It was a cold bright April day. The clock struck 13 as I entered the house. Wait 13? Was my mind playing tricks on me? As a cloud covered the sun a shadow fell upon the clock. I blinked a few times, rubbing my eyes, phosphenes replacing the darkness and then took another glance at the clock. There were still 13 numbers on the old wooden antique piece. I leaned back my head and filled my lungs with oxygen and dust.
As I walked through the house I opened big patio doors, behind which lies century upon century. Portraits of family members were hanging on the walls. Inspecting the house felt like I was going on a trip back in time. Old machines and clothes were filling the rooms and books of old writings were stacked on tall shelves.
That night I lay motionless in bed as the wind howled through the house. My eyes were closed but my mind was wide awake. I couldn't sleep. I looked out the window. The moon was as white as paper. This whole place was like a mystery without a clue. Why had aunt Elise given this house to me? I had never met her. Some people said she was extradinary. Now that my mind had started thinking it wouldn't leave me alone.
I walked down the hallway. I heard the clock downstairs as it announced that another hour had passed. I stopped to look at one of the portraits. A man with a harsh expression on his face stared back at me. I moved on to the next picture which gave me chills down my back. A lady with orange curly hair and an ashen white face glared at me. Suddendly I felt the urge to touch the dusty wooden frame. As I did so the lady started smiling and blinking. Her hair danced with the light breeze like a thousand swinging trees. I couldn't move. My feet felt like they were nailed to the floor. The lady opened her mouth. Her voice was low and emotionless. “When the 13.th hour strikes you will be surrounded by time, make the most of it.” The clock downstairs struck again which broke the spell of illusion. My heart stopped freezing and the air started breathing again.
The next day I found myself on the libary room floor. No, this did not happen last night. It couldn't have I kept telling myself during the day. But the truth came creeping through the windows and every time I walked through the house the chills I got were multiplying. Silence seized the cluttered rooms which made the images that I pictured inside intense.
In the afternoon I decided to take a little spin into town to buy a radio. I opened the door of my small Fiat and once I was all strapped up I hit the knob on the strereo to turn on the radio. My smile sunk as my expectations of some mellow symphony's were not met. A blustering, crackling sound filled the air. My car had never done this before. My radio usually worked, no matter where I was. This place reallly started to freak me out. That was when the feelings in my headspace rearranged. My questions turned into fear. Fear of the unknown. Nefarious fear.
As I entered town which was a dark world that ached for a splash of sun I saw the poverty, and the unemployment that hounded through the streets. It almost appeared to me that this part of the world had been omitted. The people in the shops had brown skin and sharp glossy eyes. They seemed demure and hopeless about ever finding a panacea, to save them from their poor lives. I almost felt guilty for driving past people that didn't even have enough food. Their tired unfamiliar faces said it all. Something wasn't right.
That night tired faces visited my dreams and the images I had seen in town were etched upon my mind. Just before the clock struck 13 I carried my sleepy body into the hallway. I stared at the lady that had magically come alive the other night. As I touched the frame as I had done before the same thing happened. The lady looked serious. “I'm glad you have come once more.” “All our secrets are smothered by dirt underneath weeds and paving stones.” Despite wanting to say something I was struck silent by fear. “There are men dieing in the snow, find the place where shadows grow forever and a day.” Thoughts brood inside me but my lips were sealed. I believed I knew where I was going when I had moved here, but I obviously hadn't.
The only proof I had that things had been real was the heavy aching pain that remained in my head the next day. I decided to go to the beach in the evening. I longed for distance, just to get some thoughts cleared from my mind. I watched as the coast guards turned on the lights. I stared at the waves. I came to the conclusion that the sea was similiar to us people. The sea takes the sand and returns it again. Humans take love and return it. It's all a cycle I told myself. The moist salty air was so refreshing. I was sick of walking down the long corridors of conference halls. I could see as rain dropped upon the yellow sand. A smell of petrichor filled the air. I had needed this break urgently. The info I had to take in each day had felt like a sattelite floating around my mind.
