“Max ! Max ! Look at what I found !” Screamed Arthur as soon as the teenager had shut the front door behind him. The young boy came running towards his brother with a small black and white kitten in his hands. “He’s so cute ! I named him Jelly, but you can call him Mr. Cat too !”
“Well hello there Mr. Cat !” Said Maximilian with a smile as he put down his schoolbag. “Where did you find him ?” He added as he scratched the kitten on the head. It was purring happily at the attention if was given.
“I found him on the road from school near the bus stop. It looked so scared and cold so I took it with me and put it in my coat to warm it up. But mom and dad say we can’t keep it…” Added the young boy with a pout.
“They said that, huh ?” Asked Maximilian as he saw Jeff and Doris listening silently to their conversation from the other end of the corridor, both smiling.
“Yeah… But I like him ! I want to keep Mr. Cat !” Sighed Arthur.
“Well, maybe if you prove to mom and dad that you are ready to take care of Mr. Cat they might say yes and let you keep it.” The teenager saw the disapproving look on Doris’s face as he said that but he put on a smug smile and shrugged to Jeff’s greatest pleasure. The man in his forties laughed silently at his wife’s frowning, knowing very well she could not refuse to Arthur to keep the cat after what had been said. He walked up to his youngest son and put a friendly hand on his shoulder.
“Of course we’ll keep it Arthur !” He said, watching his son’s face light up with delight. “But you have to promise to mom that you will take good care of, Jelly is it ? Otherwise she won’t be okay with it.”
“I promise !” Shouted the young boy as he ran to his mother to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you so much mom ! Now, come Jelly, I’m going to show you your new house !” He added before running off upstairs to his room.
Doris gave a murderous look to her husband and her adoptive son and left the corridor without a word. Father and son looked at each, Jeff was still laughing silently at his wife’s reaction.
“Don’t ever tell her I said that” He started in a whisper, having some difficulty at staying serious long enough to align two words. “but she actually wanted to keep it all along. She just thought she had to say no because Arthur is too young. But if he doesn’t have a pet now, when will he ?” He winked excessively at Maximilian.
“So, how was your day at school ?”
“Fine” Answered the teenager. “I showed the box to Simon and we researched a bit, we might have found the answer, I’m going to try it as soon as I can.”
“Oh really ? And so, what does he say about it ?”
“He says it must open with a magnetic lock, you have to touch it with a magnet where the lock is and it will open.”
“Interesting…” Answered Jeff thoughtfully.
“Oh and we’ve also already been notified of the first dates of exams too, though it’s not that important…”
“Tch, you’ll see what non-important things will happen to you if you don’t work on them seriously son !”
“Oh, so I’m your son now ? When it arranges you… Don’t you find that a bit too easy ?” Exclaimed Maximilian, acting overly outraged.
“Go on like that young man, just go on like that…” Said Jeff putting his arm up, threatening to smack his son on the head.
“I surrender, I surrender ! Doby is a good boy !” Shouted Maximilian as he ran upstairs before the light-brown haired man could smack him on the skull.
“That’s right boy, you should fear me !” Answered Jeff with a light chuckle before walking towards the kitchen to help his wife prepare dinner.
As soon as he came into his room Maximilian put his backpack on the side of his desk, turned on his computer and placed the small box on his desk after taking it out of his bag. He let the software boot up and started rummaging through the drawers of his desk and then, apparently not finding what he was looking for, started to go through the old stuff he had stored in plastic boxes at the foot of his bed. After a few seconds he found what he was looking for : a yellow plastic bag with a zipper. He remembered when his aunt, well Doris’s sister, had offered it to him, he had played hours trying to catch all the small metal beads with the magic gloves. Of course now only the gloves and a few of the beads remained, he had lost the rest over time. But what interested him were the magnets in the glove that prevented the player to catch the beads if they were not agile enough. He carefully opened one of the small piece of cloth and took out the metallic cylinder that was placed in it, once he had done that he put back the glove in the bag and placed the bag on the side. As the computer finished loading and his session opened Maximilian put the magnet beside the wooden box and started to carefully study it. This time it didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for, he knew there had to be some kind of mark that indicated the position of the lock.
And indeed he found a small rose was engraved in a circle on each face of the box but the one on the top and the one on the front face were a little bit bigger than the others and the teenager immediately knew it had to be one of the two. He put back the box on the table, took the magnet and slowly placed it on the front rose. As he did he heard a faint click and his heart leapt with excitement. Finally ! he thought, I’m going to see what’s in there ! As he put the magnet down he heard the same faint click. The young man reached to open the box but when he tried to separate the top part from the bottom one nothing moved, neither did any part of the box for that matter of fact. It didn’t budge and didn’t seem to be openable from any side. Maximilian sighed and took the magnet again, putting it back against the rose on the front. The faint click sound resounded again but once more nothing moved. He repeated the process a few times each time hearing a click when he pressed the magnet on the box and another one when he took it away. His frustration was starting to grow but he decided keep trying and after five minutes of unfruitful tries the top rose. This time again he heard a faint click coming from the inside of the box but still no apparent change. He sighed and put down the magnet on his desk, sat back straight on his chair and sighed in disappointment. Why didn’t it open ? Was it a bad joke from his father ? Or even from Jeff ? No, he couldn’t believe it. Still, he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong. It clicked each time he put the magnet on a rose but nothing moved… During the next fifteen minutes he tried every rose shape on the box, tried both sides of the magnet, tried them again in any order combination order he could think of and even tried by following the rhythm of famous songs but to no avail. The box did not budge. Why ? How did the box open ? He didn’t yet have the answers to these questions and it made him very frustrated.
