author Kaza Kingsley won over young readers with the
inventive gadgets, relentless action, and gross-out
humor in her first book, Erec Rex: The Dragon's
Eye. The book became a bestseller and collected
numerous children's book awards, including the
Benjamin Franklin Award for best new voice in
anticipated second book in the series, Erec Rex:
The Monsters of Otherness, deals with themes of
adoption and acceptance under the mythological
framework of the Hercules legend. As Erec fights to
save the lives of 50 dragon hatchlings, his real
quest is to uncover the truth about his own
The excerpt below is
called "Erec Buys His Memory Back." It's a short
scene where 12-year-old Erec Rex visits the Memory
Mogul to find out what happened to his childhood
OTHERNESS is an awesome adventure, full of twists
and turns, cool characters, mystery, and a lot of
fun. Erec follows his heart when it’s not the easy
thing to do, and goes against the odds to do what’s
right. This is a wildly exciting book with pedal to
the metal attitude!
“Ned,” star of Nickelodeon’s popular daily sitcom
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Kingsley won't let down fans of Erec Rex with this
lively, imaginative sequel to The Dragon's Eye. It's
a rollicking good read, with many layers that unfold
into a captivating ending. The engaging characters,
suspense, humor and vivid descriptions make it a
great book for all ages.
Readers will be
intrigued by a world filled with magic, friendship
and thought provoking adventures.
The Great Secret
King Pluto trembled in the shadows. His master had
summoned him with a wolflike howl that left him
shaking. Something was terribly wrong, he could
tell. The howl was tinged with too much excitement.
Maybe anger. Did his master think he had turned
against him? Told somebody their plans? He would
never dream of that.
It was freezing here. Pluto shivered and pulled the
layers of fur tighter around his thin frame. He had
left his red ermine and crown at home: too
eye-catching. People had shot him enough funny looks
since he walked through the Port-O-Door into Paris.
He hated Upper Earth.
Another howl from his master ripped through his
soul, silent to all but him. Pluto winced from its
pain. He tried, as usual, to choke it back, but his
body responded with a howl of his own. A couple
nearby turned to stare at him. He wiped his nose
with his sleeve, hoping to play it off as an
King Pluto, pulling down his black knit cap, crossed
the street into the open arms of La Place des Yeux
du Monde. Bright lights glared inside, but a blind
man in a dark smock ushered him into a small drawing
room lit only by a hearth fire.
The blind servant felt for a chair and pulled it
toward the fire. “For your warmth, your highness.”
He then rushed out of the room, scurrying like a
mole through the depths of the complex.
King Pluto sank into the plush chair, his scepter in
his hand. Who would think that a king would come to
have a master? But Thanatos Argus Baskania offered
him more than he could ever have alone. He was
always there for Pluto, the father he never had.
When Pluto’s own father was alive, he was busy with
his kingdom in Cyprus. And when he visited he had
eyes only for Pluto’s brother. It was always Piter
this, Piter that . . . and Posey was his darling
girl. But the most Pluto would get was a wink. “You
don’t mind, do you, Pluto? We’ll just be gone a bit.
Piter promised to show me how he could speak to
plants.” Speaking to plants! Please! Like what
fascinating thing is a plant going to say? It made
him want to throw up.
Pluto rubbed his head. His father never cared about
what he could do. When he finally learned to create
a force field around himself, Pluto had been so
excited to show him. At last his father would be
proud. Pluto was up all night before that visit—he
still remembered it like yesterday, and it was over
four hundred years ago—but his father barely noticed
him when he arrived.
Pluto had stood there, blue flares of electricity
swarming around him like a giant bubble on the
grass. His father waved it off and said, “Your
brother Piter made a force field around the whole
castle. That must’ve been ten years ago. Try that
next time, son. Get Piter to show you how.” Then he
walked away. Pluto had stood there, frozen in his
force field, afraid to let it down because someone
might see the tears streaming down his face. He felt
like an idiot.
But his master understood. Thanatos Baskania showed
up in his room that very morning. Pluto wondered how
Baskania knew his feelings. But he helped Pluto
realize how his anger could make him stronger.
