Why, why, why am I considering another story? I currently have three fanfiction stories going simultaneously and all three require plenty research for each chapter. So, why am I doing this? Why?
Because I am insane and I re-watched the "James and the Giant Peach" recently. Thus, my imagination was sparked and this is what happened in my head as a result. When my imagination takes control of my life, it is far simpler to indulge it rather than resist the temptation. Hopefully, I'll be able to handle this new collection of characters well and provide a storyline my readers will enjoy.
Due to the fact that there are several stories ahead of this one, along with my notoriously unreliable update schedule due to real life, I cannot even come close to predicting how often a chapter will be added to this story. You have been warned.
And just so you know, I can't write an accent at all. So I won't even attempt such a thing. I will write them normally, but that doesn't mean the characters aren't speaking as they did in the movie. So, just go with it.
Finally, I am going with the movie version of "James and the Giant Peach" rather than the literary version. I have actually read the book (a long time ago), but always enjoyed the movie far more. So I'll be using that version of events to work with. And just like the movie, it begins with narration of how it all begins (in italics… it'll go back to normal when it catches up to the present). I hope you enjoy the story.
There's More to Magic Than Crocodile Tongues
It began with a boy who lived in a cozy little cottage by the sea.
No, it began before then. It began when magic and beings of incredible power were not so impossible to believe in. It began when the people understood there were many unexplainable things in the world and superstitions were true. It began when the mists of mystery surrounded creatures whose abilities were far beyond that of humans. It began when creatures of the fae walked the land freely. It began near the dawn of time, before civilization and science began to blind mankind to what existed in front of them.
It began with two brothers. Two brothers who were as different as night and day, as different from each other as they were from humans. Their names and appearances might change, but their true nature never did. They were powerful entities that could have destroyed all of life or cured all the ills of the world. But neither would allow the other to go so far. One brother would not allow his sibling to protect the helpless people from all the evil of the world, but the other kept him from wiping those same people off the face of the planet. They were trapped in a stalemate until they began their promises.
Their words were binding. Anything they promised, they would have to perform. Their magic, the power that made them so unstoppable and invincible, would not allow them to break their word. It forced them to obey their promises, so the siblings decided on rules. They created rules to bind and limit their abilities so that the stalemate would be broken. And the first rules they chose was to only work on small scale. Individuals instead of whole populations, families instead of whole species. They also decided that, when possible, to be subtle and influence others to make their own choices rather than taking direct action.
But one brother, one who preferred to cause harm and destruction to all the lesser beings, was unhappy with the limitations. He wished to destroy all the creatures that were below him in power and importance, which were all of them in his opinion. For ages, he pushed against those limitations, trying his sibling's patience with increasingly obvious attempts to bring about chaos and death.
Finally, he created a being of smoke, light, and destruction. His creature took the form a dangerous beast and ran across the sky while trailing a storm behind it. With cruel glee, he turned it loose upon an innocent family to test its power.
It began with a boy who lived in a cozy cottage by the sea. He lived there with his parents and dreamed of a distant city they promised he would someday see. They were happy. And then the dark beast, a rhinoceros made of smoke and lightning, devoured the boy's mother and father before his eyes.
No one would believe his tale of such a creature; a herbivorous rhino is so different from the nightmarish construct of malicious magic the boy described that all who heard the tale believed he made it up or it was just a horrible dream of what really occurred to his family. Only his heartless aunts listen to the story, but only so they could use it to further frighten and torture the child.
But the two brothers both knew that the boy spoke the truth and it was the last straw. The more benevolent sibling, currently accepting the name of Alwin as his own, would not allow this to continue. His brother would have to be stopped before more bloodshed occurred.
The pair met on a high cliff, far from the boy's seaside home or the house of his aunts' where he now lived. Alwin currently looked like a scruffy, dark-haired balding man. His brother, using the name Oliver, was blond and wearing a clean and neat suit of a business man. They looked like unlikely individuals to have business with each other, but they always seemed to end up that way.
