Published using Google Docs
Updated automatically every 5 minutes




~Part 1~

FIRST DRAFT==============Sybil Lamb 210210

  1. Princess Sugar Power Star. of the Sugar Plum Toy Vault.

Princess Sugar Power Star slowly tossed and turned herself awake under a pile of teddy bears. Today was Snakey-Fur’s Birthday. It had been weeks and weeks since Snakey’s last one and tonight's festivities would be a complete and  utter festival.

Princess crawled as slow as she could to the edge of the high high shelf where she slept. Twice as high as a man’s head and hidden in the back of a dark quiet corner, she was already difficult  to see unless some pointed her out (and no one would cuz no one knew she was there). Further factoring in that she always wore the chopped off head and feet of some pink  stuffed animal as a hat and boots, amongst the back corner top shelf where the giant oversized animal overstock piled up she turned kind of invisible.

From her high perch she heard the tape recorded voice of the long absent castle hostess’s singsong voice bidding everyone thank you for coming shopping and to bring their favourite toys to the front door to get a toy carrying bag and go home to play with toys and go to bed. Many of the subjects of her princessdom ran back and forth trying to pick their toys at the last minute. Finally after a pretty repetitive wait for a couple dozen people to have their toys wrapped and disappear outside the toy wrappers and put-away-ers half heartedly searched every corridor of the maze like a sugar plum toy vault for lost regular people. Finding none they each said “clear” into their radios and then  turned off almost all the lights and shut big metal gates over the doors and any other spot that the outside might seep in. With the muted unintelligible voices of the wrappers still complaining and worrying on the other side of the gates they’d just locked Princess shimmied down from her shelf and surveyed her princessdom.

Tonight's grand affair was supposed to be a lively fun festival of delight in excess. Snakey-Fur’s birthday parties were meant to be endless parades of  fun and  games and treats. Playing with every toy in attendance and eating all the birthday feast where the law by royal decree, punishable by beheading, being run under the faucet in the bathroom, or banishment. She'd had to banish a few too many subjects of late but hopefully tonight would be all about a celebration of the glory of Snakey-fur.

“Snakey-fur me oldest and sweetest friend,” spoke princess,” Today is your birthday and no worries or troubles will be allowed to bother us today. I decree today can only be fun and we can do whatever you want to do all day.”

Snakey was like a furry loaf of bread wrapped in Princess’s arms. “Snakey, on this your birthday I grant you the right to rule over the Sugar Plum Toy Vault!” Snakey could say nothing.

“What should Our first order of royal business be today?” Snakey’s shiny black button eyes twinkled with reflection of the dim security lights. “Cartoons? Well If cartoons are your wish then I shall allow it! Guards make it so”

Princess snapped her fingers and flappe her fun-fur cape, then she and Snake strolled arm in arm, or whole-body-in-arm to be more accurate, off into the electronics sections. They sat cross legged (or leglessly)  together in front of 9 TVs showing the same cartoon about surfing aliens until well after midnight. Princess was sure it had been 9 TVs last time she’d counted  but now it was 5 ? In addition to subtraction of TVs  the bean bag chairs she’d make nest-forts out of were gone. The number and quality of video games had shrunk.

Once her electronics aisle had had fake electric guitars that played themselves right every time and fake cars you could sit in and sometimes drive around the store and thered been a light up  dance floor that would teach you dance moves. Now it seemed  they had less Tvs every day and the same cartoon would be left on repeat for weeks sometimes without being changed.

She counted her one blessing that she’d figured out how to turn up the volume on the tv and had the  space surfers show on the 4rth lowest volume for Snakey’s  party. There had been a time when she didn't know about volume buttons and so many frustrating  nights of soundless cartoons. Princesses' imagination had tried to reason out the colorful animals' manic actions without the sound and the whole experience had forever giver her a cartoonish understanding of the rumored world outside the toy store  in ways that no number cartoons with sound could ever repair.

She looked at snakey who stared unblinkingly at the space surfers. The thought of bumming out snakey fur on their birthday sickened princess to the guts. She had to cheer this party up a notch.

“Hey snakey let's get Fun rings, Your favourite!” Snakey thought that was such a wonderful plan that they lay there breadlike in excitement.

