Charlie, better known as Spokes for his ability to turn anything into a ride, was pretty new to Neverland and was sure that if there was a better place, one lonely little orphan wasn’t likely to see it.
When Peter had taken his hand and led him from the dingy orphanage that had been his home, Spokes knew it was the happiest moment of his life. No more rules, no more school or chores or cruel Mrs Hudson who ran the orphanage with a Puritanism that would give the most docile child an urge to escape.
His happy thought had been the first bike he built from scraps and spare parts. She was a beauty and rode like the wind, with the noise of a group of boys running sticks along fences. Spokes was pretty sure his second happy thought was flying.
Peter had been here, showing him all the secret places, how to swing on ropes and that he should definitely stay away from the mermaids, who blew him pretty kisses from faces hiding malice and mischief. He showed him how to fight with slingshot, sword and bow and arrow. Spokes vowed one day to do it all from the back of a bicycle.
He introduced Spokes to the Darlings, saving special mention for the Wendy lady. Spokes thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, with a smile like sunshine.
Today Peter went away and all the colour drained from the hideout. The Lost Boys disappeared quick smart, and Spokes found himself stumbling through the forest, looking for his playmates.
From beside his ear came an agitated tinkling. He turned to find Tinkerbell, burning brightly beside him. He still had trouble understanding her.
“‘Lo Tink!” he winked. “Wha’s this game?”
She blinked and tinkled at him frantically before zooming off into the foliage.
“Tink! Wait!” With clumsy bounds, he ran after her, branches slapping him in the face, roots tripping him.
Spokes stumbled into a clearing , and found the Wendy lady, crouched over something. A soft glow lit up her face from beneath, bringing a chilling element to her smile.
“Ah, Spokes,” her voice was low and dangerous and she didn’t even turn to look at him, “I knew I could count on you.”
Slowly she stood, and Spokes could see Tinkerbell hanging limp, one wing pinched between the Wendy lady’s outstretched fingers. Spokes didn’t know much about faeries, but he was pretty sure that would hurt later.
“All the boys are hiding,” Wendy said in a voice that made Spokes wish he was hiding too. “And my brothers…”
Spokes wasn’t sure what to do. He wouldn’t outrun Wendy if Tink couldn’t. He was afraid. Wendy snatched his hand and held it with none of her gentleness from before. She dragged him back further into the tangled vines and thick stands of trees.
“Where are we going, Wendy lady?”
“To do what needs to be done, of course.”
They came to a cave, its entrance barred closed with rough hewn logs. A curtain of vines had been pinned back, obviously used to hide it previously. From the outside, there was a complicated mechanism of unlocking, and Spokes watched as each of the parts moved. The door swung in and Wendy threw both of her captives in.
“Stay here while I fetch the others. Then, we’ll get to work.”
Spokes didn’t like it. He was feeling like he was back at the orphanage. He sat with his head on his knees for a bit, pushing the dirt around with his toes.
Ever so slightly, the light brightened. Spokes turned as Tink sat up, clutching her head and emitting a high-pitched moan. She tried flapping her wings and faltered, face-planting in the dirt with a pained squeal. Spokes picked her up and put her on his shoulder.
Now that she was awake, he could see the inside of the cave. “What is this place?”
Dangling from the roof he could see a small, clear cage. Perfect size for someone small. And luminescent. There were benches with needles and thimbles.
Tink shook her head, eyes downcast. She pointed at a draping cloth and Spokes whipped it off. Piles of cloth, embroidered delicately with shining silk thread, the russet tone so familiar.
“Hook’s clothes?” Spokes squeaked as he rubbed his head vigorously. “Us?”
Tink nodded slowly. She snuggled into Spokes’ neck. Thoughts like cogs ticked in his brain, one part spurring on another. He took a long stick from the corner and was sad when the little faerie recoiled. Feeding it out a small gap in the door, he expertly maneuvered it out, followed by a skinny arm up to the elbow. Gently, he twisted it, pushing on one small lever. There was an audible click and the door swung open. Tink zipped out and Spokes followed, the whirr of his thoughts almost audible as he rubbed his scraggly hair. Her small light hovering erratically, she waited. He whispered his devious plan to her.
Wendy returned, baby John in hand and two of the smaller boys under her arm. She threw them in and slammed the door, briskly turning away again.
“Wait, Wendy lady!” Spokes called. “Tink is hurt real bad.”
Stopping still, the Wendy lady turned, stiff with worry. Tink was Pan’s favourite; she could not be replaced or explained away. She stalked back, her dress trailing behind her.
Inside the cave, the light flickered and spluttered, Tink looked sure to be done for. Wendy ran to her side, “No, no, no…Tink…”
As she knelt, Spokes looped their makeshift lasso over her and pulled tight, trapping her arms beneath the twisted bonds. Spokes and the other boys hoisted her to the ceiling where she shrieked and struggled and then cajoled. The boys kept her tied until Pan returned.
“It was all for you, to keep things the way you wanted. We have to work to make a life for ourselves. Hook buys, so we make.” Her head hung with shame as she whispered, “I never meant to hurt anybody.”
“But you did Wendy. Maybe you were just too old for Neverland, already caught in the grip of adulthood, of the dreams of having shiny things…”
All the Darlings were returned home, to return never more.
And Spokes…Let’s just say that Neverland never lost its magic for him.