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    Despite his strength waning, Barnaby kept going. He wandered further into Boogeyland than he ever did before, through more yawning caves, past towering stalagmites and withering cyprus trees. The only noises came from his own footsteps and the occasional drip of water from the high ceiling.

     His mind was fixated on one thing – find a tunnel that led up and out instead of further and down. There had to be at least one that the Boogeymen didn’t know about or use to leave the cursed grotto they called their home.

    His bag of gold was starting to weigh him down. He sat on a rock to catch his breath. Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he mopped his brow and cleaned the dust off his spectacles. This journey was taking longer than he had anticipated. Oh, how he wished he had his walking stick with him! He was so caught up in his own self-pitying that he failed to notice something creeping up behind him.

     Barnaby turned around as he felt a hot, heavy breath on the back of his neck. With a scream he fell off the rock as one of the Boogeymen loomed over him, its fangs jutting out over its upper lip, which was curled in something like a sneer. Its tiny black eyes were focused right on Barnaby. It gave a snort from its pig-like snout followed by a guttural roar.

     Almost instantly, several more Boogeymen appeared, jumping out from behind rocks or down from the ceiling. What started as five turned into twenty, then thirty, then nearly fifty, all within a matter of seconds. Barnaby found himself surrounded by the beasts, each one glaring at him with animalistic, malicious intent.

    No two Boogeymen looked the same. Though each one was covered with coarse brown fur, had long sharp claws and wore a grass loincloth, one had huge pointed ears like a bat, while another had the grin of a shark, and another had slit nostrils like a snake. Half-man and half-animal, they stood on two legs but bore the most monstrous of features.

    Barnaby was too terrified to move. He could only shake and stammer. “N-now listen here, all of you. I-I was only j-just coming down to apologize for how things went sour up in Toyland.” The Boogeymen snarled in response; even with their limited intellect, they could see right through his lies.

    Barnaby eyed his pouch full of treasure. He hated to part with it but if it meant his survival, well, he had done worse things before. He held it up to them. “Here…is a little compensation on my part. Take it! It’s yours!” He shook the bag with a conniving smile. At this the Boogeymen roared and pounced upon him.

    Barnaby lost his grip on the pouch and it fell just out of his reach. He tried to grab it through the mounds of shaggy fur and writhing limbs. Several times a claw or set of fangs would come too close for comfort yet by some miracle would just miss its mark.

     As Barnaby tried to clamber out of the rabble, something always dragged him back in. Despite this, he kept reaching for his satchel, first with one hand, then a few fingers, then…there! With one finger he dragged it to back him, then gathered it up with his free hand. With his prize out of harm’s way, Barnaby managed to crawl through the pile of monsters - who by this time had turned their hostility towards each other - grabbed his old black hat which had fallen during the scuffle, and backtracked down the nearest tunnel.

    Barnaby fled through the endless rocky abyss with the bag of gold scooped up in his arms like a baby. By this point he had fully lost his sense of direction - he had no idea where he was going and where he had came from.

     A distant roar followed by several more like it meant that the Boogeymen had discovered their prey had given them the slip. Eventually, they would find him and leave nothing but a pile chewed-up bones when they were done. Still, Barnaby kept on going. His instinct for survival was pushing him to his limits, but giving up was never an option for the Crooked Man. It was only when he dared to stop and look back at how far he had gone that his instincts rewarded him.

    He didn’t know how he had missed it before, but behind him, just on his right, was another tunnel hewed into the cave wall. What separated this from the others, however, were the rubies and emeralds embedded around it, glinting in what little light there was in the cave.

     Barnaby went up to it and caressed one of the gems with his long, bony fingers. “Beautiful,” he thought. Before his greed could fully seize him, he decided to investigate further.

         In the tunnel, there were more red and green jewels sticking out of the walls. Some even littered the ground like ordinary stones. They became larger the further he went, and it wasn’t long before he could feel the floor beneath him beginning to slant upward.

     Barnaby knew, at last, that he had found what he had been looking for. Now confident, he pounced upon the jewels, gathering as many as he could in fistfuls before adding them to his bag of treasure. Unfortunately for him, his luck started to run out. He may have escaped the Boogeymen largely unscathed, but his pouch wasn’t as lucky.

     As Barnaby poured the jewels in, they, and whatever else remained inside, fell right back out at his feet. He looked inside it and his face fell – there was a long gash near the bottom that was, at the moment, big enough to fit both his hands through.

     He turned around and saw a trail of all his gold and silver leading back through and out of the tunnel of jewels. It was at this point that he also heard the snarling and shambling of the monsters he was trying to escape growing louder and louder. He had led them directly to him. With a cry, Barnaby threw down the torn pouch, stuffed whatever gems he could into his coat pockets, and ran like the dickens.

     The tunnel slanted further upwards and soon became very steep. A mix of both jewels and rough stones made the path more rocky. No longer able to run without stumbling, Barnaby found himself having to climb up on all fours. He kept his focus straight ahead, praying that he would soon reach the exit as the sounds of the Boogeymen drifted to his ears. Foolishly he dared to look back – they were very nearly upon him, climbing up and over one another to catch their quarry.

     Barnaby was so afraid that he didn’t look where he was going and nearly ran face-first into a boulder large enough to obscure what lay ahead of him. Desperately, he clambered over it. He could feel it coming loose beneath him as he did, but it did not give way. As he reached solid ground, he could see a faint light before him – he was nearly there!

