Written by Danielle E. Pasqua
Copyright © April 4, 2018
Across the street from my school, there was a park, that my classmates and I was not told what this location held. But today we were finally allowed to see the finished property, so when class was through, we lined up in the front of the building and marched ahead where a wrought iron gate opened to a mysterious scene.
Though there was plenty of greenery at the entrance, in the center of the park, the grass had disappeared. There was a mound of sand, where much of the faculty, had garden gloves and shovels, searching for something that we students knew nothing about. Then we all stopped, as my teacher Mrs. Brookes made an announcement.
“This used to be a crater,” Mrs. Brookes explained,” The city wanted to fill it up. They were afraid of a wondering child taking a fatal fall.”
“How do they know it’s a crater?” I asked. I stood in front of my classmates and came prepared with questions.
“Scientists excavated the rock,” Mrs. Brookes answered.
“What does excavate mean?”
“Why are they doing this now?”
“Searching for time capsules. The superintendent suggested doing this. In each layer there is a bottle containing a buried secret for a few of selected students. The layer the faculty is picking up now, goes back three years.”
“How do you decide on the selected students?”
“Those with older siblings.”
I couldn’t deny, the fact that my sister Lacey was on the other side of the crater, with her clever smile and baggy clothes, that she always wore. She always managed to fool me, so I was uncertain to what she had planned next. The middle school students had been dismissed from school and arrived to enjoy the aura in the elementary children like us, as we discovered what was hidden underground.
There were two things I began to realize as I searched the crowd for my friends Xavier and Ian. First there was Xavier to my right and Ian to my left leaving me the leader of any adventure we experienced. Secondly, I was the only one with the older sibling. Ian was an only child and Xavier had a sister who was in kindergarten. But that didn’t spoil our friendship. If anything, it brought us closer than ever.
“Noah, I have something for you,” Mrs. Brookes handed me a dark quarter sized object, as I woke from my daydream,” This is a magnet. It was developed by a local university. The crater’s gravity is heavier than earth. This should do the trick.”
“What are in these bottles?” I asked.
“Drawings of machinery,” Mrs. Brookes explained and held up an example of a sketch on graph paper,” They are to be used at the science fair tomorrow. There will be a race to see who can build their destined design the fastest.”
Since I was the first up, I leaned over to the crater. Soon as I placed my magnet above the glass bottle, I watched in awe as it was attached like magic. I brought the bottle to eye level, where inside a piece of paper was folded in half. Just as I was to open it, my sister came racing around crater, only to attack me with excitement,” My wish for you is to make a small-scale model of this ship.”
Ship? My sister didn’t even give me a chance to study the drawing. But I held it up to the sunlight, where the pencil markings, that were faded, now seemed to have lit up again. This representation of a spacecraft had three triangular shapes that were connected by long narrow tubes, that formed a larger triangle, despite the empty space between. There were thrusters at the end of the back two triangles, where a fuzzy patch of what appeared to be gas emerging from the engine. This drawing seemed a little fishy to me.
“Lacey, did you steal this?” I asked my sister, who avoided my question with a clever smile,” Doesn’t this belong to Dad’s company? You did that with “The Heirloom.”
I reminded my sister, how at the beach she refused to mention what “The Heirloom” was really used for. A GPS for High Tech Star Gateway Machinery, the company where our father worked.
“Surely not Noah,” my sister smirked.
“I don’t believe you,” I stated glaring at my mocking sister.
The dismissal bell for school rang as the rest of the students were given their time capsules, but mine was different because when I placed “The Drawing” back in the bottle it glowed a neon pink. All the students and faculty stared at me as if I was an alien, (which I was.) Then I called to my friends,” Let’s go. We are returning this drawing back to my father’s company. “
“Boys, you can’t go now. The buses are here to take you home,” Mrs. Brookes scolded, but her voice faded away My friends and I took off, where the time capsule guided us to a place where “The Drawing” belonged to the rightful owner. At least that was what we imagined.
The world that lied in the distance was a neon pink, just like the bottle’s reflected color. I knew it couldn’t have been the sunset, for it was much too early for that, unless it was a signal from my father’s company, as to where “The Drawing” had originated from. Though we had mastered the trails in town like clockwork, after hiking for an hour we had no idea where were, so we assumed the time capsule would find the way.
“This reminds me how your father’s globe led us to him,” Ian recalled as we came to a crossroad in the woods. Then the time capsule maneuvered South, opposite to where I thought my father’s company had lied.
