My character is hunting for an old iron key. It is about three inches long and has, oddly enough, turned somewhat green over time.
My main character's name is Elmo. He is a respectable, wealthy man of 68 who lives in the highly populated town of Summersdale, which is located somewhere in the hilly part of Tennessee, though he comes from someplace else. Elmo lives in his five-story brick mansion along with his pet parrot named Shirley, who nobody likes. He also resides with his seven maids, whose names he does not know, nor cares to know, so he has nicknamed: Glasses, Buttons, Toes, Jingles, Ribbons, Stupid and Nosy.
He owns a black limosine and a shiny silver convertible, in which his chauffer drives him places. Elmo is just barely six feet tall, and weighs 198 lbs. Despite his wealthiness, Elmo is rather bored and lonely in his gigantic house with nobody but a mocking parrot and some busy maids to keep him company. His neighbors never come to visit, and Elmo's family lives far away.
Unfortunately, Elmo's wife, Catherine, passed away many years ago from a sudden and fatal stroke. Ever since he became a widower, Elmo has grown rather gruff towards people, locking himself up in his study and failing to keep up with the changes in the world.
Elmo used to play golf until his joints 'died' on him, driving him to use a walker with little green tennis balls on the bottom, so as not to scratch up his expensive wood flooring. Who knows? Someday perfect floors might save his life.
My tale shall unfold within the confines of a mansion. This mansion was really a spectacular thing to behold. It sat smack in the middle of eight acres, towering above the trees that proudly lined the red brick driveway. The mansion itself was made of brick, painted white long before the last owner bought it; you could tell so by the chipping and peeling of the paint, which gave the place an unwelcoming presence.
Aside from the tree-lined driveway, there were no more trees on the entire property. Next to the three-car garage, where the owner parked his black limosine and shiny silver convertible, were some barberry bushes, but they were an accident.
In the front of the mansion, up a few brick steps, there stood a tremendous, thick oak door with a brass knob that probably used to be shiny. Into the wood had been carved a large, fancy, rectangular design that lots of doors have in them. It certainly wasn't a beautiful door, but something about it made you want to open it.
If you were to go through the door, you would find yourself standing in a grand foyer, one of the only rooms in the mansion that the maids bothered to clean. Hanging from the ten-foot ceiling was a large, delicate chandelier that glimmered in a most annoying fashion.
The beautiful whitish-grey tile floor was waxed daily, making it dangerously slick, so one of the maids laid out an ugly dark red and gold rug that looked much duller than it was for all the dust and dried dirt on it.
To the right was another door, less grand than the first, but nevertheless it had that intriguing air about it. Through that door was nothing splendid, just an empty room full of dust and trunks and old, expensive filthy furniture all piled into one disgusting heap.
Actually, most of the rooms in the mansion were quite like that: musty, cluttered and forgotten. The doors were all the same dark brown oak, with the cracked brass knobs that were just begging you to turn them. Besides the tile in the foyer, every other room and hallway in the house had expensive wood flooring that the owner was most careful not to scratch.
The owner himself had only been in four rooms out of all eighty-seven in the last few years: the foyer, the kitchen, the library and his office, where he slept and ate and grumbled about all the problems he had.
Now the library was probably the oldest, spookiest, quietest and dustiest room in the whole entire mansion. Every inch of all four walls was covered by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, crammed full of every sort of book you can imagine. On the floor, too, were stacks and stacks of books that didn't fit on the shelves.
In the middle of the room was a tiny wooden table that wobbled, due to a chipped leg, and also there was a round stool-thing that had a big chunk of seat missing, so one had to be careful not to shift, or else they might slip off.
The only two spots of wall that were not taken up by bookshelves were the places where holes had been cut for a door and window. With there being, conveniently, no light in the library, one had to read during the day and adjust the stool to match where the single ray of sun fell.
Being a five story mansion, there were obviously many flights of steps. Some were short. Some were long. Some had railings on both sides, while others were squished between walls. But they all had one thing in common, a silly thing, but a thing nonetheless: each staircase, every single one, had at least one missing step. It was a most peculiar thing, and a dangerous one, too, but what was exceptionally odd was that nobody had bothered to replace them.
After Elmo's mother died, his father remarried a woman from London, England, who had a little girl from her previous marriage. The little girl grew up and got married and had a boy named Fitz Kiply, who is Elmo's step-nephew.
Fitz is my secondary character, and in the story he is a British teenager. Fitz has tight curly red hair and brilliant blue eyes. He is a bit on the short side, and while he's in good shape he looks a little round. His father ran away with the gypsies when Fitz was a baby, and nobody ever heard from him again.
Fitz is sixteen and old enough to drive, but while he enjoys looking at cars he is not keen on driving one. Bonnie, his mother, is of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and pulled him out of school when his teacher ate a cheeseburger for lunch, believing her to be a vicious cow murderer.
