The Revolving Journey

- The Stars Above - , Book 1 of The Revolving Journey Series

By Beth Loska

15 min.
CHAPTER 1 - Once Upon A Midnight Dreary
Present time in the U.S.

In the beginning, there was no reason to doubt who I was. I was just Becca Kelly, awkward teen extraordinaire. I felt somewhat stable growing up; I had people I loved, and there were people who loved me, but as a child I didn't have the mental maturity to analyze what was really going on with my Mom, she was just...herself. I was oblivious to this cycle as a smaller kid, but I started paying more attention as I got older; I saw how my friend's parents acted, and interacted, I saw the stark differences between my mother and the rest. My parents split when I was 3, and I only got to see my Dad for every other holiday and for a few months every summer. It was my brief vacation from Mom, and it was always over way too soon. My Dad did his best, but when anyone becomes a parent at the age of 20, there is bound to be some ground to cover. Everyone has their baggage, and Dad's worst baggage was my Mom. So, needless to say, I felt like the middle man; managing their egos and drama all by myself, trying to hide Mom's crazy from other people, including Dad.

After my Dad, Ian, was out of the picture, my Mom, Melissa, had a long line of dysfunctional boyfriends. She was a chronic dater, and none of her boyfriends were quality material; they were either recovering alcoholics, master manipulators, or both. When Mom had a boyfriend, life was good; when she didn't, she was busy finding another boyfriend. She had already married and divorced twice after my Dad and had to have a man to depend on her like a child, instead of being satisfied with her child. Her boyfriends more or less left me alone, barely taking the time to learn my name, which was fine with me. On top of my everyday struggle to live a normal life with an abnormal person, the last thing I needed was another fake relationship. Sigh...I couldn't share my story with anyone, my Dad wanted to know, but it was my unofficial job to protect my Mother at all costs. She ended up manipulated me more than any other person I have had the displeasure of knowing, but it took living through a set of extraordinary circumstances for me to realize that the loyalty she required of me was nothing she deserved from me.

We had recently moved to a small town in north-west Arkansas after Mom had gotten out of the military. She wanted a fresh place to start over and decided moving back to her hometown would be a good for us as a family. My Mom had bought a house on a previous trip, but I hadn't seen it or heard about it, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I don't remember the road trip there, since I slept the whole way, but I will always remember my impression on seeing our house for the first time...I was not impressed. Stepping out of the front seat of Mom's baby blue Nissan Sentra, I had a long stretch and groaned as my limbs popped and crackled, even though we hadn't been in the car long, my body had started protesting. I ran my hands through my waist length chestnut brown hair and looked around. I couldn't help but grimace as I looked at the place I would now be calling home. It looked like an old farmhouse from the 50's or 60s, I couldn't tell. It was an unappealing rectangle-shape, with white siding and black shutters that hung straight, more or less. The front porch was only big enough to stand on if the door was closed, and a miniscule walkway, ancient, crumbling, and much too narrow to be a legit sidewalk, led from the gravel driveway to the front door.

There was a small, detached, one-car garage that looked equally uninviting, and one large oak tree. All of it was hidden from the road by a long row of overgrown hedges of some non-descript bush-variety, which seemed about 15 feet high and 5 feet wide. I was staring at the bush, waiting for some-kind of furry creature to explode out of it when Mom cleared her throat to get my attention. Walking up the short walkway, she looked at our house with all the pride she could muster and was a bit put-out as she looked over at me, eye-balling the shrubbery like was haunted. What was she expecting? To see the same look of bliss on my face? She was going to be sorely disappointed; I may have faked the funk long enough to convince Dad that things were fine, but I didn't even try to hide my disappointment from my Mom. Brutal honesty was what she knew me for, but it didn't stop her from always being bummed when I didn't play nice.

"Don't you like it?" She was feeling whiny...

"It's kind of old...and small," I pointed out. She sighed, it wasn't like she could argue with me about my observation.

"It's bigger than it seems. It's just the two of us, and the cat. How big do we actually need it to be?"

