This is the first chapter of my new book for children called Dinah in Chocolate Land.
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky.
Asleep in a large, comfortable wicker basket, Dinah never fails to wake as the shades of purple and pink reflect off the snow in the courtyard and illuminate the conservatory. The glass walls shimmer with a rosy tint and bright patches of colour dapple the floor and ceiling.
She is the only kitten to wake. The brilliant scene never disturbs Mama, who sleeps deeply and peacefully after a long day tending her latest offspring, Dinah’s younger siblings. On the other side of the basket, Grey and Sooty, mew softly in their sleep.
Daddy Grey’s separate basket is empty. Witch Goodie likes to make her healing potions in the mauve glow of the purple clouds and her familiar, Dinah’s Papa, has moved temporarily into Good Works Cottage to assist with her magic.
Upstairs, Mr and Mrs Liddell, their two daughters, Lorina and Alice, and their son, Benjamin, are also fast asleep. A faint snoring emanates from the master bedroom, and dances in echoing soundbites down the stairs and across the lounge.
As with every other night during Purple Cloud Season, Dinah is the only creature in the house that is awake to see the display. Usually, she goes straight back to sleep, but tonight she hears a sound.
Something is being pulled across the courtyard.
Slipping out of the basket and crossing the marbled floor, Dinah sees a figure hopping through the deep snow. It is a rabbit, his white fur frosted with violet, plum, and rose. He is pulling the strangest looking conveyance Dinah has ever seen. It is a sizeable peony flower coloured a deep fuchsia pink.
A dark shadow, Dinah streaks across the soft carpet and slithers through the cat door. She lands with a soft thud, right in front of the rabbit. The rabbit stops. Behind him, the peony slides to a halt, bumping his tail. The pink eyes of the rabbit snap with irritation and his nose twitches furiously.
“Who are you?” Dinah asks the rabbit. “And what are you doing in my yard?”
The rabbit pulls a large watch from his pocket and exclaims: “Oh dear, I am very late. The Baker will be so angry.”
Grabbing hold of the peony, he rushes forward, without a backwards glance.
As the peony, encased in a shining mantle of ice, slides past, Dinah sees to coal black eyes peering cautiously over the petals. Two light-orange paws appear, followed by the head of the tiniest cat Dinah’s ever seen.
Setting off after it, Dinah follows the peony sledge out of the gate and across a snowy field, glimmering pink and purple as the clouds and sky continued their slow waltz.
The rabbit reaches a large tree on the far side of the field. Standing, head cocked to one side, he studies the tree trunk. His paw shoots out and he presses a large round burl which immediately starts to deepen and grow. Bigger and bigger the burl gets until it’s the size of a round door.
The rabbit, grabs hold of his burden, and bounds through the doorway.
Without a single thought about where the doorway might lead, Dinah leaps, front legs outstretched, and catches on to a peony petal. Clinging to the slippery surface, she disappears into the hole.
The peony flower bumps along a short passageway and suddenly drops down.
Down falls the rabbit. Down falls the peony with the tiny orange cat. Down falls Dinah hanging on with all her might.
Down and down they fall. The tunnel is lighted with dozens of old fashioned oil lamps which throw golden circles of light on the dark walls. The walls are lined with shelves, overflowing with all sorts of treats.
There are piles of pink sugar mice, squeaking in high pitched tones, boxes of jelly balls, and chocolate birds on wires. There are trays of cupcakes in all the colours of the rainbow, and recyclable tubs of chocolate mousse.
The tiny cat’s eyes grow bigger and bigger at the amazing sight, until they shine like polished coal in the golden light. Dinah is sure her own eyes are equally huge and delighted.
Down and down they fall and then …
They land on a soft surface with a jolt. It smells like coconut ice.
Before Dinah can do more than take a deep breath in, the rabbit pads off down a long corridor.
Tired of clinging to the swaying petal, Dinah coils her muscles and launches herself upwards. Legs scrabbling on the slick surface, she manages to drag herself up and onto the top of the flower. Dropping down into it’s soft centre she grins at the tiny cat.
