Alypium, a strange hidden world within our own where
our old knowledge of magic is kept. Although it is
beautiful and mystical, things are caving in with
the king hypnotized and his castle turned on its
side. Even the very Substance that holds things
together has gone awry … and nobody knows how to fix
with Erec to where his mother is held hostage by an
evil king. Only he can learn the way to set her
the mysterious contests to see who will be the next
rulers of these lands. Kids have gathered from the
unknown parts of our world, but only three will win
. . . of course the most likely three have an evil
you hear the whispers in a dark room that tell of
evil plans to destroy Alypium and the surrounding
lands? Is it the same person who has put a spell on
the king and is attacking the contest winners?
Kingsley’s debut novel is packed with action,
mystery, humor, a colorful cast of characters, and a
riveting plot. The excerpt below includes the first
two chapters of the book.
but not insubstantial outing definitely belongs
aboard the Potter wagon, but merits a seat toward
"Kingsley delivers her tale in a light-hearted
yet compelling style . . . The quirky setting is as
much a star of this fantasy as any of the
characters. A castle tipped onto its side, mazes and
magical creatures, and cleverly devised competitions
create an atmosphere any fantasy fan will long to
visit. The story is peppered with delightful gadgets
like . . . nitrowisherine, an explosive substance
that also grants wishes.
Good news for fantasy readers of all ages.”
Carolyn Bailey, ForeWord Magazine
"DRAGON’S EYE is a fantastic tale of a boy who
gets caught up in a world he never knew existed and
finds out he’s part of something much bigger than he
knew. It is a magical story filled with suspense,
intensity, heart, and courage. I loved this book …"
“Ned,” star of
popular daily sitcom
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide
It was early, far too early to wake
up in the summer, when Erec Ulysses Rex’s alarm
clock went off. The thing paced on its tiny metal
legs until it could not stand to wait anymore. Then
it kicked a marble that hit Erec right in the cheek,
just below his glass eye. Erec rubbed his face and
moaned. He opened his good eye. His alarm clock was
doing a kind of end zone dance. It pirouetted toward
a pen and booted it expertly into Erec’s ear. Erec
groaned. The obnoxious thing would pounce on him if
he didn’t get up fast. He could always throw it
across the room, but it would only find its way
back. And then tomorrow it would wake him earlier.
“Leave me alone. I told you I can sleep
late. It’s summer.” As Erec pried his head from his
pillow, something grabbed his mouth. It was his
toothbrush, another annoying gift from his mother.
It shook its brush head over Erec’s teeth, gripping
his lips with its thin arms and legs. Erec almost
He yanked the toothbrush from his mouth, threw it on
the floor and watched it run from the room. Last
night Erec had jammed the alarm clock in the back of
a bathroom cabinet. He wondered if the toothbrush
had helped it escape.
Long ago, when they could afford such things, his
mother had ordered these strange, lifelike objects
from some store named Vulcan. As he grew up, he
became used to these creatures and thought of them
almost as pets. But his mother insisted on hiding
them from visitors, who if they saw them might think
they had completely gone crazy.
It was the start of another bad day, in a bad week,
in what Erec thought was a very bad year. His large
family kept moving to smaller and smaller places,
and growing poorer and poorer. In fact, they had
moved nine times this year alone. That left hardly
enough time to make friends, let alone lose them
when he moved again.
A few days ago, twelve-year-old Erec, his siblings,
pets, and their adoptive mother, June O’Hara, moved
into what the landlord called a “very modest
apartment” in New York City. “Of course,” he added,
“legally, this is too small for you all to live
here.” Erec thought the landlord was being generous
in his description. Rather than crowding on the
couch with his brothers, Erec slept in a small
closet with the washing machine. He hoped his mother
didn’t find more strays—for that’s what they all
All of the children in Erec’s family were . . .
well, unique. Erec had a glass eye (that was really
a sort of plastic). Eleven-year-old Nell needed a
walker. Trevor, nine, rarely spoke. The
thirteen-year-old twins, Danny and Sammy, were found
alone and abandoned. And four-year-old Zoey could be
more than a little wild.
Erec was tall and thin with dark hair that was
straight in front and wildly curly in the back. His
glass eye did not quite match the blue one. But Erec
had another problem, far worse than his odd hair and
eye. It was something he called “cloudy thoughts.”
Erec’s cloudy thoughts left him dizzy and hazy, like
polluted clouds were spinning through his brain.
They made his stomach leap into his throat and
threaten to hold a Boston Tea Party, dumping its
contents out while singing a war chant. But worst of
all, once the cloudy thought popped into his head,
it was like an order. It would grab him like a sumo
wrestler, terrifying him until he followed its
command. He felt like a puppet, out of control. No
matter how hard he fought, he had to obey.
