Chapter 1: Prologue: Uncle Walt
The First Keeper
Prologue: Uncle Walt
“So he knew about us before we were even born,” grinned Maybeck, “How awesome is that? We were handpicked by Walt!!”
“And it looks like I’ve made the right decision,” said a voice from directly behind Wayne.
The Keepers’ shock grew tenfold as they stared at the new speaker, unable to speak.
The tall man with the thin, gray moustache and the smile that could brighten up anybody’s day stood in the doorway of the kitchen.
“Hello, Keepers,” he said, “You can call me Uncle Walt.”
Finn blinked once. He shut his eyes tight and silently counted to three, then opened his eyes again.
Walt Disney was standing before them.
This can’t be happening, thought Finn as he shook his head in disbelief. He repeated his vision exercise. Even in Disney World, things weren’t always as they seemed.
Three unsuccessful attempts later, he was forced to admit defeat.
The man standing in Wayne’s apartment was in fact Walt Disney.
Suddenly feeling emotionally and mentally drained, Finn collapsed onto the couch. His fellow Keepers did the same. They were just as dumbfounded as their leader.
Not a single eye strayed from Walt’s timeless face.
After several seconds of silence, Walt found himself bombarded with questions.
“How are you still alive??”
“When did you get here??”
“Are you really Walt Disney??”
“What do you think about the theme parks??”
“Where have you been this entire time??”
“Why didn’t you show yourself before??”
“Where were you when Finn was captured by the Overtakers??”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!! Hold your horses, my young friends,” chuckled Walt as he raised his hands for silence, “One question at a time, please!”
The entire room seemed to be holding its breath.
“I-I don’t understand what’s going on here,” Willa whispered.
The other Keepers nodded in agreement. The confusion on every face was clear.
“It’s really quite simple, my dear,” Walt replied, “Allow me to explain…”
“Well, now, where should I begin?” wondered Walt as he settled into a kitchen chair. Wayne pulled up a second chair for himself.
“To answer your biggest question, I am indeed the real Walt Disney.”
“But, Mr. Disney-“
“Uncle Walt, please, Mr. Philby. Mr. Disney was my father!”
“Sorry. Uncle Walt, how is that possible?” Philby wanted to know, “You’ve been dead for almost 40 years!!”
“That is an excellent question. To be honest, I don’t completely understand it myself! I remember being admitted into the hospital for surgery on an old polo injury, being told I had terminal lung cancer, and given only a few months to live. I remember that I was devastated because I would be leaving my family behind and would never get to see my Florida Project completed. A few moments before I died, I had a vision: the Magic Kingdom was finished, and EPCOT had become the ‘Progress City’ that I wanted it to be. People from all over the world lived and worked there, and the Monorail system was the main method of transportation in the city. As my spirit left my body, I could feel my brother, Roy rubbing my feet. I paused to look at him one last time. He had tears in his eyes and was whispering, ‘Well, Kiddo, I guess this is it.’ Then, a doctor came in with a clipboard and I saw Roy sign something. Everything went black then, just as the rest of my family came into the room. I knew then that I had died… or at least, I thought I did. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in front of Cinderella’s Castle!”
Walt paused for a moment to allow this information to sink in. A nod from Finn encouraged him to continue his story.
He sighed. “That was six months ago. I was hoping to find some answers somewhere in one of the parks. Maybe the seven of you can help me out with that. You all, of course, are familiar with the catchphrase of the Magic Kingdom?”
“The Most Magical Place on Earth!” exclaimed Charlene.
“Exactly, Ms. Turner,” said Walt.
Maybeck exchanged a look with the other Keepers.
“Of course we will help you figure this out, Uncle Walt. But, where have you been this entire time? Why haven’t you tried to show yourself to us before?”
Walt gave him a small smile.
“As far as the world is concerned, I have been dead for nearly 4 decades!! Can you imagine how people would react if they saw me walking down Main Street U.S.A.?? The press would have a field day!! No, it’s best that I remain hidden for the time being. The only people who know about this are sitting in this room. If the OTs found out about this, the parks would be in serious trouble!!”
He looked down at Finn sadly.
