• Talon Stradley

S1E13 - Calislandland

Tur-Toise the terrific is one of the two founders of Newton’s Dark Room. You can actually read about the founding of NDR at newtonsdarkroom.com/history. Even though he played an important roll in its construction, now he is retired. He hasn’t contributed creatively in some time. He still lives on Calisland, but he mostly keeps to himself, reading books in the library or going deep sea spearfishing.


One day, Tur-Toise was hanging out in his office when he threw the door open and burst out. His office was right at the top of the two arching stairs you see when you enter the Foyer. He burst out at the tops of these stairs and announced to the whole collective “I have an idea!”

Now, when Tur-Toise has an idea, you listen. That’s just one of those unspoken rules around here. We all gathered in the foyer and at the top of those stairs, Tur-Toise began his presentation. He dragged out a chalkboard from his office. It was poorly erased and the pale leftovers littered the board. Still, this was his medium of presentation.


The basic premise was this. Tur-Toise wanted to build an amusement park, right here on Calisland. He would either call it Newton’s Dark Room Land or Calislandland, he wasn’t sure which yet. Sophie Rivera raised her hand to point out that both of those names were terrible, but her comment got lost in the hubbub.


The amusement park would have all kinds of rides showcasing some of our members and Intellectual Properties. For example, there was going to be a large pinball-like machine where attendees crawl into this giant orb and then get smacked around in a simulated game of marbles. The ride would be called Crash, The Cosmic Coaster. Sophie once again raised her hand to point out that this wasn’t a coaster, but this time she wasn’t even called on. Tur-Toise moved on to his next idea.


This one would a dark ride. People would hop on this cart that looked like a cloud and they would hover over the entire American countryside. The sets would all be painted by S. Owen Sow and they would depict his life on the clouds.


There were a few other things here and there, a water ride based on the fictional island in our first EP, Pepnia, a Roomba petting zoo, stuff like that. The crown jewel of Calislandland, however, was going to be an immersive world based on the Pantheon of Main Street Mythology. You could walk into the Pantheon, see the dining table, go to shows put on by Ivium, take pictures with your favorite gods. It was going to be the largest amusement park built on an island! Well, in California at least.


Most people, myself included, were extremely excited and inspired. We were all talking about even more ideas that we could add to the park. It was a grand hodgepodge of inspiration. For everyone, that is, except Sophie Rivera. She spent the rest of the evening saying things like “Guys really?” and “This seems ridiculous.” and of course “Aren’t we already working on a million other things?”


Nobody paid much attention to her, except to say “It’s fine, it’s fine.” She went huffing off into the other room, fed up with our so-called “naive” excitement. With all the nay-sayers out of the room, we were able to get to work.


While Tur-Toise is inspired and intelligent, he is not a great manager. He has a very independent, every-person-for-themselves kind of leadership style. He ended that meeting on the stairs by loudly shouting “Let’s make Calislandland!” to which everyone cheered and then went running off in different directions. Some people started sketching and drawing up blueprints, but that was only like two people: S. Owen Sow and Sumpra. Everyone else was really excited about building. We all ran to the garage, grabbed hammers and wood and nails and just started smacking stuff together. There wasn’t enough hammers for everyone though, which caused a bit of turmoil amongst the group. Who should have a hammer? Is it first come first serve? Or maybe the most experienced individual should do the work? In the end, we came up with a compromise. People who already had a hammer could keep theirs. Those who didn’t would use a blowtorch to affix two pieces of wood.


This didn’t end well. A small fire may or may not have been started in the garage. Luckily AI 4-82 was able to trigger the sprinklers in time putting it out, getting us all soaked in the process. After this, we all agreed it would be best to only have some of us building. The rest would paint!


We spent the rest of the afternoon cobbling things together, everyone painting whatever color they felt like. I must admit, it was a lot of fun. At the end of the day, we wiped the sweat from our brows and sat down to a lovely turkey dinner put together by the Calisland Caretakers.


That’s when S. Owen Sow and Sumpra came over, wiping the sweat from their brows, yada yada yada. As they sat down, they slapped some blueprints onto the table.


S. Owen Sow said that they had been working all day on them, but they finally have the plans done so we can start building!



There was a pause. I explained that we had already started building.


S. Owen Sow went into an outrage. He began shouting at the group. How could we even start building if we didn’t have any plans?


Tommy B., our live events coordinator, shrugged. I dunno, we just kind of made it work. Now, normally we might be able to resolve this issue. Maybe we adapt our current construction to fit the plans or we start over. This time, however, that wouldn’t be possible. Just before dinner I had personally gone to Tur-Toise and told him that we were basically done building and we could open whenever. He was ecstatic and announced that we would open this weekend! I asked him if he wanted to see the park first and he said no. With his hand on my shoulder he told me he trusted me. Then he immediately called a billboard company to take out a giant ad for Calislnadland right over the 710 freeway!


Tur-Toise was excited, but I realized we were about to make a huge mistake. This was all just of thrown together, a real mess. It didn’t look the greatest, the shows were not rehearsed, and, most importantly, it was unsafe. None of us are engineers, nobody came to certify any of the rides, we haven’t even talked to our lawyers.


I rushed over to Sophie Rivera’s room and knocked politely, but urgently, on the door. She answered. Her face already had that “I Told You So” look. I explained the billboard and the expected attendance and how we were not ready to safely accommodate costumers. She nodded her head, thinking, and then told me she had a plan.


She was going to advertise a fake art-house film called Calislandland. She would rent out a billboard just before the one Tur-Toise bought explaining this grand, abstract, multi-media film experience. Because nobody wants to go see weird art-house films, especially ones that involve taking an expensive ferry to some ashen island, nobody would come to our opening. That would think that the next Calislandland billboard that they saw was just another strange advertisement for this strange endeavor. We both pitched in money for the billboard, and she made the call.


Then it was time for opening day.


Everyone got into their Calislandland uniforms, slapped on a smile, and stood beneath the large neon sign that stood over the dock. We saw the ferry slowly grow larger as it made it’s approach to the island. Once it docked, it let out a loud toot from it’s horn. At this sound, Tur-Toise burst from the doors of our house shouting “Welcome, welcome!” But he was shouting this to no one.


Much to everyone’s surprise, and my relief, the ferry was entirely empty. Not a single soul came to see Calislandland. Well, except for Bart, the ferry driver. We all slumped, some out of disappointment and others out of relief. Tur-Toise was visibly disappointed, walking around with a furrowed brow looking at this mangled park we had created.


“What happened? I thought you said it was finished?”


I stepped forward. You see, we didn’t really make a plan, we just made things. And it was a lot of fun and we were all really excited but then you said we would open and we panicked and I’m sorry.


Tur-Toise was silent for a moment, slowly twisting his head as he scanned the park.


“Is it functional?” he asked.


I mean yeah, all the rides worked. None of them are safety rated though.


Tur-Toise nodded and stood on a picnic table.


“Attention! Employees of Calislandland. It was with a heavy heart I must announce the closing of the park. It has always been a dream of mine to make this happen, and you brought it to life. On today, the final day of Calislandland’s operation, we have decided to close the park to the public. Today is an employee appreciation day. The park is yours! Now, let’s go have some fun!”


And we did. We ate corndogs and rode clouds and rollercoasters, performing shows for each other. Sometimes someone would need to flip the go button for a ride then run and hop into the seat before it took off. It was grand fun. A private amusement park, a once in a lifetime experience. Calislandland is closed now, but some of its remnants are still left scattered about. Sometimes, we meet to have lunch on the carousel.

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