In the alley behind Will's house is an old wooden boardwalk that his grandfather carried back there a long time ago. Over time, Jim and Will had "tuned" the planks of the boardwalk, so that at night the boys could comminicate with crude tunes. At 10:30, Will has heard no music from Jim and he worries. He thinks he hears a soft tune from the boardwalk, the Funeral march in reverse, but when he looks out the window, there is nobody there. He does, however, see Jim sneaking out his window. Will follows, and eventually finds himself at Miss Foley's house.
Jim stands in front of Miss Foley's house, and Will hides behind a bush. Jim shouts up to Robert's (or Mr. Cooger's) window. Will can't wait any longer; he runs up to Jim and seizes his arm. "Willy, if you don't let go, I'll remember ... when I'm older," he says. Will realizes that Jim wants to ride the merry-go-round forward so that he will grow older. The two boys fight in the lawn.
Soon, the door opens and Robert/Mr. Cooger stands on the porch. He appears to be just a boy, ready to join the fray in good fun. But he runs up the stairs and comes back down with handfuls of jewelry, which he throws beside them on the lawn. "Help, police!" he shouts, knocking over trash cans and running down the street. Miss Foley opens her window to see Jim and Will surrounded by handfuls of her jewelry. Jim runs off, and Will runs after him "to save him", though he knows that this is Mr. Cooger's plan.
Jim chases the Robert/Mr. Cooger to the carousel, and Will chases Jim. But Jim, rather than trying to stop the nephew, jumps on the carousel for a ride. By the time Will reaches the merry-go-round, it is coming to life, the music is starting and it is slowly beginning to turn. Will tackles Jim to stop him from aging while the carousel moves forward. Will runs for the controls and tries to stop it, but Jim pushes the controls back; as they struggle, the carousel begins to spin forward out-of-control. Robert/Mr. Cooger grows older and older, trying to get off. Finally, the switch box explodes and the carousel eases to a stop. Mr. Cooger is now a shriveled mummy, maybe 130 years old, but somehow still alive. Will touches him and he is cold. The two boys run from the carnival.
The boys argue about what to do and finally call the police, telling them what happened in panicked shouts. The police and paramedics pick them up and they head for the carnival. When they get to the carousel, the mummy is gone. A tent flap opens and the boys and policemen walk inside. It is filled with carnival freaks, including the Lava Sipper, the Crusher, the Wart, the Dwarf, Monsieur Guillotine, and the Skeleton. Many are sitting around a table playing cards. The dwarf looks familiar and Will realizes that it is the lightning rod salesman, shrunken to the size of a small dog, made crazy and stupid. Mr. Dark is sitting in a chair with his shirt off. Mr. Cooger is also there, mummified and unmoving. He is strapped to an electric chair, and he appears to be dead.
Mr. Dark welcomes the newcomers and pretends that they are rehearsing the "Mr. Electrico" act. He sends 100,000 volts through Mr. Cooger's body. His mouth opens and sparks jump between his lips. The freaks inhale and exhale in unison with Mr. Cooger, as if helping him breathe. Mr. Dark announces: "Gentlemen, boys, here indeed is the man who lives with lightning!"
The mummified Mr. Cooger manages to excuse his feigned death as rehearsal for the act and the police are satisfied. Mr. Dark offers the boys twelve free passes for the carnival. He asks their names, and the boys give them fake ones. As they leave, Mr. Electrico curses them: "A short sad life for both of you." The boys grab the tickets and run outside to the police car.
Meanwhile, Miss Foley sits at home, depressed by thoughts of aging. She wants to ride the carousel. Furthermore, she realizes that Jim and Will were trying to interfere with "nephew's" plans for her and decides that the boys must be prevented from stopping her. She picks up the phone and calls Mr. Halloway at the library.
In Chapter 21, Jim goes out alone, without Will, for what appears to be the first time ever, and Will, following Jim, also goes out alone for the first time. This could signal a change in their relationship, a shift from mutual dependence to independence, and perhaps a shift towards adulthood and coming of age. Cracks continue to appear in Will and Jim's friendship in Chapter 22. We are made aware of what it is, exactly, that Jim is looking for: he wants to grow older. He wants to ride the merry-go-round forward until he is in his 20s. This is probably what he saw when he entered the mirror maze: an older vision of himself. He seeks this goal alone because he knows Will would disapprove.
Assuming that Jim truly saw an older version of himself, there is an interesting comparison to be made between Jim and Miss Foley's separate experiences in the maze. Miss Foley saw a younger version of herself, but physically, she appeared to grow older. Jim saw an older version of himself. While in the maze, did he physically appear to grow younger? In either case, the maze - and the carnival as a whole - incites fear and dissatisfaction with one's present state by showing in the Mirror Maze an idealized version of oneself. Jim wants to attain adulthood; Miss Foley wants a return to innocence.
Chapter 25 continues to expand on this dissatisfaction. The beginning of this chapter is full of the mirror imagery that has been so prevalent in the book. We find that Miss Foley is indeed upset with her age, just as Charles is upset with his, which she sees expressed in the mirrors in her house. Miss Foley's disappointment with her age is softer than Charles'. She tries to ignore it by not looking at the mirrors, but the thoughts still preoccupy her. The "bright shadows" imagery equates a clear reflection with something darker, something unpleasant.
Moreover, Miss Foley's Mirror Maze experience seems to have translated literally to her experience of the mirrors in her own house. She imagines "an army of women marching away to become girls and girls marching to become infinitely small children." The drowning imagery is also identical to Miss Foley's vision of the same girl drowning in the Mirror Maze. Thus she, like Jim, is obsessed with the image she saw in the Maze. She cannot see herself as she did before -- the Maze has "gone inside," as it were, and haunts her very being.
This leads to the interesting image of the Maze as an external expression of internal problems. Both Jim and Miss Foley, in experiencing the Maze, have made concrete and irresistable the mysterious anxieties and fears that lie within us all. Jim's obsession with mysteries, for example, seems to be an extension of his obsession with the Maze -- he wishes to work his way through the anxiety of aging, of not knowing, as though it is a simple, external problem: a mystery. This is not, however, the case, and his and Miss Foley's attempts to address their internal problems with simple solutions -- like "the carousel," or like a solveable "mystery" -- will not release them, but will only embroil them in further horrors.