So far the odd things he was ordered to do were
good, like putting pillows at the bottom of the
stairs moments before Zoey crashed down, or grabbing
her before she ran in front of a car. He was glad to
help, of course, but mostly felt like an unpaid,
nauseated baby-sitter. And a freak. It was like
coming down with an extremely annoying combination
of ESP and the stomach flu. But, worse, he was
haunted by a fear: what if someday he was commanded
to do something terrible?
Erec had not slept well. A loud click had woken him
in the middle of the night. He’d figured it was
probably a new apartment sound. His stomach had
churned for a while, but, luckily, he’d fallen back
He combed the front, straight part of his dark hair,
not bothering with the tangled curls in back, and
stepped over his sleeping dogs, Tutt and King. The
coat rack, another of his mother’s purchases from
Vulcan, nearly bumped into him as he stumbled by in
the hallway. It tried to get attention, tap dancing
on the carpet, flapping its wooden arms. Erec waved
streamed into the small kitchen, glinting off the
twins’ sandy brown hair: Danny’s standing on end,
and Sammy’s pulled into a ponytail. Long and lean,
Danny wolfed Flying Count cereal from a box. He
rolled his bright blue eyes at Erec. “She woke me
Sammy hunched in her chair with a frown. “You’d have
woken me if that big . . . clown was in
your room staring at you.”
“Yeah, right.” Danny munched more cereal.
“What are you talking about?” Erec asked.
“That.” Sammy pointed at an immense woman
overflowing a plastic folding chair by the front
door. She did look like a clown. Unnatural white
powder coated her face. Her orblike cheeks were
decorated with bright red circles of makeup like
great balls of fire. Her nose bulged, and thick blue
war paint surrounded her slit-like eyes. Slick black
hair clung to her wide face, coming to a point at
her first chin. A small wedge of bangs in the middle
of her forehead made her already heart-shaped face
look like an ill-conceived valentine.
“Who is she?”
“The babysitter. Must be magic she doesn’t break
that chair,” Sammy whispered. “I woke up, and she
was standing over my bed staring at me. I thought I
was in a nightmare.”
“Did she wake Nell and Zoey?”
Sammy shook her head. “She was only staring at me.”
“Another admirer. Clowning around.” Danny batted his
eyes and fanned himself with his hand.
“Shut up.” A grin took over Sammy’s face.
Danny lowered his voice. “Clown convention gathers
in honor of Sammy Rex. Awed by her beauty, they
crown her Clown Queen.” He raised his eyebrows. “Oh,
no! Your nose is starting to puff!”
Sammy giggled, the morning’s bad start forgotten.
“Mom doesn’t go out this early,” Erec said, looking
around for her. “And she doesn’t get sitters
anymore. Where did she go?”
Danny shrugged. “To find work, I guess.” He shoved
his cereal at Erec. “Want some?”
Erec took a handful of miniature flying counts. His
mother had to work several jobs to support them all,
he knew that. But it felt like he never saw her
The toaster, another Vulcan special, shot two pieces
of burnt toast at Erec’s chest. He caught them,
looked them over, and put them on the counter. “I’m
sick of toast.” The toaster puffed smoke and plopped
on the counter.
“Mom forgot to hide the Vulcan things,” Erec pointed
out. “The coat rack is wandering the hall. What if
the sitter sees?”
“She’ll think she’s crazy,” Danny said, liking this
idea. “It could be fun.”
Suddenly the room started spinning. Erec grabbed the
counter and took a deep breath to steady himself.
His stomach twisted and did somersaults like an
acrobat. In the distance, it sounded like Sammy was
asking if he was all right.
Fear filled his chest. It was happening again. He
would be ordered to do something, yet fight it with
every ounce of his being because it made him feel so
terrified and out of control.
Then the cloudy thought commanded him: Go find
Outside the east entrance of Grand Central
Station. The hot dog stand. She would not be
there, he somehow knew, but he had to go there to
find her. She was not hurt but lost.
Erec dropped into a chair and crossed his arms. The
dizzy feeling was gone, leaving him gagging. This
was ridiculous. His mom was fine. Now he had to run
across town because she got lost on the way to a job
interview? No way. He was staying right here. His
mom could buy a map. It was bad enough having to
help little Zoey. This was not fair.
Erec grabbed his seat, fighting his body’s urge to
run to Grand Central Station. His feet danced around
him, and his legs shot under the table, trying to
push him up.
Danny cocked an eyebrow. “Are you getting one of
those cloudy things again?”
Erec nodded. He gripped the chair, fighting the urge
to stand, until his hands ached. He had to give in.
He would not rest until he followed the command. “I
gotta get out of here,” he said. “I have to find
Mom.” He got up.
“How will you find her?” Sammy said. “She didn’t
leave a note.”
Danny shrugged. “He’ll find her, all right. He’ll
crash into her by accident. Remember when he was
studying, and he had to run outside in his pajamas
and pick up a garbage can, and he didn’t know why?
