by Ryan Hansen
Chapter 2 of my novel. Rex searches for treasure. But what kind of treasure?
|As daylight broke Rex awoke and lay in bed for a few moments. It took a while for his mind to begin processing his surroundings. He was alone and sunlight was filling his bedroom, revealing his room in much more detail than he remembered last night. The clutter of dirty clothes, books, and food scraps that had been masked by the dark of night, were now visible. Actually, now that he had gained his full mental capacity, it didn’t seem to be the same room at all. The curtains that he remembered bringing in blue moonlight were drawn and tied with neat little bows. The closet door, which had contained the horrible creature, was now closed. Maybe last night hadn’t happened at all; maybe it had all been a horrible dream? Rex couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a dream vivid enough for him to remember. He guessed that even though the events of last night seemed frighteningly real, it had all been his imagination. This realization was comforting to him, and put him in a good mood instantly. Rex wasn’t normally a morning person but today felt like a great day.
As he pulled on some clothes that looked as though they could pass as clean, he suddenly remembered something. Today was his sixteenth birthday. In all of the drama he had completely forgotten. He made a small, audible chuckle. He had to be the youngest person ever to forget his own birthday.
Sixteen was a big deal because it meant he was finally old enough to get his drivers license. Rex had wanted to drive since he could grasp a toy steering wheel with his two pudgy baby arms. Who knows, maybe he will even get his own car today. For a brief moment, Rex actually believed in this possibility. But as he glanced down at his simple bed, with its hand stuffed goose-down mattress and handcarved wooden frame, he was reminded of his place in life.
He lived with his father and sister on a farm. Corporate farms and technology had marched forward in progress and left their farm and others like it as outdated memories, historical landmarks. The large corporate farms could produce in a day what Rex's family's little operation produced in a year. Luckily there were people in the world that felt no food could compare to organically grown, natural food. However his family didn’t grow it that way by choice. Pesticide and hormone injected fertilizers are expensive. But this worked to their advantage and because of their niche market, Rex's family was able to make a living. Unfortunately, that meant simply surviving and left little room for enjoying life. The money they earned went mostly to pay for land taxes and repairs the aging farm desperately needed. Everything they owned was either handcrafted by Rex’s father, or handed down through the generations.
Three loud taps at the door ripped Rex from his pity party. He rose from his bed and opened the door only to find no one there. Rex thought he must be going crazy. Dreaming of people standing in his room at night and now hearing knocks produced by phantoms? As he was shutting the door, a white piece of paper caught his eye as it fluttered in the draft. He pulled it down and began to read the scribbled handwriting that he recognized as his father’s.
Happy 16th Birthday. I know that this day marks an important age, so I wanted to do something special for you this year. The gift I have for you is something very special to me, and I know it will mean a lot to you as well. However, like everything else in life, it won’t come to you without some effort. So today you are going to have to embark on a journey of sorts. Sit down, have some breakfast and Amadis will tell you more.
Rex was filled with excitement at the prospect of a gift. On past birthdays, the only gift he received was a day off from chores. Thoughts of what this gift could be swirled through his head. His father said in the letter that it was something very special to him, so that discounted the possibility of a car. On the other hand, could his father have had a car of his own as a young boy, and simply never mentioned it to Rex? Maybe he had restored a classic corvette as a labor of love for his son! He laughed off the possibility and sprinted downstairs toward breakfast.
As he neared the bottom of the stairs, the smell of bacon filled his nostrils. When he entered the kitchen, he saw his older sister tending to the stove. He quietly took a seat at the table near the large picture window. Amadis was too busy humming to herself to even notice he was in the room with her. Rex sat and quietly waited for her to finish cooking. He watched her hair dance along her back as she moved from side to side. It fell almost the full length of her back and had a slight curl to it. The color was not as dark as Rex’s; it was a lighter shade of brown that seemed to turn red in the sunlight. She had the figure of a young woman, while Rex had the figure of a little boy. This had always bugged Rex because they were only a year apart, and yet she always looked more mature. She had soft features and smooth skin that looked as though the sun would only touch it with care. Rex, on the other hand, had sharp and bony features and dark skin that looked as though the sun commanded an all out assult. Rex had always teased Amadis about the slight curves in her hips; he knew it was mean, but he was her little brother and he felt it his duty to point out her flaws.
