Fourteen-year-old Leven Thumps (a.k.a. "Lev") lives a wretched life in Burnt Culvert, Oklahoma. But his life is about to change and his destiny be fulfilled as he learns about a secret gateway that bridges two worlds the real world and Foo, a place created at the at the beginning of time in the folds of the mind that makes it possible for mankind to dream and hope, aspire and imagine. But Foo is in chaos, and three transplants from that dreamworld have been sent to retrieve Lev, who alone has the power to save Foo.
Enter Clover, a wisecracking, foot-high sidekick; Winter, a girl with a special power of her own; and Geth, the rightful heir to Foo. Their mission: to convince Lev that he has the power to save Foo. Can this unique band of travelers help Lev overcome his doubt? Will Lev find the gateway in time? Or will Sabine and his dark shadows find the gateway first and destroy mankind?
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A Relative of Foo
The Birth of Leven
Who can say for sure what constitutes the perfect birth? Perhaps a mother, while playing cards and sipping lemonade, might simply hiccup, pat her stomach, and there in her arms would be a beautiful child, already diapered and pink-cheeked, looking up at her and emitting a soft coo. That wouldn't be too bad.
Or perhaps, while taking a nice ride up the coastline on a golden afternoon, a woman might tap her husband on the shoulder and say, "Look what I found."
Together they would peer into the backseat and there would be their lovely newborn buckled in a car seat and sleeping blissfully. A person could argue that that scenario would be perfect to a lot of people.
Well, Leven Thumps experienced nothing of the sort. He came into the world like a delivery that no one knew what to do with and nobody wanted to sign for. His father had passed away in a tragic car accident only a week before his arrival, sending his mother spiraling down into a deep pit of grief and mourning. Her only hope was in knowing that the husband she had lost would live on in the son she was about to give birth to. Two days before the delivery her health suddenly began to deteriorate. She couldn't stand, she couldn't sleep, and she found it difficult to even breathe.
On October fifteenth, at 2:30 in the morning, Maria Thumps knew she was not long for this world. She called her neighbor, who came immediately and quickly drove Maria to the hospital. Maria had been inside the hospital for only five minutes when her son was born. The child had a head of thick dark hair and wise open eyes.
The doctor placed the baby in her hands, and for the first time in a while Maria smiled. "Leven," she whispered.
Maria's smile began to fade. Her face paled to a new shade of white. She clenched her eyes shut and began to struggle for breath. Her hands twitched and Leven rolled from her arms and into her lap. Every machine in the room with a voice immediately began to wail and frantically beep, and the lights suddenly dimmed. Doctors and nurses huddled over Maria, trying desperately to work a miracle. It was no use. A tall doctor picked up Leven and handed him to one of the attending nurses. She stepped quickly out of the room with the child, saving him from the scene and pulling him away from the last person on earth who would love him for some time. Two minutes later Maria Thumps closed her eyes, ceased her labored breathing, and passed away.
Leven lay alone in the hospital nursery for days. Every morning at 10:00 and each afternoon at 3:15, a different nurse would come in, pick him up, and hold him for exactly four and a half minutes. Other than that he was touched only when being fed or changed. The hospital staff whispered about what to do with him, waiting for the state to decide, but the wheels of compassion were slow to get moving. Everyone was holding out hope that a kindly relative or family member might be found and the little orphan would be taken away and off their hands. The hospital was already short-staffed and money was hard to come by, thanks in part to a dozen or so recent malpractice law suits the administrators had been forced to settle.
On the fourth day following Leven's birth, the prayers in his behalf were answered. Well, sort of. Contact had been made with a half sister of Leven's mom. Her name was Addy Graph, and at this very moment, she was on her way to the hospital from one state over and two states up.
She arrived that evening, bringing with her a violent rainstorm that battered the hospital. Addy pulled up in a dull-looking black car with only one headlight and a mismatched door. The car shuddered to a stop in the spot reserved for ambulances and Addy Graph got out. Addy was not a pleasant-looking woman. She was heavy-set and had a high forehead and no lips. Her flesh was pasty white, and the veins beneath her chalky skin were not only visible, they were bulging, as if there were too much thick blood coursing through them. She had a protruding stomach and skinny legs you felt sorry for due to the big ball of weight they were called upon to support.
She slammed the mismatched car door and held a newspaper over her frizzy hair as she cursed the weather and moved toward the entrance to the hospital.
As she walked away from her car, a little security guard with a whistle around his neck hollered out at her. "This is for emergency personnel only," he chirped. "You'll have to move your car."
Addy glared at him. "Excuse me?" she sneered, her neck veins bulging.
The short man cleared his throat. "No unauthorized vehicles allowed." He made a large circle with his arm, indicating the area. "Your car must be moved."
"Then move it," Addy snapped. She pushed past him and into the hospital.
The young woman at the reception desk did her best to welcome Addy, but her pleasant greeting was met with total disgust.
"I drive all day and then when I get here some Neanderthal with a whistle tries to tell me where to park," Addy growled.
"I'm sorry . . ." the young girl tried. "But we "
"Stow it. I'm here to pick up a kid," Addy interrupted, dismissing whatever the girl was about to say. "His mother died, so I'm saddled with him."
