A long road leads to our house. It’s lined with small bushes of yellow flowers and skinny tress that reach like fingers to heaven. There are fields beyond the rows of skinny trees. Beyond the fields are woods so dense you can barely see more than a foot into the growth. These woods are where this story shall take us, but for now we will remain close to the road. I stand, barefoot, on the road. I can hear the train that crosses the river not far from where the road to our house connects to the main road. The main road is the road that connects two small towns. We go to town from time to time but mostly we remain here in this place between places. I’m your guide to this collection known as my family. We’re not so much alike as we are different. I am not the youngest but I’m getting ahead of myself. The road that leads to our house is paved, but it has not always been paved. It is a winding road with a small bridge over a creek. The creek eventually flows into the river that marks one of the boundaries of our property. You may consider us wealthy since the land we claim, as our home, is bigger in area than that of the small towns we’re nestled between. We’re not poor either but nor are we of the rich and famous breed. We have a farm but it’s not a farm. There is a barn and there are animals but we are not farmers. We wake up early and tend to the land and creatures, but farming is not what defines us. I do not think that I have clearly introduced myself. My name is Edward. I’m twelve. That’s who I am. If you want to know more it shall come out in these pages or it shall remain unspoken, unwritten, and left to the imaginations of those curious enough to wonder at all about a boy like me. My older brother, Joe, is riding from the mailbox on his bicycle. He has a car, but only drives when he goes into town for supplies or to attend church. He’s the one that girls flock around whenever we’re in town. They compete for his attention. He rides past me. I walk towards the house. You can see the roof of the house once you cross the small bridge. At this point on the road you lose sight of the main road behind you. The house is the only thing you see now, except for trees and bushes with yellow flowers. I have 3 brothers and a sister. Joe is not the oldest. The oldest is Daniel, but he no longer lives with us. He moved away to attend college. He now resides in a small cemetery in a field not far from our house. A drunk driver killed him. My other brother is younger than me. He’s 5 and his name is Thomas. My dad named him after a children’s show he saw while my mom was in the hospital. He was flipping through channels when he came across this talking train. My sister is older than me. She is fourteen and her name is Elizabeth. I think she was named after a queen and she lives up to this idea so much it tortures me. You might wonder how we came to acquire such a fortune of land. My dad inherited it in a will from his aunt. She had inherited it from her husband’s cousin. Now, with all of these former residents of this estate no longer above ground, it was given to my father. This was what has been told to me since I was old enough to question why we moved from the one bedroom apartment we were living in to this house that reminds me of those mansions people now pay to walk though. I have mentioned all of this to set up the story that shall now unfold like a map. I have briefly mentioned where we have been and now to where we are going. I lay in the field where my older brother now finds rest. I look up at the clouds that cross the blue sky. I have often come here to talk to my brother. He never has much to say, so I do most of the talking. Today the sun is soon right above me. I hear my brothers and sister running through the woods near me. They never bother me when I’m visiting with our brother. I can hear the wind blowing through trees full of bright green leaves. I’ll come back here again when those leaves are red and brown. I stand to leave when I spot something that has, for so long, gone unseen by me. Beside the marker for the grave is a rock. It’s just an ordinary rock, but I wonder if it has always been there. My brother collected rocks. There’s a pile of rocks in the woods near where the river passes an old mill. The mill was once used to grind corn. Now, it sits abandoned. My dad wants to repair the dilapidated building. I pick up the rock thinking about the significance of such a rock being here. The meaning of the rock becomes evident when I notice the small box. I don’t see the actual box at first, not the entire box, but the top of the box. It’s a metal box with bits of rust near the edges. I pull the box free from the ground. The wind blows and my brothers and sisters laugh and play nearby. They are unaware of my discovery. I open the box despite the rusty hinges: it creeks in defiance, but gives up its prize with no more than a groan of metal giving slightly to age. Inside the box are a piece of paper and a key. The paper is folded. I unfold it with more curiosity than I had opened the box. It is a map. I recognize the symbols crudely drawn upon the browning paper. I see the road that leads to our house, the small bridge, and off to one side near some woods I’ve never journeyed into is marked an “X”. I almost laugh at the oddity of my newly found treasure. I imagine for a moment a box of gold stashed by distant relatives, by marriage of course, who were pirates. I imagine how they crossed the oceans in search of a forbidden fortune. I cringe to think of their ends if they had been caught. I place the rock on the pile my brother, Joe, piled as an epitaph to Daniel. The rock fits perfectly into a void near the top of the pile. It fits so well that I wonder what it means. I think back to when the body of Daniel arrived home again. We were never able to see the body. His death was such that made him unrecognizable. The smell of stew greets me as I enter the house. I can hear my dad sleeping in his chair in the family room. I pass by the door to the family room to see him reclined with a newspaper unfolded on his chest. There is a headline about roadblocks somewhere and a massive search from something but my mom calls me before I can investigate it further. She calls me to set the table and to announce to the others that lunch is ready. My mom has a set of dishes she uses at every meal. They are not the best dishes she has, but they are the ones her mother gave to her. They are white with yellow flowers around the rim. I place the place mat and then the plates with a bowl on top of the plates. I place the soupspoons next to the plates