Under 18 Native English Speaker – Winner 2014

When Curiosity Almost Killed Kat

by Alice Neville

Only a week into summer, and I seemed to find myself in the middle of nowhere. I observed the crumbling house and wondered why my parents were the only ones who decided to make me spend the summer with a stranger. I sighed at the sight of my great aunt’s home; this was going to be the worst summer yet.

My Aunt made me sit in a velvet armchair as I sipped on tepid tea. She sat nervously across from me as she stirred her drink with a rusty spoon. “I apologise for the mess dear,” she said shakily, “I haven’t had many guests lately.”

I eyed the still area around her. Framed photographs covered the walls and a dusty chandelier dangled above my head. “A biscuit?” she asked gripping a silver tray full of concrete-like ginger snaps.

I looked up and examined her. She was a small plump lady who didn’t seem a day older than ninety-five. “No thanks,” I replied, placing my mug on the coffee table and then standing up. “Aunt Edith, if you don’t mind, I would like to go to my room and unpack.”

“Why of course dear. Up the stairs, first door on the left.”

I turned the rusty knob and pushed the door open, revealing a cold, compact bedroom. There was a roar of thunder and droplets of rain trickled down the window. I groaned. This really was going to be the worst summer yet.

After lying on the bed for ten long minutes, I got up and left the room. I silently stood in the middle of the hall. I then wandered around, observing bookcases and one-of-a-kind paintings. I was making my way towards the stairs when I noticed something poking out of a large tapestry. I tugged at the scarlet materiel and behind a large cloud of dust stood an oak door.

I nervously placed my hand on the doorknob and slowly turned the brass handle. It was locked. Why would that door be locked? I got down on my knees and took a peek through the rusty keyhole. There was a burst of light…

I found myself standing in the middle of an African plain. A colossal baobab tree stood motionless amongst endless miles of dried grass, and beyond the horizon I could make out large mountains with their proud peaks. Where was I? What happened to the storm?

A shape flew through the air above me. A dozen impala leapt through the plain in panic. A flash of gold sprinted after the desperate animals…

There was another burst of light.

“Kat, are you okay?”

I looked up to find a troubled Aunt Edith standing over me.

“What’s going on?” I asked in a daze.

Aunt Edith’s eyes flicked back and forth from the door to me. She sighed, “Let’s get you a cup of tea.”

Aunt Edith poured me tea, yet said nothing; we were as silent as the grave.

“What do you keep in that room across the hall?” I asked faintly.

My aunt looked down at her feet and then looked me straight in the eye.

“What do you keep in that room across the hall?” I asked faintly.

My aunt looked down at her feet and then looked me straight in the eye.

“Kat I don’t want you to go near that door ever again. Understood?” she said with an intense look in her eyes.

“But Aunt Edith all I wanted to know was…”

“Understood?” she interrupted.

I nodded.

“Good!” she said as she slapped on a smile, “A biscuit?”

Later that night, I lay wide-awake thinking about the door. Was there really another world behind it, or was it a figment of my 32 imagination? It didn’t matter what Aunt Edith told me, I was going to find out for myself.

The next morning, I quietly made my way towards the door. I hesitated. Deep down inside of me, I had a bad feeling about this. Yet my inquiring mind took over and before I knew it, I was leaning down and looking through the keyhole. There was a burst of light and I found myself again in the vast, bright plain.

I sighed in relief to find the same plain, but as I turned around, I saw an elephant the size of a caravan standing fifty meters away from me. It looked me straight in the eye and slowly trotted towards me, its ears pinned back flat and its trunk curled inward. The elephant picked up speed.

I panicked. Was I meant to run? My feet stayed stuck to the ground as the creature charged. I covered my face, waiting for a large weight to crush my bones.

I felt a pull on my arm and there was that bright burst of light again. I lay on the dusty carpet, breathing heavily, the shadow of my aunt over me.

“You disobeyed me,” said Aunt Edith, in a heated tone, “I specifically told you to never go near that door again!” I looked up at her.

“Aunt Edith, please tell me what’s behind that door.”

She led me to the sitting room and sat me down. She scuttled towards a large chest of drawers and opened the top drawer. She pulled out a wooden box and carefully carried it to the tea table. As she laid it on the table, I noticed a faded inscription on the dusty lid. Carved into the thick wood was the name ‘Walter’ “Aunt Edith, what is this?” I enquired.

Aunt Edith remained silent and slowly opened the box. She sighed as we both examined the contents. The box was full of South African rand notes and old photographs. I picked up one of them. It was a picture of a middle-aged man with bony cheeks, thin lips and a crooked nose.

“That was your Great Uncle Walter,” piped up Aunt Edith.

“What happened to him?” I asked.

Aunt Edith kept quiet. I noticed a tear roll down her cheek. She reached into the box and pulled out a photograph.

“Does this look familiar?” she asked as she held out the picture.

It was of a large plain where an elephant stood by a tree.

I gasped.

“Is it the same plain you saw through that keyhole?”

“Yes, but….how?”

“It all started when Walter went on a safari. I was told that one of the rangers let him out of the truck to see some elephants up close, yet one of the elephants felt threatened and,” she paused, “charged.”

“Walter was brought to hospital with horrible injuries but there was nothing the doctors could do for him. So, they brought him home by boat. A month later, he passed away.”

Aunt Edith went silent. “

“What about the door then?” I mumbled.

“You see Kat, your great uncle died in that room. He is no longer in there but somehow his memories have stayed locked inside. You must realise that you don’t want those memories and that is why you must never look inside again.”

Later that evening, I found myself by the tapestry and the forbidden door yet this time, I had no intention of going in.