meant to say something far smarter.
Arthur gave Cameron a brief, quizzical look before turning to Jeremy.
“I brought a present for Kim,” he said, reaching into the front pocket of the brown jacket he wore and producing a wrapped gift roughly the size of a bar of soap. “It’s something my dad brought back from Japan. I know Kim is into anime and I figured -”
“She’ll love it,” Jeremy said, “anime is pretty much all she talks about right now.”
He stepped aside so Arthur could get past him. Cameron seemed primed to say something else, somehow win favor with Sondra’s little brother, but no words came. He stood awkwardly by as the boy made his way toward the assembled tables.
“You think this is going to seem creepy?” Jeremy asked. “Us just sitting here waiting for Sondra?”
“Yeah, probably,” Cameron said.
Neither of them moved.
“I mean, I could be meeting guests at the door,” Jeremy said, “but you -”
“I’m helping.”
“…Right.”
Jeremy ducked back inside just enough so that he couldn’t be seen from the driveway and used the soft, glassy reflection of a picture frame corner to smooth down his hair.
“I can’t believe she’s at my house, he thought, and groaned inwardly as Cameron crammed his black glasses back on, leaning stiffly against he doorway in what he probably thought looked like a relaxed, confident pose. “At least I’m not wearing those, he muttered, and took a shaky step outside just as Sondra emerged from her parent’s car.
Her long blond hair swept back from delicate ears across her slight shoulders, bright blue eyes gleaming amidst the softly youthful elegance of her face, Sondra so closely resembled an angel that Jeremy fully expected to hear the subtle, steady strains of some far off harp.
“Oh, man,” Cameron whispered, staring, “I would die for her.”
“That works out pretty well,” Jeremy said, feeling his heartbeat accelerate at Sondra’s approach, “because I would totally kill you for her.”
“Yeah, really,” Cameron said, and Jeremy had just enough time to toss over a curious, disbelieving look before Sondra came into easy speaking range.
“Hi guys,” she said, moving cautiously toward the house, one hand fidgeting with a small golden pendant hung about her neck on a silver chain. “I guess this is the party?”
Cameron snorted one high, anxious laugh and said, “Yup! Right inside!”
He gestured expansively at doorway in the fashion of a carnival ringleader, complete with a little half-bow.
“This way!”
Jeremy felt a sudden, pressing urge to be invisible.
“Yeah, okay,” Sondra said, with a concerned look centered on Cameron’s tight black glasses.
She turned to Jeremy and asked, “You’re Kim’s brother, right?” and Jeremy snapped to attention.
“Yes! Jeremy!” He announced, and might as well have thrown a sharp military salute, given his ridiculous, rigid posture.
“Relax!” he silently commanded himself, she’s going to think you’re more insane than Cameron.
Sondra, thankfully, didn’t seem to notice.
“Arthur brought a present for your sister,” she said. “I didn’t bring anything, so I guess it’s from both of us.”
“Yeah, that’s okay,” Jeremy said.
“Are we supposed to take off our shoes when we go inside?” she asked, glancing at her tan sandals.
“Not if you don’t want,” Jeremy said. “I mean, those are really nice shoes.”
“Yeah, okay, thanks,” Sondra said, and a moment of strained silence filled the doorway.
“So can I get you something to drink?” Jeremy asked, instantly regretting what sounded like a cheesy, too-adult line, but nearly deflating with delighted relief as she nodded and smiled at him.
“Sure, thanks. If you guys have some ice tea maybe?”
“I’m on it,” Jeremy said, and rushed off in the direction of the kitchen.
Cameron watched him go, then, a moment latter, staring uncomfortably at Sondra, said, “I should probably go help him, in case he gets lost.”
He turned and hurried after Jeremy.
Sondra stared after him, confused.
“I thought this was his house,” she said.
After a few dull moments of standing alone, she once again took up fumbling with the pendent and crossed the living room, warily skirted the kitchen where Jeremy and Cameron fiercely battled over a half-full glass of iced tea. She quietly found a chair at the larger of the two tables and gave Kim a tolerant, unsure smile.
“Hi,” Kim said, with a quick look of approval, “you’re really pretty.”




