Prefaces suck. Against my better judgment, though, I have decided that a preface is necessary for expressing an important point.
So, what is this big point? What is this totally all powerful point that needs mentioned in the dreaded preface?
The point is that life isn’t always exciting. It’s not packed with thrill, suspense, and mystery. It’s−
Actually…nevermind… I’m lying.
The real point is that one must be willing to embrace the struggles of life to find their own excitement. There’s no easy path to success or brilliance.
Some people never go on this mission. They live in a state of hope, lost and desperately awaiting thrill.
The same was true of my own adventure: It didn’t come to me, I came to it.
A Tale of Ruined Cities
I can’t play video games for the rest of my life. I can’t read books for the rest of my life. I can’t watch TV for the rest of my life.
If I can’t do any of those things, what can I do with my life?
I, Gabe Wolfwood, am tired of being bored.
After 17 years of absolutely nothing happening, I’m fed up with just about everything. Something. Has. To. Happen.
Part of my mind believes that if I simply wish hard enough adventure will drop from the sky. But instead I’m just sitting on my couch. Bored.
I toss a game controller onto the pile beside me of rejected pastimes; it joins all the books I’m supposed to be reading, my phone, laptop, and some food.
The food is the only valuable thing in the pile.
Seeing as I’m nearing insanity, I turn to plan B.
“Mom!” I yell.
“What, Gabe?” she says from somewhere upstairs.
“Give me something to do.”
“You could fold some laundry−”
“I meant something fun.”
“But that is fun.”
Ugh. She doesn’t understand.
My dad then comes around the corner. He looks annoyed, an expression I’m no stranger to.
“Hun,” he yells upstairs.
“Yes?” she replies, annoyance in her tone this time.
My dad doesn’t notice her tone, but instead asks, “How old is Marsh Tailor’s daughter?”
Marsh Tailor is our neighbor, if that clears anything up. I used to be close with her kids, Fawn and Conrad.
Now that he’s caught my interest, I get up and join him where he stands at the window. “Do you mean Fawn?”
He nods. “Yeah… She’s about your age, isn’t she? Short? Red headed?”
I shake my head. “She’s my age, but she has brown hair.” At least she had brown hair five years ago…
“Well, a girl just walked through the backyard and into the woods. I thought it might be her.”
In my dad’s voice I detect the usual note of suppressed annoyance he exudes around me. It’s rare that my dad and I are on civil terms. Yeah, I’m just another person with ‘daddy problems’, but really, who doesn’t have them?
“I don’t think that would be her,” I say. I shuffle through the pile of rejects to grab my phone and jacket. “I’ll go check it out, though.”
“Whoa,” he says. “No, just let it be.”
“Considering we live in the middle of nowhere, don’t you find it a little sketchy that people are wandering around the woods? I’ll be right back.”
My older brother Arthur walks in then, catching the end of my statement. “What’s going on?”
Inspired, my dad nods back at him, “At least go with Arthur.”
“No,” Arthur and I say at the same time.
Wait, why is Arthur saying no? He doesn’t even know what he’s declining!
“I’ll be fine!” I say. I don’t allow them a chance to argue, but instead grab some shoes and slip out the back door before they even bat an eye.
Meanwhile, if you put me outdoors, I can promise an amusing—and pitiful—experience. There will be tripping, sliding, choking, groaning, and at least a pound of bug spray that won’t work on my ‘delicate’ skin.
But even with all that, it’s still better than sitting at home with my family.
I’m supposed to be looking for this girl, but I just can’t focus on the task. Being outdoors really makes me think, and I don’t mean normal thinking. I mean the hardcore kind of thinking.
The main thing I think about is why I’m wandering through the woods, alone, chasing some girl that my dad ‘says’ he saw…?
Then, a few minutes into my pondering walk I go tripping over something.
One second I’m meditating over how creepy it is that this girl just appeared the next I’m sprawled across the dirt ground. Great.
I look back and a big bundle of fabric is lying by my feet.
I blink at it a few times and decide that it is in fact real, but it shouldn’t be. I seriously live in the middle of nowhere and that fabric looks freshly bought.
I’m not big on the whole, ‘Stay active and go outside!’ thing, but I’ve been down this trail before. Never has mysterious…fabric… appeared.
Oh my gosh! Maybe the girl brought it! (I’m kidding… I think.)
Dusting myself off, I kick the bundle to get a better look at it.
It’s just normal yellow fabric.
Looking to the path ahead now, I see that there are more scraps further on. Now would be a fantastic time to turn back, but I can’t contain my curiosity at what lies at the end of this bread crumb trail.
Following the path, I come to a meadow with an overgrown dirt road spread before me.
As I look around, I attempt to process a realistic conclusion: Should I be questioning how I missed such an obvious path in the woods? Should I be questioning why the path’s here? Or should I be questioning why I’m not sprinting for home yet?
