Beyond the Boundaries
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A feeling of bravery and determination was in each of their hearts. Although they had no idea where they were going, they assumed Harry knew exactly what they would do; the rest were just there to enjoy the trip. It wasn't very long before they reached Barnacle Boulevard.
They emerged from the tunnel at the end of the street into the busy port of Donald's Dock. A cool spray was in the air that settled on their skin. The sounds of waves and foghorns surrounded them. The Nutty River, which flowed from Acorn Acres, ended here in the crescent-shaped bay.
Many toons were stocking up on gags and preparing themselves to go to Bossbot headquarters. There was one sad toon, a purple dog, walking toward them slowly.
Evina recognized him immediately. "You're Goopy, the famous glitch master!" he exclaimed. "I've seen you on TV! Uh... why did you go sad?"
The purple dog sighed and continued staring at his feet. "Once again, I was foiled in my attempt to enter the legendary Bossbot tower."
"You mean the one in the Bossbot courtyard?" Zany asked.
"No," Goopy said, "another one."
"Well, we are going on a quest to find out where the cogs came from," Evina said. "I was really bored this summer, and we kept finding slips of paper saying 'help' on them."
"I've seen several of those myself," Goopy said, and he pulled a bundle of them out of his pockets. "They don't seem to make any sense. Where could they all come from?" He picked up several starfish nearby to replenish his laff points. "I guess I don't have much to do right now. Do you mind if I come with you guys?"
"Really?" Zany said with disbelief. "That would be great. You know, I'm one of your biggest fans!"
"Yeah, I think my skills might come in handy if we ever get in a tight situation," Goopy smiled.
Evina beamed. Things seemed to be getting better for them every step of the way. "So, where are we going first?" he asked Harry.
"I think it would be best to go to Pete's Palace first," Harry said.
Goopy stared at Harry for a second with his mouth open. "What is Pete's Palace?" Evina, Zany, and Pink also wore similar expressions.
"Yes, I think Pete knows more about cogs than anyone else in Toontown... or so I've been told," Harry said.
"But where is Pete's Palace?" Evina asked.
"You all must understand this important fact. Toontown is much larger than younger toons think. Dozens of neighborhoods are not on your map. The palace is on the other side of Toontown's largest mountain, Mt. Giant. First, we must go to Acorn Acres."
The group walked nervously in the direction of Acorn Acres while the other toons in the park talked amongst themselves, wondering what other places there were in Toontown that they didn't know about. They wondered why the Toon Council had never given access to these places.
How big is Toontown? Could there really be more toons living out there?
"I have a question," Zany said. "Why is Pete's Palace not on the map?"
"The Toon Council set up boundaries for order and defense when the cog invasion began. Since toons rarely traveled, few of them noticed the change. I'm sure Pete doesn't mind, though."
"Why is that?" Evina asked.
"Because, as you shortly see, he doesn't enjoy having unexpected company. There's a reason why he built his town so far away."
The adventurers approached Acorn Acres awkwardly. They still had no idea how they would get over the mountain ahead of them. There wasn't even a street or a path! There was a toon here in Acorn Acres that was staring at them. It was a sienna monkey. He saw the old rabbit leading several toons along the fence of Acorn Acres. Being curious he went to find out what they were doing.
"Where are you guys going?" the monkey asked.
Goopy stepped forward. "We are going on a quest to find out where the cogs came from. I am Goopy. I bet you've seen me on TV!" He stopped and smiled smugly. "And this is Evina, Zany, Pink and our leader Harry Oldman. He is Lil' Oldman's father."
"I hate Lil' Oldman's tasks, but I've always wanted to find out where the cogs came from. Can I come?" the monkey asked.
Harry looked around nervously. He was afraid they didn't know what dangers might be ahead. They didn't seem to be taking it as seriously as he thought they should. But resisting was futile. "I suppose you can come. The more the merrier! But you have to understand it will be very dangerous!"
