“Why is there a mountain inside your attic?”
Patrick and Diana looked and each other and then back at me. “Is that some kind of euphemism?” asked Patrick.
“No,” I said, “Look, you’re not going to believe me unless I show you, so it’s not worth explaining. Just come with me.”
They didn’t move.
“Dinner’s in like, 5 minutes,” said Diana. “We can play whatever game this is later.”
I rubbed my temple. There really wasn’t a good way to convince people to come check out the magical portal that had appeared in the middle of their house and possibly swallowed their next-door neighbor without sounding like a crazy person.
“It’s not a game! I think Harold might actually be in a lot of danger!”
Patrick stood up, but Diana pulled on his sleeve. “Come on, Pat. You know there’s nothing here that could get him hurt. It’s just a childish prank or something.”
I could feel my fists clenching. Diana was, at most, a year or two older than me and yet she still saw me as a kid like Harold.
Frowning, Patrick lightly pushed Diana’s hand off. “You know we’ll get in trouble if anything happens to him. It’s not going to kill us to check, just in case. And besides, I don’t think Eden is the type to pull pranks.” He smiled at me and I began to relax.
Diana began to follow us reluctantly. “Whatever. But if we’re late for dinner I’m saying it’s your fault”.
As we walked up the stairs to the attic, I began having second thoughts. I had run out of the room fairly quickly and even though I was confident about what I experienced, doubts had grown in the back of my mind.
Remember, this is coming from the girl who mistook three separate people for ghosts today.
I expected that even if we got to the room and found everything back to normal, Patrick would still humor me for the rest of the month out of general kindness and pity. Diana, on the other hand…well, I probably wouldn’t get another chance to prove I was more than a child in her eyes. Whatever. Why did I care what she thought anyway?
Before even entering the room, I could tell something was different. It wasn’t cold anymore. It just felt like a normal, summer hallway. Inside the room, nothing had changed from when I had left it. The TV was still on, the closet door was still open, Harold was still missing. I ran over to the closet door and my heart sank as I looked in.
It was a normal closet. The pile of snow had disappeared too. Inside was a broom.
I’m officially a crazy person.
Diana and Patrick stood behind me, trying to see what I was looking for.
“Sooo, where’s this ‘danger’ Harold is supposedly in?” asked Diana. “I’m going to get dinner. I don’t have time for stuff like this.”
Patrick looked legitimately upset. “Eden, you really had me worried something had happened to him.”
No, no, no! I know what I saw!
Frantically, I closed the door and reopened it.
“Guys, I’m telling you! There was a huge mountain right through-“ The words got caught in my throat as a gust of warm wind swept past me, carrying a few golden leaves that settled on the attic floor.
Slowly, we all looked towards the door.
The mountain had thawed. With the snow gone, a shining forest had been revealed; tall amber trees dotting the landscape, reaching far off into the horizon. The ground glowed from the sunbeams that passed through the almost translucent leaves, as if the area had been coated in shimmering gold dust. A dirt trail cut a winding path through the forest, leading off further than I could see.
I felt my body moving forward, reaching out towards the doorway, as if I had drifted out from control. I could hear Patrick and Diana shouting something in the distance, shouting at me, but I kept walking, my eyes drawn to the radiant new world. I didn’t really mind losing control like that, it was actually kind of nice to give up and let something else take over, a deep-rooted instinct that dwelled within me.
Almost there. This is where I’m supposed to be.
No, that wasn’t right. The last place I wanted to be was inside the creepy magical door-portal! My mind snapped back and I stumbled forward, pulling away at the last minute in an effort to not trip through the doorway. I put my hands out to catch myself against the ground, but I already had too much momentum. My hands passed through the wooden frame.
In that moment, I saw a writhing shape in a sea of darkness. It looked like a sideways ‘S’, only fatter, with hundreds of grub-like squirming fingers extending off its bottom side. On its far end, four larger protrusions like a claw, slowly flexed and curled.
But it also looked like something else, a familiar shape that I had seen hundreds of times before. I felt the memory coming into a hazy focus.
Then I hit the ground.