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First pages

Chapter One

You know that feeling you get when you’ve just woken up and you know you just had the most incredible dream, but you can’t remember it? You can still feel that slight swooping sensation in your stomach—maybe you were flying in the dream, or falling in love. Perhaps you can still taste that cream pie on your tongue, but when you wake up, it’s gone.

It’s all gone.

It’s one of the saddest feelings in the world, if you ask me, and in Fiction, it had become the norm for hundreds of characters. They’d lost their loved ones: Aladdin, Cinderella, and several others, including my Jenny, all gone, like a dream that people just couldn’t quite grasp.

To say it was frustrating was an understatement. I mean, there I was, remembering all the characters and exactly what happened to them. How ? had erased them from existence like it was nothing, and then how I’d ultimately destroyed him… but was unable to bring anyone else back. I remembered it all, because it’s my story. It’s like being the presence behind both the dream and the dreamer—whatever that is. Do you guys have a word for that out in the Real World, or is it as confusing for you as it is here in Fiction?

Anyway, everyone believes me. Now. It was a rough couple of months, though, after our closing ceremony and, you know, the end of that last book. The longer the characters had been gone, the less their loved ones seemed able to remember them. Like they never were. Dreams, lost to waking. The Lost Boys all but forgot about Peter Pan, their once leader; Geppetto needed constant reminders of what Pinocchio looked like (a real boy, for the record), and Gorndalf’s family didn’t know who the hell I was talking about. And to be honest, no, I didn’t really know who Gorndalf was, either, but the important thing is, he was—before he was erased.

And since this all happened in my story, it seemed I was the only one left to remember them clearly. To remember the horrible feeling of not being able to do anything at all about them vanishing; about bringing them back. To remember the worst day in my life, when I found out my girlfriend, Jenny, was one of the Erased. And then the real worst day, when I found out I couldn’t just write her back like I thought I could. I was the only one who could possibly remember these things.

Lucky me.

I know this is generally the point in the story where you’re looking for some comic relief—after all, this is a humor/fantasy, or so I’ve been told, but to be honest, Fiction has been a pretty dark place since last winter at the Closing Ceremony. Literally—many of the streets within the genres have grown gloomy, the skies a bit darker and overcast; which is only usual for Thriller and Horror, this late in the summer.

Oh, alright. Fine.

COMIC RELIEF!

So anyway, I’ve been going around, telling everyone what happened. Reminding them of their loved ones. And yes, at first people thought I was crazy, but then they’d go home, maybe find something that belonged to the character who went missing. They’d get a flash of memory they couldn’t quite place. And slowly, slowly, people started to remember. Before ? came along and erased them, Aladdin, Daphne the Wizard, Pinocchio, Bill the Banana Tree, Peter Pan, Gorndalf, the three nameless fairies, and Jenny were real characters. As real as I am, anyway.

So that’s what I’ve been up to while waiting around to be written again. It’s been a blur to me, too, to be honest, because when you’re not being written everything is a little less clear. The colors, the description just sort of…

I just rather aimlessly reminded everyone every chance I got that their loved ones were real, that they mattered, in a haze. But then one day, in late August, it happened. I walked into the kitchen for breakfast—and there it was.

The kitchen.

Not in the dull, hazy, nondescript kitchen-way it was when I wasn’t being written; no, it was shiny again; it was being written, and so was I. The black and white checkered tile gleamed up at me, almost hurting my eyes with its solidity. The seafoam green refrigerator, the light yellow, diaphanous curtains blew inward with a gust of wind. It looked like a kitchen straight of out the 50s, and for a while, I just sat at the round table, soaking it all in. Oh, and catching you guys up too.

“Peter?” I whipped around and there was Randy, my best friend and roommate. He was wearing red flannel pajamas, worn, pink bunny slippers, and atop his long nose, his familiar thin-rimmed glasses, magnifying his kind, wrinkled eyes. The gray around his temples was now peppered throughout his neatly-parted hair; I guess I just hadn’t noticed it when I wasn’t being written the past several months. But one thing was clear—he was being written too.

“Oh, good then. It looks like you’re being written too, Peter. You’re looking shiny. Are you about done with the exposition?” He pulled a pocket watch out of his pocket and looked at it for a beat. Because, c’mon, this is Fiction. “We have got a lot of work to do today.”

“Yeah, I’m almost done. Just one more thing.”