Honestly looking at her now, he thought that she looked pretty, as pretty as a sister could be, he supposed. He imagined that she must look a lot like their mother. Their mother had left them when he was very young. His memory of her, in particular what she looked like, had faded over time until Rex was sure that the woman he pictured in his mind was only a patchwork of different women he had encountered in his life to this point. Still, Amadis had less resemblance to himself and their father, so the logical assumption was that her looks must have come from their mother.
“How long have you been sitting there gawking at me?” Amadis asked. Her question caught Rex by surprise since she had not yet turned her head to see him.
“Have you grown eyes in the back of your head to compliment your freaky personality?” Rex provoked.
“Just because it is your birthday does not mean that I am going to give courtesy laughs to your usual lame jokes, Runt”. Amadis had called him Runt since he could remember. She used the name to poke fun at Rex’s small frame. Rex was very short and slight and he had always disliked his small stature. Deep down it irritated him to be called by that name, but he had nicknames for her so he usually let it slide. In fact, he knew just the one to get her blood boiling.
“That’s ok, Mother. I know you will laugh about it later when I am not around.” He exclaimed with satisfaction.
“Watch it punk, I am hovering over your food, and if you keep it up you will find that your eggs taste a lot like spit.”
Rex quickly changed the subject. “Where is dad?”
“He had to take a delivery to town.”
“He said that you would have something for me? A gift perhaps?”
Oozing with sarcasm, Amadis replied, “Yes, but if you remember correctly, he also said that you are going to have to work for it.”
“Well, what is that supposed to mean? Do I have to milk the cows? Do I need to feed the pigs?” Rex’s irritation was hardly hidden.
“How am I supposed to know? Dad just asked me to give you this.” In her hands was a piece of parchment paper rolled up and tied with string. The paper was wrinkled and torn on the edges. Its color was dark yellow and brown in places. which gave it the appearance of an ancient scroll. He made a move to untie the string, but his sister grabbed his hand and stopped him immediately.
“No! I am under strict instructions to force you to eat breakfast before you start this journey of geekdom.” She exclaimed. “Besides, I want you to open my gift before you get to Dad’s. I want you to remember that I actually gave you something before whatever it is Dad has given you becomes the highlight of your sad little life.”
Rex could see a softer side in his sister’s blue eyes at that moment. She quickly turned away after handing him a heavy package wrapped in brown paper. He ripped into the paper almost at the moment it was placed in his hands. He couldn’t believe what he had revealed once the paper had been torn free. There in his hands, was his very own Shrinking Safe. He had seen one in town long ago and had been amazed by intricacy of it. The safe was actually a jigsaw cube that could store a piece of paper, photo or very small object in it. It could then be twisted and turned like a rubix cube into an unassuming shape leaving the casual observer unaware of its true function. Each safe transformed into a variety of different objects so as to not give its identity away. From the picture on the box it looked like his transformed to resemble a bear. Rex just sat and stared at the packaging, unable to say a word. How could his sister afford something like this? It must have cost her a month's worth of paychecks from her waitress job in town. Amadis had been allowed to get a job of her own once she turned 15. They couldn’t afford to send her to a University so she told her father that she would get a standard job in town and save her own money to pay her way. Rex knew this wouldn’t be possible with the wages they paid teenagers, and he wondered if deep down Amadis knew this, too. Rex had always been jealous of her ability to leave the farm and skip out on chores so he usually made sure to give her a hard time for it. Now he felt a slight sting of regret for doing so.
“I know you don’t own anything worth safeguarding, but I thought you might like it,” Amadis said with a slight smirk on her face.
“I...just don’t know what to say,” Rex said. “How could you afford this?”