"You wish to make a new arrangement, brother?" asked the blond man, looking bored by the suggestion. "I rather think not."
"You are stepping too close to breaking the rules already," pointed out Alwin.
"Bending, dear brother. I can't break the rules," he quickly corrected. "I'm just testing my limits."
The balding man took a step forward, "I will not allow this to continue. What you did, killing those people and leaving that boy to live a life a misery, is not what is supposed to be. You are interfering too much lately and it will stop."
Oliver yawned boredly and began to walk away, but paused after a moment. Slowly, he turned back towards his brother with a rather confident smile.
"Why don't we make things more interesting?" suggested the blond man. "We could make a game out of this. If you win, I will surrender my power until it is only one hundredth of its true potential. But if I win, the limitations on my influence on the world are gone."
"No, I will not gamble such an important safeguard for the world," he stated firmly. "If you were not bound while I was, all life would be lost within a year."
"True, but imagine all the good you could subtly do for all those lower creatures if I was weaker? Surely such a reward is worth a risk?" tempted the malicious magical entity.
It was true. Without having to worry about his sibling's actions, it would make things easier. Mankind and all other life forms would be far safer without Oliver creating such monsters at that rhino to terrorize the world.
"Very well," he agreed uneasily. "What do you have in mind?"
"We shall choose a champion. You will give him magical aid to gain his most treasured dreams. I'll give his worst nightmare's shape with my power. Whichever proves stronger, dreams or nightmares, shall determine the winner," described Oliver.
"You wish to bring an innocent person into our contest? To turn their life into a game for our needs?"
"You are the one who has so much faith in the potential of every living creature, from the arrogant human in their metal cities to the blind and lowly worm curled up in the dirt. If you truly believe they deserve to be protected, to have your powers used to help them, surely they can prove their worth."
With great reluctance, Alwin agreed, "I accept, but only if I may choose and only if you limit your torments of him to only three trials."
"Of course, brother," he grinned, bowing mockingly to his sibling. "Do you have a particular weak-willed human in mind?"
"Yes," nodded the scruffy-looking man. "You have already destroyed his life with your actions. It is only fair that we give him the chance to regain his happiness. The boy, James Henry Trotter, was not meant to be miserable."
"The child? That is your choice?" Oliver smirked. "Do you wish for me to win this contest?"
Alwin shook his head, "He has far greater potential than you can imagine. Do you promise to keep your end of the agreement if you lose?"
"I promise," agreed the blond man, his words sealing the bargain on his end.
The contest began badly for the more benevolent sibling. He handed the brown-haired boy one thousand long slimy crocodile tongues, with more magical potential than the human child could ever imagine. But within moments of being provided this precious gift, he slipped and spilt the glowing green tongues across the ground. Though he was warned to be careful to keep them safe since their power would be used upon the first thing they encountered, James lost the only help that Alwin could provide him.
Oliver mocked his sibling's apparent failure, asking him how an overgrown fruit and a handful of enlarged vermin that swiftly hid inside the peach would help the boy against the coming trials. Those words swiftly fell away as James and the collection of bugs managed to move the giant peach to the sea. The possibility that the child might succeed, that he might make it to his goal of New York City and happiness, was vaguely possible at that point and Oliver would have to focus on preventing that.
His tests included a mechanical shark, one that spat out the revolting dish that James' aunts provided him. It was designed to test the waters, to see how the boy would react. His clever ideas and the surprising amount of teamwork from the collection of arthropods demonstrated this was a bigger challenge than Oliver expected.
Next, he reanimated a skeletal crew in the freezing cold ocean the peach managed to wander into. They would prey on his fears of failure, of being lost for all of time and never gaining his dreams. He intended them to prevent them from gaining a compass and remain lost at minimum, but would prefer to have them killed in the process. Both of his goals for the undead pirates, Vikings, and other assorted skeletons failed.
