Meet the Carrot-Tops
A long, long time ago, in the year 1850, there was a man by the name of Sam Carrot-Top. He was a well educated man, slender in build and always wore a dusty old cap that covered his orange hair and broken glasses. He was an honest and wealthy man, but you would never guess that he and his family were well off; he never showed his wealth or bragged about it. He used his money to help the poor and needy.
His wife, Jane, was oh so beautiful, with lush red hair, a petite figure, and smooth, creamy pale skin. She loved all the children in the neighborhood, always fixing a broken heart or a scraped knee. She was the perfect housewife, the kind any man could want.
They lived in a small town in Georgia called Valdosta. Sam and Jane were the talk of the town; they grew the largest vegetables and fruits the eyes have ever seen. Their watermelons were the size of houses and carrots as long as 20 feet!
All the neighbors began to whisper, and became jealous of the success of the Carrot-Tops; farmers came from near and far to see the great Carrot-Top plantation. Because of the popularity of their fruits and vegetables, they became a household name. Merchants came from all over the world to buy their fruits and vegetables.
Some of the other farmers became extremely jealous of the success of the Carrot-Tops. They tried to sabotage their land, either by overflowing it with garbage or water, but it never worked. The fruits and vegetables kept on growing and growing. Some were so tall that their leaves touched the clouds. Nevertheless, Sam and Jane ignored their rivals and continued to be good neighbors.
Their pride and joy was their son and only child, Peter Carrot-Top, a 10-year-old boy who was as skinny as a Beanpole with bright orange hair and deep freckles on his face. He wore the same old clothing over and over again, brown khaki pants and a rainbow-colored shirt with two different colored shirt sleeves.
Peter was teased by all the kids. Not only was his hair funny, but his name, Peter Carrot-Top, was as well. The kids teased him all day. Every day it was the same thing, kids singing, "Peter Carrot-Top, Peter Carrot-Top," in an annoying and devilish tone.
Peter was sick of it. Unfortunately, every time he got upset, his head would swell up like a big orange balloon and his orange hair would gently stand up at attention. This made the kids laugh even harder.
Peter was all alone in the world; he didn't understand or fit in. There was nothing the principal or the teachers could do. He was just a special boy. His mother and father were hurt the most; Peter got the orange hair from his father, and the freckles from his mother.
His parents went to the school regularly to seek help for him. Just a poor farmer, Peter's father did not know what to do. He would pace the school hall as he talked to the Dean of the school asking for help for his son, but Mr. Snicker, the Dean, just walked around with his fat gut stuck out, and only made the Carrot-Tops feel worse by telling them their child needed to be placed in a special school.
Peter's father slammed down his hat in frustration as the Dean sat back in his leather chair, and smoked his cigar with a smirk on his face.
Mr. Snicker shouted at Peter's father, "Boy, calm down before I have you thrown out on your ears!"
Peter's father grabbed up his hat; took his wife by the hand and stormed into Peter's English class. "Peter, get your things. We're taking you out of this school!"
By the look on his father's face, Peter knew that his dad was very upset. All Peter's mother could do was cry and sob as they walked out the doors. The kids began to laugh, and once again, Peter felt distant and alone.
Peter and his family jumped into their wagon, and off they went. He could see the concentration on his father's face, and the sadness in his mother's eyes. Peter began to tell his parents how very sorry he was, but a gentle touch on the hands from his mother let him know it was all right. Peter lay back in the seat of the wagon and didn't say another word.
Suddenly the wagon began to lift until it started to fly. Peter jumped out of his seat and gazed in awe; he was speechless. He looked down and saw that they were above the world.
He could see the cows and trees, and he even spotted his house. Peter was tickled to death; he began to laugh hysterically until his parents started laughing with him.
Peter said, "Father, what is going on?"
Peter's dad didn't say anything, then his mother jumped in and told Peter that they were from a different kind of generation.
"What kind is that?" Peter asked, dumbfounded.
Then a stronger, sterner voice jumped in; it was Peter's father. He went on to tell Peter the story of the Carrot-Tops.
Peter listened intently, and hung onto his father's every word. Peter's eyes began to move back and forth as every word spilled from his father's lips. He waited patiently to hear the story of the Carrot-Tops.
Peter's father went on to tell him that they are not alive, at least not on earth, and that they were from a world the living call “Death”.
Peter stuttered and said, "Do you mean we're dead?"
"Yes, we're dead," Peter's father replied. He went on to tell Peter that they had been dead for years. He said they didn’t belong to this world. He told Peter the world they belonged to was called Baja, a place of mysticism and power, a place so beautiful, and yet so evil.
"Welllll, why aren't we there?" Peter asked his father, but his father could not do or say anything. He just hung his head down low and began to wipe the tears from his eyes.
Suddenly Peter's father parked the wagon on a hilltop way above the trees, where no one could see them; then he began to tell Peter why they were here on Earth.
"Well, son, many years ago I was one of the chosen ones to protect Baja and make sure that the city was preserved for all our generation, but I failed at my job."
Peter's father told him of how he was in charge of leading an army of men to get the eighth key. This key opens the door to the eighth elder of the world. The elders were in hibernation. When they awoke, they protected not only Baja, but also Earth.
He told Peter that he failed when he lost the key. Because he lost the key, the eighth elder was never awakened. The other seven went back into hibernation because they can only function with each other; all eight have to be awake at the same time.
"Well, why did you lose the key?" Peter asked.
His father told him that the key was so powerful there was a rule to never touch it with your bare hands. He did anyway, and the key gave him so much power that he could not handle it. His hands began to burn and his skin began to rot and fall to the floor.
When he woke up, the key was gone and Baja was at risk. The remaining elders were very angry, and before they fell back into hibernation, they exiled Peter's father and mother from Baja. Peter's mother jumped in and began to tell Peter that she loved his dad so much that she was willing to take banishment with him, and one day their names would be cleared.
She also let Peter know that his father was being very modest and taking the entire blame. She said what really happened was that Peter's dad, Sam, was forced to touch the key by his brother, Marcus. Instead of Sam turning his brother in to the elders, he took the blame for something that was not his fault alone.
Jane told her son that Sam's brother was evil and mean; but Sam didn't like to admit the fact that his brother set him up. Suddenly the wagon was quiet. No one made a sound.
Peter's dad began to look back at Peter in shame, but Peter jumped up and gave him a big hug.
Sam was relieved. In a trembling voice, he looked into Peter's eyes and asked, "So you aren't ashamed of us?"
"No!" Peter replied.
Peter then asked his father about the wagon flying.
"Oooohh! Yes, son, I will tell you about the flying wagon."
They all began to laugh. Sam told Peter that in Baja everyone has some special ability, from making objects fly to growing large fruits, vegetables and plants.
Peter suddenly looked at his mother and figured out that she was the one growing all the fruits and vegetables on their plantation.
She smiled with her cherry lips and said, "I was gifted with the green thumb."
Peter laughed and told his parents he was finally free. His parents looked bewildered and asked him what he meant. He told them that he knew now why he was different from the other children at school. Peter also told his parents he had something to show them.
"Up here?" Jane asked.
"Yes, come out of the wagon," Peter replied.
Peter's mom and dad looked at each other in amazement and shock as they jumped out of the wagon. Peter held his hand to the ground and began to shake. Suddenly a big hole appeared in the ground. The hole was so big that it swallowed up the trees. Peter looked at his parents with pride. They looked back at him in amazement.
"Why didn't you tell us, Peter?" his parents asked.
"Well, I did not want you to be ashamed of me. The kids at school were already calling me 'weird' and 'strange’. I didn't want to disappoint you.”
"Never," said his father.
Jane asked Peter how long had he been keeping this secret from them, and Peter told them, for many years. He did it only because he was afraid of his own powers. That was a great power for a little boy to handle. Peter's parents knew that there must be something extra special about their son.
Their brains began to think of what all of this could mean; the wheels in their heads were turning so fast you could see smoke coming out of their ears. But nevertheless, Peter was happy that his conscious was clear, his face began to get some color and his eyes began to twinkle.
The family decided it was time to go home, and as soon as the rooster crowed in the morning, it would be time to see the Oracle. Off the hilltop they went, swaying through trees and mountains. Everyone had had a rough day, but now it seemed to be a day of joy and happiness.
Peter hung his head out of the wagon and began to feel the breeze on his face.
"Be careful,” said Peter's mother.
"I will," he replied.
All that afternoon, they went flying over rivers, lakes and streams. They even passed a drunk sleeping under a tree. The man jumped up and began to scream, "The sky is falling!" He ran through the village telling the people, but no one believed him since he was the town drunk.
Peter and his family continued to ride the high hills and mountains until it got dark so they could return home without being seen. He was so excited that he had finally figured out why he was so different than the other children.
As for his parents, they were relieved that they were not hated by their son, but they were also worried about his tremendous gift. It was a gift that no child should have, but they did not ruin the moment by being sad. They remained happy and upbeat all the way home.
As nightfall grew, Peter and his parents arrived home. Nothing was the same anymore; their house began to look old and rotten. They could see the tiniest imperfections, and they knew in their hearts that it was time to leave.
Peter was so excited he could not sleep, but his parents forced him into bed with the hopes of seeing a land the living only dreamed about. Peter asked question after question as he drifted off to sleep. His parents only smiled as they rubbed his orange hair and tucked him tightly into bed.
But as midnight approached, his parents found themselves pacing the floor. They discussed how long they had been away from Baja and how they would be accepted after 10 years. It was very stressful for them; their faces became blank and sad. Finally, they went to bed anticipating a meeting with the Oracle, the only one who could get them back into Baja.
Meeting the Oracle
As the rooster sounded his alarm, Peter was the first one up and making breakfast for the entire family. He was so excited to meet with the Oracle, but his parents weren't. They never let Peter see the fear on their faces, and went about their morning as usual.
Sam was out in the plantation talking to the workers, letting them know that they might be gone for a long time. He told them he would sign his will over to one of his trusted workers and his family. He and the worker he picked began to debate back and forth about taking over his land. The worker told him that he was a poor Negro, and no colored man had ever owned anything this successful without being hung. Still, Sam insisted.
He gave his worker, Mr. Jones, a bag of magical seeds and told him to spread them along the property line and he would be protected. Sam let Mr. Jones know that he chose him because he was one of the workers who was always truthful, fair and honest with everyone. Though Mr. Jones was afraid, he took the bag of seeds and hid them in his pocket.
Sam patted Mr. Jones on the shoulder and let him know that everything would be all right, and that he would be watching. As Sam finished his business affairs, he went into the house where his wife and Peter were waiting on him to eat breakfast.
No one said a word. Reality was finally setting in on what they were about to do. Everyone took deep breaths and began to eat very slowly. Finally, Peter started a conversation and asked his parents what to say to the Oracle.
Sam replied, "Don't say anything until you're asked."
As breakfast finished, Sam began moving things around the house telepathically. Socks were flying through the air, and even Jane's underwear got caught on the lamp shade! She was so embarrassed; she jumped up and snatched them off the shade with a smirky grin at her husband.
Once Sam got everything packed, they walked around the house touching and feeling everything they would miss, but Peter didn’t. He was so excited that he could hardly wait to leave. He began to pull his parents by the hand urging them to leave, but they were filled with so much emotion, they had to take a seat.