"Saddled?" the girl asked, confused.
"Stuck with him," she snarled.
"So you want the nursery?"
"What I want and what I'm about to get are two different things, Sweety. I've already spent too much money coming to fetch this brat."
"I'm sure someday he'll be grateful," the girl said, trying to be kind.
"I'd take that bet, if I thought you were good for it," Addy sniffed. "Now where's the nursery?"
For a moment, the young girl considered pointing in the wrong direction thinking that might buy her some time to race up the stairs and rescue the poor baby that was going to be stuck with this piece of work. But she had to stay and answer the phone, so she simply pointed to the stairs and said, "The nursery's on the fourth floor, east wing."
"There had better be an elevator," Addy huffed.
"There is, just past the stairs."
Addy stormed off, mumbling and criticizing everything she passed. The elevator took too long to come. The inside of it smelled funny. The person at the reception desk for the nursery was curt. The nursery was cold. The floor was dirty. The staff was unfriendly.
By the time she finally laid eyes on the child she was completely out of sorts.
"That's him?" she almost laughed. "He's so small."
Leven squinted at her.
"He's just about the right size," the nurse on duty said.
"For what?" Addy sniffed.
"He'll be old before you know it," the nurse tried. "Babies grow so "
"Thank you," Addy snipped. "I'm perfectly aware that babies grow. Do I need to sign something?"
The nurse was dumbfounded. Sure, all of the years she had worked there had made her a bit callused and bored. Babies were born every day, and it had long since ceased to be a miracle to her. She had seen everything. She once saw a baby born with two heads. She had even seen newborns come out laughing. She had also seen a dozen or so children be born and pronounced dead only to come alive again minutes later. She had seen a lot, but this loud, vicious lady was uglier and meaner than anything she could remember.
"I'll get the doctor," the nurse said, biting her lip. She stepped away, leaving Addy alone with her new responsibility.
Addy eyed Leven coldly. She sniffed again and looked away. When she looked back he was still there. She lifted up one of his legs and looked at it. She touched Leven's head. She scowled. She put her hand on the baby's arm and gingerly lifted it as if it might be diseased.
She dropped the tiny arm, screaming.
A huge, hairy, gray ball scurried out from under Leven, circled over his stomach, and rolled back under him.
Addy screamed hysterically as she pushed back and away, knocking over an empty cart and sending diapers and baby shampoo everywhere. The shampoo bottles exploded all over the floor, causing Addy to lose her footing and fall hard onto her rear. Her rump seemed to pop as a loud rush of air escaped her screaming, lipless mouth. A small team of nurses and a couple of doctors rushed through the door wondering what could possibly be going on to generate so much noise.
Addy just sat there, screaming and pointing. The nurse, who had had the pleasure of talking with her just moments before, filled a cup with water and happily threw it in Addy's face.
Sputtering, Addy said, "A rat. There's a giant rat on that child."
The medical staff all looked at the baby. No rat. Leven was simply lying there with his eyes wide open and a serious look on his face.
"That's impossible," one of the doctors said. "There are no rats here. Besides, it wouldn't be able to climb into the cart."
"Maybe it fell from the ceiling," Addy offered.
Everyone looked at the ceiling. It looked okay, no holes or possible way for a rat to fall from it.
Two nurses tried to help Addy to her feet, but thanks to the soapy floor, they lost their footing and also went down. Their flailing limbs knocked the legs out from under one of the doctors, and he fell, taking two more nurses with him. Everyone scrambled across the slippery floor, reaching for something to pull themselves to their feet with. It took a number of tries, but eventually everyone was standing again.
Once up they all carefully worked their way over to the baby. One of the nurses picked him up and inspected him.
"I don't see a rat," she said.
"It's there," Addy cried. "I saw it with my own two eyes. He was huge."
One of the doctors loosened the diaper and made sure the supposed rat had not hidden in there.
"No rat," he declared. "I've worked here for twenty years, and I have never seen a rat."
"Well, I've been here for a little over twenty minutes and already I've seen one," Addy said meanly. "Give me the child so I can take him somewhere safe."
"There are a few papers we need you to fill out," the doctor informed her. "And we have some questions and information for you."
"Fine, just hurry. I have a long drive back."
Everyone left the room except for one nurse who was on her hands and knees trying to clean up the soapy mess while the baby slept. Neither she nor Leven noticed Clover as he once again slipped up over him and scurried back underneath. Smiling.
Copyright © 2005 by Obert Skye
Table of Contents
A Relative of Foo: The Birth of Leven
A Cold Wind Blows In: The Arrival of Winter
Where Monsters Live
Fourteen Years Old
Lightning Strikes Twice
Everybody Please Remain Seated
A Marked Target
Taking an Ax for the Home Team
Divide and Conquer
Realizing You Have Nothing
I Can See Clearly Now My Head Is Gnawed
Picked Out of a Crowd
A Little Disappointed
Lift, Huck, and Listen
Fury by Design
We Felt the Earth Squirm under Our Feet
Swallowed Whole and Alive
The Strength of Shadows
Leaving on a Midnight Train to Danger
Boats Are Too Slow and Planes Are Too Complicated
The Occidental Tourist
Who's Who in Foo; The Order of Things