Landon could hear a strange sound from behind and a huge shadow loomed over him. He suddenly whirled to see a hideous apparition instead of his friend the dragon. It was an enormous worm with a mouth like a lamprey eel, full of thousands of razor-sharp teeth and it was getting ready to strike. It’s hot breath stank of rotting meat and the grave and the nine-year-old knew he was only seconds from death. Try as he might, he couldn’t summon even the simplest of spells. After all of the dangers and adventures he had faced, was this how his life would end?
In the real world, Grandpa sat on Landon’s bed beside the unconscious boy. He was whimpering as if he were having a nightmare, tossing and turning, but he was also becoming more transparent.
“Hurry, Buddy. If you can do anything to save him, do it now.”
Grandpa had called Landon’s Dad David and told him to come home from work. Things were in a dire mess and if worse came to worse, his Dad needed to be here.
Landon huddled up in a ball and cried out Buddy’s name, but just as the worm lunged downward, the boy felt a warm breeze and opened his eyes in time to see a silver blur right before a hole opened up underneath him and he fell through.
He was on a slide of some kind, going down, and left and right and down, and he was screaming all the way. The light that had come from above stopped and then he landed hard on his rear on some leaves and dirt.
He found himself in a circle of light. The light was coming from a bubble sitting directly in front of him on the ground. The bubble popped and then there was light in the green, bushy tunnel all around. The bubble had turned into an arrow pointing straight ahead. The arrow had the words “This Way” on it.
“What happened?” One minute, he was about to become giant worm food and the next he was here. The slide or tunnel from above was gone now. He seemed to be underground, like in a cave, but it was made out of leaves and branches, verdant and growing, just like the hedge maze above.
“This must be part of the maze, too.”
The illuminated arrow shone brighter getting Landon’s attention again. The arrow seemed to jump up and down.
“Oh, I should go now, huh?”
The words on the arrow changed to “Yes.”
He thought the arrow might come in handy, so he tried to pick it up, but it vanished the second he touched it. But in its place was the amulet, the one he always wore around his neck. He thought he’d lost it to one of the Reapers. How did it get here?
“Oh boy!” He reached down, picked it up by the chain and put it back around his neck. He must be wearing the real one in the world outside, and he hoped this dream version would help his dream-self escape.
Landon started walking in the direction the arrow had pointed in and the amulet lit up and showed the way along the path.
By the by, he came to a fork in the tunnel, the left going down and the right going up. He looked down the left-hand tunnel. It was dark and cold down there and he thought he heard evil laughter coming up from the depths. Then he checked out the other tunnel. He saw a light at the far end. There was a warm breeze blowing down that reminded him of a warm Spring afternoon. He could even hear birds chirping.
“That’s the way to go.” He started up the right tunnel. The light of the amulet suddenly went out and it shook violently against his chest.
“Oh, what do you know? This is the way out, isn’t it?”
The amulet shone a light in front of him, kind of like a spotlight or the Bat Signal and it took the shape of a question mark.
“What’s that mean?”
While all this was going on, Landon kept walking up and up, getting closer to the light.
“Well I guess we’ll find out in a few minutes. I’m almost at the top.”
The illuminated symbol the amulet produced in front of him changed from a question mark to “Hah!”
“What. Are you pouting now?” Landon couldn’t believe he was having an argument with an ancient, mystic talisman, but there seemed to be something different about it, like it had a personality or something. It never did before.
Then the leafy path turned into wooden stairs and he was climbing up toward a square opening. Everything was made of old, rotten wooden boards now instead of bushes and trees and he could see the blue sky lightly dotted with puffy white clouds just above.
“I’m out. I’m out of the tunnel.”
The stairs kept going up so Landon kept climbing. There were wooden walls on either side so he couldn’t see much of what was beyond. Finally he reached the top and he was on some kind of wooden platform. The wall in front of him was too high to see over, but there were cracks and when he squinted through one, he could just barely see what looked like the center of the maze, a big green circular wall and inside, twelve different entrances. In the middle was a kind of statue on a pedestal, but he couldn’t quite see what it was.
The wind blew and he could hear the branches and leaves of the maze rustle. The old wooden platform under his feet creaked and moaned. Clouds covered the sun and the sky above became gray and cold. The only other things he could see around him were the stairs he came up and then another set to his right that went back down, too.
He looked down at his amulet but in the open lens of the lantern there was only a faint question mark.
“Great. Some help you are.”
The wind was getting worse and he was feeling colder. It this kept up, he’d have to go down one of the stairways to get out of the weather. Then, looking up, he saw something terrible. The clouds were forming a tornado and the tornado was becoming giant a hand reaching down to get him.
“Maybe coming up here wasn’t such a good idea.”
The amulet flashed the message, “You think?”
Landon turned back to the stairs he’d come up from and was about to go back down when a giant worm, maybe the one that had tried to eat him before, jumped up. He screamed and ran to the other stairs but there was another worm. He was trapped!
The worms stopped but each one blocked the way back downward. They were just keeping him here until the hand could grab him. He thought he had problems before but now he was really in trouble.
“Amulet, do something!”
The lantern flashed, “Who, me?”
Landon could feel the icy mist of the cloud hand as it began to surround him and then he felt a pull on his shirt from behind and he started tumbling backward. He hadn’t noticed that between the two wooden staircases was one of the hedge maze paths. All he had to do was jump, or in this case, fall down into it.