I turned back toward the refrigerator in deep contemplation, so I could tell you this: Randy, of course, knew all about the characters who went missing. Not just because he had many of their backstories safe and sound in his office, but because Jenny was almost as much a part of his story as she was mine. After all, we’d all lived together for the better part of the last book; he wouldn’t forget her even if she’d vanished ten years ago. (Because I wouldn’t stop talking about her.) See, Jenny and I had met our first year at Fiction Academy, Fiction’s finest university for characters, ex-characters, and characters-to-be. It was love at first sight—

“Hah!”

“What?”

“Love at first sight—Peter, if you’ll recall, you told me that Jenny hated you when you two first met. No offense, she grew to love you, but before she vanished you were the one who came along and made her author decide to stop writing her series. Too many wizard books going on at the same time. Listen, Peter, I’m going to make breakfast and then we’ve got to get going. How many eggs do you want?”

Randy padded into the kitchen and as he walked by, I could smell soap and a dash of aftershave. Oh, how I’d missed being written.

“Two. Hey, Randy,” I added as he bustled about, pulling out bowls, silverware, napkins, butter, eggs, bread, at one point, a large magnifying glass and his wand (“Oh, I hate not being written—I leave all sorts of things just lying around!”)—“Are you sure we should get started with all this stuff today? I mean, we’ve only just started being written again; I don’t want to do anything stupid.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, turning toward me with two heaping plates of eggs, toast, and bacon, clearly made with the help of magic. He then walked to the pantry, stooped down and put my plate on the bottom shelf, and closed the door. Because eggs go in the pantry—don’t ask why.

I got up and got my breakfast and returned to the table. I could hear Randy’s fork tap the plate, then the sound of chewing, swallowing, a slight whizzing noise from his nose and a light pop of his jaw (some things about being written are just gross)—but I couldn’t see him, as he was hidden behind The Fiction Free for All

I reached across the table and grabbed the paper from him.

“What I mean is, don’t you think we should, you know, let our, you know, get warmed up a bit first, before taking any sort of big plot actions…? Don’t get me wrong—I want to bring Jenny back more than anyone, and the other characters, too, but… Well, we haven’t been written in months; I mean, I’m still all tingly feeling, and you want to just, what, send me off on the most dangerous and possibly lethal recon mission ever written for a character of Fiction, right off the bat?”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Peter! Of course not. We can do that tomorrow. I figure that will give us plenty of time to let our, you know, warm up a bit. Work out the kinks of not writing for so long.”

“So far, I haven’t really seen any yet, have you?”

“Nope, not me.”

“So far, I haven’t really seen any yet, have you?”

“Nope, not me.”

“Peter, I wouldn’t be too worried about it. We’ll just start with a test run tomorrow and see how it goes. We’ll have plenty of backup and support, and Terrill and Ivor will be with you the entire time.”

I snorted into my glass of chocolate milk. Yes, I’m twenty years old and drink chocolate milk, with a swirly straw, what of it?

“Terrill and Ivor don’t exactly make me feel more confident about the plan,” I grumbled, getting up to clear off my plate. I may have learned in the last story that yes, I was one of the most powerful wizards around town—but still, when it came to clearing plates and simple household spells, someone was bound to get hurt. And at least when we weren’t being written, that someone was bound to be Randy. Though, of course, I hadn’t tried again since being written…

“Ouch! Dammit, Peter!”

I quickly crossed the table to help Randy clean the eggs from his hair and pick the pieces of plate up off the floor.

“Sorry, Randy.”

“It’s okay, Peter. I know you’re nervous, but tomorrow will be fine. Terrill and Ivor may be crooks but they’re good at what they do, and they know their way around the Other Side better than anyone else I know of.” He caught me by the arm, “I wouldn’t put you in any situation I thought might be dangerous.”

“Yeah, but what about that one time—”

“Okay, I wouldn’t put you into in situation that I thought might kill you—”

“Well, you did, though, that other time—”

“I meant tomorrow. I wouldn’t put you into a situation that might kill you, at least not tomorrow.”

He patted my hand and stood up, pushing his chair back from the table. With a swoop of his wand, he cleared the remainder of the egg and plate debris from the floor and his shirt, swept his plate, silverware, and cup into the sink, turned the water on, and set them to cleaning themselves. I watched for a moment as the kitchenware jumped happily in and out of the water, the soap bottle dolloping them, bubbles floating up merrily and popping. Randy was excellent at household magic.

When I turned, I realized Randy was no longer in the room, but I could hear him padding his way toward his bedroom down the hall to get ready. It was only then that I remembered—it’s crazy how foggy not being written can make you—what exactly he was getting ready for.

