Adam stared at the keyring handed to him by the estate lawyer, Saul Kroll. He felt empty of thought and emotion until that point, but suddenly had the desire to stab Saul in the eye with the large skeleton key.
“Better not,” his mind whispered wisely, “your brothers are watching.”
Adam Everclay was the eldest son of Juniper Rollins Everclay – the billionaire investor. His two younger brothers, Troy and David, were each two years apart. His mother, Darlene, was dead.
“Well, then,” he croaked, “that seems to be that.”
Everyone stood up, except for the recording stenographer, who was putting her little machine away.
“Don’t feel you have to move out or anything,” David said.
He reached out and patted Adam and Troy on their shoulders. David had inherited the mansions, all six of them, and all the real property that pertained to them. All neatly listed in the transcripts and will.
Adam and Troy had inhabited the Florida and Greece places, prior to their father’s death. No more, it seemed. The will was specific that David could fully inherit only after the brothers moved out and had been gone six months. They stared at him as if he had two heads.
Troy had inherited all the wealth: the investment portfolio, bank accounts, and the family businesses – wineries, antique imports, hotel chains, etc. All neatly listed in the transcripts and will.
Adam cleared his throat, as though to say something. He looked down at the key ring he had inherited. That was it; he got the keyring that had hung over the mantle by his mom’s picture, and everything on the other side of the door one of the keys unlocked. A set of coordinates also came with the keys, so he could find the property he now ruled over.
He walked out onto the circular drive and climbed into his Nissan Rogue. At 27, this was about the most valuable asset he owned. His father’s mansion in Florida was fully furnished and staffed, all he had done upon graduating college five years ago, was move in with this clothing. He would head there first, so the six months could begin ticking down as soon as possible for David. He set off with his keys, his coordinates and his weird way of looking at the world.
To say Adam was a loner probably is as close as you can get to describing him. He liked people, but his silence and preference for quiet and thought kept everyone at arm’s length. Including family. He dated women who were smart and usually pretty, but who had interesting careers and lives of their own. That way, when he could no longer feign interest, he would simply slip away without their caring or noticing too much.
An avid reader, his book collection was the only other property he would gather and bring with him to his new home. It appeared to be located in California, just west of Carmel. He planned how to pack the car all the way down the eastern seaboard.
It had taken him a week to close out local accounts and pack up his Rogue like a professional mover. He made a few phone calls to alert people who needed to know where he was going and so forth. And then, goodbye to the house staff and hello to the road.
As he drove across the United States, which he usually only saw from a plane, he was filled with strange feelings of community and pride. He was staggered at how really lovely this land was. He saw the smog and filth in the inner cities, but even that spoke of life and struggle and becoming. He felt filled with hope.
Adam arrived in California and drove to a town about 50 miles from where the map was leading him. He found a hotel and a restaurant and picked up some supplies at a drug store. He wandered around the small downtown, shopping for some new jeans and tee shirts. He freshened up his cooler with water and cheeses and fruit and bread. At last, he climbed into the surprisingly soft hotel bed and was just dozing off, when his cell phone twerped that he had a text message. From the sound, it was from his youngest brother, Troy.
Troy – Where the devil are you?
Adam – in California.
Troy – CA! That is where your new home is? Not bad.
Adam – don’t know – will go see in the am. What are you doing up so late?
Troy – guess.
Adam did not have to guess. Troy was an insomniac. And now he had all those business details, with cash flow and investments to fret over deep into the night. He sighed. He hoped his income, though fairly lucrative, could support whatever strange mansion his dad had foisted on him.
He would hate to have to sell it. Or, worse, beg a brother for the means to keep it!
When no more words flowed across his screen, he turned off the sound, rolled over and fell asleep on the only world he had ever known. His awakening would be to more than a new house, but a new reality.
Adam awakened with a start. He always woke up this way – with his heart hammering and disoriented to an abnormal degree. Like he had just fallen to earth from some other place. A true place that he just could not remember upon the rude, daily awakenings.
He flopped onto his back, groaning and stretching like a cat. His last yawn, wide and moaning with the deliciousness of the world coming back into focus. Except, this was not his home, but a small hotel room in California, not far from his inheritance; his secret gift from dad. His eyes went glassy for a while as he contemplated the whys and whats of this situation.
The will had not given an address, but the coordinates in longitude and latitude. Not hard to locate, but weird. Only fifty miles from the point flashing on his new GPS, he would view the property at daybreak.
