Fourteen-year-old Luke begins to realize how much his views of the world and the people in it have changed when he wakes up from a coma after having meningitis. Suddenly he’s seeing two worlds at once. It’s like being in a computer and looking out, seeing first the things on the computer screen, and then the real other world beyond. What’s worse is there’s a strange ugly creature on the screen, who calls himself Dreeg. His voice oozes into Luke’s brain, offering to guide him. All Luke’s senses have changed: He associates days of the week with different colors, and music evokes tastes. He has a newfound way with words and begins seeing his annoying older sister, Laura, as a series of disgusting creatures.
Luke is left feeling frightened but intrigued. He seems to be getting better, but his mind is slowly being poisoned by Dreeg. The creature offers him gifts of recovery, the return of his athletic ability, a “dream” girlfriend, and even the power to fly. In return, all Luke has to do is turn against his friends and join in Dreeg’s evil plans.
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Nicola Morgan has written over 50 nonfiction children’s books. This is her first novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A Kaleidoscope in My Head
Mondays are red. Sadness has an empty blue smell. And music can taste of anything from banana puree to bat's pee. That's what I need to explain, starting with the day it all began, the day I woke up in a hospital bed with a kaleidoscope in my head. I discovered later that I had almost died from meningitis but I remember nothing about that bit. My first memory is the dizzy waking up part and my soggy muddled head. My second memory is how, bit by bit, I began to realize how much my world had changed.
A volcano spat me furiously with a roar from its mouth. Bagpipes whined in my ears as I shot head over heels through the watery darkness, spinning fizzy. Away from the purple pain, too fast to breathe, blood cartwheeling in my veins. Floating somewhere, anywhere, until suddenly with a magnesium flash I was lying white on a bed and I knew immediately that I was in a hospital. How cool! How dramatic!
I struggled to focus on the people around me. There was Mum. A salty brightness in her smudged eyes. Dad was shouting for a doctor or a nurse or anyone.
"Come quick! Luke's awake!" And the girl with wasps in her straw-straight hair was Laura, my older sister. Two ugly years older. A perfect age for poisoning. If I had felt strong enough I'd have tied her by her hair to a chair and put a spider down her neck while a forest fire raged outside her prison hut. A huge soft spider with hunched-up sticky brown legs and deep alien eyes.
I felt odd. Floating. With weird words in my head and unnatural pictures behind my eyes. What was happening?
A yellowy doctor with weedy glasses spoke. Was that a weasel watching me carefully from behind his eyes?
"Hello, young man. Can you remember your name?"
"Rumpelstiltskin, stupid!" spat a cobra from my mouth. The doctor flinched and pinched the edges of his smile, a spasm jerking his blobby neck. "Luke!" gasped Mum.
"Well, I see we're on the mend, then!" He laughed as he made some notes on the chart in his hand. I could see Dad trying to read what it said. Laura was picking at a lilac fingernail.
My head throbbed black slime and I wished they all would go. But as Mum stroked my hand, strawberry music flowed from her fingers, softening my muscles. My vision went limp, spiraling into my head, and my eyes started to fog over.
What happened next was extraordinary. Even I knew that, drowsy as I was.
Have you ever done one of those magic-eye picture puzzles? Where you look at the pattern and force your eyes to relax, lose focus and go cross-eyed? If you succeed in this almost-impossible letting go, you suddenly see deep inside, behind, beyond the picture, and a whole new world appears. That's what happened to me.
It was then that I properly noticed the wasps in Laura's hair, at the same time as I realized that they shouldn't be there. They couldn't be there, but they were. They crawled around her face and into her nose. And around and about I could see rows of flowers of every possible shade of every imaginable color. Musical notes danced as they sang, each with a smell and a taste. Several brushed over my tongue like cobweb candy floss. I saw the tips of my fingers start to soften and swell, as weird insects fluttered out and lined up to the right. I could see every color, taste, smell, song, idea, possibility, feeling, wish. I could have whichever one I wanted.
It was as if a huge transparent computer screen had been put really close to my face. In fact, it was more like being in a computer and looking out, so that I was seeing first the things on the screen and in my head and then everything outside the computer, the real, other world beyond. Distantly, I could see the washing-up-liquid-green walls of my small room, the curtains with headachy corkscrew patterns, a bag of fluid dangling above me and a monitor with zigzag lines I didn't want to look at. This was all hazy through the screen, whereas everything on the screen was now sharply in focus.
In the top right corner of my vision sat the most extraordinary creature you could imagine, even if you had the most extraordinary imagination in the universe. Hunched and shapeless, it brooded, waving countless writhing arms. Acrid yellow steam rose from its armpits. Yet, when I looked more closely, curiously, it seemed to change somehow and I could see that its face was almost human. Long white hair, perfectly brushed, framed transparent skin, like clingfilm, wrapping a delicate spider's web of blue veins. As I stared, the creature turned its face toward me, its pupils paper-thin slits as it returned my mesmerized gaze. Its lips swelled into a smile. It was an orange-scented smile that seemed to flood my bloodstream with promises of pleasure. It was a smile that cast a spell.
"Go on. What are you going to do?" it said, without appearing to speak. The voice just oozed into my brain.
"Nothing," I said inside my head. I couldn't think of anything more interesting than that. I was completely transfixed. It was what I normally would have said; but inside me there were more jumbled thoughts and wordless feelings that I had never had before. In there, it felt like being on the dizziest, most beautiful-frightening roller-coaster ride ever invented. The sort where all you can do is lie back and scream and want it to end and yet want it never to end.
"You can't do nothing," the creature said. "Logically and philosophically, that would be impossible. To do nothing is a choice you make. It is, therefore, something. On another level, you can't do nothing because you mustn't do nothing. Doing nothing is, quite simply, my friend, a waste. A waste of what you now have."
His cleverness confused me. My head hurt. I wanted the ride to end.
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