Have you ever wondered how you got where you are? I don’t mean your physical location; I mean your life. How did you become who you are, and why are you living the life you are? I think most people have asked themselves this question, but not everyone can answer it. I can. I know exactly how and when my life became what it is today. The day that started me on the path to who I am was Saturday August 11th, 2018. I was ten years old. That was the day I received the key...
“Isaiah, are you ready to go?” my father yelled up the stairs.
I wasn’t, and I never would be. We were moving from the apartment I was born in, from the neighborhood I grew up in, where all my friends lived. My father had just inherited a house from some great uncle he didn’t even know. It was five hours away. I get it, it’s not every day that you inherit a house, and our apartment was small, but I didn’t want to move. I liked where we were living.
“Yeah, I’m coming!” I yelled back with clear annoyance in my voice.
I grabbed my new backpack, the one with the superheroes on it that my parents bought for me the day before, and headed out of my room for the last time.
“Have we got everything?” my mom asked.
“I think so,” replied my dad.
“Is that the last of your stuff?”
“No, I still have a room full of stuff, but I’m only bringing my stupid backpack,” I replied flippantly.
“Don’t speak to your mother that way. We know you don’t want to move, and that is understandable, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be rude.”
I was being rude, and I knew it. In fact, I had been acting rudely for about a week now. The look in my father’s eyes told me the next words out of my mouth would decide if I started my life in our new house grounded or not.
“Yeah, whatever. You’re making me move away from my friends into a stupid new house, and I’m being rude.”
I couldn’t help it. I knew it was the wrong thing to say, but I was so angry, and I really didn’t want to move.
“Get in the car. I don’t want to hear another word from you. We will have a long talk about this later,” my father said as he grabbed my backpack from my hands and pointed out the back door towards the driveway and the waiting car.
It was nine o’clock in the morning, so we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. It tasted good, but you would never have known from the sad, dejected scowl on my face. My parents tried to cheer me up by engaging me in conversation, but I only gave short answers. I couldn’t even fake a smile. Eventually my parents understood that I wasn’t in the mood to talk, so they put on some music.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Mom said, putting her blinker on to get onto the highway. She always did the driving because she didn’t mind it, and my dad didn’t enjoy driving much. “I guess Uncle Arthur also left something for you in his will.”
Despite my foul mood, my eyes widened in surprise and I sat up straight. “For me? I didn’t even know the guy. I mean, we never even met.”
“I know.” A smiled played on Mom’s lips. “Apparently he was at least aware that you existed.”
I have to admit, this brightened my mood a bit. I mean, I still didn’t want to move, but who didn’t like getting a gift? And a surprise gift is even better!
“Well, that’s kinda cool, I guess. Do you know what it is?” I fidgeted in my seat with anticipation.
“I have no clue,” Dad interjected. “I hardly even knew the guy, and he left me a house.”
That was true. I spent the time left in the drive wondering what he could have left me in the will.
My father’s words pulled me from my thoughts.
“Ok, I think this is the street up here on the left.”
I looked out the window. “Here? There’s nothing around! Just trees!”
I hadn’t really been watching, but I couldn’t remember seeing a mall or store for at least an hour. In fact, I think it had been about ten minutes since I last saw a house.
“It is very private.” A slight smile crossed Dad’s face.
He said it like it was a great thing. My dad isn’t much of a people person. I mean, he’s a good person and all; he’s just uncomfortable around other people. My mom is just the opposite. She’s friendly and outgoing. We took the next left and drove what seemed like two miles down a deserted street. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed darker and about fifteen degrees colder. I glanced out the window and saw dark clouds rolling in. It wasn’t just my imagination; there would be a thunderstorm.
“Let’s hope the movers finish before the storm hits. I’d hate for everything to get soaked,” my dad said as he looked at the clouds.
Ever the optimist, Mom said, “I bet they will. Don’t forget, they’ve had an three hour head start on us.”
As we drove through the black, wrought-iron gate that stood open across the winding driveway, a large and foreboding house loomed on the horizon. The roiling clouds framing the image of the massive house gave the scene an ominous quality.
“Isn’t it beautiful!” Mom’s eyes were like saucers as a smile lit her face. She really loved houses. She even sold real estate for a while before she became a nurse. Every time we went somewhere, she would always point out the distinct style of houses we’d pass. This just looked like a big, old mansion to me.
