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‘Peter and the Starcatchers’: Exploits of a young Peter Pan

In this gripping prequel to the classic story of Peter Pan, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson imagine a rich, colorful pirate adventure aboard the ship Never Land. Here's an excerpt.

MISTER GRIN

The glowing eyes were coming.

“Get behind me, lads!” shouted Alf, crouching, preparing to fight—but what, he wasn’t sure.

Peter, ignoring Alf, dropped to hands and knees, looking in the gloom for a weapon. He grabbed a heavy bone—Must be a leg, he thought—then found its mate, which he handed to Alf.

The thing was coming fast, now. The cage echoed with the sound of claws scrabbling on the floor, and massive weight being dragged closer, closer. Now Peter could see the massive, flat head. And now the glowing eyes disappeared from view as the thing opened the biggest mouth Peter had ever seen, lined top and bottom with jagged teeth as big as daggers, a gaping cavern of a mouth that easily could have taken him in whole. The cage echoed with a monstrous, bone-chilling roar. Then the enormous mouth snapped shut with a sound like a gunshot and the thing sprang forward at its prey.

“NO!” bellowed Alf, leaping forward to meet it, swinging the leg bone down hard with both hands onto the massive charging snout, and right in time. The bone broke in two; the creature stopped for a moment, as if surprised. Then it snapped again, and lunged at Alf, who sidestepped, trying to draw it away from the boys. His ploy worked; the thing turned toward him, pivoting its huge body, sending its massive tail—a tail, Peter now saw, that was the size of a longboat—sweeping across the wall, sending Peter and the other boys flying.

“COME ON, YOU DEVIL!” Alf was shouting. “COME ON AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN!” He was walking backward, trying to keep his eye on the monster as he looked around desperately for another weapon. Peter lunged to his feet and followed, careful to keep out of the way of that terrible tail, his plan being to toss the other leg bone to Alf. As the tail swept back and forth, Peter jumped over it as though it was a jumprope.

“ALF!” he yelled.

“STAY BACK, BOY!” shouted Alf. “ST—UNH.”

Alf was down. He’d tripped on a skull, and he’d hit his head hard. He moaned and rolled sideways, but did not get up. The monster opened its mouth again; it would be eating Alf in another step.

“NO!” screamed Peter, leaping forward, again dodging the sweeping tail, and bringing his bone-club smashing down on the thing’s hard, scaly back. “NO! NO! NO!” he shouted, each time striking it again. The monster whirled and snapped, moving far faster than Peter expected. Peter jerked his hands back just far enough, but the bone was caught, instantly crunched to splinters in the monster’s massive jaws.

Now it was Peter’s turn to scramble backward, with the thing turning in his direction, coming after him . . . coming, coming . . . its glowing eyes strangely dispassionate, a hungry beast about to do its work. As Peter backed away, he simultaneously crouched and felt around his feet for another bone . . . for anything . . . He touched nothing but hard ground. He backed up some more. Hit something hard.

The wall.

He was trapped in the corner.

The monster paused, as if knowing Peter had no way out.

It halted and then slowly opened its massive mouth, close enough now that Peter could smell its musty, fetid breath.

He could have reached out and touched the dagger teeth that were about to tear into his flesh.

Peter closed his eyes and held out his hands in a futile gesture of self-protection, and as he did . . .

“Peter!” shouted a voice.

Molly!

He opened his eyes and saw her hovering above him, waving something.

“Here!” she shouted, dropping it.

He caught it. The locket. He fumbled frantically at it, but could not find a catch.

“It won’t open!” he shouted.

The beast moved closer, its jaws wide open.

“There’s a button on the side,” shouted Molly.

Closer.

Hands shaking, Peter found the button, and the locket sprang open. Instantly his hands disappeared inside a glowing sphere.

“Touch the inside part!” shouted Molly

Peter put his finger into the heart of the sphere, and immediately he felt his body start to rise, felt his feet leave the floor. . . .

Too late.

He saw it in an instant; the jaws were closing, and they would catch him.

Too late.

Instinctively, Peter struck out at the closing jaws; his right hand, with the locket still in it, landed directly on the tip of the monster’s snout, which was suffused by the sphere.

The jaws stopped, half open, half closed.

The monster made a noise—not a roar, this time; more of a groan, or even a sigh.

And then, slowly, slowly, the monster began to rise from the floor of the cage, its body perfectly still, and in the light from the locket, Peter—who was also rising, slowly—could finally see its true size. It has to be twenty-five feet long, he thought. Maybe thirty feet. It must weigh a ton.

But it rose like a feather, the monster did; rose as easy as a bit of ash carried by a wisp of smoke, up, up, and then over the thick log wall. And then, with a flick of its tail, it drifted, still sighing, off into the jungle night.

Reprinted from "Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson © 2006 by Disney Editions.

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