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It proved to be a scorcher of a day in Central Florida, with temperatures soaring towards 85 degrees by 8:30 in the morning.

The cast members at Disney’s Hollywood Studios braced themselves for a truly non-magical day, with reports among the different cast communication channels that entry lines were already backed up to the Skyliner entrance. Only five minutes ago, there had been whispers of the necessity to close Slinky Dog Dash because a family of nine had just vomited their way through the entire ride. Medical staff, in their account of the event, noted that at least three members of the ill family said this was the first experience of any COVID symptoms since they had tested positive two days ago. When asked when they tested positive, a large woman, who they all assumed was the matriarch, loudly proclaimed that it was right before they boarded their flight. She then was quoted as saying, “Can we hurry this up? We have an Oga’s Cantina reservation in half an hour.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, attractions leads were reporting Rise of the Resistance was experiencing regular malfunctions and a cast member who opened Tower of Terror was hearing a weird grinding noise she had never heard before as they were testing the one in-service elevator trolley. It was possible three of the main attractions would be shut down before the park even officially opened. Combined with the heat—and a mess of entitled, whiny children and parents whose breakfast consisted of extra large IPAs from the Oasis Canteen before they had even entered the park proper—cast members were readying themselves for a horrific work day.

The only magic they would experience was clocking out at the end of their shift.

With news traveling quickly among guests about the literal breakdown of the park they had reserved for the day, and the inability to get anywhere else until 2 P.M., the functioning attractions and character stops were starting to experience exceedingly long wait times. And with longer wait times came disgruntled park-goers.

The line to meet Mickey and Minnie in their Hollywood costumes, Sorceror’s Apprentice and 1920s Glam, respectively, which normally topped out at 45 minutes, was pushing two hours. Generally, guests were understanding, but there was only so much they would tolerate. And parents, when faced with the prospect of a failed park day (and reflecting on the price they paid for such a day), often made another stop at one of the beer carts to make the wait in line with their children more bearable. If you were to ask any Disney cast member who ever worked a character stop where a line was likely to develop, they could pinpoint the look on a parent’s face when they switched from “I love my children” to “I love them, but holy fuck I don’t like them very much.”

Nohmi Calderone was one of those cast members.

Having been promoted to this character stop only a few weeks ago, she was preparing for a long line of increasingly angry guests with a long list of complaints, none of which she could solve. But, having been through her orientation, she was ready to plaster on a smile and deliver the magical customer service that was expected of her. And, if a guest truly got out of line, she always had the option to go “truly magical.”

Nohmi was surprised that with all the Disney influencers (and wannabe influencers) out in the world, and the amount of Disney content saturating social media, the “truly magical” protocol was still one of Disney’s best kept secrets. Maybe deep down people knew something like it existed. However, Nohmi knew that people, especially Disney adults, would turn a blind eye to anything unsavory about the company and its history if it meant they could keep gobbling down Mickey pretzels and Drinking Around the World with wanton abandon.

Nohmi could tell this family was going to be trouble before they even got to her spot in line. They had already been standing in the beating sun for an hour before getting to the covered area, which marked another hour wait. The parents had alternated leaving the line to come back with margaritas (with the color-changing ice cube, natch), which based on their light color, they had splurged on the tequila floater. They were nice and slurry by the time they arrived to Nohmi, and the two kids with them were already well past their breaking point, and Nohmi could tell they were on the brink of having a third meltdown each. While mom and dad enjoyed their boozy breakfast, the kids were stuck sharing one warm bottle of water and some flat and gooey Uncrustables the mom had scavenged from the bottom of her bag.

The booze and body odor rolled off them in waves once they got to the overhang, and Nohmi threw on her best smile.

“Mickey and Minnie cannot wait to meet you. In order to keep your wait as short as possible, we do ask that you move forward and fill in all available space.” Nohmi used her two finger point to indicate this family should move forward, rather than lean on the railing in single file.

The dad looked at her disdainfully, belched, and moved within inches of her face. The sour combination of cheap tequila, tobacco, and poor dental hygiene made Nohmi’s stomach roil. “I spent thousands for this trip, and my Dakota and Bubba Jr. can’t even go on half the rides they want to because you got woke leftists running this place. So, I’ll stand wherever the fuck I want.”

Nohmi had experienced rude guests before, but this one was already turning out to be unbearable.

She maintained her smile and quickly responded, “Thank you sir for that feedback. Mickey and Minnie can’t wait to meet your family and the other guests we have today. If you could do your best to fill in all open space, I know we’d truly appreciate it.”

This time, the mom decided to chime in with her thoughts. “I don’t like your tone, missy. My husband has made it clear he is dissatisfied, and our kids are miserable, and I would think that you would try to make our experience a bit more magical. Perhaps you should let us move to the front of the line?”

