|Max, Isaac, and the Secret Shortcut|
|Max clashes with the weirdest and wildest of his fellow students en route to a secret, spectral shortcut to the school.|
|Preceeded By||Paranatural: Chapter 2|
|Followed By||Paranatural: Chapter 4|
The third chapter of Paranatural, titled Max, Isaac, and the Secret Shortcut, began on 5/20/2012 with a total of 53 pages. It was preceded by Max and the Midnight Visitor and followed by The Activity Club and the Ghost Train.
After the intense events of the previous night, our hero stumbles upon Isaac stopping by the Corner Store for a quick snack. As they wait for the school bus together, they discuss whether it would be beneficial for Max to join the Activity Club despite shortcomings encountered by Isaac when he himself joined the club two years ago.
Nevertheless, Isaac is willing to show Max some guidance with his bit of spectral knowledge...and a key. Promising to show him a shortcut into the school, the two head deep into Mayview's suburbs, where they end up meeting Johnny and Ollie still in "fight mode" from a recent turf war. To flee their would-be attackers the two jump over some fences, only to end up in the lair of a spirit calling itself the Sphinx of Games. Now cornered, Isaac throws Max back over the fence to deal with the Sphinx himself, putting him right back next to Johnny. Using his bat's new powers he takes a third route over the fences onto the main road, a trick which Johnny sees him perform.
Meanwhile, Suzy and Collin are riding to school via bus when they notice Max standing by the side of the road. After throwing her phone to get his attention the two have an extended conversation wherein she offers to compensate him for information on the Activity Club. Before he can retort, Max is tackled by Johnny, who promptly steals both his bike and his bat and rides off. Max's pursuit appears impeded when Johnny's escape stalls the bus directly in front of him until he sees an opportunity to use the bus' emergency exits as a shortcut. With Suzy's assistance he makes a quick exit, but takes long enough for Suzy to get multiple photos of the incident.
Continuing his pursuit, he manages to get his bat back and use its powers to get his scooter back and renders Johnny unconscious in the process. Isaac meets back up with him (having spent the last several minutes fighting off Ollie and the Sphinx) and the two have a brief discussion of Max's new magnetic powers before the Sphinx returns to finish the two kids off. With his powerful weather-based abilities (and the Sphinx's own unsound logic) against him, the Sphinx is chased off with the promise that "the others will hear about this". Hearing Ollie approaching, the two make a quick exit from the scene. Johnny reveals that he was fully awake during the fight with the Sphinx and saw Max and Isaac using their spectral abilities.
Max and Isaac finally arrive at their destination, a ruinous manor nicknamed "The Slanted Manse". A spirit named Doorman is hiding inside, the titular "shortcut" that Isaac wanted to show Max. Isaac refers to Doorman as such, prompting Doorman to remind him about his promise to keep the Manse secret and about the nature of committing acts of violence against someone. Isaac naturally feels guilty looking back at his actions in hindsight, but this guilt is all Doorman needs to accept his apology. Using his powers to open a doorway to the Activity Club classroom, he asks Max to make a promise to keep his location a secret, as Isaac has done. To his shock and horror, however, the one who answers isn't Max but instead a spirit possessing him. Exchanging a few words with each other, the spirit's mere presence leaves Doorman disturbed as Max walks into the school now back in control of his own body.
Max and Isaac hide as Spender storms into the room arguing with one his superiors over the phone. Max eventually reveals their location and he and Spender start a question-and-answer session about several lingering questions Max has. Noteworthy explanations include the nature of the "time-freezing snake" vision he saw the previous night, and how he and the spirit inside his tool may interact. Isaac demonstrates this state with his own spirit to show how it looks from an outside perspective. Spender once again tries to convince Max to join the Activity Club, who merely agrees to stick around "as long as it's logical". The chapter ends as Max asks Spender one last question: the best place to find someone's ghost after "she" died.
- The chapter's cover includes the following:
- A Mayview hillside, the chapter's main setting.
- A red door, foreshadowing the first appearance of the red spirit Doorman.
- Dark storm clouds, foreshadowing the introduction of Isaac's weather-based powers.
- A school bus' emergency exit, which Max uses to chase after Johnny. This event would come up again in The Activity Club and the Insidious Infiltrator.