Skirting either side of the road is a decaying fence and behind the left fence is a large wooden slab that says:
Let’s take a moment to analyze that.
‘Die’ doesn’t sound very good… It looks like a different language, but who am I to trust that assumption? It literally says ‘die!’
Okay, now would be a good time to turn around.
I’m about to turn around, when a sound further ahead draws my attention: a feminine scream.
Any smart person would run for their life.
I’m not a smart person.
Plus, I don’t have a choice! What if the red headed girl is in trouble? Maybe I could save her!
Hence, I keep going.
The further I get, the weirder it gets. Not ‘weird’ like crashed UFO’s, vampires, and quiet study halls, but a different sort of weird. There’s stuff on the ground that I can’t explain; totally random stuff like tattered blue ribbons, precious jewels, and a bear claw.
That’s not all, either.
As I come to the peak of an incline, the forest transforms from the home of trees to a small village.
The buildings are decrepit and overgrown, but the outlines of mossy stone walls and doorways remain. Out of this rubble a once lively town is depicted.
The road I’ve stumbled upon stretches far beyond my view. Taking a guess, I’d say this ‘village’ is actually the size of a small neighborhood.
I don’t know where to start, but curiosity brings me to inspect a decrepit well. I’m peering into the dark depths when I hear footsteps behind me. I spin so fast that I nearly fall in. I hadn’t realized how fast my breathing was getting, but now it echoes in my head.
I freeze and watch the path. I know it should be the girl so it’s nothing to worry about… unless that’s exactly what I should be worried about. The girl was stalking our house, maybe waiting to lure me into the woods so she could kill me! I don’t know what reason she has to kill me, but she could!
I’m literally on the verge of screaming when I hear: “Gabe?”
IT KNOWS MY NAME!
But wait… I know that voice.
I relax into the fuzzy green side of the well. The voice belongs to Conrad Tailor, my aforementioned neighbor, and childhood best friend.
I focus my eyes on the nearing figure. I imagine my face is as pale as paper, but I can’t get it to revert back to normal. The only other color it would likely become is red with my embarrassment.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that,” I say, glaring with faux spite as Conrad comes into view. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Nice to see you, too,” Conrad says. His eyes skim the village around us.
“Well it has only been five years.”
I’m not kidding. It’s actually been five years…
“Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were children?” I continue.
He snorts, but he’s still not really listening. “What is this place?”
“Guess it really was five years ago.” I shrug, as if to myself, before growing serious and looking his way. “I’m really not sure. The sign says Die Bibliothek, whatever that means… Wait, why are you here?”
“I just saw you come into the woods and followed, I guess.” He sounds like he has no more idea than I. “I was wondering what you were doing.”
“Following some girl,” I mumble. “Don’t give me that look. She was walking around our house so I came to find her, but now I have no idea where she went.”
Now to clear up on a subject I touched earlier: Conrad is an old friend of mine. We have one of those situations where we lived most of our lives like brothers only to have our little family ripped apart soon after its creation.
That doesn’t matter now, though.
“What do you think of this place?” I ask in an effort to keep the awkwardness away.
He’s already heading off to explore, but he spares me a glance. “It looks like a village.”
“Thank you for that beautiful description,” I say, but he only shrugs.
Maybe he can submit to a simple answer, but I need facts and real information; especially when this place seems to have walked straight out of a creepy children’s book.
The whole ‘village’ looks like it’s been sitting here for centuries. Nature has quiet obviously overgrown the collapsed brick homes and the ground is covered in a carpet of dead leaves. Nonetheless, it’s a little awe inspiring. Who’da’thunk there was a whole village merely half a mile from my back door?
I glance back at Conrad to say, “It looks like something out of a Fairy Tale. Die Bibliothek.”
“You can’t just say the name dramatically to make it sound more important. And Fairy Tales?” He pauses to glances inside the well. Looking back up at me, he says, “If only we weren’t in Butler, Pennsylvania.”
I glare at him. “At least I’m making observations.”
“And I’m stating the facts.”
Contrary to his tone, his concentration isn’t on me. He’s peering through a mess of collapsed beams into what must have once been a home. “What is that?”
“What−” I begin but stop when we hear someone yell his name.
I recognize the voice. Its Conrad’s older sister, Fawn.
“What’d you do,” I say, “Invite the whole neighborhood?”
Conrad shakes his head. “She doesn’t trust me to breathe without telling her what I’m doing, so I imagine she’s here to drag my ass back−”
“Hey!” I say in shock. “Watch the language, freshman!”
He sticks his tongue out like a five year old. “Drag my butt back home.” With that he begins to trudge after his sister.
As I follow him, I ask, “Is there a reason you came out here other than curiosity?” Curiosity is usually the only reason he needs to do something but maybe in the last couple years he’s changed.
