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Taylor Brodwick and the Mystery of Elysium
Author's note: It started when I was on the swing in my backyard one day.I imagined falling off into a magical world, and I had a story!
I wasn’t alive when David Evansten died. Heck, my mom wasn’t even alive. I know because when we moved to this seemingly ordinary neighborhood last year my parents asked our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Dahlgren, about who lived in the house across the street.
“Oh,” she whispered in a nervous tone. “That’s the home of Mr. David Evansten.”
“Really?” my mother replied. “Who is this Mr. Evansten?”
“Why, he was the most mysterious person I knew before he died forty years ago. Always talking about places that sounded like they came out of a storybook. Hazelwood, Zhernia, Retham, the works. Some said he was drunk. Others believed it was only because he had been alone for so many years. Never got married, never had any children.”
“So, nobody lives there anymore?” my father wanted to know.
“Nobody. That old house is so feared, we couldn’t even get the construction crew to knock it down, let alone get it sold.”
Then she explained how there was some ghost that haunted the house every night, and how there was always banging coming from the house.
My name is Taylor Brodwick. My last name is kind of weird, but Samantha Lofgren says she thinks my last name’s cool, and my first name reminds her of her favorite country singer. But I’m pretty sure she only says it to be nice. Samantha’s the kind of person who’s nice to everyone. She was even nice to me when I first moved here . We don’t really know each other that well yet, but she’s making the move to Utah a little more bearable.
See, I wasn’t particularly excited about moving here, especially across the street from a haunted house. I’m not the kind of girl who likes to have her head filled with ghosts while she’s trying to sleep at night, but having Samantha around makes them seem a bit less scary. She always makes jokes, like the one time she saw a white thing floating through the air. She swore it was Mr. Evansten’s ghost, but it turned out to be a plastic bag. Imagining a Walmart bag with scary pointy teeth and a face cracked me up.
See, the whole ‘Ghost of David Evansten’ thing is actually taken seriously by some people. In fact, Kyle Wagner said he’d give anybody who found the ghost one hundred dollars in cash.
Nobody’s won that cash yet.
I’ve always thought the whole thing was a big fluke, (although Brooke Aven swore she saw his ghost one time, but didn’t get the cash because Kyle said he needed a picture, and she didn’t have one) until the first day of seventh grade.
I woke to the sound of my radio/alarm clock playing La La Land by Demi Lovato. Arrgh, why’d it have to be morning all ready? Hadn’t I just gone to bed? And was I really supposed to start school today? Wasn’t August 27th still summer?
Of course not. See, I don’t really hate school or anything like that. But recently a girl named Miranda moved in, about the same time a I did.
Miranda Tysen is the meanest girl at my school, but she especially hates me. She’s really Goth, with her spiky black hair and white skin, and she’s always wearing black shirts that say scary things. ‘It’s a dark world after all’ and ‘I killed Michael Jackson’ are a few classics. And guess which lucky girl gets to have all of her class periods same as hers?
I put on a BYU t-shirt and some blue jeans. Just as I was about to get my favorite cowboy boots on, a small piece of paper fluttered out of nowhere. It had a single word on it: Go.
Now, a normal person would have tossed that little ole piece of paper into the garbage can. But I just…couldn’t. I pocketed the paper and hurried out the door down to the garage.
“On the first day of school? You’re kidding, right?”
“I don’t want to go to school,” I murmured.
“But you have friends there,” she insisted.
“Isn’t Samantha enough?”
I didn’t answer. Finally, we pulled up to the place I’d been dreading all summer: Highland Middle School.
“Have a good day, Taylor,” Mom said cheerfully.
“Thanks, Mom,” I smiled But in my head I was saying Fat Chance.
Okay, so Miranda wasn’t extraordinarily bad that day. Just the usual “I’m gonna kick your behind if you breathe on me.” But my day didn’t really begin until lunch time. Samantha was already at a table by herself. She excitedly waved me over.
“Hey, Sam, what’s up?”
“Guess what, Taylor, the weirdest thing happened this morning.”
“I was walking over to the bus stop when, and I’m serious when I say this, a paper fell out of the sky and landed on my shoe.”
“Oookay,” I said slowly, not really sure about what was so unusual about a piece of paper.
“But listen, it wasn’t just any piece of paper. It had writing on it. And guess what the writing said?”
“It said ‘Give this to Taylor Brodwick’.”
I stared at her.
“I’m serious! Look, I have the proof right here.”