      Triumphant, he turned to face his attackers. With a cocky sneer he shouted down at them, “So, you think you can attack your lord and master Silas Barnaby and not expect any consequences? I promised you land! I promised you a feast! And when you failed you turn on me? Well –“ He began to kick at the loose boulder before him, sending a few pebbles and small rubies tumbling on to the Boogeymen’s shaggy heads. “This! Will teach you! To trifle! With! The true! Master! Of Toyland!”

     With one final push, the boulder rolled forward, and Barnaby watched in amazement as it plowed through the terrified Boogeymen – not because of what was happening, but because the boulder was, in fact, a giant emerald, its beauty partially hidden by the earth before it was sent on a collision course with an army of monsters.

     The Boogeymen who weren’t in the immediate path of the emerald or had fallen behind ran for their lives out of the tunnel, leaving the rest to face the giant stone head-on. Their frightened shrieks bounced off the walls along with the cacophonous rumblings of the tumbling emerald. When it reached the mouth of the tunnel, it collided with an almighty crash and stuck there.

    Barnaby stood over the wreckage, winded by his exertion, but feeling relieved. Whatever Boogeymen had remained in the tunnel with him were dead, and the others were far too afraid to come back and try to take him again. With a smug smile of satisfaction, he turned around and started to head back up the path towards the light.

     He stuck his hands in his pockets and let his fingers sift through the jewels he had collected. That’s when he felt something in his left pocket that didn’t feel like a gemstone. It was round, cold, and hard, like a coin. Anticipating a piece of gold he had somehow overlooked, Barnaby whipped it out of his pocket to inspect it. What he found, however, wasn’t gold or silver. It wasn’t even a half-crown or a shilling.

    It was a sixpence. A tarnished, rough, slightly dented, crooked sixpence. It lay on Barnaby’s flat palm while he stared down at it.

     At first he was overwhelmed with disappointment. He was ready to throw away the rusty old coin and continue on his journey when his greed made him reconsider. Money was money, after all, and every coin, no matter how small, had its worth.

     But just as he was about to pocket it, something else, a tiny voice in the back of his mind, made him look at the crooked sixpence a little longer. The coin was old to be sure, yet Barnaby had the strangest feeling that he knew the old sixpence, like it was an old friend, a part of him long forgotten.

     That voice called out to him again, urging him to keep looking, to think deeper and harder ...

     His current situation came back to him before he could delve further, however. He shoved the coin back into his pocket with a grumble. What was he thinking, acting like a single coin was so important when he was already carrying emeralds and rubies the size of his fists.

    Barnaby trudged up the path toward the light. The cave became brighter but not to a dazzling degree, even with the jewels sparkling on the walls. When he finally emerged, the first thing he saw was the sky. It was the faint blue-purple glow of twilight, with grey and lavender clouds like claw marks gliding past. Barnaby looked around and found himself in a desolate forest.

     The twisted trees were almost bare. Brown leaves carpeted the ground. The wind made eerie noises as it blew past him. Barnaby pulled his coat a little closer to him as he walked through the woods. There was nobody in sight, but he had the oddest feeling that he wasn't alone here.

     Looking up he saw some unfamiliar grey birds on a branch staring back down at him with glowing red eyes. One flew away with a loud screech. Not for the first time this day, Barnaby found himself second-guessing his plan. He ran his fingers through his jewel-laden pockets for comfort.

    He tread carefully through the woods until he reached a beaten dirt path.  At a fork in the road stood a crudely painted wooden sign proclaiming he was in “The Haunted Forest” with one mile left until he reached “The Witch’s Castle” (“I’d turn back if I were you!”).

     “A witch? Here?” Barnaby thought. He looked around again apprehensively, as if a cackling old crone would pounce upon him at any moment. Instantly he made up his mind to be anywhere BUT here right now. If witches prowled this strange land, he’d be better off as far away from it as possible.

    That’s when he heard the distant flapping of wings, like a flock of birds in flight, accompanied by another sound like the call of the Boogeymen, but high-pitched, shorter, and multiplied by a hundred. A gust of wind nearly blew his hat off his head. Barnaby turned around to find whatever was making those noises was heading right for him.     

    Barnaby was not far off in imagining a flock when he heard his pursuers. These creatures were carried through the air on feathered wings, but they were birds just as much as he was. Their faces were blue and their bodies were covered in blue and grey fur. Some of them wore little vests and hats that matched their skin.

     Barnaby couldn’t count how many there were coming at him, but he knew that they couldn’t have anything good store for him. Still holding on to his hat for dear life, he fled as quick as he could. The creatures landed all around him, cutting off his path. They shrieked and grinned at him through wide red lips, and Barnaby couldn’t hold back a shiver of terror at the sight.

     All of a sudden, he was pulled off his feet high into the air. The forest seemed to shrink beneath him. Looking up, he saw two monstrosities holding him up as they flew to the west. Barnaby saw the signpost below and felt his stomach drop. They were flying towards the direction of the witch's castle.

The Wooden Soldiers of Oz Chapter 2
Looking through it again, I'm glad I decided to split this up into two chapters. When it was combined something felt a bit off about the ending, but I didn't want to jump directly into the scene where Barnaby meets the Witch (and at the time I hadn't written that part yet). Yes, it means following only one character with very little dialogue, but at least we finally get to see some of Oz. (And remember that sixpence, you WILL be quizzed on it later!)