But everywhere Princess looked s saw the slowly increasing evil curse  on her Princessdom was affecting everything, even the snacks and treats that the toy-wrappers decorated their work stations with. In her royal youth there has been endless fountains of candy and chips and actually real fountains that people threw coins in and there had been a 100 kinds of jelly beans library, and now there was  just a disconnected fountain with no coins in it, empty chips racks and 100 mostly empty plexiglass boxes that held stale light bleached jelly bean leftovers with dirt or hair stuck to them.

There had once been not just every candy bar but a few boxes of every kind of candy bar. Now there were only 2 choices, chemical coconut corn syrup,  or sugarless fat free with gravel like neo-peanuts “choc’lat” that was at least a few years old cuz they never sold enough to bother ordering it ever again.

Once there had been a room full of different chips and abightly decorated old fashioned Chome diner themed chips-lounge with vinyl seated booths and hidden napkin dispensers to eat chips all day in. Now the only napkins were wadded up in corners the cleaners had forgotten about and  mostly empty shelves with perhaps tiny bags of plain saltless regular that tasted like old newspaper, ancient bbq chips that tasted like a magazine ad for a bbq, or  extra large bags of zesty cheesy raisin bran which could only have existed because multiple people had made mistakes. Princess tried to drown her frustrations in several packs of vanilla chemical cookies, she was prepared to eat as many as there were to eat to make this birthday fun.

Not to be deflated buy a lack luster feast Princess and Snakey-Fur Played slot cars and foozball and color ponies and robo pets and slime and construction site. Construction site was just a giant box of plastic steel girders and a few windows doors and air conditioners and you could make any rectangle based brutalist building you could rectangle up with.

 Just as Snakey-fur and princess’s tiny skeletal highrise of plastic metal beams was starting to get taller than Princess was  they heard the fearsome sound of the approaching buffing machine. They bounced around a corner and behind a pile of quarter size fake kitchens scattered with diverse plastic food just as Mustafa rolled up with a push broom and a floor polisher.

        “What the heck is all this doing here?” he exclaimed, yanking off his headphones and shutting the buffer down. “This wasn't here an hour ago, I swear so much there weren't all these messes when I got here. Every week I am going crazier. Either a group of multiple people is sneakily following me trying to make me go insane or it really is ghosts!” he picked up the construction tower and shoved it aside which made it break apart into tiny plastic parts.

“What am i even supposed to do with all this mismatched toy stuff from any of a dozen opened boxes ? Answer me you rotten ghost? Is this supposed to save us money by taking a few pieces out of every toy ? A bit too foolish too late don't you think? Or are you too invisible to say?”

Princess was combo: afraid and guilty. She was frozen in place, a pallid sunless girl with hair she’d cut herself in the wrapping station and colored pink with markers. She was  cloaked in the skin of a destuffed giant stuffed polar bear. She looked unlike anything found in  a quarter scale play kitchen yet there she was  sitting in the middle of the play kitchen section. Yet Mustafa stomped back and forth around the aisles yelling at the toys and by extension, at Princess but somehow never finding her or really addressing her.

“What's wrong with me? I believe in ghosts? I think everything is ghosts because I can control nothing? My only hope is to believe everything is beyond my control and supernatural? Because I don't eat and don't Sleep! My eyes are bad and my back is bad and I can't work from closing to opening, double shift  every day and still we have half the customers.

Why do I bother? I am broke, I make myself sick and now I am tormented by ghosts.” he seemed to be yelling at her right in the face. But then he wasn't. He was trying to guess where her face was to yell at. Her talent for invisibility was more than dressing like a toy and adopting the customs of a dolly, Princess just had invisible luck.

        Mustaf swatted the construction again and it fell apart even more. He grumpily picked up everything all the toys and stuff from Shakey's birthday party and threw it all in a cardboard box

He might have even cried out in  exhausted delirious aggravation  for a few moments.
Princess took advantage of his clattering grumbling tidying to disappear soundlessly in to the depths of  the neglectfully filthy balls in the ball pit. Undetectably she positioned herself  perfectly motionless and practicing her dolly-breathing. She could remain motionless and undetectable for hours if need be. The only real issue was that as she was usually either on a high shelf or buried under piles of toys she only would ever catch a partial picture of what all her motley crew of loyal subject where up to, But princess would never have even become princess without an overactive imagination and that imagination was prepared to imagine so hard it could drown out any reality no matter how harsh.

