A new short story - The Explorer

June 4, 2021

She sat in the old brown leather chair, an overstuffed armchair, comfy from the many years of being sat in, and stared at the window, or out the window. Or, was it a picture of a window looking out into the world? Only she knew which it was. And it wasn't either of those.

Talia stood up from the old leather chair and walked forward, towards the window, or picture, she had been staring at and stepped into it. She was gone.

***

When she was a child, growing up in this very same old house in the country, she would often look at the very same window, and wonder, is it a window or a picture? The scene was so still, nothing moved, ever, like a picture.

There was a stairway that led up to the attic and a spare room nobody entered anymore just passed her bedroom. The room in which the window, or picture, had been placed was at the top of the stairs and to the left.

"Don't go into that room, sweetheart," Mom told her over and over again during her growing-up years in that house. But she was a young girl and had the curiousity of a cat.

*** First Exploration ***

One day Mom was busy downstairs baking cookies, and pies, and a cake, and wasn't paying attention to what Talia was doing. Mom had friends visiting and helping with the baking, and they were also talking, or more correctly, gossiping, about the other people in the sparsely populated countyside where they lived.

Finally, the little girl had the rest of the house to herself. She steeled herself and got up the nerve to explore what was on the other side of that eternally closed door. The little girl had to push open the old, thick, wood door with all her might to get it open enough for her to enter the dark room.

The door squeaked on it's old hinges, but it did give way to her efforts, and she was soon in the darkness of the mystery room.

She stood still for a minute. Listening. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. Listening another minute. Not hearing any sounds, not even from downstairs, she imagined she was Nancy Drew, and took another step into the darkness. Her arms reached out to touch anything that might have some kind of familiar feel. There was nothing but air.

She took another step, then another. Arms reached for anything at all, but found nothing at all. She counted her steps - 4, 5, 6, 7, and she touched something. The room was still too dark for her to make out just exactly what it was, but it startled her, just a little. She had hoped to touch something, but when she did, she jumped, let out a small scream, turned around and hurried out of the room. She closed the door behind her and went downstairs.

"Hey sweetie," said Mom, "what have you been up to? We haven't heard anything from you all afternoon."

The little girl replied, while eyeing the freshly baked cookies, "oh, nothing much, mommy, just playing with my dolls and things." She reached for a cookie.

One of the other women handed her two cookies and she cheered and said, "Thanks!" Then she ran back up stairs to her room.

*** Second Exploration ***

A week passed, then another, and another, and Talia hadn't gone back into that room. She had started school and was too busy with school things to think about what might be behind that door.

But then one weekend when her parents had company, more adults only, and she had nobody to play with and no school work to do, she thought about that room.

She quietly walked up the stairs and approached the door, it was closed tight. She turned the doorknob and it turned but not easily. She turned it with all her little might she could muster and heard the click of it coming loose. She gave the door a little push, then another, then another, and it finally opened just enough for her to enter.

She looked into the room, let her eyes adjust, then decided she should go back to her room and get her Minnie Mouse flashlight. Her little flashlight wasn't the most powerful in the house but it was enough to allow her to see what was in that secret space.

Now armed with her Minnie Mouse flashlight almost lighting up the area in front of her she entered the room. She walked slowly, step, pause, step, pause. She pointed her flashlight all around her with each pause - she saw a chair, a small side table with a small lamp, a table with two wood chairs, and a wide cabinet against one wall. There were paintings hanging on the wall of people she didn't recognize, a fireplace, and a long gun of some kind that looked very old hanging above the fireplace.

"Hmm," Talia thought, "nothing to be afraid of in here."

She walked over to the leather chair, stood in front of it, touched it, pushed down on the seat cushion, then sat down in it. The chair was much too big for her little body but it sure was comfortable. She snuggled into it and looked around her at the wall in front of her. She thought there was something curious about it but she couldn't figure out what it was. The picture of the countryside, directly in front of her, on the wall, looked nice, she felt relaxed, calmed, when she looked at it.

Then she heard her mother calling her. She hurried out of the room, closed the door behind her, put her flashlight away and scampered downstairs to say goodbye to the adults who were all leaving.

*** Third Exploration ***

A couple of weeks later her parents had an affair to go to so they hired a babysitter to spend the evening with Talia.

The babysitter spent the evening watching TV and eating popcorn and didn't pay much attention to her. Talia was in her room upstairs playing with her dolls, until she saw her Minnie Mouse flashlight and remembered the room.

She grabbed her flashlight and walked out of her room, past the stairs, peeked down to see if she could the sitter (she couldn't), then she quietly opened the door to the forbidden room.