Oh, and if you haven't actually seen March of the Wooden Soldiers, I should warn you, the Boogeymen look a lot sillier than you probably already imagine them to be. I admit I sort of played up the more monstrous side of them here. They're one of those things where as a child you find them kind of scary but now you can't help but laugh at them when you're older because they're so obviously costumes and rubber masks (ever see The Simpsons episode "Skinner's Sense of Snow"? Yeah, the Christmas Hobgoblins in the movie they're forced to watch are totally based off of them). At the same time, however, there are a TON of these creatures in the film's climax, so they do manage to pose a big threat to our heroes (Think the Morlocks from The Time Machine meets a zombie horde). Speaking of heroes, next time we'll get to see just what happened to them now that the battle is finally over...or so they think...

For those of you curious, yes, I was sort of channeling the climax of Snow White with the giant emerald, though is is just me or did it turn into bowling with Indiana Jones at the end? I should really stop editing these chapters at midnight...

Any comments and feedback is appreciated. Thanks for reading!
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    Once upon a time, there were, and still are, enchanted lands that many say are only make-believe; stories told to instill imagination, hope, and other ideals in young children. But the children know better. They know that these realms are as real as you and I, and reaching them can be as simple as falling asleep or as sudden as a storm on a summer’s day. These realms, while connected to each other, mostly went about without knowing of each other’s existence for quite some time. That all changed one dark and terrifying night, when the machinations of one vengeful old miser, who played the part of the villain in one such story, led two very different – but also quite similar – worlds to meet, and change them both forever…

     

    To say Silas Barnaby was having a terrible night would be an understatement. What started out as a perfect plan for revenge had fallen to pieces the moment those two buffoons Stan and Ollie – who had just days before tricked him out of marrying the lovely young Bo Peep – revealed he had framed Tom the Piper’s son for kidnapping one of the Three Little Pigs. Now with a bounty and the threat of banishment or worse on his head, he was forced to flee. Luckily, he had discovered months ago that the old dry well behind his house hid a secret passage that led to the caverns of Boogeyland. His idea would be to bide his time there and move forward with his original plan to take over Toyland with his army of Boogeymen when the time was right. He wasn’t expecting to find Bo Peep already down there, however, sleeping in the arms of her beloved Tom-Tom.


     Barnaby’s attempt to abscond with Bo Peep failed when she woke up screaming, alerting Tom to the danger. They escaped back to Toyland with the help of Ollie and Stan, but it was the last straw for Barnaby. Overcome with fury and an unquenchable thirst for vengeance, he summoned his army and they broke through the gates of Toyland. The monstrous creatures, hungry for the man-flesh their master long promised them, spread their attack far throughout the land, leaving him to track down Bo Peep.

    Just as Barnaby was about to succeed in carrying away his rightful bride once more, a small but powerful army of incredible life-size wooden soldiers appeared as if out of nowhere to attack them. The combination of these soldiers and the citizens of Toyland, who were rallied by the arrival of this brave steadfast cavalry, beat back the Boogeymen, and gave Barnaby quite a licking too. He couldn’t remember if it was Elmer, the little pig he had kidnapped the night before, or one of his brothers who had bopped him on the head, but it still felt sore, as did most of his body.


     Then again, he was currently trapped beneath a pile of large, luridly painted wooden blocks the soldiers had knocked over to fend off the invaders.

     

    He could just hear the last sounds of the battle between the soldiers, Toylanders, and Boogeymen over his own breathing. As much as he wanted to get out from under the rubble, he had no idea if there was anyone nearby who would spy him making his escape. He certainly didn’t want the whole town chasing after him again, especially in his condition.


    No, he decided, as much as it pained him to admit, it was better to lie in waiting until the chance to emerge presented itself. What pained him the most, however, was not the waiting, nor the bruises he sustained, but the fury broiling inside him; the insatiable desire for retribution against all those who wronged him – which now included all of Toyland – that threatened to eat away at his very soul until he could bear it no longer.


     That was how Silas Barnaby spent that long, long night, buried under a small mountain of wood with the burden of one who has a score to settle weighing far heavier upon him.

     

    After an excruciating long time, Barnaby nudged one of the three blocks in front of him hindering his view. He could see that the lamps on the street – which were really giant candles like the ones you’d put on a birthday cake – had gone out. He moved the block again; now he could see more of the main street. It was dark, and not a single light came from any of the houses. There was no movement, no sounds to be heard. His confidence growing, Barnaby started to edge his way through the opening he created. He felt a rumble from above and froze.


     One of the many blocks towering above him had come loose, no doubt thanks to his interference. One wrong move and the whole thing would come tumbling down upon him again. He’d have to be more careful if he were going to make his escape.

     

    He realized he had dropped his faithful knobbly old walking stick somewhere in the streets during the fight. If he had it with him, he could have propped it into place and ensured his freedom. As if answering to his will, something rolled over his head and landed with a loud plink…plink…PLUNK on the ground before him, just within reach.


It was another wooden block, only this one was long and round and smooth, like a small pillar. Barnaby grinned and snatched it up. He wedged it between the block he was lying on and the one just above his head, making sure it would remain steady. Then, ever so slowly, he crawled out of his hiding place.

     

    Old Silas Barnaby was a crooked man in every sense of the word; in his deeds, in his thoughts, in how he kept his home and even how he moved about. But nothing on this earth felt so good to him now as stretching his tired old limbs long and straight after hours remaining hidden. He thought the groans and little noises he made as he rolled his shoulders and cracked his fingers would be more than enough to alert the town to his presence. Reminded of his situation, he stole away to his home as the night sky turned to shades of grey and pink.

