Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that's crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.
One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at homeif they can even get home!
In his most propulsive and heartfelt book yet, acclaimed author Barry Lyga explores the depths of friendship, the bonds of family, and the nature of the universe itself.
"Hold onto your seats. We've got adventure and high-stakes horror here that takes us from our world to another. You did it, Barry. This is the novel you were meant to write."
--R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps and Fear Street
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Secret Sea
By Barry Lyga
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2016 Barry Lyga
All rights reserved.
Zak Killian knew it was crazy, but there were days — like this one — when he thought he might have a guardian angel.
He knew there was no such thing, of course. Guardian angels were superstition, like black cats causing bad luck. "Garbage," his dad called it. "Nonsense."
Still, even though he knew it was either garbage or nonsense, Zak couldn't help occasionally fantasizing that there was someone — something, maybe? — watching over him. Trying to protect him from harm.
It could only "try" because it was an angel, ethereal, incorporeal. It couldn't touch the world or interact with it. It could only advise him, whispering in a voice high and breathy. Warning him away from danger. It had never steered him wrong, this disembodied voice.
This voice that sounded like his own.
The voice sounding like his own sort of made sense if you stopped to think about it. Which he often did, like today, on the subway on his own for the first time.
He had finally persuaded his parents to let him take the subway to school when it started again in the fall, and this day was his summertime dry run. His parents were so overprotective it was ridiculous. Probably because he was an only child.
Well, and there was his health problem, too.
Zak placed one hand on his chest and the other tight against his ear. He listened to the thrumming, rushing bellow of his heart. So like the ocean.
He couldn't hear or feel anything amiss, but his doctors assured him there was indeed something wrong with his heart. "Nothing we can't control," they said. "If you listen and take your medicine and watch your diet, you're going to live a long, happy life."
Now he closed his eyes for a moment, letting the rocking motion of the subway soothe him. It was like a boat, in a way. With his eyes closed, he could almost hear gulls screaming against the wind, the snap-hiss of sailcloth. ...
The train squealed and ground to a halt, jolting him out of his fantasy. And good thing, too. He'd been dreaming of boats for a month now. How weird was that? To the best of Zak's knowledge, he'd never been on a boat in his life. After the third or fourth dream of riding the waves, he'd asked his mother.
"Mom, have I ever been on a boat?"
Zak's mother had been packing her suitcase for the week she would spend out of the apartment while Dad lived with Zak. At first, distracted, she'd misunderstood, saying, "You want a boat? What on earth do you need a boat for?" And then, before he could clarify, she'd blown a stray golden-brown hair out of her eyes and chuckled and said, "No, wait, I'm sorry. I didn't — have you ever been on a boat?" She planted her fists on her hips like a comic book superhero, something she often did when she was deep in thought.
"I don't think so," she said after a moment or two. "There was one time when you were little — we were going to take the ferry to Governors Island, but ..." She drifted off and shrugged, her expression sad.
Zak wondered if "we" included his father, or if they'd been fighting and divorce-bound even then. At twelve-going-on-thirteen, he was old enough and wise enough to recognize when he shouldn't push her for more information. He didn't need the whisper of a guardian angel to know that much.
So. No boats. What accounted for the dreams, then?
That question would have to wait. The train had stopped, and Zak had to get off in lower Manhattan. This wasn't his final stop, but it was where he needed to transfer from the 6 train to the R, which would take him back home to Brooklyn. The 6-to-R routine would be his daily commute home once school started up again in a few weeks. Today, he'd managed to get from Prospect Park in Brooklyn all the way to Wellington Academy in midtown Manhattan with no glitches. Now it was just a matter of reversing the route.
He shuffled out of the train with a cluster of commuters and made his way to the far end of the platform. When he arrived at his final destination, he would want to be on the first car because that would get him closer to the exit that was nearest to home. He was proud of himself for figuring this out. His dry run would be a total success.
"They call it a dry run," Dad had told him, "because firefighters used to practice drills without using water. So that was a dry run, and when they needed to use water, that was a wet run."
Dad was full of obscure facts like that. It came with being a history professor.
But his dry run hadn't been totally without glitches.
After arriving at Wellington Academy, he'd lingered for a few minutes, not wanting to turn around and go home after just arriving. He was alone in the city for the first time ever. So he'd wandered into the bodega across the street from Wellington Academy. It had a sign that read MOST EXCELLENT GOODS AND FOOD, which sounded — let's be honest — pretty freaking awesome. He and Moira and Khalid had wanted to go inside for as long as they could remember, but they'd always been accompanied by parents or teachers, none of whom ever wanted to slip inside and sample the possibly forbidden delights of the store.
This had been his chance.
