ourtney huddled in a corner of a nearly dark room. A trace of ghostly light shone through the tall windows, faintly illuminating rows and rows of oversized wooden tables and chairs. Along the sides, tall bookcases were haphazardly filled with books of all shapes and sizes.
Snow fell silently outside. Ominous black clouds slid across the nighttime sky and just a sliver of the moon could be seen. The creepy old building was quiet -- deathly quiet.
She shivered in the cold, damp room and thought about crying. She was alone -- very, very alone.
What had gone wrong? Where was Collin and Morgan? Why hadn't they followed her when she fell into the latest puzzle piece? Why weren't they there to help her figure out the riddle that kept ringing in her ears:
It undergoes no chemical reaction,
Yet it's reduced by just a fraction.
No matter how many times she heard it, it made no sense. None of this made sense.
She had been wandering down cold stone hallways for what seemed like hours. Tired, afraid and alone, she had finally retreated to this dark, silent space.
The room in which she hid convinced her she was in some sort of school -- but what kind? This looked nothing like her simple classroom back in Kinetic, California. She could smell the familiar school smells of books and paper and even wet wool coats, but everything else -- the tall windows, the massive desks and tables, the long, empty, echoing stone hallways -- everything seemed much too large, frighteningly unfamiliar and very, very foreign.
Courtney guessed it was the middle of the night because the huge building was so utterly empty. She had seen no signs of life as she crept down the dark hallways. Finally she'd stumbled across this unlocked room and decided to stay put until morning. At least it felt somewhat warm here.
Then, in the silence of the night, she heard a horrid screeching noise that made the hair rise on her arms. "Rats?" she wondered. The sound was short and shrill. She listened, staring intently at the floor, watching for giant spiders or other horrid creatures.
The screech came again. It was followed by a faint persistent tapping. Suddenly she recognized the sound -- scratching on a chalk board!