Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises

BOOK: Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises
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The Monastery

DEDICATION

F
OR MY FELLOW VOYAGERS
. A
LL OF YOU
.

CONTENTS

DEDICATION

CHAPTER ONE:
RED BEARD

CHAPTER TWO:
THE ACCIDENT

CHAPTER THREE:
FLATLINING

CHAPTER FOUR:
THE DREAM

CHAPTER FIVE:
ARRIVAL

CHAPTER SIX:
INTO THE JUNGLE

CHAPTER SEVEN:
YODA IN TWEEDS

CHAPTER EIGHT:
G7W

CHAPTER NINE:
THE SELECT

CHAPTER TEN:
SECRET MESSAGE

CHAPTER ELEVEN:
THREE A.M.

CHAPTER TWELVE:
THE MOE QUADRANT

CHAPTER THIRTEEN:
ESCAPE FROM KI

CHAPTER FOURTEEN:
SINK OR SWIM

CHAPTER FIFTEEN:
TRAINING DAY

CHAPTER SIXTEEN:
THE FIRST TREATMENT

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:
HERMAN AND BURT WENDERS

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN:
THE ONES THAT DON’T BELONG

CHAPTER NINETEEN:
MOUNT ONYX

CHAPTER TWENTY:
BELAY ON!

CHAPTER TWENTY - ONE:
THE TUB

CHAPTER TWENTY - TWO:
ATTACK

CHAPTER TWENTY - THREE:
INTO THE ABYSS

CHAPTER TWENTY - FOUR:
THE DREAM CHANGES

CHAPTER TWENTY - FIVE:
IF MISERY BE THINE

CHAPTER TWENTY - SIX:
THE MAZE

CHAPTER TWENTY - SEVEN:
RECALCULATING

CHAPTER TWENTY - EIGHT:
DON’T LOOK UP

CHAPTER TWENTY - NINE:
CASS ON FIRE

CHAPTER THIRTY:
GOING, GOING, GONE

CHAPTER THIRY - ONE:
MARCO

CHAPTER THIRTY - TWO:
THE CIRCLE IN THE DARK

CHAPTER THIRTY - THREE:
NO-DEAD-BODY ZONE

CHAPTER THIRTY - FOUR:
THE HEPTAKIKLOS

CHPATER THIRTY - FIVE:
CREATURE FROM THE BREACH

CHAPTER THIRY - SIX:
MEANING OF THE SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY - SEVEN:
RHODES

CHAPTER THIRTY - EIGHT:
THE TROUBLE WITH TORQUIN

CHPATER THIRTY - NINE:
CHASING THE MONKS

CHAPTER FORTY:
BROTHER DIMITRIOS

CHAPTER FORTY - ONE:
TWEETY RETURNS

CHAPTER FORTY - TWO:
THE FLAME

CHAPTER FORTY - THREE:
MASSARYM

CHAPTER FORTY - FOUR:
THE AWAKENING

CHAPTER FORTY - FIVE:
PLAN C

CHAPTER FORTY - SIX:
ONE BEAST AT A TIME

CHAPTER FORTY - SEVEN:
THE SECRET OF THE LOCULUS

CHAPTER FORTY - EIGHT:
NO TURNING BACK

CHAPTER FORTY - NINE:
SHOWDOWN

CHAPTER FIFTY:
INCIDENT AT THE RHODEAN MANOR

CHAPTER FIFTY - ONE:
SOLDIER, SAILOR, TINKER, TAILOR

BACK ADS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CREDITS

COPYRIGHT

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

CHAPTER ONE
R
ED
B
EARD

O
N THE MORNING
I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house. The thirty-degree temperature didn’t seem to bother him, but he must have had a lousy breakfast, because he let out a burp as loud as a tuba.

Belching barefoot giants who look like Vikings are not normal in Belleville, Indiana. But I didn’t really get a chance to see the guy closely.

At that moment, I, Jack McKinley, was under attack in my own bedroom. By a flying reptile.

I could have used an alarm clock. But I’d been up late studying for my first-period math test and I’m a deep sleeper. Dad couldn’t wake me because he was in Singapore
on business. And Vanessa, the au pair I call my don’t-caregiver, always slept till noon.

I needed a big sound. Something I couldn’t possibly sleep through. That’s when I saw my papier-mâché volcano from last month’s science fair, still on my desk. It was full of baking soda. So I got my dad’s coffeemaker, filled it with vinegar, and rigged it to the volcano with a plastic tube. I set the timer for 6:30
A.M.,
when the coffeemaker would release the vinegar into the volcano, causing a goop explosion. I put a chute at the base of the volcano to capture that goop. In the chute was a billiard ball, which would roll down toward a spring-loaded catapult on my chair. The catapult would release a big old plastic Ugliosaurus™—a fanged eagle crossed with a lion, bright-red.

