In my childhood one of my favorite things to do was visit my grandfather’s house. Not on my mother’s side but my father’s. My mother and I lived in a cramped 2 bedroom apartment with a tv that wasn’t very loud. With neighbors on one side constantly having s*x and the neighbors on the other constantly fighting, my grandfather’s house became my safe haven. My quiet space. It was either that or try to listen to the tv and pretend vulgar things weren’t happening around me.
You see I never had a relationship with my father, because he went away after I was born. He said to my mother before he left, “It’s so you and Ollie can have a good life worry free. I shouldn’t be gone too long.” But he was never heard from again. So in his absence, my grandfather was my mentor. He lived alone and his wife had passed before I was born. His house was massive and it was even larger inside. I once asked him how many rooms there were and he said, “Twenty-two, well twenty-three including the library. The library covers the space of four rooms with two on the ground level and two on the second story but the second level is accessible via the first.”
His library was the most impressive I had ever seen. He had books from all over the world. Some were very worn and tattered. Others gleamed brilliant golds, cobalt blue’s and quicksilvers. He would read stories to me from these books about forgotten lands and never ending wars of good and evil; of princesses guarded by Dragons, of wizards pursuing great power and summoning beasts from other dimensions. There would always be a hero to save the day.
In one of the books there is a hero who always wore a look of grim acceptance from the illustrations, like he knew his death would be soon, but there was nothing he could do to change it. He never did die, and he was always referred to as the nameless savior. He was revered and celebrated but after he did save the day, he didn’t stick around long afterwards.
My grandfather told me many stories about this hero, more so than the other heroes. But that was because the other heroes died valiantly in battle or they got too comfortable afterwards and were murdered or poisoned by conspirators. This nameless savior was smart, staying away from politics and residing in the harsh mountains. He only appeared when evil threatened to end the world. Only the bravest is prophecized to be trained by this hero and fight the ultimate to banish it once and for all. My grandfather would be very dramatic and emphasize this part while looking at me with a mischievous grin.
That would be the end of the story. He’d tuck me in and tell me all the wonderful things we’d be doing the next day. He’d say, “Oooh, we’re gonna be fat I’m tellin ya! I’m baking cookies, brownies, pudding, pancakes, French toast and strawberry cheesecake!” He wouldn’t be exaggerating either. Whatever he said he was making would be ready by the time I woke up the next morning. Every last thing he said. He even took the time to arrange it decoratively on the table. He’d say, “I hope you brought your appetite!” I’d be speechless damn near drooling but I never forgot my manners. “Thank you so much grandpa! How do you make it taste so good!” I wasn’t being a kiss a*s. I had other people’s food. None of it compared to his. “Well Ollie, some day I’ll teach you. But for now, just enjoy it kid.” He put a spoonful of cheesecake in his mouth. “Mmm, just like my mom used to make.”
After breakfast we’d walk in his garden. This time was different from the others. “Oliver I’d like to introduce you to someone.” Almost as if to answer him a fluffy black cat leaped from the shadows and into our path, effectively stopping me in my tracks. “Now Oliver I need you to listen really close. You can’t tell your mother or anyone what I’m going to tell you here today. They’re going to take the house Oliver-”
“Who is going to take the house!” I blurted. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want anyone to take my grandfather’s house.
“Oliver listen please. The bank is going to foreclose on the house because I can’t make payments. My money from my book writing has run out. I’d write another book, but it would just get rejected like the other ones I’ve sent in. But that’s why I’m telling you all of this. You can help me, like your father did all those years ago. Heck, you can even visit him if you like. But I don’t recommend it. His story isn’t selling too well.” Before I knew it were in front of a large yellow shed and he was pulling out keys from his pocket. One key in particular had a strange tinge to it. Almost like blood. It had a ominous glow of foreboding. Yet somehow, none of these things horrified me more than the thought of my grandpa losing his house. As he went to push the key into the lock everything outside went from sunny and cheery, the sky turning bright red and black lighting screaming across the sky. He twisted the key and a resounding explosion deafened me. I looked around with tears in my eyes.
