Adventures in reading, p.20
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       Adventures in Reading, p.20

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  Chapter 4 Marn Rocks & Crysta-lins

  The path ended abruptly at a wall of rock. There was no going left or right around the mammoth rock without leaving the safety of the path. There were boulder-sized marns everywhere and he didn’t dare step on those. He would have to climb up and have a look around.

  This couldn’t be the parent marn, Tommy hoped, as he started to climb. It was hard and scratchy, but it was odd that it would just suddenly show up blocking his path. He found another foothold and heaved himself higher up onto a ledge. He looked back down at the blue landscape below and thought how fuzzy the things in the distance seemed. Maybe he needed glasses; he had been squinting a lot at the blackboard last year. He climbed straight up and came to a flat top that was somewhat spongy to walk on. He reached down and pressed his fingers into the rock. It was as soft as the small marns he had stepped on when he first arrived in this strange land. The rock began to vibrate and Tommy lost his balance. He tumbled forward just as the rock, or perhaps “mother marn”, started to roll down the path. At first he leaped up and started walking upright just to stay on the top, but then he realized that the marn was gathering speed and was going in the direction he had just come from. He quickly scrambled forward and down the backside. It was as hard as going down the up escalator back at the mall. He kicked off and landed with a thud on the path right about where he had first been blocked by the giant marn, but now the marn was behind him.

  Tommy hurried along, stepping lightly of course, and glancing back from time to time to be sure the angry rock wasn’t rolling this way to crush him. The two blue coins jingle-jangled in his pocket and kept rhythm to his speed. The smaller marns in his way seemed to be spaced in such a way that he had to hop and skip in patterns. It became a game and he got better and faster, but he was not paying attention to anything around him other than the trail.

  A peal of thunder clapped loudly nearby followed by three more bangs. Tommy watched for lightning, but there was not a cloud in the sky. Strangely the sky was turning from a normal blue to a sunset of greens. There were all shades of green, but none of the usual sunset colors. He thought again of the crashing sound of what he had assumed was thunder. When he replayed it in his mind it reminded him of the Grandfather clock he wasn’t supposed to run past. Four dongs close together; it must be quarter after something.

  The path was sloping downwards now and the going was easier as there were fewer and fewer marns to avoid.

  The green sunset spread before him like a picture and he could see the outline of a cityscape beneath the bottom shades of green. But the path was veering to the right and would soon disappear into a forest of blue. Tommy was hesitant to enter the darkening woods, but since he had no better option he continued on. The forest immediately enveloped him, not only with sights and sounds, but also with strange smells. Bad smells, skunky smells, burnt rubber smells, ashtray smells. The sounds were better: songbirds and owls. The sights were strange. Each tree was twisted and grew in unexpected directions. He sometimes had to crawl or climb over and under limbs in the way of the trail. The skunky smell pursued him and seemed to grow stronger in his nostrils until he thought he would burst from the stink. He breathed through his mouth and found that he could taste the stench. Chewing his gum faster didn’t help.

  The trail grew narrower and harder to follow because of the trees. Ahead of him he saw a flock of small birds darting from tree to tree singing madly. An owl flew straight at him and nipped his ear. He burst threw the tangled branches of a blue spruce and scattered the songbirds. When he did Tommy was stunned to find that the path split into two sets of forks. There was a sign between the two right paths that said: Luruss, 1,388 steps. The sign between the two left paths said: Doldale, 1,979 steps.

  It wasn’t a hard decision for Tommy; he chose the far left path to Doldale. Only one thousand nine hundred seventy nine steps and maybe he could get out of here. With the dark blue forest behind him and the green sunset once again in front of him he knew he had to hurry to make it before dark.

  He spit out his gum and started counting his steps out loud, running a little, half jogging. There was not a single marn to get in his way, but he kept his eyes on the path not looking up at all until something bopped him in the head. He stopped short and was hit again from behind. As if suspended from golden threads, there were large diamond-shaped crystals floating in the air above his head and in front of him across the trail. A small silver sign at the side of the path warned of this latest phenomenon. “Beware the crysta-lins. Breathe heavy or stay in Doldale.”

  Tommy pondered the message. Obviously these beautiful objects were crysta-lins, but since the sign said to beware of them they might be dangerous or poisonous or something.

  He felt his forehead where the first one smacked him. He wasn’t bleeding but there was a bump there and it itched. The back of his head also sported a lump and he scratched around the spot. They felt like giant mosquito bites.

  What could the sign mean? Breathe heavy? He blew at the first crysta-lin and it withered before his eyes. He heard a pathetic cry and he instantly felt sorry. The beautiful object puddled at his feet and melted. Then two more, much larger, crysta-lins blocked his way. He pushed them aside with his hands and moved forward a few steps. His hands began to itch dreadfully. More crysta-lins of all sizes, very beautiful and sparkly, hovered around him. He had no choice but to breathe heavily on each one watching them drop and disintegrate sadly into the ground. He continued on in this way until he was quite light headed from all the huffing and puffing and he feared he would pass out before he reached Doldale. He had lost track of the number of steps he had taken but surely it was over a thousand as the city seemed twice as close as before. He was elated when abruptly there were no more crysta-lins to block his way, however, a gate closed the path from further progress.

  “Pay the toll, visiTOR!” screamed a childlike man from behind the gate. “Pay the toll! How much do you have?”

  “Two blue coins,” Tommy obediently answered. The man looked harmless enough.

  “Are they Doldale or Luruss?” he demanded.

  Tommy didn’t have the slightest idea. He emptied his pocket and held the blue coins up to the fading light. He assumed they must be Doldale coins but he could just make out the letters l, u, and r.

  “I guess they’re Luruss,” he answered.

  The small man’s eyes gleamed, “Toss them over.”

  Tommy did and the little man ate them like candy then screamed even louder, “Not allowed! No Luruss coins allowed here! To the dungeon with you!” He pulled a lever by the gate before Tommy had a chance to react and the ground opened up and for the second time Tommy dropped down, down. 

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