As the other guests began to realize this situation was about to blow up, they all quickly avoided eye contact, suddenly buried in their phones or interested in something they saw in a bush across the way.

Nohmi knew she wasn’t going to get any help from the guests she worked so tirelessly to satisfy.

“Ma’am. I, unfortunately, won’t be able to advance you further in the line. There may be a potential Lightning Lane available if you purchased Genie+ today, and booking that will guarantee an opportunity to meet Mickey and Minnie with less of a line later today.”

The father, his face red due to the combination of intense sun and alcohol before ten in the morning, began to pace back and forth, his drunken stagger prominent as he attempted to keep his footing. “Now listen, little girl. Listen to the adults. We want magic and you aren’t making this very magical.”

The little girl, presumably Dakota, ran up and kicked Nohmi hard in the shin, then ran back and lifted her hand for a high-five from her father, and he met her hand in mid-air. “Daddy, I kicked her because she’s being a bitch.”

The mom, a proud smile on her face, patted Dakota gently on the head to congratulate her. “Yes, honey, she is being quite the bitch, isn’t she?”

Nohmi looked at Bubba Jr., half expecting him to stand up and rush her and punch her in the gut. But, he sat on the concrete, his mouth agape, a vacant expression in his eyes, as drool dribbled down his lips. Then, he let out a rip-roaring fart, and the smell of rotten eggs and rancid garbage began to waft through the air. When Bubba Sr. picked him up, Nohmi could see a brown stain slowly forming on the kid’s shorts.

“Sir, would you like to do something about that?”

“No. I’m not leaving this line until you deliver the truly magical experience we were promised.”

Nohmi had only been working for two hours, but she had already had it. And, if this family wanted something “truly magical,” she was going to give it to them.

She never let her smile falter as she looked the woman in the eye and said “If you could get in line, I’d be happy to make your experience truly magical today. Please give me a moment to chat with another member of Mickey and Minnie’s team, and they will be able to help you!”

Francis Longo had been at the Walt Disney Company for 20 years, and although the “truly magical” protocol was required once a year, it was rare he had to execute it more than that.

But once Nohmi walked into the backstage area, he knew it was serious. Nohmi was kind and sweet, and had dealt with difficult guests before, so for her to pull the lever, and to do so this early in the shift, meant this family was the bottom of the barrel.

She quickly relayed the situation, and although Francis held veto power, he chose not to exercise it. The day had started off pretty shittily, and he just didn’t care enough to try to appease the drunks who were giving his team such a hard time. He supposed they needed to learn what “truly magical” meant in these parts. And by getting this out of his system now, Francis would be better prepared to deal with the long line of disgruntled visitors he knew he’d have to deal with for the remainder of the day.

He stepped outside and quickly ushered the family into the entrance. As they began to head left in the direction the other guests were going, Francis quickly directed them to follow him. In situations like this, it was hard to maintain eye contact, and the horrific smell emanating from the obese grade schooler they were carrying was making his eyes water. Francis quickly ushered them through different backstage areas that guests normally didn’t see, unless they had paid for a premium backstage tour, but he was not worried about them revealing Disney secrets. Because, as truly magical as this experience was, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell anyone.

The adults remained silent as they walked, mainly because they were struggling to stay upright after their morning margaritas. It was evident that the kids weren’t used to this type of physical exertion, because all Francis could hear was their heavy breathing and an occasional whine and whimper.

“Mommy, I’m tired.”

“Daddy, carry me.”

“I poo pooed in my pants.”

“I think I’m gonna throw up from walking this much.”

Francis stopped at the entrance to a small stone shed.

The red entry door was emblazoned with three roughly hewn circles, which looked tribal in nature, almost implying a hidden Mickey.

The dad, after taking a few gasping breaths, spoke up. “I thought we were meeting Mickey and Minnie. What’s beyond that door, ya little sissy?”

He quickly turned to his wife, in a voice he thought was a whisper, and said “Charlene, that must be where all the groomers meet.”

Francis, in that moment, knew he had made the right decision in going along with Nohmi’s decision. “No, sir! This is a one of a kind Mickey and Minnie meet and greet that only a few select guests have the opportunity to experience. Now, we must insist that we take your cell phones, but I promise you, this truly magical experience will live on in your memories, and the pictures will be automatically uploaded to your PhotoPass account.”

The family, looking suspicious, coalesced and gave their cell phones to Francis, who opened the door and slowly led them down a flight of stone stairs. Torches were lit on the walls, lighting their path, but he still warned them to be careful, especially given the parents’ state of inebriation and the childrens’ obvious lack of physical ability.

They stepped into a large open chamber, with a giant fire burning in a large metal font stationed between pillars arranged in a circle.

