On Stranger Rides
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Johnson arrived at the entrance to the pirates ride and examined the large dock. The place was very detailed and complicated, the ideal place to hide. "Ok, now where did he go to?"
A parrot squawked. "He's over there! He's over there!"
Glue Stick was lying flat on the bottom of a boat floating out to the swamp. "Stupid animatronic bird," he griped. "Who even programs AI like that?"
Just as the sounds of crickets and banjo music were starting, Glue Stick could hear the splashing of Johnson wading in the water, drawing closer and closer to his boat. He needed to wait for the right moment to act. Then the boat entered the dark tunnel with the talking skull on the wall. Glue Stick rose up and slid into the water as quietly as he could, hoping that his toon scent would wash away and conceal him from Johnson. It seemed to work for a minute, and he followed alongside the boat, floating silently in the darkness. Then he tumbled down the waterfall.
His body was pulled beneath the murky waters, and all he could hear was the sounds of the waves underwater. His head kept hitting things, whether it was the ground or the boat or something else, he didn't know. There wasn't enough light to see which direction was up. But finally, he found the surface and gasped for air. He still hoped Johnson didn't see or hear him. The tunnel was still very loud and dark. At the second waterfall, Glue Stick saw that there was going to be light ahead, and he wouldn't be able to hide.
"Just wait until I find you," the cold voice echoed through the caves, sending shivers up Glue Stick's spine. "Some little freak needs to be taught some manners."
Glue Stick clung tightly to the left side of the boat as it plunged down the second drop. He was now in the large cavern. The sounds of the waterfall faded away, and the cave shimmered beautifully with the refraction of the water under the dim blue light. Listening carefully, he could notice the simulated thunderstorm and the low hum of the pirate's theme song further away. It was calming and, for a second, he almost forgot about Johnson. But that was soon to change.
Johnson was moving again and didn't even try to conceal the noise caused by his breathing and splashing.
Glue Stick considered his options and decided that the best way to continue surviving and giving the others enough time to fight the soldiers, was not to keep running but confront Johnson. His boat drifted over to the small cave with the gold coins spilled all over, and he had the perfect plan.
Johnson saw Glue Stick hop off the boat and lurch toward the treasure room. The toon took the sword from the skeleton prop, but the man arrived there only seconds later.
"Stand back," Glue Stick warned, holding the blade up to his enemy dangerously.
Johnson managed to grab another sword from behind his back without turning around. Now he was also armed. An evil grin stretched across his pale face. "You have no idea who you're messing with, boy!"
"Maybe so, but neither do you."
The man was puzzled. His opponent didn't look very threatening.
"I've memorized all the moves from the films," Glue Stick said. Suddenly, he swung the sword, and Johnson blocked it.
"You do have spirit," Johnson admitted, "but I'm still going to destroy you."
Glue Stick struck again, swinging from different sides, and stepping carefully, ready to dodge any counterattack.
Johnson jumped to the side with a sudden movement, and his skill surprised Glue Stick as well.
The horse lost his balance trying to avoid the blade. He toppled over a heap of gold coins and rolled out of the way from the coming attacks. But once on his feet again, he fought ferociously. The air was filled with the sounds of the swords clashing.
Glue Stick hopped onto the captain's bed to gain the advantage of the higher position. He jumped and narrowly missed the swing aimed at his feet.
Johnson fought well, but he was growing more impatient with each passing minute. Glue Stick was tired, but he did not show his weakness. He never rested from his swinging. Finally, Johnson was driven back and fell back into the water, sputtering.
Glue Stick took this opportunity to change plans. He bounced off Johnson's head and dived headfirst into the water, following the tunnel to the cloud of mist up ahead. It looked like he might finally escape him. With an angry shout, Johnson threw his sword at him. Glue Stick dodged, but he didn't miss the edge, and it cut his arm. It wasn't too serious of a wound, but it did sting. He swam quickly to the big room where the two pirate ships were having a battle. A myriad of props and animatronics provided plenty of places to hide.