A bit bummed out from a prematurely shut down birthday, Princess sugar and Snakey Fur waited and waited and waited with the infinite patience of a dolly and a stuffed animal, and before long slipped back up top of the shelves and scurried back to their corner. Princess ate all the cookies in her pockets as she and snakey snuggled deep into their nest  under a pile of teddy bear ponies. “At least we have each other” she said gazing into Snakey's button eyes, wishing… no, knowing; knowing that the twinkle of Snakey’s eyes was Snakey saying that at least they had each other too.


  1. 104 year Grand Closing Sale. 

The next day there was a long special meeting of all the Wrappers and Shelf stockers, Mustafa and Herman the other security janitor and the four or 6 people who stayed in the room full of computers and phones all day. There was the super old purple pinstripe suit man who only showed up for important big deal events like the model train show, Princess believed he was named Professor Peter Plum. Even  Santa claus had shown up months out of season  but out of uniform and with a close trimmed beard so he wouldn't be noticeable.

 Professor Plum  gave a  speech about a ragtag crew of misfits creating a family here and forging a 104 year commitment to an empire of toys, and the changing face of e-commerce and mega retailers like EVERYTING MART were probably the future but at least everyone who cares is old enough to retire and the younger generation won't even ever have jobs anyways so bully all that. At least everyone would get a generous, but not too generous, severance cheq. Thank you everyone for making the Sugar Plum Toy Vault an award winning legend. If you’d like to take any pieces of the legend home with you just go right ahead as it all belongs to EVERYTING MART now anyways.

        Everyone lined up for envelopes full of cheqs and then milled about eating donuts and comparing cheqs and talking about their next thing. The plum family had bought a modest retirement house, the computer people and the security janitors were gonna take a couple months off with their bonuses  and just do nothing but be relieved it was over but they’d never planned for an after, and the wrappers were trading contact info for bag jobs at EVERYTING-MART. The general mood was melancholy relief  like when an old sick pet slowly dies.  Princess filled her bad kitty backpack with cake and donuts and disappeared back up to the top shelves. She didn't even want cake and donuts, she curled up into a ball in a spot that wasn't even comphy and she didn't cry, someone less princessly might have but Princess did not.

She lay there for hours not caring or noticing when the store closed and the wrappers left for the last time taking arm loads of some of the best display items with them. They shut off more lights than usual.

Mustafa made a circuit of the vault before midnight. He didn't clean or buff the floor or put anything away, he just strutted back and forth from the loading bay to the offices and wrap stations making sure he had every computer part and printer cable. He did a shuffling dance as packed up anything important that wasn't a toy. He played ancient fuzz tinny rock and roll on the sugar plum sound system. The music sounded so weathered and old that he must have been Princess’s age when it had come out.

Princess was distraught, she had to do something but had no idea what. The next time Mustafa danced by pushing a shopping cart full of 20 year old printers she dumped the whole kitty back pack of donuts on the floor.

“Hey you damn ghost! Now I see you!” he hollered up at her but he was absolutely barking up the wrong shelf, pretending that he saw her.

“You can haunt me all you want now. You can haunt the cash registers, rattle the light fixtures, blow ghost songs into the toilets, I do not care about you ever again.”

“But it's me princess!” It had been a long time since she’d tried to talk to him or anyone and she knew her voice or tone or emotional register sounded all wrong and weird..  “I’m the little girl who  lives in this store. I’m friends with all the stuffed animals and keep them happy and cute for you.”

        “I don't care. You are the rot of my own mind. You are a symptom of how I worked and worked till I went half blind and lost my mind.” He was facing away from her but so intently away from her that he he was basically backwards acknowledging her by quite obviously specifically looking the exact opposite way. Princess was hurt.

This was her last chance, she climbed down from the top shelf and stood right in front of Mustafa. “ Look at me I’m the Princess of the whole store. You used to cheer every time you caught sight of me when I was little. You used to give me pieces of sandwiches.”

“I used to be young and full of fantasy. I believed in toy land or whatever. I used to think i was so rich I could throw away my food. So fun I was I made you up and fed my lunch to a rat. But now I am free. My imaginary ghost is made of too many years of working till i drop. Tomorrow I will wake up and do no work and then the next day i won't do it again. Tonight is the last time I talk to ghosts.” and he kicked a donut the length of the aisle.

