Reggie Ballard was eight years old and not used to being alone. Though they spoiled him a bit more than they probably should have; Reggie loved his parents, and tonight was going to be the first time he’d ever been anywhere without them. (apart from school, of course.) His father hadn’t exactly been specific where he and Mum had been going; but apparently they were going to Manchester for a reunion of Mum’s university classmates, and wouldn’t be home until Monday. Thus, their only child was left in the care of a local young woman. Neither liked each other.
It was now Saturday night, and Reggie’s second day without his parents. His babysitter; a sour-faced, tired-looking college girl named Amy had let him stay up late, eat store-bought ice cream and watch movies on the telly while she lurked in the kitchen like a sullen shadow, chatting away with someone Reggie guessed was her boyfriend. It had been the same way yesterday night and Reggie strongly suspected it would be the same tomorrow.
Glancing at the art-deco style wall clock, Reggie sighed as he noted it was ten. His bedtime.
“Reggie! Off to bed now! I mean it, scoot!”
Amy called in the boy’s direction, noticing this at the same time her charge had.
Dutifully, Reggie turned off the TV and shuffled off to bed; having changed into his pajamas long ago. Climbing up the stairs as he always did, Reggie noticed something in the upstairs hallway that gave him pause: His parents’ bedroom door, which was always, always locked, was now ajar and partially open; leading into an unknown world of shadow and gloom beyond.
Curiosity intensifying by the second, Reggie gripped the banister and continued his walk, shivering as he reached the landing. Suddenly the whole house seemed so much colder; even though it was a muggy July evening, and his long-sleeved pajama shirt and trousers had been clinging to his sweaty body only seconds previous.
As though out of nowhere, a sweeping, icy breeze rushed past Reggie, and he shivered again, feeling goosebumps bristling out all over his body. Shaking a bit, he blinked and glanced towards the open bedroom door. As scared and cautious Reggie felt about doing this; he knew that it was now or never. Amy was undoubtedly occupied talking to her male friend on the phone downstairs, and wouldn’t see him anyway- the master bedroom had no windows. Just so long as he left everything in its proper place; his parents would never even KNOW he’d gone in their room.
You won’t get caught. No one’ll see you, Reg, you won’t get caught….
Repeating these phrases in his head over and over until he knew them by heart; Reggie climbed the four steps leading into his parents’ bedroom, slipped through the door, flicked on the light….. And was chronically disappointed.
The room he had entered in could have been any married couples’ bedroom, really: A king-sized bed with an intricately-carved, dark headboard, two nightstands on either side, and a bookshelf containing a wide variety of books Reggie had seen nowhere in the house until now.
Resolving to check to make sure there was nothing, nothing in the room that might make his parents want to lock it other than simple paranoia, Reggie continued to explore the bedroom.
Collecting dust on the armoire was none other than his parents’ wedding photo! Stored in a golden frame, it was dated Jun. 1981. His father (whose name was also Reginald) was a smiling young man in a black tuxedo, with an arm around Reggie’s mother, Lorraine, who was heavily pregnant at the time but smiling; her strawberry blonde hair falling down her shoulders in natural waves.
Smiling a bit and feeling slightly less afraid at this soothing reminder of his parents; Reggie went to the bed and knelt on the carpeted floor, feeling around in the shadowed crevices beneath, looking for something, anything, they might want to hide.
Eventually, he was left with nowhere to explore save for the one place he dreaded most: his parents’ closets. Like many children, Reggie had always had a natural, practically ingrained fear of monsters, demons, or even simply an endless unknown lurking and waiting in the shadows.
And yet here the closets were now, waiting, almost inviting. He’d gotten this far, hadn’t he? Closing his eyes, Reggie tried to remain calm.
Okay. Just take a peek into the closets and then you’ll be gone. Okay. Okay.
Shaking, the boy went to his mothers’ closet and spent a few minutes pawing through it. Nothing of note. Various clothes were hung up on plastic hangers, and a few miscellaneous boxes and old magazines had collected on the floor. The whole place smelled faintly of sour milk, and Reggie was more than happy to shut the door once he’d found nothing.
