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Black Water (Pendragon Series #5)
by D.J. MacHale
Aladdin Books, 2004

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What I saw made me catch my breath. I instantly knew that I wouldnít have any trouble finding the gate again. Thatís because looming up in front of me was the hugest tree I had ever seen. Iím not talking big, I mean immense. Colossal. Impossible. The trunk at the base must have been thirty yards across. Did you ever see a picture of those trees in California that have a tunnel cut through the base you could drive a car through? Well if there were a tunnel cut into the base of this tree, you could drive four eighteen wheelers through, side by side, and still have room for a couple of Hummers. It was like a skyscraper covered with bark. Looking up, the branches didnít even begin for about fifty yards up. Then the tree spread out into a canopy that could shade Yankee Stadium. I donít know why, but being next to giant things like that makes my palms sweat, and they were definitely sweating. Thatís how awesome it was.

I looked to the base of the tree and saw the small opening that I had crawled out of. It was so small compared to this monster tree that if I didnít know it was there, Iíd have missed it. Sure enough, carved in the bark just above the opening was the star symbol that marked it as a gate to the flume. Unbelievable. Now the hanging vines in the cavern below made sense. They were the root system of this immense tree. I walked along the base, running my hand across the rough bark. You could live in this treeÖ.with all of your friends and their families, and still have room for a Keebler cookie factory. I took a step back, looked up, and laughed. The impossible kept proving itself to be possible. What was I going to see next?

The answer came quickly, and it wasnít a good one.

I felt something hit the back of my leg. I looked down and instantly wished I hadnít because lying on the ground next to my leg, was an arm. A bloody, human arm. I quickly looked up to the direction it came from, and felt like the wind was knocked out of me. If the big tree hadnít been there to catch me, I would have fallen back on my butt.

Standing ten yards away from me was a beast. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The first thing I thought of wasÖdinosaur. It stood upright on two legs, with a long, thick tail that whipped back and forth angrily. It looked to be around seven feet tall, with powerful arms and hands that were three-finger talons. Same with its feet. Its entire body was bright green, like a lizard, with scales covering it. But what I couldnít take my eyes off of, was its head. It was reptilian with a snout-like nose. It had bright green hair that swept back from its forehead and fell halfway down its back. But most hideous, was its mouth. It looked like a shark-mouth, with multiple rows of sharp teeth that were all about tearing flesh.

And thatís exactly what it was doing, because clasped in its jaws was another human arm. Blood ran into the beastís mouth and down its chin. If I werenít so scared, I would have gotten sick. We held eye contact. I could feel this monster sizing me up. Its eyes were red, and angry. Without looking away, it closed its jaws, crunching the arm like a dry twig. The sound made my stomach turn. The monster flipped out a green tongue and sucked the shattered arm into its mouth. One gulp later, the arm was gone. Swallowed. Bone and all. Gross. It turned back to me as its mouth twisted into a bloody grin.

I was next on the menu.

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Excerpted from Black Water by D.J. MacHale. Copyright © 2004 by D.J. MacHale. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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