The sound of Tripp’s scraping skateboard welcomed the rest of his friends lounging behind the back of the grey building.
“What’s up, Losers?”
“The sky,” said Zane as he popped the cap off his plastic soda bottle towards Jake and Sam.
“You guys are boring, I didn’t skate all the way up from Meadow Grove to sit around ingesting Dr. Pepper and Cheez-Its.
“Actually, we’re all out,” Sam said dumping the rest of the crumbs into his mouth.
“Woah, woah, woah. No one told us Pete Davidson was joining this party.” Jake teased.
Tripp smoothed his freshly bleached hair timidly.
“I was going for more of a David Beckham look. Whatever. My sister sucks at hair coloring anyway.”
“Pete or Beckham it really makes your blue eyes pop,” said Sam.
The rest of the boys shot him expressions of perplexity before Zane broke the awkward moment.
“I hate to say it guys, but I actually think I need to head home and start Ms. Raskin’s social studies paper.”
“Come on, Zane. I just got here. Why don’t we skate somewhere new? I’ll pick the spot. Let’s try the parking lot near the Applebees. You know, where the abandoned T-Mobile store stands.”
“Can’t. Some construction is going on there. We might as well just skate in the storage facility. They did leave the gate open.”
All the boys turned towards Jake who had given them collectively a brilliant idea. It was Sunday and the place was closed but not technically now. Before you could say “David Beckham” the four boys slipped through the opened gate and wheeled down through the endless rows of identical storage units.
They raced, chasing each other with the sound of their scuffing boards while marking the grounds in fine black lines. That was until Sam lead them to a block of units they must have missed earlier. There were three units in a row and they each collectively were marked with red tape in the shape of an “X”.
“What do you think they keep in there?” asked Sam.
“It’s probably where the drug dealers keep their money. I mean haven’t you seen Breaking Bad?” Zane said while getting a closer look. He wiped the door with his bare hand and it was immediately coated in black dust.
“There’s no way there’s money in there. Look at the grime, these must be abandoned units. It’s like that show on the History Channel where they auction off old junk from abandoned storage units.”
“Then they won’t care if we sneak a peak,” Tripp said mischievously sucking on the end of a paper clip he nicked from his school bag on his back.
The rest of the boys looked slightly uncomfortable.
“I don’t know, Tripp. We better not do anything. I know you picked Coach Bosh’s office door but this is public property. Plus like I said, I really need to head home and work on my social studies report. I haven’t even chosen a topic from the 20th Century.”
“Chill, Zane. It’s not like we’re going to take anything. And who cares if we do? It’s abandoned anyway.”
Tripp bent down and fumbled with the lock. The rest of the boys shifted nervously behind him. After a moment the lock unhinged with a soft sound of a clink. The storage unit opened with a loud groan.
“It reeks of sausage or something”
“More like beer. This is just how my Grandpa Müller’s basement smells.”
The unit was filled with wooden crates of various sizes. They were each labeled in a foreign language. At least a dozen cockroaches crawled out rapidly making Sam squeal in fear.
“Don’t just stand there, or in your case scream there, help me open one.”
Jake assisted Tripp by snapping off one of the sides of a crate labeled “Kunst”. Inside were canvases of painted portraits. Zane and Sam decided to join in on the excavation and break open a few others. Jake pulled out the first painting. It was a melted-looking woman wearing a vibrant blue dress and a fusha cowboy hat.
“What the heck is that?”
“Beats me. There’s more just like it. Ha, the signature of the artist is P.P. Imagine having your name sound like “peepee”."
“Woah, who’s that hottie?”
Jake pulled out a portrait of a pale-looking woman with a half smile.
“Tripp, is this woman smiling or not?” Tripp looked at it curiously.
“I’m not sure, but I feel like I’ve seen her before.”
“Check this out!” Zane called from the east end of the unit. He was pointing towards a gold-plated wood chest with extended shoulder handles and two golden birds perched on the lid.
“You think it’s real gold?” Sam asked with glowing eyes from the artifact’s reflection.
“It looks like something I’ve seen in Sunday School.”
“Since when do you go to Sunday School, Jake?”
“Should we open the lid to see what’s inside?”
“I have an odd feeling we shouldn’t. Wasn’t there a movie about something similar?”
