pronker yawned and stretched. Silly penguins, she thought. As if a Fanfiction University actually existed. She arose for her morning vacation routine: slopping about in baby dolls and peignoir to surf the web for one solid hour while munching the high end breakfast bars and in-room coffee that Disneyland Hotel provided. The usual emails greeted her, one from her bank warning of an overdraft fee and one promising a lifetime supply of little blue pills in discreet packaging. She disposed of both, there, a clear inbox!
She mused at the view of the Park from her high-rise room. Today was the last full day of vacation and then back to the real world. Ah me. Lackaday. Nuts. Best plan seemed to be enjoy Disneyland to the fullest after returning the sombrero to that kind couple in Room 5231.
One email pinged. The sender was designated Official Fanfiction University of POM. pronker snorted, opened the email and then the world went sideways. Ew, if this nausea didn't recede she'd need to revise her plans to staying in Room 2813 the whole day. She nestled deeper in the array of pillows and gathered herself to read the correspondence.
Dear pronker, welcome to The Official Fanfiction University of POM. We trust the conversion process left you refreshed after initial discomfort.
Conversion to what? pronker examined herself. Weren't her arms and - she opened the peignoir fully - her legs rather shiny? She ran her hands over her face. An incipient zit from yesterday had disappeared and wow, she didn't remember putting on her makeup but sure enough, thick mascara lined her lashes and a swipe across an eyelid revealed blue eye shadow on a fingertip. pronker gasped when the color vanished as she stared at it.
Per your signed agreement, your time in the University while living on Toontown campus in Dormitory 2BRNT2B as a fully functional cartoon character promises to enrich your writing. In other words, you will write what you know. Please visit Room 5231 for further instructions and once again, welcome.
Well. That happened. pronker dressed in record time and shot over to Room 5231. One crazy thought occurred on the elevator and she emerged from the car to scoot down the hallway on one leg like Gumby. That was fun!
She knocked on Room 5231, sombrero atop her head as she got into the spirit of this hallucination, because it had to be one. "Hola, Mr. Howell," she said playfully, for indeed, the resemblance to childhood sitcom friends ended in reality. It was Mr. Howell ushering her inside as he accepted his sombrero.
What next? Mrs. Howell glided across Berber carpeting to greet the latest guest. "Dahling, come in and schmooze, you know you want to. May I present another student at POM college? This is PDQ Bock, and I'm sure you'll get along splendidly. PDQ, this is pronker." She wafted away in a swirl of chiffon as another knock sounded.
"pronker, the pronker? An honor!"
As PDQ pumped her hand, pronker thought hard what to say. The truth was best, unless a white lie were better. She'd proceed with the truth. "Oh, go on with you, PDQ. I love your stories and how they are all complete before you post."
"It's a gift and a curse, you know," he said, adjusting his glasses. "I wait weeks and days for inspiration and if I posted little by little, maybe feedback could spur me on - "
pronker broke into his soul searching. "Yeah uh huh, maybe. And maybe not. But for sure, isn't that Gemstar coming in? She's just the way I pictured her."
Mrs. Howell indicated the little clot of POM writers with an airy wave and a giggly girl wearing a lei rushed up. "Oh hey, you guys, I just wrote this totally random fic with ninety-six chapters and did arts for it and and and a podcast and urrything. Wait'll I upload, you'll be faving it all over the web. I crosspost on six sites." Her smile exuded UV rays, pronker was certain.
"I'm sure we will." Who could dampen such goodwill and enthusiasm for a Small Fandom? Not I, thought pronker.
PDQ reserved judgment. "I like your art well enough, but how can you draw and write the penguins as human? It's against canon."
Large cartoony tears welled in Gemstar's eyes as her lips quivered. "So that's what doe eyes look like," said pronker before she thought.
"Oh you meany! It's the spirit of the team that counts, all my reviews say so. Don't like, don't read." Gemstar crossed her arms and turned away.
"Gemstar, your bravery in posting gets a thumbs up from me," offered a gloved and cloaked man as he insinuated himself into the group. "I foresee your heartfelt talent will shape your future in Fanfiction University and that you shall become a Dean." He took Gemstar's arm in the gentlest fashion and turned her to face PDQ and pronker once more. "Be bold, my dear."
