What Lies Beneath?

By Jessica Carney (Sun Valley High School)

I can’t believe I lost this kid.

I slap the bush in rage only to get a thorn splintered in my hand.

Marcus is the worst kid in the grade and he had to be put in my group for this damn field trip. Now, Miss May gets to keep going on with the field trip with the less annoying kids while I have to keep looking for this brat. 

Twigs snap and leaves brush my feet as I walk through the path. The raindrops slowly trickle off the branches and onto the forest floor. I turn at the rustle of the bush behind me.

“Marcus?” I call, just to hear my own echo.

Then I turn to my right with the sound of twigs snapping.

“Marcus?” I holler, with more panic in my voice.

Once again no answer. I hear a splash of a puddle to the back of me, a kick of leaves to my right, and a chuckle to my left. I spin in a circle wondering who is surrounding me.

I take a cautious step down the path, my eyes darting to any movement. I slowly walk down the path and stop cold at the sight of a white cap. Marcus’s white cap is sitting in an opening.

“Marcus!” I bellow. Once again, silence.

I walk toward the hat, but it’s suddenly taken up a hill by a gust of wind.

“Damn it,” I mutter through my clenched teeth. My hands tighten into fists, but instantly release when I hear the snicker.

This hidden nuisance is making me spin in circles.

I ignore the constant thought that someone is following me and walk toward the hat. The hat is tangled in thorns, branches, and twigs. I finally pry the branches off and grab the hat.

I slowly start down the hill, and then I hear the taunting snicker. I snap my head around. A six foot tall, brown oak, wooden door sits in front of me.

What the hell? That wasn’t there a second ago.

The door has a long, wooden handle. I pull the door and a loud, ear piercing, screech erupts and a bright light floods out, burning my eyes. The first thing I see, are children.

Where am I? Why are all these children here? Where are their parents?

I was standing on a bridge path, in the middle of a field. The kids run down the path careless of everything.

“Hey!” I call after them. They turn around with wide eyes. They flash baby teeth smiles and giggle as they run down the path.

Damn kids. They never respect their elders.

I take off into a light jog to an opening. I see about ten kids in a group around six feet tall stick people and animals. The kids are jumping around the people and sitting on the horses, acting as if they were riding them.

What is this place?

I feel a small tug on my pants and I look down. Not to see a child, but a small man wearing blue overalls and a red cone hat. He has a white curly beard and looks exactly like a gnome.

“Hello?” I say, uneasy about talking to him.

“Hello, Mr. Patterson. We’ve been expecting you.” His voice was squeaky and small.

“You’ve been expecting me?”

“Well, of course, this is your ideal world.”

I look around at all the children.

This is my ideal world? He must be joking. I hate kids. I can’t stand being a teacher, why would I want this as my fantasy world?

“You definitely have the wrong person if you think this is my ideal world.”

“You’re William R. Patterson, aren’t you?”

I stand frozen with wide eyes.

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“Then this is your ideal world,” he turns and starts to walk away.

“I hate kids though. This is not my ideal world.” I call after him.

He stops and turns.

“You didn’t always hate children. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.”

Once again, I stand there speechless. The gnome walks into the field and out of sight. My eyes then shift back to the group of kids still goofing around on the sticks. I see one of the boy’s faces. He looks so familiar.

I walk over to the boy. He’s sitting on the stick horse’s back throwing his hands in the air and screaming.

I definitely recognize that face. Who is it?

The kids all look and start to surround me.

“Hi! Are you here to play with us?” they all look up at me with wide smiles.

“Umh, sure?”

All the kids cheer and start to push and pull me.  “Where are we going?” I ask.

“To the secret fort,” a little girl with pig tails replies.

They pull me to the wooden path and we walk until we come to a small bridge. The bridge is a small, 6 foot long, bridge with twigs twined together making a railing. The bridge is barely off the ground, but has a door under it.

“Wait, stop. What’s the door for?” I ask.

“That’s where Norm lives, silly,” a little boy giggles.

I tap on the door and the small gnome like man opens the door. “Well, hello again,” he says.

“Look, why am I in this world? I really need to get back to reality.”

“Oh. Mr. Patterson, you have this all wrong. You need to finish this before you leave.”

“Finish what?”

“The journey is your exact question. Why is this your ideal world? Go talk to that little boy over there, he’ll help you out.”

I glance over at the boy I recognized. I turn back to the door and it’s shut. I stand back up and walk over to the little boy. “What are you guys going to play?” I ask.

“Elves and giants,” the boy replies with a smile.

“That used to be my favorite game.”

He gives me a smile then runs to play. I sit on the small twig twined bridge and I watch the children run and laugh, playing my favorite childhood game. The sun glistens down through the trees, and it hit me.

That little boy, his baby blue eyes and rich brown hair. I know him, matter of fact I am him.

I look around at the vast field with overgrown grass where I always used to play in the summer. I glance at the neighborhood kids. Lastly, I stare up at the fort. The fort is snug tight by branches of a tree. The fort I had built with my father the summer before he died.

This is my ideal world. My childhood was the best. I had no worries and my family was still together and happy.

I get up and lightly tap on the door for a second time.

“What? I’m not giving you anymore hints,” Norm says.

I just sit there smiling for a minute. “This is my ideal world. It’s my childhood.”

“Very good,” he exclaims clapping. “You may go now, but don’t forget again.”

“I won’t. I can’t believe I forgot before. My childhood was the best part of my life.”

“This door will always be at the same place you found it before.”

I turn around to see the door with the long wooden handle. I take one long look at my childhood and then open the door.

I see Marcus standing outside of the door. “Marcus.” I say standing shocked.

“Look I know you’re mad at me Mr. Patterson,” he starts to apologize with his face pointing to the ground.

“I’m not mad. Come on; let’s go catch up to the rest of the group.”

Marcus snaps his head up with a puzzled look on his face.

“Look Marcus, your childhood is the best part of your life. Enjoy it, because you’ll miss it when you’re older. Trust me, I know.”

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