Adventure Coming of Age Fiction

 It stood, menacing in the gloom of the overgrown garden. The tower that love had built was now abandoned, forlorn. No one would come to visit now that the building was empty and full of shadows. Once it had been beautiful, grand and majestic, painted white and gold with splashes of green vine, and red flowers. Once, it held life, and joy and hope. Now after so many years it has taken on a new feel, one of bitterness, loneliness, even fear. No one went near it anymore and in the absence of love it had soured.

               Strange noises could be heard at night, emanating from the broken windows. Scratches, strange calls, hoots and growls. Thought to be haunted, not even the local kids wanted to dare each other past the garden fence at night. There were limits to what even kids would do to each other. Those who knew the legend, the history, the truth. So engrained was the story that it was not even considered an option, you left the place alone, and kept your friends safe, by keeping them away too.

               When Garen and his family moved to the strange new town they had driven past the old plot, out on the west road. He saw the crows perched on the roof tops and they cawed at him as they made eye contact. He smiled as he saw the beautiful old building half hidden by the dense overgrowth and the dark old fence that surrounded the property.

               He felt something clench in his heart as he saw the place, a need to walk its perimeter, see its pictures, know its story. He felt a shiver run down his back as a strange dream-like memory swam up to his consciousness after the old Ford had already blown by leaving the house in the distance. The vision was of a great hall, lit by a beautiful stained glass window that depicted something he could not quite make it out, a pair of eyes? A face? Something was missing, the image was wrong somehow, and he realized that the window was incomplete, broken, the light it cast was stale and old and he felt the unbelievable urge to set it right. Garen shook his head, a new determination blooming, he would find his way into that house, he needed to.

               Their new home, a three-bedroom apartment over the shop his father had purchased, was comfortable enough. His own room was small and overlooked an alley but there was a fire escape and he quickly worked out several ways he would be able to use that to his advantage. The living room, kitchen, bathroom all standard fare, but he could see how happy his mother was with their new home. It was for her that they had made this journey. She needed warmer climates; her health was too poor to handle harsh winters they had all grown up with. He had to admit there was resentment there at being forced to leave his whole life behind, but he loved his mother, seeing her happy made the sting of separation from his own life that much easier.

               His father, a middle-aged man who had a knack for fixing things, was devoted to Garen’s mother, he would have gone to the ends of the earth for just one more hour with his wife. Watching them, Garen could only hope that one day he would find a love like theirs. It was a rarity that had been obvious to Garen since he discovered the larger world around him. Began watching people, observing the world. He could see how little people saw each other and wondered if he would ever find someone, the way his parents had found each other. It was not impossible he decided, just unlikely he thought.

               They had moved during the summer, long days spent turning the building that they had purchased back into a home and a business after it had sat unused for so long, around them other families were also moving into buildings, reoccupying them, giving them life. As though after a long drought, rain had fallen, and new life was returning to this once desolate town.

               He wondered who had lived in his room before him, as he was unpacking his clothes and placing them into his battered old dresser, he found scratches on the side. He traced them with the tip of his finger and found that they extended to the back as though scraped when the furniture had been moved, he moved the dresser and found a secret hole cut from the wall. It was dark and deep and he fought the urge to stick his hand in there, after all, it wasn’t a smooth cut, it looked more like a mouse hole made by a really big mouse. Garen checked the floor for droppings, he had dealt with mice before, but the floor was clean, not just a little dusty.

               When his mother called him down to dinner, he pushed the dresser back, deciding he would borrow the flashlight and investigate later. Together they ate a meal, talked about plans and ideas, laughed and simply enjoyed each other's company. That night as he lay in his new bed, hard beneath his small frame, he closed his eyes and dreamed of the tower, the lonely beast on the hill, that no one wanted.

               He woke in the morning, his face moist from tears he did not even know he was shedding. A sadness lingering in his heart that he had no explanation for. Garen went down to breakfast, finished his chores and begged the afternoon off to explore the town. He was going to go to the tower he knew, and he could wait no longer. Before running off for the afternoon he came up to his own room for supplies and suddenly remembered the hole behind his dresser. Using the flashlight from the drawer in his fathers’ study, Garen carefully examined the inside of hole in his room. A box lay half hidden by wall stuffing and Garen reached inside, carefully, slowly. He gripped it, pulled and suddenly found himself holding what looked like a wooden pirate chest about the size of his two fists put together. Barely breathing he eased up the lid and discovered three objects. A small scrap of paper, an old set of keys and a shard of glass, in red, blue, and gold.

               Puzzled, he read the note which was short and to the point, scrawled in black ink across what felt like parchment rather than paper. It read:

               “I do not know who you are, or what kind of person you will turn out to be, but my hope is that you will complete this last task for a dying old man. Return the shard, make the connection, set them free. You know what you must do. Please, set them free.”

               Carefully, Garen examined the shard, he thought about the image that had leaped at him as they had driven past the old house on the west road and felt a renewed desire to go, find his way in. It was a yearning and he nodded, placed the box into his knap sac and went down the stairs to get his bike.