on napkins. My mom believes there is a specific spoon, knife, or fork depending upon what the meal consists of. I have the key and map in my pocket. The box I left beside the pile of rocks. I begin planning my day for tomorrow, a journey to find the place the “X” marks on the map, and I know that it won’t be as simple as walking into the woods. This is where I come back to the woods: the ones so deep that even on the brightest of summer days it is as dark as night beneath the trees foliage. You have to understand that we, my brothers and I, have walked every acre of our land except for these places where the tress clutter so that the sun becomes lost to their branches creating a dark place surrounded by fields of light. Night comes again and I lay in bed. I cannot sleep. I’m restless with the thoughts of found treasure and the thoughts of the adventure that awaits me in the thick of the woods. The sun comes harshly into my room waking me from what began as a pleasant dream and ended as a terrifying nightmare. I was running at the end near where the river passes close to the old mill. I was being chased but I never saw my pursuer. I’m covered in sweat, but after a quick shower I’m revived: the nightmare slowly fading from mind. Breakfast is quick for me. I eat at a pace like a racehorse nearing the last stretch of track before the finish line. I guess I’m timing myself with the knowledge of what could be out there waiting for me to find. I finish in record time. My brothers and sisters giving up the race, they slow to a steady pace, and I run from the house with one thing upon my mind. My feet and legs moving as though I knew where I was going: the truth is that I’m not certain of where this place marked on the map is. I know it has to be in the middle of some thick woods, but that does not narrow it down to a specific place. There is a large amount of dense woods near where the “X” is on the map. I head in that general direction not wanting my brothers to catch up to me. They do not know why I ran so fast from the house but they will want to know. I walk through a field towards the woods in question. I can hear the door to the house slamming in the distance behind me. My brothers must be after me now. I run over to the edge of the woods. It’s cold at the edge of the woods despite it being a hot summer morning. The wind blows through the tops of the trees but there is no breeze in the woods themselves. I make my way through the trees. I maneuver between the trees. I feel like I’ve been here before. I break a few branches in case I’m walking in circles. I could walk around and around in the same area of these woods and never realize how lost I am. I walk on, deeper into the woods. It’s very dark, so I switch on the flashlight I grabbed as I ran out of the house. A small rat scurries past me as I scan the trees. I hear branches snapping from near where I entered the woods. My brothers must have found me somehow. There are piles of dead leaves. I hear them crunching beneath my feet. I stop for a moment and the sound of leaves crunching continues. My heart races in my chest. I hope the source of the sounds I hear are my brothers following after me. I decide to keep moving towards my goal. It’s not that I have a goal. How can you have a goal when the place you seek is uncertain to you? The “X’ that marks the spot I’m searching for is not a small x, nor is it in a place easily recognizable in relation to other markings on the map. I quicken my pace trying avoid the rogue branch. I can smell smoke. I hear a dog barking somewhere. I almost forget where I am for a moment. I suddenly feel as though I’m in a foreign place. The sound of leaves crunching and branches breaking behind me becomes closer. I begin to wonder if my brothers would have continued to follow me so far into the woods. I’m not very brave, but I am the bravest of my brothers. Even my sister is braver than my brothers but she wouldn’t follow me. She’s too much of a queen to chase after me into some dark woods. I come to a clearing; something I did not think was here. It was assumed that these woods were absent of openings such as this. There’s a small cabin built out of stone in the center of the clearing. There’s smoke rising from the chimney and a dog tied to a tree. I know that whoever is after me is closer to catching up with me. I walk up to the cabin questioning the logic of approaching a strange cabin. There’s moss growing from the roof of the porch. There is a smell of something cooking. I open the door still doubtful about the logic behind me entering this cottage. The images from children’s stories come to mind. I can picture a large fire where an aging woman would toss me after luring me this far with a map and a key. The room, the only room, is dimly lit. There’s a table in the center of the room. A pot sits above a small fire. Near the wall opposite of me is a chair. My hands now shake in fear. I can hear my heart beating as I inch forward. I realize that I have been here before. It’s as if from a dream. A dream I have dreamt so often, now unfolding in my waking hours, and I can do no more than move slowly towards the end. I cannot see who is sitting in the chair. I walk slowly around the table towards the chair. I know that someone is following me. I know that I don’t know what will happen next. In the chair sits an elderly woman wrapped in a large shawl. She smiles a hideous smile and points to a smaller table in the corner of the room. On the table is a vase of yellow flowers. She opens her hand out towards me. I know what she wants without her saying a word. I pull the key and map from my pocket. I place both in her open palm. She laughs as she hands the key back to me. She unfolds the map and points to a place to the map. It’s the old mill. She points at the map several times before she finally speaks. It’s hard to hear her, but I’m able to make out the words “Hurry”, and “It’s not too late”. She hands me the map again. I hear the muffled words “Time” and “All things will go back” and I stumble backwards uncertain of the meaning of her words. I leave the cabin not knowing if those chasing me would be outside or not. I walk into the dense woods towards the place the woman pointed to on the map. I place the map and key back in my pocket with the words of the woman repeating over and over again in my head. I hear the door of the cabin closing behind me. Whoever was behind me is now in the cabin. I walk on with the words “It’s not too late” being repeated in my head like a chorus of a song. A song that reminds me of a dream and a dream of a place I have yet to see.