Marcus is an agent of the Library, a place filled with tales that don't have an ending. Puzzles that won't be solved until Marcus and his friends step in to finish them. This time it's their own stories at stake.
Theo just visited the Oracle Baz, an old amusement-park machine that spits out fortunes for the cost of a quarter. Fun, right? The only problem is, the oracle's cheap predictions have been coming true . . . and Theo's fortune says that life as he knows it will end on his fourteenth birthday! Plus, Lu's cousin, who also went to the oracle, is missing.
Marcus knows where to find help for his friends--the Library. It turns out that the Oracle Baz was a real man who died in a fire long ago. Can a glimpse into the fortune-teller's past change all their futures?
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I had to see it for myself.
Reading about something is one thing. Experiencing it in person is a whole ’nother ball game. That’s why right after school I rode my bike to downtown Stony Brook and hopped on a bus headed west along local streets. I’d taken this same bus a bunch of times with my family and a couple of times with friends. I knew the deal. Ten stops ahead and two towns over was my destination.
It was early November. Connecticut snow was still a few weeks away, but it was getting dark early, and the chilly wind that whipped through the barren trees felt like an ominous warning. Halloween was over. The holiday season was coming on fast, and so was another long gray winter.
It had been only a few days since we finished the story we titled Black Moon Rising. My friends and I needed a break. We were tired. Simple as that. When we stepped into an unfinished story, time in real life stood still. That was cool, except our bodies didn’t stop, and it wasn’t like we were sitting around with our feet up playing The Legend of Zelda. Oh no. We had just done battle with a centuries-old coven of witches bent on wiping out an entire town and taking over the world.
That took some effort.
After we left Black Moon Rising through the interdimensional crossroads of the Library, we wanted nothing more than to rest, recharge our batteries, and spend a little time in the real world before tackling the next story.
Wasn’t going to happen.
Another book came our way, and it looked to be the most important one yet. It wasn’t about people who lived far away from us, or strangers who existed in the past. No, this story was about my best friends, Lu and Theo, and about a fortune-telling machine that was spitting out predictions that came true.
You know. That.
Both my friends were dealing with strange troubles known as disruptions. The Library is filled with stories like theirs. Stories that defy logic, that can’t be explained using the normal rules of science and nature.
Lu’s cousin, Jenny Feng, was missing. She had left home a few weeks ago, and nobody had heard from her since. It was a total, terrifying mystery. In Theo’s case, he had gotten a fortune from that strange machine that told him life as he knew it would end on his fourteenth birthday. Yeah. Seriously. He wouldn’t have thought twice about it except both of his brothers had received fortunes from the same machine, and both of those predictions came true.
Everett the librarian had been searching through the stacks in the Library, looking for unfinished books that might contain Lu’s and Theo’s stories. If he found them, it would mean they were dealing with actual disruptions, and we’d have some information that would help us solve them.
It took some time, but Everett found it.
It. One book. Not two. One.
It held both stories.
The book told the tale of an old-time fortune-teller named the Oracle Baz, who supposedly could see into the future. Baz was long dead. He hadn’t told a fortune in decades, but the arcade machine with his name on it was keeping up the tradition. Theo and his brothers got fortunes from it, and, as it turned out, so did Lu’s cousin Jenny. It was all written in the book. We needed to find out if Jenny’s fortune had anything to do with her disappearance, and what kind of trouble Theo might be headed for on his birthday.
We hadn’t been dealing with their problems until then because, to be honest, we didn’t know what to do. But once Everett found the book, we had information. Now we could act.
And it had to be fast: Theo’s birthday was only a few days away.
That’s why I found myself on a bus on a cold November afternoon, headed to Playland, the home of that mysterious machine.
I didn’t tell Lu and Theo I was going. I wanted to see this magical fortune-telling machine for myself. My friends are awesome--the best--but sometimes I need to think things through on my own. There would be plenty of time for them to get involved. Heck, they were already involved. It was their story.
The bus pulled up to the stop at the end of Playland Parkway, and I was the only passenger who got off. Not a whole lot of people visit Playland in the winter, since it’s closed for the season. The bus driver gave me an odd look. I knew he was dying to say, “You know the park is closed, fool. Right?” But he had a schedule to keep, and so he drove off without a word, leaving a cloud of noxious diesel smoke behind.
I’d been to Playland dozens of times. It was a totally familiar place. But seeing it in winter was a whole different experience. The normally leafy trees were barren and gray; the vast parking lot was empty; and there wasn’t another person to be seen anywhere. Maybe eeriest of all was the sound. Or lack of sound. Ordinarily, there’d be music and the clatter of rides and screams of excitement from a thousand happy people. But in November it was dead quiet. It didn’t help that the sun was on its way down and shadows were growing long. There’s a reason why so many horror movies are set in abandoned amusement parks. These places are usually full of life and excitement, so when they’re quiet and empty, they just feel . . . dead.