Samantha pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to me. I looked at it. It was just a strip of paper; could have come out of anybody’s notebook. Give this to Taylor Brodwick was written in pencil.
“Creepy, isn’t it?” Samantha remarked.
“It would be a lot more creepy if I didn’t know that handwriting so well.”
“Oh, I didn’t write that,” she said defensively.
“You know, that would be a really great joke to play on somebody a little dumber than me.”
I turned it around. On the back was another, single word: to. Hmm.
I pulled the piece of paper out of my pocket: go. When I put them together, it said Go to.
“Okay, now that’s spooky.”
“Hey, look at it now,”
The writing on the paper was back, but this time it said ‘ Go to the home of The Swing.’
“How could I have faked that?” Samantha asked.
I looked up at my friend, then back at the paper again. Go to the home of The Swing.
“Whoa! That was weird!” I said anxiously.
“I just had a really strong déjà vu moment, like when you see something, and suddenly you start to think you’ve seen it before, like in a dream.”
“Now you’re trying to fool me.”
“I can understand why you’d think that. But I’m serious.”
“So, what do you think this all means?”
“Maybe if we go to whatever place it’s talking about, we’ll find a camera crew holding a million dollar check,” I joked.
“Or maybe this is Miranda playing a joke on us.”
“How does that explain the déjà vu?”
I thought about what the paper said. Go to the home of The Swing. All of a sudden, I felt it again. Not the déjà vu, but something similar.
“I think I know what it’s talking about. David Evansten’s house.”
For the first time that day, I smiled.
She was quiet.
“What do you think? Do you want to see what this is all about after school?”
Finally, Samantha smiled, too.
“Count me in.”
The final bell rang, signaling the end of school. I grabbed my binder and ran out of Utah Studies faster than you can say ‘Wait, Taylor! You forgot your homework!’ I sped down to locker number 166, grabbed my backpack out, and jammed my binder and book into it. Then I ran down to the doors that led to the bus stop, where Samantha and I would be meeting.
She was already there when I got to the bus stop, because her final period is on the same floor as her locker.
“Taylor! You’re here!”
“I’m here,” I agreed. “I called my mom and told her not to pick me up today.”
“You didn’t tell her why, right?”
“Of course not!” I couldn’t imagine what she might say if she found out I was going to a haunted house.
When the bus came, Samantha and I sat as close to the doors as possible. Neither of us could explain why, but we both had an excited feeling about going to Mr. Evansten’s house.
The ride home was long and lonely. How is it that every time you want to get somewhere really fast, you get all the red lights? Like I said, somebody was most definitely playing a joke on me today.
Finally, we got to the bus stop. We said ‘Thanks’ to the bus driver and made our way to the house.
“There it is,” I said, pointing to the house.
From the outside it didn’t really look that spooky or anything, but it did look old. It was a rather exquisite house. The walls were made of white marble, and it had to have been at least four stories high. Mr. Evansten must have been rich.
We walked up the front porch steps to the door. Along the steps, there were statues of people. I have to admit, they were pretty spooky. Their facial expressions reminded me of somebody who’d just looked at Medusa. I tried to ignore them.
Finally, we got to the door. The door was made of glass that was probably see-through a long time ago. Its handles were golden.
“Are you sure this is okay? I feel like were trespassing on somebody else’s property” Samantha asked nervously.
“Not at all. Are you ready?”
We went inside.
It just looked like an average house, except for all the dust.
“Wow,” I said when I first got into the house. “It doesn’t really look that scary, does it?”
“Yeah,” Samantha agreed. “I always pictured it looking like one of those haunted houses in the movies.”
We looked around a little more.
“Where should we go first?” Samantha asked.
“Umm…” I looked around. Upstairs? No, not yet. Best to explore downstairs first, I thought.
“Let’s go to that room, right there,” I said, pointing to my left.
We walked over to a room that must have been really nice once. If the lady of this house had been anything like my mother, she would have a heart attack if she saw what it looked like now. The once-white walls were now ashen gray from all the dust. The once-white carpet had a substance on it that made me wonder if an animal was trapped in here and couldn’t make it outside to go to the bathroom. The portraits were falling of the walls, and it was cold from the wind blowing through the broken window.
“Hey, look at this,” Samantha said from across the room.
She stood by a piano, an old piano. It was mahogany, with dove-colored keys. Some of the keys were missing, and the remaining keys were covered with dust bunnies the size of ping-pong balls.
“Wow,” I said. “This has got to be about a hundred years old.”
