The world seems a lot stranger when you’re a child. In the midst of all that is unknown, with curiousity at its peak, a child is faced with two options. You can either fear what you don’t understand, or face it head on.
Emery Wright fell into the latter category. You’d hardly find a child more equipped for adventure than her, quite literally. Following in the footsteps of her fellow TV adventurers, she carried a backpack with everything she needed to face any foe: a flashlight, a water gun, a compass, her favorite companion, Mr. Fluffles, and many other fundamental adventuring tools.
“Mr. Fluffles needs a bath, Emery. He’s got about three layers of dirt matted on his fur,” Emery’s mother watched through her rearview mirror, as the small girl hugged the dirty stuffed elephant closer to her. It was a miracle the kid hadn’t gotten sick from it.
“No!” she yelled back, “Dirt is the evidence of adventure!” Her passion drove her to sit up on the backseat, and promptly after hit her head on the roof of their car when they hit a speed bump. Her eyes watered, but she dared not cry.
“Are you not wearing your seatbelt?! I’ve told you a thousand times, Emery! The-“
“The best adventurers preserve safety for all,” Emery joined in to her mother’s scolding, rolling her eyes and dragging the belt across her chest in a defeated manner.
“Who the hell taught you that awful motto?” Emery’s Grandfather chimed in from the passenger seat.
“Dad,” her mother groaned, knowing well he was about to go on and ramble more adventuring nonsense into Emery’s head.
“Hush, Anabella, let me tell the child the truth about adventuring,” Grandpa Joey continued. “I know a pal called Indiana Jones-“
“Indiana!” the 7-year-old cheered, throwing her hands in the air and proceeding to sing the theme song in a mess of dun-dun-duns.
“That’s the one! Well, Indiana had to take risks. It was only by taking big risks that he reaped big treasures.”
“Like the time he was chased through the cave by the huuuuge boulder?”
Grandpa Joey nodded.
“Or- or the time when-“
It took all of Anabella not to slam her forehead against the steering well. After months of failed attempts to keep the kid from climbing walls and leaping ledges, in one visit to her Grandpa’s, she already wants to go risk her life for treasure.
“How about we see one of his movies when we get home?”
Emery cheered her Grandpa on and stuck her tongue out to her mother.
“Alright, alright . . . We’ll stop at Grandpa’s store to get some things and then we’ll head home for some Indiana,” Anabella gave in, satisfied with the beaming grin that grew on her daughter’s features.
She parked the car in front of a small antique shop called “Joey and Emma’s: Treasure Trove”. In its current state, it was anything but treasure-like. Every year Anabella took Emery to visit her Grandfather at Bellenau, and every year the shop was in worse state.
She couldn’t even remember the last the window sills weren’t opaque with gray dust. Anabella had to bite her tongue to resist scolding her father. She reminded herself to go easy on him, it wasn’t easy to take care of a shop on your own, especially after you become a widower.
It’d already been five years. Five years, since Anabella’s Grandmother died in the Bellenau Library Fire of 2001. Nothing was ever the same in this town since.
“Oh, Emery, be careful!” Anabella yelled after Emery, who ran out of sight, as quick as a fox, in between the shelves and furniture.
“I will!” she yelled back with her fingers crossed behind her back. Taking risks was more important. She wondered what hidden treasure lied amongst all this old junk. If Indiana’s movies proved anything, it was that the best treasures were in the deepest of the caves. She needed to find the deepest part of the store.
While she ran about, Grandpa Joey laughed. “You’ve got to let the kid live a little, Bella. It won’t do her any good to be kept in a plastic bubble. We all know what comes after she grows up. Let her adventure and frolick about for now. She can worry when she gets older.”
Anabella let out a loud sneeze and covered her mouth with the sleeve of her sweater. “Easy for you to say,” she sniffled. “You don’t have to deal with the scraped knees and the crying that comes after one of her little explorations gone bad.”
“She’s got to learn to take care of herself. Fall down and get back up. Your mother always thought you overprotected that kid, too.”
Anabella sneezed again. “Agh, these allergies! You know what, Dad? I’m doing just fine with her, considering.” She dried her wet nose on her sleeve. “You’re hardly in a position to criticize my parenting, anyway. Ugh, I can’t stand this dust. Emery! Come on, let’s wait a- ah- Achoo!”
“You go wait in the car. Emery will be fine here, while I pack these things.”
No longer able to stand her sinuses, Anabella retreated outside to the car. Emery peeked at her mother through a tall shelf, and let out a small, “Yes!” when the door shut behind her. Now she could explore freely.
She’d been trying to open a locked door while they talked, with no luck. That must be where the treasure was. She walked back to the wooden door and gasped in surprise when she found it had creaked open. Obviously, she was meant to go in this room.
It was very dark inside. It was a good thing she had her flashlight with her. She took it out of the bag and carefully sneaked inside, in case there were ****** traps.
Her big brown eyes shone with wonder at the objects in the room. They were different from the rest of the store. Most of them were shiny metal, polished and seemingly unused. Jewlery, silverware, and other objects she couldn’t name. Atop a big open armoire, was a big metal shield, with some symbol she didn’t recognize gloriously decorating its front. She didn’t know why, but she knew that was the treasure she was meant to obtain.
There was only one way to get it.
The armoire was open. So she proceeded to climb the shelves, till the highest one and try to reach the shield from there. Her fingers stretched all they could, but she could only graze the shiny metal.
After trying once more, she got annoyed and tried to jump and grab it instead. One of her feet missed the landing, and slipped. She tried to grab onto the first thing she saw to avoid falling, but it was all too late. The object fell with her and they both landed with an ungraciously noisy flare.
