King of the Universe
The Second Junior Chronicles Chronicle
by Robert Alan Silverstein
Illustrated by Vineet Siddhartha

Chapter 1. Front Page News

Did I ever tell you about the time they made me King of the Universe?

It’s true. I’ve got the crown and everything to prove it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. It’ll be in all the history books. Believe me.

Oh, uh...in case you’re trying to check it out, it only happened last Thursday, so it might be a while before it makes it into the records.

Anyway, like I was saying... It really all started last Thursday. I’d slept through my alarm again. Muffy was licking my face, trying to get me to wake up. She purred louder and louder, but I slept on.

"Let me sleep," I yawned and nudged her away.

"Junior, you’re going to be late for school again!" Muffy meowed and rubbed her furry head against my nose.

"JUNIOR, you’re going to be late for school again!" my sister Ellie yelled, sticking her head in my door.

I jumped up in the bed and Muffy flew onto the floor.

"Oy!" Muffy sighed as she landed on her feet.

"Sorry about that, kiddo," I yawned, trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes.

"WHATEVER," Muffy meowed and started cleaning her fur. "Better get the paper, it’s starting to beep out there on your windowsill!" she said without looking up.

Huh? Oh, you’re wondering why my cat Muffy can talk. Well, that’s another story. Remind me to tell you that one sometime. But for now, just take my word for it. My cat talks. Whew, can that cat talk!

Anyway, back to last Thursday.

I couldn’t care less about that newspaper out on the windowsill. Someone had been delivering it every day for years. I never paid for it and I never read it. And I certainly didn’t have time that morning! But that weird beeping sound it was making would definitely annoy the neighbors while I was at school.

I dashed over and threw up the window, grabbed the paper and tossed it on the bed while I pulled my shirt on. It continued to beep. The papers had never done that before. Flashed strange colors, yes. But they never beeped.

"Muffy, can you just toss it in the closet with all the others," I pleaded.

My cat looked up at me with a funny smirk. "Yeah, right..." she laughed and went back to cleaning herself. "You know you really better read those papers someday. One of these days you’re going to be tested on all those current events you aren’t keeping up with."

"Yeah, yeah," I groaned and grabbed the paper. I ran over to the closet and opened it. I was just about to toss in the new paper, when a thousand or so beeping-flashing newspapers crashed down on me and knocked me to the floor.

I struggled to climb over the slippery neon-colored plastic-wrapped papers. The beeping and flashing was driving me crazy. "Maybe if you opened one of them they’d stop!" Muffy roared over the noise.

I was still holding the latest paper and I tore open the flashing wrapper. Sure enough the thousand beeps stopped beeping and the blinding lights stopped flashing.

"MILKY WAY GAZETTE..." the masthead said.

The headline caught my eye right away. "JUNIOR, THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO BE KING OF THE UNIVERSE."

"Hmm..." It definitely got my attention. Who wouldn’t want to be king of the universe! I read on. "You’ve been chosen by our nominating committee as a candidate for the position of King of the Universe..."

Muffy was peeking over my shoulder. "You have to mail it in TODAY!" she said pointing at the deadline mentioned at the bottom of the article. She reads MUCH faster than me.

"But I have to get to school!" I complained.

"Okay, Your Highness. I’ll fill it out, while you throw all these papers back in the closet. And then you mail it off on your way to school."

I handed Muffy a pen and she got right to work. Meanwhile, I threw the papers in the closet. The funny thing is that each one of them disappeared into thin air as I tossed them. Before I knew it, all the newspapers were gone.

Muffy shrugged when I pointed out what had happened. "Big deal," she mumbled as she handed me the pen. "Sign your Royalness."

I did as I was ordered. Muffy folded up the completed application with her paws and stuck it in a glowing envelope she had found in the newspaper.

"Have a nice day," she laughed as I grabbed the envelope and dashed down the stairs.

Ellie was standing at the bottom of the stairs looking at her watch. "Not a moment to spare!" she sniggered.

"Hey Ell, look at this," I panted holding up the envelope. "They want me to be King of the Universe."

"Whatever," Ellie said, rolling her eyes. She tossed my backpack into my arms. Fumbling, I stuck the letter in my pocket. Then she stuck a bagel in my mouth and picked up her own backpack. "Better get the lead out and get going, your Highnee. Or I'll have to wake Dad to give you a ride."

My eyes widened in horror. Dad's just about the worst driver on the planet and believe me, you do not want to start your day with a hair-pulling, stomach-turning spin in the car with Dad.

Just the thought of it made me feel nauseous. I dashed out the door, running as fast as I could to the bus stop, trying to outrun my previous memories of driving with Dad.

Fortunately, I remembered to stop at the mailbox.

I pulled the envelope out of my pocket and looked down at the neon colored "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IN THIS GALAXY" envelope. "Here goes nothing," I laughed as I popped it in the mailbox. I chuckled and dashed for the bus which was just about to pull away without me, with visions of my Dad driving still dancing in my head.

 

Chapter 2. Taxi to the Stars

I really didn’t think about being King of the Universe TOO much that morning. Well, maybe it did pop into my daydreams a couple of times.

Actually I couldn’t pay attention to anything else. Besides, I kept seeing this yellow-checkered taxi-like thingy out of the corner of my eye, flying past the schoolroom windows. It happened about a hundred times that morning, but every time I blinked there wasn’t anything there.

But then at recess... well ... that’s when the spaceship-taxi came to get me.

I was playing kickball, and man did I kick it. It went up, up and then a yellow-checkered flying saucer swooped down from the sky and swallowed it. The spaceship-cab landed and out stepped... an entirely all too-familiar-but-I-couldn't-place-it-looking really tall cat in a backwards-baseball cap and sunglasses. He tossed the ball over to me.

All the kids stood there with their mouths opened. "Greetings, Dudes," said the cat.

Their mouths opened wider.

"Are you ready for me to take you to become King of the Universe, Junior?" the Cat asked me.

"WOW, King of the Universe!" the kids whispered.

"Um..." I stuttered. "I can’t leave now. My parents will be worried."

My sister stepped forth. "Actually, here’s a permission slip Mom gave me for you."

"Huh?" I gasped. My sister's high school was miles away. How did she get there?

"Here come your parents, now," my best friends, Artie and Merle, pointed out.

There they were, coming from the school parking lot, and there was a whole crowd around them.

"Isn’t that the Mayor?" someone whispered.

"And that’s the President!" someone else gasped.

Everyone’s mouths fell open again.

My Mom and Dad hugged me. "We’re so proud of you son," they said. "King of the Universe!"

"But..." I began.

The Mayor stepped forth. "I knew you could do it, Joey," he roared, pumping my hand up and down.

"Uh...Johnny," I mumbled.

Then the President stepped forward. "Son, make your country proud," he said and he shook my hand.

Then the President introduced the Secretary- General of the United Nations. She shook my hand, too. "Don’t forget about your home planet, Earth. Remember to rule wisely and justly."

"I..." I couldn’t form any words at all. Everything was spinning around.

"But I’m going to a galaxy far, far away..." I finally mumbled. "And the registration said that I’d be King for 1000 years. Won’t you all miss me?"

"Of course we will, dear," my Mom assured me. But you’ll be back before you know it. Just ask the nice Taxi-saucer driver."

The Cat stepped forth. "That’s right, Junior. I drive so fast that time will actually go backwards. And even though you’ll be there for a thousand years, you’ll be back before school’s over today."

"I will?" That didn’t seem to make any sense at all. But everyone around me was nodding as if it was the simplest fact.

"Or my name isn’t Sly!" the Cat insisted.

I guess I’d have to take his word for it, because before I knew what was happening, the Mayor and the President and the Secretary-General lifted me up on their shoulders, and all the kids were singing "For he’s a jolly good fellow." And they brought me to the taxi-saucer and waved, "Good bye, Junior. So long. Be a good and wise and just King."

