House of Cards

June 9, 2008
By Tyler Thayer, Hubbard, OR

Bryan walked into the garage. There was nothing but piles and piles of cards. His dad was building a house of cards. He was a world record house-of-cards builder. Bryan walked up to his dad, who was standing on a ladder. What was special about the house of cards that he made, was that they were hollow. Well, most were hollow, but you could actually walk right into these ones.

“Hey dad.”

Mitch looked down from the ladder. “Hey Bryan.” he then got back to his work. As he moved his hands around, a card slipped into an odd position. “Darn!” Mitch stepped down from the ladder. “Wait here buddy. I’ve got to fix this card sticking in wrong.” Bryan nodded.

He watched as his dad went into the house of cards. It was awfully quiet. Even for a ten year old, Bryan realized that something was wrong. “Dad?” He waited for a response. Nothing.

Suddenly the house of cards started to shake. It was going to fall down! Bryan looked into the entrance of the house of cards from a distance. He couldn’t see anything. “Dad! Where are you?”

Slowly the house of cards began to tilt in all directions. Bryan waited. He heard what sounded like thousands of cards being shuffled as the house of cards fell to the floor. He looked at where the house of cards had once been. There was nothing there but a pile of cards now. His dad was no where to be seen. That was the last thing Bryan remembered from his childhood about his dad.

Seven years later

“Ok Bryan. I’m going out now. I should be back around midnight.”

Bryan sat on the living room couch looking out the window at the rain pour down. He looked at the clock. It read 8:17. Then he looked back at his mom. “Alright.”

Julie smiled at her son. Bryan now saw something that he had never seen before. His mom was looking older. Her dark brown hair was turning gray. He smiled back. His mom walked out the door. Bryan listened to her car engine start. He heard it pull out of the driveway and the noise dissipated.

He stood up and stretched and then walked upstairs to his bedroom.

Bryan laid down on top of his bed, not even bothering to take his shoes off. He closed his eyes and listened to the rain patter on the house. He didn’t know why, but he enjoyed the sound of rain. It relaxed him. Bryan opened his eyes. His bedroom light was on. He sat up to turn it off, but before he even began to walk over to the light switch, the power flickered and went out.

Bryan got off his bed and stood in the dark. He tried to think where the flashlights were. He remembered there were some flashlights in the attic with the camping stuff. There were candles down stairs, but Bryan preferred flashlights. He would just use a candle to see once in the attic.

He headed down the stairs and into the kitchen and grabbed a candle off the counter. Bryan opened the top drawer and pulled out a matchbook. He lit a match and held it to the candle wick.

Walking up the second and last flight of steps, he held the candle to the door to get better light and then he opened it. He saw and heard rain hit the small window on the far wall. Bryan looked around the old and dusty attic. He had not been up here for a long time.

Suddenly the candle light got brighter and he could make out the silhouette of a dark brown trunk. He put the candle closer to it and got a better look. Bryan knelt beside the trunk and set the candle down. He reached for the lock and noticed it was not locked. He pulled it off and slowly lifted the lid. He then saw that the trunk was neatly stacked with playing cards. These must be my dad’s cards, Bryan realized. He hesitated for a moment and then shut the lid.

The electricity reluctantly came back on. Thankful, Bryan blew the candle out and put it to the side. He stood up and looked at the trunk.

“This needs to go downstairs.” Bryan said to no one in particular. He grabbed each handle on the sides of the trunk and started pulling it out of the attic. This trunk was very heavy, obviously due to the fact that it was filled with tons of cards. Once he got to the attic door, he pushed the trunk downstairs. It slid until it got to the bottom, where there was another path of steps leading to the first floor. He pushed the trunk down that stair fleet and the trunk finally landed at the bottom of the steps in the living room.

Bryan pulled the trunk the rest of the way until he had it in the basement. He stood there just listening to the rain. He pushed the trunk under a table that was in the corner and covered it with a blanket.

Bryan headed back upstairs to his bedroom. He felt tired again. He plopped onto his bed and slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, Bryan’s alarm clock went off with a loud blare. He lazily turned it off and got out of bed. He could smell his mom making breakfast. She didn’t cook a lot. He got dressed and went downstairs.

“Hey Bryan,” Bryan’s mom was cooking.

“Hey mom, I got to go to school. I’m going to be late.”

“Do you need a ride?”

Bryan quickly ate a bagel that was covered in cream cheese. “No thanks. The bus will be here any minute.”

He walked towards the door. “Bye mom.”

“Bye Bryan. Have a nice day.” Bryan walked out of the house and shut the door. His mom was getting older.

