Author’s note: Hi guys! This is my first novel, so please leave a good comment. So, the idea for this novel came from theories I have about the upcoming movie, Labyrinth 2. This is a good combination of some of those theories. Enjoy!
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus,”
- Mark Twain
The year was 2018 when this all happened. I was sixteen years old at the time. I lived with my parents in Clarksburg, West Virginia in a large, two-story house with blue shutters on every window and a two car garage. Since we lived out in the country, there weren’t many neighbors around. The beautiful West Virginia hills were home to me.
This is why I was angry with my dad when he came home saying that he got promoted and we were moving to England in two months. I, with a heavy heart, said goodbye to my friends, cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Those two months went by quickly. Before I knew it, it was January and everything was packed into the moving van. I will never forget crying as we passed by the “ Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” sign.
“I know it’s hard, honey,” Mom said, “but everything is gonna be ok,”
All I could do for the whole ride to Pennsylvania was cry. My green sweater and blue jeans were probably soaked to the brim when our car was loaded onto the boat with us three still inside.
“Hey,” Dad said. He was driving and had on black pants as well as a plaid shirt and shoes. “Remember those games you used to play when you were younger? How about you play those? Or be on your laptop or phone?”
I rejected. “Remember what happened last year?” I said.
Dad replied, “Honey, don’t let what happened last year ruin your childhood,”
The year before was the worst year of my life. I remember waking up one Thursday morning and I got up, ready to start the day by going to the bathroom when I stopped and fell face down to the floor. Mom, still clad in her pajamas, ran in, asking me if I was ok. I tried getting up, but as I did so, both my arms jerked and I fell back on my face. I waited about ten seconds before I got up and explained to her and Dad what had just happened. This is first of many episodes I had before I was finally admitted to the hospital for an overnight monitoring. Come to find out I had juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and was given a liquid medicine known as Keppra.
Before my epilepsy diagnosis, I had been less serious and more adventurous. I remember playing pirates with my younger cousins, Andy and Joshua, in the backyard of my aunt and uncle’s house. I also remember playing role-playing fantasy games like Harry Potter with my friends. After my diagnosis with epilepsy, I started to get involved in real world problems like abortion and racism.
It wasn’t long before we met the dock. Our car rolled out of the ship and onto the smooth cobblestone street. We passed down several streets with the moving truck following us from behind. We passed a sign saying “Welcome To Arlington: Home of the Fae Folk”.
Ha, I thought. The Fae? Everyone knows that fairies do not exist.
We passed by many trees and open fields until we came upon Keller Drive. We pulled onto the driveway of a two story, brick house with tall windows, no shutters, and a porch with a swing. Dad was the first one to get out of the car.
“So,” he said, “what do you guys think?”
Mom and I got out.
“Looks good!” Mom replied. I didn’t respond.
A blue car pulled up beside ours. A young Caucasian woman, dressed in a red coat, pants, and shoes, stepped out. After her came a young girl who I quickly knew as her daughter due to them both having blue eyes and blonde hair. She was wearing a pick sweater, a turquoise coat, brown pants, white socks, and pink shoes. The woman quickly introduced herself and the girl as Mrs. Wood and her daughter, Alex.
My parents and I have them both a quick hand shake followed by, “How do you do?”.
“Good,” Alex said.
“Very good!” Mrs. Wood said. “So, what do you think of it? Sold? Or not sold?”
“Sold,” Mom said.
“Ok!” Mrs. Wood exclaimed. “Alex, why don’t you have a talk with Johanna while her parents and I discuss the design plans?”
“Sure Mum,” Alex said.
With that, Mrs. Wood and my parents walked around the left side of the house and out of sight.
“Hello,” Alex said.
“Hi,” I replied.
“You’re going to love Arlington!” Alex said.
“Really?” I said. “I haven’t seen any of it,”
“Oh, you are going to love it here!” Alex said with a twirl. “It’s full of amusement parks and the tea here is to die for!”
“Are the kids here friendly?” I asked.
“Very,” Alex replied.
