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AVON FANTASY READER NO. 9

Child's Play

by Alice-Mary Schnirring

Everyone familiar with children knows the phenomenon of the imaginary playmate. The brains of children, being evidently far more imaginatively flexible, carry on the creation and development of invisible companions to an extent adults cannot conceive of. In some gifted cases, such as the Brontës, the creations of childhood encompassed whole worlds of people and events... out of which in the case of the authors of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" came great adult literature. In this different story of the operations of this psychological phenomenon comes a sense of growing uneasiness and culminating terror.

HENRY bent lower over the drawing-board as the twilight deepened. With a dark-red crayon, he filled in the outlines of another city; then, with a pen dipped in India ink, drew—rapidly and with remarkable delicacy and skill for a twelve-year-old—a temple, a palace, and a barracks; and sketched in hastily some ambiguous dwelling places. He muttered to himself as he worked.

"This'll keep old Charley Anderson in his place, I bet," was the tenor of his mumblings. "His barracks only have room for about two hundred warriors, and my Royal Guards can clean them up with one hand tied behind their backs. Anyway, the Thorvians are a bunch of sissies." In large letters, he labeled the city "THORVIA," and sat back with a little smile on his face, wiggling his fingers to uncramp them.

A voice called from somewhere downstairs. "Hen-reeee. Hen-reeee! Your dinner is ready! Why aren't you ever around to help me set the table or anything, instead of sulking up in your room all the time? Why—" the voice trailed off into peevish, whining incoherencies. The boy stood up, scowling; but prepared, laggingly, to go downstairs. He paused, however, for one more look at the map.

It was drawn with remarkable precision. It appeared to be a map of a mountainous country, dominated by one large city, built on the top and upper slopes of the highest of the mountains. This city, marked "DRACO," was elaborately and painstakingly developed with the little India ink symbols. A truly magnificent palace was at its very heart; and around the palace, cunningly enough, were strong barracks, each with a watch-tower. Beyond these, again, was a very wide, bare, circular road, completely surrounding barracks, palace, gardens and all. Apparently the ruler of this kingdom had a healthy distrust of his subjects, or else expected, but was prepared for, an invasion.

The remainder of the map bore out the second theory; for Draco was the heart of a whole system of smaller cities, or states. Since each city had a palace (though none as impressive as the one in Draco), the effect was that of a feudal overlord, surrounded by lesser rulers. So, in fact, was the case. Henry, who dragged out a dreary existence with his aunt and uncle— an existenc...

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