Instead of taking his regular subway stop near the school, Turtle decided he needed to clear his head. He passed the secret Central Park Mid entrance – now blocked by two kids with skateboards, doing tricks on a nearby rail – and then, ten blocks later, further down to the South entrance. Ten blocks was almost a mile, which meant that whoever had built this placed stations in the same positions as the current, “real” subway stations. It was a parallel network, but one much bigger and one much more mysterious.
His nerves were humming. Today was a day of firsts. For the first time he got to talk to Nick and Nate for more than five minutes, to come into their confidence, and then he learned about the Mytro. He also finally had some popular friends, although he would be hard-pressed to call Nick a friend.
Being a nerd at Manhattan Friends wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great for his social life and being invited for a sleep-over was a big deal.
Then there was the Mytro. It was so much to process. He had, in a few seconds, travelled a mile through Central Park.
Turtle’s hobby was magic. He liked to practice card tricks and had a whole drawer full of simple tricks – fake thumbs for performing scarf tricks, trick coins for the shell game, and a number of big books on street magic.
The three steps of a trick are the Declaration, the Turn, and the Prestige. The Declaration is the part where you show the audience what you’re about to do. The turn is actually doing and then the Prestige is the trick, the thing that makes everyone gasp. The Mytro was all Prestige.
He took out a quarter and practiced a coin walk, popping the coin over each of his knuckles and into his hand. He was a hit at family parties when he tried many of his tricks. While most of the time they humored him, some of the tricks usually surprised everyone, even the family who had seen it countless times. He had gotten really good at picking pockets, brushing up against members of the audience and grabbing a watch or a wallet.
He liked computers and he was also into cryptology, from the simplest substitution ciphers to more complex, computerized protection systems. He was fascinated by prime numbers and he kept a notebook of primes he could find in his textbooks. It was a strange hobby, but his father was a mathematician at New York University and his grandmother still had a stack of books and notes that he had used during his time there. Turtle loved to open them and inhale the rich scent of old paper and something slightly floral – maybe a whiff of his mother’s perfume or some kind of incense? Turtle couldn’t tell, but whatever it was brought him back to a simpler, more complete time, a time full of sunlight that he could barely remember when his mother and father were still alive.
He sped up a bit and then paused by the entrance to the Central Park South station. The path in the grass was obvious now, if you knew where to look. The old man who was sitting on the bench when they first ran past was still there, still snoozing. The jackhammer burred across the street.
Careful not to attract attention, Turtle walked up to the tall bushes and parted them again. He reached out and touched the rock. Behind it, somewhere deep in the stone, he felt the train roar into the station.
All it would take was a slight push and he’d be inside, but he froze, thinking of being lost in the endless tunnels. He’d be traveling then, traveling without a goal and without any idea of where he was going to end up – if he ever came back out, He imagined riding the train forever, like a ghost haunting the tunnels. He didn’t even have a snack in his backpack, let alone enough water to survive long in the tunnels.
The door ceased vibrating. Turtle pressed his ear to the stone. On the inside, someone (or something) started pounding. He heard a faint voice, a girl’s voice Then Turtle heard the pounding again.
Someone needed help.
He pushed the stone face and the wind began to suck him in. He held onto the bushes and pushed harder. Suddenly, barreling out of the Mytro door was a girl about his age with long black hair. Her green eyes were wide with fear and she pushed past Turtle and out into the park. “Ayudame!” she yelled. “Cerrar la puerta!” Behind her he saw two men leave the train and run barrell towards them.
“What?” he yelled. The girl looked at him and then back at the men on the platform.
“Close the door!” she screamed. He let go and it whooshed shut. The girl sat down on the grass, panting.
“Please,” she said. “I need your help.”
And, that’s how Turtle’s adventure on the Mytro began.