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Chapter Nine

Ethan's desk groaned as he shifted to raise his hand, the invisible limb knocking one of the foam ceiling tiles above him askew. Luckily, Mrs. Rutherford didn't notice the magic jumping rectangle, or maybe she did and just assumed it was trying to escape the most boring algebra lesson ever.


"Yes, Ethan, what is it now?"


"Is it lunchtime yet?" he rumbled in reply. His new, deeper voice had raised a dangerous number of questions, but in a stroke of genius I'd managed to convince everyone that poor Ethan was just suffering from that most fatal of conditions: puberty.


"I've told you three times already," Mrs. Rutherford snapped, "you can go to lunch when the bell rings!"


"Then can I have a snack?"


"Absolutely not!"


The other students snickered, and I wished I could have joined them. If this had been happening to anyone else, it would have been hilarious. But since it was happening to me, and being found out would get me in serious spinach, I just sucked up their thin trails of laughter and laid my head down on my desk.


On the bright side, though, I'd developed a new appreciation for klaon hair. Blue, Green, Purple, or Red, the color we're born with is the color we'll die with. No graying, no matter how old we get—which is good, because otherwise today would have turned my hair white.


"Henry, wake up!" Mrs. Rutherford demanded, slapping her palm on my desk. "Class is not for sleeping!"


"I'm not sleeping," I said without raising my head. "I'm just thinking really hard about this problem."


She huffed in annoyance. "Have you figured out the answer?"


"Uh…yeah, absolutely."


"Then what is it?”


Peanut butter and liver sandwiches!


I looked up at her. "I, uh…aren’t you worried you’ll make everyone else feel stupid? You know, since we’re both aware that I’m a genius and all. Let’s just take my word that I know the answer and—”


“The answer, Henry. Now!”


“Don’t you think this stuff is a little complicated for ninth graders?” I pointed at the board. “Like, that. What even is that?”


“That’s a triangle, Henry.”


“Exactly! That’s, like, some NASA level math right there, and I for one think…”


Luckily, I didn’t have to come up with something to think, because the bell chose that exact moment to ring.




Ethan sprang from his desk with all the force of a rocket launching into space, and made for the door. There was only one thing standing between him and food.


Our teacher.


“Ethan Griggs,” she snapped, moving to block his way, “the bell does not dismiss you. I dismiss you! Sit yourself back down and—AAAHH!”


Poor Mrs. Rutherford. If she’d been as good at math as she claimed, she would have known that the size and mass of a geometry teacher is significantly less than that of a hungry teenage sasquatch. Multiply that by the speed at which said sasquatch is sprinting for the door, and what do you get?


A flying math teacher.


Mrs. Rutherford did a surprisingly graceful flip before she crash landed somewhere around the fourth row of desks, but by then Ethan had gotten the door open—at least he didn’t rip it off its hinges this time—and vanished into the hallway. I shoved my books into my backpack, then grabbed Ethan’s too because of course he’d forgotten them, and gave chase. The trail he’d left would have been easy to follow even if I hadn’t known exactly where he was going. All I had to do was follow the line of trampled students, like the world’s most painful connect the dots puzzle.


I’m gonna kill him, I thought, sprinting through the school. Somewhere far ahead of me, I could hear Ethan’s booming footsteps. I’m gonna wait for him to turn back, and then I’m gonna freaking murder him!


A flash of green came from beneath the door to the girl’s bathroom, and it swung open to reveal Jade.


“He seems happy,” she noted, effortlessly keeping pace with me as we raced through the school.


“He’s not smart enough to be unhappy!” I snapped, dodging around a nerd and his wobbly pile of books. “You can hear his peanut-sized brain rattling inside his skull whenever he moves!”


“Well, just remember, if he wishes for me to make him this way permanently, I’ll have to do it.”


I glared at her. “Don’t you dare!”


“What part of ‘I’ll have to do it’ didn’t you understand?”


“The part wh-oomph!”


In an instant, I had come to a complete, dead stop. It felt like I’d run into a concrete wall. A very hairy, very smelly concrete wall…


"Look, Henry!” Ethan exclaimed. "Lunch!"


I took a step back, rubbing my nose, and realized I was in the cafeteria. Ethan was standing in the lunch line with his hands clasped politely behind his back, bouncing on the balls of his feet like an excited child.


“What did I tell you about going off on your own?” I demanded.