Thanatos believed in Pluto. He showed him a world of
magic that Piter could never do, would never try to
do. Black magic. Power over power.
And now Pluto waited for his master in front of the
warm fire. . . that same angry, lonely boy, waiting to be
chastised for a crime he had not committed. In a
breath, his master emerged into the room with
someone else in his shadow. King Pluto bowed his
head and stooped onto one knee.
“Rise, son.” The Shadow Prince was tall and broad,
with silver-gray hair, a crooked nose, and thin lips
that pointed down in a permanent sneer. Today, six
eyes peered from his wide, pale face. Just enough to
keep surveillance. One of them, a steely blue eye,
swept over Pluto’s face. “You are worried, Pluto,”
he said. “But your fears are unfounded. I have
called you here to share good news—and prepare you
for what you must do.” Baskania pulled a silver eye
with a coal pupil out of his pocket and
absentmindedly stroked it.
King Pluto felt his body relax. The warmth of the
fire soaked through the layers of his fur.
Baskania’s voice lowered to a purr. “A way has
presented itself. For six hundred years I’ve tried
to attain the Final Magic, but it has evaded me. The
closer I get, the more difficult it has been to
learn. I have gained more power and mastered more
knowledge than anyone on earth, but I cannot rest
until the last powers are known to me. Complete
control over life and death, the earth, and everyone
in it.” His six eyes all flashed at the glorious
“There was a secret that for years I could not bear
to hear discussed. My dear grandmother Cassandra
heard its prophecy right before her death. She had
pried it, herself, from the hands of the Fates. And
then she was murdered. Her simple note said the
secret was hidden in a miniature—maybe it was a
charm or a little statue . . .”
King Pluto nodded. The Great Secret. The path to the
“Of course you will play a role. It is time to deal
with the monsters. That will help me exert my new
influence.” He smiled. “As will, of course, the
“And Erec Rex . . .” Pluto threw a glance at the
third person in the room, who had yet to say a word.
The Shadow Prince’s eyes twinkled. “Ah, yes. I have
plans for him. After I pluck his eye out, I will
dispose of him quickly.”
“But . . . the Great Secret? Is it possible?”
Several of Baskania’s eyes curved with silent
laughter. “Soon the world will kneel to us. Let’s
say I will have the help of someone that’s passed
this way long ago, someone whose very life has been
passed into me.”
“Your grandmother, Cassandra? But how?”
Baskania pulled a clump of frilly leaves with tiny
blue flowers from his pocket. “With these . . .”
You haven’t met me, but I have seen your picture in
the huge celebrations here in your honor. We are all
so grateful that you rescued King Piter and stopped
the evil Shadow Prince from getting the scepter! I
just want to say, I think you’re great. I’ll
probably never get to meet you except in my dreams.
Just know that somewhere there is a girl who is
always thinking about you.
If you want to write back, put your letter in this
envelope and toss it onto the grass. Otherwise,
please throw the empty envelope on the ground to
Erec reread the pink frilly letter for the tenth
time. It had appeared yesterday in the grass in a
shiny hard shell when he was throwing a ball outside
with his brother Trevor. One moment he was rolling
in the dirt, and the next it was just there,
gleaming white in the sun, the words “Erec Rex”
printed neatly on the side. He picked it up,
curious. Trails of slime oozed from the shell, but
the pink letter poking out was dry. He almost had it
memorized, especially the part about the girl
thinking about him, and of course all those Xs and
The sun blazed through twelve-year-old Erec’s
window, bouncing off the straight dark hair
sprouting from the front of his head and getting
lost in the tangled curls in back. He stretched in
his bed and rubbed his bright blue eyes.
Erec Ulysses Rex was a normal boy, with a few minor
exceptions. He had an unusual gift, which he once
thought was a curse: his cloudy thoughts. These
ideas would overtake him and force him to do
whatever they commanded. He used to fight them, but
since they had saved his life, he was glad to have
them. Also, one of his eyes was attached in the back
to a hidden dragon’s eye, a gift from the dragon
But what he found out recently—that his mother knew
magic, that he had been born in Alypium, and that he
was destined to be king there—took away any feeling
of normalcy he’d ever had. Alypium was one of the
three Kingdoms of the Keepers, where magic was still
known, along with the underground Aorth, and Ashona,
which was under the seas. Not that Erec planned to
actually perform the twelve dangerous quests to
become king. In fact, there was a big problem he
could not ignore. He now knew that becoming king
would destroy him completely.