When I got home a big van was standing in front of the old villa. My old villa. I could see someones face in one of the big flower bushes. The face revealed itself when the person heard me enter the lane. A rather old looking fella with broad shoulders looked up at me. “Good evening” I said. I briskly shook his hand. “My name is Henry and I am in duty of Elise's beautiful garden.” “I hope you don't mind.” I had to stop and think about that. He could have told me before he started digging in the garden. I decided not to be unforgiving and gave him a warm smile. “Of course not.” I finally replied. “You can leave the bill in the letter box.” “Oh no no, Elise had never paid me, we were very good friends.” He shook his head and straightened his back to show me that he was being serious. I knew he wouldn't change his mind so I agreed.
The rest of the day was quiet and I spent the day sitting in one of the comfty libary seats, exploring aunt Elise's old books. Some of them were dusty and looked mysterious. Others posh and expensive wrapped in thick leather cases. Written inside were lifes belligerent symphonies, poems and stories. They were amazing. Simply and soely magical! I felt like I was breathing in eternity. These books were so old some from the ancient 1800's.
I went to bed early stacking a pile of books on my bedroom shelf. I eventually woke up in the middle of the night. Had I just heard the stairs creak? I swung my legs over to the other side of the bed letting them touch the floor. As soon as my eyes were well aqquainted to the darkness I leapt up making my way down the stairs and into the garden. The grass was soft and cold underneath my toes. I didn't know where I was going but I felt that something was attracting me. Some invisible force. I walked into the forrest, fog was covering up the tips of the trees and a light breeze gave me goose bumps. I felt like I was creeping through the underworld, exploring a place I shouldn't be at. Parts of the forest were heavily flooded and it almost looked like a river had made it's way through the woods. I came to a gate. Behind it I could see a lake, and a long crane which was lingereing over busy people who looked like beasts. For a minute I was floating dead. Gangs and tribes and clubs of beasts. That's all I saw in them. I turned around and ran. I ran till I could hear my heart beat in my head and my lungs felt like they were on fire. And the only thought that repeated itself over and over again was this:
I had unconciously entered a world all bended and broken in disarray and discontent, and I had been asked to solve it all!!!
I was shaken the next day and I could feel someones breath upon my shoulder. “Ms. Annabell, wake up darling.” I stretched out my legs and lifted up my upper body, still not attempting to open my eyes. All I remember after that is that someone carried me into the house.
I woke up on the libary couch. A steaming cup of tea was standing on the oak table. A smell of roses filled the air as Henry entered the room. “ How are we this morning?” He wanted to know. I didn't answer, I lifted my hand towards my head that was pounding with pain. Henry seemed to understand and seated himself on the chair opposite to me. “Now Ms. Annabell, I think it's time to fill you in with some info so that I don't have to sweep you off the lawn every morning in the future.” I nodded approvingly. He cleared his throat before he started explaining, which made me guess that this would be a longer conversation.
“Now to understand this you must know the history of Elise's family. She has never had an easy life you know. Her father started off this cult, not easy to explain. It's not even a proper cult. He uses people's fears as his chance to win them over. They all grew up hushed as suburban adultery. It's sad, their emotions and hearts were crippled a hundred times, their hearts can see fear no more because they are so used to it. Elise was one of the only ones that made it out without having a cold heart. She tried to fight against him, but her body was too old. She knew that you would be the one to save everyone.” I nearly choked on a piece of biscuit when I heard him say that. “ Why me? I can't save those people! I am just an ordinary girl.” “Ms. Annabell, anything but ordinary I would say. I saw the flair that shone in your eyes.” I searched Henry's face looking desperately for any doubts, anything that would tell me that he didn't actually believe that. But he did. I knew it and so did he.
That afternoon the truth unravelled before my eyes and I got to know the power of speech. Henry's words surrounded me and went streaming to my head and woke my sleeping fears. Thoughts gathered in my mind leaving my body in a complete mess.
I opened my eyes in horror. I tried hard to regulate my breath but the dream had been so real. I needed some fresh air so I sat outside enjoying the sweet scent of cherry blossom trees. I decided to go for a walk with my brightest thoughts, pushing my fears far away. I took a deep breath. We inhale, exhale and reset. Every living thing is in this constant state of unrest. And it facinated me. Life was made moons ago, somewhere behind these skies and no one knows how or why. Wasn't life the biggest mystery we would ever know of?
