Middle-grade novel, 37,416 words
Chapter One of Twenty-Four Chapters:
“Jubilee!” the crowd around me cheered. The people of Visus filled the golden streets for the annual Jubilee Festival Parade. “Rejoice, again rejoice!” they cheered.
“Do you like my butterfly wings?” I asked my friend Effie.
She stood next to me in a bright yellow duck costume.
“Almost as much as my beak, Priscilla,” she laughed. She adjusted her topaz glasses beneath the oversized headpiece.
Chocolates and gumdrops flew down sparkling conveyor belts on a parade float labeled: The Candy Conception Factory.
Paper streamers and silver sparks exploded from the floating factory. Jesters and clowns rode on flying magic carpets and threw candy and confetti at the crowds.
As musicians played instruments and beat on drums, acrobats with painted faces floated above the street.
With all the excitement, my amethyst dream stone dropped from my pocket. When I bent down to pick it up, the wind blew until it knocked me over. All at once, The Whirlwind burst from my stone, as high as the treetops. The Whirlwind swirled and whirled, growing stronger by the second.
Then it caught my butterfly wings, and I floated into the middle of the tunnel. I tried to catch my breath.
As I descended into The Whirlwind, loud claps of thunder cracked one after the other. Beneath the thunder, it sang a beautiful song. It sang louder as I reached its center.
“Why me? Why not someone else? Haven’t I done enough already?” I called to The Whirlwind. Although the wind blew around me, everyone else was still standing on the ground.
As I spun in a circle, the parade continued as though nothing special was happening. No one noticed The Whirlwind but me.
“Why not you?” The Whirlwind called back to me. “I make all the dreams in the world. I made you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I yelled, holding onto my butterfly wings. If The Whirlwind tore my costume, I would be so upset. My wings crinkled in the blowing wind.
Without answering me, The Whirlwind spit me out back onto the street and disappeared into the crystal. Then the crystal fell back into my pocket. Just like the last time this happened, I had a feeling an adventure was about to start.
Just as I had this thought, the ground moved more than normal. The crystal city buildings with spires swayed back and forth. As they glistened in the never-ending sunlight, I hoped they wouldn’t crack. Someone might get hurt.
“Don’t worry, boy!” I said to my golden retriever Solomon, dressed like a turtle, as he ran in circles and barked.
“Why is everything shaking?” Effie said, grabbing my hand. She stared at the moving buildings.
“Watch out!” Lucas announced. With his eagle wings, he caught a piece of flying candy that almost hit me in the head.
“Thank you much,” I said to Lucas, snatching the candy from his gray wing and popping it into my mouth. The caramel melted beneath my tongue. Then the ground shook harder.
“Do you see Joshua?” Effie said, peering down the road. She held my hand tighter. “He would be so upset if we missed his float in the parade . . .”
“Why is the ground moving like this?” I interrupted.
The electric lights in the nearby windows flickered and then blacked out. Shaking. Shaking. And more shaking. The entire land trembled. Solomon howled in circles.
I had never experienced anything quite like this, not even spinning in The Whirlwind. Even if Effie held my hand, I wasn’t sure it would do her any good. We might both fall down together. Maybe Lucas would catch us, if he were quick enough.
As I turned around, the sapphire building to the left of us crashed onto the Candy Conception Factory. The turquoise shop to the right hit the ground with a rumble. Splinters of glass shattered everywhere. Surely, The Whirlwind wasn’t causing this disaster. It had disappeared. This seemed to be evil magic.
“An earthquake!” yelled the red-haired clown standing nearby.
“Priscilla!” yelled Lucas, pulling me under his wing. Then he grabbed Effie with his other wing.
The ruby bridge over the River of Delight cracked and sank into its bubbling waves. The river began to flow backwards and flooded Shelamim Boulevard.
“Aaah!” yelled the woman next to me. She ripped her exquisite dove costume trying to run to safety.
“Cover your heads!” I said, looking up.
“The world is falling apart!” Lucas said.
“I think the sky is falling!” Effie said, looking up.
Solomon whimpered against my legs.
While the three of us tried to stay calm, people in costume scattered through the streets. They hurried in every direction, avoiding the crashing debris.
“Help me!” yelled a man in an apple outfit. Part of his stem was caught beneath a slab of stone. A bearded man in a candle costume rushed to help him.
I covered my head with my arms, watching people get hit by shattering rock. I felt so upset. I could do nothing to stop the quake. Then the golden street cracked down the middle. People fell over left and right. At this rate, the ground would soon open, and I would be swallowed up in it.
“Oh no!” Effie cried, as a scared mob of people rushed in our direction. No one cared if we were standing in the way!
What I would have given for something solid to hold onto!
“Excuse me!” I announced, as a man stepped on my feet.
People walked over us, pushing us hard. I would surely be black and blue. When I turned around, Lucas and Effie were no longer standing next to me. How could I have lost them?
“Effie! Lucas! Where are you?” I cried, taking off my butterfly mask. Solomon still stuck close to my side. I picked him up and ran through the crowd looking for my friends.
The emerald gate across the street collapsed, just missing a circle of people. In the distance, smoke loomed in the sky. Flames followed the growing cloud.
The earthquake had started a fire! Oh, I needed to find Lucas and Effie. How could this happen in Visus, a place where it never even became night?
A man running for safety shoved me and stepped on Solomon’s tail. He bent my perfectly shaped butterfly wings.
Then I caught a glimpse of Rafael Sigmaringen, the man who taught me everything I knew about dreaming. A black and white playing card fit over his body.
“Rafael!” I yelled. The tip of his hat stood above the crowd. I snuck through the masses and pulled on the back of his cape.
“Priscilla,” he said. He had painted the left side of his face with a black spade symbol. “Stay near me.”
“I lost Lucas and Effie!” I said, almost in tears. Solomon barked and barked. “Where’s Glendalough?”
“She’s looking for her dolls,” Rafael said. “At least Lucas and Effie are probably together, but my wife knows enough magic to protect herself for now. We should go check on The Whirlwind in its home in the Templum. I hope the Templum isn’t destroyed.”
Even though The Whirlwind magically appeared from my dream stone from time to time, it normally lived in the Templum.
“Without the Templum, how will The Whirlwind churn and create dreams?” I asked. “All life everywhere will be in danger.”
Rafael scratched his head and looked worried.
“T’zila would like dreams to be destroyed,” I said. Most of my recent problems could be linked to the wiles of Countess T’zila Tzigane. I didn’t doubt for a moment that she would use an evil spell to send this earthquake.
“Hurry!” Rafael said, holding my hand and leading us through the streets. Glass flew from the buildings, and the streets were cracked. I almost tripped every other step. Solomon followed behind us somehow.
An onyx spire teetered back and forth on the top of a nearby building. Portions of the jasper wall surrounding the land had crumbled, leaving openings for intruders.
“Years ago, the founding members of the Council of Visus had dreams instructing them to build the Templum,” Rafael said, rushing through the streets of its capital city, Halom. “After the Templum was built, The Whirlwind descended and has been there ever since.”
As we stopped in the city square, I noticed that the shaking had mostly stopped. Solomon stood quietly next to me.
“Do you think the earthquake is over?” I asked Rafael.
“Maybe, but there still might be aftershocks,” Rafael said, staring at the destruction caused by the quake.
The brilliant skyline sat in ruins. Pieces of the usually glistening buildings were broken and covered in ashes. I tried to be ready for anything.
Copyright 2013 Jennifer Waters