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8. Crossing

by  joydaly

Posted: Saturday, November 26, 2016
Word Count: 2249
Summary: YA Psychological mystery/thriller

There’s something different about this morning and I lie in bed and try to work out what it is. The rain, I can’t hear rain.
   Swinging out of bed, I peer through the window to see perfectly blue skies with only some very faint grey smudges in the distance.
   The vellum is on my desk and I stare at the words, frustrated. It has to be an invitation to the shed. So, why doesn’t the key work? I turn over the note and stare at the arrow drawn in black ink on the other side. It’s almost like an anti-clockwise symbol. Almost. Why have they put that on the Vellum. It has no relevance to the words – the invitation – or does it?
Mum’s going out and she is so excited, maybe nearly as excited as me. She’s in one of her smart tops, and I can smell her still wet nail polish and a big dose of perfume. She met a couple of ladies while she was grocery shopping yesterday and they are ‘doing coffee’. A cup of coffee must cost around $4.00. How can she can afford that today, when she couldn’t afford a bucket of chips for me yesterday? Then I stop being mean and give her a hug. She stiffens, then returns it, but her arms are too tight. Like they’re not going to let me go – ever.
    ‘Have a good time, Mum.’
   ‘Thanks, Jack. Are you sure you’ll be all right on your own? I’ll only be gone for an hour or so.’ She’s already grabbing the car keys.
   ‘Yeah, no worries.’
   ‘Remember, there’s a sandwich in the fridge and cookies in the jar if you get hungry.’
   ‘Don’t forget to take some water if you’re outside.’
   ‘Yeah.’ Go, go, I’m urging in my mind.
‘Don’t leave here. And if there’s anything and I mean anything strange, lock yourself in the house and call me straight away.’
I stop myself shaking my head. ‘Yeah.’
‘Love you,’ she plasters a quick kiss on my forehead and finally she leaves.
I eat a bowl of Weetbix in five huge spoons, but Rosie’s whining at the front door and I let her out and she wants to sniff around for ages before she’s ready to come back in.
As I dig out two bottles of water from the fridge, Rosie pushes against my leg, her eyes pleading. ‘Rosie,’ I grumble and pull a bit of ham out of my sandwich and drop it down to her. ‘Now, let me go,’ I say as I stride to the laundry and she’s at my heels as I leap the back stairs to land on the grass.
Rosie plants herself on the floor-boards just inside the door.
‘Come on,’ I coax.
She whines, but won’t budge.
‘Okay then, see you later.’
          She presses her nose against the screen door as it slams shut.    
The undergrowth has already grown since I broke it down and the air is so humid, I’m wet with it by the time I get to the door.
The door.
Now it’s time to see if I’m right. The key’s in my pocket and I pull it out, my fingers not quite steady.
I fit it into the keyhole and turn – anti-clockwise.
There’s the quietest of snicks and it’s turning so smoothly that I almost doubt it’s unlocking.
Come and Play.
For a moment, it’s almost like I hear the words outside my head.
The door cracks open and I dig in the backpack for the torch. Pushing hard, it swings open and I’m standing at the threshold looking in.
It's as dark as it looked through the keyhole and the torch’s beam tunnels through, lighting up the back wall draped with some sort of cloth. It’s probably infested with bugs and rats; as long as I don’t see one of those freakin’ spiders I almost ate.
 The beam picks up the vaguest of outlines in each of the sidewalls. The spider on my biscuit is a raw memory and I keep standing at the entrance, straining my eyes. My heart is banging and my breath, shallow; I can smell something bitter and realize it’s my sweat; I can see nothing but the tunnel of light and the air tastes faintly of something sickly sweet. I swallow dryly and tell myself to step inside and I’m trying to understand why I’m feeling so scared.
‘Get a grip,’ I say and dig my fingers into my palms as I walk towards the outline on the left wall. Up close, it’s an internal rectangular shutter of peeling wood. Running the light around it’s edges, I check for spiders or webs. Nothing.
There’s a knob at the very top in the middle. I play with it for ages, trying to force it left, then right, before pulling it towards me. Nothing budges. Then I twist it anti-clockwise and feel the faintest movement.  As I begin unscrewing it, the skin on my fingertips split and the knob gets slick. I rub my fingers on my jeans, then keep turning.  Without warning, it drops like a guillotine, smashing my foot as it hits the ground.
‘Ah,’ I yell and wriggle my toes in my runners, sure they’re broken. I’m surprised when they all seem to be moving. I probably won’t be able to get my shoes on tomorrow, but the pain’s already a distant memory as the window, curtained in creepers, lets ribbons of light stream in.
The shed is white plaster inside and although the paint is peeling in places on the walls, it still looks light, bright and spider-free. Not a single web, rat dropping, or snake skin. It’s almost like somebody’s vacuumed. I head for the shutter opposite and soon the effect of light is doubled and I switch off the torch. The ceiling is white and there’s no water damage. It looks in better condition than the house.
Other than the curtained wall at the far end of the shed, it’s completely empty, no furniture, no boxes, not even a ball of fluff. The curtain doesn’t go to the ceiling. It’s draped over something three-quarters of the way up the wall and it drops to the floor from there.
In five long steps, my hands are bunched in the cloth. It looks and feels velvety and I can see that it is orange, like the vellum ink. I pull it down and it pools at my feet, but my eyes are not on the curtain, they’re trying to make sense of the shelves.
I can’t believe it.
I can’t believe it.
Mum’s home. I have to hide this.
‘Coming,’ I yell, trying to sound normal.