And it turned out that scrawny cat was pinned under
Erec wished he could forget. It was bad enough to be
forced to do things for other people, let alone
every animal around. Was he servant to the universe?
He ran without thinking through his sisters’ room,
into the closet where his mother slept, and picked
up a picture of his mother holding Zoey.
Nell stayed asleep, but Zoey stood on her cot, blond
curls falling messily over her purple nightgown and
around her wide hazel eyes. She looked at the
picture and danced around the room. “It’s me! It’s
So this cloudy thought involved taking a picture of
his mother to a hot dog stand where she was not
going to be in order to find her. Erec
shook his head and shoved the picture in his pocket.
The fortress-like babysitter perched by the front
door. Her eyes widened when she saw Erec and then
settled back into serene, feline watchfulness. She
reminded him of a strange dream where one of his
cats grew huge and tried to eat him. “I’m going
out . . .”
The sitter raised a finger, watching the tiny
television. A news story blared: “Thanatos Baskania,
the self-dubbed ‘Crown Prince of Peace,’ continues
his push for peace on earth. He says our world
leaders need a larger power guiding them to bring us
the peaceful existence we deserve. Baskania and his
many multinational corporations are putting enormous
amounts of money and people power into this ‘larger
power,’ the new world peace organization, Eye of the
World. Today, amid much controversy, Eye of the
World has been accepted as the ruling body of the
The babysitter nodded with a thin-lipped smile.
“Good man,” she croaked. Red-haired Trevor snoozed,
oblivious, on the couch.
Erec’s toes were tapping, ready to run. “I’ll be
back soon.” As he reached for the door, though, the
clown-woman flicked an umbrella from under her chair
and whacked the knob. Erec jerked his hand away just
“Nobody leaves the apartment.” The sitter’s voice
sounded like a rake scraping gravel. “Don’t you
introduce yourself, young man?”
“I’m sorry.” He reached for the doorknob again, and
as he did the umbrella rose in the air. His hand
“You’re Sorry. Okay, Sorry. Call me Mrs. Smith. What
are the twins’ names?”
“Danny and Sammy.”
“Hmm. Danny and Sammy.”
Just then the coat rack sauntered into the room
juggling three hats. Erec held his breath, waiting
for the sitter to scream. He should have thrown the
coat rack in the closet.
The sitter’s beady eyes, swimming in blue makeup,
coolly stared at the coat rack without a trace of
surprise. The coat rack seemed offended and threw a
fourth hat into the air, as if to get more
attention. Mrs. Smith lit a cigarette, a bored
expression on her face.
“I have to go. We’re out of food.” Erec touched the
knob just before the umbrella smacked it, this time
grazing his fingers.
“No OUT!” rang like a jackhammer from her lips, and
a bland smile took over her face.
“But there’s no food.” The cloudy thought gripped
him and his knees knocked.
The babysitter shrugged. “I don’t think you’ll
starve to death.” Her eyes narrowed to slits. She
sucked her puffy cheeks in as if she was trying not
Erec tried to grab the doorknob with an arm up to
deflect the umbrella. This time, however, its
unusually large handle caught him around the waist
and yanked him in front of Mrs. Smith. She blew
smoke into his face. “Do that one more time,” she
rasped, “and I’ll have to tie you up.” Her tight
frown turned into a small grin. “But don’t worry.
We’re all going soon enough. So run along, Sorry.”
Erec flew into the kitchen, where the twins sat
gawking. Mrs. Smith tapped cigarette ash onto the
batty,” Sammy said. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you out
Erec was ready to jump the six floors to the
sidewalk. “Where’s Zoey?” Danny asked. “We could sic
her on Mrs. Smith, and you can escape while she runs
away in terror.”
“Look.” Sammy pointed. Mrs. Smith angrily swatted
her face while Zoey, by her feet, chewed and stuffed
paper into a pen shell. A spitball sailed into Mrs.
Smith’s puffy nose. She tried to kick Zoey without
getting up from her chair, but Zoey rolled away,
laughing. Danny and Sammy giggled.
Zoey steadied herself and blew a spitball into Mrs.
Smith’s open mouth. Mrs. Smith spat into her hand.
She tried again to kick Zoey, but missed.
“It’s like she’s glued to that chair,” whispered
Sammy. She picked Zoey up. “You’re going to get
hurt, honey. Let the sitter rest. Did you go potty
“She’s such a mom,” said Danny.
“And you’re such a pest,” said Erec. The drive to
leave was so overwhelming, Erec could hardly
“Shh.” Sammy winked at Erec. She took Zoey into the
bathroom and called, “Mrs. Smith, Zoey needs help.”
The sitter filed her nails, cigarette drooping from
“Mrs. Smith! We need you.” Sammy sounded desperate.