The parents and children were silent in awe at what they saw and Francis found a grin slowly creeping onto his face.

“Whhhh… what… what is this?” the little girl stammered.

“I want to meet Mickey!” the flatulent boy yelled.

“Shut up you ungrateful little shits. We’re meeting Mickey and Minnie. We didn’t raid your college funds to pay for this trip just to have you complain,” the mom griped, as she chugged what was left of her margarita.

Francis cleared his throat. “Well, friends. Thank you so much for joining us today and for demanding a truly magical experience. It’s because of families like you that we can continue to provide the magic for travelers from all around the world, and will be able to keep the magic going for centuries and decades to come. Now, if you’ll just wait here, I’ll step to the side—and Mickey and Minnie will join you momentarily. Please do not approach them until they step up and greet you. Thank you.”

As if it was planned for dramatic effect, a stone door across the way began to roll open. Dakota and Bubba Jr. began to convulse with excitement as they saw two mouse silhouettes step out from the light beyond.

Mickey and Minnie stepped forward into the glow of the central fire.

Perhaps it was the reflection from the fire, or maybe it was the tequila, but the parents could’ve sworn that Mickey and Minnie’s eyes glowed red and their smiles looked more like grimaces. And were those fangs? They quickly grabbed for their children, pulling them in close.

“Wait for them to approach,” the mom stammered, unsure if she would let them walk forward if they asked. But, the kids began to struggle against their arms, screaming about wanting to go to the characters, and they would hate them forever if she didn’t let them go.

Francis, who had quietly stepped back into the shadows, observed the proceedings quietly. He had to give a speech, one which he was surprised he still knew, having only recited it when absolutely necessary.

“Through the ages, the populace has demanded magic. And through the years, we have met that request. But magic does not come free. At time, it dims. And we must feed the magic like we do the eternal fire that burns here in this sacred chamber. Thank you to this family—mother, father, daughter and son—whom, through their actions, have made it known they only want to experience the truest of magic. Although not worthy of the air they breathe and the space they inhabit up above, your loyal subjects have deemed them worthy of the space below. If you only knew how much your willing sacrifice would mean to our ability to continue to make magic throughout the ages.”

Bubba Sr., who suddenly was clear of mind, turned around and glared at Francis, “What the fuck exactly is going on here?” But, since he was distracted, he loosened his firm grip on his children, and they, sensing his moment of weakness, bolted to meet the characters standing a few feet in front of them.

Charlene gasped loudly and screamed, “Kids, get back here.”

But it was too late. As Dakota and Bubba Jr. ran, arms outstretched, the characters in front of them began to change.

Mickey and Minnie opened their mouths, and it wasn’t the effects of the alcohol after all. What were normally smiles were now grimaces lined with shiny, sharp fangs. Their eyes were, in fact, demonic red. Their mouths became gaping maws, hinging well beyond what a normal jaw would allow. The parents were transfixed, as two giant tentacular tongues slithered from the depths of the characters’ mouths and wrapped around their two children. Before Bubba Sr. and Charlene could protest, the tongues retracted, Mickey and Minnie’s jaws snapped shut; the children already being digested down their gullets. The only evidence of the children was a Buzz Lightyear Croc, which had fallen off of Dakota’s foot when the tentacle tongue had swiftly lifted her off the ground.

Charlene and Bubba Sr. turned around and attempted to run, but they knew it was too late. They heard the creaking noise emanating from the demons across from them, meaning their mouths were already hinging open. Then they heard the slurping and sliding of their monstrous tongues. Charlene was the first to go, as she felt the slimy grip of the creature’s tongue around her ankle. It jerked her quickly, and she vomited as she felt her body slam onto the ground. She couldn’t catch her breath as she was dragged closer and closer to her demise.

Bubba Sr. turned around in time to see the tentacle from the Mickey thing wrap around his wife’s other ankle, only to hear his wife in half. Each creature consumed the half of his wife they had in their grips as if she were a Liberty Square turkey leg. He tripped, landed on his back, and his screams were drowned out as the creatures descended upon him and feasted on his flesh and bones.

Once he knew the ritual was over, Francis stepped out of the shadows.

As he was taught during his orientation 20 years ago, and had been required to do throughout the past two decades, he crossed his arms across his chest, took a bow, and said in a practiced, falsetto voice, “Oh, boy!”

The monsters began to reform back into their familiar shape, meaning they knew Francis was not to be consumed.

Before he left the chamber, he looked at his demonic overlords, and said the closing words of the ancient ritual to indicate the feast was over… for now.

“Have a magical day.”

Eric Mochnacz

A wizard of pop culture. A prince of snark. A delightful addition to any dinner party.

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