Authors: Cassandra Morgan
Tags: #adventure, #fantasy, #magic, #young adult, #teens, #prophecy, #princess, #elves, #dwarves, #wanderlust
Dude. Harsh,” Leo said,
glaring at Jayson.
Don’t you think we’re
just getting a little old for this?” Jack asked.
No. And now you just
sound like those jerks from school.” Jayson shoved his stick into
his belt so hard he nearly stabbed himself in the leg. “You’re not
going to tell anyone, are you?”
No, I just —” Jack
struggled for the right words. “It’d be different if this were
real, or something, you know? I’m just tired of pretending to be
something I’m not. I know that sounds so bunk, but — maybe it’s
time to grow up.” Jack stabbed his stick into the ground, his face
flush. “Time to stop believing in stupid dreams!”
He turned quickly and headed back across the
drawbridge. He half expected Leo to chase after him, but he could
hear him arguing with Jayson back at the tree house. He was glad.
He just wanted to be alone anyway. Jayson’s reminder that he didn’t
stand a chance at ever being Claudia Benedict’s boyfriend hurt. But
not nearly as much as discovering his dream hadn’t actually come
Jack’s eyes shot open. He had had the dream
again. It was the same dream Leo had described the day before. But
this time it was interspersed with screaming, breaking glass and a
crying baby. His dresser was still pushed in front of his bedroom
door. He pushed it aside and peeked into the hall. A broken beer
bottle his father had thrown against the now cracked mirror
littered the floor. He stepped over the broken shards and grabbed a
trash bag from the bathroom. When he had finished, he picked his
sleeping sister from the floor of his closet and set her in her
crib in the next room.
Downstairs, his mother had fallen asleep on
the couch. A melted ice pack had fallen to the floor beside her,
and the cordless phone lay on the pillow. Jack picked up the phone
and walked into the kitchen.
Aunt Kiera?” Jack
whispered and pulled the peanut butter and bread from the
Jack?” Said a sleepy
voice on the other end.
Hi, mom’s sleeping now,”
he said, “I’m going over to Leo’s house, so, is it okay if you stay
on the line for when Dad comes home?”
Of course, sweetie. I’ll
let your mom know, too. Are you alright?” Aunt Kiera
I’m fine. Amanda is still
upstairs sleeping too. Thanks, Aunt Kiera.” He set the phone back
down beside his mother’s head. He covered his mother with the
afghan lying on the chair and looked at the bruise rising around
her eye and cheek. When his father had refused counseling after
this third relapse, his Aunt Kiera had told his mother to leave.
But she had refused. Jack sighed and swallowed hard, putting a few
peanut butter sandwiches in the pocket of his jacket. He kissed his
mother on her forehead and headed out the door.
Jack was halfway up Leo’s front lawn when he
noticed a strange white Cadillac in the driveway. He looked up and
saw Jayson and Leo sitting on the porch steps. Jayson looked up
from his bowl of cereal and waved.
Our glorious knight
returns!” He cried, his mouth full. A line of milk dribbled down
his chin. Jack smiled. Leo looked up from his copy of Popular
Mechanics, frowning. His tangled mess of blonde hair was more
untidy than usual.
So, you didn’t abandon us
after all,” snapped Leo.
I’m sorry,” said Jack,
sticking his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker. “I— it was a
long night. I know it’s really not an excuse anymore,
Leo sighed and went back to his magazine.
“It’s okay,” he mumbled.
Jayson set his cereal bowl on the step and
finally wiped his chin.
What are you guys doing
out here?” Jack asked. He sat in the grass and moved Jayson’s bowl
before it was knocked over.
Well,” said Jayson, “Some
weird guy showed up and needed to talk to Mr. DeHaven. They said
something about ‘the project’ and started pulling out all these
It’s the documentation
from my dad’s NASA project,” said Leo. He put his magazine into the
mailbox and sat back down. “It’s the one that got cancelled before
we moved out here. It’s why mom moved to France and all that.” Leo
looked at his feet and pulled on the collar of his shirt
You can have my mom,”
said Jayson punching Leo in the arm, laughing. “She likes smart
kids the best.”