Mrs. Smith held out her hand to admire her filing
job. “Bathroom help is not in my job description.”
“Please. She’s getting sick.”
“Is she really,” the sitter said in a gravelly
voice. It sounded more like a statement than a
question. She hummed quietly and filed her other
Zoey left the bathroom, obviously needing no help,
trailing a long stream of toilet paper. When Erec
looked into the bathroom, his breath left him. It
was as if he had been plunged into ice water.
His mother’s glasses sat on the bathroom counter.
The thick black frames were held by a thin, silky
chain. His mother never went anywhere without those
glasses hanging around her neck, although she rarely
used them. In fact, Erec had never seen them off
her. She even slept with them, and he often wondered
how she kept from crushing them.
Erec grabbed the glasses. His feet moonwalked toward
the front door under the control of his cloudy
thought, until he stamped them a few times. “Look
what I found.”
“Wow,” said Sammy. “I’ve never seen those off her
“She never even uses them,” Danny said. “Maybe she’s
finally sick of them.”
It was true. The only times Erec saw his mother
actually put the glasses on her face was when she
was alone and thinking. She would stare into space.
Afterward, her eyes would be red. When Erec asked
why, she would say they made her eyes water.
He looped them around his own neck, sure she would
want them when he found her. Danny tried to pull
them off for fun, but the chain caught.
“I have to get out of here.” Erec looked around,
Danny winked and picked Zoey up. “I’ll be under my
bed,” he whispered. “If this works, run for it.”
In a few minutes Zoey skipped back, a delighted grin
on her face. “Danny’s climbing out the window. He’s
probably already gone!”
Mrs. Smith shot from her chair like a coyote after a
roadrunner into Danny’s room. Her thick, stubby legs
and long feet flew over the beige carpet.
“What are you waiting for?” Sammy asked. “Go!”
Erec felt for his mother’s picture and made sure the
glasses were around his neck. “Come with me?”
“Nah. I’d rather see what the sitter does when she
finds Danny under the bed. Now go!”
Trevor snored on the couch, gripping his action
figures of Franklin Stein, the Super A springball
team guardian, and a Cyclops. Erec was sure they
were duking it out in Trevor’s dreams. He darted
down the stairs and ran three blocks before he dared
look over his shoulder. There was no sign of the
babysitter chasing him.
Little did he know that he had taken only the first
few steps of a very long journey.
At the end of the block a crowd formed behind a
barricade. Super A Team sports celebrity Mighty Joe
Liath strolled out in shorts, a muscle shirt, and
the Super A eye patch, flexing his huge biceps.
Erec wished Trevor could be there. Trevor owned all
the Super A Team cards and figurines, knew the
players’ statistics, and had seen all of their
movies. He even liked the greasy food at the Super A
King fastaurants. A man followed Joe Liath with a
movie camera and another threw him a barbell, which
Joe tossed high like a baton. He caught it behind
his back and spun to flash a toothy grin at the
Erec wanted to stay and watch, but his shoes tapped
the sidewalk, ready to go. He pushed through the
thickening crowd until the way was clear. He let his
feet direct him down an alley.
A boy his age walked by with his parents, laughing.
Erec wondered what it would be like to have a real
father instead of the one who had deserted him when
he was three. Maybe even happily married parents,
who bought him ice cream and went for walks with
him. His father was alive somewhere, but Erec had no
interest in finding him.
A long line led to the hot dog stand outside of
Grand Central Station. People were walking fast
everywhere. His mother was nowhere in sight. He
stopped in front of Herman Howl’s Finest UnderWear
in the World and looked around.
This was great—being rushed by a cloudy thought to
do nothing. Then his hand, on its own, shot into his
Of course, the picture. He had to ask if anyone had
seen his mother. The short, chubby man at the hot
dog stand had been there last night when they had
bought hot dogs together. Maybe he’d remember her.
“Want another dog, kid?” The vendor ran sausage-like
fingers through what was left of his oiled black
Erec pulled out the picture. “Actually, I’m looking
for . . .”
“Whadda ya want?” The man looked past Erec at the
forming line. Erec held up the picture. The vendor’s
mouth dropped and then returned to its original
scowl. “Never seen her.” He fidgeted with his tongs.
“How did you know I was looking for her?”
He glanced at the next customer. “What else would
you be asking? Next!”
“But we were just here yesterday—”
The man behind him stepped up to the cart and
ordered a soft drink. Pushed to the side, Erec
kicked a rock into a gutter. The hot dog vendor
didn’t remember his mother. Asking any stranger
about her would be pointless.
Still thinking, he crossed the street and almost
walked into a man working at a newsstand. The man
was thin, with wild-looking dark blue eyes and
sparse brown hair. Something about him made Erec
cringe. He was strangely familiar, like a person
from one of his nightmares.