I decided to have another look at the forest. Something inside me was curious of what I would see, another part was terrified. I walked fast, not looking where I was actually going. The forest was still flooded. I got to the gate. I was amazed at what I saw, because the fact that there was nothing to see made me wonder.....
I could feel that I was challenging my brain. I went through all the possible events that might happen if I crossed this gate. Crawling over the thought that I could die. But I thirsted for truth. I jumped over it, heart racing.
The lake was big and the land around it worn down. It was surrounded by a bamboo forest which almost looked like a jungle. The ground underneath me felt soft and I when I inspected it closer I noticed that I wasn't standing on soil, I was standing on reeds. They were tightly entangled and moss had covered up some of them. I moved on, walking towards a big stone that had planted itself in a big wall of moss. Next to it I found pictures. They had been carelessly thrown around the place. When I had them all gathered up I flipped through them. They were mainly pictures of the lake except for the last two which pictured a handsome boy and his family. They were clearly happy, picknicking on a lovely field. What in the name of God had happened here? Aunt Elise leaving me a house, the lake and the crane, those people I had seen at night, these pictures, the sad people in town, Henry's story and the woman in the picture coming alive. Confused I ran for miles till I was back at the house again. I decided that I would go back to the lake tonight. I had to see those people again, I needed to know what they were doing. I was obsessed.
I may have died in a landslide of rocks, hopes and fears that evening. I could feel that my nerves were pulsating with every thought I wasted thinking about what I would see tonight. As the clock struck 13 I was dressed and prepared. I set my foot outside the door. I could hear fake tones hurting bound by force as I advanced the forest. When I had reached the gate I saw them. They were the same people with the innocent faces that I had seen in town. When one of them turned and looked in my direction I automatically held my breath. They can probably smell my despiration from miles away I thought, nervously chewing on my bottom lip. I wasn't sure of what they were actually doing. Some were lining up in front of a little cabin, others were wearing white jackets which looked like lab coats scooping some liquid out of the lake. But one thing that I was sure of was that whoever planned all of this was heartless in their origins. They were sinners of society heating air through their corrupted lungs all running towards this big cult because it is the only thing they ever learned. This was the only life they learned to live. So how could they possibly want to live differently when they didn't even know there was a different. They didn't have a choice. At least I knew what to do now. I had to show them that life had more opportunities than this.
The next day I contacted Henry as I felt that I urgently needed some more details about the cult leader. I scribbled down a few questions I needed to ask him:
1. Where does the crane and all the people go to during the day?
2. Who is the cult leader and what are his intentions?
3. Would Henry be willing to help me?
I hoped that I would have all my questions answered by the end of our talk. Henry agreed to do his best to help me with my plans. Unfortunately Henry knew nothing more about the cult than I did. But he did have some good news. Aunt Elise had not only left me her house but also her entire income. She had made a special account named: For Annabell's Plans. I was ready. Ready to make my plans reality. Ready to help these people. Because I knew they had strong potential. The first thing I did was to stick my favourite quote to the fridge of which I now knew that it was so true:
“A person that has to suffer significiant pain is able for unbelievable great things!”
First of all I went to the bank to see how much money aunt Elise had left me. It was a significant amount. I would organize a festival for old and young. There would be bouncing castles, chess competitions, fun rides, food stalls and lots more and everything would be free. I had also rang a solictor and an undercover detective to gather lots of evidence about what horrible things the cult leader was actually commiting. I informed Henry about my plans and he said he would have a surprise awaiting too. That night the moon did not seem like it was looking down at me, laughing at my silly ideas. It was smiling down bathing me in its light. I dreamed of sunflowers and starry nights and for once I woke up in my bed.
I was walking on the rooftops of the town in a state of euphoria. Beneath me were lots of orange and yellow tents raised up high like proud dragons necks. I could hear laughing children and the melodies of funfair rides repeating over and over again swirling into the sky. I wanted this day of complete hapiness and joy to last for eternity. I opened up the old jam jar that I had brought with me and whispered into it all my memories of this day. After I had twisted the lid back on I thought to myself: touch it and replay it, it only happens once.