Al looked ahead, and he saw a huge circle of light. “Look!” he told Tango. “I don’t know how I didn’t see it before.”
He and Tango both started running toward it. “I guess the bats were wrong,” Al said. “It’s not dark at all.”
Then they both crossed through, and suddenly they were in total blackness.
“Al!” Tango cried out. He sounded scared.
“It’ll be all right,” Al told him, but he heard him start sobbing just like when Al had first seen him.
Al tried to get to him, but he seemed suddenly far away. Then he heard a rushing sound—like a train charging toward him—and felt a whoosh of air. Whatever was coming was bigger than the tentacles that had been chasing him before. This was the monster in its entirety. Right before it came upon him he shouted out to Tango, “You’re strong, remember? You’ll be okay.”
Then every bit of his voice dried out of him, and his entire body froze. Not one muscle would respond to his will. Tentacles constricted him from top to bottom and pulled him into its main mass. At first he thought his body was being ripped apart. Then, as he strained to stay whole, he realized instead that it was pushing itself into him. He pushed back as hard as he could, and for an instant he could see shapes and shadows. There were many bodies there with him—each seemed entangled by a tentacle and at the same time was stretched into a new tentacle. All the tentacles traced back to one small blob that seemed to be controlling them all.
What he saw wasn’t going to matter because it was about to claim him and make itself a brand new tentacle to do its bidding. Then a high scream erupted from beneath him, and two strong hands clamped around his ankles. With one mighty pull he fell to the ground, free for the time being.
Al could still see the dark shapes of the monster, himself, and Tango, and he grabbed Tango’s arm and yanked him back away from the monster. Tango was a lot heavier now and was maybe even taller than Al—he seemed to be able to make himself different sizes when he needed to.
“How do you do that?” Al asked him. His voice was still dry and scratchy.
“Do what?” Tango asked. He still sounded scared.
Al remembered that the monster wanted Tango, too—it had even chosen him over Al when they’d first met. If the monster could somehow control Tango’s power it would become virtually unstoppable—it could make itself as big as a mountain and squash anyone that got in its way. Al wondered why the monster was even bothering with someone like him. What did he have to offer it? He quickly thought back to all that had happened in the cave. Maybe he had power like Tango’s, too. When he’d first arrived and had needed to escape the monster he’d found a tunnel, and when he’d wanted light, light had come. Every path he’d taken seemed to have come from his own imagination.
Al tried an experiment and focused on Tango, remembering his vivid red clothes and hair. Suddenly the reds popped into view, bolder than ever. Tango stared at Al, his mouth wide open.
“How’d you do that?” Tango asked, repeating Al’s question.