“So, Sondra,” Jeremy’s mom said, resting against the long kitchen counter overlooking the dining area, “we haven’t heard much about you yet. Have you and Jeremy had any classes together? Or at least I imagine you must run into each other sometimes at school.”
“We don’t really…” Jeremy started, but Cameron cut in.
“Jeremy hasn’t but I’ve had two classes with her.”
He said the words proudly and with great importance
“We did?” Sondra asked.
Cameron’s pride tumbled quickly into disappointment.
“Well, yeah, this past year.”
“Oh, okay, Sondra said, as though a few months absence was a perfectly reasonable excuse for completely forgetting somebody.
Kim, her mouth half-filled with mashed potatoes, the only lunch she would accept before cake, decided to answer the original question.
“Jeremy bought her a can of soda once,” she mumbled, raining a white mush of potato flakes down on Charlie, who darted after them like a frenzied, furry fish bobbing for surface-skimming bugs. “It was a Coke but the first time he told me it was a Pepsi and now he gets mad whenever -”
“Kim!” Jeremy stammered.
“See?” Kim said.
“Kim, sweetie,” Jeremy’s mom said, stepping in, “It’s Sondra’s time to talk.”
“But it’s my birthday,” Kim whined.
“And you’ll be the first to get cake and ice cream. Why don’t you let Sondra tell us about school. I’m sure Jeremy and Cameron would like to hear what she has to say. Wouldn’t you, boys?”
She glanced at Jeremy with a knowing smile.
Kill me now, Jeremy thought, as Cameron mumbled something that might have been, “Sure.”
“School’s okay,” Sondra said, not sure who to direct her answer to, “some of the classes are kind of hard. I guess…”
“I totally understand that,” Cameron said, cutting in. “I mean, why can’t they just…”
Jeremy elbowed him beneath the table and his words ended in a surprised grunt.
“I guess I’m just not into school, really,” Sondra went on slowly, checking to see if she would be interrupted again. “I guess I just don’t see why some of the stuff they teach us is supposed to be so important.”
Beside Sondra, across the table from Jeremy, Lauren mouthed the words, “What a surprise.”
Jeremy gave her a quick glare but she gave no sign that she’d seen it.
“Well,” Jeremy’s mom said, “I’ll be the first to admit that some of the things they teach you…”
“Can we have cake now, mom?” Kim asked. “I ate most of these.”
She pressed her fork into what remained of her mashed potatoes, creating a focused, circular pattern of tiny fork prints.
Jeremy’s mom looked over at her daughter, frowning.
“Are you going to let me talk if we don’t?”
“Nope,” Kim said, grinding the fork deeper into the potatoes, “not even a little bit.”
Jeremy’s mom groaned and rose from the table.
“Then I guess we’re having cake. But it’s not quite time to blow the candles out. You’re going to have to wait a little bit.”
“I know,” Kim said, “but we need to be ready.”
Jeremy’s mom nodded and returned to the kitchen for the cake.
“Besides,” Kim said, in a teasing tone, “this way Jeremy has more time to stare at -”
Unaware that he’s been starting at Sondra until that moment, Jeremy spun rapidly to his left, struck his shin painfully against the underside of the table, and found himself face to face with Arthur.
“So,” she said. “What brings you…I mean, do you like the house? This house? Our…”
Thankfully, Cameron nudged him under the table before his panicked rambling became incomprehensible.
Arthur, who had been following the various conversations without really contributing, gave Jeremy a good, long look before answering in earnest.
“It’s a nice house,” he said. “I like how everything is set up. It’s very inviting.”
“Well thank you Arthur,” Jeremy’s mom called from the kitchen, heading slowly into the dining area with Kim’s cake in her hands, its eleven lighted candles a glowing orange ring above the blue and white frosting.
She started to sing, “Happy Birthday,” as she approached the table and soon the smaller kids picked up the song. Their high-pitched voices were unpracticed and off-key but Jeremy couldn’t help but smile a little at their enthusiasm. He sang the words as softly as he could and risked a glance back at Sondra, who sang just as quietly and looked relieved when the awkward song ended in unruly clapping.
“Okay, sweetie,” Jeremy’s mom told Kim, “we’re actually pretty close. You just need to wait about two minutes. Hopefully the candles will all stay lit.”
“Okay mom,” Kim said, her eyes illuminated by the tiny, flickering flames above the cake. “Just make sure you tell me when. I have to make my wish at just the right time.”
“I know, sweetie.”
“That way it has a better chance of coming true.”
“I know.”
“That’s what you told me.”
“I remember.”
“Okay, good,” Kim said, nodding to her little dog and studying the cake intently.
The cake had a colorful, stylized figure frosted on its surface and Sondra leaned forward over the table, examining it.
“Hey,” she said, glancing at Arthur, “isn’t that the same thing you got -”
“Don’t ruin the present,” Arthur murmured, but Kim caught on.
“You got me something about Hiro Mitsu?” she asked. “Oh my god, I love you guys!”
From the far end of the table, the girl named Caitlin spoke up.
“What’s Hiro Mitsu?”
Kim rocked back in her chair and stared at the girl, her mouth opened wide in shock.
“You don’t know Hiro Mitsu, Caitlin? Are you like not allowed to watch TV or something?”
The girl looked around the table, embarrassed.
“I can watch TV,” she said. “I just don’t know what that one is I guess.”
Kim held her dog up before her as though to say “Get a look at this girl, she lives in a cave somewhere and her parents just drop by food every once in a while.”
Charlie glanced down the table but seemed far more interested in the cake.
“I can’t believe you don’t know who Hiro Mitsu is, Caitlin,” Kim said. “I thought I told everybody about it. We totally have to go watch them after this. I’ve got the first three seasons.
She made a quick, vague gesture toward the living room where a black plastic video rack held a colorful array of movie titles.
“Hiro Mitsu is the coolest thing ever. It’s this anime that they brought over from Japan about this boy and his sister and their little pet…”
She froze mid-sentence with a look of total panic.
“It is 11:11 yet mom?” she asked. “Is it time yet?!”
Jeremy’s mom, resting a moment on a chair near the window, glanced at the kitchen clock.
“About twenty seconds,” she said. “Get ready.”
“Almost time, almost time,” Kim whispered to Charlie, who tilted his head to the side and flicked his tiny pink tongue, trying to edge as near to the cake as possible.
Jeremy, not sure what do with twenty seconds, watched Sondra from the corner of his eye. Cameron and Arthur glanced around the table while Lauren seemed transfixed by the dancing candles on the cake. The smaller kids at the second table focused their entire attention on Kim.
“Okay, sweetie,” Jeremy’s mom said at last, “go ahead.”
Kim took a deep breath, closed her eyes, paused for the briefest moment, and noisily blew out all the candles.

