Chaos's mesmer eyes scan the darkness
Josh’s room had been repaired. His window was ﬁxed, his demolished desk and bed replaced, damaged ceiling and ﬂoor patched. The wood grain in the ﬂoor didn’t quite match, and the plaster in the ceiling hadn’t yet dried enough to blend with the rest. The repairs served as haunting reminders of the night the DimensioNoids rescued Josh from the clutches of Chaos, then took the boy on his mind bending adventures in interdimensional space.
Josh was home, for the second time returning to Wheatland, where the curious stares and whispers caused by Josh’s initial disappearance had not abated. Billy was coming by. He and Josh were going to ﬂy Billy’s new model airplane out in one of the Miles farm’s open ﬁelds. Josh smiled when he heard Billy’s clown-like bicycle horn. Josh went to his bedroom window and looked out. He was stunned to see Billy had brought Emily Kinicki with him!
Leaving Emily outside with the bicycles, Billy raced right into Josh’s house, like he always did. There was no need for knocking in this hospitable part of the mid-west—no locked doors, either. Billy shot a quick hello to Josh’s mom who was shucking corn in the kitchen.
“See you brought a friend,” Mrs. Miles smiled, pleased to ﬁnd that girls were not entirely outside Josh’s circle.
“Yes, ma’am,” Billy answered, ﬂying up the stairs.
“Be ﬁve for dinner, then?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Billy called back, already out of sight, heading down the hall and into Josh’s room.
“What’s she doing here?” Josh moaned, looking down at Emily from his window.
She was wearing the yellow dress Josh liked, brushing her hair and checking herself in her compact.
“Gee, I thought you’d be stoked!” Billy said, disappointed Josh wasn’t doing cartwheels. “You still have rocks for her, yo? I mean, she pestered me to let her come. You’re a celebrity, dude!”
“Uh, yeah, well it’s cool,” Josh said, awkwardly.
“Yeah, it is!” Billy grinned with that elﬁn smile of his. “Let’s go ﬂy the Skyhawk. C’mon!”
Josh, Billy and Emily walked to the back acres, as the Miles family called the overgrazed piece of land a half mile behind the barn. They had to walk through what Josh and Billy had dubbed Spooky Woods, an acre of poplars and maples that were lush in spring, brilliant in the fall, and downright creepy in winter. Winter was coming, and only a few dead leaves stubbornly clung to the gnarled trees in a desperate effort to hold back the inevitable.
The three schoolmates trudged along side-by-side, Emily in the middle. Billy carried the big Skyhawk model airplane he’d just gotten for his birthday. Josh carried the remote control panel. The walk, with Emily along, was awkward for Josh, but not for Emily. She did all the talking. Emily asked him if he was feeling better. He didn’t know what she meant, until he recalled having told the principal he was sick as an excuse to leave school when the DimensioNoids had summoned him. His parents had trusted him enough to support the falsehood.
“Oh, yeah. Had a cold for a couple days,” he lied.
“How’d you do on that English test you had to make up?”
“Now you’ve missed a math test.”
“I’m really surprised you haven’t been on TV. Like, that Ripley’s Believe It or Whatever. I mean, you did get carried off by a tornado! Even the newspapers have stopped running the story. Hope you didn’t miss the opportunity, you know, to get on TV. Did any of the radio stations call you? Bet they’d love to hear your story. I know I would.”
Josh threw a glance at Billy. Billy mouthed the word, “Sorry,” then grinned that impish way he did when he really wasn’t all that sorry.
Josh was relieved when they ﬁnally reached the ﬁeld and ﬁred up the model plane. Billy took it up ﬁrst, then Josh. Emily asked if Josh could teach her how to ﬂy it, crouching, then coming back up in between Josh and the control panel, his arms suddenly around her from behind. Josh looked wide-eyed at Billy. Billy stiﬂed a laugh, and then did an exaggerated shrug. Josh let Emily put her hands on the controls, and he put his hands on the backs of hers, guiding her through the maneuvers. She smelled great, felt soft and ﬁrm at the same time, her back and shoulders brushing against him as she squealed each time the plane did a roll or loop. Josh lost his concentration, and the plane crashed into some bushes at the far edge of the ﬁeld. Billy went to get it. Emily turned in Josh’s arms so she was suddenly facing him. Her breath played off his cheeks like Tempo’s did that recent night that now seemed long ago.
