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Max The Mighty PDF Book (Freak The Mighty) (1998) Download Or ..
Max the Mighty, p.9
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Worm is looking out through the same crack and she’s not making a sound. She doesn’t act scared, exactly. It’s like she’s got a switch inside and she just turns herself off somehow.
The sheriff car pulls up to the front of the station. The sun glints off the windshield so you can’t see inside, but the driver’s door opens right away and this short, stocky dude gets out, wearing a white cowboy hat and a gold star on his shirt pocket.
He cups his hands to his mouth and calls out, “Anybody home?”
When nothing happens, he looks around, squinting at the broken-down town. He snugs down his hat, hitches up his belt, and spits in the dirt, which I must admit he does in a pretty cool way.
Then he kind of shrugs to himself and walks back to his cop car and opens the door like he’s going to get inside and drive away.
But he doesn’t drive off, not yet. He comes back out of the cruiser with this shiny metal thing in his hand. At first I think it’s a gun, but then he holds it up to his mouth and clicks it on.
“Howdy, folks. This is Sheriff Goodman. I’m the law here in this county. If there’s anybody around, please come out and say hello. Nobody gets arrested, nothing like that. Just want to make sure you’re okay.”
The last word echoes up from the tunnel behind us, kay-kay-kay, and there’s nothing I’d like better than to give myself up to Officer Friendly here. Let him figure out what to do about Worm. A dude who can spit so cool can probably figure out most anything, right?
Wrong. Because my brain knows he’s just acting friendly so he can get us to surrender, and then he’ll lock me in jail and throw away the key and send Worm back to her rotten stepfather because in real life stuff never has a happy ending like it does on TV. I learned that a long time ago and my brain won’t let me forget it.
You can tell Sheriff Goodman is listening hard, so me and Worm don’t make a peep, we hardly breathe. When he doesn’t hear anything he switches on the megaphone again and goes, “Maybe I got it wrong and there’s nobody here, but if there is, please remember one thing. The old mining tunnels are very dangerous. Repeat, stay out of the tunnels.” He starts to lower the megaphone and then remembers to say, “Have a nice day,” before he turns it off for good.
The sheriff looks like he’s about ready to give up when suddenly the passenger door swings open. At first I can’t see who’s there, all I can do is hear one boot hit the dirt, then the other. And then he’s unfolding himself from inside the cop car and standing tall and thin and dark as a shadow.
The Undertaker, come to get us.
Beside me Worm makes a small whimpering sound.
“I’m not here,” she whispers to herself. “I’m somewhere else. I’m somewhere else.” Except she doesn’t sound like she believes it.
I’ve got my face against the crack in the window boards, trying to keep an eye on things. Sheriff Goodman is still there, but I can’t see Worm’s stepfather, like he’s moved out of range.
Suddenly the board gets yanked off the window and a blast of daylight hits me right in the face.
The Undertaker is on the other side of the window, looking in at both of us. He lifts up his hand and points at me and shouts, “There he is! The monster who kidnapped my daughter!”
His raggedy lightning voice goes through me like a hot bullet and for a moment my heart just stops. I can’t move.
Sheriff Goodman goes, “You’d better come out of there. I’ll bet you’re pretty hungry, huh? We’ll get us some food and then we’ll talk.”
Worm bolts. Running away as fast as she can.
Before my brain knows what’s going on, my feet are following her, running into the darkness, into that old mining tunnel, into the place of the dead.
The sheriff is yelling, begging us not to go into the mine, but he’s so far away he sounds like he’s shouting from another planet. I’m barreling along like an out-of-control locomotive, heading for the tunnel. Racing across the floor of the old train station with the terrible darkness getting closer and closer, that’s when my brain tries to put on the brakes.
Don’t do it! my brain screams. If you go down into that mine, you’ll never come out alive!
Shut up, I say to my brain, and keep on going.