It was the first day of school.

 

We arrived on campus in record time that morning—skipping over the journey really speeds things up—only to find that even so, we probably should have left a good twenty minutes earlier. Just after ducking under the campus’s South Entrance (the closest to our apartment in Fantasy), we were just two among a throng of people, creatures, and other sorts of characters, all slowly, slowly, moving toward the university’s center. There were green, smooth-skin southern pixies shoulder-to-shoulder with translucently pale fairies; just beyond them, a group of ogres, all bulbous in strange places, grayish, and looking confused and grumpy at the crowd surrounding them. Classic vampires and YA vampires stood side by side, pressed together, shooting disdainful looks at one another; and there was Ed, Jenny’s ex-boyfriend. They’d dated briefly the year before while Jenny and I were sorting things out (and by sorting things out, I mean Jenny broke up with me because she’d thought we were too young to be in anything so serious and immediately started dating Ed the YA vampire with his stupid, stupid auburn hair and gold eyes and glittery skin and

“Hey Peter,” Ed shouldered his way through the crowd toward Randy and me.

“Oh, hey—Ed, is it?”

“Uh, yeah. Listen, I know it’s just the first day of school and all, and by the looks of it, you’ve only just started being written again, too.”

“‘Too’?” I looked at him and realized then that no, he wasn’t just sparkly because the idiot was standing in the sun with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel; he was shiny—he’d just started being written again too. “Oh! When did you start being written again, then?”

“Uh, literally just now. When you saw me in the crowd and made that whole fuss about how Jenny and I had dated and you two had just broken up, and my, stupid, stupid hair.”

He raised an eyebrow at me.

“Oh, you heard that did, you?”

“Inner monologue,” Randy chimed in from behind me. “I don’t think we’ve ever officially met, Ed.” He reached his arm around my shoulder and shook Ed’s hand, as the crowd jostled us a few steps forward. “I’m Randy Potts.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir. I’ve heard only good things about you.”

Stupid, smug, suck up, bast—

“SO, you’re in your last year at school, too, aren’t you, Ed? Peter and I are, too. As I’m sure you know. Right, so this crowd, huh? I’ve never seen campus so teeming with new characters! There must be hundreds of new characters since even last semester!”

“Self-publishing,” I said, just remembering. In the hazy days of not being written, I’d stumbled across an article about it; there had been a huge increase in self-published novels Out There over the past several months. Which would explain some of the characters ahead of us…

“Is that fellow in his underpants wearing a bear mask?”

“Huh.”

“Peter, I don’t mean to be pushy here or anything, but are you still going ahead with your plan to rescue Jenny?”

“Yeah, I think tomorrow we’ll—”

“Because if you need anything, anything at all. I will help you, Peter. Because I loved her,” he gazed out at the crowd stoically as Fantasy’s friendly jogging centaur herd passed him by. The crowd was finally starting to move. We trekked up the hill.

“You didn’t even remember her until I reminded you and everyone else that she was a character. And thanks for the offer Ed, but I don’t need your help.”

“Ho ho! Peter, let’s not be too hasty!” Randy clapped me jovially on the shoulder, as the three of us neared the school’s stone courtyard area. The benches and picnic tables were dotted with students of various shapes, sizes, colors, and shininess—some of them were clearly ex-characters, dull and non-descript; some of them were being written and were much more detailed. Like, Bob, for example, the potted ficus tree. He had a round, clay-colored pot; brilliant, green foliage; and a long, entwined trunk—and was was pivoting across the courtyard toward us. Randy waved an arm in greeting, and then turned back to me, conspiratorially.

“Peter, we don’t know whose help we might need with this mission. Just because you think Ed is a pompous, arrogant, prat with, ridiculously sparkly skin—”

“I can hear you.”

“—doesn’t mean he might not be helpful. We might need everyone’s help.” He gestured toward the courtyard at large, and nearly smacked Bob in what I think would have been his face as he approached; though of course, as a ficus tree, it’s hard to tell.

“Hullo, Randy. Peter.” Bob made a slight bow forward with his trunk, leaves rustling. He spoke in a slightly British and very polished accent, though from no visible mouth. “What do you need everyone’s help with?”

“We might need help with a certain Top Secret Plan.”

“Oh.” Bob paused for a moment. “Do you mean the one to bring back Jenny and the other disappeared characters by going out into the—?”

“BRIAR PATCH!”

“Pardon?”