Cynically, I thought that it was just us two, for now, but I kept my attitude to myself. Having ditched her latest boyfriend the week before we moved, she was oddly in a good mood, but still kind-of temperamental. She was always prone to being moody, even during the best of times, and I didn't want to rain on her parade so early in the morning.

Even though our new place looked like a country house, we were surprising close to our neighbors. I glanced around and was able to see that we were next to a modern-type 70's style houses on the left, a horse pasture was the lot behind us, and a small farm house was on the right. Directly across the street from our house was an old hay field with a cool looking, run-down, red barn that I felt like exploring sooner rather than later, and an ancient farmhouse that overlooked the barn and field from a small distant hill; I could just make it out in the distance. Other than that, there were cows somewhere nearby because I could definitely smell them even though I couldn't see any.

We had arrived in town late the night before and crashed at a cheap motel with a legit vibrating mattress. If I hadn't been so tired, I would have stuck a quarter in it to see if it still worked, but my exhaustion won out over my curiosity. My Mom was never good with money, so we couldn't afford another night in such a classy place, so we planned to camp out in the living room with the few pillows and blankets we had brought with us. Mom wanted to open up the house, air it out and start cleaning before the moving truck arrived tomorrow. She quickly unlocked the front door and carried in the cleaning supplies we had bought at some ancient store on the town square before driving to our house. I grabbed Tigger in the cat carrier and brought her inside too. It was too hot for her to stay in the car, and if I didn't remember to bring her in, no one would; I dropped her off just inside the entryway and quietly closed the screen door. Even though I was better at cleaning, Mom apparently felt that she had just spent way too much time in an enclosed space with me and needed a break from my company. I let my Mom have her alone time and decided that I would check out the yard first before getting sucked into her nervous energy in the house; I needed a break from her too.

The house had seemed unbearably stuffy in the early September heat, and at least being outside afforded me with a breeze every now and then. I quickly made a circle around our new house; it was small. I tried to peer into some of the windows, but they were dusty and nothing short of a good scrub would have allowed me to see through them. They were a little too high for me to look into without jumping, so I looked around for anything to stand on. There were no bushes or flowers around the house, just one loan tree that was only a few feet from the back of the house, right outside a lonely window. There weren't any low-lying branches to climb, so I still couldn't see in. I continued walking around the property, and I spotted some horses in the nearby barn. I started heading over to see if they would let me pet them when I tripped over something in the middle of the yard and fell face first into the grass. I quickly stood up and looked around to see if I had an audience, and once I established that I hadn't, I took a closer look at what I had tripped on. It was a chunk of concrete poking out of the grass, and after looking a little more closely, I noticed that it was part of a partially submerged concrete slab that I had mistaken for a bare patch of dirt.

How had I missed this? It was a creepy looking, cement storm shelter that took up a substantial amount of space in the side yard. It looked like a partially sunken bunker, with a large cement pad that you could walk on serving as the roof. I walked around and found the entrance. It had a black-stained, mildew vibe and a ramshackle set of stairs that descended straight through a doorless entryway into a dark pit that I could only assume was hell. It was like the shadows absorbed any sunlight that would have naturally filtered in through the narrow entryway. The vibes shooting out of this dank dungeon made me feel uncomfortable to say the least, and I thought it was strange that Mom hadn't said anything about it. Maybe she didn't know it was here? She was oblivious of almost everything that didn't involve her directly, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Feeling a little curious, and more than a little peeved that I was letting weird vibes dampen my adventurous spirit, I went and searched through the glovebox of Mom's crap car and found a decent LED flashlight that she kept for emergencies.

I returned to the storm shelter and clicked on the light. It was bright enough, since we had just changed the batteries out before our road trip, but I had a strong and sudden urge to turn around and put some space between me and the underground shelter. My hands were starting to sweat, and I was breathing quick and shallow. Now I'm not some damsel in distress and I usually have to be the adult in any scary bug situation or something thing like that, since my Mom tended to freeze up and shriek, but being this chicken about a dark hole in the ground was freaking me out. I was wondering what the hell was going on and was just about to give myself a mental pep-talk about how I should quit being dramatic, when all the sudden the cicadas, which had been a constant buzzing in the trees due to the heat, stopped. It was like someone had dampened all the sound and I could only hear my heartbeat in my ears, and a little of the music Mom was playing in the house but it sounded so far away. The breeze had stopped too, and all I could feel was the steady increase of hot air coming up the stairs from the door-less entryway. It felt like standing in front of an open oven all the sudden, and it was so hot my eyes were struggling to stay open in the heat.

