“Worlds” – Flash Fiction Co-Winner by Kaylie Gross

 

He’d left behind very few things, my grandfather. A weathered old journal, with diagrams and notes scrawled all over the weather-worn and well-loved pages, and a golden ring. Both items were tucked neatly into a battered old suitcase, stamped with the marks of his travels.

Grandfather had been a scholar, always in search of knowledge. He was always roaming, my grandmother said, and she saw little of him even though they were married for forty years. His journal had been filled with entries, their topics varying from the weather in New England, to the history of Australia. Sometimes, he pasted in articles clipped from newspapers, but mostly it was all written in his neat and spindly handwriting. He would peruse entries he’d already written, as evidenced by the coffee-rings and water-stains that sometimes made the ink run, adding details and new information here and there.

While Grandfather’s journal is all but ignored, the ring is a topic of family gossip, for it is not a man’s ring. It is not my grandmother’s ring, either, since it is not her size and she already had a wedding and an engagement ring. All the adults in my family speculate that Grandfather was intending to run off with some girl that he’d met in his travels, leaving my grandmother with three children to raise by herself. But I have seen the ring; if Grandfather was intending to run off with another woman, she must have been very small, because the ring barely fits on my littlest finger.

No one will hear my theories, nor answer my questions when I ask about people that Grandfather might have met in his travels. They say that I am too young, that I should not be digging into such a sordid history and spending my time examining dusty old antiques for nonexistent clues when I could be out playing in the sunshine.

I’d rather stay inside, though. Outside is nice enough, but I don’t like the other children who try to come and play with me. They are, for lack of a better word, childish. They have little imagination of their own- all their creativity is merely an amalgam what they have seen on television or heard in stories, regurgitated and fused with rules that they make up as they go along, twisting their small worlds to suit them best.

Towards the end of Grandfather’s journal, there are entries that do not seem to mesh with his previous writings. They are all about things like the weather, or history, but they are about places that no one has ever heard of, places not found on Earth. Everyone says that Grandfather lost his sharp mind towards the end of his life (“Wracked by guilt” they sometimes say, when they think I am not listening), but these are not the fevered imaginings of a crazy old man. These are the intellectual notes of a scholar, well organized and coherent. Just because no one has heard of these places, where Grandfather describes magic and all the other things found in faerie tales, as well as some things that are not, does not mean that he did not discover them.

On the very last two pages of the old journal, Grandfather sketched a map and some strange symbols and directions. I am all at once terrified and intrigued by these things, so I have not yet dared to read about them. If I am wrong, nothing bad could happen- probably- but if I am right…

I may find myself going down the rabbit hole, into a world that has been on the verge of chaos since Grandfather’s last visit.

 

(Note: the image is from blog.rpsinc.ca)

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