“That doesn’t matter. Happy Birthday, Rex.”
Rex was overwhelmed by the thought that his sister had put into his gift and the time she gave to be able to purchase it. He wasn’t usually one for affection, but this time it felt appropriate. He reached out and gave his sister a hug.
“I love you little brother,” she said with sincerity. “Now get off of me. You can play around with your new toy later, but first you need to finish your breakfast so that I can stop babysitting you.”
Rex devoured his breakfast as fast as his mouth would allow. When he was finished, he yanked the parchment from the table and headed outside. On the back porch of the house he sat on a log bench his grandfather had carved and began to unroll the paper. Slowly the writings upon the paper were visible and Rex guessed it was some sort of treasure map. Once the paper was open, however, Rex noticed a lack of pictures or symbols. What kind of treasure map didn’t contain an actual map? Toward the bottom of the parchment paper, following the vacant space where the map should have been, Rex noticed a cryptic message.
If Gold be th' booty ye seek, this map be fer someone else. Fer true gold be werth nothin’ less ‘nother man tells you tis werth somthin. The gold of this map be special gold. For it provides life fer man an' beast alike. Ye will find yersef one step closer to th' real booty 'ere the gold receives its life.
Rex was completely lost after reading this message. Rex could tell his father had included the message and strange words for the theme of a pirate treasure hunt, but it was only confusing him. “Cute dad, but not real helpful,” he thought.
If gold be th’ booty ye seek, this map be fer someone else. Rex decided that this meant that his gift definitely wasn’t money. Rex wasn’t surprised by this at all, and a part of him was relieved. If he got to the end of his little hunt and found a bag with a few coins in it buried in the ground he would be sorely disappointed. Buying your own gift just takes the fun out of gifts all together. Besides, times were tough for everyone, and Rex didn’t believe his father possessed even a single coin.
The gold of this map be special gold. For it provides life fer man an' beast alike. Rex stopped for a moment as he read this line. Grain, especially wheat, provided for their family quite a bit. In the summer Rex loved to sit on the porch and watch the wheat fields dance and sway with the breeze. In the light of the summer sun, the wheat truly looked like strands of gold. It seemed it would fit the riddle, it looked like gold and it allowed both the animals and his family to eat.
The last line still stumped him though. ‘Ye will find yerself one step closer t’ th’ real booty ‘ere ‘th gold receives its life. His first inclination was that the source of life is parents. But how does that fit his wheat hypothesis? Wheat plants come from other wheat plants, so the parents will look just like their offspring. Rex was standing on the edge of a vast ocean of the stuff. His treasure could be anywhere if that was the only clue his dad had given him, and it kind of defeated the purpose of a map all together. It would have been just as easy for his Dad to say “Your gift is a needle, and is in our hay stacks somewhere. Have fun!”
Rex wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. His father was always big on working harder than seemed necessary to earn rewards. His philosophy was that nothing in life should come easy, and being a hard worker was the best trait a person could have. Once Rex had to milk all of their dairy cows by hand because, “…the motorized pumps are broken and we can’t wait around for them to be fixed.” After Rex was finished, his father admitted that the pumps worked fine;, he just wanted to show Rex that anything could be done on your own if it had to be. Rex was still deciding if that was a worthwhile lesson, or a punishment.
Rex decided to move toward the wheat and just start walking. Anything was progress at this point, and he thought he might just get lucky and stumble upon the answer. He put his hands forward and pushed aside the tall stalks of grain and began to swim through the field . He headed north without a true plan in mind for an organized search of the fields. Even if he had a plan, there was no way he could search every inch of the farm. His family owned over 200 acres of land and the majority of it was covered in some sort of crop. He had to be missing the point of the clue. But wheat seemed to be the only answer! He continued to walk, concentrating on the puzzle, and not really paying attention to where he was going or where he had been. Suddenly he realized that he had been going in a large half circle and was standing again at the edge of the fields. This time he was on the south end of his yard, the opposite end he started from. He was about to get really annoyed with this little hunt when he realized that towering in front of him was the silo.
