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THE VERITAS PROJECT VOLUME 2
© 2002 Frank Peretti
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Peretti, Frank E.
Nightmare Academy / Frank Peretti.
p. cm. — (The Veritas Project ; v. 2)
Summary: Elijah and his sister Elisha go undercover to investigate a mysterious school
that is sheltering runaway teenagers for a sinister purpose.
ISBN 1-4003-0340-0 (Trade Paper)
ISBN 978-1-59554-446-9 (repackage)
[1. Schools—Fiction. 2. Runaways—Fiction. 3. Christian life—Fiction. 4. Mystery and
detective stories.] I. Title. II. Series.
PZ7.P4254 Ni 2002
Printed in the United States of America
08 09 10 11 12 QW 5 4 3 2 1
To Barbara Jean, my love, as we continue
our wondrous journey together .
the kid in the
or how. but he could still see. could never know. a sister. or why. He tried to swim. The sky above was red like a sunset. no hours. 2 . that he was running. then red as the sky turned green. no moments. insisted. turned when he did not. He was under water. cocky and wayward. the earth below an eye-buzzing purple—then green. suddenly his groping arms were pulling him forward through hot. He closed his eyes. falling through space. or inclined steeply upward though he saw no slope before him. he could not know. at no particular time. dry sand. no way of knowing. or who. but he heard nothing. Where he was. He screamed. a father and mother. Been where? No place. He had a name. no chance for knowing how long he’d been here.H is mind told him. then gray. or when. He once had a brother. bleeding foot in front of the other—even though the ground did not move under his feet. He was once a fifteen-year-old boy. There were no days. putting one tattered. The pathway became a precipice and he tumbled headlong.
in swirling. nothing. surging. was not aware of the branches and limbs striking against him. fell against a gnarled old tree. and a life—and he thought he knew something. and sensations. He could see nothing in the dark. The tree he thought he would lean on. a school. Non-things. . Grass.the kid in the padded room a house. There was no fifteen-year-old boy here. pounding. Stones. Cold ground. The only reality. and that life had become . images. Without a thought. without sound. He just ran. . throbbing like a swollen thumb. was not aware of the aching in his chest. the pounding of his heart. . no reason. . But that boy. . that had fallen . He stopped. layer upon layer of it—with more. didn’t change. creaking on its hinges. The earth was motionless under his body. There was nothing here but terror. And hit the ground. No knowledge. Maybe he thought he knew it all. the dew of the night cold and soaking through. . He fell. the gasping for air. 3 . crumpling like a wad of paper. . and that time. The tree toppled unnaturally. more to come. was a metal door. They didn’t move. endlessly repeating cycles of it. pulsing. . he was on his feet. . no thought. now slowly closing behind him. . running away. more. kaleidoscoping sounds.
” Farmer replied. Farmer didn’t have a label for the victim he was hoping to find here. .” said Farmer. disaster victims. but at this point he couldn’t be sure. “Harborview.C. . He would know in the next few minutes. “The local office may not have the records on this one yet. “Farmer.” Madison moved through the front office and into a narrow hallway. . . Mr. . My! From the D.” “Not really. Cal Madison. met him in Observation and Evaluation. “I expected the Bureau would just send a local person. He might have a name.” Madison had to think about that one.” “Hmm. I just made a little side trip. and .” He looked once again at Farmer’s business card. was known as the place to send the really tough cases.nightmare academy Nelson Farmer was tall. “Anyway. making his face sag to new depths of sourness.” Madison commented. with a long horse face and a worried look that just stayed there. .” 4 . Right now he was worried. Victims of accidents could be helped in any good hospital. “This could be a special case. I’m not sure what information you have at this point. Farmer followed. victims of horrible accidents were sent here. . part of the Seattle skyline for generations. “I was out on the West Coast on business anyway. balding. office! You’ve come a long way. even when he wasn’t worried. abuse victims. pulling up in front of an immense hospital in Seattle. white-haired. . “Thank you for coming. Dr. as were the burn victims.” said the taxi driver. Harborview Hospital. and soft-spoken.
also heavily padded. involuntary curling and uncurling of his fingers. and Madison stepped inside. A very mountainous region.” They entered a darkened room with one large window. Dr. He closed the door behind him. of two-way glass. unblinking. and the walls and floor were covered with thick. unwavering. He knelt beside the boy and asked him. was a boy. We’ve had to dress him because he can’t dress himself. curled up on the floor like a cowering animal. unblinking. opened on another room.the kid in the padded room “He was found on the highway. That room was roughly ten feet square. not much civilization to speak of. 5 . low-built cot. “How are you doing?” His eyes stared at the floor. His eyes stared at the floor. slipping out the door. The window. He was clothed in hospital pajamas and lay motionless except for a trembling. in the center of the room. I think. Against the far wall was a very simple. quilted padding.” “And I suppose he can’t tell you?” “You need to see this. He wasn’t carrying any ID. unwavering.” Madison said. so we have no idea who he is. Madison explained. “We judge him to be about fifteen years old. leaving Farmer in the darkened room. A moment later the door to the padded room opened. somewhere in Idaho?” “North Central Idaho. softly lit.
all logic . “Do you need anything?” “I don’t know.” Farmer could hear everything through a small intercom speaker beside the window. Farmer pulled a file folder from his briefcase and opened it. “I’m glad you called.” “It’s as if his whole mind has been erased. When Madison returned. Farmer shook his head. “Can you tell me your name?” “I don’t know. still marveling. looking impressed. letting his gaze shift from it to the face he saw through the glass. . As Madison asked the boy a few more questions and the boy replied “I don’t know” to every one. The first page included a photograph of a young man. There was no doubt.nightmare academy “I don’t know. He closed the folder.” 6 . The very same young man.” said Madison. gone.” Madison appeared puzzled. “All knowledge. and snapped the briefcase shut.” “I’m not familiar with this procedure.” the boy replied in a low monotone.” Madison looked toward the two-way glass as he asked the boy. Farmer held the photograph at eye level. put it back in his briefcase.” Farmer nodded thoughtfully. . I’ll arrange to have him transferred immediately. “Very disturbing. “Excuse me?” “The best way for us to identify this young man and return him to his parents—if there are any—is to put him under protective custody so we can make a positive identification.
Washington.” Dr. Madison handed back the photo ID and shook his head. “This young man is a patient in this hospital. the Bureau for Missing Children has its procedures. “I beg your pardon?” Dr. he can’t clothe himself. and I’m afraid—” “No.C. no. “Dr. Madison replied in his same businesslike tone. Madison. then produced his card again. I’m sorry. Until then. Dr. It’ll take me a little while to arrange for a car and for a suitable room—” “No. “Come again?” Madison’s face was etched with disbelief and a little indignity. and we can’t release him. Farmer followed his card with an official. very wrong.” Now Farmer raised his voice. Field Investigator. Madison read it again: Nelson Farmer. “Would you like to see my driver’s license? I also have a firearm permit if you’d like to see that. He’s in no condition to be moved anywhere. He’s malnourished and underweight. Absolutely not. D. anyway. raised an eyebrow. he’s under my care. “When this boy’s parents say to release him. “It won’t change anything. he’s my responsibility. wait.” Farmer tilted his head. he can’t—” “Need I remind you with whom you’re dealing?” Farmer’s words struck Madison wrong. laminated photo ID from the office in Washington. “Perhaps I should confirm that information one more time.” 7 . Bureau for Missing Children.the kid in the padded room “We don’t use it very often.” Farmer glared at him a moment. only in special cases such as this one.” Farmer’s spine stiffened visibly. he can’t feed himself. then I’ll release him. That’s impossible. and he stays here.
that’s your job. Thousand Oaks. “I had my secretary go to BMC’s Web site. Dr. Cal Madison attended a medical conference within comfortable driving distance from Washington. and within an hour she had a positive identification of our patient. “Alvin Rogers. where he arranged to have dinner with an old friend. The Carlson boy is still missing. You’re the one with the nationwide computer database. Now they were sitting in a secluded booth—a table Madison had asked for specifically—enjoying a fine meal and formal surroundings. and he works 8 . He and a friend.” “So now you’re wondering why this Farmer character needed custody of your patient in order to identify him?” “Exactly.” He handed the documents across the dinner table to his guest. “This is not going to go well for you. California. his fingerprints. we’ve provided the boy’s likeness.” “Well. Farmer. Madison spoke in secretive tones. and everything we know about him.nightmare academy “We don’t even know who the parents are. Dr.” A week later. Harold Carlson. ran away a month ago. Mr..” Farmer grabbed up his briefcase. carefully pausing whenever a waitress walked by. to reunite missing and runaway children with their families? Now. D.C. isn’t it. I called the BMC. It wasn’t necessary. age fifteen.” “I’ll see you—and your threats—to the door. I think it’s time you got to work.
“Oh. If you could get the information. When I expressed my surprise that the Bureau would send one of their top-level people clear across the country instead of letting the local office in Seattle handle it. you did. and that was Seattle.” 9 . with only one destination. Harold Carlson. all right.” “So we’re clear on that. he told me the local office probably didn’t have the records yet. yes. really?” “He and a friend.” The guest looked up from the documents with raised eyebrows. “And.the kid in the padded room for them. but the people I talked to weren’t aware of any such policy.” “Hmm. I never heard back from Farmer. The Carlson boy is still missing.” “There’s more.” Madison allowed himself a quick sip of water. but according to the people at the central office right here in Washington. Maybe it’s because we found the boy’s parents ourselves. he left rather urgently. incidentally.” “Oh. Do you find that believable?” “You got the information right off the Internet. Farmer said he came by because he was already on the West Coast anyway. then certainly the branch offices would have it. ran away a month ago.
gravity turned upside down. He asked for some real clothes and dressed himself. but his mind is badly scrambled. “Not a lot to go on. good enough. “He came out of his stupor. heard their voices. gave them a call. It was beautiful.” “So I suppose you’ve sent him home?” “Eh . We’ve tried to find out what happened to him and where he was for a whole month.” “Well. perhaps.” “But enough. and just got a loving hug. “When Alvin saw his parents. .” Madison sadly wagged his head. but all we can get out of him is a stream of nonsense—ramblings about nothing being real. and they flew up from California the next day. staring at the half-eaten steak on his plate. yes. He came out of his stupor almost immediately. “Nightmare Academy?” Madison nodded. He was able to feed himself. perhaps his first smile of the evening. “It frightens him to talk about it—enough to make me wonder whether it might be. especially for the other boy who’s still out there some10 . He’s afraid of being left alone. and he has trouble sleeping.nightmare academy “It couldn’t have been more simple.” Madison broke into a smile. at least in some sense.” The guest repeated the words to be sure he’d heard them correctly. time running backward. We got their name and phone number from the Web site. all sheer lunacy—and someplace he keeps referring to as Nightmare Academy. to interest you and Veritas? I’m very concerned. real. .” The guest stroked his brow. it made a world of difference.
He was the first one here.C. D. Excellent..” The guest. the office assistant. The small black letters on the office door quietly announced: The Veritas Project. almost forgetting to grab the morning paper before he went into a plain little office on the fifth floor. The president had received his message from last night and was responding. Usually. . .” In Washington. he knew it was the one he was expecting: The White House. bald. was no doubt en route. A fax had arrived. brown eyes. as was Carrie. Consuela. The president didn’t usually send faxes to this office on White House letterhead. the message came on 11 . far from the Capitol dome. and what about the other missing children and runaways? Whatever happened to Alvin Rogers could happen to them. his secretary.the kid in the padded room where. “I’ll put some feelers out. was an old. thoughts racing behind his inquisitive. Morgan. paged through the documents one more time. arrived early. From the letterhead. a man named Morgan. eager and anxious. and bespectacled. But . I’ll let you know. middle-aged. red-brick office building with office space and apartments for rent. hopefully by tomorrow. strange. He flipped the light switch on without having to look at it and strode quickly to the fax machine.
the president did have a voice in which cases Veritas would take and which it would refer elsewhere. no obvious identifiers. the fax in his hand.” “Good morning. boss. The front door rattled open. She paused to stare at him with her large. “Yes. By prior agreement. This was from the president. “Is there trouble?” “Maybe. but this response was anything but typical. Staring at a dismal segment of the Washington skyline. It was Consuela. letting it swivel him toward the window. white paper.” 12 . tossed it onto his cluttered desk. wasn’t it? The sender’s number at the top of the page was correct. But the president had never sent such a short message. and never in allcapital letters. trying to think. seeing in his mind that big white residence half a city away. and sank into his chair.” he half muttered.” He thought a bit. no fancy labels. “Good morning.nightmare academy plain. nothing to call attention— He froze momentarily as his eyes fell on the message: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO INVESTIGATE THIS Morgan stood there a moment. but decided against it. Morgan took the fax into his office. and never without any explanation or follow-up questions—or at least some kind of guidance on how to answer back. Latin eyes. he debated whether he should just call the White House.
A small note was attached. then stooped down. picked it up. “Consuela. “call the airlines. young Elias swung the iron door shut and dropped the bolt into place as the rest of his family scrambled about the lab in search of anything they could use to barricade the door. Morgan pulled out the materials he’d gotten from his dinner with Madison and thumbed through them once again.” She brought him the morning paper he’d forgotten about. bearing only two words: CALL THEM. windowed envelope.” “Please. he found a DVD in a white.” “Oh!” She came into his office.the kid in the padded room “I’ll make the coffee. “The Springfields need to see this one firsthand.” she said.” She sprang for her desk.” he said.” With his finely toned muscles straining and sweat on his brow. The beast was coming down the hallway. They could feel the pounding of his footsteps shaking the floor. Montana. and— An envelope fell to the floor. unfolded it. Inside. “You left your paper by the fax machine. 13 . and carefully opened it as Consuela watched. “Oops. book me a flight for Missoula. an incisive glint in his eye. Morgan stared at it for a split second.
” “In your opinion!” Just then. highly rational! That beast can solve the most complicated equations in mere seconds!” “But it doesn’t care about people!” “Who cares? Besides. As she brushed her long blond hair from her face. It’s highly intelligent. their parents came with a large table.” “So you’re still angry?” “This is all your fault! You should have selected a better brain!” Elias was offended.nightmare academy Elias’s sister Lisa brought a chair. “Thanks.” “But you were wrong. Even so. BOOM! BOOM! The sudden pounding told them where the monster was at: just outside the door. “I’m not doing this for you. she was still beautiful. I did what I thought was right. trying to smash it open. Elias could see that fear filled her eyes. “I selected the best brain money can buy. Elias took the chair and braced it against the door.” She answered. I’m not interested in your notions of should. “This is all your fault! You should have selected a better brain!” 14 . and all four of them leaned the table on end against the door.
“Self-interest?” Norton fumed. “What intelligence! What power! We’ve created a magnificent new creature!” Susan. “Based on what? Feelings?” Elias shouted. morals then.the kid in the padded room Norton.” “We had no right to decide!” Norton objected. “A magnificent new creature? Norton. remember? We couldn’t decide. I can’t say it’s evil. the mother.” “Morals?” Elias scoffed. the father. a conscience. “Whose morals?” Susan snorted. a matter of opinion.” “And that’s evil!” He thought it over even as the door thudded against his back with each impact of the beast’s angry fists. marveled. . we’ve created something evil and now there’s no controlling it!” He sneered at her even as they braced their backs against the door to keep it shut. “Evil? Come now.” “But that thing wants to kill us!” “Well .” said Lisa. We can’t impose right and 15 . “Perhaps we should have given the beast a.” “Neither am I. “We went through all that. he has that!” Susan sneered. “Oh. looked at him in horror and anger. but I’m not comfortable about it. “Well. antiquated notions? Good and Evil are only an invention of our society. . helping to hold the door shut. my darling! Since when have you adopted such old. “We can’t impose morality on something we created. “Well.” They all looked at her as if she were mad.
” BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The door and the barricade were weakening. CRACK! GROAN! The door was coming apart. “Hey. through the outside door. and away.” said Lisa.” Elias yelled angrily. This is now!” With that. “you were involved in this project just as much as we were!” “In your opinion!” she called back. don’t go! Stand with me! Help me!” BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The door and the barricade were weakening. “No. you can live with it—or die with it. she ran up the stairs. “But you aligned all the joints and synchronized the cardiovascular system! You.nightmare academy wrong on anything! There is no truth! What a monster believes is true. 16 . the stairway that would lead to the outside. and freedom. you even sewed his outfit!” “That was then. backing away from the door. is true for him.” said Susan. “Susan. moving away from the door. “Susan!” Norton shouted desperately. “I. “So here we are. I’m getting out of here!” She ran for the stairway on the other side of the lab. You made the creature. “Here you are. I just can’t stand it any longer!” Susan cried. leaving them behind.
“And so do I. Norton.” “But. those are your feelings. . creating a whole new breed of man. “She has to do what’s right for her. “Well . “It’s been fun. too!” Norton exclaimed. “Susan!” Norton screamed. working on a family project together. . you’re resilient.” He stepped away from the door. CRUNCH! The table barricade was bending like weak cardboard. no. shaking her head. As Susan ran up the stairs.the kid in the padded room She kept backing away. but you know. leaving them behind.” “Not you.” “Well. The door was breaking open. you’ll see! I just need to find my own path—such as. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with it—but I’d feel uncomfortable about it. Elias was backing away quickly as pieces of plaster and fragments of doorframe began to fall around him. “No. “I can’t? Who are you to tell me I can’t?” “If this monster gets loose. But I think Lisa may have had a point. The Gladiola Society. Dad. a 17 . out of here. I was going to have my eyes lasered. There are too many things more important to me. Norton. We gave our guy incredible strength and terrific brainpower. you’ll recover. but you can’t do that!” She looked at him quizzically. I can’t miss all that!” “But I need you!” “Oh. Elias admitted. Our money.” She headed for the stairs. he’ll terrorize all mankind!” “I suppose you see something wrong with that?” Norton had to think about it. Our house.
I’m not happy here anymore. too. I really don’t like running out on you like this. now can I?” Elias headed for the stairs. I would stay.” “Son! Don’t leave me here alone to face this monster!” “Well Dad. really. He dashed away from the door and turned to see the iron door flex. who’s to say there’s really a monster crashing in here? Maybe that’s just a matter of opinion.” “Son. that’s only a matter of opinion. and give way with a crash. “Opinion? You call this a matter of opinion?” “Can’t call it a matter of truth. The huge red eyes immediately focused on Norton. who was shaking with fear. “Are you talking to me?” 18 . The monster. but I can’t say it’s wrong. Of course.” “Son!” “Besides. entered the room. Norton knew it was useless to resist. “Stop!” Norton yelled.” And with that.nightmare academy sense of right and wrong would’ve been a good idea—even if there is no such thing. “I command you to stop!” The monster raised an eyebrow. warp. looking about for helpless human flesh to devour.” A rivet bounced off Norton’s head as he marveled at such a thought. have you no honor?” Elias stopped to think about that. “Well. The thing took one step forward. but it’s starting to get uncomfortable. “Looks like a nice day outside. towering and mighty. but resolute. he was up the stairs and gone.
19 . . moved forward. I’m bigger than you.” The monster. “This is a joke. drooling hungrily. I’m stronger than you.the kid in the padded room “Yes!” Norton replied. End of discussion. . do as you say? Take a look.” The monster was obviously amused. “I am your master! You have to do as I say. . buddy. right? Me.
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2 on the darkside 21 .
you get to be Lisa—but Norton?” “It’s the first name I thought of that started with an N. Sarah. “No. . And Nate. . gets to be Susan. Now. “Well . page by page. was the end of Norton.” Nate waved that aside.A nd that. unfortunately. Elisha.” “I mean. stretching his big frame a bit. cleaning his reading glasses. a former Montana 22 . smiling at the strange similar- ity his daughter’s characters bore to a real family—theirs. and she was late turning it in. blond and pretty. I can change it. Norton’s fine. “Norton?” His sixteen-year-old daughter. I can recover. grinned sheepishly across the dining table. Elijah gets to be Elias.” Nate Springfield read aloud. as a matter of discipline.” “So what do you think?” Nate deliberately took a long pause. This was Elisha’s last home school assignment for the year. He looked up from the manuscript. she had to finish it before she could go horseback riding with her brother. He leafed through his daughter’s writing assignment again. your mother. checking the weather out the window. I’m resilient.
“No. Fictional character. “No. . I’ll give you that. “But I said he had finely toned muscles!” Nate tried to stifle a laugh but could only stifle half of it. “in the same sentence. You split an infinitive here. .” “It’s not in a quote this time. “Mm.” “I notice that character’s your brother. “So tell me. “But Dad. .” 23 .” Elisha squirmed but grinned. “Okay.” “Never put where and at . “You don’t get it?” Nate smiled.” Elisha was mortified. “I want you to tell me. “I can’t believe I did that.” Nate laid the pages down on the table in front of him and leaned back. that’s in a quote.” “So what should it be?” She made the correction even as she said it. “Huh.” “Very good. He’s Elias.” He went to the next page. sweetheart.” Even Elisha was horrified to see the sentence in her own writing. Elias. . What does the monster represent?” Elisha was disappointed.” She looked where her father was pointing. It sure isn’t. “The sudden pounding told them where the monster was. The character doesn’t have perfect English.” She was quick to add.on the darkside lawman who used to “wait” confessions out of suspects. what’s this? The sudden pounding told them where the monster was at .” he began and she joined in unison with her father. thought a little anxiety would do his daughter good. .
quite satisfied. But when we erase truth from our thinking and say there’s no right or wrong except for what each person thinks is right or wrong. “Whoever has the most power—the biggest army.” “So.” Nate nodded. When there’s no truth that applies to everyone. he can even feel things emotionally—but if he isn’t given a good. meanest. He has strength.” “And who ends up making the rules when we reject truth?” Elisha adopted a grim.nightmare academy She twisted her mouth in thought. “Right.” “Like a monster running amok. without God-given morals. well. “The biggest. then there’s nothing to keep him from using strength and reason and feelings in selfish ways. toughest dude. “We wonder why people do such evil things. then there’s no way to argue for the rightness or wrongness of anything. .” 24 . why people rob and cheat and betray each other. guttural voice. .” She used her own voice to add. and when that happens. “Well done. Very well done. Elisha. solid standard for right and wrong. the most votes. even destructive ways. I’m sure your brother would like to get some riding in before the day’s gone. whoever has the most power calls the shots. the most money. Her father got the point. he can think. we get the kind of world we deserve. “Mankind without truth.” She brightened.” She grinned from ear to ear.” Nate prompted. why there’s so much violence in the world. then answered boldly. on the one hand. we tell ourselves that none of us are subject to any moral law outside of ourselves. the most newspapers or television networks. . “And now. and then we wonder .
oh so patiently. swing in a downward spiral. if Elijah felt nothing. but a success. staring. His own steed. waiting for Elijah to make still another attempt at an experiment. He could see the trajectory in 25 . then his prediction based on the available data would be correct and the experiment would be a success—not a Nobel prize winner. post-and-beam walls surrounding him. hugging her father. The big question: Launching from this location. and mostly. would he have enough inertia to kick off from the north wall. then at the ceiling beam to which the rope was secured. “Don’t slam the screen—” The screen door shut with a bang. Elisha’s twin—the one with the “finely toned muscles”—had saddled the horses. a chestnut named Charlie. Elijah stood atop a towering stack of hay bales. thus coming into contact with the saddle while in a state of near weightlessness? If Charlie felt nothing. jumping up. Elijah Springfield. stood patiently. and staring again at the strawstrewn floor of the barn. Holding a long rope suspended from a ceiling beam. in the center of the Springfields’ big barn. grabbing her cowboy hat. thinking. and then at his horse—still standing obediently. but only for so long.on the darkside “Yes!” Elisha exclaimed. and finally return to where Charlie was waiting at the very limit of the rope’s decaying swing. and heading for the door. swing over to the west wall. then at the high.
and just above it. . He was lower now. The arc of the swing was decaying. ready for a soft landing . BAM! His feet hit the wall. and then started with a quick run off the hay bales. He was flying. and he bounded off like a billiard ball. Ready. the saddle. the north wall approaching. suspended. blue-jeaned. BAM! Second rebound successful. but that was all in the plan. coming back toward his starting point. and he trotted out the barn door He was flying. I should work for NASA. The approach of a leg-kicking. checked the diagram in his mind one last time. suspended. Now. leather-brimmed spacecraft spooked planet Earth. He gripped the rope tightly. 26 . and there was Charlie’s hind end. the north wall approaching. . Perfect angle. one last spiral down. the rope moaning against the beam. but below it now. his legs flexing like springs. The west wall was coming at him. right along the base of the hay bales. like the planet Earth from a spacecraft window. as clearly as if he’d drawn it on his eye’s view of the barn with bright yellow chalk. the rope moaning against the beam.nightmare academy his head.
Hemingway!” She gave him a hand up. hat cocked back on her head. “So let’s go. He let go and fell into a pile of soft straw carefully placed there—in case something went wrong. Einstein. head over heels. Charlie and Pardner.” They hurried out of the barn. weight shifted to one hip. He rolled into it. brushing the straw off his arms and shoulders. and maybe even get as far as the tree line where they’d spotted bear tracks just two days ago. that minuscule moment of weightlessness when a landing would have been perfect. saddled and ready. .on the darkside just as Elijah reached the last. dying inch of the rope’s swing. letting the daylight back in. let’s do some riding. The afternoon sun was still high and the Montana sky deep blue.” “It’s about time. “Hey. watching him with great amusement. By this time. . he clung to the rope as it carried him backward. awaited them by the fence. before something else stops us. although he hadn’t mastered a weightless landing in a saddle. Elijah 27 . With an angry growl he sat upright. he had become quite skilled at landing in straw when something went wrong. half disappearing under the swishing stuff. There would be time to ride the ridge behind the ranch. . “Charlie! You keep throwing variables into the equation!” He lifted his brim. the world going dark as his cool leather hat with the rattlesnake band scrunched down over his eyes. With a cry of frustration and despair. “If you’d only spook at a uniform rate—” There stood his sister.
her hand on the saddle horn. slightly miffed. . and you’ve seen the response I got: Under no circumstances were we to 28 . Madison. Morgan—settling into the couch and chairs and on the big stone hearth while Morgan showed them photographs. This was a special ring. Was that Mr. Not for dinner. I sent this footage to the White House along with our proposal. and the rarely seen Mr. documents. A rental car was parked in front. and Mom and Dad stood on the veranda with . and I fixed that fence rail! I owe no man anything!” They came around the barn and looked across the pasture toward the big log ranch house. “Hey. Elijah and Elisha. and then let go. Elisha put her foot in the stirrup— And the dinner bell rang. and other information he and his little Washington staff had gathered. Elisha. . Morgan? They gathered in the lofty. “I hope it’s you this time!” Elijah dismounted. wilted.nightmare academy mounted Charlie in quite the conventional way—Charlie didn’t mind that. I turned in my paper yesterday. Then he slipped a DVD into their home entertainment system. rough-hewn family room—Nate and Sarah Springfield. calling them to the house for something important. Dr. “The clips you’re about to see were videotaped at Harborview Hospital in Seattle by a friend of mine.
But it’s obvious this whole operation has to be conducted with the same kind of caution.” Morgan replied. “Sounds like a government project to me. .” The Springfields looked at each other. “I don’t get it. You’re being asked to find out some things without knowing entirely why. the president can always say he told us not to get involved. in her gardening clothes. I found the entire contents of the videotape copied onto this DVD and hidden between the pages of my morning newspaper.” said Elisha. Then lo and behold. “That’s the rub.on the darkside investigate this. “It is. “I don’t know. shrugged her shoulders and said.” said Nate.” “Why?” Elijah asked. within minutes.” said Nate. and he can say so. or why such information is so important to . if the wrong people find out about this.” Sarah. whomever. or who knows why. “If anything goes wrong. in the utmost secrecy. Whoever sent the DVD did so without the president’s direct knowledge.” “Believable denial. along with a handwritten note. 29 . . “Believable denial. that his administration had nothing to do with our investigation.” “Sounds shady to me. her blond hair tied in a scarf.” said Elisha.” said Morgan. “Exactly.
the Springfields leaned forward in their seats. blank-eyed behavior of Alvin Rogers.” 30 .” “Don’t you want to put on a fresh shirt?” “I don’t know. that truth doesn’t exist. Would you like that?” “I don’t know.” “So let’s see what’s on the disk. standing in the center of the padded room and twitching nervously. Upon seeing the very first image. “You know: the ones who say nothing is true. knowing anything.” Elisha cracked. so she tried to explain. Dr.nightmare academy “It does indeed. and then you can have some lunch. Morgan pressed a button on the remote control and the widescreen television came to life. Madison examining him.” The recording played on for several minutes.” “We’ll get you changed. eyes riveted to the screen.” Nate said. a therapist exercising him. as a hospital nurse tried to start a conversation. “Can you raise your arms for me?” “I don’t know. They all looked at her strangely. then you can’t know anything. They all failed. trying to get him to acknowledge knowing something. and all of them trying to get through to the boy. “He sounds like a skeptical philosopher. If truth doesn’t exist. They were watching the mindless. showing the nurse feeding him. He was in hospital pajamas. looking at nothing.
crazy or not. A man and a woman entered the padded room.on the darkside “Watch what happens next. was spilling a torrent of words to his folks as they sat on the floor beside his bed.” said Sarah. .” “Nightmare. couldn’t climb. “there’s more just like it. “And immediately he started talking. running. I come to see the sky.” “Where was this?” his father asked.” His father said to someone off-camera. scratch myself. but not swimming. . . either . And I run. “What?” “Nightmare. . . “Listen to this.” said Nate.” 31 .” “Could you wind that back?” Elijah asked.” said Morgan. “Nightmare Academy. but the door wasn’t there. too. .” The recording cut to a later scene. getting a tear in her eye. Terrible. going up. I kept falling. “Terrible.” The boy began to tremble. “Don’t worry. “He knows who Mom and Dad are. “Where in the world has he been? Who did this to him?” Morgan interjected. “I. just. couldn’t reach it . . had to go swimming . “So he knows something.” said Morgan. never stopped and it hurt and I just didn’t know. you know. and climbing . and the kid. frightened and agitated. “Bending down. .” said Morgan. Alvin’s mother asked.” The kid kept going. “but check this out. It was dark.” said Alvin Rogers. fell into their arms and started crying. hurt my eyes. Now the kid. but it was upside down.
He was bright. “Cool. The image shook.” “And we don’t even know what it is.” Elijah said. did well in math and science.” said his father while trying to hold the boy down. pitiful wail. maybe just for something crazy to do. . “And what became of Harold. California. turn the camera off. I guess you can figure out what your assignment is going to be.nightmare academy His eyes grew wide as if looking into a hell only he could see—and no more words came. we’re hunting for something that cannot know it’s being hunted or it might disappear before we can find it. “One month before this was recorded.” Sarah added. For whatever reason.” Elijah said.” Nate leafed through the documents spread out on the coffee 32 . trying to back away from whatever he was seeing. Morgan pressed the stop button.” “Find out what happened to Alvin. “And what the truth is behind the whole thing. He began to kick and struggle. he and a friend named Harold Carlson ran away from home and got as far as Seattle before disappearing altogether. Morgan nodded. . Alvin Rogers was a fairly normal high school sophomore in Thousand Oaks. I’ll help you in any way I can. then blinked out. but remember. only a long. and stayed out of trouble.” Elisha concluded. if you want it. “Turn . and see if you can pick up their trail from there. “And what the Nightmare Academy is. Now Alvin has turned up crazy and Harold is still missing. “We’ll put you in touch with a youth shelter in Seattle where the boys were last seen.” Nate responded.
Seattle has its darkside—its troubled streets. in the shadows of the alleys. or doorway to call their own for the night. They are lonely. stringy hair. In the cold glare of the streetlights.” Elisha said. wearing a khaki jacket. stocking cap. the glimmering towers of downtown mingle with the stars. the lost. either for company or simply because there is only one place available out of the rain. “We’re going to have a lot to discuss. oversized mackinaw. This night. is a beautiful city at night—a blanket of jewels mirrored in water—and when the sky is clear. and a second-hand wool cap. landing. two wanderers apparently found each other while trying to stake a claim to a small stretch of concrete sidewalk and marble building that were still warm from the daytime sun. But like every city. but afraid of strangers. with black. jeans with holes in the knees. without shelter and hoping to find a lonely curb. and the runaways walk up and down the blocks. Seattle. reviewing each one and passing it along to the others. The other was a girl about the same age. dressed in ragged jeans. Her only 33 . Washington.on the darkside table. and tattered. eyes downward. One was a boy about sixteen. a hint of disappointment in her voice. hands in pockets. the destitute. the homeless. its districts of decay that become gathering places for those who have nowhere else to go. Sometimes they cluster with other wanderers. porch.” “Guess I’d better unsaddle the horses.
” Elisha passed the word along. pulled the collar of his old coat closer around his face. “We might try under the overpass again. a tired old vagrant relaxed on the concrete steps.” “Do you think we should try somewhere else?” Elisha asked. monitoring the conversation. “How does it look to you. Things were better last night. “Are you warm enough?” Down the street. 34 . “Dad wants to know if we’re warm enough.” “Plenty. Across the street and up half a block. The people at the youth shelter say a lot of runaway kids congregate there on the weekends after it gets late. in the doorway of a bygone brewery.nightmare academy luxury was a pair of headphones. his back against the bricks. apparently her way of shutting out the outside world. the girl heard the question through her headphones and called softly to the boy. in the back of a large van. The vagrant spoke into his collar. Sarah sat before an impressive bench of electronic gear and radio receivers. but curled up against the exhaust-blackened marble of the old publishing firm. “Except for that panhandler.” the boy added. a headset to her ear. and spoke in a quiet voice. we haven’t found anyone to talk to.” she spoke to the air. They spoke little. “Fine and bored. trying to share the same precious piece of ground without getting too close or too friendly. “We’re fine.” said the boy. He coughed. Sarah?” At the other end of the block. just watching the never-stopping traffic.
” Elisha reported.” While Elijah and Elisha acted indifferent and preoccupied. Nate could see the woman they were referring to. just a minute. and pricey running shoes. “It’s 11:07 and 40 seconds. but dressed well in dark slacks. too.” Elisha smiled.” “It’s just hard to—Whoa. “I think she’s looking at us. Somebody’s coming. “Hi. “They’re talking about another night under the overpass.” Elijah offered. “somebody who might know something. and Nate and Sarah could hear her voice over their kids’ radios. “I think it’s getting late. woolly red sweater.” Elijah tried to look without looking. light jacket. leave-mealone teenager.” She looked toward Elijah.” She told her brother. hopefully we’ll meet a different bunch. “She’s looking at us. “Are you kids ready for another night under the overpass?” Elisha made a face despite herself. she was dressed casually.on the darkside Elijah looked at his watch.” said the woman.” “Well. Her brother was proud of his extremely accurate watch. He saw her.” Elisha responded in the dull tone of a glum. The woman knelt down to Elisha’s eye level. “Hi. “Working on it. just a few blocks from here. “Is he with you?” 35 . I work with the Light of Day Youth Shelter.” Nate responded. “I’m Margaret Jones. all right. and offered a business card. She was a young and pretty redhead. and obviously not a runaway or vagrant.
“What’s the catch?” “No catch. Elijah accepted it with a shrug. Light of Day Youth Shelter. counseling. “You’re not the Living Way Youth Shelter? We’ve already been there. no. if you need a place to stay tonight. We’ll give you a good hot meal. 36 . rescue. no questions asked. “Well. Shelter.” She addressed both of them.” Sarah entered the name and address on a laptop computer. trying to help kids in trouble. and all we really want to do is get you off the street where you’ll be safe and have some shelter. “No. staying in character. 203 Miller Street.” She held out another business card. just a bunch of do-gooders. we have rooms.” The woman laughed apologetically and added. then read it out loud. You may like us. “Margaret Jones. but at least you’ll have a room for the night. “I don’t know. He’s just sitting there and I’m sitting here. and your own room with your own bed.” Elijah asked. we’re somebody else. gave a cynical sneer. we’ve been working the streets for nine years.nightmare academy Elisha shot her brother a sideways glance and shrugged. or it could be a very sly trap. We’re a charitable organization. It could be perfectly legitimate.” Elijah. a shower if you like. you may not.
a pleasant. I thought Living Way was the only youth shelter around here. He spoke into his collar.on the darkside “I’m not getting any matches. nonthreatening woman with business cards.” 37 . no record of this particular youth shelter. thinking it over: no matches in the computer. “This could be it. Let’s take it slow. one step at a time. and check it out.” Nate carefully eyed the woman talking to his kids. It could be perfectly legitimate. or it could be a very sly trap.
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3 truth and soup 39 .
taking his sister’s cue. “It beats another night on the street.” said Elijah.” She started up the street at a leisurely pace and the kids followed her. Not too many people who believe in Right and Wrong. 40 . heading up the hill. walking a block behind them.” Elisha replied. doing right by our friends. “Great! Come on.” Elijah conceded. Margaret Jones thought they were talking to her. “But it looks like you two trust each other. “It can get rough out here.” Elisha answered. I’ll walk you there.I ’m ready and willing. You know what I’m talking about? Do you think there’s a right and there’s a wrong?” They came to an intersection and turned right. You know what I mean?” “Yeah.” Nate reported. “Sure. “They’ve turned right on Spencer. and that’s the start of friendship right there.
watching a moving map on the dashboard linked with a GPS receiver. and they seem to have a pretty good sense of right and wrong. Margaret Jones kept on talking.” “That’s great. how about you? Do you believe in God?” “Absolutely.” “So. things like that.” Margaret Jones was delighted. “I was.” “Do you believe in God?” “Sure. How about you .” “Call me Jerry. what should I call you? You don’t have to use your real name. doesn’t it? I’ll bet you’re a very honest person then. .” “Did you like it?” “Sure.” “I try to be. . but there was something strangely “rehearsed” about it as if she was driving at something. I’ll check it out. that says a lot.” “Jerry.truth and soup Sarah was behind the wheel and driving the van.” She turned up Spencer and drove right by her kids as they walked with Margaret Jones. Elisha thought. do you think that helps you to be honest?” 41 . “Some kids grow up going to church. “Miller’s three blocks north of Spencer on Second. uh. Were either of you raised in church?” Go with the flow. “You are? Well. I’m a Christian.
three boys and a girl were playing a game of pool.” Nate reported. Through a wide archway to the right was a dining hall. I’m going to park somewhere. I’ve been wondering if a person’s religious beliefs have anything to do with their morals. several kids were sitting around the tables enjoying late-night soup and fresh baked bread. Through another wide archway to the left was a game and activity room. Inside was a small reception area with chairs. “Sure.” “I still have the kids.nightmare academy He decided to act “dull” about it. I guess. and clambered into the back where she once again manned the radio receivers and recording equipment. pulling the door open. following them up Second Avenue toward Miller. and a table neatly arranged with fashion. “Here we are.” said Margaret. sports. shut down the engine. “I’ve found it and it looks real. 42 .” “I mean. and Jay Leno was doing his opening monologue on television. and teen interest magazines. couches. Sarah parked against the curb a block past the shelter. What do you think?” Sarah drove past an old stone building cubbyholed between two newer ones and saw the little sign on the front window: Light of Day Youth Shelter.
