Somewhere in the province of Petropavlovsk, Republic of Kazakhstan, five days before the Tour:
if you thought that snow was falling hard in Atlanta, then you had no idea on how it was falling here, in Petropavlovsk. The fields and the road were completely white, coated with snow so thick that when you walked on it, your feet were buried to the ankles. The snowfalls were like a moving wall that you could barely pass through. The wind was strong enough to bend down the phone poles installed along the road (or what used to be a road). Anybody who would go out without a warm coat would be frozen in seconds. And to add to it all, it was night. A sweet winter night in Kazakhstan.
In the middle of a field, about one hundred meters away from the road, there was a farm, an old building which looked like it's been made three centuries ago and never restored since. But it was inhabited, because you could see light inside. And there was a very odd thing close to that farm, a thing that seemed completely out of context: a bright red Harley-Davidson motorcycle, with a can of Dr Peppers placed on the fuel tank. Kneeling down beside the bike, there was a young, thirteen-years old boy highly focused on repairing the rear brake. Kazakh roads were a nightmare, and trying to ride them on an American bike would eventually end up with something broken. The boy was lucky, it was only the rear brake. It could have been worse...
After ten minutes of fighting with a spanner and a bolt, he decided that it was repaired and got back inside the farm. The inside was like the outside, but at least, it was warm. In the living room, there was a middle-aged man watching TV and a six-years old girl struggling with the wrapping paper of a Wonka bar.
"Alina," the boy said in Kazakh, "still trying to find one of those golden ticket things ?"
"There's only one left !" She replied. "It could be anywhere in the world, and the Tour is in five days !"
Overexcited, she litteraly destroyed the paper and found... nothing. Just a plain chocolate bar.
The boy stroked her hair and said:
"Nevermind. Still, you've got the chocolate."
"Yeah, yeah, you're right, Aleksey, but... hey, look at that !"
At the TV, the pictures of four children appeared. The four kids were smiling and holding a Golden Ticket. Then the reporter said:
Only five days from the great Tour in the Wonka Factory, our four lucky winners are overexcited ! Let's see what they think, beginning by the first winner, Augustus Gloop, fifteen years old, from Germany:
The boy who appeared was really disgusting, he seemed as gluton as a Kazakh camel, with red hair and the eyes of a dull cow. Aleksey's thought while watching him was: My, there were already half-snakes, here's now a half-pig !
When he was asked what excited him the most about the Tour, Augustus replied:
The lifetime supply. So that I'll be able to eat candy all day without caring about my pocket money !
Aleksey lifted his eyebrows. I thought so !
The second child was a blond girl. Aleksey's eyes grew wider when he saw how beautiful she was. He thought: Jessifer ! He felt inside him that old feeling, the "butterflies", the feeling he thought he'd never feel again. But then, the reporter said:
Our second winner, Violet Beauregard, ten years old, from the United States:
Aleksey was confused and disappointed. She wasn't the girl he expected. But it was incredible, she could be her twin !
To me, this whole thing is a competition, declared Violet on TV. And I do intend to win the mysterious first prize, at any cost !
Yuk ! the boy thought. What a jerk ! Definitely not my Jessy ! And what's that thing with the gum ? It's so gross !
Still, he couldn't get rid of that odd feeling. This girl, despite of her jerky behavior, was fascinating him. He briefly took a look at the two other winners, quickly disgusted: Veruca Salt, fourteen-years old, was a rotten brat whose parents did everything she wanted. She was pretty, one must admin it, but she had the smile of the Jeepers Creepers. The other, Mike Teavee, twelve-years old, was exceptionally smart. Aleksey was himself extremely smart, but this one was a computer mastermind. Only he was also exceptionally arrogant.
"Turn off the TV," declared the old man, "I have enough of that freak show."
The all three laughed at his joke, and at that moment, the phone rang. The man took it, said a word or two, and gave it to the boy. Aleksey took it. The guy on the other side spoke in Russian:
"Good evening, Alex. How are you ?"
"Fine. I finished the job, here, and I was taking a day or two to repair my bike."
"I see... tell me, Alex, would you like to visit a certain chocolate factory ?"
"Excuse me ?"
"You know that there are five tickets, and only four have been found ? I can get you the last one."
"Why would it interest me ? You know I'm not a big fan of candy. You should give it to Alina."
"You don't understand: someone else would be very pleased to have you in that factory."
That was the magic sentence. Aleksey was now very interested:
"The factory is located in a small town in England, roughly two hundred miles away from London. There's a small hotel in that town, only one, you can't miss it. Your contact there is Henry Salt."
"Salt ? Like..."
"Precisely. Be there the day before the Tour."
The teenager hanged up the phone and looked at the old man who asked:
"You're leaving ?"
"Yeah. In England. So I thank you for your hospitality and... sorry about the troubles."
"Nevermind. I didn't like those guys anyway. And that was impressive. You can come back anytime. Just... where are you going, exactly ?"
"To the Factory."
"To the Wonka Factory ? Oh, no, that's so unfair ! You don't even like chocolate !"
"I'm sorry to be unable to bring you with me. I know how you were craving for that Tour, but... you won't regret it. I have a feeling that you won't regret not coming. There's something wrong with that Factory. I can smell it from here."