After caffeinating, he repacked his small bag and stuffed it into the back of the Rogue with other boxes of clothing, books and personal items he had brought with him. Everything else that belonged to him – a bedroom set, gym equipment, dishes, pictures, etc. – was in storage back in Florida.
He put Gerry Rafferty, his dad’s favorite artist of all time, on the Bluetooth and started throwing back trail mix and a pint of milk, and drove into his destiny.
Adam thought it was all so exciting and romantic, as he neared the coordinates on a very back road somewhere in the middle of California. The nice GPS lady sang out “You have reached your destination” so cheerily, Adam blinked as he pulled to a stop.
The gravel road dead-ended at a grassy bank. About twenty-five yards ahead of him, he saw a wall that stretched north and south as far as the eye could see. It was about twenty feet high and was completely covered in ivy. Directly in front of him, there was a bright green, wooden door.
“Hmmmm”, he commented.
After “doing an Adam” (what his brothers called it when he sat staring intently, for an awkward amount of time, in contemplation), he unstrapped, climbed out of the Nissan and looked at the keys on his keyring. There were lots of them. A large skeleton key and sixteen smaller, assorted keys. None were labeled, so there was that. He took a step towards the door. Then another. He glanced again north and south. Good Lord! How far did it stretch?
He considered going back to the car and driving north along the wall to see where it might end. But the green door seemed to pulsate in front of him. He loved the color green. Had dad painted it thus, just for him? Stepping slowly forward through the still dewy grass, he finally stopped and looked at his door. It had a small heart carved in the center with a little stained glass in the heart. There were old-fashioned hasps and fixtures on the door, but the handle and padlock looked like cheap, modern hardware. He could see now, as he peeked through some of the ivy on the side of the door, that the wall was comprised of old stone. The main lock was right above the handle and was obviously for the skeleton key.
He popped that in the keyhole and turned it right. He felt and heard the key click and pop. His heart began revving up its pace. He felt the extra blood flow to his brain in a gush, mixed with adrenaline and hope. He took a deep breath to steady himself, then took out the key, and picking the one directly to the right of the skeleton, tried a little one that looked like it was meant for the padlock.
Click and pop, again.
Releasing the padlock and unhooking the latch, Adam grasped the small, silver handle that was placed vertically above the first keyhole. There was absolutely no resistance, though some of the ivy hung a bit down over the top of the door. A cool breeze slipped out from behind the cracked door. It smelled of…what was that?
Eucalyptus. Honeysuckle, too. Pine, maybe. And, faintly – very faintly – a trace of the ocean.
That couldn’t be; Adam was sure they were hundreds of miles from the Pacific. He had thought he was just west of Carmel.
Adam went still again. It was not that he wasn’t a doer, but he was much more an observer, a thinker. With practically no effort, Adam could sink into what scientists called the Alpha State. He had done this so often as a child, his parents had him looked over by specialists, worrying it was some form of epilepsy.
“No, sir,” the last doctor had explained, “this is what we call Alpha mind – a state of consciousness sought by hypnotherapists. How he gets there on his own and why, I cannot say.”
Discussions had been had as to the need for therapy, but Juniper Everclay had little patience with that sort of thing. He had been told that Adam was in no danger, then that was that.
As for Adam, he rarely realized when he had detoured from a more participatory state. He could never say how long these episodes lasted (the longest recorded by brother David was eleven minutes, but they averaged around two to three minutes).
Reemerging from himself, Adam opened the door further. It moved silently inward, well-oiled hinges needing only a light touch. When the door was swung wide, he again paused. What he saw before him needed to sink in.
There was a small, grassy incline, scattered here and there with tall beech trees. And a few aspens. There was an oak a little farther out at the crest of the small hill just south of him. Flowers were growing in random clumps and small, lilac-colored buds wove through all the grass. He ached to rush through, race up that hill and see his new home. But a greater urge gripped his legs. An urge to go get his belongings.
What to do?
It only took fifteen minutes to place everything inside the little, green door. The book boxes had been heavy and left him a bit damp and panting. He suddenly laughed out loud at his nervousness about not stepping fully through the door until his last parcel was safely inside. He then closed the SUV and locked it up. His behavior was bemusing, even to himself. He would later look back on this strange compulsion with understanding; but for now, it was just one more piece of this eccentric puzzle bequeathed to him.