And then the spaceship door closed and Sly pointed to the three chairs in front of a brightly lit control panel. I looked out through the windshield at everyone waving and then noticed Muffy sitting in one of chairs.

"Muffy!" I gasped. "What are you doing here?"

"Sly and I are old Kitty-Kollege buddies. We go way back. When I found out he was the one bringing you to Cardeckia to rule the Universe, well, I decided to tag along. And I still can't get over how much you've changed," she purred looking over at Sly. "You're so ... muscular now!"

"Protein shakes and five days a week at the gym," he blushed.

Muffy tore her gaze away for a moment to look back at me, "Well, take a seat, pal-o-mine," she said.

"No, no, sit in the Captain's chair," Sly insisted as I headed for the smaller chair next to Muffy. "We'll let you take us out of here."

My mouth widened in a huge excited grin. "Really?" I gasped as I dove for the Captain's chair before he could change his mind.

"Sly!" Muffy gasped. "He's too young!"

"He's thirteen isn't he?" Sly answered, raising his cool sunglasses just a little.

"Yeah, last Sunday, but..." Muffy began.

"And he is going to be King of the Universe..."

"Ooh...ooh... I giggled, fiddling with the knobs and levers and especially the bright shining buttons.

"Ooh...ooh..."

"Whoa, Junior, slow down," Sly gasped, grabbing his glasses before they flew off his head, because the saucer was starting to move forward, and back and sideways, rise off the ground, and plunge back down.

"Whoa..." Sly gasped again as he lunged for the open seat and strapped himself in. He leaned over, strapped me in and pointed at a plain boring lever. "This one..." he gasped. "And take it SLOW..."

I pressed a few more buttons, completely oblivious to the crowd outside that dashed, screaming in fear from one side of the playground to the other, before I looked over at the lever Sly was pointing to. I pulled it nice and slowly. But nothing much seemed to happen. So I pulled it a little harder.

Well, I guess I pulled it a lot harder. Because ... YOWZA! We went flying off so fast I felt like part of me was left behind. Which it was, actually.

 

Chapter 3. King’s Coronation

As it turns out, part of me was left behind. But I didn’t realize it at the time.

You see, we went so much faster than the speed of light, that my shadow was left there on the playground.

He felt mighty embarrassed standing around as everyone was waving goodbye to me, his owner. Fortunately my sister spotted him and brought him home in her backpack. But I didn’t find out about any of this until later. And, actually, it's not even supposed to have anything to do with this story, but it turns out to be important in the end, so I just thought I'd let you know now, although you'll have to wait until then to find out why it's important… sorry about that…

Anyway. Let me get back to where I was...back in the taxi-saucer...

It seemed like we’d just taken off, when we suddenly jolted to a stop. Sly and Muffy undid their seatbelts, breathed a sigh of relief, and then Sly dashed over and pulled me out of the Captain's chair.

My head was spinning a little, but in a good way, and I fell down to the floor laughing.

"You're a worse driver than your father!" Sly screeched. "NEVER AGAIN!" He breathed a few times, readjusted his glasses, and regained some of his Cool-Cat composure. He even started smiling again as he put it all behind him.

"Well, we’re here...Your Highness," Sly said and he took one of my arms. Muffy took the other. They helped me climb up off the floor. My head was still spinning as they escorted me out of the taxi-saucer’s sliding doors into the Grand Palace of Cardeckia.

I’m not sure what I expected Cardeckia to be like. But it was kind of plain. I mean it looked nice, and all, but it was awfully dull. All the buildings were grey. The roads were grey. The hills were grey. The sky was grey. And the people were grey.

Well, they were sort of people. Some of them looked like animals on Earth. Some of them looked like a couple of people stuck together. Some had 2 or 3 heads, some 6 or 8 or a dozen legs. Or 7 ears. Or 3 mouths. You get the picture. Completely different. But all grey.

Grey. Grey. Grey. (Or is it gray? I never could remember which is the right spelling.)

Anyway there was a plush sort-of-red but mostly grey carpet rolled out for me that rolled back up behind us as we walked into the Grand Palace. It stopped rolling when I stopped. It waited politely until I started walking before it started rolling up again.

To be honest, I expected a big coronation awaiting inside. Instead, as we reached these giant grey doors, I was handed a crown (a grey shade of gold, of course), a scepter with a grey stone on top, and a grey robe with a BIG K on it.

"Congratulations, your Highness," a pair of grey three-headed guards said unexcitedly, at the entrance to the door as I put my Kingly garb on. "The Ministers of the Universe are waiting for you," they droned on as they opened the giant doors.

"Well, I guess they don’t believe in ceremonies," I mumbled as I stepped inside. "But at least now we’ll get down to business and I can start ruling the universe."

The doors closed behind me as I stepped inside. It was a giant room (grey, of course) with a small square grey card table in the center. The three Ministers turned to look as I came in, but they didn’t get up from their seats. "Greetings, Your Kingness. Shall we begin," they said together in very dull grey voices.

To be honest their almost-normal appearance took me by surprise. The three Ministers looked like regular people. Well, almost. They did have these giant cards attached to their backs. One was a Jack, one a Queen and one an Ace.

The Ace, Queen and Jack pointed at the fourth empty seat and I walked over and sat down.

Then they dealt out some cards.

 

Chapter 4. Cards, cards and more cards

I didn’t know what to say. Had I traveled a couple hundred million miles just to play a card game? I mean I like playing cards. I’m pretty good, actually. But...

"Are you bidding?" the Queen to my left asked.

"Uh, what are we playing?"

"Euchre," she said.

Fortunately, Uncle Mike had taught me how to play Euchre. It had been a while, but as I recalled, I was pretty good. "Okay..." I said taking a peek at my cards.

Suddenly I had the strangest feeling. It was as if my decision about what to name trump would affect the lives of billions of living creatures on some distant planet.

Sounds weird, I know, but I'd never been more sure of anything in my life. I started to panic. The sweat started to bead on my forehead. I could see in my mind's eye millions of people holding their breaths, hoping I'd make the right decision.

Absently I pulled out a stick of gum and started chewing. I always chew gum when I play cards. Suddenly I started to feel better. More self-confident. I wasn't going to let the pressure get to me. "Spades!" I said boldly, in between chomps on the gum.

All three of the Universal Cards put their hands over their ears. "What’s that horrible sound!" they gasped.

"Um... I’m just chewing some gum..." I said quietly as I noticed them all starting at me."

"You chew like a MilkyWay-Cow."

"Sorry...want a piece?"

"NO!" they each bellowed. "Chew more quietly."

I tried, but it wasn’t quiet enough. They apparently couldn’t concentrate. And then when I started blowing bubbles... They went ballistic!

The Ace was my partner for a few games. We beat their pants off every time. With each victory, I could feel the surge of millions of joyful sighs of relief welling up from some unknown corner of the universe and bubbling up inside me. I felt more confidence. More assured that we were winning some important universal victory.

Ace was feeling good, too. I don't think he was feeling the vibes I was getting, but he liked winning. "Hey, Kingy, I’ll try one of those pieces of gum, please," he said boldly, ignoring the Queen's nasty stare.

He sure enjoyed the gum as much as I did. The Queen and Jack were starting to wilt after a while. They started looking a little grey. They were so upset, they couldn’t even win a hand.

"That’s it!" the Queen screeched. "Change partners. Ace, you’re with me."

Jack and I then proceeded to beat them every single game, and with each victory the roar of happiness inside me grew even stronger, as if another and another and another world had been saved.

Ace popped bubbles with his gum in disappointment. Defeat didn't feel so good, but the gum took the edge off it a bit.

It wasn’t long before Jack was chewing up a storm, too. After a few hundred games or so, Queen demanded we change partners again. She and I were unstoppable. And before long, even she was chewing away on a stick of gum.