Ethan gave me the most nonplussed look I’d ever seen. “But…But lunch!”


“But nothing! You stay with me, understand? No excuses!”


Ethan scratched his head. “But lunch!”


I unzipped my backpack and dumped all my books and papers out on the floor. Once it was empty, I placed it over my head and zipped it back up as much as I could.


Then I screamed.


It took us nearly fifteen minutes to get our food, since Ethan—bottomless pit that he’d become—kept ordering more. I could feel every eye in the cafeteria staring at us as he requested tray after tray of food, until my arms were shaking from the weight of it all. That’s right, my arms. Not Ethan’s, even though I’m pretty sure he could have picked up a freaking train. If he’d carried them, since his real body was invisible, the trays would have looked like a swarm of tiny ufos descending on the helpless denizens of Gumsplat Junior High.


“I don’t suppose you want to help?” I growled at Jade.


She shook her head. “Not unless—”


“Not unless he wishes for it. Yeah, yeah, what a convenient excuse.”


“First, I’m going to eat all the cornbread,” Ethan was saying, his gaze as wistful as his skull was empty. “Then I’ll wash it down with all the milk. Henry, should I eat the beans or the jello after that?”


“Jello,” I said without hesitation. “Sauerkraut spaghetti, Ethan, I don’t even want to think of what you’ll smell like if you eat all those beans!”


Ethan stopped so quickly that I nearly ran into him again. “Ooh, sauerkraut? And spaghetti! Henry, we need to go back and—”


“They don’t have either of those, so will you just pick a freaking seat already?”


Ethan thought for a minute, then pointed at a table toward the back of the room. To my relief, it was almost empty. He bumbled his way over, ignoring the half dozen other students he knocked down, and I followed.


As much as I hated to admit it, all things considered the day was going surprisingly well. I mean, yeah, today would be a permanent black mark on both of our reputations, but you learn to see the positive side of things when you hunt maiams for a living. Positive things like, at least your idiot best friend hasn’t inspired a new urban legend, or at least you aren’t being burned at the stake for blowing the interdimensional community’s secret to the entire world.


Or my personal favorite: at least Aesop O’Gale isn’t here to turn the whole thing into a big stupid joke.


“Top o’ the marnin’, Henry!” Aesop said.


Where the shrimpy leprechaun—with his oversized camo clothes and bright red buzz cut—had come from, I had no idea. I was too busy looking on the bright side again: despite jumping roughly a mile in the air, I did not drop my mountain of lunch trays.


“Ye be feelin’ a mite peckish, do ye?” he said, glancing at the trays with a smirk. “Even more than ye usually be doin’, I mean.”


“It’s not for me,” I said, nodding toward Ethan. “They’re his.”


Aesop immediately dropped his fake accent. “Him? All of them?”


“Well, I’m keeping one for myself,” I snapped. “If he lets me, anyway.”


“If Ethan lets you?” he echoed. “If Ethan lets you?”


“That is what I said, yes.”


“And you’re not joking?”


In front of us, Ethan sat down at the far end of a long, rectangular lunch table—and the other end shot up into the air, catapulting three unlucky nerds halfway to the computer lab.


“Whaaaat?” Aesop whispered in a voice heavy with shock, and maybe a little reverence.


Ethan grinned as the three unattended lunches slid right to him, as if he’d planned the whole thing. I might have believed he had planned it, if he hadn’t been so pastry puffingly stupid.


“Hey,” I said, catching up to him before he could dig in, “how about we eat outside instead?”


Ethan looked down longingly at the half eaten lunches, then shrugged and stood up.


“I carry?” he asked.


“Nope.” I stepped back and gave Aesop a kick in the rump to push him forward. “He’ll do it. Now move it, fuzzbutt!”


Luckily, Aesop did as he was told without complaint, taking the three extra lunches and following us as we made our way outside. I led the way around to the back of the school, where nobody would be able to see us from the parking lot.


The minute I’d set the stack of trays on the ground, Ethan wasted no time in grabbing one and eating half of it in one massive bite—including the tray. He chewed it the way you would chew a tough steak, and swallowed it with a satisfied “Aaah!”


Of course, to Aesop, it looked like the tray had levitated about eight feet off the ground before vanishing into thin air.


“Henry, I’ve been patient,” he whispered urgently as Ethan finished off the tray, picking up another before he’d even finished chewing, “but if I wait one more second, I’m going to explode. What the hell is going on?”


