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The Journal of Curious Letters, Page 1

James Dashner

  This book is dedicated to my wife, Lynette,

  and to our mothers,

  Linda Dashner and Patti Anderson.

  Thank you for making my life so far

  a wonderful thing to have lived.

  Text © 2008 James Dashner

  Illustrations © 2008 Bryan Beus

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain¨. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.

  All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Visit us at

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Dashner, James, 1972-

  The Journal of Curious Letters / James Dashner.

  p. cm. — (The 13th Reality ; v. 1)

  Summary: Thirteen-year-old Atticus “Tick” Higginbottom begins receiving mysterious letters from around the world signed only “M.G.,”

  and the clues contained therein lead him on a journey to the perilous

  13th Reality and a confrontation with evil Mistress Jane.

  ISBN 978-1-59038-831-0 (hardcover : alk. paper)

  eISBN 1-60641-615-4 (eletronic)

  [1. Space and time—Fiction. 2. Letters—Fiction. 3. Family life—Washington (State)—Fiction. 4. Washington (State)—Fiction.

  5. Science fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.D2587Jou 2008

  [Fic]—dc22 2007042579

  Printed in the United States of America

  Worzalla Publishing Co., Stevens Point, WI

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1




  Part1: The Fire

  Chapter 1: Master George and Mistress Jane

  Chapter 2: A Very Strange Letter

  Chapter 3: A Kid’sWorst Nightmare

  Chapter 4: Edgar the Brave

  Chapter 5: A Most Unwelcome Patch of Smoke

  Chapter 6: The Ladyin the Trees

  Chapter 7:Mothball

  Chapter 8: A VeryImportant Date

  Chapter 9: The Gnat Rat

  Chapter 10: The Temptation of the Flames

  Part2: The Journal

  Chapter 11: Old and Dusty

  Chapter 12: The Voiceof M.G.

  Chapter 13: Talking to Sofia

  Chapter 14: Shoes and Mittens

  Chapter 15: Little Ball of Bread Dough

  Chapter 16: Nowhere in Between

  Chapter 17: Smoky Bathroom

  Chapter 18: Edgar the Wise

  Chapter 19: An Odd Christmas Present

  Chapter 20: The Land of Ice and Snow

  Chapter 21: Old, Funny, and Smelly

  Chapter 22: Going Postal

  Chapter 23: Bonding with Norbert

  Chapter 24: Pedal to the Metal

  Chapter 25: The Girl with Black Hair

  Chapter 26: Time Constraints

  Part3: The Magic Words

  Chapter 27: April Fool

  Chapter 28: A Meeting in the Woods

  Chapter 29: A Bundle of Clues

  Chapter 30: The Third Musketeer

  Chapter 31: Paul’sLittle Secret

  Chapter 32: Shattered Glass

  Chapter 33: The Final Clue

  Chapter 34: The Miracle of Screaming

  Chapter 35: The Final Preparation

  Part4: The Barrier Wand

  Chapter 36: Among the Dead

  Chapter 37: A Familiar Name

  Chapter 38: Sitting Down

  Chapter 39: A Lot of Water

  Chapter 40: Master George

  Chapter 41: The Taleof the Realities

  Chapter 42: The Doohickey

  Chapter 43: A Bump in the Night

  Chapter 44: Escalation of Plans

  Chapter 45: The Thirteenth Reality

  Chapter 46: Chi’kardaDrive

  Chapter 47: Annika’sToss

  Chapter 48: Double Doors

  Chapter 49: The Golden Button

  Chapter 50: The Calmafter the Storm

  Chapter 51: Homecoming

  Epilogue: The Thwarted Meeting

  A –Glossary of People, Places, and All

  Things Important

  Discussion Questions



  I used to think this section was major lame. Why on earth, as a reader, would I give a flying tahooty about the people who helped the author? Well, I’m here to tell you that you should be very interested. Because without the awesome people I mention below, this book wouldn’t be in your hands.

