A Dangerous Adventure
There was a masonry house in the west side of the village, surrounded by high walls and a rusty iron gate. The adults advised us to stay away from it, for an old bum, who had the habit of collecting every sort of garbage he could find in the city or while roaming aimlessly in the desert, was its inhabitant. Of course, by saying 'don't do it' to young brats as we were, it had the same effect of saying: 'if you don't do it, you are a sissy'. Therefore, my chums and I were constantly peeking through the iron bars of the gate, trying to discover what the old bum was doing with all that garbage, whose gigantic piles could be noticed from outside. However, as cats teasing dogs, we were daring enough to spy the interior of mysterious house only while the old man was out of our reach. As soon as we caught a glimpse of his bald head or worn garments, we disappeared through the streets, like frightened birds flying away to safe heights at the first scaring noise.
At those times, I was too foolish to notice, but I think the old man not only was aware of us, but also laughed at our cowardly behavior. He didn't seem to care about us, as he never chased us or complained about our behavior. Besides, as soon as we considered it safe and we returned to spy his home again, he was nowhere to be found, meaning that he was not worried about us. That should be enough for us stop bothering him, but children are mean sometimes. One of our favorite activities was to invent rumors about the old man in order to scare our friends. The stories gradually became more absurd, and we should know better than to believe them, for every one of us had a share in inventing those stories. However, what happened was that every boy ended believing in some of those rumors and there wasn't a child in that village that didn't fear the mysterious neighbor.
One hot and sunny day, as it had become the norm in the planet suffering an accelerated desertification process, my curiosity about the old man had come to an end. Obviously, it didn’t come the easy way. I was playing a ball game in the street, with Tom, Pep and some of the other boys from the neighborhood. During a ball dispute, I accidentally kicked it mindlessly, and much to our dismay, the ball went up, up, up, and towards the forbidden house’s left wall, clearing it by a few inches, and disappearing behind it. We were so shocked that the whole scene seemed to happen in slow-motion, and Tom couldn’t suppress a loud scream “Nooooooo!!!”.
It took us some time to come out of the shock, each one trying to grasp to his last irrational hopes that it had not really happened, but was just a dream, or a collective illusion. But it was true, and while I was still digesting the sequence of scenes that my retinas had just captured, one of my friends was already reacting to the ball’s disappearance.
"Damn, you dork! You kicked the flaking ball there on purpose!" Tom was furious, his face was red, and he adopted the position of someone ready for a brawl.
"So... sorry, it wasn't on purpose..." I stuttered trying to calm him down. I was not inclined to fight against such an irate adversary.
"You did it because you envied me. Now I will cut you to pieces!"
Tom was ready to throw a punch on me, but Pep, who was older and stronger than us intervened placing himself between us and holding Tom’s arms. "Enough! He will go to the old executioner's house and get your ball back."
My sensation of relief didn't last more than a few seconds. How could Pep send me to certain death like that? "What? Go... there?"
"Yes, you will go there and retrieve Tom's ball, so everything will be fine." He spoke naturally, maybe with some wisdom we, younger boys, didn't have.
"Do that or expect to receive the beating of your life!" Tom added, still nervous.
"Now, just go. We will be waiting here." Pep pushed me towards the old man's house.
I was destroyed. For a while, I considered that being beaten by my pal would not be a bad idea, for I, like any other boy in the village, feared the old man. That stupid Pep had put me in the worst situation of my life. However, I admit had the ball being mine, I’d have done the same, for good balls were so rare those days. So, with my head down, I walked towards the house like a prisoner walking to the gallows, under the eyes of the mad crowd that rejoiced with pride the fact that someone would take what he deserved while they would return peacefully to their houses after the exhibition. Then, I stopped by the gates of the terror house, hoping some miracle would happen, but nothing happened. There was just Tom staring at me with a grave and threatening expression.
I looked through the gate bars, but I could see nothing but the usual piles of junk. Fighting the urge of running away from there, I looked for a bell, but it looked like there was none, so I clapped my hands shyly, knowing beforehand that, if there was anyone inside, this person would not hear me. In my mind, I could only see a decrepit old man with a manic look on his face, holding a knife and yelling at me while carving the knife mercilessly on the ball until it became just a indistinct leather rag. “Look at it well, little brat, for the next time it will be your head in the place of this ball.” I was inclined to go back to my friends and tell Tom I was sorry, but there wasn't anybody inside, hoping it would be enough if I said that I tried. However, as a turned my eyes to him, the look in his eye sent shivers down my spine, and made me assured that my excuse was not enough.
Then, I clapped my hands again, this time louder, while yelling "Hey!" The tension that followed almost drove me mad. I felt like a bait, waiting for the feral creature to come out of its den and swallow me, knowing that the frail thing I called life was about to come to an end. Meanwhile, I heard some faint noises inside, like the ruffling of leaves that precedes the beast fatal charge. And then, the words from a squeaky voice.
"Geez! A boy!"
Terror-stricken, I was unsure if that had been real, so agitated my mind was. I sighed and answered with in a shy manner. "Please, Mr, could you..."
"Please, spik loud'r. I can't 'ear ye!" The mysterious old man interrupted me with a yell. Although somewhat creaky, his voice seemed more natural, making me a bit less afraid. Just a bit.
"Please, Mr..." I hesitated, not knowing how to address the man we used to refer to as the old executioner. "My ball accidentally fell in your courtyard. Could you..." another pause while I tried to convince myself that asking the man a favor was not something absurd. "Could you please throw it back to me?"
