“Recommend to readers who thought A Wrinkle in Time could have been funnier.” School Library Journal
Breathtaking suspense and surprising twists come together in Patrick Griffin's First Birthday on Ith, the second book of the page-turning Patrick Griffin and the Three Worlds trilogy by Ned Rust.
After learning Earth is about to be destroyed, 12-year-old Patrick Griffin is on a mission. Under the protection of a powerful griffin, Patrick and his friend Oma travel through abandoned cities on the planet Ith, hiding from the enemy while they work out a plan to overthrow the alternate world's sinister government.
Back on Earth, the gigantic jackalope Mr. BunBun and nine adorable numbats race to warn humans about impending doom. But time is running out. The evil Rex Abraham is back on Ith and will stop at nothing to continue his domination of the Three Worlds.
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Hide, Rabbit, Hide
Mr. BunBun had defeated one and fooled three, but surviving five of Rex's assassins was going to be tough. Especially running blind like this. Well, not literally blind — he had no trouble seeing the gray, rainy, swampy, garbage-strewn forest around him — but data-wise everything had gone dark. No more Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE, and no more GPS. No more binky.
The device had come with him from Ith. It sometimes resembled a smartphone, but it folded open, folded smaller, could be placed over your eyes like a virtual reality visor, and could generate holographs. It was really, Bun-Bun had to admit, a marvel of technology. You could spend your entire life without one and think you were happy and fine. But pick one up, and by the time you thought to put it down, it was too late. You were a full-blown addict — all panicky and insecure whenever you were deprived even for an afternoon!
His desperation was all the worse because the little device had saved his life twice in the few days since he'd arrived on Earth. And, given how this morning was going, he was going to need some lifesaving again very shortly.
But he'd had to give it up. He'd been very careful, kept a low profile, had only gone on the network when he'd absolutely had to. He'd kept his encryption protocols running the entire time and never accessed the grid from the same exact place or with the same service provider twice. But Rex's people had somehow identified his signal and were now coming for him.
And so, in a city called Yonkers, he'd activated the Red Herring app his friends on Ith had installed and had stuck the binky in the back of a cheesecake truck. The app would have it repeatedly do Internet searches for Rex Abraham, deacons, and purge, terms that would surely further draw the attention of his pursuers, as the truck made its deliveries.
The ploy might buy some time and distance, but it wouldn't be a permanent reprieve. His enemies were too resourceful and numerous, and he was too resourceless and alone.
And there were far too many cameras. Sooner or later he'd be spotted by a traffic or security cam, a smartphone, a surveillance vehicle or drone. And then, in a matter of moments, his image would be uploaded onto the network and identified and — ping-click-bang — his mission to make it to the center of New York City and save the Earth would come to a hasty end.
He had a sudden impulse to sit down and cry, but one of his favorite entries from The Book of Commonplace — the curated collection of practical and spiritual wisdom from across the three worlds — came to him.
He whispered the line aloud: "'If you don't act like there's hope, there is no hope.'"
He chided himself. Yes, he was a stranger in an imperiled land, running toward a goal that might be impossible, running away from an organization of killers about to murder billions of people. But was he therefore supposed to give up? Was he supposed to sit on his furry tail and wait for something bad to happen? Or exert himself and have the same bad something happen anyway?
Another Commonplace line came to him then: "Heroes are ready to fail so as not to quit. Cowards are ready to quit so as not to fail." He whispered it aloud, too, then charged up the next hill, pumping his heavy, wet-furred arms and legs.
Through the forest's just-budding branches, he spotted a six-lane highway ahead and a footbridge off to the right. He paused and removed a burr clinging to his left shoulder. Then he aimed his antlered head at the bridge and bounded down the slope.
He didn't notice the two early-morning joggers till he was nearly upon them. The first screamed like she'd seen a rat, and the other, full of New York attitude and vocabulary, yelled, "What the @#$! is that!!?" as she reached for her smartphone. BunBun raced past and dove into the woods on the far side of the bridge.
Praying she hadn't managed to snap his picture, he sprinted up the next wooded hill and soon reached its rocky, graffiti-splattered summit. He gasped as he took in the vista. Past the dew-covered baseball, soccer, Ultimate, and cricket fields of Van Cortlandt Park was the bristling, concrete-and-glass sprawl of one of the biggest cities ever built on any world.
