After getting some soda, then some popcorn, then some more soda, then a few chocolate cookies, Alex was finally ready to continue.

"Ohhh..." she moaned, patting her stomach "Why do I always eat until I get sick?"

"Yeah" Harper said, furrowing her brow "and why are you the one who eats like a meat-lover on the Atkins diet, but I'm the, um, one with extra padding?"

Alex chuckled softly, holding her head in her hands. "Harper, I'm pretty sure God is playing some sort of practical joke, but it really didn't turn out the way he expected it would, and no one noticed it was a joke, so he's trying to play it off as normal until he can get his brother to fix things. Not that I would know anything about that. Now, where were we in the story?"

"Well, you had just explained what H.E.R.O. was, and TJ had invited you to become a member."

"Oh right! So, I decided to at least go to one of their meetings and check this thing out. TJ told me to meet him in one of the more unsavory parts of town to be taken to the local H.E.R.O. chapter's meeting place, which was in an alternate, hellish dimension. After we met up, he led me down a back alley and knocked on a large steel door. A slit opened up so a pair of eyes could look out, and a high-pitched, nasally voice demanded to know 'the password'."

"TJ answered with 'Peanuts'. The slit closed and within a few seconds the door opened. Walking into the room felt like jumping into a chilly swimming pool. It was very dark, but I could see cardboard boxes in stacks. We made our way towards a fold-up table surrounded by four plastic lawn chairs and lit by a single overhead light bulb. Four figures, draped in black hoodies and old jeans sat at the table, pouring over what looked like old magicians scrolls. They didn't notice us until TJ cleared his throat loudly. The hushed tones they had been conversing in ceased, and their shadowed faces turned to look at us. A tense five seconds passed as they looked us over. I was really scared they were going to turn into demons or something, and this whole alternate dimension thing was enough to make me rethink becoming evil. One of the figures, with flames decorating his hoodie, stood up. In a scratchy voice, he said 'Brother TJ, I only have one question for you...'. TJ just looked back with a smug look on his face."

"'What the hell is a female doing here?'"

"TJ held his hand out, and the now not-so-scary figure gave him a high five. The figures pulled back their hoods to reveal nothing more than a pack of acne-plagued nerds, and I now noticed the 'scrolls' they were reading were part of that nerdy game Justin plays, Dragons & Gargoyles. I was getting pretty ticked off by now, and was ready to kick TJ in the nuts if he had brought me here for nothing."

"'TJ...' I said, taking deep, calming breaths, 'This isn't an alternate, hellish dimension, is it?' He bit his lip 'Well, maybe dimension was the wrong word. It's my parent's basement. But hey, if you ever had to clean it, you'd agree it can be hellish... Listen, Alex, don't be mad and take your unholy revenge on me. These guys are all really good at black magic and know lots of other dark wizards, and this is a totally legitimate thing with other branches and stuff. The Wizard Defense Agency even recognizes H.E.R.O as magical criminals!' he said, proud of the distinction."

"This whole thing still seemed a little suspect to me, so I told him to prove he could do dark magic. At this point their leader, Eugene, spoke up and told me he could take me into an actual alternate plane of existence if I wanted proof of the power they could tap into. It seemed like a good way to get an idea of what I was dealing with, so I agreed. He explained that we would meditate to shift planes. Our bodies would stay here, empty, while we went to different places. Traveling to different planes was one of the main ways to get better at dark magic."

"TJ, Eugene, and I went into a room that was set up to facilitate meditation. It had light green shag carpeting, bamboo wallpaper, and no shortage of incense. We all sat on the floor and closed our eyes. Eugene told me how to focus with my breathing, and we all sat for a few minutes silently breathing."

"I was getting pretty bored, and nothing was happening. Then, out of nowhere, the floor disappeared. I tried to open my eyes, but I couldn't. Not that I couldn't move them, they weren't there. I surmised that I had left my physical body at this point. It's hard to describe what it's like. You don't really fly around as an ethereal being. Really, you just think about where you want to be and you're there. I guess it's like your in a dream that you can control."

"I found TJ and Eugene. Another part of being ethereal: you don't need to talk. You can project your thoughts to others, which can be words, pictures, whatever. It's pretty cool. They guided me to the realm we wanted, a dark-based version of our universe. When we entered it, we instantly materialized. Well, sort of. We looked like our regular selves, if we were normally made out of glowing fog. I did notice that TJ and Eugene had a purplish tint to them, a side-effect of dark Chi."

"The realm itself was pretty creepy. The sky, which they told me was perpetually dark, was filled with red stars. There was no regular ground, just islands of barren rock floating in the air. We drifted down and landed on an island which had a little bit of grass and a leafless tree. A big, dragon/bird thing flew by, and we followed it. It flew to a very large island, about the size of a football field, and went down a tunnel. The tunnel led to a network of caves. And it was inside these caves that the real fun began..."

Duh duh DUH!!!