I was standing in front of the Big House. The high-pitched screech like that of a train on a collision course echoed in my ears and made my head ache terribly, but the sound was slowly fading. The sun shined so bright in my face, at first I was not sure it was the same house. “How did I get here? What day is it? What is going on? Where is Steve? Did I get permission to go to my grandparents and if so why isn’t Steve here with me?” I asked myself all these questions at once not even able to attempt an answer. Before I could get my sense of orientation, the dark shadows of the front porch started moving.
Usually the front entrance to the place was a bit unnerving. A westerly view and two huge trees cast a perpetual shadow that no sun ever penetrated, the heavy shade giving the house a deserted air. The porch was really large and extended to the left beyond the steps back around to the street and opened in a small semicircle, like a pavilion. With what white paint remained, bare wood exposed and weathered, the porch looked in danger of imminent collapse. Slats were missing here and there and the ones remaining were rickety. The windows had not been cleaned in years.
Cobwebs added to the look of a haunted house. Several broken rocking chairs had retired in the pavilion and were rotting along with the surface boards, becoming one with the decking.
But today, the big old house looked like new!
The sun had stretched onto the porch and beams of light splayed across the boards. The rocking chairs now looked relatively new and without much sign of faded white paint. The surface of the deck was clean and the windows gleamed in the sun. “Ok, what is going on here?” I asked myself out loud.
Maybe my interest in the place made my grandparents realize it was time to fix the place up and they hired someone to clean up the porch. The entrance looked almost immaculate.
“This looks like a month’s worth of work at least.”
Before I could question this peculiar scene any further, I noticed the front door was wide open. I went into panic mode.
“No way! Papa Joe would kill me! I would never hear the end of it and I would be denied access which means my adventures would be over. Then I thought about the saxophone. Fear surged through my body, a chill went down my spine and then it felt like a thousand volts pushing my nervous system into overload. For a moment I just stood there, paralyzed. My head started spinning and my vision went blurry.
Suddenly, the house started growing! It was coming to life in front of my eyes. It was stretching up and around, looking like it was growing a third story, while the porch followed the new angles as the house added more dimensions and windows until it looked like the most beautiful hotel I had ever seen.
As the house continued to grow, it was moving farther away from me as if the ground was rising, sending it up a hill.
I rubbed my eyes trying to shake off my delusions but to no avail. It looked even more real and in focus. I hoped that it was all in my head and tried to concentrate on the saxophone. Without hesitation, I ran up the porch stairs, fully expecting the first step not to be there. My foot made contact with the steps and I felt an instant of fear but ignored it, thinking only of checking on my precious bounty. As I traversed the stairs I felt as if I was floating, being propelled upward to the front door. I was electrified and petrified all at once, but was not deterred. I pushed through the entrance, making a beeline to the room on the second floor.
I passed through the main foyer and headed straight for the stairs. Out of the corner of my eye, the foyer appeared the size of a cathedral. Hoping that it was just my mind playing tricks on me, I dared not let it distract me from my mission and kept running to the stairs, which by now was a colossal version of the stairs I knew. I heard the front door slam shut behind me and felt another wave of disorientation. I did my best to ignore it and lunged forward, taking the steps two at a time. The stairwell seemed much longer than I recalled.. The more I tried to focus on climbing, the farther away the second floor appeared. Now it felt like I wasn’t moving. “This isn’t right. This isn’t right,” I kept repeating in my head. The blood was pumping through my legs so fast they hurt and my heart felt like it was going explode. I was going nowhere! What was going on?
From behind me I heard scampering like that of claws on a slippery floor followed by a deafening howl, then others. It sounded like a pack of mad wolves growling and snarling and they were coming for me!
I scrambled up the stairs refueled by pure terror not daring to look back. When I looked down I realized the stairs were gone, nothing but blackness below. Bolts of electricity coursed through my head again and the screeching in my ears was replaced by howls from the demon beasts, making me grasp my ears in pain. Then everything got extremely bright as if the sun had exploded and I could not see!
That was when I started falling; unaware of anything, except that I was in sensory overload. I was spinning out of control helplessly and falling faster and faster. As I was kicking my legs and waving my arms uncontrollably out of hysteria, I heard a voice whisper ever so softly, “You’re going to be alright. I’m here. You will be OK.”