The man arrived a minute later to see that his target was nowhere to be found. He never imagined it would take this long to eliminate one annoying toon. "Alright, if you want to play like a coward, I'll find you another way." He jogged over to a flaming torch on a wall and raised it proudly. "Let's see if you can take the heat!"
Evina was running. Gyro and Kate were not far behind. They were heading north along the river, and the soldiers were in hot pursuit.
"Where are we going?" she asked him.
"Anywhere," Evina said. "We have to get away from them."
"And what about Glue Stick?" Gyro asked the best he could through his lack of breath.
"That's his problem," Evina insisted. "The best we can do is get rid of these guys."
"We need somewhere to hide," Kate continued.
Evina pointed to another large ride ahead. "You mean like that?"
It was the best option available, so they ran into the queue as fast as their legs could move, jumping over any ropes in their way. It was pretty long, and they weren't sure how far the soldiers were behind them.
Evina read a sign hanging on a wall.
You can't run away from trouble – There ain't no place that far.
"Very helpful," he grunted.
The cavern-like area they entered seemed to be near the entrance to the ride. It was set up as a river with logs in it. Each log had seats to sit on. The shouting of soldiers echoed through the caves behind them as they hurried to get on the ride.
Gyro found a key and tossed it to Kate. She put it in, turned it, and pressed the button in only a moment's time. All the equipment began to whir to life as the three of them hopped into a log. The safety gates shut, and it was launched forward into the water. The soldiers were seen getting into a log behind them.
They wished it would go faster. The log floated along rather peacefully as the safety announcement was spoken. Eventually, they came to the first conveyor belt that lifted them up a hill. From the log behind them, a shot was fired. It chipped off the back part of one of the seats as they ducked.
"Ok, I hate these guys," Kate said.
"You're telling me." Gyro rolled his eyes. "I don't see how we'll ever get away from them."
Evina pointed ahead. "Hey, what's this?"
They had arrived at the first drop. Their log fell down a waterfall and sprayed them with water as they went into a tunnel full of singing animatronics.
"It's dark. Do you think they can see us?" Gyro whispered. A bullet whizzed by his head to answer his question. They tried to keep their heads low. Their log weaved in and out of complicated areas full of props, and they were clueless as to where they were going. They didn't know if the ride's noise was helpful or simply annoying. From what they could tell, the soldiers were whispering now.
Evina was confused. "I wonder what they're up to." The sound of rushing water interrupted that thought, and he lifted his head to see that they were approaching a really dark waterfall. "Oh no."
They went down the hill, and it felt more like a rollercoaster than a river. They were launched over another hill, and a wave of cold water washed over them. They were soaked and floating through another dark tunnel with air conditioning blowing on them.
"They don't call it Splash Mountain for nothing," Gyro moaned.
"It's times like this that I wish I had my black suit," Evina said. "At least that thing is waterproof."
"So, why didn't you wear it?" Kate argued.
"It was full of magical radiation that couldn't be masked! Seriously, didn't you read the book?"
"Whatever," she said. "But where did those guys go to?"
They listened carefully for the soldiers, trying to drown out the musical noise of bees buzzing, but it didn't sound like the soldiers were behind them anymore.
"That's odd," Gyro remarked.
The music suddenly changed tone. It was eerie and suspenseful. Up ahead, they thought they could see another conveyor belt to lift their log again.
Above their heads, an animatronic vulture sneered down at them. "You won't be laughing much longer."
There was a bit more light seen now. The toons turned around to see that the log behind them was empty.
"This isn't right, guys," Gyro said, and he looked very scared.
Evina was genuinely worried now as the ominous music continued and the log was hoisted up a high hill, much higher than all the previous ones. He was shivering from the cold as well. It wasn't just the ride that he was worried about, but more importantly, why the soldiers had suddenly disappeared. "What do they have planned?" he whispered through his teeth, trying to reason his way through this. In his mind, there was a silent plea for help. He didn't know for sure if he was as invincible as he thought.