A dazzling flash of searing light filled the room, as though a churning, chaotic lightening storm had sprung to life above the table. An instant latter, surrounded by the sudden, strong scent of a thousand burning candles, Jeremy felt his chair rock back, buckle, and possibly shatter as a violent shudder of forceful energy smashed into, over, and through him. The room folded in upon itself as his blurry vision collapsed to a tiny, static line, only to rapidly expand in a rush of overwhelming color and light an instant later.
“Okay,” he said, in a voice he didn’t quite recognize, “what the hell just happened?”
“You aren’t supposed to say “Hell,” Kim answered, and Jeremy shifted his gaze toward the sound but had trouble adjusting to the new brightness.
“Kim?” he asked. “Where are you? What…?”
She cut him off with a piercing squeal of delight.
“I did it!” she cried. “It worked. I’m super-amazing-awesome!”
“You did wh…?” Jeremy started, but let the words drop as the room returned to focus.
Except that it wasn’t exactly a room anymore.
“Where…?”
He stood at the center of a tranquil, hazily lit, forest clearing, bordered by a perfect ring of aged, identical trees with softly shaded brown bark and shadowy green canopies. Above the lush horizon formed by their upper boughs, a massive, looming castle stood boldly against a sky stained a pleasant orange-red by the slow decline of a sun that was little more than a bright golden smudge with small, bright flares upon its molten fringes.
Before him, a small distance across the clearing, an animated figure that somewhat resembled his sister half-turned to face him.
“I made it work,” she said, her oversized, light blue eyes twinkling.
Jeremy, looking over her white blouse top, lengthy blue scarf, striking white tennis shoes at least five times to large for her, and thin white headband holding back a shock of unruly, neon-blue hair, asked, “You what?”
“I made the wish work, silly,” she said again, and Jeremy noticed the slightly blue tint to her lips, the bright bar of white she flashed for teeth, and the band-aid, apparently there for fashion’s sake alone, diagonally affixed to her left cheek.
“There’s no way this is…”
“I wished us into Hiro Mitsu!” Kim squealed, and giggling, fell into a giddy, two-finger victory pose. “This is the best thing ever!”
Turning slowly around the clearing, Jeremy saw other colorful figures dusting themselves off, even though in the new world, everything seemed impossibly clean.
Kim made another happy squealing sound.
“I can’t believe it actually…wait, how come you guys are here? Where’s Caitlin? And hey, where’s Charlie?”
At the sound of his name, Kim’s little dog popped his head out from inside the back of Kim’s blouse and gave a short happy bark.
Only, it wasn’t exactly a bark and Charlie wasn’t exactly a dog anymore.
The squirrel-sized creature now perched on Kim’s shoulder had light blue fur, surprised, oval eyes, and two bouncing antenna dangling from his fuzzy head. He examined Kim’s newly blue hair for a moment with sharp interest, wobbling slightly and chattering, before happily flinging himself from her and gliding to the soft ground on a small pair of violet, velvet wings.
“That’s something you don’t see every day.”
It was Lauren’s voice, or something close, and it had come from somewhere behind Jeremy.
“It might be if you lived here,” an animated version of Arthur said, peering through comically large glasses over an alarmingly thin nose, little more than a shaded, sideways triangle. “And I can’t imagine that being the strangest thing here.”
“You mean it gets weirder than that?!
The voice sounded sweetly of helium and Jeremy had half-turned to identify its source when low whirring, like a menacing whisper, rose up from his left. He looked there instead and found what appeared to be a speeding shadow, a streaking section of rapid, frantic darkness darting from tree to tree.
“Guys, what is that?” he asked, and knew that the quaver in his voice was not the fault of his anime self alone.
“I don’t know,” Kim said, her head tilted in confusion, “I don’t remember that in the show.”
The dark form reached the base of another tree and vaulted silently into its branches. Jeremy took an uneasy step back as the tree’s foliage shifted and a single leaf swept back and forth as it fell to the earth.
It was Kim who watched all the anime. He had seen a few minutes here and there but never paid that much attention.
The dark figure slid a thin, sharp sword from a cloth-covered, black scabbard and the steely blade glinted a harsh red in the light of the setting sun.
Raising the blade for a fatal thrust, the figure uttered three rough words.
“Now…you die,” the figure said, frozen in mid battle-pose.
Jeremy tried to speak, to offer some bland, defensive words, but sound had abandoned the animated forest, and a moment later, the sun was extinguished beneath an all-encompassing blackness that sprang from exactly nowhere and consumed the day.

