Chapter 10: The Oldest chrontercog

Mitch’s head was spinning. In the last half hour, she had learned more than she had in the past two days trying to piece together her grandfather’s stories and arguments with her great-uncle. She closed her eyes and tried to focus, but she couldn’t shake the strangeness of it all. This morning, she had boarded a bus to school for her first day of seventh grade. Now, here she was, sitting in an overstuffed armchair surrounded by strange copper instruments in a makeshift laboratory on the second floor of a crumbling mansion in the middle of a swamp.

“Okay, tell me one more time,” she said, raising her head from her hands and settling her gaze on Reece, who was kneeling into a gigantic fireplace.

He poured a vile filled with sparkling, smoking white liquid into a beaker containing several gel-like golden droplets. The room exploded in a greenish light. Reece staggered back, covered in a fresh layer of soot.

“Almost there,” he said, looking a bit dazed. “Okay, yes—where were we?”

“The Corridor.”

“Right.” Reece pulled his gadgety goggles from his eyes and collapsed onto the sofa next to Mitch.

“The Corridor connects the present to the past. See, there’s all these different moon cycles—”

“Okay wait—what are those again?”

“Moon cycles? They’re kind of like time capsules. They’re where the past is stored. Each moon cycle is about twenty-eight days long, and there’s thirteen of them in a year.”

“That’s right,” Mitch remembered. “That’s the time it takes for a full moon to turn to a new moon and back to a full moon again.”

“Exactly.” Reece said. “You can take the Corridor to any moon cycle in the past, or even to the future, if you know how to get there…”

“But no one knows how to get there?”

“To the future? No. No one except Zahlamaer.”

“And he is…our enemy?”

“Yes. He’s the reason both me and you have no parents.”

Mitch swallowed. “He killed our parents?”

“Well,” Reece said, looking at the floor. “Not exactly. He killed my daddy, Wesley Rainier.”

“What about your mama?” Mitch asked.

“She died when I was born. Her name was Mila.”

“Oh,” Mitch said. “I’m sorry, Reece. I didn’t mean to—”

“No, it’s okay,” Reece said, meeting her eyes. “They’ve been gone a long time. And my daddy—he died fighting for the Collective, just like your parents.”

“So they really are gone then,” Mitch said sadly.

“Oh no!” Reece cried. “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant! I meant your parents fought Zahlamaer too. We don’t actually know what happened to them though. They left the day the Corridor closed, and they never came back. But there’s still a chance they’re out there somewhere, trapped in time, but still alive.”

Mitch’s eyes widened. “Could we find them?”

“Maybe,” Reece nodded. “Time’s a big place, but now that the Corridor’s been reopened anything’s possible.”

Mitch smiled hopefully. “Okay,” she said, returning her attention to the story that was starting to unfold. “So both me and you lost our parents. And this is all because of Zahlamaer?”


“He hated our parents because they were part of…”

Reece waited while Mitch drew the name to her memory.

The Collective?”


“And the Collective was trying to close the Corridor.”


“To end all time travel.”

“You got it.”

“But Zahlamaer didn’t want this, right?”


“Because he’s the one who discovered time travel.”

“Well—I guess you can put it like that. But we don’t really know for sure. Zahlamaer is what you call a chrontercog—a very powerful, very old magician.”

“Chrontercog,” Mitch repeated. “That sounds like that other word you used a minute ago.”


“Yes! That’s it. So a chrontercog is someone who does chronomagic?”

“Well—yes. But there’s more to it than that. A chrontercog is a magician who’s fully mastered the three magical arts. Chronomagic—”

“That’s time travel.”

Reece nodded. “Terramagic—”

“Earth energy.”

“And cognamagic—”


“You got it,” said Reece with a smile. “So a chrontercog knows how to do all these things, and really well. Zahlamaer is the oldest chrontercog in magician memory. We don’t know where he came from, or how he learned to do magic. No one in his Trust could even tell you that.”

“His Trust?” Mitch asked curiously. “What’s that? Like a secret society or something?”

Reece laughed. “Sort of. Actually, though, it’s more like an army—an army of chrontercogs spread out over time. They call themselves viceroys. They hook into moon cycles and generate mass deposits of negative energy until—”

“Until they can leap forward, right?!”

Mitch smiled expectantly. Things were finally making sense. Reece shook his head, sorry to have to correct her.

“Until he can leap forward.”     

“Oh,” Mitch remembered, sinking back into the sofa. “That’s right.”

“Remember,” Reece said encouragingly. “Zahlamaer is the only one who’s been able to figure out how to leap forward in time. The future is where he stays to protect himself. It’s the only place he can’t be harmed because no one can get to him there.”

“Well, why doesn’t he just stay there then? Why keep bouncing back and forth all over time?”

“Oh he would if he could,” Reece replied. “We don’t know a lot about the future, since no one but Zahlamaer’s actually been there, but the one thing we do know is that it’s impossible to stay forever. The energy is highly unstable because the present is always creeping in.”

“So he’s forced to come back.”

“Yes, but he can’t stay here for long either.”

“Why not?”

“He’d grow old, and eventually die. As long as you’re traveling through time, you’re going to stay the same age. Time stands still in the Corridor, and the moon cycles reset every twenty-eight days, so you’re as old after a hundred moon cycles as you are after one.”

Mitch’s eyes widened. “So then you could live…forever?”