Shrugging, Adam turned and walked through the door. He closed it securely, not wanting anyone that might come to investigate the strangely parked car to sneak up on him. He stepped over a pile of belongings and gave his legs permission to tear up that hill. At the top, he stood looking out over a small valley. The slope was very gradual and the little bowl it made was maybe five to six acres across. There were trees here and there in the valley, and the flowers were blooming lustily, smelling heavenly. Definitely honeysuckle, somewhere. But the trees began thickening at the edges of this shallow bowl - spreading out in every direction until they made a forest that met the horizons.
Adam turned about to view the wall again. The stillness that took him this time was tinged with a pang of alarm. His eyes had travelled back to his belongings, but where was the door?
Down the hill he flew. But no matter how hard he searched, the green door was gone.
He walked to where he thought the door had been, feeling about under the ivy. His fingers felt only the cool stone blocks. He pushed here and there, like a secret door might suddenly spring open for him. Nothing.
He decided to scale the wall and get in his car and go for help, his phone had no bars and would need recharging soon. He grabbed a fist full of ivy and tried putting his foot in to a loop of the stuff…and screamed and threw himself back from the wall, looking down at the palm of his hands. He was sure they should have been bleeding, so great was the pain he had felt when he tried to lift himself up the wall. Like thorns and hornets had joined forces to electrocute his hand hold. But his hands showed him nothing. Again, nothing.
He warily put a finger on the ivy. No sensation but that of a healthy leaf on his index finger. He tried to grasp it again – and again leaped away, now sucking his horribly hurt fingers and licking his palm like a wounded dog. He made himself stop that immediately.
“Bad word, bad word, bad word, bad word!” Adam hissed.
He and his brothers had been raised as “gentlemen”. Cursing was viewed as bad manners, bad breeding and a lack of intelligence. They were expected to find a more cultured way of communicating negative feelings. Cussing was one of the two things that would get you a whipping with dad’s belt and a day in a room for each curse word spoken. Not your bedroom, where TV’s, games, toys, soft beds and phones existed. No, but a Time Out room, with only a chair and books on manners & societal values. And a set of encyclopedia books. If you had to sleep, it was upright in the chair or on the hard wood floor. The three of them were not stupid and opted for acceptable ways to fume. Bad word, bad word was one such short cut. And Juniper went further as they grew older – rewarding them with little gifts if they created a new word or phrase that expressed astonishment, pain, anger – without profanity. So, he would not be allowed to climb the wall and access his vehicle. The insight as to why he had felt compelled to lug in all his stuff before closing the door behind him was born. To maintain hopefulness, he decided he might find another door somewhere else along the wall, after further exploration.
Stranger and stranger. Adam could not put two and two together any longer. And so, after only being awake for an hour, he climbed back into his bedroll and went to sleep again.
Three hours into his second attempt at sleep, Adam found a woman’s voice issuing from a beautiful, shining form. She was sitting yoga style on a lily pad; he was knee deep in the clear waters and seemed to be looking for something on the bottom of the pond.
“I will stay with you, if you want,” she was saying.
Adam felt a swell of joy and eagerness fill him. The complete exhaustion of mind and spirit that had caused him to crash back down and pass out, disappeared at her promise.
“Yes,” he replied, “I do want.”
“Good,” the beautiful one crooned, “I will help you adjust to your new world. I know it seems odd, but you will find that the world you have just left behind you was far stranger than what you will build here.”
“Left behind me?” Adam’s voice trembled a bit, a feeling of fear creeping back.
“Yes, Adam,” the beauty answered.
She nodded her head, sending her platinum, shining hair out all around her like a halo, electric with light, making him gasp. “You may waste as much of your time looking for a way out as you like. You are the captain of your life here. Or…”
“Or what?” he asked.
“Or you can explore this place. I think you will find that most entertaining. And informative. There is a lifetime of exploration awaiting you.”
Adam felt relief begin to replace his fear, as she was outlining a few of his immediate options.
“Who are you?” he blurted out.
“You may call me Eos,” she smiled – moving away from him without moving a muscle. She became smaller and smaller and disappeared, making him blink.
And when he blinked, he was waking from the dream. But not crashing back awake with heart galloping out of his chest as he had since his first memories. For the first time, he was waking up slowly, washing up on the shore of consciousness, inside the Ivy Wall. Where he now belonged.
Pushing all of the strangeness away from him, allowing the peace of the dream place to fill his mind, Adam looked out once again to the horizon before him. It was beautiful. It was beckoning him to come and see. Rising from his past, he placed one foot in front of the other, and answered the invitation.