Episode 2: The Elements of Anime Part 1

A cartoon version of Sondra Brenner, her cream-colored, heart-shaped face slightly bewildered beneath a soft, golden curtain of unevenly spaced bangs, set a delicate hand against the sturdy trunk of a nearby tree as cartoon daylight flooded back.
“What is going on!?” She cried, her long hair curling like bright yellow ribbons, swaying from behind a slender silver tiara, “somebody tell me what’s happening.”
She titled her head to one side, causing her mouth, little more than a shaded line when closed, to form a tiny, slanted triangle.
“And what’s wrong with my voice? I sound like I swallowed the air from a balloon.”
“You kind of do,” Lauren agreed, “and actually, so do I, just not as much.”
She took a step forward and nearly tripped on the dragging hem of the slate gray and dark violet cloak she wore.
The cloak had crisscrossed, faded gold lines and designs, a curved, brass clasp just below where it cinched at the throat, and a slightly billowed hood. Lauren’s hair, now the subdued color of dark honey, hung perfectly across one eye and strategically shadowed her face in a way that should have been impossible.
“But I think we’ve got bigger issues than your voice sounding funny,” she told Sondra.
They all turned to face the menacing, sword-wielding figure still poised for battle with its short, sharp blade.
“Why is everybody staring at me?” the figure asked, and the voice, though still clipped and callous, now sounded more than a little like Cameron.
“What do you mean why are we staring?” Kim asked, “you said we were gonna die!”
Cameron, his dark eyes confused behind his mask, said, “No. What? I was just messing with you. It’s awesome. I have this super deep voice and I can run a million miles an hour in and out of trees. But then I got frozen in place and everything went black.”
“Everything did,” Arthur said, “I think we may have gone to commercial.”
The boy suddenly became the center of attention.
“We what?” Sondra asked, the fingers of one slender hand against her check in concern.
“If we’re inside an anime show, we may have gone to commercial,” Arthur repeated. “You know how when a TV show starts sometimes they do that teaser part in the beginning? The hook? It’s called something like that.”
“The what?” Cameron asked, his utter bewilderment at strong odds with his newly intimidating voice.
“Oh, the part before the theme song!” Kim said. “Now I know what you’re talking about! For a second I thought you had gone crazy!”
She shook her head from side to side and rolled her eyes in dizzy circles to simulate insanity.
“Where are we?!” Sondra cried, her wide, blue eyes fearful and sparkling.
“I already told you,” Kim said, “we’re inside Hiro Mitsu!”
Jeremy, watching the exchange, thought he heard the faint sound of distant music.
“Inside Hiro Mitsu?” Sondra said, with a small gasp, holding aloft folded arms and clasping her hands at her chin, “you’re saying that we somehow got inside-”
“Hiro Mitsu,” Kim agreed impatiently, “haven’t you been-”
“Say that again,” Jeremy said, “It’s like it gets louder every time.”
His sister turned to him, hands against her hips in the pose of an agitated dancer.
“Say what again?”
“Hiro Mitsu,” Jeremy said, and the music suddenly swelled.
“Oh, hey!” Kim squealed, “it’s the theme song! Arthur was right!”
She did a happy little dance of awkward half steps.
Jeremy tried to force his mind in to accepting what had seemed impossible a few minutes before.
“Okay,” he said, more to himself than any one person, “so assuming I didn’t just knock over my chair, hit my head, and start dreaming this, and we actually got somehow wished into a cartoon, does that mean we’re in a certain episode or…?”
“I don’t think so,” Kim said, looking around. “I’ve seen pretty much all of them and I don’t remember that castle. Maybe the forest though, it’s hard to tell. All these trees kind of look the same.”
“Okay,” Jeremy said again, raising his eyes from the forest to the castle, “but then, how come nothing’s here? There’s a theme song but no characters?”
The theme music, which had steadied into a fairly typical, electronic beat with an underlying chorus of soft Japanese voices, quickened to a crescendo.
NINJA!
The word formed rapidly in the air before Cameron as a violent implosion of thick shining letters three feet high, backed by a lightning-fast flurry of black motion lines. As the word appeared, Cameron leapt into the air and hung there as though suspended by invisible wires, his sword a sharp, polished line. He presented a shining array of silver ninja stars, gleaming like razor-claws between the black cloth fingers of his fitted glove.
“Whoa!” Kim said, with obvious admiration, as the Ninja dropped gracefully and soundlessly to the ground, bowed once, and disappeared into an abrupt cloud of thick gray smoke.
The word “Ninja,” and the frantic background faded from view.
“Whoa!” Kim said again, in case somebody had missed it the first time.
Lauren nodded.
“I guess we found the characters. We are the characters.”
She took hold of her robe at the waist and held it out.
“And I could sure use one of those sign things to tell me what I’m supposed to-”
It was all she had time to get out before a gleaming blue word, the letters fused together, screamed in from somewhere and slammed to a halt five feet above her head.
SORCERESS!
Lauren reached behind her back and pulled a gnarled wooden staff out of the air. She twirled it expertly around to her front, slammed the base of the weapon into the ground, and created an arching, electric blue energy field around herself. The energy sphere shimmered and cracked, sending shining blue sparks in every direction before slowly fading away with the slight smell of exhausted ashes and the effervescent sound of many diminishing fireworks.