As they were saying their goodbyes, Peter was already in the wagon ready to go. After a long time of waiting, he yelled from the wagon, "Come on!"
Then the door slowly opened and his parents walked out. Peter could tell Jane had been crying. Her eyes were puffy and swollen; her nose was red and her face was disheveled.
They jumped into the wagon and said goodbye to their workers. Sam pulled Mr. Jones aside and told him to never let anyone know that he had gone, and if anyone asked, to tell them that he had some business in Paris he was taking care of. Mr. Jones nodded, and they were on their way.
They made sure not to look back at the home and friends they were leaving behind to go to an uncertain place where they might no longer be welcome. The carriage ride was long and hot. Everyone was sweating.
"Are we there yet?" Peter asked.
"Soon, son," his father replied.
As the Carrot-Tops left their plantation, they were hailed and greeted by all the people of the town. Sam was sad to leave his home, but what he was doing was for his family, not for himself. Suddenly the carriage turned off a dark road.
It was so pitch black Peter became afraid and yelled out for his father, "Father!"
"It's okay," Sam replied, letting his son know that he was right there with him.
Then there was light again, a big burst of brightness. It was so bright they could hardly keep their eyes open. Then it went dim, and Sam told Peter and Jane to get out of the wagon, and to follow him closely, out of the bright light.
There was a beautiful forest like nothing Peter had ever seen before -- the plants were moving and talking. Peter was startled for a minute but then regained his composure.
"Good day!" yelled the plants.
Peter stopped to inquire about the plants, but his mother pulled his hands away telling Peter that they had important work to do. Even the animals in the forest were glad to see visitors.
Then a rabbit the size of a wagon came up to Sam and shouted, "Well, well, well! The traitor is back!" with a smirk on his face.
"You're gonna get it now!" a squirrel replied.
Sam did not let it bother him. He kept walking to his destination, but Peter was amazed at the beauty and wonder of the forest.
"Pay them no mind, Peter. They all were once our friends," Jane said, but Peter was not listening. He was too in tune with the singing waterfall.
He watched as the waterfall turned into different shapes, from a woman, to a dog, to a big roaring lion. This was all exciting to him.
"Where are we?" Peter asked his father.
"This is the portal to Baja" Sam replied.
"We're moving on,” said Jane.
Peter replied, "I am so excited to see home, somewhere that I fit in."
As they walked the long forest pathway, there was a cottage made of golden bricks and rubies, and birds flapped their wings vigorously when they saw Peter and his family coming. The tension in Sam's eyes showed fear as he came to the gate of the cottage. He hesitated to knock.
His hands began to sweat and shake out of control, so Peter walked in front of him and knocked on the door. Suddenly, the door opened, but there was no one to greet them! They walked in quietly and stood in the middle of the hallway.
"Oracle, it is I, Sam. I have brought my son to you with a gift so powerful; it must be a sign from the elders."
Suddenly a burst of fire came from the chimney, and swirled across the room knocking down Peter and his father. "Why have you come back? You have brought nothing but shame on our kind."
As Sam began to answer, a woman appeared in the form of a snake with eight arms. Her fingers were covered with gold and diamond rings that glistened in the light. She had a crown on her head that was 9 feet tall, and in that crown were souls crying to be free. They were in a wax-like bubble.
The crown was made of gold and silver with hieroglyphic writings on the top and sides. The oracle was a 12-foot snake, dressed in the finest of linens. Her upper body was human, and the lower body a snake with a huge tail and a long rattler. Her fingernails were long and made of ivory like an elephant's tusk, but the most irritating thing was that she made this hissing noise that pierced their eardrums.
But, oh, what a beautiful creature! Her skin was like white flour. Her lips were like rose petals, and she had the most adorable face they had ever seen.
Sam quickly bowed down to the Oracle, asking her to hear him out. Jane did not bow down. She refused; telling the Oracle that she knew Sam was set up and did nothing to stop it, and now wanted to treat them like peasants.
The Oracle quickly threw a small fireball at Jane. She quickly ducked her head and the fireball missed her face by an inch! Peter quickly defended his mother and created a massive hole in the center of the house where the Oracle was standing.
Suddenly the Oracle fell down the hole, letting out a hideous scream as she fell.
"Peter, what have you done? That was the Oracle!" said Peter's father.
"Served her right!" shouted Jane.
Suddenly a hand came out of the darkness and the Oracle crawled back to the top of the hole.
"What a powerful boy! I must speak with him," said the Oracle.
"No! Only if you get us back into Baja," Jane replied.
The Oracle hesitated and said, "Very well, but you are on your own once in Baja. You and your husband are hated by many. They blame both of you for the fall and destruction of Baja."
Then the Oracle went to Peter and told him to rise up and say nothing. Suddenly he levitated off the ground and floated toward the Oracle. As she placed Peter in her oversized hands, she closed her eyes and saw into the future. In her vision, Peter had a crown on his head. His father and mother were old and gray, but they also had crowns on their heads. The Oracle saw a great battle were Peter defeated the evils that plagued Baja.
Suddenly, she opened her eyes and told the Carrot-Tops that they must head straight to Baja right away.
"What is it?" Sam asked.
The Oracle told Sam that his child, Peter, was the savior of Baja. Sam and Jane were in disbelief and began to laugh and cry with joy.
"Our son has saved us!" They cried, and threw Peter in the air and twirled him around in circles.
"Go now," said the Oracle. “I will make a way for you to travel. Tell no one of this secret or his life will be in danger.” The Oracle repeated it to Sam and Jane over and over, until they got it in their heads. "Trust no one until they have earned your trust!" shouted the Oracle and off they went.
As they were leaving, the Oracle pointed the Carrot-Tops toward the kitchen, where hot food was waiting for them to carry on their long journey. The Oracle let them know that they must walk on foot and only use the resources of the forest. "Hurry along, Baja awaits you," the Oracle replied over and over again until her voice slowly disappeared.
Peter was very excited to go on an adventure. His feet began to swing back and forth, and his eyes lit up with excitement. Peter asked his father why was he so special.
Sam explained that after the eighth key was lost and the elders could no longer stay awake, no child born would be blessed with a gift, and in Baja everyone had gifts. After the evil curse, no child born in Baja was blessed with a gift or talent, and therefore Baja was at the mercy of the evil dwellers.
“But then you came along, Peter.” Sam looked loving in his son's eyes, “and all our fears and defeat seem to have dissolved away.”
Sam went on to say that years had passed without a child developing powers in Baja, and therefore there was no one to fight the evil spirits that came upon the land. He explained that Baja needed a new generation of fighters.
"So, yes, son; you are special,” Peter's father said, as the Carrot-Tops walked through the forest.
It was a magnificent experience. The birds began to fly overhead with their 10-foot wingspans and they sang, "The prince is coming, the prince is coming."
Peter was in awe of the birds’ beauty. Their wings were so long that he could see no end. Their tails curled up like the locks in a Southern belle’s hair. Their feathers were like a rainbow, every section of the birds were a different color. They flew in lines of five, giving shade to the Carrot-Tops.
On the ground, the flowers protruded out of the Earth at least 20 feet tall. They dropped down big petals covering the Carrot-Tops. Peter and his family just laughed and indulged in all the attention. Sam looked at his wife and told her how good it felt to be adored again, and how great it felt to be going back home.
The flowers danced in a synchronized routine. One by one they waltzed and turned. Their petals were so huge, they looked like ballroom gowns. The flowers were so tall that from way, way up above, they looked like humans dancing.
"What a wonderful sight to see!" Jane said.
The forest animals now were so much more welcoming of the Carrot-Tops than the first encounter, and they took great care of the Carrot-Tops. Suddenly a turtle came by and asked the Carrot-Tops if they wanted a ride. Peter jumped up and said yes, and they climbed in.
The turtle shell was so big it was the size of a wagon. The inside had carved-out windows; the seats were made of the finest gold threads, and the floor was padded with the softest cushions. It was like heaven. On the wall of the shell was a picture of a young prince with bright orange hair. Peter and his parents stared at it.
Rabbits came offering the family honey tea and crumpets. Oh! The rabbits were so excited that they could barely keep still to take the Carrot-Tops’ orders! Each one kept asking, "Could this really be the boy king?"
They zipped back and forth, running with the highest speed, bringing the family everything that they could possibly cook. First were the tea and crumpets, then sweet honey rolls. Next came roasted pig. Then they brought pork chops, steak, shrimp, fish and so forth until Sam told them lovingly to stop.
The poor rabbits were so out of breath that they collapsed on the floor. The Carrot-Tops laughed hysterically, until milk came out of their noses. Then the rabbits joined in on the fun.
"Oh, yes! This is our royal family," one rabbit said to another.
Peter looked out of the window and saw little elves waving and getting their first sneak peek at the boy prince.
"I see the word has spread," Jane said to Sam.
"Yes, indeed, my dear. The word has spread," Sam said.
One of the elves came to the window and took out a mirror device that glistened in the sun and captured a picture of the family, and then he ran off. The device mystified Peter. The handle was made of pure gold. It lit up with secret codes and had writing Peter had never seen before.
Peter could see himself in the image, but it was of something or someone he did not know. The image showed a young boy with a crown on his head, clothed in the finest attire. Then it was gone.
"Oh, don't worry, Peter. You will get to see them again," his mother said.
Peter was so mystified by the elves that he kept looking for them out of the window, but they were gone. Sam told his son that the forest of Baja was so mystical there wasn't enough time in death to discover it all.
"Why are we dead?" Peter asked his parents.
His parents said that everyone dies, and moves on to other worlds, according to their deeds on Earth. They said no one knows how many levels there are to death, but to be on a good aura, you must do good things before you move on. Sam went on to tell Peter that sometimes worlds collide causing a clash of auras; sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad.
"Is that what happened to you, Father?"
"Yes," replied Sam, "I got caught up in the power of self and all the finer things that came with it. Because of this, I was sent back to the living, never to see Baja again."
Sam began to get teary-eyed, and Jane held his hand tightly and rubbed his shoulders, letting him know it was okay and they were on their way back home.
"Whatever you do, Peter, be a good person," said his mother.
"I will," Peter replied.
Suddenly the turtle made an announcement that he would be stopping for a rest, and Peter and his family could have a stretch. When the ride came to a complete stop, Peter jumped off, and his parents quickly followed.
There was a river made of dark chocolate next to them. Peter began to drink and drink until he saw a tree that produced strawberry cupcakes. He ran and plucked a few off, until the tree began to talk and it startled Peter.
"Wellllllll hello," said the tree in a deep voice.
Peter was too afraid to talk. He clutched his cupcakes and crawled back.
"Ha, ha, ha!" said the tree.
"Who are you?" Peter asked.
The tree told Peter he was just a tree, and it was his pleasure to serve him. Suddenly the branches on the tree turned into a face, one that was happy and jolly.
"I am so happy to be the first to serve the prince," the tree said in his husky voice.
Peter was amazed of all the wonders of the land great and small, from the tiny ants that lined the dirt path wearing their golden shoes on each leg, to the gigantic pelicans in the sky that flew people from destination to destination. It was such a wonderful sight to see a land of milk and honey that dripped from the leaves of the trees. Peter started to appreciate the world he was in. He really felt like he belonged, there were no regrets in him going there.