“Mister Mustafa, it's me, Princess, the little girl, I’m not a ghost look at me I’m afraid I have nowhere to go.”

“You are not even real and I do not listen to you. Your ghost imagination made me too crazy and paranoid to work anymore. Too crazy to make a living for myself or anyone. You can go haunt EVERYTING MART for all I care. I will never talk to a ghost again. Goodbye.”

“Please I’ve never lived anywhere else!” She screamed and tears poured down her face. Princess had never been this terrified before. Mustafa just sang along at full yelling volume to his rock and roll tape looking everywhere but Princess’s direction as he put the printers in the truck. Then he kept on singing some ancient song about rock n roll beach as he unplugged the pa-system with his tape still in it, wheeled it to the loading bay, and shut and padlocked the garage door. Then the truck drove away. That was it.

The next day no one came. No one opened the store and Princess slept into almost sundown waiting for any sign she should get up. She tried to play toys but felt unmotivated, disconnected from fun. The eyes of all the stuffed animals seemed silent, not cuz they didn't really talk, but because there was nothing they could say to Princess now. The next day no one came and she ate all the crappy snack items. More days went by and soon she’d opened  every last candy and chips and eaten them and  no one came and the lights were never on.

After 8 days Professor Purple and reps of 5 different toy distributors came, spent the day counting everything, and then all the remaining toys got put on pallets, wrapped in shrink wrap, and disappeared out the loading bay. When Princess came out of hiding she was alone in a warehouse full of empty shelves. She ate the dried up  jelly beans with hair and dirt  on them and then searched the floor where shed dumped the donuts a week before for any crumbs the ants had not made off with.

On the 12 day 2 gruff grumpy men came and took down all the tall shelves and dismantled the chrome diner and bagged and boxed up the whole ball pit including the slide. It had been  a full day's production and Princess managed to steel half of one of the men’s meatloaf sandwiches. She was too starving to care about anything else. She didn't even really notice they’d collapsed the corner her nest had been in until she saw them carting her blankets to the dumpster. One of them held up Snakey fur and yelled “hey look at this toy moldy bread!” the other laughed and then they threw snakey on the ground and stepped all over them over and over again while carrying the shelves out.

“STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT “ screamed princess!

“Dude you hear that?” shouted the guy who called Snakey moldy.

“No! That was way creepy.” said the guy who laughed at Snakey.

They grabbed up their tools and the last of the shelf bits and stepped on snakey a dozen more times and rolled the door back down and made sure the padlock was tight.

The next day Princess was alone in an empty dirty vault with nothing in it in the dark. She rebuilt her nest as best she could with some crushed boxes, a plastic sheet and some trash bags. A search of all the trash turned up a stale hamburger bun with some dried ketchup, a slightly fermented latte, and a wad of gum.

        Exactly two weeks after the Sugar Plum had closed a team of construction guys with giant sized mechanical sandbox toys surrounded the toy vault and began pounding on every wall. Princess tried to bury herself in plastic scraps wishing she could fall into a princess sleep until this was over.  She had made no progress at all on falling asleep when the whole front entrance caved in. Giant criss cross iron beams and chunks of cement rained down crushing the wrapping station. An enormous metal claw burst through the wall and then flattened the girls washroom shoving shattered toilets and bits of wall towards the center of the vault. More of the roof caved in and dim light from the setting sun revealed the extent of the filth that had accumulated in 2 weeks. The claw came through the wall again and smashed up the toilets and sinks into jagged useless chunks.

         Princess desperately
climbed the wires on the wall back up to the ceiling as her plastic princess nest was found.flattened and torn apart  by the giant metal robot arms invading from the ceiling. With snakey clamped tight in her teeth and the clarity of terror she stomped an exhaust vent out of the back wall and jumped out on top of the trash compactor skittered down to the asphalt and dove down into the bush covered drainage ditch. From the outside Sugar Plum Toy Vault looked like just a giant cement box, only distinct by a rusty busted dead lightbulb festooned giant metal plum sculpture on the roof. Princess vaguely remembered the big sugar plum sign but she always remembered it neon purple and covered in festive flashing lights. Before she could reminisce further a metal scoop arm machine smashed the whole thing through the roof collapsing big slabs of cement down upon where the wrappers had used to be. Nothing outside the vault was anything like the inside. She recognized nothing except that nothing out here seemed to be a toy. Everything she could see in every direction was strange and meaningless. Princess had never been anywhere but a toy store before.


