CHAPTER 1: TWO WEEKS AGO
The four children were playing on the third floor during a thunderstorm on a stormy Saturday afternoon while their parents were busy downstairs. The third floor had as much area as each of the floors below it and contained, in addition to a guest room and half-bath on one side, a large space reserved for storage. That was where the kids always used to play their game of ‘Guess what I found’ which was a lot like Twenty Questions, except more precise. In the dusty, poorly-lit storage area with its rough wooden shelves and drawers and exposed beams, the kids would rummage through old, forgotten stuff that their parents or grandparents had kept for many years. For twenty minutes, the kids would all look through boxes and bins, on shelves, in drawers, nooks, and crannies. Then they would meet in the center of the room, which was the only place where there was enough light and space for them to play their game. Each one would have found an object that they kept hidden and thought would be a special object nobody would be able to guess. Their game required the guessers to describe the object so exactly that there was no question of its identity. To add to the fun and excitement of the game, they had all thought up special names that they would use only when playing the game and trying to stump the others.
The game was always played from youngest to oldest. Chacha (Charlie’s special name because he stuttered when he was scared or excited) would start because he was only six years old. After only five minutes, his discovery was revealed as an old, wooden cube with large, capital letters carved into its faces. The colors: red, yellow, blue, and green were mostly worn off from the toy having been heavily used years ago during Chacha’s babyhood. It was easy to guess his object because it had been one of his favorite toys.
Nissa (Elizabeth’s character’s name for the game) was next at seven-and-a-half-years-old. Her prize find was guessed after only four minutes because it was a knitted multi-colored mitten with no partner, no doubt thrown into a bin to await the discovery of its lost partner. This had been guessed by nine-year-old Iknow (William’s nick-name inside and outside of the game due to his authoritative, know-it-all attitude) because he remembered that during the last six games, Nissa had always picked a bright article of clothing.
Iknow’s find was finally revealed by Nissa because she had just seen him digging through a box she had gone through last week. When she had found it, it had a round, flat disk stuck in it with little slide-type pictures around the circumference. She had no name for it, but described it as “a black thing you look through at pictures on a round thing you put in it. You can see the pictures on the round thing by looking through the eye places in the black thing”. That description was enough for Ikow to concede that she had identified his prize. She didn’t have to name it the Model C viewer from a View-Master toy and would not have known what those words meant anyway.
When none of the other children had guessed ten-and-a-half-year-old Leven’s special find after fifteen minutes, he asked them if they gave up. They quickly conceded, partly because they were beginning to get frustrated with guessing and partly because they were anxious to know what he had found. Leven (as Steven had called himself since he loved the number eleven and talked incessantly about his next birthday) always came up with such great finds! He reached into a pocket of the light jacket he was wearing and pulled out a small velvet pouch. He reached inside and slowly pulled out a bright, silver object about the size of a hand-warmer. There were numerous bumps and indentations arranged in columns and rows on one side and he held that side upward so the kids could all see it. In addition to this object, in the bottom of the velvet bag, there was what felt like a small, glass or plastic ring which Leven had noted without removing it, but had decided not to use as his special object until the next game if he got stuck. He shoved the velvet pouch in his jacket pocket to look at later.
“It’s beautiful! What is it?” Nissa asked. Her voice was full of awe and anticipation.
“It looks like a metal remote button for a TV,” Iknow said. It did sort of look like a remote, but lacked any numbers or words on it.
“Wh-what does it do?” asked Chacha, getting excited and falling victim to his stuttering. He had already figured that it had to do something because of its bumps.
“ No idea,” said Leven holding his hands out with a blank expression. He started fingering different bumps on the face of the object. They didn’t exactly click or depress like buttons on a remote, but there was a subtle, yet unmistakable sensation of pushing a button. To add to their suspense and excitement, the group jumped slightly at the sound of an unexpected thunderclap nearby. Then they all laughed nervously to relieve the tension.
Leven continued to feel random buttons on the face of the object without any visible effect. Then, Chacha reached over and said, “touch that one.” And he proceeded to touch it himself.
Suddenly, they all noticed that tiny, bright, previously unnoticed lights began blinking around the perimeter of the face of the object. There were blue, yellow, and green lights in seemingly random order at first, but then there were a series of red lights that seemed to travel around the edge of the face of the object.
The children all moved closer together, staring at the lights as they continued to march around the edge of the object. Suddenly, the room was lit by a bright, white light as a lightning bolt flashed near to the house! The scene in the room was frozen and all of the children wore expressions of shock and confusion.