  Before anyone else, I need to thank Chris Schoebinger and Lisa Mangum at Shadow Mountain. Despite being an author, I can’t come up with words great enough to express how much they’ve changed my life. Fabulicious. Astoundendicularly whammy. Terrificaliwondershonks. (See, told ya.) Thank you, Chris and Lisa.

  Thanks to my wife, Lynette. Always my first reader, she’s not afraid to tell me when something sounds like a two-year-old blurted it out while sitting on the potty.

  Thanks to my sister, Sarah Kiesche, for keeping up my Web site during the Jimmy Fincher books and being my number one fan.

  Thanks to my agent, Jenny Rappaport, for her work on my behalf.

  Thanks to J. Scott Savage. His keen and almost eerie understanding of how to weave a good story has helped me greatly. And our regular lunches to “talk shop” have been invaluable. I do wish he’d use a little more deodorant, though.

  Thanks to Annette Lyon, Heather Moore, Michele Holmes, Lu Ann Staheli, Lynda Keith, and Stephanni Hicken. These crazy ladies all read the manuscript and gave excellent feedback.

  A huge thanks to the younger folks, whose advice was perhaps most relevant: Jacob Savage, Alyssa Holmes, and Daniel Lyon.

  Thanks to Shirley Bahlmann (and her kids), Danyelle Ferguson, and Anne Bradshaw. Shirley is the only one besides my wife who has helped me with every book I’ve written.

  Thanks to Crystal Hardman, Tony and Rachel Benjamin, Pam Anderton, and Julie Sasagawa. Eating at Jim’s Restaurant will never be the same.

  Thanks to Peter Jackson for making the Lord of the Rings movies.

  Thanks to the dude who invented football.

  Thanks to the many chickens that provided me with spicy buffalo wings over the years.

  And last, but certainly not least, thanks to all the Jimmy Fincher fans. Without your loyal following, Atticus Higginbottom would have never been born.




  The Fire




  Master George and Mistress Jane

  Norbert Johnson had never met such strange people in all of his life, much less two on the same day—within the same hour even. Odd. Very odd indeed.

  Norbert, with his scraggly gray hair and his rumpled gray pants and his wrinkly gray shirt, had worked at the post office in Macadamia, Alaska, for twenty-three years, seven months, twelve days, and—he looked at his watch—just a hair short of four hours. In those long, cold, lonesome years he’d met just about every type of human being you could imagine. Nice people and mean people. Ugly people and pretty people. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, cops. Crazies and convicts. Old hags and young whippersnappers. Oh, and lots of celebrities, too.

  Why, if you believed his highfalutin stories (which most people quit doing about twenty-three years, seven months, twelve days, and three hours ago), you’d think he’d met every movie and music star in America. Though exactly why these famous folks were up in Alaska droppi
ng off mail was anybody’s guess, so it may have been a slight exaggeration of the truth.

  But today’s visitors were different, and Norbert knew he’d have to convince the town that this time he was telling the truth and nothing but the truth. Something scary was afoot in Macadamia.

  The first stranger, a man, entered the small, cramped post office at precisely 11:15 a.m., quickly shutting the door against the blustery wind and swirling snowflakes. In doing so, he almost dropped a cardboard box full of letters clutched in his white-knuckled hands.

  He was a short, anxious-looking person, shuffling his feet and twitching his nose, with a balding red scalp and round spectacles perched on his ruddy, puffy face. He wore a regal black suit: all pinstripes and silk and gold cuff links.

  When the man plopped the box of letters onto the post office counter with a loud flump, a cloud of dust billowed out; Norbert coughed for several seconds. Then, to top everything off, the stranger spoke with a heavy English accent like he’d just walked out of a Bill Shakespeare play.

  “Good day, sir,” he said, the faintest attempt at a smile creasing his face into something that looked like pain. “I do hope you would be so kind as to offer me some assistance in an important matter.” He pulled a lace-edged handkerchief from within the dark recesses of his fancy suit and wiped his brow, beads of sweat having formed there despite the arctic temperatures outside. It was, after all, the middle of November.