"Mother, Father! Come quick!" he called out.
Hs parents came running. Peter showed them the talking tree and the ants with golden shoes.
They cracked wide grins. "Yes, son, we know all about them. They are your family. Baja is your family," they both said together.
The tree just let out a big laugh, "Ha! Ha! Ha! Welcome to Baja, my Prince!"
Suddenly a horn sounded and the turtle let the Carrot-Tops know that he was almost ready to get back on the road again. Peter and his parents watched as the turtle got his shell washed by two octopuses, and then polished and shined by a herd of small spider monkeys.
"Oh, that feels good!" laughed the turtle, as the monkeys polished under his belly.
Rats and rabbits brought fresh food. One by one, the animals catered to the Carrot-Tops. Clean clothing and sheets for the long trip were hauled back and forth. There were five old lady rabbits taking the measurements of Peter and his family. They measured the Carrot-Tops from head to toe, back and forth. They went on, not saying a word; they were busy in their duties.
The Journey to Baja
Sam was so reluctant to accept his new clothing; he had become very familiar with his overalls and old cap. Jane just laughed.
"Oh, honey, you are so set in your ways!" Jane stated.
Peter was glad to have new clothing, even new clothing made by a handful of rabbits.
As the turtle was on his last step of grooming, Peter watched as grasshoppers brushed and cleaned the turtle’s teeth. Soapy bubbles were splashing everywhere. Oh what fun it was for Peter! A place where he finally belonged; and a place he could really call home. The look of joy on his mother's face meant so much to Peter.
Then a loud horn blew. It was time to load up and leave. Back onboard, the Carrot-Tops were offered a fresh hot bath. Jane fixed Peter's bath first. As she made it of warm milk and bubbles, the bubbles began to sing to him as they floated in the air.
Jane watched as her son had the time of his life playing with the bubbles. Peter had so much fun that he didn’t want to get out of the tub. After a long time of trying to get him out, Jane took her bath, and then Sam followed shortly after. After the family was all tidied up, they were laced in the finest garments of gold silk and Egyptian fabrics.
"Supper is ready," one of the mice called out to the family.
But where could supper be? The inside of the turtle did not seem big enough for rooms and dining. But on the contrary, with the press of some golden symbols, the turtle turned into a mystical palace. The family was instructed to walk down a bright, colorful hallway, where the paintings on the walls began to talk and say “Hi” to them as they passed by. As Peter looked around in amazement, he laughed as two pictures of old ladies gossiped about the new arrivals; they pointed and stared.
As they came into the main dining area, a loud voice sounded from the line of servants. "I am Victor Caercio. I will be your main servant." But Victor was nothing more than a bossy cat who thought he was the best chef in Baja. With his Italian accent, he proceeded to tell the Carrot-Tops they were dining on the finest of everything.
Jane laughed and told Victor, “This is too fancy.”
"Nonsense, my queen," said Victor. "You will get the best of the best."
Jane smiled and let Victor do his job. With the snap of his paws, he ordered the servants around. But, oh, what a sight to see! They were twirling like a well-organized team, one got the forks and spoons, another tied the napkins, and another poured their drinks. What more could a family want than to be pampered like kings and queens?
The night's meal was a rack of lamb roasted on red scalloped potatoes, milk from the finest cow, and warm dinner rolls with mouthwatering honey butter. As the Carrot-Tops ate, a big screen suddenly appeared on the wall. It took up the entire dinning area wall space.
"What is that, Father?" Peter asked inquisitively.
"Oh, they are the scenes of Baja," Sam answered.
The entire family watched the screen as images of Baja were shown. There were temples of the elders covered in gold and silver with code writing going up and down the sides. The temples were so tall that they touched the heavenly sky. Then there were flying pelicans that took citizens about their daily work and play.
Peter was especially amazed when he saw a pelican taking kids to school. The pelican was built like a large vessel that held about 2,000 citizens. It was a gorgeous bird with a tail long like a whip. A long strand of hair protruded from the bird's head with colors of the rainbow, and like all creation in Baja, it had symbols of code going around its legs.
The huge bird had golden straps that ran across its nose, and some type of tag that hung from its tail. The kids on the pelican seemed to be having fun. Peter began to daydream of the way he would have fun once he get there, but no one was happier than Sam.
His orange hair began to stick up as if he had seen a ghost. He walked in front of the screen and began to slowly touch the images with his fingers. He stepped back in time to when he was a boy and had his first school ride. Then Sam broke down in tears.
Jane and Peter ran to his side telling him that it was okay, and they were home now. Victor the cat ordered the wait staff of mice to bring a chair. Quickly, they ran and picked Sam up off the floor. He had fallen to his knees as he reminisced about all the things he had lost. He clenched his fists, and vowed to regain all of his losses and the respect of the citizens of Baja. The wait staff of mice and other animals slowly began to clap, one by one, until the clapping could be heard loudly.
"My Lord, this is what we have been waiting for, for you to come back and save us," proclaim Victor.
The Carrot-Tops regained their composure, and began to eat their dinner again, but their eyes were fixed on the magical screen. Peter continually watched the screen as the food missed his mouth. The scenes he watched were of the land and the people of Baja. How friendly and happy they were. He watched as the kids slid down a long dinosaur's tail and had lots of fun. The land of Baja was clearly a fairy tale -- trees talked and walked, and children had rocks for pets and took them for walks.
"I want a pet rock, Mother!" Peter shouted with excitement.
"I will think about it," said Jane with a smile on her face.
Baja was so unforgettable -- waterfalls that changed colors, rivers and streams made out of milk and chocolate, rabbits and animals that walked, talked and lived like people. It was the one and only place Peter wanted to be.
"How much longer before we reach Baja?" Peter asked.
Jane replied, "One more day, son, and we're home."
Sam told Peter that Baja was a big place that was constantly growing, and the more it grew, the longer it took to reach home. He turned to Jane and noticed she was very sad. He asked what was wrong, and she said she hadn't seen her parents in years. She wondered what they would think, and if they would accept her and her family.
Sam comforted Jane and said, “We will deal with one thing at a time. Everything will be all right.”
As dinner was over, Victor the cat called to the wait staff to bring forth Miguel. He was introduced as the architect of Baja. With the stroke of his paintbrush and pencil, he could make anything come to life. The Carrot-Tops began to clap for Miguel. Gracefully, he accepted and began to draw on the walls. He drew a small tiny dragon with big black eyes. He graced the dragon with blue and white skin, and his long tail had white fluffy fur at the end. His ears pointed up to the ceiling. Peter was so excited to see the magic of the pencil. When Miguel was finishing drawing the dragon, it came to life and jumped into Peter's hands.
Oh, how excited Peter was! "Can I keep it, Mother?" he asked.
"Yes, you can. But remember, it is your responsibility to take care of it," Jane replied.
Peter couldn't thank Miguel enough. Miguel was so pleased and happy to serve the boy prince.
"I shall name it Dingo," said Peter, and Dingo ran into Peter's hand. Before long, they were on the floor playing. Dingo licked Peter with his purple and polka-dot tongue and began to wag his thick dragon tail. It was like Christmas morning to Peter.
Then Miguel came and sat by Jane with his pencil and paper. He drew a large bouquet of singing flowers, and when the last petal was drawn, the flowers came to life. The bouquet popped off the artist's canvas and into Jane's hands.
"What lovely flowers!" she said.
The minute Jane touched the flowers, they began to grow. That was Jane's gift -- a green thumb for all things in the garden. After the flowers grew to about four feet, they began to sing the sweetest melody and put Jane to sleep. She was at peace in a deep dream world.
Miguel then moved on to Sam. Sam said he didn't want anything, but Miguel knew when not to listen. Suddenly, Miguel began to draw, and it seemed to take forever. When he was finally done, he motioned Sam to come over and see his new gift.
As Sam came closer, he began to sigh. A beautiful piano caught his eye. The piano was made out of tortoise shell with hieroglyphic symbols on it. It also had jade and gold, and there was no other piano like it in the entire realm. Sam was excited and began to play. The keys were cut ivory and the legs looked like lion’s claws. Sam played the sweetest melody as everyone gathered around. Jane woke up to the beautiful melody, and walked over to her husband as he played his heart out.
"You never sounded better," Jane replied.
All the passengers of the ride listened intently as Sam played for hours. His music was so hypnotizing, and the sounds rolled off the keys like sap from a tree. When Sam was done, the entire room began to clap. Even the turtle that was transporting the family was impressed.
But, when Sam turned around, Miguel was gone. He didn't have a chance to thank him. Victor the cat told Sam Miguel's job was done and when his work was finished, he liked to move on.
Now it was time for bed, and Victor showed Sam and his family back to their rooms. These were rooms Miguel had made for them before he left. First stop was Peter's room. The room was huge with big oval mirrors that covered the walls.
Peter ran and looked into one of the mirrors. He could see different images. Some were scary, like a figure on a dark hill. Peter tried to make out the face of the figure, but a hat was hiding it. Peter watched in amazement as the image in the mirror came closer. Sam ran over to the mirror and threw a piece of cloth over it.
Sam told Peter, “Don't ever stare into the mirror for long or it will capture your soul. You will become a ghost, like what the living on Earth call a 'dead soul’.”
Sam warned Peter that some mirrors were dangerous to look in, and if he got caught staring too long, he would truly be dead. Sam then ordered Victor to remove the mirror and cover the rest of them. Victor had the servants remodel the room in a flash. The only thing Peter could see was the view outside as the turtle ride took them to their destination.
Peter's room had toys everywhere, from stuffed animals to robots, but what he liked most was that he had his friend Dingo with him. The room was painted in sugar paint in all different designs and colors. The walls were sweet to eat, or at least Dingo thought so, and he began chewing on the edges of the wall.
"Time for bed," Peter's parents said.
He jumped into bed with Dingo. The bed was huge -- it almost swallowed them up. The sheets were soft, and the pillows were huge, including some that were body length. After his night prayers, Peter was fast asleep in no time. He'd had a long day.
Now it was time for Sam and Jane to go to bed. Like Peter's room, theirs was huge, but it had no mirrors. It was made up for royalty. It took 100 little mice to pull the covers back and fluff their pillows. They put glasses of warm milk by the Carrot-Tops' bedside and left, one by one. The mice had looks of joy and determination in serving their king and queen well.
On the side of Sam's bed lay a golden chest filled with gold coins and precious gems. The glitter of the diamonds from the light caught his eye. He went toward the box and opened it. He ignored all the diamonds and gold and reached for a book that lay in the bottom of the chest.
As he grabbed hold of it, it opened, and there on the pages lay three passports to Baja, his, Jane's, and Peter's. Sam was amazed to see the details in the passports; everything was perfect, from their orange hair to their clothing. It was as if someone or something was expecting them in Baja.
The news had spread of their return, so Sam didn't want to let his guard down. In the back of his mind, he feared that someone would try to hurt Peter or worse, kidnap him. After all, there had not been a miracle child in 10 years, and only a handful of gifted children made it without being cursed for life.
As Sam began to think about the image his son had seen in the mirror, he became very scared. Sam was not taking any chances. He immediately called for Victor the cat by shaking the bell that was left on the side of their bed. When Victor arrived in his nightgown and long stocking cap hold a floating light, Sam asked him to have guards posted at Peter's door.
