Copyright notice: The Disney characters mentioned within this story are in no way my own and it would be insulting to the men and women who, over the decades, have dreamed up these wonderful creations to claim them as my own property. I am merely one in a long line of scribblers to raise a pencil to the Disney entity and leave my own tiny mark within it…
Take care of them, he said, and Mickey promised he would.
They don't know what lies out there. Protect them from the world that would harm them, and keep the world in the dark for as long as possible. This world…this whole mess of humanity…they don't deserve to know what joy could live among them.
It was a horrendously pessimistic statement for the old man, so unlike the ever-benevolence he deferred upon the public. The minutes were too, too quickly slipping away into the void of the irrevocable past.
Take care of them. Their future now lies with you…
The conversation played over inside Mickey's head as he walked down the long corridor to Misner's office. Walt's dying wish had been echoing inside his head more often as of late, mocking the Mouse's apparent inability to do much of anything. "Corporate Symbol" seemed to be the only sway he held these days, though the others would, naturally, think otherwise. If they only knew…and yet, it was so good that they didn't know. It was almost better for them to keep believing that the outside world would be another new haven for them to explore rather than the mess of humanity Walt prophesied.
As Mickey approached the hidden door that lead into Misner's palatial, part-time executive suite, he could hear the CEO discussing the latest round of park budget cuts with Mursler.
"I don't understand why the plush isn't selling as well as it should be," the Mouse heard Mursler say. Mickey inwardly sighed. Phil Mursler had done brilliantly when he oversaw the Disney Stores, but now, as Chief of Theme Park Operations, the man simply did not understand how to manage the parks. He judged the success of each park on how well merchandise sold- and Misner seemed quite willing to listen to that new measure of achievement.
There was some rattling of papers- attendance figures, conversion points, and all sorts of numerical markings that didn't give a hint as to the real reasons why the public still continued to flock to the parks.
Not that those two would ever get it.
Misner apparently seemed not to care too much today about how many Pluto plush were flying off the shelves. Instead, he switched topics, flinging Mursler's statement into the realm of the rhetorical. "How are the plans for the Millennium Celebration shaping up?"
"Fine, though I'm concerned about the cost of the pyrotechnics in the Epcot show."
Mickey's ears pricked up. Don't touch it, don't touch it, don't touch it-
"Don't worry about it, Phil. It's not like we're putting in a real pavilion in the World Showcase." Both men laughed.
Shaking his head, Mickey rang pushed the button that lead to a little blinking light on Misner's desk, signaling to the CEO that the Mouse was ready to chat with him.
As the laughter died down, Misner told Phil to keep up the good work and excused the minion. Mickey heard the shuffling of rubber soles on carpet meandering away, the closing of the large oak door and the soft click of the lock. The door in front of Mickey slid open and the mouse stepped out into the office.
"Hello, Mickey," came the automatic response from the CEO.
"Hiya, Nick," Mickey returned, somewhat coolly. "You rang?"
"I did. Have a seat."
Hopping up into one of the leather chairs in front of Misner's desk, Mickey watched the seemingly congenial face of the human, already sensing trouble. "What's up?"
Nicholas seemed to ponder his next statement, the creases in his high forehead furrowing into deep lines. "You know that the new millennium will be starting in less than a year."
Mickey nodded, wondering where this would be leading. "You've been talking about it for a while now."
"Yes, I have." He leaned back into his chair, clasping his hands together on the desk. "And we've been going over designs for Epcot, as you know, and the fireworks, the parade, the new pavilion and the other things we're going to do company wide…but it still seems very empty."
A shiver started at the tip of his tail and itched its way up into Mickey's back.
"So, Mickey, I was wondering: what if, on the eve of a new millennium, the world finally got to discover the Toons?"
The far-off ticking of a clock echoed Mickey's thoughts.
"You're…you're serious, aren't you, Nick?" he finally squeaked.
"Very." The human looked at him, puzzled, having the audacity to be confused. "You're not fond of the idea?"
"Good gosh, Nick, of course I'm not!" Mickey exploded, his high voice pitched with maddened frustration.
"Because, it's-it's…" His voice trailed off, overwhelmed by the sheer number of reasons to keep them hidden. Finally, he sputtered an irate, "You know that can't happen!"
"Why not? You don't think it could work now?"
"No, Nicholas. Not now. Not ever. Good-bye." Tail swishing in anger, Mickey sprang up from his chair and stormed over to his passageway.
"It's not just you and the duck anymore," Misner called out behind him. "Not everyone who lives in Animasia wants to stay there. That's what prisons are for."
Mickey tried not to let himself be baited, but the barb hung ugly in the quietness of the hallway. "You know it ain't a prison, Nick."
"I know. They don't. And they won't know until they find out for themselves what they're missing."
"Nicholas…" Mickey sighed, turning back around.
"Mickey, what good is immortality if you never get to live?"
The Mouse stared at the man for the longest five seconds Mickey had ever known. "Have a good night, Nick," came the final reply.
Misner just shook his head and muttered something to himself that Mickey had no intention of deciphering. He left, the door sliding quietly behind him.
As he stormed away, he had a hard time uncurling his clenched fists stuffed deep inside his pockets. What good is immortality…rubbish. Misner was hardly one to rhapsodize on the pros and cons of eternal youth. His philosophy matched many of the men Mickey had the unfortunate happenstance of knowing over the course of the decades: live hard, drink harder, and accumulate as much wealth as possible by screwing over as many people as possible.
Their immortality was a gift, not a gimmick to increase revenue. He would figure out a way to die before he let some profit-monger turn their world into the latest theme park.
Mickey continued his walk down the cement hallway until he reached a dark stairwell. As he approached, lights began to flicker on, a spiral of glowing lanterns twisting its way hundreds of feet below. He smiled when he remembered Walt telling him about the conniptions the building contractors kept having at Walt's insistence of this underground passageway. The swampy muck of the Sunshine State was hardly the ideal ground for such deep trenching, yet here it was still holding strong.
Magic, Mickey mused grimly, nearing the secured entrance to Animasia. The same magic that brought life to Disney's creations also kept them hidden from the ever-prying eyes of the world. The doors that led into Animasia would only open if someone from Animasia stood waiting to enter; no human, not even Walt had entered the sanctity of their world.
He stood at the massive, arched doorway, staring at the gilded scrollwork adorning the gleaming mahogany boards. The fleur-de-leis and twisting vine metalwork gleamed brightly in the softly lit darkness, a slightly disconcerting effect as no one ever polished the metal. Odd. So many times he had left through these doors to talk, to listen, to be a silent witness to the events that shaped the company's future. Never, in all of those decades, had he ever stopped to simply look at this barrier.
Those who would exploit.
Had he always been so jaded?
Were all people unscrupulous morons? Was he simply enforcing- no, not enforcing- keeping a promise that was ultimately made in the delirium of mortality?
Minnie would know.
Without another moment's thought, he strode forward and entered into the glow of his home, his world, his kingdom.