The Summer of the Rising Sun

By
More by this author
PROLOGUE

“See you next year, man!” Derek stuck out his fist.

“Yea! This summer isn’t going to be anything special. I mean, our neighborhood doesn’t even have a community pool! I was complaining about that last night to my mom and she said she would find something for me to do. That isn’t good.”

I responded to his gesture with a punch at his fist. He was leaving for his house in Florida for the summer. He was the only person that lived in my neighborhood and he was leaving. This was sure to be a great summer! I would have more kids near me except for the fact that I live in a suburban neighborhood in South Carolina. That really isn’t the problem. The real problem is that for every kid there are five old people.

So if I were to say one word that I thought my summer would be, it would be boredom.
MEALS ON WHEELS, NO DEAL

So, that was the end of seventh grade. I was going to have to suffer through another endless summer. I figured that it could only go up from here. I was wrong.

I woke up; the first day of summer was finally here! But it hadn’t felt the same. I didn’t feel that familiar flutter of excitement. Probably because I didn’t have anything exciting to do today. As soon as I saw the sun peeking through my blinds, I heard my mother’s high pitched, excited voice.

“Jacob! Are you awake? Come down and eat breakfast, I have something exciting to tell you!”

I guess if I wasn’t her child, I would have gotten excited. But I am, so unfortunately I knew what to expect. Whenever my mother, Melissa Malloy Shafer, said she had “something exciting to tell you” expect the worst. But I knew that if I didn’t go sometime, she would just barge into my room and tell me what was what. Then, because of her “exciting news” she would seemingly be too preoccupied to notice, but half way down the hallway she would shout, “oh, and clean your room while you’re at it!”

So that is my mom for you. But I will stop right there because this story isn’t about her, though she would love that, it is about what she did to my summer that made it worth telling you.

After climbing out of bed and brushing my teeth, I headed downstairs to hear what was in store. As soon as I entered the kitchen, my mother’s energy was tangible in the air. I sat down and started at my eggs and bacon. I had the eggs three quarters down my throat when she finally got it out.

“I signed you up for meals on wheels!” My mother literally started bouncing on her toes, waiting for my response.

By the time I choked down my bite, drank some orange juice, and stopped coughing, I had tears in my eyes. Even though it was because of the choking, it would have worked well with the anger I felt.

“WHAT?! Did you even think about asking me first? Did it ever occur to you, mother that I didn’t want to get involved in another one of your ‘plans’?”

That really hit the spot. I could see the hurt and confusion in her eyes. I had never spoken out against her plans before. So that is why I, Jacob Brent Shafer, ended up being assigned an old person to bring lunch to for the rest of June. And it wouldn’t be that bad if I didn’t get assigned her. Mrs. Gertrude McMallahoo was the widow of the neighborhood. She lived in this huge mansion, but never came out and her curtains were always, always drawn closed.
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE I WAS WRONG

“Ding, Dong—Ding Dong.” Looking around, she had a very wide porch. The planks were painted a faded blue that was chipping off. There was one dusty porch swing with rusty chains and one broken armrest. There were three concrete steps leading up to this vacant front area, and the front lawn was an eyesore compared to all the other perfectly trimmed, green lawns surrounding it. There were two big round bushes on either side of the unused concrete staircase, and an empty bird bath on the left side of the yard. The house was also made of this faded blue plank material. There were main windows in the front of the house (with curtains drawn closed over them), and black shutters on both sides of each window. The main eye-catcher is the apple tree that towers over the ancient house, plopping down apples in the fall, and floating down pink and scarlet blossoms in the spring. A person would have no idea of its size, unless you were looking at it from the side. You couldn’t exactly see the bottom half of the house because of a ten foot wooden fence surrounding the majority of the house. But you can see how far back the house goes. And let me tell, it goes on forever. The fence keeps going after the house stops, presumably because of the backyard. As you can see, the house provokes curiosity in all the inhabitants of this small neighborhood.

This was the third time I rang the doorbell, so I was just about to leave the food on the porch and walk home. But then I saw a waver in the curtains. I turned around and walked back up to the front door. I reached for the knob, and with my unpleasant surprise, it turned. The door creaked open as if it hadn’t been used in decades, which was probably true! So I peaked my head in but it was dark. I stepped in so that my whole body was in the entrance way. I closed the door behind me, and I was suddenly enveloped in darkness.
NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

I was slightly frightened. It was that feeling where you felt like something or someone was going to jump out and scare the crap out of you. You feel like you have to look all around you to eliminate the possibility of that hidden creature.

So I called out, “Hello? Helllooooo? Anyone here? Um…M-Mrs. McMallahoo?” There was no answer, but I saw that there was a light coming from further into the house. I chose the brave thing to do (really my curiosity just won me over), and walked deeper into the ethereal mansion. I walked and walked, turning into hallway, after hallway.

It seemed to never end. But finally, I came to two large oak doors with brass handles. They were the kind of doors that would be in the entrance way of a cathedral. I reached out my trembling hand, and felt the cold metal handle. It had a delicate curve to it, almost so beautiful that it shouldn’t be in this neighborhood, or even this state. It definitely deserved something better, but maybe I was wrong.

I pulled with all my weight, and the door swung open. As soon as I saw the room, I gasped. The ceiling was twice as high as I imagined. The walls were lined with books, there was a warm stone fireplace, and then there was a huge chair. It was facing away from the door, and it was so big that I could not see what was in it. But I soon found out. A small, old lady came out of this chair, and turned to look at me. She was about my size, with pale wrinkled skin. She looked so frail, that if a strong gust of wind blew through the room, she would get swept away with it.

