Magic Kingdom

Plastic Bird

Ned Vasey walked into Disneyland with a Yellow-Billed Hornbill in a cardboard box that read tinsel and lights. He imported the bird from Africa and it had arrived just in time, as the man on the phone had been specific about when he should bring the creature. That day, park security had, in a delicious twist of irony, been replaced by counterfeits. They motioned Ned through the gate with a smile.

Ned walked towards Adventureland, his eyes glued to the Matterhorn in the distance with its rocks made out of glass-fibre reinforced concrete, created by pouring liquid latex over real rock formations to form the shape of the mould.

He joined the queue at the Jungle River Cruise, meandering around a Colonial-style trading house. He stepped out of line at the point where an animatronic Hornbill was perched over the visitors. Here Vasey knew what to do, and climbing up the side he switched his bird for the fake one while the line kept moving. The real bird hopped around from one leg to another on its perch, startled by daylight, but it did not leave its new house of tea chests and pinned insects.

Ned sat near the front of the ride itself, where the tour guide stood. As the boat set off this man joked, “Just for your information, all of the animals here on the Jungle Cruise are real. But their feet have been bolted to the ground for your safety.”

The water lapped and pulled at the boat like the run off on a chocolate sundae. The tour passed a number of different plants and animals. At one point the guide said, “Hey look there, what kind of snake is that?” Someone guessed it was a boa constrictor, and the guide said, “No, it’s a plastic snake.” Only it looked pretty real to Vasey. He wondered if others might have done what he had, guided by that voice on the phone.

The guide said, “There that’s something you don’t see every day.” He gesticulated towards a plastic pygmy in long grass, before adding, “I do, every 15 minutes.” When the guide turned away, Ned was sure the pygmy waved.

As the tour disembarked, the guide said, “Well folks, I hope you all enjoyed your trip around the jungle. I had such a good time I’m going to go again! And again, and again.” Imagine, Ned thought, if a hundred others did the same as him. He hurried off the boat, brushing a rock, which felt cold – real. Outside he saw white clouds rolling over the Matterhorn. Then snow. Vasey blinked, but it was true.

Animal sounds filled the air. The leaves on the trees were suddenly less green, but plumper and natural. Ned realized something extraordinary was going on. He saw a manager walking by as fast as he could without running.

Ned‘s eyes followed his path, and as the manager panicked, all around him the painted birds of Disneyland flew away.

more by JAKE CARTER-THOMAS

Jake Carter-Thomas’s latest novel – Nineveh Fades, or, The Bomb Shelter

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