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Grandpas portal, p.1
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       Grandpa's Portal, p.1

           Steve Messman
 
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Grandpa's Portal
Grandpa’s Portal

  by Steve Messman

  2nd Ed. Copyright 2011 by Steve Messman and Messman Family Enterprises, LLC

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  Quick Comments From Readers

  “I loved reading this! Ashley loved it, too! She was disappointed that she couldn’t finish it and things you need to visit Mrs. W’s classroom as a guest author!”

  “I enjoyed your book thoroughly. When I finshed your book I said WOW! Talk about expanding one’s horizons. It was an excellent book!”

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  A Quick Description of Grandpa’s Portal

  Grandpa’s Portal is multidimensional science fantasy for anyone, preteen to adults. On the surface of the novel is a fun story of a grandfather who dives through a magic portal into the tiny world of insects. Because he left clues and puzzles that need to be solved, he is followed a year later by his grandchildren who battle giant mice, vicious insects, and killer spiders to bring their grandpa home. The deeper story surfaces when the ants show this family “The Book of Promises.” This mysterious book prophesies that five humans will overcome evil and bring balance to the world. It also promises that supreme evil can bring the dead back to life. Moral and ethical decisions force the kids in different directions. Three kids are forced home where they have to explain to their parents what happened. One chooses to live with the spiders where is seemingly swallowed by the evil that promises to bring his dead grandfather back to life.

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  Table of Contents

  1. The Beginning

  2. Grandpa

  3. Grandpa’s Final Trip

  4. The Portico

  5. What’s a Springtail

  6. Brian and Sarrah Are On Their Own

  7. Brian’s Disappearing Arm

  8. The Next August Visit

  9. Thomas’s Logic

  10. Thomas’s Plan

  11. How

  12. And Why

  13. We’ve Got To Go

  14. Gone

  15. Through the Gate

  16. The Springtail Armies

  17. The Ants

  18. The Mountain

  19. Grandpa is Found

  20. Why Are We Still Alive

  21. Holy Jumping Spiders, Grandpa

  22. Captured and Back in Prison

  23. Back at the Chamber

  24. The Huge Maple

  25. The Glowing Orb

  26. The Book of Paths

  27. The End of the Book

  28. Thought and Reflection

  29. Hannah Goes Back to the Orb

  30. Another Promise

  31. The War Continues

  32. Other Battles

  33. Grandpa Dies

  34. Upon Waking

  35. Resurrection and Pure Evil

  36. The Dead Shall Be Given Life

  37. Insurrection

  38. And Now There are Three

  39. Getting Past the Obvious

  40. Finding the Right Questions

  41. The Real Battle Begins

  42. The Battle Continuers

  43. The Battle Moves Outside

  44. The Battle Inside

  45. Going Home

  46. There is Always a Choice

  Study Questions

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  1. The Beginning

  We’re here, Debbie. It’s hot, and it’s humid, and we both stink of sweat. I know it. You know it. Even the deer know it. I’d apologize for the inconvenience, but my Grandpa taught me something a long time ago. “Don’t make choices you’ll have ta apologize for,” he would say, “and never apologize for the stuff ya have no control over.” So, thank you for being such an understanding daughter. The heat and I are testing your patience, I know, but I had to bring you here. Grandpa loved this path and these woods more than life itself. He worshiped that ancient maple tree as if it were a cathedral. The sounds of rustling leaves and waving grass, the smells of rotting wood and molding dirt were, to him, a sacred harmony. When the air is just right, you can smell something different, faint and acrid, like vinegar. The smell comes from that giant ant mound. A special tree stands just a few feet to the left of the mound. See it? That peculiar looking one over there with all the space beneath its roots? That’s the portico: the magic portal, a doorway to a world only seen by a handful of people. Grandpa went through the portal. Your Uncle Thomas and I went through it too, along with your cousins, Brian and Sarrah. Only three of us came back. It’s a long story, and everything you need to know begins in this magical spot: the place where Grandpa vanished from the world over twenty years ago.

