My mother has decided that I’m going to ruin my whole life if I happen to fail one test. “It’s a slippery slope, Stephanie!” is the comeback for anything I do that she doesn’t approve of. Today Mom has arranged for tutoring, to “nip it in the bud”; another one of her lovely catch phrases.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up here, in Shawn Korsky’s basement awkwardly sitting across from him, studying Civil War history. I’m not awkward, he is.
Other than the soft “Hi” he gave me when his mother showed me down the stairs, he hasn’t said a word. The silence has grown so thick and gross that I contemplate reading my book aloud, just so there’s something filling the void.
I let out a squeak when Shawn, a boy who can barely stand to look me in the eye, suddenly jumps up, grabs my hand and pulls me up off the couch. He doesn’t stop pulling until we’re standing in the center of the basement.
The strength in his grip is surprising for his petite stature. As a fourteen year old girl I’m an average height, but compared to other boys he’d be considered short; our eyes are at the same level. His blue eyes show fear and panic, only partially covered by his unruly black hair.
“Let go. What do you think your doing!?” He stays silent and his hand stays clamped on my wrist. He then reaches down and flips the corner of a ratty area rug back to reveal a shoulder width hole in the floor. Just a weird vertical shaft in the center of the room.
He releases me and I’m tempted to run upstairs. Instead, I peer down the dark hole. “What? There’s nothing there. Did your parents put this here?”
Finally he speaks. “No. I did. Hurry up, there’s no time. They’re almost..”
I hear a couple muffled screams come through the ceiling. Then a body sized thump followed by the sound of numerous quick footsteps going toward the basement stairway.
My heart is beating in a slow heavy rhythm, trying to catch up to the rest of my system that is now in full adrenaline mode. I am confused, even though I have an idea what has happened. What I can’t figure out is why.
“Follow me or they’ll kill you Stephanie.” He says this and I can tell he believes it is the truth.
Numb with fear, I make the split second decision to lower myself into the smothering darkness. It’s a tight fit and I’m thankful that all those wishes for curves weren’t granted.
There is no ladder and I almost crawl back up into the basement but I can hear the footsteps coming down the stairs. I don’t want to die.
I find that the walls of Shawn’s vertical tunnel are spongy and easily gripped. I look up and catch the moment when our entrance magically seals up, nothing but black nothingness now.
Hyperventilation has begun. The sound of my breathing is so loud but drops off short the moment it hits the soft walls. I tell myself its moss that I’m hanging on to. Very strong, sticky, disgusting moss.
I repeat, “Almost there…almost there…almost”
Then someone’s hands grip my waist. I scream and lose my hold of the wall, falling only a short distance into the persons arms.
“Shawn?” Dear lord, I hope it’s Shawn.
“Yes” his shy voice answers and I let out the breath I’d been holding. My chest is aching from the on going fear and stress. Can a teenager have a heart attack? It sure feels like it.
He grunts with the effort of holding my weight. “Put me down!” I shout at him in a tone that was a little meaner than I meant it to be. “Sorry” I say after, in a quiet voice.
He sets me on my feet and claps his hands together once.
Startled by the sudden light, I look around the room. Was that a freakin clapper? I didn’t even know they sold them anymore. Then I realize where we are.
We’re in his basement again.
“Ww..wwhat..what is this? How are we here?” I shake my head in disbelief; my hair is coming loose from the bun I twisted it in this morning and now flops back and forth.
“Stephanie, let me explain..” Shawn says, holding his hands up.
“You better…and I swear if I’m in a YouTube prank right now. You’re dead!”
He smiles uneasily, plops down on the couch I’d just been studying on a few minutes ago, and gestures for me to sit as well.
“You’re not being pranked.” He assures me and I sit, waiting for the big explanation that was supposed to clear up all the craziness that just went down.
He scrunchs his face, shrugged his shoulders, then blurts out, “I’m a Dimension Hopper.”