Bang
—when that baby hit the wall I’d have to be dead not to wake up. Foolproof, right?

Not quite. Around 6:28, I was in the middle of a nightmare. I’d had this dream way too many times: me, running through the jungle in a toga, chased by snarling, drooling, piglike beasts, whose screeches fill the smoky sky. Nice, huh? Usually I awake from this dream when a gap in the earth opens beneath my feet.

But this time, I fell in. Down into the darkness. To my death.

At the moment of contact, the Gaseous Giant burped in real life. The sound woke me up.

The coffeemaker-volcano alarm went off. And the Ugliosaurus whacked me between the eyes.

Which, in a nutshell, is how the worst morning of my life began. The last morning I would awaken in my own bed.

“@$%^&!” I screamed, which means I can’t tell you the actual words.

I sprang off my bed in agony. That was when I caught a glimpse of Red Beard on the sidewalk. Which caused me to drop to the floor, embarrassed to be seen, even by a wacked-out barefoot stranger. Unfortunately my butt landed squarely on a sharp Ugliosaurus wing, which made me scream again. That was way too much screaming for someone who just turned thirteen.

I lay there with gritted teeth, wishing I’d used the alarm clock. In my mind I saw Vanessa goading me:
You think too much, Jack
. Which she used to say about a hundred times a day. Maybe because I think too much. Always have.

I got off the floor, clutching my head. Red Beard was padding down the street, his feet slapping the pavement. “Next time, close your mouth,” I grumbled under my breath as I staggered to the bathroom.

I should have wondered who he was and why he was here. But I couldn’t stop thinking of my nightmare, which still lingered like the taste of moldy cheese. I tried to replace it with thoughts of math. Unfortunately, it felt about the same.

Looking in the mirror, I saw that the Ugliosaurus had made a gash on my forehead. Not too deep, but it looked pretty bad, and it stung.

I turned on the tap, dampened a washcloth, and pushed aside a mass of rat-brown hair to uncover my wound. As I dabbed it, I noticed a little tuft of blond hairs sticking out from the back of my head.

Weird. I’d never seen them before. Without Dad around to bug me, I hadn’t had a haircut in a while, so those blond hairs looked like loose wires. As I leaned closer to look, a sharp creak made me spin around.

“Vanessa?” I called out.

Aha. She’d heard my scream. I imagined her cowering behind the door, planning how not to be blamed for whatever happened. But she wasn’t there.

I glanced at the bathroom clock: 6:39. I had to leave the house by 6:45. But I wanted to see that little blond patch. I had enough time.

I pulled open the bathroom cabinet and reached for a hand mirror I hadn’t touched in years. Dad and I had bought it at CVS when I was in second grade, for an art project. Picking it up, I looked at the message I’d carved into the plastic frame.

I turned the mirror around. On the back I’d laminated a photo to the surface. In it, I was four years old and dressed in a puffy winter coat, sliding down a gentle
hill on a sled. The white snow was tinged yellow-green with age. Mom was on the hilltop, laughing, wearing her favorite Smith College wool jacket. Dad was at the bottom, turned away. It was our game: Boom to Daddy. I’d slide into his legs and he would keel over, howling in pretend pain. Then he’d carry me back to the top and we’d do it all over again.

I smiled. Back then, I thought this game was hilarious. Every little thing we did was fun. Life was pretty perfect before Mom died. Before I started having those nightmares. Before Dad had decided home was a place to avoid.

Turning my back to the big bathroom mirror, I used the hand mirror to see behind my head. That was when I realized the blond hair wasn’t blond—it was white. And it wasn’t just a couple of hairs. I patted them down and noticed a pattern, an upside-down V. I tried to scrape it off with my fingernails, hoping it was some kind of weird stain. But nothing happened. My hair had just changed color—like in those cartoons where someone’s hair goes white with shock. Was that what the Ugliosaurus did to me? No way were the kids at school going to ignore this.

I thought about what Mom would say:
Wear a hat
.

Quickly I brushed my teeth. I dropped the mirror into my pack, in case I wanted to investigate further at school. Then I ran into my room and grabbed my peacoat off the floor. Peeking out from under a Wendy’s bag was my wool knit cap. I wiped off a crust of congealed ketchup and Chocolate Frosty from one side. It didn’t smell too bad, so I jammed it on my head, shoved my math notebook into my backpack, and bolted.