     

    Almost nothing had changed about it during his time away – the dead bushes were nearly trampled and there were scratches at the door and window, though whether it was from the Boogeymen attack or the angry mob that pursued him after his treachery was discovered was unclear. The familiar dull shades of his brown and grey manor in contrast to the overbearing bright colors of the other houses of Toyland comforted him slightly. Using the rusty crooked key hidden beneath the doormat (and narrowly avoiding the rat trap he also hid there lest anyone else try to take said key), he opened the door and sneaked in.

     

    As dark as it was inside the house, Barnaby knew he dared not light a fire or even a single candle and give himself away. He could see fairly well enough on his own. Besides, he only needed to get one very important thing, and then he would be gone. Nobody would ever know he had been there.


     As he made his way to his bedroom, he spied something lying before the fireplace, breathing softly as it slept. He recognized it as his dwarf manservant, whose name he could never bother to remember. For a moment he considered waking him and asking about what had transpired while he was in hiding; it was safe to assume the people of Toyland had won the day despite the havoc wreaked upon their homes, but what fate did they believe had fallen upon their nemesis? Had he perished in the fight, or fled once more? Perhaps they thought his own voracious army had turned on him after their failure was made certain. Despite his aroused curiosity, Barnaby decided not to risk it. Having someone witness his return would be a liability he, even with all his wealth, could not afford.

     

    He crept up the stairs, cursing himself for never attending to the creaks they made as he ascended. Reaching his bedroom, he went to the portrait of himself hanging on the wall across from his old four-poster bed. He took the portrait off the wall, revealing a safe. After carefully entering the combination, the safe door swung open.


     Inside lay a glittering pile of gold, silver, and even a few precious stones – all the wealth Barnaby owned in the world, more than enough to last him for the rest of his life. He took a black velvet pouch from a nearby drawer and began to collect all his treasure inside of it. When the safe was completely emptied, and his pouch inversely full and weighing nearly as much as he, Barnaby closed the safe, positioned the painting back in its original spot, and made the trek down the stairs.


     It was even harder this time, as he not only had the old steps to deal with but the jingling of his heavy pouch as well. As cumbersome as it was, he would never dream of departing this realm without the only thing in the world that mattered to him – his money. Despite his trepidation, a new sense of excitement was beginning to seep in. The makings of a plan were beginning to form in his mind.

     

    Exiting through the back door, Barnaby went over to the old well and carefully climbed down the rungs. His pouch full of gold banged against his leg and the mossy stones, but he kept going until he reached the bottom. Now came the part that would spell either certain doom or the chance of a new life, and the promise of future payback on his enemies.


     Slipping through the entrance to the Boogeyland caverns, he looked around. There was no sign of the hairy brutes he had once been lord and master of. If luck were truly on his side, he wouldn’t run into any of them while he was down here. Even if a single one appeared, that meant many more were not far behind. He had a feeling that they wouldn’t be too happy to find the man who drove them to pain and suffering after promises of food and a new world to conquer.


     He repressed those dark thoughts and ventured through the caverns that took him deeper into Boogeyland, keeping one thing in mind – if there was a place beyond Toyland that wasn’t Boogeyland, as he was sure there was, he was going to find it. And there he would start planning his revenge.

The Wooden Soldiers of Oz Chapter 1
During Thanksgiving weekend of 2013, I rediscovered one of my favorite films as a child, "March of the Wooden Soldiers" starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Even after all these years, it's still a lot of fun, very innocent, and very, very funny thanks to its two leads. To me, it's the definitive film adaptation of Babes in Toyland. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it (it's available to watch on Hulu in both black and white and color). Watching it again recently I noticed a lot of similarities it shared with another one of my favorite movies, "The Wizard of Oz" - they both take place in colorful fantasy worlds (well, colorful if you're watching one of the colorized versions of "March" at least) filled with simple but endearing characters, the sweet young heroine who has a tendency to lose her pet is threatened by a purely malicious villain who wants her as part of their evil schemes and controls an army of monsters, and she needs to be rescued by her comical best friends so she can return safely home. I wouldn't be surprised if one influenced the other when it was being made.

Having made the connections, I started wondering what would happen if these characters and worlds somehow collided together. In my head I could imagine the conversations and moments they'd share, who'd get along best with who and so on. I've read stories that have done something similar before, and I was initially worried about trying it myself since this kind of crossover can come across as really contrived. Before I really sat down to write any of the chapters, however, I wrote a big outline of what happens and where the events of The Wizard of Oz come into play, and how, when and where the effects of what happened in March of the Wooden Soldiers play a part as well. (I also wrote some dialogue, details, character moments, etc. that I thought of at the moment to add or develop on later.). So, in the end, this whole story is planned out from beginning to end; all that needs to be done is for me to expand upon it bit by bit. I found I prefer writing the chapters out of order, so some parts will be up quicker than others.

And confidentially, part of me did this because I really wanted to see Barnaby get what was coming to him after all he did in his movie. When I saw it again I forgot he buried under a pile of blocks and thought he got beat back out of Toyland with the Boogeymen, so I was more than a little disappointed. Not to spoil anything, but I've got big things in store for him. He's a lot of fun to write for anyway, so you're gonna love hating him as much as I do.