She turned her smile on me, “It is a Queen Anne style. I just love that wrap-around porch. What do you think?”
“I don’t know, it’s just a house.” I lowered my eyes to my lap to not see the crestfallen look that appeared on my mother’s face at my moody response.
“What about those columns and towers though? You must think those are cool,” Dad said as he tapped my leg.
I looked up at the sound of his voice and saw him sternly looking at me and nod his head in Mom’s direction. I knew I was pushing my luck with my attitude already and making Mom sad was never something Dad took lightly, so I gave in a little. “Yeah, they’re cool, I guess.”
“Look at those oriel Windows! You don’t see those all the time.” I didn’t know what was so great about them. All I saw was windows sticking out off the side of the house on the second and third floors, but Mom’s smile was back, so Dad gave me a pat on the knee and a quick smile of thanks as he turned and faced forward again.
We pulled up behind the moving truck on the semicircular driveway in front of the house. Mom was right; the movers were just about finished unloading the truck. I could see just a few boxes still in the back of the truck.
Dad pulled the handle to open the car door as the first large raindrops splattered against the windshield. “Grab your bag. Let’s get inside before this storm really gets going.”
I grabbed my backpack and ran up the front steps onto the covered porch while Dad got the frozen food out of the trunk and Mom speed-walked up the walkway. As soon as we reached the cover of the porch, the storm hit like a dam bursting. There was a huge bolt of lightning, followed immediately by a loud crack of thunder that reverberated through my body. It felt the same as the time Mom brought me right up to the stage at a rock concert. Being that close to the speakers had seemed to cause my body to pulse with the beat of the bass guitar. I loved it at the concert, but with the thunder, it had an ominous feeling. I just wanted to get inside. Dad opened the door for Mom and we entered our new home.
The storm clouds were so thick and heavy that even though it was only noon, it was very dark outside. They had not yet turned the electricity in the house on, so it was also dark inside.
“Don’t worry,” said Mom. “I called the electric company yesterday. They said there was a wire down from a recent storm and that they would have someone out to fix it today. I’m sure they will have the power up and running as soon as the storm passes.”
I nervously peered deeper into the house, “I hope so, it’s kind of creepy in here in the dark.”
I had recently become nervous during thunderstorms. I couldn’t explain it; I knew I was safe. The odds of being struck by lightning are so slim, but I still believed it would happen every time there was a thunderstorm. Just then, I felt a strong wet hand grip my shoulder. I jumped and gave a little scream and dropped my backpack as I turned.
“Sorry, I just didn’t want to drop this on you.”
The big moving guy was holding a large vase with one hand while gently guiding me out of his way with the other.
“I didn’t mean to give you a start,” he apologized, shifting the vase into a more secure grip.
I was still kind of startled, so all I could muster was a weak, “Oh.”
We were still standing in the front hallway, so Dad ushered us out of the mover’s way and deeper into the house.
My mom found the box she had packed the flashlights in and gave Dad and me each one.
“Why don’t you go check out your room?”
“I don’t even know where it is, ” I sulked.
“Upstairs, last room on the left.”
I figured there was nothing else for me to do, so I shrugged my shoulders and headed for the stairs.
Dad called after me. “Don’t forget your backpack.”
I slung one strap from my bag over my shoulder and headed up to my room. I shined the beam of my flashlight around as I reached the top of the stairs. There were three closed doors off of a long hallway, two on the left, and one on the right and a bathroom at the end of the hall. Since it was just the three of us, I wondered what we would use the other rooms for. Mom had already told me they were taking a room on the first floor. I slowly walked down the dark hallway listening to the storm winds howling outside and the old floorboards creaking beneath my feet. I opened the door to my room, and as soon as I did, a shadowy figure growled and leaped at me from deep within the room. Instantly, my heart raced as it lodged itself in my throat and cold beads of sweat dotted my body.