He'd gone inside and roamed the store's aisles for a couple of minutes ... which was all the time it took, because the place was tiny and packed tight. Disappointingly, there was nothing really "most excellent" about the goods or the food. It was all stuff you could find in any store.
Still, he'd fished around in his pocket for a buck's worth of quarters and bought a small bag of gummi bears. Then, satisfied with his rebellious individuality, he'd left the store and headed back to the subway.
The voice of his guardian angel. The voice of his garbage and nonsense.
Standing by the subway entrance had been a tall man in a long black coat. There was nothing strange or off about him, but when Zak had focused on him, the voice — so high, so young — had said again, No.
Maybe there was something wrong about the man. The black coat, in such hot, humid weather ... And why was he just loitering by the subway? He didn't look like he was waiting for someone. Usually people fiddled with their cell phones or read a book or did something while waiting. This guy was just ... there.
Zak had gnawed at his lower lip, then he'd waited for the light on Lexington Avenue to change and crossed the street to enter the subway there instead. As he waited for the train, he'd looked around for the man in black. Nothing. He'd felt a well of relief when he got on the train and the doors closed safely behind him.
And now, standing on a different platform, Zak heard the voice again. It said ...
Well, that was crazy. What did that mean?
The sound of the train interrupted his thoughts. It was coming down the tunnel, but something sounded wrong. Instead of the clanking bash of the subway, that mechanical and rattling echo, he heard something different. It was a whisper rising to a roar.
Run, the voice in his head said again. It didn't shout; it just insisted. Run now.
He couldn't help it — a charge of absolute terror ran through him, borne on the words from the guardian angel. Something was coming. Something awful.
"Get out of here!" he yelled to the others on the platform. "We have to get out of here! Something's going to —"
Something splashed against him. His calves and shoes were suddenly cold and wet.
He looked up just in time to see a gushing wall of water filling the subway tunnel.
And then the screams started.CHAPTER 2
Zak would have stood frozen, rooted to that spot on the platform, if not for the guardian angel's voice continuing to urge him on. He spun and dashed around a column, then scrambled up the steps as fast as his legs could churn, leaving wet footprints on the concrete. At the top of the stairs, he paused for a single instant to catch his breath, then launched himself through the turnstile and fled up another flight of stairs and into the summer sunshine.
He realized that he had no idea where he was. Somewhere in lower Manhattan. On his way to Wellington Academy, he'd stayed underground in the subway station the whole time. Now he hadn't just lost his bearings; he'd never had them to begin with.
Pacing in a widening circle, he scanned the area for a cop, a firefighter, anyone with any kind of authority. No one else had run with him up the stairs. No one else had followed.
All that water ... All of those people, drowning right now ...
"Help!" Zak screamed to the pedestrians all around him. "The subway's flooding! Help!"
Most of the people on the sidewalk — even the ones not on their cell phones or plugged into earbuds — ignored him. Of the ones who didn't, most glanced in his direction, then kept walking.
But one guy — a big guy in jeans and a white T-shirt — stopped and cocked his head at Zak.
"What did you just say?"
"It's flooding down there!" Zak could hardly catch his breath. "A huge wave just came down the tunnel and —"
That was enough for the man, who pulled his cell phone from his pocket and ran to the subway entrance. He paused halfway down the stairs to turn back and point a threatening finger at Zak. "Do not come down here!" he ordered, then continued down the steps, barking into his phone the whole time.
Zak was trapped in a nightmare, one of the really bad ones where you're experiencing one thing but you're aware of something terrible and awful happening at the same time, not far away. Up here, in the open air, it seemed like just another too-hot summer day, with everyone going about their business as usual. Down below ...
He tried not to picture the platform overrun with water. Tried not to imagine dead bodies floating up near the ceiling.
The sensation of being on a boat rushed him, and he swayed, grabbing the stairwell handrail for balance. He could feel water in his lungs. ... How long he stood there, clinging to the handrail, he did not know, but when he opened his eyes, the man who'd run into the station was coming up the stairs, glaring at Zak as though Zak had personally run his puppy through a shredder.
"How bad is it?" Zak choked out.
"Not bad at all," the man said, fuming. To his phone, he said, "Yeah, never mind," then slipped it into his pocket.
Never mind? What was wrong with this guy?
"Are you crazy?" Zak demanded. "People are dying! Aren't you, like, a cop or something?"
"No, I'm with Con Ed." When Zak said nothing, the man said, "The power company. I saw nasty stuff a while back when Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan. I thought we were seeing something like that again. Thanks for getting my heart rate up, kid."
"What do you mean? Do something!"
"There's nothing to do, and you know it." The man kept coming up the stairs until he towered over Zak. "This stuff isn't funny."