“Maybe this will too just like- “I began to say as the time capsule took off and out of my hands. We ran to catch up with the bottle, which directed us down a steep path. I was a little nervous about what I about to witness, and I believed from the looks of my friends, they feared the same notion that I had. But the bottle wouldn’t stop moving. Until we came to a clearing, where there was nothing but sand.
“Where are we?” Ian asked.
In front of the unusual small plateau we had stood upon, the land had slightly sloped again. There appeared to be a massive opening, that was covered with a dark drape, like a pool covering and a gaseous mist surrounded it.
“There’s a building in that crater,” Xavier guessed,” I never knew that existed there.”
There’s a silver staircase leading down to it,” Ian pointed out,” Maybe we should try and see what is there.”
But I looked above us where the planes in the sky seemed so far away. I questioned where we were. If these craters near the Sound were somehow connected. After some hesitation I led my friends down the stairs, the metal echoing, reminding me of the docks I had seen last summer at the beach. But we were nowhere near the shore, if only one could know where. Then again, the bottle knew.
“We’re here to find the artist,” Xavier reminded me, reading my mind.
I believed my father had built this place. But why did he keep it a secret? Why couldn’t we see it from space?
“May I be of your assistance?” a teenage boy spoke as he marched back and forth across the entrance to this peculiar facility. He had no body armor on him, which left us relieved, though I didn’t answer.
“Who are you?” Ian asked, but Xavier pulled him back.
“I work with the group inside. At times I roam the outside for safety.”
“What is this group?” I asked.
“It’s a class. They construct ships.”
“Do you know who did this drawing?” I asked as I shook the bottle that was now translucent and no longer pink. Then the paper fell out, but I caught it before it fell to the ground. I then opened it up, so this person could see the sketch.
“I have an idea, but I am sworn to secrecy,” the boy’s tone was grave. Then I heard a Click, but I didn’t know the source of where it was coming from. I wondered if my friends had heard it too.
“Who teaches this class?” I asked.
“A knowledgeable person from another world.”
“I’d like to go to the class. It can help me with my science project,” I pleaded.
“You can’t go but I can help.”
“Do you know where my school- “
“Across from the crater.”
“Where you from?”
“Why can’t we see inside?” Ian interrupted my conversation with this stranger. Xavier tugged on his jacket. He remained quiet compared to Ian and me.
“The windows are tinted from the enemy. There is also a sound barrier.”
“How do we get back?” I asked.
“Point the bottle North. It’s like a compass. It will take you home,” the boy directed and then said looking at his watch,” I must go inside. Class is back in session.”
The boy disappeared behind a door. It read “FDSC.”
“What does that mean?” Ian asked.
“Hopefully we’ll find out. Let’s go.”
Then the time capsule took us home, but to our delight an animated flame emerged from the bottom. Inside was a mini replica of the vehicle the artist had created, with enough power to soar across the universe.
When we reached our cul-de-sac, the sun had set, and a full moon followed its’ celestial neighbor in the sky. With twilight taking over, we understood the trails in the woods had been far from our homes, though our short meeting made it hard to fathom.
There standing on my driveway was my mother with her hands on her hip. This familiar sight brought me back to “The Lightning Rod” last summer, when she asked me if I had “witnessed” that bizarre light in the sky. But this time inside of a blank stare, she seemed to be very alert. She asked, “Noah, where have you been? Your father has been looking for you.”
“Let me show you,” I explained as I started to unzip my backpack.
“Come inside,” my mother ordered,” I have to check on dinner.”
In the kitchen my mother opened the oven and took out the broccoli casserole she had made. I was hungry already, but all matters aside, I opened my backpack, took out the bottle and hoped the mystified model was there, but it was back to a sketch. Its’ light had dimmed that it looked like an ordinary bottle manufactured on earth. I revealed “The Drawing” to my mother.
My sister gasped.
“Where did you get that drawing?” my mother demanded.
I told her about the time capsule. Then I pointed to Lacey.
“Go to your room, Lacey,” my mother ordered,” What you’re doing is a shame to your people. You never take anything valuable from our company.”
My sister started to ball, as I said,” So she did steal it from Dad.”
“We always thought that the government officials had taken the drawing,” my mother mentioned as she turned the oven off and stared at the lost sketch that laid on the island,” I was wrong.”
Then I told my mother how my friends and I stumbled upon the crater and the structure it held.
“No one should know of that building,” my mother warned, appearing astonished that I knew of its’ presence,” That’s why meetings are held in that crater.”
Debating whether to mention the boy, I thought it was a good idea. I provided her the details of our conversation.
“You asked him for help?” my mother scolded, “Trusting a stranger?”
“He was very polite,” I tried to reason with my mother.