               It was a long ride and he arrived, sweaty and out of breath, but he had made it. Before him, the tower stood large and imposing, seeming to glare at him though half lidded eyes, sleepy but watchful.

               He found the gate and pulled out the keys, trying several before he realized that the gate was rusted shut anyway. He would need to find another way in. He walked the perimeter, the crows following, cawing at him for attention. Garen, prepared for their attention, pulled out the bag of peanuts and sprinkled them on the ground. He sat on a rock and watched as one by one the nuts were taken and flown away on black wings. He had always loved birds, these were especially beautiful, with their clever beaks and glittering brown eyes. The one with the white streak across its belly, came back more often than the rest, and when he shook out the bag, showing them that it was empty, it was the only one that did not fly away. It stood watching him, letting out a single long croak and he realized that this was a raven, not a crow.

               It was small for a raven, and he wondered if that was why the other crows had not chased it off, he knew that usually that the two species did not get along.

               “hi Peanut” Garen said and smiled at the bird.

               “hi potato!” replied the bird and Garen nearly fell back with surprise.

He was shocked, the bird spoke, but then he knew ravens were smart and could mimic sounds. Why not words? But then why had it called him a potato?

               “uh…hi” he managed stupidly. The bird bobbed up and down, eyeing him and after a moment Garen realized it was laughing at him.

               Garen stood and smiled at the bird. He rubbed his neck and looked around,

               “Don’t suppose you know a way in?” he asked the bird and to his surprise it nodded at him. Then it cocked his head and looked at the bush to his left. He followed the gaze and noticed that a path had once been there, overgrown now but the indent still visible.

               “Through there?” he asked, and the bird nodded. He shrugged; with no better options he examined the bushes more closely. There was a path, he would need to fight to get through it, but he was small himself and managed to get through. He found a hole in the fence, likely made by determined animals in the many years it had stood alone and uncared for.

               Soon he found himself in the great gardens of the old tower, wild and gone to seed but beautiful. In the center a large fountain stood, a plinth in the center stood empty as though it once held some sort of statue. Around it once manicured hedges stood in the formation of a maze. To get to the house, he would need to navigate this leafy obstacle.

               The sun had already begun to set as he finally found his way to the front door. Shadows grew and in the distance the hoot of great owl rang out in the early evening gloom. He debated on going home, trying again when next he had a day off, but he had come so far. As he thought about his option he didn’t even notice as his own hand reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys. They were in the door before he was even aware and suddenly the great door swung open, as if it had been waiting all those years just to be let in. Dust swirled around as he stepped gingerly into the room.

               The tower was round, and so was the great hall, before him, a staircase ran up and then hugged the tower walls leading up and up into the gloom. Furniture lay under white dust covers, looking like ghosts trapped forever in one position. He lit the flashlight and carefully made his way up and up and up.

               He passed floor after floor, each room holding secrets, treasures but he had no time for that now. He had a goal, a mission and the wooden chest felt heavy in the knapsack on his back. Suddenly he found himself at the top. The room was old and dominated by a great stained glass window lit by moonlight from the other side. Just like his vision it looked wrong somehow. The images askew and somehow unhinged. He saw the gap where the missing piece clearly belonged and wiped the sweat from his brow.

               Garen lay his knapsack on the floor, he took out the box and gently took out the glass shard. This was where it belonged, he could feel it in his bones. He took a deep breath and carefully slipped the piece back into its rightful place.

               The images swam, chased each other across the glass telling a story, their story. How they met, in the woods, how they were separated, each struggling to get back to the other, how they reunited, built a life and then the tower, hit by lightning, tragedy, as it fell. The images danced with colour and he watched as the ghosts that lay trapped swirling round and round the broken tower, until a small figure brought by black birds entered the scene bringing with it light. He watched as the images broke and reshaped into two figures, a bride and groom. They came together, embraced and smiled down at Garen from the window. They nodded their thanks, and together they walked off into the distance, along a golden path that led into the heavens. Then the images faded, leaving the image of a moonlit night , surrounded by night blooming flowers in a field of silver grass.

               Garen felt his heart bloom with joy, he felt the energy in the tower, sadness ebbing away leaving the tower empty, ready to be filled again. Satisfied and feeling content Garen picked his way back down the stairs, and out into the garden. He made his way home and though his folks were upset at his late arrival they soon forgave the breach of trust as Garen told the story of his adventure.

               They looked at each other, knowing looks that passed between them confused Garen and he asked what was going on.

               “While you were missing, we had a visitor.” Said his father, “A lawyer came by with a package for you and asked that we visit him in the morning. It was about the tower. “He handed over the package and Garen examined it before opening it with care. It was addressed to him, though it was yellowed with age, obviously much older then his own tenuous 13 years.

               Inside was a thick stack of papers, a contract it looked like, and an old certificate that read Deed at the top. The address scrawled in the spidery handwriting, indicated the tower. It was his he realized, having set the ghosts free, it was now his, or at least would be his when he reached his 21 birthday. Until then, it would sit waiting for him, all its secrets and treasure ready to be explored. His oasis, his beautiful tower. With the stained glass window that was no longer broken, and the ghosts set free by his bravery and kindness.

June 08, 2021 16:44

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