“Yes, there was. I think it was in E.T. The alien lives inside it or something.”
“What’s that you’re wearing?” Sam was trying to button up an old army coat with pinned silver medals attached to various colored ribbons.
“You like it? It’s kind of like the one I bought from Zara but this one is vintage. Like from the 80s or something.”
“You idiot it’s not the 80s. Give it to me.” Sam tossed Tripp the jacket. He caught it with the sound of a poof followed by a cloud of dust.
“It’s definitely an army jacket. I just wonder what war it’s from. Wasn’t Vietnam in the 1920s?” Tripp felt good inside the jacket. No one was listening to him anymore. They were too busy digging around into a box labeled “Bücher”. Tripp tried to admire his new clothes in the reflection of the gold chest but it was barely visible.
Maybe there’s a mirror back there. He thought while heading towards the back of the unit. He noticed the back wall appeared different than the others. It looked similar to a tunnel where you could find a train chugging through. Tripp stepped further into the unit into the pitch black darkness. The sounds of his friends subsided and instead were replaced with the sound of dripping water into an echoing tunnel. His Converses crunched under the pea gravel ground until suddenly he slipped into a large pit and fell through.
Down, down, down he fell and smacked onto the ground where it went dark for a few moments. He awakened to the sound of a faint whistle. Where am I? Tripp thought gathering himself up on his feet. Surrounding him was a miner's tunnel. It was cold and damp and there was an overwhelming scent of salt that made his lungs burn a bit. The whistling grew louder as he walked through apprehensively trying to locate his friends. He guessed he was in the warehouse of the storage facility but something about it seemed off.
"Zane!? Sam!?" His voice reverberated off the infinite walls.
He passed an office on his right marked “Room 8” but as he tried to turn the door handle it was locked. He kept trekking for what seemed like an hour until he spotted a staircase towards the wall that led up to a metal circular door similar to the opening on a military tank. Tripp climbed the creaky stairs and hurled himself as hard as he could through the door’s opening that was nearly air-tightly sealed.
But just as Tripp gathered himself on the other side of the door he quickly realized he was no longer in the storage facility with his friends but was welcomed by the sight of an enormous mountainous landscape. It reminded him of the movie “The Sound of Music” his babysitter made him watch as a kid.
“You there! Halt! Where exactly are you coming from young man?”
After the bewilderment of the picturesque mountains, Tripp scanned his surrounding and concluded he was in a small European town with a large man approaching him in an army uniform with a significant red, white, and black patch on his left arm. Tripp gulped in fear.
“Young man, answer me. What were you doing down there?”
Tripp tried to gather anything to say that wasn’t incorrect. He tried excruciatingly hard not to look down at the patch that seemed to burn with evil energy. Tripp could tell that this man’s hair was bleach blonde naturally and his striking blue eyes were growing dangerously impatient.
“What’s your name, Kid?”
“Tripp.” He said meekly.
“Tripp is it? What were you doing down in Merker’s Mine? Did Wagner give you the order?”
But before Tripp could configure an answer the sound of erupting cannons boomed from the distance over the mountaintops sending Tripp into a panic. The booming continued louder and louder until Tripp felt his ears ringing and his eyes growing extremely sleepy. The world went dark around him.
The sound came again and Tripp opened his eyes to the sight of Sam kicking his skateboard into a closed storage unit door. Tripp was laid back on the ground and Zane was beside him holding his chest in relief.
“Thank God, Bro! We thought we lost you in the wipeout.”
Jake and Sam made their way over.
“You tried your signature rail slide on that handicap railing and took a nasty blow.”
Tripp rubbed his head. The storage unit with the red “X” stood before them neatly locked as if it had never been touched.
“Didn’t we go inside that unit? Who locked it?”
Zane helped him up as Tripp brushed off his shirt from the ground’s debris.
“It’s locked. None of us could get inside. Don’t you know that paperclip trick from Coach Bosh’s office?”
Tripp looked at the unit and thought awhile.
“You know, actually, I need to head home. I just got my idea for my social studies paper.”
Sam kicked his board to his hands. “Oh yeah? And what’s that?”
The boys stared blankly before Zane interrupted.
“Huh? Do you even know what that is?”
Tripp grinned. “I think I may know a thing or two but I’m curious to learn more.”