His final test, one that should have destroyed the child's emotionally and, hopefully, literally, was to send the same rhino after them. His beast of smoke and lightning attacked the airborne fruit and the surprisingly-brave boy. He should have shattered with fear or at least died when the peach fell from the sky. But James survived. He made it to New York City.
Oliver should have lost at that point, but he'd prepared a back-up plan the night that the boy and his companion rolled away from the house on the hill. He wasn't one who shied away from bending the rules. As the child and peach were lowered to the ground, his aunts arrived in the crushed car that they "somehow" managed to drive across the ocean. If they dragged him away and back into misery, it would mean that Alwin had failed. After all, James wanted to make it to the city and be happy. It could have worked.
But his sibling wasn't going to let the cheating go unchallenged. From within the crowd, he shouted for James to be allowed to speak. The boy managed to stand up to his cruel relatives and, thanks to the timely arrival of the magically-altered bugs that were completely loyal to the child, found a way to gain his happiness.
And Oliver had lost. Somehow, he'd failed in his attempts to defeat a mere boy. A normal, average, absolutely-powerless human child managed to weather whatever horror that was tossed at him. James Henry Trotter did not falter, did not fail, and did not quit. He and those overgrown pests were the reason that he now had to fulfill his end of the bargain. His potential power had dropped to pathetic level, one hundredth of what he was capable of.
It was that boy's fault. That boy and the collection of bugs he considered family… Something would have to be done.
It began with a boy who lived in a cozy peach pit in Central Park.
For someone who spent a reasonable portion of his life isolated from other children, he was actually fairly popular now. Boys and girls from all over the city would make their way to the park, to the brown and oddly-shaped house that rested there, and would beg him for stories. They loved his stories of how he arrived in this city, of how he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a very unique vessel, and how he met his very unusual and very wonderful family. But even with all this attention, James Henry Trotter did not become arrogant. He was simply happy to have friends.
Some aspects of his tale seemed too fantastic to be true. Using seagulls to fly a giant peach, battling against a mechanical shark, diving down into a frozen sea to fight aggressive skeletons, and facing down a monstrous rhino above the skyscrapers of the city seemed impossible. But the fact that the children could sometimes gain glimpses of his unique family, a large spider, an eloquent grasshopper of extraordinary size, or a six-foot long earthworm who always seemed to fear the worst, would give his stories far more weight. Besides, the newest mayor of the city just happened to be a rather verbal centipede. Surely the concept of a flock of birds being captured to obtain flight was not nearly as fanciful as that?
As the brown-haired boy drew near the end of the story, the part where his evil aunts were bound in a cocoon of spider silk and carried away forever, the door to his house opened a crack. The head that poked out was certainly not one that belonged to a human. She had twice the normal amount of eyes, each one a bright yellow-green shade. Her face was so pale, that it could only be called white in color. Her smile was warm, but her fangs would likely unnerve someone not used to her appearance. On top of her head was a black beret. She was a being of shadows and the silence of the night; she was a giant form of a creature that many people feared. But she was also one of James' very first friends and far more compassionate towards the young boy that one would expect.
"James, dinner is ready," called the large arachnid.
"All right. Just a minute," he answered as some of his audience waved at her.
She nodded in acknowledgement of the boy's response and the other children's reaction before closing the door. Another moment or so would not make a great deal of difference and it was so nice to see him happy. James was the reason that she and the others had changed and made it to this city. He was usually too humble to realize how much they owed him and that he deserved whatever happiness they could give him. And if that meant giving him a few more minutes to finish his story, that would be perfectly fine.
As James finished his tale, he didn't notice that he had an extra listener. Away from the small crowd of children, hidden beneath the shadows of the trees, someone watched the boy. An individual with blond hair, dressed as a successful business man, stood perfectly still as the group slowly dispersed and James wandered back into his home. The watcher did not come for the story, however. He was simply observing, learning their habits and schedules. He was biding his time. Time is one thing that he always had on his side.