I smiled, but could get nothing out. My throat was dry, and my body was tense. Her face seemed friendly, but there was no returning smile. She placed down the book she was reading, and spoke:


“Hello young man. What brings you so deep inside my house on a summer’s day like this?”

“I-I came here to bring you your lunch. Remember? You signed up for meals on wheels? I was assigned to come here for the rest of the month.”

The Old Lady smiled, “Of course I remember, I just did not think you were supposed to come in. I figured you would leave my lunch on the porch.”

I had no idea what to say. I was obviously not wanted, and making her feel uncomfortable. “I am sorry ma’am. I am new at this too. I can leave if you want. Here is your lunch. I hope you aren’t allergic to peanut-butter.” Figuring that the weight of the lunch bag would hurt her, I placed the bag lightly on an open space of her large, book covered oak desk.

“Oh no! It is perfectly fine. I am just not used to visitors. I trust you have noticed that. But please stay. You will find things in here that you cannot find anywhere else.” She said this with a sly but warm smile. It was as if there was a secret I would soon find out. To tell you the truth, I was kind of curious.

So, that is why I stayed and ate lunch with Mrs. McMallahoo, when any other summer, I would be getting in to trouble with Derek. I figured that I really had hit rock bottom. The food was technically for the old people, but Mrs. McMallahoo split her peanut butter and banana sandwich in half, and poured her milk into two different glasses. She split her fruit salad into two bowls, and her slice of chocolate cake in half. So, we had ourselves a little feast. She asked me questions about my family, my friends, my school, and how I got here.

“Well, my mom signed me up, and I wasn’t too happy about it. No offense. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I just came.”

Mrs. McMallahoo smiled, “I am not offended. I completely understand. When I was your age all I wanted to do was play outside with my neighbors. I used to go out for walks and look at the birds, and the trees, and the flowers. But I haven’t been out since. Not since my husband died. He died back in ’63. I now like to keep to my books and my own little world within this house.”

That last thing she said ‘my own little world within this house’ really caught my attention. What could be so special about this old mansion? Yea, it is big, but what else does it hold?

That is when I started to get curious. But I couldn’t just stay; after all, she does like to be alone with her books. So I reluctantly put the trash in the bag, and went back the way I came. At least, that is what I had planned…
DISCOVERING MAGIC


I closed the doors of her study, and tried to remember which way I came from. I could have sworn I went right, but then again I could have gone straight. Since I couldn’t decide, I went left. This hallway was straight, with no doors, until it came to the end. With the end of the hallway came a sharp left turn. I guess that was the only choice I had, so I took it. It didn’t last long before I had to make another left turn. I was starting to feel claustrophobic when I came to a door. I could see light coming from under it, so I thought it was a back door.

As soon as I opened the door, I knew I was in another world. Just by the smell, I knew I was in a tropical place. I stepped into the room and I was completely swathed in jungle. I gasped in shock at the idea that I was no longer in the house anymore. I heard a faint sound of a monkey, a rustle of a bird’s wings on leaves, and the splash of a frog missing its lily pad in the pond. I had no idea what to do, but I was too curious to leave. I decided to travel a little bit deeper into the jungle world before I chickened out.

I must have walked for awhile, because I had no idea which way was back to the door. I was looking around, taking in all of the wonders that shouldn’t be here. Why, or should I say how, did a jungle come to existence in this room; more or less in this mansion? I decided that I didn’t care why or how, I did care that this was an amazing thing that I could not wait to share with my friends. But then again, they might not believe me.

I had come to, by far, the largest tree in the jungle. Its trunk had the circumference of a wheel off of an old wagon with a canvas covering. It seemed twice the height of this house, but that couldn’t be possible. Well, I guess it could. I could not see any creatures in the branches, but I guessed that they were up there. But what really caught my eye was the banana. This was not a normal banana. It was glowing and was the perfect yellow, and was the picture perfect banana shape.

My family, being quite religious, knows practically every passage of the bible by heart. This scene, that I am in, reminded me a lot of Adam and Eve. It was déjà vu. I suddenly knew how Eve felt when she was staring at the beautifully juicy apple. The temptation was suddenly too strong, and I reached out and grabbed the banana off of the jungle floor. The minute I touched the banana, a shiver went through my body. I had no idea why this was happening! What I did know was that something was going on that I could not control. Simultaneous to the shivers, the jungle fell silent. I suddenly felt that I was being watched intensely. But I had no time to look around, when a wild looking monkey came down from the huge tree. He stared at me, watching my every move. In my head I told myself to place the banana back on the ground, and walk away. But the banana sent another shiver through me, and I was incapable of letting go. The monkey must have seen my grip tighten, because he bent forward, ready to attack. But once again, the magic banana overpowered my sensible thoughts, and I suddenly took off in a dead run, back the way I came. My heart was pounding, but I had no control over my actions. I kept running, busting through bushes, jumping over roots, dodging the monkey above me trying to snatch it out of my hands.

I felt totally out of control when the door came in sight. I lunged for it, and gripped the door knob. As soon as I did this, the banana was released. This confused me. Why did I suddenly have the power to drop the banana? But then I looked at my other hand which was gripped on the doorknob. That must be it. That must be why the banana stopped overpowering me. I didn’t know why or how, but I knew that I needed to get out before the monkey called his friends. I swung open the door, and slammed it shut behind me, hearing a thud as the monkey lunged at the door, but not making it at me in time. I could hear no more of the jungle, only my heartbeat.
MOVING FORWARD…OR GOING BACK?