Bryan opened the door. His mom was still at work. He immediately went to the basement door. As he opened it, his vision filled with red and white. Right there in the basement, was a house of cards. He wondered who could have built this and how they even found the cards. Bryan walked further into the basement. He saw that the trunk was open, still sitting under the table. He felt the urge to walk into the large house of cards. He walked to the entrance and stood there. Bryan took a step forward into the house of cards.

Everything was red. The light was shining through the red cards. Bryan closed his eyes and thought back to when his dad went missing. He could see a tall house of cards similar to this one. The memories of his dad were always painful to go back to. He opened his eyes. Afraid the cards would collapse, Bryan stepped out of the house of cards.

He felt a breeze go by. He knew what was going to happen and he couldn’t stop it. The house of cards tilted and finally collapsed. He just stared at the pile of fallen cards.

He walked towards the basement door and went into the house. He heard two people talking in the other room. Burglars, thought Bryan. He crept quietly to the living room. He saw his mom, some kid his age who’s face couldn’t be seen, and there was a man facing his back to Bryan. Bryan walked into the living room. “Hey mom. Your home early. Who’s this?”

She looked at Bryan with confusion. The boy Bryan’s age turned around. He looked exactly like Bryan! “What’s going on?” Bryan demanded a little scared. The man turned around and Bryan saw his face. “Dad?!”

“Bryan!” Mitch ran over to his son and gave him a big hug. Follow me. There’s not much time.”

“Time for what?” asked Bryan as his dad pulled him upstairs to the attic. “We’re not in the real world.” Mitch said flatly.

“What?” Bryan was getting a headache.

“When you walked into the house of cards and exited, you entered another world. The same one I did seven years ago.”

“Did you build that house of cards?” asked Bryan.

“Yes.” his father responded. “I knew you would walk in. Now you can take me back to the real world through the house of cars.”

“Uh…” The house of cards had fallen over and Mitch did not know.

“I’ve been making it for a while. This world is so peaceful. It’s a utopia. The world everyone dreams about: no violence, crime, hatred, or anything bad. It took me a while to realize I was in a different world, but it got pretty obvious.”

“I’ve missed you dad.”

“I’ve missed you too Bryan, but we can only go between worlds exactly every seven years. Now lets get down to the basement and get back to our own world.”

Bryan didn’t say a word. He just followed his dad down to the basement. Bryan’s mom came into view. “Mitch, who’s this?”

Mitch ignored her and continued to lead Bryan to the basement. He opened the door and gasped. Mitch walked towards the pile of cards. “How could this happen?” Mitch looked at Bryan. “We’ve got to build another house of cards before midnight or it will be too late.”

Mitch started to pick up cards. “What time is it Bryan?” Bryan looked at his watch. “It’s five o‘ clock.” Mitch’s face was nothing, but serious. “If we don’t finish this house of cards in seven hours, we’ll be stuck here for seven more years.”

Bryan was confused. “Well what’s wrong with the people in this world?”

“They’re not like the people in our world. They’ve all been trained to think perfect thoughts. Everyone is born that way.”

“Well maybe we could stay in this world.” suggested Bryan.

“What?” said Mitch. “The world wasn’t meant to be perfect Bryan. Everyone here acts like a robot.”

Bryan nodded. “Let’s get started building this house of cards.”

“Actually, I think I’m the only one who can build it. No offence Bryan.” Bryan agreed. He sat down near a wall and watched his dad build with the cards.

Bryan wanted to ask his dad so many questions, but he knew that his dad needed to concentrate. Hours passed and Bryan actually almost fell asleep every now and then. Bryan glanced at his watch. He quickly stood up. “Dad! It’s 11:55! You’ve got to hurry!”

“Don’t worry Bryan, I’m almost done.” Mitch added a few more cards to complete the house of cards. “I think that I’m done.” He stepped back to admire his work. “Ok, let’s go.”

Just as they were about to go into the house of cards, the basement door opened. Bryan’s utopia-mom and himself walked in. They didn’t look too happy to see Bryan. “I’m your wife! You have to stay with me.” She grabbed a hold of Mitch to keep him from going into the house of cards.

The utopia-Bryan walked up to the real Bryan and grabbed him by the shirt. “There can only be one of us,” he said with an evil smile and then he threw Bryan across the garage. He hit the wall and struggled to get up on his feet. The utopia-Bryan walked up to him. “Come on Bryan. Get up.” The real Bryan laid there on the floor.

“Hey Bryan,” said Mitch. The utopia-Bryan turned around. Then the real Bryan grabbed his legs and pulled him down. “One minute left!” The real Bryan stood up and ran to his dad. They both went through the house of cards and knocked it down once they were inside so they wouldn’t be followed.

With a sigh of relief, Bryan gave his dad a hug. The garage door opened and Bryan’s mom was standing there. “Mitch? Is that you?” She ran over to give him a hug. “Where have you been all these years Mitch?”

Mitch smiled. “I’ve been at home the whole time.”

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