He looked around him. The first thing he saw—the only thing he saw at first—was a strange purple shape floating impossibly in the air beside him, a glowing three-dimensional purple diamond about two feet high and a foot wide. He watched, fascinated, as the thing glowed and pulsed and turned slowly in midair.
That must be the portal point, he thought.
That was the way in—and the way out. He would have to keep that in sight at all times, just as Miss Ferris had said.
He felt there was more around him. He looked up.
“Oh my . . . WOW!” he said loudly.
He was standing on a little hill, surrounded by the strangest landscape he had ever seen. The color of it—it was wild! The hill was red—a scarlet red so bright it hurt his eyes. A gently undulating scarlet plain flowed down from his feet, and ran toward the horizon, ending in a forest of bright blue trees. Above the scarlet plain and the blue forest hung a low sky of the deepest, most beautiful yellow. Here and there the bright colors seemed to mingle in stirring cloud-like streaks of bright orange and green.
Stunned by the rainbow-like beauty of the place, Rick turned this way and that, gaping in amazement. It was as if he had stepped into a painting or a movie cartoon. He was so mesmerized by the red valley and the blue woods and the streaked yellow sky that it took a moment before something else amazing—really amazing—suddenly occurred to him.
He was standing up! He was! He was standing free. No crutches! No pain! Not even any weakness. He looked down at his legs. He was still dressed as he had been, in a black T-shirt and jeans. But his legs were straight now. They felt fine. More than fine. They felt strong!
Rick let out a laugh. This was incredible! In-crazy-credible! He felt so . . . so good! Better than he’d felt in ages, since the accident. He lifted one foot high and wiggled it in the air, then he set it back down and lifted the other. He hopped in a circle, laughing again, a high-pitched whoop of laughter this time. He began dancing around on the hilltop.
“Whoo-hoo!” he shouted. “Whoo-whoo-whoo-hoo!”
He tucked an invisible football beneath his arm and ran across the ridge, straight-arming imaginary blockers.
“Yaaaaah!” he screamed.
He spun around at the end and rushed back, running till he reached the floating purple diamond.
He shouted: “Touchdown!”
He spiked the invisible ball into the red, red earth. He lifted his face to that weirdly beautiful yellow sky. He lifted his hands in celebration and did a victory dance. He was healed! He could walk! He could run and jump and kick and . . .
What was that?
He stopped. Still panting from his celebration, he stood still. He peered into the distance, over the flowing red plain, toward the line of blue trees where the weird forest began. Had he seen something over there? A movement? He stood, staring. There was nothing.
Then, suddenly—yes!—there it was again.
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