“Looks like they’re going to be warm and safe. Sarah opened the passenger door of the van to let a dirty vagrant enter. “Hey. I think around twenty. “Life is full of surprises. . a pool table. . or do you want to eat first?” “Let’s eat. like you. From where they were parked.” Elisha narrated as well. He climbed into the expansive freight compartment. Do you want to see your rooms first. describing the place.” said Elijah. Bowls are over there. a library . then took a chair next to the radio console.” Sarah wagged her head.” 43 .” Elisha’s voice came over the radio as she conversed with Margaret.” said Elijah as they followed Margaret from room to room. .truth and soup “Wow. you even have an elevator!” “That takes you up to the rooms. They could hear the kids still talking. “A game room. and he wasn’t acting. removed his coat and hat. Some have been here for a week or so. .” “A game room. a library . they had a good view of the shelter through the van’s passenger window. how many kids are here?” “At last count. and some are fresh off the street. a pool table. Grab a spoon. “So.
guess that’s obvious. trying to observe their surroundings and ask—or answer—questions between bites and slurps. “Really what?” “You believe stealing is wrong?” 44 . They sat at one of the dining tables with bowls of hot soup and slices of fresh bread. Elisha muttered.” “Yeah. “Who wants to say grace?” Margaret smiled.nightmare academy “I think I’ll take these headphones off. In Jesus’ name. “A while.” Elisha bowed her head and prayed. “You go ahead. “It’s a God thing. “It’s nice to see kids who still say grace before they eat. We’re both low on money.” “So how’s it been going?” Elijah admitted. “Dear Lord. and Margaret sat down across from them. Amen. and stealing’s wrong.” Margaret commented.” Sarah and Nate exchanged a glance.” said Elisha. “Not great.” Elijah muttered.” The kids got right down to the business of eating. so—” “Really?” He looked up from his soup. thank you for this food and for a place to spend the night. “A while. Elisha admitted. Elisha was letting them know she wouldn’t be able to hear them for a while. “So how long have you been on the road?” Margaret asked.
as always. there’s no obligation . Classes.” She slid two brochures across the table. Elijah picked up the brochure and opened it. of course. “Oh. now here’s a new twist: a youth shelter with a sales presentation.” As one. Now. but you two are kind of special. and we pay the bill. 45 . . trying to make sure his voice would not quiver when he finally read the title out loud: “The Knight-Moore Academy. thought Elijah. one for each of them. with color photographs. . not at all. What’s it going to be? Elisha thought. A vacation package? A time-share? Maybe they’re recruiting people to sell candy door-to-door. . especially under these circumstances. Is that news?” She laughed. .truth and soup He gave her a look. bold title. I want to show you something. “Yeah. But it’s refreshing to see. He was reading for information. It was a simple brochure. Nate and Sarah leaned forward. He read some of the copy inside: A very special opportunity to be all you can be. eyes wide open. pressing the headsets against their ears.” Well. “I don’t show this to everybody. We should have known there was a catch. printed on glossy paper and folded into thirds. no. Their thoughts came to a dead halt the moment their eyes fell upon the brochure’s large. Say. but also stalling for time. activities. new friends .
Nate and Sarah looked at each other. tennis. close to nature. a video arcade with all the latest games. just to give you time to sort things out. or where you’re from. Bingo. discussion groups. “Up in the mountains. what is it?” Elisha asked. you know. counseling. get away from distractions and hassles and just have the chance to. if you’re interested—and if you want. . volleyball.” “So who’s paying for all this?” Elijah asked. the only one 46 .nightmare academy “Uhh . The academy is there for you. get a grip on things. “It’s a government pilot program. Margaret came on like a saleslady. We offer classes for high school credits. And there are plenty of activities to blow off steam: sports. not far from here.” Margaret replied. in its fifth year. “It’s like a cross between a summer school and a summer camp.” “And where is it?” Elijah asked. careful to control her voice. . or any other private information. “It’s a place where kids just like yourselves can get away from the city. to find yourself. guidance.” Elijah and Elisha looked at each other. “It’s free. It’s located in the woods. No one will ask you for your real name. Free room and board for as long as you need to stay—and you can maintain all the privacy you want. Pay dirt.
actually. he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. restore. If you decide you want to go. you have the option to provide the information. You can spend the night and get on the bus in the morning. Margaret had to think a moment. You both look pretty sleepy. of course. “I’ll give it a try.” “So.” 47 . your timing couldn’t be more perfect. “Um .” Elisha was feeling way past ready for bed. if you want the credit. thirty-acre campus deep in the heart of the national forest where guests can relax.” “You got that right.truth and soup of its kind. “Count me in. It’s kind of an experiment. “Sure. or any other private information?” Elisha asked. But that’s strictly up to you!” Elijah read from the brochure for the benefit of those listening. do you think you’d be interested?” That was an easy question. So. and then return to successful lives.” “And how do we get high school credit if we don’t divulge our names or where we’re from. your feedback is going to be very important to us. .” Elijah yawned despite himself. well. .” said Elijah. “‘A peaceful. “How early?” Margaret smiled. After a hot meal so late at night.’ So can we leave whenever we want?” “Of course.” said Elisha. if you choose to participate. “So how do we get there?” “A bus leaves here every Sunday morning. “I think we can get the bus to hang around until you’re awake.
you can take room 305. Nate and Sarah heard the elevator door open. pretending to talk to Margaret. talking about bed. .” “How about Sally?” Elisha said. the cables creaking. sleep. Uh . “Sally. then close. let me know. Nate and Sarah heard the elevator door open. “They’re going to get separated. “Elisha. if you have your headphones on. Go ahead and get some sleep. “We’re going to check out the academy. I can show you your room. and be sure to call us the moment you wake up in the morning. It’s to the left and down near the end of the hall.” Elisha didn’t respond. Elisha.nightmare academy Sarah was already tapping the information into her computer. do you have your headphones on?” Elisha’s voice came back. They were leaving the table. I’m halfway through the final cut. Sarah said.” Nate said. .” 48 . The three-way conversation just continued. “I can’t find any information on this place.” “No problem.” said Margaret.” Sarah called. “Pardon me for putting these on. heading for the elevator. either. and towels. It began lifting. Then they heard Margaret’s voice: “Jerry. soap.
in the kitchen. Just like a college dorm. he nodded to himself. 49 .truth and soup Margaret was holding the elevator door open. Good fingerprints. Nice room. “Will do. He set them in a neat pattern on the tabletop. won’t you?” He drew a sleepy sigh and acknowledged the message. turned left. “Nighty-night. and lightly dusted them with fine. waved a lazy good-bye. He found a toothbrush in a plastic wrapper and managed to brush his teeth. Carefully holding a drinking glass up to the light. “This is your floor. and that was the last thing he remembered. black powder. Jerry. the cook carefully took Elijah’s and Elisha’s bowls. There was a bed ready and waiting.” Elisha stepped into the hall with Margaret. but beyond that. apparently jiving with the music. Give us a call in the morning. Without undressing. and glasses into a small office and closed the door. and soap and towels next to the sink. spoons. and found 305. Downstairs. eyes closed. took out a soft brush. Elisha awoke from her groove.” Margaret prompted. “Oh!” She looked sleepily at her brother and said. he was just too sleepy. then got out. Elijah rode the elevator up one more floor. Elisha stood in the elevator. and then the elevator door closed. he flopped onto the bed.
I’ve seen some truckers stopping there for the night and so far there’s no ordinance against it. This kind of trouble they didn’t need. “We won’t be able to keep an eye on the youth shelter. Nate and Sarah.” “Well. If you want to go up three blocks. officer. and they heard Elijah snoring. There was a police officer standing outside. sure thing.” Sarah hated it. asleep on narrow cots in the back of the van. “Hello. Sarah double-checked the receiving equipment one last time.nightmare academy About two in the morning. were awakened by a loud rapping on the driver’s window. She and Nate could hear Elisha turn over in her bed. Thanks. they turned in. 50 .” “We’ll just have to make it a short night and get back here first thing in the morning. there’s space to park next to the on-ramp. but you can’t park here.” They drove away and found the spot the officer had told them about. Nate threw off his blankets and went up to the front.” “I’m sorry. Satisfied the kids were safe for the night. shining his flashlight in the window. Nate had to squint into that offensive light as he rolled the window down a few inches. officer.
A night nurse sat alone behind her small reception desk. “Fourth floor! Fourth floor!” While the nurse was out in the hall. slipped past her unoccupied desk. a tall. the two men trying to hold him were obviously hospital orderlies—and obviously on the wrong floor. was the one doing the yelling. he hurried silently down the narrow hallway to a padded room. One room was filled with doctors and nurses almost speechlessly treating a patient. and into Observation and Evaluation. his mouth drooling. trying to be heard above the crazy man’s hollering. The one in the middle. and wrestling out. “Which way to Safe Confinement?” The nurse hurried into the hall. the door opened. he entered and went to the bedside of a sleeping boy. She looked up. “Assassins! Assassins!” Dressed in hospital whites. Silently. working on paperwork by the light of a desk lamp. Keeping one ear tuned to the commotion. selecting his instruments. locked against the occupant’s escaping. and most of the lights were out in Observation and Evaluation. but easily opened from the outside. and three men came stumbling. This would not take long. sliding. his eyes wild. He reached into a leather case at his side.truth and soup The hallway was quiet. shadowy figure emerged quickly from the stairway door. held tightly by the other two and struggling to get loose. From somewhere she could hear someone yelling. 51 . Was that— The elevator dinged. waiting for the rest of the night staff to return from their dinner break.
“Could be a number of things: the distance from the transmitters. “There’s no signal! They’ve quit transmitting!” Nate rolled off his cot and took the chair next to her.” Sarah got to the driver’s seat first. rousing a mental checklist of possible causes from his sleepy memory. nothing but static. eyes still blurry. the van came to life. “What time is it?” “I’m not getting a signal. power lines nearby . and she steered for the Light of Day Youth Shelter. 203 Miller Street. The city block looked different in the morning light. . 52 . he entered and went to the bedside of a sleeping boy. The frequency was dead. It was ten minutes after six in the morning. and muttered. the building the kids are in.” “What do you mean?” She went to the radio bench and fussed with the tuners.” He checked his watch.” “Let’s get over there. With a rumble and roar. He rechecked the tuners. He rolled over on his cot.nightmare academy “Nate!” It took several nudges before Nate realized it was Sarah who was nudging him. but she thought she recognized the buildings as she drove Silently. where we’re parked. . “Absolutely.
He could see a small lobby and a registration desk with a clerk sitting behind it. stone building wedged between them. . . “The youth shelter’s using an old hotel.” “So why isn’t their sign up in the window?” “Uh . Sarah remained. The letters painted on the window and on the front door read.” Nate started back. We might still get a signal. “What?” “It is a hotel. “Oh. . and then the old. most likely office space. don’t stare too long. the . They hopped out and ran back. and then walked toward the door with Sarah right beside him. her voice choked with foreboding. . . She eased the big van farther down the hill and parked in a loading zone. looking through the window in the front door. okay. He joined her and looked through the window as well. There was no archway to the right that led to a dining hall. The Dartmoor Hotel. Potted plants.” Nate said. He pushed the door open. A clerk. A registration desk. It was a hotel lobby. . Dartmoor Hotel. but if we don’t we can wait for that bus to come for the kids. An old ceiling fan slowly spinning. they went inside . there was only a wall with a faded painting and 53 . followed by a phone number. “What now?” “Let’s get back in the van.” she said. and then we can just make a visual contact. It makes sense.” She forced herself to look away and appear detached. He took a step toward the door. looked more intently. An old man sitting in a chair reading the paper.truth and soup down the hill: the two newer ones.
uh. She almost objected. “Excuse me?” Nate said. They approached the desk. “We’re trying to find the Light of Day Youth Shelter. “We’ve got the wrong building. the one at 203 Miller Street. reading the paper. his face a little pink. “Sorry. but there was no game and activity room beyond it.” He looked at her quizzically again.” said Sarah. This is the Dartmoor Hotel. “We’re looking for the Light of Day Youth Shelter. Sarah needed a little prodding. He was a little man with a round head and thin. quite edgy.” Nate was stuck for a moment. There was an archway on the left. something like that—” “No. It’s been at this address for fifty years. but then he chuckled.” “Oh! There’s a youth shelter down on Second. “Yes. “I guess you have the wrong address. can I help you?” “We’re looking for the Light of Day Youth Shelter. no television—only an empty banquet hall with yellowing wallpaper.” The clerk looked at them blankly. peeling woodwork. then apologetically. The place was dead quiet. no pool table. The clerk looked up.nightmare academy two potted plants. black hair. He didn’t even look up to see who came in. so he took her arm. but he told her. pedestal ashtrays. no library. and dirty. Living Way.” 54 . We’re in the wrong place. The clerk behind the registration desk looked bored. “I’m sorry?” Nate repeated.” He started for the door.
the goofy one-liners of Jay Leno opening the Tonight Show. dishes clinking. a misread. you can take room 305. and of course. laughter. “It can’t be! Come on. This was the building!” He was embarrassed. circling all those blocks. “Nate. Sarah went in the back and searched through the recording they’d made the night before until she found Elijah’s voice reading the address off Margaret Jones’s business card: “203 Miller Street. A little after 7:00 in the morning. it stubbornly remained 203 Miller Street. staring. then the next.” He drove from the driver’s seat and she “drove” from the passenger seat as they rounded the block. then went up the hill to the next avenue and doubled back. talking. the dining hall. Nate parked the van across the street and half a block from the Dartmoor Hotel. Then they heard Margaret’s voice telling Elijah. Wish as they might for a mistake. the address they’d copied down the night before had not changed. “Jerry. this was it. the distant clack of pool balls hitting each other. the kitchen. nor any building that even resembled it. They were trying to think instead of panicking. as the recording kept playing and they heard the voices of Elijah and Elisha describing the game room. They found no Light of Day Youth Shelter. she looked back.truth and soup When they reached the sidewalk outside. a different address in the morning light.” Then she and Nate sat silently in the front seat of the van.” 55 . wondering. we’d better circle the block. They could hear the voices of young people in the background. then tried the next block. We’ve got to find our kids before that bus comes.
“It’s like I’m having a nightmare. They went up the stairs as quickly as quiet would allow. “and I can’t wake up. He kept saying ‘I don’t know’ as if . staring at the building across the street. Then Sarah almost whispered. up the block. Sarah knocked on the door. They found the door to room 305. .” said Nate.” said Sarah. but now that isn’t true anymore. .nightmare academy They were out of the van in an instant. Nate and Sarah were speechless for an unnatural length of time. “‘I don’t know. “Uh . We’re in another world. . no. maybe even my sanity. as if all knowledge and logic were gone. Trash lay on the old carpet. The Dartmoor Hotel had a back stairway. Nate. we don’t want any!” Back in the front seat of the van. the boy in the hospital.” “As if he’s been here. a radio was playing softly. Jerry?” A woman’s voice answered from inside. and graffiti marred the walls.” Nate caught her meaning—“.” “Like we’re going crazy. . . “Whatever you’re selling. then stole down the third-floor hallway. dashing across the street. and down the narrow alley. “Who is it?” Then a man’s gruff voice rumbled. . Inside. . It was messy.” 56 . I know we followed the kids here last night . It’s as if someone’s trying to erase my memory.’” “What don’t you know?” “No. .
“Morgan. either. “So we’ve tracked the kids to a certain point.truth and soup They both fell silent.” Nate punched in a number on the van’s cell phone. But I’m quite sure he was murdered.” said Sarah.” “It’s like I’m having a nightmare. Nate quickly recapped what had happened. I want you to tell us we’re not going crazy. It’s gone.” There was silence. .” Nate raised his voice. They were thinking. “Whoever they are. “Nate. Nate finally commented. who in the world are we dealing with?” There was another significant pause before Morgan replied. “and I can’t wake up. then said. “And they have our kids. his anger apparent. .” “And . the boy in the hospital. . ?” “The kids aren’t there—but that point isn’t there anymore. like it never existed. they’re very good at what they do. switching it to speakerphone so they could both converse.” 57 . and . The death certificate will undoubtedly say it was a massive heart attack.” Sarah’s voice tightened with fear. I was going to call you—” “Morgan. “What’s happened?” “Reality is shifting before our very eyes!” Sarah told him. Mr. “I have one clue for you: Alvin Rogers. and then a sigh at the other end. is dead. Morgan answered on the second ring. .
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4 waking up in nightmare 59 .
warm and dazzling.” Then he became aware of something else: kids’ voices laughing. hollering. He became aware of his clothes. and now he was paying for it. cheering. Volleyball in the middle of the city? He opened his eyes. Yes. Now he’d worn them all night. but. Sunshine was pouring in through the window. He didn’t remember this room very well. of course. It made him squint. the same clothes he’d been wearing for days. he could hear the distinctive sound of a volleyball being batted about. and he could hardly open his eyes. and if he didn’t get a shower and something fresh to wear. he was going to be one very smelly “runaway. but very slowly. as if a rollicking game was going on.E lijah began to wake up. he was so sleepy last night he Volleyball in the middle of the city? 60 . He raised his head and looked around. His body felt like lead. He’d already spent several rough days and nights hanging out on the streets of Seattle without much sleep.
He sat up on the bed. volleying and spiking the ball over the net. a soccer and football field. The field was bordered on all four sides by campus structures that reminded him of a YMCA camp. taking in scenery he wasn’t ready to believe. The walls and ceiling were painted white. maybe some classrooms. He froze where he stood. and especially the small radio transmitter he 61 . forested hills. It wasn’t large. and a volleyball court where a good-sized bunch of kids were having a rollicking game. a handkerchief. and dormitories like the one he was standing in right now. pausing a moment to let some dizziness pass. recreation building. With some effort. He was looking out on what appeared to be a summer camp. half a stick of gum. There’d been a change during the night. patting his pockets. hardly breathing. It looked cleaner than he remembered. Everything was still there: a little spare change. possibly mountains—from this window he couldn’t see their tops. His bed was set against one wall.waking up in nightmare wasn’t paying much attention. and an attractive blue carpet was on the floor. just a typical hotel room. Elijah immediately checked himself over. On the other hand. he rose to his feet and went to the window. he did remember brushing his teeth in a small bathroom that now appeared to be a closet. Immediately outside the window was a wide-open field of green grass—a baseball diamond. He didn’t remember the dresser or the desk from last night. most likely a dining hall. Beyond all of it were steep. nothing moving but his eyes as he scanned left and right. and against another wall were a small dresser and a desk.
He remembered he and Elisha did agree to give the Knight-Moore Academy a try. The man made a face as if he were looking at a slob. in burgundy blazer. but he hadn’t the slightest memory of how they got from that moment and that place to this one. I’m still Jerry.” Elijah opened the door. He studied his reflection. Knock knock knock! A male voice called from outside the door. “Hello? Jerry? You awake?” Okay. They? He was immediately concerned for Elisha. the dorm superintendent. He searched his memory and found it disappointingly blank. As far as he could tell.nightmare academy was wearing under his shirt. with brown. in his thirties. A mirror hung on the wall just opposite the closet. Elijah felt like a slob just being in his presence.” He was immediately concerned for Elisha. “Where’s your uniform?” “I. 62 . you’ve got a meeting with the dean in five minutes. He was dressed a bit formal. I don’t know about any uniform. white shirt. The man standing outside was wellbuilt. simply moved. who is it?” “Clyde Stern. his body and everything on it had not been disturbed. and black tie. he found nothing of concern. “Uh. Elijah told himself. black slacks. Let’s go. but apart from looking like a street bum who’d slept in his clothes all night. curly hair and a smile that looked a little grim.
Bingham. “What about that girl who was with me?” he asked. and there it was: a burgundy blazer. well. the condition of this place didn’t make a lot of sense. “She’s gonna meet us there. “Don’t give me that. black slacks. walking briskly down the hall because it was the only thing he knew to do. Oh. The dean. hop-to-it manner. well. “Bingham’s gonna have a cow!” “Who?” “Mr. Remember?” “Guess I’d better change—” Stern just yanked on Elijah’s shirtsleeve.” “So she’s okay?” Stern looked at him with that same judgmental eye. Elijah’s mind was still fuzzy.” Elijah followed Stern. and black tie. litter and clothing were lying about. “What have you been doing all morning?” Stern demanded. . taking a walkway that led across the campus. Considering Stern’s snappy.” Elijah ventured a look in the closet. . “No time. and he was still trying to catch up with . Bingham doesn’t wait. white shirt. It’s right there in your closet. The hall was messy. all freshly pressed and ready to go. and there was graffiti on the walls. he could definitely smell himself.” They went out a door and into the sunshine. Nothing was making much sense yet. kid. In a lot better shape than you right now. “She’s great. 63 . everything.waking up in nightmare Stern looked past Elijah into the room. uniformed.
Stern kept walking. He looked back. some were just followers. Don’t get ’em mixed up. types. A. the rest didn’t look friendly. some were flirts and proud of that. 64 . so you’re in B. “This is the place. They’ve got pool tables. video games. We have four dorm buildings. foozball. frizzed hair. dressed in black shorts and burgundy tee shirt. burgundy tee shirts. He waved from the sidelines of the game. snazzy running shoes. CDs. whatever you want. A’s for girls. Some were jocks and proud of it. not proud of anything. “Let’s get on with the game!” They all went back to their game. “Hey. purple hair. C. three squares a day.” said a big guy holding the ball. It was his serve. Easley!” Easley looked like a typical coach. B’s for boys. “Come on. dreadlocked hair. and Elijah and Mr. That’s the dining hall. waving hello.” The buildings looked new and freshly painted—basic white. Over on the other side there are two more: C’s for girls. He was young and athletic.nightmare academy Stern waved toward the volleyball game. “That’s the library right there— you can check out books. long hair. “I take it this is the Knight-Moore Academy?” Elijah asked. “So that’s the new guy?” “Yeah. Ping-Pong. no hair. Isn’t he a mess?” Now the whole game stopped and about thirty kids took a moment to stare at the mess. A and B are where you just came from.” said Stern. with short hair. D’s for boys. over there. That building over there is the recreation hall. The friendly ones waved. They came in all colors. videos. and D. and sizes. They were all dressed in the same outfit as the coach: black shorts. lots of stuff. B.
even some snow-covered peaks in the distance.” Elijah had been eyeing one thing that looked a little out of place: At the far edge of the athletic field was a high stone wall with a big iron gate. The scenery all around the place was spectacular: mountains. the planting beds along the buildings. Don’t tell me you don’t remember. so strung out they don’t remember anything. complex corners. tall forests.” “So how did I get here?” Stern made a face at that question. “Man. surrounded by green lawns and lush gardens. and on the forested hill beyond that wall. “What in the world is that place?” “You don’t want to go there. Don’t worry about it. all the lawns were neatly kept.waking up in nightmare with burgundy trim.” said Stern. up in the trees. “Where is this place?” Stern just waved off the question. “But what is it?” “Where is this place?” 65 . You rode the bus up here. “In the mountains. though small. stood an impressive mansion with ornate gables. were weeded and flowers were blooming. and tall windows. you’d better get tuned in. But don’t worry about it.” He only chuckled and sneered.” “I don’t remember. We get a lot of your kind in here. “I can believe it.
still jet-black. bookish woman in a female version of the standard Knight-Moore uniform: burgundy blazer. She broke into a big smile when she saw him. brother.” 66 . “But if there are bears around. Somebody made a fortune selling uniforms to this place. Had a gal last summer just about got her face torn off. chilled by the warning. They’re getting to be a real problem. private-school girl. She looked like a posh. their contents strewn all over the grass and sidewalk. and looked great. stay right here on the grounds. get a clue: Don’t go into the woods. here comes that girlfriend of yours. why are you using conventional garbage cans? I mean. exasperated. “Looks like you have some bears around here. make that girl acquaintance going by the name Sally coming their way.” “Yeah. deciding not to run and hug her. rub it in. “You look like dirt. you’re alive!” “Pretty much. okay? Just stay on the campus. her washed hair. It was terrible. white blouse. Her face was clean. black skirt.” Elijah looked up the sidewalk and the sight made his day: His sister—well. “This is getting serious!” Elijah ventured.” “You got that right. looking at some garbage cans knocked over and rolled about. by the way.” Elijah answered. Elisha was wearing the same thing. Hey. a far cry from the street kid she’d been portraying the night before. not again!” Stern stopped. accompanied by a small. black scarf. was blowing in the breeze. any bear that wants to can pop these right open—” “All right.” “Right. “Hey.” he answered.nightmare academy “It’s the headquarters for—oh.
maintaining a brisk pace. actually— through a nearby doorway marked “OFFICE.” A door at the end of the hall stood open. “Me. he was definitely on the paunchy side. exchanging a look. Bingham.” Elijah answered. closing the door behind them. this is Mrs. “You feeling okay?” Elisha asked in a near whisper. guided them to two chairs in front of Bingham’s desk. I—” “Step this way. Meeks. “Hello. I am Mr.” Mr. the academy dean. Stern and Meeks whisked them through the door. “Welcome to Knight-Moore.waking up in nightmare “Jerry. “Mr. some desks. their hosts right behind them. and through that door they saw a man sitting behind a desk.” they said. Bingham’s waiting.” said Mr. Bingham said in a slow. looking over his reading glasses at them. Then they hurried down the central hallway.” “Hi. “Welcome to Knight-Moore Academy. “Kind of woozy. and went out. Did you have a pleasant trip?” “Well. 67 .” Stern and Meeks led them—they felt herded. His hair was a fright wig of black and gray. actually. and a computer but no one there at the moment. feeling like two newspapers tossed on someone’s doorstep. Elijah and Elisha in front. lots of papers lying around. too. hands folded. Slam! They sat still.” They passed by a front office with a counter.” He extended his hand and she greeted him. Stern. sweeping manner. Jerry. You do not have to give me your real names. and he seemed to be studying them before they even got there.
his gaze shifting from one to the other and back. don’t you?” “I wasn’t aware of it until five minutes ago. did some mental comparisons. his gaze shifting from one to the other and back.” They looked at each other. searching for an answer. to maintain comradeship among the students. Wherever you came from—and I don’t care to He eyed them with a strange fascination. “Mr. you do have a uniform. don’t you see. “Young man. but he just kept going. Bingham wasn’t laughing.nightmare academy He eyed them with a strange fascination. leaned over his desk. but starting now. “Where would you like it to be?” They looked at each other. you must consider this a rare opportunity to create your own world the way you would have it. and young man. They’re important.” “Uniforms are one of the few requirements we have here. Mr. Bingham. 68 . and asked over his reading glasses. “Young lady. if you weren’t so beautiful. We are all equals here.” Elisha asked. just where is this place?” He smiled. “I don’t mean to evade your question. the two of you could be twins. to eliminate any semblance of superiority. Great joke. and then laughed. if you weren’t so disgusting.
There will 69 . as part of the process. you fled from that. a world.” “My own truth?” Elisha asked. well.” He passed them each a list of classes and a schedule. trying to find your own way.waking up in nightmare know where. “Pick out what you like. “Also. eyebrows up. math. . Here is where you can think for yourself. . you can be somebody else. I’m sure you realize that. “As part of this process. attend optional classes for high school credit. Well. . and Truth. “But. history. a chance for you to toss around new ideas and for us to gauge how well we’re doing. no. “You’re certainly permitted to be yourself if you so choose. studying them from different angles. art . We offer classes in English. but don’t delay. of course. remedial reading. a truth that fits you better than what you had at home. . “Consider this the first real step of your journey. you can. whatever you want it to be. you believed what they told you. “Well. and so forth. not yours. Are you with me thus far?” Elijah started to say. . but if you so choose. we require participation in discussion circles with Mr. You’re coming in a few days late. You did what they told you. teachers. Easley.” He began to walk slowly around the room. thank you—you were confined to and controlled by the expectations of those around you: parents. and find your own truth. if you wish. .” He stood behind his desk and held his lapels. . run away from home. church. find out for yourself.” But Bingham just kept going. Truth was theirs. study for yourself. humanities. What matters is that you are happy with whom and what you’ve decided to be. not really . didn’t you? Here you are.
don’t you see: You have yours here.” “But what are you trying to accomplish?” “No doubt you have noticed the mansion on the hill. It’s safe to assume that you have very little money. this is a closed campus. but for your own safety.” He handed each of them a bag. light in weight. “What’s up there?” “The mansion is off-limits. with national forest for miles in all directions. we have ours there.” “Sure have. “Everyone is a guest here. If you venture too far into those woods. and that would taint everything we’re trying to accomplish here. be absolutely certain of that. We’re out in the middle of hostile wilderness. “Agreed. And besides . you could become lost and we would have no way to find you. We all have our own little kingdoms. probably made of tin or aluminum. and there can be no leaving.” Bingham brought out two small. Inside were shiny metal coins the size of a quarter. Please be there. Easley’s classroom at 1:30. This campus is your home.” said Elijah. and the only safe place is within the boundaries of the campus. cloth bags closed with drawstrings. That would bring in the outside world. On one side 70 . “These are Knight-Moore dollars. “Oh. heavens. Respect that.” “Now. I suppose you’ve already seen indications of our bear problem? We not only have bears.nightmare academy be a discussion circle in Mr. the mansion belongs to your faculty and leadership. we have cougars. Agreed?” They nodded. no. . . Are you with me thus far?” “Are there telephones?” Elijah asked.
waking up in nightmare was the “value. Meeks ushered them out of the office and back down the hall toward the front door. KM. games in the Rec Center.” 1 KM Dollar. You can earn more. I bid you welcome. I’ll walk you back. treats from the cafeteria vending machines.” “Where will you be?” Elijah asked Elisha.” said Elijah. Meeks. Stern and Mrs. show you the showers. “Come. and Mr. “Come on. spend it all. still bewildered. Sally. The door opened again. with “The Knight-Moore Academy” inscribed around the outside. “On behalf of the faculty and staff. “Where are you staying?” “Dorm C. on cue. and so forth. it’s up to you. It’s an additional measure to provide our own in-house economy while discouraging theft and greed.” said Mrs. but no. “good for purchases at the Campus Exchange.” 71 .” Stern answered for Elijah. “These are the academy currency. What’s your room number?” “Room 6.” “Thank you. then told him.” they answered. I’ll introduce you to the others. room 4.” He sank into his chair again and looked across his desk at them. “I’m over in dorm B. “Watching the volleyball game. and on the other side were fancy letters.” Bingham continued. Elijah was expecting to see Mr. Bingham’s profile. Each of you gets twenty-five KMs to start. facing the playfield.
” “Good. everything. They have to think they’ve picked up two runaways.” Sarah lamented. answered.” “Morgan. Keep in mind that whoever it is could have spies in the sheriff’s department. “We still don’t know. “Yes. Hello. the layout of the hospital. and we still need you to find out. I can see you as well.” said Nate. I wouldn’t go anywhere near the BMC.” “They mustn’t know it. the police.” “You’re not making this easy. To do so would give someone a clue that your kids are not what they appear to be. Let’s not help our adversaries any further. his condition.” said Sarah. or the sheriff. We can see you clearly. “I’ll do all I can to make it less difficult. in the back of their big van. We’ll have to communicate through this discrete system for the time being and not trust the telephones.” “Who are they?” Nate asked. Someone knew all they needed to know to kill Alvin Rogers: his whereabouts.” “So we can’t talk to the hospital.” 72 . “All right.nightmare academy Morgan’s face spoke from the screen on Sarah’s laptop. “Or the police. Apparently. Is the signal clear?” Nate and Sarah. Alvin Rogers could have told us once he regained his sanity. “they have our children. the hospital staff—anyone and everyone who had anything to do with Alvin Rogers. not two investigators. the Bureau for Missing Children. And until we can find out more about this Nelson Farmer character. who the nurse was on the night shift.
A tall white guy with a nearly shaved head scooped it up and put it back into play. the ball bounced from one player to the next. who said a quick hello. Easley. Sarah wasn’t about to sit still. and then bump! it hit the ground.” “How about our friends at the youth shelter—the real one?” Elisha definitely had that “new girl in school” feeling as she approached the volleyball game. None of the kids playing the game paid her any mind. and then Bam! a big. 73 . the ball bounced from one player’s hands to the next. leaving Nate and Sarah feeling very alone. The game was getting intense. not with her kids missing. Mrs. we have to trust somebody. bap.” The image blinked off the screen. “Hey!” came some protests from the opposing team. unintelligible roar. Bap! A girl swatted the ball over the net. bap. Bip. Bip. bat. “Nate. bung. The ball was sailing over the net and bouncing off hands at a frantic pace. but the game kept going.” “Good-bye. and the yells and screams were reaching one big. muscular guy spiked it back. coming down to the wire. Meeks kept a motherly hand on her shoulder to encourage—or perhaps force—her along. until she stood next to Mr.waking up in nightmare “We’ll be in touch.
‘Either they won or we did. but some of the kids rolled their eyes when he said it. so it’s the experience that matters.” said the little Hispanic. Easley sounded his whistle.” said Mr. to make it what you want. “Listen. “You have power over the experience. You can all be winners and the score doesn’t have to mean anything. “Ah. ’til a few seconds ago. Everybody on that side wailed in defeat—and disgust.” “So?” said the black girl’s companion. He had to blow his whistle to get their attention. but listen. “We did. That’s both/and. a stocky Hispanic who must have cut her own hair. See what you’re doing? You’re falling into that old trap again. “You played on it. But let me ask you this: Did you enjoy the game?” “Yeah. trying to see things as either/or. “Then it was an experience. That’s game. wasn’t it?” He raised his voice so everyone could hear. “See?” said Easley. “The ball hit the ground before he hit it!” The culprit on the other side retorted. “That’s either/or. “You’re saying. pointing at the tall white guy. Easley.” He asked the 74 . then you’ve already won as long as you think you’ve won. Mr. Good job!” “No fair!” a black girl in dreadlocks wailed. “Aren’t you?” Easley prodded.” said the tall white guy. twenty-one to eighteen. “Okay. that’s it. If you enjoyed playing the game.nightmare academy It shot like a cannonball between two players and bounded off the ground.’” “They didn’t!” said the black girl.” Elisha wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
and several of his teammates agreed with him. we won.” Maria gave a grumpy sigh and attempted it.” Girls and boys came forward. no right or wrong. “I won!” A few of her teammates—all from the “losing” side—tried to match her enthusiasm. “We won.” the tall guy finally conceded. which cheered only half of them.” “Hi. and some pretty hot protests. see if you can say it using both/and. There’s no winning or losing here. “Hi. Sally. Maria. There’s just the game and what you make of it. I guess. right. yeah!” “No way.” “But we won!” said a chubby gal on the “losing” side. “What name would you like?” Elisha was confused by the question. Sally.” There was a collective moan from several. shaking her hand. “Until next time.waking up in nightmare little Hispanic.” “Sore losers. Another moan.” A cute blond with wire-rimmed glasses hopped in the air and squeaked.” He asked Elisha. Easley called out.” “Hi. If the experience was yours and you enjoyed it. “What name? Oh. Sally. “Oh right. “Come on.” “We all won.” said the muscular guy. “And you’re right!” he told the moaners. this is the new girl. Sally.” 75 . this is Sally. “Hey. then you won. “You’re right!” said Easley. “Listen. Let’s make her welcome.” “Yeah.” “Everybody. that’s all. “Both our team and their team won.
“Next time. I guess I’m just myself.” “Whoa! I’m not ready for that one yet. Alex glared at him. Hi. with a parting dagger-eye at Alex.nightmare academy “Hi. Who are you today? Are you somebody?” “I . I hear it’s pretty. “Be careful.” With a quick nod toward Alex he added.” said Muscles. “Hi. I’m glad you could be here to see us win. “I was Alice yesterday. “Brett. surfer type. . “So you’re Alice! Mrs.” “Oh . did you know that?” Elisha smiled.” The cute blond with the wire-rimmed glasses stepped up with springs in her feet.” said the surfer. Hi.” Brett pointed his finger in Alex’s face. Are you the new girl in room 4?” “Yes. the big. 76 . “Hey. “I stand where I want. .” “Next time.” Then.” The girl laughed. okay. “We’ll see.” “I’m from Maine.” Alex agreed. looking her over and enjoying it.” Then two sizable jocks stepped up. “the name’s Alex.” “We all won. with fight in his eyes. Marcy. who said you could stand here?” Brett came right back.” “Cool! We’re roommates. . I’m Marcy today. “It’s nice to meet you. Brett extended his hand. Sally. he left.” Alex only smiled as if amused. muscular guy and a good-looking. Meeks was telling me about you. I’ve always wanted to be from there. .
” —and one sweet person who’s afraid to be herself. Easley came near. Sally. How about that?” “Cool. Hey. playing a role. you know who to call. “He’s got a few problems—being a loser’s one of them. . I’m Sally for now. “Are you Sally for today. Don’t worry about anything. I’m going to need your help with this one. wearing that perpetually kind smile.waking up in nightmare Alex confided. We’re all friends.” So how do I answer this one? “Well.” Mr.” Weird. 77 . . “let’s go get our room set up just the way we want it.” Really? thought Elisha. or are you always Sally?” “I’m .” said Marcy-for-today. Elisha finished her thought. but so is everybody else! Dear Lord. if there’s anything you need. Elisha thought. “You’re going to have a great time here. like our own little world. Two roosters about to spur each other. Here I am. and— “Come on.
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5 “what’s yours is mine” 79 .