This time she turned on her flashlight and walked right into the room and straight to the leather armchair. She sat in the chair and looked around the room, satisfied and comfortable.

She looked at that painting on the wall, it was an painting of a farmland with a few trees, and there was a pond out in the distance. She thought, "Wow, that's a really good painting, it looks just like my farm." She stood up and walked to the painting only to discover it wasn't a painting, it was a window. She stepped back from the window and looked at it again, and thought, "that is a window but it looks like a painting. How strange!"

She stepped up to the window, put one hand on the window sill, and thought she smelled fresh air. Was the window open? She wondered. She thought it still looked like a painting. She put one hand up to the window and pushed her hand slowly, so very slowly, into it. Her hand didn't touch anything, it didn't fall off, it didn't disappear into a swirling fog, it just went a little way through the painting, or window. She waved her hand around, smiled, giggled. Something tickled her hand but nothing touched it.

She pulled her hand back inside and the tickling sensation stopped. She was puzzled by this new thing that she was experiencing. She put her hand out of the window, again. And again, she felt a tingling tickle on her hand. She put both her hands outside the window and she felt the tickling on both her hands. Then she braced herself against the wall and the window sill and reached as far out as she could. Her arms were tingling. She started giggling, then heard the sitter calling her.

*** Fourth Exploration ***

It was a couple more weeks before she would have another chance to explore the room and the window more.

Her mother came up to her bedroom and told her to get ready for dinner, it would be ready in a few minutes.

But she was more interested in exploring that secret room.

After her mother went back downstair she went back into the room. She entered the room she marched directly to the window. She noticed it still appeared to be a picture but it was really a window, and she still thought that that was so strange. But she didn't think about it, she simply stepped up to the window sill, put both hands on it and raised herself up. She sat on the window sill and slowly moved one leg over the edge and she immediately felt it tingling. She was no longer afraid or nervous of the tickling feeling, and she decided it felt fun. She turned her little body and raised her other leg over the sill and outside the window. She thought that even though it appeared to be her farm outside her house, there was something about it that just didn't make sense.

She was sitting on the window sill with her legs and arms and head all outside the window. And she was feeling the tingling all over her body. She started laughing, and she sat there and laughed for a minute.

Looking below she saw the grass right there underneith her, not two stories down, as it should have been. She dropped off the window sill and into the grass outside. She turned around to look back at the house and the window. She thought, "the grass doesn't go up to the attic room. The grass is below my room, and it's a long way down from my room." She was confused by this conumdrum. How could there be grass at the level of the attic room? Where is the window for her room? Where is the rest of the house below the attic room?

She turned around and looked around her, at all the surroundings. She thought it looked an awful lot like her farm, except for the grass that went up to the attic room. She walked out, away from the house a little bit, and looked around. Something else was different, but what was it?

She heard a sound coming from around the side of the house, so she walked around the house to find out what the sound had come from. She found a little animal, furry, blue and white, and crying.

"Hi, what's wrong?" she asked the furry blue and white creature.

"I'm lost," said the little animal.

"Well, I kind of am lost, too, I think," she said.

"What do you mean?" asked the animal.

"Well, I live in this house. My room is on the second floor. There is a third floor with the attic and another room. I was in that room and came out the window, and the grass was right below the window. It should have been a long ways down from the window. But it wasn't. I'm confused," she said as she sat down next to the creature.

"Hmm, that sounds very strange to me. That thing you call a house is the same as always, it never does anything, it just sits there like it is right now," said the little animal.

"No, my mom and my dad come in and out, I go out and come back in, the babysitter is in there right now. Other people come in and go out also," she told the animal.

"Well, I don't know about any of that. You are the first and only creature of your type I have seen here," the little guy said.

The little girl stood up and looked around at the land around her, and said, "You see, this is my farm, my house, I live in there". She went up to the front door and tried to open it but it wouldn't open. "that's strange, the door won't open," she said.

The little animal said, "I've never seen it open before."

"Do you live around here?" she asked.

"Yes, in those trees over there, but it's a long ways for me to go there alone, will you go with me?" the little animal asked.

"Okay, I will, let's go," said the girl.

They started walking away from the house and out into the yard, then out of the yard and into the former vegetable field. Out in the middle were a couple trees. Her father never removed them because he liked the way they looked in the middle of the field.

She walked out to the trees with the little guy and when they arrived five others came running down from the branches above, chirping, or whistling. Talia didn't know what to think of the sounds they were making. The little blue and white creatures started rubbing noses with each other. She thought they must have been happy to have this one back home with them. They all climbed up the tree trunks and disappeared into the branches.