His father and grandfather had built the silo themselves out of brick. They made each brick from fresh clay, baked them in the sun, and stacked them one by one towards the sky. Although now it was a crumbling shadow of its former self, it was an impressive sight towering over everything for miles. Despite its weathered exterior, the family still used it to store grain for animal feed. There were more seeds in that silo than may be growing now in the fields themselves.
Rex suddenly realized that wheat seeds would fit the riddle. Seeds were the first step in a new plants growth cycle. The silo had to be where his gift was hidden! Rex was immediately overwhelmed with excitement and rushed toward the door of the silo. The door was made of solid steel and had what looked like a sailing ship’s wheel attached to it. There was also a porthole at the top of the door. Dirt caked the window and it was impossible to see in. It looked almost as if his father and grandfather had stolen the door from an ancient underwater submarine. Rex twisted the metal wheel and pulled with all of his might. The door weighed a ton and Rex had to pull with his full weight just to get it to budge,
Rex managed to pull the door open just wide enough for him to fit through. He entered the dark cavern and was immediately greeted by a musty and earthy smell. His eyes adjusted with the aid of the light seeping through the cracked door, and he began to focus on the pile of golden grain rising like great a mountain just beyond where he stood. The wheat occupied most of the floor and rose almost a hundred feet toward the ceiling. Did his father really expect him to dig through all of that for his treasure? Rex actually hoped he did, because the more he thought about it, swimming through mounds of grain sounded like a blast. Then he noticed something strange on the ground just a few feet in front of him.
An area of the floor looked recently disturbed, filled with a different type of dirt than he saw anywhere else in the silo. It almost looked like mud, but it was darker and seemed to be almost dry and sandy. That had to be where his father had stashed his treasure, because Rex didn’t see any other holes like it.. He dropped his map next to the area, and immediately began digging like a dog. The black, moist soil was light and smelled of earth. Digging farther and farther down was extremely easy. He continued to excavate the hole for a few minutes before he started to wonder if this might not be the right spot. Why else would someone dig a hole in the middle of the silo? Rex sat back onto his knees and began to reevaluate the riddle.
A breeze filtered in and began to blow the map in wild circles. In his excitement, Rex hadn’t even realized that he had let it go. The map was carried up into the air by swirling currents and then suddenly dropped. It dropped right into the hole that he had just created. Rex nabbed the map as quickly as he could. He could see that the moist soil was already staining the fragile paper of the map. He wiped the soil off but it started to smudge and leave large black marks across the paper. One of the larger smudges had made its mark in the large blank section above the riddle. The dirt didn’t seem to quite cover everything on the map, there were white lines running through the dark stain. The lines seemed to make shapes in the paper, shapes that he recognized. One of them looked like a picture of the very silo he was in. Quickly, Rex threw the map down and began burying it in the black soil. When it had been sufficiently covered, he pulled the map from the pile and began to rub the dirt off. Before his eyes, a true treasure map began to take shape. He saw the silo, the barn, a large oak tree, and a body of water all connected by a faded dotted line. Rex regained his excitement. He had a visual destination rather than cryptic riddles; a true treasure map. Rex wasn’t sure how his dad had made the map invisible like that, but it was a really cool trick which had Rex revved up for more.
The dotted line on the map led from the picture of the silo to a large oak tree. Rex was on his way and was quickly in the shade of a large tree near the chicken coop. This was the largest tree on the farm and Rex had many memories attached to it. He rested his hand on the old tire swing that he and Amadis used to play in. It was dirty from lack of use, and left a mark on Rex’s arm. On the map Rex noticed that this was his only stop between the silo and where the big red X lie. He also noticed a small black x marked for this location. There must be something here that Rex is supposed to use. Maybe his dad had left a shovel leaning against the large trunk of the tree.
