Barry’s grandparents owned and lived on a peach farm in North Carolina exactly one thousand eight hundred and thirty two miles from where Barry’s home. Once a year, Barry got to visit his grandparents for six days by himself. Needless to say, when a grandchild is visiting only one week a year, he gets to do all manner of new and exciting things. Barry was excited to see what was in store for him this year.
“What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” Barry, only eleven years old, couldn’t wait to find out what he’d get this time around. He didn’t yet realize these trips were more about spending time with his grandparents and less about getting to do stuff.
Grandma Jo told him, “I thought we’d go see a movie tomorrow--”
“Super Robot Extreme Action!” Barry shouted.
“I don’t think your parents would like us taking you to a violent film, Barry,” Jo said.
“They won’t care, I can handle it.” Barry pleaded.
Grandfather Tony cut into the conversation. “What’s he visiting us for if we can’t let him get away with an indiscretion or two?”
“Alright,” Jo said.
“Yesssss!” Barry whispered.
The boy woke up the next morning, pulled on a new red “I can’t spel but I’m still awsome” shirt and went to the kitchen with his head thinking about the summer blockbuster he was going to see today. He was about to ask when they were going to leave, but his grandfather said. “Come on, I need to teach you how to trap game.”
“But what about the movie, gramps?”
“Not today. You need a life skill.” His usually steady hands seems to be shaking.
“No buts; we are going trapping.” He said it with an air of finality Barry recognized.
Tony took them both to his shed and started shoving survival gear into a backpack: ropes, zip ties, matches, survival books, and the like. He took a crowbar and popped the metal lid off a black barrel full of emergency supplies. He grabbed water and food and shoved it in any empty pocket of the backpack.
“Grampa, what do we need all that for?” Barry asked.
“You can never be prepared enough out there. What do you know about animals at night?” he asked.
Barry stuttered for a moment. “Th.th..the owls are out at night?”
His grandfather turned to him, lowered his body so they were face to face and grabbed both Barry’s shoulders. “The creatures at night are terrifying and will not hesitate to rip you to shreds given a chance. Fire can keep them back, but sleeping in the trees keeps them away too. Even they are superstitious.”
“You know you’re being kind of creepy, right grampa?”
“Here, I’m giving you this. When you have a chance you should read through it.” The old man threw a worn out leather bound journal in the pack and then motioned for Barry to turn around. The kid almost tottered over from the densely packed bag before regaining his balance.
The two traipsed through the peach orchard, then the outlying woods Barry was too weirded out from the conversation at the shed to start talking and his grandfather didn’t initiate either. Finally, they stopped at an ancient tree. He reached down and pulled on a metal cord that had been tied around the tree. The cord had been there so long, the tree had grown around the connection. Tony lifted the cable up to his chest and dropped it limp to the ground.
Barry followed the cord with his eyes. It exited the tree, angled up to Tony’s hand, then arced back to the ground, eventually weaving into the terrain on the ground. Tony let out a sigh of relief when the cord fell from his hand. He turned back to Barry. “I’m sorry for scaring you, I thought--”
“What was that?” Barry yelled out. The cord had suddenly gone taught. No longer lying on the ground, it shot out straight out from the three at knee height for as far as Barry could see.
When he looked back to his grandfather, Tony looked tense and sad. “Better go check it out, kid. I’ll wait here.”
Barry grabbed the cable and gave it a tug, it wouldn’t budge. He walked through the woods for at least half a mile. The cable led into a cave. He could see light coming from the other side, so decided he could keep walking through. Inside the cave, the air grew cold and his shoes began to soak through from moisture and puddles.
As he came to the center of the cave, the light was so low, he leaned over and grabbed the cable every few steps to make sure he was staying on the path. Finally, he exited the cave into another part of the woods. “Must be on the Turner’s land by now.”
He walked a few steps forward and saw a boy about his own age with long fire-red hair and ragged clothes frantically coming toward him. Barry put his arms up and shut his eyes, not knowing what to do if he was attacked. The red-haired boy ran straight past him. Barry didn’t open his eyes again until he could no longer here the boy running.
“Grampa can follow this thing himself, I’m going back,” Barry said. He reached down to grab the cable and make his way back, but the cable wasn’t there. He looked down and saw it limp on the ground, like it had been at the tree where it started before things went strange. “Definitely going home now,” he reiterated.
He turned to go through the cave, but their was only a wall of rock where he thought the cave opening had been a moment ago. Barry grabbed the cord once again and followed it back, knowing it would eventually lead him back where he started.
The metal cord lead him on a very short trip, ending at the rock wall. The cord was stuck, at knee height, in the smooth rock itself.