Only he didn't say "stuff."
Zak trembled. He didn't understand what the man was getting at. He'd seen the water with his own eyes. Heard it with his own ears. He'd ...
"You know what? I'm gonna teach you a lesson," the man said, and then clamped his fingers around Zak's wrist and dragged him down the stairs.
Zak thought of screaming but was too surprised to do so.
Down in the tunnel, where he'd expected to see a dirty aquarium of death, he saw instead the receding lights of the N train and some leftover straphangers loitering on the platform.
On the dry platform.
Well, almost dry. Where Zak had been standing was a shallow puddle, steadily fed from a smallish stream of water overhead.
"But —" he began.
"But nothing. This how you get your kicks when school's out for the summer? Joking about this?" The man pointed up.
Zak followed his gesture. Above them a pipe sagged slightly, broken at a weld seam. That was the source of the water.
A broken pipe.
A broken pipe?
"But I saw —" And my guardian angel said ...
"Ever hear of the boy who cried wolf? Do they even teach you stuff like that these days?" Again, he didn't really say "stuff."
"What's your name?" the man demanded. "Where are your parents?"
In mere moments, Zak went from terror to relief and back to terror. At first he'd been afraid that the man would hurt him. But people who are going to hurt you don't usually want to call your parents. And then he realized that he was about to be in a huge amount of trouble.
The next thing he knew, the Con Ed man was dropping him off at home. And the next thing he knew after that, he was sitting in the living room of his apartment with his parents staring at him from the sofa.
It was weird seeing his parents in a room together. Each week they exchanged grim little smiles and terse words of advice as they swapped out of the apartment where Zak lived, but that was the sum total of their interactions these days. Until now, when Zak brought them together.
"What went through your head?" Dad asked. He was the more even-keeled one. The calmer one. Professor of history and African American studies. Mom had the temper. "A little thing like some water and you go screaming about a flood? Are we supposed to let you go to school on your own when you can't even keep your wits about you when a pipe breaks?"
I saw it! Zak wanted to say, but didn't. Because, yeah, he'd seen the platform about to flood — had seen it with his own eyes.
But he'd also seen it utterly not flooded with those same eyes. As much as he wanted to believe that the station — and everyone in it — had been in danger, he couldn't deny the evidence.
"You can't go panicking like that," Mom said. "Your heart can't handle that kind of stress."
"I thought ..." He stopped. He didn't know what to say. "I guess I thought I saw something. I made a mistake."
"You thought. You saw. Something." Mom. Biting into her words like undercooked pasta.
"You know those signs everywhere? 'If you see something, say something?' I thought I saw something."
"You thought you saw a flood, Zak. Not a package or a suitcase left on the platform." Dad folded his arms over his chest.
"No one thinks they see a flood," Mom said, not even looking at Dad. "You don't say, 'Is that a flood over there? Oops, no.' What's really going on here?"
Zak struggled. He didn't know what to say. He'd never been a good liar — Moira had a much better imagination, and Khalid was more convincing — so he usually tried to stick to the truth. But the truth wasn't going to help him in this case. He'd already told them everything except for —
Run. Run now.
— the bit about his guardian angel's voice. And he didn't think that part would help him.
Besides, his guardian angel had been totally wrong this time.
Garbage and nonsense. Dad was right.
"I thought I saw a flood," he said, his voice shrinking with every word. "I don't know what else to tell you. I thought the tunnel was flooded and it was coming toward us. Why else would I go running like that?"
Mom muttered something in Spanish, which she usually did only after being on the phone with La-La. The words were unfamiliar to Zak, whose Spanish was passable, so that meant they were probably swear words.
Dad shot a glare at Mom. He didn't speak much Spanish, but he knew the bad words pretty well.
"Am I punished?" Zak asked, even though he knew the answer already.
"Are you kidding me?" Dad asked. "I can't believe you even need to ask that question."
"You are so punished," Mom said, "that I don't even know what the punishment is yet. I am —" She broke off, sighed, then said, "We are so angry at you right now that we can't even begin to imagine an appropriate punishment."
So maybe we just skip the punishment this time, Zak thought, but was way too smart to say out loud. His parents wouldn't appreciate the humor. Not now.
"Go to your room," Dad ordered. Zak nearly jumped out of his chair at the opportunity to get away from his angry parents. "Your mother and I will figure out a fitting punishment."
"And then we'll double it!" Mom shouted as Zak disappeared into the hallway.
Zak flung himself onto his bed with all the outrage he could muster. He didn't deserve to be punished. He'd seen something. He'd heard something.
Excerpted from The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga. Copyright © 2016 Barry Lyga. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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.