...but before he could utter a word, John Henry Morris brought down his steel-drivin' hammer upon his head with the all might and fury of a thousand steam engines. Slink fell limp to the ground, and began to wiggle.
In the snowy schoolyard, Francine blinked her eyes as she came to her senses after a furious spill down the stairs. Her head throbbed and her vision was blurred, but it would take more than ice and concrete to stop her. She stood at the bottom of the stairwell leading to the school boiler room, caught between the fresh chill of the Winter air above, and the sweltering boil of the school's catacombs below. Above she could hear the voices of her friends. At first she couldn't quite discern who it was, but as she took a step forward, the voice was all too clear.
It was George. She called his name, but he did not answer. Rather, he muttered something that sounded familiar. Something he'd said to her in the past, seasons ago. She could see his face blinking in and out through the snowstorm, and saw that his nose was bleeding. She could hear the others - Muffy, Buster, the whole gang jeering at him. And she then heard her own voice shouting them down in George's defense, and the children were gone. Her head began to spin. She could her the whirling of bicycles. Hundreds of them cycling in unison across the schoolyard. Everyone was wearing Summer clothes for some reason, and then she recognized Ms. McGrady's face emblazoned on all of their shirts. She witnessed all the good deeds she'd done in her short life, and her soul felt lighter than air.
She turned her head to the boiler room behind her. Inside, she could hear Fern crying. Crying because she'd been called a mouse. Crying because someone told her that she was as dumb as a rock for liking Mr. Ratburn's puppet shows. The boiler room door began to glow. She could hear the sound of the old bike her father lovingly gave to her being crushed in the jaws of a trash compactor. She could hear the screams of a thousand tortured souls being torn apart in the fiery catacombs.
She looked down at her feet. To her horror and amazement, she saw herself laying there at the bottom of the stairwell, comatose from the fall. She raised her hand up in front of her face. It was transparent! Suddenly...