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The yggyssey how iggy wo.., p.7
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       The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, p.7

           Daniel Pinkwater
 
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  We had a good table in one of the grottos, with plenty of stucco sculptures looking like those Easter Island heads, and a neon palm tree nearby. We all had the five-cent Multiple Purpose Meal—whole wheat bread, vegetable soup, salad with your choice of dressing, Jell-O in all known flavors, and all the coffee we wanted. The management of Clifton's sent around a tiny cake, just big enough for each of us to have a thin slice, and some Clifton's employees in biblical robes stood around and sang "Happy Birthday." Crazy Wig said it was the best party he'd ever had. While we were sitting around drinking coffee and licking cake crumbs off a fingertip, I decided the right moment had come.

  "Neddie and Seamus, you remember our wager. I will be collecting free crullers from you every Sunday for the next two months."

  "What's this?" Aaron Finn said. "You children had a wager?"

  "They bet me I couldn't find out anything about the recent disappearance of so many ghosts," I said. "Naturally, I found out plenty."

  "Impossible!" Billy the Phantom Bellboy said. "That stuff is top secret."

  "All the same," I said. "I know what I know."

  "All right, Miss Smartypants," Billy the Phantom Bellboy said. "Tell what you know, and I'll tell you if you have it right."

  "To begin with," I said, "the ghosts are all going to Hackensack."

  "Hackensack? In New Jersey?" Aaron Finn asked.

  "It's a different Hackensack. And this one is Old New Hackensack," I said. "Apparently there are worlds within worlds."

  "What does that mean?" Al the circus boy asked.

  "It means that this plane of existence, where we are now, is not the only one," Melvin the shaman said. "While we are sitting here, digesting our wonderful meal, in the same space and almost the same time, there may be others, fishing in a river, or sleeping, or sawing lumber, walking around—we can't see them, and they can't see us."

  "Except sometimes in certain kinds of dreams," Crazy Wig said. "Also, there are portals—places where barriers between the various planes of existence don't exist and you can pass from one to another. And in some cases, where there are old cities, with other older cities buried underneath them, those old cities may not be defunct. They may be going strong, only of course on other planes of existence."

  "I think I read something about this in a book," Seamus Finn said. "Some fiction about a boy from Mars."

  "I don't know a lot about that," I said. "But I do know that there is going to be a big hootenanny of some kind in the not-in-New-Jersey Hackensack, and ghosts, who love a good party, are all heading there. How am I doing, Mr. Phantom Bellboy?"

  "How did you find all this out?" Billy asked.

  "I have my methods."

  "What do you two shamans say?" Aaron Finn asked Melvin and Crazy Wig. "Is young Yggdrasil telling us the emmis? Is there a non-New-Jerseyan Hackensack on another plane of existence?"

  "Sure," Crazy Wig said. "Been there lots of times."

  "Lots of times," Melvin said.

  "So the crullers are mine," I said to Neddie and Seamus. "See that you pay up. And I will tell you something else, free and for nothing. I am going to that party."

  CHAPTER 35

  This Is the Plan

  "We're going with you," Neddie Wentworthstein said.

  "To the hootenanny in not-in-New-Jersey Old New Hackensack?" I asked.

  "Yes, the hootenanny, or hauntenanny, or walpurgisenanny, or whatever it is. If you're going, we want to go too," Seamus Finn said.

  We were sitting on the secret closet stairs to nowhere, drinking Dr. Pedwee's cream soda and sharing a bag of Gypsy Boots's whole-grain cuchifritos.

  "If you want to come along, then come along," I said. "But it should be understood—we don't know where we're going, and we don't know what will happen. I don't want any crybabies on this trip."

  "You wrong us," Seamus Finn said.

  "Didn't I protect civilization from ... um ... something bad?" Neddie Wentworthstein said.