I stayed in a crouched position for who knows how long, and then I looked around. I had no idea what to do next. I could go back the way I came, find my way out, and run to the police station; or I could keeping going forward, and see what else this house had in store? I then had a flashback of Mrs. McMallahoo’s face when she said, “You will find things that you can’t find anywhere else.” She was right. At the time, I had no idea what she meant, but now, I don’t know what to think! Maybe I should go back to Mrs. McMallahoo’s study and tell her what I had seen. But then again, if she knows that I knew, I might get into trouble for snooping. So I had only one choice… to keep moving forward.

MEETING MR.MCMALLAHOO

I kept walking until I came to the next door. It was on the right side of the hallway, about 100 feet from the last room. My hands were shaking, my palms sweating, and my knees were weak. I reached out and gripped the doorknob. It was cold metal; it was lifeless. There was no light coming from under the door, but it didn’t seem dark. I took a deep breath, and swung open the door. I looked around, but saw nothing…literally. The walls were white, and the room seemed to have no end. I suddenly felt dizzy, and I felt the pressure closing in on me; and then the white surroundings turned black.

I woke up to a shaking of my body, and Mrs. McMallahoo’s face hovering over me.

“It’s amazing isn’t it?” That was all she had to say for me to understand that she knew all along that I was here. She must have not minded, but she still had an upset look in her eye. I just shook my head, groaned from the dizziness, and sat up.

She smiled as if my action clarified that I was still capable of living. I looked around once more, remembering it all. I was suddenly hit with the emptiness of the room. It felt like it was endless. I was also hit with so many questions that I wanted to ask Mrs. McMallahoo. I decided on the one that was most important.

“Mrs. McMallahoo, how did you find me?”

“Well, I didn’t mean too. I came in here thinking I just wanted to be…alone. I walked in, and there you were sprawled out in the middle of the floor.”

She must have known that I was confused, because she took a deep breath and continued her explanation.

“You see, I have never told anyone this before, but I have not lived a normal life. If you couldn’t tell by now.”

I smiled, thinking about the room I was in previously.

“I married a scientist. He made all these chemicals, concoctions, inventions, etc. I was not allowed in his lab, I was not aloud near his inventions. It got to the point where I was barely in his life. He made a lot of money off of one of his inventions, the electronic mixer. That is when we moved here. It has been, I don’t know, twenty years now. He was in his lab all the time, only coming out for meals. I spent most of my time in the study, which you have seen.”

I could tell this wasn’t going to end happily. But I was so curious that I wanted to continue. I adjusted my position and waited for her to continue.

“It was a perfect summer day. I was just longing to go outside and smell the daisies. I was heading to the back door to do just that, when I heard a loud boom. I ran down the many hallways, trying to follow the noise. I can still remember the feeling of my heart pounding, my ears ringing, and my mind racing. I finally found the source of the noise. I came to a door that was identical to the doors of my study. At first I thought I ran a big circle, but then I looked more closely at the handles. On the side was engraved a sun. It was setting into the clouds. I reached for the handle and pulled the door open in one swift motion. The first thing I saw was Mr. McMallahoo lying on the ground, as still as ever. I did not know what to do, so I turned and ran out of the room.”

I was shocked. Why had she decided to tell me these things, after I had only just met her? But it felt like I had known her for years now. Not only because of the sad story of her past, but because of this house with magical rooms. I must be the only one in on the secret! That was why I felt so close to her, but it still was weird to me. Imagine what Derek would say? But then again, he wasn’t here, and I probably would never mention it to him.

She continued with her woeful story, “After I ran out, I went back to my study and composed myself. I had no idea what had gotten into me. I went back, but the strangest things happened. The door was locked. I could not open the door, no matter how hard I pulled, kicked, threw, banged, yelled, or cried. It was almost as if the lab was a part of him. When he died, so did the room. I didn’t stop thinking that I was dreaming until I awoke the next morning to have no one waiting for me at the breakfast table.”

I could see that this story still caused her pain and confusion till this day. I too was confused; I didn’t know what to think (once again). But just when I was about to ask her what happened next, I heard a loud buzzing sound. The once white walls were now patterned with a static that a television would have when the satellite went bad. I looked up at the peculiar old lady, but she was not surprised at all. She actually looked comfortably eager. She obviously knew what she was doing.

Suddenly the walls were filled with pictures of my family. There were ones of me at my first birthday, me in my school play, me and Derek with our basketballs in our hands, even some of me today in this house. I was completely and utterly confused when the walls went blank. I looked back up to Mrs. McMallahoo, and she was looking at me.

I stuttered, “Wh...What just happened? It was like everything I remember was laying out for me to see!”

“That is exactly what happened. You see each room has a special ability. I am guessing that the last room you were in caused you to experience temptation? This room has the ability to make you feel nostalgic. I come here to see my memories about my husband.”

And just as she spoke those words, the walls lit up again, but this time with pictures of a small little girl eating ice cream, driving an old fashion car, and dance the jitterbug. But then there were pictures of a young man on one knee, a middle aged man sitting at a kitchen table drinking coffee and reading a newspaper, and finally an old man sitting in a lawn chair by a garden reading a book about Newton’s Laws. I assumed that he was Mr. McMallahoo, and my assumption was confirmed when the walls went blank and Mrs. McMallahoo said, “That was him.”


EXPLANATIONS, EXCITMENTS, AND ENTERING THE LAB

After we got out of the room, it was a little awkward. I didn’t know if I should invite myself to leave, or ask what else there is to see. But she must have seen my torn expression, because she suggested that we see what else there was.

“Since you are here, might as well see it all!” She smiled as if there was so much more to see. So we were off. We went into all different rooms. There were ocean rooms, garden rooms, puzzle rooms, and my personal favorite a candy room. It was a whole Willy Wonka all over again. But then we came to a door that was not like the others. It was painted black with white shapes that seemed to be moving. Mrs. McMallahoo reached for the doorknob, because I was too excited to do it myself. She swung the door open and we were enveloped into darkness. But I could still see the person standing next to me. I took me a minute to realize that I was floating. I looked down, but I got a strange sensation that there was no down, up, left, or right. I could see lights in the distance. I took me another few minutes to absorb my surroundings, realizing that I was in….space. Well, a replica of it I hope! I was floating away, when she reached out and grabbed me.

