From Chapter 2:

Art class turned out to be really weird, just like Gary had said. Mr. Waters started out by talking about Renaissance art. Then he moved on to the politics of Renaissance Italy — all those little cities and families fighting for power — and when he started talking about the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, Lock got totally lost. It didn’t help when the teacher brought up Machiavelli and some big conspiracy about the Kennedy assassination with the CIA, the Cuban Mafia, Nixon, Clinton… by the time the class was over, Lock needed a moment to remember it was about art.


From Chapter 3:

Lock picked up a nail and dropped it into the hole — and here he got the biggest surprise of all. Instead of falling all the way down, landing on that strange floor and rolling into the center, it fell only a couple of feet, then slowed to a stop, hung in midair for a split second, then flew up again. It actually went back up into the closet, rising a few feet into the air, then dropping through again… then rising again… like a yo-yo, but without a string.

Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Lock caught the nail and put it down on the floor. It was creepy to see something as basic as gravity not working right. He looked around, half expecting things to start floating away.


From Chapter 4:

Lock looked up and down the street, saw the shape and placement of what was left of the houses, and knew Gary was right.

Time travel. The sheer enormousness of the concept held him in his tracks, staring at the remains of his house, for several minutes. Time travel. Frigging… time… travel. His mood was broken when some kind of bird landed on his head, then took off when he reached up to brush it away. At least it hadn't cut loose on him.


And in every direction, he saw the same things. Trees. Collapsed buildings. More trees. Buildings that hadn't collapsed but still looked abandoned. More trees. Telephone poles from which all or most of the wires had fallen. Many, many deer, browsing on the tapestries of vines and moss that hung from everything still standing. Stretches of parking lot where the asphalt still peeked out from underneath the leaf mould. And more trees.

But no people. No sound of an engine, an air conditioner, a TV or a radio… only the calls of birds. In the sky, no planes, no contrails… only more birds. If this was the future, something really bad must have happened… at least to this one town.


In all the pictures Troy had drawn of big-breasted babes being slobbered over or eaten by evil space creatures, there had never been any hint that the evil space creatures might be just as happy eating some other species, but what did Troy know?


One thing he was sure of, though. He wasn't going to tell his mother, or anybody else, what was in his closet. Not just yet. He couldn’t e-mail his friends or talk to them on the phone, he didn’t have any control over his hairstyle or the inside of his room, he couldn’t even have a Facebook page without Mom demanding the password… but the portal was his, and he was going to keep it that way for as long as possible.


From Chapter 5:

In the three months since his father's funeral, Lock had sometimes seen his mother with tears in her eyes, but he'd never seen or heard her break down completely like this. God knew she'd earned the right, but still having it happen made him feel like his chair had been pulled out from under him. He didn't always get along with her, but she was always so strong, so self-possessed, so controlled (not to mention controlling). The thought of her falling apart scared him — how were they going to manage if she lost it?


When it came to eavesdropping, Lock was an expert. He knew better than to lurk in shadows or put his ear up against the door. That would make it too obvious. The secret was to sit quietly in the next room, pretending to read a book. (Make sure it was a book you might actually read. If it was a cookbook or all about law, that would give the game away right there.) Lock had never yet met a grownup who could grasp that just because you weren’t looking at someone didn’t mean you couldn’t hear them.


"So… this really is the future," said Gary.

"Guess so."…

"Well," said Gary, "the good news is, we don't have to worry about our grandkids coming along and shooting us just to see what'll happen…"


"Feels weird, doesn't it?" said Gary eagerly. "Like, any minute now the sky's gonna open up and God's gonna stick His head out and yell 'You kids stop playing with the fabric of space and time this instant!'"


"So… we could be in two different worlds at once right now and not even know it, because they'd both look the same to us? And we could split in two and never know it?"

"We're probably in billions of different worlds at once right now," said Gary. "And we're splitting into different versions of ourselves every second… You see what this means, right?"

"Dude, you lost me back at the collapsing cat. I have no clue what this means."


From Chapter 6:

The truth was, her smell kind of came and went — some days you could hardly notice it. But today, it was hot, she was all sweaty, her coppery hair was plastered to her head under her bike helmet, and, not to put too fine a point on it, she stank like a dead walrus.


