Home>>read The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality #1) free online

The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality #1)(4)

By:James Dashner

“No, I just didn’t feel that great last night.” Tick rolled over, slyly pushing the envelope and mysterious letter farther under his pillow. Luckily, his dad hadn’t seen it. Tick didn’t know what he was going to do when his mom asked about it. In the brightness of the morning, it almost felt like the letter had been a dream or a prank after all; though he couldn’t wait to read it again.

“Well, you look like three days of rough road if you want to know the truth,” his dad said. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. What time is it?”


Tick sat up in bed. “Serious?” He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept in so long. “It’s really ten-thirty?”


“Oh.” Tick fell back on the bed.

“It’s ten-thirty-six,” Dad said with his patented wink.

Tick groaned and pressed his hands over his eyes. It didn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but for some reason it bothered him that the letter from Alaska had drained his brain so much that he’d slept for more than twelve hours.

“Son, what on earth is wrong with you?” Dad put his hand on Tick’s shoulder and squeezed. “I’m pretty close to calling the Feds and telling them an alien’s kidnapped my son and replaced him with a half-baked clone.”

“Dad, you watch way too many sci-fi movies. I’m fine, I promise.”

“It’s been at least seven years since I’ve seen a movie without you, big guy.”

“Good point.” Tick looked over at his window, where a fresh batch of snow curtained the bottom edges. The sight made him shiver.

Dad stood and held out a hand. “Come on, it’s not too late for breakfast. Mom made her famous puffed-oven-pancakes. Let’s get down there before Kayla tries to throw them in the fireplace again.”

Tick nodded and let his dad help him up, then followed him out of the room, the whole time thinking about the letter and wanting desperately to tell someone about it.

Not yet, he thought. They might think I’m crazy.

“So what was that letter all about?” his mom asked. The whole family sat at the kitchen table, little Kayla next to Tick, her hands already sticky after only one bite.

Tick’s hand froze halfway on its journey to put the first chunk of puffy pancake, dripping with hot syrup, into his hungry mouth. He’d hoped his mom had somehow forgotten about the mystery letter; he’d failed to come up with a plan on what to say.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, then stalled for time by popping the bite into his mouth and chewing. He lifted his glass of cold milk and took a long drink, his mind spinning for an answer. “You know that Pen Pal Web site I subscribed to a while back?”

“Oh, yeah!” Mom replied, lowering her own fork. “You never told us how that went—did you finally find someone?” The Pen Pal site took a bunch of data from kids all around the world and then matched them up as writing buddies with others kids their same age and with the same interests. A parent had to approve it, of course, and Tick’s mom had done just that, giving the company all kinds of information and filling out a million forms. Maybe it wasn’t too far of a stretch to think one of the pen pals might want to send a letter via regular mail instead of e-mail. It was Tick’s only chance.

“Maybe,” Tick mumbled through another huge bite. He stared at his plate, hoping she’d move on to grill one of his sisters about something else. She didn’t.

“All the way from Alaska,” she continued. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Uh . . . I don’t know actually. Whoever it was just signed it M.G.”

“Alaska, huh?” Dad said. “Hey, maybe your pen pal knows old Aunt Mabel up in Anchorage. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“I highly doubt it,” Mom answered. “That woman probably hasn’t set foot out of her house in ten years.”

Dad gave her a disapproving stare.

Lisa chimed in, her plate already empty. “Tick, how can you not know who it is? Didn’t you have to give them your address?”

“We told you not to do that unless we checked it out first,” Dad said, his brow creased in concern. “You know what the world’s like these days. Is this from someone we’ve already approved?”

Tick suddenly lost every ounce of his appetite. “I don’t know, Dad—yeah, I think so. It didn’t say much. It was kind of dumb, actually.” He wanted to tell them the truth, but something about the letter made him nervous, and he bit his tongue instead.