Alex and I walked up the front porch steps and sat on the brown swing. I sniffed the air. It smelled of nothing but sweetness.
“Have you ever heard of the Black Tower?” Alex asked after about a minute of silence.
I shook my head. “No. What is it?”
Alex was silent for another minute.
“Are you talking about the Tower of London?” I asked, wanting to know more.
She shook her head.
“Then where is it?” I said.
“Never mind,” Alex said. “Don’t tell me mum I said anything about it, alright? How about we talk about school?”
She told me the name of my new school: Arlington Academy. She said it was about thirty-one blocks from here. Alex told me of the teachers, their names, the janitors, the students, and the latest gossip. After she was done telling me about her friends, I told her about my friends in West Virginia. This all lasted a good ten to thirty minutes before Mrs. Wood and my parents came back from behind the house. After saying our goodbyes to the Wood’s, my parents and I went inside and got straight to unpacking.
After about an hour of cleaning and unpacking, we took a break. I went up to my new room because I wanted to be on my phone in peace. As I walked to my mattress, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was a cardboard box labeled “Photos” in black sharpie with tape holding both ends together. Out of curiosity, I took a pair of scissors I found lying in the kitchen and cut the tape.
It was an old cassette tape with the same label as the box. Luckily, I had just finished unboxing the T.V. and it just so happened to have a cassette player. I was a curious teen, and I wanted to know what the label “Photos” meant. I slid the cassette into the player.
What followed next will always stick with me. The cassette tape wasn’t your typical tape filled with old baby videos of people or an old movie that your parents probably made. Instead, it was full of old pictures dating back to when Grandma and Grandpa had just gotten married. “ Aw,” I said, as I forgot what they were like when they were younger. I guess that they were taken in the 1960’s or 1970’s, the era in which my dad and aunt, Lesley, were born. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as they were your traditional photos like all my dad and aunt’s birthdays, countless Halloween’s, countless Christmas’s, Easter’s, etc.
I pressed pause and skipped forward to the pictures of my aunt and uncle getting married and pictures of my parents when they were probably starting to date. I don’t know what drove me to press pause and go further but I did it again. The pictures that started at the one hour-and-forty-five minutes were all pictures of me from the time I was born. I had not seen these in a while, so I let the tape run its course. I could barely remember taking most of them.
However, when I looked at the photo of me and my best friend, Hailee, on our first day of kindergarten, I was taken aback with what I saw. I was six years old and was wearing a pink, zipped up coat with black pants and pink Ugg boots. Hailee was five at the time and she was wearing a purple coat, a blue shirt underneath, with blue pants, and blue Barbie shoes. Her blue eyes we’re sparkling in the sunlight and her blonde hair wasn’t visible as she wore a blue beanie on that day. We are both smiling in the picture.
In the background, behind Hailee’s left ear, I saw a tall, thin, white teenage boy with red hair and a black coat staring directly into the camera with his large, green eyes. I didn’t think that much of it at first, to be honest. I just assumed that had a younger sibling whom he was dropping off at school. However, nobody else in the background seemed to notice him. Even though I had looked at the photo at least a million times before, I never noticed him, either. The video skipped to the same picture except Hailee and I put bunny ears behind each other’s heads. I wasn’t interested in that, however.
In the same picture, I saw the boy transform. He transformed, not into a creature of nature, but rather, a black shadow. I was confused at first, but then I told myself, “ It’s probably because the camera is old,”. That is, what I thought until I saw more pictures of me like photos with family, my first three Halloween’s, and my first four Christmas’s. I was honestly freaking out at that point.
Why, you may ask?
Because the man with the red hair was in every single photo taken of me. It didn’t matter to him if I was alone or with others. Sometimes, he would smile, other times, he would frown in them. He was in the pictures, staring at the camera, lurking in the background, going unnoticed until now, never aging, never changing his clothes despite the weather. What is even scarier is that he had been watching me ever since birth.