A little before noon.” The visitor looked around one more time. what do you do here? You rent rooms by the week. a balding. the Dartmoor Hotel had an unexpected visitor. middle-aged man carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit and tie. and this place is nice and close to where I have to do my business. He came through the front door. paused to look around the lobby. “All the rooms are full. The visitor was disappointed. reading his newspaper. and then walked slowly to the reception desk where the little man with the thin. “Good morning.” said the visitor. You might try up the street. “I might be interested in an apartment. The Sullivan or the Royal Arms.” “Sorry.” said the man behind the desk. black hair and round head was still sitting. “So. “Hey! You can’t go up there!” The door to the old elevator slid open. he pressed the button for the elevator. “You sure? I’ve come a long way. the month? You got apartments up there?” Without warning. Why don’t you show me one?” 80 .
anyway. “Aw. pulling a hidden radio transmitter from under his shirt. I doubt either of you have seen each other before. his briefcase swinging at his side. like you say. if we’re right about that so-called hotel. “I haven’t seen that guy around here before.” The man squeezed between the two front seats and hurried into the back of the van. Our little hotel clerk is nothing but an actor. “Charlie.” Nate was in back. but turned right to have a look at the empty room through the archway.” He began tapping away at the computer and clicking the mouse. Well. and then turned into an alley where a large van was waiting. There’s nothing to see up there. he gave a detached shrug and went out the door. Sarah was behind the wheel and gave him a thumbs-up. isolating certain sounds from a recording they’d “Hey! You can’t go up there!” 81 . Thanks. Satisfied. He walked casually up the street. He hopped in and the van rolled down the alley.” He walked toward the door. and I hope he hasn’t seen me.” The visitor stood still and let the elevator door slide shut again.“what’s yours is mine” “We’re in the middle of a renovation. I’ll try the Sullivan. manning all the electronic surveillance gear. that’s too bad. I think we got it all. “Perfect. whistling to himself.
. then another. They heard the sound of a latch opening. same wave structure. “I think we’re going to find exactly what we were expecting.” Click. Sarah sat up straight in her chair.” said Nate as he played the first recording. the ding of a bell. the quiet rush of a door moving across a carpet. Then they heard another sample. What they mainly heard was “air noise. “The floor makes that same squeak right as you go under 82 . and came back to join them. a door sliding open. . “Same floor. Nate put both sounds on the computer screen so they appeared as wavy lines. “Is it . Click. “That’s you. “That was the kids going through the same door last night. “Yes.” Nate said. The same sounds again.” A series of wooden squeaks. Let’s check the next one.” The van eased to a stop. “Now I’ll just stack all these sounds in a file. but the squeaks were virtually the same. raising the volume.” A rumble. “And compare the two. . Charlie. Next they heard the very same sounds repeated. going in the front door.” said Sarah. Sarah turned off the engine. set the brake. “last night and today.” Click. Click-click. The second recording involved more feet. And look here. “Same elevator.” He pointed at a little spike that appeared in both sound waves.” the sound of a particular room.” said Nate.” Nate said. “And pull up our other file . “This next one’s a little tougher. ?” Nate nodded. . the squeak of hinges.nightmare academy just made.
put the spoons down. Nate. rebellious kids. Charlie led the way through the door. Sarah. “I never had any idea. . Sarah?” He spun in his chair to look at her. and Charlie found a table over in the corner where they could talk. kids just plain scared—Charlie and Anita handled them all. “I’ve never heard any of the kids talk about another youth shelter in town. . Abused kids.” “Could you start asking around?” asked Sarah. “So how about a bite to eat? It’s about that time. Anita.” Charlie nodded toward the outside. “Dear Lord. was just getting the kids’ attention.“what’s yours is mine” the archway. kids on drugs. . through a storeroom and pantry. and Charlie bowed their heads as well. and into a dining hall where nearly a dozen kids were starting their lunch. Sarah. “Incredible. So guess what. through a kitchen.” The kids started slurping their soup and passing the bread around as Nate. “Okay. Charlie’s wife. Amen.” She shook her head in wonder. Please warm our hearts as we feed our bodies. Anita. “The way 83 . “We’re not crazy. we thank you for this food and for this home. We’ll talk. Everyone Welcome.” The kids put down their spoons and bowed their heads. Charlie Ramirez and his wife.” They climbed out of the van. started the Living Way shelter six years ago as a ministry to runaways and wayward kids with nowhere else to go. We’re going to pray. stepping into a narrow alley and up to a plain little door with a neatly worded sign: Living Way Youth Shelter. cautious voice.” Charlie said in a quiet.
” Charlie nodded intently. “Oh. shaved whatever whiskers he could find.” said Nate. combed his hair. Easley at 1:30. which. but we’re not sure of the correct spelling. The academy had provided a toiletry kit. help us. interestingly. so we can call them. “I’ll ask the ones here. We have a follow-up list.” Sarah added. and gotten into his uniform.” 84 . How did these people know my exact measurements? Did they come “Oh.” “This Margaret Jones woman showed the kids a brochure. He’d showered. somebody had to have heard something. he looked sharp. dear Jesus. “We need to get our hands on it. so he’d made good use of it. dear Jesus.” By now.” When Elijah showed up for the discussion circle with Mr. It made him wonder. “Discreetly.” “And ask them if they ever encountered a woman named Margaret Jones. or anything that sounds like that. and we can check with the ones who’ve gone home. fit him perfectly.” “And ask if anyone’s ever heard of the Knight-Moore Academy.” said Nate. “You can see what we’re up against. We heard Elijah and Elisha talking about it. Charlie was making a list. help us.nightmare academy these kids circulate on the street.
and Mr. now he was dressed properly. and the kids were lounging around in a very rough circle facing Mr.” “Hey. everybody else looked sloppy. . and only a few were still wearing ties. almost all of them had shed their blazers. Mr. Easley. He settled on the grass near her. wherever you want. Shoes. they were wearing their uniforms—sort of— but many had their shoes off. . “That’s for showing up. in the shade of some tall cedars. He looked across the open field and saw them already gathered. what’s your name today?” “Jerry. but not right next to her. Yes.” He quickly scanned the group and found Elisha with a blond friend under an ancient cottonwood. who was still in his tee shirt and black shorts. Have a seat somewhere. there’s no such thing as being late to discussion circle. and blazers were lying about on the grass. He ran. Oh. ties.“what’s yours is mine” into the room with a tape measure while I was asleep? Eeuugh! What a creepy thought. A sign taped to the door told everyone the group would be meeting out on the grass near the edge of the campus. Well. catching a welcome from her eyes. Easley tossed him a KM dollar. First surprise: The discussion circle wasn’t meeting in the scheduled classroom. Easley smiled at him. anyway. uh . You do what you feel. 85 . “Hey. Second surprise: Now that he looked sharp. with some stragglers still ambling across the grass. Everybody comes when they feel like it. and Jerry!” Elijah stopped. Sorry I’m late. ready to fit in with the others—or so he thought.
stringy-haired blond. sure. if people don’t want to share their stuff. “I know the academy has a rule about wearing uniforms. and we don’t want that either. What were we talking about?” “Whatever we wanted. “Like. “Somebody stole my Walkman and I don’t appreciate it one bit. “Of course it was mine!” “So you paid for it. “We were talking about possessions. “Hey. 86 . maybe it’s okay to make ’em share it. let everybody have their own life. if I want something. that’s why!” She told Mr. but as I’ve told the others. or someone gave it to you?” Now the girl shrank a bit. “That’s the stuff.nightmare academy “Take your tie off.” “Oh-hooo!” the group reacted. “Now. Gotcha.” said Easley. but we’re also trying to cut everybody loose. Ramon!” Easley tossed Ramon another KM. right?” “Right!” the group agreed. why shouldn’t I have it?” “Because maybe it belongs to me. “No.” said a tough-looking street dude who’d rolled up his sleeves to show off his tattoos. what are we really trying to do here? We want everyone to be equal.” “Was it really yours?” Easley asked. If you have to wear a uniform all the time.” “By taking things?” asked a somewhat miffed.” said a purple-haired scarecrow of a girl. I found it. if you want. then you’re just being squished into the same mold as everybody else.” “And stealing. Easley.
Melinda?” Melinda got a little flustered and looked at the ground as she replied. “Well now. Charlene believes that all the world is community property and everybody owns it. I’m going to get upset if someone else needs what I want to keep for myself. “what about that?” “You could look at it this way: You’re actually sharing. uh. so how would you like it if somebody ripped off your stuff?” “Oooohh. right?” Charlene gave her gum a few thoughtful chomps.” piped up some others. isn’t it? If I’m being selfish with things. Sounds good. as if either Charlene or Melinda is right.” “Nothing wrong with that. mocking her anger. Maybe the real problem is private possessions. let’s not get into either/or here. Melinda. didn’t you.” the group reacted. Easley tossed both girls a coin and then held up a hand to calm things down. I just wanted it. found the Walkman. “Okay. did it ever occur to you that perhaps you’re being too selfish with things? Do you think it’s fair for you to have a Walkman when somebody else doesn’t?” “Yeah.“what’s yours is mine” Easley held up a hand.” said Ramon. then how can anyone steal it?” 87 . and then flipped some purple hair out of her eyes. I think that’s the whole point here: If nobody owns anything.” “But it looks like Melinda agrees with you—at least she did when she. then sure. that’s up to each of us. She turned on him. you just don’t know it. now Melinda’s asked Ramon the big question: How would I like it? Well. Maybe both Charlene and Melinda are right. come on. Melinda. “Yeah. “Yeah. that’s all. “I don’t know.
then whoever’s sharing my Walkman.” Easley heard him.” By now.” Melinda just looked at the coin in her hand and said.” said Mr. and Elijah even heard a fellow say. still angry and suspicious. I’d like it if you’d share it back again. and we shouldn’t be selfish. “And I’m not even sure she’s changed her mind. Elisha was on a roll.” “Do I get another dollar?” Easley tossed Melinda another “dollar. It wasn’t a both/and. “Yeah. that’s all.” although her eyes were still the resentful eyes of someone who’d been ripped off. you’re trying to tell us that both Melinda and Charlene are right. “See? Both Melinda and Charlene are right.” Now a few “oh-hos” arose toward Mr. nothing. either she saw stealing as sharing or she was selfish. but 88 . “He’s got you there. He could feel every eye on him.” “All right. it was an either/or.” “What was?” Elijah wasn’t the kind to shrink from a direct question. I guess so. Easley. so she jumped in. Easley. “Either/or.” then applauded as the kids laughed and cheered. “What was that. “Well. Elisha’s mental stew was about to boil over.nightmare academy Melinda looked around the group. so that means. Sure. “I don’t think she should change her mind. That was just an either/or. Elijah chuckled and muttered to himself. it’s good to share. Jerry?” Elijah was on the spot. “Oh. but that was never the case. All you did was argue with Melinda to get her to change her mind. “Well if that’s the way you want to say it.
“what’s yours is mine”
calling stealing sharing doesn’t make it sharing, it’s still stealing,
and stealing is wrong, and if Melinda stole that Walkman, she
was ripping somebody off, and whoever took her Walkman without her permission was ripping her off.”
There were some hoots and disagreements—“Hey, welcome
to the real world,” “Preach it!” But there were some firm agreements as well—“Hey, a ripoff’s a ripoff,” “I wouldn’t want somebody stealing my stuff”—and even some applause.
Easley just smiled. “Sally, you’re new here, so it’ll take some
time for you to catch up. I think all of us have been raised with
certain ideas of right and wrong, but now we can build our own
world right here, and create a new truth.”
Elisha looked at him strangely. “A new truth? Like what?”
He smiled, pleased at the thought. “Whatever we agree on.
You see, Right and Wrong are what we choose to make them.”
Elijah piped up—he couldn’t help it. “Is that statement you
just made right or wrong?”
Easley didn’t appear to appreciate the question. “It depends
on what the group thinks.” Easley looked around at the group.
“How about it? Do we agree?”
“Sure,” they replied. “Yeah.” “Whatever.” “Sounds good.”
He tossed them some more coins.
“So now it’s what the group thinks?” Elijah asked. “What if
the group decided you’re wrong? Would you still be right?”
“Well, I can still have any truth I want in my own mind,”
“So you can have it both ways at the same time.”
Elijah looked at Elisha. “Then stealing really is wrong!” Then
he looked at Melinda. “And you really were ripped off!”
The group began laughing, mostly at Easley’s frustrated look.
“No, no, not really!” Easley argued. “Not if the group doesn’t
“No? Not really?” Elijah furrowed his brow, working up his
answer. “So either stealing is wrong and Melinda got ripped off,
or the group is right and she’s just sharing.”
Easley countered, “Both Melinda and the group are right.”
“That’s madness!” said Elisha. “You can’t have it both ways!”
“Sure you can. Both/and,” said Easley with a shrug and a smile.
“But if I’m hearing you right, you’re saying Jerry should either
believe what you’re saying, or he’s wrong.”
“He can believe whatever he wants.”
“Then why are you trying to get me to see things your way?”
Some in the group laughed. Some moaned. Some were sick of
the whole discussion. “Let’s talk about something else!”
“I’ll tell you why!” said Easley, and his usual easy tone grew serious. “Because there’s a whole world out there that is plagued by war,
starvation, hatred, and bigotry, and some of us feel it just might be
worthwhile to help the next generation rise above their petty differences and live in peace and brotherhood. That’s what this academy is all about, Jerry and Sally: peace, unity, brotherhood. I believe
we can do it. I want all of you to believe it. We’ve come a long way
from the amoeba, folks, and we need to continue the journey as we
“what’s yours is mine”
were meant to do. We need to keep getting better, and then get still
better, and then better than that, until we finally get there and we
have one, big, peaceful world we can all be proud of.” Then he
added in a parental, correcting tone, looking straight at Elijah and
Elisha. “And all you two are doing is destroying the very things
we’re about, bringing division, factions, squabbles over words.”
It was a stirring speech, and Elijah and Elisha could feel the
winds of opinion aligning in Easley’s favor. Every other boy and
girl eyed them, seeing them as Easley did, as objects of shame
Easley’s voice softened; he sounded like a preacher giving an
altar call. “I think you need to examine your hearts, as all of us are
doing, every day, and ask yourselves, what do I really want? To win
an argument, or win a friend? To stir up strife, or live in peace? To
create factions, or knit together a human family?” He addressed
the whole group. “I think it’s been a good session. We’ve been challenged and given a lot to think about. That’s it for today.”
He started to leave, then paused just long enough to turn and
say, “Try sharing something. See how it feels.” Then he headed
back across the field.
A silence hung over the group like a cold fog. The kids
watched Easley for a long, pondering moment before they could
finally meet each other’s eyes.
Melinda turned to Charlene. “You can share my Walkman.”
She nodded and said, “So can you.”
Ramon looked through his shirt pocket. “I’ve got an extra pen
if anybody needs it.”
Brett called out, “Anybody who wears size 10, I’ve got a pair
of sneakers I don’t need.”
They all rose from the grass, picking up ties, shoes, and blazers,
and having quiet, peacemaking conversations as they walked away.
“Okay, you can use the shower first.”
“You can put your books on my side of the floor; it’s okay.”
“I don’t need those pajamas; you can have them.”
No one said a word to Elijah or Elisha.
Except for big, strong Alex. He made a special trip over to the
cottonwood to give Elijah a rap on the head. “Think you’re pretty
smart, huh?” Then he said to Elisha, “I’d stay clear of this guy if
I were you.” He walked away, indulging in one final sneer over
Elisha could see warning signs in her brother’s face and hurried
over to touch his arm. “Let it go. We don’t need any more attention.”
He took a deep breath, calmed himself, and nodded.
Nate and Sarah were busily at work in the back of their van, compiling a database, bit by bit.
A photo of Nelson Farmer, the tall, worried-looking rep from
the Bureau for Missing Children, came up on Sarah’s computer
screen. “Nelson Farmer, Senior Director, been with the Bureau
for twelve years.” She tapped in the print command and the
printer started printing Farmer’s bio and resume. She wagged her
head, stumped. “The guy looks totally clean. Maybe he has delu92
“what’s yours is mine”
sions of power or something, but he’s not masquerading. He
really does work there.”
Nate sat on the other side, his back to her, tapping at another
computer and getting nowhere quick. “The sheriff’s offices in
Idaho have no record of any lost, wandering kid being found.”
Sarah spun around. “Please say again?”
“I’ve checked with all the north and north central counties.
There is simply no record of anyone finding Alvin Rogers and
turning him over to authorities.”
She rolled her chair around to examine the blank report sheet
on Nate’s computer screen. “In other words, the file has been
erased from the records.”
“So no one can go back and find out exactly where Alvin was
“I don’t believe this. How powerful are these people, anyway?
They make youth shelters disappear overnight, and now they can
“Well, we both know how easy it is. If these people knew
where to look, they could have erased some history, and once the
record’s gone, it’s gone. The first place Alvin shows up as a matter of record is with the Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur
d’Alene, right before he was transferred to Harborview. So we do
have him popping up in Idaho, but that’s all.”
There was a loud rap on the passenger door up front, and
then it opened.
It was Charlie. “Nate and Sarah!” He clapped, then rubbed
his hands together. “We’ve found somebody!”
They followed Charlie into the dining hall where they met
Tyler, an older teen, nineteen to be exact. His life was much more
put together since Charlie and Anita had taken him in three years
ago. He was now living with an aunt and uncle in Redding,
California, and he was planning to start college in the fall.
“Came up here to visit some friends,” he told them, “and
Charlie and Anita were two of them.”
Charlie and Anita beamed with pride and joy as they all sat
together at their quiet, corner table. Charlie explained, “We were
talking about things, you know? How it’s going and what are his
plans, and then I asked him about this Knight-Moore Academy
thing, and—” He immediately handed it off to Tyler. “Tell Nate
and Sarah about that lady you met.”
“Her name wasn’t Margaret Jones. It was Suzanne Dorning,
and she met me on the street down in Phoenix.”
“Phoenix!” exclaimed Sarah. “She’s been around, if it’s the
Tyler continued, “She invited me to get on a bus and head out
for a summer academy where I could earn some high school
credits and meet other kids from all over the country. She made
it sound great, but I told her no. Something that sounded that
good couldn’t be on the up and up.”
“Don’t suppose you can describe her?” Nate asked.
Tyler thought a moment, then shook his head. “It was three
years ago. Don’t remember that much. She was kind of a redhead, I think. She was young and pretty.”
“How do you even remember her name after so long?”
and looked like it had been left in a backpack for three years. just the name of the academy followed by Borland. On the front were the words “Knight-Moore Academy.” Inside were photographs of a simple campus in a forested setting. Colorado. “Let’s call the number.“what’s yours is mine” Tyler reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a wrinkled scrap of paper. 95 . “She wrote it on the back of the brochure. classrooms full of bright. I remembered seeing something about an academy and we dug it out. one sheet triple-folded. “It’s ‘disconnected or no longer in service. is still there?” “We’re about to find out. “Get a head start on your educational future. “I stuffed it in my backpack and just left it there.” said Nate. Colorado.” Nate and Sarah thought their hearts would stop as Tyler slid it across the table.” said Tyler. It wasn’t much. “Wonder if Borland. all of them had the answer—and catchy claims such as.’” “But we have an address.” said Nate. studying the brochure and copying it down. When Charlie asked me about it.” said Sarah.” and “We don’t just teach history.” “Learn as you’ve never learned before. “Does God answer prayer or what?” The brochure was in color. cheery students with their hands raised—apparently.” “Same old backpack!” Charlie wheezed with laughter. we make history!” On the back was Suzanne Dorning’s phone number and the address of the academy. “I already did.
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6 rules and power 97 .
he academy offered a class in reading and English, with
a choice of morning or afternoon sessions. Well, it was after-
noon, and the class turned out to be mandatory, so Elijah signed
up for the 3:00 P.M. session. Happily, Elisha had signed up for the
same class for the same reasons, and they managed to meet on
the walkway fifteen minutes before class started.
“Let’s take that bench,” Elijah suggested, and they quickly
moved to a small, concrete bench in the shade of the library,
opening their binders and leafing through their materials for the
benefit of anyone watching.
“How’re you feeling?” Elijah asked.
“I think I’m finally awake,” she replied. “Do you remember
the bus ride?”
“Neither do I.”
“I think there was something in that soup we ate.”
“I think you’re right. I’ve talked to Marcy and some of the other
girls in the dorm. None of them remember the bus ride, either.”
Elijah made an effort to look like he was checking his class
schedule and not look perturbed. “Doesn’t that bother them?”
rules and power
She could only wag her head and sigh in frustration. “I think
it should, but it doesn’t. At least they’re acting like it doesn’t.
Elijah, it’s a fantasyland. Everybody’s pretending. There’s a weird
mind game going on here.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Do you still have your radio?”
“I have mine, too, but the headphones are gone.”
“Oh, so you’re sharing.”
“Better keep a close eye on your stuff, what there is of it.”
“I want to call Mom and Dad every night, whether they can
hear us or not, whether we can hear from them or not. We could
trade off each night to save batteries.”
“Okay. You want to go first, tonight?”
“Okay.” She tried to smile and look like they were chatting
about any old thing. “So. What are we going to do?”
“Well, we got into this whole thing to investigate, so there’s
“I want to call Mom and Dad every night,
whether they can hear us or not, whether
we can hear from them or not. . . .”
“Well, yeah, but . . .”
“But where’s the back door?”
“Exactly. How do we get out of here if we need to? I haven’t
seen a road anywhere, and where is this place? They won’t tell us.”
“We’ve got to contact Mom and Dad, that’s priority uno. We
need a phone. I’ll take a pay phone, a cell phone, anything.”
“Haven’t seen one. And Bingham said there aren’t any.”
“There are. These people aren’t going to go without phones,
even if they expect us to.”
Other kids were passing by, making a beeline for class. Elisha
checked her watch. “We’d better get to class. Marcy says Mr.
Booker is really strict.”
Mr. Booker’s reading and English class convened in a classroom—a neat, well-ordered classroom. The chalkboards were
recently washed. The bookshelves were neatly arranged, with all
the books grouped by title and with heavy iron bookends holding them in place so not one was lying on its side. There were
desks for the girls on the right side of the classroom, desks for the
boys on the left side, and down the middle, a perfectly straight
aisle. Whitman, Hemingway, Thoreau, and Emerson gazed down
from perfectly straight portraits on the walls. There was a certain
reserve on the part of the students hurriedly taking their seats;
they were talking, but not loudly, and every tie, every blazer,
every shoe was present and in place.
rules and power
Elijah found an empty desk about halfway back—on the left
side, of course—and settled in.
Elisha found a desk on the girls’ side, front row, on the aisle.
“Hey. Sally, right?”
A young man with bristly black hair and holes in his face
where rings and studs used to be was smiling at her.
“That’s right,” she answered pleasantly. “And you are?”
“Tom Cruise. You know, the movie star?”
She gave him a careful, second look. “You’re Tom Cruise?”
He tilted his head back and gave her what must have been a
Tom Cruise smile. “Pretty impressive, huh?”
“Yeah, just wanted to introduce myself. I’m—”
He was interrupted by a rather rude backhand to his arm.
It was Alex, with tie straight and every wavy blond hair in
place, towering over him with a mean gleam in his eye. “I think
you’re sitting in my desk, bub.”
Mr. Cruise said not a word, but gathered his books and went
Alex sank into the desk, very proud of himself.
Elisha was hoping there was a mistake. “That’s your desk?”
Alex just sniffed a laugh. “If he can be Tom Cruise, this can
be my desk. Call it like you want it.” He leaned toward her, giving her a smile she was supposed to like. “So how do you like the
place so far?”
She looked him in the eyes. “I’m not sure I’ve decided. It’s different. It’s been very interesting.”
He gave her a once-over as he said, “Well, let me tell you, it
just got more interesting.”
Suddenly, a loud, clear, booming voice at the back door startled everyone in the room. “Alex! I believe you’re sitting in a desk
reserved for Mr. Cruise!”
Alex turned his face forward so he could swear.
Hard heels came marching up the aisle as Elisha looked to
“Eyes forward, young lady!”
She turned forward and froze there.
Mr. Booker, in burgundy suit, a thick novel under his arm,
strode mightily to the front of the class. He was middle-aged and
professorial in appearance, right down to the little black reading
glasses and receding hairline, but there was nothing weak about
him. The way he walked, stood, and glared, this guy was scary, and
now he was directing his full attention on Alex, who had the gall to
glare right back at him. “You will return to your own desk. Now.”
“This is my desk, Mr. Booker, sir.” Alex had a mocking tone.
The direct challenge made Booker pause, then tilt his head
slightly, amused as if by a game. “How? By right of conquest?”
Alex looked around at the other students. “I’m sharing it.”
That brought a timid laugh from the others that Booker’s
glare cut short as if he’d used a pair of scissors.
“So that’s your truth for today, is it?” Booker asked.
“Hey,” said Alex with a haughty grin, “that’s how things work
around here.” He looked at the rest of the class. “Huh? How
about it, group? Agreed?”
rules and power
He saw a whole class, some twenty kids, afraid to express the
“Well,” said Booker, “this does present a problem, doesn’t it?
You have your truth, and I have mine. Just what are we going to
do about that?”
Alex gave an arrogant shrug. “Play ‘both/and,’ I guess.”
“You’ve been listening to Easley.”
Alex just smirked, gave his head a playful, confident little
Until Mr. Booker grabbed a fistful of Alex’s perfectly combed
hair and slammed his head down on the desk. The sound of
Alex’s skull smacking into the wood made everyone jump.
“Mr. Easley failed to include a vital part of the equation,” Mr.
Booker growled in Alex’s ear as Alex struggled and winced, his face
beet red. “Power, Alex. Power. Something I have, and you don’t.”
As everyone watched, their hearts pounding, some trembling,
Mr. Booker yanked Alex out of his desk—Alex’s books and
papers went flying—and propelled him down the aisle to a desk
. . . Mr. Booker grabbed a fistful of
Alex’s perfectly combed hair
and slammed his head
down on the desk.
lightly throwing up his hands. All of them. ran. Mr. his eye tearing from being smacked on the desk. He didn’t wait for Alex to sit there. I believe these belong to you. you will take your assigned seat. then returned to the front of the classroom. “Your tokens. “And this is the new student. I’m calling myself Sally. then turned. he put him there.” “Well. his face red. who’d found an empty desk near the back. He shrugged it off. I’m just Sally. sir. who looked back only when she felt him looking at her.” Mr.” He gave the tokens to Mr. “Of course. First of all. Cruise leaped. how can there be questions?” His fiery eye fell upon Elisha. Cruise. “Mr. then sat at attention. A nice choice. dug into his blazer pocket and produced a handful of KM dollars.” Alex.” “Yes. “Sally. thank you for wearing proper attire. and then barked at Tom Cruise. and surveyed the class. rested against his desk. please. Booker put out his palm toward Alex. Cruise. There 104 . his dignity unruffled. Booker confined Alex to his desk with only a look. With obvious resentment. his hair still disheveled.nightmare academy halfway back. Are you a movie star? A rock star?” “No. “Surely there are questions?” There was only silence. meeting every eye. “Mr. If there is no truth.” He took a moment to chuckle at that. planted his hindquarters in that desk. he dropped them into Booker’s palm. I presume? Answer me. Cruise.
Booker approached her desk.” I’m in fantasyland again. You know my policy regarding excuses!” “No sir.rules and power are those in this class who have had to be reminded—Mr. I’m sorry. Jackson! Your collar is up! Thank you. “Every day. that’s better!—who have had to be reminded what ties and blazers are for. “That’s impossible. since you seem to be such a center of attention. excuse me?” His eyes narrowed. then said. I don’t know any of your policies because I’ve never been here before. “Stand and recite. “Sir. “Uh.” His eyes could melt an iceberg. I’m hearing an excuse. I just got here. she thought. “You have contradicted me. “Have you ever seen me before?” He nodded confidently. “And how would I know that?” She could come up with only one answer. Sally.” Elisha hesitated.” He crossed his arms. He took back the KM dollar. You do realize that?” His eyes could melt an iceberg. “Sally.” She laughed nervously.” Elisha could sense the silent gasp from the rest of the class. with all due respect. This is my very first day. his eyes threatening. 105 . “Now. would you please stand and recite.” He dug a KM dollar from his pocket and set it on her desk. He repeated slowly.
impressed. He shot a corrective look and a pointing finger at the girl who was whimpering. a girl broke into tears. Booker stood motionless like a still photograph from a scary movie and glared at Elijah. and if I don’t know it. “You will stand and you will recite. Still holding the yardstick. you can go ahead and hit me. and she immediately stifled herself.” “And now you’re telling me what to think!” “I’m just telling you the truth. Over on the right side of the class. intense eyes—locked on him.” He raised the yardstick. Eyes—wide.” His hand went to his desk. “You will stand. that you knew good and well what the assignment was. anything you want if I know it. child. ready to bring it down on her shoulders. his heels loudly marking each step on the hard maple floor. Booker. and that you are trying to challenge my authority!” He brought the yardstick around. Time froze.” Elijah could look past Booker and see the frightened face of his sister.” Booker raised an eyebrow. “I’ll recite.nightmare academy She didn’t want a debate. “I might prefer to believe that you have always been here. or—” Elijah jumped to his feet so fast his desk dumped over with a horrible clatter. His fingers curled around a yardstick. He stole a glance at 106 . “I’LL RECITE!” Heads spun around. you mean! But you forget. he turned and walked down the aisle. “Mr. Nothing would turn him back. She was just trying to find some sense in all this. that I might see things another way. Finally. it would be contradictory for me to say that I’ve always been here when I’ve been somewhere else.” “Your idea of truth. “I did not call on you.
or in the earth beneath. young lady. “Do you want us to keep going?” Elijah asked. “NO!” Booker studied both of them.rules and power Elisha. chapter twenty: ‘You shall have no other gods before me. “‘You shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain! Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy!’” Now. You shall not make unto thee any graven image. “Very well. but there was something about the words he began to recite that gave him the nerve. they spoke in chorus: “‘Honor your father and your mother. looking back and forth. You shall not—’” “The audacity!” Booker growled and raised the yardstick— A loud scraping of a desk across the floor! Elisha was on her feet.” Elijah didn’t think he’d be able to look Booker in the eye. that your days may be prolonged. You shall not commit adultery—’” “RUBBISH!” Booker roared.” Then he looked at Elijah and cradled the yardstick in both hands. calling out. You shall not steal. Recite. or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above. in front and behind Booker. clearly relishing the thought. or in the waters under the earth. looking from one to the other. There was silence. But I warn you: Try your very best to please me. You shall not murder. “Exodus. “You have quite the power to charm. “The audacity!” Booker growled and raised the yardstick— 107 .
and had their dollars taken away. but 108 . and given KM dollars. “That will be quite enough. Pure rubbish. “I’m even willing to put it to the group! We are a group. basking in victory. he lowered the yardstick to his side. there is Right. and I commend you for a remarkable demonstration.nightmare academy and finally. are we not. “Rubbish!” The class took turns reading aloud from Hemingway for the rest of the hour.” Elijah replied. Booker certainly made no friends. Some read well. Please be seated. sir. He laughed. “Once again. “Oh. group: Would any disagree with me?” No one disagreed. there is Wrong. aren’t you? Either my truth or yours.” “Thank you—” “Of rubbish. Hardly anyone even looked his direction. were humiliated.” Booker tossed the yardstick on his desk and addressed the class. He simply laughed that aside. some could hardly read at all. Well. that somehow. righting his desk. You’re one of those ‘either/or’ thinkers. there is Truth.” He looked angrily at Elijah and Elisha. as if from the heavens above. were commended. we have to endure someone putting forth definitive statements of truth!” “As you have just done. I say your Truth is rubbish!” He spread his arms toward the class. we find ourselves having to confront the same old idea. tapping it absentmindedly on the floor as he returned to the front of the room. “Did you notice? Once again. with the power to agree on what is true? Let me ask you. yes.
there were plenty of questions. his class. “Who does he think he is?” “That guy’s a psycho!” “I thought classes here were optional! What’s this mandatory stuff?” “Man. Jerry—but I wouldn’t let him hit me. calming herself.” Warren. his class. and though he invited questions— once—no one dared ask any. “Do you think he really would have hit me?” “He wouldn’t have had the chance.rules and power like it or not.” Marcy was crying a little. and touched her forehead to Elisha’s shoulder. this place is no fun. I’d cut him up first. “I just want to tell you. approached Elisha and Elijah on the sidewalk. 109 . better day tomorrow. I couldn’t have faced down Booker like that. “I felt so awful for you. but like it or not. it was his hour. it was his hour. When class was finally dismissed and the students were a safe distance away. a quiet but strong young man with reddish hair and freckles.” Booker certainly made no friends. “Well. It’s just like school again!” Elisha’s nerves were frazzled. He ran things the way he pleased. man. his kingdom.” Elijah told her. you’ve got nerve. his kingdom. Elisha just sighed. “You’re one bad dude.” Ramon agreed.
“Yeah. . Wendell. Bingham lives up there. “It’s all right. “Just like prison bars. “Somebody already tried sneaking in there and we haven’t seen him since. “there goes Booker now. Offices and stuff. “Doesn’t everybody?” “I’ve seen the movie. “Well.” He fumbled a bit as if he didn’t want to go into it.” They all followed his gaze.” said Elijah. I think Mr. metallic clank could be heard clear across the field. . Booker. “Hey. “The Ten Commandments?” “How come you both know the same thing?” asked Warren. “It’s academy headquarters. the 110 . “I wouldn’t mind a closer look at that place. one of the guests? One of the kids. Booker entered a code in the lock and the big gate swung open automatically. We just need to learn the ropes.” said Warren. and maybe Booker and Mrs. “Don’t even think about it. As soon as they had all passed through. with several teachers and staff. Tomorrow will go more smoothly. He was . just stay away from there and don’t worry about it. Mr.” said Elisha.” “But what do they do in there?” Elijah asked.” Warren offered. “You mean.nightmare academy Elisha held Marcy close to comfort her. like us?” Elisha asked. When he and the others reached the gate. was walking toward the big iron gate that separated the campus from the mansion up in the trees. that’s all.” “What was that?” asked Ramon.” Elijah and Elisha each made a point to look normal. Elijah shrugged. and the final. it swung shut again.” said Ramon.
that’s all. exploding. bass-driven throb of rock music from the house sound system—and just below it. It’s private. ambling. silhouettes against the lights. bock bobock of air hockey. from the comic art and blaring movie posters on the walls to the green. a hot-buttered carnival of glittering lights in the semidarkness. thumping.” The Rec Center was a huge pavilion wholly devoted to games. alien-blasting. the roar of the youthful crowd. body-bashing machines. off-road-racing. and the doors opened at six o’clock every morning. hollers. beeping. amusement. downhill-skiing. machine to machine. The video arcade rivaled anything the kids might find in the big city. and shrieks. fighter-jet-flying. distraction. snowboarding. Let’s grab something to eat and then rock out. and blue neon logos. all yell-talking to each other in bellows. group to group. blurping. the clothes they’d 111 . Everything that met the eye was overstated. and sensory overload. Come on. to the bigger-than-life pictures of television. movie. purple. rushing. flashing.rules and power librarian. drifting from game to game. a riotous rumble accented with the loud clack of pool balls striking each other and the bock. The kids were in their own clothes now. bumping. Above all this was the pounding. like bees between blossoms. bad-guy-shooting. red. And all the bodies were in constant motion. with row upon row of roaring. and rock stars in the halls and restrooms.
and managed to jaw with his opponents while they waited for their turn. I’m tough.” said Andy. carrying on semi-shouted conversations with anyone who was talkative.” “A bunch of talk that he didn’t hear?” Elijah asked. I’m fat but don’t know it. Now. “Yeah. I’m cool.” Elijah prompted. Don’t notice me. sweat pants. “We got some kids saying weird stuff about it.” “Yeah. you didn’t. and other cool sports clothing walking around. I’m available. jogging shorts. 112 . I don’t need anybody. with different wardrobe choices. Elijah became the fourth player in a pool game. “That’s right. I didn’t hear it.nightmare academy brought on their backs.” “I heard somebody tried to sneak in there and he never came back. the kids could talk with their clothes: Don’t mess with me. available at the Campus Exchange for the right amount of KMs. Hey. “The mansion? That’s where all the bigwigs live. I don’t worry. you don’t have to believe everything you hear. I don’t care. Elijah and Elisha decided to split up and mingle. chalking his cue. he’s right. I’ve heard that. I’m not different. but ehhh. “It’s just a bunch of talk. I’m really different. although there were plenty of KnightMoore tee shirts.” said Roberto. watching his shot drop into the corner pocket.” a lanky pool shark named Andy told him.” “No.
like. “Yeah.” 113 .” She shrugged.” “Madonna?” She just flipped her hair out of her eyes and took a sip from her pop can. come on!” “I wouldn’t go up there.” said Britney. that’s all I know. . first night we were all here. “You ask me. . . . leaning on the pop machine as she checked out the boys in the room. “I mean. Booker lives up there. I think.” “What happened to him?” “He tried to climb over the wall and he fell inside. “And now he’s gone. and then he screamed. .” “What don’t you know?” She gave Elisha a puzzled look.” “Did one kid really go up there?” Elisha asked. so I mean. Britney and Madonna had heard about Elisha’s first day in Booker’s class. which immediately gave them a common bond.” said Madonna.” “And now he’s gone.rules and power Marcy introduced Elisha to some of her friends near the vending machines. and . that mansion’s haunted. “I don’t know. “What on earth you’re talking about. “One night we heard somebody screaming—I’m not joking! You don’t know what Booker and Bingham and all those people might be doing up there. It was some kind of dare.
” said Eric. but now it didn’t. watching spacecraft disintegrate into flaming pixels. Don’t know his name. He’d been at this one game for over an hour nonstop. a wiry little guy who could talk while shooting alien spacecraft out of the sky.” “You saw all this?” Elijah asked. it isn’t true anymore.” 114 .” said Elisha. don’t know if he even existed—but if he did.” She scowled and shook her head. “Well. so Booker and Stern took him up to the mansion.” Britney added quickly. Of course. I think he was a friend of Alex. Hey! The Booger game’s open!” “Wanna play?” Madonna asked.nightmare academy “The kid who went over the wall. “He got in trouble. But it’s a great story. you gotta remember. That’s the way I saw it. that’s just my truth. “Sure. “What’s the object?” “What’s the object!” Madonna and Britney thought that was funny. “Just in my own mind. and I guess he got sent home ’cause we never saw him again.” Elisha looked at Britney. “Got in a fight. it happened. It’s not true for everybody.” “Did you know this guy?” “Can’t say I know anything. “Nobody went over the wall. “I mean. but Britney had already caught a glance from Madonna.