The boy could see the hand start flowing down toward him and the lantern flashed, “Run!”
Landon was up like a shot and was racing down the hedge path for his very life. Behind and above him, he heard a ghastly roar of frustration. Once again by some miracle, he had escaped the ambush of the Soul Reapers. Still running, he came to a three-way split in the path and the lantern projected an arrow toward the far left one. This time he took it without arguing.
This path wiggled and waggled back and forth and even had hedges in the center but it still took him only in one direction, though it kept swerving left and right so much, he couldn’t tell which direction that was. Then the path made a hard right and then a left.
Through the wall to his right on the other side of the hedge, he heard a lot of moaning, as if there were hundreds and hundreds of Reapers just beyond. Maybe it was the outside of the maze, the natural realm of the Reapers. If he fell through into there, he’d be instantly doomed.
There was another fork. “Okay, which way, amulet.”
This time, no light came out at all.
“You mean it’s up to me to choose?”
A faint question mark shone on the ground beneath him.
“This isn’t helping.”
The lantern went dark but when the light on the ground faded, Landon saw a piece of folded paper. He picked it up and unfolded it.
He saw the following words and image:
Then at the bottom he read, “Go the opposite direction of the bus.”
“How am I supposed to know which direction the bus is going?”
He sat down in despair still looking at the note. There was nothing about the bus that told him which was the front and which was the back. It was the strangest bus he’d ever seen. The only buses he knew anything about were school buses. But if this was a riddle he was supposed to solve, then there had to be a clue.
STOP! Can Landon solve the riddle?
Did he solve it?
“The door! The door on the bus is always on the right so people can get on or off on a sidewalk. This bus is going left so I’m supposed to go right.”
He stood up, put the note in his pocket, and he walked to the right. He went straight only for a minute then following the path made a hard right and then a hard left. Then the wall curved away to the right. It reminded him of the hedge circle surrounding the center of the maze. He looked way up and to the left and saw the big wooden platform he’d been on before, the one where the two worms kept him from escaping while the big cloud hand tried to grab him. He didn’t see any sign of the hand or worms now, but it told him where he was.
There was a hole on the right-hand wall and looking inside, he saw the statue he’d seen from the platform. He was staring into the center of the maze.
“This has got to be the way out.”
The amulet came back to life and shined an arrow straight into the maze’s center but inside the arrow was a question mark.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
The light just got brighter.
“Okay, okay. You want me to go in.”
The words, “Yes. Be careful.” replaced the arrow.
That could only mean this was the way out but that there was also a trap. In all of the video games he’d played, the closer you got to your goal, the harder the game got. That meant he was in even bigger danger than he was before. What now, a dozen Landon-eating worms?
The boy walked forward cautiously, looking left and right, up and down. So far, no sign of any kind of trap. He got closer and closer to the statue. It was on a square pedestal almost as high as he was. The statue on top was of a person but he was dressed in a wizard’s robes and hat. He had a wand in his right hand which was pointing down, and his left arm was raised high above. On that hand, rested a dragon about the size of a hawk.
He stood in front of the statue looking up. “Now what am I supposed to do?”
The amulet lit up and shined on the side of the pedestal Landon was facing. Three buttons appeared, a white button, a gray button, and a black button. Then the light created the words, “Press One.”
The words were replaced with a question mark.
Suddenly, Landon felt a warm rush of wind and a silvery blur appeared between him and the statue just for an instant. When the blur was gone, he saw another folded note on the ground. He picked it up and unfolded it. It said:
“A house has 4 walls. All of the walls are facing south, and a bear is circling the house. What color is the bear?”
“That’s crazy. How can all four walls face south and what does that have to do with the color of the bear?” Then he looked at the buttons. One was white, one was gray, and one was black. The answer to the riddle told him which button to push.
“Amulet, how do I solve this crazy riddle?”
The light shone a question mark on the pedestal under the buttons.
“That’s no help. I wish Buddy were here. I bet he’s better at riddles than I am.”
STOP! Can Landon solve the riddle?
Did he solve it?
“Wait!” The only way all four walls of the house could be facing south if is the house is sitting on top of the North Pole. Polar Bears live at the North Pole and they’re always white. The answer is white.”
Landon stuffed the note into his pocket along with the other one and immediately pushed the white button. Suddenly, the ground dropped out beneath him and he fell head over heals into utter blackness!
This is an immediate sequel to the story Doom in the Maze of Dreams and is part of a series my grandson Landon plotted out for me about creatures called “Soul Reapers” who have trapped his dream-self in their maze. He’s got less than forty-eight hours to escape. If he is “killed” in the maze at any time or fails to escape before the two days are up, his soul will be forever destroyed and a reaper will take over his body in the real world.
Buddy, the Ambrosial Dragon who is Landon’s magic teacher and friend, cannot enter the Reaper’s domain because they are so powerful, even a single Reaper could destroy scores of dragons in an instant. And yet Buddy has disappeared leaving a sleeping and fading Landon to be cared for by his Dad and Grandpa. So far Landon has solved two riddles but the second one may have been a trap because he is now tumbling out of control into a black and bottomless pit. Can he survive to escape in time?
Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for over a year-and-a-half now. To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of that story is a link to the next. Each subsequent story has a link to the next chapter, so all you have to do is keep reading and clicking and you’ll eventually get back here.
The next story is called Show Me The Way To Go Home.