I was originally going to have this chapter end when he meets the Wicked Witch since I wanted to set up how Barnaby reaches Oz, but I felt it was already going on for too long. Instead it will be split into two, maybe three chapters. You'll have to wait a little while longer to see what happens next....I can't say how long as this is more of a fun little side project for me while I'm doing my actual job, but I'll put up a chapter as soon as I'm satisfied with how it turns out.

Also, fun fact: In addition to the various sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by L. Frank Baum, there's an unofficial Russian Oz series written by Alexander Volkov, and one of them is titled "Urfin Joos and his Wooden Soldiers". If you haven't guessed by now, this isn't a rewritten version of that story, but it's a funny coincidence with the title I chose that I thought I'd mention (and I'm betting several Oz fans have come here thinking it was thanks to the title, to which I apologize for the confusion.)

Since this is my first time writing anything like this, I appreciate any feedback and comments given. Also, I'm not entirely sure what a beta-reader is, (I think they go over what you write to make sure there are no problems), but if you think I need one and want to volunteer, then let me know. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the story!
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Song: "Absolute Beginners" - David Bowie

He's running late. I look at my phone again. 7:25. I've been standing outside this theater for nearly an hour. I wonder if I should leave. Maybe he was joking when he said he wanted to take me out to a show for our first date. I don't want to think he stood me up; he always sounded so sincere whenever we talked to each other. Then again, if he arrives, this will be the third time we've actually spoken to each other in person, counting the day we first met. Maybe he'll be different than I thought he was.

I don't want to ruin this for myself. I want to have a good time and not worry about keeping up appearances or faking my way through a conversation like I've had to with guys before him. It's hard keeping who I really am from a lot of people, and a part of me feels like if he knew, he'd leave. I can't go through a rejection like that.

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I'm late! Stupid N train! She must be so pissed right now. What a way to start off our first date! Ok, calm down, man. Calm down. You got the tickets, and maybe some time to grab something to eat before the show starts. If this works out, maybe I'll finally have a girlfriend. I want her to like me so badly it hurts. We hit it off those other times we've talked. She doesn't seem like anyone from school who'd put me down for being...different. Still, I've gotta play the part. Tell her everything about me except that.

There's the theater, and there she is. She looks happy to see me. I hope she likes the flowers.

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Finally! Aw, he got me flowers, how sweet! I hug him and my stomach rumbles. Oh boy. I quickly suggest we go look for somewhere to eat and he agrees. We only have a half-hour, but you can't enjoy a show on an empty stomach. I try to ask what took him so long without sounding rude and he apologizes again and again. I can't be too mad. This is pretty similar to how my parents' first date started. We duck into a burger place across the street from the theater.

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I scan the menu and pick out the one thing I feel like having, a plain cheeseburger. I'm so nervous I don't know how much I can eat. She picks the same thing. Well, we like the same food; that's one thing we've got in common so far. This booth is pretty cosy. We're just stuck in this little corner right next to each other. She's...beautiful. I mean, she's pretty, but looking at her just makes me smile. I hope I don't freak her out with my staring. After a moment of awkward silence, she brings up movies she likes and it just flows from there. She knows almost as much about movies as I do, and we went on for a long time about Roger Rabbit. I even borrowed a little from the Nostalgia Critic when describing how much that movie kicks ass.

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Did he just quote the Nostalgia Critic? Nobody I talk to knows who that guy is. It's probably just a coincidence he used the same wording. There's no denying it, though, Who Framed Roger Rabbit kicks ass. We both grew up with the same cartoons and movies, so at least we have that much in common. Everything we've talked about so far just seems to come so naturally, not like with any of the few others I've been with before. I just hope he likes Disney as much as I do.

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She really likes Disney. No, seriously, I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who's that into it. She wants to work for them, so that kind of makes sense. It's been years since I've been to Disney World, but I bet a trip with her would be fun. Too bad she doesn't know all that much about Marvel though. She seems like she'd be open to watching them. I tell her that I want to make movies, and tell her I think she'd be pretty enough to be on screen.

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It's cute the way he's blushing a little when he looks at me. He's too nice, I don't think I'd belong in the movies. He tells me about the crazy ideas he has for some of his movies, and they seem like fun. I think I'd rather help him make his instead of starring in them, though. This burger's good, but I don't want to be rude, talking and eating at the same time.

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She's barely touched her food. Oh boy, I bet she's having a terrible time. Just keep talking, make her feel comfortable.

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He asks me if I've ever seen this show before. No, I haven't, but I've heard it was pretty good. The conversation is good, but I just wish I could finish my burger...

Oh crap, it's almost show time! We wolf our food down and hurry back to the theater.

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Wow, that show was...better than I expected. Of course, I can tell she really enjoyed it, which made me happy. I think I even caught her crying a little at the end. I hand her a pack of tissues from my pocket. I hope I'm not embarrassing her. Someone as nice as her shouldn't cry.

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That was really good. I...no, NO, I will not cry. Why do I have to be so damn sensitive to these things? I hope he doesn't see me like this, it's embarrassing. What? Tissues? Oh...that's nice of him, but I don't want him to think he'll have a girlfriend who cries over every single thing. That is, if he wants to see me again after tonight. I kind of want him to.

We walk out of the theater and around Times Square for a bit. It's a nice night, not too cold. I think I can even make out a few stars over the bright city lights. Now he's the quietest he's been all night. Quite an accomplishment, considering how garrulous he was before. We look at each other. He's not too bad-looking, for a regular joe. Not that I've been wishing for Prince Charming, but he cleans up nicely. It's only fitting that I thank him for such a nice night now...