"And what's the worst that can happen?" the monkey asked.
"You would be surprised," Harry muttered ominously.
"By the way, I am Simeon," the monkey continued.
"Welcome to the quest, Simeon," Evina said.
"Wait, we have to cross those mountains?" Pink gasped.
Zany's enthusiasm vanished once she properly gazed at the huge mountain. They approached the fence to Acorn Acres and stopped. Everyone paused for a moment, unsure of how to do it.
"So... are we going over the fence?" Evina asked Harry.
The fence wasn't that tall and could be jumped over easily. But no toon in modern memory had ever gone outside the boundary of a street or park before. Nobody knew if it could be done.
Harry thought about it and broke their silence. "Well, I know it seems scary, but we must do this. Now, on the count of three, we all jump. Alright?"
The other toons nodded but looked really tense. They each imagined what terrible things could happen to them by crossing the fence.
"Remember, everybody," Harry said, "the Toon Council is counting on us. We have to do it! 1... 2... 3!"
They jumped all at once over the fence. Their feet hit the grass on the other side. Everyone closed their eyes and cringed, but surprisingly, nothing happened. There was no siren and no deadly trap. They were the very first toons to ever cross over the fence! But then they noticed a weird new sensation. They saw the wide-open spaces and the rough areas. The wild land made them feel lost and frightened. They didn't understand why.
"I know it feels funny," Harry said, "but we're just disoriented. We will get used to it soon enough."
So, they started their trek southward toward the mountains. The toons from Acorn Acres watched them with bewildered expressions, wondering how they got over that fence. Every few steps they took, they tripped over a patch of long grass or a rock. It was a strange thought to know they were walking in the wilderness. After about five toonmiles (each five hundred Trolley lengths), they stopped to rest for the night. It was getting dark, and they could no longer see Acorn Acres. Their real fear was beginning to reveal itself now. They had no idea what was out there in the darkness. They collected sticks to start building a fire, and soon enough they started cooking some food. They discovered that Harry had brought a large inflatable tent that could fit in his pocket when deflated. He pulled a string, and it blew up to its full size like a balloon.
At dessert time, Harry got out some marshmallows. He hadn't forgotten about the little comforts of home.
"OH MARSHMALLOWS!" Zany said.
Everyone was feeling alright, and it was a pretty decent meal.
"Let's tell some stories," Simeon said. Then they each took a moment to think of something to tell the others.
"How did you and Harry meet?" Goopy asked Evina.
Evina had to take time to think about it. He didn't realize until now that his friendship with Harry was unique compared to what other toons had. "It was a few years ago. I was wandering through Toontown Central as usual when I bumped into him. I was scared for a minute, but soon I found out that he wasn't a creepy old guy but a very kind toon. He told me that he was a member of the Toon Council and had to get back to work."
Everyone listened intently to Evina's tale. Harry smiled, recounting the memories of their first meeting.
Evina continued. "I went to go see him more times over the next few days. He seemed to find it really annoying, but soon we found out we have a lot in common. I loved learning all the cool things that he knew."
"Yes," Harry said, "I remember that well. And I'm almost glad you've convinced me to go on this crazy trip of yours. It's turning out to be quite fun."
Zany reached for a handful of marshmallows. "Okay, so now why don't we tell some scary stories?"
They searched their minds for something scary to tell until Evina spoke up. "Harry, why don't you tell us about that legendary substance?"
"What legendary substance?" the other toons asked with curiosity.
Harry sighed. "Ok," he agreed nervously as all the toons focused their eyes on him, "but you must realize that this is no ordinary scary story. This has evidence suggesting it is real." He cleared his throat and spoke in a quiet voice. "Long ago when the first toons were drawn by humans, they were discovered to be useful for making movies and making children happy. Soon they were in use all over the world in entertainment. Then our enemies, the people who didn't like toons in the human world, developed a special liquid. It was an absolutely disgusting brew, and toons shivered at the sight of it. It takes many forms but only has one name: dip."
