The Chest

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Fantasy, Magic
Tags: , , ,

treasure-chestMoving day. Our parents had ended our less than sweet dreams at 4:30 a.m. Cassie, my 15-year-old sister and I hadn’t wanted to move, to leave the city and our friends. For Cassie, this whole relocation thing seemed like hell. Imagine her being grounded with her 13-year-old sickly brother Jonah. Imagine what I expected from our moving to the middle of nowhere: a 13-year-old epileptic. Thankfully I had only minor seizures, so-called petit mal seizures.

You can imagine that we were in a bad mood, whereas our parents were seemingly looking forward to living the big city. The removal van apparently had already unloaded our belongings at our new home. Our parents drove into the ‘new’ town, as they needed to talk to the bank director. Cassie wanted to stay in the car. She had been texting her friends all morning. I went inside with my parents, keeping my distance. The bank was rather small. Three employees, three customers, the bank director and my parents were distributed around the room. I was bored, until the bank director’s voice grew hectic. “…wooden chest. Beware…” was all I could understand. Moments later we could finally leave the bank.

Throughout the drive to our new home, our mother chatted nervously. Our dad seemed miles away. Ten minutes later, dad drove through an open gate and stopped in front of a bungalow. “Here we are!” he announced proudly. Cassie and I looked at the house, then at each other, grimaced. Cassie rolled her eyes. We were trapped in the middle of nowhere, in a rather old bungalow, around only fields and woods. Our mother immediately started organising: she handed me the keys, ordered Cassie to take some bags, took some other bags, and motioned to dad to retrieve something from the luggage boot. It was something not too big, yet apparently heavy, wrapped in a blanket. I walked to the door, gladly, the first key already fit. I unlocked the door and opened it. I stepped aside to let the others go inside. My father brought up the rear, slightly groaning.

Cassie dropped the bags in the hallway and stepped into the kitchen and living-room. “The previous owners remodelled this house – they just loved the open concept.” I figured that it wouldn’t take very long until our mother realised that she didn’t like the smell of food all around the house.

Meanwhile, dad had walked through the living-room and deposited the thing he had carried in front of the radiator. He undid the blanket and uncovered – a wooden chest. Compared to the sofa on its right side it seemed tiny, could even have been used as a side table. Dad folded the blanket, placed it on the sofa’s armrest, and smiled. He suddenly seemed far less upset than in the bank or on the way home. He and mother started to check if the furniture had been placed in the right locations. The boxes were about where they belonged. Our mother glanced at her watch. “We need to get to the supermarket – or we will all be going to sleep hungry! Why don’t you kids start unpacking your stuff! Cassie, instead of constantly playing with your phone, have an eye on Jonah. No cutting a caper, today – will you?!” She turned on her heels and marched out of the room, dad following suit.

I sighed, Cassie just rolled her eyes. In the middle of nowhere – unpacking. Not really fun stuff. Our rooms were side by side, facing the small herb garden. Definitely not the view of our dreams. Electricity worked, we didn’t have internet connection yet. We plugged in our smart phones and played our favourite songs – not necessarily a harmonic combination. After about an hour I had emptied all my boxes, shoving my clothes in the wardrobe, my books and games in the rack. Everything that reminded me of school was thrown in the desk drawers. Ready! I went to the next room to see about Cassie’s progress when a metallic thump froze me in my tracks. Another thump. Cassie shot out of her room. “What the hell is going on here?” I shrugged. I suddenly felt pretty nauseous. Cassie gestured to keep quiet and we started edging to the other end of the corridor. We stopped short of the doorway to the living room, listening. Nothing. Another step and – we were both hit in the face. I fell like a log. As usual, Cassie was tougher. Yet she was held at gunpoint by a guy who was hardly bigger than us. Huh? I squinted and realised it was a knife, not a gun. This insight didn’t make me feel more comfortable, though. I struggled to get up on my feet.

The second guy approached me. He was also sporting a kind of hunting knife in his right hand. I gulped, hardly able to breathe, glad about the wall behind my back. “Tell us, now! Where is the chest?” I looked at him, dumbfounded. I cautiously scanned the room. The chest was there where our dad hat placed it. Some boxes had been emptied, a chair had been tossed against a wall, whereas the chest was still in its initial place. Why didn’t the guys see it? The guy was so close now that I could feel his breath in my face. I froze as he stared into my eyes and repeated his question, slowly raising the knife to my throat. My head started spinning, welcoming blackness, I glided to the floor. I didn’t hear Cassie’s muffled cry.