“And just what did you have in mind?” “Don’t trouble yourself about it. Marcy. The Booger game began to flash. “All right. In only seconds.” he said. tapping away at the control buttons. and Madonna turned all giggles. “Awwww .rules and power Elisha was just starting to win at the Booger game when someone nudged up close behind her and asked. .” He put his big hands on her shoulders and whispered something in her ear. Britney. investigating. all the more motivated to concentrate on the game. . I guess.” came a chorus behind her. asked. Elisha lost all her Kleenex points and the game ended in a giant. I got other plans for you. you know.” Elisha. . green explosion. “How’s it going?” It was Alex. with Booker. 115 . “Don’t worry about what happened today.” Elisha answered. “We’re gonna even things up. just you watch.
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7 dorm raids 117 .
Whoever Marcy was pretending to be. not about the messiness. some tired and snippy. but most of the noise was still coming from the Rec Center. It had Elisha worried. what else wouldn’t matter? Mrs. She hardly ever came out of her office to check on things. the dorm supervisor. giggling. gossiping. Marcy had not returned. “Mom and Dad. didn’t seem very concerned. she was definitely not pretending to be anyone organized or disciplined. A few of the girls had returned to their rooms. If trash and clothing scattered about the rooms and hallways and graffiti on the walls didn’t matter. and one look at Marcy’s totally devastated half of the room told Elisha not to expect her anytime soon. Elisha reached under her bed and took her radio from its hiding place in the bedspring. In case 118 . and one look at the hallway outside said the same thing about the rest of the girls in this building. It was after eleven at night. she held the tiny microphone near the corner of her mouth and began transmitting.E lisha could still hear the dull roar of the games and the heavy thumping of the music from her dorm room. but what it meant and what it could lead to. Meeks. Sitting on the bed with her back against the wall.
Her voice was still choked when she continued.” She had to pause a moment and draw some deep breaths. Elisha reached under her bed and took her radio from its hiding place in the bedspring. We’re trying to find a telephone or any other way to contact you.dorm raids you’re within range of this radio . We’ve found the Knight-Moore Academy. and that road had to go somewhere. there’s no doubt that Alvin Rogers was here. and from what we’ve seen. A mansion that size had to have a road leading to it. He thought he’d heard some vehicles coming and going up there.” She looked out the window and could see a few dim lights coming from the mansion. . 119 . scouting the big stone wall that enclosed the mansion. Elijah was taking advantage of the darkness. “Hi. “Elijah and I are okay.” Just talking to Mom and Dad brought a wave of deep longing. I miss you.” While Elisha was in her room filing a report. He’d already circled the campus looking for a road and found nothing. “And I think we’ve found part of the answer to what happened to him. . so the only way in and out of this place had to be through that big iron gate and by way of the mansion.
120 . He climbed. The brush was low and thin and moved aside easily. He shook off a chill. shrouded by thick forest and darkness. lighted windows through the tangled tree limbs. the wall continued up the hill. When he had gained some elevation above the campus. banging commotion. he halted in a small gap in the brush and listened. “Don’t these people ever sleep?” he muttered to himself. From there. only much closer. Then he heard a strange sound below. It was too dark to see much. Tonight’s evening of “rocking out” was winding down. Elisha heard the noise. but that place gave him the creeps. The music had stopped. tree by tree. She jumped out of bed and went to the window.nightmare academy He continued along the wall until he came to the right lower corner. but the footing was a little tricky. loud squeal and footsteps coming down the hall. too. Lights around the campus were blinking out. He found an opening in the underbrush and pushed his way in. or the rumors he’d heard. although she could see two or three bodies running around out She heard a long. a yelling. He was now closer than he’d ever been to the mansion and could see the big. step by step. Maybe it was the darkness.
loud squeal and footsteps coming down the hall. Then he saw something different—very vague in the dark. She heard a long.dorm raids there in white KM tee shirts. great! “Where are they?” “They’re raiding the boys’ dorm!” The crash of a breaking window! Angry screams! “Where’s Mrs. So far. The amber glow from one of the mansion’s yard lights 121 . Elijah figured. but no break in the forest. he’d found plenty of loose rocks. BAM! The door opened and it was Marcy. I’ll never get another opportunity like this one. with everybody having such a good time down there. “It’s a raid!” She slammed the door shut. “I can’t believe it! This is so exciting!” “Who is it?” “Alex and all the boys!” Oh. Stern?” “I don’t know. panting. He continued up the hill. trying to circle it until he found something. Meeks?” “I don’t know!” “Well. but different. It sounded like Marcy. all right. and low tree limbs. then grabbed a chair to prop against it. shrieking and giggling.” “Leave the lights off. what about Mr.” Well. keeping the lights of the mansion off his left shoulder. tangled brush. her face red.
The voices were mostly male. Marcy gasped. okay. Whatever it was. The one doing the chasing caught up with his quarry. peering out the window through small. brawling. coming. and grunts of deep. one pursuing the other. dashed him to the ground. and with a violent jerk. Some twigs snapped. two raced by just outside the window. too. feet pounding the sod and breath chugging. He heard it again. close-to-the-ground snuffing.” 122 . then a snorting.” came a voice. “Okay. startlingly.nightmare academy was reaching far back into the forest. ripping his clothes. A low. chasing. Suddenly. I give. He paused a moment to study it. a possible road. it sounded big. There were voices out there. fist against flesh. but she could hear some females. “We may have to get out of here. But blows followed. Vague shadows were running in the dark. some angry enough to kill. guttural pain. suggesting a long. some screaming and swearing. some whooping and hollering. some laughing. Elisha and Marcy sat in their darkened room. muffled against the ground. going. Elisha was reviewing in her mind the building exits and escape routes. Then he heard something and quit breathing. narrow opening. Some bushes rustled. cautious cracks in the curtain.
More branches and twigs were snapping. “That was scary. their time of mischief over.dorm raids Bears are usually afraid of people. . “Looks like it. breaking out of the woods and into the field with a clear. but this was mean. “What if they’d come in here?” Already. “Guess this one isn’t afraid. “YAAA! GO ON! GET OUT OF HERE!” The thing replied with a deep growl that filled the forest. Marcy.” Her frightened eyes widened in the dark and she gave a little gasp. except for the soft whimper of a pulverized young man struggling to his feet. they wouldn’t have done anything. each sound a little closer. but when a huge.” “Has this happened before?” “No. “Is it over?” Marcy asked. new insight: “Okay. would they?” 123 .” Outside the dorm window. feeling relieved. We’ve played some jokes on each other. widening the trail he’d made coming up. What if they’d come in here?” “They . the rioting shadows began to retreat into the dark. one thing’s true around here. Now he could hear and even feel the heavy thumping of huge feet. He ran for all he was worth. so Elijah tried hollering. . he was quite certain.” said Elisha. the thought had more than crossed Elisha’s mind. “Good question.” Elijah considered. A moment later. it was quiet. furry form came charging his way. Not like this.
their initials! “Marcy! Do we still have that flashlight?” Every room was issued a flashlight. why shouldn’t they do something if they feel like it?” 124 . silent and spellbound as Elisha signaled back. using their hailing code. “When there’s no right or wrong. a tiny light began blinking. shining. Across the field. There was a pattern to it. “When there’s no right or wrong. A flashlight. still afraid she might see shadows lingering and sneaking about. E. “Who are you talking to?” Marcy asked in a hushed voice. then obscured behind something. S. near dorm B. “Is this a code? Where’d you learn to do this?” “Later. She joined Elisha at the window. most likely. ducking the flashlight in and out from behind the curtain to create her signals. and now they could put it to good use. Marcy groped about in the dark until she found their official KM flashlight where she’d left it.nightmare academy Elisha looked out the window.” said Elisha. handed her the flashlight. then knelt there. then shining again. Elisha had seen this signal before: the letters E. The blinking continued as the light waved back and forth. Elijah! He was trying to signal her. why shouldn’t they do something if they feel like it?” Marcy had no answer. on top of the dresser.
“TOM CRUISE BEATEN. ALEX WAS LEADER. HOW ARE YOU?” He signaled back. using the curtain to make the flashlight blink. Elijah knew he would have missed them anyway.” Mom and Dad. MAY HAVE FOUND ROAD.” Their code for “Love you.” “LY. “WE WILL SEE THEM AGAIN. WE ARE OK.” As Elijah put away his flashlight.” There was a significant hesitation before Elisha answered.” “LY.dorm raids Elijah. LETS MAKE THEM PROUD. Freshly stolen KMs were jingling. in less time than it 125 . “OK. got her message: “DORM D RAIDED. a chilling thought crossed his mind: What if we can’t get out of here? Nate and Sarah rented a high-performance.” Elijah could hear Alex and his guys laughing and reliving the raid out in the hall. safe in his room.” “YOU TOO. I MISS MOM AND DAD. SCARY. BE CAREFUL. STOPPED BY BEAR. but this place only made their love all the more precious.” “STILL NEED BACK DOOR. “REAL BEAR?” “REAL BIG BEAR. FIGHTS. KMS TAKEN. single-engine airplane and flew themselves to Borland. DAMAGE HERE. He signaled back. Colorado.
a lot of people remember the government having some kind of camp or something way up in Cougar Gulch. the valley itself.” “We need to talk to those people.” said Pike. “I’ve been checking around. garnished with young trees. Nate walked several yards into the meadow. “And we need to see that camp. owner of a local hunting and fishing resort. “This is it. “It’s like I told you on the phone. An hour later. a sparkling stream. but that was a few years ago. Sure. cloud-laced sky. only a few feet tall. Pike stopped. but it didn’t come. enjoying the scenery regardless of their serious mission.” He pointed ahead.” he said as he loaded their gear into the back of his rig. Nate and Sarah climbed out and looked in all directions.” said Sarah. and rustred outcroppings of rock. “This way. They followed him over a berm of earth that blocked the road and into an open meadow where all the trees were young. Joe Pike.” said Nate. what’s left of a foundation. snow-frosted summits stark against a deep blue.nightmare academy would have taken to fly commercially. met them at the airstrip in his SUV. tree-covered mountains rising steeply on all sides of the valley. “There’s some rubble over there. “And 126 . Pike eased to a stop at the end of an obscure. stretched out like a green hammock between the peaks. their jagged.” They waited for a clue that he was joking. “There used to be a campus here? A whole academy?” Pike pointed to a mound to their left. seldom-used access road. looking about. This was the great outdoors at its best: green.
he could see a vague. In the photo. wildflowers. and young trees.” They returned to Borland. if you hadn’t lived here and hunted here and seen it for yourself.” 127 . “It couldn’t have just rotted away. not in so short a time. Carefully scanning the ground. behind a large hall. And they did it quick. the government came in and tore it all down. was the very same rocky outcropping and steep-sided valley she was seeing right now from where she stood. and compared the photograph on the front with the terrain she was seeing now. not in so short a time. “It couldn’t have just rotted away.” Nate walked far ahead and stooped down to pick up some broken brick from the remains of an old chimney. “Yeah. rectangular shape under the grass. You can still see the base for the fireplace. you’d never know there was such a thing. Sarah took out the brochure they’d gotten from the former runaway named Tyler. The photo couldn’t capture all the mountainous background. and then they replanted the area.” He surveyed the open field that was once a campus. “Near as anyone can tell.” Pike shrugged. “What happened to it?” Nate asked.dorm raids there used to be a large meeting hall right over there. a former mining town trying to “What happened to it?” Nate asked. but it included enough.
nightmare academy put on a new face for tourists. the owner of the local filling station. heading home. polished nails. There were tackle shops. you ought to talk to Vicky Johnson. and then two weeks later we saw them all go by again. They’d stop in here for snacks and film and to use the restroom. I’m not sure what they were doing up there.” Vicky Johnson.” “And how many years was it here?” Sarah asked between bites of salad. full of kids. They’d spend all their time up there. a local lady who did hair. the hairdresser. “There was a work camp up there for several years. apologetic look. “Sure. “Just one. shed a little more light on it. Joe Pike’s Borland Resort. but after that we never saw them. and a tourist center that offered snowmobiling in the winter and river rafting in the summer. She and Gus worked up there. We saw the big yellow buses go by. talked while she cut a customer’s hair in her one128 . I can remember busloads of kids coming in for a few weeks at the academy. trout ponds. and then the government came in and fixed the whole place up like a YMCA camp.” Both Nate and Sarah had to double-check. “Just one?” Steve Mackleberg. Joe gave a strange. leaning over the table toward him. and raised trout. a mine tour. But you know. Joe treated them to lunch in his restaurant.
the academy wasn’t there anymore. sweeping the walks. any particular schools?” “Oh. . Your tax dollars at work. in charge of getting kids signed up.” “Just two weeks?” Nate asked.” With her scissors. I know we had a few kids from Denver.” Sarah and Nate took a close “Where did the kids come from?” 129 . she pointed out one of the many photographs and snapshots she had taped to the walls. and then kept it up for the two weeks while the kids were there. “Well that’s her right there. We got our paychecks. ready to write down the answer. cutting the grass. hauling the garbage.” “Where did the kids come from?” Sarah asked. “Oh. “Suzanne Dorning?” “No. put a new roof on the house. anyway? She was the recruiter. you’d have to talk to—what was her name. . The academy recruited kids in the high schools. no. and the next thing we knew. it was something like Katy or Kathy . whatever. . standing between me and Gus. all over the country.” “Um . .” Sarah looked at the back of the brochure again. “My husband and I got on as assistant caretakers—you know. “And then they said thank you and ran us out of there. We worked there for a month to get the place ready for the kids.dorm raids chair beauty shop.
and the word sharing was floating around like the punch line of a joke. “That’s Margaret Jones.nightmare academy look. He took his radio from its hiding place under his mattress and recapped the day. standing between her two smiling friends. trying to borrow KMs. “Every time somebody catches a trout out of our pond we snap a picture for them to take home. Easley was laughing about it. All the darkness and all the stealth of the previous night didn’t keep everyone in dorm D from knowing exactly who raided them. The talk was all over the campus. was a cute. and now they were staring daggers at each other and exchanging vicious little promises. confident that everyone had learned a valu130 .” The next night. whose idea it was.” Sarah gave Nate another second to study the photo. and Brett. and exactly what was taken. the big man of dorm B. It had been one very tense day. Alex and the guys from dorm B kept making little wisecracks about having things that Brett and the guys from dorm D no longer had. and then looked at him. There. We enjoyed Kathy—that was her name—so we kept a copy. had been rivals from the beginning. it was Elijah’s turn to make a radio report just in case Mom and Dad were listening. “Tom Cruise” was trudging around the campus with a puffy face. red-haired lady proudly holding up an impressive trout. Alex. the big man of dorm D. Mr.” he said. “That’s her.
dorm raids able lesson and that. We can’t let this go on. “I think they’ve arrived.” he said. See what you can do and we’ll back you.” “Don’t let them find your radio!” “Don’t worry. once each person had had time to search his or her heart. he heard a loud rapping on his window.” That evening. and roaring with no one there to hear them and the pool table was deserted.” 131 . He cracked the window open. you can sleep in it. beeping. “This is your world. Meeks and Mr. they just handed the whole problem back with the challenge. Stern weren’t quite as detached.” Mrs. “You made the bed. at least in his class. It came. the solution to the whole problem would become clear to everyone. The talk had gotten around and everyone expected trouble. Only moments after Elijah had finished his report and hidden his radio. Mr. Booker didn’t care to hear any whining about it and forbade anyone to talk about it.” “I’m going to get somebody in charge. “This is your world and you know best. Most of the kids didn’t want to leave their rooms for fear that what little possessions they had would not be there when they returned. but half the video games were blurping. the music was playing as loud as ever in the recreation center. “What are you doing here?” “You’re going to be raided! Brett and a whole gang of kids are on their way over here right now!” Elijah heard a terrible crash at the end of the hall. “Elijah! Elijah!” It was his sister.
and 5. kicking the occupants. closed it behind him.” “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know—see if I can keep anybody from getting killed. There were no fun and games out here. Alex was in the hall. were now 132 . towels. maybe two dozen strong. but the fighters were changing opponents so often it was hard to keep track. so noisily. then three drawers. bars of soap. and immediately began trying to shove their way into room 8. right next door to Elijah. tumbling and spilling shirts and socks on the floor. kicking. getting shoved back by the occupants. overwhelmed. 4. or spilled just to rile the owner. taking on all comers with what appeared to be a chair leg. clothing. A mob of guys. By now there might have been five all-out fistfights going on. shoes. and stood there. It was all happening so fast. hitting. He quickly stepped outside his door. I guess. anything that could be tossed. Brett and a hulking buddy burst from room 10. trashed. Another chair came flying into the hall. shoving. bellowing in triumph as they stuffed KMs in their pockets.nightmare academy “Go for it. Three of Elijah’s neighbors. banging.” He could already hear a terrible tumult in the hallway. throwing. A drawer from a dresser came flying out of room 9. and then a mattress. were muscling their way into the rooms. There were so many bodies running everywhere. Two guys trying to push their way into room 13 were rammed backward by a chair in their gut. then tripped over two other guys wrestling and slugging on the floor. The hallway was filling with drawers. from rooms 3.
” The guy in front. It isn’t worth it. a meek and mixed-up kid severely lacking in muscle. at least the odds were better.” he concluded.” Elijah turned just in time to see three guys coming their way. ready to challenge that.dorm raids in the hallway. “Hey. “Warren. I like those pants!” It took only microseconds for Elijah to think it through: three against one. and stepped into their path. 133 . and stood his ground. big enough to hold his own but too timid to try it. it isn’t worth it. visibly frightened as they stood near their doors watching a wave of violence come their way. they’ll chase him and get what they want. Elijah knew what to do in their case. Jim. if Warren runs. “Guys.” Shawn. followed him. He spread his arms toward them like a cop doing crowd control. get out of here. looked at Warren and announced. “They’re not taking my stuff. took Elijah’s advice and fled out the far door. “It’s worth it. Three against two? Well. an obvious scrapper with a missing tooth and a face full of pimples. Warren was angry. the neighborly kid Elijah’d gotten to know. That left Warren.
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8 crusades and inquisitions 135 .
cursings. makeup. Meeks to get off her relativistic rump and do something about all this! Whether Meeks was in her room or anywhere else. Elisha was going to find her. inept. Dorm A had become a battleground just like dorm B. There were slap-clashes. girls were 136 . and that instantly changed Elisha’s plans. screams. don’t!” The girls didn’t even turn around. including Charlene and Melinda. we-are-the-world. and no matter what cutesy. She did a 180 and headed back. screaming and giggling along with some other girls. “Marcy! Marcy. tugs-of-war.E lisha was furious as she stormed across the field toward her own dorm building. only a few octaves higher. global village glop Meeks might use to excuse all this nonsense. There was no question they were making a beeline for the trouble. Elisha was going to get some action! Then Marcy came galloping by. shrieks. combs. irresponsible wimp-of-a-woman Mrs. including the frequent flash and tinkle of pilfered KMs. pillows. feel-good. everything flying everywhere. and threats. The hallway was a blizzard of clothing. rehearsing in her mind what argu- ment—or wrestling hold—she would use to get that stupid.
biting. you’re missing out!” Again. “Melinda! What are you doing? You can’t take that!” “Sure I can. “Come on. pulling hair. baby blue eyes. Cher. Elisha was incredulous. “We’re just having fun. I want it. Melinda came running out the door with a brandnew Walkman in her hand.” Just then. “Hey.” said Marcy. and fighting.” 137 . “Melinda. We’re just getting back at them. aren’t you the one who was all upset because somebody stole your Walkman? Don’t you remember how it felt to be ripped off?” “I feel good now.crusades and inquisitions scratching.” Melinda said flatly.” “It isn’t wrong. what if they’d come in here?’” Marcy’s eyes seemed totally blank. kicking.” Melinda answered. how scared we were? Don’t you remember saying ‘Ooo. how scary that was. “It isn’t wrong if we’re having fun. it’s wrong!” “No. “So kids got hurt last night! And they’re getting hurt tonight! Stealing things and wrecking things. it isn’t. Elisha went into the melee only deep enough to grab a fistful of Marcy’s blouse and yank her out the door. might still be working behind those dead-as-a-dolly. Cher. just one tiny brain cell. “What’s your problem?” “What’s my problem? Don’t you remember last night.” Elisha was trying to believe that a brain cell. “How dare you! Are you out of your mind?” Marcy was indignant over the interruption. “So?” Elisha wanted to slap her.
but from a safe distance.” The big guy’s back pain and abdominal discomfort gradually gave way to embarrassment and wonder. “What’s your name?” Elijah asked. 138 . he stretched out his hand as a token of friendship. “They’re okay—at least.” said Elijah. This here is Warren. and Elijah helped him to his feet. Where were his buddies? “They’re gone.” Elijah was still offering his hand.” said Elisha’s roommate as Melinda pulled her back inside. “I got tired of Marcy. He remembered grabbing Elijah with every intention of putting his head through the plaster. “Had enough?” Elijah wanted to show mercy to the big guy with pimples and the missing tooth. Standing several feet away. “Rory. He and his buddies were able to throw a few good punches before— He looked around. half doubled over from having his wind knocked out. but whatever happened between that moment and the moment his own body slammed into the floor was a stomachturning blur. Rory took it.” “I’m calling myself Jerry. they were walking.nightmare academy “Cher?” Elisha questioned. The big guy was still on the floor.
marking the very tip of the post’s shadow. take a look around. Some of them were cheering. “Wooo! Did we whip their butts or what?” Elijah wasn’t cheering. “Warren.crusades and inquisitions “You’re good. “You’d better get out of here. he took a small twig and poked it in the ground. Every few minutes. bare patch of ground. the mood was sour. and now they were gone. Brett and his whole gang had done enough damage and received plenty. We don’t want to make this a habit. As soon as the door closed behind the last invader. gathering up their scattered belongings. and counting what items weren’t there anymore. rubbing his bruised shoulder. The big raid was over. then every thirty 139 . Alex and the men of dorm B were picking themselves up.” said Elijah. a lonely fence post cast a short.” Rory hurried out the far door. apparently winners in the brawl. Warren let out a whoop. scribbling away on a class assignment. but overall. Not far from him.” The next day. Elijah spoke as a friend to Rory as he eyed his still-rowdy. a single file of twigs traced a gradual arc across the ground as the shadow moved sideways and also grew shorter. Elijah skipped lunch. Elijah started checking the time every minute. still-angry dorm mates.” Rory said. with an eye on his watch. noonday shadow on a dry. “You’re pretty good yourself. After a half-hour. choosing to spend some time sitting alone on the grass behind the library.
you could feel the tension. . Easley kept wearing that smile as he addressed a group of scowling. the whole group was clearly divided: the A and B dorms on Easley’s left and the C and D dorms on his right—and sitting prominently on each side. . our capacity for good. . then went back to the twig that marked the shortest shadow and from that. a split lip there. bruised. 7:42 and 30 seconds . All right!” Then. Greenwich Mean Time. were Alex and Brett. The dress code was still casual. back to the unreal world.” said Easley. “We’re actually getting better and better. Oh. There were bumps on some of the heads. At 1:30—or thereabouts—Mr.” He kept marking the time until the shadow began to lengthen again. As the shadow passed through its shortest length—high noon—he checked the time repeatedly and wrote it down. “Did you know that? As we keep evolving from generation to generation.nightmare academy seconds as he watched the shadow. . 140 . he determined the time the shadow had passed that point. but today some of the kids weren’t wearing a complete uniform because they no longer had one. “7:43 and 12 seconds. a puffy eye here. our ability to solve our own problems. eyeing each other like two roosters in the same chicken yard. “7:42 and 15 seconds . scratches and bruises on some of the faces. scratched. and torn students. Apart from a small number of neutrals who found it best to sit somewhere in the middle.
right in our faces. red-facedly angry. yeah.” No one applauded. and I think you should deal with it. and we need to be a part of that. It’s here. If there hadn’t been at least a few kids wanting peace. War is exactly what we’re trying to avoid. I don’t appreciate your even bringing up the subject.” said Alex.” “I didn’t bring it up. “What does the group think?” “Bring it on. “Easy. now! Take it easy!” he said.” said Brett.” “We all have our own beliefs—” By this time. What’s wrong with war? I’d like to have a little war right now!” He shot a dirty look at Brett. but Elijah did raise a hand. More hollering.” said Brett. “Oh. We need to pitch in for peace. The two sides exploded in shots and countershots. the whole discussion time might have ended in a riot right there. returning fire. and if Easley hadn’t taken a position between them. “I want you to tell us that fighting and stealing are wrong. Can you do that?” Easley looked across the group. “Why? What’s wrong with war?” Alex suddenly came to life. right now!” “It’s mine now!” “Just wait ’til tonight!” “You don’t scare me!” It took Easley several minutes and overworking that smile to get things quiet again. and Jerry. “Listen. more dirty looks.crusades and inquisitions just keeps improving. hitting his palm with his fist. more threats. Elijah was running out of patience and getting visibly. “Anytime you’re ready. 141 . “Yeah. “And I want my stuff back.
” said Easley.” Easley repeated. we don’t have to agree with anyone else’s idea of right and wrong as long as we simply respect each other.” Elijah muttered in disgust. In some cultures. If respect is there. Which do you respect?” “I respect them both. “Listen. in some cultures.” said Elijah. “Mr.” Alex thought that was funny. “Except for one thing. “Respect?” Both sides moaned with disgust and mockery as they eyed each other.” said Elijah. “You can’t have it both ways. “No one has the right to do something that’s wrong!” 142 . they eat their neighbor. then we have enough good within ourselves to rise above our differences. “Respect. different views of right and wrong.nightmare academy “Looks like the majority thinks fighting and stealing are okay. But we don’t have to believe the same things. then you sure don’t respect my right to peace and safety!” “Either/or. they love their neighbor. “Every person has a right—” “No!” said Elisha.” “Both/and. our world is full of different cultures.” Elisha said. Easley. addressing all of them. and we’re seeing an example of that right here.” Elisha piped up. “If you respect my neighbor’s right to invade my room and take my things. actually scolding him. Easley came back. “Respect.
obviously glad Elisha had said such a thing. I think those two commandments right there would solve a lot of the problems around here. who gave you the right?” “I don’t decide what’s right and what’s wrong. “And I suppose you’re going to tell us what’s right and wrong?” 143 . Thou shalt not. “Yeah. “Ah. smiling. Is that how it works? Just impose your religion on everyone so they can’t think for themselves?” “It isn’t like that. and tell everybody they have to see things your way because. “Remember the Ten Commandments? Well. God gave us—” “Set yourself up as the one who makes all the rules. Elisha pressed on. God.” Elisha answered. after all. Religion. and don’t want something that belongs to someone else. “God decides. completing her thought for the whole group. who do you think you are?” “Yeah.” The moans and hoots from the group were so loud they echoed back from the buildings across the field. Holier-than-thou. “And I suppose you’re going to tell us what’s right and wrong?” Some of the group murmured.crusades and inquisitions Easley leaned toward her. there are two more we didn’t get to recite in Booker’s class: Don’t lie. Easley leaned toward her.” Now Easley leaned back.
and why not lead a few more Crusades and Inquisitions while you’re at it?” “He twisted everything we said.” “And now we’re the intolerant bigots and know-it-alls. he starts working on everyone’s feelings so nobody’s thinking anymore. but just passed by as he handed Elijah a note. . Elijah tried to keep his face from showing what he was thinking. Elijah read the note. “Somebody wants to talk to you.nightmare academy you have God in your camp. and I don’t know what’s going to keep these kids from doing . the big guy from last night. Very handy.” “And very dangerous. don’t let him be looking for a fight. I’m glad somebody does. please.” Elisha lamented as she and Elijah walked across the field together. Rory didn’t stop to talk. It was Rory.” Elisha complained. “He’s good with speeches. “Well. have you noticed? When things start getting too illogical for him to argue. “It’s from Mr.” “And nobody’s really thought everything through. “Hey! Jerry!” Oh-oh. Oh.” 144 . I’m all for investigating. Lord. Booker. something worse. .” He kept going without looking back. Now you have all the rights: the right to criticize and persecute and condemn.” A voice called from behind them. but we’re losing what friends we may have had. Elijah.
145 . This meeting is off the record and totally nonthreatening. Elijah reported to that door immediately and gave it a gentle knock.” Elijah found a rake and let the handle drop through the gap in the door. “Come in. “No need for concern. an elbow on the workbench. a wheelbarrow. Booker began.” Elijah remained by the door and left it ajar. “Go ahead. included a rough map showing Elijah where to find the plain. preventing it from closing.” With a resigned smile. “Come in. Elijah remained by the door and left it ajar. Mr. I assure you. and close the door. “So you’ve gotten to know Rory. and a small workbench with some hammers. Jerry. hoes. He seemed entirely out of place in here. Then he remained where he was.” “Why am I here. Booker was standing there. in Booker’s handwriting.” “Not the way I’d like to. Mr. Booker?” Booker smiled understandingly. some sacks of fertilizer. Elijah opened the door and stepped into a small tool room. axes— hanging on the walls. looking at him. rakes. There were garden tools—shovels. unmarked door in back of the office building. Jerry. and a vise. picks. screwdrivers.” came Booker’s voice from inside.crusades and inquisitions The note.
“As you’ve observed. Very resourceful. Jerry. security guards. Loyalty comes at a price. shall we say. then someone else has to do the controlling. He was very impressed with your martial arts skills last night. and I’m sure plenty of other things we have yet to discover. too. propping one foot on the fertilizer sacks. Well. . I’ve been giving it some thought.nightmare academy “Well. . what trouble might be brewing so it can be dealt with. I may even need some brute force to contain disruptions. undesirable behavior? When people can’t be trusted to control their behavior.” “So you want me to be a cop?” “Mm-hm. “It’s just a convenient term I’m using for. A good student. and even courageous. firm measures must be taken. I need to know what the kids are thinking. when any society is threatened with disorder. like 146 .” “Recommended me for what?” Booker tried to look relaxed. “But I have no illusions. a clear thinker. The evil has to be contained. disruptive. That’s what police departments are for. things are getting out of hand: the raids. and I’ve decided to offer you a very special privilege. the looting. an informant?” Booker weighed Elijah’s choice of words and finally agreed with a nod. it was Rory who recommended you. “You’re a bright fellow.” “I thought you didn’t believe in evil. metal detectors. I am in need of policemen. I’m sure you understand.” “And a . the violence.” He chuckled. not flighty.
I can change the game to your advantage.” He leaned closer to Elijah.crusades and inquisitions anything else.” He reached into his blazer pocket. the academy. “Would it be worth.” Elijah paraphrased one of Booker’s pet slogans.” “And who would I be working for? You?” “For me. “It’s all about power. forty dollars—forty real dollars—per day. No more terrible disruptions.” He looked at Elijah a moment. no more lootings. you know that?” 147 . and indirectly.” “Exactly. and you have it. pulled out his wallet. But think of the advantages. inside that gate is where the power is. and produced two twenty-dollar bills. “And the advantage for you personally. laying them on the workbench. you make it sound so sinister. I can make things happen. Rory being one of them. You won’t be alone.” Elijah ran his teeth over his lower lip and then said. plus a pipeline to all the KMs you might need? I can also see to it that other privileges make themselves available. “Well. “You’re really scary. My boy. and then raised an eyebrow as he said in a softer voice. of course. perhaps. no more injuries. “You’ve seen me and the others pass through that gate every evening.” “Which is?” “You would be connected with someone in power. the main one being order on the campus.” “To be what? Hired thugs?” He laughed. I’ve already hired some others among the student body. exhilarated with his own sales pitch.
They’d already had one faceto-face with him.” “But if you don’t believe in truth. it’s like you and I are from different planets or something.nightmare academy Booker seemed flattered. it’s all power and money. But thanks for your consideration. What you’re after is control. “Eighty dollars a day!” Booker dug out two more twenties.” “The same goes for an emperor. I could never work for you. Booker. Booker’s afternoon class several minutes early—not that they were eager to get there. politely closing it after him. it’s God. The sudden hush announced him as loudly as any trumpet fanfare.” He went out the door. or a führer. BAM! The door burst open right at the top of the hour and Booker entered the room. All eyes went forward. they just didn’t want to risk being late. after that little meeting in the tool room. then who’s going to contain you?” He put his hand on the doorknob. “Mr. there couldn’t be much goodwill left between them.” “Admittedly. “Fear works. For me. Elijah shook his head in wonder. 148 . or a dictator. and now. or right and wrong. That’s the scary part. For you. am I right? You’re trying to contain evil.” “A good general must have an army. Elijah and Elisha showed up for Mr. It’s Truth.” “Especially if you have spies and head-breakers working for you.
crusades and inquisitions “Pass your homework to the front!” One-page assignments were passed forward. “Give them here. Booker was noticing. “Stolen. stacking them neatly in front of her. His eyes were doing a slow sweep of the class.” Heads pivoted about. How some of these kids found the time to write anything was a bit of a mystery. “You can be certain that you have made a very grave mistake. .” Samuel replied. chilling moment. Booker took them in hand without looking at them. to the front. he thought. can’t find ’em. Out of some 149 . “Sir. Booker crossed his arms and announced in a very dark tone. “Tonya! Where is your white blouse?” Tonya was wearing a ragged denim shirt under her burgundy blazer. After a long. sir. boy.” Booker barked. Guilt was everywhere. here it comes.” Booker scanned the room one more time. Elisha received the pages from her row. sir. and all the front-row students handed them over.” “Samuel? Your white shirt and your tie?” “Stolen. ray-gunning every kid one at a time. “Marvin! You aren’t even wearing your shoes!” “Uh .” “Stolen. One look at the stack told her some didn’t. . Oh. and knew what Mr. sir.” Booker ordered. desk to desk. Elijah could see most of the class from where he sat.
leaning back against his desk. Tom. but only because they’d decked Rory and his two buddies before they could loot their rooms. Brett’s wardrobe was apparently unscathed. “Where is Alex?” Booker asked. By God’s grace. They were big. “Rory. place him in his desk.” Booker raised an eyebrow. Elijah could guess: Each had had his own little meeting with Booker in the tool room. her name was Cher now—and Elisha had avoided the first raid.” They left the room with gleeful. the fourth guy. and Jamal—they’d met under last night’s unfortunate circumstances. and ugly. Elijah knew Rory. and make sure he stays there.nightmare academy twenty-plus students.” Then he added. “Sir. uh. and now Booker was “changing the game to their advantage. The rest were wearing whatever pieces they had left. weren’t they? But what about Clay? He was 150 . Clay. Brett was looking a little gleeful himself. I heard Alex say he was going to get some sleep. Bring Alex here. so they still looked sharp.” Four big guys rose from their desks. there was no answer. Elijah and Warren had complete uniforms. he said he needed sleep more than he needed your class. Clay. looked even worse. theatrically offended. Oh! And make sure he brings all his KMs with him. tough. “He. None of them were wearing a complete uniform. The first three guys were from his dorm. but Booker didn’t seem to notice. Marcy—oh. Jamal. For a moment. hungry looks on their faces. Tom. Then Brett spoke up. horribly mismatched with street clothes. sufficiently. only six or seven had a complete uniform.
of course. “Tonya. as of right now. bursting through the 151 . “You will replace whatever you are missing by purchasing it at the Campus Exchange. Tom. using. Jamal. Booker went on with business. The KMs jingled into Booker’s wooden “penalty bowl” like doubloons into a pirate’s treasure chest. “But—” “NOW!” She dug in her pocket and produced five coins. you will be fined five KMs. five for the missing tie! And Marvin! Five for each missing shoe!” It took a lot of class time to collect fines from so many lawbreakers.” She was devastated. Forty bucks a day must have looked pretty sweet. Are there any questions?” The room was silent. but this was Booker’s way. of course. “Of course not. the cafeteria will issue a ten KM credit for skipping a meal.crusades and inquisitions supposed to be one of Alex’s buddies. Two more. you will abandon all thoughts of protest or appealing to fairness. Samuel! Five KMs for the missing shirt.” He gave the penalty bowl a knowing look as he added.” The kids would have moaned.” Then Rory. Period. your KMs. but that would have cost them. “If you have no KMs. I require uniforms and I exact penalties because I rule your lives. . . “And. and Clay returned. “It’s not my fault.” “I heard an excuse. He seemed to enjoy punishing people as much as teaching them. .
with anger. Alex! How many different ways must I demonstrate it?” Booker tossed the bag of KMs back to Rory.nightmare academy door with Alex walking—sometimes—between them.” Rory explained. The four big bruisers dropped him in his desk and then stood there. “Things got a little rough. 152 . “You traitor!” Clay only shrugged and jingled the coins around in his hand.” As Alex watched his KMs counted out and tossed from hand to hand right over his head. Booker saw the blood and tossed a box of tissues to Rory. As a matter of fact. He’d learned better than that and chose not to. and Rory tossed him Alex’s bag of KMs. “Divide it amongst yourselves. He wasn’t dressed for class. that everyone in the room flinched. some bruises on his face and some blood on his forearm. he nearly spit the words at Clay. He hit the corner of a table. The bag was full and heavy. holding the wound on his arm. Alex dabbed the wound but didn’t say thank you. but sat there glowering. almost weeping. huffing through clenched teeth. “You have just experienced the answer to your question. Booker extended his open palm. who gave them to Alex. defying him to get up. wearing only a tee shirt and jogging shorts. “Who are you to tell me what to do?” “ARE YOU BLIND!?” Booker’s voice was so loud. he was hardly dressed at all. so intimidating. None of you will avoid my class—ever!” Alex’s voice was hissing. landing in Booker’s hand with an audible chink! “You will never avoid my class again.
Easley. gloating. on the fifty-yard line. Perhaps you can help them resolve their differences without killing each other. Mr. Take them all. “I guess it’s about that time. Booker stood there listening. “This is gonna be good!” said Clay.” said Alex. and Mr. Easley! Just the man we need!” He indicated the two seething combatants. Mr. nice and neat. the door opened. “We have two kings here.” Easley took charge. “You and me. irresolvable issues here. He even produced an extra tie from his pocket. observing. It was Brett. Let’s gather outside. smiling. “Missing something?” “You think it’s over?” Alex asked him. They’re useless to me today. in full uniform. anywhere. “Okay. Form a wide circle and wait ’til I get there.” said Brett. Booker.” The class rose hurriedly to their feet. “Anytime. 153 . Easley stuck his head in. better swing by your room and get out of that suit.” Easley eyed the two boys knowingly and said. “Excuse me. Let’s go. He knew where Alex was going.crusades and inquisitions A chuckle from across the room turned Alex’s head. “Mr. I was wondering—” Booker was jubilant. Brett. Brett just wagged his head slowly. enjoying every moment.” Just then. Don’t mean to interrupt. “We appear to have some ongoing. everyone. isn’t it?” “You may as well take them off my hands. two nations at war.