“Hello, my name’s Dinah.”
“My name is Small,” says the orange cat. “What are you doing in my flower?”
“I saw you passing and wondered where you were going. I’ve always been a curious cat. I get into trouble because of my curiosity all the time,” Dinah smiles sheepishly.
“That’s okay,” says Small. “I’m timid and I like to hide inside a peony flower. Mr Rabbit kindly agreed to bring it with us.”
“Where are you going?” asks Dinah. “The rabbit said something about a baker.”
“Yes, I am going to the Gingerbread Bakery. The Baker has been hearing strange noises in the store at night and he thinks it might be sugar mice. He wants a cat to keep them away from his cakes and pies,” says Small.
“Gingerbread Bakery. I’ve never heard of that place,” says Dinah. “Where are we?”
Surprise registers on Small’s face. “Where are we? Why, we’re in Chocolate Land. Where else are the buildings constructed of gingerbread? Where else are all the magical creatures made of fondant, sweets, and biscuits.”
“I’m not made of fondant,” declares Dinah. “I’m a real cat.”
Small smiles. “Look at your paws,” he says.
Looking down, Dinah sees her paws are no longer furry. They have evolved into smooth fondant.
“Oh my,” she says. “I am made of fondant and so are you.”
BUMP! BUMP! BUMP!
The peony goes down three steps and lands softly in a great drift of snow. Dinah can smell something sweet and delightful. A mixture of coconut, cinnamon, and cloves.
“Hmmmmm! What’s that delicious smell?” she asks.
“You can smell the desiccated coconut snow,” Small says. “And the Bakery. I love the smell of gingerbread.”
“Have you been here before,” Dinah asks.
“No, but I was in the Fondant Artist’s studio when she created the Bakery.
Peering over the top of the peony petals, Dinah peers about. Midnight has long passed, and the sky has deepened to a dark burgundy purple. In the distance, a soft light shines, casting a welcoming glow around a lone building.
“It’s the Bakery,” whispers Small.
SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE!
As they draw closer, the two cats hear a peculiar noise.
“What’s that,” asks Dinah.
Small shrugs his shoulders. “I’ve no idea.”
The peony flower stops. The pair hear soft footsteps in the snow and then the astonished face of the rabbit appears above them.
Pointing at Dinah, he asks: “Who are you?”
Dinah draws herself up straight. “I’m Dinah. Don’t you know its rude to point.”
The rabbit studies her. “Dinah … Dinah …”
A great smile appears on his whiskered face. “Dinah. Are you Miss Alice’s cat. Alice from Wonderland.”
“Yes, that’s me. But this isn’t Wonderland. Small says this is Chocolate Land so what are you doing here?”
A happy sigh ruffles the rabbit’s whiskers. “I got tired of the King and Queen so I requested a transfer to Chocolate Land. It was approved and here I am. I much prefer working with Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet.”
A clock inside the building strikes one ‘o clock and the rabbit jumps.
“Oh my,” he says. “I am so very late, and the Baker will be angry. The lights are on inside the Bakery so perhaps he is still here. I’ll knock at the door and see if he answers.”
The rabbit hops away, his tail a white flag in the dimness.
“Let’s have a look through the window,” whispers Small. “There is something going on inside judging from that odd digging sound.”
The two cats jump out of the peony, landing in deep coconut snow up to their knees.
“Ooooh!” says Dinah. “It’s not cold.”
“Of course it’s not cold,” says Small. “It’s coconut not ice-cream.”
Creeping stealthily across the snow, the two cats approach a large side window and peer in. The most amazing sight meets their eyes.
Next chapter: The Great Mince Pie Escape
About the Creator
Robbie Cheadle loves to create in a variety of mediums including words, cake, fondant, charcoal, and oil pastels. She enjoys writing fantasy stories for children, poetry, and paranormal stories for adults in historical settings.