Little Jerimiah Stevensen was half asleep, covered in a blanket of toys and stuffed animals in the living room of his grandpa Victorio’s house. It was the middle of the night and today he had celebrated his eighth birthday. Many members of his family, most of which he didn’t know, showered him with gifts and well wishes. He didn’t mind the strangers, who said they were his aunt’s or uncle’s or that one cousin twice removed from his fathers side. It was his birthday and he had gleefully opened their gifts to him left and right without question.
The night had started off peaceful, with crickets chirping outside and the slight rustling of the wind chimes from the porch of the house. Jerimiah’s mother, Issabella, was now soundly sleeping in her bedroom upstairs, exhausted from today’s festivities. His grandpa on the other hand had left earlier to run a few important errands nearby. This had disappointed Jerimiah greatly.
There was a sudden rumble and the ground shook rapidly. The old wood of the house creaked and moaned as it shifted from the anomalous movement. Jerimiah groggily repositioned himself in the pile of toys, knocking several marbles free to roll across the hardwood floors. Just a little earthquake Jerimiah thought sleepily. No reason for him to wake up, as these were a common occurrence at his grandpa’s place in California.
The ground rumbled again, jolting the living room harder. An aftershock perhaps. Jerimiah didn’t bother to open his eyes, but listened to the house recover from the shaking. There was another rumbling, followed by a loud Boom! Jerimiah bolted upright in a panic as that was all he could take, his heart racing from the shock of the final, loud sound.
He nearly drop a small locked wooden box that he had been holding onto tightly. It was wrapped in a simple blue bow with a card that said, “From Grandpa.” He remembered now that his grandpa had promised to show him how to open the box when he returned home later that day. It was to be a game that his grandpa had setup just for his birthday. However, he waited forever for him and ended up passing out clenching the box to his chest. He squeezed the box into his pajamas pocket for safe keeping.
The ground roared into life again. Three times in a row, but that one was louder and accompanied with flashes of light, flickering against the walls of the living room like an old movie projector. Jerimiah thought it may have been a thunder storm, which was strange, since weather had been beautiful and sunny all day for his birthday. His mother even rented a big inflatable pool for everyone to enjoy, which everyone did until his little cousin Dedrick jumped into the pool, puncturing the sides with a wooden sword he had been waving around recklessly. There went the swimming and the security deposit.
“Mommy, are you awake?” Jerimiah shouted, half hoping she would respond. There was no reply nor any movement upstairs. She must be beyond exhausted to sleep through all this racket.
Again the sound rattled through the house, causing dishes to clank noisily against each other on the dining room table. Jerimiah could now tell the source of this ruckus was coming from the backyard. If it wasn’t an earthquake or a thunder storm then what was it and where was his grandpa at? The curiosity of it overcame any fear he may have felt earlier. Grudgingly he crawled out from under the pile of toys, squishing a bright yellow stuffed animal that went ‘Pika Pika’ as he stood up and bravely hobbled over to the kitchen.
For a kitchen, it was unusually small, with a big granite counter taking up most of the space in the center. It was overwhelmingly crowded with a half eaten cake, several pies and torn gift packages scattered across the surface. His mother was so busy today, she had decided to leave everything to be taken care of in the morning. He was tempted to sneak another slice of his birthday cake, but he still needed to find the source of the ruckus that woke him.
Jerimiah did his best to maneuver around the debris quietly, he didn’t want to wake his mother needlessly over a simple earthquake, and carefully made his way towards the window that was just over the sink facing the backyard. As he approached the window, the loud rumbling had cease, but now he could now hear muffled voices coming from outside. Though the sound was stifled, he could tell whomever they were, they were arguing. He took a stool from next to the kitchen counter and climbed on top to see who was making all this noise.
An old six-paned window overlooked Grandpa Victorio’s backyard, which was Jerimiah’s favorite place to play. It had well maintained grass, large fluffy bushes at the end to hide in and a giant oak tree with a tire swing his grandpa had built for him. But there was one place he found creepy towards the end of the backyard, just past the bushes, was an ivy-covered shack.
The shack looked ancient in Jerimiah’s eyes, with muddied windows, a blackened roof and ragged weeds that claimed most of the ground surrounding it. The only saving grace was it’s dark-stained wooden doors. It reminded him of the gates to a grand castle. Two half doors came together in an arch on the top and are held on either side with elaborate black iron hinges. But it was the unique engravings that drew his attention. Strange and spidery carved-designs weaved themselves along the edges of the door and down the center. It was odd, but if he stared at it long enough he could swear he saw them move and squirm about the surface of the doors.
Tonight however there was a different scene outside. Through the window, Jerimiah could make out three figures at the end of the backyard near that old shack. One was most definitely his grandpa, still in the clothes he wore earlier in the day, but the other two were strangers to him. They both wore weathered red and black hooded cloaks that hide most of their features this far away. The person on the left was about the height of his grandpa but the one on the right was much taller, stout with broad shoulders.
The voices were still muffled by the window. Determined to find out more, Jerimiah leaned over and managed to pry it open without falling off the stool. A flood of voices flooded through.
“…and your magic is feeble now, Victorio!” said the smaller man in a raspy voice, “Just give me what I want now and perhaps I won’t experiment with that boy!” he pointed towards the house. “Yes, I know he is of your blood and you plan to give him your inheritance. We have been watching you for sometime now.”
Victorio gasped, his eyes widening in shock then anger. “Don’t you dare think of touching him, Selok!” he said with a strained voice.
Victorio pulled out from his jacket what looked like a long twisted gray stick. He held It firmly from a wrapped leather handle and pointed the other end directly at Selok, the tip glowed a fierce deep blue. “I will not hesitate to protect my family, Selok!”
