Show Me The Way To Go Home

pennywise clown

Pennywise from the 2017 film “It.”

Down, down, down Landon fell into the seemingly bottomless pit. The light from above got smaller and further way until he was totally in the dark and still falling, screaming at the top of his lungs. And then he hit something but it wasn’t the ground.

The lights suddenly came up and he was bouncing up and down on a…really big net. The nine-year-old boy looked around as his bouncing started to settle down and he saw he was inside a big circus tent. He’d never actually been to a circus before, but he’d seen them in TV shows and movies. He was in a net used by trapeze artists so if they fell during their act, they wouldn’t get hurt.

Finally the bouncing stopped. It felt like he was on the world’s biggest trampoline, and he used the one his cousins had whenever he went over to their house.

Sitting up, he looked around more. Inside the “big top,” it was completely empty of people. Lots and lots of seats, cages for the lion taming act, another ring for the clowns, but no one was around.

Straight up, there was a big, big hole in the top of the tent which was where he’d come from. How was he going to get out of this?

Then he heard evil laughter. He looked in the direction of the big opening in the side of the tent and for in instant, he saw a clown, an evil clown. Landon remembered seeing a picture or painting of the same clown when he first fell into the hedge maze and realized he was in a lucid dream.

This meant things were worse because unreal things were becoming real. The Soul Reapers were “upping” their game again and he must be close to having his soul being destroyed forever.

Landon crawled to the edge of the net and sitting on it, he put his legs over the side. It was still a long way down, but there was loose dirt and sawdust underneath so he hoped it would break his fall. Taking a deep breath, he slid off the net and dropped.

“Oof!” He landed on his feet and then fell on his butt. He was still alive and unhurt except for a few bruises. He looked at the exit again but the clown was gone. He must be hiding somewhere outside. Landon still needed to find a way out of the maze or the dream or where ever he was, so he couldn’t stay here.

The third grader walked to the exit and peeked out. It was like there was a whole circus underground. Electric lights were across the rock ceiling high above so he could see. There were other tents for different acts like the snake handler, the sword swallower, and such. He also saw cages where the animals should have been kept, but just like inside the big top, they were all empty and everything was silent.

Then for an instant, there was a rush of air and a silver blur like he’d seen twice before and then it was gone. Suddenly, he heard music start up to his right. Making his way in that direction, he saw a Merry-Go-Round and it was moving. That’s what was making the music. No one was on the ride but it was the only thing doing something here, so maybe it was a clue…or a trap.

He watched it go round and round and then saw one of the horses had a sign hung around his neck. The sign said “Landon.”

“This is either really good or really bad.”

The Merry-Go-Round slowed and slowed and then finally stopped along with the music. Landon was looking at the horse with the sign on it. He walked up to it and saw the sign was really a big envelope hung around the horse’s neck with string.

He opened the envelope and found a piece of paper inside. He unfolded it and read what was written on it. It didn’t have just one riddle on it, it had three.

The first one read:

“I’m tall when I’m young and I’m short when I’m old. What am I?”

The second one said:

“What has hands but cannot clap?”

The third and last riddle asked:

“You walk into a room with a match, a kerosene lamp, a candle, and a fireplace. Which do you light first?”

“Oh terrific. More puzzles. What do they have to do with getting out of here?”

Landon folded the piece of paper again and put it in his pocket with the other two pieces.

“BOO!” The evil clown jumped up from behind another one of the horses and yelled at him, making the boy feel like he’d jumped a mile in the air when it was probably just a foot or so.

“Yah!” He yelled as the clown ran after him. He couldn’t go fast because he had to weave around the other Merry-Go-Round horses but Landon was on the edge, so he jumped off and raced away. He could hear the clown still laughing behind him and he was gaining on the boy.

The circus buildings gave way to what looked like the main street of a small town. Landon ducked into the first doorway he saw on this left and crouched on the floor underneath the main window. He could hear the loud and rapid “flap, flap, flap” of the clown’s long shoes pound by and fade in the distance. That had been close.

Landon cautiously stood and looked out. The evil clown was nowhere in sight. Then he turned and saw he was in a shop filled with porcelain figures. There were clowns, ballerinas, swordsmen, and all kinds of animals including horses, dogs, cats, and bears. All of the bears were painted brown or black except one and it was pure white like a polar bear.

“A polar bear! That’s it!”

Landon pulled the three pieces of paper out of his pocket and found the one with the second riddle on it:

“A house has 4 walls. All of the walls are facing south, and a bear is circling the house. What color is the bear?”

He knew the answer was “White” which meant it was a polar bear. What if he wasn’t just supposed to figure out the riddles but had to find things around him based on the answers?