Princess wanders dumb struck! She watched several enormous sandbox toys, scaled up to be even taller than the Sugar Plum Toy Vault  pick and push the roof into the basement  and collapse the walls on top of it. Her Princessdom was utterly gone. It wasn't till the last wall was toppled and the sand box toys had switched from smashing to scooping that her mind switched over. There was nothing left, she had to find a new princess nest, that was her biggest only priority.

   She sneaked along the drainage ditch till her pink polar bear feet were wet and freezing. She walked along the garbage pick up road for a while as being well hidden grew  less important than getting out of the mud. She was soon filled with grief and despair that she had let strangers trick her into going outside. There had to be a way back inside, she’d wondered about other insides out there before. .

  Princess focused her mind powers and resolved to figure it out. From the outside the Sugar plum had looked like just a cement box. Most of the outside seemed to be cement boxes with big car parking and sometimes some mud or garbage. Nighttime was coming and most cement boxes were having closing times, she could tell by watching between the buildings and seeing people leave in big cars. She needed to find a place that was open late. Fortunately Princess was pretty smart and had learned to read dozens of signs over the years and now that it was dark with signs lit up she easily  located an “open late” just across the parking lot.

         After 45 minutes of very carefully sneaking around the perimeter of the parking lot, Princess timidly sprinted out of the bushes and into a slowly closing door that some lady had just walked out of.

          “We close in 15” said some security janitor guy who looked like a much younger, more smartly dressed Mustafa. He looked up and didn't see her and shook his head. He looked a second time and still didn't see her,  shrugged and went back to watching his watch.

Princess was pleased to note her invisibility camouflage still worked in this unfamiliar environment. She fine tuned herself to this strip mall's frequencies; this places aura a bit more black and red that the Sugar plums aura of grey and Blurple, and ventured further inside.

          This place was very unfamiliar but seemed to work on the same principles as the sugarplum. Mostly it was just bigger and had more departments. Where sugar plum had had a baby section and a bikes section this place had an assisted mobility shop, a shoe section and a vitamins shop. She could read signs like Family Discount Center, value pets, and ice cream. The first had tshirts, the second had alive-stuffed-animals but mostly just mouse-rats and fish, and the icecream was in the biggest snack section she had ever seen.

She snuck into a multi kiosk courtyard of foods. It was like a super snack food section with people for giving out the snacks. They had rare exotic foods that would have put the jelly bean aisle to shame even in its prime. The court of foods held wonders like   tacos and french fries and staff pizza fridays, and all of it was being closed right now with sliding metal cages pulled down out of the ceiling by the snack-giver-outer people. Wrappers and shelf stockers and security janitors swarmed in every direction and the speakers made the “5 minutes till closing please bring your toys to the front” announcement thing but with different words and  in a complete stranger's voice.

Princess grabbed nobody’s half eaten french fries from the court of food and made a dash for the bathroom. Once in the bathroom she sat with her feet up in the darkest corner of the bathroom till the lights switched off and the sounds of voices and slamming and locking things got further and further away

Princess sat with her feet up on the toilet for a long time not moving, practicing dolly breathing until she was extra sure that there was no one waiting quietly for her to let her guard down. With a very practiced expertise she threw herself on top of the toilet divider stalls and ascended into a ceiling panel. Her big sensitive eyes attuned by years of navigating the toy vault in mostly darkness easily found her way along sprinkler pipes and computer cable busses into the ceiling of the court of foods. Her plan was pretty straight forward. First climb through the ceiling into the ice cream place and then eat as much as she could just in case and then go about selecting a new nest.  She already had her eye on nesting at the Family Discount center because they had a salty snacks aisle, a T-shirts with words on them aisle, and a milk aisle which was something she had only ever experienced from peoples leftover coffee orders and knew milk was something like a second cousin to ice cream so it definitely held possible regal potential.  

