Chapter 3: Cierra La Puerta

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Instead of taking his regular subway stop near the school, Turtle decided he needed to clear his head. Walking, he passed the secret Central Park Mid entrance—now blocked by two kids with skateboards doing tricks on a nearby rail and a thin man with glasses watched them, puzzled, from a park bench. Ten blocks later, he passed the station they exited to beat everyone on the track team. Ten blocks was almost a mile, which meant that maybe whoever had built the Mytro placed stations in the same positions as the current, "real" subway stations. It was a parallel network, but one much bigger and 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 about something other than schoolwork, and it was the first time they'd trusted him with something big. It was also the first time he rode the Mytro.

Being a nerd at Manhattan Friends wasn't bad, but it wasn't great for his social life. Being invited for a sleepover at the Kincaids' was a big deal. Then there was the Mytro. It was so much to process that he had, in what seemed like only a few seconds, travelled a mile through Central Park.

It just so happened that 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 illusions, trick coins for the shell game, and a number of big books on street magic.

The three steps of any magic 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 it, 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. His tricks made him a hit at family parties. Though he knew that most of the time they humored him, some of his tricks surprised everyone, even those who had seen them 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 had been a mathematician at New York University, and his grandmother still had a stack of books and notes 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? It brought him back to a happier 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 jackhammer still burred across the street.

Careful not to attract attention, Turtle approached 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, without a goal and without any idea of where he was going to end up—if he ever came back out at all. Turtle 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 lost in the tunnels for long.

The door ceased vibrating, so 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.

"Ayúdame!" she yelled. "Cierra la puerta!" Behind her he saw two men exit the train and race 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."

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