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  2. Grandpa

  The week was special from the moment Thomas rang the doorbell. Grandpa opened the door, and his smile lit the porch. His ocean-blue eyes twinkled with the flashing light of the fireflies he chased during an Indiana boyhood. Without a single word, with a smile and the simple wave of his hand, Grandpa welcomed us all. Mom and dad stood clear while Thomas and I tore through the door and gave Grandpa a giant hug. We kissed Grandma on her oven-warmed cheeks, and we inhaled the meld of wonderfully sweet aromas that wafted from her kitchen: a mix of chocolate and vanilla that draped the air and screamed “Cookies!” Instantly, all of us were home.

  Cousins Brian and Sarrah arrived the next day with their parents. As he always did, Grandpa wasted no time in separating us from our parents. Grandpa made it his life’s purpose to teach everything he knew to his grandkids, to pass on his considerable knowledge of the world. It was as if he wanted us to carry on after he left. He wanted us to know everything he knew, to be everything that he was, and to do everything that he did. Grandpa wasn’t just book-smart. He knew something about everything. Grandpa would talk to us about birds, about insects, about how not to get lost, and about how to find our way home if we did. And the questions! There were always so many questions that he actually expected us to answer! What kind of bird is that? Why is that important? If one kind of bird, then what season? Why is that bird always seen in the brush? Why is that other one always seen in the trees? So many questions!

  On this trip, Grandpa led the four of us kids on a strangely difficult outing. We hiked across freshly cut logging roads, and through deer trails that you could barely see. Grandpa pointed out the logging crews, the clear cuts, and the old forests that were about to be harvested. He showed us how the deer and elk had been eating the young shoots of vine maple, and how the alder trees were growing so quickly where giant fir trees had been just weeks earlier. We had been hiking and climbing for what seemed like hours. Little Sarrah, the youngest of us all, was holding on pretty well for a seven-year old. We were all tired, hot, and sweaty. We started the hike with plenty of water, but the four of us kids sipped it far too often. When we ran out, Grandpa simply gave us one of his sideways glances, a shrug, and a half a smile. Lesson learned. We needed to get back to the house, but Grandpa had more to teach. We all sat on the ground in a grassy clearing not far from where we are right now. It was shaded by trees at least a hundred feet tall. Grandpa agreed that we might be tired, but he also reminded us that we were not lost and that home was not far away. He told us that we needed to rest a little and that we could afford the time. “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do,” he said. The winds seemed to whisper agreement through the treetops while Grandpa spoke. We all sat for a long time and chatted about our parents, our schools, and how hot it was. Sarrah suddenly jumped up and groaned something about being miserable, getting back to Grandpa’s house, and running through the lawn sprinkler. I had to admit that sounded refreshing! Now that we imagined the fun possibilities of cool water and a rattling sprinkler, we were excited to head back. Grandpa sensed that. “If you’re all rested, we can go,” he conceded. “Isn’t it
amazing how clearly we can think after we stop ta rest for awhile?” With a tone balanced somewhere between disdain and sarcasm, Grandpa added, “Even without food or water?” We all heard what he said, but I don’t think we were quite ready for that lesson. Cool well water was calling our names, and my stomach was telling me that food was calling, too. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about those cookies that Grandma had baked only the day before.

  But, as always, every time we went for a walk we headed not exactly toward home, but toward Grandpa’s favorite place in the woods. This place, Debbie. Right here. The five of us walked single file down an overgrown deer path toward that ancient maple tree. Thomas ran ahead, chased by Brian. Sarrah was last, mostly because she was smaller and slower, but also because she took precious time to look at every pretty weed that grew in the trail. For most of the trip, we battled nettles, blackberry vines, wild roses, and just about every other plant that had thorns. After what probably wasn’t more than twenty minutes and at least a thousand thorn pricks, we stood in the shadow of Grandpa’s maple tree. Even back then, that maple tree was one of the largest trees I had ever seen. The area in front of the tree was overgrown with grass that stood at least four feet high; Sarrah’s crown of fine, brown hair was barely visible over the top. We may have been only minutes from the house, but any one of us could easily have believed that Hansel and Gretel were about to come bounding through the trees with a half eaten loaf of bread. Two more steps would certainly have landed us directly at the door of the witch’s cottage. Scary and thick as it was, this was Grandpa’s special place.

