CHAPTER 1

The bell sounded just as Mr. Flynn started to gather the tests.

“Man, that last question was out of left field.” Mike stretched out his legs, slumping down in the seat.

The whole thing was out of left field. Since when did Mike talk like that?

Mike and Ben made their way out of the classroom and to their lockers, bumping into other students in the overcrowded hallway. Ben caught sight of Abi briefly before the crowd swallowed her, her short stature making it hard to spot her. She looked happy.

As always, the complete opposite of Ben.

He banged his fist against the locker and it popped open.

“Dude, check it-”

When he swung the door open, silence rang in his ears.

Bright light poured out of his locker and he squinted as the blurry images became clear. It was a field. Ben’s locker had somehow transformed itself into a window, one that looked out onto a large expanse of tall grass. A methodical pounding filled his ears. His own heartbeat.

He tore his eyes away from the strange view to find that Mike was standing still, like someone had just hit “pause” on a movie. Ben turned around and the entire hallway had stopped moving, mid-step, mid-sentence, mid-everything.

His hand rose and pinched the skin on his arm, hard. He must be dreaming. Had he fallen asleep during the test?

Rolling golden hills led up to a single, large oak tree. There was nothing to compare the tree’s size to, so he couldn’t tell if it was close or really far away. Its branches cascaded down, spreading out like fingers in all directions. The sun was rising or setting and was cast perfectly behind the tree, lighting it aglow.

“Benjamin.” He jumped. The tiny breath of a whisper had come from inside his locker. Pinpricks spread all over his body and he slammed the thing shut.

“-out.” The world pressed play again, and it roared back to life. He whirled around, panting, his heart thumping hard in his chest.

Ben looked over at Mike but he didn’t seem to notice that anything had happened. And Ben wanted to keep it that way.

My mom is crazy, and now I am too.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“I said,” he dragged out the last word for emphasis, “check it out.” He nodded at something behind him and Ben turned to look. It was Sandy, in the shortest shorts he had ever seen anyone at their school get away with wearing.

Ben couldn’t care less. He put his hand on the locker door and, after a few moments, built up the courage to fling it open again. Nothing.

 

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