A girl Erec’s age with long, wavy, dark hair and
butterscotch skin bounced over from the newsstand
after helping a customer. “Let me guess,” she said.
“I’m a great guesser. Candy, right? No, it’s more
serious. Something for your mom, I think. Headache
The newsstand man said roughly, “You buying
something?” Erec shook his head and the man crossed
his arms. “What? You’re wasting my time, kid.”
Erec reached into his pocket for the picture and
held it up. “Have you seen her?”
The man grabbed it. “Where did you get this?”
The brown-haired girl peeked at the picture. Her
The man stepped closer. “This isn’t a lost-and-found
service. You’re pretty young to be out here all
alone.” He moved closer, too close. “Are you lost?
What’s your name?”
The man’s cologne smelled familiar and awful. It
gave Erec a chill, and his stomach rose into his
throat. He grabbed the picture and quickly walked
“Wait!” The girl chased him. Her dark brown eyes
sparkled as she waved a candy bar over her head.
“You forgot this.”
Her dress was too small, Erec noticed, and all
different colors. He had never seen clothing patched
so many times. “I didn’t buy any candy,” he said.
She stuffed it in his hand and whispered, “I’ve seen
her. The picture. Meet me in front of Water Lilies
around the corner.” She hurried away.
Erec eyed the candy bar and looked up at the girl.
He couldn’t believe she recognized his mother. As he
rounded the corner he saw the man yelling at her.
Time seemed to stop as he waited in front of Water
Lilies plant shop. Right when he was sure she wasn’t
coming, the girl dashed around the corner, eyes
flashing. “I’m Bethany Evirly. My Uncle Earl can’t
see us talk. Believe me, you don’t want to know him.
And I didn’t like the way he was looking at you.”
“That makes two of us.” Erec glanced up the street,
almost expecting her Uncle Earl to charge around the
“It’s okay. I’m supposed to be getting his favorite
coffee.” Bethany pointed at a small, dark
coffeehouse called Drips. She stared for a moment at
Erec’s glass eye and quickly looked away. “Let me
see the picture again.” Erec handed it to her. “Yup,
definitely her. I’ve worked here most of my life. I
don’t miss much. Especially the weird stuff.”
“What was weird? Where did you see my mom?”
Bethany paled. “It was your mom? I should
have guessed.” She looked down. “Well . . . I saw
her this morning. She went into the underground
place. I always notice when people do that.”
“What, the subway?” Erec asked.
“No. It’s like a secret passage underground. I told
you weird things go on here. Two big men were with
her. It looked like . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“Like she was being taken somewhere,” Bethany said.
“Like she couldn’t get away from them. This morning
Uncle Earl brought me here an hour early, at four.
It was awful, dark and cold. I had to do everything
myself, and Uncle Earl just sat around until these
two huge men with eye patches showed up with her.
She looked really angry. My uncle ran over to meet
them. I think he was expecting them.”
Air slipped from Erec’s lungs. He felt like he was
collapsing. His mother was not okay after all. “Are
you sure it was her?”
“Positive. They were under a streetlamp.”
“Show me where that underground place is. I’m going
to find her.”
Bethany crossed her arms. “It’s not that easy.”
“What are you talking about? Let’s go.”
“You can’t just walk in.”
“Why not?” Erec grabbed Bethany’s wrist and pulled
her toward Grand Central Station. She yanked back.
“Listen. I’m trying to tell you. It’s not part of
the normal subway system. It’s a . . . special
subway or something. I’ve seen people using it for
years. It’s hidden. My uncle watches it all the
time. He must know all about it, but he won’t admit
Her face softened. “Anyway, I figured out how it
works. I’ve spied on Gerard, the hot dog man. He
makes it open. People tell him a password and he
pulls a lever in his cart. The sidewalk opens at the
bottom of some steps, and more steps go down. After
people go in, the sidewalk slams shut over their
heads. It’s strange, people walk by like they can’t
even see it, but it’s clear as day to me.”
Erec put his hand over his face. So, this is why he
was here. His mother was in danger. The cloudy
thought told him she wasn’t hurt. He hoped it stayed
“Do you believe me?” Bethany looked at him sideways.
Erec nodded. He wasn’t sure why he did, though. “How
do I get in?”
“We tell Gerard the password and run down the steps.
But my uncle can’t see us, or it’s all over.”
“Us? We? I don’t think so. I better go alone.”
Bethany shuffled her feet, but looked him in the
eye. “I’m going with you. That’s the deal. Or no
“But you could be stuck under the sidewalk.”
“So could you.”
“I have to find my mom. You don’t have to go. And
the last thing I need is your uncle chasing us. I’m
sure he’ll look for you.”
