The world I found myself in captivated me. Many, especially children, would have deemed this place a huge improvement. Everything here was made of sugary sweets, after all, this was Candyland.
From the top of Gumdrop Pass, I could see a vast, dense forest of lollipops that stretched far to the north. Beyond them, I could just make out what I hoped to be the spires of a castle. To the northeast lay a sea of fizzing brown soda with ice cream icebergs floating on the currents.
Behind me, I could still see the arched tops of the candy canes in the cold forest to the south. That forest reminded me too much of work and the chill in the air had not been as enjoyable as the warm, spring-like air of the gingerbread-plum tree woods. To the south, swamps filled with dark, sticky molasses bubbled and oozed. However, that forest had been more inviting than the black, jagged mountains I’d passed on my way to the gumdrop hills. Those sharp mountains rose up and pierced the sky, tearing at the pink and blue cotton candy clouds that drifted too close.
The scale of the candy and other treats boggled my mind. It was a child’s dream come true and it held my attention and wouldn’t let go. Which was a problem. I wanted to leave. I had work to do. Candy to be sorted and prepped for delivery. I couldn’t be in Candyland and try as I might, I could not get out of this sugar-induced nightmare of a world. I could actually feel the cavities forming in my teeth. Too much exposure to this air and I feared my whole skeleton would rot from the sweetness. My only hope was that the King of Candy Castle would know how to help me get home, wherever that was in relation to this place.
I continued down the pass and met up with the main road once again. I followed it as it traced the northern edge of the Licorice Mountain. As the terrain leveled out into gently rolling fields of green grass and peanut plants, I caught a glimpse of my future. The road to the castle made absolutely no sense as it meandered through the world without any discernable rhyme or reason. It would go west for a stretch, then double back to the east and then turn around yet again as it made obnoxiously slow progress over the fields.
Seeing that, I made a new resolution: I would follow the trial only as a guideline. I knew it would lead me to the castle eventually, and that eventually would come a whole lot sooner if I took a few shortcuts here and there.
I just wanted to go home. At the trail's preferred rate, I wouldn’t make it until Sabrina gave birth, and I had to be there for that!
I marched across the field, shortcutting the path’s many twists and turns and only sticking to it again once it made a beeline to the east and the Lollipop Woods. The woods, that were literally not even a mile north from the base of the Gumdrop Hills.
Why didn’t the trial just lead straight across the valley? I’d wasted so much time. Keeping my cool proved to be a real struggle with this horribly designed trail. When I got to the king, I’d have plenty of suggestions for him on how to fix this mess.
The world became illuminated by multicolored light as I entered the woods. The sunlight passed through the various translucent sweets that towered over me. The ground was a patchwork of colors and when I looked up, there wasn’t a single space for regular sunlight to reach me. It all had to be filtered through the lollies. Even stained-glass windows were less colorful than this forest. Fruity scents filled the air here and made my teeth ache.
Sugary little marshmallow birds and rabbits scurried amongst the trees and ran for cover when they saw me. Their pink and yellow candy coatings made them difficult to spot in this iridescent world.
The trail wove through the forest and emerged at the edge of the Soda Sea. The fizzing liquids created a sticky mist that coated everything. I shrank back from each wave that washed up on the shore, doing my best to keep the griminess away. My clothes were starting to stick in awkward places.
Again the trail doubled back and began heading west once more, leaving the Lollipop Woods behind. With mounting frustration, I spotted the path through the peanut fields within walking distance. I’d missed the fact that I could have crossed the open field and cut hours off of my walk by cutting across the field earlier. My little shortcuts had caused me to miss an even bigger shortcut.
I really hated this trail, and I was coming close to hating candy too. There was too much sugar here. Too much sweetness. Sugar filled the air and with each breath, my sugar high grew worse and worse. How else could I explain all of the distance I’d covered? I must’ve been walking for hours, covers miles and miles, and yet there still seemed to be no end to this land of Candy.
If I was on a sugar high, which was a pretty small if at this point, I suspected that I would crash down any minute and it would be spectacular.
The solid ground gave way to squishiness with each step and the scent of molasses permeated the air. The trail was the only thing that offered solid footing, making it more and more difficult to shortcut its bizarre, winding ways.
Things got worse when I rounded a bend and could see the castle. It wasn’t far away, I could be there in less than half an hour. But of course, the trail didn’t go that way. It continued to wind its way through this sticky swamp and would likely take hours to follow. If I waded through the marshy lands, I could get to the castle and hopefully get out of here.
In the end, the choice was easy. I’d cut across the swamp.
It didn’t take many steps to realize I’d made a mistake. The gooey molasses seeped into my shoes and coated my legs. Each step was a struggle as I tried to pull my foot loose only to plunge it back down a second later.
One time my foot came up and there was no shoe on it anymore. Soon my other shoe disappeared as well. Then went the socks. After another step, my foot sank deeper than I’d expected. I fell forward and struggled to lift my head out of the mess. I managed that, but all of my limbs were now stuck.
What could I do? I didn’t have long to think about it. A choco-dile rose from the stickiness, its purple eyes locked onto me. The reptile had dark chocolate scales that helped it blend into the molasses. Unlike myself, the creature didn’t seem bothered by the sticky, squishy land we were in. The creature approached with slow steps. It didn’t hurry. It knew it had me.
I didn’t give up, I struggled against the mush, trying to free my limbs, trying to find the strength to move at all.
Of course, the sugar crash chose this moment to rear its ugly head. The day’s walking finally caught up with me and I could no longer find the strength to move anything. Even my pinky toe required too much energy to wiggle.
The choco-dile loomed over me for a moment, as if trying to decide which part of me to nibble on first. Then, quick as lightning it lunged forward with its jaws opened wide.
I shot up in bed. Sabrina slept peacefully next to me, her large belly rising and falling at a steady pace. I was home. Candyland was just a nightmare.
I’d been spending too much time with the candy section at work. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over so I could get away from that department and maybe get some time off.
My heartrate slowed down as I took in the sights of our room in the dark. Everything seemed normal until I noticed the elephant casually seated in the rocking chair in the corner.
Our eyes met and it spoke in a posh, nasally accent. “Hello, Kevin.”
I blinked furiously and it vanished. “That’s the last time I watch Phineas and Ferb before going to bed,” I grumbled before laying back down and shutting my eyes.
Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. I needed a vacation.