“If you go too far, you can’t come back! There is no gravity here. This is one of his favorite rooms. He always wished to go into space, but he never got to. So he created this.” She gestured her arms to the expanse of the….well, the space.

“Mr. McMallahoo created these rooms?”

She chortled, “Who do you think made them? He was an inventor of all sorts. Nothing seemed to limit him. Not even the fact that it was unheard of, and still is to the world.”

I guess I hadn’t thought of that before. But it made sense.

We left the space room and went further into the house. We must have made a million different turns and gone down a ton of steps. We turned into a corridor that seemed to have not been used in decades. I felt Mrs. McMallahoo tense up next to me. I didn’t understand until we came to the end. Before us stood two big oak doors with nice handles, identical to the doors of the study. I didn’t know what to do, but I just wanted to confirm my thoughts. I looked down at the handles and saw a beautiful engraving of a sun coming from behind the clouds. This was the lab.

I turned to Mrs. McMallahoo and saw that every part of her body was frozen.

“Maybe we should turn around go back to the study.”

She turned to me, as if she was surprised I was still here. I figured she would turn around and go back up the way we came. But to my astonishment, she took a step closer to the door and reached out her hand. Her delicate fingers wrapped around the handle, covering the engraving from my sight. She braced herself, and pulled. Nothing happened. She tried again, but the door did not budge. She let go and stepped away. A tear streamed down her face, carving through the wise face that looked right at me.

“You try.”

Mrs. McMallahoo said this with a hard, stone voice. I was shocked.

“But if you can’t open it, I doubt I could.”

“After all these years, I forgot. I forgot what he told me. All these years of grief and worry. I forgot.”

“Wh-What do you mean?” She was scaring me. I just met her today, but I still felt like this was a new thing for her.

“One day, we were sitting at the breakfast table very early in the morning. He had woken up early, and I had followed. The sun was just rising through the thick layer of night clouds.”

I started to wonder where she was going with this. But I let her continue, knowing that if I interrupted, I wouldn’t get the full story.

“He looked over at me, my back to him. I was looking out the window while frying some eggs. He said, ‘Over the years, I have done so much for myself. I have yet to do something for you.’ I just simply denied it, not wanting to upset him or myself. But he continued in a poetic manner. ‘Every day I wake up and head to my lab, not even thanking you. Well, I am wrong to do such. But I am lucky, too. I am lucky that you are the kind of person who wakes up and looks at the sun. When you look at the sun, no matter what time of day, you say to yourself that it is rising. It is rising because you always know that someone will care about you, somewhere. Even if they are not there, they care…’ And then he just stared at the sun for awhile.”

I was still confused. What did this have anything to do with the lab and me trying to open it? But she looked at the door, then at me. Obviously she saw what we were to do. She dropped her hand once more from the handle, for she had subconsciously reached out to it during her flashback.

“Please just try Jacob. Try for me.”

So I took a deep breath. And stepped forward. I reached out my hand and felt the cold, curvy metal under my sweaty palms. I stiffened my shoulders, and tugged.

Everything happened so fast. There was a clicking sound, like gears were shifting inside the oak. Then there was a creaking sound as the heavy doors swung open. At the same time I was knocked to the ground, my breath knocked out of me. Mrs. McMallahoo gasped and fell to her knees. Then as the next second ticked in, it was silent.
THIS IS JUST A DREAM


My eyes flew open. I looked around. Where were the oak doors, the old lady kneeling on the floor, the majestic mansion that I had been in?

Instead these were replaced by a stiff bed; sun streaming through threw my venetian blinds, and the blue walls of my bedroom. My head was spinning, it had been so real. It was tangible in the air. Before I could get my bearings, my mom’s excited voice blasted from the kitchen. “Jacob! Are you awake? Come down and eat breakfast, I have something exciting to tell you!” This has happened before. I had experienced this before.

My body was automatically out of bed and brushing my teeth before I could realize what it was that was so familiar. I flew down the stairs, my stomach acting on its own. When I entered the kitchen, I was overwhelmed by the smell of eggs and bacon. I poured myself some orange juice and downed the eggs before my mom could put the bacon on my plate.

“Honey, since your friend is away this summer, I figured that you would want something to do.”

I took a deep breath, for some reason I expected the worst.

“I signed you up to be a paper boy on Saturdays and Sundays! You just have a short route around this neighborhood.”

“Wow mom. That’s exciting…”

“Yes and your first run is today, so get dressed, the newspapers are on the front porch. You have to fold, and then tie them up. I figured you’d have a strong enough arm from baseball.”

For some reason I had expected something more shocking. But I was still dazed from my strange waking up experience. So I just threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and headed on my way.

It was usual for the most part, except for when I got down to Ivy Lane. It was the street where no one really went down. Except for the people that lived on it, and that was a total of five. My map said that this was my last street, so I planned to go down, and loop back around by Derek’s street. Maybe, just maybe he missed his flight yesterday.

I was half way down Ivy Lane when I came to the mansion. It was creepy, the kind of house that would be in a haunted movie. I was never sure who lived there, I think it might be a widowed old lady. My mom said that her husband died in ’63 when the back portion of their house caught on fire.

But anyway, I didn’t expect to see anything. I rode by and threw the paper onto the dilapidated front porch. Just as I was riding away, an old lady drew back the curtains and winked.

There was something familiar about her.













