Read The Forgotten Eden Online

Authors: Aiden James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Fantasy

The Forgotten Eden (7 page)

BOOK: The Forgotten Eden
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What I gathered from these stories was that my mom and dad brought Jeremy and I with them to Carlsdale from Atlanta to spend a couple of weeks with my grandparents. But, something went terribly wrong. About a week and a half after our arrival in Carlsdale that June, my folks were officially missing. The authorities never found a trace of either one.


When I was little, I’d spend many afternoons and evenings in the tree house, armed with my toy binoculars. I’d aim them out toward the woods looking for any sign of my parents’ return home, because that’s the last place anyone saw them alive, as they headed out through the back gate with a picnic basket. When I got older, I still found myself looking out through my upstairs bedroom window from time to time.


I would’ve ventured out into the woods long ago myself, but Grandpa absolutely wouldn’t allow it, saying he wasn’t about to lose anyone else out there. Jeremy managed to sneak out once, but he didn’t even make it to the woods. He made it half way through the field and came scurrying back, practically landing on his face as he dove into the backyard’s safety. He told me he’d almost stepped on a copperhead and felt something else slither close behind him.


This is the kind of shit I was thinking about when a sudden breeze picked up and circled around me, bringing me back to the present moment. The wind strong enough to gently push the swing back and forth, I didn’t immediately hear the low growling noise coming from directly below my feet. Surprised, I almost fell off trying to avoid the lizard, which had emerged from hiding, glaring menacingly from just a few inches of my toes! It leapt at me, baring its needle-like teeth again.


I scrambled on top of the tire. Climbing the swing’s rope, I lifted myself another six feet in a matter of seconds. Undeterred, the little monster jumped onto the swing, locking its claws on the tire’s sides, its sharp talons puncturing holes through each side of the tire in pursuit.


By now, I’d seen enough to realize I was in grave danger, and thoroughly regretted ever pursuing the little demon to begin with. As I climbed even higher, I soon approached the large branch holding the swing’s rope. Meanwhile, the lizard scaled the rest of the swing and wrapped one claw around the rope. As if sensing the difficult task it would face by climbing the rope, it stopped to look up at me and then glanced over at the step boards nailed to the oak tree’s trunk. When it looked back up at me, I got the queer sensation it intended to scale the tree in order to get me, if necessary.


I looked back toward the house, this time in panic, but it stood in solemn silence. No one inside was aware of my predicament. Meanwhile, Banjo peered at me from his hiding place just behind the oak’s trunk. I could see fear in his expression, his ears lower than usual and his head drawn back upon his neck.


The lizard hissed loudly and reared back as if ready to attack my legs. I don’t know why I didn’t just yell or scream for Grandpa to come to my rescue. Maybe I was too frightened. But in any case, just as the lizard flexed its muscles to jump, it suddenly froze. It turned its head toward the woods, as if once again listening to something inaudible to my ears. It released its grip on the swing’s rope and jumped down to the ground. From there it raced toward the sphere.


I released my breath in a slow shudder of relief. At the same time, I felt really pissed at the sneaky bastard for scaring me. In haste, I slid down the rope and jumped off the swing. I picked up the metal bait container and set out after the lizard.


It slipped further away from me, reaching the sphere and with very little effort jumped on top of the barren globe. It turned and waited for my arrival, emitting one last malevolent hiss, its forked tongue sliding in and out of its dangerous mouth.


When I realized the lizard was about to leave the backyard, I looked for something to throw at it. I wanted to send a message that told it never to come back. I thought about hurling the metal bait container, but it belonged to my grandfather. Unable to find anything else suitable for the task, all I had was the melted sucker.


The lizard turned to face the wall and its exit to freedom on the other side. It glanced back tauntingly, daring me to try and hit it. That enraged me all the more. I threw the sucker, hitting it squarely on the back of its head. The piece of candy made a solid ‘thunk’ sound before careening beyond the backyard, landing somewhere in the field across the way. The startled monster yelped in surprise and hissed even louder at me. Then it leapt from the sphere, landing on the wall’s other side.


