Out of the WildSarah Beth Durst
Table of Contents
Chapter One - The Third Blind Mouse
Chapter Two - Rapunzel’s Prince
Chapter Three - The Wicked Witch
Chapter Four - The Big Apple
Chapter Five - New Yorkers
Chapter Six - The Fairy’s Gift
Chapter Seven - Zel
Chapter Eight - The Flying Bath Mat
Chapter Nine - The Wolf
Chapter Ten - The Wild West
Chapter Eleven - The Dragon
Chapter Twelve - The Closet
Chapter Thirteen - Beanstalks
Chapter Fourteen - Down the Beanstalk
Chapter Fifteen - Disneyland
Chapter Sixteen - Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Chapter Seventeen - The Wild
Chapter Eighteen - The End
Chapter Nineteen - Jack
Chapter Twenty - After Ever-After
Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2008 Sarah Beth Durst
eISBN : 978-1-595-14159-0
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For my father and my daughter
Praise for Into the Wild
“Into the Wild is VERY cool, with a unique look at the great fairy-tale characters. I couldn’t put it down until I knew how this brave, extraordinary girl could face such powerful magic!”
—Tamora Pierce, New York Times best-selling author of Terrier (Beka Cooper) and The Will of the Empress
“Sarah Beth Durst’s Into the Wild is fabulous in the oldest, truest, and best sense of the word, harking back to fables, wonder, and magic unleashed. It’s bold, sassy, and utterly engaging. I can’t wait to see what she does next!”
—Bruce Coville, author of The Unicorn Chronicles and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
“Into the Wild’s fairy-tale characters are fascinating, and Julie is everything one could want in a heroine—she’s intelligent, practical, determined and brave; at once more ordinary and more extraordinary than she herself thinks she is. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more work from Sarah Beth Durst.”
—Patricia C. Wrede, author of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
“Into the Wild is an entertaining, introspective, clever remixing of traditional fairy tales with a Labyrinth edge and a self-aware sensibility, and it signals a strong debut from Sarah Beth Durst.”
—Michael Jones, Realms of Fantasy magazine
“Into the Wild is a creative romp through the fairy-tale genre, highlighting the strength of the female characters whose stories we all know so well.”
“Sarah Beth Durst kept me reading because she’s so inventive with her take on fairy tales’ relevance to our world....The fun of Into the Wild is in recognizing the iconic figures from fairy tales and seeing them in this new light that Durst has provided for us. You’ll breeze through this book and you’ll have a fine time while doing so.”
—Charles de Lint, author of Wolf Moon and Blue Girl, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
“Deeper than most rewritten fairy tales, this existential story is chunked with big ideas about the fairy-tale genre, yet the story is lightened with touches that will connect with its audience.”
“Durst takes readers on a grand adventure involving candy houses and ogres, providing plenty of opportunities to watch for favorite fairy-tale characters and chances to spy traditional story traps before Julie becomes caught up in them.”
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Thank you to all the fairy godmothers/godfathers who waved their magic wands over this book, including Andrea Somberg, Jessica Rothenberg, Ben Schrank, Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville, Sara Crowe, Matthew Snyder, Jess Michaels, Pamela McElroy, Laura Schechter, and all the amazing people at Penguin Young Readers. Unending thanks to my family and friends, as well as my Book Ninjas Extraordinaire (you know who you are!). And a fairy-tale kiss to my husband, Adam, for sharing this dream with me. You are my hero and my happily-ever-after.
Warped through glass, she saw blue sky, a smear of leaves, and seven bearded faces pressed against the glass peering down at her. She tried to scream, and her lungs squeezed. Air! She needed air! She was enclosed: glass on all sides. She pounded on it. She kicked. “Let me out! Please, let me out!”
She heard a click, and the glass coffin opened.
“My Snow White,” a boy’s voice said.
The dwarves pulled her out of the coffin. “Run!” they shouted at her. “You can’t let him kiss you! The kiss ends the story! Once he kisses you, you’ll lose your memory! You’ll be trapped!”
She couldn’t move. She felt as if she were coated in concrete. Run, she told herself. Run! But the Wild had control of her.
Suddenly, the prince was there.
No! she tried to shout, but she couldn’t make a sound. She couldn’t even exhale. She fought against her own body.
Gently, he placed his lips on hers. She tried to pull back, to pull away, to stop, stop, stop! Inside, she was screaming and screaming, but her body didn’t move. The prince released her.
“And they lived happily ever after,” he said in an empty voice, a voice that Julie knew well—the voice of the Wild speaking through the boy’s lips as if he were no more than a puppet.
Julie woke in a sweat. She tossed her blankets off and flicked on the light. She was home in her makeshift bed on the living room couch. She wasn’t in the Wild. She was safe. It was over. Life was back to normal.