THE SUMMER OF THE RISING SUN
PROLOGUE

“See you next year, man!” Derek stuck out his fist.

“Yea! This summer isn’t going to be anything special. I mean, our neighborhood doesn’t even have a community pool! I was complaining about that last night to my mom and she said she would find something for me to do. That isn’t good.”

I responded to his gesture with a punch at his fist. He was leaving for his house in Florida for the summer. He was the only person that lived in my neighborhood and he was leaving. This was sure to be a great summer! I would have more kids near me except for the fact that I live in a suburban neighborhood in South Carolina. That really isn’t the problem. The real problem is that for every kid there are five old people.

So if I were to say one word that I thought my summer would be, it would be boredom.
MEALS ON WHEELS, NO DEAL

So, that was the end of seventh grade. I was going to have to suffer through another endless summer. I figured that it could only go up from here. I was wrong.

I woke up; the first day of summer was finally here! But it hadn’t felt the same. I didn’t feel that familiar flutter of excitement. Probably because I didn’t have anything exciting to do today. As soon as I saw the sun peeking through my blinds, I heard my mother’s high pitched, excited voice.

“Jacob! Are you awake? Come down and eat breakfast, I have something exciting to tell you!”

I guess if I wasn’t her child, I would have gotten excited. But I am, so unfortunately I knew what to expect. Whenever my mother, Melissa Malloy Shafer, said she had “something exciting to tell you” expect the worst. But I knew that if I didn’t go sometime, she would just barge into my room and tell me what was what. Then, because of her “exciting news” she would seemingly be too preoccupied to notice, but half way down the hallway she would shout, “oh, and clean your room while you’re at it!”

So that is my mom for you. But I will stop right there because this story isn’t about her, though she would love that, it is about what she did to my summer that made it worth telling you.

After climbing out of bed and brushing my teeth, I headed downstairs to hear what was in store. As soon as I entered the kitchen, my mother’s energy was tangible in the air. I sat down and started at my eggs and bacon. I had the eggs three quarters down my throat when she finally got it out.

“I signed you up for meals on wheels!” My mother literally started bouncing on her toes, waiting for my response.

By the time I choked down my bite, drank some orange juice, and stopped coughing, I had tears in my eyes. Even though it was because of the choking, it would have worked well with the anger I felt.

“WHAT?! Did you even think about asking me first? Did it ever occur to you, mother that I didn’t want to get involved in another one of your ‘plans’?”

That really hit the spot. I could see the hurt and confusion in her eyes. I had never spoken out against her plans before. So that is why I, Jacob Brent Shafer, ended up being assigned an old person to bring lunch to for the rest of June. And it wouldn’t be that bad if I didn’t get assigned her. Mrs. Gertrude McMallahoo was the widow of the neighborhood. She lived in this huge mansion, but never came out and her curtains were always, always drawn closed.
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE I WAS WRONG

“Ding, Dong—Ding Dong.” Looking around, she had a very wide porch. The planks were painted a faded blue that was chipping off. There was one dusty porch swing with rusty chains and one broken armrest. There were three concrete steps leading up to this vacant front area, and the front lawn was an eyesore compared to all the other perfectly trimmed, green lawns surrounding it. There were two big round bushes on either side of the unused concrete staircase, and an empty bird bath on the left side of the yard. The house was also made of this faded blue plank material. There were main windows in the front of the house (with curtains drawn closed over them), and black shutters on both sides of each window. The main eye-catcher is the apple tree that towers over the ancient house, plopping down apples in the fall, and floating down pink and scarlet blossoms in the spring. A person would have no idea of its size, unless you were looking at it from the side. You couldn’t exactly see the bottom half of the house because of a ten foot wooden fence surrounding the majority of the house. But you can see how far back the house goes. And let me tell, it goes on forever. The fence keeps going after the house stops, presumably because of the backyard. As you can see, the house provokes curiosity in all the inhabitants of this small neighborhood.

This was the third time I rang the doorbell, so I was just about to leave the food on the porch and walk home. But then I saw a waver in the curtains. I turned around and walked back up to the front door. I reached for the knob, and with my unpleasant surprise, it turned. The door creaked open as if it hadn’t been used in decades, which was probably true! So I peaked my head in but it was dark. I stepped in so that my whole body was in the entrance way. I closed the door behind me, and I was suddenly enveloped in darkness.
NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

I was slightly frightened. It was that feeling where you felt like something or someone was going to jump out and scare the crap out of you. You feel like you have to look all around you to eliminate the possibility of that hidden creature.

So I called out, “Hello? Helllooooo? Anyone here? Um…M-Mrs. McMallahoo?” There was no answer, but I saw that there was a light coming from further into the house. I chose the brave thing to do (really my curiosity just won me over), and walked deeper into the ethereal mansion. I walked and walked, turning into hallway, after hallway.

It seemed to never end. But finally, I came to two large oak doors with brass handles. They were the kind of doors that would be in the entrance way of a cathedral. I reached out my trembling hand, and felt the cold metal handle. It had a delicate curve to it, almost so beautiful that it shouldn’t be in this neighborhood, or even this state. It definitely deserved something better, but maybe I was wrong.

I pulled with all my weight, and the door swung open. As soon as I saw the room, I gasped. The ceiling was twice as high as I imagined. The walls were lined with books, there was a warm stone fireplace, and then there was a huge chair. It was facing away from the door, and it was so big that I could not see what was in it. But I soon found out. A small, old lady came out of this chair, and turned to look at me. She was about my size, with pale wrinkled skin. She looked so frail, that if a strong gust of wind blew through the room, she would get swept away with it.