  "We think you may have," I said. "It would be more impressive if anyone, including you, remembered it. But, I apologize for the crybaby remark. I can't think of two better companions for a trip into the unknown. You, Seamus, are the son of a movie star famous for swordfights in practically every movie—you must have inherited some of that style."

  "And Neddie is a junior shaman of some kind," Seamus said. "That may come in handy. Also, he has a magical talisman."

  "Oh, yes, the turtle. You have that with you, Neddie?"

  "At all times," Neddie said.

  The turtle is a little carved stone one that Melvin the shaman gave Neddie when they first met. It's supposed to be important in some way.

  "So what is the plan?" Neddie and Seamus wanted to know.

  "Well, we know where we want to go," I said. "Apparently there is some kind of invisible world everybody seems to have known about except us ... Melvin and Crazy Wig, all the ghosts. The part no one seems willing to tell us—anyway, tell us outright—is how to get there. But Chase gave me a strong hint."

  "Chase, your ghostly bunny friend?"

  "The same. She refuses to tell me where the portal to this other world is, but she suggested I follow her around and see where she goes. I think she means to make a move, and go through some kind of magic doorway that connects this plane of existence with the one that contains Old New Hackensack."

  "And when you see where she goes..."

  "We'll know how to get in."

  CHAPTER 36

  Wiener Whistles

  We decided to spread out through the hotel and watch for Chase. To signal one another, we had Oscar Mayer Wiener Whistles. Seamus Finn had left his in his room at the military school, but I had two, so loaned him one of mine. These are whistles you get for free when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile comes around. It is a car shaped like a hot dog, and there is a little person dressed as a chef who hands out the Wiener Whistles. They are shaped like a hot dog too, and make a nice hollow hooting kind of sound. The idea was that if any of us saw Chase, we would toot our Wiener Whistle, and the other two would head for the sound.

  "Won't that alert Chase that she is being watched?" Seamus Finn asked.

  "If I understood what she said to me, she expects to be watched. She wants to tell me where the secret entrance to the secret world is, but she can't come right out and just say it. Some kind of ghostly rule, I guess. So I am betting she will ignore the whistle and just go about her business. Toot softly, and every few seconds, so the others can find you."

  We spread out. Neddie took the upper floors, Seamus took the middle ones, and I took the lower stories of the hotel, the lobby, and the basement. It wasn't long before I heard a faint tooting coming from above. I raced up the stairs. The tooting was getting clearer. I passed the middle floors, with no sign of Seamus Finn, and when I reached the second-to-the-top-floor hallway, both boys were there.

  "Where is she?" I asked.

  "She was here a minute ago. Now she's disappeared again."

  "Spread out again."

  We spread out. It would have been much better if we had walkie-talkies or some kind of two-way radios for this. Then I heard tooting from above—it was Seamus this time. I raced up and Neddie raced down. Again, Chase had disappeared by the time we assembled.

  There were a few more false alarms, and sightings of Chase scurrying through the corridors only to vanish before we could all converge.

  "Chase covers a lot of territory in the course of a day," Seamus Finn said.

  "She's a busy bunny," I said.

  CHAPTER 37

  Through the Cooking Class

  We were all on the ground floor of the Hermione, in the utility area behind the lobby—I had seen Chase in the vicinity of Mr. Mangabay's room. The door was partly open, and Mr. Mangabay was inside, ironing and listening to anti-Communist hillbilly music.

  "Wait! There she is again!" Neddie said.

  "She's heading for the old restaurant," I said. We hurried down the corridor after her. Chase went into the form
er restaurant, now made tidy and set up for Gypsy Boots's health food cookery lessons. We saw Chase make her way into the kitchen and then squeeze through a little door standing ajar at the very back.

  "What do we do now, just crowd in after her?" Neddie asked.

  "Better let me go in first," I said. "She and I are friends."

  I slipped through the partially open door and found myself in a little room not much bigger than a closet. It was fairly dark—I could barely see anything, but I could see I was alone—Chase was not present. The little room was empty, the walls were of tile, and there was a small iron door, over which there was a sign: bomb shelter. I tooted my Wiener Whistle a couple of times, and Neddie and Seamus appeared.