We played and played and played. Whoever I was with won. Everyone fought over me. Then we played pinochle. And bridge. Black Jack. And crazy eights. And poker. And rummy. Gin. Casino. Canasta.

We played and played and played. And I won every game. I felt unstoppable, confident that before long, my victories would free every fettered soul and every unhappy heart in the universe.

But the Card-Ministers didn't seem to notice that the games were connected to anything else except whether they were on the winning or the losing team. Each of them wanted desperately to win, just because they wanted to win. They argued louder and louder about who would be my partner, since I seemed to win every game.

Then they started to argue about who could blow the biggest bubble. They proceeded with their contest, blowing impressive bubbles, which naturally popped all over them.

Did you ever get gum on some cards? Then you know how stuck together the three Card Ministers got. They struggled to unstick themselves and they stuck to the table. They struggled some more and got stuck to the floor. It wasn’t long before they were stuck high up on the grey ceiling.

"Guards!" they screeched, get that King out of here!!!"

The pair of three-headed guards burst into the room and started dragging me down the hall. The really strange thing is that I should have been worried that they’d take me to a dull grey dungeon where I’d be in chains living on stale bread and dirty water for the rest of my thousand year reign as King of the Universe. But instead I felt a great sadness that I wouldn't be able to free more enslaved worlds.

A wave of grey sadness washed over me as the guards dragged me further and further from the card table. I didn't notice it at first, but the weirdest thing was happening to me with each sigh of sadness I breathed as they dragged me away. After each depressing exhale, I was forgetting to breathe in, and pretty soon I was feeling, well, pretty card-like. King of Hearts-card-like, if you catch my drift. Do I need to spell it out? I was turning into a card! But you know what, I didn't even care.

Fortunately Sly and Muffy were waiting around the corner and they were each holding 3 lollipops in their hands.

"You boys wanna lollipop?" Muffy asked.

"Yeah, yeah!" the six guard-heads panted. Six lollipops were tossed in the air. While the fourteen guard-hands were grabbing for them, my two Cat-friends grabbed me, and holding my cardboard edges between them, flipped me up into the air. Up, up I went and then sailed straight into the cab. Muffy and Sly dashed in and then we blasted out of there so fast, the whole deck-of-cards-palace tumbled down.

 

Chapter 5. Oops, Wrong Universe

And so, that's how I became King of the Universe. Only problem was, turns out we'd gone to the wrong universe.

"I don't get it..." I muttered after we were far away from Cardeckia and I was feeling more like myself, but still a little bent at the edges. "Is the secret to the universe nothing more than the fact that there is some crazy card game, played by dull-lifeless cardplayers that only want to win their game and have no idea they're affecting the lives of billions of living creatures?"

"Whoa! That's Deep!" Muffy marveled.

Sly only chuckled. "Nah," he assured me as he banged on the controls at the dashboard with his paw. "Oh, well actually, looks like that is the secret to the universe. That universe, anyway. Looks like we went to the wrong one."

"Huh?" I stared. "Wrong what?"

"Universe, silly," he laughed.

"Huh?" I said again, totally confused.

"Look, it was a computer malfunction," Sly said while he banged on the control panel again.

The control panel beeped a few times in protest. Sly gave it another good bang. "Now, you cut that out!" the control panel exclaimed. "First of all, I don't malfunction!" It insisted. "Second of all, I'm not 'a computer', I'm Joe_Computer-5 - a LEVEL 5 ultimate computer's computer!"

Sly rolled his eyes and banged on it yet again. "Anyway, Caredeckia was the seat of some strange universe where the course of millions and millions of planets are determined by an endless card game," Sly said and turned a few knobs, obviously still struggling with Joe_Computer-5. "Looks like you did a nice job saving a big chunk of that universe," he marveled as he scrolled down the text on a screen on the dashboard.

I couldn't help feeling proud.

"Only problem," Sly continued, "is that this darned computer..."

"Joe_Computer-5!!!!" the computer reminded him.

"Uh, huh ... well, good ol' Joe here seems to have some kind of virus..."

"DO NOT!" the computer insisted. "Although there is a piece of lint caught in one of my circuits that sort of tickles every now and then…" he admitted.

Sly sighed and rolled his eyes. "Anyway, we were supposed to go to..." He banged on the panel yet again, then pulled his hand back quickly, licking the fur on the back of his paw. "Hey, the darn thing bit me!" he mumbled.

Joe_Computer-5 chuckled before reluctantly displaying something on the screen. "Okay, here's where we were supposed to go," Sly started, still licking his paw as he peered down at the screen. "Um, Wardeckia?" Sly read uncertainly.

Joe_Computer-5 giggled in a strangely mischievous tone that started to make me rather suspicious. But I didn't have time to complete the thought, because before that nanosecond had passed we rocketed sideways so fast my socks fell off.

Which was some trick, since my sneakers were still on.

Sure wish I'd changed my socks that morning. Maybe then I wouldn't have gotten into the eensy-weensy, tiny little spot of trouble we ended up in on Wardeckia. Oops. My bad.

 

Chapter 6. Tiny bit of trouble

Yeah. The 'tiny bit of trouble comment.' That's about me, not the hugely monumental predicament we ended up in. That was a royal-pain-in-the-butt!

Yeah. I'd better explain. You see, my nasty-smelling socks got to Wardeckia a couple sniffs after we did. By the smell of them, they took a few mucky detours, cause, honest my socks never smell that bad! Well, almost, but this was ... really bad!

Okay, so picture this. We land on Wardeckia.

I should say we practically crashed, because, let's just say it was a pretty nerve-wracking, nail-biting landing ... Joe_Computer-5 thought it would be funny to see what would happen if it electronically switched the gas pedal and brake, and then after Sly'd figured out what it did, switch them back again, and again, and again. Fortunately, before we crashed into Wardeckia, Sly rewired the saucer to bypass the control panel completely.

"Oh, no ... I'll be good, honest...." Joe_Computer-5 whined and then was silent as Sly coasted manually toward the planet's surface.

"He can hotwire anything!" Muffy purred proudly, looking up from the yarn ball she'd been knitting. Maybe she wasn't worried, but I was sweating buckets. (And in hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have emptied the buckets out the window. You'll see why in a second…)

So, we landed on this weird hill. I mean the hill itself wasn't that weird, but on one side of it everything was blue. I'm serious. EVERYTHING! The grass, the trees, the sky the animals and people - everything. And on the other side of the hill everything was just as yellow.

And standing on their respective sides of this hill there were these two pretty-angry looking Serf-Lords, one with a completely blue army with blue flags waving proudly; one with a yellow army. Oh, and these guys were huge. I mean, I barely came up to their ankles.

Oh, and each of the Serf-Lords was completely drenched, and they didn't look too happy about it! I let the two empty sweat-buckets I'd still been carrying behind my back roll down the hill before they could see them.

Unfortunately, everyone did turn suspiciously when the buckets rolled under the feet of a poor "little" girl and boy who'd been coming up the hill, causing them to tumble back down. (I say little because they were young. But they were at least twice my height.) "I'm Okay!" the blue boy called, "I've still got the crown." But then the yellow girl came tumbling after and landed on it. "Oops, sorry I broke your crown, Jack!" she moaned, rubbing her head.

And that's why one of the crowns up there on my shelf, back home is cracked in half.

But I digress. Back on Wardeckia, as I was saying, the two giant Serf-Lords were trying extra hard not to get upset about the buckets of sweat that had been poured over their heads, or the broken crown. Or the fact that they'd already interviewed forty-six million King applicants that morning. Looking up I could see the other contestants' spaceships fading away into the distance like little tiny bubbles. They looked so pretty drifting up into the blue sky on one side, and the yellow sky on the other.

Obviously I wasn't paying attention to the two scribes who'd been sing-songing the wonderful tale of Wardeckia's long history.