But my brain won’t shut up. There are terrible things down there, it says, things you can’t think about or you’ll die. Things that’ll turn your bones into jelly. Things that’ll eat you up and spit you out. Things that’ll make you wish you’d never been born.
But it’s too late to stop, no matter what my brain says. I’m already inside the entrance to the mine, trying to catch Worm before the shadows swallow her up. The air feels different, and the darkness feels different, and I’m running so fast there’s no turning back.
I can’t stop. It’s like gravity is sucking me down into the mining tunnel, under the mountain, into the earth.
Sheriff Goodman’s voice turns into an echo. The words chase us underground. I’m still running as hard as I can, down into the darkness, and the last thing I hear is him shouting, “Be careful-ful-ful-ful….”
Too late for that. I’m way past being careful.
And that’s the last thing in my head before something comes out of the dark and whams! me so hard my bones turn to jelly, just like my brain promised.
Some people see stars when they get knocked out. Me, I see mosquitoes. Shiny mosquitoes buzzing around my head.
They’re still buzzing when Worm wakes me up. She doesn’t say anything, but she’s tugging on my ear so hard it almost comes off, and that wakes me. I can’t see anything but the dark and the sparks of light from banging my head.
I try to sit up, but that turns out to be a bad idea because it makes me dizzy and I have to lie down again or puke. When I try to say something, Worm puts her hand on my mouth and shuts me up.
Footsteps. I can hear footsteps, and whispery voices.
“Must have gone this way,” somebody whispers.
It’s so completely dark I can’t see a thing, but the voices have shapes. One belongs to the sheriff, the other to the Undertaker. And whenever he talks, Worm gets very, very quiet and still.
“No telling what evil things that boy has done,” the Undertaker is saying in a voice so smooth it makes my brain itch. “He may have turned her mind against me.”
The sheriff says, “Never mind that now. Get ’em out of this death trap alive, then we’ll worry about sorting it all out.”
The Undertaker doesn’t like that. “The girl belongs to me,” he insists. “Don’t matter what happens to the boy.”
It’s hard to tell in the dark, but they sound real close, and getting closer. I’m thinking about what to do next when suddenly the whole tunnel creeeaaaaaaks! and the Undertaker shrieks out, “What’s that?”
“Old timbers,” the sheriff says. “They had a really bad cave-in here already, the same one that killed your stepdaughter’s father. The rest of the place is ready to collapse any day now. Bump into the wrong timber and the mountain comes down on our heads.”
“What do we do?” the Undertaker asks in a shaky voice.
“We get out of here before we make matters worse. Organize a search party. You were right about the girl heading here, but you gotta let me handle the police work, okay?”
The footsteps start to fade away. Then I hear the sheriff calling out, “Maxwell Kane, if you can hear me, listen up! Give yourself up and nobody gets hurt, not you or the girl. You’ve got my word on that!”
Me and the Worm keep still until the footsteps are gone. Until there’s just us and the darkness and the wind in the tunnel.
When I try to stand up, my head gets bumped again, but not so hard this time. With my hands I can feel the busted timber sagging down from the roof of the tunnel. That’s what clobbered me.
A light comes on, pointing right in my eyes.
Worm has turned on her miner’s hat, and she’s aiming it so I can see
. Which should be good, right? Except the trouble is, now that I can see the rotten old timbers that hold up the tunnel, it makes me feel sick inside.
Here I am trying to keep Worm safe and we end up in a place that could bury us alive if we sneeze too hard.
“I’m not going back,” Worm says, real fierce. “I don’t care what happens, I’m never, ever going back to him.”
I go, “We could get killed down here.”
“You go on back,” Worm says.
“The both of us,” I say. “We’ll go back together.”
The light weaves as Worm shakes her head. “No way. I’d rather die.”
Something in her voice makes me think she doesn’t care if she does die, or maybe she even wants to, just to get away from being afraid. And that makes me decide to stick with her no matter what, even if my brain thinks I’m being stupid.