The Third Blind Mouse
Three blind and tail-less mice catapulted through the cat door, skidded over the linoleum kitchen floor, and collapsed in a furry heap at Julie’s feet.
“Uh, hi,” Julie said to the mice.
The cat door bashed open again as Julie’s brother, Puss-in-Boots, launched himself inside. Close on his heels (or more accurate
ly, hind paws), his girlfriend, Precious, entered the kitchen. Squealing, the mice scrambled over each other as the two cats beelined toward them.
“Whoa,” Julie said. She jumped in front of the mice to block the cats. “No eating the Three Blind Mice!” The mice darted across the kitchen and into the living room.
Boots shot her a glare. “You’d make a lousy cat,” he said. He and Precious ran through her legs after the mice. From the living room, Julie heard her best friend, Gillian, shriek over the beat of hip-hop music, “Mice!”
Oh, no, Julie thought. She sprinted toward the living room and saw1. three mice racing toward the TV,
2. two cats bounding after them,
3. one girl (Gillian, in a pink T-shirt that read, Northboro: Fairy-Tale Capital of the World) climbing onto the back of the couch, and
4. a nine-foot grizzly bear executing a perfect pirouette in the middle of the living room rug.
Just your typical Saturday morning, Julie thought. And then she plunged into the fray. “Catch them!” Boots shouted as he bounded after one mouse. He pinned it against the ottoman. Precious darted after the second and third mice, who zigzagged underneath the coffee table. They spurted out the other side as Julie ran toward them. “Watch the bear!” she cried.
Jiggling one furry leg in the air, the bear lost his balance as the cat and two mice raced in a circle around his hind paw. Precious cornered one mouse against the radiator as the grizzly bear slowly toppled. “Julie!” Gillian cried.
Julie scooped up the third mouse and then sprang backward as the bear crashed down on top of the coffee table.
The coffee table’s legs snapped, and the table flattened beneath the bear. Magazines and remote controls scattered across the room.
Everyone froze, mice included. Julie felt the pat-a-pat-pat of the mouse’s tiny heart beating fast against her fingers. The bass from the music continued to shake the room. The bear squatted on the carpet and danced just his paws up and down. Quiet movements.
Julie started to laugh. It’s not funny, she told herself. Don’t laugh. The coffee table was smashed. The mice were petrified. Mom would be furious. But she felt the giggle bubble up from the pit of her stomach. On the couch, Gillian began to laugh too.
She heard Mom’s footsteps on the stairs. “Is everyone all right?” Mom came into the living room. Seeing the coffee table, she sighed.
“Sorry about the table, Mrs. Marchen,” Gillian said. “He can’t help it.” She was right—the bear couldn’t help dancing whenever he heard music. He was still under a spell cast on him while he (and everyone else in central Massachusetts) was trapped inside the Wild. Hopping off the couch, Gillian fitted headphones on the dancing bear and affixed an MP3 player to his fur before shutting off the stereo.
“Your mom was just on the phone. She wants you home for lunch, preferably without the bear,” Mom said to Gillian. She paused, and Julie saw her read Gillian’s T-shirt. Frowning, Mom said, “I’d rather you didn’t wear that here.”
Gillian gulped. “Sorry!”
Looking at Julie, Mom raised her eyebrows. “Julie, did you know that you’re holding a mouse?”
“We rescued the Three Blind Mice!” Boots said.
“I see that,” Mom said. As Boots filled her in on their heroic rescue (involving dumpsters, dogs, and a ride on a motorcycle), Julie helped guide the bear back to his “cave” in the basement and then walked Gillian to the kitchen door.
“Sorry about the T-shirt,” Gillian whispered. “Do you think she’s mad?”
Julie hesitated. Yes, she thought Mom was mad. The T-shirt reminded Mom that her worst nightmare had come true. Six weeks ago, someone had made a wish in Grandma’s wishing well that had caused the Wild to escape. It had transformed most of Massachusetts into a fairy-tale kingdom, trapping everyone in its stories, before Julie was able to reach the magic wishing well and stop the Wild with her own wish. As the guardian of the Wild, Mom blamed herself for everything that had happened. She didn’t need a T-shirt to remind her, especially when she was working so hard to encourage everyone to forget.
“It doesn’t give away any secrets,” Gillian said.
“Just please don’t wear it again.”
“I wish you’d trust me,” Gillian complained.
I wish you’d understand, Julie thought. Something as awful as fairy tales didn’t belong on a T-shirt. Why didn’t Gillian get that? Out loud, she said, “Did you bring the story?”