"Very well," Victor said. He then brought Sam a deck of royal cards. On them were different types of warriors. "Choose one, two or three," Victor said to Sam, and so he did. Sam walked with Victor to the hall so that Jane would not wake up and become worried.
In the hallway, Sam shuffled the cards, and as he shuffled in a fast motion, he could see the movements of the warriors. There was a knight that was armored from head to toe; he held a long silver sword. Then there was a barbarian who was not only big in size but very powerful. The last choice was a wizard dressed all in black that disappeared and then reappeared on the card.
These were the three Sam chose to protect his son. One by one, Sam said a spell, "Amenta, Labasa, Carmy," and the individual warriors popped out of the cards. Sam needed not say anything, they already knew their job. The three warriors stood by Peter's bedroom door at attention. They didn't move or blink, as they were steadfast in their protection of the boy prince.
"You've still got it!" declared Victor.
Sam just let out a big laugh and told Victor good night. As Victor went away, Sam glanced over his shoulder to see if the warriors were still at attention at Peter's door, and they were. They didn't move an inch or blink. There was no way anyone could get in that room.
Sam went to bed and had many nightmares. It was like whatever he dreamed came true. Sam dreamed of being kicked out of Baja for good and being turned down by the elders. Then his dreams switched and he saw himself and his family being hanged to death and then burned.
He awoke in a panic and ran to Peter's room. Everything was still safe; the warriors were still standing guard. Sam took a deep breath and began to relax, as he walked back to the room. He sat on the side of the bed, nervous about arriving in Baja the next day.
"What will people say? How will they treat us?" Sam talked out loud to himself.
All the commotion woke Jane up, and now both of them were up and worrying.
Then a loud voice echoed from the walls of the turtle. "I believe in you, Sam," the voice said.
Sam jumped up from the side of the bed. "Who are you?" he asked.
“It is I, the turtle; are you enjoying your ride?"
Sam was a little startled, but went on to answer the turtle anyway. Sam explained that he was very afraid of returning to Baja and that he and his family were at risk of disappointing the elders. The turtle comforted Sam and Jane telling them not to worry, and that everything would be okay.
“Besides,” he told them, “I will always be on your side.”
Sam and Jane went over and kissed the turtle walls as if they were kissing him. Then the two of them went off to sleep. There were no more nightmares, and everyone was fast asleep.
A giant alarm clock went off, waking up everyone on the ride. The clock was so huge, the bang made the entire ride shake back and forth. It had a big giant face and the hands were made of diamonds. "Wake up, wake up!" the clock shouted.
The servants jumped up, rushing to get breakfast ready for their royal family. Jane and Sam jumped out of bed to see what was going on. As Jane ran out of the room, and into Peter's room, she was startled by the three watchers. She ran back screaming through the hallway, and Sam came out to meet her.
"It's okay, honey," Sam said to Jane. "They are just here to protect Peter."
Jane's heart was beating so fast that she could not say or do anything but nod her head. The three protectors bowed down to Jane to show honor and respect. Sam explained to Jane why he requested protection for Peter. Immediately, Jane became worried. Sam assured her that everything was going to be all right; even though he didn't believe it himself.
Return to Baja
Jane ran into the room where Peter was still fast asleep through all the noise, and lying beside him was Dingo. Jane smiled and gently touched her son's face. She placed a kiss on his cheek, and then Peter opened his pretty big blue eyes.
"What's wrong, Mother?" Peter asked.
"Oh, nothing," Jane replied. "It's just time to get up and start our day.”
Peter jumped up with excitement. He told his mother he couldn't wait to see Baja, and all his family. Jane had a little bit of worry on her face, but she did not let Peter see it.
He ran into the bathroom where he began to brush his teeth. Then in came two mice with fresh towels and new clothing for him. They never said a word, just went about their duties.
As Peter was getting ready, Jane met back up with Sam. She began to talk to him about how happy their son was and that they needed to do anything and everything to clear their names. Sam agreed, and off they went to get ready for the next day.
Even though fresh new clothing was on their beds, the family liked their old-style ones and kept their original clothes. Needless to say, this pissed the servants off. They ran and told Victor that the Carrot-Tops would not wear their royal garments.
In came Victor, "Master Sam, you must dress like the royal family."
Sam said, “Victor, my family doesn't need fancy clothing to be royal.”
"Very well," said Victor as he cracked a snobbish grin.
One of the mice started crying; tears were flowing everywhere.
"What's wrong?" Jane asked.
The mouse shied away and continued crying. Jane went over and patted its little head.
The mouse crawled up in Jane's hand and asked, "Why don't you like my tailored garments? I worked a long time to make them fit right."
Jane wiped the mouse's tears and reassured him that it was not his sewing, but that they liked a simple style of clothing. The mouse calmed down as Jane gave him a big kiss. As the mouse blushed, he slid right out of Jane's hand.
"I have to watch out for such a handsome fella like you. You might take my wife," Sam said playfully to the mouse.
Everyone began laughing.
Jane called to Peter, and told him it was time to eat. He and Dingo burst into the room, but the three watchers caught his attention. "Wow!" he said as he looked at his protectors.
He admired the wizard's hat and how the secret codes on the hat glowed from bright to dim. Then he saw the knight, covered in all silver armor from head to toe. The same secret codes were visible all over his armor. Last, Peter loved the barbarian and how big he was. The golden leather belt that went around his waist also had codes that glittered and glowed. He had golden coins melted into his skin from head to toe. Peter had never seen coins like them in his life.
He went over to the barbarian's foot and rubbed one of the coins. Peter could feel a shockwave run up his hands as he touched the coins. It was so powerful; it made his orange hair stand up.
After a few moments of amazement, Peter went to breakfast mumbling to his parent about the three protectors. He could barely keep the food in his mouth.
"I thought you would like them," Sam said to Peter.
The Carrot-Tops continued eating their breakfast, but Peter was in such a rush to see Baja; he ate very fast.
"Slow down," Jane said to Peter, but Peter was so filled with excitement that he could hardly contain his emotions.
As the ride stopped, Peter jumped up and headed to the window with his face plastered to the glass. He sat there and watched as people got on and off the ride. "Father, Mother, come see!" he shouted.
As Jane and Sam came to the window, they saw so many different people getting off and on the ride. They were wondering where all the people came from. The ride was not big enough to handle that many people, but in Baja, the impossible was possible.
"Quickly," Victor the cat motioned to the Carrot-Tops. As the Carrot-Top family came toward him, he let them know that this was their stop and they must pack up quickly, so that they would not miss their flight.
"So quickly?" Sam asked.
Victor just nodded and gave Sam their passports and luggage.
Dingo came running into Peter's arms as he almost got left behind. He gave Peter a big fat lick on the cheek. Peter laughed as Dingo continually licked him all over his face. Victor then threw Sam the deck of cards with the three watchers to protect Peter. He told Sam never to lose the box of cards because it could be a matter of life or death.
"Wait right here, and the flight will pick you up," Victor said to the Carrot-Tops.
Nervousness spread on the faces of the family. They waited on the platform patiently and waved good-bye to Victor and the rest of the crew. They watched until the turtle train was out of sight. It seemed to just disappear like the wind.
As the turtle ride disappeared into the hills, a big black shadow came over the platform where the Carrot-Top family was standing. Everyone looked up. This creature had a massive wingspan and had to weigh a ton.
"Look out!" someone said, as the creature came in for a landing.
Peter and his family were so in awe of the creature that they did not hear the warning alarm. A gentleman came to their rescue, and pushed the family out of the way.
"Oh! Thank you so much," Sam said.
The man just smiled and walked away. Sam turned to another couple on the platform to ask them if this was the right stop. The couple nodded their heads and said, "Yes, my lord."
"Oh stop, just call us the Carrot-Tops," Sam said, but the people just bowed their heads in honor as the Carrot-Tops passed by.
The massive creature was a bird of some sort with a long purple beak and gold and white features. It also displayed the codes and symbols of Baja. They glittered in the sunlight.
The Carrot-Tops were so amazed that they could not move. They became motionless with a surprised look on their faces. Peter began walking up to the creature's side and then up to his face. The creature's eyes met Peter's eyes. "What a magnificent creature!" Peter mumbled to himself.
"Well, hi there," the creature said.
Peter was speechless. He ran his fingers on the side of the creature's belly.
"Oh, that tickles!" it said.
Peter continued to rub and rub its belly; he was so amazed to see something that size up close and personal.
Jane and Sam ran over, telling Peter to leave the creature alone. The creature sat down with his legs under its stomach. It carried a large cargo area on its back, it looked like a floating city. There were buildings that looked like castles; the walls were made of pure ivory, inlaid with gold. There were long, pointed golden cones that were towers where people stayed for long rides. The sand outside the tower was pure black.
People inside watched as the sand revealed what it was hiding -- huge, massive devil ray fish that jumped in and out of the sand performing tricks for the guests. Then there were 20-foot earthworms that were blue and red in color that jumped out of the sand and did cannonballs and twirled into the air.
Peter heard the people clapping and saw how much fun they were having. He couldn't wait to see the inside. People began to get off the ride; they had suitcases and other knick-knacks. Some people were going off to work, and it was like a coach stop. The Carrot-Tops just watched the hustle and bustle of the people of Baja.
Almost everyone that went by bowed to the Carrot-Tops, tilting their hats and extending their respect. The Carrot-Tops weren't sure what to make of it, but they began to accept their fate and played along with the citizens of Baja. People were carrying all sorts of gifts and food; Sam stopped a couple and asked what was going on.
One couple replied, "It is you, my Lord. Now we can celebrate Royal Day."
"Royal Day?" Sam replied.
Yes, it was Royal Day. It had been 10 years of not celebrating any holidays because of the curse Sam left on Baja. No holidays were allowed because one of the elders could not be awakened, but now, since the word had traveled that a gifted child was born of Sam and Jane, the curse would be broken.
When Sam heard this, more pressure mounted, and he wasn't sure Peter was the one. A look of fear darkened Sam’s face. In his heart, he wanted Peter to be the one, the one who could make his family name right again. Sam knew that if he failed this time, he would never be allowed back in Baja. As Sam headed toward his family, standing on the platform, a loud horn blew.
"All aboard, all aboard," a ticket taker yelled.
Sam, Jane, and Peter headed toward the line, and they were greeted by four elf-like servants.
"This way, my Lord," all the elves said at the same time.
The elves pointed the Carrot-Top family into a private entrance of the bird coach.
Sam looked back as he heard the crowd whispering, "That's the king and his family. They have beaten the curse.”
As the Carrot-Tops entered the main entrance into the hub of the bird, they could hear the creature’s beating heart. Every time the heart beat, there would be a wave of flute music.
As the family continued to walk through the massive meeting area, there were many guests from around Baja and from different worlds. They noticed there was quite a difference between the rich and the poor. All the rich folks had their servants with them, and all the businessmen and woman were huddled together talking business, all dressed up in business attire.
"We’re out of our league," Jane said to Sam.
This meeting hall was huge and overwhelming for the Carrot-Tops. There were ballrooms with chandeliers as big as mountains and many, many fireplaces. Everyone stared at the Carrot-Tops.
