As I climbed, the smell of burning wood filled the air. It became hotter and hotter, so hot that I wished I was wearing shorts instead of jeans. The stairs seemed to go on forever. Finally, I could see a bright light glowing at the top of the stairs. The end of the stairs was connected to a short, straight road. At the end of the road, which was very near to me, a city burned. The smell of burningwood and the terrible heat was all because of this big fire! But that was not all. Small creatures danced and yelled. In their tiny hands, they clutched swords. The swords looked like pirates’ swords. Instantly, the fire reminded me of the remains of my house, my parents, and Jason. I didn’t know if it was because of the smoke or the memories, but tears blurred my sight.
I was so terrified that I couldn’t move. Just then, I saw a figure running into the woods beside the road. It was faint, but it looked like Jason. I ran in after him, but only trees stood in the darkness. They looked like those dancing creatures. Suddenly, I realized someone was beside me. It was the girl who looked exactly like me. But as I watched, she became older, older, and older. She looked like my great-great-great-grandmother. She said, “Follow me.” Although she looked—or really was—very old, her steps were as quick as mine. As we walked, the forest became brighter, though I couldn’t see the rising sun. The old woman took me to a canyon at the end of the woods. It was the deepest, widest and most beautiful canyon I had ever seen. I was standing at the edge, the ground sinking just a few steps in front of me. Streaks of reds covered the sheer walls.
All of a sudden, I felt hands on my back, pushing. In a second, I was falling toward the bottom of the canyon. I twisted my head and saw the old woman looking calmly straight into my eyes. She reached out her hands for the necklace. As she touched the necklace, her whole body started to melt into shimmering golden dust, like the kind I had seen at the staircase inside the black box. The stream of golden dust flowed into the necklace. And I was no longer falling. I was standing on air!
When I tried to move, it felt like walking in water, the same way it had felt in the cave where I had first found the necklace. Suddenly I pictured the wolf! Just then, I heard a voice.
“Remember, and never forget.”
I gasped. The voice belonged to the old girl inside the necklace!
Chapter Ten: In the Cave of the Canyon
Slowly, I drifted to the bottom of the canyon. It was covered with sand and small stones. The ragged red streaks on the walls soared high to the top of the canyon. I didn’t know what to do. There was nowhere to go. Then I found a small cave. It was very small, so small that I would have to crawl if I wanted to go inside. But something in my mind wanted me to go into the cave.
I crawled in. It was very dark and I couldn’t see anything. Sand and stones kept digging into my palms and I kept banging my head against the roof of the cave. The walls were so close that my shoulders hurt from bumping them. Suddenly, a voice rang out.
“You’re tired already? You have a long way to go.”
I relaxed when I recognized the girl’s voice. She was joking like a teenager, just like me. I had so many questions to ask!
“I saw creatures and a burning city! And what about…”
“Stop, stop, stop! I am going to explain it all right now!
The girl continued speaking as I crawled.
“Okay, it’s hard to explain it all. But I can explain some things. Do you remember the spiral staircase?”
I remembered the staircase that led me to the forest.
“Well, actually, it’s a magic staircase. You can see the future from it. Originally, only the kings were allowed to use it. But the goblin king discovered its power, and he destroyed the real entrance and set many traps that would let only him pass through. I used a little magic to help you find the staircase because you needed to know about a future that will come unless you change it. I used a little magic to help you.”
I was more confused. What did she mean when she said, ‘unless you change it’? And goblins? Did she mean the small creatures with swords? Just then, I remembered when I was at the mountain the wolf had told me about them. How could I have forgotten?
As if the girl had read my mind, she said, “Don’t worry. Nobody will punish you for forgetting. Ah...we’re here.”
Here the roof was high enough for me to stand. I stood up, feeling stiffness in my legs. A hole in the roof allowed bright sunlight to pour into the cave, revealing a door on the rock wall. The door was made of wood, but there was no doorknob. At first, I thought I should open the door, but something about it made me hesitate.
The girl inside of the necklace whispered. “Opening the door may change your life. It’s dangerous. But if you want to help the wolf, you should push the door and go in.”
