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And so it was that Evina the toon died, and no one remembered that he had ever existed. He willingly chose the path he was told he was destined to travel. His life was sacrificed to free all realms from the menace of The Shadow. He knew there would be no honor in it, but he did it anyway.
Where do toons go when they die? Surely, they are forgotten and are never seen again. After all, they were never real in the first place, right? But this conclusion leaves many questions unanswered. How did Melanie Mallard survive within her son? How could she guide him after being erased by The Shadow?
And for that matter, why would characters like Gyro Gearloose be created if only to suffer misery in the end? How could all their history and work be undone? How could all their memories and laughs be forgotten? What is the logic? Would the power that brought these toons to life abandon them to the bottomless pit of oblivion? No! It cannot be true.
And besides, one does not simply wish upon a star within the world of Walt Disney and expect nothing to happen. A magic is now beginning to work its way into the story.
From the very beginning, all toons of every world are part of a legend, a legend of boundless creativity that isn't meant to have an end, though their world may decay and the real and unreal become separated. It is an endless cycle of struggle and victory. It is what gives people the hope to keep moving forward.
The Shadow has stained many pages, but its stain is not permanent. With Evina's victory, its evil power has been broken. The true story becomes legible once again.
Now the next chapter emerges, and this is what it says:
Evina opened his eyes. He was lying on a cold linoleum floor, looking up at an array of ceiling tiles. Yes, it happened again; he was alive. He felt very peculiar. There was something strange about him now. He felt like something was missing. He searched his mind, but there was silence. There was nothing except his own thoughts. It was exhilarating. The Shadow was actually gone, for real this time!
He sat up and looked around. This looked like a hospital. He didn't care how he got here because he was so excited to be alive, so excited to be free for the first time ever. He stood up and looked at his red body with amazement.
He went to a shelf and found gags there. He picked up a trigger box and dropped an anvil on his head. He was flattened momentarily but bounced right up again. There was no harm. He was a toon again, a normal toon, nothing more.
Of course, he couldn't stand in this room forever. He had to go outside eventually. So, he went to the door and opened it, revealing a long, dim hallway. There was nobody else in sight. He walked down the hall until he found a window. Through the window, he saw something happening, something he had seen while in the dream zone.
Someone was lying on a bed, motionless. The doctor, a yellow monkey, was checking their vital signs. He turned to the nurse, a maroon cat, and shook his head. She pulled a sheet over the victim's face.
"Time of death: five forty-seven," the doctor said. "If only it didn't have to come to this. Gyro Gearloose was a brilliant and noble toon."
Evina's joy turned to horror. "Oh, no..."
The doctor turned around to see Evina. "Hey! Who are you? And how did you get in here? This is a secure facility!"
"Um, I don't know," Evina stuttered. "But... Gyro is my dad!"
"Oh, dear, I'm sorry for your loss," the nurse said.
Evina walked into the room. "No, it can't be true! I wished upon a star, and it worked for me, so why doesn't it..."
He stopped speaking because there was movement under the sheet. He pulled it away to reveal Gyro. He was alive, and not only that. He was healthy, young, and looked very confused.
The chicken's eyes darted back and forth. "Wait, what is this place?"
"Yeah," Evina agreed, "where are we?"
"This is Saint Giggleworth's hospital in Toontown Central."
"Toontown Central," Evina said with a smile. "Wow, I made it home."
The doctor and nurse exchanged funny looks with each other. "Well, since you are both alive, I guess you can... leave?"
"That sounds like a great idea!" Gyro said, leaping off the bed. He grabbed his son's arm and walked with him out to the hall. Now they were alone. "Oh, I'm so happy!" he exclaimed. "Although I doubted you at first, I had faith in you, in the end. I knew you could do it, I just didn't know how."
Evina was silent.
"Um, son, are you alright."
"Yeah, I'm fine," Evina said with a tremor in his voice. The excitement of the moment was wearing off, and he was starting to feel traumatized. The horror of what he had done was fresh in his mind again. He could vividly remember the intensity of the pain. His eyes began to water.
"What happened?" Gyro asked.
"Oh, dad." Evina began to cry. "It was so hard! Oh, it was the hardest thing I ever did! I didn't want to do it, but I had to do it! I had to!"
