By Maria Klecko (Sun Valley High School)
A large, wooden door, standing several feet tall, was what I stumbled upon on a muggy Tuesday afternoon in June. My friends and I were playing a rousing game of Hide and Seek, and as I was running through the thick green trees of the forest, not entirely paying attention to where I was going, I abruptly halted at the sight of this massive entryway. Not recognizing what it was at first, I closely examined it. The door was attached to a curve shaped type of building, which at the time I thought served as a storage area, a shed. Boy, was I wrong.
To say the paint on the “shed” wasn’t fresh is an understatement. It was in dire need of a new coat, which made sense since the building appeared to be centuries old. I wasn’t sure why I was wasting so much time staring at some door when I should have been on my merry old way, off to my hiding spot. I couldn’t quite walk away though; I was too intrigued and curious about the enigma that was the entryway. I had to figure out what was behind it. Cautiously, I approached it, knocking lightly at first. There was no answer, so I tried again, that time more forcefully. Still, I heard nothing, which only sparked my curiosity. I placed my ear against the door, in an attempt to hear any possible commotion coming from behind it. Once again, there was not even a pin drop of sound.
I couldn’t just leave, I didn’t want to. There had to be something or someone on the other side of that door and I was determined to find out who or what it was. Trying my luck, I decided to put my hand on the long, thin handle, desperately hoping it would open. To my astonishment, it actually did, producing a rickety, creaking noise. Slowly, I stepped inside the doorway, without the slightest idea of what to expect. I didn’t know whether to feel incredibly excited or nervous. As soon as I entered in completely, the door slammed violently behind me. At that moment I knew exactly which one to feel.
What my eyes beheld was unbelievable, so unbelievable, that the setting seemed surreal. I was surrounded by elves and gnomes, and I’m not referring to abnormally short humans either. I’m seriously talking about tiny, fairy like creatures that are thought of as being Santa’s little helpers or the objects that sit out on the front lawns of homes. I was convinced that I was dreaming and that I’d wake up any minute from that crazy world I had accidentally barged into. I even pinched myself a few times to speed up the process, but it was to no avail. Then the realization came to me that it was not in fact a dream, but some twisted reality that I was trapped in. Now don’t panic, I repeated to myself several times. I knew I just had to act normally, like nothing was out of the ordinary. Though I was nervous about how they’d react to me, I figured that since I was such a strange guest to their world, they’d gladly help me get back to mine. Plus I did enjoy being the tallest person for once.
I surveyed the room, in search of a friendly face. Even though these creatures were so unlike me and my world, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few resemblances. I appeared to be in a pub. In one corner, there was a group of elves shooting pool, and over by the bar sat a group of gnomes, drinking ale, eating peanuts, and watching a football game. They even had mini jerseys on, and half of them yelled at the television when one of the players made an interception. I didn’t quite know what to make of all of it. I expected their lives to be totally unusual, nothing even remotely similar to that of the human world.
They were all so wrapped up in their own activities that they had yet to notice me. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing, but I had to talk to someone if I was going to get out of there. I scanned the room once more and when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an elf walking around, table to table, smiling and greeting everyone. His rosy red cheeks glistened as he spoke, and dimpled as he grinned. The mistletoe green cap he wore on his head jingled due to the silver bell dangling from it. He also sported stockings of the same color, and black, gold buckled shoes. That elf looked like he had been transported straight down from the North Pole. His gaze finally fixated upon me, and his grin grew even wider. He seemed to be amused by what he saw and quickly came over to me. “Well, golly, you sure are rather tall for an elf,” he joked.
I smiled at the comment and replied, “Yeah, as I’m sure you can tell I’m a bit out of place here. It’s a funny story really, one minute I was playing hide and seek and saw a door, and the next I ended up here, in a world that clearly isn’t my own.” He stared at me for a second, and I noticed his sparkling blues eyes, they looked kind and inviting.
“Well, that’s perfectly alright, you’re not the first human that it’s happened to,” he reassured me. “You don’t have to worry either, because I’ll gladly help you find your way back home.”
“Oh, thank you so much!” I exclaimed. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t get your name.”
“My name’s Ollie,” he informed, extending his tiny hand.
I shook it and responded, “Well it’s nice to meet you Ollie. I’m Maria.” Just like that I had made a friend in that world. Ollie told me that toward the end of the town there was a door just like the one I had entered. All I had to do was go through it, and I’d be back in my world. It was a bit far off, but Ollie mentioned that at least I’d get a tour, which lifted my mood; I was very appreciative of his optimistic attitude.
I was amazed by that miniature village; it was filled with bustling activity and its vibrant atmosphere left me in a state of awe. I had strongly underestimated these creatures. There were elves carrying blocks of wood in their teensy arms and gnomes gathering materials and outlining plans to construct a building. I became greatly aware of all the work that went into making their village a thriving, successful one and developed admiration for them. In the midst of all the bustle, I noticed child elves and gnomes running around and playing together. All of that camaraderie made me respect the society even more. I felt a bit disappointed that I would not get the chance to be in that encouraging environment longer; however I did miss my own.
Ollie and I continued on, and as we did, we talked like we were old friends and learned quite a bit about each other. We had a natural rapport and I enjoyed being in his warm presence. Before I knew it, we were close to reaching the doorway, and that’s when I spotted somewhat of an odd sight. It was a miniature house, just like all the others in the town, however its location was bizarre. It stood under a short, slanted, wooden bridge. As I studied it, I saw two eyes peek out of the peepholes. These eyes were unlike the bright, welcoming eyes of Ollie, they were dark and icy. They stared at me for what felt like an eternity. Feeling worried, I turned to Ollie and asked, “Whose house is that and why is it under a bridge?”
