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Chapter Ten





The Interdimensional Wormtrain rattled on its tracks, making each of the metal balls that made up its cars bounce chaotically as they rolled toward our destination.






Normally I avoided this line the way a vegan avoids a triple bacon cheeseburger, but its general crappiness meant that there were hardly any passengers. That was good, because it meant fewer people were around to see Ethan licking the windows.




“Ethan, cut that out right now!”


He turned his shaggy head to look at me, grinned, and then gave the window another big LLLLLICK!


“You have no idea where that’s been,” I yelled. Grabbing two big handfuls of his fur, I pulled on him as hard as I could. “Stop! Being! Gross!”


It was no use. I may as well have been trying to pull the IW itself off course.


“It should be fine,” Jade said from her seat. “Sasquatches have really strong immune systems.”


“He ate his chicken kabobbing backpack before we got on,” I said, collapsing into the seat next to her. “And all the textbooks that were in it, too! How freaking hungry can he be?”


We’d let him take off his N.O.S.E. again as soon as we’d gotten on the train, letting him run around in all his sweaty hairiness. It should be fine, I told myself every other minute or so. Sasquatches weren’t as commonplace in Mauldibamm as klaons or humans, but they weren’t unheard of. As long as we could keep him under control, and stop him from eating anything he wasn’t supposed to, the worst we’d get was a few weird looks.


“I think that’s just how they are,” Jade admitted, frowning as Ethan continued to go to town on the window. “They metabolize so fast that they need another meal almost as soon as they finish the last one.”


I slumped back in my seat. “Oh, so he’s a walking famine, then. I’m so happy.”


“At least it’ll only last a few more hours.” Jade offered me a smile. “Right?”


“Assuming he doesn’t…” I paused, glancing at Ethan, then lowered my voice. “…do you know what, it will.”


The smile fell from her face. “So, what’s the plan?”


“McGus is the only klaon I know who can get through a skull that thick.”


“Okay, but how are we going to get him there?”


Before I could answer, the IW began to shake even more violently than before. Through the spit-smeared window, I could see sparks flying up where the metal sphere ground against the tunnel outside. The train was slowing down. We were here.


“No time to explain,” I said, springing to my feet. “Just follow my lead!”


I raced to the door as the train shuddered to a stop, reaching into my backpack with one hand.


“Hey, Ethan!” I called.


He turned to look just as the door hissed open, and I pulled out…a lunch tray.


“Henry, that’s a bad idea!” Jade exclaimed.


Too late. Ethan’s eyes had already locked onto the red slab of plastic. He licked his lips and took a step forward, rocking the entire car. I waved it like I was a bullfighter, and Ethan was my stupid, stupid bull.


“Come on, you big palooka,” I said. “Come and get it!”


He took another step toward me, and I took a step back, through the door and out into the station. A few people muttered in confusion as Ethan followed me, but nobody spoke up to stop us. I felt a spike of confidence. I could do this! I just had to—


"HENRY GIMME!" he roared, and charged.


My Hunter reflexes saved me, filling my shoes with magic and blasting myself up and over Ethan before I had time to think. He crashed into the wall behind me. I spun to look, and he stumbled backwards, dazed, leaving a perfectly sasquatch-shaped imprint on the concrete wall.


"Told you," said Jade.


Ethan shook his head, and his eyes immediately locked onto my lunch tray again.


"I think I should run now," I said as he towered over me.


"You think?" Jade snapped.


I turned and broke into a sprint. The thunderous footsteps behind me told me that Ethan had given chase.


"GIVE! ME! SNAAAAAAAACK!" he howled.


I burst out of the IW station and into Mauldibamm. The ground shook beneath my feet with every gargantuan step Ethan took. Turning right, I dashed across the street, narrowly avoiding being hit by a passing car. It honked at me—and then abruptly stopped honking when a loud CRUNCH filled the air.


"Come on, Henry! I'm hungry!" Ethan yelled from somewhere behind me. I didn't stop to look. With legs as long as his, any lead I could get would be hard to keep. And if I lost my tray, how would I get him where I needed to go then?


People were screaming now. What a bunch of sissies. You'd think Godzilla was rampaging through Mauldibamm from the way they squealed.


Let's look on the bright side again, I thought with a sudden burst of inspiration. At least Ethan didn't turn into Godzilla!


A pair of massive, hairy arms came in from my left and right, and I ducked into a roll a split second before they closed around me. As my feet came back down, I thrust the tray underneath them. My momentum took over, sliding the tray across the sidewalk just outside of Ethan's reach.


That's right, just call me Henry Rider: Lunch Surfer!


Before I could fully appreciate how awesome I was, though, something stopped. It took me a second to realize it was Ethan's footsteps. The thunderous rhythm he'd been pounding behind me had ceased, and a backwards glance told me that he had vanished with them. But where had he gone? How could a creature that big just…


A shadow fell over me, and I looked up.


"Turkey nuggets," I muttered as Ethan plummeted toward me like a meteor doing a belly flop!


"MIIIIIIINE!" he roared.


Without thinking, I leaned to the side, swerving my tray out of his path. The moment I was out of his way, he crashed down into the ground. A mushroom cloud of dust exploded out from the point of impact, and a few shattered chunks of sidewalk pelted me from behind.