Gyro embraced him in a hug, not caring that he was being soaked with tears. "I'm here for you, son, and you know I'm never going to leave you again."
"I don't know what I'm going to do now," Evina continued. "It always told me what to do. It was always there, but now it's not. I feel this... emptiness inside of me. I don't know who I am anymore. This isn't making any sense, is it?"
Gyro patted his back. "It makes sense to me. This is a completely new experience for you. It's even hard for me to be healthy again. It must be terrifying to feel for the first time."
"I just don't know how I can go on and live a normal life."
Gyro looked down into his eyes and sighed. "You can, Evina, and you must. Our troubles are not over yet. You haven't been the only one who's suffered. Remember what Toontown was like before you left? It's still in trouble. It needs a leader now, someone who can save it, someone who has seen the darkness and faced it head-on. Evina, they need you. This is your chance to truly live up to your name."
Evina stopped crying and came to his senses. "You're right," he said. "I still have a job to do, and I can't get emotional until it's finished."
"Well if you need to let out some emotions, I'll be here for you," he smiled. "And it might be better if you got them out before going outside."
Evina laughed for the first time in a while. "I love you, dad."
"I love you too, son."
Then Evina remembered something else. "Wait, if The Shadow is gone then the cogs must be gone too. They lived because of it."
"Well, about that," Gyro explained. "Remember that special project I mentioned before? The last time I spoke to the cogs, they were developing some kind of collective sentience thing that would keep them alive without The Shadow."
"So... they're still alive?"
"Well, I hope they completed it in time, but I can't be sure."
"At least there's a chance," Evina said hopefully. "Anyway, I think I'm ready to go outside now."
Gyro smiled again. "I'll be behind you every step of the way."
Evina pushed the front door open. Toontown Central was the same as before, dark and miserable. But it didn't depress him. He was filled with hope now.
Down in the playground below, a large crowd of toons was congregated. Evina and Gyro marched down the hill to see what was going on. As they got closer, they heard cries of fear and sobbing.
"What's going on?" Evina asked the first one he saw, a pink bunny.
"s<um has taken Punchline Place and Loopy Lane! d!rt has taken Silly Street and Wacky Way. They've looted everything! They captured the police!" she cried. "We're trapped here in the playground!"
Evina looked around. He tried to find a way to escape but to no avail. Without teleportation, there simply was no way out. "What about Toon Hall? Can we take shelter there until things calm down?"
His question was answered by a couple explosions. Masked toons came flooding into the playground, converging at Toon Hall. s<um and d!rt were fighting for control of the government. Windows shattered and shots were heard. At last, someone climbed out of a hatch on the roof of the building. The crowd screamed. A bright searchlight was pointed in his direction. He had a hostage with him. It was Mayor Kookyboro, the good-intentioned but ineffective politician who had become a puppet of s<um. The criminal threw him off the roof and picked up a megaphone. "People of Toontown Central: there has been a change of leadership," he announced. "From now on, you will serve the mighty powers of d!rt!"
"I don't think so!" another voice interrupted. A crack in the fabric of reality, a glitch, opened suddenly. A man stepped through behind the toon with the megaphone, took it from his hands, and kicked him off the roof. It was Alistair McKillden. "Toontown Central is s<um's territory and always will be! We have already taken Donald's Dock and Daisy Gardens from d!rt. Their last stronghold is Duckburg. Once we take it, s<um will finally rule the world!"
The s<um members cheered his speech. They tied up their prisoners and carried them away to Wacky Way, leaving a couple guards at Toon Hall to prevent anyone from going inside.
"You haven't won yet!" Evina shouted at them.
McKillden paused and turned around to see who had ruined his moment. "Ah, it's the duck from the museum. Have you come to surrender again?"
"Your reign of terror is about to end!"
The weasel laughed. "I'll be back soon, and when I do, I'll silence you once and for all!" He passed through the tunnel to Wacky Way and used a glitch to seal it shut.
The toons screamed in fear again. Nothing could stop them from panicking.
"Evina!" two toons cried out.
He turned to see none other than Kyle and Jenny. "What!? I thought you were captured!"
"Most of the officers were," Jenny confirmed, "but they couldn't catch us or the chief."
"The chief is still free!?" Evina exclaimed.
