Nathaniel awakes the next morning alone. He thinks of tapping a polyp-head just to see if the Mama and Daddy are still in the ship, but then decides to eat first. He makes his way to the kitchen and sits down at the table. Before he can reach the jelly dispenser switch, however, the Mama and Daddy figures on the edge of the table come to life. “Don’t eat yet, Nathaniel; we’re about to land on another planet where there will be special food,” Daddy announces. “Save room in your belly,” Mama exhorts, smiling.
“Okay,” Nathaniel says.
“We’re going to land on The Planet Candy,” Mama and Daddy proclaim together.
“Some people call it The Candy Planet. Others just call it Candy,” Mama adds.
“You can see it from the tower window now; we should land in less than an hour,” Daddy says.
“The Planet Candy,” Nathaniel repeats. “What kind of volcanoes does it have?” he asks.
“Oh, it has some syrup volcanoes, but we won’t be able to see those today,” Mama and Daddy speak together.
“Before we land, we must give you something,” Mama says. She points several tentacles at the far side of the kitchen, where a door opens, revealing a narrow closet. Inside hangs a blue, long-sleeve shirt, stuck to the ceiling by its collar. Below it and attached at the beltline hangs a pair of long black pants. Nathaniel stares, trying to deduce the purpose of the hanging object. “Put them on the same way we showed you how to put on the spacesuit,” Mama says.
Nathaniel walks to the closet, pulls down the outfit, and looks it over. Placing his hands in through the top of the shirt, he begins to unstick the material from itself. Like the spacesuit (and the cups and the bowls), it was also clearly grown rather than manufactured or woven, but of course Nathaniel is not yet aware of this anomalous characteristic of his clothing, having nothing else in his short experience to compare it to. The Mama-And-Daddy spaceship-creature has some truly sophisticated closets. Soon, he puts on both shirt and pants. They fit perfectly.
“Open up the holes on the sides; those are called pockets,” Mama continues.
“They’re for holding candy in,” Daddy adds, smiling.
“What is candy?” Nathaniel asks.
“You’ll see soon,” Daddy promises.
“Candy is a kind of food that comes from The Planet Candy,” Mama explains.
In all, Nathaniel found ten pockets in his pants and four in his shirt. “…eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen! I have fourteen pockets! I can hold a lot of candy!” Nathaniel remarks.
“Good,” Daddy says.
“The Planet Candy has air that is good for us to breathe, so you won’t need the spacesuit,” Mama says.
“It’s not too hot for you or too cold for you, either,” Daddy says.
“We’ll be able to give you a ride,” Mama says.
“What are we riding?” Nathaniel asks.
“We’ll show you,” Mama says, “Do you remember where the airlock is?”
“Uh-huh,” Nathaniel responds.
“Meet us at the door to the left of it,” Daddy says.
Nathaniel immediately takes off at top speed, which for a dromaeosaur of his size is about sixty-nine kilometers per hour, his claws clacking loudly on the ivory floors. “Don’t run indoors!” Daddy angrily calls after him. Nathaniel soon arrives at the large airlock door. Another large door down the corridor to the left of it lies open. He walks in slowly. In the middle of the large, otherwise empty and undecorated room lies an ivory-colored couch, its back to Nathaniel.
“Don’t run indoors!” Daddy says, his short neck (for lack of a better term) straining to turn and look at Nathaniel from the left end of the back of the couch. On the right end sits a Mama figure.
“Why?” Nathaniel asks, his curiosity piqued. This was another rule, like the one about standing. What could the reasoning behind this rule be?
“Don’t do it! It makes us angry,” Daddy responds. From Nathaniel’s perspective, this was a less-than-satisfying answer. Before he can continue his line of questioning, however, Mama interjects.
“It’s okay; you didn’t know the rule, but don’t run indoors again,” Mama says.
“Can I run outside?” Nathaniel asks.
“If you want to,” Mama and Daddy say simultaneously.