  At the time, we didn’t know what made this spot so extraordinary. To us kids, it was nothing but more trees, more grass, and more dead leaves. Whatever it was, and for whatever reason, this place filled a spiritual hole in Grandpa’s heart. We always ended up here, and it was always very much like going to church.

  This path we are standing on was created when those two, giant trees fell next to each other, probably more than a hundred years ago. You can see that four trees are growing on top of one of the fallen trees, and those are very large, very living, and very old. Grandpa called each of the two fallen trees a colonnade. He told us that each of those would rot for many more years while the trees that grew on top would live off of their nutrients. “It’s the circle of life,” said Grandpa. “It happens with people, too. As us old folks die, we’ve hopefully given you young people all the nutrients ya need ta survive.” Grandpa told us that maybe hundreds of years from now, the trees that are on the ground would be gone, having rotted away, and the trees growing on top would have nothing but air between their roots where the rotted tree used to be. It would look like the trees were growing several feet off the ground. Look over there, Debbie, to that tree I already showed you; the one I called a portico. That’s a perfect example. That single tree appears to be standing on legs. Grandpa would point to that exact tree every time we visited this spot. “Look over there, but don’t go over there,” he would admonish. We were used to that warning. We had heard it often, and we would hear it again.

  This place that surrounds the colonnades was always so different than the rest of Grandpa’s property. Most of his acreage had been mowed, or cut, or manicured. In this section of the woods, Grandpa did nothing; he wanted this part of the woods to remain completely natural. It also came with his very stern caution—ALWAYS. Grandpa told us many times, every time we stopped here, “This, kids, is a very special place. Never, never walk inta those woods.” He would point into the thick woods on the other side of this colonnade; the look on his face was unusually stern. “Never cross ta the other side, and never go through the portico. The springtail armies might getcha. If they do, ya sure won't be able ta make it back home.” Not once did Grandpa tell us what a portico was, or even what a springtail army was. He just told us not to cross to the other side, the side where that tree is, the one that stands on its roots. More unanswered questions! Always! But, about these woods, and about that portico, Grandpa was deadly serious.

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  3. Grandpa’s Final Trip

  A few days later, Grandpa asked us to go on another hike. This was our final trip with Grandpa, and those of us who returned will remember it forever. What made this trip so unlike the hundreds before it? From the first step, Grandpa behaved strangely different. We all agreed that Grandpa began the hike with a sense of mystery, but it was the end of the hike that created the lasting memories, or more likely, the nightmares.

  We hiked up an unused logging road into the foothills. We slogged for what seemed like miles through any number of trails; some were gravel roads that had long been overgrown by weeds and trees; most were nothing more than animal trails worn through tall grass and shrubs. Grandpa was oddly quiet for this entire part of the hike; he barely spoke a word of advice, guidance, or admonishment. Very strange, indeed. While Grandpa was unusually quiet, we certainly were not. The four of us kids startled more deer than we could count, and we tossed pebbles after them as they bolted smartly into the tree lines. We chased butterflies, threw rocks, picked flowers, and in general, had a ton of fun.

  This day, unlike the previous few, was not a normal summer day. It was cloudy, warm when the sun was shining and cool when it wasn’t. In fact, the day was downright dreary when the clouds covered the sun. They were thick and dark, and they shadowed the entire earth in damp coldness. I remember that Sarrah constantly complained about the cold. In fact, on this day she complained constantly about almost everything. I think that was really to be expected since she was the youngest and Grandpa demanded the same of her as he did of the rest of us. At the time, Sarrah was pretty frustrating. Every time the clouds would cover the sun, she would whine. Every time the sun broke through, she would do a little dance, then she would gripe about why the sun couldn’t just shine all the time.