I smiled, but could get nothing out. My throat was dry, and my body was tense. Her face seemed friendly, but there was no returning smile. She placed down the book she was reading, and spoke:


“Hello young man. What brings you so deep inside my house on a summer’s day like this?”

“I-I came here to bring you your lunch. Remember? You signed up for meals on wheels? I was assigned to come here for the rest of the month.”

The Old Lady smiled, “Of course I remember, I just did not think you were supposed to come in. I figured you would leave my lunch on the porch.”

I had no idea what to say. I was obviously not wanted, and making her feel uncomfortable. “I am sorry ma’am. I am new at this too. I can leave if you want. Here is your lunch. I hope you aren’t allergic to peanut-butter.” Figuring that the weight of the lunch bag would hurt her, I placed the bag lightly on an open space of her large, book covered oak desk.

“Oh no! It is perfectly fine. I am just not used to visitors. I trust you have noticed that. But please stay. You will find things in here that you cannot find anywhere else.” She said this with a sly but warm smile. It was as if there was a secret I would soon find out. To tell you the truth, I was kind of curious.

So, that is why I stayed and ate lunch with Mrs. McMallahoo, when any other summer, I would be getting in to trouble with Derek. I figured that I really had hit rock bottom. The food was technically for the old people, but Mrs. McMallahoo split her peanut butter and banana sandwich in half, and poured her milk into two different glasses. She split her fruit salad into two bowls, and her slice of chocolate cake in half. So, we had ourselves a little feast. She asked me questions about my family, my friends, my school, and how I got here.

“Well, my mom signed me up, and I wasn’t too happy about it. No offense. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I just came.”

Mrs. McMallahoo smiled, “I am not offended. I completely understand. When I was your age all I wanted to do was play outside with my neighbors. I used to go out for walks and look at the birds, and the trees, and the flowers. But I haven’t been out since. Not since my husband died. He died back in ’63. I now like to keep to my books and my own little world within this house.”

That last thing she said ‘my own little world within this house’ really caught my attention. What could be so special about this old mansion? Yea, it is big, but what else does it hold?

That is when I started to get curious. But I couldn’t just stay; after all, she does like to be alone with her books. So I reluctantly put the trash in the bag, and went back the way I came. At least, that is what I had planned…
DISCOVERING MAGIC


I closed the doors of her study, and tried to remember which way I came from. I could have sworn I went right, but then again I could have gone straight. Since I couldn’t decide, I went left. This hallway was straight, with no doors, until it came to the end. With the end of the hallway came a sharp left turn. I guess that was the only choice I had, so I took it. It didn’t last long before I had to make another left turn. I was starting to feel claustrophobic when I came to a door. I could see light coming from under it, so I thought it was a back door.

As soon as I opened the door, I knew I was in another world. Just by the smell, I knew I was in a tropical place. I stepped into the room and I was completely swathed in jungle. I gasped in shock at the idea that I was no longer in the house anymore. I heard a faint sound of a monkey, a rustle of a bird’s wings on leaves, and the splash of a frog missing its lily pad in the pond. I had no idea what to do, but I was too curious to leave. I decided to travel a little bit deeper into the jungle world before I chickened out.

I must have walked for awhile, because I had no idea which way was back to the door. I was looking around, taking in all of the wonders that shouldn’t be here. Why, or should I say how, did a jungle come to existence in this room; more or less in this mansion? I decided that I didn’t care why or how, I did care that this was an amazing thing that I could not wait to share with my friends. But then again, they might not believe me.

I had come to, by far, the largest tree in the jungle. Its trunk had the circumference of a wheel off of an old wagon with a canvas covering. It seemed twice the height of this house, but that couldn’t be possible. Well, I guess it could. I could not see any creatures in the branches, but I guessed that they were up there. But what really caught my eye was the banana. This was not a normal banana. It was glowing and was the perfect yellow, and was the picture perfect banana shape.

My family, being quite religious, knows practically every passage of the bible by heart. This scene, that I am in, reminded me a lot of Adam and Eve. It was déjà vu. I suddenly knew how Eve felt when she was staring at the beautifully juicy apple. The temptation was suddenly too strong, and I reached out and grabbed the banana off of the jungle floor. The minute I touched the banana, a shiver went through my body. I had no idea why this was happening! What I did know was that something was going on that I could not control. Simultaneous to the shivers, the jungle fell silent. I suddenly felt that I was being watched intensely. But I had no time to look around, when a wild looking monkey came down from the huge tree. He stared at me, watching my every move. In my head I told myself to place the banana back on the ground, and walk away. But the banana sent another shiver through me, and I was incapable of letting go. The monkey must have seen my grip tighten, because he bent forward, ready to attack. But once again, the magic banana overpowered my sensible thoughts, and I suddenly took off in a dead run, back the way I came. My heart was pounding, but I had no control over my actions. I kept running, busting through bushes, jumping over roots, dodging the monkey above me trying to snatch it out of my hands.

I felt totally out of control when the door came in sight. I lunged for it, and gripped the door knob. As soon as I did this, the banana was released. This confused me. Why did I suddenly have the power to drop the banana? But then I looked at my other hand which was gripped on the doorknob. That must be it. That must be why the banana stopped overpowering me. I didn’t know why or how, but I knew that I needed to get out before the monkey called his friends. I swung open the door, and slammed it shut behind me, hearing a thud as the monkey lunged at the door, but not making it at me in time. I could hear no more of the jungle, only my heartbeat.
MOVING FORWARD…OR GOING BACK?