Erec rolled over and read the letter again. For the
first time in a long time, his alarm clock had not
woken him early. What a relief. Maybe the thing
finally realized it was summer . . . now that summer
was at an end. The clock usually woke him by
throwing things at him. It was one of the strange,
lifelike objects that Erec had grown up with, like
his juggling coat rack. His mother had gotten them
from the Kingdoms of the Keepers.
He glanced at the clock and then sat up, not
believing his eyes. It stood in a small pool of
water, beeping softly. His mother’s magical Seeing
Eyeglasses were perched on its round face. Small
tearlike droplets dripped down its numbers as it
peered through the glasses. The clock was like an
annoying pet, always waking him up too early, but
now it looked pathetic. When he picked the glasses
up, the clock came with them, blinking sadly. Erec
pulled, but the glasses stuck firmly to its face.
“Oh, no.” Erec smacked his forehead. He had left the
glasses out last night, thinking about using them to
check on his best friend, Bethany. He had not done
it, and now he regretted taking them out at all.
They were impossible to take off anybody, maybe even
an alarm clock.
He flopped onto his back and gazed at a crack in the
ceiling. As he stared, it began to look quite like a
minotaur he had once had an unfortunate experience
with. He closed his eyes and sighed. Part of him
wanted to go back to Alypium, where strange things
like minotaurs existed and where Bethany was, rather
than staying safe and comfortable in New Jersey.
Sure, he had never been crushed in a pit under an
avalanche of rock at home, nor nearly been killed by
a multieyed fiend, or suffered attack fleas, but he
also had more fun in Alypium than anywhere else.
But the problem was the scepter. It still haunted
him day and night. His dreams were ravaged with
thoughts of holding its slick gold, streams of its
power flowing through his body. It kept calling for
him. From the first moment he had held it, he’d
wanted the scepter badly, would do anything to get
it. But since he had come home to Upper Earth, his
craving for it had grown, and he realized what it
had done to him. His mind wandered to it all the
time, and not with thoughts of helping people with
it or learning about its magic. No. Erec wanted it
in his bones. He wanted its power. He wanted to join
it . . . lose himself in it . . . use it to complete
His desire for it completely overwhelmed him.
He had used it to too much, too soon, without any
training . . . and he knew that if he ever held it
again, he would be out of control, lost in its
So becoming a king and wielding a scepter was out of
Erec rose from the small cot in the corner of the
tiny room he shared with his two brothers. He used
to hate being cramped for space, but now he did not
care. After everything he had gone through, all that
mattered was that his family was alive and safe. He
stepped over his sleeping dogs, Tutt and King, and
his brother Trevor snoozing in a sleeping bag.
Danny and Sammy, his thirteen-year-old twin brother
and sister, stood across the room staring at him and
whispering. They looked alike, tall and thin with
soft blue eyes. Danny’s sandy brown hair stood on
end, and Sammy’s was smoothed into a ponytail. Ever
since he returned from Alypium four weeks ago, they
had been acting strangely—following him around, eyes
glued on him like they’d never seen him before. It
was almost like they were spying on him. His
adoptive mother, June, had said they just wanted to
keep an eye out for him since he had been missing
for so long. But they certainly did not seem like
their old selves. Danny had not cracked a single
joke, and Sammy was not acting motherly at all. In
fact, they seemed serious all the time.
“Excuse me, guys.” Erec squeezed between the twins’
shoulders into the bathroom. His toothbrush, another
lifelike object his mother had bought from the
Vulcan store in the Kingdoms of the Keepers, sprang
into action. It grabbed an open tube of toothpaste
with its arms and legs, rested its bristle head over
the opening, and squeezed until a big glob of white
popped onto its face. Like a monkey, it swung hand
over foot up to Erec’s face where, grabbing his
mouth, it shook its head dizzyingly across Erec’s
Erec gripped the counter for as long as he could
stand it before he ripped the thing out of his
mouth. He looked into the mirror and gasped. Two
faces were right behind him, staring.