“Well, that was amazing,” Lauren said, as the word faded away, “and I have no idea how I just did that.”
“No clue,” Jeremy said, and, wandering might role he might be required to play, was about to examine his own anime outfit, when he caught the faint glint of something flashing in the sunlight far above his head. He heard the whooping, whooshing sound of a sturdy object tipping end over end, catching the air as it plummeted toward the earth. For a moment, he thought it was another word, a combined collection of letters like Lauren had received, but then the object flashed once more and Jeremy saw that it was a sword.
With a blade the size of a grown man
Coming right for him.
“Everybody get out of the way!” he cried, but couldn’t seem to heed his own advice.
His body locked up, and no amount of urging could get it going again.
“This is a stupid, stupid way to die,” he muttered, his eyes fixed on the sword rocketing toward him. “It’s a stupid, stupid…”
His right arm, which seemed suddenly to have a mind of its own, shot into the air as the sword came down and caught the grip of the weapon as though it weighed nothing. Jeremy, too stunned to speak, watched himself bring the enormous sword around in a clean arc and drop it into position before him. The theme song added a brief, rhythmic horn section ending with the sustained, brazen call of a trumpet.
Against the oversized sword blade, emblazoned in fiery red, shone the word:
WARRIOR!
Cameron, standing very still, looked down at his relatively thin blade and made an annoyed, scoffing sound.
“Bet you don’t get ninja stars.”
“Ooh, do me, do me!” Kim called to the sky. “What do I get to be?”
A collection of floating cubes, a cross between colorful ABC blocks and miniature clouds, appeared as merry words strung in a contended arc above Kim’s head.
ANNOYING LITTLE SISTER…
“What? Hey!” Kim shouted, her head tilted all the way back to read.
She hopped up and down, trying to bat the words away, but the little cloud-blocks remained just out of reach. After a moment, another, smaller string of letters formed and drifted over to join the first set.
AND PET!
Charlie the puffball stuck his head out from the collar of Kim’s shirt and joyfully yipped while small, silhouette paw prints marched in a tight circle around the “PET” sign.
A short time later, the theme music shifted and slowed. By the time Arthur got his title, the song had transformed into a different sort of melody, one with a wistful strum of soft strings and a reoccurring, slightly sorrowful refrain.
APPRENTICE SCHOLAR
Arthur, who hadn’t spoken much since entering the cartoon world, continued his near-silent streak and muttered only, “Hmm,” as a large, nondescript book appeared in his hands. The book opened, its pages turning as though by strong wind, and slammed closed as a gleam flashed across Arthur’s glasses. The same wind then seemed to sweep about the boy himself, gently ruffling the raised white collar of the shirt he wore beneath a black uniform vest with light gold trim and a subdued red tie.
Jeremy hadn’t given much thought to Arthur since they had come through. He remembered seeing the kid’s oversized glasses during those first few shocking moments but his attention had wandered rapidly to Sondra’s high-pitched voice, Lauren’s mysterious, hooded cloak, and Charlie the dog’s dramatic transformation into a flying, blue, mutant teddy bear. He studied Arthur now, a little surprised by how little the boy’s appearance had changed. Arthur’s pressed dress pants and polished blacked shoes had a more sophisticated, expensive look to them than…
“Don’t even think about it!”
It was the high, helium voice again, and Jeremy turned at the sound.
He saw Sondra, pouting adorably with arms crossed, her face scrunched, and her small shoulders hunched, beneath a shimming rainbow array of sparkles, which happily twinkled the words:
BEAUTIFUL ELVIN PRINCESS!
“There’s no way that you guys all get to be ninjas and wizards and I have to be some stupid princess. What am I supposed to do? Sit around in a tower someplace waiting to get rescued?”
“Or be sacrificed to a dragon,” Lauren casually suggested, “princesses are good for that too.”
Sondra tried to glare at her, but the structure of her new face just wasn’t built for it, and the expression ended up looking like a slightly worried pout.
Lauren didn’t even notice.
“It might not even matter,” Jeremy said, hoping to put Sondra at ease, “if we can find a way to get back home…”
“Get back home!?” Kim nearly exploded, her eyes like saucers. “Why would we want to go home? We’re inside Hiro Mitsu! Don’t you know how cool that is?”
“Seriously,” Cameron said, “I’m a ninja here. A ninja.”
“Yeah, well,” Sondra said, “I don’t want to be the stupid princess, so we better find a way out of this place. I want to go home now!”
Arthur stepped closer to his sister and looked up at her with an expression Jeremy couldn’t quite read.
“Then we should figure out how we got here,” the boy said. “Then maybe we can figure out a way back.”
Sondra glanced at him with a thin, thankful smile.
Lauren watched the two for a moment from beneath her hood. Eventually she shrugged.
“Okay, fine” she said, “so how did we get in here? Kimmy’s wish, right?”
“Right!” Kim confirmed, her hands set solidly against her hips, daring anybody to prove otherwise.
“So what did you wish for?” Lauren asked. “I mean, what did you say exactly?”
Kim folded her arms and shook her head decisively.
“I can’t tell you or it won’t come true.”
Jeremy shot a nervous look at Sondra.
“It already came true, Kim,” he said. “Now we need to know how to undo it.”
“What words did you use?” Lauren asked again, with a quick look of warning at Jeremy.