“Maybe another day. Today we are giving you a ride. Walk around to this side of the couch unit and sit down,” Daddy says invitingly.
“Have a seat, Nathaniel,” Mama adds.
It was a couch. Nathaniel had never seen a couch before and was unable to put a name to the object he was looking at when he first entered the room. It didn’t help, either, that he was seeing it from the back. Still, upon hearing the word “couch” he instinctively knew that, yes, this object most certainly was indeed a couch. He immediately knew too, what it was for. Nathaniel walks around the object and sits down in the middle between the Mama and the Daddy. It is like a bench, but much softer and cushioned. It appears to be made of a very fine foam. It has high, firm armrests. The entire thing is the same shade of ivory.
“I’m hungry,” Nathaniel says.
“We’ll be there soon; we’ve already entered the atmosphere,” Mama and Daddy speak together.
After a bit, Nathaniel starts to feel antsy and takes turns rapidly flexing his ankles and wrists. “Stop that!” Daddy commands. Nathaniel stops for a bit and then gets up and begins to pace. “Why are you pacing? Don’t you want to explore Candy with us?” Daddy asks. Nathaniel nods vigorously and sits back down. Several seconds later, he is up and pacing again. It was just too uncomfortable to hold still and he had too much energy to sit in silence.
“Are we there yet?” Nathaniel asks.
“No. We just entered the atmosphere,” Daddy says.
“How long until we land?” Nathaniel asks.
“About thirty-seven minutes,” Daddy answers.
“Can’t we go faster?” Nathaniel sighs.
“If we go any faster, it will be too much stress on the thermal compensators,” Daddy explains.
Nathaniel wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but he got the gist of it. “Okay,” he says, “What do we do now?”
“We wait,” Daddy and Mama say together. Nathaniel didn’t think he could wait another second. How could his parents stand to sit still in silence for thirty-seven minutes (two thousand two hundred twenty seconds!)?
“What do we do while we’re waiting?” Nathaniel asks.
“Don’t ask so many questions. You are making us tired,” Mama responds. Nathaniel wonders how it is that hearing another ask questions can make one tired. The Mama-And-Daddy doesn’t even have legs! It doesn’t run! What could possibly make it tired? It is a rough half-hour for all three of them indeed.
Finally, the ship comes to a stop. Seconds later, the far wall drops open, creating a ramp and leading outside. The couch Nathaniel sits on begins to levitate centimeters above the floor and move forward. It is a moving couch! Outside is a magnificent sight. The skies are deep blue and beset by bright white clouds. The silvery ramps and runways of the sprawling spaceport extend for kilometers in all directions, raised above the brown surface. The Mama-And-Daddy palace-ship itself sits on a medium-sized, square pad of silver. On the distant hills are brown towers, other buildings, and trees of pink, blue, yellow, orange, white, and many other colors, the dominant color being green.
The skies above are filled with ascending and descending ships of all kinds. There are disks, ellipses, and bells of all sizes. Nathaniel turns to his right and sees one ship landing at a low angle like a plane. It is shaped like five heart-shaped planes stacked on top of each other. As he watches it slow to a stop, he sees the top sections slide forward, correcting the odd angle it was at while flying so that now each “heart-plane” lines up perfectly with those above and below. Nathaniel looks around in awe.
The Mama-And-Daddy couch-unit turns left and races along a silvery pathway at nearly six meters per second. Nathaniel continues to marvel at the sights. They pass another landing pad, this one with a blue, trapezoidal ship covered in spines and port windows. Another ship is a large spinning ball sitting in a cup. They also pass disk-shaped ships of all kinds. A family of giant-cobra-like Heltas exits from one, the children chasing each other in circles around the parents.
