Mavis was beginning to get this horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach that they wouldn’t find anything--that the portal or doorway or whatever it was would be closed and Roger would be lost forever and no one would believe her when she tried to explain what happened. Her heart was pounding so loudly that her ears hurt.
She turned the knob on the door inside the shed. Light flooded in on them.
“Whoa,” breathed Brent and Linda.
“What--what is this?”
Mavis smiled. “This is Otherworld.”
She walked slowly through the center hub, letting Brent and Linda amble around with their heads thrown back and their mouths wide open. She couldn’t help but wonder if she and Roger had looked so stupid when they first found their way in. Yeah, she was pretty sure they had.
“Have you been to all of these places?” asked Brent, pointing to the continually changing destination board.
“Some of them,” said Mavis. “The moon was cool.”
“The moon,” echoed Linda, still totally shocked.
“Come on,” said Mavis, “we need to catch the next train.”
They hurried down stairs and into the sideway, Brent reading the signs aloud.
“Wait!” said Linda. “Is this like the station in Harry Potter? Are we going to Platform 9 and 3/4?”
“No, we’re going to the train that takes us to Otherworld.”
“But I thought we were already in Otherworld?” asked Brent.
“We are, sort of. It’s complicated. People have tried to explain it to me, and I still don’t really understand.”
The train came squealing into the station, sending their hair flying. “Climb on,” said Mavis.
Brent and Linda hesitated and looked at each other. Who were they kidding? They got on the magical train to somewhere they had never heard of. Because, secretly, they had always wanted to find another world, and they weren’t about to miss out on this one.
Mavis stood close to the pole and closed her eyes, letting the motion of the train soothe her.
Brent was watching her, his eyebrows furrowing. “So, this whole sickness in your head thing, that’s not a joke?”
Mavis opened her eyes. “It’s very real, unfortunately.”
“What happens if you can’t get it out of your head?”
“I’m not actually sure.”
“And this diva king? What’s wrong with him?” broke in Linda.
“I have no idea. He has The Book, but he won’t let us touch it. And now he’s obsessed with this basketball thing.”
“Well, have these knights ever played basketball before?” asked Brent.
Linda scoffed, but it was a perfectly reasonable question.
“No, they’re never even heard of it before.”
“Then Roger and I will beat them, easy, and you’ll be able to write whatever you want in it. It’s going to be ok.”
Mavis nodded, but she didn’t believe him. Because they couldn’t write whatever they wanted. They just had to put things back to what they were.
The lady was still asleep in the cavern, which was probably good, seeing as Brent and Linda didn’t have tickets and Mavis’ was already punched. She led them down the side tunnel and up into...the shed at Grandpa’s house. Both Brent and Linda looked confused.
“Are you leading us in circles?” accused Linda. “Because if you are, it’s a sick joke.”
“No, no, I told you, it’s complicated. We have to wait for Kind Dehn to write in The Book that we are out at the sporting fields.”
“You know what that sounds like?” snapped Linda. “That sounds like--”
But at that exact second, they all blinked, and suddenly they were standing in a row at the edge of the sporting fields.
Mavis was shocked to see a whole squad of knights, sans armor, out in the middle of the field doing basketball drills. On the far end of the field still more knights were digging a hole and setting up a basketball hoop made out of a pole and a basket with the bottom punched out.
This was getting serious.
Roger beamed at her when she walked up, hardly looking like a fearful hostage. “These guys are learning fast!”
“Hey, man,” said Brent, and they did their dude handshake.
“Good to see you, man!”
But then Roger saw Linda. “Who let you in here?”
“Don’t act like you own Otherworld, just because you found it first,” snapped Linda.
“Whoa, attitude!” said Roger. “It’s not like you would’ve ever found this place on your own!”
“Yeah, and pigs might learn to fly, too!”
“Chill, guys,” said Brent. “What’s the scoop?”
Roger gave Linda one more glare and then turned to walk back toward the still drilling knights. “So it’s two on two, and King Dehn is getting ready to pick which two knights he wants to go against us.”
They talked strategy and rules for a while, things that Mavis didn’t really understand and didn’t really want to. She took Linda over to where King Dehn was sitting, because she figured that they might get along, seeing as they had so much in common. And if they didn’t get along that might be even more entertaining.
King Dehn raised his eyebrows when he saw them. “Is it customary for maidens in your world to wear the breaches that we reserve for men in ours?”
“Is he talking about us wearing pants?” asked Linda.
“Yeah,” said Mavis, sitting down on the grass.
“It’s totally normal in our world, your kingness,” Linda assured him. “Jeans are like, what we live in. And it’s totally not cool to say that we can’t. It’s like chauvinist, or something.”
“You know? Jeans?” and she sort of tugged the material of her pant leg in an effort to help him know what she was talking about.
“Oh,” said King Dehn. But of course he still had no idea what she was talking about.
“Do you seriously have a magic book?”
King Dehn proudly displayed the cover of The Book of Things that Are. “It contains everything that is, and nothing that isn’t.”
“And that’s The Book that’s making Mavis’ face turn black?”
King Dehn seemed to really look at Mavis for the first time. “You ought to be concerned, maiden,” he said at last. “You appear to be cursed.”
“Not cursed,” said Mavis. “Just ‘helped’ a little too much by Harnswiggle. Speaking of her, where are they?”
“Harnswiggle and Bollygoogle are in the tent, sulking and worrying.”
Mavis went to the tent flap and had barely stuck her head in before Harnswiggle practically shouted “You’re alright!”
“I was not worrying!” said Bollygoggle, which meant that he had been.
“I got Brent, he’s with Roger,” said Mavis. “Don’t you want to come out and see?”
Harnswiggle shifted uneasily. “It is going to being violent?”
“Oh! Not at all. Basketball is...well it’s not bloody or anything. People play it for fun.”
Harnswiggle and Bollygoogle looked at each other.
“Then I guess we will watch,” said Harnswiggle.
King Dehn was just choosing the two knights to play when they came back out. The hoop had been somewhat successfully set up; it leaned slightly to one side. Someone, probably Roger, had thought about needing a hard surface to dribble on, and several knights were hastily setting up a wooden floor that would usually have been used to finish a tent.
It was lucky that Mavis had thought to grab a basketball, or they wouldn’t have been able to play after all. As it was, Roger began dribbling deliberately, the ball thumping dully on the wooden planks. After a few thumps, he shook his head with all of the disappointment of a connoisseur. “This isn’t ideal,” he said. “But it’s the best that we can do, it seems.”
Roger had even seen to it that a bench had been set up, and Linda, Mavis, and the two imps all perched on it, eager for the game to start.