Randy looked around uncomfortably, and then lowered his voice so that only Bob and I could hear. “Sorry, Bob, but this is a Top Secret mission—didn’t you see the capital letters? Which means that while you might know the plan, they don’t know.” Again, Randy looked out at some invisible audience.

“Well, I don’t know,” Ed grumbled.

“You’re still here?” I asked.

“Okay, okay,” Randy interjected. “If we don’t get a move on soon, we’ll all be late for our first classes. Ed, we’ll let you know if we need any help. Have a good first day.”

Recognizing the dismissal, with a final glare in my direction, Ed turned on his heel (which really is only ever done in Fiction. You try it sometime; let me know how that goes.) He stalked off toward the Math Building, a beautiful, miniature castle, surrounded by a tiny mote and a lowered drawbridge.

“I need to head off to Detective before my Quilting the Classics class, but, Peter, meet me in my office after your classes today.”

“Okay, see you later,” I grumbled, already dreading my first class. Bob had some decorative sitting to do in the Science Building (which was just behind the Math Building and also looked rather castle-like), so I made my way to the main building on my own. At this point, most of the crowd had disappeared into their classes. Just as I reached the plain, square-shaped, cube of a building, I realized why when the school bell rang. It was already nine o’clock, and I was late for Conflict.

I ran the rest of the way: down the stairs, down, down, down, into the dungeon of the main building. Here, the walls were dark stone and cave-like. I could hear water-dripping and could see eerie shadows flickering across the hall as the sconces’ blue flames flickered. There were several black iron doors lining the walls. Each was labeled with a type of conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Self, Person vs. Society; then on the other side of the hall, Person vs. Destiny, Person vs. Nature, and Person vs. Supernatural. I stood for a moment catching my breath, and, you know, describing the hallway. Then carefully skirting the trapdoor in the floor, quiet as I could, I let myself into my first class: Person vs. Destiny.

Now, if you’ve been following along in my story thus far, you’ll know exactly why I was dreading my first class. It seemed that each time I received a conflict assignment for the semester, it nearly killed me. In my Basic Conflict class, the assignment sheet flat out said “Assassination.” That’s it. It was a rough semester, and needless to say, I took a break from conflict in the spring. The next year, though, I wound up with two conflicts: a person vs. self and a person vs. person, both of which had the potential to kill me, and nearly did. Last spring, I got lucky. I took a Person vs. Supernatural and merely had to get one of the Ghosts from Christmas Past to stop haunting the school fountain. Probably because I wasn’t being written, and not a lot happens then.

But this semester I was being written, and I already knew I had a mission. The very next day in fact, I would be—

“It’s a Top Secret Mission!” Randy shouted as he poked his head into the classroom. With a quick glance around, he drew back and slammed the door.

“Uh, hi,” I said awkwardly to the class. There were three cute elf girls in the front row, long blond hair and slanted green eyes; behind them sat a middle-aged and rather scruffy hobbit who I’d seen a few times over the years; there was an ill-described girl with ears; a creature that seemed to have the torso of a man and the body of a corgi, and a smattering of other students—all of who’s eyes were on me.

Except for the professor’s, I realized as I took the seat closest to the door, because where the professors eyes should have been were two gnashed, drooping slits trailed with dried blood.

“MOTHER OF G—”

“Hello, Peter,” the man said pleasantly in a strange accent. He was standing calmly at the front of the classroom, his arm resting casually on the podium to his left. He wore a simple, Greek chiton—white linen, flowing elegantly down from his shoulders to his knees, and sandals that tied around his ankles and up his calves. “O Gods, and I’d much hoped to leave mothers out of this.”

He turned blindly toward the chalk board mounted crookedly on the rough stone wall behind him. The room was dimly lit—the only light came from the sconces lining the walls—but I could just make out his name on the board, scrawled in large, clumsy letters, like a child or blind man had written them. I was willing to bet the latter.

P    ROFE  SSOR     O.       R E

X

“Professor Orex?”

“That’s Rex, ye Peter. Oedipus Rex. If ever was there a man to teach ye scholars o’er the conflicts with fate, ‘tis me. Now, doest thou seest this parchment?” The professor fumbled around for a moment until he picked up a long, rolled up, white piece of paper. Unseeingly, he made his way toward my desk, his arms stretched out in front. And poked me in the eye with it.

“Pray forgive me, Peter. I cannot seeth quite as well as once I didst.”

“What happened to your…?”

