The Void of Mist and Thunder (The 13th Reality #4)(6)


by James Dashner

“And . . . us?” Paul asked.

George put his hands on the table and leaned forward. “You two are going to pay a visit to a very old friend of mine. She lives in the Third Reality, and we can only hope that she doesn’t eat you for supper when you arrive.”

Chapter 5

Squishy Grass

Lisa screamed when it happened, but she couldn’t hear her voice over the terrible sounds of thunder that pounded the air like detonating bombs. One second she’d been sitting in the forest, looking at her mom and the Barrier Wand, hearing a hum and feeling vibrations in her legs. The next, she’d been whipped into a tornado of swirling gray air, spinning, the world tilting all around her. The noises pounding her skull. She tried to find her mom—at least see her—but there was nothing. Only a gray whirlpool of smoke.

And then it ended. Abruptly.

Lisa’s body slammed onto soft, squishy ground. She immediately felt moisture seeping through her clothes and jumped to her feet—which was a bad idea. Her mind was still recovering from whatever she’d just been through and dizziness twirled inside of her until she fell right back down. She was lying on a huge field of grass, saturated with rain. Heavy clouds hung in the sky above her, making the day seem dark.

Her mom was close, the Barrier Wand in her lap. She sat up and stared at Lisa, dazed.

“What . . . ?” Lisa began.

“I have no idea,” her mom replied. “All I did was try to latch on to Atticus’s nanolocator and pull him in. It shouldn’t have sent us somewhere else.”

“Well, unless we went back in time to before trees grew in Deer Park, it sent us somewhere. We were sitting in the woods about three minutes ago.”

Lisa hated the feeling of the wet grass soaking her pants, so she tried standing again, this time much slower. Her legs wobbled a bit, and the endless sea of grass tilted a few times, but soon she was steady.

She turned in a slow circle, taking in the view of the place to which they’d been winked. Super green grass stretched in every direction, running down a slope toward a stream that splashed and sparkled as it cut across a rocky bed. On the other side of the stream, trees dotted the land, growing thicker and taller until they became a huge forest. There was no sign of civilization anywhere.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Where in the world are we?”

Three hours of searching didn’t answer that question.

They walked together to the stream, crossed over at a narrow spot where large rocks jutted out of the rushing waters, then explored the other side. They eventually made their way to where the trees thickened into a dark, ominous forest. They’d found no clues or signs of life—human, anyway—and when they stood at the wall of pines and oaks, it was almost as if they were stopped by an invisible barrier.

“Why can’t I get myself to go any farther?” Lisa asked.

Her mom’s answer didn’t help. “Because we’re in a strange land, and there might be hideous monsters in there.”

“Good point. Let’s just walk around the edge of it; maybe we’ll stumble across something eventually.”

“As good a plan as any.”

They set off, Lisa right behind her mom, who still hefted the golden rod of the Barrier Wand in her hands.

“Tell me more about the old days,” Lisa said. The clouds still churned above, dark and heavy, but it had yet to rain again. At least the air was nice and cool.

“The old days?” her mom repeated.

“Yeah. You used to be a Realitant. How’d you go from that to being a stay-at-home mom? Seems kind of lame.”

“Lame? You wish you had a different woman stomping around the house telling you what to do?”

Lisa snickered at the image. “No, you’re way too good at it. It’s just . . . being a Realitant seems so cool and adventurous. What happened to make you give it up?”

The land started to rise up, and the walk was getting a little harder. Lisa saw the crest of the rise a few hundred feet ahead. She hoped they’d see something there. Something helpful. Her mom still hadn’t answered.

“You awake up there?” she asked her.

“Oh, I’m awake. I’m just thinking about your question. It’s more complicated than you know. It’s making me remember a lot of things, and I’m not even sure where to start explaining.”

“How’d you join them? How’d they recruit you?”

Her mom laughed softly. “It wasn’t much different from how they recruited Atticus. Some letters, clues, and riddles. It was kind of easy, actually.”

“How long were you a member?”

“About four years, maybe a little longer. It wasn’t all the exciting adventure you think it was—and nothing like what our poor boy has gone through—except for . . .” She trailed off, and there was something dark in her words, like the storm that brewed far above them.

Lisa pushed her. “Except for what?”

“I wasn’t actually there, but I was still technically a Realitant when . . . when Sato’s parents were killed. Mistress Jane had been getting more and more suspicious. Acting weird. And it all came to a head that night, when she started using the powers she’d stolen from the Thirteenth. She crossed a line, and Sato’s mom and dad paid the price for standing up to it. Nearly all of them there that night did.”

“What happened?”

“Jane burned that poor boy’s parents to death.” She said it so simply, but the words were horrible enough. “I didn’t know the world could be so evil. I wanted out. I’m ashamed in many ways—for abandoning the Realitants, abandoning my friends—but I don’t regret it. There’s a difference, you know. I chose my family, and I’ve never once regretted that.”

Lisa felt guilty, like she’d stirred up feelings her mom didn’t deserve to have. “Well, Tick and I are glad you did. And think about it—if you hadn’t done such a good job of raising him, he would’ve been a stinky Realitant instead of a good Realitant, and he wouldn’t have saved the world. See? Makes perfect sense.”

“You’re a sweet little thing,” her mom replied.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve gotta have some way of making sure I stay your favorite.”

They reached a sudden rise in the slope that was steeper than before, which made Lisa feel even stronger that some kind of revelation waited on the other side.