I stayed in a crouched position for who knows how long, and then I looked around. I had no idea what to do next. I could go back the way I came, find my way out, and run to the police station; or I could keeping going forward, and see what else this house had in store? I then had a flashback of Mrs. McMallahoo’s face when she said, “You will find things that you can’t find anywhere else.” She was right. At the time, I had no idea what she meant, but now, I don’t know what to think! Maybe I should go back to Mrs. McMallahoo’s study and tell her what I had seen. But then again, if she knows that I knew, I might get into trouble for snooping. So I had only one choice… to keep moving forward.

MEETING MR.MCMALLAHOO

I kept walking until I came to the next door. It was on the right side of the hallway, about 100 feet from the last room. My hands were shaking, my palms sweating, and my knees were weak. I reached out and gripped the doorknob. It was cold metal; it was lifeless. There was no light coming from under the door, but it didn’t seem dark. I took a deep breath, and swung open the door. I looked around, but saw nothing…literally. The walls were white, and the room seemed to have no end. I suddenly felt dizzy, and I felt the pressure closing in on me; and then the white surroundings turned black.

I woke up to a shaking of my body, and Mrs. McMallahoo’s face hovering over me.

“It’s amazing isn’t it?” That was all she had to say for me to understand that she knew all along that I was here. She must have not minded, but she still had an upset look in her eye. I just shook my head, groaned from the dizziness, and sat up.

She smiled as if my action clarified that I was still capable of living. I looked around once more, remembering it all. I was suddenly hit with the emptiness of the room. It felt like it was endless. I was also hit with so many questions that I wanted to ask Mrs. McMallahoo. I decided on the one that was most important.

“Mrs. McMallahoo, how did you find me?”

“Well, I didn’t mean too. I came in here thinking I just wanted to be…alone. I walked in, and there you were sprawled out in the middle of the floor.”

She must have known that I was confused, because she took a deep breath and continued her explanation.

“You see, I have never told anyone this before, but I have not lived a normal life. If you couldn’t tell by now.”

I smiled, thinking about the room I was in previously.

“I married a scientist. He made all these chemicals, concoctions, inventions, etc. I was not allowed in his lab, I was not aloud near his inventions. It got to the point where I was barely in his life. He made a lot of money off of one of his inventions, the electronic mixer. That is when we moved here. It has been, I don’t know, twenty years now. He was in his lab all the time, only coming out for meals. I spent most of my time in the study, which you have seen.”

I could tell this wasn’t going to end happily. But I was so curious that I wanted to continue. I adjusted my position and waited for her to continue.

“It was a perfect summer day. I was just longing to go outside and smell the daisies. I was heading to the back door to do just that, when I heard a loud boom. I ran down the many hallways, trying to follow the noise. I can still remember the feeling of my heart pounding, my ears ringing, and my mind racing. I finally found the source of the noise. I came to a door that was identical to the doors of my study. At first I thought I ran a big circle, but then I looked more closely at the handles. On the side was engraved a sun. It was setting into the clouds. I reached for the handle and pulled the door open in one swift motion. The first thing I saw was Mr. McMallahoo lying on the ground, as still as ever. I did not know what to do, so I turned and ran out of the room.”

I was shocked. Why had she decided to tell me these things, after I had only just met her? But it felt like I had known her for years now. Not only because of the sad story of her past, but because of this house with magical rooms. I must be the only one in on the secret! That was why I felt so close to her, but it still was weird to me. Imagine what Derek would say? But then again, he wasn’t here, and I probably would never mention it to him.

She continued with her woeful story, “After I ran out, I went back to my study and composed myself. I had no idea what had gotten into me. I went back, but the strangest things happened. The door was locked. I could not open the door, no matter how hard I pulled, kicked, threw, banged, yelled, or cried. It was almost as if the lab was a part of him. When he died, so did the room. I didn’t stop thinking that I was dreaming until I awoke the next morning to have no one waiting for me at the breakfast table.”

I could see that this story still caused her pain and confusion till this day. I too was confused; I didn’t know what to think (once again). But just when I was about to ask her what happened next, I heard a loud buzzing sound. The once white walls were now patterned with a static that a television would have when the satellite went bad. I looked up at the peculiar old lady, but she was not surprised at all. She actually looked comfortably eager. She obviously knew what she was doing.

Suddenly the walls were filled with pictures of my family. There were ones of me at my first birthday, me in my school play, me and Derek with our basketballs in our hands, even some of me today in this house. I was completely and utterly confused when the walls went blank. I looked back up to Mrs. McMallahoo, and she was looking at me.

I stuttered, “Wh...What just happened? It was like everything I remember was laying out for me to see!”

“That is exactly what happened. You see each room has a special ability. I am guessing that the last room you were in caused you to experience temptation? This room has the ability to make you feel nostalgic. I come here to see my memories about my husband.”

And just as she spoke those words, the walls lit up again, but this time with pictures of a small little girl eating ice cream, driving an old fashion car, and dance the jitterbug. But then there were pictures of a young man on one knee, a middle aged man sitting at a kitchen table drinking coffee and reading a newspaper, and finally an old man sitting in a lawn chair by a garden reading a book about Newton’s Laws. I assumed that he was Mr. McMallahoo, and my assumption was confirmed when the walls went blank and Mrs. McMallahoo said, “That was him.”


EXPLANATIONS, EXCITMENTS, AND ENTERING THE LAB

After we got out of the room, it was a little awkward. I didn’t know if I should invite myself to leave, or ask what else there is to see. But she must have seen my torn expression, because she suggested that we see what else there was.

“Since you are here, might as well see it all!” She smiled as if there was so much more to see. So we were off. We went into all different rooms. There were ocean rooms, garden rooms, puzzle rooms, and my personal favorite a candy room. It was a whole Willy Wonka all over again. But then we came to a door that was not like the others. It was painted black with white shapes that seemed to be moving. Mrs. McMallahoo reached for the doorknob, because I was too excited to do it myself. She swung the door open and we were enveloped into darkness. But I could still see the person standing next to me. I took me a minute to realize that I was floating. I looked down, but I got a strange sensation that there was no down, up, left, or right. I could see lights in the distance. I took me another few minutes to absorb my surroundings, realizing that I was in….space. Well, a replica of it I hope! I was floating away, when she reached out and grabbed me.