The combination of the heat and the pounding of my heart in my ears was making me dizzy, and before I could figure out what to do next, a humongous crow flew out of the shelter doorway and headed straight for me. Even though I ducked as fast as my reflexes would allow, I still felt the feathered wings beat against my face as the bird jetted past me, cawing as loudly as it could. I screamed and fell backward onto the grass, and it was like hitting the ground was a signal to fracture some spell. All sound returned like it had never stopped, filling in the vacuum in a big whoosh and momentarily dazing me. I scooted back on my butt until I couldn't see the entryway anymore, and slowly stood up and dusted myself off. I was sweating and dusty and could only imagine the bird cooties I had in my hair. Maybe a tour of the inside of the house was in order...I was suddenly feeling like the storm shelter could just go forever without my inspection, and that would be fine with me. I made a silent vow to avoid those creepy stairs and doorway like it was the plague, and I swore to myself, come hell, high water, or a beast of a tornado, I would never descend those stairs, even if my life depended on it. Little did I know, this was just wishful thinking.

I quickly jogged away from the cement death trap in my side yard, replaced the flashlight in the glove compartment, and ran into the house. Mom had had a decent amount of time to make some progress, but the inside was still pretty dismal. The living room was the first room you saw when you entered, and the carpet was puke-green shag with a free-standing gas furnace as the only piece of furniture in it. A quick look to my left showed a decent size bedroom with lots of light, and just when I started to go and see more, my Mom popped her head out of the kitchen.

"Oh good, you're back. That's my room, yours is in the back. Come on, let me give you the tour?"

I finished walking through the living room and noticed that there was one long hallway from the living room to my room, and every other room was located off this main path. The kitchen was to my left and had some ancient stove that looked like it was original to the house. The only updated item in the kitchen was a lovely green fridge that Mom had just finished cleaning out. On the right side, was a built-in kitchen nook that looked like it could maybe seat four people if they didn't mind having zero elbow room. As I shuffled forward, my shoe snagged on the cracked and yellowed laminate tile; some tiles had been ripped up in some forgotten attempt to upgrade, no doubt.

"We'll cover that with a rug," Mom said as she saw me pawing at the uneven floors.

She briskly walked me back further where we passed an ancient alcove just big enough for an old-school phone. A lone bathroom was on the left with an ancient yellow toilet, tub and sink, accompanied by yellow checkered tiles on the wall and black and white checkered tiles on the floor. Charming, I thought. The laundry room was on the right and looked like it had been converted from a covered porch with only a lonely lightbulb dangling from the ceiling. Some hand-me-down washer and dryer were already in place, but they looked like they would need to be thoroughly disinfected prior to putting any of my stuff in there. Lastly, we came to my room at the very end. Any hope that I may have had about this house not being lame, or that I would be able to feel at home was quickly dashed as soon as I fully stepped into the room. The only plus was the shag carpet was doo-doo-brown instead of puke-green. It was a small rectangular room, at least half the size of the room my Mom had claimed, with one small window, which sported a broken lower-right corner out of the top window pane. A weird closet had been added on in the corner opposite the window, taking space from the room instead of being built-in, and there was horrendous dark brown wood molding everywhere.

I could sense that my Mom would have freaked had I shown her just how unhappy I was with the place, so I put my big girl pants on and took a deep breath.

"It has potential Mom, I see why you thought it would be a good place to settle for us". Luckily, she took this like I wanted her to and gleefully hugged my neck.

"It has good bones Boof, I knew you would see it".

I cringed at the nickname, she only pulled it out when she was feeling nostalgic, and she must have been daydreaming about growing old here or something. Geeze, I needed an attitude adjustment. I settled on changing the subject.

"Mom, I almost killed myself on the storm shelter out there. You could have given me a heads up".

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About Beth Loska