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The shadow grew darker and the air colder. My whole body shook, making my pliable cheesy arm bounce up and down across the alley. I let out a deep breath and watched the air stream out of me.
The boy pointed at me again, “It’s a pizza!” he shouted.
“A slice of pizza,” I corrected.
“Pizza man!” he shouted, running toward me.
“Get back!” I warned right as an icy projectile flung past him and exploded against the brick wall.
“Just go!” I yelled. But he wasn’t listening. He was walking closer to me, giggling. Another ice spear flew past him, brushing against his hair. With that, he let out a scream. Tears streamed down his face.
“Somebody help us!” I yelled. But we were alone. Just go, Tony. Just get up and go. I dove forward, whisking a three-year-old boy away, right as an icy spike struck the ground.
I ducked down, still holding Iris’s hand. All at once, I lost my footing and flew toward the alley, my arm like a slingshot. I gripped the boy tightly.
“Wee!” he screamed.
I landed next to Iris, my arm a stringy mess.
“Again!” the boy clapped.
I let out a sigh of relief.
“There’s no time to wait. We’ve got to get out of here!” she yelled.
“Aiden!” a woman screamed. The boy jumped out of my arms and ran toward his mom.
“Is the robot gone?” I asked, but I could already feel the shadow reappear before the words came out of my mouth. The alley went ice cold.
“Book it!” Iris yelled, letting go of my cheesy hand.
We darted down the alley, narrowly dodging shards of ice.
“Follow me, okay?” she said, turning toward me as she sprinted. We crisscrossed through the alleys, the ice torpedos slamming into buildings. We sprinted through an empty parking lot and then back into another alley.
“Why is it after me?” I cried out.
“I think you upset him. Or her. I mean, it could be a female robot. I’m not sure why I’m assigning a gender to it. I blame our patriarchal . . .”
A stream of ice whizzed past us.
We turned the corner and sprinted down another alley, zigzagging around busted boxes and jumping over piles of trash. My lungs were burning. I could smell my mozzarella breath. My already jiggly legs felt like they would melt at any moment.
“Jump!” she warned, leaping over a patch of ice.
I sprung forward, slipping on the ice, and tumbling into the wall. Crack!
“My crust!” I shouted.
Iris knelt down. “I don’t see any cracks on your crust, Tony. But, oh wow, you’re bleeding.”
I pulled myself up and looked down at the puddle of blood forming around me.
“We need to stop the bleeding,” she said, between the deafening crash of the robot’s massive footsteps. It was getting closer. She ripped the bottom of her shirt and held it up to stop the bleeding.
“Wait, this isn’t blood.”
“I know, it’s marinara sauce. But we need to stop . . .”
“No, this is hot sauce.” She pointed to a busted jar of hot sauce. “It must have fallen out of my pocket and you stepped on them.”
“You carry hot sauce with you?”
Clank! A shard of ice careened off a nearby dumpster. It looked like a smashed soda can.
“Of course I carry hot sauce with me. Life is better when it’s spicy. I put it on fries and pop corn and eggs. I even put it on poutine when I’m in Canada.”
“So? I’m okay. I’m alive,” I said. I let out a nervous laugh. “I’m okay.” My fragile crust was still intact. I jumped to my feet and looked across the alley. A dog emerged at the corner, catching a scent of my crust.
“Hurry up or you’ll get eaten alive,” she said. Most people say that as an expression, but in this case, she was serious. A sprinting slice of pizza has no chance against a hungry alley dog.
I turned back to see the massive chrome leg of the robot. I couldn’t run that direction either.
“We’re almost there!” she yelled, pointing to a door at the back of a warehouse.
A giant ice ball flew by, crashing into the ground, leaving a divet in its place.
“That could have been us,” I said.
We sprinted down the dirty alley and up a ramp at the edge of the building. She reached for the string on the sliding door. It wouldn’t budge.
“It’s locked!” she shouted. She banged on the door. “No way. This is . . . this door is always unlocked. It’s my go-to hideout.”
“How often are you getting chased by robots?” I asked.
“More often than you’d imagine,” she shot back.
The alley grew colder and darker. The humming machine echoed against the walls.
“Is there a key?” I asked.
She shook her head. “It’s on the inside. You just have to twist the lock normally.”
I glanced over her shoulder at the dog galloping toward me.
“There’s no back-up key somewhere?”
I studied the door. It was too heavy and too powerful for us to force open. I lifted up on the handle. Nothing. But a tiny sliver of space emerged at the bottom, underneath the door.
It was a crazy idea but it might just work. Maybe. But if it didn’t, I’d end up as puppy chow.
An ice bolt shot past us, denting the door.
I pulled my hand down as flat as I could and squeezed it into the space under the door. My arm ached as I stretched it out as flat as I could.
“The lock is too high up,” I said.
“Try harder,” she snapped. I couldn’t get my entire arm through the crack under the door.
“It’s too narrow,” I whined.
The dog barreled forward, saliva spewing from his mouth.
“Can you try and pull the door up at all?” I asked.
“I’m trying,” Iris said with clenched teeth.
Clank! An icy bolt shot into the door, popping it ever so slightly. I stretched my arm as far as it could go.
“You got it?” she asked, her face turning red.
“Almost,” I answered leaning into the door, squeezing my arm with every ounce of energy I had. My index finger touched the tip of the lock. So close.
I closed my eyes. Focus. Just turn the lock. Clank! Another ice bolt. I opened my eyes. Big mistake. The snarling dog snapped at my crust. Iris was kicking it away, doing her best to keep the dog at bay.
“You close?” she asked, leaning on me.
I stretched my right hand up as hard as I could. It was so close. I could feel the edge of the lock. I twisted. I jumped back, losing my grip, as the dog snapped at a loose strand of melted cheese.
“Hot sauce!” Iris yelled.
“Really? Right now? I’ll get you some new hot sauce when we’re out of this jam, okay?” I said.
She darted down the alley as I spun around, whacking the dog with my crusty back. It jumped back and squared toward me, eyes fixed on my cheesy face. Then it leapt forward. I closed my eyes, bracing for the attack. It didn’t happen. I opened my eyes as the dog howled and whined.
Iris stood there waving her arms like a maniac.
“Dogs hate the smell of super spicy ghost pepper hot sauce,” she said. I leaned back into the door and stretched my hand up. Clank! Another shot. The door dropped lower, smashing down on my arm. Greasy tears streamed down my face. I had never felt that kind of pain in my life. But the lock was closer. I reached around, turned the lock and pulled up with my other hand. The door flung open and I slid inside. Right then, the dog lunged forward and bit into my crust. A piercing pain shot up my entire body.
How was this possible? My crust was still intact. It was supposed to have crumbled by now.
Iris summersaulted her way inside and pulled the door down. The gnashing teeth pulled back as the dog let out a small howl. I kind of felt bad for him. Poor guy. He was only looking for a snack. I just didn’t want that snack to be me.
“We made it.” I let out a laugh. My entire body ached, but I couldn’t believe it. I was alive. Intact. Somehow my fragile crust hadn’t cracked at all. I couldn’t believe it but I was actually alive.
- Tony didn’t want to do anything heroic but he felt like he had to when no one else stepped up. How often is that true in life?
- Tony wants so badly to be normal. However, how would this chapter have been different if he had been a normal kid instead of a bionic slice of pizza?
- Tony and Iris are already starting to become friends even though they barely know each other. Why is this the case?
- Make a prediction about who is behind the icy robot.