Joshua this is a special story I wrote just for you on your 13th birthday.
I love you Josh.On Sunday afternoons, Josh and Mathew always went to their Grandma’s house after church. After they ate dinner, Josh and Mathew liked to explore the back two acres with their aunt Alisa. Alisa was the same age as Josh so she seemed more like a cousin than an aunt.
One Sunday while the whole family was eating Grandpa’s Dutch oven pork ribs, Josh heard something that peeked his interest.
“When I was a little girl,” their Aunt Arianne said. “I found an antique key buried under a stone threshold that led into that small room in the barn with a cement floor.”
“Key?” Josh asked. “You found a key? What did it look like?”
“It was one of those old ones they don’t make ones like that anymore,” Aunt Arianne answered.
“Did it unlock anything?” Josh asked.
“That was the strange thing,” Aunt Arianne said. “There is only one door in the barn and sometimes that key opened the door and sometimes it didn’t. Once I thought I heard a small child crying in that room so I dug around where I left the key, dusted it off and tried it in the lock. But it wouldn’t work. When the crying stopped, I tried the key again and it worked this time. I opened the door but no one was in the room.
“Did you save the key?” Josh asked.
“That is the other funny thing,” Aunt Arianne answered. One day I dug for it where I left it and it wasn’t there. I’ve never seen it since.”
Josh poked Mathew and Alisa seated on both sides of him. Then they quietly excused themselves from the table. They quickly ran out to the back yard and sat in a circle under the old cherry tree.
“We’ve got to find that key,” Joshua said.
“She said there is only one door in the barn and she found it under a stone threshold there. That’s where we should start,” Alisa added.
“I’ll get a shovel out of the shed,” Mathew said as they all stood up and walked quickly toward the barn.
When they got to the barn Joshua found the threshold stone and asked Matthew to pry it up with the shovel. Then Josh pushed the stone over and Mathew turned over the dirt beneath it. Alisa and Josh sifted through the loose power with their fingers. Before long Mathew joined in the sifting. That’s when they heard a faint noise that sounded like a whimper. They looked at each other with frightened faces.
“What was that,” Mathew asked?
“Sounds like crying to me,” Alisa said.
“Just the wind,” Josh answered.
They went back to sifting through the dusty dirt with their fingers in silence. That’s when Joshua felt something solid in the dirt. He grabbed it, pulled it from the dirt and dusted it off on his pants. It was a key, an old-fashioned rusted key like the one his Aunt had described. His eyes opened wide and she tapped Alisa and Mathew on the shoulder to look.
Then they heard the sound again. This time it was more than a whimper. It sounded like a child sobbing. Cold wind whistled around the corner of the barn and sent a chill up their Josh’s back.
Alisa pointed to the rusted door handle with a keyhole lock. Joshua placed the antique key into the lock and turned it until he heard a click. Then he motioned for Alisa to quietly walk around the barn and peek in the small window on the south side of the room. He motioned for Mathew to crawl to the window on the north side of the room. When everyone was in position, Josh finished turning the key just as the blustery wind blew open the door with a loud bang.
Joshua looked inside. There was no inside. After he walked into the room he called for Mathew and Alisa.
“Did you guys see anything?” Josh asked.
“Nothing,” Mathew answered.
“I did,” Alisa said. “But only for a second. Right before you opened the door, I saw a little girl crouched in the corner of the room with her head on her knees. When she heard the key turning in the lock, she looked up at me in the window and then she vanished.”
“Are you sure?” Josh said shaking his head. That doesn’t make any logical sense. Real people don’t just vanish.”
“Josh, you’re always so logical and scientific,” Mathew added. “If Alisa said she saw a little girl, I believe her.”
“So you believe in ghosts?” Josh asked his brother as he poked in the ribs. “You better watch out or she’ll get you! Come on you guys. Ghosts aren’t real and you know it.”
Just then Josh and Mathew heard their mother call from the house. Josh buried the key where he found it and replaced the hearth stone. Then and he and Matty raced back toward the house. Alisa stayed behind in the small room in the barn. She felt something drawing her to the little girl she had seen. When everything was quiet again, she listened. Wind whistled around the barn and made a moaning sound.