That is until I head two things. First I heard the scribes say my Dad's name. And then Sly was elbowing me out of my daydreaming, saying, "Junior, that's your Dad in their history books!"

Then I paid attention. Or I tried to for a few minutes, anyway, but the guys were so boring in the way they recited it. (And wouldn't you be, too, if you'd already said the same schpeel 46 million times in one morning.) Turns out a hundred million years ago, my Dad and his Shadow, saved two warring Universes, uniting them into the twin universe of Wardeckia. But a hundred million years later, the universes were drifting apart again and they needed someone to save them. One and only one was destined to be the Second and Future King.

Okay, lots of stuff about the story had me as confused as I'm sure you are. Twin Universes. A hundred million years ago? My Dad's Shadow? And by the way, I thought a royal feast was supposed to be part of this king-me ceremony. When was lunch?

That's what I was thinking when the blue and yellow jeweled sword sticking up out of the ground caught my eye. "Ooh, pretty," I drooled and grabbed it out of the ground. I was standing there holding it in my hands looking at it greedily when I noticed everyone had gone completely silent. I looked up and EVERYONE was staring at me.

Okay, this would have been a Kodak-moment, the climax of the movie when the music suddenly swells out of the silence and the audience gets this wonderful feel-good feeling that gives them hope and makes them glad to be alive. And everyone starts cheering for the hero, who would be me, in this case. But that's precisely the moment my socks fell out of the sky and landed on the Serf-Lords' noses.

The socks may have been tiny compared to the poor noses they landed on, but they were deadly, odiferously-speaking, if you catch my drift (which for your sake, I hope you don't).

Okay, we need to stop here for a second. You should know, back in my Dad's time, a hundred million years ago, he had a similar smelly sock incident right there in well, whatever it was before it was called Wardeckia. Back then he'd been skiing down a Time Slope, and his shoe fell off into time and landed under a negotiation table between the leaders of the warring universes. But unbeknownst to him, in those two universes it was the worst of all insults to take your shoes off in someone else's company; his smelly foot incident started a war to end all wars.

Yeah, that's what I found out later. Well, fortunately, Wardeckians had done quite a bit of growing, evolutionarily-speaking, over the past hundred million years. Now the Serf-Lords just fainted at the smell, rather than start a war.

Now I did mention they were huge. Well, unfortunately, they both started wavering unsteadily about to crash ... on me ... I tried to back up, but the Blue Serf-Lord came down first. Yeah, the sword sort of got him on the butt a little, just a little, while I swerved out of the way.

That's one way to wake someone out of a faint. "YOUCH!" he screeched, bouncing up into the air. You wouldn't believe it, but the same thing happened to the Yellow Serf-Lord.

As their hordes comforted them, I stared at the sword in my hands and, not knowing what else to do, stuck it back in the ground.

Bad move.

Remember the hill was sort of just an ordinary hill, right. Well, not after I stuck it in the ground. Yellow gushed out of the ground all over the blue side of the hill and up and out into the whole blue side of the universe. And Blue gushed out all over the Yellow side.

Yep. You guessed it. Thirty-eight seconds later, I'm standing there looking 360 degrees around the hill and everything was green.

I figured I'd definitely used up more than my three strikes in Wardeckia. I was going to be toast, green toast, any second.

But that's not what happened. Instead everyone started dancing around laughing and hugging each other, waving their green hands up into the gushing green stuff flowing down on them.

"Hooray for King Junior!" they cheered. "Like father, like son!" and they carried me on their huge, giant shoulders. Apparently, my Dad had united the universe in pretty much the same way. Who knew that going green could save the universe so quickly?

Well, we had the most amazing feast ever. Which really surprised me, because although I like my vegetables as much as the next guy, and green has always been in my top five favorite colors, I mean come on, all the food was green, green and more green.

The feasting and the dancing and the singing felt like they were going to go on for at least the thousand years I was supposed to reign, and as nice and green as it all was, I was pretty happy when Sly announced that the computer had had another malfunction and it wasn't Wardeckia at all that we were supposed to travel to. And we were going to be late for our real destination, if we didn't get a move on it.

Needless to say, everyone was sorry to see us go, but they sent us off with roaring cheers of "Long Live King Junior" in appreciation and the broken crown of course, as a memento, and an instant later we were blasting up through the green universe and popping out towards the destination Joe_Computer-5 promised we were really supposed to head towards.

I wasn't the only one who was a little suspicious about his insistence that Bordeckia was our real destination.

 

Chapter 7. Boring, Pouring, Snoring and Galoring!

Yeah, Bordeckia.

Bordeckia was so boring, I'm not even going to waste time telling you about it. Ditto for Poordeckia and Sporedeckia and double-decker ditto for Snoredeckia!

In fact, we ending making 327 stops on my King-Me Tour. The truth is, there's not too much more I really want to relive by describing those experiences here. They were just too scary and or uneventful for me to want to waste even a moment thinking about again.

But as you can see, I did end up with a bunch of interesting crowns for my bookshelf, though, so it wasn't a total wash-out.

Anyway, stop 327 was the final exit ramp on that strange Royal Road Trip, so I guess I have to roll the clip on it for you, even though it really is the most disturbing of them all, because, well, it's pretty much the way things seem to be heading now in all the universes.

Let me start out by saying we weren't expected at CorporateTechia at all, because, well we were a little early. Well, I guess a lot early. And of course, that was my bad.

You see, Sly and Joe_Computer-5 were arguing as usual, and I have to tell you, with each stop we'd made, Joe_Computer-5 seemed to get even more whacked out. At first he seemed more demented with each course he'd steer us on, with an evil sinister cackle as he plotted our next course. But then he just completely lost it and kept spouting incoherent nonsense. Sly played along and while he kept Joe_Computer occupied with one convoluted argument after the next, he meanwhile was secretly running diagnostics on the computer's circuitry to try to figure out where Joe_Computer's wires were crossed, or where that piece of lint the computer mentioned might be lurking.

Anway, while they argued away for the millionth time, I was leaning over Sly's chair looking at the ship console, trying to take it all in, when I saw this really shiny red button.

"Ooh... shiny," I thought.

Then I noticed the bold writing. "DO NOT PRESS...NO MATTER WHAT!" it sad in flashing neon letters, about a million times all the way around the shiny red button.

Naturally I figured the warning didn't apply to me, being that I was King of quite a few universes by then. In fact, as King of all those universes, it was kind of like my obligation to press the button.

Look, can I help it if my head size had swelled a few times too many, what with all those crowns I'd been fitted for lately.

Anyway, that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it. Cause without even knowing I'd done it, apparently I pressed the button.

"OMG," Joe_Computer-5 screeched, his circuits suddenly firing in perfect coherence. "You didn't just push that button did you!" But with each word, Joe- Computer's voice seemed to slow down until everything was quivering in the weirdest silence I'd ever heard.

This really horrible feeling washed down over me. No one spoke, or moved, but everyone's eyes were wide in fear and panic because everyone felt it too ... like in the next second the biggest explosion ever was going completely destroy everything in all of time, space and in every dimensional universe.

We all held our breaths waiting for the final moment...

But then the moment passed and the windshield in front of us lit up like it was a TV screen and a receptionist busy "CorporateTechia, please hold"-ing into her phone headset looked up and stared at us.

"Er, can I...CorporateTechiaPleaseHold...help you?"

"Um... I'm here for the King-job?" I offered.

While she stared at us she "please-hold"-ed a few thousand more times, which was really disconcerting because each and every time I kept thinking she was talking to me. "You mean CEO position?" she said in between please-holding. It took me a while to figure out she was talking to me that time.

"C...E...O...?" I thought. "Crazy Eternal Overlord?" I mumbled out loud.

"Chief ... CorporateTechiaPleaseHold ... Executive... CorporateTechiaPleaseHold ... Officer..."