Shut up, man.” Leo glared
at Jayson. “She’s coming back. She’s just – busy.”
So, why are we out here?”
Jack asked, breaking the tension that had risen between
Totally kicked out,” said
Jayson. “As if we know anything about what they’re talking
The project was super top
secret,” Leo said defensively.
But it got cancelled,”
Leo shrugged. “Whatever.”
You guys wanna go to the
fort?” Jack shrugged.
Sure,” said Jayson,
leaping to his feet, and still nearly upsetting the bowl on the
ground. Jack nodded, and handed Leo one of the peanut butter
sandwiches he had stuffed in his pocket. He held it out like a
peace offering, but still wouldn’t look at Leo.
Leo took the sandwich and punched Jack in
the arm. “Thanks,” he said, and followed after Jayson.
Jayson’s sugary cereal had begun to kick in
by the time they reached the tree fort. He lowered the bridge, and
skipped across the little creek. Jack and Leo followed at a walk
and watched as Jayson tripped and nearly fell. They stifled laughs
together, their anger forgotten.
Jack flopped across the arm chair. “Hey,
guys, I’ve been thinking,” he said.
Uh, oh,” said Leo with a
grin, “That could be dangerous.”
Hey, it’s not like I’m
Jayson,” Jack teased. His wide smile had returned.
And what’s that supposed
to mean?” Jayson jumped down from the second level of their tree
fort. His arms flailed to keep balance, and he smacked himself in
the head with his stick-sword.
Well, I was just
wondering if you guys might like to try and study martial arts or
something. They have the Mortal Combat movies on a marathon this
month, and I’ve been watching them, like, non-stop at night. You
can practically teach yourself how to do this stuff.” Jack jumped
up and executed a mock kick and punch. “We could really take our
game fighting to the next level.”
Leo and Jayson glanced at each other
uncomfortably. Finally, Leo spoke. “This wouldn’t have anything to
do with your dad would it?”
My dad?” Jack took a step
You’re not gunna try to
fight him, are you?” Jayson asked.
Why would I do that?”
Jack scowled at his friends and crossed his arms. He hadn’t talked
to anyone about his dad in years. He shifted side to side uneasily.
How could they have known?
Jack, we’re your friends.
We know what’s going on,” said Leo.
And yesterday you were
talking about being something you’re not.” Jayson blushed beneath
his freckles. “We care, dude.”
Just because you have a
perfect little family doesn’t mean I have to try to act like I do!”
Jack cried. His hands clenched into fists, and his face burned red.
“So what if I want to do something change my life?” He jabbed his
finger at Leo and Jayson. “You don’t have any idea what I have to
go through!” Tears filled his eyes. He tried to fight them off. His
father’s voice echoed in his mind. “Only babies cry.”
No, I don’t know what you
go through, because you won’t talk to anyone!” Jayson yelled back.
He threw his stick on the ground. “I’ve got my own stuff going on
too, Jack! Why are you so special, huh?”
Whoa, hold the phone,”
said Leo. He rushed between Jack and Jayson, forcing them apart.
“Let’s just take a chill pill. There’s a time and place for
everything. My mom used to say that.”
And how do you know this
isn’t it?” Jack shoved his finger into Leo’s chest, then turned
pointed at himself. “I make my own fate, Leo! I’ll decide my
The silence that fell was deafening. Not a
bird sang, not a leaf shifted. Jack looked at the creek behind
them. It had stopped in mid wave. He turned to his friends again.
Their forms were becoming hazy and distorted. The sunlight was
increasing and was close to blinding. He saw Jayson shaking his
head in disbelief, the anger and rage turning to fear. The world
went white, and Jack knew no more.
Leo was the first to wake. He blinked in the
bright sunlight and pushed away the dizziness that lingered. He got
to his knees and saw Jayson and Jack close by. They were still
unconscious. He crawled to them, and gave each a gentle shake.
