This is Chapter 2 of The Seed Episodical. Click here to go back to the Table of Contents.
The boys stepped into a small room with wooden floors that creaked with age. The tiny space was rather dim, as vines shrouded the outside of the two windows that hung on whitewashed walls. Freckles of sunlight danced across the floor and over the archaic furniture. A small cot stood in one corner with a patchwork quilt smoothed over the top. A miniature wood stove rested in the other corner, with its pipe trailing up the wall and out over the roof. As a makeshift nightstand, a tiny bookshelf nestled next to the cot, displaying a handful of books, each the same size, but different in color. Against the opposite wall stood a desk and chair topped with a jar full of pens and pencils. A row of iron hooks by the front door held a hanging kerosene lamp and a knitted blue sweater, both awaiting their owner’s return.
“I don’t like the looks of this place, Will,” said Hudson. “This looks…lived in. I’m going back to Poppy’s house.” He started for the door. “Will? You coming with me?”
“Just a minute, Hud,” William said. He sat on the cot with a book opened in his lap.
“What’re you doing?” snapped Hudson. “We’ve gotta get out of here! Someone obviously lives here!”
“Look, Hud,” said William. “It says on its cover, ‘The History of Kelos’.” He crinkled his nose and looked up at his brother. “You ever heard of that place?”
Hudson had made all A’s in geography class the previous year, and he liked maps. He was the kind of kid who collected maps and put them on his walls at home, making green flags with pins to locate the places he had studied and red flags for all the places he hoped to go. He mentally reviewed the World Map inside his mind for a moment and then shook his head. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“This is the strangest book,” said William. “It starts with a weird poem, and then the pages behind it are blank.”
“Let me see,” said Hudson, grabbing the book from his brother’s hands. The first page held a single poem, written in scraggly handwriting. Hudson slowly read it aloud:
Look through the glass
and beyond its frame.
The wilderness of Kelos
summons you by name.
The journey is arduous,
and before you begin,
who enter in.
Beware of deception
made to allure,
for all that is beautiful
is not pure.
In the heart of this land
remote and obscure
exists a disease
That is without cure.
The quest remains
to find the key,
to unlock disorder
So watch and guard,
walk in the light,
for darkness cometh
at every night!
“Woah, that sounds like a fairy tale,” said William. “Do you think it’s true?”
“Of course it isn’t true. Kelos doesn’t exist,” said Hudson.
“But I think that book has something to do with one of these windows, Hud,” said William. “It said to ‘look through the glass and beyond its frame’.”
“This is stupid, Will,” said Hudson. “Let’s get home before Dad starts to wonder where we are.”
But William stood up, searching the windows of the shack. Feeling along the whitewashed frame of the first window, he tapped on the glass. It held nothing unusual.
“Will, come on. We can’t keep up this nonsense,” said Hudson.
William raced to the other side of the room and fingered the second window along its frame. The top pane of glass was all that remained in that window as the glass from the bottom portion was gone, leaving the space open to the outside. A tiny bit of kudzu had grown its way through the open space and spilled out onto the floor of the shack.
“I’m gonna try it,” William said. He took one foot and hoisted it through the open-aired window.
“Come on Will, this is ridiculous,” said Hudson. “You can’t really believe—“
The next moment, William flung his body through the window and outside the shack.
Hudson ran to the window to see where William landed, but he wasn’t outside on the ground. He was…nowhere.
“Will?” yelled Hudson.
No answer came back. He heard only crickets, chirping in the vines around the house.
“Will?” yelled Hudson again. “This isn’t funny! Where are you?”
There was no answer. It was as if William had simply…vanished.
Hudson tried not to panic. What was the protocol for a missing person? What would he tell Dad?
At that moment, Hudson heard a faint cry with a fearful, faraway voice. It sounded like William, and it sounded like he was in trouble. Without any more thought, Hudson quickly threw one leg out the window and then ducked underneath the top pane to hoist his body to the outside of the shack.