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9 the student king 155 .
Form a circle. He handed one pair to Alex. ready.” Brett arrived. wondering. Brett maintained a stony face. Brett.” Mr. fifty-yard line. come over here. back up. “Okay. “What’s happening?” “You mean they’re going to fight?” “You think Brett can take this guy?” “You’re the man. you and your group stand over on that side. Alex. you stand over on this side. scattered clusters of concern and anticipation. Easley arrived in time to direct traffic. in jogging shorts and tee shirt. back up. one pair to Brett. guys 156 . Alex.T hey moved into the field.” Mr. make some room so everyone can see. Back up a little more. continually sizing up his opponent. All around the circle. “Okay.” “Does this mean we get our stuff back?” “Where do we go?” “The football field. bantering. as Rory and Jamal tied his glove laces. Easley was carrying two pairs of boxing gloves. The smirk on Alex’s face just stayed there as he clustered with his closest buddies from dorm B and put on the gloves. whispering.
got punched again. cheer. Brett stepped in again. choosing sides. no strategy. bringing them into the center of the circle where they faced each other like two heavyweights before a bout. two different ways of seeing things. He stumbled backward. This is one way we keep getting better and better. giggling. eyes mean.the student king were muttering. “Okay. The crowd began to holler. It’s the way history has always flowed and mankind has always evolved from one way of thinking to a better way of thinking. “I want you all to understand. standing in the center of the circle. Alex connected with Brett’s face again. After today. girls were bickering. placing bets. Elijah and Elisha just tried to appear as neutral as possible. lost his balance.” said Easley. scolding. and we’re going to have peace. 157 . Let’s go.” He stepped back. we’re all going to see things differently. This isn’t going to be one man’s viewpoint prevailing over the other man’s viewpoint. and it’s very normal. gloves raised. “Okay. they didn’t want to see this ridiculous fight in the first place. but landed one himself. They didn’t care at all who won. “There isn’t going to be a winner or a loser. Brett doubled over. bragging. no skill. Half the crowd cheered. then sent a haymaker into Brett’s stomach. Alex threw the first punch.” Alex and Brett approached each other. so keep that in mind during this process. They went toe-to-toe. and fell. circling. listen up. just a brawl. It’s going to be the melting together of two viewpoints to form a new one.” He beckoned to Alex and Brett. and it landed squarely in Brett’s face. you’re looking at two different realities. everybody. shriek. half jeered.
Easley stepped back and let them go at it again. loudly enough for everyone to hear. “Don’t get up!” yelled others. “What about all the stuff you took from dorm B? Maybe you could reach an agreement of some kind. waving him on. Brett did land a few punches. They went toe-to-toe. mainly to Alex’s body.” Brett only pushed Easley away as blood ran down his face.” Easley stepped back and let Brett charge. this time with a nosebleed. and mainly because Alex let him. just a brawl. 158 . stumbling to his feet. have you thought about how you’d like to end this?” Brett was furious. dazed mess. “Brett. Alex was simply a better fighter. sending him to the ground a bleeding. no skill. this time with a suggestion. “Get up!” someone yelled. “What about all the stuff they took?” Easley looked to Alex for a reply. Brett went down again. Easley stepped in again. as usual. then spoke to Brett. Then Alex chose his moment and hammered Brett’s head with a volley of punches. Alex just smirked. come and get it.” said Alex. “You want it.nightmare academy Easley motioned Alex back. no strategy. “By caving his face in!” “Come on and do it. motioned for quiet.
He was pretty brave to take you on. Easley put a hand on Alex’s shoulder. and you can make sure we’re all safe and cared for.” Easley suggested. just one big. “One world!” they cheered. “Yeah! One family!” “King Alex!” “We can get our stuff back!” “No more raids! Cool!” Easley spoke to Alex. “Everybody give everything back.” The kids picked up on that idea quickly. either. knowing Brett would hear him. He’s earned it. “Alex. Brett?” Brett propped himself up on his elbows and looked to the crowd all around him. peaceful world.” He turned to the crowd surrounding them. “How about it? We could join together under one new viewpoint and have one big family.” “You could make it work both ways. Couldn’t you. I know he could serve you well. everybody can live by the rules you make. one boss in charge. but silently wiped blood from his face with the back of his glove. No more raids. perhaps you’d like to offer some terms of surrender?” Alex approached Brett. no more fights. “One world! One world!” 159 . Half the crowd was undecided. “And Brett could be your lieutenant.the student king Brett was trying to get up. Think of it. “You can be a benevolent king. With one ruler. “You give us back all our stuff—starting with my tie. but let Alex be the king. Brett couldn’t decide.” Alex liked that a lot. but he had neither strength nor balance and rose repeatedly only to crumble to the ground again. standing over him like a conqueror. Easley approached Alex this time.
Alex winked at Elisha. “We have two kids who are interested. and with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Ms. listened to the crowd. “Okay. we get ours.nightmare academy Brett looked up at Alex.” “What did she do?” Sarah asked.” “So what can you tell us about the academy?” asked Nate. Alex dropped the smirk and actually looked kind. had met Kathy Simons. You get your stuff. “Hey.” 160 . “She’s one little ball of energy. and finally smiled concedingly. and then she did the final screening.” Alex helped Brett to his feet. Elijah tried to smile but couldn’t find a reason to do so. She presented the program to us. let me tell you! I think she covered just about every high school in greater Denver. they raised their free hands to the crowd. principal of Smithson High School in Denver. so we’re proud of that. The cheer from the kids echoed across the campus. She smiled politely. They were getting better and better. The war was over. we stand together. Sound good?” Brett thought. then I’ll respect you and we’ll put everything back together. “She was a recruiter. You give me respect. He smiled gloatingly at Elijah. Jennifer Whitman. we recommended some candidates. searching his face. Three of our kids qualified.
the student king Ms. “The Knight-Moore Academy was a twoweek program offered for four summers in four different locations around the country. There are many different truths out there. but I think the program’s been discontinued. one in Virginia a year ago. different buildings.” “And the very first one was. We got involved in the academy held in Borland three years ago. Ms. and all the students went into it fully aware of that. “Really?” “The government gave it a test run. what was it?” Nate asked. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I guess. That’s a shame because I think it was definitely time for such a project.” 161 . and different address on the back. It was experimental. Whitman gave them a consoling look. and decided to scrap it. “A team of educators wanted to explore new techniques in education from a global perspective.” “What kind of experiment?” Sarah asked.” Sarah didn’t have to pretend surprise. The kids came back with a wider. Whitman reached into a desk drawer and pulled out three brochures. but different in one strange way: The photographs in each brochure were of a different academy.” Nate read the different locations on the brochures. fresher. and the one in Colorado three years ago. different setting. in Southern California. I believe. well. It wasn’t for everybody. I don’t have any information about that. I think they came to realize that there is definitely more than one way to look at things. global understanding. and I think it worked. “So there was one in Illinois two years ago. all similar in size and style.” “Well.
” As they drove back to the airport in their rented car. Nate spouted a question bothering him. his official 162 . “Certainly. What if these other campuses aren’t there anymore?” “We’d better hope they are.” “And. “I’ll fax all this stuff to Morgan.” She looked at him for a further explanation. . This time. you don’t have any current address or phone number for Kathy Simons. why doesn’t Morgan know about it? Why doesn’t the president know about it?” Sarah leafed through the photocopies of the brochures. No need to say it. Elijah could hear the thumping bass notes even from behind the library. then wherever the kids were taken . . uh.” “Okay. where he’d returned to his secluded little spot by the lonely fence post.” She sorted through the photocopies and the scanned photograph of the mysterious redhead. do you?” “Just the information on the back of the brochure.nightmare academy “Could we make some photocopies of these brochures?” Nate asked. “So far we’ve seen a youth shelter and an entire campus disappear. and he responded.” The music from the Rec Center could be heard anywhere on campus. he had a length of thread he’d pulled painstakingly from the edge of his bedsheet. “If the Knight-Moore Academy is a government project. “Because if they aren’t there anymore.
the North Star. “Can I borrow a KM?” “Get your own.” said Britney. but was still “sharing” a Walkman with Charlene. He immediately found the Big Dipper and. Tonya had her blouse again. in a mood. Mr. was the North Star? The Rec Center was hopping again. and a small. Perfect. Everyone was back. In the lounge area near the vending machines. the thread. having a great time. Easley happened to be there that night. in degrees. wearing his recently recovered tie around his head like a victor’s wreath. Now all he had to do was use the post. beautiful night. six-foot tape measure he’d purchased at the Campus Exchange. who didn’t respect her very much. patting backs and giving hugs. a token of the new peace accord. she’d returned the Walkman she’d taken.” “We’re getting better and better. Melinda was moping a bit. presiding over the restoration of all stolen—or rather. 163 . groping in her pockets. “I think it’s going to work. Alex sat on a picnic table. She turned to Madonna. smiling as broadly as ever. It was a clear. and Marvin had just received his shoes. Samuel had his white shirt and tie. feeling safe. and the tape measure to answer the big question of the evening: Exactly how high in the sky. from there. The stars were out. and actually celebrating having a Student King on Campus. shared—goods.the student king KM flashlight.” said Madonna.
Marcy—I mean. Try earning a few.nightmare academy “C’mon. I get so sick of hearing that. used a key from his pocket. holding her pop can high. we’re celebrating!” They only pouted at him. sitting on the bench next to Cher. Have fun. Easley! Hip hip!” They all hoorayed the three cheers. Let’s pass the drinks around and celebrate our new unity!” Now. “Gotta go.” “Yeah. formerly Marcy. Easley waved to them all. and swung the machine open. that drew a crowd! A happy riot gathered instantly and the machine was empty in a matter of minutes.” “What’s the matter with better and better?” “You’re not thinking. “Now what’s the matter?” Cher asked. “Better and better!” Cher. “Hey. “Nobody owns this pop.” 164 . cans high in the air. “Better and better. then how can we know we’re getting better? Better than what? How can we know the difference?” “It feels better. Alex held his pop can high.” He went to the pop machine. “Three cheers for Mr. “Okay. tell you what. and maybe I’m tired of you mooching all my KMs.” Easley overheard them and called out. cheered. I want to buy a Coke. We have all things in common. Cher. anyway. Elisha.” He went out the door as they cheered after him. looked glumly at her can of pop and just shook her head. If there’s no truth.
Well. . unable to find anything about him that she liked. “Hey. “If he was asking me .” With a quick and simple defensive move.’ But can’t you see? Both those names are a fantasy. “Oh. Elisha broke his grip on her wrist. thank you. reaching out his hand. you don’t say no to the king.the student king “Just like ‘Cher’ feels better than ‘Marcy.” She looked up at him. Sally!” Elisha didn’t realize he was calling her.” He responded. “Hey. only half jokingly. whoa!” “Better listen to ’em. then asked. . it’s starting to look that way. This whole place. 165 .” He took her by her wrist and tugged her to her feet.” Cher thought about that only a moment. makeshift tiecrown around his head. What?” Alex came striding over. “Hey. please.” said Britney. “Sally.” “Wanna go for a walk?” “No. “Congratulations. this whole thing is just one big lie.” said Alex.” Elisha remembered her assumed name. “What’d I tell you? I said we were going to even things up. “Things are changing and I’m worth knowing. pop can in hand. I don’t believe you!” Madonna threw in her two bits. “So who are you really?” “Sally!” Alex called from his perch on the picnic table. “No.” Britney was shocked. “the king’s calling you.
. Elijah stood there a moment. looking at the crowd and then at Alex. and Alex and everyone’s eyes said “Trouble. It was Elijah. Alex looked over his shoulder. stepping forward. . “Whoooa . and then he couldn’t help snickering. “That’s your opinion. The party stopped.” Alex was in a spot.” said Ramon. raised a hand. “You heard what I said. But if you think we have two different viewpoints. then maybe you and me better get together and see if we can come up with a new one. Everyone was watching him. But Warren was looking past Alex. and he had a throne to defend. looking Alex in the eye. huh? You win a fight and suddenly you’re dictating opinions and looking for more fights so you can dictate more 166 . about to say something— “Alex. She was visibly upset and shook her head faintly to warn him. Elisha stood her ground. No one moved. Everybody was. . There was no question he’d heard what Alex said.nightmare academy There was a hush. Now everyone was staring at him. “So this is how it works now. hoping she had made herself clear. He turned to face Elijah directly. How about it?” Elijah looked to his sister for any cues. She’s Jerry’s girl—” Alex planted one huge hand in Warren’s chest and shoved him violently into the guys behind him. “Come on. just inside the door.” It was Warren.” “Cool. He leaned forward.” came a murmur in the crowd.
“we’re supposed to be having a party. if he’s the king. Warren went quickly to Elijah’s side. “I owe you one.” The murmur rippling through the crowd was beginning to lean heavily toward peace and partying. And if he’s the king. In that window of time.” said Britney. come on. guys like him start pushing their way in. “Don’t spoil it.” He said to the crowd. You’re the king.the student king opinions.” he told Elijah. Brett. “Save it. Alex had to think about this one.” said Madonna. . “You see what’s happened here? You throw truth out the window and the next thing you know. Alex looked back. “I’m gonna shut that mouth of yours.” “What’s wrong with a rumble?” said Ramon.” “Alex!” It was Warren. The sight of them side by side said everything. Let’s just have fun. what does that make the rest of you?” Alex started toward him. his face still puffy. “Alex.” “. Enjoy it. “Hey. you’re the king. guys. came alongside Alex. what does that make the rest of you?” 167 . .
” He shifted his weight forward and pointed in their faces. scratch.72 hours after it was high noon in Greenwich. At 15 degrees per hour. England.” Elijah persuaded Warren.72 hours. Greenwich. try it again . Fabulosity!” He’d borrowed a road atlas from the library. that means the earth rotated 115.nightmare academy Alex listened. is at 0 degrees longitude. leave ’em that way. you know. . figure. Elisha was gone. He flipped it open. . hurriedly paged through it. “Okay.” They left. . . .” Then he consulted his time records taken during the day. hoo boy . 50 minutes west of Greenwich.17.” The whole crowd began breathing again. Cher. “But your time’s coming. Elijah did some figuring. safe and with his face still nice. and Madonna just shrugged. . Britney. base of right triangle . scratching figures on a sheet of paper. and found the map he was 168 .80 degrees. okay. “Archtangent . . Let’s just. he said. which means the earth rotated for 7. “We’ve got a party going on here. . knowing nothing. so that puts us at . . “Okay. Cool. it was high noon here exactly 7. his eyes never leaving Elijah and Warren.” Scratch. so you be ready. Alex got back his old smirk and turned to collect the spoils of war. “You’ve got a nice face. relaxing just a little. 47. . . In his room. tangent of the angle . no. “Okay. Come on. 115 degrees. England. Finally. figure. . I’ve got a nice face.
” She was watching. Working from that. Because it was. and boy. TOWN TEN MILES MAYBE. but Elisha’s window was dark.” “RT. with so many things denied and unknown.” “RT (Roger That). Hopefully.” “LY. She replied. A few lights were still on in dorm C. meaning she was waiting for him to signal. and he had his answer. “Thank you. 169 . NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO. was that comforting.” “4 7 1 0. HAVE LOCATION. he knew he and his sister were still on planet Earth. grabbed his flashlight. He blinked out the hailing code: “E E S. One quick horizontal measurement.” Elijah clicked off his flashlight and relaxed on the floor below the window. still precise and predictable. WORTH A TRY. SUGGEST TOMORROW NIGHT. he also had a pretty good idea of how to get somewhere else.” “RT. He turned off the lights. WE MUST GET OUT OF HERE. the universe God made was still there.” “READY. 1 1 5 5 0. PLEASE COPY.” After all this madness.” “LY. Lord. ROAD TO WEST. “GLAD YOUR FACE IS STILL NICE. and went to the window.the student king looking for. Elisha would be alone in her room. in a real place he could see on a map. his back against the wall. one quick vertical measurement. The party was still in full swing in the Rec Center.
“We understand there used to be an academy around here. It wasn’t unusual for kids to carry extra food out of the cafeteria for late-night snacks. shutting down the tractor engine. which wasn’t hard to do—they were the only standing feature in several acres. dusty middle. The next morning. He steered toward them. she began formulating ways she could pack and carry food and water. Nate and Sarah stood in the middle of a plowed field at the end of a dirt road in central Illinois. Before she dozed off. . in the dark. they walked. or lie alone in the quiet.nightmare academy Elisha threw back the covers and hopped into bed. the numbers Elijah sent her discretely scribbled on her forearm where she couldn’t lose them. if the bears could just be elsewhere. Now. so she and her brother could stock up on provisions during lunch and dinner. Nate was carrying some information and a map in his hand. open. It would be a long time before she or her brother would sense such peace again. . . A farmer on his tractor spotted them. “Can I help you folks?” he asked. glad and relieved. before they would ever rest easy again. or see their rooms. and eventually they met in the wide. The Knight-Moore Academy?” 170 .
“Looks like they did some burning. Can’t plant it ’til I get all the junk out of it.” “They burned the whole thing. Sarah had to verify. “Yeah.” Sarah looked at Nate. Found some wires yesterday. right here?” “The government tore it down two years ago and sold me the land cheap. But like I say. Can I get you folks some coffee or something?” Nate didn’t have to ask Sarah. We have to be going. everything.” That was not good news. “They burned it. we’re in a pretty big hurry.” said the farmer. ’Sgood thing I didn’t get electrocuted.” said the farmer. I keep plowing up bricks and concrete and pipes in the ground. then bulldozed the foundations.” 171 . “Thanks. You shoulda seen the mess they left here. “You mean. “Hard to believe what used to be here.” “Could you tell us where it is?” He pointed straight down. He could see it in her face. I got it cheap. “You find that stuff all over the place. Burned it all down. Buildings. there surely was. what do they care?” Nate found a chunk of concrete.” “Had some complaints about the smoke. “Yeah.” He looked all around as if trying to imagine it.” Nate dug lightly with his finger and unearthed a piece of charred wood. “You’re standing on it. We’re. “but that’s the government. sidewalks.the student king The farmer started chuckling. uh. I’m letting it lie fallow for now. Long as they’re the ones doing the polluting. and left a big mess for me to clean up. and it’s good ground once you work it.
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10 first strike 173 .
sleep was. Then Cher shook her awake. Breakfast was not vital today. Meeks! She told us this morning. irritated. Her first class. clipped-haired teacher named Ms. Cher was prone to overstating things. The voices of excited girls in the hall and outside the window kept creeping into her consciousness. “I don’t. Elisha felt no need to hurry out of bed. Easley got fired. She said there wasn’t going to be any discussion group or volleyball because Mr.” Elisha said dully. didn’t start until ten. “What are you talking about?” “Mr. “What’s coming down?” “Mr. and you know why?” “No.E lisha slept in late. Easley got fired!” “Who says?” “Mrs. but she tried to pretend they were only a faraway part of her dream. Easley got fired.” 174 . “Sally! Sally! Wake up! It’s all coming down!” Elisha opened her eyes. art appreciation. Cher. taught by a male-hat- ing. Fitzhugh. and we’re all going on strike!” That had to be an overstatement.
He was in his uniform. brushing her hair aside.” “That’s what I think. If we want to know what’s happening. Jerry. uh . babbling 175 . and so was she.” “Well.” The kids.” She found Elijah in the field.” “Jerry. they were making a point of it. . somebody narc’d on him.” Elijah quipped as they started walking. “I’ve got to find my. sitting against the stone wall. it doesn’t make sense to be anywhere else. The kids gathering around the gate were wearing anything they jolly well chose to wear.” “I think he’s outside waiting for you. you know. “I guess I could loosen my tie. . are we going to have to take sides on this?” “Well. almost the whole student body of fifty. standing still while girls and boys moved past him. trying to make sense of this—as if anything ever made sense in this place. and Alex has called a strike!” “What does Mrs. maybe we can just be there. and he got in trouble. “So.” “Yeah. were gathering. my friend. but there weren’t many uniforms visible this morning. uh. Meeks think about that?” “She’s all for it! She’s joining the strike!” Elisha began to wake up and hopped out of bed. “I thought nobody owned anything so you couldn’t steal anything.first strike “Because he stole pop out of the pop machine last night! Can you believe that?” Elisha sat up. sitting on the grass. and now he’s fired. heading for the big iron gate.
” Elijah replied. Easley back. They also picked up his attitude. Stern and Mrs. shouting orders. Elisha started out with her brother. getting people seated. Alex was striding back and forth. “We don’t know what’s going on.” Elisha explained.” Then he struck a pose. Now I’m being stared at because I look nice. pointing to a spot to the left of the gate where half the kids were already seated. No class attendance. “No. folding his arms across his chest and eyeing them as he delivered the challenge: “You with us or against us?” “We wouldn’t miss it. tall and mean. “We’re going on strike until they bring Mr. was quick to explain. “You and me. Mr. watching everything without getting involved. Alex stopped her. Meeks were standing a short distance away. Oh. it ain’t over. I’m watching you!” Elijah gave him a little salute and found a place to sit.” Alex told him. 176 . look at the suits!” somebody yelled as Elijah and Elisha approached. The guy enjoyed being a king. no doubt about that. so Elisha and I aren’t the only ones. no nothing until we get what we want. and the kids responded to him. you sit right here.nightmare academy excitedly—and angrily. to the right of the gate. well.” She exchanged a glance of agreement with her brother and sat on the grass in the front row of the crowd. Alex. Warren was in his uniform. “Sit over there. in jeans and a tee shirt with the sleeves torn off. “Hey. “And you remember!” Alex warned Elijah. and so are some of Warren’s friends. Elijah thought. directing traffic.
Meeks. a rippling wave of anger and resentment. I’ll be honest. and everyone chorused the question. there are some on our faculty who don’t appreciate his viewpoint on things or his teaching approach. to all that’s right and 177 . and don’t mess up.” came the first voice. He was an example. “Mr. Please—I appeal to your inner goodness. “Who narc’d on him?” Ramon demanded. Unfortunately. something I strongly resent. passing the conclusion along. “Mr.” That got a murmur going through the crowd.” “Booker!” “That creep!” “Surprise. “He was visionary.” “But who told Booker?” somebody asked. but I’m sure you all have an idea. “Booker. Meeks raised a hand of caution.” “Booker. If you do what you have to do and do it right. Stern spoke first.” Alex stepped aside while Stern and Meeks stepped forward. “I ask only one thing. Meeks have something to say.” “Let’s run him out.” He looked at Mrs. surprise!” “Booker—he’s dead meat. . listen up!” said Alex. The kids started looking at each other suspiciously.first strike “Okay. I won’t stand in your way. That question poisoned the chatter. and so . Mrs. “I’ve always told you that you are the masters of your own fate. and got a rousing cheer. “I don’t want to get into any names. Easley was a real credit to this school. Well. He was kind. and the crowd hushed. followed by others. They informed on him solely to be rid of him. Stern and Mrs. .” she said.
Alex took it and started his list. Alex strode back and forth. “Sit tight.” “And I think we should always have free pop.” “This is your world. “Easley in.” With a look and a step back.” said Stern.” “Right on. 178 . thinking.” said Alex.” “Right.” “And I want a telephone so I can call my folks!” said Cher. which brought an immense cheer. Meeks and Stern set out across the field toward the office without another word or a look back. they turned it back over to Alex. “Anybody got any paper?” Alex asked. Make your voices heard. “What do we do now?” somebody asked. Booker out. passed a pink-bound notepad forward. the little Hispanic from the volleyball game. “It’s not our place to say anything more than that. your work.” said Brett. Unite. Maria. “Yeah.” “How about a list of demands?” Warren suggested. “And get rid of Booker!” said Tonya. do what you feel is right. and we’ll unite with you. That brought a cheer.nightmare academy good within your hearts: Please do no harm. “Hey! Stern and Meeks! How ’bout it?” While the kids cheered and clapped. and we wish you the best.” “Yeah. But follow a path of peace. “We want Easley back. who led the crowd in applause. Elisha joined the cheer for that one.
They approached. as grim as ever.S. shoulder to shoulder. Jamal. almost marching. like a general leading his troops. was Mr. short line of adults was coming their way from the campus. shoulder to shoulder. Right behind the line of adults. He was smart. Bateman. the librarian who also taught yoga. walked in another line. Fitzhugh. Eyes. like a general leading his troops. but kind of fumbly. Booker. one pair at a time. never breaking formation. walking deliberately. worrying. and some had no idea who he was. the U. Next to her was Mr. On one end was Ms. the math teacher. And out in front. “Mr. Tom. watching. ten big guys. Bingham would like to know what this is all about. waiting. Booker announced loudly. looking grim.” And out in front. the art teacher. looking cool and tough. The crowd went silent. Very few of the kids had ever seen him. Chisholm. Wendell. including Rory. Mr.first strike Then the chatter began to die down. was stepping right along with them. the facilities man. 179 . history teacher. was Mr. as grim as ever. They were carrying chains in their hands. and Clay. began to turn toward the far side of the field. On the other end was Mr. A tight. Next to him was Mrs. one voice at a time. Johnson. Not a friendly type. Booker. until they stood before the kids like a line of riot police.
Bingham isn’t about to grant an audience to a mob of barbarians. while encouraging freedom and progress of thought. “We have a list of demands! We want Mr. He skipped that part. Your little demonstration is over as of now!” The kids in the crowd were eyeing those big guys with the chains and starting to change their attitude. trying to act invisible. Mr. Booker standing right there. Alex asked Rory and his bunch. Alex was looking at Booker. “So what are you going to do now. “Don’t be absurd! These gentlemen are not the barbarians here. and—” Booker grabbed the notepad from Alex’s hand and slapped his face with it. Alex gathered some courage and referred to the little pink notepad. They’re your classmates. especially with Mr. “We want unlimited pop from the machines. Easley and his 180 . “You arrogant fool! Mr. has policies in place to maintain order and discipline. apparently groping for words. “Read him the demands. You just gonna beat ’em up with those chains? You gonna let this guy push us all around?” By now. Booker froze them in their tracks. Everyone was looking at Alex.” said Brett. Easley back.nightmare academy There was a significant silence. “I did not dismiss you! Return to your places!” They slinked back. Booker had started laughing—purposely—in Alex’s face. Some were already slinking away. you traitors? These are your friends. we want Booker—” Alex had trouble reading that one. “The Knight-Moore Academy.” He addressed the crowd.
Easley’s indiscretion. The cafeteria. “The Rec Center—all the games. they exchanged looks of alarm and disbelief. will be closed and padlocked. Apparently you forgot where all the fun and food come from. 181 . as always.” That stung everyone. they gasped. chains and padlocks in hand. His fate was well deserved. all the sports equipment—will be closed and padlocked. and no food. and ready to comply with the academy’s policies will be granted amnesty— and perhaps the evening meal. “—Or to follow the foamings of a would-be emperor with a futile cause. and all the vending machines. the will of those in authority is quite another. Proceed. I will be in my classroom at three. No fun will be available. Any member of the student body who reports to my classroom clean. When I learned of Mr.” He looked over his shoulder at the ten big student bruisers.” Rory and his gang headed out toward the Rec Center and cafeteria.” He paused long enough to sweep the crowd with his intimidating gaze. I had no choice but to report him. all the diversions. but of course no one said a word. But if you wish. Carefully consider whether it is in your best interests to submit to those in power—” He shot a cutting side-glance at Alex. for the rest of the day. “Now it appears we have another indiscretion that must be dealt with.” A wave of anger and disgust swept through the crowd. in uniform. “Ah. They moaned. “Gentlemen. and harshly.first strike utopian visions are one thing. The choice is up to you. you can show us you remember.
and several kids decided that being elsewhere was a great idea. Hey.” “He didn’t have to. I did enjoy our talk. He didn’t see Mr. he had cut away Alex’s power and dignity in front of everyone and made him look foolish. all right. He shot a glance at Elisha. Easley open the pop machine.” said Alex. “You’re welcome to sit here the rest of the day if you wish. For the third time. Oh-oh. Elijah felt a gnawing dread rising in his stomach. wait a minute. “I am sorry to see you in such a situation. Elijah figured it would be a good time to leave as well. Warren and his uniformed friends left quickly and quietly. silky-smooth style. “you told Booker?” Elisha piped up. wanting no more trouble from either side. . and with a cruel. . One look at the rage in Alex’s face.” said Ramon. The kids thought it. “Jerry .” He gave Elijah a friendly pat on the shoulder and moved on. There won’t be much else to do. and then turned to Alex and the crowd. The other teachers and staff began walking away. relishing the moment. . He knew which “little talk” Booker was referring to. Consider yourselves dismissed if you have anywhere to go. My associates and I will wait until three for your response.nightmare academy Booker watched them for a moment. “Of course not! He wasn’t even there. They were all staring at him. but he also knew which “little talk” Booker had to be hoping the kids would think he was referring to. but Booker was quick to intercept Elijah’s path and tell him in a clearly audible voice. instantly regaining his role of 182 . who rose to her feet.” Booker had done it again. Jerry.
Faintness clouded his vision.” “Mr. you were the one who caused all the trouble. pain coursing through every organ in his body.” He gave Elijah a taunting little shove. I know you want a fight.” Elisha demanded.” A two-handed shove. his arms enfolding his stomach. Elijah took the shoving and tried to stay cool. his balance left him. “It was about something else—” But Alex had always wanted a good reason to publicly pulverize Elijah. especially since the night before. Another shove.first strike bully and head-basher. “You’ve always had it in for Mr. Booker asked to see me.” Elijah explained. “leave him alone. but I’m not—” OOF! Elijah should have seen it coming: a violent punch to his midsection.” Alex growled. “Everybody knew about it. Easley. “Listen. about to kick him. He doubled over. and now he’d found it. He doubled over. “He was trying to get me to be one of his cops—” “Every discussion group. pain coursing through every organ in his body. “Get up!” Alex demanded. He planted himself right in Elijah’s path. “You saw your chance and you took it.” Elijah began to explain. and he toppled to the ground. 183 . “Alex.
this one to his stomach. Alex! Show some class. “Hey. It was enough. “So you want in on this. crying kids—some watching out of sick enjoyment. legs kicking. evading. bowling him over like a sapling under a truck tire. blocking. WHAM! His head cracked against a speeding wall from out of nowhere. Somehow they got on their feet again. cheering. and now she could see where this fight was going—right where Elijah wanted it to go. blocking. arms blocking punches. Another blow. He grabbed for her again. getting in 184 . all right!” Alex grinned. saving his strength. They were surrounded by a circle of screaming. He was fighting defensively.nightmare academy Elisha grabbed Alex’s arm and yanked him angrily. ducking. “Now.” said Ramon. some watching in alarm. “You leave him alone!” He turned and grabbed her right back. “come on. They rolled. too?” Elisha struggled. Elisha brought her heel down on his instep like a thirtypound spike. pulling and kicking. fist hitting flesh. She’d trained and sparred with Elijah from their preteens. they kicked and gouged. looked around. they punched. tripping. Elisha fell back to watch. She slipped free. staggered. can we please stop this?” Alex roared like a grizzly and charged. That loosened his grip just a little. “Sally” fell away to the ground as he reeled. hoping it would end. Having gotten Alex’s attention. man!” “I’ll show you something. the earth quaking under his feet. Elijah planted himself between Alex and his sister. like being hit with a flying manhole cover.
Alex went down. Elijah spun and threw a high kick right across Alex’s jaw. Okay. Britney. His burgundy blazer would never be the same. “No more than you beating me up makes you a king!” He looked at all their faces. and ducked it. hoping to see 185 . The moment came. Elijah kept backing. They didn’t care. feinting. inviting another blow. Around the circle. who glared at him through puffy eyes. Elijah stayed open. Many just stared at their fallen king. and it was working. The big guy wasn’t seeing straight. “Don’t cheer!” Elijah ordered. Brett. stunned and exhausted. leading Alex around inside that circle until the would-be king was ready. his voice hoarse with exhaustion. “Just because I win a stupid brawl doesn’t make me a better man!” He looked down at Alex. still wondering if he was the snitch.first strike a kick or punch just to keep Alex angry. almost cheered for Elijah. and he was getting tired. His nose was bleeding. there was a strange. Elijah blocked a punch. getting rubber-legged. mixed reaction. with more temper than good sense. Alex was huge and lumbering. Time to fell the tree. losing accuracy in his attack. but now they were suspicious of him. like Ramon. and none too soon. and Cher cheered loudly. jabbing. Madonna. blood dripping from his mouth. knelt down to comfort him and persuade him not to continue. ducking. like fans who’d lost a bet. making Alex put out all the effort. Some kids. “Look at us! You think this is anything to cheer about?” He was staggering a little. at a loss. He was slowing down. his second-in-command. He could see it coming a year before it arrived. poorly aimed. It was a bad punch.
come on. Johnson. and beating people up? It’s stupid! It’s not the way to—” Everyone’s attention shifted to the sound of running feet. Britney. “Might doesn’t make right.” Elijah wilted. “Ah. Fitzhugh nodded her head as if she really understood what had happened. Madonna. “Horrors!” said Ms. He went limp. . eyeing Elijah with disdain. the sight of adults coming their way: Fitzhugh. indicating Elijah. covering her mouth with both hands as if she would vomit.” Ms.” Elisha was by her brother’s side. “I was just talking to her. A young stallion kicking another over his mare. moaning in pain. Didn’t like Alex’s leadership. “Oh. “That’s not the way it was! Jerry was protecting me. Ramon took off.” 186 . he attacked him—when he wasn’t looking. He stopped short. so disappointed. The circle of kids dissolved like a snowflake in water. Brett reported with a dark. feigned sincerity. Chisholm. Bateman.nightmare academy some shame. So it’s all over a girl! Of course. Brett. “He tried to take over. on the run. coming to restore order and looking mad enough to make it hurt. Alex was still lucid enough to be sly. shocked at the sight of Alex on the ground with Brett cradling his head. and Cher never moved so fast. holding his stomach. “What’s going on here?” Chisholm demanded. can’t you see that? Is this the kind of world you want? War. so . Fitzhugh. I don’t know what he had to get so upset about.” Alex managed to speak. and stealing. .
“And you.first strike Elijah sighed. “We’ve seen plenty. are going to your room and staying there. . watching them take Elijah away like a prisoner. It looks like it. “Will you listen to me? He’s innocent! He was defending himself! He was defending me!” Johnson sneered at that.” Elisha grabbed Mr.” “Hey!” “No!” Elisha cried. “Does anyone want to know the truth?” Chisholm stepped forward. “What are you doing? You’ve got it all wrong!” Now Bateman and Johnson moved in.” Ms. still hoping to find an ounce of reason in any of these people. . Come on. Johnson’s arm. young man. If you’ll just let me explain my side of it . “Where are you taking him?” She heard an ominous clanking of steel. spoke calmly. as if by “Will you listen to me? He’s innocent! He was defending himself! He was defending me!” 187 . grabbing Elijah’s arm. It’s time to clean house. and then. surrounding Elijah. “You’re making a mistake. Fitzhugh grabbed Elisha by the arm and held her back.” “What are you doing?” she cried.” Elijah. “This campus has had enough trouble. young lady. forcing him along. “Right.
no. electric hum. one final kick to a shin. praying she could pass through. being hurried along by his two captors. got around him. Fitzhugh’s grasp and ran after her brother. He grabbed her. “Take me! Don’t take him. “No. “You go! Go!” as he nodded toward the unseen road. 188 . young lady!” Bateman and Chisholm took Elijah through the gate and the big iron jaw began to swing shut with a low. The gate didn’t even rattle when she tugged at it. like the jaws of a patient. she just knew that something horrible lay beyond that gate. the big iron gate began to swing open. A searing pang of fear coursed through Elisha like deadly voltage. held her. “Jerry!” Through the bars of the swinging gate. cruel. She broke his grip. looked over his shoulder and called. Elisha broke away from Fitzhugh and Johnson and ran for what opening remained. wishing. take me!” The bars were cold. slapped at him.nightmare academy itself. electronic latch clanged into place the instant Elisha reached it and she fell against the iron bars. tried to get away. With one last twist of judo. “I’ll be all right.” Then he mouthed the words. She knew. “That’s quite enough. “NOOO!” She broke free from Ms. gripping them. Fitzhugh caught up and also took hold of her. immovable. sinister monster. Elijah. don’t take him! He didn’t do anything!” Johnson turned back and blocked her path. The heavy. Ms. He grabbed her by her blazer and held on even as she kicked him.
” and then. to let his eyes say. Weakened by despair and sorrow. she reached through as if she could grab her brother and pull him back. the limbs of overhanging trees closed over the sight of him and he was gone. she let them take her away. He looked over his shoulder one last time to give her a reassuring look. like a curtain closing on the final act. “I’ll be okay. tightly. 189 . nearly dragging Elijah up the long walkway. any pretending banished by her anguish. As Fitzhugh and Johnson hemmed her in against the bars.first strike The two men were hurrying. “Elijah!” They grabbed her.
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11 the mansion and the monster 191 .
dimly lit hallway like an echo in a mine tunnel. gas lines. and Elijah could sense the weight of rock. Chisholm led him down a concrete stairway and through an imposing. water running. They were deep beneath the mansion now. looking up at the towering white facade of the mansion as Mr. oversized basement door. “Stay here until we 192 . He could hear compressed air moving. electrical hum ringing in the walls. Bateman and Mr. but took him through a doorway into a small bedroom. fluid surging.” he said. Thick clusters of electrical wire ran along the ceiling. then let go. a deep rumble rolled up and down the tight. When the metal door clanged shut behind them. a slightly nice prison cell. There was a low. They pushed him down so that he sat on the narrow bed. concrete. air lines. It seemed to Elijah they were in the heart of a huge machine. This was no ordinary hallway. waterlines. and tubing of unknown purpose ran along the base of the walls on both sides. “What do you guys do down here. anyway?” They didn’t answer.E lijah couldn’t help but be fascinated. and the multistory structure stacked above him. hydraulic lines. “Wow.
