Destry pulled the door wide open. He had expected to see the path continuing on the other side, winding its way through the towering oaks, the sun shining through the late summer leaves which hadn't begun yet but were threatening to change colour. To his astonishment, this was not what he saw at all. He was looking at the inside of a small, perfectly normal pantry.
There were three walls with floor to ceiling shelves of preserves. He began to back up but he hit his sister who was directly behind him. She wasn’t budging so he stepped forward into the room. The moment he crossed the threshold something changed. He felt a tingle like static electricity all over his body. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He could hear something. It was music; very faint, very beautiful. He loved music and this bit he could hear now seemed to be calling to him as if it had been composed just for him. It was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.
“Can you hear that?” He asked Rylar.
She strained to hear then shook her head.
“You can’t hear that music?”
“No,” she replied. “There is no music.”
‘There is,” he said. “I am not sure but I think it is coming from one of these jars.”
Destry walked into the pantry. He was leaning toward the shelf on the back wall with his head cocked slightly. He reached out for the shelf but as he did so it remained just beyond his reach. The shelf which had moments before been a couple feet wide was now several feet across and twice as tall as it had been. Destry stepped forward and the whole shelf turned away as if it is were on wheels. As it did so the shelves to each side did the same.
As the shelves rotated they revealed more shelves beyond and those shelves also rotated away revealing more and more shelves with every turn. Countless shelves came into view and the room expanded to accommodate them. What moments before had been a small rectangular pantry was turning into a vast library, a warehouse full of thousands upon thousands of jars.
Soon the shelves in their immediate area had settled into place and revealed row after row of similar shelves filled with jars. Destry looked at his sister. He took her hand and they started walking farther into the pantry.
He could still hear the music but now it sounded as if it was coming from a great distance. They looked more closely at the jars all around them. There were a myriad of shapes and sizes and each had hand written labels on them. Destry looked at the labels and tried to read the nearest ones. As soon as he felt he could read one the words would drift out of focus. He could almost read the writing revealing the contents of each jar and then the letters would scramble and drift into one another leaving the words illegible.
“This is really strange,” he told his sister.
She was holding his hand tightly and staying very close to him as they walked down aisle after aisle, passing shelf after shelf. They stopped and Destry picked up a jar to look at the contents.
“Look at this,” he held the jar out so Rylar could get a better look.
The contents which had initially appeared to be dill pickles now swam in and out of focus like images from a fading dream. The jars glowed with a warm radiant light that filled the cavernous room. In each jar the children could see glimpses of people, animals, landscapes, and machines. But no sooner would they see something they recognized and it would be gone. Destry put the jar he had been looking at back on the shelf and continued walking down the aisle. The song he could hear was growing louder now.
Destry looked around at the ever expanding room. Most of the jars shone with this inner radiance. They tantalized with hidden treasures. But some of parts of the pantry were corrupted. Entire sections were blackened and foul. The jars did not glow. These areas were ruined and decayed; corrupted by some illness. The jars in these spots were dead and colourless. Destry was reminded of mold on bread or rotten spots on a piece of fruit. He moved quickly past these cold, dead places yet they left him with an uneasy feeling.
“This way,” he said and he started to walk faster. “The music is coming from over here.”
They walked on turning at the end of the row if the music seemed to be louder in one direction than the other. With every corner they rounded the music got a little louder. Rylar still could not hear anything but she trusted that her brother was on to something. The old man had said that this was Destry’s adventure so perhaps that was why only he could hear the song.
Destry stopped and Rylar walked right into his back. The aisle before them was one of the fouled regions. Jars were smashed on the floor and scattered across the shelves. Many were overturned and broken. Destry did not want to walk forward but something had changed here.
“It’s gone,” he said, turning his head this way and that as if he was trying to hear something. “It stopped just this instant.”
He let go of his sister’s hand and began exploring the jars on the shelves more closely. He was careful not to step on the shattered glass on the floor.
“What are you doing?” Rylar asked. She was looking around at the broken glass and cluttered shelves wondering why her brother had stopped here of all places.
“I am looking for my jar.” He replied. “It must be close by.”
“How will you know if it is yours?” she wondered.
“Not sure.” He admitted.
They both began looking through the jars for anything that looked different. Most of the jars around them had the same stubbornly elusive labels and swirling imagery coming from within. Some were grey and corrupted.
Rylar looked down at the broken jars on the floor. They made her feel uneasy. She remembered once seeing a dead dog on the side of the road when she was walking to school. The broken jars gave her that same kind of sinking feeling in her stomach.
She could hear a low buzzing sound and looked down among the wreckage on the floor. Her brother was still scanning the shelves. She saw broken glass, lids and something that looked like dried mud but nothing that seemed like it could be creating the buzzing.
Then she saw something that looked out of place, a large splinter of wood. She reached down to pick it up. When her finger first touched it she received a shock. She pulled her hand back quickly. After a moment she reached for the splinter again and was able to retrieve the piece of wood without incident. She examined it briefly and stuck it in her pocket. Without a word she turned back to watch her brother.
“Maybe we just take any one and the professor will tell us what to do.” She said as she stood up and looked around at the now millions of jars which populated the enormous room.
“No,” Destry mumbled as he kept pushing jars around on the shelf in front of him. “That doesn't seem…”
He never finished his thought. The back of his hand brushed up against a jar as he spoke and the song came ringing back to life in his mind, louder and clearer than before. He stopped and looked closely at the jar he had touched. It was covered in a thick layer of dust and had no images swirling inside of it. No inner radiance as the other jars had. It appeared to be filled with plaster or grey clay. He picked it up and turned it in his hand to look at the label. It was heavy. The beautiful song filled his mind. When his eyes set upon the label he was surprised to see that, unlike the other jars, he could read this one.
“What does it say?” Rylar was watching him closely.
He held the jar out to her with the label out so she could see for herself.
“I can’t read it,” she said as she screwed up her expression trying to make sense of what she was looking at. “The words are all gibberish. It makes no sense.”
“It is my name,” he said slowly, “and my age. It says Destry Grey, 14 years old.”
“Well,” she said smiling, the excitement back in her voice. “Bring it. Let’s go see what we are supposed to do.”
“I don’t know,” Destry spoke cautiously. “Should we do this? What if it is dangerous? We don’t know anything about this man.”
“Well,” she responded. “We do know that something weird is going on. Sophie is missing. You saw something strange last night in the courtyard. Then this old man with a talking crow shows up and says you are supposed to help with something. Now this room…” She waved her arms around. “…appears out of nowhere. I think we are supposed to help. I think this will help us find what happened to Sophie.”
Destry looked at the jar. It felt so heavy in his hand. He felt that the weight was more than physical. If he opened the jar he could possibly be responsible for helping, he usually avoided anything out of the ordinary; anything which didn't seem to be his business. However, he could feel the electric tingling sensation in his finger tips and he could still hear the music. It was probably the music more than anything which helped him decide to bring the jar out of the pantry.
“Okay,” he said finally looking up at his sister. “Let’s go see what Mr. Abercrombie says we are to do.”