Initially, Reggie found that his father’s closet was more or less the same: Clothes, clothes, everywhere. Dust seemed to be everywhere, and he could barely keep from sneezing as he felt around on the floor for something, anything unusual.
Reggie found it. A box, a shoebox, on a high shelf that was just barely out of his reach, and there was nothing lying around he could use as a stool. Almost instantly, frustration settled over him in an overwhelming mental haze. There was something inside that shoebox, Reggie was sure. Something his father didn’t want him seeing.
And yet here he was, regulated to standing here alone with his frustration.
I want that box. I really, really want that box. I’ll put it back when I’m done! If only I knew what was inside it first…
Just as Reggie was about to shut the door behind him and leave the bedroom in defeat, a most curious thing happened: As though on its own volition, the shoebox flew off the shelf and landed in his arms. It had definitely not fallen.
Embarrassingly, for a moment all he could do was stand there with the box, blinking numbly. How had that happened?
“It… It… It couldn’t have been me. I couldn’t have done that.”
Reggie muttered to himself, not willing to accept the possibility that he HAD made that shoebox fly off the shelf. Somehow. In a bid to distract himself from his growing fears, Reggie found he could wait no longer anyway: He pulled off the box’s lid and glanced at its contents.
A notepad and a stick.
Well, a notepad and a rather fancy stick, to be precise- It was made of some sort of dark wood that had a twisting endpoint and a handle that was decorated with a an intricate silver design. Running a hand down it, Reggie noticed that it was surprisingly smooth and cool to the touch.
Flipping open the notebook, Reggie browsed through page after page, only to disappointingly accept the fact that it was blank from start to finish. So the book had been a letdown, well, that was that. The stick was interesting, though, but Reggie knew he could take neither item with him; for all he knew maybe his father would return and check the box at some point, only to find one of these strange treasures gone!
No, he had better leave and eliminate all evidence of his secret visit.
In the end, Reggie was able to throw the shoebox onto the shelf, and he swore he thought it landed a little more neatly than he would have expected. But perhaps it just as easily could have been his overactive imagination. He hoped it was.
And with that, the boy left the shadow and gloom of his parents’ bedroom behind him and went to his own bedroom, where sleep did not come easily.
Reggies’ parents came home on Monday, both to his infinite dread and delight. He woke up that morning, and ran downstairs to eat breakfast to find Amy in the doorway, talking to his parents.
“…..Was Reggie good? He didn’t give you any trouble?”
“He was amazing, Mrs. Ballard. A real top-rate young man you’re raising- Ahh, there he is now!”
Laughing, Reggie ran to the threshold and hugged his mother around her waist.
“Reggie, I’m so proud! Your father and I’ll be right there, just wait in the kitchen for us and we’ll tell you all about the reunion.”
Sure enough, Reggie’s parents spent only a few minutes more saying goodbye to Amy before the door closed behind them, and they came into the kitchen.
“Ready to hear about our adventure?”
Reggie squealed, and over what felt like one of the best breakfasts he’d had in years, his parents told him all about the comedic adventures they’d had at the reunion.
The subject of Reggie visiting his parents’ bedroom was never once brought up, much to his inner relief. Obviously, his parents didn’t know he’d gone through their things, or else he would be undoubtedly be looking at a grounding.
And what of the mysterious shoebox that had seemed to leap into Reggie’s arms moments after he’d been frustrated about not being able to reach the shelf? That, too, was never discussed, making him all the more glad. What would his parents do if they knew he’d done something…. Strange, abnormal, dare he even think it: Magical?
No. Reggie was convinced there was nothing magical at all about what he’d done, whatever it was. But there was nothing strange about him at all. Perhaps it had all been some elaborate trick of his imagination. Yes, imagination. It had never happened at all.
As time passed, Reggie became older and long forgot about the mysterious incident involving a shoebox of his fathers’ when he’d been eight. At least, he’d forgotten about it until July of 1992, just after he’d turned eleven years old……..
And day in 1992 was the day Reggie's life truly began to change.......