The Isle of the Lost (Page 3)
Since the kitchen cupboards were bare as usual, with nothing in the fridge but glass jars full of eyeballs and all sorts of moldy liquids of dubious provenance—all part of Maleficent’s ongoing efforts to whip up potions and conjure spells like she used to—Mal headed to the Slop Shop across the street for her daily breakfast.
She studied the choices on the menu—black-like-your-soul coffee; sour-milk latte; crusty barley oatmeal with a choice of mealy apple or mushy banana; and stale, mixed cereal, dry or wet. There were never many options. The food, or scraps, more like it, came from Auradon—whatever wasn’t good enough for those snobs got sent over to the island. Isle of the Lost? More like Isle of the Leftovers. Nobody minded too much, though. Cream and sugar, fresh bread, and perfect pieces of fruit made people soft. Mal and the other banished villains preferred to be brittle and hard, inside and out.
“What do you want?” a surly goblin asked, demanding her order. In the past, the disgusting things had been foot soldiers in her mother’s dark army, ruthlessly dispatched across the land to find a hidden princess; but now their tasks were reduced to serving up coffee as bitter as their hearts, in tall, grande, and venti sizes. The only amusement they had left was to ruthlessly misspell each customer’s name, written with marker on the side of each cup. (The joke was on the goblins since hardly anyone could read Goblin; but that never seemed to make any difference.) They kept blaming their imprisonment on the island on their allegiance to Maleficent, and it was common knowledge that they kept petitioning King Beast for amnesty, using their flimsy familial ties to the dwarfs as proof they didn’t belong here.
“The usual, and make it snappy,” said Mal, drumming her fingers on the counter.
“Room for month-old milk?”
“Do I look like I want curds? Give me the strongest, blackest coffee you’ve got! What is this, Auradon?”
It was like he’d seen her dreams, and the thought made her ill.
The runty creature grunted, wiggling the boil on his nose, and pushed a dark, murky cup toward her. She grabbed it and ran out the door without paying.
“YOU LITTLE BRAT! I’LL BOIL YOU IN THE COFFEEPOT NEXT TIME!” the goblin shrieked.
She cackled. “Not if you can’t catch me first!”
The goblins never learned. They had never found Princess Aurora either, but then again, the dimwits had been looking for a baby for eighteen years. No wonder Maleficent was always frustrated. It was so hard to find good help these days.
Mal continued on her way, stopping to smirk at the poster of King Beast admonishing the citizens of the island to BE GOOD! BECAUSE IT’S GOOD FOR YOU! with that silly yellow crown on his head and that big grin on his face. It was positively nauseating and more than a little haunting, at least to Mal. Maybe the Auradon propaganda was getting to her head, maybe that’s why she had dreamt she was frolicking in some sort of enchanted lake last night with some pretentious prince. The thought made her shudder again. She took a gulp of her scalding, strong coffee. It tasted like mud. Perfect.
In any event, she had to do something about this blister on the wall. Mal took out her paint cans and sprayed a mustache and goatee on the king’s face and crossed out his ridiculous message. King Beast was the one who had locked them all up on the island, after all. That hypocrite. She had a few messages of her own for him, and they all involved revenge.
This was the Isle of the Lost. Evil lived, breathed, and ruled the island, and King Beast and his sickly sweet billboards cajoling the former villains of the world to do good had no place in it. Who wanted to make lemonade from lemons, when you could make perfectly good lemon grenades?
Next to the poster she sprayed a thin, black outline of a horned head and a spread cape. Above Maleficent’s outline, she scrawled EVIL LIVES! in bright green paint the color of goblin slime.
Not bad. Badder. And that was much better.
If Mal lived above a shop, Jay, son of Jafar, actually lived inside one, sleeping on a worn carpet beneath a shelf straining under ancient television sets with manual dials, radios that never worked, and telephones that had actual cords attached to them. His father had been the former grand vizier of Agrabah, feared and respected by all, but that was a long time ago, and the evil enchanter was now the proprietor of Jafar’s Junk Shop, and Jay, his only son and heir, was also his sole supplier. If Jay’s destiny had once been to become a great prince, only his father remembered it these days.
“You should be on top of an elephant, leading a parade, waving to your subjects,” Jafar mourned that morning as Jay prepared for school, pulling a red beanie over his long, straight dark hair and choosing his usual attire of purple-and-yellow leather vest and dark jeans. He flexed his considerable muscles as he pulled on his black studded gloves.
“Whatever you say, Dad!” Jay winked with a mischievous smile. “I’ll try to steal an elephant if I come across any.”
Because Jay was a prince, all right. A prince of thieves, a con man, and a schemer, whose lies were as beautiful as his dark eyes. As he made his way through the narrow cobblestone streets, dodging rickshaws manned by Professor Ratigan’s daredevil crew, he took advantage of their frightened passengers ducking under clotheslines weighed down by tattered robes and dripping capes to filch a billfold or two. Ursula chased him away from her fish and chips shop, but not before he had managed to grab a handful of greasy fries, and he took a moment to admire a collection of plastic jugs of every size and shape offered by another storefront, wondering if he could fit one in his pocket.
Every manner of Auradon trash was recycled and repurposed on the island, from bathtubs to door handles, as well as from the villains’ own formerly magical accoutrements. A shop advertised USED BROOMS THAT DON’T FLY ANYMORE BUT SWEEP OKAY, and crystal balls that were only good as goldfish bowls these days.
As vendors laid out rotten fruit and spoiled vegetables under tattered tents, Jay swiped a bruised apple and took a bite, his pockets bulging with pilfered treasures. He waved a cheerful hello to a chorus of hook-nosed witches gathered at a slanted balcony—Madam Mim’s granddaughters, who, while relieved to be out of his sticky fingers’ reach, swooned at his greeting nonetheless.
Maleficent’s henchmen, large boar-like men in leather rags with the familiar aviator-style caps pulled down over their eyes, snuffled an almost unintelligible hello as they passed him on their way to work. Jay deftly took their caps without their noticing and shoved them down the rear of his trousers, planning to sell them back to the guys the next day like he did every week. But he resisted the urge to trip them up as well. There just wasn’t time to do everything in one day.