Read Carter and the Curious Maze Online

Authors: Philippa Dowding

Carter and the Curious Maze (5 page)

Chapter 11

The Grand Magazine

“S
YDNEY
!” Carter screamed. He waved his arms and yelled. He didn't care if there was a battle raging all around him. He screamed his sister's name again, but as soon as he saw her at the edge of woods, she disappeared.

He fell into the grass and put his head in his hands. He really, really wanted to cry, but he couldn't, not now and not in front of Arthur. He felt a little hand take his, and a small voice said, “It's okay, Carter. I saw my mummy too. Or I thought I did.”

Carter snapped his head up. “What? What do you mean? You saw your mom?” Arthur's soft eyes filled with tears.

“I … I just thought I saw her too. Down there. I heard her call me. It happened before.”

Carter stared at the little tear-stained face. A strange possibility was slowly occurring to him. “Arthur … do you think Sydney and your mom are calling us from the future, from the maze? And we can hear them, through some trick of the maze? Or some trick of Mr. Green?”

Arthur looked confused, so Carter went on, more sure that he was right.

“I mean, do you think it's possible that we're still in the maze somehow?”

Arthur looked doubtful and then shrugged. “Maybe. I miss Mummy,” he said and closed his eyes. Looking at the small boy, Carter suddenly remembered what it was like to be little and scared. The haunted house used to scare him. What must it be like for poor Arthur, stuck here somewhere
really
scary, not just pretend scary?

“You can't sleep now, buddy. Let's go.”

It was now very clear to Carter what they had to do. He was remembering something that Mr. Green had said in the maze:
Every maze is a journey. You just have to choose the right path
. Carter had to choose now. Who to follow? Sydney was down in the forest, or a future version of her was somehow still in the maze. Arthur's mom was down there too, calling her son. Mr. Green was behind them in the fort, but in the past few moments Carter had noticed soldiers frantically running in and out of a wooden building with the words “Grand Magazine” hanging over the door.

He didn't know what a grand magazine was, exactly, but it didn't sound good. And he'd just heard one of the soldiers shout they were ready to “blow the magazine.” Whatever “maga­zine” meant in this time period, he was pretty sure it wasn't something to read, and grand could only be big. Plus the only thing you could “blow” up, as far as he knew, was gunpowder. They had to get out of there, and
fast
.

He looked down at Arthur. If they ran for the woods, could the little boy keep up?

Carter suddenly wished this was all just a scary, weird, super-long dream. Perhaps he'd wake up when it was all over. But a little hand clutched his too tightly for it to be a dream. It hurt. The screams and shouts and noise of battle were too real for him to be sleeping or hallucinating. Not to mention the mind-numbing cannon. His ears would probably ring forever.

He took a deep breath and whispered in Arthur's ear. “We have to be really brave. They're blowing up the Grand Magazine, and that can't be good, whatever it means. I don't want to be here when they do. Plus Sydney's out there calling from the maze somehow. And your mom too. Mr. Green is behind us in the fort somewhere … but that Native boy didn't follow him in the maze, and he found the exit. We have to choose who to follow … and I choose Sydney and your mom. Agreed?”

The little boy solemnly nodded.

“Okay. Can you run really fast, like you did in the sideshow tent?”

Arthur nodded again.

The battle raged even further from the trees. It was now or never. With his heart in his mouth, Carter did the bravest thing he'd ever done: he clasped Arthur by the hand, and together the two boys slipped down the grassy hill and ran away from the soldiers' fort. And away from Mr. Green.

I CANNOT believe I'm doing this … I do NOT want to run across a battlefield!

They slid down the hill into the thick smoke and mayhem. Carter ran as fast as he could toward the forest, half-dragging the little boy at his side. The sounds of the wounded soldiers, the shrieks of warriors, and clash of swords threatened to stop him, but he charged on.

I really don't want to see any more wounded soldiers!

The air was so thick with smoke, it was hard to see. The boys ran and stumbled across the grass toward the trees. For a horrifying second, a blue-coated soldier loomed toward them out of the smoke, but the boys dodged him and ran on, almost at the trees, almost at safety …

… THWANGGGG! An axe whizzed right past Carter's ear and stuck in a tree beside his head. Arthur gasped.