I scratched my head. "Uh....I guess?"

"CorporateTechia... Okay .... PleaseHold ... I assume...CorporateTechia ... you have an ... PleaseHold ... appointment ... CorprateTechia ... Your Name ... PleaseHold..."

My head was spinning. "Junior...I mean Johnny CorprateTechia, I mean...Chronicles...please hold" I offered, not really sure what I was saying.

"CorporateTechiaPleaseHold...Well Mr Please Hold...CorporateTechiaPleaseHold...the CEO Position doesn't open up for...CorporateTechiaPleaseHold... about a million years... ...CorporateTechiaPleaseHold... You might have a short wait ... CorporateTechiaPleaseHold ... Let me tell Human Resources you're ...CorporateTechiaPleaseHold... here..."

The screen went blank and the worst phone music ever filled the cabin. Sly turned the volume down and everyone sighed as we waited ...

...and waited...

...and waited...

I wiped a few cobwebs from my face and saw for the 38 billionth time that the screen was still blank and the hold-music was still hissing under the 15 pillows we'd thrown over the console speakers. Sly had dropped his GameBoy a few hundred years ago, and was sitting comatose in his chair, with his cool-glasses dangling halfway off one ear, while he stared up at the ceiling with drool dripping down his furry chin...

Muffy was half buried under the half-trillion sweaters she'd finished knitting and had pulled apart and reknitted...

And Joe_Computer-5 was busily involved in a perfectly coherent, well-structured five-part heated argument with himself, an argument, I unfortunately already knew word for word for word... Most of the words being, "I'm so sorry that piece of lint caused me to act so irrationally before," and "I'm REALLY starting to wish that piece of lint was back disrupting my circuitry so I could forget this all," and of course "I can't believe he pushed that button!"

Okay, let's fast forward a couple more million Millennia, when finally the receptionist reappeared on the screen.

"Mr Please Hold..." she called annoyedly for probably the billionth time. But of course I was spaced out in zombie land and although I thought I heard something, far-far-away, it didn't click at all.

But then she leaned forward through the windshield-monitor and stuck her head into my ear canal, screeching "Mr Please Hold!" That's when I jumped up out of my daydream and out of my seat.

She was back on the windshield-monitor, with a plastic neon-white blinding smile plastered on her face. "Mr. Please Hold, the Man will see you now."

"Er, that's Johnny Chronicles," I stammered uncertainly, because to be honest, I'd been waiting so long, the name didn't seem to fit anymore. Plus I was kind of thrown off because she wasn't "CorporateTechia Please Hold"ing anymore. It was as if she had all the time in the world and was keeping everyone else on hold. Or, it occurred to me, it was more like there was no one left in the universe anymore to put on hold.

But she was gone and the Man was seeing us, apparently, but we couldn't see him. We heard him clear enough though. Way too clear. "Alright, Please Hold, so you're here for the Crazy Eternal Overlord position are you?" a deep, dark, creepy voice echoed from the now blackened windshield-monitor.

"Uh, no...I'm...uh supposed to be..." I swallowed nervously, staring into the blackness, way too afraid to correct him about my name, and way too confused to finish a sentence coherently.

"Uh huh," the voice darkly droned cutting off my stammer. "Says here you like pushing buttons. Well, lucky you, that's exactly ALL the job entails."

Much as I had to admit my apparent button-pushing addiction, I was pretty sure I wouldn't want to push the button this voice had anything to do with.

"Uh, no..."

"Quite an honor to push this button, of course. The end of all buttons..."

I tried to back away from the console as the voice continued on. "The economic cycles have all cycled out, and the last unresourceful consumer has consumed the last resource, so time to cash out with the big bank of all market crashes. Just step into the Resumé Reader, so we can make sure you've got what it takes to take it all away."

Unfortunately I'd backed into the back wall of the saucer-cabin and there wasn't anywhere else to hide. "Help..." I croaked helplessly as this giant semi-transparent ghostly paper shredder appeared floating in front of me, and slowly approached. Everyone else was still zombied out and didn't notice my pathetic whimper at all.

The paper shredder got closer and closer and I squeezed my eyes shut, quit my whimpering, gave in to the inevitable, and waited to be shredded.

Okay, so what exactly did it feel like to be stuck through a cosmic corporate paper shredder. Well, it was weird. On the one hand I could feel it violating every privacy act ever enacted as it shredded up everything I ever was, am and will be, and then dumped it into an overflowing recycling bin. And pretty strange as all the shredded strips were then scanned and analyzed and weighed and who-knows-what else. But on the other hand, it kind of tickled. In a good way.

"Hmm..." the voice was saying as the tickling stopped, leaving me a little giddy, and I peeked open an eye. "Far below par on assets, skills, knowledge base and lifetime earning potential. I've never seen such a dismal score. And your net worth isn't even worth netting. But you scored really high on button pushing... and we do need to fill the position IMMEDIATELY. Wait, what's this..."

Uh oh... I didn't like the sound of that at all.

"Says your name isn't Please Hold. Says your name is Chronicles. George Chronicles' kid? No. Not THE JUNIOR CHRONICLES!"

"Um..."

The Man was silent a moment as I tried coughing up a voice to answer him. Then I clearly heard him dialing a phone. "This is the Man," the voice said into his phone, muffled as if he were putting his hand over the headset so I couldn't hear. "Get me the Time Catcher fast..."

Now I must admit, although the name sounded vaguely familiar, I had no idea who this 'Time Catcher' was. But my subconscious seemed to know because I suddenly felt even more nervous and scared and freaked out than I already had been. If that's possible.

Sly and Muffy and Joe_Computer-5 knew exactly who the Time Catcher was, and although they had slept through my cosmic soul shredding and all the other gruesome interview moments I'd endured, they sprang to attention at the mention of those two words.

In fact, they were instantly in overdrive mode. Sly was tapping on the computer console with lightning speed murmuring commands back and forth with Joe_Computer-5 as if they were a well-rehearsed acrobatics team. Unfortunately, CorporateTechia appeared to have masterminded a hostile-takeover of our navigational controls, and nothing Sly and Joe_Computer-5 tried seemed to be the deal-breaker we needed.

"Our only hope is the Emergency Yodel-Overdrive..." Joe_Computer-5 insisted.

"But we've tried it and it won't respond," Sly gasped. For the first time he looked really nervous.

"Not for you, but for Junior it will," Joe_Computer-5 said calmly.

"Oh no... not again ... you saw what happened the last time we let him drive!" Sly gasped.

"First of all, he'll be yodeling, not driving. And second of all... do we have a choice?" Joe_Computer-5 said, his voice rising to a nervous screech.

"Oh, I sure hope he doesn't yodel the way he drives..." Sly mumbled. "Junior, get over here!"

"Uh...." I stuttered, a little nervous myself, but even more confused about what they were talking about.

"Dude. Yodel us out of here ...fast!"

My head was spinning. "Yodel? Like, Yodel-a-e-o yodel?"

Sly was shaking nervously. "Yodeling is the ultimate way to travel through time, space and other dimensional universes…It's an age-old…" Sly began but he shuddered and pulled me over to the control panel. "Sorry, Junior, no time to explain right now…"

He pointed at an invisible button on the panel and whispered hoarsely, "You can do it, Junior!" Then under his breath added, "I hope!"

Okay, two things went through my head. "Ooh ... a button..." I admit was the first. But the second thought was, "Huh, I can see an INVISIBLE button. Maybe I CAN do this..."

"Time Catcher. This is the Man. I've got HIM..." the horrible voice beyond the darkness laughed.

"Now, Junior! Yodel!" Sly begged.

I still had no idea what Sly was talking about. But the urgency of our situation I guess brought something up from inside me. Because as I started to drift off into my normal daydreaming mode, I instinctively pressed that invisible button and did in fact yodel us out of there.