“Well, in theory, yes.” A dark cloud passed Reece’s face. “But you can die in a moon cycle too. Like my daddy. The past is a dangerous place. Now the future, on the other hand—well, nothing permanent can happen there.” 

Mitch thought about this.

“I guess you’re right,” she nodded. “Nothing’s actually happened at all in the future yet.”

“Exactly. So that’s where Zahlamaer is safest.”

“But what if he runs into himself?” Mitch asked. “You know, in the future, or the past for that matter? It seems like this time travel stuff could get really confusing.”

“Not at all,” Reece answered simply. “Because you can’t run into yourself. There’s only one of you, whether you’re in the past, the present, or the future.”

Mitch raised an eyebrow. “So you’re saying if next year, I was to travel back in time to this moon cycle—”

“It’d all be the same. Everything would happen in exactly the same way it’s happening now.”

“But what if I did something different?” Mitch challenged.

“Then things might play out a little differently. The conversation we’re having right now might change, or, if you did something really off the wall, like run off into the swamp, we might not meet at all. But after twenty-eight days the moon cycle would reset, and then we’d start back at the beginning. See, Mitch, there’s no way to permanently change the past, because it’s already happened. When you go back to a moon cycle, you’re really just visiting a time that’s already passed—get it?”

Mitch frowned. “This is going to take a minute for me to wrap my head around.”

“We have all the time in the world.”

Mitch smiled at the joke.

“Okay, so back to the Trust. These…viceroys—they hook themselves into the past and stir up trouble, right? How exactly does that help Zahlamaer get to the future?”

“Well, it takes a lot of energy to leap forward,” Reece explained. “Much more than it takes to go back in time. And sadly, negative energy is easier to create than positive energy. So the viceroys travel back in time to what we call clashes—times of war and destruction—and they just kind of hang out there, one moon cycle after another, channeling the bad energy straight to Zahlamaer so he can keep leaping forward into the future.”

“What’s in it for them?”

“Riches,” Reece answered. “Plain and simple. Zahlamaer takes good care of those who are loyal to him. But everyone else suffers—and I don’t just mean those poor people in the past. I mean we all suffer, because all that bad energy travels through the Corridor and spills out into the present, and that makes all kinds of trouble.”

“Which is why my granddaddy and Uncle Oren wanted to close the Corridor.”

“You got it. With the Corridor sealed off, the present would finally be free of the past, and we’d all have a chance to create a more positive future.”


Mitch took a deep breath and sank into the couch. Reece sat on the floor in front of her.

“I know it’s a lot to take in.”

“It is,” she admitted. “But I think I’m starting to get it. There’s just one thing that’s still bothering me.”

She looked searchingly into Reece’s eyes, believing he, if anyone, would be honest with her.

“Why in the world would my granddaddy keep all this from me?”

Reece gulped and looked away quickly. He wanted Mitch to trust him, but he needed to be careful here. It wasn’t his place to tell her about her parents. 

“Well, think about it,” he said slowly. “With the Corridor sealed, Zahlamaer and his Trust would be trapped in time. There would only be a few magicians left—your granddaddy, Uncle Oren, and those of us here at Ol’ Cypress—and, in time, they would be gone too. The secrets of time travel, and the other magical arts, would be lost forever. And that’s what they wanted. That was the whole mission of the Collective.”

“But what’s that got to do with me?”

“Look,” said Reece, trying to explain. “We were both young when they closed the Corridor. But you were full of magical energy.”

He lowered his voice confidentially, knowing he was treading into dangerous territory.

“More, I’ve heard them say, than anyone had ever seen. How could your granddaddy teach you to control it, when the idea was to wipe it out completely? You have to understand—there was so much at stake. He needed you to forget.”

Mitch balked. “So he cast a spell on me?”

“Oh Mitch, your granddaddy would hate for you to say that—all the Collective would. He didn’t cast a spell on you. He hypnotized you so you would forget—me, the others, this place—if you remembered any of it, there could have been a chance…”

Reece stopped short.

“A chance of what?” Mitch demanded, but Reece turned the conversation. 

“All I can say is your granddaddy only did what he thought was best. Maybe he shouldn’t have kept all these secrets from you, but I have to believe he had good intentions. I mean, c’mon Mitch, he’s a hero! He and your uncle started the greatest fighting force for good of all time! They actually changed the world!”

“I know Reece, but—”

“They were powerful chrontercogs,” Reece hurried on. “They could have joined Zahlamaer’s Trust at any time.”

“Sure Reece, but—”

“But they held true to the principles of their Rover ancestors, and—”

“Wait!” Mitch broke in. “Who are the Rovers?”

“Oh right!” Reece said, a little over-excitedly, relieved at the opportunity to change the subject. He jumped to his feet.

“I actually think it’s better if I show you this one.”

He pulled Mitch up from her seat and gave the sofa a hard push to the side. Dropping to his knees, he began rolling back the rug that covered the length of the room.

“Reece! What in the world?”

Reece gave the rug a final push, revealing a large, rusted latch built into the floor. With a sharp tug, he released the lock and pulled up a floorboard. Shooting Mitch a mischievous grin, he dropped down into the hole and disappeared into the darkness.

New chapters of The Secret Corridor will be published every Friday to Listen at SpotifyApple Podcasts, or Buzzsprout.

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