When Jared Collins arrives in the kingdom of Teruvisa, he learns that he and two other newcomers have been entrusted with a mission to succeed where an entire civilization has failed. That's a lot of responsibility for three twelve-year-olds who were practically thrown into this remarkable world of awesome technology and haven't ever used a laris, seen a jobalich, or played ketauro ... yet.
Jared wanted to run, but he couldn't. A force of some kind held his bare feet firmly to the cold ground. He twisted and tugged, desperate to escape from the dark, silent forest that refused to release its grip on him.
Moments later, a robed figure came out from behind a nearby tree and approached Jared with the confidence of a hunter who knows his prey can't get away. Without a word, the tall stranger grabbed Jared by the shirt and lifted him off the ground with ease.
Jared's face was inches from the menacing stranger's face, but he could see only darkness where the person's face should've been. "Who are you?"
Jared woke up. His eyes darted in every direction.
He exhaled loudly, annoyed and impressed by the realistic dream, and then rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. Wow. It seemed even more real than last time.
It had been over a week since the last time Jared had had that recurring nightmare, and he hoped, just like he did every time, that this would be the last time. He hated how the nightmare made him feel weak and alone. He also disliked admitting how strong of an effect it had on him because, after all, it was just a dream, and he wasn't a child.
With a groan, Jared sat up and stretched before throwing off his covers. He got out of bed, picked his algebra book and homework folder up off the nightstand (he had done his homework in bed last night), and then tossed them both on his backpack, which was lying open on his desk by the door, as he left the room.
He crossed the hall to the bathroom to start getting ready for school. It wasn't going to be just another day of seventh grade, though. It was the Friday before Halloween, which meant that the students could dress up in costumes at school, and Jared had decided to wear his soccer uniform to show off that he was on a soccer team.
Seeing his black goalie shorts, orange-and-black-striped soccer jersey, black tube socks, and shin guards sitting on the bathroom floor by the wall renewed his excitement about his costume choice. A light had been shined on the dark gloom left in his thoughts by the nightmare he had.
About 20 minutes later, as Jared came out of the bathroom, he got lightheaded, and an image of a white hand on a black background flashed before his eyes. Whoa. He leaned against the wall to steady himself.
After a couple of seconds, he took a deep breath and pushed off from the wall. He was about to take a step when his grandpa approached him in the hall.
"Jared, I was wondering if..." Jared's grandpa paused and got a concerned look on his face. His voice became softer. "Are you alright?"
Jared nodded. "Uh--hm." He didn't feel that getting lightheaded after standing up too fast was worth mentioning.
His grandpa took a step closer and then put a hand on Jared's shoulder. "Did you have that nightmare again last night?"
Jared was stunned. He did have the nightmare again. But, why is he bringing it up?
The last time Jared had his nightmare, more than a week ago, his grandpa mentioned he thought Jared looked tired, and that's when he told his grandpa about the recurring nightmare he was having. But, he hadn't made a big deal out of it.
Maybe I look tired again. Jared wondered if that was what prompted his grandpa's question.
Jared looked down to the side and shrugged. "Yeah." He tried to make it seem unimportant, even though the nightmare really did bother him. "But, it's no big deal."
His grandpa slid his hand off Jared's shoulder. "Well, I think I have an answer as to why you've been having these bad dreams."
Jared looked up with curiosity and disbelief. "What do you mean? They're just dreams."
"No. I think it's something else." Jared's grandpa looked more serious than usual. "Have you seen any images outside of your dreams?"
Jared never seemed to be able to hide when something was bothering him from his grandpa, but he was still surprised by the question. How did he know? Sometimes, it seemed like his grandpa could read his mind.
Hesitantly, Jared admitted, "Well... I did see something just now."
"What was it?"
Jared couldn't believe he was going to tell his grandpa what he saw, but, for some unknown reason, he felt he should say what it was. "I think it was a hand." He shrugged, not thinking that it had any great significance.
To Jared's surprise, his grandpa seemed very interested. "What did it look like? Describe the hand to me." Jared must have had a weird look on his face because his grandpa said, "Humor me."
Jared didn't know why his grandpa was acting so strangely over nothing, but he held up his own hand, with his palm facing himself, as he described the hand he had seen. "I got lightheaded and then saw an image--or I guess you could call it a drawing or a symbol--of a white hand on a black background. The hand was open, with the fingers together, and the thumb was sticking out to the side." After he said it, he realized just how stupid it sounded.
"This is very serious." Jared's grandfather remained straight-faced.
Jared expected his grandpa to start laughing or at least smile, not carry on like he was. "Serious?"
"Yes, very. I'm going to have to pick you up right after school and bring you home, and you won't be able to leave the house at all tonight."
"What?" Jared thought that maybe his grandpa was teasing him.
His grandpa kept the same serious look on his face and tone in his voice. "Meet me on the south lawn outside the school as soon as your classes are over. I'll get off work early today and give you a ride home."
It took a few moments for the reality of what his grandpa was saying to sink in. This... can't be happening. His grandpa had approved Jared's plans that evening. He can't change his mind like that.
"But, I was going to go trick-or-treating with Tom. Remember?" Jared whined.
Jared's grandpa remained solemn. "I know. I'm sorry."
That answer wasn't nearly good enough. It only made Jared more annoyed. I can't believe he's doing this. Anger started creeping into Jared's voice. "Can't it wait 'til tomorrow?"
Jared's grandpa shook his head. "I'm afraid not."
"Why not?" Jared wondered if the reason his grandpa was having second thoughts about him being out after dark was because he thought Jared might pass out on the street and get run over by a car or something, even though Jared was 12 years old--old enough to go out at night around the neighborhood without his grandpa having to worry about him--and his friend Tom would be with him. "I'm sure Tom--"
His grandpa cut him off. "Jared, your dreams have crossed into your waking hours. There's a reason for these nightmares and this hand vision. If you'll just--"
Jared couldn't hold in his frustration any longer. "A vision? Okay, now you've gone totally crazy!" He had never insulted his grandpa before, and he almost wanted to take it back right after he said it.
"No." His grandfather was noticeably agitated and waved a finger side to side. "I assure you; this is no little thing. Based on what you've told me, I can't let you go out tonight."
Even though Jared felt a little guilty for having spoken so disrespectfully, he remained firm against his grandpa's ridiculous conclusion. I can't go out because of a stupid nightmare and some so-called vision? "What are you talking about?"
"You're my responsibility." His grandpa's tone softened slightly. "I could never forgive myself if something bad were to--"
Enough is enough, Jared thought. His grandpa was being way too overprotective about nothing. "What do my nightmares have to do with going out on Halloween?"
Jared's grandpa had never been so controlling before. He was acting very strange--even unreasonably.
That's why Jared was so shocked when his grandpa cleared his throat and said definitively, "Your parents left you in my care, so I'll decide what's best for you."
"It's not fair," Jared pouted as he stomped his foot and folded his arms. He didn't know what else he could say to change his grandpa's mind.
With an empathetic tone, Jared's grandpa responded, "I know. I want you to be able to have fun with your friends. But just not tonight, okay?" He put a hand on Jared's shoulder and spoke more softly. "I've never asked you to do anything without a reason, so I need you to trust me when I tell you that it's very important that you stay home tonight. I wish I could explain, but it will have to wait until tomorrow."
His grandpa seemed sincere, but that didn't make Jared happy about not being able to go out with his friend. Jared looked down and grumbled, "I don't understand. What are you so worried about?"
His grandpa reached out to Jared with his voice. "What every parent's worried about--the health and safety of their child."