Humanity had many interesting phrases that Oliver had picked up over the ages. One that seemed to fit perfectly for this situation was "revenge is a dish best served cold." And he truly felt it was time for some revenge. Even with only one hundredth of his true power at his disposal, he was a dangerous force to face.
Dinner was a rather enjoyable experience for the unconventional family. James remembered his Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker stuffing their faces while he had to choose between the creepy fish heads in the oven or a few broken potato chips from the trash. It was not a happy or pleasant time for the boy; the only positive aspect was that it marked the end of hard day of chores. But once he left that miserable house on the hill, meals had become far more wonderful. It started with their inventive preparations of the peach into a variety of treats, but even after they landed in New York City they continued to make dinner special.
With their wide array of careers, it was difficult to have all of them together at the same time. One was mayor, one a professional violinist, one was a spokesperson for a new skin cream, one a very successful maternity nurse, one the owner of a night club, and one spent most of her time illuminating the Statue of Liberty. That meant their schedules were drastically different. It was rare for all seven of them to be present at the same instant. Still, they managed to gather together for dinner at least once a week.
"Did you have a nice day with your friends, James?" asked the maternal beetle, drawing a handkerchief from within her bottom-less handbag and beginning to clean his face slightly.
The boy smiled at the spotted-insect, accepting the action easily. She was always the one who acted like the ideal mother and was always ready to take care of the child, which made sense since she'd stated to be the parent of three hundred children and worked as a maternity nurse. She was the only member of the family who could properly fly, her wings tucked beneath her red shell. She wore a pretty red bonnet on her head and was one of the less unsettling of the large bugs due to being so sweet and friendly.
"Yes, Mrs. Ladybug," he answered as she finished. "They really love that story."
"Perhaps, James, you should write it down someday," suggested the green arthropod in his cultured voice. The long-legged insect was both well-read and a talented musician. He wore a monocle on his right eye and his antennas tended to twitch when he was excited. He was one of the eldest member of the family and generally ended up in an argument with another of the large bugs, but he was just as protective of their little group as any of them. "The tale is quite fascinating, isn't it? And I am certain that it would be enjoyed by far more people if it was printed."
"Course it would, Grasshopper. Our Jimmy would knock their socks off if he wrote a book of our adventures," bragged the multi-limbed, Brooklyn-accented arthropod. "It would beat out those dry old things you've been reading lately."
The rash, fun-loving, and optimistic new mayor of the city possessed a total of fourteen limbs along his long frame. Rarely without a cigar in the corner of his mouth, the arthropod wore a grey newsboy cap that covered both his antennas and his pair of powerful pincers. He always acted the least responsible, so it was still fairly shocking to the family how well he was handling the city so far.
"You mean the classics? Shakespeare is by no means 'dry,' Centipede. Of course, if you actually read anything mildly educational or cultured, you might have actually known there are seven seas," pointed out Grasshopper.
"You're never going to let that go, are you?" grumbled Centipede. "So I didn't read the National Geographic as well as I should have."
"You lived in it. You had no excuse not to have gained some knowledge from it."
James interrupted the pair before they could escalate their brewing argument, "I might write it down someday, but I'm fine just telling it to people normally for right now. It's more fun."
"Until you lose your voice retelling it so many times," muttered the blind member of the family.
Long and serpentine, he wasn't so much blind as he lacked any eyes at all. He was made for subterranean life, so eyesight had not been very important until he grew larger and began living above ground. He was generally paranoid, pessimistic, and had a horrible story about the fate of most of his relatives. But he was doing slightly better: he didn't automatically assume they were all about to die a horrible death at any instant.
"Oh, hush," Mrs. Ladybug scolded mildly. "No such thing will happen to him."
"Did you say 'nose-stuck pig's bill, satin two M'?" asked the luminescent member of the family, highly confused by what she thought she'd heard.