Then he sighed. It was just Danny and Sammy. “You
guys scared me. Are you under orders to follow me or
The old Danny would have hit him on the head and
told him to shut up, but then again, the old Danny
would not have been staring at him to begin with. He
shook his head in warning and the twins backed off.
Erec was leaving the bathroom when suddenly a
blinding green light flashed through him. In the
next second he could see again, but everything
looked green. White cobwebs hung all around him.
Erec watched himself moving, walking—although he was
sure he was standing still. He gripped the door
frame next to him.
The image before his eyes was so clear, Erec was not
sure if it was real. It looked like he was outside,
somewhere running through cobwebs . . . running at
his brother Danny. Danny had a horrified look in his
eyes. Erec saw himself tackling Danny, grabbing his
neck. No, he thought, what am I doing? But he could
see his own hands holding his brother down, shaking
A woman walked by in the eerie green light. She
looked down at them in shock. Erec watched his hand
reach up and grab at her belt and . . . yank it from
her waist. His heart started pounding. How could he?
She looked shocked, clutched her skirt to hold it up
. . .
And then the image faded.
Erec stood in the doorway of the bathroom, pale and
shaking. What had happened? It was like a dream, but
he was awake and it felt so real. What was wrong
with him? He didn’t want to hurt his brother. He
looked at Danny across the room and bit his lip in
June had come down the hallway. “Are you okay?”
Erec shrugged, not sure if he was all right or not.
“Your eye turned around and the dragon eye side was
showing,” she said in awe. “I’ve never seen anything
like it. It glowed like a green light, with a long
black slit in the middle. Then it turned back so
fast I couldn’t believe it.” Concerned, she brushed
hair from his face. “Did you see something through
Erec rubbed his shoulders, feeling unsettled. “You
don’t want to know.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind.” Erec did not want to admit he’d had
such a horrible thought. He walked back to his cot.
What was that all about? This was the first time he
had seen through the dragon’s eye since he got it .
. . and he didn’t like what he saw. What made it
happen now? And why did the vision have to be so
He had been glad to have the dragon eye. It was so
much better than the glass one he’d had before. Now
he could see through both eyes. But what if the
dragon eye wasn’t so great? What if it was evil? A
chill crept through him. What if the dragon eye was
going to make him do things like his cloudy thoughts
did—only bad things? Was it going to make him really
hurt Danny? No. He wouldn’t let it.
Erec rubbed his new eye, wishing he could have his
glass one back. The last thing he needed was
something to make him more out of control. And what
if he wanted to get rid of the dragon eye someday?
Was he stuck with it?
June went into the kitchen and came back with a
letter. “This came yesterday. I forgot to give it to
He opened it.
I hate to ask you this because I know how you feel
about becoming king, and the scepter and all, but
it’s really urgent. Baskania and President Inkle are
going to count your absence from Alypium as a
forfeit. If you don’t get here within the week to do
the first quest, they will hand the throne to Balor,
Damon, and Rock, since they “officially” won the
I’ve been thinking about it a lot, Erec. I know
you’re afraid of what might happen if you use the
scepter again. And sure, being a king sounds a
little crazy. But if you really were the king, you
wouldn’t have to use the scepter, would you? I mean,
nobody could make you. Just think about it. I can’t
imagine what would happen if Balor, Damon, and Rock
become rulers and get the scepters. You know what
they would do to everybody here? Would you consider
it, please? Anyway, I wouldn’t mind seeing you
That settled it. Handing Alypium to the Stain
brothers was not an option. They would turn the
place into a wasteland, their dragon horses
breathing fire on everyone, using the scepters for
destruction. Like it or not, Erec was going.