I think I overdid it a little. Well, truth is, I over-yodeled a lot.

 

Chapter 8. You wouldn't believe it if I could find the words to describe it

 

*

 

 

See that * up there. Looks like an ordinary asterisk, doesn't it. Well, you're not going to believe this, but that 'asterisk' is a hundred and forty-nine pages of action-packed adventures in... well... this wordless, timeless, spaceless, place that I just can't begin to describe, because, well, there's no words to describe it at all. At least not in this universe.

If you really want to experience the WHOLE story, Joe_Computer-5 insists that he can bring you to that worldless, timeless, spaceless Universe I somehow yodeled us to. But as you've seen, his circuitry has been a little suspect throughout this entire adventure, and although he assures us he's completely fine now that the piece of lint that had been mucking up the works is gone, if I were you, I'd pass on that possible one-way yodel to, well, you know, that wordless, timeless, spaceless place, and just take my word for it that we had some totally, awesome, amazing, well, you know, 'sorry I just can't describe it' kind of adventures.

Anyway, to keep the integrity of this totally true and accurate report of my adventures, the publisher wanted to include those 149 pages of ... well ... wow ... you know ... adventures in that wordless, timeless, spaceless place. But since the publisher is trying to go green and keep their carbon footprint down, they decided to scan the pages and put them on a nanochip at the top of the page instead of including what would look like 149 completely blank pages. If you tried to read them in this universe, of course. But if you go to that wordless, timeless, spaceless place, well, wow, you would not believe ... oh dude, maybe it is worth risking a ride on the wild side with Joe_Computer-5.

But, I'll leave that decision up to you.

 

Chapter 9. An Unwelcome Welcoming Committee

After our amazing adventure in ... well, you know … Er, well, actually you don't, but well, in that, wondrous, wordless, timeless, spaceless place ... Yeah...well, we were all feeling pretty good after that.

"I suppose we should plot another King-You course?" Joe_Computer-5 offered rather unenthusiastically. Quite a contrast to the previous 327 "You thought that last trip was something - you ain't seen nothing yet" evil giggles.

"Eventually," Sly conceded with a long peaceful sigh as he kicked back a notch further back in his captain's chair. The rest of us murmured in agreement as we sank a few notches deeper into our own relaxed modes.

That is until I popped out of my daydreams long enough to notice the three nasty looking witches on their broomsticks staring evilly in at us through the windshield. They were pointing at me and whispering to each other with devilishly twisted smiles. Some even nastier looking wizards and warlocks, gruesomer snarling ogres, and a ginormous slimy-wormlike dragon with bones hanging out of his trillion sharp teeth, were all huddled behind the 3 witches, staring intently at none other than yours truly.

“Guys!” I gasped and I pulled the recline-lever up in my chair. A little too enthusiastically, of course, and projectiled into the windshield. I lay there plastered against the glass, the only thing separating me from all those ugly faces peering inside. And even though the windshield was a good six-inches thick, able to withstand a billion degrees centigrade (or something like that according to Joe_Computer-5) I smelled all those nasty breaths clear as day. Clear as a nasty sulfur-smoking smoggy h-e-double hockey-sticks day, of course.

“Guys?” I squeaked again.

“We’re on it, Junior…” Sly screeched and I heard his paws tapping desperately at the control panel.

“Unfortunately, we’re lock-jammed once again,” Joe_Computer-5 added.

I gasped as I noticed the smell had gotten even worse, and oh-so cautiously peeking open one eye, I discovered to my horror that all of our hideous new visitors were crammed INSIDE the cabin. All except the slimy dragon who was wrapped around the saucer, gnawing contentedly on the wheel hubcaps, still keeping one eye on me, for desert, undoubtedly. I slid down the glass and lay there on the ground looking up at all the gruesome faces.

“Er, um, hi?” I offered the broken, who-knows-with-what-stained-toothed crooked smiles.

“JUNIOR!” they chorused together, trying to sound pleasant and inviting, but it was the most discordant, piercing, clashing sound I’d ever heard in my life. “We’re the…the Universal..." one of the witches began and then paused with a twisted grin and an over-exaggerated wink at her evil-looking cohorts. "...Peace Council..." she continued, then winked again before breaking out into a giggling cackle.

"Yeah, that's the ticket..." the others chortled.

“Liars!” Joe_Computer-5 slid in under a carefully concealing cough.

“What’d you say?” one of the hunched-over twisted warlocks barked.

“Oh, nothing…” Joe_Computer-5 squeaked. “War Council,” he said underneath another cough.

Thirteen pairs of bloodshot eyes glared angrily over at the computer panel. But then they did their best to put plastered smiles back on as they all turned back to face me. I shivered uncontrollably.

"You've been one tough Chronicle to track down..." a warlock continued with a high-pitched squealy voice that sounded like fingernails on a blackboard.

"Yeah!" they all agreed in perfect 13-part disharmony.

"But we've finally found you and now you can begin your new life as the new Grand Wizard of ..." the head witch continued, then broke into a cackle. With a final a chuckle and another wink she completed her sentence: "Pe-a-c-e," she insisted in a long drawn out slur, then slapped her knee and rolled on the ground, laughing uncontrollably.

"Guys!" I gulped, but out of the corner of my eyes, I saw that the ogres had already tied Sly and Muffy to their chairs, and one of them was just finishing a sweaty all-out tug of war with Joe_Computer-5's plug. To my horror I watched as the victorious ogre flew across the air and landed on the ground with the plug dangling from his green teeth, with part of the cabin wall stuck to the end of the plug. Poor Joe_Computer-5's voice faded away as he cried out "Ju-n-i-o-r..." And then there was nothing but the evil cackling laughter.

"Bring out the WAND!" I heard the head-honcho witch finally say as I cringed in the corner with my eyes closed, wishing somehow they'd just all go away.

I couldn't help peeking as I heard one of the ogres sliding a large crate across the cabin. And then it creaked hideously as they pried it open. The weirdest thing happened as they pulled it out. Everything around it went completely black. It was like the wand was sucking in all the light and hope and leaving nothing but a deep, dismal darkness behind.

"Give it to him," the Witch commanded.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah" they all chanted.

I felt them trying to thrust it into my clenched fist, but the wand kept pushing away from me, as if somehow it just wouldn't fit.

"Huh?" they all gasped.

"Have you been yodeling in places you shouldn't have?!!!" the Head Witch screeched.

"Umm..."

"Put it away," the Witch sighed. "We're going to have to bring it back to Wandcrafters to have it adjusted."

"Duh...how long will that take?" the ogre who put the wand back in its case asked.

"Oh, about an hour. Tie him up!" she instructed.

"Okay, Junior," she sighed staring down at me, half a second later as I lay on the ground, bound and gagged. "We'll be back in an hour ... at Midnight, so... don't you go anywhere." She winked at everyone and they all started laughing again. "But then her Witchiness waved her hand and they all stopped instantly.

"What are you looking for?" she growled at the ogre who had tied me up.

"Got this extra piece to tie up his shadow, but I can't find it nowheres."

The Witch glared down at me, grinding her broken teeth as her eyes shot daggers at me. "Your shadow better be ready when we get back, or you're not going to like what we'll have to do to drag it out of you. Kapeesh!"

Truth is, I didn't really kapeesh at all. In fact I had no idea what she was talking about. What did they mean they couldn't find my shadow?

She rolled her eyes and they all shook their heads.

"Are you sure this is the kid? Doesn't seem smart enough for… you know…" the other two witches asked before a glare from their leader silenced them. The top-witch rolled her eyes and reached out her gnarled, warty hand towards me. My heart nearly stopped when she rolled me over and pinched the back of my neck, like she was looking for a tag, like you do on the inside of shirt collar. And the weirdest thing was that I did indeed feel her pull a tag out from under my skin!