It is alive. airport directories. They went out the door.” “But . . scenic tours. or explain things. Occasionally. a young gal with curly blond locks was working behind the counter. it’s running like a big machine. he thought. it’s running like a big machine. If this mansion’s a monster. and tourist brochures were on display. All around him—in the walls. 193 . Rental rates for Cessnas and Pipers were posted on the wall. locked it. Nate and Sarah landed in Coeur d’Alene. This building isn’t just sitting.the mansion and the monster come for you. and generally anything having to do with aviation or traveling aviators. the This building isn’t just sitting. steady. what’s supposed to happen?” Elijah asked. He pointed to another doorway at one end of the room. or what?” They didn’t answer him. rumbling life.” said Chisholm. and parked the airplane in front of Resort Aviation. It is alive. aircraft rental. in the floor—was a low. “The bathroom’s through there. navigational charts. Inside the office. “I mean. in the air. do I get to talk to someone. in the northern panhandle of Idaho. and left him alone. . an aviation service center providing fuel. then I’m in the stomach. much like being aboard a ship or an airliner.
” said Nate.” The motel was small. They acted pleased to see him to hide the fact that they were alarmed. It was Morgan. “No bad news yet. tuned to monitor the airport frequency. a small television. one-story. The man behind the wheel gave them a subtle wave. “What’s happened?” “Easy.” She pointed out the window toward the parking lot. For secrecy’s sake. “What is it?” Sarah demanded. A black car was waiting. How did she know their names? “Is someone expecting us?” Sarah asked. How did she know their names? 194 . “Your ride’s here now. I got us some rooms.” said Morgan. two chairs by the window. “Hi. they hadn’t called ahead.nightmare academy chatter of pilots would squawk from a radio at the far end of the counter. They hurried out the door and climbed into the car. For secrecy’s sake. built thirty years ago.” “Are you the Springfields?” she asked. Go ahead and bring your luggage. they hadn’t called ahead. a bathroom with a stained sink and a drippy shower. But it’s time for a faceto-face. That scared them. “We’d like to tie our plane down for a few days. The rooms were simple: one bed.
Sarah flopped back down on the bed and waited to be impressed. “This might help explain it. might know. aching and tired.” Nate was impressed. “Here’s a tidy little expense that’s been slipping through unquestioned for the past five years. The president was never told about it. obscure item: Educational Research Grant. Morgan guided Nate to the third page of columns and figures and pointed to a small. It’s last year’s budget report from the Department of Education. tapping the paper. can’t know! Give us some facts we can work with or let us get some sleep!” Morgan took her lashing in stride. “And then again. “what’ve you got?” “It’s a government project.” said Nate. “A fact! A real fact!” 195 .the mansion and the monster Sarah took the bed. “Morgan! Our children are missing! We’ve been hopscotching across the country chasing an academy that’s never there. We don’t need: don’t know. and neither was the current secretary of education.” “Wow!” said Nate. Nate and Morgan sat by the window after closing the blinds. actually happy.” Nate took a look at it. it isn’t.” said Morgan. and spoke out loud for Sarah’s benefit. “Twenty million dollars.” said Morgan.” Sarah sat up straight. “Your taxes.” Sarah raised her head. and pulled out a document.” “Per year. my taxes. “That’s government money?” “Our money. “Okay.
” said Morgan. 196 .” Nate and Sarah looked at him strangely.” said Sarah.” Nate asked.” Now Sarah was sitting up. not to mention the media. “Why is the mysterious redhead. .nightmare academy Morgan explained. it’s turning out to be something else. It all looked very legitimate.” “Imploded. and part of the program was to set up special laboratories to test their theories with volunteer students.” said Nate. “Cleared and reforested. “Even from the president. “The campuses that aren’t there anymore. the previous president—and several of his cronies in Congress—allotted these funds for research in global education. “Whatever this project was supposed to be. “Exactly. “Somebody’s up to no good and hiding it well. “So why aren’t the campuses there anymore?” “Why isn’t the Light of Day Youth Shelter there anymore?” Morgan asked rhetorically.” “And so the facts are all buried. he couldn’t order an investigation without looking foolish and drawing vicious attacks from his enemies in Congress. almost impressed. “Why was Alvin Rogers murdered?” Sarah asked. He and the secretary of education had their suspicions. but with no solid facts. without a trace?” Sarah said with an obvious bitterness. plowed under a farmer’s field . . Margaret Jones. “Five years ago. going by so many different names?” “And why were our kids taken away without warning.” Morgan nodded.
carrying out a secret agenda that could be entirely illegal. “But if we can find an actual. It’s gone. “A monster. then maybe we’ll get that investigation authorized and stop this monster in its tracks. “Morgan.” 197 .the mansion and the monster “Haven’t you heard? The Dartmoor Hotel was imploded just yesterday.” “But we’d have to prove that before anything can be done about it. It’s gone.” “Hmm.” By now.” “I’m sort of impressed. operating campus and find out what it’s really being used for. so we’re investigating.” said Sarah. Nate and Sarah were getting used to such information—almost. Demolished. “we’re here. but I would say it’s not a government project because it’s a renegade. but we don’t know where to “Haven’t you heard? The Dartmoor Hotel was imploded just yesterday.” “Anyway.” “That is where things stand.” Morgan continued.” Nate mused. but not officially. Morgan continued. to put it mildly.” “Excuse me?” “You’ll have to read my daughter’s English paper. They needed a moment to digest that. Demolished.” said Nate. yes. “this whole thing is a government project in that it’s receiving government money.
look. Margaret Jones told the kids the academy’s up in the mountains, but there are a lot of mountains around here.”
“Oh, yes! About Margaret Jones! Your information was very
helpful. I haven’t been able to go through official channels, at
least officially, but some friends in the right places have filled in
some blanks. She might be in this area.”
That did impress Sarah. “I want her, Morgan.”
Morgan nodded with understanding. “You’ll be the first to
“In the meantime . . .” Nate unfolded a U.S. Forestry map of
the Idaho panhandle. “We’ve got a few zillion acres of national
forest to comb through. . . .”
Elisha, confined to her room, prayed for hope, hoped in God, and
did all she could with soap, a washcloth, and a hair dryer to get
the grass stains out of her burgundy blazer. Having a vicious
brawl on the lawn wasn’t good for the Knight-Moore uniform,
and she had to please Booker—or at least not make him mad—
at the three o’clock meeting.
The door opened, and Cher came in, not at all her usual, bubbly self.
“Oh, Sally! I’m so sorry! I heard about Jerry!”
Elisha was trying to hold herself together, carefully brushing
the elbow of her blazer. “We just have to pray they’ll let Jerry out
and not hurt him—” Her voice broke and she stopped, concen198
the mansion and the monster
trating on the sleeve of her blazer, trying not to remember the
images of Alvin Rogers out of his mind.
“Maybe if Mr. Booker wins.”
“You know, gets his way, and everybody does things by the
rules. Maybe then things can be the way they were.”
“Cher . . .”
“Mariah? Can’t you just settle on one name?”
“Britney wanted to be Cher, and Madonna wanted to be
“Why can’t you just be yourself?”
“Why can’t you?”
Elisha had no answer for that one. “Good question.” Back to
her original thought, “But . . . Mariah . . . I’m not so sure things
can ever be the way they were. They were never any particular
way in the first place. They weren’t supposed to be.”
Alice/Marcy/Cher/Mariah sat on her bed, fear in her eyes.
“Alex is still mad. He’s still talking to Mr. Stern and Mrs. Meeks,
trying to get his way, trying to get Mr. Easley back and get rid of
Mr. Booker.” She sighed, and then admitted, “But I hope Mr.
Booker wins. Things might still be weird, but at least I’d feel safe.”
Elisha didn’t need for Mariah to explain. She felt that way herself. It was a little bizarre, but for all the harshness of Booker’s
class, there was still a sense of security there, like standing near
the edge of a high, precarious cliff, but with a safety railing all
around you. You could hate Booker all you wanted, but if you
played the game his way, nobody else could threaten you. No one
else could mock you or strike you. You could set your books and
handbag on the floor and trust they would remain there even
when you turned your eyes away. Booker was a tyrant, but his
class had boundaries, it had order, and many of the kids could
sense that. That was why they hated Booker but still showed up
for his class every day, in their uniforms. It was one small island,
maybe the last, on this whole campus that felt safe. “So would I.”
Mariah jumped up from her bed and started pawing through
her dresser drawer. “So one thing’s for sure: I’m going to be in
Elisha examined her blazer. Not perfect, but it would have to
do. Out the window, she could see the roofline of the mansion
through the trees. I won’t leave you here, Elijah. God help me, I
won’t leave you here.
The low rumble of the monster machine stopped. Just like that.
Elijah sat up from a catnap and listened. The stillness was so total
it was scary. He checked his watch. He’d been waiting here for
Well, he thought, this is a fine mess. Bateman and Chisholm
hadn’t come back, and he was beginning to think they never
He decided to take a much closer look at this room to learn
about it. It was only about ten feet long, maybe eight feet wide.
the mansion and the monster
The ceiling was a little low, maybe six and a half feet. Only one
flat, recessed light fixture illuminated the room. The walls were
wood paneling, the kind one sees in cheap motels or outdated
restaurants—not very attractive, but definitely more homey than
concrete. The floor was bare, white linoleum, a little cold to the
touch. He looked under the bed. Clean and bare under there.
What about the bathroom?
He opened the door and looked inside. It was a little bigger
than a phone booth. You had to squeeze around the sink to get to
the toilet. The walls were plain white.
He stepped back into the bedroom.
It was blue.
Whoa, hold on, wait a minute.
He blinked and looked again. Blue. The walls, the ceiling, the
floor, even the bedspread, were blue. He waited to see if his eyes
would adjust to the light. He looked in the bathroom again, then
into the bedroom. It was still blue. He went to the other end of
the room and looked back toward the bathroom. It still looked
blue from this angle.
He repeated his previous action, stepping quickly into the
bathroom and back out again, but the room stayed blue. He felt
the walls and floor. Blue paint, blue linoleum. The bedspread was
blue on both sides. Even the sheets were blue.
He sat on the bed to think a moment. Was he wrong about
the wood paneling? Was his memory out of whack?
Just to be sure about everything, he walked over and tried the
door. It used to be locked, but it wasn’t locked now. The hallway
outside was wood paneled, just as the bedroom used to be . . . or
just as he thought the bedroom used to be.
But wait. He didn’t remember the hallway having wood paneling. He remembered bare concrete, pipes, wires, tubes,
mechanical sounds, an electric hum, dim lighting.
Did he come this way in the first place? Had he gone through
a different door?
He looked back in the bedroom again. It was still there, still
blue. He opened the door widely, then removed his blazer and
placed it at the bottom of the jamb to keep the door from closing
all the way. Keeping an eye on the doorway, he stepped slowly
and carefully into the hall. Nothing changed.
He ventured down the hall. He did not remember coming this
way, or going past these doorways on either side. Were they more
bedrooms—or cells—like his? He tried one of the doorknobs.
The door opened. The room inside was dark. He felt inside for a
light switch, found one, and flipped the light on.
It was a bare little room with a chair and table. On the table
was a burgundy blazer. There were grass stains on the elbow and
shoulder, and a torn seam down the back. He drew closer,
unable, unwilling, to believe it.
The tears, scuffs, and grass stains were unmistakable. His six
KMs were still in the inside pocket. He quickly checked the
opposite pocket. A crumpled sheet of notebook paper was still
there, the paper upon which he’d written the navigational coordinates he’d calculated. He unfolded it, and read his own handwriting:
the mansion and the monster
45 degrees, 6 minutes N
120 degrees, 10 minutes W
They were not the coordinates he remembered. No, no, the
latitude was 47 something . . . the longitude was something like
115 . . .
He sat in the chair to think, afraid to move another step.
It’s a head trip, he thought. They’re messing with my mind. This
is what they did to Alvin Rogers. But how are they doing this?
Directly in front of him, through the open door, he could see
the hallway. It no longer ran to the left and right, but extended
straight ahead, as if this room were at the very end of it. It had
pink-flowered wallpaper, white wood trim, and a beige carpet.
At a quarter to three, Elisha and Mariah were ready, uniforms
cleaned and pressed, hair neatly done, hearts . . . hopeful? Yes
“I just don’t want to be afraid anymore,” Mariah said as they
walked toward Booker’s classroom. “I mean, people are good.
The kids are good. But they do things that . . . well, that aren’t
“I just don’t want to be afraid
anymore,” Mariah said . . .
. No. If there’s no right or wrong. but just started walking again.” “But people are good.nightmare academy good. just as other kids were doing. then we might be safe for a while. jeans. and so were Warren and his friends. anything. They had just a few minutes to spare. getting the wide-eyed little blond to look her in the eye. Maybe our rooms will be safe. . and an arrogant smile. chrome necklace. maybe. If everybody on this campus shows up in a uniform and agrees to follow the rules. 204 . . and I just want to feel safe. Everybody’ll do what’s best. Booker and all the other teachers keep teaching there’s no right or wrong and all the kids keep believing it. There were plenty of uniforms around. if Mr. But you have to understand. but that’s all. They hurried down the sidewalk. but . then all Mr.” Elisha checked her watch. But I never know what to expect. Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re buying some time. Britney/Cher and Madonna/Britney were looking sharp. then there’s nothing to keep all the trouble from starting up all over again.” “Is that what you’ve seen?” Mariah found no words. She stopped and touched Mariah’s shoulder. Elisha’s heart went sick. Booker has is that yardstick until someone comes along with a bigger yardstick. I have to tell you something. something. Maybe I can talk to somebody in charge and get Jerry out of the mansion. I don’t know why. “Mariah. . Ramon was wearing a sleeveless tee shirt. maybe just enough to say .
hardly any looking around. fear of the next minute. the fear back in her voice. Tom. some with arms folded. Because all the students were showing up in the room at the same time. There was an ominous quiet in the room. Jamal. Something terrible has happened. Rory and his gang—Booker’s cops—were wearing whatever they wanted. commanding respect and fear simply by how they looked back at everyone. 205 . some with thumbs perched in their pant waists. Elisha and Mariah found a spot against the rear wall and tried to blend.” She didn’t say it but thought. No joking. Clay. in ragged denim shirt and feeling good about it.the mansion and the monster Brett was wearing jeans and untucked flannel shirt. Elisha couldn’t believe what she was seeing. no talking. and kids were standing around the sides of the room. the place was getting quite full. Tonya was quite casual. All the desks were taken. Elisha could see fear in many of the faces—fear of speaking. “I don’t know. even Elisha’s. They went into the classroom. “What’s happening?” said Mariah. Rory. There was an ominous quiet in the room. fear of questioning. and all of them were wearing their ties—as headbands. and ten other guys—all of them toughs—were lined up against the back wall.
they heard familiar footsteps approaching. He was standing in the back. He nodded and raised an occasional approving eyebrow whenever he saw a uniform. And every one of them was wearing his tie around his head. visibly 206 . Full and quiet. bloodless tee shirt. but jogging shorts below. His gait slowed. regal flair. arms folded. however. but he looked proud. He was waiting. Brett’s friends from dorm D—including Tom Cruise—were wearing their uniforms. taking note. he slowly turned. with a fist on his hip. At one minute to three. The room was full now. Booker burst into the room with his usual. but any approval he might have granted was obliterated by the rage and disgust building in his glaring eyes and reddening face.nightmare academy Samuel was wearing a black tee shirt with a heavy-metal rock band image on the front. From the center of the room. meeting any eye that dared to return his gaze. flanked by Rory and his guys. Some had their blazers on backward. dressed in jeans and a clean. He still looked battered. He drew a breath as if he would say something— Then he saw his privately paid cops all standing with Alex. and he actually flinched. Marvin. but in any wrong way they could think of. and Mr. Some had blazers above the waist. The door opened. headbands made from their ties. as he looked about. studying the crowd. like a gang of friends waiting to surprise somebody. the one Booker had scolded and fined for not having his shoes. Like Alex. until he came to a full stop halfway up the center aisle. was in sandals.
“It’s over. addressing Rory and the cops. and Clay. “Gentlemen.” Booker argued. Elisha knew he was counting uniforms and non-uniforms. He cut us a better deal. She’d already made a quick count herself and knew the news was bad. in deadly little doses.” Stern and Meeks. “Power. Seconds passed. Elisha thought. He just stood there staring at Alex.” Booker was actually scared! He was backing up the aisle while Alex and his guys kept coming at him. You know how it works.” 207 .” Rory shrugged and nodded toward Alex. a fresh viewpoint . . and he could say nothing—something else Elisha had never seen. we had an arrangement. the Big Four. Booker was receiving that bad news right now. Jamal. Tom. “You can’t do this. Alex walked forward.the mansion and the monster shocked—more shocked and disturbed than Elisha had ever seen him. Booker! Come on. . Alex spoke. “Can’t? You say I can’t?” “You . Booker. it’s all about power. “He’s got friends with keys to the cash box. Let me hear you say it. flanked by Rory. . “I’m sure we can reach a consensus here. you can’t!” “I say I can. It’s. and his voice sounded weak. nodding quickly. Finally.” Booker conceded. .” Booker found his tongue. with quick little glances around the room.
The nonuniforms were all on their feet. . Alex and his toughs. waving it about like a trophy—and like a threat. so frightening. alive with new energy and madness. “No Respect! No Respect! No Respect!” The uniforms were looking about. egged on by the crowd. wide-eyed. shaking their fists in the air. and then the mob. “Are you going to let this happen?” Tonya was the first on her feet. filling the room with deafening noise. hesitant. “We don’t respect you anymore!” The whole room exploded in yells. cursing Booker.” They’d reached the front of the room. the rest of the toughs followed. not knowing what else to do.nightmare academy Alex made a little beckoning gesture right under Booker’s chin. Some stood to keep from being different. “And now . Booker was hemmed in against his desk. it’s all about power. I have it.” Alex gleefully completed the slogan. so brazen. “Come on. Booker?” Booker conceded. jeers. nodding quickly. 208 . tapping his chest. As they went outside. taunts. grabbed Mr. . Alex had Booker’s yardstick in his hand. Booker and dragged him down the aisle toward the door.” “I don’t—” “SAY IT! What’s it all about. Say it. Some sat. undecided—it was all so sudden. “Power. non-uniforms rushing. He cried out to the rest of the kids. which excited the crowd even more. It’s.
waving their arms. and as members of the mob got their licks in. though in their uniforms. jumped right in with the mob. The new Britney and Cher. and shoved him. Mariah was wailing and crying. totally indignant. making threats. shouting. Johnson. Bateman. crawling again. Chisholm. Some of Rory’s toughs came running from the cafeteria with cases of stolen pop. cheering wildly with each blast. falling. Wendell the librarian. knocked down again. stunned. spraying soft drink all over the deposed teacher. getting in a kick or two and ecstatic when they got cans of pop to shake up. covering his head with one arm as Alex and the Big Four kicked. and Elisha just held on to her to keep her from losing it altogether. He was trying to run. crushing. Other kids in uniforms stayed close to the building as if hoping they could blend unseen into the walls. and crawling on the ground. By the time Elisha and Mariah got outside. “Stop this at once!” 209 . Warren and his friends followed at a distance.the mansion and the monster uniforms carried along—rushing. slapped. poked. the mob had surrounded Booker. tripping. Oh! Here came the other teachers and staff: Fitzhugh. running from different directions. spreading the cans through the crowd. “Stop this!” Chisholm yelled. speechless. and even Mrs. The kids shook the cans and then popped them open. confused. thundering and hollering—out the door like water through a breached dam. trying to get up.
and Elisha saw it happen. The gate swung open. The adults ran faster than Elisha could even envision an adult running—all out: no dignity. But the kids were a mob now. Ms. slapping. Booker in the lead. Johnson lagged behind the others. Fitzhugh. when kids around the field and against the buildings. when Booker. Then came the turning point. beyond threats. punching. The universe had flip-flopped. beyond words. 210 .nightmare academy “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves!” shrieked Ms. breaking her glasses. Mr. his arms over his head as pop cans bounced off his body. Chisholm ducked. She saw it when Chisholm’s expression went from outrage to terror. “Who’s going to clean up this mess?” Johnson demanded. bolted and ran for the iron gate. no reserve. and soaked with soft drink. Chisholm following. Fitzhugh caught a can right in the face. tattered. The adults were not in charge. spraying pop then hurling the cans. They enveloped the teachers. without reason. attacking. bruised. They were just plain running. Bateman running and helping the limping Ms. began tearing off their burgundy blazers and whipping their ties and scarves around their heads. They were running for their lives. Mrs. seemingly on the same cue. without mercy. no grown-up attitude. Wendell had kicked off her shoes so she could run—Tonya found one of them and threw it at her. beyond control. heroically giving the kids a target for their blows and pop cans so the others could escape. Fitzhugh. Johnson threw a few punches. but the toughs throwing punches back were bigger than he was. heading across the field toward the big iron gate.
Their world was suddenly different. Alex was leaping in the air. were running to join the celebration. jubilant. 211 . The kids were cheering. She tugged on Mariah’s arm. once wearing blazers. Others. but not better. Mariah was wailing in terror as Elisha pulled her along. they could see the gate closing behind the fleeing grownups just in time to save their lives. “We’d better get out of here.the mansion and the monster Elisha became very aware of her uniform and Mariah’s.” As they stole quickly toward their dorm.
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12 both/and. either/or 213 .
He was confused by corners. It had occurred to him not to move around and see what might happen. Whatever hallway led back to it was gone. unchanging environment like a forest. He was bewildered and amazed.E lijah couldn’t find his bedroom cell. and doorways he’d never seen before. It was another to have the environment 214 . but a commentary as well. It was wet. A room both right-side up and upside down. he thought. about thirty feet square. but not every door went anywhere. It was an incredible illusion. Both/and. Another door opened on the same hall he’d left as if he’d never left it. At the end of a hall—while it was the end of a hall—he found a door that led to a small indoor courtyard. It was real. with potted plants in the four corners and a three-tiered fountain in the middle of the ceiling. Some opened on a blank wall. Every door was unlocked. It was one thing to wander in a fixed. paved with flagstone. but up until now. The water was falling up. arches. splashing into a circular. He reached up—or down—and let the water splatter against his hand. curiosity had kept him moving and getting more and more lost—as if lost were the correct term for it. upsidedown pond.
looking down at the floor. good enough to make him nauseated. Elijah closed his eyes and felt his nerves tingle with instinctive terror as his senses sent him a message: You’re on the ceiling. The ceiling . flat on his back. He argued back. tested it first with his hand.both/and. There was a chair and a potted plant stuck to the ceiling. There was an upside-down doorway with its bottom tight against the ceiling. It’s a trick! A very good trick. wasn’t the ceiling. . You’re going to fall. But would it continue to wander if he didn’t move? Okay. His body told him the center of the earth was behind his back. 215 . his eyes told him the opposite. You’re on the ceiling. You’re going to fall. . I’ll sit still for a while. and then sat— I should have known! He fell through the bench like it wasn’t there. He found a concrete bench against the wall. looking down at the floor. tumbled backward and downward like the floor wasn’t there. he thought. and finally landed—not too hard—on another floor in another room below. either/or wander around him. The fountain is fascinating anyway. It’s a trick. The ceiling was covered with red carpet. looking up at the ceiling that gave no indication he had just fallen through it.
He looked around the room for a place he could throw up and lunged toward the corner in time to give a gift to the potted plant. Their hands touched. himself. and a young man came in. “Hello?” Elijah called. his floor. “Who’s there?” He looked up again. and he was standing on the carpeted floor. The other Elijah finally looked his direction and gawked. 216 . “Are you real?” Elijah sat up so he could reach down. walking upside down on the—well. His stomach felt like he’d just done a somersault. wearing the same clothes and looking like he’d just had a terrible fight with someone. He was sick and getting sicker. quite startled. The kid was Elijah Springfield. reaching up toward the ceiling where he’d been. He was the Elijah he’d been talking to. I’m going crazy. Elijah thought. had a bruise on the side of his face and blond hair that really needed a comb.nightmare academy The door above him opened. The kid looked up—Elijah’s down—and all around as if he’d heard a voice. but apparently didn’t see anything. “Hello down there. His stomach churned and roiled. looking lost and perplexed.” The kid looked around again. “Can you see me?” Elijah asked. Elijah could just about reach out and touch him. “How did you get up there?” “How did you get up there?” The kid reached up to him. He was wearing a tattered and stained burgundy blazer.
“I want to search the office building for a telephone. The riot was over. moving furniture. a few axes. They divided up and went from room to room. in street clothes again. huh? Try to look casual. then casually moved behind the office building and tried the rear door. and cans of paint. and things were quiet. Another door led them into the main hallway.” Elisha reminded herself to be patient. full of rakes. Obviously. sacks of fertilizer. The playfield was empty now. going through the desks and all the drawers. Here we go. A few kids were crossing the campus with snacks in their hands and more pop. and they found the tool room inside. some screwdrivers. “You mean they’re lying?” 217 . “You mean they’re lying?” “What a concept. some hammers. “What are we going to do?” Mariah asked in a squeaky whisper. since when is the word of anyone on this campus worth anything?” She thought about that.both/and. the toughs who had once locked up the cafeteria still had the keys to open it again. took a very careful peek out the door of their dorm building. either/or Elisha and Mariah.” “But everybody said there aren’t any phones. then casually ducked behind it. “Mariah. It opened.” They walked casually to the library. shovels. the gate was closed. opening cabinets.
Except for a loose nut or washer rattling around inside. It’s a fake. then reached down under the desk. and that was it. Elisha went through the office where she and her brother had their meeting with Mr. Some office. Mr. However. the front office had a computer just sitting there idle. Mariah was looking down at her in wonder. and she was surprised at how empty the drawers. the academy dean. but came up empty. the keyboard. She took the chair at the keyboard. They searched as far as the front office.” Elisha was already looking around the room. another desk with some papers and magazines stacked on top.nightmare academy looking under and behind things. and shook it. and cabinets were. the tower was an empty box. Bingham. looking for the on-off switch on the computer tower. then squatted down. checking for phone jacks. “It’s a dummy. There was even a phone jack in the wall. The academy brass hardly used the place. lifted it. She pressed it. then tipped it. She dropped it in disgust. “E-mail!” said Elisha. shelves. anything. “Doesn’t it work?” “No. and the wall outlet. but no line going to it. with no one around. Bingham’s desk had a few blank yellow pads and two old ballpoint pens in the top drawer. Elisha clicked on the copy 218 . She jiggled it. The whole tower scooted backward as if it weighed nothing.” There were wires going to the mouse. and a copy machine. wires. There was a file cabinet. but also curiosity.
” They circled around the back of the buildings and reached the far corner of the stone wall. “Maybe this whole office is a fake. “What now?” “We’ve got to find a way out of here. just how many bears are there per acre around here? They can’t be everywhere at once. shushing her. and then started down the hall. “What is it?” Mariah whispered. From somewhere far up the hill 219 . a loyal sidekick. They listened. with no obvious trails. “My. “What about the bears?” Elisha was beginning to feel like a baby-sitter. either/or machine. “Well.” “Everybody who’s gone in these woods has seen a bear! They’re all over—” Elisha tapped her gently. Elisha listened a moment. let’s go.” “But there isn’t one!” “There you go again. afraid of everything by now. The file cabinet was a hollow shell. “Come on. There were plenty of unknowns.” “I can’t go in there!” Mariah whined. the drawers were empty.both/and. but it was out of toner and had no paper. At this end of the wall. hoping to find any usable route through the woods to whatever road might be back there. Except for a gardening catalog and a roll of tape. She opened the desk drawers. uh.” Mariah followed. but that was why they were looking.” She had to sigh out some disappointment. believing everybody. It worked. my friend Jerry said he found kind of a trail somewhere. the forest and underbrush were thick.
“I came along so we could do this politely. gesturing for calm as he said. “It’s heavy equipment.” Tom and Clay relaxed—for the moment.nightmare academy came the buddluddluddle of a diesel engine.” Mariah repeated. He’d changed out of his uniform. two of Alex’s Big Four. “Alex has called a meeting in the Rec Center and everyone has to be there. Somebody has to talk some sense into this whole thing. ladies. But Warren was with them. sitting. “What do you want?” There was no malice in his face or his voice. like a bulldozer. Alex can toot and light a match for all I care. “Hello. without anyone getting hurt. but at least he wasn’t wearing a tie around his head.” The Rec Center had been reopened with the same keys that locked it. “Well.” Tom and Clay leaned forward menacingly. The kids had all gathered and were standing. We should be there. Elisha was sick to death of Alex. Please come. eyes wide with wonder and fear. “And we don’t have much choice anyway. Another voice made them jump. “It’s okay. Elisha could have kicked herself for not paying more attention and letting them sneak up. There doesn’t have to be any trouble. approaching from behind the buildings. 220 .” Alex.” “A bulldozer.” Elisha eyed him carefully. holding them back with a raised hand.” He nodded toward Tom and Clay. “Listen.” It was Tom and Clay. but Warren intervened.
” “What message?” asked Tonya. “What do we want?” asked Marvin. “It’s time to send a message and tell those people up there what we want. Alex. and leaning all over the lounge area next to the vending machines. Ideas began to float around the crowd amid cheers. sitting in his favorite spot on the end of a picnic table. with their escorts. Meeks?” somebody asked. “Aren’t they on our side?” “They’re staying out of it.both/and. more access to the food. “We’re the reason this whole academy is here. the space game king. was already holding forth as Elisha and Mariah. We are the Voice. “It’s just us now. Rory leaned in threateningly and told him. and if we’re one big voice. and a giggle rippled through the crowd. don’t you have eyes? That’s already decided. “Hey. “Who?” came a joking response.” “So who’s in charge?” asked Andy. less homework. and Brett took notes: more fun time. the pool shark. no restrictions on which dorms to sleep in.” “Well.” Alex was saying. “Are we gonna vote?” asked Eric.” said Alex. either/or kneeling. volleyball games that could actually be won. We are the Future. That question brought a wave of hoots and moans. “We’ve got to hang together. came into the room. 221 .” Alex continued. what about Mr. then those people up in that mansion have to listen to us. no homework. Stern and Mrs.
“So what about Mr.” “I’m running things now.” He gazed around the group and let it be known: “Nobody ever heard of him. not me. and Melinda agreed.” Warren pressed the issue—and his luck. Alex pocketed the KMs proudly. Easley. Remember?” Alex thought for an instant. “That’s your truth. “Yeah. Easley? Don’t we want him back?” Alex looked puzzled. “Mr. then shook his head. “That’ll be ten KMs. produced the coins and backed away into the crowd. immediately surrounded by Rory and his guys.nightmare academy “And no more uniforms!” That brought widespread agreement. insistently. “Never heard of him. and Warren. and shouted.” and the crowd picked up the chorus.” said Charlene. although some of the girls really liked the outfits. “Who?” “Easley?” “Who’s that?” “You ever heard of Easley?” “No sir. but several kids were holding back 222 .” An eerie forgetfulness spread from Alex through the rest of his loyal followers—and there were many. Warren asked. You really think Booker and Bingham and all those people up there aren’t calling the police right now? You think they aren’t going to come back with the police or the sheriff or the riot squad? What makes you think they’re going to put up with any of this?” He was hooted down. “Wait a minute.” said Alex. “Who?” Warren repeated the name slowly. “We don’t need any help. “So who’s with me?” He got a rousing cheer. dude!” Alex shouted.
or wear it on your arm. Elisha looked at all the eyes staring at her and said. and then the kids next to them. the sudden chill. Those near him fell silent as well.” said Alex. and now you’re just making up another uniform.” came a single voice in the crowd. it means you’re with us. The silence. “Now you’re being just like Booker.” Kids started fumbling through pockets. either/or and he noticed. the room was dead quiet and electric with tension. One kid took off his tee shirt and started cutting and tearing it into strips for one KM apiece. here’s what’s gonna happen. “Okay. You take your tie or your scarf and you wear it like this.both/and. All eyes were on Elisha. and no food. The undecideds began deciding. Handkerchiefs came out. You don’t do it . and then the kids next to them. we break your arm. “I thought I heard you say something. who’d made no effort to tie anything around her head or arm or anywhere else. one headband after another.” said Rory. . Shoelaces. In less than a minute. no fun. “No scarf or tie.” 223 .” said Alex. began with Alex as he sat on the table staring across the room. no games.” His hand went to the necktie now bound around his head like a sweatband. . “We don’t have our ties!” “I left my scarf in my room!” “Find something and find it quick.” “And we break your arm. “You were the ones making all the fuss about the uniforms. “Not good enough. You do that. fussing and whining. Several ran back to their rooms to get a tie or scarf.
Andy. were now wearing something around their heads. all the kids she’d known these few days. holding it in her hand. “and we’ve decided everybody should wear something to show unity. 224 . “What’s it going to be?” Alex prodded. “what about Jerry? You’ve got a stake in this: Those people up there have him. and she almost cried. was wearing a rag around her head and looking at the floor. She considered what he could be going through.” Cher.” said Alex. You can wear this. She could still see Elijah’s last look at her over his shoulder.” Elisha took it. Roberto.” said Alex.” Then came the zinger. . Marvin. her sidekick and roommate. Mariah. actually trying to hide behind others. came forward with a spare scarf. “Here. Waiting. She could remember her promise not to leave him here. we’ll put the heat on and get him back. . “Where’s yours?” She looked around the room.nightmare academy Alex made only a little wave of his hand. There was silence. You join up with us. a pretty red one. Tom Cruise . “Join us. “Okay. “You should know where this is going to lead.” said Cher. “You with us?” Elisha addressed everyone around her. what it’s going to turn into. who used to be Britney. Britney. murmuring and snickering. Sally. Tonya. Come on. Eric. and Brett and two toughs brought Elisha into the center of the room before Alex’s picnic table throne.” They groaned and rolled their eyes. Over in a corner. Cher. “We’re the group.
and we deal with ’em.” Then he told her quietly and up close.” He handed Elisha a push broom and told her loud enough for all to hear. “We’ll show ’em!” “Jerry . .” She felt like a liar and a coward not using his real name. who stood silently.” said Ramon. “Keep the floors clean.both/and. With wild yells and whoops. He’d have to say you’re right.” 225 . either/or “Come on. “And I’m doing you a real favor. Better remember that. “Who was that guy she was talking about? Anybody ever heard of Jerry?” All the kids looked blankly at each other. And .” He wrinkled his brow as if trying to remember something. especially Elisha. and the toilets. And neither will I. “Give her something to think about. Brett asked him. out of the way. asking each other. “Jerry would have to bow to you. . but still wore no headband. “Unity. “So what are you going to do?” Alex was looking through the crowd at Warren.” She handed the scarf back to Cher. “Right. Alex made sure everyone remained in front of the Rec Center and watched. throwing in some brutal kicks while they were at it. and maybe we’ll give you a break. .” All eyes were on Alex. they threw him on the grass and doused him with the paint. “That means we find the traitors. and he won’t do that.” It took four tough guys to drag Warren out of the building and hold him while Rory and Clay brought cans of paint from the tool room. No one had a clue.” he said. Feels true to me. “Thank you. . too.
His body kept moving anyway. unable to stop himself. The temperature was strangely warm. then the other. or perhaps by waking from a dream only to enter another one. but the tree didn’t stop his fall. but didn’t feel it. The wind was rushing high above. the smells all wrong. Shadows shifted as if the sun were rambling aimlessly around the sky. dizzy. not to add any effort or energy to this tumbling universe around him. but couldn’t touch it. no portals of any kind. then crawling.nightmare academy Elijah was outdoors. rotated around him. he thought he was. the sounds—it was so noisy out here! He heard wind in the treetops. he went limp. or around a corner. first one direction. When he walked forward. or a curtain. he saw only the forest. rolling. Bruised. He didn’t know how he’d gotten here. Looking in all directions. he went backward. whether through a door. Rushing. Rushing. the level ground became a hill. until the ground or gravity or his tumbling senses changed again and he rolled back up the hill. then 226 . nauseated. north and south. He lost his balance and fell against a tree. with only his feet to tell him. but suddenly. Rushing. trying not to move. He rolled on the ground as if down a hill. but no doorways. He was in the middle of a forest. He couldn’t close his eyes for very long because the dark hurt them. or at least. There was a sky above him—sometimes. There was soft earth below him— sometimes. Left and right. The earth had been level enough to stand on.
He was falling again. but the wind carried them away before he could hear them. spun. The wind kept rushing. a memory. rushing. the ground above—feeling a new terror: There is no stopping when you fall into the sky. crashing through them. He opened his eyes and saw tree branches whipping toward him. real sensation. every sense told him the earth had become a raging sea around him. I shall not want. a thought. rushing. They slapped him. He grabbed a limb. His body smacked into another. tried to find any sensible thought. it tore loose from his hand. and he was dangling in space—the sky below him. rushing. rushing. The glare of the darkness hurt them. Every nerve. He clamped his eyes shut. The Lord is my Shepherd. The wind rushing. He was falling again. He tried to speak the words out loud. tried to dig for a word. or even the next breath of air. forced to find earth beneath it or a handhold above. scratched him. slowing his fall enough to grab on. His feet flew past him. amazed that the words were still intact somewhere in his spinning. he thought. or unjumbled memory. but he held them shut and tried to think. He tried to shut it all out. either/or walking. He tumbled. crazed head. 227 .both/and. lashed him.
Alex was shouting. the music pounding. kept working. She kept moving. “Quiet. ambling. everybody might quiet down and get reoriented. the lights went out. bumping one body in the dark. kicking feet. gathering up candy wrappers and pop cans that fell out of the dark like snowflakes. From somewhere in all the noise and confusion. the lights flashing. it’s now or never. everybody! Quiet! It’s okay!” He started calling for his crew. some of the feet purposely kicked cans away from her broom so she had to go after them. the video games went black. the games gobbling KMs. She dropped her broom and moved right. getting them to work on the problem. A few cans were tossed directly at her. Elisha remembered an exit only ten feet to her right. Girl. Elisha kept the broom moving. Sprayed pop and spittle were soaking through her shirt. dancing. The music growled down to silence. the girls screamed. constantly dodging the running. but making it to the wall. girls screaming. nobody knew what to do about anything and couldn’t see six inches. kept ducking danger— Everything stopped. Hands groping. people yelling.nightmare academy The Rec Center was in full swing. The power was out. Right now. With just a few seconds of search228 . They might come up with a plan for dealing with the power outage. Pandemonium. The room was in total darkness. In a moment.
she found the door and slipped through it. not safe. but ran straight into the woods. The power was out everywhere. counting them until she came to room 4. she spotted a girl trying a door. Behind the dorms. but she was still in the open and visible. whispered. She had one quick stop to make in her dorm room and then— She heard a scream from the woods and the growl of a huge animal. didn’t even slow down. The girl didn’t even look at her.both/and. the whole campus dark. Elisha almost ran into another girl—one of Warren’s friends—running down the alley between the library and dorm D. The mountains had come alive. Elisha kept running. and the sounds seemed so close. haunting echoes of animals in the night: the low growls of bears. and that sound seemed to stir up more. pushing. and ducking inside. whimpering when she couldn’t open it. She ran toward the library. the howls of wolves. Rounding the corner of the library. She wasn’t the only one. and could see two. From the thickly wooded hills all around the campus came the eerie. She made it 229 . disappearing into the undergrowth. the lid of a trash bin clanged shut right before a boy—it might have been Tom Cruise—knocked. and got some help climbing in from whoever had climbed in before him. yanking it open. barely able to see the doors. It was after dark. She stole into dorm C and down the dark hallway. thrashing. maybe three other kids running at panic speed across the field. racing to another door. not nearly as dark as inside the Rec Center. the blood-chilling screech of cougars. but with the stars and moon. either/or ing by touch.