Erec was not sure what to pack for his trip to
Alypium. The last time he had brought nothing at
all. He couldn’t help feeling like he was making a
big mistake. A dream he’d had last night about the
scepter was his most vivid one yet. It started the
same as usual. He made a command. The scepter’s
energy started at his fingertips and streamed
through his body, building into a roar. Usually he
did not remember the command, but this time he was
ashamed to remember it only too well. He had told it
that he wanted to rule the world. And as the scepter
did his bidding—making everybody drop to their knees
and bow down to him—he’d heard his enemy, Baskania,
Maybe Bethany was right. Maybe he could be king and
just put the thing in a closet and never look at it
Erec swallowed hard. He doubted he could do that.
But he pushed the thought from his mind. At least he
would get to see Bethany in Alypium, and maybe his
secret admirer as well. What would it be like to be
surrounded by adoring fans? The thought cheered him
up. He probably would get free cloud cream sundaes
and chocolate-covered honey drops. Big-eyed girls
would crowd around him wanting to hear how he fought
off the destroyers. He would have to get used to
signing autographs, of course, but that would be
When Erec appeared, Zoe was eating Flying Count
cereal in the kitchen. She ran to his side. “Tell me
about the destroyers in the dungeon again. Did you
almost die?” Erec laughed. Since he had been back,
his younger siblings, Trevor, Nell, and Zoe,
couldn’t get enough of his stories.
Trevor downed a mouthful of Magnon Fiber and leaned
Erec sat down and Zoe climbed into his lap. “It was
nothing. I just threw paper on all their noses with
a wooden arm, and they dropped like flies.”
Zoe’s eyes were big, but June rolled hers. “All
right, hero. Eat some breakfast, we’ll hop a train
to Grand Central, and I’ll walk you to FES Station.”
Danny and Sammy were glued to the television. A
reporter blared, “The latest developments of the
multinational organization, Eye of the World, have
raised concerns. Unnamed sources report that, under
various names, Eye of the World is purchasing fleets
of ocean liners, railroads, and trucking companies
across the globe, as well as many important bridges.
“In an unprecedented move, Eye of the World has just
purchased the famous Chunnel connecting Great
Britain to the European continent. The Channel
Tunnel, previously not for sale, was won after
billions of dollars filtered to the controlling
governments. Many are expressing fears about Eye of
the World having too much control. Its leader, the
elusive Crown Prince of Peace, already owns Sky
Limit, the megacorp controlling most of the world’s
air traffic. He explains, ‘Eye of the World is
taking the mission of peace into its own hands.
Governments have abused the trust of their people
long enough, using their power over transportation
to wage wars as they please. We are simply creating
a network of safety and peace that is unbreakable
for the good of all.’”
June switched off the television, a sour look on her
face. Danny and Sammy huddled, whispering, then
insisted on walking with Erec and June to FES
Station that lead to the Kingdoms of the Keepers and
Alypium. Eleven-year-old Nell pushed aside her
walker to hug Erec goodbye, then came skinny
red-haired Trevor, and finally Zoe squeezed him too,
flinging her long blond curls in his face. Erec
rolled his suitcase behind him down the street.
June slipped thirty dollars to the short, pudgy hot
dog vendor at Grand Central Station. “I’ll check in
with you as soon as I can get those glasses off your
alarm clock,” she told Erec. “And e-mail me. If you
need anything, just come home through a
“All right, Mom.”
Danny took sixty dollars out of his pocket and
handed it to the vendor. “Two more, Gerard.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” June said. “You’re starting
school soon, and you need to stay with the family.”
She snatched the money from the vendor’s fist.
“Where did you get this?”
The twins stared at her coldly. Sammy produced
another sixty dollars and handed it to the vendor.
June’s eyes narrowed at the now confused Gerard, who
dropped the money back into her hand.
isn’t family therapy,” he said. “I’m running a
business here.” He looked over Sammy’s shoulder at
the next customer in a growing line. “Yeah, whadda
June’s face was red with embarrassment. “We’ll talk
about this when we get home.” She threw withering
glances at Danny and Sammy. “We discussed this, and
I said no. You start school soon and we don’t have a
tutor lined up for you in Alypium. There is no
reason for you to go there.”
Sammy’s steel blue eyes swung to her mother. “Mom,
we need to stay with Erec. Someone has to keep an
eye on him.” She grabbed the money out of her
mother’s hand and shoved it back at the vendor.