"Listen, Locksmith, you better treat Gary all right," she said. "Otherwise I'm gonna give you a great big kiss right in front of the whole school. With tongue action."


Lock went back to his house, went through the portal again and brought back the two-fifty in quarters. Then he went through the portal again and brought back the five dollars. Then he went through again and brought back the ten dollars. The money in his hands didn't look like enough to justify all this.


Then, almost as one, the horses turned and fled into the darkness. The two coyotes sniffed the air, then ran off as well, along with three other coyotes Lock hadn't even seen. Somehow, he didn't think it was him they were running away from. About this time it occurred to him that it would have been a very good idea to grab some sort of weapon before rushing out here in his pajamas to confront unknown dangers. Very, very slowly, he turned around.


From Chapter 7:

"We're just going by what we saw on the Internet," the man in the back said.

Lock's jaw dropped open. He couldn't even think of an insult that did justice to this kind of stupidity.


Lock went back downstairs and opened up the fridge. There was some of Mom's lentil soup that would be a lot better with a couple of hot dogs chopped up and thrown in it, some sinus-clearing spicy dahl that Mrs. Webb had brought over, potato tuna mayonnaise stuff with capers, a thing of Chinese food that needed to be either eaten today or thrown out… if you weren't picky, food was no problem here.




"I think we better go."

"Why?" The pattering noises were getting closer.

"I actually think we better go… now."


From Chapter 8:

What popped into Lock’s mind at this point was the joke about Narnia Gary had made the day they first came here. It had seemed funny at the time, and the more they wandered through this place, the more real and solid it felt — dangerous, but not magic or mythic or anything.

But in one way, this place really was like some kind of magic realm. In the real world, if there was something or someone that wanted to eat you (usually there wasn’t, thank God) you'd be locked in your room while your parents called the police or animal control or whoever. But in a place like, say, Narnia, somebody would just hand you a sword and say "Good luck, young hero." And so it was here, except that there was nobody else around and all they had was a mop handle.


These were the first recognizable human remains that Locksmith had seen in this world — in fact, the first such remains he had ever seen anywhere, other than those of his own father. There was nothing frightening or Halloweenish about this sad, crumpled little pile of bones and rotted fabric. Instead, Lock simply wondered who this was. It looked like he was the only one here — why had he stayed, guarding this barrier, when everybody else had left? Was it a sense of duty, or did he just have no place else to go? Was it a he, or a she? Lock knew that he would never know the answers to these questions.


From Chapter 9:

"'Give me a lever big enough and a place to stand, and I can move the earth,'" said Gary. "One of those ancient Greeks said that — I forget which one."

There were any number of jokes that could be made about big levers and making the earth move, but Lock was too excited to bother with any of them.


From Chapter 10:

Lock looked up to see her go… and suddenly she wasn't there. The dog was running free. Moss was growing on the sidewalk, the park was a tangled carpet of weeds, the buildings were vine-covered rubble, clouds of birds were going by… He blinked, and the town was back to normal.

He looked the other way. The town still looked normal — but his mind kept trying to fill in details that shouldn't be there… birds' nests, foraging deer… What was wrong with him?


Lock looked around in contempt. What was wrong with these people?… They looked to him, right then, like members of some other species… like some kind of noisy, turd-throwing monkeys that even the most hard-core environmentalist wouldn't bother trying to save.


That was how Lock found out about the rubber room — or, as teachers generally called it, the "alternative classroom." It was basically a very small classroom with eight seats and the vice-principal sitting at the front desk glowering at you. You sat in the room and did work — math, mostly — until they decided to let you go. There was no talking or looking up from your desk. Lock was going to have to take their word for it that this was horrible psychological torture, because as far as he could tell, they'd just guaranteed him a day of peace and quiet.


From Chapter 11:

"Ms. Thames — she's the guidance counselor, right?"

Lock nodded.

"Whaddya need her for?"

"I… It' a long story," he finally said.

"You're not, like, psycho or anything, are you?"


"Just making sure. You know what they say — it's always the quiet types."

Lock grunted.