“We can’t just stay here,” I say. “They’re coming back with a search party. They’ll find us for sure.”
“I told you. Go if you want to,” Worm says, acting stubborn and fierce.
“That’s not what I mean,” I say. “Come on.”
And then I take her hand and lead us deeper into the tunnel, into the dark places under the earth.
The wind. That’s what gives me the idea there might be another way out. The cool air sighing into my face. I figure it has to come from outside, and if we follow the wind we’ll find it.
Worms sniffs at the air. “Smells like dragon breath,” she says.
I go, “Huh?”
“Sulfur and rotten eggs.”
I go, “Nah,” but she’s got me thinking about dragons and things that live in the dark, or die there.
It turns out there’s more than one tunnel that goes down into the mine. There’s like a maze deal going on, with tunnels branching off all over the place.
It reminds me of this ant farm I had once, until the ants got out and started snacking on Gram’s homemade raspberry jam. Anyhow, before they escaped, the ants were digging a bunch of little tunnels and paths, and they kept streaming in and out, carrying grains of sand that were as big as boulders, if you happened to be an ant.
So I guess miners are like the human version of ants. They just keep digging until they find something good, and then they dig some more. They probably knew exactly where they were going, but I sure don’t. It’s not like they left behind signs that say THIS WAY TO ESCAPE or anything.
All we can do is follow the wind. And that’s not easy because sometimes it’s so faint you can barely feel the air moving, or you think it’s your imagination and not the wind at all.
The Worm, she’s got a talent for it. We’ll be creeping along real slow and careful, making sure not to bump into timbers that hold up the roof, and then we’ll come to a place where the tunnel branches off in two or three more directions. And Worm will stand there, her miner’s hat shining like a lighthouse in the dark. She’ll close her eyes and feel the air on her face, and then finally she’ll point at the right tunnel.
At least I hope it’s the right tunnel. Because the light-beam batteries aren’t going to last forever, and even if Worm isn’t scared of the dark, I am.
I figure once her light goes out, the whole mountain will probably come down on top of us. I can feel it all around me, how much the mine wants to bury us. Partly that’s because I can’t stand up straight, I have to move along hunched over. Whoever dug these tunnels made them for normal-sized people, not for me.
We’re shuffling along, being careful not to bump into any of the old beams that hold up the mountain, when we come to another fork in the tunnel.
Worm shines her light into the tunnels but we can’t see to the end. And I can’t feel any air moving at all.
“Wait,” Worm says, and she closes her eyes and tries to feel the wind on her face. When that doesn’t work she starts counting off the way little kids do, except she does her own version. She goes, “Eenie-meenie-miney-moe, catch a dragon by the toe. If he saves us, let him go. Eenie-meenie-miney-moe.”
“Are you serious?” I ask.
“It’s better than just guessing,” she says. “You got a better idea?”
I don’t have a better idea, so we go down the “moe” tunnel. Which at first seems like all the other tunnels, with these rotten old timbers and boards holding up the roof, and piles of dirt and rock that have seeped down through the planks. But before we get very far, the floor starts getting damp. There are wet-looking streaks along the sides, and if you listen carefully you can hear the bloink-bloink of dripping water.
I go, “I dunno about this,” because the dark is bad enough when it’s dry, but Worm keeps scooting along and it’s hard for me to keep up because the top of the tunnel keeps trying to wham me on the head. I’m going, “Hey, wait up!” but she won’t slow down.
“We’re almost there,” she calls back. “I can feel it.”
I go, “Slow down, please? I’m tired.”
Worm finally slows down and waits for me to catch up. Which turns out to be a good thing. Because right around the next curve in the tunnel there’s this big hole in the floor. At first I think it’s just a shadow, but the Worm’s light doesn’t touch it and I go, “Whoa!” and pull her back from the edge just before we both fall in.
It’s an old mine shaft going straight down into the deepest, darkest place in the world.