The base of the tree was quite large, so he took a quick stroll around it. Unfortunately it was not hiding any shovels. Rex searched the area for more disturbed ground or a hole like the one he found in the silo. No such luck. He took another look at the tree. He vaguely remembered planting this very tree as a family. He was just four years old at the time, so his memory was a little spotty, but he did remember watching his mom and dad help each other dig the hole and lower the sapling into the ground. It was actually the last memory he had of them together. The tree had grown tall and strong in those years since. It had its scars and gouges, and it was missing a few big branches, but it had survived and it was strong. Looking at the tree, Rex felt it was a great representation of his family.
Just then Rex noticed something sticking out of a hole further up the trunk at a fork in the branches. Rex grabbed a branch and flung himself up into the tree with one swift motion. He had always been somewhat of a monkey when it came to climbing trees. Soon he was eye level with the hole in the trunk where he found another roll of parchment. He unrolled it and found a map similar to the first one. There was another blank space and more cryptic writing.
Blood be thicker than water. Blood be what binds us together. Ye will find yersef ever closer t' th' booty 'ere th' blood o' th' gold runs deep.
Rex was getting the hang of this now. Knowing his father as he did helped him almost guess the next move. ‘The blood of the gold runs deep’ must be referring to water, the only liquid that flows in wheat. The clue had to be pointing to the pond just north of the barn that had been marked on the first map. Rex used the pond as his personal swimming pool, but its true function was a reserve for irrigation. He grabbed the branch he was on and rolled off the edge. He dangled for a moment then fell to the ground and started running toward the pond. He crossed the yard in a flash, and soon he reached the muddy shore of the pond. The eager hunter began to scan the shoreline for anything that would grab his attention. He saw remnants of his past scattered along the shoreline; old fishing line, a few bits of packaging from food devoured long ago, even an old shoe. The wind picked up and the surface of the water rippled, but nothing pointed him toward his next clue.
Rex moved further around the banks of the pond. He neared a particularly thick section of willows and stumbled upon a rickety old dock. He had built this dock at only seven years old, a proud achievement in his young life. It looked a little worse for wear now, but back then he remembered it as a pristine feat of engineering. The slats of wood were farther apart than necessary, and the rag-tag bunch of boards he used to build it seemed to be trying to get as far away from each other as possible. The rope he used to bind it was frayed and giving all the strength it had left to keep the dock intact.
Despite its sad state Rex decided to walk out. It was a risk, but Rex was at home in the water and falling in was not a big concern. The dock seemed to stretch out twice as far as he remembered. He reached the edge of it as the reeds and willows gave way to a vast stretch of water. The sun reflected off endless ripples. This was his hideaway, his escape; and he instantly felt that he had been away from this spot for too long. At that moment the wind kicked up and yet again pulled both maps from his grasp and carried them into them into the air. They flew for a brief moment and then began to descend slowly toward the water. Rex lurched forward to grab them but caught himself just before he fell in headfirst. The maps landed together in the water and instantly began to pull water into their fibers. Rex knew that in a few moments the words and symbols would be lost to the pond forever, so he grabbed a nearby stick to retrieve the key to his treasure. To his surprise the papers seemed to be almost melting together. The map he had buried in the silo was dissolving into the parchment from the tree. Shapes began to form in the once blank space of the second map. The deeper they submersed beneath the waves, the more that was revealed until Rex could see a full map.
He wrapped the parchment around the stick and pulled it free from the water. He held the soggy paper against his forearms and examined the map. His father had truly surprised him again. Rex had no idea where his dad had obtained melting paper, but when this whole thing was over, he knew he wanted to find out where to get more. Rex was really excited now. If his father had access to cool gadgets like disappearing ink and transforming paper, his gift might possibly be something he had thought impossible. Maybe, just maybe, a car wasn’t out of the question.
