The main character in my story is Martha Grumps but ask anyone in the town of Bedlam, where she lives, what her name is and they'll say it's Old Lady Grumps.
Then, if you ask them why they call her this, they will say she's a ripe old lady with the grumpiest personality. Well, she is an old lady (if sixty is old) but really the name Grumps was only given to her because her last name is Grumps, but since no one who lives in the town has lived in the town long enough to know the true reason, they only think it is because she's grumpy. If you begin to become curious about this seemingly unfriendly woman and so continue to ask about her, then you will learn, from the townspeople, that she only comes out of her house occasionally and when she does she wears the same odd attire. First, she has on a cowboy hat that has got such a big rim on it that it puts her whole face in a shadow. Then, she wears the same faded flowered dress, which she belts at the waist, and for shoes she wears thick rubber boots that reach almost to her knees and are about an inch too large for her feet. The townspeople will also say they have never seen her lift her face into a smile - some even say she can't (though I can tell you she has and does). They always see her frowning and stomping about in those clumsy boots of hers and she has the atmosphere of being very domineering even despite the fact that she is probably the shortest one in town. But I can tell you that those daunting facts are truly just hiding an eccentric old lady that loves acting, adventure, and experiments. In fact, over the years since she needed more room for experiments, she gradually moved farther and farther away from everyone else until she was at the farthest, most remote place in the town of Bedlam. Since the people of the town never go over there, no one will probably ever know what she's truly like, or that after she gets home from town she bursts into peals of laughter at her excellent acting job.
The town of Bedlam is not in any particular place, such as Pennsylvania or Spain, it is rather an imaginary place that could be anywhere in the world. I will say though, that this is a place in the U.S.A. Of course, you will probably never find a town like it anywhere in the U.S. or otherwise. Let me tell you why. First off, the town is large, its whole area taking up 50 square miles. Not many people live in Bedlam though. The biggest amount of people this town has ever had was ten to fifteen families in all (some families consisting of one person). Second, even though Bedlam is 50 square miles total, there is an additional 300 miles all about its perimeter of uninhabited land that separates it from any other town or city. In Bedlam, you will find no hospitals, not one doctor (unless one is lucky enough to move in), no school (so you school at home or you don't live there), and no true store. So maybe you wonder what there is, and I'll tell you. What makes up the "town square" is a little store (more a thrift store than anything), and two churches (a Protestant church and a Catholic church). A stream runs through the middle of the town from mountains bordering Bedlam on the north, to flow down in a winding way characteristic of a stream. To make up the rest of the town are apple orchards as far as the eye can see, and almost any kind you please. What food they eat there! Apples, apple cider, apple juice and if they have other ingredients, apple pie, apple dumplings, caramel apples, apple sauce and anything else they can think up. These and any inhabitants of the area make up the town. Since this story takes place when automobiles had almost entirely and completely taken over horse and buggy,and "Poodle Skirts" were fashionable, there is communication to the outer world by telephone and things like that. Altogether, unless you are one who doesn't mine the inconvenience of driving 300 miles to get groceries, one who never has an accident or gets sick, or is one who has an extreme fondness for apples, you probably wouldn't want to live there. This is why most people don't live there and when they do, leave very quickly afterward.
At the northernmost part of Bedlam there are mountains. These mountains are tall and sloping with much greenery. Interspersed between the trees and plants are various sized boulders. Some are entrances into caves that go deep inside the mountains, others make perfect crevices for tiny animals to live under, still others are, well, just there. The secret passage in my story is one of those caves deep inside the mountain. Martha Grumps' house, the "farthest and most remote" one in the neighborhood, sits at the bottom of the last mountain on the eastern side of Bedlam. The Secret Passage begins at the last mountain on the western side. Nobody now residing in Bedlam knows about it, not even Old Lady Grumps. There is a nice pathway made by two rows of apple trees that stretches from Martha Grumps house to the passageway, but she doesn't know that (there's fifty miles that separate them remember). Anything else you'll just have to learn throughout the story.
It was a quiet evening. Nothing could be heard but the gentle breeze blowing through the apple trees. Martha stood, breathing in the fragrant smell of apple blossoms wafting through her open window. The sun was just setting and still the last bit of orange could be seen. Then, in an instant, it was gone, and the whole multitude of stars shone clearly across the sky. Martha stood for a moment more before moving to her bed. It did not take long for her to fall fast asleep and then, at least this night, to dream.
She dreamt an uncommon amount that night, for one not used to dreaming, and what a strange dream, too. Martha was walking through dark alleys. At first, they appeared vacant. Then, people began looming up out of the shadows. Then they, too, disappeared. Her steps echoed quietly in another alley. Soon, a lone person approached walking with long strides, as if trying to go somewhere quickly, but in a way that would help avoid any suspicion. As he was passing her, he nodded his head. Before he could go farther, she caught his arm. She was suspicious, despite his efforts not to look so.
"And where are you going so late, child?" for a child he truly was- only 15 years old or so.
"Oh, just home," he replied. Martha could tell in the dark (or rather she somehow knew) that he had reddish-brown hair, with purple eyes and that he was not telling the whole truth.
"Well where were you before? Don't you have a curfew? I did growing up, but then, kids these days..." He didn't reply to this but she knew (somehow) that he was a thief. Apparently he knew that Martha had this knowledge and was frightened at the thought of her turning him in, so he began to run. Martha began to chase after him but making no headway, she shouted, making no noise. The figure of the boy slowly became fainter and fainter, and just before he was entirely out of sight, she woke up. The birds were chirping and the sun was making its way up over the horizon, as if nothing had happened.
A drowsy Martha rubbed her eyes. "Today, I must go to town." she thought, as she stretched and got out of bed. Then, "Boy that was an odd dream last night... dark alleys, and thieves, and all..." The dream perplexed her, and it was numerous days before she could think of anything else.