The scale of it was almost too much to accept. There were some very tall towers on Ith, but they were few and far between, not piled up against each other like this. The other thing that struck him was how relatively shoddy and chaotic everything seemed. The buildings and vehicles of Ith were so crisp and sparkly. Here were jagged-looking chimneys, derelict water towers, crooked rooftop antennas, dangling wires, garbage cans overflowing with dirty plastic, trucks with spray-painted sides, cars with dented hoods and missing hubcaps — "Oh no," he said, his eyes spotting a lime-green van. The logo on its side was a large hexagon-headed virus particle. Rainbow-colored letters above and beneath read, KINGAROO Data Solutions: Rebooting the World in Broadband.
A technology truck parked on a busy road in a busy city was of course not alarming in itself, but the virus symbol was exactly the same as the one on the flags and uniforms of Ith. It was Rex's standard.
The slogan, too, fairly stank of the Decimator of Worlds' touch. "The Reboot" was what he and his Deacons had called the destruction of Ith's population four decades ago. And doubtless it would be what Rex and his fascistic followers called the identical disaster they planned for Earth.
BunBun swiveled his big ears like radar dishes and, through the noise of the wakening city, made out purposeful footsteps crunching the dry, dead leaves. Another sound accompanied them — the muted but distinctive whining of a high-amperage portable electronic device.
Every hair on his body stood erect. This was bad.
He needed to find a place to hide, and quickly.
On the morning of Patrick Griffin's thirteenth birthday, all six of his siblings were gathered in the attic room of his oldest sister, Lucie. Them all gathering together without their parents had almost never happened before. Them doing so in Lucie's room had definitely never happened before.
Fourteen-year-old Neil was hunched over Lucie's laptop watching (not searching, which might attract the attention of the people they'd been warned about) for news regarding giant jackalopes or adults with two first names.
Sitting on Lucie's bed were Patrick's second-youngest sister, Carly, reading a yellow Pretty Little Liars paperback, and his second-oldest sister, Eva, browsing Snapchat stories on her cracked-screen iPhone.
Lucie herself stood by the window working at her sketchbook with a piece of charcoal, and the youngest — the four-year-old Twins — played with their plastic dinosaurs and mastodons by the closed closet door.
Although it was a Thursday, there would be no school or sports for any of them today. They were staying home as they had every day that week.
Probably next week they'd all go back to their regular routines. Life had to return to normal, regardless of whether Patrick came home. And they were fairly certain he wouldn't.
The Griffin children had a secret understanding of their brother's situation from Mr. BunBun, the big-antlered rabbit they had met on Monday.
The creature had come from another world, a world called Ith — the very same world where, he said, Patrick had just been sent.
It was all too crazy to believe. But when you hear something like this from a giant talking jackalope with a futuristic, holograph-projecting smartphone, somehow the insanity of it seems less than completely insane.
His device — a "binky," he called it — had played them mind-blowing images and videos of this other world. It was a world inhabited by people whose eyes were too big and ears too small, who wore lots of makeup (even men and children), who wore foot-gloves rather than regular shoes, and who lived in windowless houses with sheep and goats on their grass-covered roofs. There were pristine forests, sky-cars, stratosphere-touching skyscrapers, flying drones, and six-wheeled delivery robots.
BunBun had then showed them grainy pictures of bombed-out cities, workslaves wearing blue collars, and scary figures in hooded robes called Deacons who were the surgically enhanced rulers of the world and were all known by two first names — Sabrina Kim, Helen Kelly, Matthew Roy, and so on.
Finally, there were photos, videos, and holographs of the world's exalted leader, Rex Abraham.
The man's close-set eyes, pouty lips, and dimpled chin reminded Eva of Dr. Schoen, the Griffin family orthodontist. Neil agreed that might be so but pointed out that, from the neck down, his muscular build more resembled that of J. J. Watt, the famous football player. (Dr. Schoen had skinny arms and a belly that pressed in on your shoulder when he checked your braces.) They all agreed, at any rate, that this Rex was a seriously scary-looking individual.
The big jackalope then went on to tell them that Ith had once been just like Earth but Rex and his two-first-name accomplices had taken over and killed everybody over the age of three. Over the following decades, Rex and his people had rebuilt this other world into the tightly controlled, high-tech surveillance state that it was today.
But if Ith was more technologically advanced than Earth, it was also more fantastical. Last of all, BunBun showed them pictures of monsters and creatures even more strange than his jackalope self — giants, dragons, talking balls of light, unicorns, sea monsters — and told them these creatures still lived on Ith, and that they once had on Earth, too.
