3: Twists Begin
It took a few moments for Trish to realize she wasn’t moving. Air blasted upward. She bent her knees and held her arms back as she had seen skydivers do on television. The ground seemed to be moving closer, giving her the sensation of falling. She carefully moved one arm until her fingers touched her hair. Pulling out a hairclip, she let it drop. The plastic clip tumbled in the air for a few seconds before dropping three feet and sounding a clink.
Suspicious, Trish pulled in her arms and tucked in her knees. With a thud, she landed on a hard surface next to her hairclip. Crawling on her hands and knees, she moved across the moving image that still showed ground rushing upward. Looking back up, she didn’t see the doorway she had stepped through. She saw a floating city high above her in the clouds.
She had only crawled another five feet when her head bonked into something hard. The wind stopped, the image below her hands blinked out. She looked up. The floating city was still there.
Trish got to her feet and stood against a large boulder. Smooth and made of speckled granite it sat in a cluster of other car-sized rocks in the middle of a small valley with high granite cliffs on all sides. She looked up again. The bottom of the floating city hovered level with the cliff tops and nearly filled the open space. She felt like she was at the bottom of a quarry where someone had mined the rocks out beneath the city leaving the space she stood in. One hundred yards to her left, a wooden plank door with a round top sat against the cliff wall. She headed for it.
When she opened the door, she looked down a short tunnel carved through the rock. It looked blurred. She rubbed her eyes. The walls still looked fuzzy and out of focus. Cautiously she stepped forward. The walls around her dissolved. There was no tunnel, no strange quarry, and no more peculiar floating city.
Tall trees surrounded her. Long, strange looking, brown pine-like needles littered the ground. They crunched under her feet when she took a step. She picked up one and examined it. It had the smell of pine but curled around several times, giving it the look of a rusty spring. She touched a tree. The dappled tan and brown bark felt soft to her touch, almost like suede. “This dream is getting very strange. But better,” Trish whispered softly.
Most of the branches stretched out high enough over her head that she couldn’t touch them. The needles had the same look, but not brown and crisp. The deep green curlicues moved in the slight breeze and released the mixed scent of pine and lavender.
She walked ahead a few more steps. The ground felt spongy and she took a small jump to test its firmness. Thin branches that had lain hidden under the carpet of needles flipped up, tossing the brown twists into the air. Wood cracked. In the middle of her scream, the branch and twig latticework gave way. Trish dropped.
Her semi-soft landing stopped her scream. A six-inch layer of needles at the bottom of the pit kept her from being hurt. She stood and brushed off twigs and bits of bark and needles. From here, she could see the hole she had broken through. The latticework of thin branches still covered most of the opening of the ten foot in diameter pit.
Trish yawned before jumping to see if she could grab any of the branches. She missed by two feet. She yawned again and sat down on the soft needles. “This is a very tiring dream,” she said and adjusted the ring of keys she still wore around her wrist. “I wish… Yawn. It… Yawn… Would end.”
Up above her she heard something rustle the needles. She could see the latticework jiggle just a bit. Something purred like a loud cat. Worried it was some sort of wild beast, Trish scooted back against the far wall. The purring grew louder, and mixed with sniffing sounds.
Worried, Trish yawned again before holding her breath. More of the lattice gave way. She heard the loud screech of a jungle cat as her vision blurred. With a crash, thump and growl, something landed near her feet. Trish couldn’t focus well enough to see what it was. She wanted to blink her eyes, but when she closed them, she kept them closed. She floated through the stars again, passing Cassiopeia, and moving toward the planet Earth. Trish wanted to watch the spectacular display of planets and galaxies before her but couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. They fluttered shut and she drifted into sleep.
“At least the Sallyforth sisters are doing something,” Hillary said. She paced back and forth in front of the stone fireplace near the stairs to the upper level in the White House cottage. She held up her hand with her finger and thumb a bare quarter inch apart. “We don’t even have this much for a plan,” she said.
