The Isle of the Lost (Page 16)
Evie took a deep breath. “Yes. I think so. Do I win the game?” she asked drily.
Carlos laughed. “Mal’s going to be annoyed you survived.”
“Where are we?” Evie looked around. There was a lumpy mattress on the floor next to an ironing board and a washbasin, along with a vanity table that held dozens of white-and-black wigs.
When Carlos looked embarrassed, she realized it was his bedroom. Cruella’s fur closet opened onto a dressing room, where her son slept.
Carlos shrugged. “It’s home.”
Even if her mother annoyed her sometimes, at least Evil Queen was obsessed with Evie’s good looks; and even when she wasn’t worried that perhaps Evie might not be the fairest of them all, she treated her daughter like the princess she was. Evie’s room might be dark and musty, but she had a real bed, not a makeshift one, with a thick blanket and relatively soft pillows.
“It’s not so bad in here, really!” Evie said. “I’m sure it’s cozy and, hey…you’ll never catch a cold. You can just use one of her fur coats for a blanket, right?” It was awfully drafty in the room: like her own home, Hell Hall wasn’t insulated for winter.
Carlos shook his head. “I’m not allowed to touch them,” he said, trying to put the furs back in order. They were so heavy, and there were so many of them. “I’ll fix them later. She doesn’t come back till Sunday.”
Evie nodded. “This is all my mother’s fault. If she hadn’t tried to challenge Maleficent’s leadership when they first came to the Isle, none of this would have happened.”
“Your mother actually challenged Maleficent?” Carlos goggled. It was unheard of.
“Well, she is a queen, after all,” Evie pointed out. “Yeah, she was angry that everyone on the island decided to follow Maleficent instead of her.” She walked over to the vanity and began to fix her makeup, delicately powdering her nose and applying pink gloss to her full rosebud lips. “And now here we are.”
“Mal will get over it,” he said hopefully.
“Are you kidding? A grudge is a grudge is a grudge. She’ll never forgive me. Didn’t you listen in Selfie class? I thought you were so smart.” Evie smiled wryly. “Oh well, I should just face it. Go back to our castle and never come out.”
“But you’re not, right?”
“No, I guess not.” Evie put away her compact. “Hey,” she said softly. “I have an old comforter I never use…I mean, if you get cold and you can’t…Oh, never mind.” She’d never had any siblings, so she had no idea what having a little brother would be like. But if Evil Queen had ever stopped looking at herself in the mirror long enough to have another kid, Evie thought it would be tolerable to have a little brother like Carlos.
Carlos looked as if he didn’t know what to say.
“Forget I said anything,” said Evie in a rush.
“No, no, bring it. I mean, no one’s ever cared whether I’m warm or not,” he said, blushing red as his voice trailed off. “Not that you care, of course.”
“I certainly don’t!” agreed Evie. Caring was definitely against the rules at Dragon Hall and could turn anyone into a laughingstock. “We were going to throw it out.”
“Excellent, just consider my home your Dumpster.”
“Do you think you might have a pillow you were going to toss out too? I’ve never had a pillow.” Carlos turned red again. “I mean, I’ve had tons of pillows, of course. So many! We have to keep throwing them away. I get so many pillows. I mean, who’s never had a pillow in their life? That’s preposterous.”
“Yeah, I think we were going to throw away a pillow,” Evie said, turning just as red as Carlos, even as a warm, sunny sensation had taken over her chest. She changed the subject. “Still working on that machine of yours?”
“Yeah, wanna see?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Evie replied, following Carlos out of the room toward the back of the house, away from the party. Carlos slipped outside, holding the door open for Evie.
“Where are we going?”
“To my lab,” Carlos replied, pulling out a matchbook and lighting a candle to lead the way into the weedy backyard.
“My science lab. Don’t worry, I don’t, like, sacrifice toads or something.”
Evie let out a hesitant laugh.
They approached a huge, gnarled tree with a rope ladder. Carlos started climbing up it. “I have to keep it all in my tree house. I’m afraid my mom is going to get some big ideas and turn my chemicals into makeup and hair products.”
Evie scrambled up the ladder behind him. The tree house was more elaborate than any she’d ever seen, with miniature turrets and a tiny balcony that looked out onto the dark forest below. Inside, Evie spun around, gaping. The walls were lined with shelves of glass beakers, vials, and jars containing various neon-colored liquids. In the corner sat a small, old television with about fifteen different antennas strapped to it.
“What is all this?” Evie asked, picking up a jar of something white and snowy.
“Oh, that’s from Chem Lab. It’s sodium polyacrylate—I was trying to see if I could use it as a sponge when mixed with water,” Carlos said. “But here, this is what I wanted to show you.” He pulled out the wire-box contraption he’d been working on in class. “I think I got the battery to work.”
Carlos fiddled with a few buttons and flicked a few switches. It sputtered to life, then died. His face fell. He tried again. This time, it emitted a high-pitched squeal before dying.
He looked up at Evie sheepishly. “Sorry, I thought I had it.”
Evie looked at the black box. “Maybe try connecting this wire to that one?” she suggested.
Carlos peered at the wires. “You’re right, they’re in the wrong place.” He switched the wires and hit the switch.
A powerful electric burst shot out of the box, sending Carlos and Evie flying back against the wall and falling to the floor. The beam of light burst up toward the plywood ceiling, blasting a hole in the tree-house roof and up to the sky.
“Maleficent!” Carlos cursed.
“Oh my goblins!” Evie screamed. “What just happened?”
They both scrambled out onto the tree-house balcony and stared up at the sky, where the light was streaking all the way up, through the clouds, up, up, up, all to the way to the dome!