A brief silence seemed to last years while I waited anxiously for an answer. The only thing I could hear was the faint noise of a metallic pieces rustling. I did not see it, but I could also feel the weight of Tom's eyes lying on me in a reproaching manner. Thus, the old man answered.
"Sorry boy, I can't." His negative answer made me sigh in relief. It didn't matter to me his motives. I did not care if he was a rude or heartless man, or if Tom would beat the crap out of me, as long as I had survived challenging the executioner. When I was ready to run away, with a smile on my lips, reflecting the exhilarating feeling on my soul, I heard some words coming from the forbidden house of terrors. "I can't leeve what I'm a-doin' now, but the gate's unlock'd an' ye can a-come inside an' tak' it."
I had fallen on his trap. It was worse than I had expected. He would not give me a warning by cutting the ball into shreds. Instead, he was ready to stab me right away. And that metallic hiss was the old executioner sharpening his knife. Trembling, I answered, ready to run for my life. "Thanks, but I can't...."
"What? I can't 'ear ye!" He interrupted me, wasting all the momentum I had gained, crushing my courage to defy his orders and evade that deadly trap. It was no use, my legs were shaking, my strength waining, and I surrendered to the idea that my time had come. There was no way out of my tragic fate, so I surrendered to it "Nothing. I'm coming in..."
As I hesitantly pushed the rusty iron gate, it squeaked loudly, making me cringe at the horrific sound. I was a damned soul opening the cemetery gates to my own burial. At the time, I thought I would feel my legs weighing a ton each while unwilling dragging myself to my own end, but instead I was feeling very light. Maybe my soul had already surrendered my body and left it outside the hell of eternal suffering I had just entered.
I was confused because I could see nothing but mounds of junk were the ancient corpses of a mysterious race of objects from ages past were lying; the only remains of the time that will never return. Behind them, there was a small worn out building, the old executioner's resting place. While I was wondering whether I'd meet my fate inside that rustic shack or outside, I was taken out of my macabre reverie by some sense shouted inside my head.
"Tak' care, boy, ther'are some junk that may a-get ye 'urt"
The advice given in a friendly tone was something that didn't make sense to my disturbed mind, but probably my inner self had already concluded that all my fears were just unfounded boyish drama fueled by the deletery imagery provided by adventure books. Had I been wise enough, my visit to the old man's house would have been something trifle, not worthy of recalling, but I can't look back at those times without being seduced by the charming innocence of my childhood, a nostalgic feeling that will always filter my dearest recollections in a naive and dreamy way. So, my big exploration adventure had started. The brave hero had to retrieve the princess diamond from the den of the evil bandit, hidden in a mountain range never explored by humans before.
The old man’s courtyard area was surely smaller than a thousand square feet, but to my eyes, it looked gigantic, and all the hours I told the others I had spent looking for the ball must have lasted less than three minutes. I almost instantly spotted the ball, resting beside a pile of metallic pieces and other parts made of materials unknown to me, and hurried to pick it up and leave, hoping to go unnoticed. However I knew that the executioner was hiding behind the pile of junk, ready to stab me when I was least expecting. Therefore, I advanced slowly towards the ball, trying to catch a glimpse of the man before he could see me, so that I could, at least, run away and leave that house of terrors alive, even if without the ball. However, I did catch a glimpse of a bald man with white beard calmly working with some tools I’ve never seen in my life. He looked as a centenary to my boyish eyes, but I think he must have been on his late seventies or so, because he looked like he was still doing well. Apparently, he had not noticed me, so I quickly took the ball and turned my back to leave, when I heard his voice, making my heart race in my chest.
“Did ye a-find the ball?”
I slowly turned my head to look at him and he was grinning. I was paralyzed with fear and my legs almost gave away, making me pathetically fall on the ground. Although the old man’s grin had nothing of evil, I could not help associating it with the malicious grin of the villains in adventure stories. Maybe it was all part of his ploy, to make me feel comfortable and safe, before fiercely striking over me, leaving me unable to defend myself. However, I thought it safer to answer, as if I didn’t suspect anything, and then run like mad towards the exit. “Yes, mister…”
“Nice.” He calmly resumed working with his strange things. Instead of running away as I had planned, I was suddenly taken aback by my own curiosity. It became stronger than my fear, so overwhelming that I had to spill the words that had formed in my throat, for it looked as if they would burn me if I didn’t release them through my vocal strings.
“What are you doing, mister?”
He looked at me again and smiled. “I am a-fixin’ thin’s”
“Thanks.” With my curiosity satisfied, it turned back again and ran towards the gate. At that time, I didn’t believe anymore that he was a murderer or evil, but I felt a enormous relief as I reached the gates and noticed they were not locked. I had survived my adventure. I was free. And, carrying Tom’s ball under my arm, I walked towards my group of friends proudly, knowing that they would praise my courage for facing such a dangerous challenge and coming unscathed. Besides, I recollect that I was sure they would believe any fantastic story I invented about the incident, so I returned to the group thinking about what I could tell them to make me look braver, smarter, and more courageous to them. Luckily, I don’t remember which ideas I had came up with while going out of the now not-so-mysterious house, neither I recall what I have told them, because if I did, I’m positive that I would be ashamed of telling that. I just know that the boys praised me and I evaded a fight with Tom, who was very satisfied to have his ball back, unscathed.
Last edited by tilinelson2 on Thu Dec 29, '11, 2:37 am, edited 1 time in total.