“What in God’s name is going on?” My grandfather chuckled. “This is my doing boy. The first time is always jarring. Now let’s go inside before the monsters come.” He opened the doors and what I expected to see was something out of my nightmares. Instead, I saw a comfy study with two chairs, a desk and a fireplace roaring away. It was warm and curiously inviting. I felt eyes on my back and turned around. I saw red human shapes with horns and wings hovering off in the distance. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. Fire balls erupted from their hands and soared to me at impossible speeds. I thought death was upon me until I felt my grandfather pull my shirt collar back behind an invisible barrier that were made visible only by the crashing fire balls.
“Were safe in here boy. Do you hear me? Think of this like a tank. But a tank could only dream of being this strong. Now, the matter I spoke of beforehand.” He pushed a button on the wall and the door to the shed swung shut. Smart idea, I thought. No need to reach beyond the barrier to close the door. I began to notice more things about this shed. It was much bigger inside.
“Grandpa why are there stairs leading up? I didn’t see a second story outside.” He smiled slyly.
“Someone has an eye for detail. I’d like to say you got that from me. This is not actually a shed. Think of it more as a transdimensional fortress and my legacy as a whole. Now, what Grandpa needs is a new story. One with a lot of guts and glory. Your father’s story is played out. Nobody wants to hear about the nameless savior anymore. What we need is someone new with a name. Now I like yours, but do we risk someone making the connection and finding out?”
My head was spinning. “Grandpa what is going on? What is all this? What were those things? How do you know about all of this? My father is the nameless savior!?” All of my thoughts were rushing when it finally clicked. My father was trapped in a story book by my grandfather. My grandfather had to be a wizard or something stronger in order to achieve something of that magnitude. My innocence died in that moment. My grandfather is the reason my mother and I live in such a crummy dilapidated apartment. Why my mother works 60 hours a week or more and has no health insurance. My grandfather is the reason I grew up without a father. My grandfather was the bad guy. But I couldn’t let him know I thought that. I had to get my father back. And I had to learn how to do what my grandfather can. The cat he surprised me with was not to be trusted. So much to consider. When he spoke I jumped.
“Ollie your grandpa is a storyweaver. A very old, very strong storyweaver. Back when I was young like you, storyweavers were everywhere. Now though. They’re all gone. Swept away by an unseen force. You and I are the only living storyweavers left in this world. Now, a storyweaver is a wonderful thing my boy. It’s not a curse unless you let it become that. Being a storyweaver means you can manipulate reality into fantasy via thought. But that is an advanced method. We’ll start with the basics of writing your fantasy into reality.” He motioned to the desk. An ornate gold book sat atop. It shimmered and glowed blue, red, yellow, pink, orange, green and silver. A quill with a crazy looking feather sat in a skull ink blotter. The feather shimmered like the book. I was nervous but determined. My grandfather looked at me with admiration. Smug b*****d, I thought. I’ll show you whose story is played out.
“Now to stay in this world and not create an entirely new one and be sucked in, you have to write about being in this shed. From there you’re free to take the story wherever you want as you’ve cemented that book into this reality. It’s a bit complex but you’ll understand over time. Go ahead give it a try. I wrote the following words: I WAS SITTING IN THE SHED WITH MY GRANDFATHER WHEN THERE WAS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR. Had my innocence not have been dead, I would have been excited. Now I had to pretend to be surprised. Of course he’s gonna take it slow. I thought of him going faster and it clicked. He spoke more but at almost too fast a pace so I had to focus on him reversing speech replaying where I lost him while going as fast as I could process without delays on his end. I just controlled time. I didn’t need to fake being surprised. He spoke normally.
“Now Oliver, just relax. Who do you want to walk through that door.” I wrote the following: “special delivery for one Oliver Smith! I have four bags of Doritos, two jars of salsa, two liters of seven-up and a pound of chilly fries!” I finished by writing just a casual delivery woman. My grandfather laughed answered the door and brought all of the contents to the table after closing it.
“Kid, if you weren’t a storyweaver this diet would kill you.” He chuckled again. I cracked open a seven-up and took a big drink. “I’m glad you didn’t make a dragon appear Ollie. You’re taking care with this and taking it serious. It’s everything I could have hoped for as far as a beginning.” I’d feel something in that moment if I didn’t want to put a bullet in his head. A bullet crashed through the window and whistled passed my grandfather’s nose into the wall behind him. He looked where the bullet came from and lasers shot from his eyes killing the man firing the gun. He looked at me and shrugged. “How odd. Neither you nor I conjured that man but he’s gone now. So I guess it doesn’t matter.”