"So you're saying," Lucie had said, "the reason we have legends and stories about dragons and ogres and stuff is that there actually used to be some of them here on Earth?" "It's hard to say," the rabbit had replied, "because Rex has already so doctored your world's history, but yes, I believe there used to be quite a lot of us here. And there may in fact be a few of us left. Obviously ones who are very good at hiding."
Travel Light, Travel at Night
They traveled after the sun went down; they traveled by air; they traveled west. They traveled toward a destination they hoped would be among the last places the Deacons would look for them; they traveled with a nagging fear it might be the first.
Oma and Patrick, riding on the back of My-Chale, the griffin, the leader of the Commonplacers, were headed to the ruins of a northwestern American city called Seattle, another location the Deacons were still in the slow, methodical process of dismantling, erasing from the face of the planet.
My-Chale said there was somebody important they needed to meet there. Somebody named Ivan Dunn.
All Patrick knew was that he hoped it would be warmer in Seattle than it was here over the scrubby hills of what had once been the state of Wyoming.
My-Chale, being a griffin, had fur and feathers to ward off the cold. Patrick and Oma, meanwhile, only had their way-too-thin camouflage bodysuits and a tattered, grease-stained tarp they were using as a blanket. They'd found it in the back of an abandoned garage they'd stopped in earlier that night. It smelled of motor oil, mildew, and something much worse.
Another wave of goose bumps migrated up Patrick's arms as he stared off into the night.
Below, barely visible in the light of the just-risen moon, the rusting hulk of an old-fashioned tanker truck had trapped tumbleweeds the way a tide-stranded log at the beach gathers seaweed.
It had been more than four decades since anybody had lived out here.
A yellow-orange glow flared in the northern sky.
"What was that?" Patrick turned and asked Oma.
But she was asleep.
"A collar camp, most likely," said My-Chale, craning his enormous eagle head back over his shoulder. He'd done this before, and it made Patrick nervous. Like when his grandmother turned around to talk while she was driving.
"Oh," said Patrick. Collar camps were where they sent "belties," prisoners of the government. The Deacons placed people they didn't like in body-controlling collars, just as they did with service animals. There were no power lawn mowers or hedge trimmers on Ith. Remote-controlled goats, sheep, cows, llamas, and even squirrels kept their gardens, yards, and arboretums neat.
Collared humans didn't do yard work, however. The Deacons sent them off on secret details. The regular people of Ith knew about them — among the unkind children of Ith, the term belty was employed much as loser was on Earth — but, like prisoners in most societies, they were kept away from the regular citizenry.
"Out here it's probably a mining operation," continued the griffin. "Or maybe even a former military site. Those tend to be high-value reclamation targets."
More than forty years after the pandemic that had decimated Ith's population, the Deacons were still dismantling and recycling the massive remains of the former world. Patrick had seen them taking down the abandoned husk of Ith's version of New York City just two days ago.
"Are these the Rockies?" asked Patrick, eyeing the moonlit snow on a peak maybe twenty miles ahead. They seemed to have finally made it across the bleak western plains.
"Ah, yes," said My-Chale, banking sharply to the right into a steep, boulder-strewn pass. "I hope I remember the directions correctly," he added, and not very reassuringly, as they turned into another steep-walled ravine, then another.
"Right, left, right, right, right, left, left, up and over —" And with that they passed over a granite ridge and into a lake-filled valley.
"There it is," said the griffin.
Patrick looked to where the beast was aiming his massive beak. A sweeping line — too flat and even to be a natural piece of geography — arced across the darkened valley floor. The griffin descended and began to follow the crumbling ties and rusted steel rails of the train tracks, which, maybe two miles distant, disappeared into the mouth of a narrow, crudely hewn tunnel.
They were skimming maybe just a hundred yards above the rails when the griffin pulled in his wings, and Patrick's stomach leapt into his throat. He had that weightless roller-coaster sensation and suddenly felt like he had to pee. Oma jolted awake and dug her fingers into Patrick's sides, screaming like she was falling off a cliff.
"It's okay," Patrick yelled, hoping it really was. The ground was coming up so fast he wondered if My-Chale maybe couldn't see it because he wasn't slowing at all and — The griffin back-flapped his wings, throwing up a cloud of gravel and dirt that made the world disappear. Then all was still, other than the sound of pebbles raining down.