Landon picked up the white porcelain bear and looked at the bottom. It said the word “clue” on it. That pretty much cinched it for the boy. He probably needed to take it with him, but it looked like it would break easily.

He put the pieces of paper in his pocket again and then carried the small bear over to the store’s sales counter. Walking behind it, he found a shopping bag and a lot of wrapping paper. He remembered seeing people at stores wrapping fragile things in paper to protect them, so that’s what he did with the bear. Carefully protected, he put it in one of the shopping bags and carried it away with him.

If the bear was one clue, he had to figure out the answers to the other riddles and then find those clues too.

The very first riddle had been a picture. He remembered it and the question that came with it:

“Which way is the bus traveling: to the left or two the right?”

The answer had been to the left because the side of the bus he could see didn’t have a door on it and bus doors are always on the right, meaning the bus was pointed left.

He had to find a bus.

bus

Vada, Italy – June 29, 2015: Big intercity bus on the street of small town Vada on the coast of the Ligurian Sea. Province Livorno, Tuscany region of Italy – stock photo

Actually, it wasn’t that hard. He walked outside and across the street there was a bus stop with a bus in front of it. Landon looked and listened but there was no sign of the clown so he walked over to the bus.

He was on the sidewalk now and saw the bus door was open but when he tried to go inside, it was totally black. He couldn’t see a thing, even though the door was open and the bus had windows to let the light in.

He stepped back outside and everything was normal again.

“Maybe I have to find the other clues first now that I have the bear and I’ve found the bus.”

He took out the last piece of paper and read it again.

“I’m tall when I’m young and I’m short when I’m old. What am I?”

“What does it mean?”

He started walking down the street hoping to find inspiration. Then he stopped in front of a building that had the words “General Store” painted on the display window. Looking inside, he saw it looked like a smaller version of “Fred Meyers” or “Walmart,” stores that sold a little bit of everything. Then his eyes got wide as he saw the answer to the riddle on a shelf marked “Household items – Illumination – Wax.”

STOP! Can Landon solve the riddle?

 

 

 

Did he solve it?

 

 

 

GO!

Landon ran to the door, opened it, and went inside. A little bell sounded the second he opened the door, probably to let the storekeeper know a customer just walked in, but like every place else, this store was empty.

On the shelf he’d been looking at before were boxes of candles. When a candle is young and unused, it’s tall but as it burns, the wax melts and the wick burns down so it gets short. The answer is “a candle.” He picked one up and put it in his bag.

Maybe if he lit it, he could see inside the bus. It made sense, but he’d need something to light it with. Wait. Maybe that had to do with another riddle. He read the paper again. One of the others mentioned a candle:

“You walk into a room with a match, a kerosene lamp, a candle, and a fireplace. Which do you light first?”

“Oh duh.”

STOP! Can Landon solve the riddle?

 

 

 

Did he solve it?

 

 

 

GO!

The answer seemed obvious now that he’d found the candle.

“You can’t light the lamp, candle, or fireplace until you light the match. I’m supposed to find matches.”

candle

© James Pyles

He looked and there were boxes of matches on the same shelf about halfway down the aisle. He took one of them and put it in the shopping bag along with the wrapped up porcelain polar bear and the candle.

Just then he heard the bell ring again. Someone had walked into the store, He could hear “flap, flap, flap” on the floor and hear evil chuckling. It was the clown looking for him. Landon had to find a way out.

At the end of the aisle, he saw a doorway covered with a long curtain. Maybe it was a place to hide. As quietly as he could, the child tiptoed his way down the rest of the aisle, sneaking toward the curtain.

The clown was muttering to himself, “Where or where are you, little boy? Time’s almost up.”

If the evil clown had bothered to look in the display window from outside, he’d have seen him, but he must have come from the opposite direction. Landon had been lucky so far but if he wasn’t careful, his luck would run out.

What did he mean “Time’s almost up?”

Landon could hear the clown getting closer. He had just made it to the curtain, but if he moved it aside, the clown might see the motion. There was a gap at the bottom. The boy got on his hands and knees and crawled under it, softly pulling his bag in afterward. Then he kept going.

He was in some sort of storage room. Maybe he’d bought himself a minute or two, but the clown was sure to look in here. At the far end of the room stuffed with surplus inventory, there was another door.

Taking a chance, Landon stood and crept over to it. He turned the knob and was so thankful it wasn’t locked. He opened it, but the hinges creaked.

“Oh no!”

Quickly, he ran out slamming the door behind him. He was in an alley. Lots of garbage cans and the backs of other stores, but no place to hide. He started running. He’d gotten halfway down the alley when he heard the door open behind him. The clown yelled, “I can see you, Landon. Here I come.”