“If you go too far, you can’t come back! There is no gravity here. This is one of his favorite rooms. He always wished to go into space, but he never got to. So he created this.” She gestured her arms to the expanse of the….well, the space.

“Mr. McMallahoo created these rooms?”

She chortled, “Who do you think made them? He was an inventor of all sorts. Nothing seemed to limit him. Not even the fact that it was unheard of, and still is to the world.”

I guess I hadn’t thought of that before. But it made sense.

We left the space room and went further into the house. We must have made a million different turns and gone down a ton of steps. We turned into a corridor that seemed to have not been used in decades. I felt Mrs. McMallahoo tense up next to me. I didn’t understand until we came to the end. Before us stood two big oak doors with nice handles, identical to the doors of the study. I didn’t know what to do, but I just wanted to confirm my thoughts. I looked down at the handles and saw a beautiful engraving of a sun coming from behind the clouds. This was the lab.

I turned to Mrs. McMallahoo and saw that every part of her body was frozen.

“Maybe we should turn around go back to the study.”

She turned to me, as if she was surprised I was still here. I figured she would turn around and go back up the way we came. But to my astonishment, she took a step closer to the door and reached out her hand. Her delicate fingers wrapped around the handle, covering the engraving from my sight. She braced herself, and pulled. Nothing happened. She tried again, but the door did not budge. She let go and stepped away. A tear streamed down her face, carving through the wise face that looked right at me.

“You try.”

Mrs. McMallahoo said this with a hard, stone voice. I was shocked.

“But if you can’t open it, I doubt I could.”

“After all these years, I forgot. I forgot what he told me. All these years of grief and worry. I forgot.”

“Wh-What do you mean?” She was scaring me. I just met her today, but I still felt like this was a new thing for her.

“One day, we were sitting at the breakfast table very early in the morning. He had woken up early, and I had followed. The sun was just rising through the thick layer of night clouds.”

I started to wonder where she was going with this. But I let her continue, knowing that if I interrupted, I wouldn’t get the full story.

“He looked over at me, my back to him. I was looking out the window while frying some eggs. He said, ‘Over the years, I have done so much for myself. I have yet to do something for you.’ I just simply denied it, not wanting to upset him or myself. But he continued in a poetic manner. ‘Every day I wake up and head to my lab, not even thanking you. Well, I am wrong to do such. But I am lucky, too. I am lucky that you are the kind of person who wakes up and looks at the sun. When you look at the sun, no matter what time of day, you say to yourself that it is rising. It is rising because you always know that someone will care about you, somewhere. Even if they are not there, they care…’ And then he just stared at the sun for awhile.”

I was still confused. What did this have anything to do with the lab and me trying to open it? But she looked at the door, then at me. Obviously she saw what we were to do. She dropped her hand once more from the handle, for she had subconsciously reached out to it during her flashback.

“Please just try Jacob. Try for me.”

So I took a deep breath. And stepped forward. I reached out my hand and felt the cold, curvy metal under my sweaty palms. I stiffened my shoulders, and tugged.

Everything happened so fast. There was a clicking sound, like gears were shifting inside the oak. Then there was a creaking sound as the heavy doors swung open. At the same time I was knocked to the ground, my breath knocked out of me. Mrs. McMallahoo gasped and fell to her knees. Then as the next second ticked in, it was silent.
THIS IS JUST A DREAM


My eyes flew open. I looked around. Where were the oak doors, the old lady kneeling on the floor, the majestic mansion that I had been in?

Instead these were replaced by a stiff bed; sun streaming through threw my venetian blinds, and the blue walls of my bedroom. My head was spinning, it had been so real. It was tangible in the air. Before I could get my bearings, my mom’s excited voice blasted from the kitchen. “Jacob! Are you awake? Come down and eat breakfast, I have something exciting to tell you!” This has happened before. I had experienced this before.

My body was automatically out of bed and brushing my teeth before I could realize what it was that was so familiar. I flew down the stairs, my stomach acting on its own. When I entered the kitchen, I was overwhelmed by the smell of eggs and bacon. I poured myself some orange juice and downed the eggs before my mom could put the bacon on my plate.

“Honey, since your friend is away this summer, I figured that you would want something to do.”

I took a deep breath, for some reason I expected the worst.

“I signed you up to be a paper boy on Saturdays and Sundays! You just have a short route around this neighborhood.”

“Wow mom. That’s exciting…”

“Yes and your first run is today, so get dressed, the newspapers are on the front porch. You have to fold, and then tie them up. I figured you’d have a strong enough arm from baseball.”

For some reason I had expected something more shocking. But I was still dazed from my strange waking up experience. So I just threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and headed on my way.

It was usual for the most part, except for when I got down to Ivy Lane. It was the street where no one really went down. Except for the people that lived on it, and that was a total of five. My map said that this was my last street, so I planned to go down, and loop back around by Derek’s street. Maybe, just maybe he missed his flight yesterday.

I was half way down Ivy Lane when I came to the mansion. It was creepy, the kind of house that would be in a haunted movie. I was never sure who lived there, I think it might be a widowed old lady. My mom said that her husband died in ’63 when the back portion of their house caught on fire.

But anyway, I didn’t expect to see anything. I rode by and threw the paper onto the dilapidated front porch. Just as I was riding away, an old lady drew back the curtains and winked.

There was something familiar about her.





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