“Run, Arthur!” Carter screamed, shoving the little boy the last few steps into the forest.

Carter! Carter!

There! There in the distant gloom of the forest … a tiny speck of red!

Sydney's hat!

With a final, powerful leap and an energy he didn't know he had, Carter dragged Arthur into the dark woods …

… just as the grand magazine blew the fort and the world to pieces behind them.

Chapter 12

Clams and Eagles

T
he
silence hurt Carter's ears. He slowly opened his eyes and saw Arthur sleeping peacefully on the ground beside him.

He was lying on a soft bed of pine needles, looking up, up, up into the tallest trees he'd ever seen. The air was clean and fresh, and the woods were silent, silent. He could hear water nearby. He rolled onto his side and looked at Arthur.

Peaceful as a baby, fast asleep.

Then he remembered. Battle cries, smoke, gunshots. An explosion. A fireball behind them. Running further into the forest to escape the heat and fire. Then nothing. He and Arthur had survived the explosion of the fort and the grand magazine, although Carter knew that plenty of soldiers hadn't. He tried not to think about that. He had to focus.

Where were they now?

Carter looked around. The sun shone weakly, struggling through a canopy of trees high above. It was dark where they lay, very dark and still.

And it was QUIET. He strained his ears, but the only sound was the gentle lapping of water against the shore.

He looked through the trees and saw the lake.

“Come on, sleepyhead, time to wake up,” Carter said gently, prodding the little boy. “We have to find out where we are now. Or … when, I guess.”

Arthur woke up slowly and smiled at Carter. Then he stood up and took Carter's hand. He looked no worse for wear after their ordeal on the battlefield, although somewhere along the way Arthur had lost his cap.

They walked out of the forest to the lake. It hadn't changed much, except now the trees marched right down to the shoreline. No stumps. No one had been there to cut down the trees, yet.

And the huge grey rock was still there beside the water.

What a relief! Carter had the weirdest impulse to run over and hug it, since it was the only thing that he could count on. In this long, strange afternoon, it hadn't failed him. Mr. Green, Sydney, even time itself came and went, but the rock was as big and solid as ever.

Carter scanned the distance. The soldiers' fort was definitely gone. The bay was the same, except this time there was no tiny wooden city off in the distance, no wooden ship with sails full in the bay, no flags fluttering nearby, no smoke. Just trees, trees, trees, and water.

And silence.

It was very, very eerie.

It looked like the kind of place that no one had visited.

Ever.

Suddenly Arthur let out a happy cry and ran into the water, giggling and splashing.

Carter couldn't help it. He smiled. It WAS hot and buggy. It felt like high summer again, no longer a cool spring day. He sat in the shade of the rock, as he had done with Sydney back when the world was still normal and frozen ice cream existed. When was that, exactly? Hours before? Centuries in the future? He had a headache and his ears were ringing, which he sincerely hoped was a temporary effect of time travel and not permanent hearing damage from the grand magazine explosion.

He watched Arthur play in the water and scanned the shoreline. He strained his ears for any sound: Sydney calling his name, or even the dreaded SNIP! SNIP!

But all was silent.

Little silver fish darted in the shallows, and fresh-water clams crowded the shore.

When was the last time there were clams in the city harbour?
Arthur took a huge drink of lake water, scooping it in his hands. Carter was about to stop him but then realized he didn't have to. The water was clean enough to drink. No one, not even crazy people, would drink the water in the harbour in Carter's time.

He scanned the shore, the trees, and tried to concentrate.

Think, Carter! You have to get home. You have to get Arthur home, too.

Arthur skipped rocks for a while. Then he tossed a stick out into the water and threw rocks at it. He hit the stick, every time.

A huge bird flew overhead, and Carter watched it soar. An eagle! An EAGLE flew overhead on the shores of the lake beside his city!

When was the last time an eagle lived here? Hundreds of years ago, for sure.

What are we going to do? We can't leave this spot. We're where we're supposed to be, just not when. There has to be a way home. There's a way out of every maze. Even the hamster at school knows that. But where's Mr. Green?

The only sound was the hum of bugs, and the tick! tick! as Arthur threw rocks at the stick in the water. Carter wanted to call out for Mr. Green, for Sydney, for anybody, but there was a quietness to this place that made him whisper. Who knew what was out there in the dark forest?