I hesitated. Did I really have to help the wolf? I didn’t even know him well! Besides, I still had to get out of this world and save Jason. Uncle Paul might be threatening him right now. But I knew that it was the right thing to help the wolf king. And, it might be the only way I could get out of here. I stretched my arm and pushed the door. A glimpse of light shone in front of me. When the light disappeared, I was not in the cave, but in a clearing. Around the clearing, small, black pairs of eyes looked out from behind the bushes. I suddenly realized who they were.
They were goblins.
Chapter Eleven: Into the City
The goblins’ eyes glittered like tiny black beads full of evil. They began to move from behind the bushes. I was surprised by their size. They were very small—no taller than my knees—and had pink skin, like babies. Most of them were wearing some kind of clothes, ragged, dirty and made from animal skins.
They had no hair or noses, but only black, huge eyes and big mouths with sharp, white teeth. They had very big ears on the sides of their heads. As I finished my observation, I heard giggles. The goblins were all laughing like hyenas waiting for food. My blood turned to ice. I couldn’t moves. Panic ran through me.
I have to get out of here I thought. But how? They’re blocking all the escapes!
Slowly, the goblins crept toward me. Vicious smiles still lingered on their faces, showing their small, sharp teeth. I slowly stepped back, but soon the bushes stopped me. They were too dense to slip through. The goblins were only a few feet away now, snapping at me.
Just then, I found a narrow space between two bushes and I pushed through. Just as I escaped the clearing, yowls rang out. When I looked back, I saw small, angry faces. Escaping wasn’t as easy as I thought. The bushes disappeared, trees filling up the space instead, slowing me down while the small goblins scampered through them. I was tired. I couldn’t run anymore, but the goblins were still running. With excitement on their faces, they caught me. I fell down onto the ground. About twenty goblins stood around me. The biggest one—a little taller than my knees—said, “We catch you. You go prison.” As it said the words, I could smell its breath, reeking of death.
Then more goblins came closer. They had ropes with them and tied my hands. Their hands were small, like babies’ hands, but they only had three fingers on each. They made me stand up, and then pushed me to walk. The largest one took the lead and the rest of the goblins followed, dragging me along. With my hands tied together, it was hard to balance. I almost fell to the ground a few times, but each time, the goblins tugged my shirt so I wouldn’t. Finally, we reached a huge gate. It was made of iron and was a little rusted as if they didn’t use it often.
When I was gazing at the gate, a small finger poked my hands. It was the leader goblin. With a voice that froze me, it said, “You hand untie. Go small door. You crawl.” Then it untied my hand and led the way.
We walked all the way around a tall, brick wall. The goblin was grumbling. “Wolf king lock gate. Nobody open.”
Wolf king? So maybe this was the wolf’s city! Finally, the goblin stopped in front of a small hole in the wall. It was almost the same size as the goblins. The goblin pointed to the hole, then said, “Go in.”
Fearfully, I crawled through the hole. It was not deep, and after a few seconds of struggling, I was inside the city at the edge of a large clearing. A few houses and roads stood nearby, but there was nobody except for several goblins staring at me. The leader goblin appeared and tied my hands again. Then it pushed me to walk.
By now, my legs were aching, but the goblin didn’t stop. Finally, we reached a huge building that looked like a palace. The goblin knocked on the wooden door and said a few words that I couldn’t quite hear. All of a sudden, I found myself in a small room.
The goblin was nowhere to be seen. My hands were untied. The room was just a common room with light brown walls and a wooden floor. There was a bed, a desk and a chair. But there was no door. There was only a small window, and all I could see was a blue background. I soon realized that it was the sky. I was locked in a room high in the sky.
Chapter Twelve: Doors, Doors, Doors
I heard no sound. I didn’t know if there was anyone near me. The thought of goblins and their creepy smiles made me nervous. What if they came back? Panic covered me like a big wave. But worrying would change nothing. It would not save the wolf or Jason. Trying to calm down, I looked around the room more carefully. Still, I couldn’t find any door.
Sighing, I gave up looking. Suddenly feeling exhausted, I sat on a chair beside the desk. It was a pretty brown chair, paired with the desk. The bed looked comfortable, with a white blanket and pillow. On the ceiling, a small chandelier was glowing.
Except for the fact that there was no door, the room looked completely normal. For a second, I wanted to sleep a little, not caring about the goblins. But I knew I couldn’t. I had to get out and help the wolf, so I could find Jason. Suddenly I heard a small click. It came from the desk, but nothing seemed to have changed. To make sure nothing was wrong, I kneeled on the floor and turned my head to see the bottom of the desk. I found a small golden handle.
