By Melissa R. Mendelson
A smell of ocean wafted through the air. The sun rose high above the clouds. A bird’s song followed his every step. Laughter of children, a fountain of youth, echoed in the near distance, and cars slowly drifted on by. And still he walked.
The house was set apart from the road. Little stones decorated the dirt path. A luxurious, green velvet sea flowed before the porch. Small windows welcomed in rays of sunlight. The door was left half open, and the wind gently slipped inside. And it was like he never left all those years ago, and even the peaceful neighborhood seemed the same.
"Can I help you?" A shaggy, stooped man emerged on the porch. "Can I help you, son?" The man merely just stared at him. "What’s your business here?"
"I’m sorry to intrude, sir. I grew up in this house." He let his words settle in for a moment. "My name is Davis Yarn." The older man’s eyes gleamed with recognition. "My family lived here a long time ago."
"I know the name. The man that sold me this house mentioned you as the previous owners." With quick strides, he walked up to Davis. "What brings you here today?"
"I was in the neighborhood and thought I would pass by. The neighborhood seems the same." He followed the older man’s gaze to the area behind him. "So does the house."
"Buildings don’t change, son. People do." He rubbed his chin. "Well, if you want to take a walk inside, be my quest, but don’t disturb nothing. You hear?" Davis nodded. "Good. Storm’s coming, so we best get inside."
Dark clouds gathered overhead. A cold wind rustled through the trees. Cars hurried by before the skies opened up. No bird’s song was heard in the growing silence, and children quickly headed home. And the storm continued on its approach.
"Sudden change in weather," Davis mused.
"Mother Nature has been drinking again." The older man hurried inside, and Davis was right behind him. "She’s been off the wagon for so long that I lost count."
"How long have you lived here?" He watched the older man close the door behind him. "Has it been a long time?"
"Son, I’ve been around for a very long time." Davis stared at him, trying to estimate his age. "Can’t tell how old I am?" Davis shook his head. "Stay out of the heat, boy, and you won’t age. Remember that." A large smile crossed his face. "Now, how about a cold drink?"
"I’m good. Thank you." Davis shifted from foot to foot. "So, can I take a look around?"
"Sure, sure. Be my quest. Take as long as you need, but do not stay too long." The older man sat down in a leather couch nearby. "No business wasting time when it’s all we have."
"Right." Davis moved away from the man. "Don’t worry. I won’t take too long." It seemed like the older man was no longer listening to him.
The house seemed the same but smaller, emptier. Crayon pictures used to decorate walls along with family affairs, but that was a long time ago. The wooden floors of the hallway seemed to pale in age. Relics of the past wobbled on almost broken tables, and plastic flowers tried to lighten up the space. But it was still his home.
Davis remembered the day that his family moved. His parents were battling with their neighbors and were being forced to leave the development. The children were packed into a van surrounded by belongings, and off they went. And home was now in another state, but this house, this place would always shoulder his childhood memories.
Switching jobs was never the problem for his parents, but adapting to a new area proved to be the hardest challenge. His sister did well, spreading wings and becoming a gossip queen, but not his brother. As for Davis, he did okay walking the loner path, but if they never moved, would he have been different? Would his family have been different?
"Lost, son?" The older man was now right behind him. "I don’t have all day to entertain you."
"I’m sorry." Lightning flashed through a window nearby. "I got lost in thought."
"Well, hurry up then. Storm’s coming, and it’s going to be a bad one. I don’t need to be trapped in a house with a stranger taking a stroll down memory lane."
"My apologies." He heard the man mutter something under his breath, followed by another flash of lightning. "I won’t be long."
Stepping into his room, Davis let out a jagged breath of air. This was where he really wanted to go. This was his sanctuary, his world away from life, and he left it all behind. The empty walls now mocked him, teasing him that his secrets had been told, and the floor underneath was no longer soft, no longer safe to support him. But this was still his room, and the older man had done nothing with it but let it fall away.
"What are you looking for, son?" The older man gingerly stepped into the room. "What secrets hide in here?"
"There are no secrets left to tell." Davis ran his hand against a wall. "No sanctuary left behind. Not even a… Scratch." He turned toward the man now grinning at him. "Is there?"
"You figured it out, son."
"I’m not your son."
"I still own you, Davis, and I knew you be coming here." The older man now stood up about a foot taller. "Your movements are predictable. How’s the family?"
"Family’s good. So is my brother." He smiled as the grin faded from the older man’s face. "All’s good in the world." A roar of thunder followed his words. "You lost."
"Did I?" More thunder followed. "Maybe I won."
Years after the move, his brother had gone down a dark path, and time and time again, Davis had come to his rescue. Whether it was drugs, gambling, or even assault, he came to save his brother, but what did it cost him? Everything.
His brother gave his soul to make it big, and he was living large for a few years. He helped his family out, repaid Davis for his sacrifices, and kept on going straight until he nearly stepped over the edge. And then Davis grabbed hold of him before he was taken away down to where he did not belong, and the deal was that Davis would take his place.
"Your brother still living it up?" An ugly laughter escaped from the older man’s lips. "He still hightailing it from the law?"
"He’s married with a child on the way." Davis crossed his arms over his chest. "He turned his life around."
"Because of you." The older man tilted his head to one side. "Was it worth it? Your life for his?"
"He’s my brother." Davis kept his hand pressed against the wall. "I would do it again in a heartbeat." His fingers dug deep against the plaster and paint. "I would do it again."
"I gave you a year, boy to say your good-byes, so why come here?" The older man crept closer to him. "What is it about this old piece of house that you cling to so much?" He reached toward him. "Do you think you are safe here?" His hand shook as it came closer. "Do you think you can escape me?" He tried to touch his arm. "Do you think that you can walk away from me?" His hand slipped through Davis.
"No." Davis continued to touch the wall. "You can’t take me. You can’t touch me. You have no power over me as long as I stay here in this room."
"So, what? You stay here and starve to death? Doesn’t matter. You still come to me."
"When I was a child, I had this friend that enchanted the room from evil. No harm could ever come inside or… Leave." He waited for his words to sink in. "Nobody believes in magic, but nobody really believes that the devil exists either." He laughed at the furious expression on the older man’s face. "When I walk out of this room, I know I will die, but you will not be there to take me. If I am to become a lost soul, then so be it, but maybe I will go to heaven."
"You walk me out of here, and I’ll send you up there." Davis shook his head. "You can live a longer life."
"No." He stepped away from the older man. "It’s over." He moved quickly toward the bedroom door. "It ends here."
He saw the older man struggle toward him, but it was like he was walking in quicksand. The man’s eyes grew wider and wider as well as darker and darker. A snarl covered half of his face, and his hands were clenched in fists.
"There is no such thing as magic," he roared.
"I know." Davis was now safely outside the room. "There was no friend either." He eyed the older man calmly. "I was the one that believed that no harm could enter the room or leave it, and I still believe it today. And that’s all I need. Faith." He turned to walk away.
"Don’t walk away from me! Do you hear? Do not walk away from me! This is far from over! I’ll find you! Dead or alive! I will find you!" But no matter how hard he tried, the man could not leave the room. "This isn’t over!"
Stepping outside, the storm was in full swing. Dark clouds gripped the sky. Heavy rain plunged down into the ground. The wind whipped back and forth, and there was no sign of life along the streets. And as Davis began another long walk, he turned the corner and disappeared.