This new map had clear symbols of a bridge, a river, and what looked like a house. Rex instantly knew this must be the fort he had built with his father when Rex was about 10 years old. He hadn’t been there in years. This was not because Rex felt he had grown too old for a childhood fort. In fact, he would sometimes stare longingly in its direction on the edge of the wheat fields as he sat high upon the tractor slowly tilling the earth. The sun would sink low, and left Rex wishing he had all the time in the world again. He and his dad had spent many afternoons and even nights working on the fort. They bonded through their dreams of building a magnificent fort that contained fantastice rooms like sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and an insect research room (Rex’s idea). But the priority of living day to day became a heavier burden with each passing year. First his father had to abandoned their master plans and eventually he pulled Rex away, too. The struggle to make a living was straining the family resources both physically and mentally. Perhaps this hunt was an attempt by his father to remember those days as well.
He shoved the wet map into his back pocket and took off around the edge of the lake and ranrunning once again into the fields. The wheat field gave way to a crop of cornstalks, and for a moment he felt lost as the stalks of corn masked the sky and horizon . Soon the corn rows broke and he came upon the old stone bridge that crossed a stream. Really, if he ran fast enough, Rex might be able to clear the ‘mighty river’ in one leap. On the other hand, the bridge did prevent any lost time due to an accidental misstep. Choosing the less risky path, he launched himself across the bridge and ran into the hills that spilled into their fields in the far northeast corner of the land. His father had always complained that the hills encroached on his precious land, citing that his own father, Rex’s grandfather, had paid too much for the deed. Rex, however, always felt that the area between the hills and the forests edge was the perfect land for a fort. He used to spend hours as a kid imagining hordes of orcs cresting the hills before slowly advancing towards his stronghold at the edge of the forest. Faithful woodland creatures would then rally from the towering pines to aid him in his battles to secure the border of his precious home. Many a war was won at the base of those forsaken hills with Rex commanding the mythical troops from his castle.
Now as he stood before it, his castle definitely looked neglected. Its roof was buried in the leaves of many autumn days past. Its four-corner support beams strained to hold the weight of the single room of the upper level. In the setting summer sun, it still looked majestic to Rex despite its age
The sandbox on the lower level had not held up well either. It had been invaded by growth and was unrecognizable from the surrounding forest floor. Without walls, it had full exposure to the elements. The battle maps he used to create in the sand here were concealed by a leafy cloak. He carefully side-stepped through the sand, as if remnants of his long ago creations still sat dormant beneath the overgrowth. He began to ascend the ladder that led from the ground into the fort and didn’t hesitate even when the structure gave a loud moan. He had a mission, and he was almost finished. He didn’t know what he would see when he rose above the floorboards, but his heartbeat accelerated as his reward was now just a few feet away.
When he reached the top floor, his heart froze, falling to his gut like a useless rock. Nothing. Nothing but a view through the four, square windows to the hills in the west and the vast forest to the east. “How many maps am I going to have to decipher before I find the treasure?” Rex thought, frustrated by a seemingly endless quest. Faith in his father gave him strength to search the room for any map of instructions. His throne still sat facing to the west with a little makeshift round-table perched at its side. The table still held the old steel cup, engraved with carvings of horses, that he had used as his royal goblet. He methodically searched under piles of leaves that were gathered in the corners. He inspected cracks in the wall boards and in the secret compartment he had built into the ceiling, even though he knew his father wouldn’t have known about that spot.
With no luck he sat down in the old wooden chair to think about his next move. Rex remembered having a great time here exercising his imagination, but something was always missing. He and Amadis got along well, but they did not have the same interests at all. She always felt it was a waste of time to play childish games like Ogres and Elves. Rex had to create those worlds on his own. When he was a king, he was a king without a royal court. He glanced again at the cup that he had used to represent his power as king over the forest creatures. It was full of garbage and rusting from exposure. He plucked it from its pedestal and poured its contents on the floor. There, Among the trash, he recognized a small bit of parchment that was very similar to the parchment used on his other maps. He quickly bent down, grabbed the crumpled paper and tossed the cup aside. He unraveled the wad of paper and saw the familiar pirate text his father had been using. This paper was smaller than the others had been, and didn’t have any blank spaces for a picture map.