I gently pressed my finger on one of the keys. Expecting it to sound off key and out of tune, I was surprised to hear a sweet, musical sound.
“But it sounds brand new,” Samantha remarked.
Then I noticed something else. Some keys had a number on them. One had one, one had two, one had three… it went up to twelve.
“Hey, Samantha, look at this.”
“Look, some of the keys have numbers on them.”
“Really? Let me see,”
I wondered if there was some kind of pattern to this whole thing. Was it some kind of puzzle to solve? Who had set it up?
“Hey, maybe if you play the keys in order from one to twelve, something will happen,” Samantha suggested. Exactly what she thought would happen, she didn’t say. I decided to give it a try, anyway.
The key with a one on it was middle C. I pressed that one first. Then I pressed the second G up from middle C, which had a two on it. After I played the twelfth key, we waited. Nothing happened at first. But then, something floated up from the top of the piano.
“Hey, it looks just like the paper you gave me,” I stated.
“What does it say?”
“It says, ‘Go to the swing in the backyard’,” I read aloud.
“Well, what do you think?”
The truth was, I didn’t think.
So we made our way to the back door. It took a long time to get there. We walked through endless hallways, coughing about fifty times each from all the dust. When we finally found the door that led to the backyard. I stopped.
“Are you coming,” Samantha asked.
“Umm, one second, let me tie my shoe.”
I bent down and picked up a coal-black locket, which I’d just discovered on the ground. I didn’t want to tell Samantha about what I had found, even though I didn’t know why, so I quickly put the locket around my neck and went outside.
The garden wasn’t that beautiful. The grass was more amber than green, there were twigs everywhere, and the old swing set was falling apart.
“All right, which one of us should ride the swing first?” Samantha asked.
“You go,” I said timidly.
“Are you sure?”
“Really, really sure?”
She sat down on the swing and started pumping her legs. Up and down, up and down.
“How long do you think I have to do this?” she asked.
“Until a paper floats down!”
She kept swinging. No papers flew down.
“Do you want to try?” she suggested after five minutes.
I wasn’t scared of it or anything. I just wasn’t sure if anything special would happen. But, hey, swinging is always fun, right?
I got on the swing. It was rusted, and I wasn’t sure if it was safe, but if Samantha could do it, so could I.
I sat down and felt something wet. I told myself it was just from the rain and started pumping my legs. Soon, I was up in the air.
“Wow!” exclaimed Samantha after two minutes. “You’re so high!”
“I’m so high!” I repeated.
It was a wonderful feeling, swinging up and down, back and forth. The wind blew through my hair, which was so relaxingly cooling on this hot day. I was so high, Samantha, who had wide eyes and a wide open mouth, looked like an ant. Wow! I really was high. Unrealistically high. It wasn’t right. I didn’t care. The feeling was magnificent.
“Look out, Taylor!” exclaimed Samantha.
Before she could answer, the swing went flying out from underneath me. I was flying through the air, falling so fast I didn’t have time to get scared. Samantha screamed. And then everything went black.
I opened my eyes, to find myself on the ground, in the grass, face down. I sat up. Was that dirt in my mouth? Gross. I sputtered, then pulled a strand of hair out of my mouth.
Suddenly, I realized that I had just fallen off a swing. That was weird. Why hadn’t I felt any pain? How hard had I hit the ground? I stood up and looked around.
Have you ever seen that movie, The Wizard of Oz? You know, the one where that girl opens the door and realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore? Now I knew how she felt. Only it was more like ‘I’m not in Utah anymore.’ The green grass was the first thing that made me realize I was somewhere different. Since when is the grass of the Evansten’s backyard green? It’s not like it’s been watered since David Evansten died.
Next, I saw trees; emerald green trees as far as the eye could see. There were no trees in the Evansten backyard. These trees were tall, too. So tall they seemed to touch the delft-colored sky. Their trunks were nutmeg-colored, and a few had round holes in the center. The air smelled earthy, like the backyard, but it also smelled damp, unlike the backyard. I was in a very different place.
I started walking around. As I paced, I came up with a theory. I had fallen from so high and had hit the ground so hard that I was starting to see things. This entire place was just a vision. Soon, my mother would get worried, come over to the Evansten’s, see me on the ground, take me to the hospital…
That’s when I realized neither of my parents knew I was here. I had snuck out, hadn’t I? What would happen is they’d be worried sick, put me in a lost ad in the newspaper, only to discover me dead as soon as my dead body started smelling. Oh, help, I thought. I absolutely had to wake up. So I did something crazy. I walked over to the nearest tree and banged my head against it.