“We’re going, too.”
“Sammy!” June spun her around. “We will discuss this
later. It’s time you two pulled yourselves together.
Everyone’s home now. We’re all okay. Let’s have a
fresh start.” She held her hand out to Gerard for
Danny’s voice raised a notch. “Listen, Mom. We’re
going and you can’t stop us.” He shoved her away
from the money Gerard held out.
“What?” June looked shocked, holding her arm where
Danny had pushed her.
Erec couldn’t believe it. What was wrong with them?
“Listen, guys. I’ll visit soon. Just stop making a
big deal about this.”
Danny sneered. “Shut up, Erec. It’s none of your
business.” He turned to Gerard. “Keep the money.
We’re going with him.”
Gerard looked back and forth confused. Finally he
shrugged his shoulders. “Password?”
June stepped forward. “No!”
Suddenly, the world around Erec vanished. Instead,
he found himself standing in the middle of a green
cyclone, rooted to the earth by his feet. His hands
stretched into the swirling vortex around him.
Everything glowed an unreal shade of green, like he
had stepped into a comic book. Thin cobwebs filled
the air. He was dizzy and sick, and his stomach rose
into his throat.
It was almost as if . . .
A cloudy thought. But not like any he had ever
experienced. Something was happening with his dragon
eye. It was making his cloudy thought different.
Wild and out of control. He felt changed, morphed
into some kind of green monster.
Fire felt like it was shooting from his fingertips.
He was strong, energized. He could do anything. It
was like the power of the trident was inside him.
Then the command came to him. He knew what he had to
Run at Danny, full speed. Knock him down. Use all of
your brute force. Then tie his hands with a belt.
What kind of craziness was this? Hurt his brother?
Just because he wanted to come to Alypium? No. He
wouldn’t do it.
But if it had been hard in the past to fight his
cloudy thoughts, it was impossible now. His body
raced forward, fists up, straight for his brother.
He felt sick. Sick with himself, sick with what he
was doing, yet unable to stop.
And then he saw it. There was a glint in Danny’s
hand. Something sharp flew from his fingers as Erec
tackled him. He shoved Danny onto the sidewalk, held
him down, heart pounding. What was that thing he had
been holding? Danny stared at him wildly, a thin
trickle of blood running from his lip.
A woman walked by wearing a belted skirt. She looked
down at them in horror. Erec closed his eyes. No.
But he could not fight it. He yanked the cloth belt
from her waist, tied it around Danny’s wrists, then
sat on his knees.
It was over. Erec rubbed his eyes, the green light
gone. His dragon eye must have switched around to
his regular eye.
June’s mouth hung open. She rushed over to help
Danny up. “Erec,” she said, “What is wrong with you?
Why did you do that?”
Danny sat up and rubbed his head. Erec stared at the
ground, ashamed. “I’m sorry.” He looked at Danny.
“What were you holding?”
Danny glared at him. “A mirror. I had something
stuck in my teeth.”
Erec dropped his head into his hands. “I am so
sorry.” He helped Danny up. How could this have
happened? Were his cloudy thoughts turning on him?
He looked at his hands, disgusted with what he had
June laid her hand on his arm. “Are you going to be
okay?” Erec nodded. “Maybe Danny and Sammy should
keep an eye on you, after all. Come home, you two,
and we’ll talk about it. Erec,” her hand tightened
its grip on him, “be careful. After that stunt I
have half a mind to keep you home. But you have a
big job to do. I’ll check on you soon with the
glasses.” She sighed. “Good luck with your first
quest to be king.”
Little did Erec know how much he would need it.
The swarm of activity in FES Station came as a jolt
after the four weeks Erec had spent in quiet,
predictable Upper Earth. A thick, lifeless feeling
penetrated the air. It was from the Substance, the
invisible network that held all magic. Substance ran
through Aitherplanes throughout the world, but more
of it was in the Kingdoms of the Keepers, which made
it easier to do magic there. For some reason, in the
Kingdoms it gave off a sad ache that surrounded
everyone, weighing on hearts and minds like an
unsolvable problem. Erec knew from before that he
would adjust to it in a day or two. After that, he
would only notice it on occasion, with melancholy
People bustled everywhere. Sorcerers and apprentices
wore black and blue cloaks; some others sported
shiny silver “UnderWear” from Aorth. Interesting
shops lined the walls, like Neither Fish nor Fowl
Vegetarian Diner, Swim with the Fishes Scuba Shop,
and Under Grounds Coffee.