He was so close to finding everything he needed. If he could solve the last puzzle and find whatever it was, and then if he took everything back to the bus, maybe it would lead him out of here. But he had to get away from the clown first and how was he going to do that?

Landon turned the first corner he saw and ran down blindly. It was a deadend. No, not quite. He was blocked by a chain link fence. He could climb it but what about the bag? It had long handles on it so he looped them over one arm and started up fast. The “flap, flap, flap” of the clown’s shoes were getting closer.

He’d just gotten to the top when he heard, “Gotcha!” The clown had turned the corner and was only a few feet away. Landon jumped and landed on his feet. He’d almost dropped the bag but managed to save it. If the porcelain bear broke, his adventure might have ended in disaster. Not waiting to see what the clown did, he tore off down the alley toward the street ahead.

As he rounded another corner, he glanced back and saw the clown’s giant red shoes were too big to let him climb the fence. The clown went back the way he came, but that would take him to the same main street the bus was on. That’s where Landon was headed too. He had to find another place to hide and then figure out the last riddle.

Back on the street, he didn’t see the clown yet but he did see the bus stop about a block away to his left. Right next to him was a barber shop and he slipped inside and sat under the window where he hoped he’d be out of sight.

Time. The clown said something about time. Landon remembered he was wearing a watch, the one Dad gave him, and he looked at it. instead of showing him the regular time, it displayed a countdown. It said:

"00:22:39"

Except each second the “39” became “38” and then “37” and so on. The last two numbers were seconds so the next two to the left were minutes. The first two numbers that said “00” must be hours. Then he remembered, though he didn’t know how he knew it, that he could only stay in the dream world for a total of 48 hours before his soul was lost forever. Now he had no hours left, 22 minutes and just a few seconds. Then his watch display changed to:

"00:21:59"

It kept counting down. He had less than 22 minutes to solve the last riddle, find the object representing the solution, and then get everything back to the bus.

Looking up at the wall, he saw a digital clock and it was also counting down exactly like his watch was. He took the piece of paper with the three riddles on it and looked at the last unsolved riddle:

“What has hands but cannot clap?”

He had hands, even monkeys and apes had hands, but they could all clap. What else had hands?

STOP! Can Landon solve the riddle?

 

 

 

Did he solve it?

 

 

 

GO!

He looked up at the digital clock again and remembered that Grandpa kept a toy analog clock for his sister Dani to play with. Analog clocks have hands and they couldn’t clap. He had to find an old-fashioned clock.

He thought back and didn’t remember seeing clocks in the General Store. Landon looked out again and still didn’t see the clown. He must be searching for him in other stores. The child scanned up and down the street looking at the different shops trying to find one that might have clocks in it.

He saw an ice cream shop, a dry cleaner’s shop, a clothes store, an antique shop, a toy store, and a book store. Nothing that said “clock shop” or a place that might sell watches. Wait. He was looking for an old-fashioned clock. Antique shops sell old-fashioned things so it might have a clock with hands.

The antique shop was across the street. Landon looked out again. Still no clown. He could be anywhere but eventually, he’d come here. Looking at his watch again, it said:

"00:19:54"

He had to hurry. Picking up his bag, he quietly opened the door, stepped outside, and closed the door to the barber shop behind him. Then as fast as he could, he ran across the street and dashed inside the antique shop.

He saw all kinds of cool, old stuff, like old cameras, an old sewing machine you had to power using a foot pedal, an old-time bicycle with a giant front wheel, ancient looking books, a stand with a bunch of canes and walking sticks in it, and things he didn’t even recognize. Finally on a shelf in the back he saw a lone clock and it was ticking.

clock

John Strahan mahogany table clock – Found at Northern Clocks website.

It was maybe the size of a small box, something he’d need two hands to pick up. At least it wasn’t one that hung on the wall. He walked up to it. The shelf was at eye level to the boy. The hands were pointing to 17 minutes until 12. He looked at his watch and it said:

"00:17:21"

He picked up the clock and put it in his bag.

“Ah ha!”

Out of the back room, the clown sprang and Landon yelled.

“No getting away this time, little boy and even if you did, you don’t have much time left.”

The shopping bag in his left hand, Landon started walking backward toward the door at the front of the shop as the clown slowly advanced on him.

“No, no, Landon. You won’t escape this time. I’m too close and I can run faster than you.”

The terrified child walked step by step backward until his foot brushed against the stand with the canes and walking sticks. Maybe he could use one as a club or something.