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Oh my God. She just gave me my first kiss. I blurt that out as soon as she's done. She looks at me, a little puzzled.

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It's me? I'm the one who gave him his first kiss? That explains why he didn't really reciprocate when I did. Well, there's a first time for everything. I go back in and this time, he's ready. Not bad for a beginner. If tonight's a success, and I think it is, maybe I can give him a few pointers.

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She's good, really good. I probably suck, but I don't know. She seems into it. Our lips part and we look at each other again. I'm already planning our next date.

------

He takes me to the bus and asks if I'm free next weekend. We make plans to go see a movie and we part. Wow, what a night. Everything was just about perfect. I already can't wait for Friday. I can't remember the last time I've opened up to someone like this and felt...perfectly fine. I wasn't afraid to be me and it seemed like he wasn't either. Maybe I'll tell him in a little bit...not right away, but eventually. When it's just right.

------

Suck it, everyone in high school! I've got a girlfriend who's gorgeous and crazy about movies and likes me! Woo hoo! Ok, just had to get that out. Well, now that that's done, it's back to the train for me. I think over everything that happened tonight. I haven't been with anyone like her since...ever. She didn't seem to mind half the things I said. Maybe when I finally tell her about...that...she won't mind either. Just give it a little time, let her get to know you first. The way it looks right now, I think it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
31 Days, 31 Shuffle One-Shots #12
I've seen people do stuff like this before and wanted to give it a shot. Basically you take your iPod, put it on shuffle, and write a little something inspired by the song that comes on next. Why 31? Well, I wanted to see if I could do one for each day of August. I should warn you ahead of time, some of the stories and the songs that inspired them will be a little unexpected. There might be fanfics, some might be original pieces, others semi-autobiographical, and what I use for inspiration may not be limited to certain kinds of music.

Song #12 - "Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie
Listen to it here: 

Anyone who's ever been on a first date knows how nerve-wracking it can be. You want to like the person you're with and you want them to like you, and you try to be yourself but just enough so you feel they won't be scared away. But how much should you hide and how much should you show, especially if you feel like you've got something to hide? This flip-flop between perspectives was inspired by my first date with my boyfriend; turns out we both have Asperger's Syndrome but we were both afraid to tell each other until a while after we started going out.
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To the few of you who are actually reading these, I apologize for not keeping up with them as well as I had planned. I confess that when I original conceived the idea, I skipped ahead to see the songs that would be coming up on shuffle and brainstormed on a few of them just in case I fell behind (like I did) and would be able to write and publish them faster. One such idea was inspired by the eleventh song that came up on the prompt, "A Message From the Man in the Moon" by Allan Jones (and Josephine Baker; it's an old song, but listen to both versions to see if there's one you prefer). It was supposed to explore a scene from "An American Werewolf in London" from the point of view of one of the main characters, the late Jack Goodman.

I know what you're thinking, "Can't she let this whole Werewolf thing go already?" Well, I can't. There's very few movies that have fascinated me like that one has. It's that strange mashup of scary, funny, clever, stupid, silly and depressing that's maddening and frustrating and hard for me to watch, yet I can't stop returning to. I won't delve into it any further, but I will say that Jack pretty much steals whatever scene he's in. He's the one element where the horror and comedy mesh together perfectly. He was going to be a really fun character to write for. So you might be wondering, what's the big deal, then? Why don't you just go ahead and do it? Well, for anyone who's seen the movie and read my ravings about it before, you'll know that Jack's motivation is to get David to kill himself so they can both finally be free from their curse. And recently the world has suffered a great loss that police have deemed a suicide...

Yeah, it's hard to go anywhere on the internet this past week and not see a dedication or something dedicated to Robin Williams. I did not take the news of his passing very well, and I can take some consolation in A) He's no longer suffering, and B) I've found I'm not the only one who broke down on hearing the news. I really didn't want to believe he took his own life though, because how does someone so full of life and energy could do something like that? I heard that he was suffering from depression and the early stages of Parkinson's Disease a short time ago, and I can sort of understand what he might have been going through. I've been through some deep lows and depressions in my life, and even contemplated suicide once, but I never gave up. I found what was important to me and kept it close, found something to look forward to and worked for it, if not for me, then for my family. That doesn't stop the fact that someone we know and love is gone, and in a way that he didn't deserve to go. From the looks of it, people aren't going to stop talking about this for a long time. There is a silver lining to this, however, as people are starting to talk more about depression and ways to understand and deal with it.

As for writing about a character who's catching up with an old friend while also trying to get him to commit suicide? Well, let's just say now's not the time. So I'm putting a hold on this one-shot for a while, at least until it feels appropriate enough. Even if I don't get around to it, it's still an idea I'd like to explore, maybe in a more fleshed-out story as opposed to a brief stand-alone.

And as for why I don't just come up with something else to write instead? It's summer, which means that the time I'm not doing these one-shots, job hunting, or my freelance artwork (which you can look at in the description), I'm just being lazy. And after everything that's happened recently, we could all use a break, maybe take the time to remember a great comedian, and a major part of our childhoods. I know it's been said a thousand times already but Rest in Peace Robin Williams. "Genie, you're free."
Why #11 of 31 One-Shots Won't Be Coming (Yet)...
Yeah, do you even need to read the description? Kinda pointless seeing as how it's always below the artwork and writing so you almost never look at it...