The Planet Candy is a grand feat of bioengineering and geoengineering taking thousands of years to perfect. Every rock, patch of soil, piece of paper, brick, beam, tile, building, machine, gear, pipe, button, lever, vehicle, plant, animal, and person is made of some sort of sugar-rich candy. Those who run the candy factories – the Candy Wizards – are themselves made of candy and grow candied moss, ferns, and other plants on their bodies instead of wearing clothing. Many of the animals are covered in small plants instead of fur, scales, or feathers. Everything is edible and much is self-repairing. Special bacteria digest any foreign matter or pathogen and keep even the restroom floors clean.
Finally, Nathaniel and the couch-unit reach the end of the silvery pathway, which splits into several cocoa brick roads. Following one, they soon come to a cocoa brick pyramid rising a kilometer into the sky. A rail runs partway along one side. They stop near its base. “I love how there’s no lines this time of year,” Mama comments.
A large hominid steps out to greet them. It stands roughly two and a third meters tall and seems to be covered in blue-green moss and ferns. It has large blue eyes. It is a Candy Wizard. “Here for the tour?” It asks.
“Yes, please,” Daddy says.
“Maneuver onto the pad, and stay away from the edge when moving,” the Candy Wizard replies, smiling. The tours on Planet Candy are free, as is any candy eaten while visiting. The Candy Wizards charge money only for taking candy offworld. Seeing and being part of the joy their product brings to others is their only payment. They love to give tours of their factories, which can be found all over the planet.
As the Mama-And-Daddy couch unit moves onto the pad, which also seems to be made of cocoa bricks, a second Candy Wizard strides over to take a position in front of them. It grasps a large, red-striped lever sticking out of the floor. “Hello. I am Wizard Brett. Welcome to the Planet Candy,” It says.
“Hello. My name is Mama, that is Daddy, and this is Nathaniel,” Mama says, pointing tentacles.
“Hi,” Wizard Brett greets Nathaniel. “Is this your first time to The Planet Candy?” He asks Daddy.
“No, but it is Nathaniel’s first time,” Daddy answers.
“Okay. Well, I hope you came hungry. Would you like to see the factory?” Wizard Brett asks.
“Yes, please. That would be fine. Thank you,” Daddy and Mama reply in unison.
“You are welcome,” Wizard Brett responds. Nathaniel had never heard anyone speak the way the adults were speaking to each other and he had never heard the words “please,” “thank,” and “welcome” before. He did not have time to ponder the meaning of it all, however, before Wizard Brett pushes on the lever in his hand and the pad of cocoa bricks rises, following the rails running up the side of the pyramid at a forty-five degree angle. Seconds later, the pad takes a sharp turn and enters a hole in the side. Nathaniel looks around. He is in a vast irregular room of many levels filled with immense pieces of strange, brightly-colored machinery. Candy Wizards work on catwalks and platforms (both moving and still) at all levels. He hears grinding noises and whooshing and is hit with a bewildering cornucopia of sweet smells he is unfamiliar with. Wizard Brett continues, “This is our chocolate room. This is where we mix cocoa, cream, and sugar to make chocolate. By altering the proportions of each ingredient, we can make different kinds of chocolate, such as dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and milk chocolate. We also make white chocolate here.”
Soon the platform comes to a stop next to a projected ledge where another Candy Wizard works. “This is our sampling station where we taste the product to ensure proper mixing,” Wizard Brett says. The other Candy Wizard pulls a tiny lever attached to a pipe that overhangs a bowl. A small chocolate square pops out and lands in the bowl. The Wizard picks it out and hands it to Nathaniel. “Taste our dark chocolate and tell us if it tastes yummy,” Wizard Brett coaxes.
Nathaniel chews ravenously and swallows. He is very hungry by this time. “Don’t eat too fast. Chocolate is best when you allow it to melt slowly in your mouth,” Wizard Brett says, “We have the ability here to fine-tune mixtures to melt at specific temperature-pressure conditions, tailoring them to the body temperatures of different species. Tell me, what’s your body temperature, Nathaniel?”
“His body temperature is forty-five degrees Celsius,” Mama answers.