“He doesn’t know I can get in there.” She grabbed
his arm. “I’ve thought about escaping forever. Earl
doesn’t care about me. He’s just stuck with me
because my parents died when I was little. He makes
me work night and day, and he won’t even buy me
another dress.” She looked down at her dirty,
“But what if we get stuck? What if it’s a criminal
“I’ll risk it. If I’m running away, I’m going
somewhere totally different, and I think this is my
best bet. I’ve always wanted to see what was down
there. Plus, what better way to begin than by
helping you find your mother?”
Erec did not like the idea of Bethany’s Uncle Earl
chasing them, but going underground alone wasn’t so
great either. “How can we get in without him
They peeked around the corner. Earl was searching up
and down the street. “He’s looking for me. Let’s go
around the block. We’ll hide behind people and duck
when we get to the hot dog stand. Pretend you’re
tying your shoes.”
Luckily, Grand Central Station was growing more
crowded. They walked behind three men in blue suits
to Herman Howl’s underwear store and ducked beside
the hot dog stand. Bethany pointed at empty concrete
steps near a wall. They appeared to be a dead end.
Gerard, the vendor, peered over his cart at them,
thick eyebrows raised. “You again? You buying this
time? If you want to play games, kids, go find a
Bethany looked up. “There is more to the earth,
wind, and sea. Old magic remember me.”
Gerard’s eyebrows shot up and back like two fuzzy
boomerangs. His face softened. “You gotta be
kidding. You’re a couple a kids.”
Bethany looked as worried as Erec felt. She looked
at Gerard and said, louder, “There is more to the
earth, wind, and sea. Old magic remember me.”
Gerard raised his hands. “Aright, aright. You got
your sixty bucks?”
“What?” Erec stuffed his hands in his empty pockets.
“Thirty each. You don’t think it’s free anymore, do
ya?” He looked at them suspiciously.
Erec frowned. “We don’t even have that much at
Bethany smiled broadly. “I have ninety-eight dollars
and sixty-three cents in my money belt.”
Erec was impressed. “How do you know the exact
She shrugged. “I’m good with numbers.”
Erec shook his head, not liking the idea. “We might
have to pay to get back. Maybe another sixty. One of
us could be stuck in there.”
“I won’t come back.” She grabbed Erec’s wrist. “I
promise, if there’s only enough for one ticket back,
I’ll give it to you.” She counted out sixty dollars.
Gerard pursed his lips and drummed his sausage
fingers on the cart. “Are you two, perhaps, hiding
from someone?” He looked over his shoulder at the
“Is that any of your business? Here.” Bethany shoved
the money at him.
“Hmm.” Gerard’s face smoothed out. “I guess it isn’t
my business.” He took the money and then helped two
customers who looked down at Erec and Bethany with
amusement. When they left Gerard smiled. “Password
Bethany took Erec’s hand. “Ready to run?” She nodded
at Gerard. “There is more to the earth, wind, and
sea. Old magic remember me!”
Gerard pushed away a red vinyl cloth in his cart and
pulled a shiny metal lever. “Aren’t you kids taking
anything with you?”
“No,” they both said.
Bethany and Erec darted behind passersby. The
sidewalk opened at the bottom of the steps, before
their eyes. More steps descended into the darkness.
Erec and Bethany flew down moments before the
concrete slammed shut.
Erec was sure he had heard Gerard shout something
about great new underwear at Herman Howl’s if they
In FES Station
The concrete slammed shut over their
heads so fast Erec wondered what would have happened
if they had gone slower. Bright lights flashed on in
the low, sloping ceiling. Bethany and Erec ran down
to a landing where more steps led down. These led to
another landing, then another. Growing tired, they
slowed down to a walk.
“You don’t suppose these go on forever, do you?”
Erec glanced back the way they had come. “It’ll feel
like forever when we’re climbing back up.”
Bethany, though, was looking the other way. “I’ve
been wondering what’s down here for years.”
The air felt thicker as they went downward. It was
heavy somehow, almost lifeless. The farther they
went, the more unpleasant it became, until each
breath felt contaminated. Erec craved the fresh air
he’d left behind. He had an urge to run back up, but
he remembered his mother needed him. Bethany’s lips
were pinched together, her eyes squinting.
After countless flights of stairs, the passage ended
at a knobless gray metal door. Both of them pushed,
but it did not budge. A sign at the side read
“Welcome to FES (Fee Every Stop) Station, our new
and improved hub of transportation, with new and
improved fees, monitored by Prince, Inc.” Below the
sign was a red button.
Erec gestured. “After you.”
Bethany solemnly pushed the button. The door slid
open long enough to let them in, then slammed behind
them. They walked into an oval station that seemed
as big as Grand Central was above. People of all
shapes, colors, and sizes rushed to and fro: men in
business suits, teachers with classes of children,
couples, and families. Kids roamed in small packs.