One snobbish lady asked her companion, "How could they be royal when they are dressed in rags?"
As the lady stuck her nose in the air at the Carrot-Top family; nevertheless, the family minded their own business and kept moving. Then they passed another meeting place where everything was underwater; Peter and his family stopped to watch as mermaids danced and had fun. To Peter, that was fantastic. He had never seen a mermaid. One of the mermaids saw Peter watching and came up to the glass that separates them, and blew him a kiss. Yes, indeed, Peter was very embarrassed and began to blush. His parents just laughed at their son’s shyness.
As they kept walking down the long golden corridor, there were many rooms. Some of the room doors were open. One room was a saloon where bar fights were going on. Quickly Sam and Jane covered their son's eyes to such violence, and one of the elves called for security on his secret watch communicator.
Another door held a big playland for the kids. Peter begged his parent to go in. They were reluctant, but they let him have a little fun for a while. Sam and Jane watched as their son ran toward the playground leaving them behind. The playground was huge, with a large sandbox. In it was a large worm; it had to be about 20 feet long, and had seats on its back for the children to sit in as they rode up and down through the air.
Everyone could hear the children's laughter. Peter immediately left his pet and parents behind and ran into the line for a ride with the sand worm. He could hardly wait! Once in front of the line, the trainer buckled Peter and the rest of the kids safely in their seats. Up and down the worm went, splashing sand all over the place.
"Wheeeeeeee!" shouted the children.
Peter was having the time of his life; waving his hands in the air as his proud parents looked on. After the fun ride, Peter socialized with the rest of the children. There he meet a young kid name Zack Bean; he was very slender and had long, golden blond hair that touched his shoulders, and big blue hypnotizing eyes. Zack was a very well-rounded child. He was very outgoing and easily made friends, and he was always the center of attention.
He also met Nicholas Webster, a very heavy, overweight child, who was a joy to be around. Nicholas had short black hair and wore glasses that were held together with a piece of tape. He wore big, baggy oversized clothing that was always tripping him or causing him to fall down. No matter what time of day or night it was, Nicholas was always eating a banana.
Next was Clara, tall and skinny, with fire-engine red hair that she kept in two ponytails. She wore dusty old overalls and miss-matched shoes. Clara was the type of girl that bullied boys around -- she was not to be messed with. Then there was Robert Clark, a Beanpole of a child who was very, very skinny indeed. He was so skinny that he could hide behind a pole. Robert was an unusual child for being only 10 years old; he was 7 feet tall with slick, greasy black hair. He wore ripped jeans and shirts and carried 10 watches on both wrists. Robert was more strange than unusual.
Last, but not least, there was Benjamin Franklin. He had a gene disorder that caused fur to grow all over his body. He was an average-size child with a great appetite for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- that's all he ever wanted. As he was covered in fur, no one knew what he really looked like. He had straight white fur from head to toe. No matter what he put on, the fur poked out. It didn’t matter whether it was clothing or a hat; the fur stuck out and was a pain to work with.
Now Peter had a whole new set of friends to play with. Back in the land of the living, he had had a hard time making friends. But here in Baja, it was much easier for him. Peter's parents were so proud to see their son finally make friends and being a normal kid.
Suddenly, the horn blew very loudly, and down came a big floating pirate ship out of the sky. The kids began to scream with excitement.
"It's Captain Johnny!" one of the kids shouted.
Peter was a little awestruck once again for he had never seen anything like this before in his life. The pirate ship was huge. It flashed through the sky like a bird moving vigorously back and forth. This was a big brown ship of some sort with crewmen onboard waving their swords at the kids. Peter went over to Robert and asked him about the ship. Robert told him that this was the best ride in Baja, and that Captain Johnny rides were the best.
Peter's parents ran over, fearing the worst. He ran to meet them, and told them that this was a kids’ ride and there was nothing to be worried about. As his parents were leaving, Dingo, Peter's pet, jumped on his shoulder wanting to go with him.
"All right, boy, you can go with me," Peter said to Dingo as he rubbed his head.
The children watched as the pirate ship came down. This was a huge vessel, made of deep maple red wood. The ship had to be at least 100 feet long. There were missiles and cannons onboard that shot out fireworks. Its long white sails fluttered in the winds. The ship came hovering down.
The children began to scream, "Captain! Captain! Captain!" as they chanted for his quick arrival.
As the ship landed, a well-built man came forward in his captain's outfit. He had a patch over one eye, and he wore a red bandanna with the outline of a skull and crossbones. His goatee came down to his stomach, and his long white hair was braided into one long braid with beads and sea shells throughout it.
As the children chanted his name, Captain Johnny came forward raised his hands to the sky, and did backflips over and over. The kids loved him.
"All aboard, all aboard," Captain Johnny said.
The kids climbed up into the vessel. Peter had a nervous look on his face. He grabbed ahold of Dingo, and off the ship flew, back and forth, swinging higher and higher. Then the ship spun around and around in circles with the speed of light. The children screamed with excitement. This was one of the best times they had ever had, but poor little Dingo clutched onto Peter's shirt. His paw-like hands began to tremble.
"It's okay, boy," Peter said like a proud papa protecting his young.
The kids rode the pirate ship for well over 20 minutes, then they were invited to start the fireworks. What a blast Peter was having! But it was time to go. Peter said good-bye to all the new friends he had made, and was on his way again with the magical flying bird.
The elves came back and greeted the Carrot-Tops, and they showed the family to their room. It was a huge place with high ceilings and Victorian decor. Dingo was glad to be on solid ground, and he jumped out of Peter's hand and onto the floor, rolling and chasing his tail. The Carrot-Tops were told that they would be arriving in Baja any minute, and that they needed to spruce up a bit. They complied and changed into clothing made for royalty.
Peter wore a silk lace suit that was all white, and on his head was a crown. His clothing had the same mystical symbols as everything else in Baja. His parents were also dressed in all white with crowns that graced their heads. They looked like a true royal family.
Then in came a servant snapping pictures and taking them away quickly. The family began to get nervous, not knowing what they were up against. Then a loud sounding alarm began to blow. Peter ran to the window and saw a beautiful sight. It was the land of Baja, very colorful and unique. Trees were 100 feet tall or taller, and there were beanstalks that giants were sliding down. As Peter looked over to the right, he could see a group of colorful birds flying back and forth with welcome signs in their beaks.
The sun was shining brightly, and there were chariots flying through the sky carrying kings, queens, and descendants of royalty. Peter called over his parents, and they rushed to the window. They had not seen Baja in so long. Jane began to cry. Baja was a beautiful mystical land where the impossible co-existed with the possible.
"What's wrong, Mother?" Peter asked as he saw Jane crying.
She explained to him that she was the one that grew all of those flowers and trees, and that her magical gifts were the reason plants flourished. Peter told his mother that he was so proud of her.
Down below, Sam could also see the empires that he helped build. Because of Sam’s magical ability to move objects of any size, he was sought after to build a massive empire for the elders. The family embraced each other as the door opened and a servant walked in and stated that they were in Baja, and their royal presence was needed.
Peter was excited and was the first Carrot-Top to the door. As the servant opened it, they were greeted by armed guards. They were dressed in all black with their faces covered. The same mystical symbols glittered on their clothing. They each carried a secret weapon. One had a silver sword that could stretch 10 feet long. The next had a ball that created explosions, and the last one had a golden bow and arrow. Peter stared the three guards up and down, trying to see if they would look at him, but they never did. They were focused and never talked or made a move unless the Carrot-Tops did so first.
Off they went; they were led by two elves through a big double door. They were so huge that the Carrot-Tops had to look all the way up to see the door handles. The door was solid gold with different secret codes scattered all over it. The door had two big lion heads that looked like they were moving.
The family kept moving and looking over their shoulders. As they came closer to the door, it began to open. A beaming bright light came through the crack of the opening, blinding the family. They quickly put their hands over their faces and proceeded through the door.
At first the family could only see the bright beam of white light, and then it subsided. They were now in an arena filled with millions of people from all over the world. It was so beautiful, with large marble pillars throughout the arena. The pillars were covered with beautiful mystical drawings, and there were large statues of kings and queens and many famous rulers.
There were also thousands of army men made out of carved marble stone that circled around the entire arena. The top of the arena had a dome that had Christian paintings on it, including the birth of Jesus, the baptism and many more.
“That must have taken years to paint,” Peter said to his father.
People began to clap for the family as they arrived in the arena; it was a royal celebration. There was entertainment such as juggling and magic tricks. People were holding up signs and banners that welcomed the royal family’s return. The Carrot-Tops were modest and quickly tried to settle the crowd down, but it did not work. There had not been a magical child born in 10 years. As Peter looked over his shoulder to the right, there were tables upon tables of gifts and presents, all wrapped in pretty paper and big bows.
After a few minutes of being surprised, the Carrot-Tops were escorted to their seats. They were made of gold and had the finest feather pillows for cushions. Then a man appeared out of nowhere on the large stage. He introduced himself as Mr. Patric Stewart. He was very well groomed, and his suit had the look and work of a professional tailor. Mr. Stewart had no hair on his head; he was completely bald. He was a man for getting down to business.
He cleared his throat and gave a welcome speech to introduce the Carrot-Tops. "In ten years there has never been a child born with gifts outside of Baja, and our world depends on the resources of the gifted ones.”
The speech was long and touching. Patric told the crowd that the Carrot-Tops would be staying in Baja and to treat them as their own family. For the most part, many of the millions of visitors were satisfied, but there were a few that whispered about the authenticity of the family returning to Baja.
Mr. Stewart shared that the family had gone through their share of betrayals and that in time, everything would be returned to right. The crowd clapped and cheered, balloons began to fly into the air. It was a big day in Baja, very festive and joyous. After the speech, he came over and greeted the Carrot-Tops. Sam and Jane knew him very well; he was the one that kicked them out of Baja many years ago. Mr. Stewart was very humble in his apology, but he was still skeptical about Peter's powers. This was something he had only heard about and not seen for himself.
He walked over to Peter and requested to see his powers. Sam was upset about the request, but Mr. Stewart reminded the Carrot-Tops that if they wanted to make it in Baja, they would have to prove that Peter was a gifted child. Very reluctantly Sam gave in, but he was still very disappointed by Mr. Stewart’s request.
"It's okay, Father. I’ll do it," Peter proclaimed.
Mr. Stewart got the crowd's attention to watch a miracle in action. The air was thick, and in that big arena, you could hear a pin drop. Suddenly Peter held his hand to the ground. The dust began to fly and the earth began to shake. The crowd was frightened to see the power of a little boy in action.
Peter’s orange hair began to flap in the wind, vigorously swaying back and forth. Suddenly huge chunks of rock and earth began to fly up and into the air. With lightning speed, a whirlwind erupted. As the dust finally settled, there was a gigantic hole the same size as the arena. When the crowd looked down, there was nothing but pure darkness.
Peter, his family and Mr. Stewart were standing on a little chunk of rock; there was nothing else left. Mr. Stewart looked down into the hole and saw nothing. It was like this hole was a never ending abyss. Then, suddenly, he leapt off the side of the rock and into the hole.