At the top of the hill, they saw the props of the rabbit about to be eaten by the fox. Evina imagined himself as the rabbit and Johnson as the fox, ready to destroy him. Their log emerged from the dark and into the light of day. They were above the park, about to fall down a very tall waterfall. And below them, there was something blocking the river. It was a huge pile of explosives.
The log tipped downward, the toons opened their mouths to scream, and the camera flashed.
Glue Stick was getting very hot. All the props surrounding him were engulfed in bright orange flames, and he didn't see any way to escape without being caught by Johnson.
The man in black stood in the water and watched the flames all around him. He waited for his prey to come out. His impatience was growing, and he wondered how long it would take before he could continue with his plans.
Just then, Glue Stick dived from a bridge and landed in the water. The man waded to that spot and searched furiously but couldn't find him. Before he knew it, he was hit in the head and fell down.
Glue Stick dropped the bottle he had taken from one of the pirates. This solution wouldn't last long, but he hoped it would provide enough time to get out. He fled to the exit tunnel to escape the ride. By the time he reached the dungeon room, he found Gyro's helper in the cell with the other pirates.
"Hey, what are you doing here!?" he shouted.
"Rescue," the helper squeaked.
"I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm doing just fine on my own."
There was a terrible scream of rage from the previous room. Johnson was out of the water, and he wouldn't be stopped so easily anymore. Besides that, there wasn't much time left for any of them. The heat was rising, the water was boiling, and the building was going to collapse soon.
"Alright then, rescue me!" Glue Stick begged.
The last room showed pirates shooting at one another. The people on the boat would feel jets of air with each shot. The helper had brought a cork. It hopped onto Glue Stick's shoulder and shoved it into one of the pirate's guns. Then it squeaked "RUN!"
Glue Stick picked up the helper and jogged up the hill to the dock area. Johnson wandered into the room behind them when the pressure in the gun caused it to explode. The room filled with smoke that allowed the two to escape.
They had scarcely stepped outside when they heard a low rumble from behind them. The underground building collapsed from the fire. It didn't seem likely that Johnson survived, or at least they knew he wouldn't escape for a very long time.
"I suppose we have to find the others now."
The blast knocked out their vision and hearing. It took a moment for their senses to return. They felt pain everywhere on their bodies. Then they saw that the tunnel at the bottom of the waterfall had been completely destroyed. Their log had been blown to smithereens also, yet they were still alive and floating with debris in the remaining water. Ahead of them was the Ferris wheel with all the animals singing Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.
When they finally reached the ride's exit gate, Kate warily climbed out of the water to lie down on the ground. "Wow, you're right. We are pretty tough in this world."
"Yep," Gyro agreed, "but let's not let that happen again. I don't know how long our luck will last."
"I wonder where Glue Stick is," Evina wondered.
"Right here," Glue Stick answered. The other three were stunned to see him there. They had feared he was gone forever. A paper was in his hand. He held it up to show them. "Ok, it's actually a pretty good picture."
The photograph showed their terrified faces when they saw the explosives from the top of the waterfall. It was very detailed and extremely humiliating. Evina dropped his head in shame. "How did you get out of there? Where did Johnson go? How did you find us?"
"Whoa, slow down, one question at a time!" Glue Stick insisted, not thinking that there might still be soldiers nearby. "I was rescued by lightbulb guy, Johnson is gone now, and I found you because that explosion could be heard miles away."
"What do you mean he's gone?" Kate demanded.
"He was nuts! He burned the pirates ride to the ground and got trapped inside. Anyway, I expected you would be thanking me now considering I had him distracted for you. Why did you get yourselves blown up?"
"Look out!" Gyro shouted.
An angry soldier, maybe the one who had set the explosives, ran out toward them from a hiding place and prepared to attack. But then something unexpected happened. He was knocked to the ground by a large gear that seemed to be flung out of nowhere. Evina turned around to see hundreds of cogs standing in a nearby tunnel. He wasn't sure if it was real, because it looked impossible.
A Glad Hander was grinning at him. "I heard you needed a hand!"
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