  "Where's the bunny?" they asked.

  "As you see," I said.

  "Could she have opened that iron door? It looks heavy."

  "She's a ghost. She could have passed right through it."

  "Well, we're not ghosts. Let's see if we can open it."

  "Bomb shelter. I know about those. In case of an atomic attack, you come down here and there is food and water—enough to keep you alive until it is time to go outside and see the total ruination of the city, everybody dead, and huge mutant monsters, pets like white mice turned into gigantic killers by the radiation."

  "Help me get this thing open," I said. We pulled the iron door open. Another little room, this one was almost totally dark.

  "Look! Here's a candle and a box of matches," Seamus Finn said. He lit the candle and we saw a steep flight of iron stairs leading down. We descended. There were iron cots, big cartons marked SURVIVAL CRACKERS and DEHYDRATED SOUP, and big cans marked DRINKING WATER.

  "This is spooky," I said. "I can imagine people sitting down here for weeks and months and going nuts."

  "And listening to the giant mutant white mice scratching at the door, trying to get in and eat them," Neddie said. "I wonder what this button is for." Set into the wall was a brass plate with a large red button in the middle. under the button were letters that spelled out DOWN.

  "Don't push..."

  Neddie pushed it. The iron door slammed shut, creating a gust of air that blew out the candle. The room began to vibrate and shake. We heard grinding mechanical noises, and had the sensation of sinking.

  "...it!" I said.

  "No, probably shouldn't have," Neddie said. The grinding noises and vibrating continued, and the feeling of sinking turned into a feeling of falling. You felt it in your stomach.

  Seamus Finn was scrambling around, trying to find the candle and strike a match. When he got it lit, everything looked the way it had, except our faces, which looked sick. "You know what this feels like?" Neddie asked.

  "Elevator?"

  "Yes!"

  Just then there was a bump. The falling feeling stopped, and the door popped open. Bright sunlight flooded in. We practically climbed over one another scrambling up the stairs and popping through the popped-open door. Having popped out, we tumbled a foot or two and found ourselves lying on green grass.

  "What the heck?" Seamus said.

  "We're in some kind of a meadow!" Neddie said. "Look! There goes Chase!" I said. Chase was scampering off in the direction of some bushes. "So we're there?" Seamus asked.

  "I don't know. I guess we are."

  "So how come there's a sun and sky and clouds and all, if we just descended, as I am assuming we have, into the bowels of the earth?" Neddie asked.

  "I always wondered about that when Alice went down the hole after the white rabbit," I said. "You'd think it would be some sort of cave or cavern."

  "I wondered that too," Seamus Finn said. "We just did more or less the same thing as Alice, didn't we?"

  "pretty much," I said. "only our rabbit is black."

  "So the parallel-worlds thing Melvin and Crazy Wig were talking about is right?" Seamus asked.

  "This raises some questions about astronomy and physics," Neddie said. "I mean, is the sun shining on us now the same sun we're used to? Is this the same solar system we live in every day? And if the bomb shelter descended like an elevator, into the earth, then aren't we inside the earth? or ... were our senses fooled, and because the button I pushed—"

  "We probably should have talked that over before pushing it," Seamus said.

  "Agreed," Neddie said. "Anyway, what if because the button was marked 'Down,' when the bomb shelter began to shake around and make noises, we assumed it was descending? What if it was actually taking off like a rocket? What if instead of being inside the earth, we're on some other planet? or, according to the Melvin and Crazy Wig idea, what if there are all these different planes of existence all existing in the same space, and it didn't go anywhere, just shook around and vibrated and made noises, and then we popped out in the same physical place, and the place we're in overlaps the space where the Hermione Hotel stands, but before we were seeing only that space and now we can see only this other one?"

  "Interesting questions," I said. "Here's another one. Do you see the door we just popped out of? Where is the bomb shelter?"