“Wake up, wake up, wake up!” I shouted. “Wake up wake up wake up, WAKE UP!” And I banged my head so hard against the tree that I felt myself get knocked to the ground.
“Ouch,” I murmured. I touched my forehead with my finger. Then I brought it down in front of my eyes. It was red with blood.
“Ouch,” I said again, this time as a groan. I fell backwards onto the damp grass. Was today hit-your-head day?
In the distance, I saw something. A white horse, galloping towards me. On its back was a person. Whether it was a child or adult, a boy or a girl, I didn’t know. All I knew was that I had to get up, and fast.
I slowly got up onto my feet. My knees felt week, and my feet heavy. I fell to the ground again. As the horse got nearer, I saw its rider was a boy. He was about my age, twelve or thirteen. He looked like a guy from a fairy tale.
The horse got nearer and nearer. I backed away slowly, but I didn’t get up. My heart started to beat fast. Now I’d die even if this place was real. He was only twenty feet away. Make that ten, nine-
Neighhhh! The horse stopped. The rider had seen me!
“Hey, what are you doing? I could have ran into you!” he said.
“I- I- I just-” No sound would come out of my mouth. The boy hopped down.
“Here, let me help you.” He pulled me up.
“Get off me!” I snapped. I know it was rude of me. After all, he was only trying to help. But I was tired and grumpy, and on top of it all, I had a big cut on my forehead.
“You look awful,” he observed.
“I hadn’t noticed,” I replied sarcastically.
“What did you do to your head?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I started walking away. He followed me.
“My name’s Jack, by the way. What’s yours?”
I still didn’t answer. Instead, I asked: “Where am I?”
“Why, you’re in Hazelwood, of course!”
“Yes!” he replied eagerly. “Welcome to the Hazelwood Forest!”
“I’ve got to get out of here,” I murmured to myself.
“Umm, I’m not trying to say you’re dumb or anything, but how could you not know that?”
“Maybe because when I fell of the swing into this place, there weren’t any ‘You are Here’ signs.”
“Did you just say you fell of a swing?”
“That’s what I said.”
“And then you just… appeared here?”
I kept walking.
“Where is this swing? Could you take me there?” he asked eagerly.
“It’s not here anymore.”
“But you don’t understand. If you fell off the swing I think you fell off of, it could change my future!”
“Well, I’m afraid your future will have to stay the same, because it’s not here anymore.”
“It must be around here, somewhere. What’s your name again?”
I really wished he’d leave me alone because I needed to find away out of here. The Hazelwood forest was getting more and more real by the second.
“My name’s Taylor. Do you have any more pointless questions to ask, or will I be able to think by myself now?” I said rudely. After I said it I felt bad. Not that I acted like it.
“You must let me come with you, Miss Taylor.”
“I said go away! Your horse is waiting.”
“Oh, Prince won’t be waiting for me. He’ll always know where I am and how to get there.”
“By ‘Prince’, do you mean yourself or the horse? I asked, eyeing his old-fashioned clothes.”
He looked at me as though I were crazy.
“The horse, Miss Taylor.”
“I know what you were talking about. I was being sarcastic.”
“Of course, Miss Taylor.”
“Why do you need this swing so bad, anyway?”
“It’s a really long story that I can’t tell you just yet.”
“Well, what can you tell me?”
“All I can say is that if I find it, my life will be everything I’ve dreamed of. And if I don’t…” Jack didn’t say anything else.
“Look,” I began. “I’m really sorry, but the only way you’ll find that swing is if you could somehow get to where I live.”
“Well then this is perfect!”
“What do you mean?”
“We can help each other! I can help you find your way back home, and you can help me find the swing!”
I became quiet.
“What do you say, Taylor?”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t really want to get caught up in some quest, especially with this old fashioned guy. I mean, it sounded as if something horrible would happen to Jack if he didn’t find the swing. I didn’t want whatever terrible thing that would happen to him to happen to me, too. But I really needed to get home. Back to my life. And Jack sounded like he knew something. Maybe he really could help me. Maybe
His face brightened.
“Oh, brilliant! I knew you’d say yes, I just knew it, Taylor!”
“But you’ve also got to help me, Jack.”
“Oh, and I’ve got one rule.”
“And what is that?”
“My name is Taylor, not Miss Taylor.”