"Watch the handiness, fella, Cassandra won't like that." pronker did a double take. "Phantom Stranger! My comics hero, oh gosh - " she trailed off. "Wait a second, you're from DC, so how are you here?" She looked over the room. There in a corner gathered a mixed group of seven authors in scruffy World War II uniforms, surely inspired by Hogan's Heroes and Rat Patrol? She couldn't remember their names but she had enjoyed reading their works.
And what was with the humongous set of folks in Star Wars costumes by the plate glass windows, all chatting animatedly - pronker giggled to herself at the appropriate word but continued - when they weren't demonstrating lightsaber moves? They comprised the largest delegation because she discerned Rosethorn, the artist, yes that had to be her among the most colorfully dressed, and a few guys in tees, sandals-with-socks, and board shorts who looked to be staffers on websites. Perhaps they attended a Star Wars Fanfiction University to gain insights on those who posted stories and artwork on their individual sites? Was there a Star Wars Fanfiction University?
Phantom Stranger answered her unspoken questions, mostly omniscient, mostly always. "Room 5231 in the Disneyland Hotel occupies a special fanspace. Mr. and Mrs. Howell ease the way into Uni in the fashion of Private, who will conduct you after the party to your rooms at the dorm set aside for POM. You've moved to the multiverse of fandoms, Miss pronker, each with its University. Yes, animé, cartoons, comics, TV, film, books, and media yet unknown share fandom peace here. Your privileges to meet and greet everyone remain for the length of your studies." He grinned. pronker couldn't remember him smiling or laughing in the comics.
"So, Phantom Stranger, are we canon characters? Do real cartoon characters like Skipper or Kowalski see us as human or characters in their universe, like King Julien? I'd like to be seen as King Julien XIII." PDQ had a thing for canon that pronker appreciated.
"King Julien would not be accepted to University. Nobody would instruct him." The smile widened. "And I'm not really Phantom Stranger, you know. I'm DarkClark. I just like the cloak and glove effect that PS rocked."
"Loved your one-shot holiday story, m'man. You're another author who completes his stories, good for you." DarkClark's pleasure at the words was a delight to see and pronker thought that verbal comments in this fanspace were kudos, likes, pluses, reblogs, hearts, and actual typed replies all rolled into one. She could grow to like it here.
Gemstar bent to retrieve a fallen flower from her lei. The two men went into high alert as quickly as emotions changed in cartoon worlds. "Uh oh, Howlers on the prowl and here comes the VTBS convention," warned DarkClark. "Watch out for your heinies, ladies, you know how servicemen get grabby." He and PDQ Bock formed a perimeter around the females as best they could.
pronker peeked over PDQ's shoulder at a scene of high drama. "I've been Jossed!" came the mock despairing cry of catsuited Sabine LaForge of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD contingent, followed by a smug "I can't be" from an author in a Robin Hood-type outfit who pronker took to be MissPam. Hmm, Lord of the Rings's dead originator versus POM's concluded TV series, which was more final? There ought to be a seminar on this topic and if there weren't, by golly she would lobby for one.
Gladhanding, backslapping and salutes abounded as the Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea seamen front collided with the Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos squad. Hits against inaccuracies in uniform and different branches of the services' history usually got spiked over the net in such meet ups of fanficcers. This time was no exception.
MongolianLamb touted her World War II knowledge. "Designer Karl Probst donated his design for the prototype Jeep to his country, what a guy. The Howlers owe him a beer."
RevanStinger flaunted her Navy lore. "Subs tied a broom to the conning tower when they came back into port after sweeping the seas clean of targeted enemy subs, no I don't know what brand of broom. It wasn't Walmart, for sure."
PDQ Bock drifted to the Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea fandom's prolific author. "Walmart didn't exist until - " pronker rolled her eyes.
DarkClark let down his guard. "Aw, you ladies are safe as you want to be. Gemstar, how about a non-alcoholic drinkie poo?"
"Totally!" Gemstar simpered as she took his arm after he swept his cloak around her. They strolled towards the refreshments table where Gilligan had been entrusted with pouring drinks.
pronker floated to the balcony of the suite like The Blimp from the Inferior Five, propelled by a tail wind from all the hot air being generated in the room. She anchored herself by clamping a hand on the railing. Disneyland spread before her, a little hazy in the distance. Was it smog or the animator's laziness in rendering a background? It didn't matter. What counted was that she lived in Toontown as a real cartoon, oxymoronish as that sounded.
Next day, classes would start.
This place was her Favorites list come to life. The mystical Fanlink between the internet and fandoms existed to bring her to this wonderland.
pronker decided to bloom where she was planted.