“It was just a rash decision thing,” he tells me. “I was in the mood.”
I was wrong. He hasn’t changed.
“So what have you been up to?” he asks. I can tell he’s trying to catch up with me, but I’m not really a catch up person.
“Oh you know,” I say. “Reading books, knitting sweaters.”
“Conrad-whoa!” There’s the rustling of leaves and a loud thud.
Conrad looks to me and sighs, shaking his head in defeat. I shrug and we take off running for Fawn.
“Fawn?” I yell as I jump on top of a log to glance around. “Where are you?”
I spin so fast I topple off my log and set off a cacophony of dead leaves.
“Behind you…” she says.
“Thanks,” I say, throwing my arms up. I lift my eyes to glare at her, but catch sight of something else.
Right beside my head is a huge foot print. It’s the size of a tire! I glance back to see if the others noticed, but when I look away the leaves shift and I lose sight of it.
Scrambling to my feet, I kick the leaves aside, but it’s gone.
It’s like I hallucinated, just like I’m beginning to think my dad hallucinated this girl.
“So, uh, Gabe?” Fawn asks. Her voice cuts through my inner panic. “What are you doing out here?”
“I- I don’t know.” I say. I’m pretty sure I’m not looking for the girl anymore.
After sparing me a conflicted glance, Fawn turns her focus back on Conrad.
“And what are you doing out here?” she says. “You could have gotten killed or lost or something! You can’t just leave−”
I tune out the rest while I head back up the incline to Die Bibliohek. As if pulled by a string, Fawn and Conrad follow me.
Those two have a pretty rough life, you could say. They’re parents are divorced (so typical, I know) and they never see their dad. But I guess that isn’t really a bad thing, considering he’s not held at a very high esteem by anyone…at all…
Fawn took it pretty bad when they divorced. She was only in sixth grade when it happened, but even I, a seventh grader at the time, remember the change in her attitude.
Like normal children that live in the same neighborhood, we played outside together and had sleepovers and all that “typical neighborhood kid” stuff. One day Fawn’s chasing me through the woods, laughing, and making fun of the dorky glasses I used to wear (and still wear). The next day, she won’t even come outside. Weeks passed before I even saw her again, and when I did, she was acting all funky. She seemed scared of the wind, skinnier, and she talked less.
Since then, I’ve only seen her at family picnics and school. At neither place do we actually talk.
Now I can see that she seems to have improved. For instance, I didn’t think I’d ever see her flip out on Conrad again and here we are!
Although, I can still see this look in her eye now that screams she doesn’t trust anyone after what her dad did.
I can’t say I blame her.
“…Gabe was out here too, Fawn. I’m perfectly safe!”
At the sound of my name I look back. “Don’t you bring me into this!”
Conrad makes a face at me and Fawn’s avoiding looking at me all together. Her cheeks are edged with red like she’s embarrassed to speak to me.
I prop myself on the edge of the well and eye the two siblings. I smile a bit at their bickering.
“Why aren’t you yelling at Gabe, too?” Conrad asks Fawn, flailing his arms in my direction.
As I watch her, though, I realize she’s no longer listening. Her eyes go wide. It seems to me that she’s finally taken a look around.
“Wh- what is this place?” she asks. She steps over a rabbit’s foot with a horrified look on her face.
“Die Bibliothek,” I say, butchering the pronunciation. I point to the sign behind us. “I think it’s German.”
“We really should leave,” she says, eyes flickering about the forest. “This place is creepy.”
See, that’s the paranoia I told you about. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything these days.
Yet her fear might not be misdirected this time… Just as we grow silent, a growl rips its way through the area followed by the crack of wood and rustling of leaves.
Like a skittish deer, Fawn scrambles back, tripping over her own feet. Meanwhile, my heart momentarily stops and judging by the expression on Conrad’s face, I’m not alone.
I look around, moving my head carefully as if to not catch the attention of any nearby beasts.
Just like the path we took to get here, our surroundings are littered with the strangest things: Metal objects balancing on rooftops, large boiling pots sitting in broken windows, and−
“Conrad, leave that alone,” I hiss in a whisper that may or may not be necessary. The boy has a stick in his hand and he’s using it to poke a tiny crystal shoe.
He looks up at me like I’m crazy. “Why? It’s just a shoe.”
“Oh,” I say sarcastically as I take the stick from him. “Just a normal crystal shoe! Perfect to poke with a stick. Who cares that we just found it in the middle of the forest in a deserted town that shouldn’t exist?!”
“Don’t forget the monsters,” Fawn squeaks.
“Exactly,” I say, throwing my hands up.
Conrad disregards my warning and stoops down to stare at it. “There’s crap all over the place. What could one shoe do?”
“Set off a booby trap or give you some disease!” Fawn says. She gives me a worried looks. “Please, let’s just get out of here.”
