The Secret Passageway

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Summary

A man who is burned out from his corporate career in graphic arts moves to a small town near where he went to college to try his hand at his own original art endeavors that he has been afraid to pursue for years. He buys an old house that he remembers fondly from his childhood that would offer him the privacy and peaceful atmosphere he needs to begin his new creative outlet. As he gets settled in, he begins to poke around in the place and comes across an old door in the cellar that has been boarded up for years. His curiosity gets the better of him and he finds an old hand-dug passageway that leads him to an ancient-looking chest with just a single document inside. He cannot decipher the cryptic writing on the parchment paper and consults a professor at his old college who is an expert in such things. The message on the document is mysterious and leads the man on a path far from what he had intended when he walked away from his stressful former life in hopes of a quiet new life as an artist.

Genre:
Adventure / Thriller
Author:
cmsampson38
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
23
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Prologue

Joshua Redmond sat on the steps of his new purchase, the old Victorian house that he had always admired since he had been an undergraduate student at Tilman University. He was still having trouble convincing himself that the place was actually his. The last six months of his life had been so painful and stressful that Josh was just beginning to really recover. When he had graduated from Tilman, he had followed his heart to become an artist. He had nurtured this talent at drawing and painting that had arisen when he was just a young kid, and all his professors and friends had been more than encouraging and supportive of his abilities. He had won awards and contests for his work.

With no worries at all, Josh had set off to conquer the art world, sure that it was just a matter of time until he was a huge success. He had a significant portfolio from his life, both before and after college, and his creative juices seemed to be flowing well as he set off in his new career. However, as often happens in life for all of us, circumstances change and things arise, that can derail even the best intentions and plans. For Josh, this was also the case. Following all the accolades and praise he had received so far in regards to his art, he ran into a wall soon after he had begun.

Josh was not losing his motivation or ability to produce new work. That was not the issue as so often happens with various artistic endeavors. There just did not seen to be anyone of substance that was interested enough in his art to make him commercially successful. He marketed himself to everyone he could possibly think of, but in the end what he was taking in financially was just not going to support him. He did shows at various galleries as well, and while he still got lots of comments and praise that felt good to his ego, his wallet was still feeling thin.

He had set aside part of an inheritance that his grandmother, Teresa, had left him to get started. His parents had died when he was just finishing high school, but Teresa, his father’s mother, was well-heeled and had set up a trust fund for Josh to make sure he could still go to college as well as pursue whatever it was he might want afterward. He had consulted with a financial advisor when the first blocks of money were available to him, so as not to waste any of the fund as time went by. His money manager, Carl Timmons, a long-time family friend had wisely set up the trust to let portions of the inheritance become available in segments, and invested the balance for Josh.

Carl’s investment choices had been wise and well-timed, and Josh had never had to worry about money while a student, avoiding graduating with a huge school loan debt like so many of his classmates. Due to the investment choices, Josh was able to pull another bit out when he graduated as he knew it might take some time to get established as a new artist. What he did not want to do, was burn through the balance of the fund. He set a limit for himself, sure that the portion he had allocated for his new life would be more than adequate. When he awoke one day to discover he had nearly depleted this portion, Josh had to re-evaluate his life.

It would have been very easy to just pull some more money out and keep plugging along, but from what he had experienced so far, it did not seem like more time and more art was going to make his financial situation any different. As well, he did not want to dishonor the gift his grandmother had left him, nor the hard work that Carl had done to grow the initial trust. With a heavy heart, Josh began to shop around for a more realistic way to support himself. After a few interviews, he reluctantly signed on with a commercial graphic arts firm in the town just west of where he lived.

The company was well-known and very successful, and Josh did his best to try and fit in. The money was good, and his colleagues were wonderful to work with, but what he was producing for them left Josh feeling empty inside. His heart ached as he submitted project after project that the owners fawned over, but Josh could just not shake the nagging feeling that he had sold his soul for a paycheck. In his spare time, he tried to continue his own work in the second bedroom of his apartment that he had set up as a studio. However, despite his best efforts, his inspiration and drive that had been there all his life had somehow just vanished.

It was like this thing that was just beyond his grasp. Josh could see it there ahead of him, but every time he would reach out for it, it just eluded his fingertips. He had this great fear that the corporate gig had stolen his muse from him. But with no other options at the moment Josh just released his dreams and aspirations that he had held close since he was young. Deep down he hoped that in time he could one day recover what he had given up, but for now it seemed more logical to just let it go. All that he was getting when he tried to paint or draw just for himself was frustration and anger.