Even with the heavy feeling from the Substance, Erec
still grinned at the people flying under the
sixty-foot-high ceilings. Women and men raised their
arms and sailed up into the wind tunnel of the
Skyway, the passageway for people who could fly.
Erec had flown before with the help of dragon scale
dust, and Bethany had too, by using heli powder.
Everyone in the Kingdoms of the Keepers was born
with a magical gift. Erec wished his was flying; he
would love to do it all the time. But then again,
his gift of cloudy thoughts had helped him quite a
Thin wooden doors appeared and vanished all around
the walls of the station. Erec immediately
recognized them as Port-O-Doors, magical doorways
that took people where they wanted to go, and
vanished when they returned. Some of the doors
shrunk to fit under food counters. Erec saw a woman
stumble out of a shrunken door straight into a
luggage rack, spilling coffee on herself and
Erec had a little money with him, enough to splurge
on a cloud cream nectar fizz at United Pollen
Farmers. Before he slurped the last drop, it floated
and vanished into the air. Without looking, he
grabbed his suitcase and headed toward the white
neon ALYPIUM sign. He lost his balance as his
suitcase wiggled and jerked to the side. He reached
for it, but it lurched out of his reach.
A tall man with hair greased over a large bald spot
appeared in front of him, clearing his throat and
squinting through his monocle. “And what do you
think you are doing? Stealing my luggage, I
presume?” He crossed his arms. “You look familiar. I
better call the police.”
“No, please.” Erec looked at the suitcase more
closely. It was dark blue like his own, but taller
and without wheels. The thing happily trotted to the
man’s side. “I’m sorry. I thought it was mine.”
“Hmmph. Likely story.” The man frowned. “If it
belonged to you, you wouldn’t need to grab it like
that. It would have come with you on its own. Stay
here.” His clawlike hand gripped Erec’s shoulder,
and he spoke into his index finger. “Police? I’m in
FES Station, by the Super A King fastaurant. I’ve
caught a young thief here, trying to steal my
suitcase. Yes, thank you.” Erec’s stomach sank into
his knees. He remembered that people here had
microscopic cell phones implanted in their fingers.
The man glared at Erec. “Just you wait. President
Inkle has gotten a lot tougher on criminals. You’ll
sit in a dungeon, or at least get a nasty memory
implant for this.”
Erec remembered how King Piter, the king of Alypium,
had punished Earl Evirly with a memory implant. He
did not want to spend the rest of his life with
terrible memories of rotting away in a cell, sure
that it really happened even though it had not. “But
I wasn’t trying to—”
Four odd looking, armless men in uniforms appeared.
Instead of limbs, they had long, snakelike bodies.
Their blue uniforms looked like tube socks with
star-shaped badges and brass buttons stuck on. One
of the officers wore a hat that looked like a blue
bowler with a black band and a star in front, like a
cross between an English bobby’s hat and one worn by
the Keystone Cops. Another wore a taller black hat
with a wide brim and a gold buckle, which made him
look like a pilgrim. The third sported an ornate
silver Spanish conquistador helmet, and the fourth
wore a tall white pointed hat with broad wings that
looked like it came straight off a Dutch farm girl.
All of the officers eyed Erec harshly, swaying back
and forth like snakes. “Ssssso, thissssss is the
thief?” the cop in the conquistador helmet asked.
“Tsssssk, tsssssk, young man. You will learn
sssssoon, crime does not pay.”
“B-but . . .” Erec looked back and forth between the
men. He could not believe this was happening. They
were not even asking him his side of the story. The
men’s torsos started waving wildly, as if they were
about to strike. One flicked a forked tongue from
his mouth. Erec’s breath caught. What would happen
now? He had to get to Alypium to stop Balor, not be
thrown in a dungeon somewhere.