Just as she says that, a boulder goes flying over our heads. It soars into a building and crushes it like a wimpy gingerbread house.
I think back to the giant footprint I saw earlier. Maybe it wasn’t a trick of the light…
“Guys,” I say. “I saw−”
I don’t get to finish because just then another rock comes into view, headed straight for us. Conrad is the first to see it so he shoves Fawn and I to one side and dives to the other. As the rock soars mere centimeters over the well, I note that I would have been decapitated if it weren’t for Conrad.
Fawn and I get to our feet and make a run for one of the still standing buildings. Halfway there, I glance back for Conrad and realize that he’s not following.
“Holy smoking shnikees−” I gasp. My feet come to an abrupt halt and Fawn stumbles into me. She spins and turns white when she sees the trouble Conrad’s in.
A ˗no joke˗ Bigfoot has hold of Conrad.
He must not have had enough time to run because, as we watch, the Bigfoot snatches up Conrad in one thick hand, and throws him. He flies through the air a moment just before slamming into the groundand sprawling out like a rag doll. Thank goodness the Bigfoot had the decency to aim at shrubs, but either way, Conrad isn’t moving.
“Conrad!” Fawn yells. She starts to run for him and I follow with my eyes on the beast.
What can we do? It will catch us if we try running home. Can we fight it? Well unless Fawn has a bazooka hidden away somewhere I don’t see what chance we have of winning.
The… Bigfoot… is about 7 feet tall. It stands on two legs with dark brown hair all over its body. I can’t even see its eyes through all the hair.
Then again, it can surely see us right now, and that’s all that matters.
At first it looks like the animal is going to keep its distance and let us fret around our injured friend, but then it starts towards us. Instead of simply lumbering around it starts running.
Isn’t there some saying about how you don’t have to run faster than what’s chasing you, just faster than one other person? I don’t know why that saying hits me now, but it’s a little ironic. I could surely run faster than short little Fawn, but that wouldn’t win me any friendship points.
So, what’s plan B?
Is there even a point for a plan B?
I kind of like the idea of just running for my life and hoping the beast gets bored with me. Yet, I should maybe try something a bit more productive. Like…
Throwing large rocks. That’s always smart, right?
I stoop and pick up a stone the size of my fist. With the Bigfoot gaining on me, I chuck the rock at its face. My missile soars through the air, misses the animals face, and hits him in the stomach instead. To my dismay, plan B has little effect on our attacker.
With no other option, I turn and sprint to Conrad. Fawn is already there, trying to pull the boy to his feet, but he’s shaking his head.
“Come on,” she hisses. She tugs harder, but he’s pointing at something.
“What is it?” I say, glancing between him and the Bigfoot.
He wiggles out of Fawn’s grasp and picks up something copper colored. He holds it up for us to see, but as soon as both his hands make contact, he disappears.
I stare in horror at the spot from which he left. Meanwhile, the copper object drops anti-climactically back to the ground. Looking more closely I note that the… thing… is shaped like a gravy boat.
“Oh… oh my−” Fawn says.
“Conrad just disappeared…” I gasp. “Oh my gosh! The gravy boat must have eaten him. Is he in it?!”
Then, the Bigfoot catches up. He grabs my shirt and drags me back. I stretch to grab anything to hold onto and my hands brush the lamp. Next thing I know, the ground is dropping out from under me.
“Can you do anything, you worthless child!”
How does a Chinese man, not have an accent? And why is he yelling at me? Oh, and where am I?
I was spiraling through some sort of tunnel. I couldn’t see, but my ears popped and wind tugged at my clothing. Alone, I landed smack in the middle of some argument with a Chinese guy.
“What are you talking about?” I ask now. I blink the blur from my eyes to take in the room.
It appears to be a tailor shop. There are piles of fabric on the floor and needles and thread lining small tables. The door to my left is a floral curtain.
The aging man before me wears thin green robes. His dark hair is in a frazzle on his head like he hasn’t brushed it in the last century.
Meanwhile, I definitely don’t fit into my surroundings. I’m a billboard for the twenty-first century especially with my light brown hair, freckles, and square glasses. If we’re in China, I’m not fitting in.
But my appearance aside, we seem to have left ‘Die Bibliothek’.
Here, the architecture is old and the ‘technology’ simple. Everything has a faintly Chinese aura (if you know what I mean) but none of that information is important to my current problem. At least I don’t think it is… I really don’t know.
“Can you pay attention, Aladdin?” the man hisses.
I look behind me and all around, but the two of us are the only ones here. “Aladdin,” I say skeptically. “Like…the Aladdin? Prince Ali. Fabulous he. That Aladdin?”
“What are you blabbering about?” the tailor roars.
Wait… maybe that wasn’t a gravy boat we touched. Perhaps that was the famous lamp of Aladdin. Does that make me Aladdin, then?
**Buy the full novel here**