Anxiously, I took out the cassette tape and put it back into the box. I didn’t bother sealing it back up, I was so anxious. Who was that man? What did he want from me? Kidnap me? Was he just yet another figment of the tiny portion of my childlike perceptibility? I chose to believe the latter.
My train of thought processing about the boy stopped when my dad yelled, “ Johanna! Break time is over! Come downstairs and help us vacuum!”
After about another hour of vacuuming, I helped Mom set up the beds. I told her what happened earlier.
“And he was even in the photo of me and Julian ( another close friend of mine ) when we took our first photo together at the open house for our freshmen year!” I said as we were finishing making up my bed.
“Johanna,” Mom said. “I’ve gone through all those photos before, and I have never seen him. It must be your imagination running wild again,”
“Mom, you know I would never let my vivid imagination take the better of me,” I argued. “ That, or it probably did without my knowledge,”
“Well,” Mom said, “sometimes our imaginations can, in fact, become the more dominant. Now, please drop it, and let’s go downstairs. Dad went to the store and is making pizza tonight,”
I ignored her commands and instead rushed over to the opener box. I popped the tape in and let it rewind to where the photos of me were. I paused at the photo of me and another friend, Asher, a tall boy with blonde hair, standing at the red lockers of my precious school. There, right next to Asher, was the boy’s face in the window.
“I don’t see a red haired boy,” Mom said with a shake of her head, the curls in her brown hair flying.
“But-,” I started, but thought it wise not to argue any further about the subject.
After having dinner, I walked upstairs to my room and put on my pink pajamas. My room was littered with stuffed animals which I picked up. Afterwards, I got on my bed and pulled out my phone. I went on SnapChat and found Hailee on her story with an African-American boy with the caption, “ BEST DAY EVER!!!!!” with both looking like they had just gone skiing in the mountains. I thought she had probably moved on from me until she texted me on the app saying “Hey, how’s England? I miss u!”
“I miss you, too,” I typed back.
Hailee immediately responded with, “Is it really rainy there?”
“I’ve only been here for a day lol 😂,” I put back.
She then proceeded to tell me about the African- American boy named Jacob, how amazing he is, and about school. When she asked me about how she could help me not miss West Virginia, I replied with a “Well, talking to you makes me forget about it, tbh.” I then proceeded to tell her about Alex, how she reminded me of her in appearance, and about the boy in the photographs. I then asked her what her interpretation was to which she responded with a, “I honestly don’t know what to think of it,”
After talking about what we plan to do in the future, we texted each other bye. I heard a knock at the door and put my phone down. Dad came in dressed in a blue T-shirt and was still in his undies. Typical, I thought.
“Hey Dad,” I said.
“Hey honey!” he said. “ I just wanted to tell you that Grandpa is coming to visit in a couple of days!”
You came imagine the joy that filled my heart! Dad often said that I was like Grandpa: good-tempered, adventurous, and serious at times. Grandpa was dad’s dad. They hardly ever talked to each other unless either Mom, Grandma ( when she was alive ), or Aunt Lesley urged them to. I never understood why, and whenever I asked Dad about it, he said that they got into an argument when he met Mom and their relationship has since been estranged.
“Yes! Thank you!” I screamed. I ran up and hugged Dad. “ Who convinced you two? Mom? Aunt Lesley?”
“Actually, Pumpkin,” Dad said, “it was neither Mom or your aunt. It was all Grandpa’s idea,”
I broke away from Dad’s hug.
“Wait,” I said. “Grandpa told you he wanted to visit you? Most of the time, he just wants to see me,”
“I was surprised, too,” Dad said. “Now, uh, don’t stay up too late!”
I promised him I wouldn’t. With that, Dad left.
A few hours later, I brushed my teeth and crawled into my bright yellow covers. I woke up to the sound of someone knocking on my white bedroom door. Groggily, I got up, thinking that either Mom or Dad was up to check on me as they usually did at that time of night. The floorboards creaked beneath me as I walked slowly from my tiny bed to the other side of the room. The knocking continued until I reached the door and turned the knob.
Before I could react, the boy grabbed me and sank his teeth into my left shoulder.