Windslow sat on the raised stone hearth, his crutches balanced across his knees. “Hillary’s right. We wasted the whole day talking and haven’t made any progress. All we’ve done is agreed that we should investigate at some of the villages where the girls have been kidnapped.”
“We did conclude the invaders would probably come from the north,” Larkstone said.
Hillary glanced at the wizard. “But that’s only because it’s the easiest direction to search. That’s not a good reason or plan.”
“I think Larkstone is right,” someone said from the doorway.
They all looked toward the door.
A young woman stood with her shoulder resting against the doorframe and her arms folded. Bright lavender hair, plaited into two braids tied with green ribbons, touched her shoulders. Her eyes and smile were as bright as the large shiny buckle on the belt around her slim waist. The belt, the same color as her hair ribbons, gathered in a dark green shirt that reached down past her hips, nearly reaching her knees. Lighter green leotards disappeared just below her knees into the tops of high brown suede boots.
“But,” the girl said, “They could be coming from anywhere. They might suspect we’d watch the north coast so we’ll organize teams from different villages to watch to the northwest and northeast too. She unfolded her arms and with long strides moved to Haggerwolf. She gave his long silver beard a playful tug. I’ve already set up night watch teams in two villages where there haven’t been any kidnappings. Messengers are on their way to the other villages to set up the same thing.”
The girl turned, smiled at Windslow and walked up so close to him that he unconsciously leaned back a bit. She reached out her hand. “You must be Windslow. Fernbark didn’t tell me you were so cute.”
Windslow reached out his hand, to shake hers. The girl took his hand in both of hers and held it. “I am so honored to finally meet Windslow Summerfield, low wind of summer, child of the winter storms.”
“Um… hi, I’m Windslow,” Windslow said, his face turning red. “I mean… You already know that.”
The girl let Windslow’s hand drop. She strode to Larkstone, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Everyone is watching the skies. There have been several sightings of dark shapes that float just above the treetops. I’ll have my personal scouts build watch towers in key areas to keep an eye out for them.”
She turned to Hillary, “And you must be Hillary,” the girl said. “Windslow’s stepsister.”
The girl walked to Fernbark. “How’s my sweetie?” she asked. Fernbark blushed. “We’ll need your magic, of course. Can you sense anything from the plants? How about you Larkstone? Are the birds or water telling you anything? Or the animals?” she asked looking at Haggerwolf.
“Who are you?” Hillary asked, almost shouting. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh,” the girl said and smiled at Hillary. “I forgot to introduce myself. Oh dear, it looks as if you’ll have to wait for a longer introduction. I can see you’re starting to dream-slip.”
Hillary’s anger couldn’t stop her eyes from drooping, her vision from blurring, or from entering a dream-slip. As the room faded, she heard the girl shout out, “I’m Lavender Lime. We’ll be working together!”
Windslow woke and rubbed his eyes. He was still in the living room where he had fallen asleep in his wheelchair. He glanced over at the couch. A pillow and blanket sat where Hillary had been. He thought about how that girl, Lavender Lime, had held his hands and looked into his eyes. He smiled, shut his eyes and stretched. That’s when he remembered his stepmother. Crud!” Windslow said. Not knowing what to expect, he wheeled his chair toward the bathroom and nearly ran over his sister in the hallway.
“Mom?” He asked, looking at Hillary.
“Shush,” she said. “Mom and dad are up already. I’ll meet you in the kitchen. Act normal. Don’t say anything to make Mom suspicious.”
Windslow used the bathroom, brushed his teeth and headed for the kitchen.
Trish sat at the table, her head hanging down, a cup of coffee cradled between her hands. Bill stood at the countertop, pouring his own cup of coffee. Hillary stood at the refrigerator door.
“Hey, kid-o,” Bill said. “How about an omelet? My turn to make breakfast. Your mom didn’t sleep very well last night. You should have seen her this morning. She woke me by crawling on the bed in her sleep. She’d shoved all the covers off.”
Trish looked up and grinned. “I had the weirdest dream last night.”
“Oh, really?” Hillary said. She handed her stepfather a carton of eggs and sat down across from her mother. “So tell us about it.”