“No, he wants to confiscate our design,” my mother cried, “Whoever he is, he doesn’t belong there.”
“Then how did he get inside?” I asked.
“I don’t know, your father might. I’m going to contact him,” my mother answered and then snapped,” Go to your room, Noah.”
Leaving my backpack on the floor, I began to grab “The Drawing” and placed it back in the bottle. But my mother snatched “The Drawing” from me, sobbing and looked up at the ceiling as if she was somehow communicating with our world above. I held the bottle in my hands and ran upstairs in disgust at the careless mistake I had made.
In my room, I couldn’t help but to toss the vacant bottle around like it was a rubber ball. In fact, that’s how it appeared. But I played with it, while looking out the window, where the sun had once been. Now the moon had reign and the stars acted like knights protecting the satellite if it was a fortress for the earth, which that it was.
Then I heard a car and watched my father pull his black unmarked vehicle up to the garage. He jumped out and ran inside. I couldn’t believe how my mother’s message had traveled so fast.
“Noah, you’re not grounded,” my mother called from the kitchen,” Your father needs you. Bring the bottle down.”
Then I grabbed the empty bottle as I headed downstairs.
Behind my mother, my father stood in his lizard form. He had told me once he had morphed into that state, when he believed his people were in trouble.
“So that’s where the drawing was. All those years,” my father realized with anger,” A thief in our own family. Then again why should I be surprised.”
“Instead it was on the school’s grounds,” my mother stated and told my father about the “excavation” the school’s faculty had done.
“Time capsules. I can’t believe that’s what the school was using that crater for.”
“Why? What was it supposed to be use for?’ I asked.
“Something else, but the school board beat us to it. They didn’t understand our intentions. To protect the school from the government officials.”
“Noah, show your father the bottle,” my mother said,” Tell him what it does.”
When I handed my father the bottle, he examined it. Then he took his index finger, the only part of him that hadn’t evolved into a lizard. He looked down at me, his scaled face, grim in expression and said,” This is no ordinary bottle. It’s from our planet. Just like “The Heirloom” it can be used as a GPS tracker. Lacey must’ve stolen this one too.”
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“Stop this being,” my father answered and then said,” We need to pick up your friends. I’ve already messaged them. They’re waiting. You don’t have to worry. Bring the bottle but leave the drawing here. It will be safe at home where it belongs for now.”
My mother promised she’d save dinner for us. My father assured her; we wouldn’t be gone for long.
Near the edge of town my father mentioned there was a hidden route, that the government officials knew nothing about, that way we couldn’t be spotted. The route would take us to the woods, where he believed this boy might be. But as we traveled along this bumpy road instead of darkness there was a tunnel of bright light surrounding us. A wormhole on earth I had thought as I held on tight yet enjoying its’ colors.
“That boy as you call, is not human,” my father explained,” He is a robot and a trained spy. The government officials designed him to capture information from us.”
A thought then occurred to me about the Click I heard and so I mentioned it to my father. My friends had agreed they had heard the noise.
“He took a picture,” my father said and asked,” Noah, did you show him the drawing?”
“Yes,” I said softly.
“You shouldn’t have done that Noah,” my father reprimanded me,” Our enemies have shrewd disguises.”
“Why do they want ‘The Drawing?’ Ian asked.
“It’s the long-term project,” my father answered,” The spacecraft that will take us home. They are trying to stop us from building it. That’s why “The Drawing” should’ve never left our company.”
Then we parked near the trail in the same place where we found “The Official” and the meeting he had with his people. Holding onto our flashlights we then we set off on foot as my father told us that that those two craters we had witnessed so far were not natural but made by my native planet. Though I was concerned about the crater in the woods.
“Why did you keep the crater a secret?” I asked as we took the trail, that led to the same rock, that my father used to track my friends and I down after we spied upon “The Official.”
“I was planning to tell you,” my father answered,” But security was to tight to do so.”
“Why can’t we see it from the sky?” Ian asked reminiscing our view of my father’s company from space during “The Tour.”
“It’s obscured like a black hole. That’s why there’s a metal covering that blocks sunlight,” my father explained,” So the government officials can’t see it from the sky. It has a passageway that connects to my company. We had to build them, since our enemies discovered what my workplace was all about.”
“How did they find out about the crater and the plans?” I asked.
“The robot, who else,” my father answered,” The robot has a mischievous power that wants to rob the power of our escape. He can disguise himself as any being. That’s how he got in the FDSC; a class called the Fundamentals of Designing a Spacecraft.”