Then the voice changed to a more morbid and commanding tone. ”Just hang on and stay awake. I have some things I need to show you.” Amidst all the chaos, I must have passed out, for the next thing I knew, I found myself motionless and in total darkness. At this point I was only aware that I was no longer falling and was lying on the ground and had no idea where I was.
I tried to get a grip on what just happened and tried to stop shaking and get control of myself. I felt like I was in a movie, flashing from scene to scene but unable to recall the previous one. For a moment, I had no recollection of falling or running up the stairs but my head and legs ached terribly. Where in the hell was I? It was pitch black, damp and cool. I could not see a thing, not even the hands in front of my face. I suddenly realized I was holding something that I could not, at first, recognize. I ran my hands up and down the object, surveying it with my palms. Then I remembered! It was the cane that I had used to wedge open the door to the room full of Papa Joe’s valuables. It was made of strong wood but was light and easy to wield. “How did I get the cane? Did I make it up the stairs?” My sense of time was no longer continuous. My thoughts were random and it was hard to stay focused on the place I was in now, where I had been and how I got here.
There were so many questions in my head, but for some reason I was not scared or confused. I did not feel lost, but protected and guided. “Why do I feel like I am supposed to be here? How did I get this cane? Am I about to embark on a journey? Who is my tour guide?” I recalled hearing a voice but let all those concerns go, for I needed to know where I was now. For some reason, though, I felt safe in knowing I would be taken care of and that I should just enjoy the ride. It was like having someone I trust putting a bandage over my eyes, holding my hand and leading me to the surprise.
I have always trusted all my senses equally. I was fortunate to have them intact and none were more superior to the others. My intuition gave me security in knowing that my senses would never mislead me. I learned this lesson early in life, reflecting for a moment when my mother prepared liver for the first time. My gut feeling told me not to try it. I poked it with my knife first. It was firm, like meat, but with a rubbery texture, sorta like the surface I was standing on now. It smelled pungent. Strike two! It looked dark, almost black. That couldn’t be good. And it tasted like YUCK! It had a pasty texture and was very rich and I could not wash the flavor from my mouth, even after a glass of milk. “Never again,” I said to myself. I should have trusted my first impression before putting this foul substance in my mouth. “I do not like liver” will be my answer to this day. My senses knew that and I should have listened. My senses nor my intuition were of any help here. I again tried to make out my surroundings; so much for having the sense of sight. “So this is how it feels to be blind,” I surmised. I stretched out the cane and started poking around. Like sonar, the vibrations from striking objects should give me clues. As I jabbed my cane into the emptiness I hear could not hear a sound, not even an echo from my breathing. There must be something protruding. I ran the course of my circumference and all around me was nothing. Above me was nothing. I tapped the cane beside my feet and it felt gelatinous, like mud. It was soft and damp, like earth but I could not penetrate it.
It had elasticity and memory, but not like a trampoline. It was a bit more firm, almost alive, fleshy. Every time I pushed downward with the cane, the floor would give, like pushing a finger in your belly and would expand back to its original position. Was I standing on rubber of some kind? I slowly bent over, leaning on the cane and ran my hand over the surface below me. It was like touching a slimy fish.
The next idea I pondered was quite unsettling. I could be inside the belly of an animal. That is silly! How would I know what that would feel like? The next thought was even more absurd: Is it like being in my mother’s womb? Thinking I could actually recall those pre-birth moments made me almost giggle and then terror overtook me at the thought that I had been consumed by some huge beast. My sense of touch had hit overload by now and I investigated it no more, feeling safe in the fact that I was at least standing on somewhat solid ground.
My nose took the lead now in the investigation as I immediately recalled the smell in this place. The only way I could describe it was that it smelled like the color purple. “Where had I smelled that smell?” It was like I had just discovered it for the again first time. This feeling of aromatic déjà vu irritated me as I could not recall where I had met this odor, but I knew I had recently encountered it elsewhere. It was sweet, like candy. In my mind, the word “opium” bubbled to the surface. “That is ridiculous. First of all, I am 13 and have never tried drugs.” I had no clue what it was, where it came from or how it smelled except from the Wizard of Oz where I remember someone saying that it came from poppy flowers like when Dorothy and the gang fell asleep when they were running through the field to see the wizard. My nose was positive of this for some reason.