He grabbed the first thing his hand touched, an old-fashioned cane but it was longer than it he thought it should be, and the hook was really big with a wicked curve at the end.

Grandpa had been watching a really super old movie once that had something on it he called “vaudeville.” When someone was doing an act on stage and it was really bad, and when the audience started booing and throwing tomatoes at the person, a long cane like this one came out from offstage, hooked the performer by the ankle, and dragged him away.

That was it.

“What are you going to do with that thing, child? Hit me?” The clown started to giggle, and then laugh, and then he was shaking back and forth, hysterically roaring with laughter, teetering back and forth on those huge, red, clown shoes.

Landon hastily put the bag down, grabbed the cane with both hands, and hooked the clown around both ankles. Then with all his might, he pulled and the clown wailed as he fell backward. He’d only be down for a second or two, but he was right under a big glass case with shelves of antique stuff on it.

Dropping the cane, as the clown floundered trying to get back up, Landon grabbed the end of the case with his hands and pulled it over so it fell onto the sinister figure who wasn’t laughing anymore.

CRASH! The glass shattered and all kinds of heavy junk fell on the clown pinning him to the floor. It probably wouldn’t hold him long, so the boy picked up the bag and ran out of the store.

He raced down the street toward the bus stop as fast as he could, panic adding speed to his mad flight. He got to the bus. The door was still open and it was black inside. He stepped in and suddenly couldn’t see.

“Wait. I forgot.”

He got out again, retrieved the candle and box of matches, set the candle on the sidewalk and used a match to light it. The match ignited on the first strike, but his hands were shaking as he tried to light the wick. Hoping there wouldn’t be a sudden breeze to blow it out, he managed to get the candle to go but then the wick went out.

“Ouch.”

The match burned down to his fingers and he had to drop it.

Landon got out a second match and lit it. He looked over toward the antique store but didn’t see the clown coming out. His watch said:

"00:05:03"

He’d wasted a lot of time trying to stop the clown.

The wick caught this time and Landon waited a few seconds until the candle was burning strongly. Then he put the matchbox back, picked up the bag and candle and re-entered the bus.

This time he could see. He quickly looked around. No one in the bus. Besides the door behind him, there was another set of door on the same side halfway down the bus like on regular city buses and they were open too.

“All aboard.”

There was a voice coming from the driver’s seat but no one was sitting there. He saw some dents on the center of the dashboard and each one said “clue.” He could tell by the shapes that they were spaces for the polar bear, the candle, and the clock. Landon put the lit candle in its spot, dug the two other items out of the shopping bag, and the put them in the spaces where they fit.

When he put the last one in place, the bus’ engine started. He heard loud squeals as the doors behind him and the second set halfway down the bus shut.

The hands on the clock were nearly at 12 and looking at his watch, it said:

"00:01:57"

“Here we go,” said the invisible driver’s voice and the bus started moving forward.

There was a seat right up front, so Landon took it before the bus got going very fast. Then it started going really fast and in a few seconds, the town had disappeared and the only thing he could see was the road. It was going up.

Everything was dark outside. The bus’ headlights turned on and there were also lights inside. It was a lot like driving down a road in the desert at night. He could feel that they were still going up a long hill. If the bus was going up did that mean he was waking up?

The bus didn’t slow a bit as it kept climbing. He could hear the engine roaring and saw the steering wheel making little motions like someone was moving it, keeping the bus straight. The gas pedal was pushed all the way to the floor and the speedometer said they were going over a hundred miles an hour.

“Faster, bus. Faster.”

Landon’s watch said:

"00:00:48"

If he wasn’t out of this place in less than a minute, he was a goner. How long was the road anyway?

He heard a sound behind him, “flap.” Then there was another one, “flap.”

Looking up at the mirror, he could see down the length of the bus and halfway between the side doors and him was the clown!

“Tee-hee-hee-hee,” he snickered.

Landon’s blood froze in his veins.

“Time’s up.” The clown hooked his fingers into claws and started to make a grab at Landon.

There was a light ahead, like they were coming out of a tunnel into daylight. Then the clock on the dash started to chime. “Ping, ping, ping.”

Once it rang twelve times, it would all be over and the Soul Reaper would take over his body in the real world. He’d never, ever see his family and friends again. If he ever needed Buddy to save him it was right now.

The clock rang six more times, “Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping” with only three more to go as the Soul Reaper clown grabbed him by the shoulders. Landon suddenly pulled forward making the clown’s fingers slip, grabbed the still burning candle, wheeled around, and jammed the flame into the clown’s face.

“Yah!”

There was a big squeaking sound behind him and a rush of air.

The clock went “Ping.”

The clown tumbled backward swatting at the burn on his cheek.