  Sarrah complained about the cold one more time, and Grandpa suddenly seemed to wake up. Grandpa picked Sarrah up and held her close as if to share his warmth. He stroked a couple of fir needles and flower petals out of her hair and said, “What’s the important thing ta remember about clouds?” He may have asked Sarrah, but he looked at all of us. It didn’t really make any difference how long he waited. He wasn’t going to get an answer from any of us this time. We all wanted to go home; we just weren’t complaining about it like Sarrah was. Grandpa finally did something he rarely did; he provided the answer. “Rare is there a day without clouds. The important thing ta remember is that, behind the clouds, the sun is still shining.” I don’t know about the others, but Duh! was the thought that crossed my mind. Like we didn’t already know that! I must have looked at him with one of my quirky, cross-eyed glances, because Grandpa just smiled. “One day you’ll understand,” he said, as if he could read my thoughts. Then he put Sarrah back on the ground so we could continue our walk. The sun broke through the clouds just as Sarrah’s feet touched the earth, and Sarrah hugged Grandpa’s thigh in thanks. The sun remained bright and warm for the rest of the day. To this day, cousin Sarrah swears that Grandpa made the clouds disappear just for her.

  With the sun now warm, and with kids that needed to go home, Grandpa directed us down the mountain on a shrub-choked foot path that led directly to, you guessed it, this special place. Now, as we walked, Grandpa did what he always did. He made us stop to see where the sun was, and based on the position of the sun, he asked us to point in the direction of the house. He stopped us in mid-trail just to ask us to study the trees, and he quizzed us about what kind of tree that one was, or that one. Grandpa stopped us in our tracks many times and asked us to do nothing but listen. “Whadya hear?” he would say. We heard the wind, cars, chainsaws, birds, unrecognizable things. For Grandpa, everything we could sense was a clue about something. As far as he was concerned, everything was available to teach us important lessons. Chainsaws meant people. Cars meant roads. Winds carried smells or sounds. “Everything provides ya with some kind of direction.” Grandpa would say. “Sometimes, a simple direction is
all ya need ta know which way ta go.” Grandpa would often teach us things that were just too far over our heads. He had a lesson for that, too, which we heard many times through the years. “Someday you’ll understand.”

  As soon as he said that, we kids turned and ran toward the big maple tree. We plopped down in the shade of that huge tree and waited for Grandpa to catch up. As soon as he joined our circle, he began. “This is my favorite place in the woods,” Grandpa said for the zillionth time. “Just stay here for a minute. Don’t say anything. Just listen. Just feel the magic.” We had all heard this before too, more times than we could count. And like always, we all sat there feeling something, but I think what we felt was the cool of the deep woods. I sure didn’t feel any magic.

  Grandpa was wearing one of his favorite t-shirts; the brown one with the wolf print, and as always, he wore his three-day beard. Grandpa belonged here; he belonged to this place. I watched him stand there, one hand on that big maple, leaning into it with his eyes closed. He stood, I don’t know, loosely is the best word I can think of. He propped himself against that tree looking as if he were holding it up. In truth, I think he was asking the tree to hold him up. I watched him breathe deeply and ever so peacefully. Maybe he was praying, or maybe he was talking to the tree, or maybe he was listening to it. Whatever he was doing, it was really strange. When he finally opened his eyes, Grandpa said, “Now, I’m ready ta go.”

  Thomas asked, “Ready to go where?” Grandpa didn’t answer. He simply walked into the woods using this very path between the colonnades that he had taken us to so many times before, and then he stopped. We stood in absolute silence for what seemed like minutes, but kids can’t stay quiet for long. Thomas got busy doing what Thomas normally did. He was already on his knees searching for bugs or anything else that held his scientific interest. Sarrah was sitting on her butt not doing anything, probably cold in the shade and thinking about complaining. I was standing beside Grandpa and holding his hand when Brian started the whole thing. I saw the mischievous glance he gave Sarrah. He had the cutest way of cocking one eyebrow higher than the other and smiling full and toothy when he was about to do something he knew he shouldn’t do. Brian began running back and forth on top of that dead tree, the one that forms one side of this colonnade. He spun himself around the newer trees so hard that his wavy hair flipped from side to side. It looked pretty normal to me, like something Brian would be doing, but Grandpa reacted very differently. He yelled! “Brian! Get down! Now!” Brian may have been ten, but he wasn’t too old to cry. Grandpa hardly ever yelled. When he did, you understood that something was wrong.

 
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