"Chronicles, Junior Chronicles, right there on the label. See it?" she snarled. And the others nodded.

"But look down there in the fine print. It says he's only 10 years old…" one of the warlocks pointed out before he jumped back when the witch turned nastily towards him.

"No way!" I instantly thought, but I was still trying to get used to the feeling of the tag sticking out the back of my neck, and so I must have felt a little disoriented, because for the life of me, I wasn't really convinced that I wasn't ten years old. "I'm back in the Fifth Grade?" I gasped. "That can't be. I'm 13. I'm in the Eighth grade…right?" But I couldn’t dig up any memories to convince me, one way or the other. I strained to turn my head to look at the tag for myself.

"Stop fidgeting," the witch growled at me as she felt for her glasses. Apparently the chain they were on had broken and they'd slid down her dress. She patted herself searching for them. Meanwhile, it was so hard for me not to want to check the tag myself. I just couldn't be ten, could I? The anticipation was killing me!

Finally she found the glass chain wedged in her stockings. She yanked the chain out and threw the glasses onto her warty, bent, pointed nose.

A few of the ogres chuckled because someone had taped a fake funny-nose-and-moustache onto the glasses, and as I peeked backwards, I had to agree that she did look quite comical. The witch gave the ogres such a nasty glare that their hair caught on fire.

One of the warlocks quickly reached into his robe and pulled out a bucket of green slime and threw it over the ogres heads, instantly dousing the flames. Obviously he had practiced this a lot because his aim was perfect and in no time at all the ogres were obediently staring down at the ground with smoky steam rising off the tops of their heads, and green slime dripping down their faces.

The Head-Witch meanwhile was pulling my tag out further and mumbling to herself. "No wonder the wand didn't fit! You must have yodeled up quite a storm recently, because you ARE only 10 now!"

My heart sank. It just couldn't be; but somehow I knew she was right. She sensed my disappointment. "Don't worry. The years'll catch up by Midnight, according to my calculations. You'll be 13 when the clock strikes 12 and we return, you mark my words! And then, the wand will fit you perfectly." She cackled as she pinched my neck again and shoved the tag back in.

For a second there, I almost hoped she was wrong and that I'd stay stuck back at 10 forever so that the evil wand would never be mine. I shuddered and blinked and the next thing I knew they were all outside the windshield.

I watched as the slimy dragon pulled its head out from under the hood (which it had apparently already eaten), spit out a rusty bolt or two and then reluctantly unwrapped itself from around the now completely slimed, stripped-down saucer-cab. It stopped wriggling a moment so that the entourage could slip-slide onto its enormous slimy back.

"Back in an hour," a warlock called through the glass.

"Duh, don't go anywhere," an ogre added.

They all glared at him and flames burst out of his hair. Which is quite a trick out in space, at least according to the laws of science, there being no oxygen out there, you know. Whatever laws the flames were operating by, they were quickly doused by the warlock's bucket-o-slime, and in no time at all the ogre was staring dejectedly down at his feet, with smoke rising off his now bare, blackened head. "Gosh, you all laughed before," I heard him muttering sadly.

A puff of fire came out of the wormy dragon's rear-end and it rocketed a thousand feet off into the darkness of space. It wriggled a few times and another fiery burst sent it another thousand feet forward. With each burst its passengers grasped and grabbed to hold on as they slip-slided in their seats.

 

Chapter 10. Rendezvous, Rescues & Midnight Picnic Parties

As I watched that most unwelcome of welcoming committees through the windshield disappear into the darkness of space, I felt completely confused and depressed. My whole world had tumbled down.

You'd think that I'd have been sitting there worrying about the fact that we were all helplessly tied up, lost somewhere in the empty voids of space with no hope of anyone rescuing us before that evil entourage came back to take me away forever to do something horrible with that evil wand, and I'd never see my family and friends ever again.

Or maybe that I was wondering about the seemingly impossible condition of being completely shadowless.

But the truth is, what I was really most depressed about was the fact that through some bizarre twist of fate, I wasn't 13 anymore. I was stuck being a ten-year-old kid again? No way! Not even if it was supposedly only for another hour.

"Junior! Snap out of it!" Sly was saying from over at the control panel, where he was working on trying to reinsert the computer's mangled plug. Then I noticed Muffy was untying the ropes around my wrists and ankles.

"Thanks, Muffy, but how…" I stammered as I rubbed my sore skin.

"Muff's a world-class knitter, Dude, you know that," Sly bragged about his best-kitty. "Never met a knot she couldn't untangle!"

"Aw, that's sweet Sly..." Muffy blushed and then turned to me. "Come on Junior, get up. You've got to get us out of here before THEY get back."

"We're not going to let him take the wheel again are we?" Sly gasped.

"Won't work anyway," Joe_Computer-5 sighed. "It's because I'm TEN again, I bet," I muttered as Sly let me lean over and try some of the controls. "And they're really strict about the yodel-and-drive 13 year old minimum age, right?" I groaned as none of the knobs, switches, levers or buttons would work at all.

"The witch said you'd be back to 13 at Midnight…" Muffy offered after we'd all plopped dejectedly into our seats, wondering what on earth we could do to get out of this jam. "But of course THEY'll be back then, too…" she sighed sadly.

"Wouldn't matter anyway," Joe_Computer-5 insisted.

"Why not?" we wondered.

"On account of the fact that the dragon ate the engine, the yodel-overdrive and the entire outside structure of the saucer. Probably fall apart if we even try pushing it an inch!"

Wow, that was depressing news.

The minutes ticked away aimlessly. Not sure why Joe_Computer-5 had to broadcast the tick-tocking in Dolby-surround-sound through all thirty speakers in the space saucer, but no one even noticed. That's how deep each of us was in our own isolated depressed heads and/or circuit panels.

Probably we would have sat there like that until the last stroke of Midnight. Fortunately I happened to notice something sliding slowly down the windshield. Upon further inspection, I noticed It was a slimy snail weaving a slimy trail across the already dragon-slimed glass.

Ewww…Nonchalantly, without thinking, I reached forward to hit the windshield wipers to wipe it away, when suddenly Sly grabbed my hand with his paw and shouted, "Stop, it's the Chronicles' Chronicles Editor!"

It was too late; I'd already flicked the wiper switch, and I felt horrible as I expected the snail to be flung off into the emptiness of space. But it didn't matter because the dragon had eaten the windshield wiper blades, along with practically everything else.

Muffy opened the door and the snail slowly slimed his way inside, "tsk, tsk"ing as he rolled his eyes at us and shook his head incredulously as he looked us over.

"Are you all kidding me?" he grumbled as he plopped himself down on the ship console. He reached back into his shell and pulled out a book. I noticed it had my name on it. The JUNIOR CHRONICLES. Huh? I tried to peek inside as he flipped through the pages, but he saw me watching and turned so that I couldn't see the pages at all.

"This story is such a mess. You're not going anywhere in this dragon-slimed junk-mobile, that's for sure. No offense, Joe_Computer-5."

"Hey, none taken. I'm a Level-5-micro-computer-chip. This taxi-saucer was so beneath me anyway. I can't wait till they plug me into a real vehicle so I can exercise some of these mental muscles I haven't gotten to use since my last gig."

"Uh, huh. And if I'm not mistaken, you're not even supposed to be in this story in the first place. You're from a completely different book series... Captain Kindness books! You snuck out of your original assignment, didn't you?"

"Hey, I'm a great multi-tasker. Thought I could help out here in this book. So sue me!"

"Urghh… these Chronicles Chronicles are so… sooo…"

"Cool?" Sly suggested, peeking coolly over his sunglasses.

"Urghh…" the snail muttered. And by the way. This is a 48 page book. What is this in Chapter 8 with the supposed 149 pages of adventures scanned on a micro-chip? You can't be serious!"