Her radio was still where she’d hidden it. Metal washers scattered outward like mush from a dropped pumpkin. and broke open. She couldn’t fathom what she was seeing. Her head sank. she fell back against the wall. Her radio had been gutted. her hands went limp. and dropped to the floor. wretchedly.nightmare academy inside. holding the remnants of the only contact she might have had with the outside world. and it was light. She grabbed the fallen radio case. couldn’t bring herself to believe what it meant. Whenever. She and Elijah were never a secret to them. they had to know that she and her brother were not ordinary runaways. Slowly. Her hands trembled. empty. just a thin half-shell of plastic. they knew. found the flashlight. she began to realize that every time she thought she was sending a message. She pulled it out. she’d only been talking to a dead little box crammed with clay and washers. sick and shaking. tucked among the bedsprings. With the shock wrenching her insides. this time on Mariah’s bed. They knew all along. 230 . Except for one battery still wired in to make the little red light come on—to fool her and Elijah into thinking the radio still worked—there was nothing inside the radio but metal washers and modeling clay. groped for the switch— She dropped it— It fell no more than a foot. hit the floor. Worse yet. the empty radio case clattered to the floor as a different kind of darkness invaded her. however those people in that big mansion did this. shining the light and reaching up under her bed.
and carry her and her brother out of this nightmare and to safety. so she let go. at least for a while. But fear and loneliness were nothing compared to this. and no one to hear her cries for help except . to Mom and Dad. But despair went straight for her hope. no miracle. But there was no angel. to the ranch and home. stealing it from her.both/and.” A miracle would have been so welcome. Could anything be worse? Could there be any pit so deep. predators in the woods. Despair was trying to take her. . Please help me. and by now she couldn’t help but weep. enemies all around. leaving her with nothing but a blackened room.” 231 . . Despair. she could handle fear and loneliness. She’d been on her own before and knew what it was like to be alone. either/or numbing her mind. constricting her soul. She just had to cry. “what am I going to do? What am I going to do? Help me. perhaps an angel to suddenly barge into the middle of this madness. offer some explanation that would make sense of it all. “Oh Jesus. “I found a phone.” she prayed. She’d been in danger before and knew what fear was. abandoning herself to her sobbing. nowhere to go. any trap so inescapable? As long as she had hope. her hand over her mouth lest the sound of her anguish carry outside the room.
.” Elisha wiped her own tears and pulled in her sobs. are you being honest with me?” “Yeah. Don’t let them find me. “Do we have to play that stupid game now?” “I’m not playing a game! That’s my name!” She whimpered and sniffed as she said it. Dear Jesus. Easley?” “He used to work here but he got fired. and I ran away from home two weeks ago and I’m scared. The voice came nearer.nightmare academy “Sally. Washington. She held back a sob. “I’m Joan Matheson.” “Then you do know about Jerry?” “He’s your boyfriend and now he’s up in the mansion.” came a voice. her back against the bed. besides everything?” “The big people up in the mansion have turned off all the electricity. and I’m fifteen. Then she started crying. Friend or foe? What should she do? Lord Jesus— Too late. stumbled over her. . “It’s all such a mess. Are you in here?” It was Mariah. Was she actually hearing someone telling the truth? “Joan.” Elisha was about to get mad.” “Mariah . “What is it. Mariah came into the room. Mariah? What’s gone wrong—I mean. “Sally. no.” 232 . I live in Port Orchard.” “And what about Mr.” Elisha wasn’t sure this was happening. They’re trying to starve us out or freeze us out or something. and then plopped down beside her on the floor.” “Joan.
We have to think. Is that his real name?” “No. . but now he wants everybody to call him Alexander—he says we’ll be all right if we do what he tells us. Alex—well. It’s Harold. . but Alex called him Alvin. “My name isn’t Sally. and pray. and I’m scared. .” “How?” “We have to do whatever it takes. It’s Elisha. “We have to keep that from happening. . . or maybe . too. what about the girls? What if Alex or Rory or some of those guys want to do something to one of us? Who’s gonna stop ’em?” Elisha hadn’t noticed yet. It took a conscious decision to exhale and then bring in fresh air.” Elisha’s next word stuck in her throat. Harold. Her tears returned.” Elisha’s voice cracked. He could do that to anybody—anybody he doesn’t like. and let God show us what to do.both/and. “What did you say?” 233 . and look. but .” “What was his name?” “He wanted us to call him Mick. either/or “And what about the kid who was taken up to the mansion before Jerry and I got here? Did that really happen?” “Yeah.” “Joan .” “Some of the kids are hiding. I’m from Montana. . but the despair had left her. Elisha Springfield. who says so? You saw what he did to Warren. or anybody who says something.” “Tell me about Alex.” “I found a phone.
The line started ringing. past the tools. Elisha wanted to cry again. yeah. I didn’t think of that. a flashlight beam clicked on and began playing 234 . and there it was. From the hall.” Joan whispered. . . Elisha grabbed up the receiver and put it to her ear. . “I found it in the closet. The line was dead. drumming her fingers on the counter. .” “Oh. A dial tone. hammers. She tapped out a number—her dad’s cell phone—and waited.” They hurried into the front office. backed out from under the desk. “I was going to hide in there. Elisha traced the telephone’s cord. but then I thought I should find you and tell you. Ring . looking down the hallway. Joan was nervous.” Joan was nervously looking around the room and said nothing. “Well. but that wouldn’t help right now. and grabbed up the receiver. shovels. “It isn’t working.” “Wait! Wait a minute!” Elisha ducked under the desk. ringgg . shining the beam of her flashlight up and down the wall until she found what she’d seen there earlier: a phone jack. their one flashlight guiding their way.nightmare academy They hurried through the back door of the office building. rakes. resting on the computer desk where Joan had left it. It isn’t even plugged in. She plugged the phone line in.
“. shaking her head feebly. 235 . She couldn’t see the face. Joan hurried to leave. He was looking at Joan. and Rory opened the front door. “Too cool.both/and. “I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone right now .” Another light clicked on behind Alex. floating image hovering behind that tormenting beam. like a ghostly. and Rory closed it. “Good job.” said Alex. her frightened eyes wide in the light. “She’s here.” No. either/or about the room. “I was afraid. “Hi. . Nate’s voice mail beeped for the message. What was happening? “Now you better get out of here. “You guys hold her.” came her dad’s recorded voice.” Joan said. this is Nate Springfield. . Elisha caught her face one last time in the beam of her light.” She ran out the door. A third light clicked on near the front door.” said Alex. her face a tangle of confusion. but it was somebody big. I’ll get back to you . Joan looked back. She searched with her light and found Alex’s face once again. . The beam caught Joan’s face. .” The voice was Rory’s. . in quaking light.” The beam of light came into the room and hit Elisha in the eyes. but if you’ll leave a message. Alex’s leering eyes looked back at her. Elisha heard a connection. blinding her. In quick flashes. . She raised her own light and shined it back. In the telephone.
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someone blue 237 .13 something true.
“Four seven!” she yelled into the phone. He missed his first grab. Rory was coming around again. written in blue ink in a safe place she wouldn’t lose.D ad—” Elisha said. aiming for the center of this guy’s existence. He stumbled backward. so Elisha could move a little. By the way he hollered and let go of her. She could see his face in the bounced and reflected light now flying about the room. She moved her knee in a lightning fast upkick. putting the desk between them. the other hand was still holding a flashlight. The big shadow got to her first and grabbed her with one huge hand. “That phone doesn’t work!” Alex laughed. She whipped the phone receiver across his jaw and then kicked him in the chest. She leaped sideways. She shined her flashlight on her left forearm. 238 . but Rory and the big shadow behind the flashlight were closing in on her. she knew she’d connected. and she nailed the back of his head with the telephone receiver. But Rory was right behind him. Thankfully. The numbers Elijah had given her were still there. A blow to his throat with her flashlight sent him reeling backward.
then automatically whipped her leg behind his and tripped him backward. “One zero. one one—” she said. They both went down. and rode him through.something true. coming at her from in front—she could see his silhouette against the window. 239 . struggling to her feet in the dark. He staggered away. got to her feet. She somersaulted onto the grass. struggling to her feet in the dark. but when his back caught the corner of the empty filing cabinet he weakened enough for her to wriggle loose and bang his forehead with the butt of her flashlight. tinkling on the concrete. She emptied her hands. She cried out. “Five five zero! And I love you!” Alex was coming at her from behind. tucked her head in. crashing the glass. kicked Rory in the face. The big shadow was back. one one—” she said. and took off across the field. She leaped on top of the desk. ran along the desk. She hung on to his shirt for all she was worth. bounded off the copy machine. his big arm around her neck. He wouldn’t be getting up soon. letting him take the beating and the cutting and the impact of the sidewalk outside the window as the shards of glass followed them. taking the high ground. “One zero. someone blue Alex grabbed her from behind. and dove right into the shadow’s chest. He fell backward through the window. holding his nose and cursing. and from there.
Where he was. There were no days. at no particular time. thorns jabbed him like stinging nettles. deliberately putting one foot in front of the other. trying to escape the pain. His mind told him. even though the ground did not move under his feet. He yelled. then gray. The sky above was red like a sunset. no doubt: She was going to reach the mansion.nightmare academy There was no question. or how. Even when he closed his eyes. or turned when he did not. no way of knowing. cried out verses of Scripture. no option. or when. no moments. His mouth formed the words. suddenly his groping arms were pulling him forward through hot. He was under water. a father and 240 . or why. insisted. he could not know. then red as the sky turned green. falling through space. The pathway became a precipice and he tumbled headlong. He once knew of a sister. they were going to get out of this place or die in the process. no choice. but the wind carried them away. she was going to find her brother. Elijah had fallen into the sky. and weeds surrounded him. dry sand. Been where? No place. He tried to swim. sand. but now mud. I am Elijah Springfield. the earth below an eye-buzzing purple—then green. or inclined steeply upward though he saw no slope before him. but he heard nothing. no hours. he could see. that he was running. no chance for knowing how long he’d been here. He got to his feet.
anything. . There was nothing here but terror. he’d encountered a bear. . images.something true. and that life were becoming . He’d been up this hill. pulsing. no reason. with huge trees. and she was going to find it. and sensations. clinging underbrush. someone blue mother. pounding. and enclosing darkness. She could see the lights from the mansion off her left shoulder. transportation. He groped desperately about in his mind for knowledge. pushing against limbs and branches with her body. She pressed into the brush. layer upon layer of it. but her brother had been here. more to come. 241 . surging. But there was no knowledge. no thought. Elisha ran to the corner of the wall where the wall met the forest—thick forest. Penetrating that nether world seemed impossible. phone lines. nothing. prickly branches. Elijah might have seen it. Somewhere beyond these trees there had to be a real world. endlessly repeating cycles of it. in swirling. But those people. The only reality. something true. There had to be a way. throbbing like a swollen thumb. something he could know. and that time. A vacuum. kaleidoscoping sounds. like space. and people needed roads. could be known for sure. groping with her hands. Non-things. a ranch where something. The mansion was built by people and lived in by people. pressing on with nothing to lose. more. with more.
close-to-theground snuffing. up ahead. girl. Elijah said it didn’t work. yell.nightmare academy but still no gap in that stubborn stone wall. All dark ahead of her. scare it away. quicker than she 242 . her outstretched arms taking the impact. guarding her face and eyes with her forearm. she couldn’t see— Oof! She found the wall in the dark. breaking and snapping through dry branches. she could see the branches of trees in the amber glow from one of the mansion’s yard lights. the pounding of its big feet on the ground. she heard a low. groping as if blind. make some noise. A log tripped her. She couldn’t see where it was. great. what do you do? Uh. but she could hear it. All right! It might be the road her brother almost reached before— Oh. huffing and snorting. looking for her. Remember. Then. stumbling on loose rocks. trying to find any way that she could climb it. Some twigs snapped. enough to run in the opposite direction. as through a trapdoor. then a snorting. She could hear the bushes rustling closer. Oh. The critter growled. Some bushes rustled. stumbling over fallen logs and rocks. ran. That thing was still out there. She groped along the wall. she went down. crashing through limbs and brush. What was that? Closer than she could believe. got to her feet. She kept climbing the hill. what do you do. as if a clearing— such as a road—was allowing light from the mansion to penetrate the forest. no. AWW! She dropped.
243 . squeaking to a stop. and totally dark. The party in the Rec Center was over. “Where’s Alexander?” Ramon asked. she could discern a steady. but the games were all dead. “Well. but where was she? It sounded like a room.something true. But also.” “Well. he’d better get some business done here or we’re all—” He clammed up when two big guys leaned into his space. someone blue could realize what was happening. dropping down a bizarre rabbit hole. mechanical hum as if she were inside the belly of a huge machine. She was just beginning to think this felt like a waterslide without the water when— Bump!—she landed on a smooth floor. tumbling. she could hear the echoes of the walls in the air. carried by two muggers who looked like they were the ones who’d been mugged. Some kids had managed to return with flashlights. “He went to take care of some business. boredom was setting in.” said one. Besides the fear and anxiety. “Hey. stop talking. I’m just talking. Alexander was limping with a sore back. sliding. and Rory was holding a cloth to his bleeding mouth. sliding. There was no more music. It was quiet. cool it. She’d escaped the bear. guys. slipping. Two flashlights came through the door. trying to hold things together in the boss’s absence. her eyes useless in the total dark.” Brett answered.
“How’d it—Never mind. “But we’re not going to give up! We’ve won the first round. scared.” “How are we going to cook anything?” “There’s no hot water. . and restless. hungry. make us give up.nightmare academy Brett started to ask. “They’re trying to break us down. disillusioned.” Ramon was only the first to start asking questions. “They think as Kids were coming out of the dark. “So what do we do now?” Kids were coming out of the dark.” said Alexander. “What’s the second?” Alexander could see lights on up on the hill.” “What are you going to do. He’ll be okay. Alexander?” “They’re just trying to scare us!” Alexander answered. He fell through the window.” “She ran toward the mansion.” He yelled so they could all hear. “Thinks she can get away . 244 . . gathering like moths around a lamp. and tomorrow morning we’re going to win the second!” Brett asked for all of them. aren’t they?” “We’re all in trouble now.” “Where’s Clay?” “We carried him to his room. gathering like moths around a lamp. They were bored. “When do we get the lights back on?” “They’re after us.
Morgan stepped out of his big black car and looked toward the car parked just ahead of 245 . and her face went pale. someone blue long as they can hide behind that wall they can play around with us and put us off.” said Nate. They’d spent the day going over maps. Down here. Now it was late at night.S. or the local gas station attendants or restaurateurs—had ever heard or seen anything about a summer academy for high school kids or runaways. but no one anywhere—not the forest service. grappling with bureaucrats and checking any discrete sources that would come to mind. I know what to do. “It may be more fruitful to help him track down Margaret Jones. That’s where the power is. or the sheriff’s office. “Oh-oh.” She pressed the button to play back the message. “Let’s call Morgan.” Nate and Sarah were driving through Coeur d’Alene. caught up in his spell. We missed a call.something true. But up there. their last stop of the day. they were tired. returning from a tedious visit to the local branch of the U. listened. we’re just their puppets. or the power or phone companies. Forest Service. awed by his visions. that’s where the strings are. “PULL OVER!” On the west edge of Coeur d’Alene. and beyond frustrated. “Come on. up in that mansion. making phone calls.” They all looked at him. Mr.” Sarah picked up his cell phone.
“This is Emily Perkins. they walked across the street and up the steps onto the broad front porch. Together.” He then referred to some papers in his hand: color copies of KnightMoore brochures and a photograph of Kathy Simons holding a “My name is Morgan. please pardon the intrusion.” said Morgan. “Very sorry. and a matronly woman got out. “Thank you. wary and bothered. That was fortunate. Morgan rang the doorbell.” He showed her some ID. watching the car shrink in the distance.” said Morgan. He opened the passenger door of his car. pointed toward the classic old house across the street and then drove away. the door opened a crack and a redheaded woman looked out. “And who are you?” she asked.nightmare academy his. The sound of the television cut off. “My name is Morgan. head down to hide his face.” He showed her some ID. ma’am. a forensic consultant assisting me. a forensic consultant assisting me. Apparently the occupant was enjoying a late TV show and not expecting callers.” 246 . The driver. sir. “This is Emily Perkins. Some lights were still on. A moment later.
falling. followed by a horrible crashing of glass. They could hear the struggle. the sounds of kicking. Did we miss any of the numbers?” Sarah shook her head. and since our investigation thus far seems to be leading to you. to work with the information they’d just received from Elisha’s frantic. someone blue trout. It sounded like the end of their daughter. It has to be enough. “It’s all she gave us. not even international.something true.” They stared at the numbers. tripping. all they had was a hodgepodge of numbers staring at them from Sarah’s notepad. May we have a chat?” She sighed and let them in. “Kathy Simons? Or should I address you as Suzanne Dorning? Or perhaps Margaret Jones?” She looked at his evidence and said nothing. I thought it might be in your interest to make sure our information is correct. tortuous phone call. crashing. 247 . “I work with a team of private investigators. the cursings and yellings in the background. and now. “It’s not a phone number. Nate listened to the error message from his cell phone. the sound of the receiver being dropped. She finished her message. right before we heard the crash. She said she loved us at the end. to think. but her face said everything. Nate and Sarah were forcing themselves to remain calm.
enough for Elisha to conclude nothing further was going to happen unless she made it happen.” “Latitude and longitude!” Nate was already scrambling for the forest service map. Minutes passed. “Forty-seven and ten . A wall panel had opened. Elisha could see she 248 . 115 degrees. .” Nate grabbed his pen and divided the digits into groups. One hundred fifteen and fifty.” Nate mused. tell him where we’re going. He tapped on the numbers with his pen.” He froze. “Forty-seven and ten.nightmare academy “Forty-seven. seventy-one . a good distance southeast of here. 50 minutes west longitude! Oh. kids. With the floor the only thing known. vanishing into the ceiling in the blink of an eye. Squinting in the light. BANG! A loud noise and a sudden flood of light nearly scared her to death. reaching out in front and to the sides. probing and exploring. I love ya! I love ya!” He located the coordinates on the map. . “That’s it. she lay belly-down and began inching along. . “47 degrees. . 10 minutes north latitude. Call Morgan. “Four thousand. seven hundred and ten.” He tossed Sarah the map and hit the gas pedal. “Four hundred. “Closest town is Stony Bend. THAT’S IT!” Sarah was already catching on.” “Forty-seven and ten.” Sarah tried.
It was a man.” he answered. trapdoors that could open. Elijah was smiling at her. Squinting. She quickened her pace. “Sh. at the other end. lights that could blind. “Come on. square room. The floor was solid beneath her. At one end was the bottom of the slide that brought her here. encouraging her. Come on. but okay.” He beckoned to her. It was her brother! She got to her feet. “Where are we?” she asked in a hushed voice. He was wearing a burgundy blazer. washed with an amber glow from hundreds of tiny ceiling lights. 249 . she could vaguely see someone walking up that hallway. was a long. coming toward her. He kind of walked like her brother. it was a young man. narrow hallway. with the panel raised. It looked solid enough. “Where are we?” she asked in a hushed voice. She could touch the walls. He looked pretty tired.something true. She ventured into the hall. She just wasn’t sure about this place. No. wanting to run to him. but she was wary of walls that could disappear. are you all right?” He put a finger to his lips. someone blue was in a small. “Elijah? Elijah. trying to get accustomed to the light.
He turned and disappeared into a side passage. She hurried
to catch up, rounded the corner, and saw him go through
a door. She broke into a run, got to the door, and hurried
BANG! The door slammed shut behind her—a short little
scream escaped her throat—and she was blind again, in total
darkness, feeling like she’d walked right into a trap . . . but . . .
how could her brother . . . ? “Elijah! Talk to me. What’s going
A voice from somewhere said, “Okay, here she is.”
“Hello?” she called.
“Hang on, Elisha,” said the voice. She didn’t recognize it.
“Just stand there a minute.”
She heard the rumble of another wall moving on rollers. A
vertical slit of dim, rose-colored light appeared, then widened,
expanding from right to left like a curtain drawing back. She
saw red, blinking lights far away in the dark, then red digital
readouts, huge cabinets and equipment racks, more glowing
lights, TV monitors, patch cables, knobs, switches. The wall
kept moving, the vision broadened before her, and she was
awestruck; stretching into the semidarkness were two rows of
control consoles with a dozen technicians wearing headsets, sitting at computer screens, TV monitors, and daunting control
boards with thousands of knobs, dials, faders, toggles, readouts.
On the far wall, huge video screens were flickering from one
view of the academy campus to another.
I’m either in a really big TV studio or a spaceship, she thought.
something true, someone blue
A man dressed in black approached her. He was thin, a brainy
sort, with his hair tied in a long ponytail down his back. “Hello.
Let me show you to a chair.”
He guided her to a corner of the room, to a comfortable
stuffed chair on a small platform, surrounded by a curved, green
wall, and pleasantly lit. It looked like a small set for a TV talk
show, but with only one chair. She looked the chair over carefully, then sat in it.
“Comfortable?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she answered, still too blown away to say anything
else. Then her first question finally came to her. “What happened
to my brother?”
Another voice from amid all that blinking, glowing equipment answered, “Your brother is here with us.”
That voice she recognized, and now she could see his face
bathed in orange light, the blinking lights and red digital readouts reflected in his reading glasses. “Mr. Bingham.”
“Welcome, Miss Elisha Springfield. Please make yourself
His wasn’t the only familiar face. Just behind him, looking
very pleased, even victorious, was Mr. Booker, none the worse
for wear, his formal, imposing air gone, his hair combed differently, like . . . like an actor out of costume. Next to him, perfectly comfortable in Booker’s presence and apparently still
employed, was Mr. Easley, now in long pants and shirt, no
longer the “phys-ed” guy. Mrs. Meeks—or whoever she really
was—was occupied at a control station, wearing a headset,
minus her bookwormish glasses and hair-in-a-bun. Mr. Stern,
wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard, came and stood
with Booker, Easley, and Bingham, smilingly sharing the sight
of a ragged, scratched-up, nearly exhausted girl in old jeans and
an army-surplus khaki jacket.
“We’ll get to you in a moment,” said Bingham. “I’m sure
“They’re in the tool room,” reported a technician, tweaking
dials and looking up at the big video screens.
Elisha watched in amazement. The four big screens provided
multiple, wide-angle views of the tool room, and she could see
Alexander, Brett, Ramon, and Rory gathering up the rakes, shovels, axes, hammers, and anything else they could lay their hands
on, passing them outside to the other toughs.
“Yes,” said Bingham, addressing Booker, “thanks to your little
recruitment meetings, they all know about that tool room.” He
looked at the large, digital clock on the wall. “Nearly three in the
morning. They might pause to get some sleep, but in any event,
I predict they’ll approach us at first light.”
Booker chuckled as he shook his head. “So predictable.”
Booker chuckled as he shook
his head. “So predictable.”
something true, someone blue
Bingham wasn’t one to smile, but he did appear pleased. “Be
glad. A different selection of kids might have killed you.”
Booker laughed. “Oh, I was scared for a moment.”
“We all were!” said Ms. Fitzhugh, entering with a fresh cup of tea.
There was laughter—from a small audience. Elisha looked to
her right, and along the back wall, facing the big screens, was a
sizable group of faceless people sitting in the dark.
Bingham spoke to them, apparently in the middle of a lecture.
“We interviewed and handpicked every child. This year we were
looking for a particular, modern personality, the media-oriented,
amusement-dependent, consumer type; a child who hears with
his eyes, thinks with his feelings, and has been made to believe
there are no absolutes, and therefore no right or wrong. Children
from dysfunctional families were preferred; runaways provided
an ideal subject pool.” He looked toward the big screens as a
technician cued a recording.
Elisha’s mouth dropped open. There, while one big screen
continued to show the raiding of the tool room, another big
screen replayed footage of the red-headed woman, Margaret
Jones, talking with Ramon, then Britney, then Alice/Marcy/Cher/
Mariah/Joan, then Harold “Alex” Carlson and Alvin Rogers over
a bowl of soup in a youth shelter, asking them questions about
right and wrong and showing them a brochure.
“Using what we’ve learned in the previous years, we’ve been
able to isolate and encourage a personality type that doesn’t think
but only follows, and believes any lie as long as there is pleasure
attached to it.”
On the screen, Alexander was sitting on the picnic table,
announcing the headband requirement. Kids all around him
grabbed, ripped, or cut anything they could find to wrap around
“Oh, and please note this result.”
Elisha saw herself and some others in a muddy, dark picture, their faces blinking in and out of the dark as unsteady
flashlight beams flashed around the room. The camera zoomed
in on Joan’s face as she said, “I was afraid,” and ran out of the
“One of our finest moments,” said Bingham. “Take away
truth, and people will lie. Scoff at virtue, and betrayal becomes a
matter of course.”
“Then these techniques really work!” said a man in the
“Absolutely,” said Bingham. “If you’ll pardon the expression.”
The audience laughed. “But it takes time, the right personalities,
the right circumstances.”
“So what about this young lady?” someone asked.
“Take away truth, and people will lie.
Scoff at virtue, and betrayal
becomes a matter of course.”
something true, someone blue
“Mmm,” said Bingham with a testy side-glance at Elisha.
“This young lady and her brother.” He nodded to the technician.
Elisha was stunned. Now she was watching Margaret Jones
talk to her and Elijah at that same table in the same youth shelter. For all she knew, even the soup was the same.
“We chose these two because they do have a strong religious
background and they do believe in absolutes. Our goal, of course,
was to compare their reactions to the same situations, and see if
their particular system of truth could be broken.” With another
sideways glance at Elisha, Bingham quipped, “And as we anticipated, it hasn’t been easy.”
Bingham nodded to the technician, and another video began
to play on the big screen: Elijah and Elisha reciting the Ten Commandments in Booker’s class; the two of them debating Mr. Easley;
Elijah telling Booker, “. . . it’s like you and I are from different planets or something. For you, it’s all power and money. For me, it’s
God. It’s Truth. I could never work for you . . .”; and Elisha surrounded by the kids in the Rec Center, telling Alex, “Jerry would
have to bow to you. He’d have to say you’re right, and he won’t do
that. And neither will I,” and handing the scarf back to Cher.
The audience members groaned with dismay at every scene.
“No, no, be encouraged,” said Bingham. “It’s all data, useful
in future research. For example . . .”
The technician cued another recording, and there, on the big
screen, was a video of Elijah and Alex having their terrible fight,
and a few instant replays of Elijah finally decking Alex with a
high kick. The audience loved that.
they don’t put their own comfort before their sense of right and wrong. nor could intimidation and fear.” said the audience. . they actually think things through. .nightmare academy “You’ll notice how even a reasonable person can be reduced to brute force when truth and reason are no longer available. “It only sweetens the pie.” Bingham came closer to Elisha. . . “We have both of them in place for the final phase. feeling better. “How do we factor in the fact that they—” “Are undercover investigators?” Bingham asked. Let’s face it: Children of this type will always be our greatest challenge. eyeing her as if she were a rat in an experiment. However .” “Ahh. 256 . eyeing her as if she were a rat in an experiment. “But this is why we brought them here. nor could peer pressure. they don’t believe something if it isn’t true. but Bingham held up his hand. and we’re ready. That call she made will actually Bingham came closer to Elisha. discussion groups and consensus conditioning couldn’t undermine this mentality. and worst of all. The audience rustled and murmured with alarm.” Stern asked. They’re difficult to deceive. they can’t be programmed. As we have seen.” “But . . jotting on his clipboard.
” 257 . looking gleefully at the young lady in the chair.” He leaned on a control panel. so to speak. . “In just a matter of hours. neither of them will be anything to worry about. bringing all the birds into one snare.something true. someone blue be to our advantage.” He chuckled reassuringly. “And judging from the condition of her brother . .
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14 the mind maze 259 .
and then they traded. loaded but going nowhere at the moment. and blind corners that could not be driven too briskly if you wanted to arrive at all. Joe River.” said Nate. Joe National Forest. curves. metal-roofed houses had porch lights on. The highway followed the St. they pulled into the town—what there was of it. still waking up. The local cafe was closed and dark. and finally. which meant it wandered. 260 . “I’ll fill the tank. and wound for mile after mile. but that was all. A ponderous woman was sitting behind the counter amid the beef jerky and chewing tobacco. Sarah pulled in next to the pumps. a place to buy gas and a little bit of everything else. but very frustrating if you wanted to get anywhere in a hurry—such as the tiny town of Stony Bend.N orth Idaho was very scenic. if you want to go inside.” It was a typical quick-stop. wiggled. Nate drove. A few of the small. Stony Bend was still asleep. “Let’s try that all-night gas station. with hills. just before night turned to gray morning. Some logging trucks were parked along the highway. smoking a cigarette and listening to a country music station. Sarah slept. deep in the St.
Nate and Sarah had seen that response a lot since arriving in Idaho. . Come on.” she replied. The driver of the pickup started pumping gas into his truck. Don’t freak out. A pickup truck pulled in on the other side of the pumps. leaning against the side of his truck.” said Nate. Hang on. she hung up the nozzle. ready and waiting behind the wheel. Carefully. . The clerk from the Dartmoor Hotel. “Hi there. Steady. The woman was pointing up the highway. get out here. and jumped into the car. watching Nate conversing with the big woman inside. turning her back. discretely. but now she was shaking her head. He must have asked directions. reaching for a pen . his eyes staring into the distance at nothing in particular. she edged around the pumping station just enough to catch a good look at the man’s face. black hair. Sarah had to move a little to one side to see how Nate was doing.the mind maze “Good morning. Get out here. He was a little man with a round head and thin. scratching her head. screwed on the gas cap. looking like she didn’t know anything. Even though her tank wasn’t full. “I wonder if you could help me . Sarah glanced at him—and moved quickly behind the pumping station. . The woman was listening. . stroking her forehead to conceal her face. crushing out her cigarette. 261 . between Sarah and the store. He was still staring off into the distance. Steady.” Sarah used her credit card and started pumping the gas. girl. waiting for his tank to fill. Nate.
that of a tiny figure stumbling. staggering. Nate was walking back. The colors faded. It’ll be all right.” Elisha sat. The noise quieted down. swept and tossed like a particle of lint in a cosmic washing machine. staring. got up again. The horrible bedlam subsided. half-conscious— like Alvin Rogers. with nothing visible around him.” All four screens combined to form one huge image. her eyes glued to the big screens. He hung up the nozzle and climbed into his cab. Mr. She gestured at him madly. colors. He was standing still. arms covering his head. “Please. who went to work at his console. Nate! The pickup pulled out of the station. surfaces. Elijah was now in a white fog. That got his attention. “Stop it! STOP IT! What are you doing to him?” Bingham nodded to a technician. and he ran. sounds. dazed. clamped his hands over his ears. Her brother fell. turned several circles. 262 . Sarah put the heel of her hand to the car horn and left it there.nightmare academy Clunk! The little man’s tank was full. “The Maze. Sit down. surrounded by a mad swirling of shapes. “Elijah!” The thin tech with the ponytail stepped in. Bingham turned toward the big screens. looking at some scribbled notes and looking around. gently touching her shoulder. Elisha bolted to her feet.
. and then nodded to the techs sitting at all those consoles. . She was wearing a white blouse. “. except .the mind maze Bingham began explaining to his audience. “This is a continuation of a previous experiment. she saw herself on the big screen. but it was quickly dissolving away. The question before us: Can the human psyche really function in the absence of truth? How far can the mind go when nothing. checking her over. some cool western jewelry. . sitting in the same chair. There was a weird. .” 263 . There was a large. As you recall. her hair was neat. The question before us: Can the human psyche really function in the absence of truth?. and she wasn’t sitting in a strange little green alcove surrounded by lights—she was sitting quite comfortably in the family room of a huge log home. . and now we have a replacement volunteer. Lights came on around Elisha. white fog in the room. wool rug on the floor. she looked great. a clean pair of jeans. a deep. Suddenly. can be known for certain?” He looked at Elisha. soft living room furniture around her. making her jump. and a pair of boots beyond a Springfield budget. a breach in the system allowed our last subject to escape—most unfortunate!—but that problem was quickly contained. Her face was clean. nothing at all. . stone fireplace behind her.
” He saw his sister. “It’s all right. “Sis?” he asked. His hands were shaking. but at least the floor. Was he still alive? It was so hard to think. Elijah. The white fog around him was clearing.nightmare academy Elijah’s ears were ringing and his head was spinning. . “It feels great to finally rest. had stopped moving. . . for this one brief moment. a wall made of logs . serene face. the water. He was weak and trembling. the bog. . doesn’t it?” He could only sigh a deep. Take a load off. and then . his head sinking into the soft pillows. “Is this heaven?” “It’s anything you want it to be. a soft couch . the haze. smiling at him. “Elijah. He thought he saw a wool rug below him.” He hobbled forward.” she said. the sand. He’d already thrown up a third time and his stomach felt like it would never hold food again.” came a lovely voice. then reclined. “Come and sit down. the ground. hunched over. He wanted very much for it to be real. but for now. by the warmth of the lovely room. comforted by her smiling. . a crackling fire in a stone fireplace. . whatever it was under his feet. He knew that voice. his voice hoarse from screaming.” He sank onto the couch. seated in a comfortable chair. the ride was over. “Elijah. This had to be real. to place one thought after another. 264 . tired sigh and nod his head. like an angel.
For the first time. she noticed a camera lens pointing down at her from the ceiling.” Even with his mind mangled. . above her. 265 . Sarah walked right up on the front porch and gave the front door several sharp raps. enhancing it with all their fancy computers. These clever people were recording her image as she sat in the chair. they were more than ready for a direct approach. Elijah still found a tiny spark of curiosity. By now. an incredibly realistic. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about truth. making it tell the most outrageous lies. and reassembling it in front of her maze-dazed brother. Elijah: trying to believe that some things are true. I’ve got to get through to him! Nate and Sarah followed the pickup to a slightly sagging little cabin off a side road. That’s where all the pain comes from. three-dimensional projection! That explained the mysterious image of her brother that lured her into this place. She looked around her. just let go. Trying to know. “Let go of what?” “The struggle.the mind maze “So just . don’t believe her!” So the whole thing was a hologram. “Elijah. .” “That lying little imp!” Elisha said to herself as she watched herself on the screen.
have you seen a boy and a girl around here. like their mother?” He started to shake his head. He turned and ran through the cabin and out the back door—where Nate was waiting for him and She confirmed it for him. and while she was not overly hefty. good looking.” He was about to argue further. “Or maybe it was the Light of Day Youth Shelter. “You’re right! You know me from somewhere!” “I. She confirmed it for him. plainly curious and annoyed. remember?” He started to close the door. she was not petite. I was wondering. I haven’t—” But then he got a good look at her. too.” “Sure. “Yes?” “Hi. I don’t think so. You were the desk clerk. I get the two confused. either. but there was an angry mama bear coming into his house. hurling it open and hurling him a good distance. “No. “I’m busy—” She kicked the door.nightmare academy The little man opened the door. Sorry to disturb you so early in the morning. “You’re right! You know me from somewhere!” 266 . both sixteen. The Dartmoor Hotel in Seattle.
You’re right. “The name’s Nelson Farmer. imposing man standing in the backyard. “Your turn. “Now we can make this really simple. and we’re in the same boat as you are: There are kids missing and we want to know what he knows. “We’re clearing up the details right now—” “NOOO!” Sarah grabbed his arm. Springfield. Sarah approached Nelson Farmer.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Another slam. You have our kids and we want them.” He gave the little man another slam against the wall.” Sarah repeated thoughtfully. “One of the people we’re after. “Easy now. “Let him go.” There was a tall. Now just take it easy and let him go. but Nate didn’t let go. one hand tucked inside his suit jacket. “Wrong answer.” said the man. I’ve been on this case since your children disappeared. reaching inside his jacket again. I’m with the Bureau for Missing Children.” He pulled some ID from his jacket pocket and showed it to them. forcing it skyward. “We’re on the same side. “So who’s this guy?” Nate demanded. Sarah and Nate froze. He’s a front man for the Knight-Moore project. 267 . “What do you know about our kids? Where are they?” Farmer stepped forward.” A voice behind them ordered. keeping an eye on him. Nate put the man there.” There was a wooden bench on the back porch.” “Nelson Farmer. holding him there in an inescapable armlock.the mind maze quickly slammed him face-first against the back wall.
He never doubted. He heard a cry of pain and a scuffle as he came around the front of the cabin. of 268 . Farmer was looking up into the barrel of his own gun. She handed over Farmer’s gun. the bush at the corner of the cabin was still wiggling where he’d passed.” said a familiar voice coming around the cabin. More deputy marshals began flooding the backyard. Nate was there in an instant. “Sarah Springfield?” asked one. MARSHAL. In less than a second. Nate figured.” Sarah told Farmer. The little man was dangling from their strong arms.” They had Farmer. Nate smiled and gave a little nod. Close enough to catch. “He was going to kill you just as he killed Alvin Rogers.” Nate caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. then came face-to-face with four big guys in green jackets with big yellow letters on the front: U. now in Sarah’s hand. “Yes. “Be right back. pouring on the speed. and with a skillful judo move she threw him to the ground. “I’ve had someone pull a gun on me before.nightmare academy His hand was holding a gun.” Nate took off after him. Sarah thought the marines had arrived. He cleared the corner of the cabin and saw the man disappearing around the front. “and that’s what it looked like. guns ready.S. but Sarah already had Farmer in a very painful armhold. The little man was gone. “which would have repaired the breach in secrecy—except for the children.” “Sorry we’re late.