“Hey,” Windslow said. “Where’s my bracelet?”
Trish looked at her bare wrist. “Sorry, honey. It must have come off in my sleep. I’ll go look for it after breakfast. Can I have cheese in my omelet?” She asked Bill.
“Sure,” he said over the sound of cracking bacon. “Windslow will you grab some cheese and the milk from the refrigerator? Hillary, why don’t you start some toast?”
“So,” Hillary said as she took a loaf of bread from the cupboard. “About your dream.”
“Very strange,” Trish said. “Very strange. You know how I can control my dreams most of the time. I think they call it lucid dreaming. Anyway, I was in this beautiful place, like some old Scottish moor town. There was this wheelbarrow with no wheel. It just floated. And then there was this tiny tornado; about as big around as the stove and only as high as the refrigerator. I shoved this guy into it and the tornado took me to a cell in a small room.”
“Was the guy good looking?” Bill asked. “Omelets almost ready. Windslow, get some plates. How’s the toast coming, Hillary?”
“He kind of was,” Trish said. “He was really big, like two men shoved side by side into one body, but he could really move fast. He dressed in black, and was African American and had this black hood over his head, and it covered most of his face, and he kept looking at me inside the tornado, and I think he was angry.”
Windslow set a plate in front of her. “That was a lot of and’s. So, what else?”
“Be a dear and pour you mother some more coffee.” Trish pushed her cup towards him. “I was in this goofy cell and this skinny pirate guy with an eye patch and long nose was talking to the big guy. Then an alarm rang and they ran off. The cell door vaporized and I fell out this door and was skydiving until the lake went away and the city was floating and I ended up in a forest and fell in a pit with some tiger or something. Then I woke up.”
“You’re not making sense,” Bill said. “My dreams never make sense either. I can barely remember them. Here’s your omelet. You two bring your plates over here,” Bill said to Windslow and Hillary.
Hillary put a dish piled with toast, in the center of the table, grabbed her plate and held it out so her stepfather could slide part of the omelet on to it. “So that’s it?” Hillary asked her mother.
“Yep. That’s about it,” Trish said. “At the end I must have been crawling away from the tiger,” she said and held out her hand. “That must have been when I was crawling on the bed and shoving all the covers off and woke up. It was not one of my best dreams.”
“Good,” Windslow said. “I mean, too bad that’s all that happened, but maybe that’s good. Like, other stuff could have happened but didn’t, did it?”
“So, we’ll do the dishes,” Hillary said, her voice loud enough that everyone looked up at her.
“Yep,” Windslow added and reached for Bill’s plate.
Bill picked up his plate and held it away from Windslow. “Hey, let me finish eating first.”
“Sure,” Windslow said. “I could start cleaning the garage, maybe. Hillary, do you want to help me?”
“What?” she said. “Are you… Oh, sure. That’s a good idea. You didn’t finish telling me about summer camp last night. I’ll get cleaned up and meet you out there.”
“Bill, pinch me,” Trish said. “I think I’m dreaming again.”
“I can’t.” Bill closed his eyes and held his arms out straight. “I’m sleepwalking,” he said. “Either that, or someone has switched our kids in the middle of the night.”
Windslow groaned. “So can’t a guy just try to be helpful around here? I’ll be in the garage if anyone needs me.”
“DJ,” Trish said.
“What?” Hillary asked.
Windslow spun around.
“DJ. That’s the black man’s name. I just remembered it.”
Hillary and Windslow exchanged glances.
“I’ll be out to help you in just a few minutes,” Hillary said to her brother and gave his chair a push.
Bill leaned over and kissed Trish on the neck. “Why don’t you go back to bed and sleep in this morning.”
“Good idea,” Trish said. “Hillary, why don’t you come with me and we’ll see if we can find that bracelet. You can give it to your brother.”
Inside her bedroom, Trish felt around under the covers. “Here it is,” she said and held up the leather dream-slip wristband. “A hug please, and then I’m off to sleep with hopefully no dreams.”
