The door swung open, as creaky as an old grandpa’s backside, and Tom strode in. His face had a look of fury on it as he slumped into a chair. Tom wasn’t the sort of person who gets angry for a long time, and, sure enough, he soon calmed down. The door creaked open again, and Jake shuffled through nervously. Tom spun around on his swivel chair to face his little brother.
“I-I’m really sorry for wrecking your scooter,” Jake stammered.
“Never mind,” Tom muttered. “It was an old one anyway.”
“Can you please help me with some homework?” Jake asked. “Mr Bilmer gets really angry if we don’t hand homework in.”
Tom took a single glance at the enormous pile of paper and homework books lying on his desk, neatly stacked, and shook his head.
“Please!” Jake pleaded. “I really need some help!”
“I’m sorry Jake, I can’t. I’ve got about three pieces of homework that I’ve got to hand to Miss Blatcher tomorrow,” Tom explained. “And I’ve got to finish my geography project. And on top of all that, I’ve got about five pieces of maths homework I still haven’t finished yet, plus my art project. Anyway, why can’t you ask mum?”
“She’s out,” Jake replied dully. “She’s gone on an overseas press conference. And dad’s gone shopping for dinner.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Tom decided. “Come back in a few minutes and I’ll try to help you out. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jake agreed, and left the room. Tom spun his chair back to his desk and pulled out the first piece of homework he could reach, – the maths. Oh, brilliant. But before Tom could do anything, two things happened at once. The first thing was that Jake had rushed back into Tom’s room impatiently. The second thing was that as the bright Sunday afternoon sunlight poured through Tom’s open window, something else also did. A book! It flew through the air and landed on top of the wardrobe with a loud thud.
“What-” Jake began, but stopped as the leather-covered book flipped itself off the wardrobe and onto the floor. Tom watched with his mouth hanging open as wide as the mouth of a cave. Then, even more surprisingly, the book jumped onto Tom’s desk.
“I think the book want you to open it,” Jake suggested. Tom pick the book up, testing its weight, then set it back down again.
“That’s interesting,” he muttered.
“What is?” Jake asked eagerly.
“How the book got here,” Tom replied. “We’re on the second floor. A book that’s this heavy can’t possibly have been thrown from the ground.”
“Maybe it wasn’t,” Jake suggested again. Tom shook his head and turned to the first page of the book. At that instant, there was a flash of blinding white light, followed by a deafening crack, and Tom and Jake were plunged into the darkness. The next instant, the book had slammed shut, sealing itself, and the parallel universe beyond it.
Tom opened his eyes slowly. He blinked. He was lying in a field of long grass, as tall as his little brother.
“Jake!” he yelled. “Jake, where are you?”
“It’s okay, I’m over here!” a voice called from behind Tom. Tom spun around. Bobbing just above the long grass was Jake.
“Oh, good,” Tom grinned.
“Tom, I’ve found a castle nearby,” Jake grinned back. “They’re happy to take us in.”
“Alright, but we leave as soon as we’ve figured out how to,” Tom replied. This was more than he bargained for. He’d opened the book up, but instead of it showing any writing like it was supposed to, it had sucked them into…well, here (wherever ‘here’ was). And now they can’t even get out of this place to go back and finish homework. Jake strode off, and Tom reluctantly followed. They soon arrived at the castle.
“Are you sure about this?” Tom asked.
“Ye-well, not really,” Jake replied uncertainly. I mean, I’ve talked to the guys around the castle, but they all said that we’d have to go to the ‘tutor’.”
“I know where he’ll be,” Tom explained, glad that he manages not to fall asleep in history lessons. “I’ve studied the medieval times.”
“Yeah, I remember you’re doing an essay on it,” Jake grumbled, using an excuse to stop his brother boring him with history. “Anyway, where’s the tutor?”
Professor Castelius groaned as there was another knock on the door to his study. It was the fifth time today. He reluctantly got up and pulled open the door. Then he smiled his big, warm smile.
“Come in, come in,” he urged, and the two boys at the doorway shuffled through nervously, glancing around.
“Sit here,” Professor Castelius smiled again, indicating two comfortable-looking chairs by the fireplace. The boys sat down after a while, and professor Castelius swung his own chair around to face the boys.
“So, what are your names?” the professor asked kindly.
“I’m Tom, and this is my brother, Jake,” the older boy introduced.
“I’m professor Castelius,” Castelius replied. “Now, I know who you are and what you need to do to get home, Thomas Fisher.”
How do you know my last name?” Tom asked.
“That isn’t important,” Castelius responded. “What is important, is that you need to help us. Both of you need to help us.”
“Help you with what?” Jake questioned.
“First things first,” Castelius chuckled. “This is a parallel world. You fell through a portal, and into here. To get back, you will need this.”
He held up a leather-covered book, exactly like the one that had flown through Tom’s bedroom window. The boys glared at it, as if expecting it to jump out of the professor’s grip.
“Right,” Tom decided. “How do we get that portal back?”
“It’s not yours,” Castelius sighed. “But to get access to it, you need to help the entire planet.”
How do we help?” Jake asked, now pelting the professor with questions. “What do we do?”