Was I recalling this scent from someone else’s experiences, drawing from their recollection? Again, something told me that I wasn’t alone. A chill ran through me and all of a sudden I was petrified. “Who was there with me, watching me, leading me through this, impressing their thoughts onto my mind? What did they want from me? Where was I going? I want my mother!” As soon as this thought was conceived, I was at ease again. It was almost as if she was right there with me holding my hand. My mom was my guiding light. Or was it an angel? Whoever was with me, I felt completely safe. My curiosity and sense of adventure were in charge again and I went straight back to my Sherlock Holmes mode assessing the facts. I was at the mercy of my senses but they had come up with no answers yet.
Now, I was all ears. At first all I perceived was dead silence. I waited, holding perfectly still, until I could only hear my heartbeat. The more I listened, the louder the sound became; per-thump, per-thump, Per-thump, Per-Thhump, Perrrrr-Thummmp, PERRRRR-THUMMMP. Okay, I was just psyching myself out. I tried to stay focused but I could not hear any other sound.
I could have sworn I could even hear the blood rushing through my ears. Swish-whhoooo, swish-whhoooo. “Stop it!” I said out loud and then laughed nervously at my wild imagination. As my hearing adjusted, the sound of my own voice echoed in this place so loud, I was again alarmed. My slight chuckle resonated, but had direction. It had an echo. I was not in a closed area. There was a way out! I filled my lungs only a quarter of the way and said, “Hello.”
The response was, “Hello, helllloo, hell-loooow, hell-loow, hell-loooow, helehlehelehello.” It was a trick. It had no symmetry. No traceability. No direction. I tried again but still couldn’t tell the proportions of the chamber I was in. I let out a sigh, and immediately following it, I heard laughter. I was not alone! Now, I felt surrounded and helpless, like the prey of some wild beast. “Remain calm,” I repeated to myself like a mantra and that seemed to help. What was that? It sounded like a little girl. I held my breath, trying to ignore the thunderous sounds of my own body pumping blood through my veins. I waited but heard nothing.
I stood motionless, waiting to hear what I thought was a child’s laughter, but again, nothing. I waited longer and it seemed like an eternity, every muscle in my body stiff like rigor mortis. I was so tense my right calf started to cramp. Being one who was born with a major deficit, lack of patience, I timidly whispered again, “hello,” and it was immediately followed by the same laughter, like from a young girl. “Hello,” I said again and received the same reply. Once more I spoke these words, demandingly. The response was reciprocally louder as well. I reached out my walking stick in the direction of the laughter and put one foot forward. I was indeed experiencing the world from the perspective of a blind person, taking every step ever so carefully, not putting all my weight on the forward foot until sure, checking twice before shifting my weight and stepping again. I had taken three steps and my confidence was starting to grow. Each time I spoke a bit louder, the voice would respond and soon I found myself speaking and walking in the direction of the source, my pace quickening, but being careful not to slip. The more I spoke, the faster I went until I was in full stride, ignoring the pitch black, but trusting my ears. They told me that I had a ways to go.
I hadn’t noticed that a faint glow had appeared in the distance. Light! I could see light at the end of the tunnel but the light was above me, indicating I was in a hole. I picked up the pace, focusing more on the light now and sparing my vocal cords, but not stopping in fear of losing communication with the girl’s voice. At one point the voice seemed so close as if only feet away. Then I heard a different startling voice crying, “Come back” in a mother’s stern commanding way. I stopped dead in my tracks, fear rising up in me. “Hello,” I said, one more time. No response. Again I tried and received no feedback. I could definitely see the light now and it appeared that I was in a tunnel and it was starting to take an upward turn.
The light was bright enough that I could begin to see the walls.
They were brown, black, purple and blue and slightly reflective, as if a thin slimy coating adhered to them like an otter’s pelt. There were roots starting to appear, like the leaves of a fern with very fine hairs covering them. I had endured enough and took off pulling on the roots and climbing upwards toward the light despite my fear of falling, concentrating only on the light ahead and getting out of this place.