“A story for another day, young Peter! The list, we must first, young squires. Thou shalt passeth the parchment which holdeth a word or phrase, foretelling your semester’s conflict. Should not thy conflict resolve before the Solstice of Winter, to thine own peril, be damned!”

Tentatively, the elf girl next to me raised her hand. After a few moments of awkward silence, she blurted out, “Sir, does that mean if we don’t resolve our conflict assignments by the end of the semester, we’ll… die?”

Professor Rex swiveled toward her voice, overshot, and ended up addressing the podium at the front of the classroom.

“Nay, girl. You’ll merely fail, but… at your own (academic) peril!

“Now, the list. If it please you, Peter, your name do find and thine conflict. Remember it well, as enchanted is the parchment, and so irreplaceable! Also, out is the ink in the copy machine, so you know… tear it not.”

Carefully, with trembling fingers, I unrolled the thick parchment. From my past experiences with lists like this one, I was expecting something pretty terrible: murder, death, locked in a small room and forced to listen to real world pop music for the rest of my life…

But as I found my name scrawled on the list, I was relieved—and somewhat confused.

“Sir, mine just says, ‘Destiny.’”

The professor cocked his head in confusion and turned to face my voice, but ended up addressing the elf girl next to me. “Destiny is thine destiny, Peter? There lacks a sense in that.” He paused, pursed his lips, and then said, “Once a man named Honor, I knew.”

“Uh, that’s great, but…”

“Ho! The scroll, pass it along, Peter! Time is not a friend to dawdlers, they say.”

Feeling utterly bewildered, I passed the scroll behind me to a woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties, had short blonde hair, eyes as gray as the sea, skin like porcelain, and had the disarming ability to make me think in clichés.

“Oh, hi, Kiki. You cut your hair.”

“Oh Peter,” she murmured, looking up at me from under her eyelashes—which meant that she had to tilt her head down at a very strange angle. “I hope your conflict this year is better than yours last fall,” she managed to murmur and mutter at the same time, as only a character from Romance can do.

“Oh, a conflict to do with an adventure!” she whisper/gasp/breathed, before straightening up and passing the list to the large ogre behind her. The list made its way around the room and the class read their conflicts out loud—there were many students up against prophecies, a few against gods, some had to overcome family legacies; but no one else’s destiny was… destiny itself.

For the remainder of the class, we went over the syllabus, which consisted of only a few items: “Read Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays,” “Resolve Conflict,” and “Beware of the Sphinx.” By the time the bell rang, I was anxious to talk to someone about my conflict. Of course, my first thought was of Jenny, but I quickly remembered that she wasn’t there.

Just not right now. I’ll get her back.

I realized I’d thought almost the exact same thing the year before when she and I had stopped dating briefly; only the circumstances were a bit different. I trudged up the spiral staircase with the throng of other students from conflict classes. I recognized Phil, Willy, and Nilly, triplets with dark brown hair and freckles, but just waved and kept walking. They certainly weren’t the people I wanted to talk to about the conflict.

“Excuse me,” someone growled just as I turned the corner. I’d just exited the staircase and ran directly into something solid. It turned out, the solid thing was my professor for the next class. Professor Uk was the humongous and horrifying, ex-captain of the Uruk-hai band of Orcs back in his literary life, and not having been written in a while certainly didn’t make him any less menacing. Or solid. I rubbed my forehead.

“Sorry about that, I was just…”

“Lost in thought? I know, Peter. Your worry is evident.”

“I bet it is. I just got this—”

“No, really,” he growled. He pushed me aside roughly and began batting away at the little words that had trailed up the stairs behind me like gnats.

Worry worry       worry    worry    worry worry   worry

Worry   worry     worry                 worry

 

It’s hard to keep your cards close to your chest in Fiction.

“Oh, dammit,” a spotty teen that looked an awful lot like most other spotty teens, stumbled past, dropping a handful of trading cards on the floor. “Who used an idiom?”

It’s also hard to say anything figurative here.

“You have my class next, right?” he growled again. “Walk with me.”

Now I’d known Professor Uk since my first year and learned that he’s actually a pretty nice guy, but you don’t argue with an Orc, no matter his temperament. So despite my very strong desire to skip his class and run straight to Randy’s office in Detective to talk about my conflict and our increasingly foreboding-seeming plan, I just nodded and followed along in his wake.