Princess crawled through the ceiling to about where she’d estimated the ice cream fridge was and set to popping out the ceiling panel to lower herself down. It turned out she was exactly above the chest freezer however it’s top was 7 feet below the ceiling with nothing to climb down.

Her mind still clouded by hunger and PTSD Princess fell on purpose through the ceiling hoping to think of something on the way down. A second later she slammed into the counter knocking spoons cups and cones everywhere and setting off an alarm. The wailing alarm would have normally sent Princess cowering in a ball in the corner but so fixated was she on her hunger that she went for the freezer instead. There were over 16 flavours in there and it was locked with a padlock.  Pad Locked ice cream hooked up to an alarm behind a cage wall?!

Princess was beginning to worry that she just wouldn't cut it in the real world. The sugar plum had been a timeless anomaly and she was getting  too grown to play the mysterious little girl sprite much longer.

Her despair was cut short by burly gruff angry pinkerton thugs bursting in the front gate pointing electrocution phasers  with flashlights mounted on them into every shadow. “Come out with your hands up” they yelled over and over.

Princess was trapped in a caged ice cream shop. No wait she wasn't, there was a back door!

 The back door led to a secret hallway where big rolling trash carts were corralled down a long cinderblock  passage. She jumped into one of the trash carts and tried to hide herself beneath some shoe store trash but there wasn't enough. With the sound of cadet boots stomping down the hall Princess feared she had to disappear as completely as possible. At the last possible second it could even have been an option he saw a tiny door that had the store sense to suspect probably went to the inside of the trash compactor.

Princess squeezed through the tiny trash door and plumpft down into a pit of cardboard and smushed groceries. The sound of security janitors bursting into the garbage room and rummaging through the trash cart she’d just been in. They were slamming doors and barking meaningless numbers and designations into their radios. She shimmied down into the cardboard and let little boxes drift from the big stack and pile on top of her. Satisfactorily undetectable she twice double fisted cold french fries from her pockets into her mouth. She thought they seemed like a pauper cousin to chips but she was so starved she didn't care. Stuffing her mouth with extra emergency-waiting-fries she  was about to slip into dolly trance when right In front of her face was another girl. Just some other little girl kind of her age, maybe two and a half centimeters taller and also hiding in a trash compactor in the shopping warehouse district  just before midnight.

“Hi ?” Other girl stage-whispered with a big shrug.

        They both sat motionless but their eyes darting back and forth between each other and the trash door, waiting for the security janitor sounds to go away.

  1. Why are there so many secret tunnels?

“So let me get this straight. You are really the Princess of toyland?” said the Other girl while she wadded towards her  through the pit of old cardboard. Princess recalculated from the recent failure of her plan to live at Family Discount Center. Who was this Other girl was in this garbage pit?? Was she the Garbage princess of Family Discount center or perhaps and outsider collecting cardboard?

  “Well, I have been princess of the Sugar Plum Toy Vault for all my Life. I have never been anywhere outside my castle till tonight.”

        “Oh yeh, I was totally there a long time ago. All I remember is it's pretty big. Can I go to your castle ?” Other girls seemed to actually be interested in some smushed cabbages and root vegetables with a hint of rot that Family Discount threw out by the box load. Princess had never seen a vegetable before but she’d met the stuffed animal versions of them. Other girl  was filling 2 plastic buckets.

        Oh how Princess had wanted to be asked a question like that  her whole life and say yes. “Tonight I saw my castle caved in and crushed by giant mechanical sand box toys. Robot arms threw the big sugar plum through the roof and broke it. Men came and took my shelf and they almost killed Snakey-Fur. Mustafa didn’t even know if I was real or not, we ran out of good chips, and we just never got any new toys. The toys got older and older till they all broke and got thrown out.’


“Whoa whoa!” cried Other girl seeing Princess about to start crying and the kind of cry that once started would go until she collapsed in tears. “Sounds like the worst night ever. We can get to my hotel room, it's not a castle but it's certified with at least a couple stars and we got elegant luxurious amenities.”

        “I. Are you sure? I don't have anywhere to go I don't know what to do” This had probably been the most she had talked to anybuddy in the past year. Princess knew well enough to bite down on the panic of sorrow inside herself and not introduce any new variables and hopefully ride this out at least till she saw a place to hide and pass out.