You be nearin' yer booty. But th' most important lesson must be learned. Ever' life must end, but endings also brin' about new beginnings. Ye will find yer new beginnin' in th' ashes o' th' gold.
Well, ashes obviously meant fire, but Rex couldn’t think of anywhere on the farm where they burned the wheat. Maybe he meant for the ashes to be symbolic like “blood” was for water? But what else could ashes stand for? In the fall the grain from the wheat was harvested and they made straw out of the stalks that were left. The life of the wheat must end, but the straw that was left behind provided a place where baby animals could be born in the barn. That would fit the definition, but it was summer and they didn’t have many straw bales left. Rex sat there with the sun beating upon him from its position high in the sky. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he searched his mind for another possible meaning to the riddle. He decided that the barn was the only explanation that made sense, and quickly made his way down the ladder of his fortress.
He grabbed a corner post and swung himself around toward the barnyard. Just then another possibility came to him, as if by touching the fort it had shared its secrets with him. He remembered a few times when he and his dad would come to the fort, build a campfire and just talk. Rex would listen to his father tell fantastic stories from his own childhood. Rex remembered watching the light dance around the features of his father’s face, highlighting every detailed expression. His father was a master storyteller, and at times Rex had believed that his father’s stories, as farfetched as they seemed, actually happened.
Rex stepped around the fort and walked through waist high grass toward the edge of the forest. He came upon a clearing in the grass and found the fire pit circled with four boulders. The area betrayed his father’s recent presence; it was clear of the debris that had covered his fort. He saw a pile of straw in the pit and there were some matches perched on top of one of the stone seats. He pulled out one of the matches and struck it on the stone. In a spark, it flared and Rex slowly lowered it to the pit. The straw burst into flames so quickly it startled him, and he quickly whipped his hand back. He tossed the crumpled paper from his hand into in the fire. It was instinct after seeing the previous maps react and he didn’t want to wait around for the wind to carry it in.
Nothing happened, just more smoke. Rex sat waiting a minute more, disappointed, before he remembered the damp piece of parchment in his back pocket. He pulled the map out and took one last look. He was hesitant to simply throw it into the fire and watch it burn just as the last piece had. He had seen it reveal hidden maps and riddles using only dirt and water. Magic like that didn’t happen in his life very often, and a part of him wanted to cherish it as a keepsake. However, this treasure map still kept a secret from him. This reminder won over his mind’s hesitation, and forced his hand to let it flutter into the fire as well. After a moment of white smoke it finally ignited and a green flame began to spark out of the corner. The flame morphed to blue, purple, and finally a deep red before it disappeared with a loud sound as if the fire were inhaling all the available air around it. There was a loud pop and then nothing. The fire was out and all that was left was more smoke.
Rex bent down and waved his hand from side to side to see what was left in the ashes. A glint of gold or brass shimmered among the black remains. He instinctively reached into the ashes and pulled the object out. He realized after the object was in his grasp that it should have been hot. Instead it was cool, almost cold to the touch. It was circular, about the size of his palm and as thick as his pinky finger. This final magic trick had really taken the cake. How in world had this thing in his hands been created out of a piece of parchment? Rex thought for sure if it had been hiding under the hay he would have noticed because he let the fire burn for a few moments before he actually threw the map into the fire. Surely he would have seen it peeking through the burning straw.
Under glass, the face of the object had a very ornate S inscribed at the bottom, with a long black hand in the center capped by arrows on each end. It looked to Rex much like a clock with no time to keep. Rex noticed as he moved that the entire face would shift, as if levitating on its base. It seemed to work a lot like a compass, he thought. But if the S was supposed to stand for South, the compass was broken because every time he moved it pointed in an easterly direction, toward the forest. He decided to follow it anyway; he had come too far to second guess the final clue.
He followed the compass’s direction and entered the towering pines. The air around him became cool almost immediately. The grass gave way to wild flowers and ivy, and the light dimmed as the sunlight struggled to find its way through the canopy of trees. He kept a steady jog, always being sure to follow the pointing of the needle. He soon noticed that as he ran farther into the woods, the S was beginning to glow; a faint golden hue, but definitely glowing. He felt his heart beat accelerate once again and his legs became impatient. Soon he found himself running faster and faster.