Jayson shook his head and sat up.
God, what happened?” he
We must’ve…blacked out…
or something,” Leo said uncertain.
Yeah, but where are we?”
asked Jack as his eyes came into focus.
Where they sat was not their fort or any
place in the woods they recognized. There was no wood. Just a
sloping plane of craggy rocks before them, and a towering gray
mountain behind them. The sun was shining, but the sky was a
dreary, overcast gray.
Do you think someone at
school is trying to bunk us?” Jayson asked.
More likely we were
kidnapped,” said Leo with a nod.
Then why aren’t we tied
up?” Jayson raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms before
Leo shrugged. He opened his mouth, intending
to give a scientific hypothesis, but was cut off.
Hey look.” Jack pointed
to a line of smoke rising into the air in the distance.
Where there’s smoke,
there’s fire.” said Leo with a grin. He always looked exactly like
his father whenever he did so.
And where there’s fire,
there’s probably people,” Jack finished excitedly.
Maybe they know where we
are!” Jayson jumped to his feet and nearly twisted his
And how to get home,” Leo
added, taking no notice of Jayson.
The boys ran up the sloping hill, tripping
occasionally on a loose stone from the boulders that littered the
way. They stopped when they reached the top of the hill, panting
and surveying the scene before them.
Below was a tiny village nestled between the
hill they stood upon and another identical hill at least a mile
away. The homes were small huts with thatched roofs. Dirt roadways
wound between wooden structures that appeared to be bakeries,
smithies and stables.
Jack nearly fell to the ground in disbelief.
Jayson plopped down next to him.
Come on, man!” he cried
and pulled on his red hair. “No electricity? I figured a campground
would have electricity.”
I don’t think that’s a
campground, Jay,” Leo whispered.
It’s gotta be! What else
could it be? Like some stupid renn faire thing?”
What’s the last thing you
all remember?” Jack asked them.
Well,” Leo folded his
arms and grabbed his chin as he thought. “It was like I went
Yeah, and everything just
kind of stopped. It looked like the creek stopped in mid-wave,”
And the light,” Jack
added quietly. “Just like from my dream.”
Mine too,” Leo
The boys fell silent, not daring to look at
Maybe this is one of
those government tests, and they messed it all up,” Jayson broke
the silence. Jack and Leo looked at him but did not speak. “Maybe
they’re working on a way to control a person’s mind, to make them
see things. Like… a controlled and forced hallucination. Or…”
Jayson paused, his eyes widening. “Maybe they were doing something
with time and accidentally sent us back in time.”
Are you for real, man?”
Jack interrupted. He narrowed his eyes and shook his
What?” Jayson asked with
Jack rolled his eyes and sighed. “Why us?
Why Swansdale? That doesn’t make any sense.”
It sort of does,” Leo
said. He sat down between Jack and Jayson. “No one would believe us
if we tried to tell someone. We’re kids. And Swansdale’s a no-name
little town. No one would ever look there for signs of government
testing. And, if we tried to go public with it, well, everyone
would just think we were trippin! No one would believe us. It’s not
a bad hypothesis.”
Jayson’s stomach grumbled loudly, making
them all turn and look.
Well, wherever we are, I
hope they have something to eat.” Jayson rose to his feet and
headed toward the little village.
Jayson, where are you
going?” cried Leo, “We don’t know where we are — Jayson! Come back!
What if you’re kidnapped?”
A sound like thunder made the boys stop.
They could feel the ground shake beneath them. Jayson ran back up
the hill and joined Jack and Leo behind a giant boulder. Carefully,
they peeked around the edge of the rock and watched as s large
company of men on horseback came rounded the mountain corner. They
wore white and green gambesons emblazoned with a golden phoenix
over chain armor. They carried swords and spears, and halted no
more than fifty yards from the boulder. Jayson, Jack and Leo pulled
back behind the boulder and crouched close together.