“That’s the mayor’s house. He’s a gnome, his name is Finley. Under the bridge is where the mayor always lives, it allows him to keep a watchful eye over everyone, especially who comes in and out of the village.”
“Should I be concerned? I mean technically, I’m an intruder. He saw me and didn’t look too happy. Is something bad going to happen to me?” I began to feel uneasy, my stomach started to churn and knots were twisting inside of me.
“Nah, you’re fine, besides you’re about to leave anyway. Just to be safe though, we better get a move on.” We picked up the pace and at last we reached the door. It looked exactly like the one I encountered in the woods.
“Well, I guess this is it,” I declared with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Before I could open the door, all of those tiny creatures, elves and gnomes, stampeded towards me, grabbed my legs, and forced me to the ground. I guess of all that heavy lifting paid off for them. “What’s going on?!” I shouted. I was in total shock and felt absolutely horrified by those unforeseen events. The creatures started tying me up in ropes. Finley emerged from the crowd, an evil smirk spread across his face. “I see you’ve tried to escape,” he said in a voice that was uncharacteristically deep for such a wee fellow. “No human who enters our town gets to leave and return to his or her own world.”
“You can’t do this!” This was insane—there was no way I was going to go out like that, captured and tortured by itty bitty, mythical creatures. At that moment as I faced the crowd, I noticed Ollie, standing there, his eyes no longer sparkling, and a look of complete and utter shame was plastered on his face. I couldn’t believe he was just going to stand by and let me suffer, I thought he was my friend. Clearly, he couldn’t be trusted, none of those creatures who I mistakenly believed as being noble and gentle could.
“Oh, but who says we can’t?” Finley answered. “Send her to the chamber,” he ordered. The group of elves and gnomes, who had seized and tied me up, lifted me and carried me away. I screamed all the way to wherever it was they were taking me. Turns out it was a chamber like Finley mentioned, a fire chamber. I became even more frightened, and started shrieking again, but this time an elf came over and placed duck tape on my mouth. Finley entered the room, with that nasty smirk on his face again.
“I hope you find this place to be of your liking,” he spoke with a malicious tone. “It’s where you’ll be spending your final moments.” I tried to scream, but that was awfully hard to do with silver duck tape covering my mouth. “Enjoy.” After that he and his minions exited the room, and left me to sit all alone, tied up in a fire chamber. I sat there for an hour, awaiting my cruel fate. I started thinking, thinking about my entire life, going through it in chronological order. Then, I began replaying that day’s events over in my head, deeply regretting my decision to open that stupid door. If I hadn’t been so curious, I wouldn’t have opened the door. If I hadn’t opened the door, I wouldn’t have been in that very mess. I realized that it is true what they say: curiosity really does kill the cat. I also came to the conclusion that I could very well sit there and ponder over the poor decisions I made, but the fact of the matter was I couldn’t change anything, no matter what, I was stuck there, and was about to be burned alive by elf and gnome people. I wanted to cry over that horrible twist of fate, but I remained strong. Soon, I heard the door slowly open. This is it, I thought to myself. Well at least, I had a fairly decent, albeit short lived existence. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t Finley who entered, or any of his flunkies. Ollie was the one who had come in, and he carefully approached me.
“I’m so sorry about all of this,” he told me with a tone of sincerity. Even though Ollie had deceived me, his apology actually appeared to be genuine, and the glum look on his face, with a blue tear streaming down his rosy red cheek, made me realize that it was. “I wanted to help you, honestly I did,” he continued. “But I couldn’t, I’m just not strong enough to have taken them on by myself. I want you to know that I really do like you, and I did, I mean I do, consider us to be friends, and I want to make it up to you by helping you now.”
I pointed to my mouth, signaling for him to remove my duct tape. He did and I responded, “It’s okay Ollie, I believe you, but I was tremendously hurt by your betrayal. I am willing to accept your apology though, as well as your help.”
“Oh, gee Maria, you have no idea how much that means to me,” he answered happily, that wide, dimpled smile returning to his face. “We have to act quickly, in order for you to get out of here safely, before they come back.”
Ollie untied me and he discreetly opened up the chamber door, first checking to see if the coast was clear for us to exit. “Nobody’s around, let’s go,” he directed. We quietly, but hurriedly went out the door, turning left down a hallway, and then ultimately exiting the chamber. We traveled to that door I was originally supposed to set foot in to return home. That time, there were no evil creatures stopping me.
“Well, thank you so much Ollie for coming to my rescue and taking me here,” I announced. “I guess this is goodbye then.”
“I guess so,” Ollie uttered sadly. We hugged farewell and I told him that I would never forget him and he promised me the same. I looked back and waved at him one last time, and thankfully, despite that unfortunate delay, turned the handle of the door and stepped inside of it, praying that it would lead me back home.
I ascended out the other side of the door, cautiously, with my eyes closed; I did not know what was awaiting me. A feeling of relief rushed over me as I saw that familiar green forest. I was back home, back in my own world and I had never felt happier or more grateful than I felt right then. One of my friends ran up to me, and was panting. Sounding of out breath she asked, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you, we were just about to call your mom and check your house.”
I was so glad to see her, to see the face of someone I knew from the human race, that I hugged her, which was very unlike me. “Are you okay?” she inquired, sounding concerned and shooting me a puzzled look.
“Yes, I am now, you won’t believe what just happened to me.” I stood there, telling her the story in about a ten minute time frame. She looked even more disturbed.
“Are you sure you’re feeling alright? We better get home; I think you need some rest.” We headed home, but neither of us said anything else. After hearing a ludicrous story like that, I didn’t blame her for thinking what I claimed was crazy. Truthfully, if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it either. The fact of the matter is, it did happen and it was undeniably unforgettable. Though I must admit, ever since that day, I’ve been wondering about my sanity.