He forced the rest of his pancake down, anxiously waiting to see where the conversation went. For several moments the only sounds were the soft clanks of silverware against plates, drinks being put back on the table, Kayla babbling about her favorite cartoon. Finally, his dad mentioned the big game between the Huskies and the Trojans, opening up the morning paper to read about it.

Relief washed through Tick. When he stood to take his dishes to the sink, his mom put her hand on his arm.

“Would you mind taking Kayla out to play in the snow? She’s been asking for it all morning.”

“Uh . . . sure,” Tick replied, smiling at his sister even though his thoughts were a million miles away. “Come on, kid.”

Late that night, after watching the movie Dad had brought home—a creepy sci-fi flick where the hero had to travel between dimensions to fight different versions of the same monster—Tick lay on his bed, alone, reading the letter once again. Night had fallen hours earlier and the darkness seemed to creep through the frosted window, devouring the faint light coming from his small bedside lamp. Everything lay in shadow, and Tick’s mind ran wild imagining all the spooky things that could be hiding in the darkness.

Why are you even doing this? he asked himself. This whole thing has to be a joke.

But he couldn’t stop himself. He read through the words for the hundredth time. The same ones jumped out at him without fail.

Dreadful time of need.

Indubitably and despicably deadly.

Very frightening things are coming.

Lives are at stake.

Courage to choose the difficult path.

Who would send him such a—

A noise from the other side of the room cut him out of his thoughts. He leaned on his elbow to look, a quick shiver running down his spine. It had sounded like the clank of metal against wood, followed by a quick burst of whirring—almost like the hum of a computer fan, but sharper, stronger—and it had only lasted a second or two before stopping.

What in the world . . .

He stared at the dark shadow that arrowed across the floor between his dresser and the closet. He reached for his lamp to point it at the spot, but froze when he heard the noise again—the same mechanical whirr, but this time followed by a series of soft thumps that pattered along the carpet toward him. He looked down from the lamp too late to see anything. Tick froze. It sounded like a small animal had just run across the room and under his bed.

Tick pulled his legs to his body with both arms, holding himself in a ball, squeezing. What was it? A squirrel? A rat? What had that weird sound been?

He closed his eyes, knowing he was acting like the biggest baby on the planet but not caring. Every kid’s nightmare had just come true for him. Some . . . thing was under his bed. Probably something hideous. Something crouching, ready to spring at him as soon as he got the nerve to peek.

He waited, scared to open his eyes. Straining his ears, he heard nothing. A minute went by, then two. He hoped an ounce of courage would magically well up inside him from somewhere, but no such luck. He was thoroughly and completely creeped out.

A sudden image from an old movie popped in his head: a horrible, monstrous gremlin eating through the bottom of his bed, straight through to the mattress, biting and chewing and snarling. It was all Tick needed.

Moving faster than he’d thought possible, Tick jumped off the bed and sprinted for the door, ripping it open even as he heard the sound of small feet scampering across the carpet behind him. He bolted out of his room and quickly closed the door.

Something slammed into it from the other side with a loud clunk.



Edgar the Brave

Five minutes later, Tick’s dad stood next to him in front of the closed door to his room, robed and slippered, flashlight in hand. “Are you sure?” he asked, his voice still deep and rough from having woken up. “Did you see it?”

“No, but I heard it loud and clear.” Tick shuddered at the memory.

“Was it a rat?”

“I don’t know. It . . . It sounded like a machine or something.” Tick winced, sure his dad would finally send him to an insane asylum—first his bizarre behavior at breakfast that morning, now this.

“A machine? Tick, what book were you reading before you went to bed? Stephen King or something?”


“Was it the movie we watched?”

“No, Dad. I promise I didn’t imagine it. The thing had to have been huge—more like a . . . a dog or something.” Tick felt stupid and resolved to quit babbling.

“Well, I guess opening the door is all there is to it, then.”

Tick looked up at his dad, whose face wore a scared, tense expression, and felt oddly relieved that his old man was just as spooked as he was. “Let’s do it, Dad.”