I felt a mixture of sadness and relief. But I didn’t have long to contemplate either feeling, for another one quickly overtook my senses. Someone watched me. Not anyone in the house, as certainly Grandpa would’ve known I needed some serious assistance and hurried outside to help me, if he’d witnessed the confrontation between me and the lizard. Instead, it felt like whoever watched me did so from just a short distance from where I stood.


Completely sure of this, yet I couldn’t tell what direction the unknown voyeur observed me from. Pretty weird, huh? Like being intensely studied from every possible angle. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end while a chill ran along my spine. I whirled around, but saw no one. No one in the backyard except Banjo, still hiding.


I finally had enough of this shit, including the oppressive heat. Prepared to walk bravely to the house, I noticed something in the dirt in front of the sphere, glistening in the sunlight. At first glance it could’ve been a piece of broken glass. But as I moved closer to it, the thing looked instead to be made of gold.


I walked over and picked it up. Small and oblong, the object seemed heavy for its size. My experience in helping Grandpa polish an old coin collection from time to time helped me confirm it was indeed made of gold. I turned it over and over in my hands studying it, barely aware of the dark storm cloud heading toward me from the west. The front portion of the cloud peeked over the majestic treetops at the edge of the woods. I looked up briefly in response to the soft rumble of thunder that filled the air in front of me. Satisfied just a light midsummer storm was on the way, I turned my attention back to the strange object.


Little symbols and unusual designs covered each side. I stood there, totally mesmerized and unable to remove my eyes from it. I started to feel very weird and dizzy….


The next thing I remember was Grandpa calling out to me.

“‘
Jack!...
Jack!!’
His voice shook me out of my trance. ‘What in the
hell
are you doing out here in the rain??’


It was raining, all right, and by the looks of things it’d been raining for quite some time. Completely soaked, rainwater dripped from my head down onto the golden object. I was surprised I still held it tightly. So tight that my knuckles were ghostly white.


Nervously, I cleared my throat while I fidgeted, unsure what to do with the strange item. I looked over my shoulder and smiled at my grandfather, absently shoving it into the depths of one of my shorts’ pockets.

“‘
Oh...nothing really, Grandpa,’ I told him. ‘Just trying to find out where that lizard took off to. I must look like an idiot just standing here, huh?’


Definitely, from the expression on his face. I looked away, letting my eyes follow the sphere’s smooth contours and the muddy ground surrounding it, until my gaze rested upon my drenched sneakers. I lifted one of my feet, surprised at how deep it’d sunk into the mud. The shoe made a low puckering sound as I raised it out of the muck. How long had I been standing there? It didn’t seem like even a few minutes had passed since picking up the object, and yet from the looks of my surroundings, I’d been there for at least an hour or two.

“‘
Well...are you going to just stand there all day hoping to sprout some roots, or would you mind if we went back inside the house, son?’


Grandpa’s voice betrayed his irritation, and who could blame him? He stood a few feet away, impatiently moving from foot to foot, ready to sprint back to the farmhouse. The only protection from the rain he’d brought with him was that morning’s newspaper, folded over and already soaked and dripping as he held it just above his head.

“‘
No...not at all,’ I said. ‘I’m ready to go in now.’


He motioned for me to follow him as he turned and ran to the shelter of the oak. My legs felt like rubber as I chased after him. Again, how long had I been standing in the rain? I could only venture a guess since the sun lay hidden behind dark clouds. Besides, my wristwatch was now missing. I felt completely disoriented and confused….”

***


That had to be very intense for you, Jack,” Peter said, after Jack grew quiet for almost a minute. His eyes nearly restored to their original clarity, they sparkled in a way that let Jack know he remained interested, absorbing every detail. “Can you remember the intricate details on the object you held?”


I wish I could, but I don’t think so,” he replied. “But I bet I’d recognize them in a heartbeat if I ever saw them again.”