Oooh, barbecue gingersnaps, I thought with a pit forming in my stomach. I might be out of my league here.


Dare I hope that the fall had taken him out? That his manic pursuit of my delicious lunch tray had finally exhausted him, and he'd decided to take a quick nap in his newly made crater?


A hunk of sidewalk twice as big as me came flying out of the dust cloud.


Nope. I dare not.


"Cheese biscuits!" I hissed, leaning to swerve out of the way again, and…went nowhere. "Wait, what the—"


The tray had finally run out of momentum, leaving me standing completely still on top of it.




Grabbing the tray, I threw myself to the side, but I wasn't fast enough. The sidewalk boulder smashed into the ground, and pain erupted in my side as it clipped me. It was probably just a scratch, but the sheer power behind the throw was enough to send me spinning through the air until I collapsed in a heap in the middle of a nearby street.


A car came to a squealing stop, avoiding crushing my head by a few inches. I breathed a sigh of relief—which I promptly sucked right back in when Ethan grabbed the front of the car and flung it out of his way like it was made of paper mache.


The tray was still in my hand. My grip on it tightened, for all the good it would do. Without it, I had no way to control Ethan. Who knew what kind of havoc he would wreak on Mauldibamm? How many restaurants would he put out of business before the NuYu pill wore off and left him with bad memories and the mother of all stomach aches?


His hand closed around my throat, and he lifted me off the ground. There, with our faces mere inches apart, he bared his teeth at me.


"Henry…give!" he snarled.


I gasped for breath, but couldn't. Did Ethan realize he was choking me, or was his hunger blinding him to everything but his next snack? I had no choice. I had to give it to him. This wasn't the smelly, hairy hill I wanted to die on.


As I raised the tray in defeat, I spied something over Ethan's shoulder. In the near distance, not even fifty feet away, stood a squat brick house. I had almost made it. But like McGus loved to tell me, almost only counts in handshoes and horse grenades.


Or maybe the lack of oxygen was making me loopy.


"GIVE!" Ethan roared into my face, showering me with spit.


Then a last, desperate idea came to me. Before Ethan could react, I drew on my magic and pushed it into the only thing I could: the lunch tray. Instantly, it burst into bright blue light. Ethan blinked in surprise as I raised the tray…


And flung it as hard as I could.


Like a glowing frisbee, it soared through the air. My magic gave me a little bit of control over it, and I made it curve to the right until…




…it flew straight through the brick house's window.


Without a word, or even a backwards glance, Ethan dropped me and gave chase. I hit the ground hard, dark spots dancing across my vision. Gasping and coughing, I dug into my pocket and pulled out my inhaler. Laughter surged into me, immediately setting to work patching up the ouchies and booboos Ethan had inflicted.


When my vision finally cleared, I saw Jade standing over me.


"You okay?" she asked, holding out her hand.


I took it, letting her help me up. "I feel like I just went skydiving off the Empire State Building without a parachute."


"I told you it was a bad idea!"


"Fine, I owe you a Coke." I turned to look at the brick house, whose front door had been reduced to splinters. "But at least we got him here. He's probably got Ethan hogtied by now."


Jade didn't look convinced, but she followed as I made my way over. We went inside, where the odor of cigarettes and unwashed old people immediately assaulted my nose. And there, lying on the floor with my lunch tray clamped between his teeth, was Ethan.


Out cold.


The wheelchair squeaked as its occupant turned around to give me the cold, disapproving stare I'd gotten so many, many times over the past few years.


“You’d think after this long,” he grumbled, “that Ethan would know I don’t like uninvited visitors.”


“Master, that’s not really a sasquatch. That’s…” I paused, blinking in surprise. “Wait, how did you know?”


“When a lunch tray comes flying through my window, and a sasquatch breaks down my front door, there’s only one person in the world who could be behind it.” He rolled his eyes. “And since you showed up immediately after without Ethan—who the council says you’re never allowed to leave alone—either you ditched him and came here to turn your hammer in, or somehow you managed to turn him into this.”


Ignoring the surprisingly sound logic, I walked over and knelt by Ethan’s prone form. An ugly red lump was forming on his forehead, big enough to push all the way through his fur. I began to press my fingers into his neck. How do you check a sasquatch’s pulse? McGus wouldn’t have purposefully killed Ethan, but if he hadn’t known it was him then maybe…


Ethan let out a long, loud snore.


I sat down heavily on the floor, sighing with relief. “I need your help, Master. Ethan’s decided to—”


“I don’t care.”


My mouth snapped shut, and I looked up at McGus in surprise.


“Y- You don’t what?” I asked, convinced I’d misheard him.


“Maybe you didn’t catch what I just said about uninvited guests,” he said, giving me a dirty green glare. “Whatever mess you’ve gotten yourself into this time, it’s not my problem.”


“But…But…” I held my hands out toward Ethan. “Look at him!”


“You're the Acting Hunter, Henry!” he snapped. “When are you going to start taking responsibility for your own mistakes?”


“But I didn’t do this!” I protested.


McGus turned his wheelchair around and wheeled himself out of the room. “I’m going to get some air freshener. If either of you are still here when I get back, I’ll put two knots on your head just as big as his!”

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