Deciding he couldn’t let the matter drop ike that he tried the magnet on every other face of the box, even the bottom one, but only the top and front ones reacted when he pressed the magnet against them. Why did they react without opening the box ? And why only those two ? As he asked himself those questions an idea came to him. He looked at the box again, then at the magnet. He was almost thinking about calling Simon to tell him what had happened, or in this case not happened, when a bright smile spread on his face.
“Of course !” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t I notice that earlier ?! It’s so obvious !” Again the teenager rummaged in the yellow plastic bag, took out the second glove and retrieved the other magnet. He took one in each hand and lifted them up to eye level, studying them as if they were precious gems. “Of course !” He repeated, almost amazed at his idiocy. He then prayed to any superior being that might be out there to let what he was about to try be the solution or he would never have the same confidence in his intellect as he did right now. Slowly he lowered the two metal disks, placed one on the top of the box and took a deep breath before placing the second magnet on the rose pattern on the front face. As he did he heard two faint clicks coming from inside the box. Yes, two locks, I knew it ! I simply had to place one on each rose, so simple… As he waited, almost drowning in anticipation, he forgot to breath. The teenager closed his eyes and focused on the two magnets. He knew full well this was not the most brilliant idea he had ever had since there were magnets near him and whats more he was in direct contact with them. But he couldn’t resist the temptation of using his ability to try once more and get a look at the mechanism that was supposed to be hidden inside. As he did he felt the familiar despite disagreeable feeling of the small magnetic fields of the magnets. If he tried to concentrate too long he knew he would have a hell of a headache after that. So he focused his full attention of the places where the top rose was and pressed on as he felt the strange barrier that prevented him to “see” the mechanism. Either it had weakened or he had become stronger for after a few seconds of intense efforts and concentration he managed to pierce through the energy (or whatever it was made of) wall and immediately a picture of the lock and the gears appeared in his mind. He could clearly see them and how they were supposed to work to opened the top part of the box.
Immediately after he had managed this feat he felt his attention dragged to a single point in space. What happened next is very hard to describe. It’s like his whole consciousness was sucked up by a miniature dark hole, he couldn’t do anything to resist. Everything went suddenly dark. Then images, sounds and feelings started flowing in his head at high-speed, to fast for him to have time to make each of them out. He heard water splashing, birds chirping, laughs. With these sounds came the smell of burnt wood, the electric taste of iron and immense pain in his chest. His vision jumped from stars to atoms, from light to darkness and from focused on every detail to absolutely blurry. All this happened at the same time and so fast it was hard to tell how long it had lasted. After that came a single image, he saw a man with a sad smile and heard a voice. “Follow the path… and you will succeed…”. Maximilian hadn’t seen the man’s lips moving but he had known it was he who had talked. Lastly he found himself in his room again but this time he was floating over his body, he was there at his desk, waiting for the box to open itself. And when after a few seconds nothing had still happened he felt himself letting out a big sigh and groaning in frustration, he reached for the box but as he was about to retrieve the magnets he heard a third click, deeper and stronger than the other two. He lowered his head and put his ear against the wooden surface of the box to listen. As he did, Maximilian heard a fourth click and then a fifth one. Then a whole mechanism seemed to jump to life in the box, gears were slowly turning, levers were moving and the wood was shaking lightly. Another series of light clicks followed by a stronger one and then it stopped. As the last clicking sound reverberated in the room a quick “psh” emanated from the box because of the pressurized air coming out. The top part had separated itself from the bottom one and was now rising as the box slowly opened. Maximilian pushed the magnets aside a finally was able to take a look at its content.
“Ugh…” Groaned Maximilian as he opened his eyes. He tried to get up but his head was spinning too much and it hurt like hell. “What the-…”
He thought at first that he had hit his head on the floor where he was lying but it didn’t throb like when he bumped it on something, the pain seemed to come from the inside. He slowly sat and as his eyes focused he started to remember what he had been doing before that. He stood up with some difficulty and placed back his fallen chair in front of his desk and let himself fall back on it. The teenager massaged his head, trying to make the pain fade away but it was no use.
“Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have done it so close to magnets…” He muttered.
“Max ?” He heard Jeff calling from the bottom floor. “Is everything okay ?”
“Yeah !” He shouted back. “I’m fine, just tripped on my chair and fell down. Don’t worry, I’m still in one piece !”
“Good, be careful then ! It made quite the noise you know !”
“Okay, I will, promise !” He answered
He heard Jeff walk away and continue to massage his temples. Damn headache ! He thought. When he managed to open his eyes without the world buzzing around him and feeling as they were trying to jump out of his skull he looked down at his desk. One of the magnet had fallen on the ground and the other had been pushed back against the wall on the far end of the desk. How that had happened he didn’t know but he didn’t know what had happened after all so that was no big deal. He checked the time and saw that he had been out for only a minute. But it felt so much longer than that. He had heard that the mind when sleeping or in a trance state could process information much faster than when awake because the brain had access to its unconscious part. That it was for this reason that dreams sometimes seemed to last hours when you only had slept a few minutes. But what he had just experienced was something else. He had felt that strange energy wall when he had tried to pry into the mechanism of the box. What it was and why it happened he had absolutely no idea but he knew it was something that was designed to prevent him from ‘seeing’ through. The teenager also tried to remember the images and the sounds he had experienced but each time he was on the verge of remembering it slipped away from his reach. Even the face he had seen was slipping away, thought he was sure it was familiar to him, only the voice and it message remained clear as day. What did it say again ? ‘Follow the path and you will prevail’ ?” But that made no sense to him. “What path ? What was he supposed to prevail in ? Were these words even destined to him ?
At that time I couldn’t be sure of anything, all those things I had seen, everything that I had felt seemed so strange and yet I had a feeling they somehow made sense. But what mattered most to me then was that the box was open and I could finally take a look at what it contained, what I had been mulling over for the past two weeks…