The Void of Mist and Thunder (The 13th Reality #4)(3)


by James Dashner

Par for the course in this place that seemed beyond the realm of the physics she understood so well.

She’d just lifted her gaze back to the ocean when a thump of sound shook the air and the ground, a thunderclap that made her bounce off the sand. She threw out her arms for balance and searched the beach for any sign of what had happened.

The sound thumped again. Then again. The land around her shook, but this time didn’t stop. The trees behind her trembled; several were uprooted and fell, crashing against each other. Dots of light fell from the sky, vanishing before they hit the ground. Farther down the beach, pillars of stone shot through the sand, rising up until it looked like they had their very own Stonehenge to explore. The ocean froze, then cracked into a million icy pieces, exploding upward a hundred feet, then falling again like a rain of crystal. The sand nearby swirled in little tornadoes, the funnels spinning faster and faster.

Suddenly Chu was by her side, having sprinted in from the shifting woods. He collapsed next to her when another jolt of sound and quaking shook the world.

“This is madness!” he shouted at her. “Things are becoming more and more unstable!”

Jane wanted to argue with him—that was always her instinct—but she knew he was right. First, the strange gash in the air earlier, peeking into another Reality. And now this, a sudden uptick in the strangeness that was the Nonex. She nodded at Chu.

The thumps of noise stopped. The land grew still. The pillars that had risen on the beach slowly sank back underground. The ocean liquefied, glistening and smooth. The small funnels of spinning sand stopped, collapsing with a dusty poof. All seemed still and quiet.

Thoughts and plans were forming inside Jane’s head, but they weren’t solid enough to describe. Like an epiphany in another language, the ideas still needed to be translated, but they were there all the same.

Reginald Chu had a look in his eyes that made her think his mind had spun in the same direction as hers.

“Together,” he whispered, his voice still loud in the sudden silence. “If we can work together, then I think there’s a way for both of us to be happy in the end.”

Chapter 3

One Last Try

It’s hot, Mom.”

Lorena Higginbottom looked over at her daughter as they trampled through the woods. The girl did have a few strands of hair matted against her forehead, like squiggly little worms. “Well, the fall weather should be here soon.”

“I’m so hot my sweat is sweating.”

“That doesn’t make sense, dear.”

“I know.”

They’d visited these woods in eastern Washington every day for the last week, stomping their way along the same path often enough that a solid trail was beginning to appear, making the journey a little easier. Lorena had the straps of a duffel bag looped over her shoulder, its contents consisting of a single item. An extremely important, rare, expensive, incredibly-difficult-to-create item that she’d guard with her life, if necessary.

The item was long, solid, and heavy, with a brass shell lined with dials and switches. A Chi’karda Drive was housed inside it—a complex network of chips, wires, and nanotech that could literally alter reality itself.

It was a Barrier Wand.

And the only hope she had of finding her son.

“If it doesn’t work today,” Lisa said as she ducked under the low-hanging branch of an oak tree, “I think we should try something else.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Lorena responded. “I wanted to do this without getting George and the others involved, but we might not have a choice.”

The two of them stepped across the forest floor, cricks and cracks filling the air along with the pungent smells of pine needles and bark and something else that wavered between sweet and rotten. Sunlight broke through the canopy of leaves and sprinkled the ground with golden drops.

“What do you have against Master George anyway?” Lisa asked.

Lorena almost stopped walking, but she caught herself and kept going. Did she really want to talk about her feelings toward the leader of the Realitants right now? They were so complicated. “Nothing at all,” she finally said, a simple enough response.

“Come on, Mom. I know there’s something. I’m not quite as stupid as Tick always says I am.”

“Tick says no such thing!”

“Mom, answer the question.” Lisa pushed her way past a small branch and seemed to make no effort to keep it from swinging back and smacking Lorena in the face.

“Ouch!”

“Sorry.”

Lorena heard the girl snicker. “I’ll get you back for that, young lady.” She was glad her daughter couldn’t see the sudden smile that sprang up, but it couldn’t be helped. Lisa’s playfulness was a welcome thing indeed.

“So . . . answer the question.”

Lorena had no choice but to address the touchy subject. “As I said, I have nothing against that man whatsoever. If I did, not in a million years would I have let Atticus continue working for him and his merry group of heroes. It’s just complicated.”

“Then why haven’t we contacted him? Why aren’t we working together with him? He knows a lot more than we do!”

Lorena kept her doubts about that to herself. “I may be out of practice, but I’m no dummy when it comes to the Realities, you know.”

Lisa stopped and faced her mom. “I know, Mom, but don’t you think we could figure this out a lot faster if we had their help?”

“Maybe.” Lorena stepped closer to Lisa and reached out to grip the girl’s shoulders. “But I have my reasons. Number one, George has a heart of gold, but he can be reckless when times get . . . tense. That’s okay usually—but not when my son’s life is on the line like this.”

“And number two?”

Lorena gathered her thoughts for a second before answering. “The world’s in shambles, Lisa. All the natural disasters, all the deaths, all the homeless and sick, all the damage. And who knows what kind of permanent damage the other Realities have experienced. George and the Realitants are going to have a lot on their plate, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to blame them if Atticus wasn’t their top priority.”

“What? How can they—”

“He’s one boy, Lisa! One life. The Realitants have to worry about billions of others.”