EPILOGUE TWO

Chapter

9

If you were one of the haters and fools who saw Lord English’s masterpiece circulating through the black veins of the dark web, and were rendered agog by its majesty, then you probably have a pretty good sense of what happened next. You probably also wouldn’t be rendered that much additionally agog if you were told it didn’t happen precisely as conveyed by the young Lord’s expertly produced claymation theater.

Would it be that surprising if the first four heroes weren’t immediately captured in the juju, as the dark web swan song broadcast through bogus Vine videos originally depicted? Probably not. Would it raise any eyebrows if the action turned out to be a bit sloppier than that? A bloody nose here. A stray wedgie there. Someone trips on a cape. Loud eruptions of the word “Ow.” Petulant insults, smack talk, crude gestures, and stray honks from the sidelines. Would it rock anyone’s world to discover the stop-motion feature did not treat this battle royale with the utmost fidelity?

No one who witnessed the spectacle online would react to these discrepancies with much surprise. But you are not such a witness. You are still John Egbert, and you had no idea what sort of raucous teen pandemonium to expect when you zapped into the lair of your nemesis to throw down. Which is why you were completely blindsided when, upon feeling overwhelmed by the melee, Caliborn sprung his gambit on you and your three best friends to even the odds.

He opened his little red chest, and out came his white, house-shaped juju, levitating there, threatening to behave as the weapon many treasure hunters throughout history have described it to be. Upon a second look, it’s not quite white though. It’s colorless, null. A house-shaped hole in your confining reality. A hole that insists on being filled.

You tried to resist its overwhelming pull, but to no avail. The force is too strong. Not like the sucking from the vacuum of space, or the tug from a gravitational singularity. It was more overpowering than any force in nature. Almost... metatextual. Not negating your powers, your strength to resist, so much as it seemed to overwrite them.

The juju sucked you, Rose, Dave, and Jade into its void at the speed of eternity squashed down to a half second. You landed in the abstract prison it contains face-first, alone, and with a force that made you flip over a few times and skid along by the flat of your chin. You groped for your glasses instinctively, finding them in two cracked halves. You cradled their remains as you looked up.

The blurry, distorted face of your laughing nemesis was the last thing you saw before the chest door slammed shut and plunged you into textual obsolescence.

And here, you are now stuck. You will not emerge from this holding cell, from an outside perspective, for quadrillions of years. It is not long at all until you begin to wish you had brought something to read.

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