Talia started walking back towards the house, then she stopped, looked at it more intensely, and she said to herself, "How strange! The house is three floors again, and I can't get up to the window!"

She walked back and as she approached the house the view of the house changed and instead of walking up to the back door she walked right up to the attic room window. She stopped at the window, peered inside, then looked around her, at the ground, and wondered what happened to the rest of the house. But she couldn't figure it out.

She thought it must be getting late so she climbed back into the house through the window and went back to her own bedroom. Then she remembered her mother told her dinner would be ready in just a few minutes so she ran downstairs and sat at the table.

"Mom, where's Dad? I thought dinner was ready," said Talia.

Her mother said, "I said five minutes, sweetie, it's only been a few seconds since I was in your room."

*** The Passing Years ***

Over the next months the little girl was busy with school and the holidays and didn't have a chance to return to the secret room. When she did finally get the chance for another exploration she couldn't get into the room. Her father had locked the door after he had noticed it had been opened.

As the years went by and she grew up Talia forgot about the secret room and her one visit to the unusual land outside the window that looked like a painting.

After she finished college she went away to live in the city and work, and was soon bringing up a little girl of her own.

When she was in her early 60's her husband died of cancer. With her daughter living her own life in another city the woman was alone. One day she remembered her childhood home and the secret room. She wondered if it still existed.

*** Sixth Exploration ***

Talia drove out to the farm where she grew up and found the house she was born in. She was excited to see it was still standing and appeared to be in reasonably good condition. She walked around the house, looked in the barn and the garage and knocked on the door, but there seemed to be nobody in the place.

She stood in the back yard and looked around at the farm, the fields were now overgrown with weeds, the trees hadn't been pruned in many years, but the special trees the little blue and white creatures lived in still looked just as she remembered. She looked up at the window to her bedroom, and above it the window to the secret room. She wanted to get in there again. She went around to the front of the house and tried to open the front door but it was locked. She went back to the back of the house and tried the patio door, and it opened, though not easily.

She stood quietly for a minute wondering if she should enter the old house. She called out, "Anybody here?" No response. She called out louder, "Is anybody home?" No answer.

She stepped into the house and looked around. It was dirty but still in a condition that could be easily cleaned and made livable, she thought. She walked into the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and the memories came flooding back into her mind. There was the oven that baked those wonderful chocolate-chip cookies. And there was the fridge that held the fresh milk from the 2 milk cows they had. And in a cabinet above the fridge she found a jar that had stored the hard candies she loved when she was a young girl. Her father kept it in that high cabinet so she couldn't get into it without permission.

She made her way up the stairs, now creaking with every step she placed on them, and found her bedroom. It looked just like she remembered. There were still the small drawings she made with crayons on the wall where her bed had been.

After a few minutes of reminescing in her former bedroom she walked down the hall and up the other stairs, the ones that led to the attic and the secret room above hers. She stood at the door, reached for the doorknob, and remembered the last time she tried it it was locked. This time it turned, not easily, but it did turn.

She turned the knob, and turned it some more, and it snapped and broke, probably from the many years of disuse. The door creaked open. She peered into the dark room, remembering those few times exploring the room. Then she saw the chair. The dark, very old, leather, over-stuffed chair that was so comfortable for her when she was a little girl. She walked over to it, brushed off some of the dust, and sat down into the chair. The chair was one that a person sat into, no simply on. It enveloped and caressed the person in a subtle leather and an, apparently, everlasting cushion of whatever it had in it. Whatever it was, she thought it was the most comfortable chair she had ever sat in.

Sitting in the chair, with the memories flooding her mind, she stared out the window. She smiled, remembering the little creature she met and helped find its way back to its own home. She stood up, walked to the window, and reached one leg over the sill. Then she reached her other leg over the sill and sat on the window sill. She could feel the tingling, tickling all over her body, just like all those years before.

She looked down, laughed, and let herself drop to the lush green grass just a few feet below. She walked away from the house a few steps, turned to look at the house, and saw that the grass was just below the upper floor win dow she came out of. She walked a little further away, towards the old trees in the field, turned and looked, and the house appeared normal, she could see all 3 floors. She wondered about that for a minute, then turned around and walked towards the trees.

When she arrived at the trees a furry blue and white creature came down from the tree and said, "Hi, how are you?"

"Oh, Hi," replied Talia with a little surprise in her voice, "I'm, I'm quite well, thank you."

"I'm glad you're back, we've missed you," said the creature.

"I'm glad to be back, also," said Talia, smiling. She sat down under the tree and took a nap with the little blue and white creatures.