“Is that a secret drawer?” I wondered. I grabbed the handle, then pulled it. I soon discovered that it was, indeed, a secret drawer. Inside the drawer, I could see something. Carefully, I pulled it out. It was a small notebook.
The cover was black, with no decoration. I opened it, and on the first page there was a strange shape. It was drawn with pencil. There were three black trees and in front of them was the outline of a howling wolf. When I turned to the next page, I soon realized that it was a diary.
It had been written by a woman who lived in the city when the goblins attacked. It seemed that she had a person who she loved, but she was separated from him, and captured by the goblins. Then, the diary stopped.
I flipped a few more pages, but there was nothing. Suddenly, a few pages from the notebook fell out and dropped to the floor. I picked them up and started to read. It was a letter, and it said “To the person who reads my diary.” That meant this letter was for me! The letter said that not only the writer of this notebook, but every person from the city was in the tower, each locked in a room like the one I was in. The woman was once in this room, but she found a way to escape and now she was going to help other people. The last sentence of the letter said, “I may not know you, but will you help me?”
It felt like I was actually listening to her; reading her letter, I could easily imagine her voice, full with desperation, sorrow and hope. Responsibility roared in my heart. She asked me for help! I couldn’t let her down. But first, I had to find a way out.
I left the notebook on the desk and closed the secret drawer. As soon as I closed it, I heard a click sound again, and the handle disappeared. I decided to look at the walls one more time to see if there was any door or hole. When I looked up at one of the walls, I easily found a door, but it was not a real door. It was only a drawing of a door. A big rectangle and a small circle. But I could tell it was the escape that I had been looking for.
I held the black notebook in one hand—it made me feel like I wasn’t alone—and touched the round circle. I heard a loud screech, and when I stepped forward, I discovered myself in the longest hall I had ever seen. The door shut behind me. The floor of the hall was covered with a long, red carpet. But the most amazing things were doors. Thousands of doors of all different sizes and shapes lined both sides of the hall. Some of them were just drawings of doors. Some of them were common wooden doors. Or stone doors. Or metal doors. There were so many that I couldn’t even see the end.
I was afraid. “What if the goblins find me?” I worried. Just then, I heard a soft, whispering voice.
“Do you think I’ve forgotten you? Don’t worry. The goblins never come in here.” It was the voice of the girl inside the necklace!
“I thought you ran away from me,” I retorted. But I was so happy that I almost wanted to sing! The girl giggled.
“Well, right now we have to concentrate on finding her. I mean, the writer of the diary.” The girl’s voice suddenly became serious. I wanted to ask questions, but it seemed that I had to hurry instead. I walked along the hall. The girl stopped talking again, as if something was hampering her. I hoped to find the woman who wrote the diary soon, but the hall seemed to be going on forever and I didn’t have a single clue!
Suddenly I noticed something weird. I was seeing the same doors over and over. Soon, I found myself standing in front of the door that I had used as an escape from the room I had been in. I was pretty sure that it was the same door. I had seen these doors so many times, but I couldn’t find the woman. That meant I would never find her, I feared.
Suddenly, feeling exhausted, I plopped down on the carpet. What should I do now? Just then, something amazing happened. When I looked up, I saw a white wolf. Its eyes stared at me with gentleness. It was the wolf that I met when I first came to this world. I stood up and cried out.
“Where have you been? I was worried!”
But when I tried to walk toward him, the wolf’s eyes stopped me. The eyes seemed to be saying, “You don’t have time to talk with me. You have more important tasks to do.”
Then the wolf started to fade. Now, I could see through him. I wanted to tell him not to go, but I couldn’t. Finally, I couldn’t see him anymore.
A new energy started to flow inside me. “I have to help the wolf. I can’t stop now,” I told myself. All of a sudden, I found something that I didn’t see before. On the door the wolf had been sitting in front of, there was a picture of three black trees and a howling wolf. I opened the first page of the black notebook I was carrying. It was the same picture!
I grabbed the silver doorknob, but then I hesitated. What if this was a trap set by the goblins? But this was my only clue. If I missed it, I might never find the woman. Closing my eyes tightly, I turned the doorknob. As I opened the door, I found myself staring at a woman.