Chapter One: Pleasure Island
Pleasure Island was a place of dreams, and the time spent there flew like a cat on fire. Pinocchio certainly had no idea how long he'd been there. He felt like it had only been a day, yet his skills at the various games offered on the island had increased greatly during the time he had spent there. He was one of the fastest at destroying property at the Model Home, and at pool he was second only to Lampwick, who had been playing his whole life. His fighting, especially, was notable: his wooden body was insusceptible to bruising, and more often than not, the other fighter was sent out crying.
One day, there came a fight that changed everything. Pinocchio had ended up pinned into a corner by one of the most famous boys on the Island, Sangue. Back home Sangue had been the leader of a gang, and had gotten into a series of scraps that had ended with him on the run from the police. He had ended up at Pleasure Island in his escape, and become something of a gang leader again, taking control of a good portion of the rowdy boys that lived there.
Pinocchio, who had been getting stronger and fiercer every day, had managed to catch the attention of Sangue. Sangue had been looking for a new fight, and he had finally found one: the whispered "wooden boy" who could take any punch without so much as a mark. Sangue sent a challenge to Pinocchio through a string of boys, and had at last faced him in the far corner of the Rough House, the tent where fights took place.
Sangue had started with the tried-and-true quick hook, but Pinocchio, fast and hardy, caught it. No one had ever done that before, and Sangue was honestly surprised. Caught off guard, he began to make a series of threats and boasts as he swung again and again at Pinocchio, who either dodged or simply took head-on the forceful hits.
Hearing Sangue's boasts, Pinocchio began to respond in kind. His boasts were ridiculous lies, and as he spoke his nose grew. The other boys in the tent, who had all been fiercely fighting, stopped to watch the new match growing before their eyes. Everyone could tell that both the nose and the fight were sights to remember, and their rowdy catcalls ceased as the fight became more and more desperate.
Like most brawls, the pivotal moment occurred without warning. Sangue, who had grabbed onto Pinocchio's arm, was flung off against the corner of the tent. Pinocchio, high off of the fight, laughed and charged Sangue.
"You're nothing! I can't be beaten!" Pinocchio said excitedly, causing his nose to grow again. He pulled back a fist to punch, but he slipped, and fell against Sangue who was trapped against the wall. The nose, still growing, began to erupt into small branches just as it smashed into Sangue's eye.
There was a horrible scream, and a stream of blood began to run down Pinocchio's nose. Pinocchio stepped back in confused panic, and the boys standing around retreated. Sangue fell to his knees screaming and crying, clear tears falling from one eye and red tears falling from the other.
Pinocchio ran away and hid in panic. He eventually went to the quiet Eight Bar on the island and played pool for a few days with Lampwick to try to forget what had happened. However, the news of his violent and shocking victory spread more vastly and quickly than he could've imagined, and the Coachman, the demonic master of the island, happened to overhear news of the event. He began to develop a special interest in Pinocchio, the mysterious fighting wooden boy.
As the days passed, more and more boys on the island began to disappear. Pinocchio and Lampwick hardly noticed, as their games of pool had begun to practically control their lives. Pinocchio's previous fight had scared him off from any more fighting, while Lampwick himself had discovered during his time on the island that he was actually pretty weak- they both now found enjoyment only in the game of eight-ball.
Drinking and smoking, the days and nights passed and existence seemed to blur.
And then, finally, there came a night when Pinocchio and Lampwick played in the Eight Bar completely alone. Pinocchio was struck by the sudden thought.
"Where do ya 'spose all the kids went to, Lampwick?" Pinocchio asked casually, leaning back on a rickety chair.
"Eh, they're around here somewheres." Lampwick replied just as casually. A certain frightening tension lied under their words that neither of them wanted to acknowledge. "What do you care?" He positioned his cue carefully, planning the next move. "You're havin' a good time, ain't ya?"
Just as Pinocchio began to respond the sound of the saloon doors opening interrupted him. A rush of stale air swept into the room. Lampwick's head shot up, and his hand jerked wildly when he saw the large Coachman standing in the doorway. The cue smacked the side of the billiard ball, causing it to roll off target.
"Hello boys." The Coachman grinned. Lampwick shivered and stepped back from the pool table. Back when he had come to the island the Coachman had just seemed to be some random guy transporting children- exactly as a coachman should be. However, as the boys had stayed on Pleasure Island, unpleasant rumors had begun to spread. The Coachman was the only adult on the island, and he could constantly be seen wandering around. Sometimes boys saw vague, shadowy figures standing near him, and one day someone had noticed that the Coachman only had four fingers. That was right around the time that boys began to disappear.
"What do ya want?" Lampwick sneered, trying to keep his cool. The cold terror rising up from within was screaming at him to run.
"I'm not here for you," The Coachman snapped at Lampwick. "Yet." He turned to Pinocchio.
"Whatever." Lampwick muttered. He walked out through the back door. He was going to find someone else on the island just so he could confirm to himself that not everyone had disappeared.
"Wh-what do you want?" Pinocchio asked.
"I've heard things about you, wooden boy." The Coachman smiled. He sat down near Pinocchio. "I heard long ago that you were made of wood…but now I've heard other things as well. I've heard you're practically unbeatable in a fight, and that you can make your nose grow by lying."
"Maybe." Pinocchio said. He looked at the Coachman's right hand which was on the table. It was true- he only had four fingers.
"Boy, I want you to try some things for me…and if you can do them, I want to take you to meet someone." As the Coachman spoke, the temperature of the room dropped ten degrees.
"Who is it?" Pinocchio asked suspiciously. "I won't be an actor."
"Ha ha, no." The Coachman shook his head. "The person is…well, I can't say any more, but if you pass the tests, your life will become wonderful."
"Even more wonderful?" Pinocchio asked. He began feel slightly more comfortable in the Coachman's presence, and he slowly took a big puff from his cigar.
"Yes." The Coachman grinned. "Now come with me."
The tests were strange. First the Coachman had Pinocchio stand up against a wall and take a severe beating from a shadowy beast. Pinocchio couldn't feel any of it because he was made of wood, and the Coachman was deeply impressed.
Next, the Coachman had Pinocchio stand face-to-face with one of the shadowy beasts and continually lie. His nose grew and grew and eventually pushed through the face of the beast, which was standing against a wall. The Beast screamed and shook and eventually died as Pinocchio's nose crushed into its face. Pinocchio wanted to step away, but his elongated nose was now stuck in the dead body of the beast. The Coachman ordered Pinocchio to continue lying, and Pinocchio's nose eventually pushed through the head entirely, and into the wall, at which point it snapped off. Pinocchio was left with sharp, splintered nose, which never fixed itself.
The Coachman had Pinocchio kill several other beasts by crushing their heads in. He insisted they weren't really living things, and so Pinocchio wasn't actually killing anything.
After a few hours the Coachman announced that Pinocchio had passed all of the tests, and that he could meet the "special person". Pinocchio was a little excited, although he mostly wondered if it would be a new kind of person to kill.
Meanwhile, Jiminy Cricket wandered through Pleasure Island. He had been searching for Pinocchio all night, but so far his search had been fruitless. The longer he searched, the more eerie the island became, and he still hadn't come across any people at all.
That was, at least, until he came across a panicked red-haired boy with donkey ears.