Hillary gave her mother a long hug and headed for the garage.
“I’m so tired,” Trish said and flopped down on the bed. “That dream was so weird.” She fluffed up her pillow, eased her head back and sighed. She turned to her side and sighed again. “I hate lumps,” she said almost in a whisper.
Trish dug under her pillow. “Oh my,” she said softly and swallowed hard. She held a metal ring of keys; the ring she had slipped around her wrist in her dream.
Windslow wheeled into the garage. He didn’t really want to clean it. He just wanted place where he could talk with Hillary and not worry about what his parents were doing. Bill had backed the car and the van out onto the driveway. Looking around, Windslow decided that it really wasn’t that dirty. There were a few empty boxes he needed to be flattened or cut up for recycling. A pile of newspapers needed to be bundled. Other than that, it could maybe use a good sweeping.
Like upside down tables, two platforms hung from the roof rafters. Cardboard boxes filled one platform. The other held blue plastic storage containers. More boxes filled shelves against one sidewall. Windslow spotted a box that held something he had been thinking about. The box, three feet long and a foot square, had ‘Telescope’ marked on its side.
Grabbing a broom, Windslow used the handle to poke at the box until he managed to wiggle it close to the shelf edge. One final poke and it toppled off. With a quick move, Windslow dropped the broom and caught the box. He lowered it to rest across his wheelchair arms, opened the top and pulled out several brass tubes and other parts. After piling all the pieces in his lap, he let the box fall to the floor and began assembling his old telescope.
“What’s that for?” Hillary asked from behind him. “We’re supposed to clean up this place, not make a bigger mess.”
Windslow didn’t turn around. “I want to take this to Gabendoor. Maybe we can find a rooftop or a mountain or someplace high and we can use this to try and spot that big thing that flew over the White House.”
“Sure,” Hillary said. “Mom and dad will see it in your room and then it will be gone. You’ll just give them more things to ask us about.”
“No they won’t. If I’m lucky, they’ll never see it and never miss it. And they’re not asking any questions now. Mom just thinks she had a weird dream. Dad doesn’t even know anything’s going on.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Hillary said. She picked up a brass eyepiece for the telescope and held it to her eye. She handed it to her stepbrother. “We got lucky with Mom in one way, and unlucky in another.”
“I don’t follow you,” Windslow said.
“We’re lucky nothing happened to make Mom suspicious. We’re unlucky because she might know something about DJ that would help us, but we can’t exactly start questioning her.”
“You know,” Windslow said. “I’ve been thinking about the invasion thing. Before you dream-slipped to the White House last night, Haggerwolf gave me a map of Gabendoor. It’s in my chair backpack.”
Hillary reached behind Windslow and dug into the brown canvas bag attached between the handles at the back of his wheelchair. “Here,” she said and pulled out the magic book bag from their other adventures, and a neatly folded piece of brown parchment. “Very cool,” she said after spreading the map out on top of the telescope box. “Look, there’s Lake Shimmerdawn.”
“Look at the whole shape of the continent,” Windslow said. “What does it remind you of?”
“I don’t know. A big chunk of land with some big peninsula out here and islands just off the coast over there,” she said and pointed.
“Here,” Windslow said. He grabbed the map and twisted the parchment until it was upside down.
“It’s a dragon,” Hillary said. “You can really see it this way. Do you think it means something?”
“I asked Haggerwolf and he said it didn’t. He said dragons don’t exist. Then I asked him about other continents or places that invaders could come from. Lavender Lime said we should be watching the north coast. All three wizards said there aren’t any more continents, so where would invaders come from?”
“No other continents?” Hillary asked. “That doesn’t seem right. If it’s true, then there must be a bunch of people up in the mountains, or way over here,” she said pointing to the map again. “They’ve got to come from someplace.”
“I don’t know,” Windslow said. “Maybe it’s even an invasion from outer space.”
Hillary looked at her brother and wrinkled up her brow.
