When I was younger, adults used to tell me all the time, don’t ever talk about politics, religion and money. It’s not polite. You’ll offend people. Now it’s all I ever read, talk, and think about.
Is it really impolite, or is the problem that those topics get to the deep roots of someone’s values? No one wants to go deep. We like to keep our conversations on the surface. Cool, calm, and not making waves. Besides, it takes more work to go deep. You might really get to know someone and actually have strong feelings of attachment or sympathy. Or you might end up despising them, and never look at them the same way again.
It’s hard to get to know people in a nuanced and intimate way. It’s easier to lump them into a cold group of faceless boxes.
I get it, I’ve done it before. Who has time to know everyone you meet at a deep level. It’s impossible, at least that’s what we tell each other. It makes life easier and you don’t have to let emotions get in the way. But I do remember as a child adults talking about politics and yelling over and at each other while breaking down what’s wrong with our world and how they would fix it.
I was never really interested in the large philosophical debates, but I was always interested at the root of the problem. I’ve never enjoyed the surface, I’ve always wanted to dig deeper and get into the why?
I didn’t believe he was just an evil person, I wanted to know the why. For years I had heard that my neighbor, Mr. Sigsbee, was a dangerous man. Someone you didn’t want to get close to. He lived at the end of our street. His home was four houses away from my mine. His was the last house on a dead end street. Behind the home was a wooded area that continued on for miles, I suppose, but I had no real idea.
I never spoke to Mr. Sigsbee, always saw him from a distance. He was the type of person who made an effort to be unseen and unspoken to. I could never tell if it was his shyness or if it was guilt, shame, or just an awareness of what everyone thought of him and so he kept his distance. It’s nothing short of miraculous to me that you can live around someone for years and yet never really know them.
From what I heard though, there was good reason to not know Mr. Sigsbee. The story of how he killed a man in Oklahoma many years ago and got out of a prison sentence because of some loophole in the system or a crooked judge. The rumors about how his wife died mysteriously and how his family had distanced themselves from him. Whatever it is, even I can tell as a sixteen year old that none of that is even probable.
He’s probably just a lonely man who has nothing to hide and lives a normal boring life. I made it my mission to find out for myself and to disprove all that I had heard about him. One day after school I decided to continue walking past my house and to continue on to his house at the end of the street. I passed the Robinson’s, and I passed the Sorenson’s house hoping that no one would recognize me or look out their windows to see me going towards Mr. Sigbees home.
As I continued walking down my street I eventually made it his house. From my house I never really noticed it’s details. Actually I had never been this close. I was still about two feet from his driveway and standing in front of his home on the tarmac. I realized that as I stood there someone was bound to see me. It could be the Smith’s directly behind me, or the Miller’s next to them. For some reason, in that instant, I didn’t care. I felt like I was about to commit some act of bravery reserved for only a few. I placed my right foot on his driveway and as I took each step I started to notice that his home, although similar in size and dimensions to all of the other homes in my neighborhood had some unusual characteristics.
As I drew closer, I could tell that the home wasn’t normal. Some of the wood paneling on the home seemed to have intricate patterns, texts, or what appeared to be hieroglyphic designs. I couldn’t really tell, but it was peculiar and unusual. The wood boards seemed normal at a distance but from about 10 feet away I started to realize that they were anything but what you would see on most houses. My heart started beating through my throat and I could already feel that this was a bad idea.
I wanted to get to know Mr. Sigsbee and prove to my parents and neighbors on our street that he was a good person, but now I was starting to doubt. Something about the eeriness of the panels, made me feel that something was askew. I paused and squinted to look at some of the outer woodwork on his home. I realized that everything on the exterior had these intricate designs not just the wood boards. I never noticed the designs when I was over at the Robinson’s house playing with Sam and Chris, but now at this distance, it was clear, something was weird.
Okay turn around, and go home. This is not something you want to see. This was a bad idea, you made a mistake. Let’s go home.
I tried to turn around but my curiosity got the better of me. The intricate designs were pulling me in while my gut was telling me to leave. I’ve never been one to do what most would do. I continued forward, taking small deliberate steps on the small walkway that lead from the driveway to the front porch. As I stepped closer and closer it became even more apparent than before that something was different. Not only were the characters even visible on the brick portion of the home but now there was a palpable force, something talking to me and through me. I couldn’t tell if it was in my mind or if it was something in my nervous system or what it was. Just this internal strange sound and feeling that I had to get closer to the front door.
As I took smaller and smaller steps, my legs seemed to be subconsciously moving without any effort. I didn’t like the fact that I felt like I was no longer in control. What ever was happening, it was happening to me and not because of me. I was about five feet from the front door when it appeared to open on it’s own. At this point I wanted the game or whatever this was to end. I was still curious but equally or more so afraid. The door was now gone, or at least not visible, and all I could make out inside the house was what appeared to be a wooden staircase to the left and a hallway table.