“I said that me and Charlie and my closest friends would be wished into Hiro Mitsu,” Kim said softly, scuffing one oversized shoe against the animated earth.
“I’m one of your closest friends?” Cameron asked. “Really?”
Jeremy wasn’t sure if Cameron sounded flattered or just confused.
Kim glanced at him from the corner of her eye but kept her head down.
“Maybe it was the way she said it,” Arthur said. “Maybe the wish took her words literally.”
“Literally?” Sondra asked, with a slightly titled head.
“Yes,” Arthur said.
“What? No,” Sondra said. “I mean, what does that word mean?”
Arthur glanced at his sister in slight annoyance while Lauren stifled a laugh.
“It means that…” Jeremy started, then, realizing he couldn’t come up with an actual definition for the word, explained how it applied.
“It means when Kim said ‘her closest friends,’ the wish brought in the people sitting next to her at the table. Not her best friends maybe, but…”
“Her “closest” ones,” Lauren finished, using hooked fingers for quotation marks.
Cameron groaned.
“She was sitting at the big kid’s table,” he said, “the little kids were way at the other end.”
“Except Arthur,” Sondra said, catching on, “I guess he was close enough. He was right next to me.”
She paused and her face fell into a half-moon frown.
“Did you just say the ‘big kid’s table?”
Cameron disappeared into a puff of smoke, and as the smoke dissipated, so did the theme song. It wound down to a faded series of final notes and the world went silent for a moment, before another song began. The tones of the new music were graceful and airy. It was the sort of soft soundtrack that might accompany the flight of a small, darting bird.
Sondra listened to the change while staring absently at the place where Cameron had disappeared.
She shrugged as in answer to a question.
“Okay,” Lauren said. “So we know how we got here. I guess that ‘make a wish at 11:11’ thing actually worked. Crazy.”
“Yeah it is,” came Cameron’s voice from somewhere behind Sondra, and the princess whirled in irritation but found nothing.
Lauren turned to Kim.
“Are there any magic doors in this show? Or mirrors or something? Something that we could use to get back home? Maybe one of the characters could help us. Is Hiro Mitsu just the name or is it…?
“Okay, whoa,” Kim said, holding up a hand. “That’s a lot of questions.”
For a moment she simply stared into space.
“Okay,” she said, “ it’s a show about these two twins who have magic powers. And they have this pet. It’s kind of like a dragon except that it’s really adorable. And except that it’s not really as big as a dragon. It’s kind of like Charlie is now. Except bigger.”
She glanced at the puffball on her shoulder and Charlie looked back, happily confused and probably hungry.
“Well, maybe not as big as…”
“What about those doors she’s talking about,” Sondra interrupted, pointing at Lauren, “are there any that go back to earth?”
Kim’s features went comically blank for just a moment before she broke into a fit of manic giggling.
“We’re not in outer space, you crazy person,” she said.
“Well, back to…home,” Sondra said, looking defensive, “Wherever home is.”
“Nope. No magic mirrors. No magic doors. Looks like we’re stuck here.”
She couldn’t keep the smile from her face.
“You’ll just have to keep being an Elf Princess. But at least you get to keep those cute pointy ears.”
Sondra’s eyes widened and her hands flew to the sides of her head. Her face deflated to an annoyed collection of thin, down-turned lines.
“I have bunny ears,” she muttered, sinking to the ground with her knees together and her head lolling, “that’s just great.”
Kim, looking slightly guilty, held up the little puffball dog.
“You could hold Charlie to make you feel better,” she offered, “if you want.”
Sondra continued to stare at the ground, miserable.
“So, Kimmy,” Lauren prompted, “You were talking about the show? What do the twins…?”
“Oh yeah!” Kim said, forgetting Sondra. “They have this cute pet dragon thing and it’s their job to guard the village from all the monsters that hang out in the forest. You know, like goblins and trolls and demons…”
“In the forest?” Sondra asked, in a sudden, wide-eyed panic, “we’re in the middle of a forest. What does that mean, that there’s a bunch of monsters here?”
Charlie, on Kim’s shoulder, perked up his antennae at the word “monster” and issued a growl that sounded about as intimidating as an ancient, toothless cat yawning.
Kim patted Charlie’s head in a series of well meaning bonks, pressed her lips together in a serious way, and cast her eyes about the clearing.
The solid trucks of the nearby trees were a very heavy brown, almost black, and split early into a configuration of stout branches resembling a giant’s gnarled, wooden hand reaching for the sky. Resting heavily above the branches, shot through with intermittent slants of sunlight, a soft, cloud-like spread of dark green foliage stretched horizontally to form the forest canopy.
“I don’t think this is the right kind of forest for the monsters to be,” Kim decided at length. “It not really dark enough. Usually they like to be in places with lots of shadows and places to hide.”
Jeremy thought the forest still had more than enough places for something to hide, but chose not to comment.
“Okay,” Lauren said, “so we probably don’t need to worry about getting attacked any time soon. That’s good.”
“But we’re still stuck in this stupid cartoon land,” Sondra whined, starting slowly to her feet. “And everybody looks funny and they move funny and I have this stupid voice!”
“Actually, yeah,” Cameron said, wincing at the ring of Sondra’s final syllable, “if we’re going to here a while, we should figure out how everything works. All the anime stuff I mean.”