In the blink of an eye, a hot wind hit Hudson’s chest, pushing the breath right out of him. Hudson felt himself falling…a long way down. When he finally landed, his body hit a blanketed surface and rolled. Gasping for air, he reached out his arms and felt something cushiony underneath him. A mass of soft, glossy leaves cradled his body, silken and warm to the touch. He had fallen on a viney bed of foliage that covered the whole forested area. Hudson focused his eyes upwards. Trees doubling the size of California Redwoods towered above him, wearing the vines like an emerald robe, reaching towards the clouds of an azure sky.
Hudson looked over and saw William wading through the viney carpet of leaves with an outstretched arm, helping him to his feet. “Hud! You made it!” William cried. “I’m so glad you followed me! ”
“Where are we?” said Hudson, confused at the lack of logic in what had just happened.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto,” said William, wiping his brow. “We must be in a rainforest or something. It’s like a hundred degrees out here.”
William was right. The heat and humidity of this forest was so thick that Hudson could almost open his mouth and chew it. Bits of tangerine sunlight filtered onto their faces, shining small pockets of warmth to their already perspiring brows. He felt an eeriness of quiet in this strange forest. No birds twittered or squirrels scattered; not even a cricket chirped. It was as if nature chose to mute its own sound.
Hudson looked around. If he could just locate the shack in the mess of these vines, he could go backwards toward the way in which they came, and find Poppy’s house again. He frantically searched, but the tiny shack was missing. An enormous tree stood behind him with an opening inside its trunk, the unnatural shape of an empty rectangle. The tree was as big around as the shack had been thick. Hudson peered through the rectangular opening. It shared the size and shape of the window they had fallen from, except its frame was not of whitewashed wood, but charred bark. Hudson peeked his head inside the opening and peered into the inward belly of the massive tree. The inside of the trunk was hollow with a bed of leaves and fallen acorns over the rooted floor. Moving his eyes upward, Hudson could see the trunk of the tree towering above him, getting darker and darker the higher it went, closing over the hole as it grew upwards to touch the heavens.
“I think we came from in there,” said William, pointing to the hollow shape inside the large tree. “But I think we should go exploring. This place is amazing!” William sauntered away without looking back. “Come on, Hud! “ he said.
“Will! Stop right there! We can’t go further in! Come back!”said Hudson.
“Don’t be such a baby!”called William over his shoulder, without looking behind him, without caring if Hudson was following.
Hudson had no choice but to catch up with William and knock some sense into him. If they had jumped into some strange world by some strange metaphysical anomaly, they needed to figure out how to get back, not go further in. He needed to convince his brother to go back.
Hudson caught up with William and fell in step beside him. “Will, we can’t keep going in this direction. We need to go back. It could be dangerous here. I mean, look at those trees!”
As they walked, the boys looked up to see the giant trees that loomed over them, wearing a rough blackened bark and garlands of vines around every scraggly branch. Silvery leaves wound around each trunk, glittering as they fluttered in the hot breeze. Strangely, the beautiful leaves of the silky vine were the only things they really saw, wrapped around every tree trunk, every branch, and every bush, producing a shimmering ceiling above them and a smooth carpet below them.
“It’s kinda pretty, isn’t it?” said William, pointing to the treetops, where vines hung like Christmas lights across the canopy.
Hudson silently agreed. There was something about those leaves that captivated him and drew him deeper into the forest. Yet he knew Dad would be waiting and wondering where they were. “Come on, Will. We’ve gotta get back,” said Husdon.
But William kept walking.
“I’m warning you! Stop walking!” said Hudson.
“I’m not stopping,” said William. ”I want to see what’s over that hill.” William broke out into a jog, loping like a wild pony through the vine-clothed forest, daring Hudson to catch him.
Hudson had had enough.
He increased his speed and caught up with his little brother, tackling him toward the ground.
But when the boys collided, they didn’t land on the soft, plush floor. They felt themselves rolling and falling down…down… into a deep, dark hole.