His heart pounding, not from physical exertion, but from excitement. His scrawny legs were proving to be an advantage in the thick undergrowth of the woods. He never thought that the legs his father had likened to corn stalks would be useful. His shaggy brown hair was too long and was becoming a serious hazard, blinding him at inconvenient times . He glanced down at the compass to see the S almost ablaze with light.
Just ahead in the dark forest he spotted what he must be looking for. A single ray of light shone upon his destination, breaking through the canopy of leaves above his target. In the clearing stood a log cabin, long ago abandoned. Rex put the compass into his pocket, the light still beaming through his pant pocket, and slowed his pace until he was almost standing still. The grounds surrounding the cabin were covered in a thick blanket of green. The plant life seemed to be in the midst of a full-on invasion of the cabin. The plants were definitely winning.
The cabin was a simple square shape with large wooden logs providing the walls. The roof was made of thinner slats of wood that were now coated in a thick blanket of moss. Rex could see one dirty, square window, but it would be impossible to see through the grime to what might be in the cabin. Rex circled to the front and stepped onto what remained of the porch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of light, as if someone was coming through the woods guided by a flashlight. He realized that the source of light was coming from his pocket. He pulled the compass out to see the S glowing in a brilliant white light. This had to be the spot he was meant to be at. In all of his life living near these woods he had never seen this cabin before. He stretched out his hand and reached for the doorknob. What lay in store for him behind this door? The journey he had taken so far this day had been full of magical tricks and surprises. He grasped the black wrought iron handle and hesitated for a moment before pushing the door slowly open.
The door made a large moan as it opened, as if the cabin had just been awakened from an eternal sleep. Slowly, the faint light from the doorway began to penetrate every corner of the cabin. It was quite large, something its quaint exterior did not suggest. There was just one great room with a large stone fireplace toward the back. A few of the walls were adorned with the antlers of great beasts. At first Rex thought the cabin was nothing more than a simple box, but a closer look revealed intricate carvings throughout the room. The mantle of the fireplace was supported by two large stone dragons on either side carved with such detail that Rex was afraid one might wink at him. As he surveyed the room he realized the entire place was covered in carvings of various Dragons. There were dragons in armor fighting battles, he saw dragons being ridden like horses; he saw Dragons in the courts of kings. Each figure was carved directly into the wooden walls of the structure. The craftsmanship and detail were so extravagant he felt sad that they were almost invisible at a glance by the more plain sections of the wall. They had no color to betray their location.
In the center of the room, cascading down from the pitched roof of the cabin, hung a large chandelier. The detail of the cabin’s artistry continued its theme with this fixture. It was comprised of at least 30 small winged golden dragons that held small glass bulbs in their claws. Each creature was being held up by another and together they created a magnificent tangled spiral of glass and gold.
Rex suddenly realized that the cabin had stolen his excitement for the treasure hunt with its wonder. He shifted his eyes from the chandelier to the only piece of furniture in the room. A small table covered with a simple white sheet stood directly below the chandelier. Rex took a few quick steps toward the table and grasped the sheet. With one quick motion his treasure was uncovered. There, on the table before him, was a small ornate box. For a moment Rex thought that it might belong to the cabin because it, too, was covered in dragons. Two small, gilded dragons wrapped around the whole of the wooden box. Beneath the dragons purple velvet covered the box completely. At the front of the box each dragon’s head emitted fiery breath that came together to form a lock. Rex carefully lifted the box with two hands. It was actually quite heavy for such a small box. As he rotated it he noticed it was covered in a few green jewels that made up the dragons’ eyes and claws. He tilted the box forward and peered at the bottom. He noticed a few letters in an ornate cursive writing etched into the golden metal. He ran his fingers along them. R-E-X. He whispered the name to himself. Rex. He had found his treasure.