It was 6:43.

As I reached the top of the stairs, my cell phone beeped.

Dad!

Ugh. Our 6:30 Wednesday morning Skype session. I’d totally forgotten—and he was late! How could he do this on a test day?

I raced downstairs. Dad always insisted I take the call in the living room on the sofa—with the camera on, so he
could make sure I hadn’t trashed anything.

He’s a neat freak. I’m a mess freak. And I had only five rings till the call went to voice mail. In the living room I shoved a pile of cables and joysticks to the center of the Turkish rug, along with two guitars, some comic books, three sweatshirts, a few pairs of socks, take-out containers from Wu Kitchen, a pizza box I was afraid to look into, and a half-eaten Kit Kat.

Beep

From the middle of the pile I lifted a hook attached to four cables, which were linked to the corners of the carpet. I slipped the hook into a pulley I’d rigged to the ceiling chandelier support. A couple of strong tugs, and the rug rose like Santa’s toy sack, leaving a pristine wood floor below.

Beep

6:44.

Plopping myself on the sofa, I accepted the call.

“Hey, Dad! Um, I don’t have much time to—”


Five and a quarter! Tell them to sell at five and a half!
” Dad was shouting to someone in his office. All I saw was his arm. “And close the door. I’m on a conference call!”

Then he was grinning happily at me. Which made me grin, too. It was the end of his day in Singapore. He looked really tired, like he’d just run a marathon with a dead gorilla strapped to his back. I really missed him. I wished his job could keep him closer to home.

But why did he have to call now?

“Heyyyy, Jackie, so sorry I’m late!” Dad said with a tight grin. “Living room looks great! But…uh, where’s the rug?”

Oops. I tilted the phone so only the wall would show in the background. “I guess Vanessa took it to be cleaned. But, Dad, look, I have to go—”

“Did she spill something?” he asked.

“I have this math test today…”

“You’ll do great!” Dad replied. “Hey, what’s the McKinley family motto?”

“A problem is an answer waiting to be opened,” I recited.

“Bravo! Hey, did you see the article I sent you about that poor kid, Cromarty? Died in the bowling alley near Chicago?”

Ugh. Current events. This always involved sad stories about kids and tragedies. Followed by a lecture. Dad’s way of scaring me into being extra-careful.

I glanced at my watch. 6:46.

“I think I skimmed it. Send me the link again. So. Wish me luck!” As I stood, my leg buckled beneath me and I almost dropped the phone. I had to clutch the sofa arm to keep from falling.

“Jackie, are you okay?” Dad’s brow was all scrunched now. “What’s that mark on your forehead? Is that a cut? Did you fall?”

“No!” I said. “I just used a flying toy instead of an alarm.”

That sounded a lot crazier coming out of my mouth than I expected. “You used a
what
?” Dad said.

I was feeling weak and light-headed. I took about three deep breaths and tried to stand tall, but I stumbled against the tied-up pulley rope.

Bad move. The rug hurtled downward. It sent up a cloud of dust as everything clanked to the floor. I swiveled away so Dad wouldn’t see it.

“What was that?” Dad asked.

6:47.
How much worse could this possibly get?

“Nothing!” I snapped.

Dad’s eyes were wide. “Okay, that’s it. Something’s not right. I’m booking the next flight home.”


What?
” This wasn’t like him. Usually he’s explaining left and right how important his job is. Usually he’s the one to cut the conversation short. “Really?”

Dad was looking at me funny. “Stay safe until I get there. Do not let yourself out of Lorissa’s sight. Make her take you to school.”

“Vanessa,” I said. “Lorissa quit. And so did Randi.”

“Okay, stay close to her, Jack,” Dad said. “Be safe. And good luck on that math test.”

“Thanks!” I said. “Bye, Dad! Love” —the image flickered off— “you.”

The screen was blank.

6:48. I had to book.

“Vanessa!” I yelled, running into the kitchen. As I snatched two bags of fruit-flavored Skittles from the counter, I saw a note taped to the fridge.

I darted back to Vanessa’s bedroom door and pushed it open. The little room was tidy and neat. And totally empty.

One more catastrophe to explain when Dad got home.

Shutting it out of my mind, I bolted out the back door and got my bike from the garage. The air was cold and bracing, and I quickly buttoned my peacoat.

As I sped onto the sidewalk, I leaned right and headed toward school.

If Red Beard was there, I didn’t see him.

BOOK: Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises
9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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