So, we come to the final story in this collection and it’s a doozy. At a whopping 40 pages, not only is it the longest work in the book, but it also qualifies more as a novella than a short story.
Our protagonist is Nolan Lerner, your average run of the mill kid. Not so average, is Nolan’s younger brother Morris, who has been building since he was a toddler. Whether it was with dixie cups, Legos, or boxes, Morris dedicated as much time as he could to building various structures. When he got tired of one of his constructs, he would tear it down and use those materials to build something completely different.
Nolan befriends a fellow student named Eddie, who often causes trouble, but has an odd charm about him. Despite the fact that he’s a racist homophobe (though it should be noted that this story takes place in the 70’s), you could see why people liked him based on his overall demeanor.
The pair begin to partake in that “game” where you stand on a bridge and drop things on the oncoming cars below. One round takes a horrible turn when a brick that the kids drop ends up ricocheting off a truck and crashing through the windshield of another car.
Nolan wants to confess, or at least get help by posing as witnesses, but Eddie won’t have any of it and makes Nolan promise to keep it a secret. Nolan’s efforts to distance himself from Eddie afterward prove futile as Eddie insists on keeping a close eye on Nolan.
Morris intervenes, showing off his latest work, a giant box fort with several passageways that make it resemble a maze. When Eddie comes by looking for something that he let Nolan borrow, Morris says that it’s in his fort and Eddie has to go get it. Before Nolan can follow, Morris stops him and begins to deconstruct the fort. Eddie is nowhere to be seen.
We’re never given a clear answer as to where Eddie went. Morris says that the fort is larger on the inside than it is on the outside, and when the characters travel through the fort they either hear voices or become disoriented by the design. The idea is that he was transported to some other world, but beyond that we get no real answer.
He could’ve been killed, sent to to R’lyeh, Altair IV, the Gozerian dimension, a world of nothing but shrimp, or maybe even the blagole; we don’t know. A search is put out for Eddie, and Nolan definitely feels remorse, but beyond that, the ramifications aren’t given a whole lot of thought. The story itself isn’t scary per se, but that idea that someone was sent somewhere…else, with no hope of returning is pretty unnerving.
I know Morris was trying to help his brother, but that was still pretty harsh. Even if it was in his brother’s best interest, sending someone to another dimension and then essentially locking the door behind them is cold.
The story itself was quite good. The increased length worked in Hill’s favor, I wouldn’t mind seeing him release a whole collection of novellas at some point as it seems to pan out well for him.
I’d say that the collection overall ended on a high note, and it makes sense to save the lengthiest story for last.