Death was… absence. It was loss. It was an empty chair at the breakfast table. It was a number programmed into your speed-dial list that you'd never need to call again but couldn't bring yourself to delete. It was old flannel shirts and Size 12 1/2 snow boots in Mom's closet that didn't fit anyone in the house. Most of all, it was the horrible feeling that all that was left of this person you cared so much about was a collection of memories inside your own head… and little by little, those memories were slipping out of your brain.


Aunt Sheryl had come in, taken that fox-fur thing off her shoulders and absently handed it to her oldest child, Caitlin, who'd made a face and held it as if it were about to come back to life and bite her. Lock had taken it off her hands, walked out into the backyard and, for want of anything better to do, sat down on the old wooden swing and stared into the empty eye-holes of the fox fur.


From Chapter 12:

The gray January afternoon was chilly, but not too cold. Ebling led Lock behind the building, to a spot where a graffiti-sprayed Dumpster stood next to a chain-link fence and weeds peeked out around the ragged edges of the asphalt and gravel. Lock was suddenly conscious of how out of place they looked here — him in his black suit and her in her National Guard dress uniform.


“You can’t even imagine how happy I was to see the hospital landing pad coming up… there it was… closer and closer every second, we were practically there, I had tears in my eyes just from relief but I still had to concentrate, still had to tell him what was happening so we could land safely… and his hands were just white, I could see all the blood vessels, his fingernails were blue, and I touched his fingers and they were so cold it was like they were already dead but they were still moving, they still knew what they needed to do, they were working the controls and bringing us home even though he was maybe half conscious and fading fast…”


“I do believe in destiny — but I don’t think of it as some mysterious force from the stars that governs everybody from outside according to some prearranged scheme. I think of it as something that comes from in-side, that’s built into people. It’s what happens when people act like the sort of people they are, when they do what comes most naturally. And it’s not all-powerful, you can fight it, but it’s tricky, because it means fighting your own nature… doing what you’re least inclined to do.

“Your father, from what you’ve said about him, was the sort of man who always went towards danger, like a fireman running into a burning building, or a cop hearing screams and gunfire. He was the sort who would make certain of everyone else’s safety before he even thought about his own. Am I wrong?”


From Chapter 13:

Still, he’d take nightmares over hallucinations any day. At least nightmares didn’t happen while you were trying to do something else.


The tracks crossed the street, but there was nothing but a couple of road signs to warn people. That was more than was needed — one glance was enough to tell Lock that no train had gone down this way in many years. Trees and tall shrubs grew close on both sides, forming a green wall that cut through the neighborhood. The branches of the trees arched overhead, so thick that they turned the railroad into a corridor of twilight. Weeds poked up through the gravel, some of them taller than a man. As Lock stepped on to the tracks, he could easily imagine that he had stepped back into the future.


From Chapter 14:

Downstairs, washed and dressed, Lock ate breakfast. It was a plate of bacon, made as only his mother could make it — by surgically trimming away every last trace of fat, frying what was left until she was satisfied that anything that might have been living in it was totally dead, and serving it up on a bed of paper towels to soak up all the grease.


His fingertips were on the ground, just behind the farthest point permitted. His breathing was nice and regular. There were none of the warning signs that a stitch was about to form in his side. He felt… ready.

The whistle blew.

Lock’s weight seemed to disappear. He didn’t run — he flew forward, wind whipping through his hair, the track going past in a blur somewhere under his feet. He had never run like this before. There was no crowd. There were no other runners. There was only speed, and the rush of air.


From Chapter 15:

It was one thing to watch the news for a few minutes, sigh, shake your head and decide the whole world was going to hell and the whole human race deserved to die out and leave everything to the animals. It was another thing to look at one particular human being and say, “Okay, you, personally, deserve to die.”


From Chapter 16:

Lock knew in the pit of his stomach that they were hosed. He just didn’t know how. He opened the door… and found out.


“The Window on Heaven” turned out to be a square-cut dark blue stone, a little over two inches wide. “It’s a sapphire of over a thousand carats — nearly half a pound,” said Mr. Steiner. “Here. Look through it”… If you were sitting in a well-lit room and happened to look out the window at just the right moment of twilight, the portion of the sky you saw would be this perfect shade of blue-violet. When you looked through the Window on Heaven, everything you saw was that color, or close to it. Just for a moment, Lock forgot why he was here or whether he was even in trouble.