  “Yessir,” Norbert answered, ready to fulfill his duty as Postal Worker Number Three. “Mighty glad to help.”

  The man pointed outside. “Simply dreadful, isn’t it?”

  Norbert looked through the frosted glass of the front door, but saw only the snow-swept streets and a few pedestrians bundled up and hurrying to get out of the cold. “What’s dreadful, sir?”

  The man huffed. “By the Wand, man, this place, this place!” He put away his hanky and folded his arms, exaggerating a shiver up and down his body. “How can you chaps stand it—the bitter cold, the short daylight, the biting wind?”

  Norbert laughed. “I take it you’re just a-visiting?”

  “Visiting?” The sharply dressed man barked something between a laugh and a snort. “There’ll be no visiting from me, my good man. The instant these letters are off, I’ll be heading back to the ocean. The very instant, I assure you.”

  The ocean? Norbert eyed the man, a little offended by the stranger’s dislike of the only town where Norbert had ever set foot. “Well, sir, how long you been here?”

  “How long?” The man looked at his golden pocket watch. “How long? Approximately seven minutes, I’d say, and that’s far too long already. I’m, er, eager to be on my way, if you don’t mind.” He scratched his flaky red scalp. “Which reminds me—is there a cemetery closer than the one down by the frozen riverside?”

  “A cemetery?”

  “Yes, yes, a cemetery. You know, where they bury poor chaps with unbeating hearts?” When Norbert only stared, the man sighed. “Oh, never mind.”

  Norbert remembered hearing the word befuddled once on television. He had never been quite sure what it meant, but something told him it explained exactly how he felt at that moment. He scratched his chin, squinting at the odd little man. “Sir, may I ask your name?”

  “No, you may not, Mister Postman. But if you must call me something, you may call me Master George.”

  “Alrighty then,” Norbert said, his tone wary. “Uh, Master George, you’re a-telling me you just arrived here in Macadamia seven minutes ago?”

  “That’s right. Please—”

  Norbert ignored him. “And you’re a-telling me you come all this way just to mail these here letters, and then you’re

  a-going to up and leave again?”

  “Egads, yes!” Master George squeezed his hands together and rocked back and forth on his heels. “That is, if you’d be so kind as to . . .” He motioned to the box of letters, raising his thin eyebrows.

  Norbert shook his head. “Well, how’d you get here?”

  “By . . . er, plane, if you must know. Now, really, why so many questions?”

  “You got yourself your own plane?”

  Master George slammed his hand against the counter. “Yes! Is this a post office or a trial by jury? Now, please, I’m in a great hurry!”

  Norbert whistled through his teeth, not taking his eyes off Master George as he slid the box closer to him. Then, reluctantly, Norbert looked down, a little worried the stranger might disappear once they broke eye contact.

  The box was filled to the rim with hundreds of envelopes, yellowed and crumpled like they’d been trampled by a herd of buffalo, the addresses scrawled across the wrinkly paper in messy blue ink. Each frumpy envelope also bore a unique stamp—some of which looked to be rare and worth serious money: an Amelia Earhart, a Yankee Stadium, a Wright Brothers.

  Norbert looked back up at the man. “So, you flew in your own plane to the middle of Alaska in the middle of November to deliver these letters . . . and then you’re heading back home?”

  “Yes, and I’ll be sure to tell Scotland Yard that if they’re in need of a detective to ring you straight away. Now, good sir, is there anything else I have to do? I want to make absolutely sure there will be no problem in the delivery of these letters.”

  Norbert shrugged, then shuffled through the stack of envelopes, verifying they all had stamps and proper addresses. The letters were destined to go everywhere from Maine to California, from France to South Africa. Japan. China. Mexico. They were headed all over the world. And by the looks of it, the man had estimated the required postage to perfection.