” 269 . Winger was acting as his field agent. she is actually a Ms. and warned us that Mr. and she gave us all the details. “Exactly. Morgan spoke to Nate. Sarah. Farmer was following you.” Morgan knelt beside the “He was going to kill you just as he killed Alvin Rogers. Once cornered. “He’s been taking advantage of a sacred trust: using his position and the files at the Bureau for Missing Children to screen and recruit runaways for experimentation. Ms. You would have disappeared without a trace. walking with Nate. a longtime confidante and associate of Mr.the mind maze course. we knew where Mr. Hello. Marian Winger.” They strode right up to Farmer. “which would have repaired the breach in secrecy— except for the children. of course.” said a familiar voice coming around the cabin. she was very cooperative. Since we knew where you were. Farmer would be. “Your little hotel clerk was simply a decoy to lure you here. Farmer there. now on his stomach as a marshal handcuffed him.” said Nate.” “To a secluded place with no witnesses.” It was Morgan. As for your red-headed woman. but also for Farmer’s benefit.
Tap. “It doesn’t mean you can’t believe something. I can be what I want. believe what I want. and I don’t have to worry about what God thinks . tatap.nightmare academy handcuffed Farmer. then even what this girl was saying wasn’t true. he was actually hoping this was heaven.” He was disappointed. then he certainly couldn’t count on there being a heaven. Now his jumbled mind was beginning to put a few pieces together: If there was no reality. He was even hoping this was really his sister. rest270 . if this girl really believed what she was saying. you will tell us exactly where the children are. No. I love being able to create my own reality.” The perfect. that makes it true. anything you want. because if you believe it. Farmer. All this left him with a discouraging conclusion: He was still in the middle of a waking nightmare and he was probably going crazy. . tap tap . . “And now. After all he’d been through. What was that sound? He cracked one eye open. her eyes intense. . it’s even better than that: You can believe anything. Mr. His eye was drawn to her right hand. tap. . she wasn’t his sister. . her eyes focused somewhere across the room and not on him. if nothing was really true. do what I want. . The pretty girl was still talking. heavenly Elisha leaned forward. “.” Elijah could only rest his head on the pillow and close his eyes as his sister went on and on.
and his voice squeaked a little with nervous anticipation.the mind maze ing on the arm of the chair. ready to receive the input from what he thinks is his sister. The computer had picked it up as just a mannerism and sent it through to the phony image. was drumming her fingers the very same way. ready to receive “Theoretically. trying to look as amazed and distraught as before as she drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair. while droning on and on about there being no truth. “Theoretically. his mind should be adequately erased by this point. over and over again. Her fingers were drumming out a little rhythm. God was answering her prayer: The other Elisha. Elisha watched the big screen on the wall. his mind should be adequately erased by this point. If this works. Bingham’s eyes were glued to the big screen. Mr. we will have broken the last barrier to global control.” 271 .
.nightmare academy the input from what he thinks is his sister. tired mind. and no matter what you choose. sending the same message. whatever you want it to be. and believe what we say.” the man in the audience agreed. But the letters kept repeating.PROJE. “And what if it doesn’t work?” Mr. the same number of seconds every time.. then we can’t allow people to have it or even believe in it.. do. “Truth is just what you make it. . Springfield code: O R 6 O C L O C K . And Elisha kept tapping away. Maybe it was just silly rhythms that he was making into code in his poor. . Then again. Now everyone watched the screen with all the more interest and anxiety.” “Unthinkable. He was listening to those finger taps.. . “That would be unthinkable.” Elijah closed his eyes and tried to block out the girl’s endless ramblings. Bingham kept watching the screen as he answered. If it is the truth that sets people free. or we cannot enslave them. It was code.. maybe it wasn’t code.” A man in the audience asked. 272 . the only thing that made sense. They must follow. like an endless loop. If this works. we will have broken the last barrier to global control. it isn’t wrong if you sincerely feel it . P R O JECTOR6OCLOCK.
this beat. a pulse. rushing. armed with axes. Repeating pattern. the swaying. like a big clock ticking. he’d been living in it. the same number of seconds every time. like an endless loop. throbbing. prying. the throbbing. an angry mob of nearly fifty. leaned forward. picks. hold on. swaying of the trees. But the letters kept repeating. rakes. Same length of time. digging away at the gate. over and over. Everyone in the room gasped. swaying. A rhythm. like a machine running. hold on. the halls. The rushing. It was everywhere. He could feel it like the beating of his own heart. the rhythm of the rooms. Almost every kid on the campus was there. 273 . For the past eternity of chaos. watched in awe. “They’re at the gate!” shouted Easley. He knew this pulse. Whoa. rushing of the wind. throbbing of the ground. the colors. It all kept time to this beat.the mind maze Same number of seconds. banging. around and around. switching one of the monitor screens to a shot of the big iron gate. shovels. bashing. a beat. like it was a part of him.
Why else would he choose such a name?” “How long do we keep them there?” asked a technician. “Mr. The computer must have hit a glitch or something. Please prepare to evacuate at any moment. we can now choose our raw materials. Teachers and technicians were starting Her plan wasn’t working. He turned to the thin guy in black. too. grabbing coats. “We are reaching the end of the experiment. “Nearly all of them. Her entire message wasn’t getting through.nightmare academy Bingham was impressed. and so early in the morning!” He turned to the audience. “This ‘Alexander’ could have done very well as a global dictator. opening and closing briefcases. Bingham!” He was quite occupied. shuffling papers.” The man hurried from the room. “And I think he knows it. Her plan wasn’t working. 274 . Elisha was watching her image. “Begin shutdown and evacuation. Bingham turned to the audience. It was apparently a great moment. Red lights began to flash overhead. create the right circumstances. only the little part about the projector. Bingham mused to himself.” He laughed.” Bingham answered.” The audience began to stir around in the dark. and in less than two weeks produce a dictator and his followers!” The audience applauded. repeating over and over. “You see? After four years of research. “Stand by for closing procedure.
PROJECTOR 6 OCLOCK. “Brilliant!” Elijah was counting seconds. a door slid open and the audience.the mind maze to scramble everywhere. three . . The loop. two. seemed to take a little breath every six seconds. Six o’clock. He didn’t see anything. Some of the equipment was closing down. CKPROJECTOR6OCLO . Did she mean. up to six. faces still in the dark. The girl. When he closed his eyes and listened to the room. . . the whirring of the processors going silent. . . 275 . then over the back of the couch. he could know something. Wow. behind him? Projector behind him? He opened his eyes and looked toward the ceiling. “When I know what I want to know. So what about the code those fingers kept tapping out? Maybe he could know that. still talking. too. a sweet six seconds. the red and amber lights blinking out. In all this mess. Bingham! When are you going to let my brother out of there?” Bingham watched the screen. the pulse. the wave. . Not yet. began heading for it. six seconds. of course. Every time. and he can’t!” Bingham actually smiled at her.” “You mean. One. “Mr. he could even hear the sound of the air recycle every six seconds. was six seconds. when you can know. At the far end of the room. then said over his shoulder. JECTOR60CLOCK .
and the whole mob moved forward. 276 . not wanting to be seen. moving it all out that open door at the end of the room. Warren is still in his room.” said Bingham. “Any stragglers?” Bingham asked. We still have Tom Cruise and his two friends hiding near the Dumpsters and a few kids hiding in the buildings.” Bingham smiled—again. through the gate and up the walk.” “Let’s contain them. “I’ve grown to love this part!” Overhead. there was a faint pounding. “Begin containment. Alexander and the mob had reached it and were trying to break it in. An image appeared on one of the big screens: the front door of the mansion. “All right. Meeks looked up from her console. Mrs.” Meeks held down a talk switch and spoke into her headset. well rehearsed. watching the final seconds of the great experiment on the big screens. “Warren’s friends are hanging back. “Let’s go!” Alexander yelled. Alexander and his mob were jubilant.” The third tech down the row reported. “let them in.” The tech threw a switch. waving their tools in the air. the iron gate broke open. and with a loud creak and groan. “Dozers in position.nightmare academy Teachers and techs were wheeling large cases of equipment and data on hand trucks. It was all going like clockwork. The audience remained in the shadows by the door. charges armed.” “Demolition? Report.
Let them have a feeling of accomplishment. Elijah was singing.” Easley reached for a knob on his console and turned up the volume. and you’ve got a brain. and it’s so much poop!” Then he laughed and started ranting. Every eye in the place went to that screen. He was singing. and it’s so much pain! I’ve got a brain. pointing to the other screen. Bingham!” Easley shouted. “Mr. “I’ve got a brain. and you’ve got a brain. hiding behind the chair where the phony Elisha sat. and you’ve got a brain. “More sound. “Gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee gook! Elijah was singing. then hiding again. Her brother Elijah had become a madman. There were audible gasps. and raving. circling. and laughed.the mind maze “Let them work at it a while. and it’s so much pain! I’ve got a brain.” He thought that last line was funny. jumping. Even Elisha gasped and her heart went sick. Bingham hurried closer to the screen. then jumping up. “I’ve got a brain. ranting. and it’s so much poop!” 277 . and you’ve got a brain. please. dancing around the room.
“Open the door and let’s be done with it.” The screens combined into one big composite and switched to an interior shot of . Easley reached up and shook his hand. very good!” said Bingham. She strained to understand what she was seeing: bare. that huge. “My sweet brother . that symbol of ultimate authority and rulership. . what in the world was it? To Elisha. and from the looks on their faces. “Congratulations.” A tech threw another switch. no furniture. foreboding structure that had all the kids in awe. 278 . Now Bingham roared with laughter.” Booker came over and did the same. “Be sure they all go inside. and the front door of the mansion caved in. An empty shell. then spun in sideways circles.nightmare academy Gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee gobbledee geek!” Then he rolled on the floor. “Congratulations.” “Very good. so much it made him wheeze. pedaling against the floor with his feet. it looked like Alexander and his mob were pouring into a huge warehouse. nothing! The mansion on the hill. . but no rooms. white walls. . was a fake. they were as stunned and perplexed as she was. high windows—yes.” said Bingham. . her spirit collapsing in sorrow. expansive concrete floor. a vast empty shell.” said Elisha. . “So these people can be broken after all! Make sure we get a full record of the data. . that mysterious citadel where power resided.” “My brother .” “All right. no stairs. kicking his feet in the air. .
The tech threw a switch.” reported the tech. The kids started screaming. “Seal them in. Bingham looked at Elisha and told his crew. “Throw her in with the others.” 279 .the mind maze A big nothing.” said Bingham. and on the screen. the front and side doors of the empty shell suddenly disappeared as huge panels slammed into place. “Everyone’s inside.
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15 veritas 281 .
if harm came to even 282 . “I wish you were working for us instead of them. He wasn’t about to say anything. Mr. but his arrogance showed clearly enough. Farmer has conspired with his friends to violate every one of them—not to mention his role in kidnapping the children. “So what’s going to happen to Mr. and I would say Mr.” The hotel clerk was sitting on the wooden bench on the back porch. and Nate noticed. especially if anything happens to those children. as a decoy. There are laws protecting schoolchildren from invasive psychological questioning or conditioning. “No. Farmer?” Nate asked. Morgan whistled at the thought of it. Farmer. a federal marshal on either side of him. He didn’t look nearly as arrogant or confident as Farmer did. Even if someone were hired simply as a stooge. plus the murder of Alvin Rogers and the attempted murders of you and Sarah.” said Morgan. “Pretty serious charges. “You have an amazing sense of loyalty. turning away. handcuffed to a bench leg.F armer wasn’t smiling.” Morgan looked at the hotel clerk as he answered.” “Which doesn’t look good for anyone who helped him.
he stopped by Elisha’s little TV stage. even as a memory. someone will have to take charge.” The little clerk was clearly shaken by that. that person could face the same charges as an accessory.veritas one of the children. don’t you think?” On his way to join the others going out the door. the Knight-Moore Academy will cease to exist. Springfield in the Maze while the computer finishes the program. “And we will have it. like yourself. and your investigation will be moot. Bingham threw some papers into his briefcase and fastened it shut. when the world does fall into chaos. But make no mistake: What we’ve learned here will definitely live on—in schools. “Good-bye. An apt closure. that knowledge is only temporary.” Bingham crossed the room and disappeared through the door. looking at Morgan. in films. such as we’ve demonstrated here. but of course. on television. if such a person were to help us save the children from any harm. then at Farmer. After today.” said Bingham with a wink. in textbooks—and my friends and I will simply wait. “Leave Mr. “However. Mr. 283 . “So I imagine you’ve learned what it is you came to learn. that would certainly change the picture for the better.” said Elisha. but remained silent. in recordings. After all.” The little man was shaking. won’t they?” “It’ll be all about power. then at Morgan.
pitched forward. Sally?” “Where are we?” “What’s going to happen?” The elevator was gone. of course. came to a stomach-turning halt. the whole platform where Elisha was sitting rotated until she was facing the wall behind her. hidden behind a panel that closed immediately.” 284 . Tom Cruise. colors. “It’s Sally!” “Where did she come from?” “Is that the way out of here?” She looked up from the floor and saw Britney. They rounded up everybody.” and threw a lever. Ramon. clothing askew. There were shouts and squeals of alarm. We’re all here. A panel in the wall opened. looking at all the frightened faces looking back at her. Melinda. their faces longing for answers. the platform pitched forward. said.nightmare academy The thin technician with the ponytail came over to Elisha. and backgrounds. all the kids of different sizes. With a neck-wrenching spin. It lurched upward. elevator-sized cavity. opened. “I’m very sorry. shapes. and Elisha tumbled into a tight. “What’s happening. and so many others gathering around her. I guess. hands and faces dirty from the big struggle with the gate and the front door. She got to her feet. and threw her out. It was an elevator. rotated. “There were guards. Security people.
” Harold “Alexander” Carlson just stood there. featureless walls with frightened eyes. empty shell of a house. looking helpless. still blotchy with white paint. exploring the white. Jerry’s real name is Elijah. no new visions for the future. too. was “Alexander. to the pinnacle of power. standing in the middle of the vast room. We’re all here. exchanging a glance with Tom Cruise and the other kids who weren’t here by choice. “Glad you’re okay. “My name isn’t Sally. and extended his hand. “There were guards.” Warren nodded. “So they got you. He had no orders to give. the great leader. He’d taken the mansion. They rounded up everybody. for the picture spoke volumes. Rory and his big gang of toughs were clustered together. speechless. long look at him. and Harold Carlson hasn’t conquered anything.” She appreciated his handshake.” she said.” Elisha took a good. staring at the walls while his followers stared at him. So this was Alexander. looking scared—they wouldn’t be slugging and bullying their way out of this problem. close enough to shake the floor! 285 . At the far end of the room. Security people.veritas Warren stepped forward. standing alone and looking very small in this huge. “It’s Elisha Springfield. Sally. And I guess you’ve figured it out: This whole thing was one big lie.” Nearby was Brett. and this was his mighty revolution! He had made it to the top. and he’s my brother. BOOM! An explosion. And the mansion was empty. I guess. crestfallen.
“OOOH!” The sound of a faraway explosion totally rattled the little man. and it was far more threat than request. Sarah. I swear!” Nate. and Morgan closed in on the frightened man. kids who were already missing. no problem.” He took a breath.” said Nate. his eyes searching the ground.nightmare academy They ran to the windows and could see a ball of fire and billowing smoke where dorm A once stood. “They never killed the kids before. All the other times.” Nate took hold of both his shoulders and locked eyes with him. all the other years. I didn’t know—” “Be quiet!” Farmer yelled. At the very edge of the campus. I was just supposed to sit there in the hotel in case anybody came in asking questions. They had the kids for two weeks and then the kids went home and everything was okay. nobody asking questions. I don’t know what 286 . a huge yellow bulldozer was rumbling and squeaking onto the field. “What are you saying?” “It’s the fifth year. the last experiment. “I should have suspected something when they started signing up runaways. nothing. jerked back by the handcuff around his wrist. “Keep going. “I didn’t know they were going to kill the kids. He jumped from the bench. “Okay! Okay! Nobody hired me to take a rap for murder. They were his first words since being arrested. they were signing up kids who volunteered.
Whenever he paused to rest.veritas they’re doing up there. the textures foggy. There’s a tunnel . touch. stable. like clockwork. everything. her fingers still tapping away the same little coded message. and unchanging. welcoming environment of the family room of a big log house surrounded him like a fluffy comforter. the sensory illusions of smell. steady. “WHERE?” The man rattled the handcuff. and sound dull. I mean the kids. So Elijah realized he could still know things. singing crazily.” It was all Nate could do to keep from crushing the answer out of the man. the whole world froze for a minuscule moment every six seconds. the warm. unpredictable behaviors. and what he knew right now was that the computer running this mad ride 287 . the environment got sketchy. “I’ll take you there. The girl in the chair kept right on smiling and babbling. . Whenever he acted crazy. trying to be unpredictable. doing new.” “How do we get there?” “The road’s gone. They took that out yesterday. just let me loose!” Elijah was getting toward the end of his strength. but this time they have to erase everything—not just the campus. . but his theory was proving out. Most of all. jumping suddenly.
” he said to himself and anyone listening. “one more time. and after several crazy. But if he gave the computer new information it wasn’t expecting—silly songs with the last word changed or not rhyming when it should. the computer could handle it. crazy world would actually blink. The projector. It was that blink he was watching for as he made a blithering fool of himself. like one step following another.nightmare academy was reloading and processing information on a six-second cycle. a scratch following an itch. As long as everything happened predictably. His dear sister was right. every six seconds. quick like the click of a shutter. just for an instant. every six seconds. look at us bang on the roof!”—it all had to be new information! 288 . “Okay. then back. at six o’clock. an exhale following an inhale. or goofy antics that weren’t predictable—then the computer had to process all that new information. exhausting cycles. behind the couch where he’d been lying. and this horrible. he knew when to expect it. the round shape of a lens would flash into view. which took time. whooping out a stupid song he hoped the computer hadn’t heard before—“Back up the batter and Whoof! In the flutter and wowie. where usually he saw only a wall of huge logs. then back where he started.” He jumped to one side of the girl’s chair. a fact he could detect only because he’d been in this place for so long he could hear it and feel it. like dancing to the rhythm of music. and then—jumped in place.
she vanished. went to his knees and clucked. There was a crash and the tinkling of glass. eyes locked open to see the next blink. He ran forward.veritas The wall blinked after six seconds. arms outstretched. too. He hopped. he brought the chair down where the projector was hiding and felt the chair connect with something. The pleasant family room was looking foggy. spun in a circle— The wall blinked again. stood up again. like a flame blown out. Now he was sure where the lens was. embedded in the wall just two feet to the left. and quite glad about it. within reach! His hand locked onto a steel rung that wasn’t there. and then. The girl sitting in midair began to flutter. out of focus. He saw the lens. The girl remained exactly where she was. sitting in midair. 289 . There were the rungs again. and within six seconds Elijah caught sight of a real wall beyond the log wall—and the steel rungs of a ladder. even if he couldn’t see it. still smiling at him and telling him he could create his own truth any way he wanted it. her voice turned to static. He grabbed the chair the girl was sitting in and yanked it high over his head. With all his strength. Now all this was new information.
fire. he was still in that pleasant family room in the big log house and nothing had changed. She didn’t even want to think it. “Can we break these windows?” 290 . no matter what he thought he was seeing. No! It is there! The ladder is real! Climb. and he pushed with his leg. on every side. no matter what the room said. almost unfelt rung. He was climbing out of there. Elijah! Climb. Elisha and all the kids could only watch helplessly as dorm B blossomed toward the sky in a cloud of smoke. the shock wave bounding off the mountainsides and rolling through again. and splinters.nightmare academy He closed his eyes. “So what are they going to do with us?” Elisha couldn’t say it. “They’re erasing the campus. a faint message was delivered: You’re lifting yourself. no matter what your senses tell you! He pulled on the rung. Somewhere inside his nervous system. shaking the ground and quivering the mansion. tried to sense only the ladder— His hand locked onto a steel rung that wasn’t there. looking out the same window.” Warren was beside her. tried not to feel the room he was in. BOOM! Another explosion rattled the valley. All around.” said Elisha. but he groped. “They’re going to cover up everything they did here. and pulled again. then he grabbed another unseen. Now his toe found a rung.
“It used to be a mine entrance. . “Okay. everybody. all of Ms.” said a marshal. They had this whole thing planned from the beginning. all the history and social studies books. Warren called out. do something! Grab a tool and do some damage. OOM . . . oom . Fitzhugh’s artwork. .” Even an ax in Rory’s hands simply bounced off the thick Plexiglas. all the foreign language materials.” said Nate. Ashes. . Nate and Sarah could hear the explosion. .” said the little man. a crack. oom . “but they bored it out to use as an escape tunnel. OOM . . This time the sound of the explosion came echoing at them through the tunnel. even feel it in their feet as they followed the little hotel clerk through the woods to a narrow tunnel hewn and blasted out of the rock. grabbing a shovel and looking for any seam or crack he might be able to pry open.” “So how do we know you’re not bluffing?” BOOM . . “Looks like nothing but an old mine. fragments of desks. and tattered pages floated through the air like snowflakes. “Sounds like this will get us there. . clicking on a flashlight.” “Let’s try again. . a door. They’d all been advised they would need lights.veritas “We’ve tried. anything!” Even Alexander complied. find a weak spot. BOOM! There went the main classroom building. 291 .
rung after rung— His head broke into the clear. Springfields and Morgan. . from the neck up.” Then he reached into his belt and produced a spare semiautomatic pistol. The rest of you take up the rear.” Nate received it. It looked like the most expensive movie sound stage ever built. endless throat of the tunnel. and directly above him. the world was real. movable walls and panels. He could clearly see the rungs of the ladder now. fluttering nonreality.” They plunged into the black. Wyrick. stay close behind. Elijah kept going through the motions. fuzzy static until. “Okay. stay here with the suspect. groping to find the next rung. like a drowning man flopping into a 292 . “You may need this. handing it to Nate. He could see cables and wiring. The pleasant room around him was starting to warp and ripple as the colors.nightmare academy The marshal waved to his men. out of the weird. holographic projectors. sounds. color and sound generators. He kept going. clinging with desperate hope to each rung of the ladder. Bocelli. a catwalk. hoping the faint sensations of gripping and climbing were the correct ones. grabbing and pulling. He pulled himself out of the swirling light. “Thanks. stepping and pushing. Hanson. as if he’d just broken through the surface of a lake. became . Though his body was still floundering in a swirling. less real. Perkins. suddenly. a vast steel gridwork supporting lights. up front with me. embedded in the concrete wall he was climbing. . and even smells.
white room with high windows. Below him. He watched them struggle. 293 . but nothing connected. There was a door at the far end of the catwalk. He’d had enough of this place. gouging. His eye caught a glimmer of light behind him— He turned to see huge screens on the wall. nothing made any sense. Strangely. He was in a control room. mind-frying hell. all banging. The sound of frantic voices and clanging tools was coming from somewhere. the pleasant family room. the place was deserted. like a video playing. he rolled onto the catwalk. trying to find the source. Only a few consoles and monitors were still operating. even some phony forest. trying to get out of a huge. and immediately recognized his sister and most of the student body. several disjointed hallways. His mind was tired. then limped and staggered through that door. but nothing connected. looking about. most likely the place where they concocted and controlled his continuous. He dragged himself farther into the room.veritas boat. prying with garden tools. wavered and rippled as if they were under water. nothing made any sense. His mind was tired. He pulled himself to his feet. He watched them struggle.
At the very bottom was the line. . He stumbled to it. It meant nothing to him. To the left of each line. MAIN CLASSROOM . . DORMITORY B . Was all this supposed to mean something? He just kept staring. 294 . stared at it. burned-out blob inside his head. Final piece: They’re trapped inside! Immediately below the screens. staring at the monitor. 055.5__STANDBY__ MANSION AND CONTROL CENTER. One showed the kids trapped in the mansion. Elijah sat at the console. a computer monitor flickered. all listed in green. another showed a burning pile of rubble and a black column of smoke. . . preceded by four digits and the word STANDBY.nightmare academy Then one piece fell into place: Those windows look like the mansion’s windows. LIBRARY. A third showed a dormitory—with the letter C on the corner. . his mind an exhausted. Below these were the rest of the campus structures. what is this? There were lines of information in bright red: DORMITORY A .8 and dropping fast. . . Next piece: It’s the mansion. just going through 410. four zeroes and the flashing word DONE. . The numbers before DORMITORY C were counting down. then studying the big screens above. running through columns and graphics. What .
The numbers were all zeroes. Rory looked at her a moment. great . It finally sank in: The computer was executing a program. and the computer reported with the flashing word DONE. He threw the broken end down and just stared. her desperate blows futile. still open.” BOOM! This time it was dorm C. He could still get out of here. Elijah saw the explosion on the big screen. but the structure was solid. crying. “There has to be a way. . . Elijah could see the exit door. He stared another moment. trying to get out of the mansion.” she said. and then . setting off charges to destroy all the buildings—with this building the last on the list. and he struck the seam so hard it broke the ax handle. Rory came along. He could also see his sister and classmates struggling. then said. I really did like your brother. . 295 .veritas Elisha was banging with an ax on the seam of the front door. Oh. “I want you to know. . “Let me try. and then— He saw the line “DORMITORY C” go from green to red. guessing where a hinge or a latch might be. Beyond the smoke and flame they could see another bulldozer standing by.” She stood back.
oom . “Heads up. . . “Escapees. nearly running. . He remained seated at the console. staring at the monitor. I need your help—uh. . Please.” The tunnel went straight through the mountain for hundreds of feet. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s GO!” hollered the marshal. praying he could figure out how in the world to abort the program. The lights began to waver. heading for those lights. BANGangangangangang!!! The sound of the shot echoed up and down the tunnel. really right now. half blind in the dark. There were faint lights coming the other way. OOOM . echoing voices of alarm. They quickened their pace. I mean. Another explosion. . 296 . maybe thousands. much louder. There didn’t seem to be an end to it. . His mind just wasn’t clicking. right now. dart about. The lights reversed.” Morgan nearly whispered. Click-clack! Nate heard the marshals chambering rounds in their pistols. much closer.nightmare academy I won’t leave you here. Elisha. Ping PaPing! A bullet ricocheted off the rock walls while everyone ducked. oom . He did the same. The “escapees” were turning tail and running. “Dear Lord Jesus. oom. no doubt.” said the marshal. They heard distant.
and all the games were reduced to black.” Warren added. cried. Elisha. trying to get his mind to grab hold of something: Okay. I believe they are. It was Joan. and Warren watched through a window as the last dorm building disintegrated in a ball of fire. Rory. From all she had seen and heard in the control room. Elijah kept staring at the screen. Elisha just held Joan close as Joan wept in remorse. roaring in total panic. green 297 . Neither had to say a word.veritas Britney and Cher both screamed. covering their ears as they huddled in a corner. “Yes. all tears. Elisha felt a hand on her shoulder. aren’t they?” said Rory. screamed. “Even this building.” The clanging of the tools was beginning to subside. The kids flinched. Elisha could only reach one conclusion. The Rec Center was gone. “They’re going to blow up everything. red means the building’s blown. The kids were starting to give up. totally beside themselves. burning ash adrift in the wind. Another explosion! The concussion pounded the mansion like a drum. Alexander banged on the stubborn Plexiglas with both fists.
not today. giving chase to unknown people—men and women in business attire carrying briefcases and valises. and up ahead. but got an error message: PLEASE ENTER RESET QUANTITY.nightmare academy means it’s going to be blown. The marshals fanned out. He clicked on that. and shredded Knight-Moore sports clothing and souvenirs. Come on. By the way those people were struggling. . it seemed they wouldn’t get far. Sarah. running in all directions through the forest. and tripping through the brush in their dress shoes and high heels. They ran for it. Nate. a cloud of splinters. through the trees. pulverized stone. The Campus Exchange billowed into the sky. come on. Lord. Reset quantity. and Morgan could see the towering white walls of a huge mansion. slipping. filling the valley below. the numbers counting down mean the number of seconds and tenths of seconds before each blast . what’s the relationship? How did they stack the numbers? Oh. . There was a field labeled RESET. Nate and Sarah heard the explosion just before they broke out of the tunnel into the daylight. A trail led from the tunnel entrance. reset quantity . what quantity? He stared at the columns of numbers not yet counting down. . BOOM! Another structure went up in a ball of fire and smoke. . don’t let it be a logarithm. and now they could see the smoke through the trees. 298 .
a roaring bear with glistening teeth. a roaring bear with glistening teeth. rolling. “Stop those bulldozers! Stop them!” Then Nate and Sarah heard something else: a low. squeaking. This bear had steel wheels on his feet. The big creature began to jerk and jolt like a poorly driven car. and then. Nate fired two rounds. Hydraulic fluid dribbled out on the ground. There was a growl. Sparks exploded from the bear’s mouth and chest. They saw a large. Nate raised his pistol. furry form charging through the brush. aiming it in the direction of the noise. and then a monstrous head appeared. the growl reduced to garbled radio noise. shouting at the marshals. the pounding of big feet. hissing and smoking. close-tothe-ground snuffling. until finally it burst out of the bushes and lurched to a stop only a few yards away. Some twigs snapped. They saw a large. There was a smell like burning wire. 299 . They ran on. scraping. then a third. furry form charging through the brush. a stream of smoke. Morgan started crashing down the hill through the trees. and then a monstrous head appeared. No time to wonder about it.veritas They heard bulldozers in the valley. then a snorting. Some bushes rustled.
but to no avail. “There goes somebody else!” said Rory. Elisha could see green-jacketed marshals running across the front lawn. banging on the windows. 55. When they dropped down to a certain value. screaming. The kids raised a ruckus. “There’s somebody out there!” Jamal shouted. now—and checked out the building where he and the other kids were this very moment. PLEASE ENTER RESET QUANTITY. banging and swearing. Alexander yelled like a wild man. What value? He went to the bottom of the list—just three lines down. Hey! 55. yelling. The numbers next to OFFICE were counting down now.nightmare academy The computer monitor was telling Elijah that the cafeteria had just blown up.5 seconds! He entered that from the keyboard.5 seconds! That has to be the demolition cycle. ERROR. 300 . and all the kids ran to the windows. the office building was going to blow.
and it was like seeing the heavens opened. suddenly. “I’ll be 301 . The kids pressed against the windows. longing to see a real mom and dad out there. but to no avail. There was Elisha. Alexander yelled like a wild man. She saw her mom and dad running toward the mansion. the glass between them. “It’s my mom and dad!” Hope flooded that big white prison. “Nate! Nate. it’s Elisha!” She leaped up on the porch. real world piercing this nightmare. It was sealed shut. straining for a glimpse. searching all around the grounds with their eyes.veritas The marshals kept going. looked. probably bulletproof. Elisha saw a vision like a flash of reality. pressed her palm against her mother’s. “Unbreakable. and put her hand against the thick Plexiglas. trapped behind the glass. Then. “They can’t hear us!” Elisha moaned. like a bolt from the ordinary. trying to find any sign— Elisha screamed as she’d never screamed before. crying unashamedly. Nate tried the front door. Elisha. banging and swearing. Sarah heard some faint noises. “What about the windows?” Sarah replied. went to the window. like it was part of the wall. waving.” The sound of a big machine echoed up from the valley.
. Okay. . Elijah was talking out loud to himself. ERROR.5. yeah. He put the big monster in high gear. trying to get his brain to work. . The gate was already broken open. . he had only to widen the opening as he crashed through. “Okay. BOOM! The last remaining structure on the campus went up like a volcano. . two buildings to go.” The computer was telling him there was only one more building to blow up before it was time to blow up this one. . 55.5 . twice that is 111 . “Okay. Nate bumped the nearest bulldozer operator from his machine and took over. and crossed the field like an army tank.nightmare academy right back. opened the throttle. we’re counting down from 111 .S. KABOOM! The office building was history. . . PLEASE ENTER RESET QUANTITY.” Nate took off down the walkway toward the big open gate. reset . . .” He entered 111. 302 . With some help from an armed U. reset. increments of 55. 55.5 . okay. marshal.
screeching up the walkway. The sirens were jumbling what was left of his brain. heading for the mansion. . think! THINK! 55. “Get the kids back!” Sarah waved through the window. “Get back! Get back!” The kids inside ran to the farthest corner.5 . and it was counting down. All right. 25 seconds. thundering. 55 seconds . twelve lines . . twice is 111 . . He looked for some paper and a pencil. Okay. that doesn’t work . . twelve times 55. Twelve buildings. . . . 303 . dragging any kids too hysterical to move on their own. . 35 . .5 increments. Nate was rolling. 45 . looking for the best place to ram a hole. Strobes began to flash. He gestured wildly to Sarah and yelled. . . Elijah couldn’t do it in his head. .veritas Sirens began shrieking in the control room. Elijah. Elijah had only one green line left. . .
No pencil. Daylight streamed in through 304 . Straight on. breaking. “Well. He clicked on RESET. Seat belt fastened? No paper. CLICK OK TO RESTART. and headed for the front wall. Don’t click OK! The numbers stopped counting down—at 2 seconds. digging out deep. picky. ERROR. picky!” He typed in 666. . just to the right of the porch. Second of twelve. . Five seconds. Full throttle now. ripping. ugly track marks in the grass. you forgot the first decimal. Uh. okay. The sirens turned off. PROGRAM RESET. that means 6 times 111 . Elijah. No error message. The blade of the bulldozer tore into the front wall of the mansion. we had 111 on the second line. picky. He yanked the right lever. PLEASE ENTER RESET QUANTITY. Okay. Ten seconds. The strobes quit flashing. spun the big Cat around.0. Really? He typed in 666.nightmare academy Nate rolled across the front lawn. bending.
“Guess I shouldn’t keep them worrying. “No truth. numb and exhausted. and he could tell they were asking about him. thank you for letting me think again!” Then he looked around the incredibly complex room and shook his head.” 305 . that’s right. and gestured to the kids inside. and hurrying them all away from the building. “Come on. looking frantic. hugging any who needed it. leaped from the seat.” He looked toward the exit door. “Oh. huh? Then how did they design and build all this stuff?” Oh-oh. He could see his mom and dad on the big screen. A feeble prayer escaped his lips. and pushed the metal sheeting and framework farther aside until he had a gap wide enough for escape. I’m the only kid still missing. and the kids began to leap and cry and cheer. “Oh. God. let’s go!” Leaning back in his chair. He could also see his mom and dad helping each one. Elisha didn’t seem to have a complete answer. She just kept pointing down. took another run. Elijah could watch the big screen on the wall above him and see the kids streaming out through that gap. Nate backed up.veritas the widening gash. let’s go. He left the machine right there to hold the gap open.
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epilogue 307 .
these people have proven very influential in guiding the course of public education over the past fifteen to twenty years and would have had a keen interest in the experimental findings of the Knight-Moore project. Morgan and. “Most of the people arrested on that day were visitors—scholars. “The real perpetrators and creators of the project. Stern. I can only wish you God’s providence in finding them. drafting a final report for Mr. the president. As I’m sure you are aware.D ays later. Nate sat at his computer. and Meeks. via Morgan. known only by such dubious aliases as Bingham. Nevertheless. it is doubtful they can be prosecuted. are still at large. and those same people can be expected to protect and hide Bingham and his friends until a more opportune time. Booker. since none of them were directly responsible for anything that occurred at the academy. the Knight-Moore project had the backing and protection of key people in Congress and in the Department of Education under the previous administration. 308 . Easley. While not known widely by the public. academics—unfamiliar with the academy grounds and certainly not dressed for fleeing through thick forest. thinkers.
we have the children who almost perished. each has come back all the more a lover of truth and a hater of lies. 309 . saddling up their horses. most of whom are safely home again. We are a free people because we live according to what we know is right or wrong. he continued typing. then we can’t. “Elijah is thinking and formulating more clearly than ever. If we don’t know Right and Wrong. but will look to someone else to bring order through brute force and raw power. and we will no longer be free—and don’t count on that tyrant to be kind or merciful. He has no sense of Right and Wrong.” Nate paused to admire the mountains of Montana out his office window—and to thank God for the two kids he could see out by the barn. who can testify as to their experiences.” With a lump in his throat. to reconstruct what the entire project was about. and her first several pages reflect a depth and intensity we have never seen before.’ as my children call it. as well as abundant material evidence from the academy’s main control center and ‘the Maze. It will be an involved process. we won’t control ourselves. and to arm ourselves against letting such an agenda ever succeed.epilogue “In the meantime. If Truth is taken from us. excited just to be able to learn and know things. and will do to us whatever he wants. either. “And therein lies our hope. then Right and Wrong are taken from us as well. thrilled with every new fact. Both of them have changed in a way Bingham and his cronies hadn’t counted on: Having lived in a world without truth. We will be controlled by a tyrant. Elisha is composing an account of her adventure. but possible.
“So.’ And where else can Truth. his head thrown back. “They are free!” 310 . “The ride they were going to take before all of this started that afternoon Morgan came. come from. The sun was bringing out all the colors of the land in summer. and the truth shall make you free. to observe and record what people can do when pushed to the extreme with no ultimate moral foundation.” He smiled as they watched Elijah and Elisha climb into their saddles. Who is Truth by His very nature?” Two loving arms wrapped around his shoulders. “Almost done. Elisha’s hair was glowing on her shoulders as she gave him her tolerant sister look. Real Truth. Elijah was singing one of his goofy songs. “They look so free. that Jesus said. ‘You shall know the truth.” The kids started riding. “How’s it going?” she asked. The conclusion: Take away Truth. than from God. then. his arm around her. his face to the big sky. and a tyrant will rule.” Nate nodded. He looked up. I’ll fax it off to Morgan tonight. they’re finally back to their horseback ride. and Sarah kissed him. out the paddock gate and up the dirt road toward the mountain trail. It was an attempt by people hungry for power to find the most effective way to rob people of their freedom.” Sarah looked out the window.nightmare academy “The Knight-Moore project was an experiment to discover what would happen to people when there is no truth. Sarah couldn’t take her eyes away. “Small wonder.
up a winding trail into the hills. and out of sight. the horses broke into a gallop.epilogue With a kick to their sides. spiriting their young riders into the wind and the wide-open country. 311 .
The Veritas Project team has a new assignment: To find the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of two runaways. When one runaway turns up totally out of his mind and a government agent steps in to take over the case, the Springfield's continue their own investigation. The twins-Elijah and Elisha-go undercover, posing as runaways. What happens next will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the twins end up in a strange academy where Truth is continually challenged, a gang-like war develops, and Elijah is taken to an ominous mansion from which no one has ever returned. A great thriller with a realistic look at right and wrong.
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