Sighing, Gillian pulled a folded wad of paper out of her pocket and handed it to Julie. It was a school assignment—they’d been instructed to write a story about what had happened when their town was transformed into a fairy-tale kingdom. (The school counselor thought it would help the students cope with their memories.) Julie and Gillian had planned to lie, of course, but Mom wanted to review both Julie and Gillian’s stories before they handed them in. “Um, maybe you can wait until she’s done being mad about the shirt and the coffee table before you show it to her?” Gillian asked.
Julie slid the story into her own back pocket to deal with later, when she wasn’t holding a squirming blind mouse. “I will,” she promised. Mom wanted to make sure there were no clues as to what really happened in their stories. She didn’t want anyone to know about Julie’s involvement or about the magic of the wishing well. And she certainly didn’t want anyone to know that some of the Massachusetts residents who had been trapped in the Wild were actually from the Wild. Julie’s family and their friends wanted everyone to believe they were ordinary people. Even without T-shirts or school assignments, it was, Julie thought, kind of an uphill battle.
Without warning, the mouse in her hands shouted, “Ring around the cities!”
From the living room, another mouse piped up, “Pocketed by kitties!”
The last mouse cried, “Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!” As if on cue, the mouse in Julie’s hands tossed its head back and threw out its tiny paws like a fainting heroine in a melodrama.
Gillian grinned. “Call me later?”
“Sure,” Julie said, and shut the door behind Gillian. Carrying the limp mouse back into the living room, she asked, “Um, what’s wrong with them?”
“Aside from being blind, tail-less, and bad poets?” Boots said.
Mom frowned at him. “Poor things never recovered from their time in the Wild: chased and maimed over and over again.” Julie shuddered and tried to shake the image from her head as Mom added, “The return of the Wild clearly didn’t help their mental stability.”
All three mice lifted their heads. “No, no, no Wild!”
Julie stroked the third mouse between the ears. “It’s okay,” she said. “You’re safe now. The Wild’s gone.” Well, sort of. Okay, really, it was right upstairs, underneath Julie’s bed, lurking like a leafy octopus.
And that, Julie thought grimly, is my fault. When she’d made her wish in the wishing well, she’d had the chance to destroy the Wild completely, but she had chosen to wish for her “heart’s desire.” Her heart’s desire had been to have her normal life back. As she’d later discovered, for her, “normal life” meant: a father who was lost inside the Wild, a mother who was Rapunzel, a brother who was Puss-in-Boots, and the heart of fairy tales (reduced to a tangle of vines) under her bed. She, Mom, and Boots were back to being the guardians of the Wild, responsible for ensuring that it didn’t grow large enough to trap people in its fairy tales ever again. And Julie was sleeping on the couch and having nightmares every night. Oh, and lying to poor, frightened mice.
“You’re with friends,” Mom told the mice. “It’s me, Rapunzel.”
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” the mice chorused.
Mom flinched as if she’d been struck. A second later, as quickly as if she had put on a mask, she was again the unflappable and serene Rapunzel. But Julie had seen the flash of pain on her face. Julie tried to think of something to say. Sorry I didn’t save Dad. Sorry you had to relive your worst nightmare. Sorry our tow
n is crawling with doctors and scientists and reporters and police who would love to discover that real fairy-tale characters exist . . .
“Rude mousies,” Precious purred. “Can we eat them now?”
The mouse in Julie’s hands trembled from the tips of his pink ears to the pale stump that should have been a tail. One of the other mice sang, “Rock-a-bye, mousey, in the cat’s paws . . .”
“No, you may not,” Mom said to the cats. To the mice, she said, “We aren’t going to eat you. We’re going to take you home. Remember home? Your nice, safe cage in the library with that nice, sweet librarian Linda who feeds you—”
At the name Linda, all three mice squealed. The third mouse twisted violently in Julie’s hands, and Julie felt a sharp pain in her index finger. “Ow!” She dropped him. “He bit me!”
Bouncing on the carpet, the mouse scurried across the room. Mom tried to grab him as he ricocheted off her foot and then doubled back toward Julie. “Catch him,” Mom cried, “before he hurts himself!”
Hurts himself? What about her finger? Julie grabbed for him as he bounced pinball-like off her sneaker. She missed, and he veered toward the stairs. Yes! They had him! Mice couldn’t climb stairs—
The mouse leapt. His front claws dug into the edge of the step, and his hind legs scrabbled behind him, propelling him up onto the first step. Okay, so maybe mice could climb stairs. As Julie started forward, Mom said, “Let him go. We’re scaring him.”
She’s right, Julie thought. He was terrified. From the base of the stairs, Julie watched as the little rodent climbed: leap and scrabble, leap and scrabble, leap and scrabble. He hoisted himself up onto the top step and then disappeared around the corner.
“He’ll calm down on his own,” Mom said. “He’s safe enough in the hallway.”
Right. He could bounce off the walls up there until he calmed . . . Oh, no. Julie froze. “I left my bedroom door open.”