The crowds screamed at the top of their lungs, and then went silent. Sam and Jane feared the worst -- that Mr. Stewart was gone for good. But then, he suddenly appeared, brushing the dirt from his shoulders. He raised his hands to the crowd, letting them know that he was okay. Mr. Stewart leaned over and told the Carrot-Tops that they had one special child.
Sam smiled, but deep down he knew there was more to Mr. Stewart’s comments than he let on. After all, this was the man that kicked them out of Baja. The crowd was roaring and cheering for Peter, and they kept calling his name.
A big, wide grin graced Peter’s face. He was a happy boy because he was in a land that appreciated him for who he was. Sam and Jane rushed over to hug him. After the show, there were parades and all-night festivities. Sam asked Mr. Stewart when they would be in Baja, the main island.
Mr. Stewart asked, "Why are you so in a rush, my boy? Enjoy life, because from here on out, you will be proving yourself to the entire world."
After that, Mr. Stewart walked away, never looking back at the Carrot-Tops. Sam was puzzled by his comments, but went along with the fun.
Peter was so happy when he and his parents got to tour the entire bird ship. He saw the captain’s deck, and met some very important people of Baja, including wizards, priests and royalty. It was overwhelming for Peter, but he handled it like anything else -- he got nervous and his head swelled like a pumpkin. When this happened, he rushed out of the room. Jane ran behind her son to comfort him, and let him know that everything would be okay, while Sam stayed behind to cover for Peter and Jane.
For such a long time, Sam had felt neglected by the people of Baja. Now he felt like royalty -- a feeling that only was ten years in the making. Sam noticed that the people were more interested in his son than him. After Peter left the room, the royal members of society did not want to talk to Sam. They began to shun him over and over again. One royal member confided to Sam that his son was the only reason he was invited back to Baja.
Sam was feeling unwanted and that Peter was the only reason they were there. He burst through the crowd, pushing and shoving with anger. He began to yell for his wife like a crazy man.
"Jane, Jane, let's go!" Sam shouted.
She came running, with Peter at her side. Sam explained to her that they were only there because of Peter, and that they might be hanged when they arrived in Baja. Jane tried to calm him down, but it did no good; Sam was ready to leave, and leave now.
He ordered the captain to turn around, but he explained to Sam that they were riding on a magical rainbow and couldn't turn back because the rainbows were erased by sweeping angels. The captain told Sam that, after the elders had been in slumber, the world of Baja was under attack and easily penetrated, so they had to come up with a way to disguise the route to the main inlands of Baja.
Deep down in Sam's heart, he wanted to go back home, but on the other hand, he wanted to stay and confront his fears. Sam flopped down onto a chair with his eyes covered by his hands, "What, have I done to deserve this?" Sam shouted.
Jane ran over to Sam and gave him a big hug, putting her fingers on his lips, motioning for him not to speak. Peter ran over and gave them both a big hug. The family stayed hugging for a while, and then they got up refreshed. A loud horn blew, signaling that the ship had arrived on the main land of Baja.
The crowd of people could be heard un-boarding the ship. Peter and his family were guided by the elves to retrieve their belongings. He saw the friends he’d made getting off and waved to them.
"See you soon," said Peter as his new friends waved back.
The elves reminded the Carrot-Tops to have their passports ready. As the family gathered up their few belongings, they headed to the door. People were pointing and whispering that they were the royal family, and some wanted autographs and pictures. The family felt a little strange doing this, but they did it to please the people of Baja. All the young kids wanted Peter's autograph. His father told him not to let the fame go to his head, and to know who his true friends were. As the passengers lined up, a voice came over the air telling them to pull out all passports and get ready to be scanned.
The Carrot-Tops held up their passports and a beam of white light scanned their entire bodies. No one coming into Baja would be left un-scanned, no matter who they were or their rank. Dingo was also scanned, poor little animal. He was so afraid of the scans, but Peter kept talking to him, letting his little friend know that it would be all right.
During the phase of the white light, the scanner could tell everything about a person, from their age to their health, even the length of their hair. Everything went well going through the scanner for the Carrot-Top family.
Finally, they were home! Tears began to well up in Sam's eyes. Peter watched as his parent’s facial expressions showed so much pain. He could not do anything for them, but feel their pain. One more step and the Carrot-Tops were on land. Peter looked back to wave to the captain on the bridge and the people leaving. He looked around as he saw family after family hugging and kissing each other.
Baja was a beautiful place with countless waterfalls, and large animals co-existed with humans and other species. There were large beanstalks that giants slid down. Children raced their seahorses in the rivers and twenty rainbows in the sky gave off a multicolored glow. The trees walked, and sang and talked to the citizens of Baja. There were birds as big as houses filling the entire sky. There were huge statues throughout the land, some reached the clouds. Every statue in Baja had a meaning, whether it was of a mighty warrior or to educate the people.
Baja had its fair share of icons. There were golden gates, bridges, and rivers that ran through the town bringing fresh fish and food to the people. Most of the streets were made of mud bricks. Shops were everywhere. There was every store a child could imagine -- toy stores, train stores, games store -- you name it, Baja had it. There were millions of residents that called Baja home, walking about the streets going about their daily lives.
Peter couldn't wait to get into the swing of things. He wanted to start enjoying his new home. "Where is our family?" he asked his parents.
Both Sam and Jane looked around, hoping someone would come forward and claim them, but no one did. They hailed a cab, and just as it was coming, an older gentleman shouted "Sam, Sam, my son!"
Sam and Jane quickly turned around. They looked puzzled. They could not recall the face for the life of them.
"Yes?" Sam asked.
The man explained that he was Sam's father.
"Father!" said Sam, as he ran up to the man stroking his long beard and pale skin.
"What happened to you, Sam?" asked his father, David. "Your mother and I were also banned from Baja. We had to work in the hot underground tunnels as our punishment for having a failure as a son.”
David explained that they had been kicked out of Baja after Sam had. David let Sam know that his mother was barely holding on, and today was the first time they had seen daylight. Sam became very angry, and he blamed himself. He told his father he would straighten everything out.
Peter began to pull on his father's coat tail. "What about me?"
"Oh! Father, I would like to introduce you to your grandson, Peter," Sam replied.
"You are the one that wizards and witches are talking about," said David.
"Witches?" Peter mumbled.
David told his grandson not to be afraid of evil, but by the look in Peter's eyes, he was still afraid. Then Jane came forward and stretched out her hands for a hug.
"Oh! Jane, my beautiful daughter-in–law," cried David as they hugged.
Peter noticed that a strange man was watching them from across the street, but when he turned around to tell his father, the man was gone, vanished into thin air. Peter's eyes began to bulge out and he looked vigorously from side to side. But the man was nowhere to be found, so he never told his parents anything else about what he had seen.
David quickly looked around and told his son that he would take him home.
"Home?" Sam replied.
"Yes, home," said his father.
David explained to Sam and his family that their house was never destroyed; the house was put onto the house farm.
"House farm?" asked Peter.
"Yes, a house farm," said Grandpa David.
Jane and Sam explained to Peter that when any citizen was facing punishment of any sort, all their belongings, including their house, were stored on the house farm. Then, when that individual was set free, he or she went to the farm and requested their belongings.
"Let's go," said Peter.
Grandpa David just laughed and was happy to have his family back. As they were leaving, a group of royal soldiers came and stopped the family. There were five soldiers in all, dressed in all white uniforms and top hats. They explained to the Carrot-Tops that because they were important citizens of Baja, they would be escorted everywhere. One of the soldiers pointed to their beautiful transportation. It was all white, and had wings like a bird and eight wheel tiers. Brown leather covered the seats inside.
The transportation was new and shiny. Peter was about to run over to see it until his mother pulled him back.
"No! We do not need your charity. We will make it on our own," said Jane.
Then the Carrot-Tops walked away, leaving the soldier's puzzled.
"That fixed them!" said Grandpa David, and the family went off to find their home.
Peter watched out of the wagon window. As they rode down so many roads, people were waving and saying, "Welcome back." Some even stopped the wagon to get a glimpse at the boy wonder.
"You're a very special young man," said Grandpa David.
Peter just smiled with a large grin on his face.
Baja was so beautiful with golden rain and purple and yellow clouds. The bears that roamed the hillsides were as big as houses, but they were very gentle creatures. There were even trees that grew popcorn! Peter and his family stopped as they saw a tree getting ready to start popping.
"Oh boy!" said Peter.
The family just laughed, running to the tree like kids in a candy store. Jane kept her mouth open to catch the popcorn while Grandpa David and Peter made snow angels in the popcorn. Sam sat back and watched his family have the time of their lives. After eating until their hearts were content, the family sat by the tree and caught up on old times. Sam was very reluctant to ask his father about his brother Marcus. Marcus was a bad seed. From the time he was born, he was very mischievous and rude, always blaming everything on Sam. Besides, Marcus was the one who turned his own brother in to the royal authorities for losing the eighth key, even though he’d had a hand in it.
David shied away from the question of where Marcus was. Finally he said, "Your brother has gone to the other side. He sold the family out and went to work for the seven wizards." Tears started to form in David's eyes as he thought about his child fighting on the side of evil.
Sam was in shock. He began to pace back and forth, asking his father, “Why?” over and over again.
David went on to tell his son that Marcus was so drawn in by the key and the power that it held that he was willing to risk his life for it. So, he found someone that would let him divide and conquer -- the seven wizards. They were a small group of men, women, and children that had powerful magic spells, and so far, no one could stop or undo them. This group could flow in and out of Baja without notice. Since the elders were in hibernation, the citizens of Baja were no match for those evil forces.
David went on to tell Sam that Marcus was also kicked out of the boundaries of Baja, but not Baja completely, like Sam and his family were. Because Marcus turned Sam in, the elders showed him leniency and made him live on the outside of Baja.
Sam was very hurt and didn't want that road for his brother, but Marcus chose power instead of family. Now Sam felt like it was his duty to stop his brother, because whatever he was planning would soon come into effect.
Sam and his father continued watching Jane and Peter have fun in the popcorn field, and then they were ready to leave. Peter and Dingo had one last run around the field and one last taste of mouth-watering popcorn. Back in the buggy the family went. Peter stared out the window waiting to reach the house farm. Jane and Sam looked anxious.
"A few more feet and we're there," shouted Grandpa David.
Suddenly the buggy pulled up to a metallic gate made entirely of gold. They rode up to a guard shack and signed in to see their home again. The guard bowed to them and told them he was glad to see them back. As the gate opened, they saw an amazing sight, house upon house, there were even houses stacked on each other all the way up to the sky.
"Which one is ours?" shouted Peter.
"I don't know," Jane replied.
The family marched on and went up to the help desk. The lady looked the family over and over, out of the corner of her eyes. She was very snooty and rude to the Carrot-Tops.
"Well, where is your passport? I must verify you are who you say you are," said the lady.
The family showed their passports with plenty of objections from Grandpa David. "They don't have to show anything," he said with an angry voice.
But the lady took their information anyway, walked over to the computer and did a few searches. "Here, I have found your house," said the snobbish woman as she ripped a piece of paper out of the machine and handed it to Sam.
