Never mind, there are two more chapters after this. And then a sequel book in the works, as well as a comic.
Anyway, enough of my wistful longings at the windowpane of dead yesterdays, if you are not up-to-date with the story, click below and catch up... and if you are *sniff*, you can read the summary below the list of chapters to remember what happened last:
This story follows on from Ariella-Maria and Lodbrok realising Ebben is stuck in a Mara, a type of dream that allows the computer network to extract the energy from his pineal gland. And of course, discovering that, they eat dream roots and enter his dream to 'awaken' him by reminding him to do actions that remind him he's in a dream (e.g. check the time, look at his hands, look into his reflection, hold his breath, etc.).
But it is harder than that. If the computer system realises they have entered, guess what? Yep. They are both destroyed.
And if Ebben consumes anything in the dream, he becomes stuck in the dream forever. Which is a very long time.
Oh, and if the computer system does extract the energy of his gland, then the universe and everything inside it (including us) will be destroyed in a terror-filled Ragnarok. So, high stakes.
Until Wednesday, have a great couple of days, Thor gives you his blessings,
Petta Road State High, Australia. Midgard, the land of the humans. Present day.
Ebben watched Shane return with two meat pies from the canteen.
“I hope this makes it up to you, Ebben,” he said handing Ebben a pie. “A piece of pie for a peace truce?”
Ebben gave a small smile and took the pie from Shane. “A truce until your mates are out of hospital?” asked Ebben.
“Don’t be like that,” said Shane taking a big bite. “That was their way, our way, of greeting you. Once you get past that they’re great guys. More a joke than anything else. They did it to me when I first came to this school, too. You’ll see that they’re not bad guys.”
“I’m not holding my breath,” said Ebben bringing the pie to his mouth.
“Maybe you should,” came a giggle from behind. “In a dream you can hold your breath forever.”
“Sarah?” Shane laughed. “What are you doing here? I thought you and Ashley had band practice.”
“I prefer to be called Sarah-Mary, actually,” Sarah said. “Not just Sarah.” She paused. “And band practice was cancelled because that block head of an art teacher booked the room in advance. What a real block head, you know?”
“Block head?” asked Ebben.
“Yeah,” Sarah giggled, shining a smile at Ebben and touching his forearm. “There’s a real block head or two at this school.”
Shane cocked his head to the side and stretched a smile across his face. “We’re just having something for lunch… you hungry, Sarah?”
“Sarah-Mary now,” she said, “remember?”
Ebben shook his head with a smile. He moved the pie to his lips but stopped. His eyes narrowed as they focused upon his own hands.
“What’s the matter?” asked Shane. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“Let him be, Shane,” said Sarah. “We’ve got all lunch time, haven’t we, Ebben?”
Sarah turned her wrist around so that Ebben could see the time. The time read: XC:41. He looked at his pie, and then back at the watch. This time it read: 08:11.
Ebben felt about his pockets before producing a small handheld mirror. He combed his hair while gazing at his hazy reflection.
“That looks familiar,” whispered Sarah to Ebben. “I think I might have had a mirror like that when I was younger.”
“Sarah-Mary,” Ebben started, “do you think you could show me where the toilets are? I need to go and can’t remember where they are.”
“Didn’t you just go?” chuckled Shane. “Did you trade that old key of yours for my grandpa’s bladder or something?”
“Sure, I’ll take you to it,” grinned Sarah, getting out of her seat. “When you’re new at school you…” She stopped.
Shane grabbed her wrist. “Why do I miss out on this little adventure?” he said between grit-locked teeth. “You’re gonna make me look like a loner eating by myself.”
Ebben smiled at Shane and nodded for him to follow. He let go of Sarah’s wrist and began to get out of his seat, but as he did so Ebben came through with a punch and got him square in the face. Shane reeled backwards with a splatter of blood under his nose and on his shirt.
Ebben grabbed Sarah’s hand and yelled, “run.”
The two of them sprinted through the eating area hand in hand as the whole gathering of eating students ran after them.
“Down here,” Sarah called, pulling Ebben down a corridor.
“Why is everybody chasing us?” Ebben yelled.
“They’re not real. Not Shane, not any of them.”
At the end of the corridor was a Block Head. Its black armour glinted in the sunshine peeking through the overhead windows.
“I told you there were a few block heads at this school,” said Sarah as she pulled him back the other way.
The Block Head stamped after them, but as it turned the corner the groundskeeper stood in its way. The big man took a swig from his flask, and pointed his broomstick at the robot.
“Let’s dance, Block Head,” whispered the groundskeeper. “You should feel honoured to die by my sword… well, broomstick.”
Ebben and Sarah did not look back.
“Where are we?” called Ebben as Sarah pulled him through the school.
