The Void of Mist and Thunder (The 13th Reality #4)


by James Dashner

Prologue

A Very Special Boy

It was all about the soulikens.

Master George sat in his study, the lights dimmed, Muffintops purring in a corner, the first light of dawn’s birth still an hour off. He stared at the wall as if the most fascinating thing in the Realities had been stapled there for him to see whenever he wished, but it was only a knot in the wood of his paneling. A knot that had two eyes and a mouth if you looked at it just right, and for some reason it reminded him of a boy named Atticus Higginbottom.

Atticus. Tick. The young man who changed everything.

The boy who’d disappeared from existence.

It was a shame. More than a shame. It was a downright tragedy. Master George had never ached in his heart so much for someone lost. Right when they’d finally begun to understand why the boy had such extraordinary powers, why he was able to harness and use Chi’karda as if he were himself a Barrier Wand—and a powerful Wand at that, even more so than Mistress Jane, who had a unique and tragic story of her own—he was gone.

But none of that really mattered anymore. It wasn’t the reason George missed Master Atticus so much. He missed him—ached for him—because the boy had become like a son to him. So innocent, yet brave. So genuine. Such a kid, but so grown up. Oh, how he missed that dear, dear boy.

He was a wonder.

Sato had completed the mission George had asked of him. He had visited each Reality and searched until he had found the same thing in each one: a grave for the Alterants of Atticus Higginbottom—the boy’s “twins” in the other twelve Realities. Never before had such an odd coincidence occurred, where only one version of a person remained throughout all the Realities. They’d never know if there was some deep cosmic reason behind it, or how it had happened.

But one thing was for certain: every one of those Alterants’ soulikens had traveled to and collected within the body of the one remaining Atticus who had lived in Reality Prime. It had changed his structure, his makeup, his quantum mechanics. He was full of Chi’karda, filled beyond measure with the powers that bound and controlled the universe. Filled beyond anything mankind could ever hope to recreate or dream about.

He was lost now, gone from existence.

There’d probably never be another quite like him, in far more ways than one.

George called for Muffintops. He needed to hug a friend.

Part 1

The Nonex

Chapter 1

A Gash in the Forest

The forest smelled of things dead, things rotting.

Jacob Gillian paid the stench no mind, walking his merry way along the narrow path that threaded through the tall oaks and pines like a dried-out stream. Of course, the reason he paid it no mind was because he’d lost his sense of smell thirty years ago in an unfortunate spice sniffing contest. His grandson, Chip, had to tell him that the place stunk like a three-week-old dead rat stuck under the pipes.

The two of them had been hiking side by side for well over an hour, knowing full well that something horrible had happened deep within the dark woods. Exactly what had happened was still a mystery, and the reason they were out there. Jacob had heard the awful sound of ripping and shredding and booming. Chip had smelled the nose-wrinkling stench. Those two things together spelled trouble, and by golly, the source behind it needed finding out.

Jacob and his grandson had moved into the boonies after Chip’s parents had been killed in a train collision near Louisville. Ever since then, they’d learned to live with little and less, loving the wild freedom and exhilaration of being smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. Their closest neighbor lived a good thirty miles down the poorly maintained state road, and the nearest town was forty miles in the other direction. But that’s just how Jacob liked it, and the life had seemed to grow on Chip as well.

One day they’d return to civilization and start learnin’ Chip on the ways of society. But for now, there was time. Time to heal, time to grow, time to enjoy. Time to have time.

“I think I see something up there, Grandpa,” Chip said, a little too enthusiastically, considering the circumstances that had brought them out into the woods.

“What is it?” Old Jacob couldn’t see much better than he could smell.

“There’s a bright patch. Seems like it goes all the way up to the sky!”

“On the path or off it?”

Chip grabbed Jacob’s hand and started hurrying down the little ribbon of beaten leaves and undergrowth. “Just to the right of it. We’re almost there!”

Jacob followed along as careful as he could while still keeping up with Chip’s eager steps. Warning bells rang inside his mind, but he did what he’d done since the day he’d stepped out into the humid fields of Korea as a soldier—he ignored them. Curiosity always won out in his book, and courage came as naturally as a nice belch after dinner.

They’d just rounded a bend, skirting past two mammoth pines that looked like brothers, when Chip suddenly pulled up short. Jacob ran right past him, almost yanking his grandson’s arm out of its socket when the boy didn’t let go. But then Jacob saw what had stopped the kid, and all he could do was stand and stare. He felt Chip’s sweaty hand slip out of his own.

Fifty yards ahead of them, a swath of the forest had been wiped from existence and replaced by a brushstroke of . . . something else. Starting deep in the ground and shooting all the way to the sky was a wide gash in reality, a window to another place. Jacob could see part of a beach, the deep blue waters of the ocean beside it, a sun where there shouldn’t be a sun. The time was almost noon, and the real ball of fire was directly overhead. It was as if someone had clawed a rip in the reality of this world and replaced it with another.

“What in the great dickens are we lookin’ at?” Jacob whispered.

“Grandpa?” was all Chip managed in reply. His voice shook with equal parts confusion and terror.

“I’ve been from one end of this world to the other,” Jacob said, not sure if he was talking to himself or to his grandson. “And I’ve never seen a thing like that in my life.”

“Let’s go home.”

“Home?” Jacob tore his eyes away from the spectacle and looked down at Chip. “Didn’t you hear what I just said? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Let’s go check her out.”

Jacob took Chip’s hand once again, and they started marching closer to the impossible vision of another world streaked across their own. They’d come to within twenty feet when a person appeared on the beach, stepping into the picture from the right edge of where reality had been torn apart.