He thought he was back at the beach, then years old, feeling the sand being sucked out beneath his toes, his mom and Billy back on the blanket, the sun bright overhead. But the pull was so much stronger, and Johnny fought for something to anchor himself to. His hands didn’t want to work, and his legs felt like they had fallen asleep. His chest burned like he had been too long underwater. He curled his toes inside his boots and fought against the pull with all his might. Why was he wearing boots at the beach?
In terror, he realized what the pull was, and he forced his eyes open to find his brother. Billy lay beside him.
“Billy?” He tried to form the words, but he could not.
“Billy!” He tried again and heard only a whisper of breath. Billy wasn’t fighting the pull like Johnny was. He was lying on his back, and his eyes were opened. There was blood beneath his head, and he wasn’t moving. He wasn’t moving and he wasn’t breathing.
Johnny screamed inside his head. He screamed, and he fought the pull and demanded an audience with the source of the power trying to disconnect him from his body.
“I’m not going anywhere!” He raged over and over, over and over, until the pressure built and exploded in white light and brilliant sparks like a blow torch on metal. Johnny felt a snapping and a shredding. But there was no pain, only pressure, and then a giant crack, like a million balloons simultaneously popping. And then . . . nothing.