"Oh, yeah," we all smiled. "Those adventures were so… so…" we shrugged, still smiling as we remembered some of the adventures we just couldn't begin to describe. Things this snaily guy just wouldn't ever understand.

"Oh, I understand all about that wordless, spaceless, timeless place. Come on you guys, get serious!" the snail snapped. "They're going to be back any second and the Universal War Council's not supposed to catch up to you until deep into the sequel. At least from the outline they sent me. How I'm supposed to get this final chapter tied up so that the sequel makes sense, is one heck of a hat-trick, that's for sure. But, fortunately I'm one heck of an editor, so let's see what we can do."

Sly and Muffy and Joe_Computer-5 murmured in agreement. Like they understood what the snail was talking about. I for one had no idea.

"You really don't have any idea what's going on, do you?" the snail clicked as he looked up over his glasses at me. For the second time, I thought he was reading my mind, but then I saw that he was reading it all in his book. No, I had no idea what was going on.

So he gave me the ten-cent summary of The Chronicles Chronicles series in general, and then The Junior Chronicles in particular. How my family and our friends were not your typical suburbanites. No, once upon a time my Dad had the distinction of single-handedly destroying all the laws of Reality in this and every other dimensional universe. Which turned out to be fine for a while, because at first people liked being able to yodel back and forth whenever they wanted through time and space and other dimensional universes. But after a while, even the Reality-Anarchists got tired of never knowing what was when and who was or would have been what. (I know, huh?)

Anyway, my Dad had caused this mess by sending the Time-Catcher into an infinite time loop. But when the Reality Right and Left Wing joined forces to free the Time-Catcher, he went after our family with a vengeance.

The Chronicles Chronicles chronicle our adventures as we hide out in one place or time or another until they'd catch up and we'd have to yodel out of there to chronicle another exciting adventure. And of course, to protect us, since our thoughts apparently are so powerful they could give us away, none of us ever remembered our previous and often bizarre Chronicles Chronicles chronicled adventures. Except Sly and Muffy of course, because no one thinks to look for talking cats' thoughts, and besides someone in the story has to know what's going on.

My initial reaction was of course, to think this explanation -- that our lives were nothing but words in a story -- was totally ridiculous. But then suddenly I started to remember all the previous and some future outrageously amazing chronicled Chronicles Chronicles. And whoa, I had my own way cool chronicled Chronicles series, to boot! Not to mention yodel-abilities that could spin circles around my Dad's legendary talents. This snaily guy was telling the truth!

"Of course I am…" the snail moaned. "Can we get back to the story, please! We’ve got one page to wrap up all the loose ends in this story and set it up so that it matches up right for the sequel."

"The sequel - is it a good story?" I asked excitedly, now that I'd gotten used to the fact that my life was an action-adventure story, it was kind of exciting.

"Quite an adventurous undertaking; a monumental literary work of legendary proportions!"

"Err… But is it exciting?" I inquired. Literature-shmiterature. I wanted action and adventure.

"Exciting? Why you only help rescue the beautiful young Peace Wizard, and help her lead the ultimate final battle of the forces of good against the forces of evil to rescue all of time, space and every dimensional universe from the clutches of chaos to establish an era of freedom, peace and justice for all… Is it exciting. Of course it's exciting!" The snail was clearly excited himself now.

"Wow. Well let's wrap this up then so we can get to that sequel," I exclaimed.

"Right. The snail started making some red notations in the book with his antennae, then paused as he chewed his lower lip and scratched behind his head with his other antennae. "Right. Okay. Let's see. Your shadow. Let's get your shadow back here. No reason as far as I can see why you left it behind in the first place."

"Okay," I agreed, not comfortable at all with the fact that I apparently had been shadowless throughout the King-Me adventures I'd adventured through. "How do we do that?" I asked while the snail busily scribbled notes in the margins of my book.

"Oh, simple," he muttered, glancing up over his glasses. "Use your yodel-talents to yodel your shadow here…"

"Er…I…uh…" I stuttered. "How do I do that again?" Although I'd yodeled us to save the day previously in this particular chronicled adventure, I still had no idea how I'd done it.

The snail sighed and rolled his eyes at me. "Look, the Chronicles are yodelers-extraordinaire, but each of you has a different way to engage this mystical talent. Your sister does it when she tells a story. Your Mom when she starts baking. Your Dad. Well…he's just an unexplainable nut, and stuff happens. But you, your yodeling takes place when you start to daydream. Kapeesh?"

Now I was starting to kapeesh.

"So yodel your shadow here by daydreaming something about you and your shadow out for a nice walk along the beach or flying across the sky or… Oh…you are fast…" the snail gasped as my shadow practically knocked him over as it rushed to my side. "Uh, Junior, that's enough daydreaming…" he clicked as I just stood there lost in an amazing daydreaming adventure with only my shadow by my side, fighting dragons and crossing swords with dark knights to rescue the fair princess from the dark castle on the treacherous windy mountaintops of…

"JUNIOR!" the snail snapped annoyedly. "The 'last page' was supposed to happen several pages ago! We've got to wrap THIS story up already. Okay, your family, friends and faithful housekeeper Flora, naturally followed your shadow in their Yodel Bus across the reaches of time, space and every other dimensional universe to find you. And they brought a birthday cake to celebrate your 13th birthday. And you have a wonderful Midnight Birthday Picnic together and just before the clock strikes 12 and the War Council returns to enslave you in their evil plans and drag you off to do their evil bidding, you all yodel out of there to the Sequel for new exciting chronicled Chronicles Chronicles…"

"Really?" I exclaimed. Sounded great to me.

And sure enough, as I looked out the slimy windshield, there was the yellow Yodel Bus I now remembered from previous chronicled Chronicles Chronicles.

The clock started chiming its midnight countdown, but I just stood there lost in another exciting daydream, with a goofy expression on my face. (Once I get started daydreaming, there's just no stopping me.) Fortunately, Sly and Muffy grabbed my arms, and with Joe_Computer-5's chip in Sly's pocket we headed out the taxi saucer door and climbed aboard the Yodel Bus.

I snapped out of my daydream to find myself in the middle of my family and friends all standing around me with Mom holding a huge cake with 13 candles and everyone singing, "For he's a jolly good fellow…" as the clock rapidly headed for its last few Midnight chimes. Wow, I thought. Can't get any better than this.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," the snail said from his perch on my shoulder. "Just wait until the sequel!" He pointed out the Yodel Bus window, and as the last Midnight gong roared over the sound of everyone singing, I saw the Sequel come rushing up to greet us two lengths ahead of a wriggling, flame-farting dragon and the 13 screaming evil passengers slip-sliding to hold on to its slimy back.

 

 

Hey, is there anybody still there?

Please … Don’t leave me…It's me….You know, Joe_Computer-5. That crazy cool cat left me in the pocket of his other pair of pajamas. Can someone please tell him not to leave me behind. The Chronicles are going to need me in the Sequel, and unless someone reminds them, they're going to forget all about me...

Hello. Are you listening. Please. The lint in here is really getting to me. I'm going to sneeze … any … uh… uh…. You know how allergic I am to lint … uh… uh.. CHOOO ….

Oops … you better look away; it's not a pretty sight… Alright, move along…

Oh and never mind, Sly's just sticking his paw in to get me. Oops, is he in for a sticky surprise. But I guess I'll be seeing you in the Sequel after all.

Ciao. Thanks for keeping me company.

Look, I know, you can't get enough of me. I'll miss you, too… But that snail's giving me the evil eye because we're way too many pages over budget and he's going to have to edit this all down… so go to your local bookstore, or log onto amazon.com and get the sequel and we'll be together again soon…I promise!

Okay. Peace Out, Yo…

 

 

Illustrated by Vineet Siddhartha
vineetsiddhartha.wordpress.com

story © 2000-2014 Robert Alan Silverstein
info@avstar.us