“We’re in your mind,” called Sarah, “except that the Jormungand computer network is trying to control it with illusions. You have to regain control of your mind.”
“How?” called Ebben, looking back at the army of Block Heads marching in pursuit of them.
Each time he looked back there were an even greater number of them, as if the mere act of looking back multiplied the numbers exponentially.
“By defeating the Red Knight,” Sarah answered. She stopped at an unlocked locker. “Can you picture my butterfly swords inside here? I’ll be able to hold them off more easily with a weapon while you go ahead and find the Red Knight.”
“Why will they be there?” Ebben prodded.
“This is your mind, Ebben,” she said, her eyes watching the approaching line of Block Heads.
“Okay,” said Ebben. “But you can’t fight them by yourself.”
“She won’t be.” It was the groundskeeper, swinging his broom around with ease.
“Good to see you, Lodbrok.” Ebben turned back to Ariella-Maria. “Okay, open the locker.”
Sarah swung the door open and pulled a school bag out. She unzipped the bag and pulled her butterfly swords out, as well as a broad sword for Lodbrok.
“Now, how do I find the Red Knight?”
“Picture him at the top of the stairs ahead, and he will be there,” she said.
She hesitantly leaned in and kissed Ebben on the cheek. She gazed into his eyes and smiled. “That’s for luck.”
Ebben put a hand to his cheek and smiled. “Good luck, Ariella-Maria,” he managed to say.
“You have a very goofy expression on your face, Ebben,” said Sarah. “I didn’t really kiss you. This is all in your head, remember?”
Ebben nodded and smiled, before turning on his heels and bounding up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs was a layer of mist hiding the floor, and there before him was the Red Knight.
Ebben bent down and felt about in the mist. He smiled as his fingers wrapped around the handle of a sword.
“I will beat you, Red Knight,” said Ebben, “after all, this is my dream.”
The Red Knight swung his sword at Ebben, who dodged the attack and retaliated with a blow to the Knight’s stomach.
“That was a truly poor effort,” Ebben laughed, “particularly since I’d heard that you’re meant to be all powerful and scary.”
After a few moments inspecting the wound, the Red Knight clutched his stomach and staggered towards Ebben, thrusting his sword at the boy.
Ebben parried the effort and struck the Red Knight’s leg. The warrior fell onto one knee before rising once more.
“As fun as this is, I want you and your computer system out of my head,” growled Ebben. “Now you will die!”
Ebben lunged at the Red Knight with his sword, but the knight parried the boy’s attack and kicked him to the floor.
Ebben’s sword slid out of his grasp and skittered across the floor. The Red Knight stood over him with his sword poised to strike a fatal blow.
Ebben closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he had done in the desert. Then, more out of instinct than conscious deliberation, he kicked out at the Red Knight’s chest, forcing the knight stumbling backwards.
The sword that had fallen from his grip flew back into his hand as if Ebben had used telekinesis powers.
“I’m shutting you down, Jormungand,” Ebben growled, thrusting his sword about in a combination of attacks at the Red Knight.
He blocked each one before striking Ebben’s shoulder.
Ebben clasped his shoulder and watched blood seep through his shirt and then his fingers. But when Ebben released his grip, the wound had completely healed, as if the Red Knight had not struck him at all.
“I’m not playing your games any longer,” Ebben yelled.
The Red Knight began chanting an incantation as Ebben raised himself to face his opponent.
Suddenly, something landed on the boy’s head. It was light and it moved. He gingerly placed his hand on his head and felt something furry.
He flicked it off. It was a tarantula.
Ebben put a hand to his mouth. The floor was covered in spiders, and so was the roof. Spiders of all different shapes and sizes.
A few of them ran up his legs, and cockroaches began crawling out of his ears and mouth.
Ebben glared at the knight before him, and felt about for his mirror. He pulled it out, and as he looked at his distorted reflection he whispered over and over, “this is all an illusion.”
The Red Knight shook its head.
“This is an illusion,” Ebben affirmed confidently. And when he raised his head, the spiders were gone.
The Red Knight knocked the mirror out of Ebben’s hands with his sword. As it hit the concrete, the mirror shattered.
Ebben swished his tongue about his mouth. He felt a tooth loose. Suddenly it dislodged itself and fell to the ground.
He put a hand to his mouth, and another tooth landed in his palm.
The Red Knight disappeared in a ball of flame.
The walls and roof began closing in. Ebben looked for the flight of stairs he came up, or a window or door to escape from, but there were only brick walls shrinking in around him.
He ran to one of them and tried pushing against it, before slamming his fist into the bricks.
Ebben screamed and swore. “That freakin’ hurt,” he yelled, and he looked at his bruised knuckles. As he did so, his hand seemed to have six fingers, then four fingers.