Anyway, for those of you interested, take a look at my work here (and please email me if you want any work or commissions done, I need the money!!) jenseggio.carbonmade.com/
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Song: "Give a Little Love" - Ziggy Marley and the Rhythm Makers

It's far too early for kids to be this rambunctious; I don't know if or how I ever was at eight o'clock in the morning. Right now we're trying to keep them all in the playroom of the main building and the sounds of their screaming and laughter bounce all over the sky blue walls. One of the head counselors, a woman in her 40's who I think is named Jolene, enters the room with a cassette tape in her hand - it's been a long time since I've seen one of those - and puts it into the stereo on the top shelf. I'm hit with nostalgia as some old Disney tunes start playing; not ones like "Hakuna Matata" or "Be Our Guest", but "Thomas O'Malley" and "Substitutiary Locomotion". The kids keep on playing, unaware of the smiles that have crept on to a few of the younger counselors' faces.

I greet Joey when arrives and he rewards me with the biggest hug he's ever given me so far. It may be air conditioned in here, but my heart is melting. His mom kisses him goodbye and leaves with his older brother, who gives him a little Pokemon toy before he goes. He takes my hand and looks up at me with a smile full of gaps and crooked baby teeth. I smile back and lead him to the other kids. When Josh and Eric see him, they wave and call his name. He pulls me towards them. Just a week and a half ago, you could barely get him to go near any other kids. I consider this great progress. 

Our good morning and exercise rituals pass without a hitch. Maybe it's because I've been here too long but some of the music they play for the dancing exercises are pretty catchy, especially "Disco Limbo" (which, ironically, sounds nothing like disco). The schedule for the day is a bit switched around because of the rain, and as expected, some of the children aren't too happy about this arrangement. There are a few who still cry and refuse to do anything when the thunder rumbles. Frankly I'm fine with the rain, but if it passes like it's supposed to, I hope it's after when we're originally scheduled to go in the pool. It's barely clean, always cold, and harder to keep an eye on your ward there.

We shake it with our kids and do our best to get them to have a good time. It's easy to see which have made progress and bonded with their counselors. Others are still more reserved and refuse to participate. I feel bad for the counselors who have kids like those. Last year I had two weeks with a little red-headed fella who constantly argued with me and even bit me once. It wasn't until the camp ended that year that he finally warmed up to me. Joey hasn't given me many problems, thank goodness. He talks about Pokemon a lot, but I remember how much I did when I was his age. I am a little bewildered at the fact that it's still remained so popular and expanded immensely since I stopped caring about it though. Thanks to Joey's almost encyclopedic knowledge, I now know all of Eevee's new evolution forms, that there's almost 500 Pokemon with countless new subspecies and one of them is made out of ice cream. Living. Ice Cream. Whatever happened to just trying to capture all 150 of them and beating Team Rocket?

Arts and crafts may not be Joey's favorite activity period, but it's mine. I've forgotten how many different things you can do with pipe cleaners and glitter. Construction paper and glue litter the table. When we're done, we have the options of finger painting, more crafts, or just having fun with a coloring book. Joey takes a bunch of crayons to Mickey Mouse's face, and my mind wanders over to the easel. It's a blue Fisher-Price one, the same one I had when I was a kid. Still keeping an eye on him, I go to the easel, dip my finger in a container of blue paint and start drawing squiggles and swirls on the paper. I can't just stop there though. I create a sailboat on the sea, and by the time I'm done, a few of the kids and counselors have stopped what they are doing to watch me. I take in the praise, but my mind snaps back as I realize Joey isn't where I left him. I can't lose him! He's been so good now, he hasn't wandered off in days! As I look around the room, though, I see him sitting in the corner with some of his buddies, trading Pokemon cards. I sigh a breath of relief and go to take him to wash our hands.

After lunch, out comes the sun, and with it, everyone in our bathing suits. So much for staying dry for one day. I haven't worn a one-piece since I was in elementary school, but it's the rules; too many kids have drawn the pull strings on counselors' bikinis in the past. The rain hasn't helped the temperature, and soaked feathers from the flock of Canadian geese that frequent the campgrounds float dully on the surface. The tranquility is broken as the kids jump in and splash about. I ask Joey if he wants to try the swimmers' test that will allow him to go in the deeper end of the pool with some of his friends, but he says no, he wants to stay with me. I help him into his "swimmies" and reluctantly step into the water. Instantly I'm covered in goosebumps. Ignoring my discomfort, he pulls me in deeper. For a nine-year old, he's strong! I try to ignore the fact that I can't feel my legs and try to organize a game of Marco Polo with the other kids.

Now that we're dried off, it's off to the playground. I feel a little weird for liking this part of the daily routine. Most of the counselors try to stay under the rooftop extending from the main building over the outdoor picnic area, in the shade and slightly cooler. We're obligated to play with our kids, however, and I actually have a good time. This camp has a play area that rivals any playground I've ever been to. There's a swinging bridge, a tiny mock rock wall, three slides, a jungle gym, a fireman's pole, a rope climb, some bouncy things you can jump on, a fun telephone thing that goes across the playground you can shout into (which we had to avoid for a couple of days because there was a bees' nest in one of them) and even a zip line! My one regret is being taller now so I can't enjoy some of it as much as I would when I was a kid, but running around after Joey on here, I feel transported back to grade school again.