“Okay,” Wizard Brett says. He turns several dials within dials and pulls several switches. The mass of striped pipes immediately overhead changes colors, some pipes expanding and others contracting. Loud gurgling and whooshing is heard. Less than a minute later, a second square of dark chocolate appears and is given to Nathaniel. He places it in his mouth and waits for it to melt. The sensation is amazing. It is better than playing with light switches. It is better than watching volcanoes. It is the most amazing thing Nathaniel has ever experienced. Chocolate is definitely much better than the bland jelly the Mama-And-Daddy secretes.
“Excuse me Wizard Brett, may I please have one of your dark chocolates calibrated to melt at the same temperature?” Daddy asks.
“Yes you may,” Wizard Brett answers and fetches one right away. Daddy takes it in his tentacles and stuffs it into the very top of his head. Nathaniel concludes that he must have a second mouth up there. Perhaps he has one mouth for eating and one mouth for talking, he thinks.
“Give me another chocolate too,” Nathaniel implores.
Wizard Brett appears confused and Daddy appears angry. “It’s Mama’s turn! And say please when you ask for something!” Daddy shouts.
“Use your manners, Nathaniel,” Mama says. Nathaniel is confused. He didn’t know there were turns, and Mama could easily have asked for a chocolate immediately after he did without any trouble. Could she not wait? And what are manners? “May I please have a dark chocolate too?” Mama asks.
“Yes you may,” Wizard Brett responds.
“Now you may ask for one,” Mama says to Nathaniel.
“Give please me a chocolate,” Nathaniel stammers.
“Say it right,” Mama and Daddy speak at the same time.
Nathaniel’s mind was reeling. He was not used to this. What was wrong? Were they referring to the placement of the word in the sentence? What was so important about the placement of a meaningless word? What did “please” mean anyways? It was a word that had no meaning he was aware of; he had been preprogrammed with language, but this usage of “please” made no sense. Nathaniel only knows “Please” as a verb meaning to make happy. Clearly, Wizard Brett was happy to give away chocolate or else he wouldn’t have done so. Why did Nathaniel have to say things a particular way then? What was wrong with just telling him to give him more chocolate? If Brett didn’t want to, he could always say “no.” Everyone was staring at him, including the second Candy Wizard. It made Nathaniel uncomfortable.
“It’s okay. May Nathaniel have another chocolate please, Wizard Brett?” Daddy asks.
“Yes Daddy, he may,” Wizard Brett answers, smiling, “but I want to see him try and compare dark chocolate to white chocolate and milk chocolate.” In a few seconds, he hands Nathaniel three squares of different colors. One was dark brown, one was medium brown, and one was almost ivory. Nathaniel bites off tiny pieces of each in turns back and forth. Milk chocolate is amazing. It is better than white chocolate, which is much better than dark, which seems bitter by comparison.
“Milk chocolate is way better than dark chocolate,” Nathaniel reports.
“We make thirty-three different chocolate mixtures, not including our custom mixtures made for our paying customers with highly discriminating taste receptors,” Wizard Brett says.
Wow! Such variety! Nathaniel’s mind is momentarily boggled. “I want thirty-three types of chocolate!” He exclaims.
“Well, Nathaniel, what you want is a chocolate mix-ball. They have every chocolate on the spectrum perfectly blended so like chocolates are together and different chocolates are apart. You can get one in the shop at the end of the tour,” Wizard Brett says. “Would you like to move on to the next stop?” He asks the Mama-And-Daddy.
“Yes. Thank you,” Daddy and Mama speak at the same time.
With that, Wizard Brett pushes on the red-striped lever again and the platform continues on the track, rising at a forty-degree angle. They pass by large fans that ruffle Nathaniel’s feathers and large striped gears and axles that hurt Nathaniel’s ears with the sound. At the far side of the room, they enter a tunnel. Brown liquid can be seen churning all around them through the tunnel’s transparent walls.