I continued on and it was all becoming very apparent that I was not in my normal frame of mind or perhaps I was literally in another world of some sort. As my legs were about to cross the threshold into the home, I took one quick glance back to see if I could see the Robinson house and to see if anyone was looking at me. It was gone, there was no home, there was no street, there was nothing but grass. An empty field. It was at that very instant that I knew wholeheartedly, I had made a grave mistake.
The next thing I knew I was sitting at a small round table in a completely bare room with beautiful dark wood paneling all around. I was looking down at beautiful silverware and what looked like an equally beautiful and expensive plate and tablecloth. The confusion that I felt was immediately added to when I looked up and saw across the table from me a pale thin man in a dark suit and tie. His hair was jet black and impeccably coiffed tight to his head. His eyes were dull and droopy with a tinge of eagerness. Eagerness for what, I couldn’t tell.
“Would you fancy something to drink?”, he said in a slow and dreary voice.
“No, I’m fine” I said while trying to figure out who he was, where I was, and how did I end up here.
Was I in Mr. Sigsbees house? How did I arrive at this point? I remember crossing the doorway and the next moment I’m in this strange predicament having breakfast, or dinner, I don’t even know, with a man I didn’t recognize.
Did I fall and hit my head and this man helped me? How long was I unconscious? I asked the stranger, “Who are you, and where am I?”
He gave me a faint smile and took a bite of what looked like a large pastry of some sort. He kept his eyes fixated on mine while he chewed and smiled at the same time. I began to feel uneasy at the whole situation and just wanted to get back home.
“Well”, I said as I abruptly stood up. “This was fun, but I must back home now. Thank you for your company, but I’ve got to get going. My parents are probably wondering where I am.”
The stranger kept his gaze on me and again kept smiling. As I started walking away from the table I realized that there were no doors on any of the walls. A room with no entrance and no exits? What is this? I looked up to see if there was a way out and there was nothing more than intricate wood panels on the ceiling. Now I was confused and angry, “What is this? What are you trying to do to me?” I said to the man as I raised my voice.
He simply laughed in response with the sort of laugh that is deep from within but also to let me know how amusing and nonthreatening I was. I began to feel helpless and defenseless. I thought about threatening to call the police, but I knew that was an empty threat and he would know it too. I just wanted to get out of this strange room.
I noticed that behind me and off to the left there was daylight coming through and illuminating the room. I turned to look up and left towards the source of light and there was a single small window about 11 feet above the ground. It looked like it was about three feet wide and two feet high. The ceiling appeared to be 20 feet high or more. I turned back to look at the stranger and he was still amused by me and my newfound observation. He seemed to know what I was thinking and calmly said, “there is no use in trying. Just relax and enjoy my company and some of these desserts.”
He was right, this whole thing was hopeless. I sat back down at the table and started crying. I realized that I was trapped in a strange room with a strange man and this was probably going to end horribly. As I was crying with my head bowed down I had a fleeting thought. There was a knife at the table. For some reason I had the thought, grab the knife. The next thing I knew I lunged towards the man with my knife in hand pointed toward his chest. As I was about to pierce his white shirt I heard an alarm go off. My eyes were shut. I opened them up slowly to and saw my mother worried looking down at me.
“Are you okay?”
“Well for starters, you missed your first two alarms and you’re not one to sleep in. Is everything OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, I just had this crazy dream about Mr. Bigsbee’s house and going over there and this weird man in a room with no doors..and”
“Whoa slow down, Mr. Bigsbee that moved away two years ago? You mean the Moore’s house?
“The Moores? What are you talking about? I’m talking about the creepy guy that everyone thinks killed his wife! He didn’t move. Mom, have you lost your mind?”
“Okay, I can’t tell if you’re joking around or if you’re being serious, either way, you need to get up and get to your job.”
“My job? What are you talking about? I’m still in high school and have to get ready for my first class. Mom you’re hilarious”
My mom looked at me as if she was genuinely concerned that there might be something wrong with me. I grabbed her arm, “Wait, what day is this? I mean what day, month, and year?”
She looked at me as if perplexed, “ It’s January 23rd, 2022.”
“What did you just say…2022? How is that even possible? You’re trying to tell me somehow during my strange dream two years have passed! What the hell are you talking about?”
My mother obviously frightened and concerned by my words and my tone started to backtrack towards my door and ran out.
I sat on the side of the bed trying to collect my thoughts and trying to replay the events of the night before. Everything was hazy and I couldn’t remember how I got there, and I couldn’t comprehend in any way what was happening to me. Was I losing my mind ?
I looked at the dark brown carpet of my bedroom, I saw something shiny by my foot partially sticking out from underneath my bed. I reached down to pick it up. It was the knife from the table in the dark wood paneled room. It was heavy and I held it up to my face. There was in inscription on the handle.
It read, he who never questions never lives. He who is curious lives many lives.