“Yeah, good idea,” Lauren said, “so what do we know about anime?”
“That it’s stupid,” Sondra complained, sinking to the ground and sitting forward, gathering her knees to her chest.
Arthur only took a moment to watch his sister sulk.
“People can jump really high,” he volunteered, “and do what Cameron did in the theme song, hang in the air.”
A sly smile spread across Kim’s face. She hunched down, made the sound of a motor revving, puffed up her cheeks, and shot forty feet into the air.
“Whoo!” she cried, as the others watched in amazement, “jumping works!”
She landed gracefully and traced a hooked line in the air with her finger.
“Check!”
“Okay,” Lauren said, smiling, “so there’s jumping. What about…”
Jeremy, realizing that her gaze rested on him, grew suddenly nervous.
“What?” he asked.
Lauren tried to add more to her sentence but couldn’t go on. She could only cover her mouth with her hand and giggle through her fingers.
“What is it?” Jeremy asked again, “what’s so-”
“Are you aware,” Lauren said, fighting to control the laugher in her voice and failing to cover the wide grin behind her hand, “are you aware that you have a tail?”
Jeremy blinked at her.
“I…I what?” he asked, slowly, worried that she might not be kidding.
“You have a tail,” Lauren repeated, titling her head for a better look and still fighting laughter. “Like a cat tail, a panther or something. Actually, it’s kind of cute.”
Jeremy, now panicked, spun around with such speed that he nearly fell over. The tail came around one side and smacked him squarely on the thigh. It was a silky, basic black and curved at the end like a question mark.
Kim came over for a better examination.
“It is cute!”
Charlie gave a happy bark. Apparently he liked it too.
“Oh, man,” Cameron said, crouching for a better look, “I bet you can swing from trees with that thing?”
“God, I hope not!” Jeremy said, with an embarrassed glance at Sondra.
“I can’t even feel it, it’s probably just…you know, for decoration.”
He couldn’t believe how stupid that sounded.
“I really think…” he stared. “I really think we have more important things to…”
“I really can’t believe you grew a tail,” Lauren laughed, her cartoon eyes shining.
She made a scratching motion in the air.
“Are you like, part cat now?”
Jeremy gave her a look.
“What, you want me to meow or something?”
Kim jumped up and down, clapping her hands.
“Do it! Do it! Be a kitty!”
Jeremy slapped his palm to his forehead. It made a sound like wet bologna flung against a wall.
“We really should figure out what we’re supposed to be doing here,” he groaned, “and what the deal is with these things we have. Lauren’s staff and Arthur’s book and…”
The book in Arthur’s hands sprang to life. The pages turned rapidly, as though caught by a strong wind, and halted a quarter way through the text. A man’s voice, with a strong Japanese accent and a practiced reading tone, began to speak, and though the sound seemed to come from everywhere, the book was clearly its source.
“During the reign of Hyaku the cruel, third of his name, a rebellion began in the forests surrounding Kasane Castle.”
“Hey, it’s an audio book,” Cameron said, inching closer.
“Third,” Sondra asked, “The third of his name? They seriously named three people Hyaku the Cruel?”
“Shhh!” Kim said, with a finger to her lips. “I’m trying to learn!”
With only the slightest, annoyed sound of protest, Sondra returned to pouting.
“The rebellion began,” the book went on, “soon after Hyaku’s warring followers of trolls, ogres and goblins began burning large portions of the forest surrounding Kasane Castle in order to drive out possible spies sent by the opposition. Having survived a number of attacks in previous years, Hyaku…”
The book stopped abruptly. It slammed closed with a bang and fell gracelessly into its owner’s hands.
Arthur reopened the book and flipped through the pages.
“No words,” he said, squinting down, “the whole thing is blank.”
Kim leaned in to look but Charlie began barking.
“It not going to hurt you, you silly dog,” she said. “It’s only a…”
She stopped and slowly turned with the realization that Charlie had been barking at something aside from the book.
Jeremy turned as well and felt the breath catch is his throat at the sight of a massive ogre, all green skin, sharp teeth and muscle, wielding a sharp, silver axe with a glinting, eager blade. Impossibly, two more ogres stepped out from behind trees half the width of their bulky bodies. One carried a brightly burning torch while the other held a longsword just as sharp and formidable as the axe belonging to the first ogre.
“Looks like we get to burn more than just another part of forest today,” the ogre with the torch growled, hunched forward and leering.
He focused beady, black eyes on the weapon in Jeremy’s hands.
“Sword looks like it might sell. The humans we can heat up for dinner.”
Spittle flew from the ogre’s jaws and was licked away with a sticky, scarlet tongue.
“The little ones are especially tasty, as I remember. And if we don’t eat everything, we could bring something back to Hyaku. You know how he likes to reward his loyal followers.”
The two other two nodded and the started forward, their eyes filled with hunger and greed.
“I think I’ll have the one with the blue hair first,” the torch-bearing ogre said, eyeing Kim. “It even comes with an appetizer.”
Jeremy glanced at his sister and saw Charlie, perched bravely on Kim’s shoulder and repeating the pathetic, squeaky bark from earlier. Beside her, Cameron stood in the approximation of a fighting stance, ninja sword and silver stars drawn, with a clear lack of confidence in his ability to use either, while Lauren stared at her gnarled wooden staff, clearly hoping to discover that it was somehow actually a rocket launcher.
“Try and stay behind me, Kim,” Jeremy said, trying to find a position where he could both watch and protect his sister from the ogres. He brought his sword around and held it level, amazing to find that his hands remained steady despite the overwhelming feeling of wrenching terror crashing through his body.
“Get them!” the lead ogre cried, raising his axe and charging.
Jeremy fought frantically to keep his grip on the sword from slipping. He held the weapon level with the vague hope that the ogre’s driving fury would propel it, without thought, onto the blade, though it seemed far from likely.
“Don’t worry, Charlie,” he faintly heard Kim say, “I’ll be okay. It’ll be…”
Jeremy’s eye went involuntarily to Kim’s little pet, who seemed, inexplicably, to be glowing.
“What the…?”
As the rest of the group braced for impact and the ogres rushed closer, sharp steel and blazing fire in their massive hands, Charlie ran a quick tongue about his muzzle, issued one final, feeble bark, sprang from Kim’s shoulder immersed in a rising haze of golden glow, and turned into a dragon.
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes   Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:10 pm