“We are now passing through our central tank where we tweak the chocolate to achieve different consistencies and textures. We can mix in air to make our chocolate fluffy, we can mix in special peptides and carbohydrate complexes to make it chewy, or we can compress and shock the chocolate to make it crunchy. Some of our customers enjoy runny chocolate – melted even before it touches their mouths. We can even combine attributes, creating fluffy-crunchy or fluffy-chewy chocolates, for example,” Wizard Brett says. At the end of the tunnel is another sampling station. “Would you like to try our crunchy chocolate?”
“Yes, we would. Thank you,” Daddy says, taking a piece. Mama opts for the fluffy-runny chocolate (really a foam). Nathaniel is given a crunchy chocolate and a chewy chocolate to start with. He is told it is okay to chew this time.
“What do you say, Nathaniel?” Mama asks. Nathaniel gives her a blank stare. He has no idea what she is talking about. “Say thank you.”
“Thank you,” Nathaniel says. Then he starts on his chocolate. So that’s what crunchy was like! He enjoys the sensation of accomplishment when he finishes breaking down the piece. He is much less thrilled with chewy, however. Next, he is given a chewy-crunchy combination piece. Nathaniel finds it very interesting. “Give me a fluffy chocolate, please,” Nathaniel says.
“Okay,” Wizard Brett says, fetching him a fluffy chocolate piece. It was very light in his hand. The sensation is very interesting. He likes it. Wizard Brett continues, “Did you know that by changing the amount of air we add, we make chocolate of fourteen different levels of fluffiness here?”
“No,” Nathaniel responds, his mouth full.
“We do,” Wizard Brett insists, “But you shouldn’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Why?” Nathaniel asks in wonderment.
“It’s the rule,” Mama explains.
“Nathaniel doesn’t know all the rules yet,” Daddy explains to the Candy Wizard.
“That’s okay,” Wizard Brett assures. “Would you like me to take you into the filling room now?” He queries.
“Yes, please. Thank you,” Mama says.
“You’re welcome,” Wizard Brett says, pushing the lever.
“Wait! There are thirteen other fluffiness levels to try!” Nathaniel exclaims, quickly doing the math in his head.
“We’ll try them some other time,” Mama says.
Wizard Brett had mixed feelings about children. He liked to see happiness in anyone, and children were The Candy Wizards’ best customers, but they could also be problematic. They were often hyperactive and didn’t follow all the rules. They would chew on the equipment, and one time, a young tyrannosaur took a bite out of his foot! It took three weeks to grow back.
Suddenly, the moving platform came to a stop. It is the end of the rails. Then, the rail section they are on detaches and rises. They are in a much larger room now, about half-filled with independently moving modules that slide past each other in all directions. Each module is framed by two balloons, top and bottom, making them overall only slightly heavier than air. Each module carries a set of hoses capable of interfacing with the modules around them. Most are manned by Candy Wizards.
Wizard Brett speaks, “This is where we make our fillers, to be surrounded by chocolate later. In this factory, we use thirty-eight flavors, including caramel, butterscotch, honey, marshmallow, cotton candy, meringue, cheesecake, coffee, molasses, graham, plain frosting, maple, vanilla, French vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, strawberry, banana, kiwi, pineapple, mango, papaya, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, pomegranate, pear, peach, plum, coconut, fig, date, and apricot.”
Nathaniel stops listening. He is attracted by the smell from a nearby hose. Seeing a drop of red, he licks it off. Sweet strawberry paradise! Nathaniel doesn’t know what strawberries were, and will only learn what name to attach to that taste later, but that’s what it is. Then Nathaniel notices a second tube, and then a third and fourth. Cinnamon! Raspberry! Maple! Nathaniel is now totally overstimulated. He runs around, sucking from tube after tube. He doesn’t notice that he is now on another module detaching from the first. He continues to run back and forth from module to module and beyond. For how long he doesn’t notice, but soon enough he finds himself back on the platform with Wizard Brett and The Mama-And-Daddy.
“Nathaniel! Don’t run away! Stay where we can see you!” Daddy scolds.