"Dip?" gasped the others.
"YES, DIP!" he shouted irritably, but then he reverted back to whispering. "It was sold to the enemies because it proved effective at completely eliminating toons. They melted away the instant they touched it. Many toons were dipped before the rest moved back to their own land called Toontown. The original city existed long ago in the west. Since then, they've migrated to the land where we live now. They sealed the gate to Earth permanently, never to return again. The original creator of the dip died, and the toons celebrated being safe at last. Many years passed, and then the cogs came. Since the fences were built and these lands were abandoned, rumors of strange things have arisen. Even I don't know what happens out here. Some say that the enemies keep a special batch of dip somewhere in Toontown. They say that they have enough to defeat Toontown. Of course, Toontown has very high security, but once we jumped over the fence and entered the wilderness, we are not under Toontown's protection. We are protected from nothing."
After he was finished speaking, there was a period of silence. Everyone was petrified with fear, even Harry himself.
"That's just a silly urban legend, right?" Goopy laughed warily. "It's as ridiculous as those stories of molders."
"Most toons say that," Harry said, "but through my many years of experience, I found many clues that led me to believe it was true."
The toons climbed into the tent and tried their best to go to sleep, but they knew they couldn't. They were too intimidated by the thought of the dip. A glowing, neon green liquid that can destroy toons was a gruesome thought to consider, and hard to forget.
There was a strong wind blowing outside and the faint noise of something moving off in the distance. Maybe it was just their imagination. They worried about encountering a foe on this adventure. Phantom Forest was only a few toonmiles north, and the fear of Bossbots and molders crept into their minds. Fortunately, though, they eventually found a way to fall asleep, knowing that they weren't alone.
In the morning, they cleaned up their campsite quickly and commenced the walking once more. They were hoping that they would be lucky enough to avoid any kind of disaster. For a while, they walked and assured themselves that everything was going to be fine. After all, they knew that these were just silly urban legends. There wasn't any such thing as a molder, and if there was any dip in Toontown, the Toon Council would have known about it long ago.
Acorn Acres was far from being visible. They were deep into the vast, unforgiving wilderness. There were no boundaries for them. They could go anywhere as long as they were willing to accept the consequences of whatever might happen.
Nobody was reassured thinking about climbing over the mountains, and as they got closer they most of what was left of their motivation. Harry tried to encourage them as much as he could. "It's about ten more toonmiles to Pete's Palace," he informed them, and everyone groaned in reply.
"It was you who wanted to go, Evina," Harry said with a smirk. "So, you can't blame me. You'll just have to trust me. But don't worry, it will be worth the walk."
They never stopped tripping and stumbling over mounds of dirt and roots. Every toon was dirty and frustrated. The sun was bright over the mountains and cast down hot rays over them. It was smiling at first, then its expression suddenly changed. It was startled to see the toons out in the middle of nowhere. It wondered what reason they had to be out there.
The mountains were getting closer and closer, yet their progress still felt painfully slow. At their traveling speed, it was nearly evening when they reached the foot of the mountain. They set up camp for the second night. Harry got out the inflatable tent, food, and marshmallows while Simeon started the fire. Evina, Goopy, Pink, and Zany were cooking dinner. It was a stew with an unusual odor.
"There's nothing out here but dirt and bugs!" Zany grumbled. "Ok, I can see why it would be a pain to live out here, but how could there be evil dangers out here?"
"But remember the dip?" Evina said.
"That's a bunch of nonsense," Pink said as she placed a lid on the boiling stew. "It's just ridiculous. It was nothing but a scary story."
"Well, I think we should trust Harry," Evina said. The others were silent and just stared at him for a moment. "He's my best friend! I know he can't be lying! It has to be true!"
They stared at him for a moment before turning their backs and walking back to the dinner table. Pink returned to quickly take the stew and then ran away. Evina was left standing by himself.
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