Daniel stared in wonder at the strange world around him. Blue and yellow trees waved at him underneath a purple sky. The grass beneath his feet shone a bright orange, making it hard to see. He could barely follow the small green shape of his guide through the blinding grass.
“This way, Sir Lamuel!”
Daniel clenched his teeth in chagrin.
Middlewirt ground his teeth together in anger.
“We are almost to the gates of the Underworld.”
“Great,” Daniel glanced at his watch. “What in the world?” he exclaimed.
Middlewirt rolled his eyes, his favorite expression. “Would you mind not yelling? There are people who are trying to sleep, you know.”
“Where did my time go?” he glanced at his watch again to double check himself. “This clock says eleven o’clock! That means I only have four and a half hours!”
“That’s right. It’s a long ride here, and we’ve walked for a long time. Plus, our time goes faster than yours does.”
“Well, that’s just great.” Daniel muttered. “I lose almost nine hours and I’m stuck with a stubborn, bossy, green munchkin! This is just fantastic.”
“Here we are!” Middlewirt stopped abruptly, causing Daniel to trip over him. He landed heavily in the orange grass, glaring at his guide.
“Why did you do that?”
“Do what? It isn’t my fault you’re clumsy.” He gestured to a small cave. “Through there. You must find a path and follow it. It will lead you to the great King. But you must hurry, for you haven’t much time.”
“Thanks for reminding me.” Daniel pushed himself off the ground and brushed the orange needles off his clothes. Touching the stone for good luck, he ducked into the cave. “So long, Widdledirt!”
“So long, Sir Cramuel!”
Daniel thought he would have to crawl through the narrow tunnel, but once he stepped inside he found he could stand up quite comfortably. He noticed a glowing yellow pathway and he started jogging along it.
When he reached a door, it seemed like he had only been jogging for a few minutes, but when he glanced at his watch, he realized it had been almost an hour and a half. He opened the door and stepped into a dark courtyard.
Across from the door there was a throne. On the throne sat an ominous man. His skin was pale gray, his clothes were deep, rich black velvet. “Who dares to enter my chambers without leave?” he thundered at Daniel.
“Me,” squeaked Daniel. “I come bearing a token for your majesty.”
The King stood swiftly. He crossed the long distance with only a few steps. He stood in front of Daniel. “What token?” he breathed.
Shaking, Daniel touched the carved stone. “This token.” Swiftly, he pulled it off and held it out to the black King.
The King eagerly grabbed it from Daniel’s trembling hand. “Yes, yes, yes.” He turned from his visitor to hold the stone up to the light. He turned back to Daniel. “This is good. You may go.”
Nodding violently, Daniel fled from the room. He bolted up the long pathway…bursting into the light of the colorful world as the clock struck the hour of his birth. The rocks behind him caved in, forever shutting that gate to the Underworld.
Middlewirt jumped up startled. “So, you’re back, eh?”
“Take…me…home.” ordered Daniel between gasps of air.
“As you wish, Sir Paniel.”
The journey home seemed shorter to Daniel. As the copse of trees opened for him once again in the quiet meadow, he turned to his short guide.
“Farewell, Sir Daniel.”
They bowed to each other, then Middlewirt vanished and Daniel headed home. Surprisingly, it was still dark when he reached his house. As he climbed in through the window, he noticed the glowing light of his watch.
The digital display read three thirty three. Startled Daniel looked up at the big clock in his room. It had the same time. According to his world, he had not been gone at all.
“Well, that’s kind of nice. I can go back to my bed and have a wonderful, restful night’s sleep.” He thought about it for a moment, then laughed to himself. “Restful indeed. What a notion.” He managed to drift off to sleep a few hours later, when the adrenaline left his body.Two glowing eyes watched Daniel as he slept. They blinked once…just once.