She could feel herself scream, but heard nothing. Opening her eyes, Emma saw Brody tumbling beside her, colors swirling everywhere around them. Instead of falling downward, they moved as if they were on a water slide—up and down, twisting around, only to spin full circle the next second. Emma was scared and excited. Something fuzzy touched her hand. She retracted it quickly, and then realized it was Aspen. Questions flew through her mind. What was happening? She felt sick. Images of Mr. M flew in and out of her mind. Had this happened to him? Emma wanted to vomit.
Suddenly the bright colors turned to pale blue and white, and they were sliding straight down a tube made of clouds. A rushing sound of wind flew past Emma’s ears, almost deafening her.
Brody struck the ground first. He groaned as Emma slammed on top of him.
“Ugh,” they said in unison. Emma rolled onto her back on the grass beside Brody just as Aspen landed on top of them, paws digging into their stomachs.
“Ouch! Get off, Aspen,” said Brody. “Where are we?” The thick green grass where they landed was tall and spongy, which explained why they did not break any bones. Brody’s blonde spiked hair was pointing in all directions. His blue-green eyes were wide as he looked over at Emma. “What happened? One minute we were in the cave, then you put that quartz crystal into the slot and we were suddenly spinning through the sky.” Brody reached into his pocket and pulled out his mom’s cell phone. He turned it on and tried to call his house. “No cell service,” he said. “We must be out of range.”
Emma and Brody rolled onto their stomachs and saw a stone wall beside them. A door in the wall creaked open. Emma saw small, booted feet step into the light.
“Come here, Aspen,” a girl’s voice whispered. She let out a small whistle. Confused, Emma and Brody started to get up.
“Hurry,” said the girl, waving toward them. “You need to get inside quickly. Come on!”
Aspen scampered toward the young girl, and Emma and Brody followed. She led them through a small door at the base of the stone wall and into a dimly lit room. Emma and Brody blinked again and again, trying to adjust their eyes.
“Where are we?” Emma asked, still rubbing her eyes.
“You are at Peveril Castle,” the young girl told them. Her English accent was faint but distinct. Her long blonde hair swung around her waist as she moved. A pink, fabric headband held the sun-kissed locks gently behind her ears. She wore a long blue dress with white ruffled petticoats peeking out below the hem. A ribbon bracelet was tied in a bow around her left wrist with a small quartz crystal dangling down the back of her hand. Emma liked her bracelet.
“Where are we?” Brody wondered aloud.
“Castleton, Derbyshire, England,” the girl replied.
“Did I hear you call Aspen by name?” Emma asked as she focused her eyes and peered around the room.
“Yes, we are old friends. My name is Max.”
“Max?” Brody peered questioningly at her.
“Well, Maxsina really, but who likes that name?” Max shook her head and continued to pet Aspen. She let Emma and Brody wander through the castle’s main hall. Questions of every kind were flying through Emma’s head but she didn’t know what to ask first.
“How are you and Aspen old friends?” Brody asked. “You look like you’re about six years old.”
Max glared at him.
“I’m nine!” she stated, placing hands on her hips.
Brody touched the castle wall. It was made of handmade stone bricks that were gray and rough. “I’m confused. You say we’re in England but just a few minutes ago, we were in West Virginia with Mr. and Mrs. M.” Brody took a deep breath.
“Where did they go, and why did Mr. M push Aspen into the cave with us?” Confusion littered Emma’s face.
“I know this is weird for you. You came through the crystal cave that Mr. M found by accident when he was building his collection.”
“How do you know that?” asked Emma.
“I met him when he traveled here a couple of months ago,” Max said.
“A couple of months ago?” Emma questioned, raising her eyebrows. “That isn’t possible.”
Max smiled. “Everything is possible in the crystal cave.” She winked at Emma.
Brody was looking around the castle and muttering to himself. “This castle looks newer than the one on the internet. Isn’t it closed except for tours?”
“I thought this castle was in ruins,” commented Emma. “But it looks whole and new.”
“Crystal cave. England. Peveril Castle. Max has historical clothes,” Brody mumbled. He shook his head and paced along the wall. Suddenly, he whirled around to face the girls. “What year is it?” he demanded.
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