My father then held the bottle up to one of the jagged edges of the rock, that looked more like a machine rather than a piece of nature or the “futon” I had rested upon after my fall in the woods chasing “The Official.” The bottle turned neon pink again and the rock rotated around like a pulsar as a beam of light was released into a direction, to where the robot had lied.
So we walked ahead, still hearing the humming noise of the rotating rock and cool wind that rustled the trees. But a familiar sight puzzled my friends and I but not my father, when we reached a crater, we never seen before. My father held his hand for us to stop. He then peeked down and motioned for us to come over.
Sure, enough in the crater, was the robot marching back and forth like he did in front of the FDSC. He was not in his human form, just metal and wires, sifting through all the information it had possessed.
“This crater belonged to our people,” my father whispered as he pointed to the enormous yellow carved “X” in the middle of this metallic gray hole,” But the government officials took it over. They use it as an airfield for their helicopters.”
“Are they planning to take the robot?” Ian asked.
“I’m afraid so,” my father answered and directed,” I’m taking the staircase down. I need you three to keep an eye on the woods while I steal information from the robot. Noah, hold on to the bottle.”
“How are you going to do that?” I asked taking the bottle from my father.
“I am going to poke the robot’s computer. I’ve become familiar with their design. They hold no say over our people,” my father explained as he took a small pin out of his pocket, which reminded me of how last summer Xavier used to open my sister’s backpack and retrieved “The Heirloom.”
When my father put his foot down on the first stair, his confidence was obvious. He held the pin in his hand like a tiny sword, ready to defeat the enemy that wanted to consume the freedom that my father tried so hard to shield. Though my friends and I searched the surrounding woods for potential threat we couldn’t help to see what my father was about to do. As my father moved closer to the robot from behind, we heard this two-legged machine chanting about “The Drawing” and all its’ detail. But once my father inserted the pin in a hole in the robot’s spine and twisted it the robot began to talk backwards, slowed down and then fell to the ground.
My father turned around and gave us all a thumbs-up.
“Maybe you can help me with my science project,” I asked when my father reached the top stair. He placed the pin in his wallet, as if it was a sacred treasure.
“I can’t. I have several meetings,” my father said, but then suggested,” Maybe your mother can.”
“Huh? All she does it makes wreaths and flower arrangements,” I misunderstood as we walked back to the car. But then I thought She had such a strong defense about “The Drawing.” A side of her I had never seen before.
“So that’s what you think,” my father commented, but I didn’t question any further.
Then we left the robot behind, watched a helicopter lower itself to the ground, waiting to retrieve a robot with empty data that they deserved. It flew away to the North, not knowing that my father had claimed victory for our people. I held onto the empty bottle and thought about “The Drawing” so I could hide them both away for good from our opponents.
The next day at the science fair, I sat in a corner waiting for my mother to come. I was sad it was the end of the year, sports had ended, yet summer recreation hadn’t begun. Now projects were left at hand to succeed to the next grade. I stared at the clock, waiting for it to turn 3:00, when the race would begin with scientific inventions developed by kids, in hopes to win a prize.
Then my mother appeared in a suit and heels carrying her pocketbook. She sat next me and pulled out her tablet, setting it up on the table. She stated,” I am at the artist of ‘The Drawing.’”
“What?” I was amazed, “Do you teach classes at the FDSC?”
“I manage the plant. I had no idea you were there.”
“What else have you done?” I asked as I heard the piercing noise from the PA’s audio.
“Take a look at my portfolio,” my mother logged into her tablet and pulled up a file, that had a split screen. On the left was a document of the design and on the right was the machinery or structure itself. My mother let me scroll through, to where her work was mentioned for ten pages. I was impressed that she had input in every invention from our home planet that I had witnessed with my friends since last summer. I beamed with pride for my mother.
“What are we building today?”
“A boat,” my mother answered turning the page to the screen, where her next idea had lied.
Then the buzzer started.
Together my mother and I started to build our scaled model of the boat.
I asked my mother about my craft class. She only laughed.
“This is my craft class. You’re dreaming Noah. Remember this is your story.”
The timing was up.
I hoped I won the competition.
There was a tie with another student. A girl.
I thought I can’t win everything.
“Did someone just take a picture?”
“This is only a boat. It can’t go to space,” my mother assured me,” Don’t worry.”
“Then why is someone taking pictures?”
“To consume everything, we know. Feed upon our ideas. That is what you’re doing. Right Noah?”
The cheering in the gym was uncontrollable.
My friends Xavier and Ian were there.
I was thirsty, so I drank some water.
Maybe my life was taking another turn now.
Just where, I didn’t want to know or find out.