“I’m sorry about what they did to you, Mr. Whitman. I wanted to help rescue you, but there were too many risks involved.”
“I understand, Uncle Walt,” replied the teen, “You never told us where you’ve been staying this whole time.”
“I divide my time between this fire station and the Cinderella suite up in the castle. That space was, after all, originally going to be an apartment for myself and my family when we visited the parks!!”
More silence followed his words. Finally, Wayne stood up from his chair and stretched.
“It’s getting late. You all need to Return now.”
He took the Return out of his pocket as the Keepers got up from the couch.
“Wait,” Jess yelled before the Imagineer could send them all back to their beds, “What do you think of the parks, Uncle Walt? Have they lived up to your expectations?”
“They are everything I’ve ever wanted and more,” he answered, “and I know you kids do whatever it takes to make sure my dreams are protected.”
The Keepers beamed with pride.
“Farewell, my Kingdom Keepers. We will talk again soon.”
The seven Keepers said their good-byes as Wayne pressed the button…
Chapter 2: Nightmares
Finn relives the nightmares he faced during his last encounter with the Overtakers...
Chapter 1: Nightmares
Finn was petrified with fear, though he tried not to show it.
He was kneeling on the floor of an enormous library, surrounded by hundreds of Overtakers. His hands were shackled in magical chains behind his back. If they had been ordinary manacles, Finn would have had no problem escaping from his captors. He could have simply gone All Clear, and his DHI state would have allowed him to make his getaway…
Finn almost dared to laugh out loud.
Escape was impossible. Even if his DHI had worked, he was still dangerously outnumbered. The two pirates who had their swords pressed against his throat made sure he wasn’t getting any bright ideas.
“Still alive then, boy?”
Finn felt a shiver run down his spine.
Here we go again, he thought.
Hades, God of the Underworld and leader of the Overtakers, emerged from the shadows. Although his voice was calm and steady, the look in his pale yellow eyes showed that he was not pleased. After all, the last time he and Finn had crossed paths, the teen had sacrificed himself to save his fellow Kingdom Keepers.
The other Overtakers seemed to sense his displeasure. Several of them pressed themselves further into the fake bookshelves.
“Well, you know me, Hades,” Finn smirked, “I’m like a bad penny. I keep turning up.”
“So it would seem,” Hades growled as he approached Finn.
The pirates’ grip tightened.
Hades reached out to Finn and grabbed his chin. Finn reluctantly stared back into his enemy’s angry face.
“Now, my young captive,” Hades whispered, “tell me where I can find the First Keeper…”
Finn shot up in bed, drenched in sweat and panting as if he had been running a marathon. It took him awhile to realize that he was in his own bedroom instead of the tiny, dark cell in which he had been kept nearly two weeks ago.
As his breathing and heart rate slowly returned to normal, Finn tried to remember what had happened in his most recent nightmare.
It was the same one he had been having night after night since his fellow Keepers had rescued him. They always started differently. Sometimes he was being ambushed by a troop of Green Army Men in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat. Other times, he was chained to a pole on the Hollywood Studios main stage being tortured while the OTs laughed at him.
But, no matter how the nightmares began, he always ended up back in the library of the Tower of Terror.
Helpless. Hopeless. Friendless.
Tonight’s horror, however, had one major change.
Tonight, when he had found himself once again kneeling on the library floor, Hades had said something unexpected.
“Tell me where I can find the First Keeper.”
The Keepers still found it hard to believe that Walt Disney, the man behind the theme parks, Snow White, and Mickey Mouse, was alive and well nearly 40 years after his supposed death.
On the night they learned of Walt’s return, their mentor sent each of them a text message.
Imagineer1: This stays between us. For now.
Finn sighed. The morning after the reveal had not been easy. He had to make up a lame excuse at breakfast when his father asked why he was so cheerful.
Finn had then shared an explanatory look with his mother.
Although she understood his secrecy, he had found it extremely difficult not to be able to confide in the one family member who knew about his life as a Keeper. His father and younger sister would think they had both gone insane.
Soon, he silently promised her. I’ll tell you very soon.
Finn glanced at his alarm clock.
Bringing himself back to the present, he laid back down and soon drifted off to a dreamless sleep.