A sudden flash of light surprised Erec. The tall man
who’d called the police had just snapped his
picture. The police officers slid closer on their
tails, hissing. Erec wondered how they could catch
him without arms. Then the one in the Dutch farm
girl’s hat tilted back his head and opened his mouth
wider than seemed possible. Two long fangs jutted
from under his top lip, and a terrible sizzling
sound came from his throat. His head wagged in
excitement, tilting sideways as he approached Erec.
That’s when he realized how they were going to catch
him. By biting him.
Thoughts of snakes and poison tumbled through Erec’s
head in the split second before he turned and ran.
He hoped the officers would not be able to run fast
with only one thick leg. When he glanced over his
shoulder, he could not see them at all. But then a
woman behind him screamed and jumped. The police
officers appeared, slithering across the floor right
A scream gargled in the back of Erec’s throat as he
pushed his way past people, leaping on his toes
across the room. The snake men slid behind him,
knocking people out of their way. Erec ran faster,
flinging himself behind the counter of a coffee
A girl making coffee yelped. Erec apologized, then
dove out of the way when the officer wearing the
Keystone bobby hat slid over the counter. The girl
looked as terrified as he was, and dumped a pot of
hot coffee onto the snake man’s back.
The officer hissed loudly and looked back at her,
furious. Erec leapt over the counter and ran toward
an UnderWear shop. He wished he could fly to escape
the snakelike officers. But what he saw next changed
his mind. Two of them were soaring toward him,
wiggling through the air like worms in dirt. Their
fangs glistened in the light.
As he was looking over his shoulder, Erec tripped
over a walking duffle bag and crashed to the floor.
The snakes slid closer, mouths open. He scrambled to
get away, but they were faster, closing in on him.
One of them opened wide, fangs poised above Erec’s
There was nothing he could do. The snake thing would
bite him and whatever happened then would happen. He
hoped it was not poisonous.
He squeezed his eyes shut, jaw clamped tight, but he
felt nothing. When he dared to sneak a peek, he saw
the officer’s snake like mouth frozen over his calf.
He jerked it away, but the snake mouth stayed where
it was. Silence now filled FES Station. He noticed
everybody was frozen, like statues.
A chuckle burst out over his head. “It’s a good
thing I was here, Erec. Wouldn’t want to lose you
now. You have too many things to do.”
The man who approached him made the snakelike
officers look normal. His piercing green eyes were
surrounded by thick olive-colored scales, scattered
over blotches of pink skin. The scales covered most
of his head, making him bald. His wide nose
protruded forward along with his jaw, making him
look like a reptile, and his mouth was long and
The man cleared his throat. “I suppose you’re
gawking because of my looks?”
Erec shook his head, stunned.
“I understand,” the man said. He paced, his ha
fluttering in constant motion like birds. “It’s the
first time you’ve seen me like this. Nasty, isn’t
it? A wicked boy did this to me a long time ago.
This is a great improvement over the crocodile head
he gave me, though. Did you know that if your looks
are changed, you can never go back to what you were
before?” He grimaced. “I’m sorry. Let me introduce
myself. My name is Rosco Kroc. I’m your friend
Erec dumbly shook his hand.
“Well, you better hurry. I’ve just learned how to
stop time, and I can’t keep it up much longer. Let’s
get you out of here.”
Erec found his suitcase, which he had left by the
United Pollen Farmers. Rosco tossed it on the
luggage counter and walked him to the front of the
line for the Artery to Alypium. “Are you ready to
go? The police will think you vanished. Good thing
they don’t know your name.”
Erec nodded. In a second, everyone around him was
moving again. He heard screams from the far end of
the station, where it sounded like the officer might
have accidentally bit somebody else.
He wasn’t sticking around to find out.
Retail Price: $18.99,
Hardcover, 349 pages. Published by Firelight Press,
Inc., October, 2007. ISBN-10: 0978655575
by Kaza Kingsley. All Rights Reserved. Please feel
free to duplicate or distribute this file as long as
the contents are not changed and this copyright
notice is intact. Thank you