“Something’s happened to you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he stammered, the words coming out clumsily, more like “Whaduhyamean?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t noticed you before. You know, caught you looking at me and stuff. But I never really thought of you—that way.”
“What way is—that way?” Josh said, embarrassed.
She got a little embarrassed herself, but not nearly as embarrassed as he. She gently broke free of his encircling arms and stood beside him to watch Billy untangle the plane from the bushes far across the ﬁeld.
“It’s just that, well, girls mature faster than boys, you know,” she went on, adding to Josh’s discomfort. “I’m really not, like, noticing you now just because you’re kind of famous, all of a sudden. Because of that tornado thing.” She turned to look up into his green eyes. “It’s because there’s something different about you. You’re, like, mature yourself. You don’t brag about what happened to you like most boys would. I think that’s cool.” She stood up on her toes and kissed Josh quickly on the cheek.
To Josh’s relief, Billy got the plane free and came running back to them. “No damage,” he shouted. Then he set the plane down on the smooth area of the ﬁeld where they’d done the takeoffs before. “My turn—ﬂyin’ the plane, I mean,” Billy cracked, self- satisfaction dancing in his eyes.
Billy started the plane’s tiny motor with the starter pack he’d put in his pocket, then he came over and took the controls from Josh. “Find something else to do with your hands,” Billy joked, then he taxied the plane over the short grass, and put it into a barrel roll the instant it was airborne. Billy was an expert. He wanted to be a ﬁghter pilot someday. He put the plane into a steep climb until it nearly vanished into the surly gathering clouds. That’s when Chaos materialized right in front of them.
They were all looking up at the plane, but the ﬂashes of electricity heralding Chaos’s arrival caused them all to look down together. Together, they beheld the horror. Billy and Emily were scared, but not as scared as Josh, for he knew what the monster wanted of him. The three were frozen in place, unable to run. It wouldn’t have done them any good, for Chaos was fast, and would have run them down in seconds, or impaled them with his claw projectiles.
“Don’t look at his eyes!” Josh shouted keeping his own eyes focused down and away from Chaos’s mesmerizing stare.
“You have eluded my grasp for the last time, Joshua Miles,” Chaos’s deep threatening voice said with disdain.
“Just let them go and I’ll go with you,” Josh offered.
“Not possible. You go. They die!”
The slashers popped out of Chaos’s forearms with that metallic ching that promised death. Emily screamed and threw herself into the protection of Josh’s arms.
“The DimensioNoids will get you for this,” Josh said, trying like the dead leaves in Spooky Woods to hold back the inevitable.
“The DimensioNoids are ﬁnished. Fractal is our captive and we now can block all your communications. More importantly, we can track every one of you rebels the instant you leave the Forbidden Land. My being here evidence of that.”
“They’ll ﬁnd a way,” Josh said, even unsure himself that it was possible.
“Not without you, and your brain, to lead them,” Chaos said with that satisﬁed grin.
No one was paying attention to Billy. He was trembling just like the other two kids, but he continued to deftly work the controls of the Skyhawk. The plane was now in a steep dive above and behind the apparition that was confronting them. Chaos’s smile twitched into bewilderment when the high-pitched whine of the model plane’s motor suddenly got very loud. The plane swooped down, leveling a mere ten feet behind Chaos and about seven feet off the ground. Chaos spun around, but even his reﬂexes weren’t fast enough. Billy’s Skyhawk smashed into Chaos’s face. The plane shattered, bits of fuselage and propeller burying themselves into Chaos’s eyes. He screamed an unearthly shriek and clutched his claw-tipped hands to his face, which spurted black blood as he staggered about in the ﬁeld.