Fitz is only about 5' 3" tall and weighs 121 lbs. He's smart enough to get by and likes to cook and build in his spare time. Even though his mother is a PETA member, Fitz doesn't mind if people eat cheeseburgers for lunch. But he has a pet rabbit named Bowtart who he would never, ever, ever eat as a bunnyburger.
Bonnie, Fitz and Bowtart moved over to England for most of Fitz's childhood, where he learned to speak like the British people and to cook like them. They moved back to America a few years later, and Fitz left all his friends behind, except Bowtart, who came with him, of course.
Ribbons scurried up the dusty staircase, her high heels tap tap tapping as she went and her ankle ribbons flying. In one hand the maid balanced a food tray, loaded with pancakes and muffins and orange juice.
When Ribbons reached the top of the stairs, stepping precariously over the missing step, she turned quickly to her right and began banging on an old wooden door.
"Mr. Elmo, Sir!" she yelled. "I've got yer breakfast!"
Ribbons pressed her ear against the door, but the old man didn't reply. She pounded some more.
"I'm comin' in, you hear? So don't say I didn't warn you."
Gently she twisted the brass knob, and the door creaked open painfully. Ribbons entered and set the tray down on the big chestnut desk. From his office chair by the window, Elmo looked up miserably.
"I do not like muffins," he grumbled, scooting his seat over to the tray.
"Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Elmo, but that's what Toes bought at the market."
"Then why is she the one going to the market?"
Ribbons just sighed, blowing her hair ribbons up in the air. "Because all us others is too busy."
"Humph." Elmo slurped his orange juice loudly, a clear sign that he was done talking to Ribbons. She left the room and shut the door behind her.
As soon as Elmo heard the latch click, he covered his food with a napkin and leaned back in his chair. He would eat his food when he felt like it. Right now, he needed a little nap...
Elmo-in-the-dream woke up to find himself standing in the middle of a dirt road. All around him were bright, colorful little shops that sold everything from clothes to cooking pots.
After Elmo's momentary surprise passed, he noticed that darting in and out of the stores were people, all dressed in medieval-style clothing. Some stood laughing and chattering by trees, while others seemed content to rush to and fro.
Eventually Elmo found himself walking towards a particularly yellow shop that sold hand-made scarves. The grey-haired woman behind the counter looked up with a wide smile.
"Can I help you?" she asked him pleasantly.
And Elmo, who hated being spoken to nicely, started to reply something quite rude, but at that moment a tall, pretty girl walked in and smiled at them.
"Hello," she said. The girl had dirty blonde hair and sparkling greenish brown eyes.
"Hello," the counter lady replied.
"Where am I?" Elmo demanded grouchily.
Both females looked at him in surprise. "You are in the kingdom of Fyor," the blonde girl informed him gently. "Are you from out of town, too?"
"Am I from out of- of course I am from out of town! I am from out of state! Out of country! This is a foreign world! I'm not even really here; I'm dreaming."
The girl's small red lips curled into a knowing smile. "I'm dreaming too. My name is Madeline Milton. What's yours?"
"Elmo," he grumbled.
Suddenly the shopkeeper vanished, and the two looked over in mild shock. Then Elmo heard a voice inside his head.
"You must find it," murmured the voice. "You must find the iron key. Wait for the one who speaks fondly of Shirley. They will aid you."
Elmo was about to ask the voice what on this strange earth it was talking about when suddenly the floor melted and he and Madeline went tumbling down with it.
When they landed Madeline was the first to her feet.
"Oh my!" she exclaimed shakily, rubbing her leg. "Oh, Elmo, are you alright?" Madeline reached to help him up, but Elmo shook her hand off.
With a great many cracks and pops, and no shortage of grunts, Elmo heaved himself up and leaned against a convenient pillar.
"Now where am I?" he grumped.
Madeline looked around and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear. "This is a house," she observed. "A mansion. Why, it looks like my good friend Philip Bennet's home!"
While Madeline rushed up to the door Elmo huffed and resisted from asking who Philip Bennet was. He sounded like a nice person, all the more reason for Elmo to avoid him.
Then the sky turned green, and the mansion disappeared and Elmo was left standing alone in the middle of a purple daisy field. He snorted in disgust (flowers repulsed him) and then...
Elmo-not-in-the-dream woke up. He had quite a start, especially for someone who did not like change, to be in a daisy field one moment and the next to find himself in his drab office chair, looking out the dull window of his miserable study.
"Dreams," he thought, shaking his head unhappily. "Disturbing things."
The aroma of pancakes wafted over to his nose, and it was then Elmo realized just how hungry he was.
As the old man stuffed the food in his mouth, he recalled the mysterious voice in his dream that had reminded him of the iron key, and speaking of someone who would help him find it.
For the first time in a long time, Elmo had something besides misery to think about.