“Ping.”

Something grabbed Landon from behind as the bus shot completely off of the road into the air and a brilliant light.

bus jump

Sticker depicting the bus jump scene from the 1994 film “Speed” – Found at Teepublic.

“Ping.” The clock struck 12 as the clown leapt forward, but he missed the boy who was pulled off the bus and into the air by Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon!

Landon woke up in bed, practically jumping out of it.

Buddy, Grandpa, Daddy, and even Dani were there.

“You’re back, boy! You’re solid. You almost disappeared completely!” Grandpa was excitedly talking, tears streaming down his cheeks. Everyone was talking and laughing and crying and they all hugged and hugged Landon. The living stuffed animals even got into the act dancing around and singing and hugging and kissing Landon. Everyone was so happy that Landon was back and awake, but not as glad as Landon was.

“Buddy! You saved me!”

“How did you do it, Buddy?” Grandpa asked. “I thought you said even a single Soul Reaper could kill you if you entered their dream world.”

“Yup, yup, yup, Gramps. Soul Reapers super powerful. No dragon can stand up to them, not even silver Dream Dragons.”

“Dream Dragons?”

“Yup, yup, yup, Landon.” Dream Dragons can’t fight Soul Reapers but they’re super-duper fast. Can zip in and out, in and out in a flash, faster than Barry Allen.”

“Ha, ha, ha.” Landon rolled his eyes. “I get it. ‘Flash.’ ‘Barry Allen.'”

“That’s where I go, Gramps. Find Dream Dragons. Tell about Landon. They help. Give clues and riddles. Help Landon get out.”

“The silver blurs.”

“Uh huh. Dream Dragons.”

“What if I hadn’t been able to solve the riddles?”

“We no talk about that, okay?”

“Wait.” Landon looked at his watch and then at the clock on the table by his bed. They all said the normal time.

“But if you can’t go into the Dream World, how did you get me off of the bus?”

“Bus came out of Dream World just in time and I grabbed you.”

“What happened to the bus and the clown on it?”

“Fell back in. Fell back into Dream World.”

“What happens when Landon falls asleep again?” Daddy looked worried and Dani was sitting on the bed beside him hugging him. “I miss my Landon.”

Landon hugged her back. “I missed you too, Dani.”

“Okay to sleep. Okay to sleep.” Soul Reapers defeated. Dream World door works only once per cycle.”

“What’s a cycle?”

“Million years, thousand years, two seconds, can be anything, Daddy-o, but it never opens on the same world twice in a row.”

“So it could open here again.”

“Yup, yup, yup, but if opens on Earth again, location random. Billions and billions of places on Earth so Landon pretty safe.”

“But not completely safe.”

“Better chance of getting struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark in the middle of Nevada than being grabbed by Soul Reapers again, Daddy-o. Pretty safe.”

“Well, we’ll talk about all this later. Landon’s been asleep for two days and the weekend’s over.”

“What? I have to go to school right now?”

Grandpa leaned over to Dad and whispered in his ear. Dad looked like he was thinking about whatever Grandpa said and then he grinned. “Well, I guess I could call in sick for you today so you could rest up from all that sleeping.”

“Sleeping? I’ve been running for my life for two days. I need lots of rest, Dad.”

Everybody laughed.

“How about we start with breakfast instead, Landon. What would you like?”

“Pancakes and syrup,” suggested the boy.

“Sure. I’ll get started on it.”

“Yippee!” the dragon yelled. “Love pancakes, lots of pancakes and lots of syrup.”

“I’d better get out all the frying pans. Good thing I started buying syrup in gallon jugs. I’ve got to keep this dragon fed.”

Everyone laughed again as Grandpa walked to the kitchen. Buddy and Dani followed to help, but they really wanted to sample the pancake batter. Dad stayed behind with Landon.

“I really love you, son.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

They hugged and Landon could sense Dad’s fears about how dangerous magic was to him were resurfacing. Dad said they’d “talk about it later.” Would Dad try to find a way for Landon to stop learning more magic or worse, would he try to make Buddy leave again?

This story is the immediate sequel to Riddle Me This! and the conclusion of the Soul Reapers adventure. Landon made it back to the real world safe and sound but just barely. In real life, no Mom or Dad would ever let their child be put in such danger, but these stories are for fun. Still, even an imaginary Dad would want to protect his little boy. What decision will David make and how will it affect the future of Landon and Buddy, not to mention whether or not Ana will be able to realize her dream of studying magic? The answers to those questions are waiting in the next story.

Hint: Remember the statue of the magician with a wand in one hand and a bird in the other?

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 The New Apprentice.

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