“Well, it could be,” Windslow said. “Haggerwolf told me something else. I guess that long ago some guy got together some people and made a ship they sailed south to discover new lands. Nobody ever heard from them again except for one guy who washed ashore on a raft a year later. He was completely nuts, and couldn’t tell them much of anything. So there’s not any other continent or big islands that anybody knows about.”
“Duh!” Hillary said. “There is something out there.”
“Not that anyone knows of,” Windslow said.
“Yes there is, Little brother. How long could you live at sea?”
“I don’t know,” Windslow said. “It depends on how much food and water you have I guess.”
“Long enough to wash up on a beach a year later?”
“Geeze,” Windslow said and smacked his hand against his forehead. “Why didn’t I think of that? Hey, why didn’t the wizards or anybody else think of it?”
Hillary folded the map and carefully put it inside Windslow’s magic book bag. The bag expanded for her, then shrunk down to wallet size after she closed it. “I bet they did, but the story just got twisted up over the years. Yikes!” she said, her voice loud and sharp. “Your magic bag just did something.”
“It just got bigger again,” Windslow said.
“And heavier,” Hillary added. She pulled open the zipper and peeked inside. “Hey, how’d this get in here? I left it under my bed.”
“What are you talking about?” Windslow asked.
“This,” Hillary said and pulled out the Book of Twisted Truths.
“Messages,” Windslow said. “Look for messages.”
Hillary put the book on her brother’s lap and opened the pages. “That’s new,” she said.
A story changed, no longer true
Reversing twists is up to you.
The twist affects the story’s end
Where did it start, where did it bend?
DJ knows the path it took.
But only Trish knows where to look.
“Oh great!” Hillary said. She slammed the book shut. “That’s just great. Those stupid books can’t say anything straight. They’re always twisted themselves. Why can’t they just say things like a normal book?”
“Well, it kind of does,” Windslow said. He put the book back in his magic book bag, closed it and shrunk it down. “I think we need to investigate the story about the people who tried to find new land and figure out the real story. And we need to find a way to quiz Mom about DJ.”
Hillary folded her arms. “Okay. I’ll work on the story. You work on Mom.”
“Me?” Windslow said. “I’m not going to talk to her.”
“I talk to her,” a voice said behind them.
Winslow and Hillary both turned. Molly bounded down the wheelchair ramp that rose from the garage floor to the kitchen door.
“I sell her one of these,” Molly said. She stretched out the bottom of the t-shirt she wore. Silk-screened across the front were the words:
But not Nelly.
“What?” Windslow asked.
“I sell her one of these. They very soft,” Molly said. She pulled up the bottom edge of the oversized t-shirt and rubbed it across her cheek. “I tell her twisted truth, but she one who twist it.”
“Molly,” Hillary said, making the girl’s name sound almost like a sigh. “Would you please explain?”
“I tell her it fun raiser. She say if fundraiser, then she buy one. She get it all wrong. It to have more fun,” Molly said. Molly pulled a large duffle bag from a shelf and pulled the zipper open. “Hey, this good stuff.”
“Why did you give her the shirt, anyway?” Windslow hollered.
“It gerbl bit buff a do”
“What?” Windslow asked.
The small girl was halfway inside the duffle bag. She said something else Windslow couldn’t understand. When she pulled her head and shoulders out, she wore football shoulder pads and a helmet.
“Hey, that’s my stuff,” Windslow said.
“It good stuff if we have big battle. I give it to Forge-Twiddlers to make more.” Molly lowered her head and ran forward until the helmet conked against the garage door giving off a loud boom. “This work good,” she said and turned around. She stretched out the bottom of the t-shirt and pointed to the band of purple ribbon sewn around the edge. “This great big dream-slip band.” She released the edge of her shirt, reached for the garage door opener switch and pushed the button.
“Are you crazy?” Hillary asked. “Why did you give her something that will take her to Gabendoor again?”
Molly didn’t wait for the door to fully open. She ducked under the edge and skipped down the driveway. At the sidewalk, she looked back over her shoulder. “She need a take care of DJ.”
“But--” Windslow closed his mouth. Molly was already halfway down the block.