I looked around nervously, then said, “Ethan, you can take off your N.O.S.E. for now.”


Ethan paused with another tray halfway into his invisible mouth, and plucked the little magic device from his face. As his real body shimmered back into existence, Aesop’s eyes widened…and widened…and W I D E N E D…until I thought they were going to pop right out of his little leprechaun head.


“Henry?” He spun around and grabbed me by my shirt, thrusting his face dangerously close to mine. “HENRY?”


“Would you believe…puberty?” I asked.


He shook me back and forth. “HENNNRRRYYY!”


“Okay, okay! Chill out, dude.” I pushed him away and, selecting a single tray of food for myself, sat down next to Ethan. Watching Ethan go to town on his lunch had almost killed my appetite—yeah, I could hardly believe it either—so I ate slowly while I explained things to Aesop.


As soon as I mentioned a pharmacy that sold shapeshifting medication, Aesop’s face stretched into a cartoonishly evil grin.


Oh, whoopie cushion in the sky, I thought. What have I done?


“So, Henry, ol’ buddy ol’ pal,” he said, sitting down next to me and waggling his eyebrows. “You gonna tell me where this treasure trove of trouble is?”




He recoiled, hand to his chest in shock. “What? I thought we were friends, Henrietta Rider!”


“That’s where Con gets his medicine,” I snapped. “If you got caught screwing around with Dr. Jack’s pills, you’d get his shop closed down! Do you have any idea how much trouble Con would be in if that happened?”


Aesop opened his mouth to argue, but then he hesitated and looked away, a flash of guilt visible in his bright green eyes. I sighed in relief. Aesop might have been an incorrigible troublemaker—that’s why we were friends, after all—but he knew when something was important enough not to make fun of it. Usually.




“So, Ethan,” he said instead, “if you decide you want to stay this way, then what? You get a lifetime prescription?”


Ethan shook his big, shaggy head, sending crumbs flying everywhere. “No. I wish for Jade to make me this way forever!”


Panic shot through me, and I shot a look at Jade. She was just sitting there, though, watching us. I guess that meant just saying the words I wish wasn’t enough to activate her…you know, genie mode. I breathed a sigh of relief.


“Well, what are you waiting for?” Aesop demanded, grinning again. “Hurry up and do it!”


Ethan cocked his head. “Huh?”


Aesop was practically dancing with glee at this point. “Make the wish! Come on, you know you want to!”


To my horror, Ethan put a finger to his chin in thought.


“You want to be big and strong like this forever, don’t you?” Ethan egged him on. “Do it! Make the wish! Make! The! W—”


I whipped out Splatsy and walloped Aesop across the head. Not enough to hurt him—not permanently, at least—just enough to shut him the three bean casserole up.


But it was too late.


“Yeah!” Ethan exclaimed. “Jade, I wish—”


Moving with the Hunter’s speed, I snatched one of the remaining lunch trays off the ground, jumped into the air, and slam dunked the whole thing into Ethan’s mouth.


“Mmmph?” he grunted in confusion, unable to talk with his mouth full. Then he began to chew, and he smiled. “Mmm!”


He swallowed, and immediately grabbed another tray. I sat down heavily, too relieved to even sigh this time. Crisis averted.


For now.


“Does he seem…different to anyone else?” I asked a few minutes later.


“You mean, besides the fact that he smells like mustard gas?” Aesop asked, sitting up and giving me a dirty look. I slugged him. “Ow! What’d I do?”


“Henry, Sasquatches aren’t known for being smart,” Jade spoke up.


“So it’s the pill doing this?”


Jade shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”


“Hey, Ethan!” I said. “What’s two plus two?”


Ethan thought for a second, then said, “BURRRRRP!”


Aesop burst out laughing so hard he fell over.


“What are we going to do about this?” Jade asked.


I sighed and stood up. At least Jade seemed to understand that this was a problem. But like she’d said, if Ethan wished to stay this way, she would have no choice but to grant it. Hopefully I could convince her to help me talk him down from the ledge he’d so stupidly perched himself on.


I put the N.O.S.E. back on Ethan’s face, giving his tongue a slap when it crept up to taste it.




“Don’t worry,” I said, trying to sound confident. Behind me, the bell rang, ending our lunch period. “There’s only one person who can get through a skull that thick. After school, I’ll take him to see McGus.”

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