I never could have speculated how that warm December day in Bell City, California could have turned out to be my biggest nightmare.

It started out as any other day— wake up, brush my teeth, head downstairs for breakfast. That last one was my biggest mistake.

My parents bickered all the time. They were on the verge of divorcing and sometimes I just wished they would do it and get it over with.

I knew they were only staying together because of me. I didn’t really know how to feel about that. I loved both of them equally and I wanted both of them in my life, but sometimes mine was thrown upside down when they argued.

This particular day in December I had had enough. I ran out the back door, the screen door slamming loudly behind me as I ran off into the forest. I needed time to think.

I could see my return now.

“Look Shawn, we’re sorry,” my mother would start. They would both be sitting monotonously at our kitchen table facing each other.

“It’s fine, mom,” I would say, trying to comfort them. It really wasn’t fine. I hated them arguing, but I would never tell them that. I’m pretty sure they had a good idea of how I felt about there ‘outings’ as they called them.

“No, it’s not,” my father would continue, “what me and your mother did was immature and selfish. Selfish to each other and selfish to you.”

“Whatever.” I head up the stairs to my room. I can’t handle anymore tonight.

“Shawn Revers, get back down here. This conversation isn’t over.” I continue up the stairs.

“Yes, it is,” I say casually. Neither one of them comes up the stairs after me. They realize what I have been put through tonight.

Reality hit me once again as I was pulled from my thoughts. I walked through the forest pondering all of this. I abruptly stopped. Which way had I just come from? I was lost in a labyrinth of forest.

Panic overtook me and I began running wildly in all directions like a crazy madman.

I didn’t know how long I had been lost, but I was beginning to feel fatigued. The sun must have started making its descent into the hillside, because light was beginning the become a scarce resource.

I slowly found my way over to a tree and slumped down. I was utterly exhausted and had no idea where I was. I curled my legs up into my chest and wrapped my arms around them.
I wondered if my parents even cared if I was missing. They probably wouldn’t. They’d probably figure I’d come back before dark, but tonight it didn’t look like that was happening. I began to cry sheepishly. I suddenly had to remind myself that fourteen years olds shouldn’t cry like this. I wiped my tears away using my sleeve.

That’s when I noticed it.

The book.

It was purple and seemed to carry a burden not yet dispensed. I pulled myself up so I could get a better look of the book. I walked toward it slowly, for it seemed to have an ominous heir. This created dread within me as I walked closer and closer.

I reached down to pick it up, but the book pulled itself to the earth, like it was magnetized to the ground.

It was filthy and half-covered in grime and dirt.
Suddenly, the book burst open, sending a wave of blue light into the sky. I looked closer. Were those faces?

Faces soared out of the book’s binding, screaming in agony. One of them soared right through my body throwing me to the ground.

The next time I looked up there was a soul’s face floating in front of me as if on a cloud.

The face was that of a woman in her early twenties. She had long, flowing hair and beautiful eyes. She stared at me blankly for a moment before speaking.

“Why?” the face asked, almost mournfully. Her voice was unusually high-pitched and her face held a look of strain and stress. I looked at her face inquisitively, pondering my next move.

“Why release us?” she whispered. Her voice was soft and pleasant, yet harshness was banging at the door. It never skipped a beat.

“Wh-wh-where did you come from?” I asked cautiously following her every move as she swept around me.

“I am from the Land of the Dead,” she replied. “You must have found the book.”

“Wait, so you are saying that that book is a way into the Land of the Dead,” I said a little anxiously. I will be able to see my great great grandparents, I thought.

“Yes, and you have just released them.”

“Released who?”

“The dead.” The words bounced off the walls of my brain. The dead. The dead.

“I plan to return to my hometown and live peacefully in Norwich, but others will not be so friendly.” More souls rushed past us.

“What do you mean?”

“Some of these people were tortured, others brutally murdered. Would you just stand around if you had the chance to avenge your death?”

I finally began to understand. The book was a portal, a portal into the Land of the Dead. It was where souls were collected and lived after their life on Earth, and I had just released them into our world.

“Can you tell me more about this book? I mean where did it come from. I thought all souls were sent to heaven or hell?” I asked.

“Well, they were. At one time,” the female soul started. “But that all changed about five thousand years ago.”

“The Book of the Past is the very first book that was ever made. It wasn’t long after that that the book fell into the wrong hands- the hands of a falcteaser.”

“What is a falcteaser?” I asked.

“The falcteaser is a creature that has a falcon’s head and a horse’s body. They are very nasty creatures, easily angered. The falcteaser placed a curse upon the book, which called all souls into the book.”

“The book remained hidden until the 1900s when its second owner came along- Evangeline. Evangeline was a nice, country girl. She kept the book secret from her family and cherished it with her life. The book in return loved her and allowed her to use the book as a diary. However, as the girl came of age, her interest in the book diminished, and the girl discarded of the book near a forest.”

“The books next owner was more boisterous. Tom was out searching for treasure one day when he came upon the book. Tom was an evil boy and one day when the book would not cooperate he tried to tear it apart. The Book of the Past became enraged and engulfed Tom.”

“You found the diary where Tom was once engulfed.”

“You mean I am standing right where Tom . . .”

“Yes.”

“What can I do to stop them?” I asked quickly. I looked at the sky nervously as it filled with souls.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The book has been locked for centuries. The key is lost forever.”

Suddenly, everything faded to me standing alone in my grandparent’s room. Everything was strangely black as if I was looking at an old fashioned television set.

“I think it is time you have this,” my grandmother said. She was sitting on the edge of her bed with my mother sitting curiously beside her.

“What is it?” my mother asked.

“It is a family heirloom. It has been passed down from generation to generation, and now I think it is time you had it.”

“Wow,” my mother said softly examining the heirloom.

It was a golden, rusty key that looked centuries old. It looked nothing like keys from the twenty first century. It had the mysterious, old fashioned feel. The kind you saw in the movies.

Just as fast as the vision had come on, it was gone. That was the answer. That key. I had to find that key.

“I think I know what I must get,” I told the face. I didn’t really know why. She couldn’t help me, or could she?

“Can you get me out of this forest?”

“Only if you promise to return the soul’s home,” she said strictly.

“I know what I must do.” I repeated it with a little more emphasis. “Can you return me to my home? What I am looking for I believe is in my mother’s jewelry box.”

“Ok, but once you have found it snap twice to return to this place in the forest. I shall be awaiting your return, destined one.” That last part struck me as kind of odd. Destined one. I shrugged it off.

The soul breathed a doorway into a nearby tree. I looked at it in awe for a moment, before walking through the archway into my backyard.

I took off running at top speed, busting through the screen door, leaving my parents in utter bewilderment. I rushed upstairs to my mother’s jewelry box.

Her jewelry box was red and had a mirror on top.

I opened the top, but there was no key. I stared at the bottom of the box in awe. It wasn’t there. Where else would my mother hide a family heirloom?

I had to talk to the female soul. Maybe she would know. She seemed to be holding back something.

I snapped my fingers twice. Nothing happened. I snapped them twice again. Nothing happened. I began snapping wildly. It was no use. The face had betrayed me. Or had it all been a dream?

Would I ever know? That night I crawled into bed and pulled the comforter up around my face. I was exhausted, therefore I fell asleep pretty quickly. I awoke the next morning at 7:06 in the morning to sounds of people screaming, screaming in agony. I knew it wasn’t a dream! The book was real!