Wizard Brett is very relieved. The last kid that ran away on one of his tours wasn’t found until eight hours later, when the night shift found her swimming in a syrup tank. Kids are so problematic.
From the filler room the four of them travel onward into the shapes room where the chocolates are made into chips, drops, balls, squares, bars, cups, or molded into unusual shapes so as to resemble other things, such as bananas, strawberries, pineapples, brains, feet, airplanes, boats, castles, rabbits, and fish. They don’t stay long.
From the shapes room, the platform exits the factory through a hole in the wall and follows the rails out over the fields where the cows are tended and milked and the chickens are tended and their eggs collected. The fields are vast and numerous other rails can be seen in the distance. They pass through a couple of tall, glass buildings where Candy Wizards can be seen harvesting strawberries and coffee beans.
“We are still in transition here. By making use of hydroponics and indoor lighting, we are now able to make much more efficient use of land area in growing our plants, building multiple-level buildings, leaving more room for the cows and chickens. Many factories on Candy still do things the old-fashioned way, however,” Wizard Brett says as they pass through.
Eventually, the rails lead them to a second cocoa-brick pyramid as large as the first and they enter through a hole in its side. They enter another vast, irregular room. Nathaniel looks around and sees that he is surrounded by hoppers. There are hoppers over hoppers under other hoppers. There are hoppers that feed into multiple hoppers and hoppers fed by multiple hoppers. There are hoppers that shake back and forth and hoppers that shake up and down. Substances dry and wet and of all colors and textures spill downward. Candy Wizards check gauges and adjust throttles.
“This is our flour room. This is where we mix flour, water, cream, eggs, sugar, and other substances. We use several different flours here. We receive flours made from corn, wheat, rice, barley, oats, and several grasses that grow only on the Planet Candy. Different products require different mixtures, and we mix them all in this room,” Wizard Brett announces.
“How do you make flour?” Nathaniel asks.
“Grinding the seeds from certain plants using big wheels,” Wizard Brett answers.
“How do you use big wheels?” Nathaniel asks, perplexed.
“Would you like to see our grinding room?” Wizard Brett asks.
“Yeah!” Nathaniel exclaims, jumping.
“What do you say?” Mama and Daddy speak together. Did Nathaniel have to say thank you just to answer a question? If Wizard Brett did not want an answer, he would not have asked.
“Yeah! Thank you!” Nathaniel exclaims, still excited.
“He means please,” Mama and Daddy say.
“Please!” Nathaniel says.
“It’s okay. We can return to the flour-candy factory later,” Wizard Brett says. With that, he pulls and pushes the lever back and forth and the platform moves forward. Reaching an intersection in the rails a few seconds later, the platform suddenly stops and travels left. It exits through a hole in the side of the pyramid and runs parallel to another rail carrying carts full of flours of different types in the opposite direction from a complex of large silos in the distance. This was Wizard Brett’s favorite part of his job: showing the customers what they wanted to see in response to their spontaneous curiosity instead of merely dispensing a pre-designed tour. The Mama-And-Daddy is also pleased – in its own sort of subdued way; they had never even thought to ask where flour came from before. They were seeing something new.
“Where are the wheels?” Nathaniel asks.
“We’re going to see them. It will take a little while longer,” Wizard Brett explains.
Nathaniel sighs and starts to pace. “Stop moving and enjoy the ride,” Daddy commands. Nathaniel is confused. He had been trying to enjoy the ride by moving. Holding still did not sound at all enjoyable. Sometimes, the Mama-And-Daddy says things that don’t make sense.
Finally, they arrive where grains are shredded, filtered, and the seeds poured in between two giant grinding wheels. Each wheel reaches fifteen meters in diameter. Despite their size, each wheel completes a full rotation every second. The noise is nearly deafening. The long, boring trip had been worth it.
