NINE

Page 26

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“Soubh be khear,” called a man’s voice.

Sammy followed the voice to the top of the second, smaller egg. Jutting out from the side like a ship’s prow was a long, pointed balcony, and leaning over the railing was a youngish man wearing a black turban. In one hand he clutched a brass telescope and the other he waved enthusiastically.

“Matounhm ke kumaikitan knam?” he said.

“I don’t understand,” Sammy shouted back, and received a sharp static shock to her left temple. It caught her by surprise and she staggered trying to make sense out of what had just happened.

“Wait there,” the man called. “I’m coming down.”

Sammy rubbed her head. She’d become dizzy again and knelt down to get her balance back.

The man appeared at ground level behind the dinosaur and came over.

“Are you feeling all right?” he asked when he reached her. He was wearing a black waistcoat with a white silk shirt and trouser combo that were both so white they made him look like he’d stepped out of a washing powder commercial. His nose was longish and his mouth was pursed but he had beautiful hazel eyes that smiled when he did. He rolled back and forth on the balls of his toes with his hands behind his back.

Sammy rubbed her neck and got to her feet, feeling surprisingly okay again.

“You’ve got yellow hair,” the man said, “and these are interesting clothes.”

“They’re pyjamas,” Sammy said, staring past the guy at the feathered monster waiting patiently behind him.

“Pyjamas,” the man repeated. “We don’t get to see the latest clothes styles on our side of the forest. I’ll have to look into these ‘pyjamas’ as you call them. They look exotic.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing. This is what I wear to bed. I don’t normally leave the house like this.”

The man watched her a moment, then snapped out of it. “Where are my manners?” he asked. “My name’s Mehrak Omid.”

Sammy paused. Should she tell him who she was? He could be anyone.

Mehrak smiled. “You going to tell me your name?”

What difference would it make? “Sammy Ellis,” she said, and held out her hand.

The man didn’t take it. “Your name sounds familiar. Should I know you?”

“No,” Sammy said. She took her hand back. “I’m not from here.”

“Well, no one is from right here. We’re in the middle of nowhere.” He paused. “So, how did you get here?”

“I don’t know. I adjusted the clock hands of some glowing emerald bracelet thing that was under my mum’s bed. Then it exploded and it must’ve knocked me out or something because I woke up here.” She looked up at the dinosaur. It had its mouth open and was angling its ears back and forth on their stalks. “Where am I?”

“You’re somewhere near the centre of Fungi Forest, a little over two days’ travel from Honton Keep.”

“We’re not on Earth any more, are we?”

“Earth?”

“Of course we aren’t.” Sammy exhaled and stared at the floor. “I’ve been transported to a strange planet, in a faraway galaxy.”

Mehrak put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure we can get you back to Earth.”

 

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