Jerimiah couldn’t understand what was going on in front of him. Whoever these strangers were, they had threatened him and now his grandpa had some weird flashlight pointed at one of them. Exactly how was he going to protect him with that? He should of ran to wake his mother, but he didn’t. He had only one thought in his little head. He needed to get closer.
Jerimiah was able to push off of the stool, though it took a bit of a struggle, sending it crashing to the ground as he crawled up on the sink. He repositioned himself and used all his strength to lift the window up and stuck his head out, taking care not to be seen. He quickly looked for a way down and saw a window planter just outside, used it as leverage and managed to land on his butt as he fell out and into the backyard.
It took a few seconds for Jerimiah’s senses to return as he had landed on part of the box that he still had in his pocket. His rear was burning now but everything else had starting to freeze. He was only in his Batman pajamas and he hadn’t realized that it had started to drizzle as a pale fog crept in from the cold air of the night.
“..I dare ya to try something Victorio!” bellowed the taller man, who was now standing between Victorio and Selok.
Jerimiah almost forgot where he was, he needed to hide quickly before he was spotted. He got up on his feet and tip-toed over to one of his favorite hiding spots, a trio of large bushes near the shack, while his grandpa had the strangers distracted. Though from the outside it looked like one large bush, Jerimiah knew that they were actually three of them that had woven themselves together as they had grown, creating a perfect hollowed spot where a boy could hide without being seen. He quietly crawled within and watched the scene unfold further in silence.
“Blake…. Is that really you? I thought you were dead,” Victorio asked, his voice struggling. “By the elements, what have you done to yourself…?!”
Blake only gave a monstrous grin and laughed.
Victorio stepped back, waving the stick in two half circles while muttering in some strange language. The stick lit up blue again and a bolt of energy vaulted from it towards the ground in front of Blake. The ground trembled in the familiar rumbling sound that Jerimiah had experienced before. His heart was pounding now, something was not right, yet he felt compelled to keep watch and listen.
Leafy vines suddenly erupted from the ground, lashing around violently in the air before wrapping themselves around Blake. The tall man struggled for a few moment as the vines tightened their grip on him. Blake showed no sign of concern, in fact he seemed to be having fun as the vines suddenly fell apart in front of him in several burning pieces. Jerimiah saw why. Blake had removed a slender knife from his glove and cut through the vines with ease. The knife’s blade was a translucent red and seemed to flicker as if it were on fire.
Selok cackled. “You see Victorio, your magic is worthless as are your wands,” Selok pointed ringed finger at Victorio. “And now watch again my power.”
Selok jerked his hand forward, exposing his palm to Victorio. His had emitted a rippling beam of red light that shot straight at Victorio, who raised his stick defensively. The stick lit brightly like a tiny sun upon contact with the red light and exploded into thousands of tiny burning fragments.
Victorio was flung back against the shack from the power of the explosion, forcing him to his knees when he hit the ground. He was breathing heavily now with bits of his clothing smoking from the blast.
Jerimiah was in shock, gawking at what was in front of him. Am I dreaming? Jerimiah thought, too scared to speak a word. Was this magic or was he still asleep dreaming that he was in some video game he had once played. No this was really happening and his grandpa was in trouble. He pushed out from the bushes, though he was scared, and ran towards his grandpa, screaming, “Stop! Leave my grandpa alone!”
Victorio was the first to see Jerimiah come barreling out from the bushes. His face was contorted in both surprised and horror. No! Not now!. But it was too late, he only had one option left. He placed his hands on the door to the shack, closed his eyes, and started chanting furiously.
Brilliant beams of light cascaded out from all seams, cracks, and flaws of the shack. Jerimiah felt strange as the light hit him. Curiously everything around him moved in slow motion, including himself. The two strangers were turning towards him like a pair of sloths stuck in a pool of jelly, their faces slowly contorting in anger.
Jerimiah finally had a good view at the two men. Selok looked like an old gentlemen you might see in some country club, with wrinkled pale skin. neatly cropped white hair with matching goatee and a silver monocle held firmly at his eye. Blake, however, reminded JT of some mutated shark, with scattered red hair, skin that had been stretched too tightly over his face, and a row of oddly sharp teeth.
Victorio stopped chanting briefly and looked directly at Jerimiah. His face was tired, with sweat pouring from his forehead and looked like he hadn’t had a good nights sleep in days. He furrowed his brow and nodded towards Jerimiah as if to ask if his grandson was om. Jerimiah nearly tripped over his feet, suddenly returning to normal speed and came to a skidding stop.
“I am so sorry Jerimiah,” Victorio said weakly. “I was going to explain so many things to you tonight ….things you need to know...now there is no time.”
Victorio stood up, removed one hand from the door and pointed it at Jerimiah. The box Jerimiah had with him sprung out from his pocket and opened with a click!. Inside was a rough black stone that dangled from a chain of silver. The box fell onto the ground but the chain remained floating in front of Jerimiah before suddenly latching itself loosely around his neck.
“Wh-what is th-this grandpa?” stuttered Jerimiah. “Whats g-going on, who are those men?”
The light pouring out of the shack started to flicker, time had started to return to normal and the two strangers started to speed up. Selok was raising his hand at Victorio again while Blake was pushing his way towards Jerimiah.
“Jerimiah, there isn’t time left, so listen to me carefully,” Victorio said, pointing towards Jerimiah. “That stone is your key. Seek out my true gift to you as it will seek you out in turn. Keep your mother safe and make me proud.”
Victorio smiled one last time, his eyes glistening in the light, and placed his hand back onto the doors of the shack before shouting a single command. The flickering light grew in strength once more, brighter and brighter until everything was only white.
The voices of Selok and Blade screaming were the last things Jerimiah heard before everything went black and silent.