Finally returning to the factory, they pick up where they left off. Wizard Brett, Mama, Daddy, and Nathaniel leave the mixing room and enter the center of the factory. Conveyor belts crisscross each other at all levels entering and exiting ovens all along the walls. Heat causes the air to shimmer near the oven entrances. The track traces a helix downward, passing close to several belts. Soon, the platform comes to a stop next to one of the conveyor belts. A row of small cookies moves past. Wizard Brett picks one up and hands it to Nathaniel. “How is it?” he asks.
Nathaniel bites into the crunchy object. It is sweet and tastes of ginger. “I like it,” he says.
“We call these cookies. These cookies are ginger flavored,” Wizard Brett states. The platform moves further down the helical rail, coming to a stop next to another conveyor belt. This belt has crackers on it. “Try one of these; they are called crackers.”
Nathaniel takes one. It is crunchy, but not as sweet as the cookie. “I like cookies better,” Nathaniel comments.
“That’s okay. Most people like cookies better, but most people like cake even better than cookies,” Wizard Brett says. The platform descends down the helix yet again, stopping next to yet another conveyor, this one with a row of tiny, yellow cubes of cake on it. Cake is sweet, but not crunchy. It is soft, spongy, and airy. The aroma of vanilla seeping out of it as Nathaniel takes a bite. Nathaniel loves the cake so much that he takes two pieces. “At this factory, we only make small pieces like these, but there are other factories on Candy that make much larger cakes, some with layers of frosting, in all shapes, and some weighing a ton or more,” Wizard Brett proclaims.
As the platform continues to descend, Nathaniel tries quilted wafers, pretzels, licorice, and Kazoozles. He very much dislikes licorice. Finally, they descend into another room where he is shown the combiner. Wizard Brett shows him how to pull combinations of switches to create custom candies from his imagination. Wizard Brett creates a French vanilla cake cube, filled with butterscotch, topped with a strong ginger cookie, and coated in white chocolate. Nathaniel swirls chocolate and vanilla cake together, fills them with strawberry syrup, tops them with a saltless pretzel, and coats the whole thing in crunchy milk chocolate sprinkles. Robot arms do all the work as Nathaniel watches in amazement. Playing with the machine, he continues to make creative combinations, sharing them with Mama and Daddy.
Finally being coaxed to leave the factory with the promise of an even larger combiner later in the tour, Nathaniel rides the platform out of the factory and across several kilometers of grain fields again, eventually coming to and crossing a massive river. He watches as candy fish and candy lobsters jump below. The candy lobsters are covered with antennae all over their bodies. Candy birds swoop down to try and catch them, but usually miss. Nathaniel also sees Candy Wizards in small fishing boats, reeling in nets. They wave to him. Wizard Brett explains fishing for Nathaniel, while Daddy explains waving. Waving and fishing! There is so much to learn about this amazing, complicated world of candy! Nathaniel is having a great day. He doesn’t miss the volcanoes at all!
On the other side of the river, the platform enters a third factory pyramid. This factory makes hard sucking candies. The hard candy factory is filled with fog. Overflow from liquid nitrogen tanks cools the air in spots, causing the moisture in the air to condense. In some rooms, Nathaniel can only see two meters in front of him. “This is what clouds are made of,” Daddy explains. Jointed shafts transfer power from the engines to dozens of other machines. One section of the factory is dedicated to creating especially hard candies to be used in building. The factory itself and most of the machines are made of these candies. Nathaniel tries lollipops, canes, and cubes with liquid centers. Is there any end to the creativity of the Candy Wizards?