"Yes," the chief said. Evina turned around to see him there. "s<um was emboldened by the museum heist, and everything started falling apart the minute you left us."
"I'm so glad you're here!" Evina exclaimed. "We can't give up now! We need to come up with a plan!"
"I'm open to suggestions," the chief said.
"s<um is on their way to Duckburg. I need you to reopen teleportation access and evacuate that city before the fighting starts."
The chief looked down at a communication device and pushed a few buttons. "Done. Their evacuation is beginning now."
"Next, we need to arm everyone here in Toontown Central. How many weapons do you have? Also, call everyone you can to help us! While the gangs are busy fighting each other, we must prepare to defend ourselves for when they come back."
"While that sounds like a good idea, Evina, I have to be honest. These toons are in no fit condition to fight. Look at them. They're terrified. They have no idea what's going on. We can't do anything to calm them down."
"Please, let me talk to them, chief. Give me a chance."
"You're free to try," he said. "I don't think you could make things worse, at this point."
"But we'll still be no match for them unless we can stop them from using glitches."
"Perhaps I can help," someone said.
Evina turned around again. He was constantly surprised to see who was hiding in this crowd. A purple toon wearing a cloak walked up to him.
"After all, who knows more about glitches than me?"
"Wait, can it really be you?"
The toon removed their cloak to reveal Evina's old friend, Goopy. "It's nice to see you again."
Evina's hope stronger was than ever. "I can't believe you're here! Shouldn't you be running from s<um?"
"I was," he admitted, "but during that time, I've been plotting my revenge. Now I'm ready to fight back."
"And how are you going to do that?"
Goopy held up a strange device up in his hands. "I call it The Debugger. Your dad used to help me design this, back in the old days. It should make it much harder to open glitches, allowing us to fight them on even ground."
"Have you tested it?"
Goopy shook his head. "Not yet, but now is as good a time as any."
Evina embraced him. "I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my own brother."
"Um, thanks," Goopy said awkwardly. "But we really should get to work now. There is still so much to do."
Evina understood the urgency of his task, but it was hard to keep from being emotional. He stood on a park bench, turned to the crowd, and shouted, "Everybody, listen up!"
The crowd fell silent and turned to him with looks of confusion.
Evina paused. He hoped he could find the right words to say. "Citizens of Toontown, I have something to say to you!"
The crowd remained silent. Evina could see the fear and hopelessness in their eyes.
"I know what you are thinking. Who is this guy and why is he interrupting us at a time like this? Shouldn't we be running for shelter? Well, let me tell you who I am. Some of you may remember me as Evina Gearloose, one of those who went on that expedition to find the cogs.
"Some of you liked me, some of you were jealous of me, and some of you thought I was crazy and never went to Cog Nation. Many of you hated me because the news blamed me for the closing of the portal. I know you were worried because of my gray eyes and poor social skills. I know you may not trust me or my father, but I beg you to listen to me now.
"For over nine years, we have been living in darkness and fear. We didn't believe we could fight back. We didn't even consider that we could make a difference. Those selfish criminals came out of hiding, and we surrendered ourselves to their will. Most of you still think this will never change, but I say it isn't true!
"Are we going to sit down and watch helplessly while these hooligans run our world into the ground? No! We were not created for this! A life in slavery is not a life worth living.
"Please, trust me! I have been to some dark places and seen some terrible things, but it taught me a valuable lesson. No matter how bleak things may look, there is always hope! It is not right to surrender when we still have a chance to make a difference! Our fate is not in their hands but ours! We are the ones who decide what our lives will be!
"Brothers and sisters, we are toons! We are silliest, wackiest creatures ever created, and it is our duty to take back what is ours! Today we will make our stand! Choose to follow me! Choose to resist the darkness! Choose to fight back!
"Some of you say that this is the end of Toontown, but I promise you it is not! This is only the beginning! All of you here will be the ones that future historians will write about! Today is your day! Rise up and take back your world! Let us fight for freedom, for happiness, for each other, and for the world of Toontown!"
The crowd was speechless. Then they were suddenly distracted by something behind him. The moment Evina finished his speech, something unimaginable began to happen. There was a light rising above the horizon, a beautiful, wholesome light. The sun had returned.
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