I stumble out, slamming the door closed and locking it in the space of seconds. Slipping the key into my pocket, I run for the kitchen.
          ‘What have you been up to?’ she says, the minute I appear in the doorway.
          It’s lucky that she doesn’t really want to hear about the shed. What she really wants to hear is a recount of her adventure in town. Otherwise, she would have noticed something wrong. I can feel my eyes bulging, but I can’t stop them.
   ‘Nothing much,’ I say. ‘What about you?’
   And off she goes, and I make ‘uh ha,’ noises as I choke down a glass of milk, eat the sandwich and pretend I’m listening.
   Finally, she lets up and I say, ‘That’s great, mum,’ as I slide off the kitchen stool.
   ‘What are you doing now?’
   ‘Nothing much.’
   ‘Did you get into the shed?’
   ‘Anything in there?’
   ‘Spiders, heaps of spiders.’
   Mum pulls a face and I’ve guaranteed that she will never set foot in the place. Her brother tangled one in her hair when she was young and she can’t stand them.
‘Do you have water?’
‘Two bottles.’
‘Good.’ She looks at the cheap plastic clock on the wall behind the stove. ‘Be in by 4.00pm, we’re going to have an early dinner.’
I’m already out the back door. ‘Sure,’ I call over my shoulder.
There’s no hesitation this time. I unlock the door, crash it open and almost run to the shelves, knowing that I imagined it, that the shelves are empty.
   They’re not. I run my hands over the boxes, reading the titles, looking at the pictures and I laugh out loud.
It is wall-to-wall meccano.
Each box faces outward, like it’s on shop shelves, but they’re not new. They’re old, maybe a hundred years old and they are in mint condition. Each  has the old-fashioned picture that I’ve only ever seen on the net and the colours are perfect, no fading, no flaking, no peeling. They look like they came out of the factory – or however they used to produce them – yesterday, and as I raise one finger to brush against a boy’s smiling face, I can’t imagine how they survived in here so perfectly.
There must be at least fifty kits and I begin counting.
Sixty-four! Sixty-four! Unbelievable.
Maybe I should report this to Breedon, so he can tell the owners. It’s probably their property.
How much are these worth?
I remember seeing a show on Current Affairs ages ago, where a fat couple in a caravan inherited a distant Uncle’s 1930’s Crane kit. It went for $2600 and they acted like they’d won Lotto. I remember wishing I’d had enough money to buy it. And it wasn’t even in good condition. Not mint – like these.
Even if the kits average out at $2000, that’s $128,000. I’ve found a gold mine.
If I tell Mum and Dad, we could sell the lot for a fortune. Then we could move out of this dump, go home, back to Melbourne, back to my old school, back to my mates, back to Tom. Mum’s got an honest streak a mile wide though. She’d make us turn them over to Breedon.
Maybe I could sell them on e-bay. I shake my head. We haven’t got internet and the school’s computer sites are controlled; no e-bay access on them. Library? Not sure, but how would I get the money? I don’t have an account. I suppose I could ask for cash, but would buyers pay cash? And, if they did, how would I explain the roll of $50’s and $100’s to mum. I suppose I could tell her I found it in a jar in the backyard, but then she’d make me hand it in to the Police.
   I’m sitting on a gold mine that I can’t use.
Once more I run my fingers along the papery surfaces. There are two kids grinning at each other as they construct a massive green and red crane.  I’m grinning too as I slip the box from the shelf, feeling its weight as my arms stretch to hold it on either side. I’m already visualizing the space on my bedroom shelf where it is going to take pride of place.
‘No. It stays here.’
I spin around. Who said that? There’s no-one here. Of course, there’s not.
Hugging the kit to my chest, I head for the door. A gust of wind must catch it because it blows shut in my face. I take a step back.
   ‘The Meccano stays here. This is our secret.’
   It’s a boy’s voice. Sounds about my age. Where is he, where are they?
   Outside, probably looking through the window, killing themselves laughing. I’ve been punked. They’ve printed up copies of the covers, stuck them on boxes and the weight inside is probably rocks or something. I don’t know how they knew I liked Meccano. Maybe they saw my collection through my bedroom window. Bastards.
I drop the box on the floor and race for the door.
Bastards. They couldn’t spend more than three seconds talking to me at school, but they can spend hours, no days setting me up. I round the side of the shed, fists bunched. No-one. I sprint to the other side, no-one.
I stop, gulping air, feeling my body vibrate. Where are they? I listen, but other than the rustling of the leaves and the far-off call of a kookaburra, there’s silence. No footsteps, no fading laugher, nothing.
‘Bastards,’ I yell. ‘You bastards.’
Mum’s panicked voice screams from the laundry door. ‘Jack? Jack?’
I’m panting as I turn the key in the lock and run to meet her under the Hills Hoist.
‘Are you okay?’ As she asks, she pushes my fringe back from my forehead and stares into my eyes. Hers are frightened.
‘Did you see anyone?’ I ask.
‘No, should I’ve? Was somebody out here?’ She begins herding me inside.
‘No, mum. I just, I was... expecting some mates, and I thought I heard them.’
I’ve said the magic word.
‘I didn’t know you’d invited friends over, Jack. That’s fantastic. Who are they?’
I groan silently. Now I’ll have to make up a story and then try to remember it, because mum will be asking about theses mythical mates for the next six months.
Then her face becomes confused. ‘I heard you yell bastards?’
‘Yeah, we call each other that. It doesn’t mean anything.’
‘It’s not very nice.’
‘It’s just a joke.’
‘So when are they coming?’
I take a deep breath as I follow her into the kitchen for a slice of warm orange cake with a big dollop of lies on the side.