        “Where's your bed roll, backpack, anything ?” Aske Other Girl filling 1 bucket with old vegetables and starting a second. None of the vegetables had eys but a few had hair.

        Princess turned and indicated her smallish kitty cat backpack and squeezed Snakey-fur in her hands.

“Is that? A furry loaf of bread ?”

“It’s Snakey-Fur.”

“Hello Snakey-fur, I’m Penumbra!” and she pet Snakey on the head. Princess could tell from Snakey’s eyes that they liked her. The two girls climbed carefully out of the trash compactor door that exited to the garbage road.

“ I’ve really never been outside before tonight so have no idea how any or it works.” said Princess when her polar bear feets hit the ground.”

        “Outside ? It's all just brutal mindless chaos actually. Let's get the heck back inside right now.” Preposterously Penumbra led her to a shadowy clump of bushes. Unseen til the last second was a big metal box that was full of wires and all dark inside. Penumbra handed Princess a bucket of vegetables and together they slipped into that darkness and emerged into a dimly lit tunnel underground. There were pipes and thick wires and a little walkway running many times the length of a whole store off into darkness in both directions.

        Princess was surprised but everything surprised her so she was getting used to it.  “I wish I knew about this earlier when I had to walk down a garbage juice  mud ditch for hours”

“Oh any place that has plumbing or electricity usually has a tunnel going to it. Its just a matter of finding the slots or slits that go into it. And the best secret entrances are hidden in shadows and I have an excellent ability of finding my way through the shadows.” She studied Princess’s face for a reaction. “Get it? Penumbra! It's the very edge of a shadow”

“Oh. My full title is Princess Sugar Power Star: Deposed Fallen  Princess of Sugar Plum Toy Vault. I have extra powers when I eat a bunch of sugar, and I’m a star of fashion and royal society.”

“That's cool. I’m just an expert on edges of shadows. I like the simple things.”

        “As a Princess it was my royal job to test all of the toys thoroughly to see how fun they are, I look after all the stuffed animals until someone adopts them, I used to name all of them but I used up all known names over a year ago so I mostly just call them all cutie or whatever,  but they do appreciate being appreciated as individuals.

 I also just sometimes appear to children exploring the toy vault as a vision of a toy princess dolly, and then I disappear again and leave them forever dreaming of visions of the Princessdom of Sugar Plum toy Vault dancing in their heads.” Princess decreed proudly.

 Then remembering all of it was gone her face fell. “I did so much. I touched every toy that came through my vault. It's now over, I cant even make my brain think how it's over now. How can none of it be what I do every day any more ?!”

“Hey, hey hey, hey,” Penumbra squeezed her hand. “It's ok, you're gonna be ok, it's fine. You can stay with me as long as you need.

“I don’t live in a toy castle, but It's a hotel, back 100 years ago it was the most elegant luxurious hotel in town. I’m not a princess but my family goes back generations of being the custodians and housekeepers of the Royal Excelsior. My Mom was one of the real original old school chambermaids and worked her way up to be the headmistress of housekeeping. All new hospitality staff were strictly trained by her. The blood that ran in the arteries of the woman who placed rare specialty food into the open trusting lips of magnates and politicians on movie stars is that very blood that runs in me” Penumbra boasted smackin the giant pipe running down the tunnel on either side of her. One went thunk and the other made a gong.

They had been walking for a while down ancient brick corridors always going down or up constantly branching off and Princess was a little bit glad she didn't actually need to remember the way back. At some point in the endless tunnel that looked like any other point in the endless tunnel Penumbra announced. “C’mon I know a shortcut.”  

She took Princess’s hand and Pulled her through a shadow. It felt like the sensation of jumping in the water in the sugar plum wishing fountain back when it had been filled with water  but there was no water, they were just suddenly in a long low ceilinged room of giant ductwork and stuff that might have been shoved into storage 10 or 20 or 50 or 80 years ago. They squished around a printing press and a stack of car tires and an oil tank and an unfixable looking photocopier.