From Chapter 17:

“You know, Lachlan,” she said sadly, “I’ve always thought of you as a good kid. You do your homework… mostly. You try hard at track… even when you got in fights I thought ‘It wasn’t his fault. Someone else pushed him too far.’ Even when you and Troy started making trouble, I blamed Troy. It was so much easier than thinking the problem might be you.”


“Okay. My second point is that your word, to me, is gold. If you look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, I will believe you, and that will be that. And… if you did make a mistake and get tangled up in something you don’t know how to get out of, now’s the time to tell me and we can figure out what to do next. I am a lawyer, you know.”

Gary couldn’t look his father, or anyone else, in the eyes right at the moment — his own eyes had just filled with tears. He’d never realized just how much Dad trusted him, how highly he thought of him. No doubt there were people in the world who could have heard their father say all that, and then turned and lied to his face… but Gary wasn’t one of those people, and didn’t think he ever would be.


He didn’t want to explain. If he tried explaining, if he asked for her forgiveness, he’d only sound as weak as she thought he really was. No, what he wanted to do was hurt her. He wanted to degrade her. Humiliate her. Break her spirit. Make her regret. He wanted to do to her what she had done to him.


From Chapter 18:

“It’s a sad fact of human nature,” said Mr. Adler, “that people who aren’t in immediate danger will often go to great lengths to keep themselves safe and uninvolved. Sometimes they betray their neighbors. Sometimes they just sit back and watch their neighbors get taken away.” At this point, the teacher gave Lock a look that was so pointed and dirty, Lock felt like he needed a tetanus shot. “Sometimes they watch a fellow student get beaten up and don’t bother trying to help.”


One of Lee’s teachers had been fond of quoting Arthur Conan Doyle — “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” But figuring out what was actually impossible and what was merely very, very improbable was a headache-inducing task at the best of times… and when the absolutely impossible was sitting right there on a table in front of you, you were beaten from the get-go.


From Chapter 19:

“Wait a minute. You’re saying I help you find the answer… and in return, what do I get?”

“You get to help me do it, that’s what you get!” said Lock. “We’re talking about saving the world here, dumbass!”


From Chapter 20:



For several very long seconds, they stood there in a kind of tableau — her hand poised above his left cheek, his fist aimed at her left kidney. Then Lee looked at her own hand as if it had a mind of its own. How the hell did it come to this? she thought.


From Chapter 21:

Jesus, God, thought Lock. Right now You’ve already let the whole world kick the bucket — can’t You do this one thing right? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, please help me out here…


Yet still he could not get rid of his anger. Listening to your heart wasn’t the problem — the problem was getting the damn thing to shut up.


“I know! I’m smart! I get good grades! I don’t do drugs, I usually tell the truth, I don’t do anything stupid or get in trouble except for lately, so of course all the grownups like me… but what do I have to do to get you guys to respect me?”


The impact was enough to throw him hopelessly off balance. Time slowed to a crawl, so that in the space of maybe a second and a half, Bill tried to right himself… felt the teeth-jarring impact as the bike’s tire hit the curb near the edge of the driveway… tried to right himself again… realized it was hopeless as the bike continued to tip over… thought oh Jesus this is gonna hurt… and landed on the sidewalk on his left shoulder.


From Chapter 22:

Lock got the light working again and pointed it in the direction she was looking. By its yellowish flicker he saw them — five huge dogs, moving forward in a kind of V-formation. Lock recognized the lead dog — he’d last seen it crushing the throat of a bull. Right behind it were the black dog and the one with the scar on its shoulder.

He turned around. The light, such as it was, reflected off red and gold eyes shining in the dark. Yes, there was the rest of the pack, just waiting for some fool to bolt and run.


From Chapter 23:

Lock shrugged. One of the drawbacks to being a genius like Gary, he supposed, was that you felt like you had to understand everything. The only question he really wanted the answer to right at the moment was whether or not what they had decided to do was the right thing.

Main Page