  “Well, I’ll have to weigh each one and type the location into the computer, but they look all right to me on first glance. You wantin’ to stick around while I check them all?”

  Master George slipped a fat wallet out of his jacket pocket. “Oh, I assure you the necessary postage is there, but I must be certain. Here.” He pulled out several hundred-dollar bills and placed them on the counter. “If you find that additional postage is required, this should be more than sufficient to pay in full. Consider the rest as a tip for your valuable service.”

  Norbert swallowed the huge lump in his throat. “Uh, sir, I can tell you right now it won’t take nearly that much. Not even close.”

  “Well, then, I will return home feeling very satisfied indeed.” He squinted at Norbert’s name tag before tipping his head in a formal bow. “I bid you farewell, Norbert, and wish you the very best.”

  And with that, Master George slipped back out into the frigid air.

  Norbert had a sneaking suspicion he’d never see the man again.


  Norbert had just placed the box of odd letters on a shelf under the front desk when an even stranger character than the finely appareled English gentleman stepped into the quiet post office. When the woman walked in the door, Norbert’s mouth dropped open.

  She wore nothing but yellow—her floor-length dress, her heavy overcoat, her pointy-toed shoes, her tightly fitted gloves. She pushed back the hood of her coat, revealing a bald head that shone as bright as a chrome ball, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses perched on her steep ridge of a nose, and eyes the color of burning emeralds.

  She looked like a lemon that had been turned into an evil sorceress; Norbert surprised himself when he chuckled out loud before she said a word. By the way her eyes narrowed into green laser points, Norbert figured that wasn’t the smartest thing he’d done in a while.

  “Something funny, mailman?” she asked, her voice soft and seductive, yet somehow filled with a subtle hint of warning. Unlike Master George, she had no accent Norbert recognized—she could’ve been from any city in Alaska. Well, except for the fact that she looked like a walking banana.

  After a long moment with no response, she continued, “You’ll find that Mistress Jane doesn’t react kindly to those who mock her.”

  “Um,” Norbert stuttered. “Uh, who . . . who is Mistress Jane?” As soon as he said it,
he knew he must sound like an idiot.

  “Me, you blubbering fool. Are you daft?”

  “No, ma’am, I can hear just fine.”

  “Not deaf, you moronic stack of soiled snow, daft—daft. Oh, never mind.” She took a step closer, placing her gloved hands on the counter right in front of Norbert. Her eyes seemed to have tracking beams focused on his own, pulling his gaze into a trance. “Now listen to me, mailman, and listen to me well. Understand?”

  Norbert tried to utter agreement, but managed only a small squeak. He nodded instead.

  “Good.” She straightened and folded her arms. “I’m looking for a little stuff-bucket of a man—red-faced, ugly, more annoying than a ravenous mouse in a cheese factory. I know he came here just minutes ago, but I don’t know if I’m in the correct Reality. Have you seen him?”

  Norbert called upon every ounce of willpower in his feeble little body to hold his face still, hiding all expression. He forced his eyes to focus on the Lemon Lady’s bald head and to not let them wander to the box of letters on the shelf at his feet. He didn’t have a single clue what was going on with these two strangers, but every instinct told him Master George equaled good, Mistress Jane equaled bald—he blinked—uh, bad.

  What does she mean about being in the correct reality, anyway? Norbert marveled that two such interesting people could enter his tiny post office within a half hour of each other.

  “Polar bear got your tongue—?” Mistress Jane asked with a sneer, glancing down at his name badge. “Norbie? Anybody in there?”

  Norbert ignored his racing heart and simply said, “No.”

  “No what?” the yellow woman snapped. “No, you’re not in there, or no, the man I’m looking for didn’t come here?”

  “Ma’am, you’re my first customer of the day, and no, I’ve a-never seen any such person as you described in my life.”

  Mistress Jane frowned, held a finger up to her chin. “Do you know what Mistress Jane does with liars, Norbie?”