The Grown Ups’ Crusade
(The Neverland Wars #3)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 27th 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Gwen has returned to Neverland with Peter Pan and the lost children, but this time, the adults are following close behind.
The Anomalous Activity Department has plans to finally conquer Neverland by bringing the final battle to the vulnerable island. The children will have to rally fairies, mermaids, and allies from other magical realms to stand a chance against the shadow-casting army of grown-ups heading for them.
The black-coat soldiers are far from their only problem. Lasiandra is missing. No one has seen her since Gwen left her at the lakeside with Jay, and the mermaids searching have found only grave omens in the stars. With the island on the cusp of a war that threatens to strip the land of its magic, the last thing Peter and Gwen need is the ancient flagship that appears on their horizon, sailing pirates straight for their shores.
When the battle begins amid old and new enemies, Gwen’s maturity will be a double-edged sword. She will either grow stronger or grow up… maybe both.
Dragging a basket full of dirty dishes to the creek, Gwen wished she had a more glamorous roll to play in this fantastic drama. She tried to find satisfaction in sparing the children their chores during this adventure.
The morning sun trickled down through the treetops and seemed a very dull gold by the time it reached her. The basket of metal and porcelain dishes weighed heavy in her arms, and her troubled mind weighed heavy in her head. Rosemary and Twill now led the sand-castle team, and she knew Newt and Sal were hard at work expanding their tunnel system. The rest of the children had scattered all over, rigging booby traps and dreaming up other defenses. She didn’t expect any interruptions on her way to the creek.
To be fair, she wasn’t interrupted. When she stopped, it was not due to any stimulus or exclamation. She was simply overcome by the feeling that someone was watching her. Unnerved, she set her basket down and looked around. She didn’t see anyone. Unable to shake the feeling, she looked up.
Resting on the bough of a nearby tree, a fat and striped cat had its eyes fixed on her. The orange creature looked a great deal like her old house cat, Tootles, whom she and Rosemary had left behind.
The cat wore a wide smile, with its teeth bared in full.
Gwen didn’t even know cats could smile so wide. She’d seen her fair share of happy felines in person and silly cat pictures on the internet, but they always kept their mouths closed—or else they showed only their front teeth. This cat had an almost human smile fixed to its face. It certainly wasn’t Tootles, yet it reminded Gwen of her cat back home. She didn’t like these strange new creatures appearing in Neverland. Did they really imitate the memories that informed her imagination, or had she grown so homesick she couldn’t help but project Jay’s tone onto mysterious voices and Tootles’s fur onto foreign cats?
Since it had such a disturbingly human mouth, Gwen wondered if it might be able to speak. “Hello?” she asked it.
The cat grinned even wider, which seemed impossible. “Hello,” it replied.
Gwen looked around again, almost hoping someone else would come along to verify what she was seeing. For the first time in Neverland, she felt like she was going crazy.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“That depends a good deal on who you think you are,” it replied.
“I’m Gwendolyn Hoffman,” she announced.
The cat twisted its head over. “I’m sure you are, but that wasn’t the question. Who do you think you are?”
Confused, Gwen answered, “I know I’m Gwendolyn.”
She was not accustomed to being interrogated by cats. “It’s printed on my birth certificate.”
“Oh, but so much nonsense gets printed these days, one can hardly trust what one reads. Certainly you don’t believe everything you see printed,” the cat replied.
“Well no, but—”
“Then again,” the cat interrupted, “if almost nothing but nonsense gets printed, it follows that you may be living in a very nonsensical world, at which point it is better to simply believe the nonsense than go crazy trying to avoid it.”
“It isn’t nonsense! My name is Gwen!”
“That’s a whole other sort of thought then,” the cat answered. “We haven’t said anything about what you’re named, only what you are. It seems perfectly reasonable that someone might be named Gwendolyn, but I can’t imagine anyone being Gwendolyn. That’s just some nonsense madmen wrote down when they first met you.”
“They weren’t madmen,” Gwen defended. “They were my parents, doctors, adults…”
The cat chuckled, its laughter even more human than its speech. “We’re all mad,” he told her. “Here, there, everywhere… and adults more than most.”
“Can I help you?” Gwen repeated, annoyed.
“There’s no helping the mad,” he told her, purring as though he delighted in this. “But you can deliver a message. Her majesty sent her rabbit with a formal declaration, but considering the circumstances, I thought it better not to rely on someone who will invariably arrive late.”
Gwen’s disposition eased back down as she asked, “What’s the message?”
“That we don’t have so much as a dogfish in this fight,” the cat announced. “These ‘sensible’ men waging war against Neverland will never risk an encounter with us, and our realm will always be visited and sustained by some men in the streets of cities, in the mental wards of hospitals, in certain institutions of higher education…
“You can tell Peter that he must be mad if he thinks we can help him,” the cat concluded, swishing his striped tail. His smile spread so wide it ran out of room and began curling up on his face. The cat contemplatively purred before venturing, “Then again—if Peter really is mad, truly mad, we’d be under obligation to interfere.”
“What do you mean?”
“Madness and nonsense is our sphere. So if Peter is mad, we’ll help. If he’s not mad, we won’t. If he thinks he’s mad, he’s most certainly not—madmen never believe themselves mad—so if he thinks we’ll help, we won’t. But if he doesn’t think we will, we might, but only if he’s wrong.”
Then, without warning or goodbye, the cat vanished. “What does that mean?” she called. She hadn’t even blinked. The striped cat and his beastly yellow eyes seemed to have been snatched right out of the fabric of the scene. She sighed and picked up her dish basket. The cat was far from the first queer thing to happen to her this week, but Gwen was a little too old to be comfortable with such unusual encounters, no matter with what frequency they happened.
As she walked, she heard the cat call back an answer before scampering off to whatever far reach its body had already disappeared to.
Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University’s online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at audreygreathouse.com
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