• Chapter 1
    The Start of Something New

    Arizona Rilles wasn’t paying a lick of attention to Nathan’s commentary about the mistake she’d made with her virtual roller coaster. It wasn’t like people would be riding it. It was virtual. Not real. But sadly, for Nathan, this was typical. To completely over exaggerate almost everything she did.

    “Nathan, nobody cares.” She snapped heatedly. “It’s a virtual coaster. No living person is going to ride this thing.” Nathan leaned against the back of her chair, his golden blond hair falling over one of his brown eyes.

    “Yes but, take consideration of the virtual people. If you opened the attraction without fixing those mistakes and people got on it, they could be killed.”

    “Oh yeah, then I’ll probably get a virtual lawsuit, have to hire a virtual lawyer, and go to virtual court.”

    “Who knows? Anything is possible.” Nathan said coolly. She sighed. The lesson she had learned today was obvious: Never have your gifted twin brother sit beside you while you play Roller Coaster 2. “Your river rapids ride just broke down.” He pointed at the top of the screen. Arizona’s eyebrows furrowed with frustration.

    “Dang it. That’s the fifth time it’s broken down since I opened the park.”

    “Actually, the fourth, but you were close.” She ignored him and instead checked out the ride. It appeared to be stuck at the station. Fortunately, she had a mechanic on the way. The little people who used to be in the line for her ride where now scurrying around excitedly, examining the rides while munching on high-calorie snacks like fries and funnel cake.

    “Hey… since when is coffee served at a theme park?” Nathan pulled up a foldable chair and sat next to Arizona, his eyes locked onto the beverage stand she had placed by a Tilt-A-Whirl type ride. She shrugged.

    “I don’t know. Isn’t there a coffee shop at Disney?”

    “Not that I recall.” Arizona gave another impatient sigh.

    “You know, you could just say ‘no’.” She point-blank refused to stray her eyes away from Guest 1096, who was currently buying a T-Shirt that supposedly read ‘I survived Poseidon’s Fury’. Her brother was completely unaware of the fact that someone was behind them – so was she.

    “Yes, but I don’t feel like doing that today.” She now turned to the janitor watering the flowers she had placed by a lake.

    “Okay Artemis Fowl, what’s your plan?” It was supposed to be a joke, but her sneering voice immediately changed the atmosphere.

    “Why on Earth would I need one?” She could see his blank expression through the computer screen – but nothing else.

    “Well, you always seem to have one.” Guest 1096 was now boarding her pride and joy – The Hydra. It was an awesome ride – two coasters combined together under the same name. They managed to pass so close to each other at times, their dangling feet grazed each other before they were twisted away into a loop. The colossal green attraction drew many visitors – and frankly, it was Arizona’s best creation in the history of anything she had ever made.

    “Not now, when they’re nothing we can do except watch virtual people board a ride that could most possibly be their last.” Arizona gave Nathan a stern glare.

    “You’re hilarious.” A soft hissing noise filled the room, making Arizona and Nathan turn.

    “Monty. I thought I locked your cage.” Nathan stood up and made his way calmly towards his Scarlet king snake. Arizona remembered him locking the cage – but Monty was like his owner, both were very sneaky.

    “You did. So how did he –” That’s when Arizona noticed his markings. Monty’s were red, black, yellow. Not red, yellow, black. If red and yellow touched, it was a coral snake. And coral snakes were venomous – at least, she thought so. Were they?

    “Nathan! No, don’t –” But Nathan had already picked up Monty and balanced him on his shoulder, so that Monty’s fangs were positioned by his neck.

    “Don’t what? It’s my snake.” He stroked the top of the snake’s head. It bared its fangs at him, the sharp edges inches from his skin.

    “It doesn’t look like Monty. Monty’s coloring is red, black and yellow.” Nathan glanced at the tail of his beloved pet, Arizona inching forward to look also.

    “You’re right…” Nathan said softly, more to himself than to Arizona.

    “Hold on Nate, let me grab my book on snakes.” Arizona held her finger up to Nathan’s face. She couldn’t remember if a coral snake was venomous or not – she needed to look it up. It was lying on the low glass coffee table inside the living room. She swiped it off the table and walked back into the office, flipping through the pages.

    “Um, Nathan, do you remember what –”A choked cry of pain cut Arizona’s sentence short. Then the screams became louder, and they were originating from the room Arizona had just left. A thud was heard shortly after the screams faded. She dropped the book and ran inside the room, finding her brother lying motionless in front of her.

    “Nathan!” she screamed , falling on her knees next to him. His eyes were just opened – nothing more than slits. Only white could be seen through them, almost the color of his face. Two holes oozed blood from the side of his neck.

    “Nathan!” she screamed again, shaking him. He didn’t move.

    “MOM!” Arizona yelled, jumping up and away from Nathan’s side. She ran up the stairwell towards the sitting room upstairs, their second living room, when she slipped and banged her head on the rail. Stars burst in front of her vision, and Arizona slid downward into a world of blackness.