Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Six: Zack’s Back
Previously: In search of her brother Zack, Gina figured out how to “fall into” Ismara.
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The moment Zack wished himself home his downward plunge ceased: his head jerked upward, his feet pointed downward, and he shot up into the sky. His fall into Ismara had been weird, but it was nothing compared to this. After all, he’d fallen down before, but he’d never fallen up. His lips peeled back in an involuntary grin and his eyes acquired the shape of reverse teardrops. His elongated body ripped through the clouds as he rocketed upward. Once again he caught a glimpse of a sweet girlish face as he tore through that particularly thick cloud, but before he could say anything, she was gone.
His return trip took a fraction of the time his fall had. His theory was that the initial plunge broke a whole bunch of natural laws, and that the return flight was more or less a “reset.”
The final second was the freakiest. Looking up, he saw the bottom of the Map with all the words in reverse, and beyond it the ceiling of Gina’s bedroom; it was like looking out from inside a mirror. Then he popped through the Map. He thought for a moment he’d ripped it, but he hadn’t, he’d simply squeezed through a glowing blue circle, then stopped. It felt like when a roller coaster comes to a halt, only his body didn’t lurch; instead it re-gathered itself into the position it had been in just before he left, almost as if it didn’t know it had been gone. There was a vacuum beneath him, like a tide sucking his feet, but then everything was quiet, except for the groaning of Gina’s medieval box fan.
It was a sticky August evening, just like it had been when he left yesterday. He was trembling from a mix of strained muscles, frozen skin, and residual fear. He collapsed onto his knees and began hugging the tongue-in-groove floorboards. “Good old floor! Good old floor!” he laughed as he petted the wood. It smelled of home and Mom, all clean and lemony.
He looked up at the clock beside Gina’s bed: 5:32. Huh? That’s five minutes after I left, yesterday. (Seven and a half, actually). He wasn’t sure why, but it occurred to him that it might still be yesterday. Everything seemed the same: Gina’s room, Gina’s clock, Gina’s box fan. But something was different, something was missing.
Before he could fully unpack this fact, Mom called up the stairs: “Gina? Zacky? That was your dad on the phone. We’re going to be irresponsible parents and feed you popcorn for dinner!” She giggled. “And Dad’s going to pick up some root beer from Crullers. He’ll be here soon.”
Zack forced his brain to process: What do I do? Act as though I didn’t just hurl through space, didn’t almost have my leg bit off by a giant bird, didn’t almost die! Easy to think. Hard to do.
“Zacky? Gina? Are you—?”
“Good! So, twenty minutes, OK?”
Why weren’t Momandad freaking out? If he’d been gone since yesterday there would have been cops all over the place, and Gina would be trying to explain to them how her brother had fallen into a map and—wait.
“What day is it?”
Mom chortled, “Has being out of school rotted your brain?”
“It’s Friday, silly.”
“Is Gina down there?”
“No, she’s with you, goofball. What’s your surprise?”
“Gina, what’s the surprise you were talking about?” Mom called.
Zack answered in his Gina-voice: “Um…if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise,”
Amazingly, Mom bought it. “OK, you two. Be downstairs in twenty minutes, and don’t forget to wash up.”
So it is still yesterday, and only a few minutes have passed since I fell into the Map! But where’s Gina? Had she fallen into the Map too? No. He’d seen the look on her face when he started to disappear. She’d tumbled back on her bed and—aha! He jumped up and ran around to the other side of her bed, which was identical to his (it was the bottom half of the bunk set they’d once shared), but there was no Gina waiting to jump up and say, “Gotcha!” Only the remains of a latte, now well-soaked into Gina’s comforter.
“No, no, no, no, no! This is massively bad!” Zack walked back to the front of the bed, and then he saw the note peeking out from under the edge of the Map:
“Zack: Went to find you in Map, 5:27, Gina-bear.”
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Thoughts: Have you ever been in a situation that had no solution? Did you take some sort of action anyway, or did you simply hope the situation would resolve itself?
To read The Wishing Map 23, click here!