Ray & Gen & The Box of Hope™

The Journey Begins
By Chris Gurnick
Chapter Five

     After a five-hour flight on the back of a small donkey the three passengers were tired and thirsty.  Chadwick slowly began his descent. As they glided closer to the ground, Ray realized that the land looked very familiar; they were landing near Ray and Gen’s cousins’ house in Tampa, Florida!
     “Gen, do you know where we are?”  Ray asked excitedly.
     “It looks like Florida!” she answered.
     “Fiona, are we in Florida?” Ray asked loudly.
     She screamed, “Yes we are Ray!”
     “What are we doing here?” he asked again screaming over the loud, rushing air. They flew through many different swarms of bugs that hit them as they descended.
     “Someone should have provided us with glasses,” yelled Gen, barely able to open her eyes, because of the giant bugs hitting her face.
     “Fiona said loudly, “You should be used to bugs after spending six weeks in the Canadian wilderness!”
     Chadwick flew lazy serpentines to make the descent more comfortable and to allow their inner ears time to adjust to the Florida air pressure. They drifted invisibly toward the Tampa area. It looked like they were going to land right in the middle of Gen and Ray’s aunt, uncle, and cousins’ housing development.
     Gen exclaimed, “Look Ray, we’re at Aunt Sydney and Uncle Phil’s house!”
     “I know,” replied Ray. “Wonder what they have to do with this whole thing?”
     Chadwick landed very lightly, and they all breathed a sigh of exhaustion. He chose a spot near a small lake, right in the backyard of their aunt and uncles’ home. As they each took turns gingerly dismounting the donkey, it was difficult to stand straight, but aching and moaning, Gen and Ray realized that they were no longer invisible.
     “Hey, I think people can see us now!” yelled Gen. No sooner had she made her observation, when they all turned and saw Aunt Sydney and the three cousins running toward them, hair flying in the breeze.
      “You guys! You made it! I wish I could’ve seen you land; it would’ve been really neat!” said Sydney, hugging them each warmly in turn.
     “Aunt Sydney, I am so happy to see you,” cried Gen. Ray stood awkwardly, waiting to hug his aunt. Even though Ray and Gen no longer feared Fiona or Chadwick, they allowed themselves to accept Sydney’s mothering. Seeing family- familiar people was the next best thing to seeing their own parents! Sydney held onto each of them for a few minutes. She then turned and stared at Fiona and Chadwick with a look of shock and disbelief on her face. Ray and Gen pulled away from their aunt and took turns hugging their three cousins-- Lexy, Tyler, and Cam who looked a little shocked to see Fiona and a donkey in their back yard. 
     Sydney stood awkwardly, then mustered up some courage and extended her hand toward Fiona, having been told by Chris that the creature could speak. Before Sydney’s mouth opened, Fiona turned away from her quickly and bent down towards a large hole, near the lake. To all their amazement, Fiona began a strange conversation with a large turtle that had poked its head out of the hole.
      Fiona spoke English to the turtle, which answered her with small hisses and clicks from its snapping jaws.
     No one moved for a while; Chadwick scared them all when he said loudly, “We should have already introduced ourselves properly. My name is Chadwick, this” and he turned his head toward the bent Fiona, “is Fiona. As you can see, I am a donkey. Fiona is a Sniggledorfer.”    
     “What’s a Sniggledorfer?” Lexy asked.
     “Let me tell you all about her when we get into the house,” offered Gen.
     Fiona stood and turned toward the three cousins who now hid behind their mother when they saw the look on Fiona’s face. “The three of you and your friends must leave this turtle and all other wild animals alone! You are not old enough yet to understand the delicate balance of this ecosystem.  Stan here plays an integral part,” Fiona said.
     “The turtle has a name?” Cam asked, interrupting Fiona’s tirade. Sydney gave him a quick, yet subtle kick and said, “Sorry Fiona, please finish what you were saying.”
       Fiona continued, “He told me that you’ve been irritating and teasing him, and he is about to bite the next one who comes near him if you don’t leave him alone!”         
     Fiona watched the looks of fear and guilt roll over each of the cousins’ faces and realized that she had just scared Sydney’s children to death.
     “Sniggledorfers are able to speak with other animals in their native language,” Fiona explained.
     Chadwick spoke up, “Yes, it is the most important characteristic of the Sniggledorfer. Their second most important skill, if you might call it that, is the ability to offer any plant, fungus, insect and some small birds, a rest haven on their very bodies. The healing energies and nutrients from the Sniggledorfer’s body have magical, restorative properties.”
     Fiona stood quietly beside him and watched the look on the human faces.  
     “Sydney, may we please go into your garage?” Fiona asked, “I don’t want to attract too much attention from your neighbors.”
     “Yes, please, you are all welcome here,” Sydney said. She motioned for everyone to follow her and they all walked around the house towards the garage; it would be cooler in there and no one would be able to see them.  
     Once inside the garage, Sydney turned and asked Chadwick, “May I bring you some fresh cool water?”
     “Yes please,” Chadwick replied, licking his lips. “If you have any fresh fruit, we could all use a little snack too.” 
     Sydney closed the garage door and turned the light on for her visitors. “I’ll be right back,” she said as she walked into the house.
     Sydney returned with a bag of apples, a small vegetable tray, crackers, and a pitcher of ice water.  She found a clean bucket and filled it with water from the garage washtub for Chadwick. After they all drank and ate a bit, Cam stood up, and asked, “What are you guys doing here?”
     Ray answered, “We’re supposed to be looking for something very important Cam-- Gen and I are looking for the archives of The Box of Hope, but I don’t understand how you all fit into the picture.”
     “That, my dears is simple. Sydney, would you please tell Ray and Vieve what you found in an old box in your garage when you moved a few years ago?” asked Fiona, with an air of excitement in her voice. “Wait, Sydney, before we start on that, I’d better ask you for a misting bottle. The ivy plant growing up my back is also thirsty,” she said, while rearranging the trailing ivy now peeking out from her armpit.
     “Sure, sure, no problem,” Sydney said. Gathering and fetching food and drinks gave her some time to think about what was going on. Even though Chris called and told her the whole story and about how strange Ray and Gen’s guides would look to her, it was all still very shocking. Sydney came out of the house and back into the garage holding a spray bottle filled with cool water, “I took it upon myself to add a little Phenona-Grow plant food to the water for you,” she said hesitantly handing the bottle to Fiona. 
     “See, I’ve always been of the opinion that some humans are much more in tune with nature than they let on,” chirped Fiona, obviously very happy with Sydney’s extra effort.
     Sydney sat down on an old piece of carpet and searched around the room. She looked directly at her children and began, “The three of you, and Ray and Gen are related to a very special family that lived in Egypt thousands of years ago. We’re talking at least four-thousand years ago, and all of us-me, Aunt Chris, and all of you are descendants of this ancient family. I don’t know where it came from, or how it came to rest with our family, but we are the proud owners of a box of really old, dusty, tattered history books. I think that I may have taken them by accident from Grandma and Granddad Smith’s house. We had to live with them for a little bit before our house was done here in Florida.” Sydney stopped for a drink of her water, and looked to see that her children seemed fine with everything she’d just told them.
      “All that we are going to talk about now is strictly confidential,” remarked Chadwick.
     “Yes,” said Fiona with great concern, “children, please remember that unless you want to put yourselves or your cousins in serious danger, you will not mention any of what you are about to hear to anyone, NO ONE! As we speak, there are dark forces working against us. Their desire is to undermine our mission and find The Box of Hope before we do; they will stop at nothing to get what they want.” 

© Copyright, All Rights Reserved. Chris Gurnick