Sam was not too pleased by the lady's attitude, but he gently took the paper out of her hand. His face was filled with anger to see the citizens praise them one minute and mistreat them the next. The family was escorted to the sorting field by a security guard. The guard apologized to the family for his coworker's attitude and told Sam and his family that he still believed in Sam. He also said that Baja would be set free and the elders would wake again. With a smile on his face, the security guard took the keys out of his pocket and opened the main gate to the house farm.
The family stood on a ledge that was about 200 feet tall and watched as houses were checked in and out of storage. It was like going to the store and buying a house off the shelves. The houses were on a large belt that moved back and forth. There were big houses and little houses all in line to either be stored or un-stored. After the houses reached their destination, workers pulled them off the line. The movement was so in sync that even Grandpa David was impressed.
Peter held onto his father's coattail as he looked all the way down. There were thousands of houses as far as the eye could see. Peter and his family were a long way up, they could even see other families buying or retrieving their homes. Suddenly the belt stopped and Peter's eyes grew.
"Is that our house, Father?" asked Peter.
"Yes, sweetheart, it is ours, totally untouched," said Jane.
The image of the house was in 3-D. With a turn of a golden dial, the guard let the family see every aspect of their home the way they’d left it. The house was huge, like a royal palace. There was a courtyard, tennis court, swimming pool, and a royal garden where the birds were still humming and flying around. Jane's touch was everywhere. There were huge plants the size of hills that wound up to the sky. There was also a Beanstalk that never seemed to end; it just kept going and going. Goldfish were frozen in the pond waiting to be thawed. Peter's eyes grew bigger and bigger as he saw all that the home had to offer.
The guard told the Carrot-Tops to go inside and check everything out to make sure it was the way they’d left it. It was like stepping back in time for the family; everything seemed to be in slow motion. Sam was overcome with emotion, and so were Jane and the rest of the family. Sam trembled as he went near the door to turn the knob. For a minute, he could not do it; it was too overwhelming for him.
Grandpa David placed his hands on his son's shoulder assuring him that everything would be okay. Sam took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He closed his eyes and opened the door with a quick turn of the wrist. Dingo suddenly jumped out of Peter's pocket and ran into the house. Jane was upset, and she told Peter to leave Dingo in the wagon. But Peter didn't listen, and off Dingo went, leaping and hopping up and down the stairs. Peter was right on his heels, but Jane was angry, truly not at Peter, but at all the time they had lost.
Sam, Jane and Grandpa David slowly entered the house. The family walked through the massive hallways and into the entertainment room, where Jane rubbed her hands over the furniture, reminiscing about the good times they’d had. She sat on the edge of the sofa and looked over the pictures on the table. One was of Peter as a baby and the others were friends and family. Back in the good old days, Jane was a well respected socialite. Every afternoon, ladies would come over either to gossip or talk about life in Baja. Jane missed those days.
Because everything was frozen in time, the home was the way they had left it. Jane continued to walk off by herself into the kitchen where water was still boiling on the stove and the ice box was open just as the housekeepers had left it. Then she walked out to her favorite place, the garden. The plants and trees were still alive, only frozen in time.
Jane stopped to pet a bird that was at a standstill. She could she the bird's eyes moving, but the bird could not move. "Soon I will set you free, little one," she said to the bird.
Everything in the house and its surroundings would be frozen in time until the family moved it out of the house farm. Jane walked through the house looking from room to room and so did Sam.
Sam found his office, and sat back in the leather chair, reminiscing about all the projects he had left unfinished. He took off his glasses and burst into tears. The pain was so great that he slid out of the chair and fell to his knees asking, “Why?” His tears would tear at the heart of any human. Sam stayed on the floor until he got himself together. He finally got the nerve to get up and look around. There were papers all over his office flying in slow motion through the air with a timeless touch.
On one paper, Sam could see some of his work. Before he was kicked out, he was in the process of creating the finest and toughest army for Baja. There were sketch drawings of animals, great and small, wearing armored silver-plated suits. There were animals that were half human and half horse carrying bows and arrows. Sam gently pushed the paper aside as it moved through the air in slow motion.
Down the hall, Sam could hear Jane rumbling, so he went to see what all the racket was about. "Honey, are you all right?" he called out to her.
"Yes, dear," Jane replied.
Sam watched as his wife stared at the nursery they had for Peter before he was born. Everything was still intact -- from the finest cotton blanket, to the crib made of the finest maple. The room was covered in toys that were gifts from the Carrot-Tops’ family and friends. Teddy bears great and small lined the wall. There were train sets that went “choo-choo” around the room. It seemed just like yesterday to Jane. She put her hands over her eyes and began to weep. To the Carrot-Tops, it seemed like their lives had been taken away.
"We must go, honey," Sam said gently.
As they walked through the doors of the courtyard, they could hear Peter having fun with Dingo. Water was splashing with the slow movement of time, and leaves gently glided through the air.
Jane shouted to Peter, “Come on. We must be going.”
Sam realized that his father was nowhere to be found. They searched the entire area of the courtyard until they found him in his favorite place, his gift shop. Grandpa David was a special man with the skill of making and producing the finest toys for all the little children throughout the land. He made antique dolls and train sets. There were kites and teddy bears everywhere. Sam watched as his father touched his past.
Grandpa David was overwhelmed by all that he had lost, and yet he was looking at the past. Sam placed his hands on his father's shoulder letting him know not to worry. He promised his father that he would make everything all right. Although they could not start over, he would make the rest of their lives worth living again.
Grandpa patted his son on the shoulders and said, "Sam, this is not your fault. This is the way of the prophet."
The family got their emotions together and headed out of the door. They continued to look back at a place they once called home.
"Is everything intact?" the guard asked.
"Yes," said Sam.
The guard then processed the paperwork and a huge train came out of the clouds with a loud “choo-choo.” It had to be at least 200 feet long, and there were other houses and property on it. The train was red and silver, and its paint sparkled in the sun’s rays.
The guard gave the workers the okay to load the house and take it out of frozen time. With a few pushes of the buttons, the house was out of the bubble of time, and loaded onto the train. The guard notified the family that the house would be delivered to their old address, 511 Cherry Street. With so much emotion built up, the family only could nod their heads to answer the guard.
"Wow, that train is great!" shouted Peter.
The guard just smiled at Peter, and off the family went out the door and through the tall gates of the house farm to their waiting wagon. As the family loaded up, a huge group of people were waiting, just to get a glimpse of the family. News had spread far and wide to the countrysides, and even in the heavens. Everyone knew the Carrot-Tops were back in town, but the family had so many other important things on their minds, like finding Sam's mother and Jane's family. Off they went, the sun was soon to go down, and they wanted to make it off the roads and home before nightfall.
The ride was long, but the sights were wonderful for their eyes. The family remembered how great and beautiful Baja was. There were unicorns grazing in an open field, and then flying up in the clouds whenever they heard people coming. There were also purple, yellow, green and red horses being sold at an outdoor auction. Peter stood up in his seat because this was so amazing to his young eyes.
As they got closer to where Grandpa David and the others stayed, a feeling of gloom came over the family. It was as if a dark cloud just passed over and stayed in that one spot. The scene was so depressing; Dingo clawed Peter's shirt out of fear. The trees and flowers were dying, turning ash gray in color.
Peter watched as the trees tried to move, but their roots would break from years of rotting. The screams the trees made were heart wrenching. Everyone in the wagon covered their ears.
"Just a few more feet," said Grandpa David.
By the look on everyone's faces, no one wanted to be there. They were disgusted. As the wagon went closer into a deep forest, hundreds of people came running out. Most of them had their hands out, begging for food or anything. Grandpa David pushed them out of the way and introduced them to his family.
One lady burst out and said, "Because of you, Sam, we are here. We were your loyal servants and got punished for it."
Sam had no words to say but sorry, but the people did not accept his apology. For years they had suffered for Sam's sins against the elders. He got out and stood on a hilltop, and told the people he would make everything all right. Right now, he had to find his mother. Grandpa David pointed in the direction of his wife. Under a tree sat an old lady, worn out, and her clothing was dingy and old. She continuously coughed and held her chest. Her hair was in disarray.
"Mother! Mother!" Sam called out.
"Who is playing games?" the frail voice answered back. Sam went to his mother and held her hands letting her know he was back. "My son, I knew you would not forget us," said Sam's mom Dorothy.
Jane, Peter, Dingo and Grandpa David joined in on the family reunion. They hugged and kissed. Dorothy was glad to see Jane, and for the first time was introduced to her grandson, Peter. Dorothy told Sam about how they had suffered in the hot underground tunnels as punishment for Sam's sins. She spoke of the abuse, the hunger, and the many cold nights. Sam was not only angered by what his mother was saying, but also by the knowledge that his brother Marcus had not been any help to them.
By Dorothy's accounts, Marcus let the authorities take them away because, for many years, he felt Sam got special treatment from his mother and father. Dorothy said she loved both of them, and Marcus was jealous of all the power Sam had, from running his own armed forces to making sure the citizens of Baja was well taken care of. Everyone in Baja respected Sam, and Marcus felt as if he had to walk in Sam's shadow.
Sam told his parents that he had to get them out of the dark and depressing forest, but his parents did not want to leave unless everyone was leaving.
"Honey, we have a house with thousands of rooms,” Jane said. “We will get all of them on their feet and then they can move on with their lives."
Sam quickly agreed. He then stood on the hilltop once again and told the people of his plans. Some were reluctant, but many others were willing to go. Anything would be better than being poor and homeless. The crowd began to gather up their few belongings and was ready to start walking to Sam and Jane's mansion. But before they could leave, Jane had one thing to do.
Her heart would not allow her to leave the trees and flowers in a rotting state. She gathered her strength together and touched the largest tree in the center of the forest. It gave root to all the trees near and far. Jane's hair began to blow in the wind; she could feel the trees' pain, and she saw all the horrors they had seen. With all her might, she pushed her hands toward the trees and let her powers flow. Within minutes, the trees stopped crying and screaming. Their leaves began to turn green; their roots began to have life again. Fruit began to appear, and so did the animals that once fled. This was so overwhelming for Jane that she passed out.
Sam and the family ran to her side and picked her up. As Sam was leaving with Jane's lifeless body, a deep voice came from the trees, "We will always be at your service," and then the voice disappeared.
Birds started to make their nests in the trees and the dark clouds suddenly moved away. The forest was once more bright and inviting again. Birds sang and the trees and Beanstalks began to grow. Wow! How amazing Jane's powers were to the people watching.
Sam and the other men carried Jane and the older women to the wagon, while the strong and young walked behind. Dorothy began to fan Jane with a torn piece of paper. Little by little, Jane began to open up her eyes, but she was still weak. She began to mumble about all the pain she saw, and how a war was coming. No one really paid attention to what she was saying. They just wanted to get her home safe and sound.
Peter and Dingo began to make new friends as the older adults worried about grown-up concerns. This was a time of fun and excitement for Peter, not only did he get to stay up later, but he got to have fun doing it.
Little did they know that they were being watched by a group of trolls, maybe eight to ten of them. They stood four feet tall. Their bodies were gray with white polka dots, and their eyes were long and slanted. They had thin lips and large razor teeth. These creatures constantly drooled and slobbered all over the place. They smelled horrible, and to most people, they were disgusting. The townspeople called them Goonies. They watched every move made by the Carrot-Tops. It was apparent that they were reporting to someone. The Goonies made sure to keep out of sight, but not to lose contact with the family.