Worm aims her miner’s hat into the hole, but the beam of light fades out before it hits bottom, that’s how deep it is. When I drop a rock and listen for the clunk, there is no clunk. Like maybe the rock will keep falling forever, until it gets to the very center of the earth. There’s an old ladder built into the side of the shaft, but some of the rungs are busted and you can see where the dampness has rotted up the wood.
“I bet that’s where it happened,” Worm says. “The cave-in. Way down there.”
I don’t know what to say. Maybe she’s right, maybe this is as close as she’ll ever get to where her father died. I’m trying to think what it means to me when I visit my mom’s grave in the cemetery. I always bring flowers, but today we don’t have any flowers with us. We don’t have much of anything.
“We could pray,” I say, and Worm seems to like the idea. So we get down on our knees and fold up our hands, and when Worm nods her head to pray, her beam of light shines down into the shaft, and it looks scary and beautiful all at the same time.
Worm is praying silent, so I don’t know exactly what she’s thinking or saying inside her head. But whatever it is seems to change her. She kind of relaxes all at once, like she’s been waiting all her life to do this, and now that she’s finally here she can let go and not be scared anymore.
I don’t know what to pray, so I just thank God that her dad gave Worm the miner’s light to find her way, because we sure would be lost without it.
When we’re done, Worm gives my hand a squeeze and says, “Thanks.”
Like a dummy I go, “Thanks for what?”
“For being Max the Mighty.”
I go, “Look, I told you, there’s no such thing as Max the Mighty. I’m just plain Maxwell Kane, okay?”
“Sure, okay. But when things got really bad I told myself Max the Mighty would come, and you did.”
“I couldn’t think of anything else to do,” I say.
“I know,” she says. “That’s why you’re Max the Mighty.”
I’m about to tell her she’s cracked in the brain if she really thinks that, but she goes, “Ssssh. We’ll argue about it later. Right now we have to follow the wind. I can feel it, can you?”
I really can feel the wind. It smells cool and dry and it makes me think we’re getting closer to the outside. Because I can’t really explain it, but the air smells like it comes from the sky.
We edge around the mine shaft — there’s barely enough room for my big fat feet — and head on up the tunnel.
“We’ll come back here someday,” she says. “You promise?”
I go, “Sure thing,” but real
ly I’m thinking no way. We get out of this place, I’m never coming back, not for all the TVs in China.
The tunnel starts to slope up and the wind feels even cooler and fresher, and I’m thinking, Way to go, you big goon, you were right for once in your life, maybe you aren’t so dumb after all.
Then the tunnel starts getting wider, wide enough so the sides kind of melt away into the shadows, and I swear it’s starting to get lighter. The roof part gets higher, too, and stops trying to wham me on the head, and it’s all I can do to keep from running.
Easy does it, I’m thinking. You’re almost there.
“Uh-oh,” Worm says.
Uh-oh is right. Because suddenly the wind starts pushing hard against us, like something big is coming into the tunnel.
Worm goes, “The dragon! He’s coming back!”
The ground starts shaking under my feet and the wind is coming faster and I can hear this low kind of growl, like a giant monster really has entered the tunnel, and we’re in the way of where it wants to go.
Coming to get us, making the shadows go crazy and filling the whole tunnel with wind and noise.
Then it starts to ROAR.
My brain keeps telling me, There’s no such thing as dragons, but this sure sounds like one.
I pick Worm up and hold her tight so the wind doesn’t blow her away. I’m so scared, my feet won’t run.
That’s when the glowing eyes find us. Eyes so bright they paint us with light. Eyes so bright it’s like looking into the sun. Which must be what dragon eyes look like when they want to eat you up, or burn you to a crisp.
That’s when I know we’re going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Just before it kills us, the dragon honks.
I’m standing there like a total doughnut head, holding tight to Worm because we’re dragon bait, we’re history, when the monster with shining eyes honks at us.