  "Hmmm. That is interesting," Seamus Finn said. "It's nowhere in sight. There may be a problem getting home. What do we do now?"

  "Let's keep following Chase," I said. "She looked as though she knew where she was going."

  CHAPTER 38

  Iggy in Underland

  "I don't see Chase. Where is she?"

  "She was heading for those bushes."

  "Let's go after her. Run!"

  It occurred to all of us at the same moment that Chase was the only one who could possibly tell us how to get back from wherever we were. As we ran across the huge meadow, we were realizing that it was not out in the country but was some kind of park set in the middle of a city. All around the meadow part of it was shrubbery and trees, and outside it were streets. We could see the tops of buildings and houses over the treetops in some places.

  "If Chase gets out of here and into the city, how are we going to ever catch up with her?" Seamus said, puffing as he ran.

  "Good question," I said, also puffing.

  We were getting close to the edge of the park. We could see buses, cars, and people walking through the trees. There was no sign of a little black ghostly rabbit.

  "Know what it is?" Neddie asked. We had stopped running and were standing bent over, our hands on our knees, breathing hard.

  "No, what?" I asked.

  "We're lost," Neddie said.

  There was a low fence around the park, easy enough to climb over—and there we were, on a busy city street. Everything looked nearly normal. Nearly. There were people walking along, cars, buses, and taxicabs running, shops and apartment buildings. What was not quite normal was subtle. For example, doors are usually rectangular, but in this city, they never were—they were round, usually, sometimes oval. Same thing with windows—the ones in this city were not the window shapes we were used to seeing.

  The clothes people had on were regular clothes, but just a little different from what you'd see on people in Los Angeles—not different colors, but different shades of colors. And there was something different about the light: it was just a tinge more orange than the light we had seen all our lives. When you're lost, ask a policeman—everybody knows that. Here came two of them, strolling along side by side.

  "You kids look a little lost," one of the policemen said. "Anything we can do?"

  The policemen had nice soft brown eyes and long, intelligent noses. Their fur was a rich golden-brownish color, and they had silky-looking floppy ears.

  "The policemen are Labrador retrievers," Neddie whispered.

  "Nonsense," Seamus whispered. "Labrador retrievers are about twenty-two inches at the shoulder. These policemen are much taller than that."

  "Seriously, kids," the policeman said. "You look a little disoriented. Are you in any sort of trouble?"

  Then one of the policemen whispered to the other, "Wait! That kid! Can it be? Is it him?" He was looking at Neddie.

  Both policem
en took out cards. The cards had a picture on them. They looked at the cards and they looked at Neddie. Then they looked at the cards again. "Is that him in the picture?"

  "It isn't anyone else!"

  "Yaaay for us! We got him!"

  "Would you mind telling us your name?" one of the Labrador retriever policemen asked.

  "It's Neddie," Neddie said.

  "Well, I'll be an uncle's monkey," the policeman said. "It is him! Neddie, we're going to have to ask you to come with us."

  "Come with you?" Neddie asked. "Why?"

  "We'll explain everything to you when we get downtown," the policeman said. Each of the policemen took Neddie by an elbow. "Just come along peacefully," they said.

  "You're taking Neddie away?"

  "We have to. We have his picture. We've been looking for him."

  "But he didn't do anything. We just arrived here!"

  "Of course he didn't. Of course you did."

  "But what about us? Can we come along?"

  "Sorry, kids. We don't have any instructions about you coming along."

  "But we're lost!"

  "If you're lost, ask a policeman—that is, ask another policeman. We have to take Neddie in now."

  "At least tell us where we are."

  "You are in New Yapyap City. Have a nice day."

  CHAPTER 39

  Neddie!

  "Neddie! They took Neddie away!" I said.

  "Took him in. They said they were taking him in," Seamus Finn said.

  "We don't know where they took him," I said.

  "They said they were taking him downtown," Seamus said.

 
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