Some wore odd clothing, shiny silver jackets and
pants, or long black or blue hooded cloaks and
“It must be an underground part of Grand Central,”
Erec said, thinking out loud. The air around him
still felt strange, wrong. It was almost as if it
weighed more, not in his chest exactly, but on his
mind. “This place is stressing me out. I don’t know
“I feel the same way. Everything seems creepy. It’s
like all of a sudden, the whole world feels
sad . . . or angry somehow.”
The ceiling was around sixty feet high. Shops and
restaurants lined the walls. Some were familiar:
Super A King fastaurants and Burger Rama. But most
were new, with interesting names like Sky High
Chilly, A Fine Kettle of Fish, Animals or Minerals
Vegetarian Cuisine, and Molten Lava Sundaes. There
seemed to be a lot of underwear shops.
“This is so much cleaner than the rest of Grand
Central,” Bethany said. “And look at that shop, No
Fear Flying Gear. How could that stay open in a
“Yeah, and all those underwear stores. I don’t get
“Maybe it’s because people are traveling. They might
forget to pack underwear.” Bethany shrugged.
Erec peered through a shop window. “I don’t even see
underwear in those stores. Just weird, shiny
“Maybe they hide it in the back so nobody will laugh
at the people who forgot it.”
Erec laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding.” The
strangeness of the station almost made him forget
the pressing sadness in the air. “Hey, check out
that store, Cavern in a Canyon. And . . . what was
that?” His finger froze.
“What?” Bethany nudged him nervously. “I don’t see
“A door disappeared.” He turned to her. “I thought I
was seeing things, but then I saw another. Look.”
All around the walls, people walked into thin doors
that vanished when they shut. New doors appeared,
and people casually strolled from them, sometimes
buying coffee at Under Grounds and going back into
the same door, which disappeared.
The doors all looked the same: plain brown wood with
gold doorknobs and small gold plaques. Sometimes
they appeared in front of a food stand, and then
they would shrink to half size to fit in the short
wall under the counter. People would crawl through,
spilling their coffee and grumbling.
“Let’s check them out,” said Bethany.
“We’d better look for my mom.” Erec turned to see if
the door he and Bethany came through had
disappeared. It was still there, thankfully. Made of
painted metal, it looked quite different than the
wooden ones. A big green neon sign over it flashed
“UPPER EARTH.” Erec pushed to make sure it opened
back to the concrete steps. It would not budge.
A computerized voice sounded from the door.
Erec repeated the password they had told Gerard, but
the door remained closed.
Nearby, Bethany slid her hands over a wooden door,
shaking the knob. “I can’t open it.”
A tall man with a pinched nose and hair greased over
a large bald spot squinted at her through a monocle.
“Excuse me? Are you trying to break into my house?
Need I call the police?” He pointed to gold numbers
on a plaque reading 2211.
“No. I’m so sorry.” Bethany’s face was red. “I’ve
never seen one of these. I just wanted to see how it
The man’s eyebrows shot up. “Never seen a
Port-O-Door?” He whipped out a camera and took their
picture. “Just in case.” He patted the camera and
murmured a code after they walked away. The door
slammed behind him and vanished.
“Bethany, the door from the stairs is locked. We’re
Bethany looked shocked. She pounded on the door,
saying the password and as many variations of it she
could think of. Finally she gave up.
“Well, I don’t care. I don’t ever want to go back,
anyway.” She bit her lip. Erec took a breath of the
heavy air. This better be the right way to find his
mother or he was really in trouble. They wandered
farther into the huge station. After a few steps,
Bethany stopped and pointed up. They had walked past
a lower ceiling rim and could now see all the way to
the top. It was moving, full of changing, swarming
“What’s that?” Erec asked in awe.
Bethany looked pale. “People.”
Erec looked harder. She was right. There were
people . . . yes, he was sure they were people,
flying by the ceiling. Most were alone or in
pairs; no children were up there. While they were
doing something he had always dreamed of, they
looked as busy and bored as commuters in rush hour.
They glanced at their watches as they sailed by,
occasionally bumping into each other and shaking
fists. Tunnel holes near the ceiling led them in and
out. A few landed on a tall slide that led them to
the station floor.
Erec wondered if they were lifelike computer images
put up for fun. They seemed amazingly real.
Bethany’s eyes were glued to the sight, too. “Do you
think they’re held up by cords?”
A flying man landed on the slide, sailed down to the
floor, and ran by Erec, bumping him with his
“Bethany,” Erec said slowly, “I don’t think we’re in
Grand Central Station anymore.”
“I’ve seen strange things my whole life, living with
Uncle Earl,” Bethany said, “but never anything like
They walked in a daze, bumping into people because
they could not stop staring at the ceiling. Crowds
thronged toward large neon signs. One glowed
“ALYPIUM” in huge white letters.