"Sorry about that, Oma," My-Chale said as he straightened up and gave a big sneeze. "Let's hurry inside. Sun will be up soon."
"So we're staying in a train tunnel today, huh?" said Patrick, sliding off the griffin's back and pulling the skin-suit hood up over his face to filter the dust.
"Beats a drainage ditch," said Oma, coughing as she slid down next to him.
Yesterday they'd slept inside a storm culvert running under an abandoned highway. It had been pretty damp, cramped, and smelly. When the sun was up, it was necessary to hide from the sky and its many, many cameras — the Deacons' "sky-eyes," as they called them here.
"Yes, I suppose this will be deluxe in comparison," said My-Chale. He swept his head back and forth, looking for something on the ground. "And you'll enjoy the company, too."
"Company?" asked Patrick.
"Ah, here," said the big griffin.
Patrick and Oma came over to look.
In small white painted letters along the inside of the left rail was a message, just visible in the moonlight. Patrick couldn't make out what it said, but Oma's big eyes apparently had a slightly easier job of it.
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
"A classic," said Oma.
"Yes, it is that," said My-Chale.
"Tonight's marker?" asked Patrick.
My-Chale nodded. Similar quotes from The Book of Commonplace had been left at their past two hideouts, too.
"Hey, what's that light?" asked Oma. Her big eyes were trained down the tunnel ahead of them.
Off in the darkness, a pulsing green-yellow light brightened and soundlessly grew.
"What do you think it is?" asked My-Chale. The playful tone to his voice told Patrick and Oma they shouldn't be alarmed. "What do your eyes and your ears tell you?"
Excerpted from "Patrick Griffin's First Birthday on Ith"
Copyright © 2017 Ned Rust.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART I: POTENTATES,
1. HIDE, RABBIT, HIDE,
2. SECRET UNDERSTANDINGS,
3. TRAVEL LIGHT, TRAVEL AT NIGHT,
4. STRANGE DREAMS,
5. RETURN OF THE KING,
6. FREAKY SQUID DREAMS,
7. DEADBALL PHYSICS,
8. PET SHOP NOISE,
9. LAZARUS INBOUND,
10. IRON MIND, TIRED BLADDER,
11. STILL AS THE GRAVE,
12. SUPERVISORY CAPACITIES,
13. TUNNEL-STRIDERS & PERSON-HIDERS,
14. WHO YOU CALLING A RAT?,
15. BREAKING ROCKS,
16. THE QUICK & THE UNCONSCIOUS,
17. INVISIBILUS REX,
18. PROGRESS REPORTS,
19. ONCE UPON A PAWN,
PART II: PRIMATES,
20. NORTHWEST AIR,
21. OVER THE SIDE,
22. HEATED FRAYS & TRAIN DELAYS,
23. GENIUS MEAT,
24. LEAD INVESTIGATOR,
25. PLAUDITS & PLAUSIBILITIES,
26. ANOTHER JOURNEY BY TRAIN,
27. TRYOUTS FOR THE HUMAN RACE,
28. BACK TO CAMP,
29. CHERCHEZ LE BUNNYMAN,
30. BRIDGE & TUNNEL,
31. FLIGHT CONNECTION,
32. SIGNAL FOUND,
33. JUSTICE BLIND,
34. NINE IF BY WATER,
35. CONVICTS & CALENDRICS,
36. FLUSHED OUT,
37. GUARANTEED PASSAGE,
38. TAKE THE A TRAIN,
39. THE RULES OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION, REFINED,
PART III: PISMIRES,
40. SEE NO EVIL,
41. THE SHORT MARCH,
42. A CHEMIST, A LIBRARIAN & AN EIGHTH GRADER,
44. BAD NOISES,
45. BUNKER BUNKUM,
46. GENERAL ADMISSION, GENERAL ALARM,
47. FEED KILL,
48. HOSTILE BOARDERS,
49. EXPEDIENT EXIGENCIES,
50. FRIENDS ON THE FORCE,
51. CENTRAL PARK STEEPLECHASE,
52. SEE YOU LATER, TRANSUBSTANTIATOR,
53. PRELUDE TO ANOTHER VANISHING,
54. FOREIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION,
56. BUNKER HILL MASSACRE,
58. ALIVE & ALONE,
59. OPERATION CAMEL DROP,
60. LITTLE DRUMMER BOY,
61. HEALING HANDS,
THE TWELVE TENETS OF REX ABRAHAM,
ALSO BY NED RUST,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,