Pick Your Own YA Fantasy: Part 14

PYO-Logo[Welcome to part fourteen of my continuing blog series. I write the book, you pick the plot. For earlier parts, see part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7part 8part 9part 10part 11part 12, and part 13.]

In the end, of course, everyone went through the door. John swung it wide, and it revealed a midnight black nothingness, almost as if he’d opened a door onto a piece of black velvet. Not that it was just a dark room: it shimmered around the edges when you weren’t looking at it, and made you frightened to turn your back on it at all, as if something might jump out from it at any moment.

The four of them eyed it all together, with no one speaking up or volunteering to go first.

“On second thought,” Harvey said at last, “maybe I don’t want to go in so bad. I think I left a rotting leg somewhere back a ways. I could really go for a little nibble right about now, and I don’t–”

“Don’t be a baby,” Marvin snapped at him, then stared at John. “We’re coming in.”

And while Harvey moaned and complained a little, he followed through on the commitment.

It was a tight fit for Marvin, but the sphinx turned out to be quite flexible when it came to doorways. The fact that it was a passageway into a different dimension probably also had something to do with it. John let Liese go first. He wasn’t sure if that was the gentlemanly thing to do, since the phrase “ladies first” might not exactly apply when you were heading into what could turn out to be a deadly situation, but he’d hesitated before going through, and Liese didn’t wait for him at all. Once she had gone, Marvin and Harvey ended up shouldering their way ahead of John as well, so he turned out to be the last person to enter the portal.

The first step was the worst one.

The moment his toe touched the darkness, it felt like someone had taken that toe, strapped it to a rocket full to the brim with explosive fuel, and launched it to another planet. Instantly. It was as if he were in one room and his toe was in a different galaxy, but still attached to him.

“Painful” would definitely describe the experience.

But once his toe had gone on for the ride, there was nothing he could do to stop. For one thing, who wants to end up down a toe for the rest of their life? For another, that toe was still affixed to his foot, and it dragged his foot after it. The foot took the ankle, the ankle took the leg, and then the whole body sort of launched into it at once.

Having half your brain in one area and the other half in another isn’t something most people would enjoy. John certainly didn’t. So he can’t quite be blamed for being a little out of it when he showed up on the other end of the portal, his eyelids fluttering, his muscles twitching, and his toe wondering what took him so long.

After about a minute, he was recovered enough to look around and see what he’d gotten himself into. It was a room, identical to the one he’d just left, except for a few minor tweaks. The exit was on the opposite wall, the place was well-lit with at least twenty torches, and the only other person in the room was a knocked out Liese.

John blinked and rushed over to her side. “Liese?” he said as he knelt next to her. Had it been something about the teleportation process? Where were Marvin and Harvey? Maybe they’d gotten lost. Maybe John was the only one who was supposed to have gone. Maybe–

Liese groaned and sat up, holding her head. “When I catch those two, they’re going to wish they’d stayed behind.”

John frowned at her. “What?”

“Marvin and Harvey,” Liese said. “The two of them showed up when I was still twitchy, and Marvin knocked me to the ground before hurrying off with Harvey to who knows where.”

“Wait a minute.”

The two of us looked up, surprised by the new voice. It was Khalid, the djinn. He had popped into being in midair, and now was scowling down at us. “Did you say Marvin and Harvey?” he asked.

We nodded. “Is that bad?” I asked.

Khalid shook his head. “The job was for you to come here alone, John. It’s one thing to bring a girl with you. But to bring the two most notorious grave robbers in Egyptian history? What were you thinking?”

John sat down on the ground, more than a little stunned. “The two of them were guarding the entrance,” I said.

“Wrong,” Khalid said. “The two of them were waiting for someone like you to let them through. I purposefully trapped the door so that it would kill anyone other than someone I had approved if they tried to open it. Those two clowns have been there for centuries waiting to get in.”

Liese got to her feet and stepped toward the djinn. “And you only thought to mention this now?”

Khalid shrugged. “I’d been baking a cake when John interrupted me. Cut me some slack.”

John stood as well. “So what do we do?” I asked. “Why are they here?”

“To loot the Library, of course,” Khalid said. He took a deep breath and stood straighter, clearly trying to put a better spin on things. “Though they’ll have to deal with the mummy horde as well. It’s just one more thing for you to worry about. I’m sure you’ll manage it. Besides, now that we’re here, I can help you more.”

“How?” John asked.

“By giving you a superpower.” Khalid smiled broadly, spreading his arms wide. He didn’t say anything else. Just stood there looking happy.

“Which one?” John asked at last.

“Anything you ask me for. But it’s the only one you get. That was the deal with your uncle.”

John thought about it for a moment. “Anything? So if I want to be able to turn invisible . . .”

“Then that’s what I’ll let you do,” Khalid said. “But consider it carefully. You only get one shot at this, and I won’t let you switch it back. Remember, you’ll have a mummy horde, a conniving sphinx, and a very hungry crocodile to deal with, not to mention a slew of booby traps and unexpected surprises. Try to pick something that’s versatile.”

In the distance, something shuffled. Not just something, somethings. Many of them. There might have been a few groans in there as well. The noise sent shivers down John’s spine.

“What was that?” Liese asked.

“The mummy horde,” Khalid said. “Sounds like they might be coming this way, so you’d better make that choice snappy.”

Make a Choice

Nominations welcome, popular vote wins. Have at you!

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