Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Dangerous Toy

Mari’s eyes widened as Terry brushed the dirt off the strange metal thing they had hit with their shovels.

“What is it?” she whispered, as if the thing was asleep and speaking too loud would wake it.

“I dunno,” Terry answered, reaching to lift the thing from the hole they had made.

“Don’t touch it!” Mari squealed.

“Well then how are we going to figure out what it is?” asked Terry.

“I-I don’t want to know what it is. Let’s just go inside.”

Cocking his head at Mari curiously, Terry asked: “What’s gotten into you? It’s just a chunk of metal.”

Mari shook her head furiously. “There’s something wrong with that thing,” she said, “It scares me.”

“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” said Terry. He reached into the hole and pulled out the thing they had found.

It was made of tarnished silver, and was in the shape of a bullet – though much larger than any bullet Terry had ever seen. The only marking was a deeply engraved number 12.

“What’s it mean?” Terry wondered aloud.

“Trouble,” Mari answered, “Put it back. Come on, Terry, let’s go. My mom said she was baking cookies today. Leave that thing.”

Ignoring her, Terry held it up and shook it. A rattling sound came from inside.

“Wonder what’s in there,” he said.

“Terry, please, listen to me,” Mari was near tears, “That thing is dangerous.”

“You’re just a sissy,” said Terry, “Now, it's got to open somehow.” He examined the silver item, looking for a seam or opening, but to no avail.

Tugging at her red hair, Mari got nervously to her feet. “Terry, if you don’t put that thing down I’m going home.”

“Well, then, go home. I don’t need your help,” said Terry. The words came out more harshly than he had intended them, but he was feeling angry. He couldn’t figure out why Mari was trying so hard to spoil this adventure.

As for Mari, she couldn’t figure out why Terry didn’t sense the darkness coming out of the thing they had found. She knew there was something wrong with it. However, she wasn’t going to hang around where she wasn’t wanted. Terry had dismissed her when she was just trying to help – and someone like that didn’t deserve her assistance.

She turned to go, half hoping he would stop her. When he didn’t, she started across his lawn, planning to climb the fence into her own backyard. Before she had made it, Terry said: “Ha!” behind her. Turning, she saw that he had managed to open the thing.

And then he was gone.

“Terry!” Mari screamed, “Terry!”

But the boy had vanished without a trace.


Terry felt a swooping sensation in his stomach and a pain in his wrist. He had somehow managed to open a hatch in the thing and had reached his hand inside. Once he had done so, something latched onto his him, cutting into his skin.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, the swooping sensation stopped, and the pain in his hand had alleviated. He pulled his hand out of the hole and saw a shallow cut all around his wrist.

Wincing, he looked up, waiting for Mari to say “I told you so.”

But Mari was nowhere to be found.

Nothing else seemed to have changed. He was still kneeling in the dirt in his backyard. Except… there was a rope swing in the tree that hadn’t been there a second before. And his bike was missing. There were some toys scattered around the lawn, but they weren’t his. What had just happened?

Some kids came running out of his house, but he had never seen them before. There were two boys who looked to be around his age, eight or nine, and a girl who appeared to be just younger.

“You guys, wait for me!” the girl whined. The boys stopped, but not in answer to her cry. They had just caught sight of Terry.

“What are you doing here?” one of them asked. He was a little taller than Terry, with a flop of blond hair and a firm chin. He stood staring at Terry, who felt annoyed.

“What do you mean, what am I doing here?” he demanded, “This is my house. What are you doing here?”

“Don’t be stupid,” said the other boy, who had messy brown hair and grass stains on his jeans, “This is our house.”

“Nuh-uh!” said Terry, who was moving beyond annoyed and into angry. Who were these stupid kids anyway?

“Yuh-huh!” said the second boy.

“This is our yard, and we get to decide who plays here,” said the first boy, “And we do not give you permission, so go away.”

“I don’t need permission to play in my own backyard!” said Terry, jumping to his feet.

“It’s not your backyard!” the other boy said, and rushed forward to take a swing at Terry. Terry ducked, and then hit the other boy, missing his face and hitting him on the shoulder.

The little girl went running inside, while the other little boy jumped up and down, shouting: “Hit him back, Kris, hit him!”

Kris took another swing at Terry, who caught his fist and twisted his arm. While he was doing this, Kris’ other hand came out of nowhere and caught Terry a blow on the head.

Terry stumbled backward, and Kris jumped on top of him. They were rolling in the dirt when a woman came running out of the house.

“Boys! Boys!” she cried, pulling the two apart, “Kris this is no way to act! And you--” she rounded on Terry, and her jaw dropped. “You--”

“He keeps saying this is his house,” said Terry, and his eyes were full of tears, though he would have said that was because he got dirt in them, “But it’s mine. It’s mine!”

“It is not!” shouted Kris.

“It is so!” Terry retorted, and he made another lunge for the boy.

“Stop, stop!” said the woman, “Kris, go inside.”


“I said go inside. Take Jonathan with you and you can each get a popsicle out of the fridge.”

“Fine.” The two boys went back into the house.

The woman was staring at Terry as though she had never seen anything quite like him.

“I don’t believe it,” she breathed.

Terry was looking sullenly at the ground and didn’t say anything.

“After all these years,” the woman continued, “Terry… is that really you?”

Terry looked up in surprise. He had never seen this woman before. How did she know his name?

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” he said.

“But I’m not a stranger, Terry. Surely… surely you remember me?”

Frowning, Terry stared at her. He was sure he had never seen her before, but there were things about her that were familiar – her red hair and her blue eyes and her little snub nose. It was like looking like a grownup version of Mari… exactly like looking at a grownup version of Mari.

“Holy smoke!” Terry exclaimed, “You… you’re… I’m….”

“I told you that thing was dangerous,” the grownup Mari sighed.


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by:

"Two children, a boy and a girl, decide to make a time capsule and bury it at the edge of a farm, under a big oak tree. While digging, they unearth a metallic object the size of a shoe box. It's shaped like a bullet and has a deeply engraved 8 on it. It appears to be a container, since it rattles when they shake it. But there is no obvious way to open it." Courtesy of Writing Forward.

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