Dingo knew something was wrong; his animal senses began to tell him another creature was somewhere close. He began to tug on Peter's shirt.
"Down, boy," said Peter, but Dingo kept on until Peter finally paid him some attention.
When Peter knelt down to Dingo to see what was the matter, Dingo stuck his fingers out pointing in the direction of the noise. The Goonies were hiding behind a great big bunch of trees.
Peter sensed something was wrong and put his hands to the floor. Suddenly the earth began to shake, and his orange hair began to blow back and forth like a whirlwind. His eyes were fixed on the target. Holes started appearing out of nowhere, big ones and small ones. One by one, the Goonies began to scream as they fell deep into the holes. The adults came running.
"What's the matter, Peter?" Sam asked.
Peter explained that they were being watched and he had caught the perpetrators in the hole. Sam pushed Peter aside and held an oil lamp above the hole. A creature jumped toward Sam and startled him, but the hole was too deep for the creature to escape. Everyone started to gather around the rim, watching the creature's every move.
"These creatures are from a dark side,” said Grandpa David.
Sam reached out, grabbed the creature, and it began to shiver and turned into a ball. "Who are you?" Sam asked the creature.
"We are your brother's keepers," the creature replied.
Sam knew then that his brother was up to no good and they had to hurry. He told his son to close up the hole with the creatures inside, and so Peter did. With the power in his hands, he conjured up the dirt, and buried the creatures inside. The people were amazed once again by Peter's powers, but there were also a few jealous ones in the crowd. Some people clapped, and some snickered in disbelief.
As the group continued to walk on, Sam and his father had a long talk. David told Sam that his brother was way beyond help and the evil had total possession of him. David described to his son the pain he and Dorothy had gone through at the hands of Marcus. They went from living like royalty to the pigpen, at the hands of their own son. Sam told his father he was very sorry and assured him everything would be all right soon.
The group continued to walk toward home. Peter was excited to see his new home fully. Dorothy and Jane sat quietly in the back of the wagon. Suddenly, it began to shake violently. Dorothy looked out, and she was in the air. Sam had used his powers to levitate everyone into the air. The people were now flying; this was the only way to get home quickly before nightfall.
Through the sky they went. The children were having the most fun touching the clouds. The birds moved out of the way, and the long trees shrunk to make way for the herd of people.
"Wheeeeee!" said they kids.
Up and down they moved and chased each other. This was the first time many of them had been completely free. The adults were placed in the back. Many of the older ones were afraid, but Sam put their fears to rest assuring them now that he would not drop them. Faster and faster Sam flew them through the air, going in and out of trees, flying over vast stretches of land. People on the ground were pointing and shouting with surprise. One kid on a bike rolled into a patch of hay when he saw the crowd in the air. People were running, trying to catch up with the flying people. Some were running to neighbors, telling them what they had seen.
The fresh air did Jane a whole lot of good; she woke up smiling, asking for her family, until Dorothy filled her in on what was going on. Jane pushed her hair back and looked out of the wagon window, and smiled at her family to show she was okay. This gave Sam more strength to move the wagon even more quickly. Suddenly, the wagon and the people came falling down slowly from the sky.
"We are home," said Sam.
The Carrot-Tops' home had arrived in one piece, safe and secure. It was no longer frozen in time. The house was like a castle -- there must have been hundreds or even thousands of rooms. It was like the Carrot-Tops were kings and queens of Baja. The home was fit for royalty. The crowd of people stared at the enormous house and wondered how was it that Sam kept all of this when their homes were either destroyed or taken away. Some people in the crowd were happy to have a warm place to bathe and sleep, while others were becoming very jealous of the Carrot-Tops.
The people went through the house feeling and touching things. It had been years since they had even seen or in fact been in a house as luxurious as this. The people were like kids in a candy store -- they wanted to feel and touch everything in sight. Some people were even trying to steal little knick-knacks outside in the garden, before they even went into the house.
"There will be none of that. Anything you want is free. There is no need to steal," said Sam.
Peter ran up to the door and waited on his father to open it. One deep breath and Sam gave the door a turn, and swung it open. Everything was just like they had left it, only this time, nothing was in an altered state. The cats were running around the house and everything seemed to fit in place. Sam went and lifted his wife out of the wagon and brought her into the house. With Jane resting comfortably on the sofa, Sam invited everyone in for a hot meal and a fresh bath.
Some people began to grumble, they were upset that Sam still had all of his wealth and they had nothing. He tried to ease the tension in the crowd, but no one wanted to listen. They were all jealous of the luxury Sam and his family had.
"All of you have been loyal to me, and I will see that you also get all that you left behind," said Sam.
But, no one wanted to hear that. They were upset. They had lost everything because they were Sam's followers.
"Why should we trust you?" one man asked.
"Because we all have suffered," intervened Sam's father.
But the pep talk did no good, and off went the crowd, grumbling and complaining. Only two people stayed behind, Red Fox and Samantha Grey. Red Fox was half-man half-fox. He was one of Sam's loyal friends and commander of his army. Red had grown old and worn; his fox fur was matted and his demeanor was that of hopelessness.
He looked Sam in the eyes and asked him, "Will you make me like I once was?"
Tears began to fill Sam's eyes and he let Red Fox know that he would do everything in his powers to make things right.
Then Samantha Grey stepped forward. She was a young woman, no more than twenty. Her gifts of being a ninja had served Sam's army very well. Samantha was of Asian descent; her long body and jet black hair made her stand out in a crowd. She had taught thousands of Sam's soldiers how to fight and how to respect the art of becoming a ninja, and her army was unstoppable.
Samantha explained to Sam that she had had to hide in the Black Forest when the elders kicked him out of Baja, and she did not want to get killed like the others. Sam went over and gave her a big hug, and told Samantha everything would be all right.
"Don't blame yourself for running,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
But Samantha still felt like a coward, since she could not protect Sam's family from being punished at the hands of the elders. But Sam never held it against her. He understood that at the time, she had to fight for her own life.
Red and Samantha were the only people in the crowd who stayed, the rest left, intent on trying to reunite with their families that they hadn't seen in ten plus years. Sam understood that they were angry with him, so he let them go, knowing that most of them would be back once they were rejected by their families and friends.
The remaining guests made themselves at home while Peter and Dingo were having a blast running through the house. Up and down the staircase they ran. Jane was pleased to see her son finally finding a place to call home. It was kinda strange to the Carrot-Tops to be back in their house that had been vacant for years.
That night was so strange for the family that they couldn't sleep, so the night was filled with stories by the fireplace. Deep down inside, everyone was wondering what tomorrow would bring. Jane began to tell Peter of a great primary school, the great Waldorf Academy School. She told him it was a school of possibilities, and that whatever his dreams were, the school could make them come true.
"Oh boy, I can't wait!" said Peter.
Jane told her son that he would fit right in with all the other kids, unlike back in Georgia. For a moment, Georgia seemed strange. They seemed to have been gone from there for so long already. So, they put thoughts of the human world in the back of their heads and continued on with the stories by the fireplace.
Red Fox slowly came down the stairs; his fur was all wet and shaggy. "Oooh, that was a great bath!" he shouted. "It has been so long since I had a good hot bath like that.”
The family just laughed and welcomed him to sit by the fireplace. Jane noticed that her mother-in-law was missing and went up the stairs to find her. Dorothy was in her old room stroking the pillowcase.
She heard Jane coming and said, "It has been years since I slept on a bed, it seems so strange to me."
Jane sat on the edge of the bed with Dorothy and gave her a big hug, promising that Sam would make everything the way it was. Dorothy put her feet in the bed and crawled up into a ball.
Jane went down and told Sam about his mother. He rushed right up to her bedside to make sure that she was okay. Sam saw the state his mother was in, and ran to the phone and called a doctor. David ran to his wife's side and comforted her.
"It's the years of digging in those nasty tunnels that has her sick," said David.
At the same time, Sam was on the phone talking to the doctor, asking him to get there right away. Within a few seconds, he appeared out of thin air. It startled everyone for a moment. Sam went over and tried to shake the doctor's hand, but it was only a hologram of the doctor that told the patient and their family what to do to help their loved ones.
The hologram of Dr. Doo came on with a computer-generated voice telling the family to boil hot water with lotus leaves and place them on Dorothy's chest. The family was stunned for a while, but did what the hologram told them to do. Dorothy went in and out of a coma. Sam was very sad, and he begged his mother to hold on just a while longer.
Before anyone could say another word, the medicine worked. Dorothy was still ill, but was feeling much better. She leaned over to her son and asked him to bring Peter forward.
Peter went forward to hear what his grandmother had to say; she whispered, "You are the eighth key."
Peter did not understand what she meant and just went on agreeing with her because she was ill. She fell fast asleep and everyone left the room. The computer-generated image vanished and the door bell rang. Jane walked to the door and opened it slowly.
An older gentleman walked in and said, "Hi, I am Dr. Doo."
Jane was caught a little off guard and proceeded to take the doctor upstairs. Dr. Doo explained to the family that the computer-generated image stayed with a person who was ill until he arrived. This was a far more advanced technology than the Carrot-Tops were used to. The doctor examined Dorothy and told the family she would be fine; she just needed a little rest and clean, fresh air. Dr. Doo also let the family know how wonderful it was to see them back in Baja, and that he supported them one hundred percent.
The family was amazed to see the support they were getting from all over Baja, and this made Sam more determined to fight. The night was quiet and everyone went to bed waiting for tomorrow to come. Yet, Sam could not sleep. He walked through the house, pacing back and forth, trying to take in all the emotions, and to find out where his life had left off at.
He went and sat at his office desk, reading the papers from ten years past. The headline was the exile of the Carrot-Tops. The report made the Carrot-Tops look like a disgrace. Sam read the report over and over again. In his mind, he could picture and replay the event again and again. He went through his office with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything out of the ordinary. He knew that his brother would probably try to set him up again.
Sam suddenly fell asleep in his office. The spirits of the seven elders came to him, one by one in a ghostly fashion. They swarmed around the office and said in soft voices, "Sam, Sam, wake up." The voices repeated their request one by one.
Sam woke up, but he was also now a spirit. He walked out of his body to be in the same form as the spirits. Sam looked back and saw his body lying lifeless, sleeping away, then he turned his attention back to the spirits. He tried to reach out to them, but a force field stopped him. To Sam, it felt as if his legs were made out of iron. The spirits warned Sam that they must talk quickly and he must listen.
"A war is coming and Peter is the key. If we do not awake in the time before the war, Baja will be lost forever. We know you are not the one at fault. Your brother is, and he must be stopped or we will lose everything," said the spirits.
Sam acknowledged them, and promised the spirits that he would try to make things right and Baja would not be lost. The spirits reminded him that there was nothing that they could do while in hibernation and the longer they hibernated, the less powerful they would become. It had now been ten years and they needed to get out of hibernation as soon as possible. The spirits' images began to fade in and out, and then suddenly, they disappeared.
Sam woke up in a pool of blue goo; it covered his entire body. He ran to the bathroom to wash his face. He could not stop thinking about what the spirits had told him. After a quick check on everyone, Sam was back in his office, thinking about the way in which he could save Baja.
Publication Date: 04-23-2009
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