After exploring the third candy factory, Nathaniel is transported to the center of a large field. Cattle graze below. Many dozens of tracks from all directions intersect at or near a very large cocoa-brick pyramid. It must be at least two-and-a-half kilometers tall! Inside, it is one, single, enormous room, containing an immense combiner made up of several layers of wheels sliding past each other. Robot arms attached to the inside wall manipulate its controls. Cakes, cookies, chocolates, sucking candies, and more are fed into it and combined into complex forms of every flavor, color, and texture. Wizard Brett shows Nathaniel how to coat small chocolate pieces in candy shells so they do not melt outside the mouth. The shell also adds an interesting crunch. Nathaniel invents a mango-papaya lollipop with a chocolate center. He continues to invent for almost an hour and eats until full. While there, a family of Meekons – apes with large feet and twenty-three hooked toes per foot – arrives. Nathaniel and the Meekon children spontaneously begin to chase each other in circles around the adults. Nathaniel is faster. When he finally agrees to leave, Nathaniel continues to run in circles on the platform, but neither Wizard Brett nor the Mama-And-Daddy couch-unit joins him.
“Nathaniel, stop running!” Mama demands, “Sit down!”
“You said I could run outside,” Nathaniel says.
“Don’t argue with us!” Daddy yells.
“Don’t run on the platform,” Mama says. Why were adults sometimes happy and other times grumpy and unreasonable? How could anybody not want to run or play? How could anybody be bothered by another’s running or playing? Nathaniel ponders this as he sits down on the couch.
At the end of the tour, Wizard Brett parts ways, remaining on the platform as Nathaniel rides the Mama-And-Daddy couch-unit over a riverside boardwalk by a cluster of stores. Stopping at one, Nathaniel is excited to see candies stuck in rows to rolls of paper, closed straws filled with flavored sugar or honey, candies that explode and pop in the mouth, candy beads that snap together to make strings, woven cotton candy scarves, hats, and sweaters, candy-coated fruits, candy-coated corn, and freeze-dried fruits, cakes, and ice cream. He fills his pockets. He is also intrigued by the ringing Dendophorite bells, but Mama and Daddy explain that so much metal isn’t good for him. “Those candies are for aliens called Dendophorites,” they speak simultaneously. The Mama-And-Daddy also allows Nathaniel to take a chocolate mix-ball. He plans to save it for later.
Next to the novelty shop, they stop at an outdoor ice cream place overlooking the river. Nathaniel tries cookie-dough ice cream and raspberry hot chocolate, goes back for chocolate milk and a pineapple slushy, and finally orders a strawberry-cinnamon popsicle. There are so many kinds of food to try! Even the same combinations of flavors come in so many combinations of temperatures, consistencies, and textures! Mama and Daddy share a large bowl of caramel swirl vanilla ice cream with crunchy sugar rosettes on top, using edible spoons to stuff the ice cream into the tops of their heads.
While Nathaniel sucks on his popsicle, a young, cobra-like Helta slithers up. “Do you like popsicles?” he asks.
“I like strawberry-cinnamon popsicles,” Nathaniel answers.
“I like ginger-honey-rosemary popsicles!” the Helta responds. The Helta slithers under the table at high speed. Ducking, Nathaniel chases after him. The Helta laughs.
“Nathaniel, why don’t you ask if he wants to play?” Mama says. Nathaniel is confused. He thought he already was playing. Why ask now?
“Do you like playing?” Nathaniel asks the Helta, wondering even as he asked if it were even possible for one not to like playing. The Helta looks as confused as Nathaniel feels.
“Remember to use your manners,” Mama and Daddy encourage him, speaking together.
“Please can you play,” Nathaniel says.
“Why don’t you ask his name?” Daddy asks. Nathaniel never thought of that. He was too busy having fun.
“I don’t know,” Nathaniel answers. He turns to look at the Helta, but he has already slithered away. Nathaniel isn’t sure if he has done something wrong or not.
As the sun approaches the horizon and reddens, The Mama-And-Daddy brings Nathaniel back to the ship. At the spaceport, Nathaniel watches as the heart-plane stack-ship he saw before takes off vertically by means of a single rocket nozzle located at the center of its underside. How interesting! Soon, Nathaniel enters the ivory-palace-ship-creature and the door closes. As it takes off, the Mama-And-Daddy polyp-heads go into silent mode. Nathaniel is very tired. Not bothering to even return to his room, he curls up in a hallway and goes to sleep.