As we walked through the main building and through the courtyard toward the Sciences castle, students parted before Professor Uk. Again, I was struck by just how many of them there were. Nymphs, Fairies, Ogres, Djin: the usual Fantastical Creatures; Cyborgs, aliens, A.I., and others from Sci Fi and Nonfiction (I’ll leave it up to you to decide which.) And of course, people. Fiction is filled with humans—there are YA teens, YA vamps, rom com divas, classic romance couples milling about, knocking people over with their incessant hand-holding; wizards, cops, bankers, lawyers, detectives, wizard detectives (like Randy), and, you know, literally everything else you’ve ever read in Fiction.

“It’s the Internet,” Professor Uk grumbled, coming to an abrupt stop in front of me. I narrowly missed running into him again.

“Uh, what?”

“The Internet. Makes it easier for authors Out There to publish. Once they publish something—they pop up here. That’s why all of… this.” He gestured with a dark-skinned and grotesquely muscular arm. “I tell you, I would not want to go Out There; not for all the gold in Middle Earth. Who comes up with this stuff?”

Just then, a fat middle-aged man wearing a bear costume and carrying a black leather whip walked by eating an apple.

“So what is wrong with you, Peter?” Professor Uk turned to me suddenly. “What is the trouble?”

“Oh, I, uh. I just got a weird conflict in my first class, is all.” My Creatures Teacher was certainly not the person I’d planned on opening up to.

“Does it have anything to do with your plan with Randy?”

“I—uh, what? I thought that was supposed to be a Top Secret plan.”

“He’s been talking about it for months; they just don’t know yet.” He looked up and over the students milling about the courtyard, toward the two green, glowing moons over Sci Fi.

“The aliens…?”

“No, Peter. Look, tell me or not. I just thought you might want someone to talk to. We are getting immediately into our lesson today in class and you’ll need to be paying complete attention.”

I looked at the clock on the side of the main building, and wondered briefly if it was new or if it had just never been described before. Either way, we had about ten minutes until the start of class.

“Okay, I just came from my Person vs. Destiny class and we got our Conflict assignments for the semester today. And my assignment just said ‘Destiny.’”

Uk pursed his lips, concentrating.

“And now that we’re being written again and things are less hazy, I’m going through with the plan to bring the disappeared characters back. And it’s… dangerous. And I’m just worried that my whole destiny might just be, well, screwed.”

“Hm. Person vs. Destiny. Destiny itself… That is foreboding. And very vague.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Maybe it is not a bad thing. Maybe your destiny is to fail, but perhaps you will not, since it is a conflict after all. If you were to accept your destiny without fighting against it, and perhaps even prevailing, there would be no conflict at all. Do you understand?”

“Not really. But we better get going; it’s almost 11:00.”

He glanced at the clock, nodded once, and then turned in the direction of the Science Building. For some reason, the Math and Science Buildings were easily the most beautiful on campus. They each looked like small castles complete with towers and turrets, and the Math Building, a mote.

We skirted the edge of the water. Along the grassy banks and around the back of the mote, was the Science Building. Its arched double doors were thrown open in welcome, and as we walked in, I was somewhat surprised to see that the lobby was… just a lobby. Not a castle-like entrance or adorned with stained glass windows; it was a simple room that looked rather like a waiting room in an office. There was a frizzy-haired receptionist behind a desk talking on the phone, the walls were stark white and dotted with the occasional watercolor print, and the floors were dark wood. And there in the corner next to a line of chairs and a couch, was Bob.

“Hullo, Peter!” He waved his leaves in greeting.

“Hey, Bob! I forgot you’d be in here. I’m surprised at how plain it is in here…”

“Oh, but surely you’ve been in the Science Building before, haven’t you, Peter?”

“Yeah, but not in description. Anyway, I’ve got to go. Creatures Class,” and with that, I trotted along behind Professor Uk through the emptying hallway (which was far more castle-like than the lobby). Just like in the conflict hall, the walls were made of rough stone, but brown rather than gray. The sconces were close together and glowed with a honey-colored fire, bathing the halls—and halls, and halls, it turned out as we walked in what seemed to be a labyrinth—in warm light.  Finally, we got to a heavy, dark wooden door. Without preamble, Professor Uk threw the door open and stalked inside. I trailed behind him and took the first seat I saw, without bothering to so much as look around, let alone describe the students.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Natalie Grigson is a Young Adult and Middle Grade author/illustrator from Austin, Texas. She has written such books as the Peter Able series, Just Call Me Is, Call Me Perfect, The Woods, and Matthew Templeton and the Enchanted Journal. When she is not writing, she can most often be found outdoors, climbing trees, traveling, and/or pretending she is a dog.


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