At a later time, I’ll show you some early American artifacts we have in our Archives Center,” Peter advised. “I’d be most interested to see how similar they are to the object you’ve described.”


Sure, I’d be willing to do that.”


Good…. Let’s keep this wonderful story of yours rolling.”

Peter motioned again for Jack to continue.


Well…I arrived at the base of the oak a moment after my grandfather did, and walked over to where he stood,” said Jack. “He eyed me sternly, the soaked newspaper held to his side with one hand while he petted Banjo with the other.

“‘
Why were you just standing there?’ he asked me. ‘What was so damned interesting that you’d completely ignore me calling you?’


Several images crowded my mind. Everything from hunting the lizard to standing in the rain with the mysterious golden object in my hands. I shrugged my shoulders.

“‘
I’m sorry, Grandpa. I don’t know what came over me. One minute I’m chasing that lizard and the next I’m standing in the rain.’


He raised his eyebrows as he continued to study me, though more compassionate. He looked beyond me, back to the area we just ran from, and shook his head. Then he smiled and chuckled.

“‘
Come on, son,’ he said. ‘I’ll race you to the porch!’


Water cascaded from the leaves above, forming several puddles in front of us. He gave me a playful wink and on the count of three we raced to the porch while heavy rain pelted us mercilessly.


Just before he and I entered the back door to our farmhouse, the rain tapered off, leaving only a light drizzle in the air. We left our grimy shoes on the porch just outside the screened door. Glad to be indoors again, the strong aroma from dinner cooking on the kitchen stove quickened my senses and alerted me to my stomach’s emptiness.


The heat inside the kitchen was still stifling, even though a pair of floor fans stayed busy sending a cross breeze gathered from the main floor on through the kitchen itself. Grandpa advised me to go on upstairs and change into dry clothes. He headed for his own bedroom on the main level to do the same.


I headed upstairs, and as usual, the second, fourth, and seventh stairs squeaked loud, despite my best effort to walk softly up the old mahogany staircase. Once I reached the second floor, I almost ran to my bedroom at the southern end of the house. Even during the day, it was pretty creepy up there, especially along the hallway to my room.


When I got to my bedroom, I walked over to my dresser and emptied my pockets of a few coins and the golden object. I set all of these items next to my parents’ photographs and took off my wet clothes. After leaving them in a small pile near the foot of my bed, I glanced out my bedroom window, which I mentioned earlier faced out into the backyard. The rain had ceased and the summer sun was in full force again. I started to turn back toward the door, but noticed the time on my alarm clock read 5:31 p.m. I couldn’t believe it! That meant I’d been standing by the sphere for nearly three hours.


No matter how hard I searched my memory, I couldn’t account for the missing time. I finally had to let the matter rest, for Jeremy would be home at any minute and I was in danger of missing the start of dinner. I ran to the bathroom and took a shower, and then put on a pair of clean jeans and a T-shirt. I grabbed the prize off my dresser and shoved it into my pants’ pocket, now ready to head downstairs for dinner.


I could hear Grandpa talking to someone downstairs in the kitchen. A loud burst of laughter let me know Jeremy was home. I started down the stairs, when suddenly I remembered my wristwatch was missing. I ran back up to my room and tried to locate it, checking all of the usual places. I forgot that I’d last seen it near the swing in the backyard. My brother and grandfather grew restless downstairs. No choice but to search for it later.

“‘
Jack! What the hell’s taking you so long up there?’ Grandpa shouted from the bottom of the stairs. ‘Supper’s waiting and we’re fixing to start without you!’


I yelled back that I was on my way, and then hurried over to the top of the staircase. Just in time to see him walk back to the kitchen, I clamored down the stairs, jumping past the bottom two and landing with a thud in the foyer. I headed straight for the kitchen, the creaking floorboards announcing my rapid approach. The aroma of spaghetti and meatballs filled the main floor, which kindled my raging hunger so much that I almost forgot about the heavy object threatening to tear the fabric of my jeans’ pocket. I steadied it with one hand to keep it from doing damage to my pants and walked over to the dinner table.

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