The town of Tweed didn’t have much to offer; with run-down shacks that they called homes scattered throughout. It was a place where the stray animals outnumbered the human residents. There was one home in the town that had some historic appeal though; it was the old Mayor’s residence from 30 years ago. Nobody knew exactly what happened to him. One day he went home after a busy day at the Town Hall, and nobody had seen him since. Rumors started circulating that Mayor Jackson had been kidnapped and killed, and others say that aliens abducted him. I guess for a town like this, they will take any excitement when and where they can find it.
The Mayor’s home stayed empty for many years, and nobody even took his place as Mayor for the first two years after he was gone. Some believed that the house was cursed, but that didn’t stop Russell Anderson and his family from grabbing it for a low price when their Real Estate Agent showed them the listing. They moved from the big city to get away from all of the noise, crime, and pollution.
As they pulled up to the front gates of the house, they saw that the whole property was going to require some tender loving care. Vines snaked their way up the wrought iron gates, and there was so much rust on the hinges that Russell had to break some of it away just to swing them open. As they drove up the driveway to the front of the Georgian Colonial-style home, they noticed that the paint on the exterior was in desperate need of a touch-up and the pillars that stood under the portico were starting to crumble. Russell looked around smiling, though his wife, Penelope had a different point of view. What she saw was an excessive amount of money being poured into repairs and constant cleaning for such a large home.
They began to carry boxes in from their SUV, and the moving company that they hired was due to arrive within the hour as well. Russell and Penelope’s oldest daughter, Lisa looked at this place as a disappointment. She missed all of her friends back in the city, especially the boy she was dating named Johnny; his friends called him Dawg. Johnny was a seventeen-year-old punk who thought being cool was more important than getting good grades, and Lisa’s parents did not approve of their fifteen-year-old dating a loser like him.
The youngest daughter, Becky was six-years-old with the intelligence and wit of a twenty-year-old. Becky loved the new house. She couldn’t wait to get inside and explore. All they had back in the city was a two-bedroom apartment in the downtown core. That’s all they could afford in the city, but once Russell found out they were approved for this home, he arranged with his employer to work from home. As an investment broker, all he needed was a computer and a phone.
Just as they brought the last box in, the movers arrived, and with the assistance of Penelope, they were told what to put where. It will be Russell’s job to move everything around once she changed her mind several times over the next few days.
“Go upstairs and pick out a room girls,” Russell called down the hall. “I will be up once the movers are done to help you set them up.”
Becky ran impatiently past Lisa and was up to the second floor before Lisa reached the first step. If Lisa walked any slower, it would be dark before she found a room to sleep in. The house consisted of four large bedrooms and a full-sized bathroom upstairs and another large master bedroom on the main floor with an ensuite off of the bedroom and an additional washroom for guests.
“Daddy! I found my room!” Becky bellowed down the stairs. “I took the one at the end of the hall. There is a big tree in the front with a bird’s nest that I can watch.”
“That sounds beautiful Becky,” her mom shouted from the front door.
Lisa also decided on a room. She chose one at the back of the house because there was a stream stretching across the back of the property, and she found it relaxing. The movers moved the last of the items in and had finally left. Now it was Russell’s job to set up the beds while Penelope organized the dishes in the kitchen. She asked Lisa’s help with that while Becky offered to help her dad. By 5:30 pm, the house was organized enough, and they decided to take a break for dinner. After checking online, they found a small diner in town that they could go to for a bite to eat.
Chuck’s Place was the name on the sign above the restaurant. It didn’t exactly look like a fine dining establishment, but they figured that they were so hungry that even a greasy hamburger would taste good right now. Surprisingly, the food was delicious, and they filled their bellies before heading back to their new home. Back at home, Penelope and Lisa prepared the beds while Becky took a bath before her bedtime.
“I’m all clean Mommy!” Becky yelled from the bathroom.
“I’ll be right there sweetheart,” Penelope replied.
Everyone decided to get an early night after such a long day, so Russell and Penelope went upstairs to say goodnight and then went back down to their room and crawled into bed. Crickets played a lullaby while mourning doves cooed in response. Everyone went right to sleep except for Becky. She had heard tapping noises coming from her closet. At first, she tried covering her head with a blanket. Then she tried plugging her ears, but the noise didn’t stop, so she ran to get Lisa.