“You need to destroy a beast,” Castelius answered. “It lives near this castle. It takes people away, using some kind of teleport machine. I guess the people are eaten by the beast.”
“So we have to kill it?” Jake asked again.
“With some of the weapons that I’ve made for you,” Castelius replied. “If you’ll follow me.”
The stone steps that led down to a secret passage echoed as professor Castelius strode down them in enormous strides. Tom and Jake almost had to run to catch up with him.
“Are we…there yet?” Tom panted, realising that professor Castelius had stopped.
“Yes, we’re here,” Castelius announced. In front of him stood an old wooden door, probably older than someone’s great grandpa, with a huge, rusted metal bolt. He grabbed the metal bolt with both hands and gave it a tug so hard that Tom thought the door would fall apart. Thankfully, the door didn’t fall apart. The bolt grated and slid apart, and again, professor Castelius tugged the door so hard that Tom thought that the wood would just splinter. Thankfully again, it didn’t, and the door squeaked open like a mouse.
“Follow me,” the professor instructed, and led them into a dark, damp room that had a strong smell of muskiness. Professor Castelius grabbed a torch and sparked it into life on the hard, rocky ground. He then lit all the torches in the room.
“Wow,” Jake breathed, staring at the gleaming hilts of two swords, resting in their sheaths on the table in the centre of the room. He sprinted forwards, grabbed one and threw the other to Tom, who caught the hilt with one hand and unsheathed it in one, fluid movement.
“You know, I did a PE lesson on fencing the other day,” Tom grinned, twirling his sword so that it caught the light from the torches. “And guess what? I turned out to be good at it!”
“Well, that’s good,” Jake muttered. “But I’ve no idea how to use a sword!”
“You just swing it randomly if you get into trouble,” Tom suggested. “Now, we’d better go.”
“The monster is southeast from here,” Castelius explained. “Oh, by the way, I have one more gift for both of you.”
He held out a diamond to the boys, the edges of it sparkling in the light.
“A light diamond,” Castelius smiled. “The only thing you’ll be able to have with you when you get back.”
“Right,” Tom decided. “We really have to go.”
“I promise we’ll come back,” Jake answered.
“Are we there yet?” Jake asked impatiently.
“Um…yeah,” Tom pointed to a large cave in front of them. Just then, with a deafening roar, a creature stomped out of the cave, ready to defend its lair against the attackers. The creature had brown fur, and its face looked like crossed between a lion, a rhinoceros, and a snake. Two long claws dangled from each of its arms.
“That looks more like an alien!” Jake exclaimed.
“I am an alien,” the monster growled, showing rows of razor-sharp teeth.
“Not a good one to fight, apparently,” Tom commented.
“No, it would be wiser for you to retreat,” the alien growled again. “I’m a Jaggaturian, and my race feast on meat. We are excellent hunters.”
“Why are you here, anyway?” Jake asked. “Why did you leave home?”
“My ship…crashed,” the Jaggaturian replied. “I’ve sent a help signal, and another ship has come to pick me up. But for now, I’m going to have dinner.”
Tom glanced up, and saw that the sky was much darker than when they had left the castle. The Jaggaturian swung its claw around, but Tom was quick and parried with his sword.
“We don’t have to fight, you know,” Tom suggested, parrying again. Jake ducked as another claw sailed through the air above his head.
“I…alright, I give up,” the Jaggaturian grumbled. “None of my other prey has lasted longer than this. It is very likely that you would win this battle.”
“You see?” Jake grinned. “That’s sorted. We can get back.”
The Jaggaturian flexed its claws and disappeared back into its lair.
“Yup, you’re absolutely right, Jake,” Tom muttered. “That’s sorted.”
“Your story is…interesting. Very interesting,” Castelius chuckled. “He was an alien! Well, at least it’s getting picked up soon.”
“Yeah,” Tom broke into a grin.
“Here’s the book, as promised,” Castelius smiled and handed Jake the leather-covered book.
“Bye,” Tom whispered. He opened the book at random, and he and Jake were plunged into the darkness again.
The door swung open, as creaky as an old grandpa’s backside, and Tom’s dad strode in.
“What’re you doing, Tom?!” he yelled. “Finish your homework!”
“Um…I’m helping Jake,” Tom improvised, trying not to give away anything.
“I can help him after dinner,” Tom’s dad offered. “Miss Blatcher won’t be happy if you don’t have your homework handed in tomorrow!”
He left the room, letting the door creak shut again. Tom exchanged glances with his brother, and they both burst out laughing.
“I can’t believe he fell for that!” Jake commented, still laughing. “He certainly knows us worse than mum!”
Tom reached into his pocket, and pulled out the light diamond. Jake leaned across the bed and extracted the leather-covered book he’d been hiding.
“You know, I used to always complain about the creaky door,” Tom explained. “But it turns out that it’s pretty helpful.”
“I’ve got to get as much homework done as I can before dad finishes cooking dinner,” Jake muttered and left the room.
Tom hesitated for a moment, then picked up the book and hid it behind his bookshelf. Then he hid the light diamond in one of his old socks.
“We’ll come back,” he whispered, glancing at the hiding spots. “We’ll come back.”