A partially-deaf insect with beady eyes, she wore an oversized dark shawl-like outfit. She held a set of opera glasses, trying to focus more closely on those at the table with her. Her pale features and white frizzy hair on her head added further evidence that she was very old, but she still tried to follow the conversations as best as her poor hearing would allow.
She spent the least amount of time at their cozy little home. This was not due to her wishing to avoid her family or anything like that. She spent her nights glowing from the torch of the Statue of Liberty and she wasn't quite energetic enough to travel from the island-based monument to the peach pit in Central Park each day. So, she stayed in the metal structure most of the time and came back on Friday evenings to attend dinner and to spend the night. Having the city power the torch for one night out of the week was not too great a task. Grasshopper tended to be the one to escort her to and from the Statue of Liberty.
Patiently, the green insect corrected in a louder voice, "She said 'no such thing will happen to him,' Glowworm."
"Oh," she muttered. "Well, why didn't anyone say so?"
Moving away from that conversation, Centipede turned towards the black and white striped arachnid, "Hey Angel Fangs, what're you up to tonight?"
"I have to go in to the night club, remember?" she reminded him. "Not all of us have a job that has all the hard work done by others."
"Hey, hey, hey, I do work. Delegating is hard," he defended.
"Come on, Miss Spider, I'm sure his job is just as hard as yours," James remarked. Those two could argue just as easily as Centipede did with Grasshopper, but the arachnid and myriapod always seemed to be less likely to spiral into a full-blown fight. Their interactions always seemed more like friendly teasing, especially since the battle on the sunken pirate ship, in the boy's opinion. That still didn't mean James wouldn't have to occasionally defuse the situation between his oldest friend and amusing big brother-like arthropod. "And you made a delicious dinner tonight."
"Thank you, James," she smiled.
One of the most interesting changes to the group of bugs, besides the obvious, was that their diets had extended an amazing amount. Once, Grasshopper would be limited to the most basic vegetation, Mrs. Ladybug would have preferred aphids to any other option, Earthworm fed upon the dirt that he lived in, and Miss Spider and Centipede would have fallen under the category of predators. Such a limitation would have been problematic while they traveled, but their transformation had meant that they could eat other foods such as the giant peach they were traveling in. Now, they could explore a variety of entrees that even their human companion could enjoy. Though, they always seemed to end their cozy dinner experiences with a peach cobbler whenever possible.
The boy smiled to himself as he watched the collection of bugs that he considered family. Almost no one else in the world would probably view giant versions of such creatures so warmly. Granted, a large portion of the city was becoming at least familiar with them by this point. But, at least initially, some had been frightened by the strange figures. Even he once feared they planned to eat him, but that was a long time ago. And he knew better than most that real monsters could look human. They could even be related to you. And regardless of what they might look like, these particular beings were his friends and would always be there for him.
Sitting at this table, surrounded by his dearest friends, in the middle of New York City, James knew his life was absolutely perfect. All of his dreams had come true.
This is what happens when someone wonders about the background of a mysterious old man who shows up with magical crocodile tongues to turn a young boy's life around and vanishes like a puff of smoke. He even stated that James wasn't meant to be miserable when he gave him the glowing green tongues. I decided to explore the possibilities of that man's past, gave him a name, and I ended up with this story.
If you want to know exactly what type of entity the two magical siblings are, you are likely to be disappointed. You will not a full answer from either of them, only hints and tidbits. And, if you examine the origins of the name, you'll learn that the name "Alwin" means "elf friend" and "Oliver" means "elf army." Take from that what you will.
I also took Zoology recently, so I may bring in odd facts or names when dealing with the bugs (example: arthropoda is the phylum that includes insects and other creepy-crawlies, myriapoda would be the subphylum that includes centipedes, etc.). Hopefully, it should still be clear what I am saying. I can't help that I've always had a large vocabulary and now it's even more extensive.
Updates will likely be very, very, very slow (like months possibly in between chapters), but I do like reviews. They serve as an incentive to keep going. Feedback makes me happy.