“What do you want Becky?” She said with frustration.
“I heard noises and I need you to check it for me. PLEASE!” Becky pleaded.
“Fine, let’s get this over with.”
They returned to Becky’s room and Becky stood closely behind her sister as they approached the closet. Lisa turned on the light and slowly opened the closet door. There, hidden behind the clothes on the back wall was a small door hidden by layers of old paint. Lisa found a ruler and used the fine edge to cut away the paint surrounding the perimeter of the door. When it was finally cleared, the tapping stopped. Lisa and Becky stared at each other before Lisa turned back and grabbed one of the edges, pulling it towards her. The door gave way and swung open revealing a spiral staircase. Lisa ran back to her room and grabbed her phone so she could use the flashlight on it and the two girls descended the steps slowly. They tried to stay quiet so they wouldn’t wake their parents, but Lisa walked right into a cobweb and let out a shriek. They stood quietly for a moment, and when they didn’t hear any movement they continued to the bottom of the stairs. In front of them stood another door. Lisa hesitantly turned the handle and pushed it open. Both girls stood in awe of what they now saw before them. It was a bright, beautiful forest filled with singing birds and a warm breeze. It was so inviting to them; even to Lisa, who up until now was depressed about the move. The girls entered this mysterious realm and were immediately approached by a cottontail rabbit that was playing with a red fox. A path laid ahead, so they decided to check it out. Everything was so beautiful here. At the end of the path, a small stone cottage sat, and outside the door of the cottage stood a portly man with a big smile on his face.
“Welcome children!” he shouted with glee. “Welcome to Splendourland. In this place, there is no hate, only love. No fear, only curiosity. No pain, only joy. It is a place where your most pleasant dreams can come true if you wish hard enough and where time is not affected. Upon your return into the other realm, the time will remain exactly as it was when you entered this one. I’m sorry, let me introduce myself; my name is Phinneas Jackson.”
“I’m Lisa Anderson, and this is my sister, Becky”
“It is so wonderful to meet you. I would love to show you around this land anytime you wish.”
“Thank you so much Mr. Jackson.” Becky happily replied.
“Please, call me Phineas. We don’t need to be so formal around here.”
“Okay, Phinneas it is,” replied Lisa. “But I think we should get back. I really would like it if we could return though.”
“Any time you wish my dear girls. See you soon.”
“Goodbye Mr…I mean, Phineas.”
The girls returned through the portal into their realm, up the stairs and through the small door inside Becky’s closet.
“We need to keep this a secret for now. We can’t even tell mom and dad. Do you understand me?” Lisa asked with sincerity.
“Yes, I understand,” Becky replied.
“We can go back any time he said, so don’t be disappointed. We have something to look forward to now.”
Lisa said goodnight to Becky and headed back into her room. She tried to sleep, but memories of Splendourland were still dancing around in her head. For the first time in a long time, Lisa smiled, and not because she was expected to, but because she wanted to.
The next morning after breakfast, the girls were down in the basement exploring when they came across a box marked Jackson. The quickly opened it up and started searching through its contents. There were certificates and awards as well as some pictures. Lisa held up one of the pictures to the light. It was of a portly man in a long, black coat. He had a miserable look on his face. The inscription on the placard read “Mayor Phineas Jackson, Town of Tweed: 1985”. Lisa showed it to Becky and said, “It’s Phineas! The man we saw last night used to be the Mayor in this town. He used to live in this house. He looks so sad in this photo, but he looked so very happy last night. I can’t wait to go see him again. I think I’m going to like living here after all.
“Me too Lisa.” Becky said.
Becky and Lisa continued to visit Splendourland every night, and after a couple of months, they decided to invite their parents to join them. They were shocked at first as well, but now each night before they go to bed, the whole family goes into Splendourland to visit with Phineas and all of the friendly creatures who made that realm their home. With the help of Phineas, they have even started building their own cottage to stay in whenever they choose to.
Russell’s home-based business has turned out to be quite successful, while Penelope has chosen to teach inexpensive home decorating ideas to some of the women in town. Becky continues to enjoy life and takes pleasure in everything she does and sees, while Lisa has since forgotten about Johnny and her friends from the city, and she has even made new friends here in Tweed, but the secret of Splendourland will never leave the house.