At least there aren't any dinosaurs around. Probably.

Carter reached down to pick up a stick … and saw a movement at the edge of the beach.

“Arthur, come here,” he whispered. The little boy whirled around and looked at Carter, then turned to look where Carter was trying NOT to look. The two boys stared down the beach, and Carter bit his tongue. He willed Arthur not to scream.

A huge bear lumbered out of the forest, sniffed the air … and looked right at them.

 

Chapter 13

Car-tair!

“C
ome
here!” Carter hissed, peeking around the side of the boulder. Arthur slipped across the beach.


A bear
!”

“I know, shhhh.” Carter gulped and sweat poured down his back. His heart was pounding so hard, he was seriously worried that it was going to burst.

Go away, stupid bear!

Carter peeked around the edge of the boulder again and bit his tongue. The bear hadn't moved but was on its hind legs now, looking their way, sniffing the air.

Okay, THINK! We can't outrun it. We can't get to the trees fast enough to hide, and it'll see us, anyway. We could run into the water … bears can swim, though, I think. Probably faster than me and definitely faster than Arthur. We could … climb on top of the boulder, but that's not very far above the bear's head. It would just climb up and eat us. Maybe not, though … the rock is tall. And round. Maybe the bear can't climb it?

THINK Carter, THINK!

Carter peeked around the corner of the boulder again. He almost cried out.

The bear was coming.

Carter took a huge breath. He was NOT going to die here beside the lake in some past time. He'd been through too much already today. If a grand magazine explosion wasn't enough to kill him, then NO WAY was a bear going to eat him. It just wasn't going to happen. He wasn't going to LET it happen. His mother and his sister were waiting for him in his own time, and Arthur's mom was waiting for him too, in 1903. Whatever was happening to him, he was NOT GOING TO DIE HERE! And neither was the little boy at his side.

He turned to whisper to Arthur.

“The bear's coming this way.” Arthur nodded, looking with huge, tearful eyes up at Carter.

“You were brave when we ran into the sideshow tent after Mr. Green, and you were brave when we ran across the battlefield. Do you think you can be brave again?” Arthur squeezed his eyes shut, but nodded once.

“Good. We climb up the rock, okay?” Carter peered around the boulder, and his heart stopped. The bear was definitely walking toward them, slowly wagging its massive head from side to side … it would be at the boulder in moments. Sooner, if it decided to do anything but amble.

Please go away … please go away …

Carter quietly boosted Arthur up onto the boulder. It was actually pretty high, over his arms as high as he could reach. The little boy clambered up, and then it was Carter's turn. He'd never climbed a boulder before, though, it really wasn't that easy.

He managed to get halfway up then realized he wasn't going to make it in time.

The bear had seen Arthur and decided to investigate. It came at a trot, sniffing the air and snorting.

Carter could feel the weight of the bear trotting across the beach under him. He gritted his teeth, he swore, he pulled with all his might, his shirt was caught on the rock … he was almost at the top …

… when hot breath struck his leg!

STINKING BEAR BREATH!

Everything happened fast after that. With one final heave, Carter dragged himself onto the top of the boulder. Then with a heart-stopping ROARRRRR … the bear charged.

Arthur screamed, and Carter shielded him in a hug.

ROARRRR!

Horrible bear breath filled the air. Enormous curved claws raked down the rock, leaving deep scratches. There wasn't anywhere to hide. Any second now, the bear would leap onto the rock, and that would be the end …

I don't want to die here … I don't want to die here!

The bear roared in their faces, swiping at them again and again with a gigantic paw, but they were just out of reach. For a few seconds, anyway.

“Close your eyes, Arthur!” Carter whispered softly. “Just don't look!”

BANGGGGG!

A gunshot.

The bear huffed in surprise and dropped to the ground. It roared one last time and then turned and ran into the woods.

Carter let Arthur go and opened his eyes.

Out in the open water, a canoe glided by. A Native man sat in the back of the canoe, settling a long gun over his shoulder. He started paddling.

In the front of the canoe, a boy raised his hand and smiled. As the canoe glided away along the shoreline, the boy's voice carried over the water:

“Car-tair!”

 

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