“Emery?” Grandpa Joey yelled after hearing the racket.
She flew to her feet and answered, “I’m okay! Just tripped!” before her Grandfather could come looking for her.
She picked the flashlight back up and looked around the floor until her eyes met the fallen object, a small metal box, with flourishes all around it, and a thick key inserted into its lock.
“Bingo,” she sang, noticing the key was similarly shaped to the symbol on the shield.
She turned it three times before the lid popped open, with a low hissing sound. As she lifted it up, a slow tune began to play from it. It was a music box.
The tune seemed familiar somehow, but she couldn’t remember where she’d heard it before.
Out of nowhere, a wind picked up, and the inside coils and springs of the intricate box began to glow orange. The song got deafiningly loud, and the wind strong enough to shut the room’s door with a bang.
Emery whimpered, and reached for her flashlight once more, but it flickered off.
On the other side of the store, the enchanting tune made its way to her Grandfather’s ears. A sense of terror invaded him, as he recognized what it was.
“Emery! Emery close the box!” he yelled, but Emery could barely make out the words. The music was too loud and she was too distracted by the increasing glow. It seemed to attract her somehow. Her fingers reached out to touch the glowing box, when the door flew open with a smash.
Grandpa Joey ran in and shut the box, yanking it from the floor and far away from her grasp. “The hell are you doing here?! This room is locked for a reason, Emery! None if this belongs to you!” his voice boomed, taking the girl by surprise. She couldn’t remember a time when she’d seen him so completely furious.
“I’m sorry, Grandpa. I just wanted the sh-“
“I don’t want to hear it! You must never touch anything in this room ever again! Do you understand me?!”
She felt betrayed. He was starting to sound just like her mother.
“B- But,” she began to cry. “An adventur-“
“Enough, Emery! Not everything is an adventure! There are things that can hurt you! Badly! Now, promise me you’ll forget about this room and- a- ack. . .” his words failed him as he coughed, causing something wet to splash on her face.
His eyes went very wide, until he coughed once more and fell limp on the ground. Her eyes, just getting accustomed to the light, saw the faint glinmer of a big blade, like an axe. As her eyes continued to travel up, she saw a big, dark silhouette in front of the armoire, holding the weapon in its hands.
An uncontrollable tremble took over her as the figure smiled at her. She was terrified, but couldn’t bring herself to move.
“I’ll be taking that box,” a deep, weathered voice growled, poking her Grandfather’s arm with his foot, so he’d let go of the box. Emery saw Grandpa Joey’s fingers grip the box even tighter and realized he still lived!
“Don’t!” she yelled at the figure, but quickly lost courage when she added, “Leave him alone.”
“She speaks,” it pointed out, clearly amused. “It’d be best for little girls to stay out of this if they wish to live.”
It began to bend down to rip the box from Grandpa’s grasp, but Emery grabbed it first.
“This isn’t yours!”
A annoyed sigh escaped him. “I don’t like hurting children. Leave while you can.”
Her dying Grandfather lifted his head enough for her to see his eyes. Even in the darkness, she could understand what his eyes pleaded. That panic and desperation where clearly signs that she should run, but how could she, while he still lived? How could she abandon family?
Seeing that Emery made no move to leave, it grumbled, “Have it your way,” before raising the axe far above his head.
In a split second, Emery ripped the key from the box and held it in front if her, a hot, blazing light shot out of the key and toward the figure. It howled in pain.
She couldn’t see anything until the light faded. Only then could she see the figure was gone. In its place a gaping hole shone through the wall, its edges alit with growing embers.
She realized a fire would ensue. She desperately turned to her grandfather, summing up all her strength to turn him over. The embers provided enough light for her to see how hurt he was. There was so much blood.
“What do I do?” she cried.
Her grandfather swallowed with difficulty before telling her, “The box. K . . . The Key. Go,” was all he could say.
She shook her head fiercely. “I’ll go get Mom and we’ll get you out.” She made a move to leave, but he grabbed her arm.
“Take them,” he ordered. It took all of him to say the final words, ” Leave, Emery,” ending in a horrible cough.
The room got hotter as the fire spread. She took the key, reached for the box and made a bolt for the door.
She’d get her mother, she thought. They’d get him out.
By the time she was reaching the door, she could see her mother looking in, noticing something strange.
Emery burst out of the store and grabbed onto her mother’s legs. Anabella let out a ramble of questions asking what was wrong. “Mama! Grandpa’s hurt! You have to-“
Emery’s question was cut short, by a huge boom. Anabella covered her daughter as hundreds of glass shards surrounded them.
Emery looked back, at the roaring flames with both the box and key in either hand, and wept.
She’d never see her Grandfather again.
“She’s too young,” Emery heard her mother speak to some people in uniforms. She could barely understand what was happening around her. She was too shocked. She could only stare at the remains of her Grandfather’s shop. A pile of smoke, broken wood, and ashes.
“There’s not a rule of age, Anabella. If it chose now. It chose now,” another woman spoke, which Emery could not recognize.
“She’s too young,” Anabella pressed. “She’s only 7 and just look all the devastation those things caused. She won’t be the same after this.”
“I realize that, but-” the voices faded as someone bent down next to Emery, mumbling something incomprehensible and covering her with something soft.
“. . . the House can do it. I know its within their power,” was the next thing Emery heard her mother say.
“It’s against the natural way of things.”
“What about this seems natural to you? It shouldn’t have picked her in the first place! Not now!” Anabella’s voice broke. “We’ve lost so much, Viera.”
“I know. Okay? I know. I’ll try.”
The woman bent down next to Emery and stroked her hair, greyed by soot. “Come with me, Emery. Everything’s going to be okay.”