Here, sir, is my edit of Episode 2.

Cartoon Eyes: Episode 2

You'll notice that it's substantially less critiqued than your first one. That's because, well, darn it, I liked it! A lot! I found very little wrong with it, and mostly just had a few suggestions to make. There were a few grammar issues I indicated, as well as misspellings, so be sure to find those.

Well done! Being now quite invested in the story I eagerly look forward to reading the next installment.
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes   Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:50 pm

OK, so I have good news and bad news for you...

Good news: I've taken time out of my busy NaNo schedule to take a look at what you've got so far, and I have to say that although I'm not too into the whole anime thing, I like what you're doing with this! Keep up the good work!

Bad news: Because of my busy NaNo schedule, I'm forced to abstain from writing a proper critique until such time that I finish my NaNo novel. However, at this new pace I'm working at, I'm flying through this like no one's business! Hopefully I'll have something for you if not at the end of this month then sometime in early December!

I'll get around to it eventually, I promise! I'm just extremely caught up in the NaNo spirit! It's like Christmas spirit, only with less fat men running around handing out presents. santa
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes   Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:36 am

Thank you very much Stephen for doing edit! The sequel and my god, certainly don't feel bad about critiquing less. In fact, if you just came out and said, "it's perfect," that would be fantastic...just...not if you're lying. I'll throw chapter 3 up here sometime soon. Take your time of course, but maybe now that you're invested (I've got you!) you'll jump right in.

Oh, and Mr. In-Quiz, (cause that's what I call you in my head now apparently) don't worry about having no time. Nobody has any time right now. In fact, I think having the Nano so near the Christmas season is kind of messed up. Is there a more distracted season? It's like they want you to fail! Ahhhhh!
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes   Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:45 am

Not to mention that for us with the "four term" schooling system, the beginning of November is mid-terms, and the end of November is studying for finals. It just ain't fair, I tell ya!
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes   Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:35 am

Hot Damn! I like you're review of chapter 2. There was a lot of blue. It was tempting to just go through and read all of those first.
1.) Who knew titled was a word? Apparently it means upper class? What the hell? That's like brining. It's just too damn close to a word that I use all the time. I henceforth blame all my grammatical errors on the fact that MS word isn't selective enough about the quality of its verbal clientele. Although I see that brining doesn't count as a word on this forum spell-check. Microsoft fail!

2.) While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea behind both naming chapters in the style of typical anime episodes and perhaps using the phonetic punctuation, I have to consider that many in my target audience, (that is, people who have read and enjoyed my two previous books) are already a little gun shy about the whole anime concept and further alienating them by going too referential and specific probably isn't a good idea. And yes, my integrity is indeed wounded by the necessity to dumb down the parody aspect of the book, but given that half the time when I speak the word parody in conjunction with promoting this book I receive vague nods or blank stairs, I think figure it's a sad necessity. I do plan on taking another look at the chapter titles however, as I think a few of them (while remaining appropriately secular) could use a little spicing up. The theme song portion is probably a little bit more old school Mega Man than anime, but I've read that out loud to a couple groups of people and damn do they love the old "Ninja!" thing. So again, while not entirely true to the concept, I think it works in a general sense.

I would be so much annoyed with this stuff if I viewed this book as more than just a fun adventure, but really that's all I'm going for here. Circle of Dark Light will kick same epic, thematic, character-developing ass I assure you, but this one is just kind of my training to break into a more mainstream arena and expand my readership base.

3.) On the use of "We are the characters..." I think maybe the italics aren't coming through. It should read. "Well, I guess we found the characters. We ARE the characters."
Does that make more sense or does it still seem repetitious? It seems like there was something with chapter one like that as well.

I guess that's it. I fixed a few of the semantic errors. The unreadable expression thing, Lauren's confusion movement etc. Thanks for all the fun comments, and yeah, I love that extinguished ashes line. That's one of those paragraphs where you go, "Holy crap, did I just type that? sweet!"
Okay, off to post chapter 3. Thanks for editing!
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