For several years, Josh surrendered his true love and focused on his work at Pragmore Graphics and Design. He comforted and consoled himself as the months went by, telling himself that it was still an opportunity to be creative. To some degree this helped, even if what he was doing was based on someone else’s original ideas. Josh moved up in the firm and was soon the Senior Creative Director answering directly to Charles Jenkins, the VP of Marketing. Josh supposed he should be happy with his success at Pragmore. He was well liked and respected there, was making good money, and had all that he had hoped for as a student financially. His creative soul, though, felt like it was atrophying and to Josh, Pragmore was starting to feel like a cancer in that regard.

When his health began to suffer, it was like a wakeup call for Josh. He had begun to consult a therapist when he could not sleep well and was beginning to have trouble focusing at work. The psychologist, Lauren Reynolds, had Josh look deep into his emotions and feelings as to why this was. Josh finally he came to realize what he was sure he had known ever since he had abandoned his heart’s calling for a paycheck. Lauren suggested that he address this issue sooner rather than later as initial physical health issues were often a warning sign of more serious symptoms to come.

Josh had heard her words, but was resistant to admitting a decline in his physical health might be related to a psychological cause. He knew such theories were rampant these days, but still he was anathema to think this could apply to him. When Josh began to lose weight for no real reason, and began to experience stomach pains and this tic in his left hand, Josh began to seriously take in all of what Lauren had been telling him for months. She finally impressed on him the severity of his continued downslide, citing numerous examples that she knew of where serious illnesses manifested in otherwise healthy people simply from an emotional imbalance or an inner voice they refused to acknowledge.

“I get it, Lauren…I really do.” Josh said as he sighed deeply in their current session. “But what do I do? We both are well aware that what I did before was a financial disaster.”

“Uh-huh.” She replied. “I cannot help you there, Josh. That was a reality of that time in your life. All I can tell you now, is that if you continue on your current path, that you should expect more of what is going on now. Maybe worse. Your heart and soul are telling you what to do. If you continue to ignore them or tune them out, then…well…”

“So, be financially sound and maybe end up with cancer or a stroke or something. Or follow my heart and be broke?”

“Josh…what I would suggest is to listen to your body now. It is calling to you for change or it will make a more severe change for you. One you may not survive. Perhaps enough time has gone by that another stab at your art will not have the same results as when you were a recent graduate. I have no idea. But I would not let past results predict the future.”

Josh just nodded and hugged her as the session ended and he left to head home. Everything that Lauren had said made perfect sense. And despite a lot of positives from his years at Pragmore, Josh knew he could no longer continue there. Maybe she was right. Maybe a fresh start with his art would have completely different results this time. At least the money he had been making at Pragmore, plus what he still had left from his trust would support him for a while. Josh fired up his car and drove the backroads from Lauren’s office to his apartment. Once he had arrived home, Josh had made his decision.

Josh arrived at Pragmore the next morning feeling more rested than he had in a long time. The previous night had been the first time in months that he had slept through the whole night. Josh was nervous as he went to see his boss, Charles Jenkins, to offer his resignation. They had always been nothing but generous and kind to him here, and Josh hated that he was going to have to lay out an elaborate lie to Charley as to why he was leaving Pragmore. Josh just could not go into his office and say he was sick because he had stifled his true life’s calling. He was sure it would be just too off the charts for Charley.

He did, after some creative background, tell Charley Jenkins that his failing health would no longer enable him to give Pragmore all that they deserved and expected. Josh relaxed as Charley looked on him with what felt like genuine concern and compassion. He was disappointed and concerned and told Josh he understood completely. He even told Josh to get healthy…to do whatever he needed to do to get better. Once he was back on track, always keep them in mind down the road.

“Just consider it a leave of absence, Josh” Charley said as he shook Josh’s hand warmly.

“Sure, Charley. Thanks. For everything.”

Oddly, Josh felt suddenly sad at his decision. Pragmore had not been his dream career by any stretch of the imagination, but he had had nothing but positive experiences there, both professionally and on a personal level.

“I’ll get Lyle and Tommy and Shelia up to speed on everything and hang around until I am sure they are ready to cover all the demands.”

“Thanks, Josh. I appreciate you doing that, but do not compromise your health for us. If you need to go sooner, just do it. We will survive.”

Josh nodded and closed Charley’s office door behind him as he headed for the creative suite to fill in his team on what was going on. He was drowning in a mixture of emotions as he made his way down the hall. But as Josh turned the corner to talk to his team, he noticed his body change, almost immediately. The pains in his stomach had stopped. The series of low-grade headaches that he had been plagued with for the last couple weeks were gone. The tic in his hand? Like it was never there. He knew he had made the correct decision and his body was now thanking him as well.

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