“Run!” Billy shouted, tossing the remote controls aside.
“No!” Josh shouted back. “We’d never get away! Grab Emily’s hand!”
Billy trusted Josh completely, and did as he said. Josh grabbed Emily’s other hand and fumbled to ﬁnd the burn band under his shirt sleeve. He pushed some random input buttons, so he had no idea where the burn would send them. Any place was better than here! Chaos wiped the black blood from his eyes just enough to make out the three Solarian kids holding hands before him. Josh hit the activation button, then thought, too late, that wherever it was they were going, it had better have breathable air!
Chaos ﬁred all ten of his claw projectiles, but the kids vanished into their dimension burn an instant before the tiny, deadly daggers could ﬁnd their mark.
Inside the burn tube, Emily was really screaming, now. It came out in one long wail of fear as the three kids from Kansas ﬂew down the twisting, multi-colored tunnel of the dimension burn. Still holding hands, the three were a jumble of bodies, tumbling along at light speed.
“We have to turn our feet into the burn!” Josh shouted above the ear-splitting roar.
Josh manipulated himself into the proper terminus attitude, Billy did the same, then they maneuvered the screaming Emily into feet ﬁrst ﬂight, as well.
“Stop it, Kinicki!” Josh shouted. “You’re louder than the burn!”
Emily closed her eyes and bit her lower lip to stop herself from screaming. She continued to whimper, however.
“Burn?” Billy yelled above the roar. “What do you mean burn? I don’t care for burning!”
“It’s going to be all right. When we come out of this, it’ll be just like a skateboard landing. You know, Billy. Like when we airplane oﬀ the loading dock behind the mall.”
Emily opened her eyes. “Are we going to the mall?”
“No,” Josh said, “we’re going into another dimension.”
“Yo, I’d rather go to the mall!” Billy winced.
“This is what took me away that night two weeks ago. What everyone thought was a tornado. That dead-looking dude with the metal dreadlocks was after me and these other dudes—they were cool, they saved my butt by taking me into interdimensional space. That’s where they’re all from. Other dimensions. They call themselves the DimensioNoids. Well, I kinda named them that. Now they think I’m their leader.”
“Hey, dog, I’d follow you anywhere,” Billy Engle shouted, “but this is off the chain!”
The burn began to slow. Josh had done it enough times to recognize the approach of terminus.
“Get ready! We’re about to land! Might have to roll when we hit so we don’t break anything. Here we go!”
They didn’t have to roll. They landed waist deep in swamp water. Billy and Emily went under, but Josh managed to keep his head above the stagnant ooze that had patches of green slime ﬂoating on it. Billy popped up looking around in amazement. Emily came up sputtering, her hair now coated in slime and her make-up—well, forget about it.
Lightning crackled in long drawn out waves, ten times longer than it ever did in Kansas. The lightning was a weird shade of pink, arcing across a sky ﬁlled with green clouds. When the lightning faded, this strange world of swamp and storm became pitch black.
“We gotta keep moving,” Josh said desperately. “The next ﬂash of lightning, we make for the shore.”
The lightning ﬂash came again giving them just enough time, all still holding hands, to make it. Josh sloshed ashore pulling the others with him and led them all into a clump of bushes. The lightning stopped, and it got darker than death.
“Why are we hiding?” Billy asked, knowing enough to speak in a hush.
“He may be following us.”
“Oh, no!” Emily wailed.
“Shush!” Josh hissed.
There came another charge of electric light, but it wasn’t lightning. It was Chaos’s arrival in the swamp dimension. His hideous silhouette was bathed in the eerie glow of the dimension jump built into his dead body. Once he terminused, all went dark again. Suddenly, the twin red beams of Chaos’s mesmer eyes pierced the pure darkness, scanning the swamp for his prey!
CLICK HERE FOR CHAPTER NINETEEN: FLASHES