        After a long time of not talking much cuz Princess couldn't stop marveling at all the weird old junk they had to climb over, they escaped a series of empty dusty cement vaults,then  a long cement slope downwards. Then there was a room full of dirt, then a great underground vault with metal grills on the ceiling that seemed to be at sidewalk level to center town street high above them. They went down a long plain cement tube and a room of greasy machines with a shaft where garbage from a few floors above them fell in a pile and mixed with rain water to make sludge. Penumbra led her
up a short brick stairs through a door, through a bunker full of rolls of things, then through a giant sliding metal door into a cave of stacks of books so ancient that the english language had all kinds of words nobody knew anymore.

“Well I have absolutely no idea where I am,” decreed Princess starting to be much less certain that they were in fact going anywhere. Why even are there so many secret tunnels?”

“Can’t you kinda tell? We’re in the middle of the market district.” By way of explanation Penumbra  waved at a long vault that was strewn with dumped out milk crates of cables for devices that had not existed in decades and soggy cardboard boxes of pre historic documents torn open and rifled in fruitless searches. Somewhere back down the tunnel they’d come from someone a few dozen feet above them was dumping a box of moldy oranges down a hole in the ground and they thudded and splattered in a pile in the  cobble stone gutters. “It is mostly for plumbing and wires. Just about any place with plumbing or electricity has a tunnel connected to it and they add more of both  every year.  As a rule of thumb, if you wanna find tunnels, just follow the tubes.”

“I’ve had plumbing and electricity my whole life and my castle had no tunnels at all. I would know cuz I’ve been in every secret hiding spot in the whole sugar plum toy vault and besides there  I’ve never been anywhere before so I definitely don't recognize what you're pointing at.” pontificated  Princess a bit sourly.

“Oh sorry, I meant over here” Penumbra corrected and hopped across the room to a door that hadn't been there before, opening it to a long ramshackle barn of a room with columns of brick and huge thick wooden beams.  And there were voices, a chorus of voices, girls and boys, all yonge and all whooping and hollering and laughing.

There was a cacophony of badly played yelling music.  Multiple sources of different loud music being played at the same time and evidently turned up loud to drown out the other music. Also at the same time were voices telling crazy stories or fighting about the music or screaming along to the music. Way off to the side somewhere an unoccupied  bicycle crashed down a very long flight of wooden stairs into a pile of old bottles. There was a volly of animalistic laughter and then a great thumping like 30 people jumping up and down at once.

“See We’re under the Punk Rock Hotel now.” Penumbra beamed.

 “The what?!” thought Princess

Penumbra led her past a dead space invaders console video game and a stack of century old wagon wheels, through something that must have been a storm drain and came up a dirt ramp into a tall room lined with brick arches and the old rotten wood of coal hoppers.

“Welcome to the Royal Excelsior, Weary travellers and adventurers hotel only for those with luxurious elegant tastes” Penumbra announced with a grand sweeping flourish of a great iron octopus furnace. Fancy, probably expensive antique tea sets with diverse kinds of abandoned cups of tea were strewn about  most surfaces. an army of chambermaid dresses representative of every decade there had been chapermaids were draped and tossed over every  rusty pipe and each  dusty ductwork. Bits of coal and cobwebs were sprinkled generously over everything.

“Wow.  you don't have to hide anything cuz this whole room is hidden?” Princess Remarked in genuine awe.

“My family, the Silvers, took this sub basement for our own when the hotel was in its infancy. Today the hotel doesn't even remember it's here and this is my personal slice of an elegant luxury hotel, as is my birthright!”

“Oh that's great. Great, you got a great nest. Its very regal.” was the last coherent thing Princess said before flopping in to  a pile of tarps and flattened boxes.. She had never walked farther than 300 yards before tonight and felt the deepest exhaustion..

“We hope you enjoy your stay” Smiled Penumbra. She never ever had guests and was excited to show off the expert hospitality of her blood right.

        “Yeh, thanks for shopping” Princess mumbled unintelligibly into Snakey-fur, acting as  her pillow.


Tune in next time for part 2!

Penumbra shows Princess the tunnels interconnecting the old downtown buildings, Together they spy on punks fancy restaurants and mister bizznizz man. Not only are mysterious secret societies up to no good, But Penumbra turns out to defy everything Princess thought she knew.

(which isn’t that difficult as she's never been outside a toystore before )






Coming sooner than you know !

Might even actually already be here!

#invisiblegirl #notactuallythere

#magicalgirl #missmatchedbuddy #secretpassage