I cannot tell you how long it took. The seizures may last only seconds, or several minutes. When I regained consciousness, I noticed that my hands were fixed together with a cable tie, that I had not wet myself this time, and that the chest was still there. I peeked at the guys. Suddenly I remembered that they had been there in the bank. They presumably had overheard my parents’ talking to the bank director. Despite my terrible headache, I tried to get up carefully. “Our prissy is awake!” one of the guys drawled. He seized my arm and shoved me to the kitchen isle. Across the isle, the other guy held Cassie, whose hands were also tied in front of her. She looked like she had bitten into a lemon. Her hair was dishevelled, her lower lip was bleeding, she sported some bruises. She didn’t look up. The guy beside me started rubbing himself on my back, laughing madly. They somehow reminded me of Beavis and Butthead. I despised this show – and I despised these guys even more. Still enduring the rubbing on my backside, I looked out of the window. Suddenly, at least 20 riders on horses of different sizes and colours cantered out of the forest, over the fields, and suddenly all the riders crowded together our kitchen and the living room. The horses thankfully waited outside.

An older man with a grey beard patted me on the shoulder and smiled, while one of the younger riders cut the cable tie around my wrists. Two others freed Cassie and tended her wounds. I looked around. The miscreants had vanished. The chest was still there. The older man had followed my gaze and nodded approvingly. “You have protected the chest well, Jonah.” I looked at him questioningly. He smiled. On his sign, all riders got down on their knees and bowed. My knees trembled from exhaustion and Cassie also looked as if she was going to faint. The older man saw our distress, and motioned his men to action. Suddenly, we were seated, had big cups of hot chocolate in our hands. All of them nodded at us, smiles on their faces. They let us finish our hot chocolate.

The old man introduced himself as Bernard and explained: “Our families have been here for generations, guarding the chest, keeping malevolence at bay. 25 years ago, I handed the task of keeping the chest safe over to your father. Now the time has come for you, Jonah, to take over this task of utter importance. You certainly ask yourself, why I am the one to tell you this. Three days ago, we lost a very dear member of our society. His task is a rather tricky one and – your father is the only one who can take over. We all agreed unanimously that you are the perfect successor for protecting the chest. Therefore, we had planned to rend you a visit in the evening. Considerably less dramatic than it came to pass. You must know that several of us sensed the danger you both were in.”

Cassie had also realised that the miscreants were gone. “Where are they?” The men looked at Bernard, not daring eye contact with neither Cassie nor me. The situation got weirder by the minute. It actually seemed as if the temperature had dropped; 23 °C outside and I had to suppress a shiver.

Bernard cleared his throat, made sure we were sitting and told us what we had missed: “These guys were not what they seemed. They were a different lifeform, what you would call ghosts from the past. A ghost is ‘born’ when someone dies before he or she is due to die. Murder victims therefore often stay as ghosts – normally until the crime is solved. These ghosts are harmless. Then there are ghosts who arise when an evildoer is executed. These two guys were evildoers who died in 1873. They must have been lurking in the vicinity for a while. They sensed your family and the chest and decided to free other evildoers. They seemed rather authentic as they watch and adapt.”

Here, I interrupted him. “Stop, Bernard, what did you just say? They decided to free other evildoers?! How? And where are they?!”

Cassie shook her head, she had already understood: “The chest, Jonah! They are in the chest! Perhaps they end up there as the ghosts in the Ghostbusters movie. This is why we – or you – need to protect this chest.”

Bernard nodded. I couldn’t believe my ears. “Why me? Why not Cassie? She is apt, she is bright, she is strong! She is not a helpless boy like me!”

“Cassie’s task is different – and also very important. Your epilepsy is – as funny as it may sound – a huge advantage. Your brain and/or neuronal network is less predictable than that of others. Therefore, it is harder for these lifeforms to detect the chest before they can be imprisoned there. It is bad enough that there is so much crime in our world. We really do not need criminal ghosts in addition to that. You are going to learn how to detect them, to handle them, to protect the chest, and to enjoy living here.”

If this was a joke, it was a pretty good one. I had scanned the room for hidden cameras – there were none. I had never believed in fairy tales and suddenly I seemed to be right in the middle of one. Fantasy stories often describe incredible gadgets like wands, magic rings, invisibility cloaks. We had just one chest. Stop! Some of them had sensed the danger we were in!

I had to ask: “Bernard, you sensed that we were in danger?!”

“This is something you will also learn, both of you. You do not need to worry, only extreme emotions can be submitted. No ‘Big Brother’ shows, no ‘Candid Camera’ pranks – I promise.”

What can I tell you? That day really changed my life. The summer holidays were not half as boring as suspected. Indeed we had lots of stuff to learn, suffered failures and succeeded, and grew.

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Comments
  1. Ruth says:

    Reading this story has been a welcome diversion on my way to Leipzig, Karen! You put in a lot of imagination and set up a storyline with tension and an unexpected turning point 🙂 I am looking forward to more stories like this!!!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you very much, Ruth! This time, I was inspired by a dream: a boy and his sister – hostages, at the kitchen isle, the boy being desperate, the approaching riders. A story was born. 🙂

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