My fight-or-flight instinct must have been working double time because I experienced both. I let out a short, frightened yelp, threw the flashlight at whatever jumped at me, and turned to run, but I didn’t get very far. I slammed into the wall on the other side of the hallway. I quickly scampered to my feet and prepared to run again. A glance over my shoulder to make sure nothing was about to eat me revealed what I was running from. It was literally a shadow. A bolt of lightning had flashed across the sky followed by a clap of thunder at the exact moment I opened the door. I wiped the sweat from my brow. With a nervous laugh at myself, I walked across the room to retrieve the flashlight. It was a solid throw, though. I didn’t think the shadow would mess with me again.
Luckily, the flashlight didn’t break, so it was easy to find in the blackened room. I shined the light around and noticed the room was big. Of course it was; it was a big house. Dust and cobwebs covered all the surfaces and corners. The movers had already moved all my stuff in, my dresser, my television and video game system, and a second dresser? I thought that was odd because I only had one in the apartment. They had even set up my bed. I set about unpacking the boxes since I had nothing else to do. I got through a good portion of them, but it was difficult because of the lack of electricity, plus I was getting hungry. I hadn’t had lunch yet, so I pushed the last couple of boxes against the dresser, planning on finishing them tomorrow. That was when I heard something thud against the floor on the other side of the dresser. I leaned around the dresser to look at the floor. There was a small wooden box lying on its side. Next to it was an envelope, with my name on it.
I picked up the box first. It was fairly heavy and made of a smooth, dark wood. It was maybe the size of a box of cereal. It had an intricately carved pattern on the lid, or what I assumed was the lid. I couldn’t find any seams or hinges indicating that it could be opened. Despite the layer of dust that seemed to cover everything in this house, the box was clean and polished. I could practically see myself in the sheen. It looked brand new, but it had an old mysterious quality to it. Somehow I felt this box had been around for a long time despite its brand new appearance. I picked up the envelope, stuffed it in my pocket, and headed downstairs where mom met me at the bottom of the stairs.
“What do you think of your room?”
My mom was really hoping I would like the house.
“It’s okay, I guess. It’s big, but there’s dust and cobwebs all over it.”
“That’s okay, we’ll get it cleaned up. I really think you will like it here.”
Just then, the doorbell echoed throughout the house. Mom went to the door and opened it. Looking out the open door I could tell that the storm was passing. The rain hadn’t let up, but it wasn’t nearly as dark out as it had been. Mom told the man on the porch to come in out of the rain. He was dripping wet, and somehow, despite the downpour, he looked filthy. He had long, stringy hair coming out from beneath his baseball cap. It was hanging down to his shoulders. He had a shaggy-looking beard. Not one that looked well groomed like you saw a lot those days, and not a big Duck Dynasty one either. Somewhere in between. He kind of stared at me when he entered the hall.
With his rough, smoker’s voice, he said, “That will be twenty dollars.” He was a pizza delivery guy.
Maybe it was just the storm, but everything seemed dark and ominous to me since we got here. I think it was the house. It was creeping me out. Mom paid for the pizza and closed the door. We went into the dining room to eat and sat down at the table dad had just finished setting up.
“I found this in my room.” I put the box on the table as Mom took the paper plates from the pizza into the kitchen and put them in the trash.
Dad picked up the box. “What is it?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s a box, but I don’t know how to open it, or if it even opens.”
“Where did you say you found it?” Mom asked having just come back into the room.
“It was on my dresser, the new dresser. Why did you get me a second one?”
Dad gave me a quizzical look. “You have two dressers? We didn’t buy you a second dresser. They must have left it behind when they emptied the house.”
“I think they left it there for me though, the box, not the dresser.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it has my name on it.”
Dad examined the box closer, turning it in his hands. “Where?”
“Oh,” I said. “On the envelope.”
I pulled the envelope from my pocket and handed it to him. I hadn’t opened it yet because I was too interested in the box and in the pizza. I was starving. Dad looked at the envelope with my name on it, flipped it over, and saw a wax seal holding it closed. I hadn’t noticed the wax seal before. It was kinda cool. It was red wax with a big, fancy AG pressed into it.
“Interesting. I think this is what my uncle left for you in his will.” He pointed at the seal. “AG, those are my uncle’s initials. Arthur Goldsmith.”
He handed the envelope back to me.
“Should I open it?”
“It’s addressed to you, so I would think so,” Mom said with a laugh.
So I slid my finger under the flap and broke the bond holding the wax seal to the envelope.