Choose Your Own Adventure- The Mendigans (Furnace Burnout, by Sean Monaghan)

Barry J Northern began this exploding inter-blog Choose Your Own Adventure story – if you haven’t been reading so far: start HERE. [If you want to get to here from the beginning, pick option #1 Stand up and scream the earth has been invaded (Jodi MacArthur’s Pickledeath) and then after reading that pick Jodi’s option #1 Sneak into the secretary’s office … (Tim Keeton’s The Janitor’s Closet).]

Furnace Burnout is then option one from Tim’s section. 1) the Janitor, Mr. Berman, grabbed them both and said, “You kids are in terrible danger. Come with me if you want to live.”


Furnace Burnout

Berman pounded along the corridor with Latoya and Michael darting after him. The Mendigans jostled, slithering, but not fast enough. Berman stopped at the utility room door and kicked it open. He leapt down the steps to the greasy concrete floor.

Latoya and Michael hesitated, looking into the dark, dank room. The moist sound of tentacles drew closer

“Get in, get in,” Berman yelled. “Criminy, are you lunatics? Get in here.” His eyes glowed from the corridor fluorescents.

Latoya huffed. “Our day is just filled with choices.”

They went down the steps and Berman slammed the door shut. He turned on the dim main light, then latched the door and put a padlock through a clasp. Michael wondered why the utility room needed an inside lock.

“Come on, come on,” Berman said. “Don’t stand there gawping. Help me with this stuff. We don’t have long.”

He took a flashlight from a shelf and shone it around the room. There were chains and tools and jerry cans, but the school furnace dominated the space.

“I wasn’t expecting this so soon,” Berman said. “I’m not quite ready.”

The furnace was a rusted steel cylinder, ten feet high and fifteen feet long. The heavy riveted end cap had two grated stoking doors. Pipes led upwards, bending at the dark ceiling then diverging, carrying heat around the building. A seat was welded high on the side of the furnace and Berman climbed up.

“What are you doing?” Latoya said.

Something wet slapped the locked door.

“Come on,” Berman said. “You need to plug in the cables.” Sitting now, he wound a handle. Cogs and gears bolted to the side of the furnace clanked and clicked. Something inside the furnace began to whir.

There was another sound from the corridor. Then something hit the door hard enough to make it shake. Dust drifted down from the ceiling.

“Connect it,” Berman yelled. “Now.”

“What are you talking about?” Michael said.

Berman stopped winding and sighed. “Help me turn this on. Plug it in at the back wall.”

The Mendigans pounded the door. A steady moist rhythm. They chanted something too.

“Anytime you like,” Berman said. He went back to his crank.

“What do we do?” Michael said

“The way I see it, we’ve got a choice,” Latoya said. “Either we help him, insane as he seems. Or we make a break for it.”

“I,” Michael said, “am getting sorely sick of making choices today, why can’t we-”

“Will you freaking kids plug it in!”

“Choice made,” Latoya said.

The door shuddered again.

Michael and Latoya down. The furnace was different at this end. Even in the dim light they saw that the steel was polished. Two thick cables with industrial-sized black electrical plugs lay on the floor. A glowing copper and glass machine hummed in an alcove beyond.

The door shuddered and cracked. The main light popped and went out. Berman dropped his flashlight. The light rolled, vanishing under the furnace. The only light came from the coils around the glass machine.

“Hurry,” Berman yelled.

“We can’t see.”

Another smack and they heard the door burst open.

“Just feel your way,” Berman said. “Get the plugs”

Berman wound the handle furiously and the whirring sound from inside kept increasing. But over that sound, from the dark doorway, Michael could hear the slippery squelching of the Mendigans.

Michael found a plug. He fumbled with it.

“This will go badly,” Berman yelled, “Unless you activate the machine.”

Michael dragged a plug out and jammed it into the jackpoint he’d seen on the coiled machine. As the plug connected the machine chuffed.

Michael could sense the Mendigans closing. In the dim light he could see their waving tentacles. Their tarry, fishy smell wafted over him.

“Get away, get away,” Berman yelled. They heard squishy sounds as Berman kicked the aliens.

Latoya got the other plug in. The machine shuddered.

“It’s done Mr Berman.”

“Great that’s – will you get away – excellent. Stand back.”

Berman banged the handles. The furnace clanged and chugged. It began angling upwards. Pipes broke away, spewing steam. Slots opened in the furnace’s exterior and blue and gold light shone through. The Mendigans raised their tentacles, cowering.

“Aha,” Berman laughed. “Finally I can put my death ray to the test.”

The back of the furnace slid open. A serrated and scalloped cone terminating in a shining blue ball wound out. Lightning arced from the ball. The whole machine began to turn. The Mendigans screamed. Michael could see a clear path to the door.

What should Michael and Latoya do?

1) stick with Berman and see what happens with his death ray.

2) assume Berman is as dangerous as the Mendigans and make for the door.

Let Barry or me know if you want to write a continuation from one of these options.