“Well are you coming or not?” Josh said poking his head back into the room.
“If I were you I wouldn’t stay in that room by myself,” Mathew added.
“I’m coming,” Alisa answered.
“We can’t tell anybody about this,” Josh whispered. “It’s more exciting if it is a secret.”
The next day when Alisa was in the car with her mother after being picked up from school, she started asking questions.
Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked her mother.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean people who suddenly appear then disappear.”
“I don’t know about that,” her mother answered. “But when I was a little girl I used to hide out in the yard when things were sad in my house. Sometimes when I was alone and crying, I'd see smiling faces above me in the air just before they'd disappear.”
“Were the faces scary?” Alisa asked.
“Just the opposite,” her mother answered. “They were kind faces and what they said comforted me. They told me not to be scared; that everything would be alright. They told me not to feel alone because they would always be there for me even if I couldn’t see them.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“No. I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”
The next Sunday when Josh and Matty came over, Alisa took them outside and led them toward the barn.
“I think we’re seeing my mom when she was a little girl,” Alisa said after the threesome sat down in a semi-circle around the old barn door.
“What do you mean?” Josh asked as he pried off the hearth stone and grabbed the key.
“When I asked her if she believed in ghosts, she told me that she used to see faces, smiling faces that made her feel better when she was a little girl.”
“Oh that can’t be it. Grandma is old now. How could we see her today if she was a little girl over fifty years ago? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Things don’t have to make sense,” Matty answered. “Maybe grandma needs us to make her feel better.”
“I think families who love each other aren’t bound by time,” Alisa said. “Your grandma has spent her whole life helping us. Maybe this is our chance to help her.”
Josh was quiet. “I’ve always wanted to believe in time travel or another dimension we can’t see,” Josh said. “But nothing in scientific theory can explain that.”
“Maybe you won’t be able to see until you feel,” Alisa said.
“Feel what?” Josh asked.
“Love,” Alisa said. “It’s easier for me because she’s my mother. Maybe that is why I saw her first.”
“I remember when she came to my school when I was bleeding and they couldn’t find my mom and dad,” Josh said.
“I remember when she slept over at our house while Mom and Dad were in the hospital with Caleb,” Matty added.
“But how do we get her to appear and stay long enough so we can talk to her,” Josh said. “We can’t help her if she doesn’t stay around long enough for us to talk to her.
“I think I need to be the one who unlocks the door this time,” Alisa said.
Josh handed Alisa the key then walked around the barn to the south window while Matty took his place outside the north window. Then they waited. A strong gust of wind blew around the old barn wood walls and the loose boards moaned and creaked. Alisa shivered. Josh and Matty held their breath.
Then the crying began again. Alisa took the key and quietly placed it in the lock. Then she slowly turned the key.
“Don’t be afraid,” Alisa whispered when she entered the room and saw the little girl in the corner with her knees bent to chin. “Everything will be alright. Don’t feel alone. We’ll always be with you even when you can’t see us.”
The little girl looked up at Alisa with a startled expression, then wiped her tears and relaxed. Alisa felt the room fill with light and warmth as if they were next to a blazing fire.
“I’ll always be here for you,” Matty said walking into the room behind Alisa.
“I love you,” Josh said quietly as he entered the room.
Then the little girl wiped her tears and smiled. She turned and looked at each of their smiling faces just before she vanished.
“Did you see her?” Alisa asked as she turned around.
Both Josh and Matty silently nodded. Alisa and Matty stayed in the barn while Josh slowly and silently walked back into grandma’s house. He found the large binder with old black and white pictures. He carefully turned the pages until he came to a small photo of his grandma when she was a little girl frayed and faded with age.
“It’s her,” Josh whispered. “It’s really her.”
Later that night when Josh was leaving, his grandma hugged him tight and whispered in his ear, “I’ll always be here for you. I love you Josh.”
“Grandma, do you think time always goes forward?” Josh asked. “Or is it a circle that never begins or ends?”