“I wonder what Alypium means. Do you think it’s a
place?” Bethany asked. A gigantic red neon sign
further away read “AORTH,” and a third in blue read
“Ashona sounds like a sea animal zoo,” said Erec.
“Ooh, let’s go there!”
Erec shook his head, not moving. He could not
imagine how he would find his mother here. His
cloudy thought had vanished, like so many clouds and
thoughts do. “Look at all the kids going to Alypium.
It seems like a lot more is going on there.” Masses
of kids headed toward the Alypium sign. He could
hear some of them talking about contests, but not
well enough to understand. Under the Alypium sign,
fast-moving lines led under huge arched doorways
marked “Skyway” and “Artery.”
The Artery line was long but not the Skyway line. A
man with a blue business suit and a briefcase looked
at his watch, strolled into the Skyway entry, and
jumped. Instead of landing on his feet, he continued
to sail upward, one hand holding his briefcase at
his side and the other above his head, like a
rudder, steering himself in the wind. He flew over
an arched curve and out of sight.
“Wow,” Erec said, “did you see that?”
A tiny old woman tapped Erec’s shoulder. “Move it,
honey. Go on or get out of the way.” Erec looked at
her frail figure in surprise. He was about to offer
his arm when she shoved him aside with her cane. In
the Skyway entry, cane tucked her under her arm with
her shiny black purse, she flew up into the wind
“I wonder if we could do that.” Bethany tossed her
long dark curls over her shoulder. They watched
others sail off. Erec, overcome with curiosity, ran
to the takeoff spot, raised his arms over his head,
and jumped. His feet hit the ground. He jumped again
and again, first with one arm up and then the other,
until he noticed the people in the growing line
watching him with snickers and shocked expressions.
Erec’s face grew hot. He grabbed a giggling Bethany
and walked past someone saying, “. . . think he’s
five years old or something . . .”
“The Artery then?” Bethany laughed.
Erec gladly left the Skyway, and they found the end
of the Artery line. It was set with metal rails like
a line for a roller coaster. “I still don’t get this
place. Do you think the Artery is a ride?”
“Mmm,” she shrugged. She was listening to some boys
standing in front of them.
A short, slim boy with shaggy red hair was talking
fast. “My dad said everyone will be there.
Even some of the Super A Team’s kids. But they don’t
have any better chance than we do. I wonder if
they’ll bunk with us in the castle.” The boy wore
one of the silvery-gray jackets. It moved like
A tall boy with yellow blond hair, also around
Erec’s age, answered. “They’ll be in the castle, all
right, but in real rooms, not with the likes of us.”
The red-haired boy looked disappointed. “We’ll still
see ’em though.”
The line started moving again and the boys rounded a
corner. After a few turns, Erec heard the blond boy
talk the red-haired one into riding the Lift instead
of the Artery. “I know it takes longer, but it’s
supposed to be beautiful, and I’ve never done it.
Look, you’ve still got underwear on.”
“Oops!” The red-haired boy laughed and pulled off
the jacket. The fabric melted around his fingers,
yet somehow stayed together. He stuffed it into his
back pocket, even though most of it slid
out again. As he turned the final corner of the
queue, his jacket caught on a post and was yanked
out of his pocket. The boy didn’t notice. Instead,
he ran with his friend through a small archway
“Hey,” Erec shouted. “Your jacket!” The boy
disappeared through the archway.
Erec grabbed it as he passed the metal post. It felt
surprisingly cool, soft and sleek like liquid metal.
“Might as well go this way.” Erec and Bethany went
through the small archway, too.
It looked like an amusement park ride, which seemed
even odder with the sad feeling that radiated
through the place. A man with a striped vest that
said “MagicLine” asked “How many?” without really
looking at them.
“Two.” The man pushed them toward a white line
painted on the floor. In a moment, something that
looked like a ski lift scooped them up. The seats
were padded and comfortable. A wide pole connected
to a cable that disappeared through a gap in the
ceiling. The man strapped them in and pulled a
padded bar under their arms. He stuffed paper bags
into their hands and threw thick blankets with fuzzy
hoods over them.
Their lift chair soared through a long, dark tunnel.
Bright lights rhythmically whizzed by in the
darkness, and wind pelted their faces.
“Wow,” said Erec after a while. “This is some
“I bet it’s all underground,” shouted Bethany.
In a flash, there was a blinding burst of light. A
huge green face appeared before them. Erec gasped.
Could it be? Yes. It was
the Statue of Liberty. They must have come out of
her torch, but they were going too fast to be sure.
Erec and Bethany looked back, open jawed, as the
statue and the whole city of New York fell from
Retail Price: $9.99, Paperback, 400 pages.
Published by Firelight Press, Inc., July, 2007.
Retail Price: $17.99, Hardcover, 345 pages.
Published by Firelight Press, Inc., October, 2006.
Copyright ©2007 by Kaza Kingsley. All Rights
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