I quickly find myself wishing to jump back into the pool. On days when it's scorching outside, the playground is unbearable. At least they give us a full cooler of water, even though it's quickly drained. One of the counselors also brings out the stereo, so we listen to the Disney tape some more as we play. The head counselors have even brought us sand toys and bubbles today, nice! When Joey feels like taking a break with his Pokemon, we go into the shade and I grab a bubble wand. Me and one other counselor try to impress the kids with our immense bubbles. Joey goes to give it a try but something dark whooshes past him and he screams. He hides behind me and starts crying. And today was going so well...

I didn't like fireworks when I was a kid. Not at all. They were too loud and crackly and always surprised you. I've gotten much better since then, but I hate to think I was as bad with them as Joey is with dragonflies. If he even sees one, he will go into full-on panic mode. The thing is, a whole bunch of them start flitting around the campgrounds in August. It's up to me now to comfort him. I hold him and rub his back, gently shushing in his ear as his sobs quiet down. Poor little guy. I don't like to see kids this upset. I try to think of a way to get him to start playing again. He refuses to move; he can see several of them buzzing above the playground. "They're loud and they buzz in your ear and they bite and fly everywhere!" he cries. Wow, we really aren't that different. The main difference now is I think I have a way to make him feel better.

"Joey, do you want those dragonflies to go away?" I ask him. He nods. "Then what you gotta do is face your fears and tell them to...to..." I look around quickly, desperately thinking of something I can say that's so appropriate, so surefire to help him conquer his phobia and...a kid runs past me with a truck in his hand. He's wearing a bright blue shirt with the words "Buzz off!" in comic book bubbles. It's too perfect. "...buzz off!" I cry. Joey grins. "Yeah! Buzz off!" he says. He runs out into the field. "Buzz off, dragonfly! Buzz off!" He goes up to one hovering in midair. "Buzz off!!" Not surprisingly, the dragonfly zips away, which only bolsters his confidence. I laugh a little as he runs around a little, shouting at the top of his lungs. He goes back to me and pulls me back into the fray. Again, he's strong for such a little guy. We run around the playground shouting "Buzz off!" at the top of our lungs. Some of the kids and the counselors stop and stare, others ignore us, a few of them even shout with us.

Two-thirty comes so quickly. As the kids leave one by one, Joey runs around the playroom with whomever is left. Finally he sits by my side and starts showing off his Pokemon collection for the umpteenth time since we've met. When his mother arrives, I tell her of Joey's great progress and how much fun he's had today, in addition to the new "magic words" to scare away the dragonflies. She gushes over me and says how excited he is to see me every day before camp starts. I "aww" a little inside as I watch Joey hug his brother. Then he hugs me goodbye and leaves. Nothing left to do but watch a video with the remaining kids while I wait for mom to pick me up. Or play with some of the toys. Or maybe put the Disney tape on one more time. Or fingerprint, or clean up, or...
31 Days, 31 Shuffle One-Shots #10
I've seen people do stuff like this before and wanted to give it a shot. Basically you take your iPod, put it on shuffle, and write a little something inspired by the song that comes on next. Why 31? Well, I wanted to see if I could do one for each day of August. I should warn you ahead of time, some of the stories and the songs that inspired them will be a little unexpected. There might be fanfics, some might be original pieces, others semi-autobiographical, and what I use for inspiration may not be limited to certain kinds of music.

Song #10 - "Give a Little Love" by Ziggy Marley and the Rhythm Makers
Listen to it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjocFx…

So here's a high school memory that isn't painful and angsty - I used to work at a summer camp for autistic and special needs kids. Was it ever easy? Rarely. Was it fun? Actually, yes, at least most of the time. Let me tell you, when you get those kids to open up to you, they can be the sweetest things. In 2012 I returned to work at that camp for a short time and ran into one of the kids I was charged with now a little older, and she remembered me! It was all about showing these kids a good time and helping them grow, and it was an experience I'll always treasure.
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Guys, I finally did it. After years of pressure from professors and the fear that I'll never find work after graduation, I got my own website to show off my portfolio in illustration and storyboarding. As part of my senior year we learn to "make" one, and I did, but it kind of sucked, and the free hosting site it was on decided to stop offering free services, so you'll never see that. I think this one not only looks nicer, but somewhat professional. I'll still be uploading fun stuff here though.

So anyway, check out my website by clicking on the link below, then come back and tell me what you think. jenseggio.carbonmade.com/
  • Mood: Optimism

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WottaGal0505
JS
Artist | Professional | Varied
United States
I don't like to limit the things I love to a few words or quotes because there are so many things I have a passion for. Art is one of them, so is storytelling. It's my dream to get into storyboarding, particularly for animated films. My biggest inspirations are Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, the amazing creative people who work there, classic fairy tales and stories, and a few of my own personal experiences.
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rubyrouge649 Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the fave :)
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MATTimagine Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for all faves! Huggle! 
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thank so much for the fav!!!! :hug:
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Thanks <3
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BenJJedi Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015
Hey, Jen. I figured out how to make the the "join" thingy work. So... If you want to become a member of my group, :iconccbb-fans-unite:, now's your chance. ;)
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Thank you for faving ^^
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thanks for the +fav Hug 
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Thanks for the fav! :)
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Thanks for fav!
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Thnx for the +fav on my
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I really appreciate it!!! Love

Feel free to visit my gallery whenever you want to!! =D
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