Will and Turtle stared at the sky for signs of the birds returning. At last, as the sun was beginning to sink toward evening, the blue heron’s majestic outline appeared in the distance. Will jumped to his feet and clapped. “They’re here!” he shouted. He skipped up and down the beach, too excited to stand still and wait. The heron soared in for a graceful landing on the wet sand by Will’s feet.
“We have located your house,” he announced.
Will and Turtle cheered. Now all they had to do was wait for dark. Will could sleep in his own bed tonight! He watched impatiently as the sun sank lower and lower. “Can we go yet?” he begged.
“Not until the sun is out of sight,” said the heron. “The sting ray only turns into a human after it sets.” Will sighed and waited another fifteen minutes for the sun to disappear. Finally it was time to go. Will shivered as he waded out to his waist and climbed onto Turtle’s shell. It was a relief when they joined up with the others and Will could sit on Tony’s back without getting his feet wet at all.
They followed the heron for a long time. At one point, the bird made them slow down and skirt around the far side of an island with a roving light on it. “That’s the wizard’s lighthouse,” the bird explained in a whisper, perching on Turtle’s back so the wizard wouldn’t spy him. Herons, he explained, should be in their nest this time of night. If the wizard saw him, he would know the heron was up to something suspicious. But they made it around the island safely, and soon they were speeding along again.
Suddenly one of the little fish who had been following them let out a yelp. The other small fish squealed and bolted every which way, leaving Will, Tony, Turtle and Bertha alone. “What’s happening?” Will asked.
“Piranhas!” said Bertha. Turtle scooped her onto his shell for safekeeping. Mouths poked out of the water all around them, snapping hungrily.
“Hurry!” called the heron from the sky. “We’re very close! You can out-swim them!” So Tony and Turtle put on a burst of speed, breaking through the piranhas’ ranks. The hungry fish battered the whale’s sides, but Tony didn’t slow down. Will didn’t notice when Turtle and Bertha fell behind – until Bertha let out a scream.
“They got her!” Turtle shouted.
The heron acted at once. He dove at the water, sliced in with his long beak, and pulled the piranha out of the water, still holding onto Bertha with its teeth. “Hurry, follow them!” Will yelled. Poor Bertha! Will hoped she would be all right. After all the help she’d been, after all her motherly comfort, it just wouldn’t be right for something bad to happen to her.
Will caught up to Bertha and the heron in the shallow water. “Is she okay?”
Bertha smiled. “I’ll be good as new, hon. You go to your house.”
Will looked up. There it was! His house! With its blue paint and red door and white shutters, just as it had always looked. Well, maybe a little wetter and more beat-up from its ocean adventure, but it sure was his, and Will had never been so happy to be home. He ran up the front steps and opened the familiar door.
“Mom! Dad!” he called. “I’m home!”
Then the lights came on, and a knot formed in Will’s stomach. This wasn’t his house after all. It was a very good replica on the outside, but inside, everything looked different. The walls were made of stone and lit by torches that made the shadows flicker and dance. A cold draft was coming down the hallway. At the end, Will could see an eerie blue light glowing in the TV room, but it sure wasn’t coming from a TV. In fact, Will thought he could hear thunder down there. Even though he was afraid, Will also felt extremely curious. Could there really be a thunderstorm in his living room? He tiptoed closer to see.
What he found was not exactly a thunderstorm. Will clapped a hand to his mouth to keep from screaming. The room was full of ghosts! And the TV and lights were flickering madly as the spooky forms flew around in a frenzy. Will backed away slowly, only to crash into something – no, someone!
He had knocked over a skeleton, which fell to the floor with a loud crash, scattering its bones across the hall. Now Will really did scream. The ghosts had noticed him by now, so he ran for the front door. But it was locked! So he ran to the safest place he knew. Up the stairs, around the corner, past the bathroom and into his room! He shut the door and locked it and dove under the covers. His bed felt just as safe and normal as it always had. Will squeezed his eyes shut and wished with all his might that he would wake up now, and find out it had all just been a scary dream.
Something was rattling the closet door. No, this was no dream, and Will was not about to stick around and find out what was in his closet. He opened the window and dove into the ocean.
“Will!” Tony said nearby. “What are you doing back in the water?”
“House was haunted,” Will panted. “It wasn’t mine – it was a fake! Are the piranhas gone?”
“They left as soon as you went in the house,” said Tony. “It was like they just appeared to chase you there.”
Something spooky was happening to Will’s window. He held Tony’s fin tightly as the flickering blue ghost light filled the window frame and floated out into midair! It didn’t look so ghostly now, though. Now it had a pretty solid human form with a long white beard and a billowing black cloak fastened at the neck.
“William Williams,” said the man with a voice like thunder. “I am the wizard.”