Three children form a "secret society" and get more than they bargained for.
Every day since they had met, Alexander “Alick” Demartain Levitain, Rachel “Autumn” Gale, and James Simon Caph, knew they were special. There had been a certain current, a vibe between them that made them click as if they were one mind. Often they would meet in Alick’s small but accommodating treehouse, built from an old oak that his father, Nathan, hadn’t bothered to cut down. Alick knew his father well enough. Dad wouldn’t cut it down now that Alick, who suffered from an acute case of anxiety, was finally communicating with children his age.
Alick remembered the conversation about his new home well enough; he had played it back in his head for months. Sitting in an old wooden chair that he found on the side of the road, he recalled the first meeting of The Moonchildren.
It was the first day of summer. Alick had told his dad he was going to build a treehouse out by the woods. The oak tree he had chosen was amazing, but it needed work if Alick expected it to be anything more than an imposing figure in the distance.
“I don’t want the damn thing so close to the house Alexander.” Dad was staring at the tree as if it invaded like a swarm of locusts on his “pure and fertile land”.
“It really isn’t that bad father! It’s ten feet away!”
A long time ago, Alick could remember the shadow of the branches of that mighty oak tree, dancing with the backdrop of his walls. It had terrified and entranced him at five years old. Now, looking back at in the sunlight, he saw it as a good sign of things to come. He saw it as a new beginning. It seemed to have an appeal about it that drew him to it. So when the idea arose to build a treehouse for his friends, it was a no brainer
“Still, it’s too damn close to me! Look at it Alex! It’s right up to the property line! The neighbors will be pissed!”
If Mr. and Mrs.Jenaer, an old German couple that had escaped Hitler in World War II, could be pissed about cut blades of grass that could blow to their side of the line, then they were going to raise holy hell at the fact there was a giant tree that could fall into their constantly mowed lawn and “ruin the ästhetisch quality of the lawn, Mr. Levitian!”
“It isn’t going to even touch their lawn dad! Give it a chance!”
“Alright, I’ll make you a deal then, hotshot.” He turned to face Alick, and grinned at him, unable to hide his own excitement for his son. “You maintain that tree to support your little treehouse, and make sure it doesn’t grow too much more than that, and I won’t cut the thing down. You know how to use the pruning shears?”
Alick grinned. He had been practicing with them excessively in the garden. It wasn’t the manliest thing for a boy his age, but it was something he was passionate about. “Of course father.”
“Cut the dead wood off whenever you see it, and you’ll have a mighty fine treehouse then son!”
“No problem! I’ve got this!” Smiling, Nathan nodded and walked back into the house. He had wondered how his young son had actually built that thing. It wasn’t the work of a master craftsman, no, but the boy of 13 actually did it himself.
Secretly, although Nathan Levitain would never admit it to be so, he was so proud that his son finally wanted to do something that required more than just keystrokes on a computer. After all, he was growing to enjoy the sounds of angry old Germans in the morning.
It had taken longer than Alick had anticipated. He had looked every inch of the tree over, and had to go over several complicated designs to figure out how to accurately support a small dwelling. Eventually, after many hours consulting with the woodworking teacher at his high school, he had figured out just what to do. Thank God for videos online showing him step by step too. Otherwise, he would never have accomplished this in record time.
Rachel Gale had been James’ “pretend” girlfriend starting in 4th grade, although her attentions often pushed her away from him. James had never noticed though, and for that, Rachel was glad. She had loved him, at least somewhat, but there were always other possibilities, other experiences to be had. Rachel also had a secret that she could never tell James. She loved Alick. This had torn her apart especially when she lay in bed with the lights out.
Often glancing at shadows, she found herself cowering under the blankets of her sometimes cold bed. The shadows, she knew, watched her in the dark. Alick, she thought, would know too. “He’s got those brown eyes that just say ‘I know’, so I’m not afraid to tell him."
Today, he had asked them to come over to his house to see a surprise. The surprise was the treehouse that had spent months constructing in secret. His parents knew of course, they had always known and they had every right to do so, Alick reasoned. After all, how were you going to hide a treehouse right behind your parents’ house? Eventually, his father would mow the lawn, and see a small building there or maybe his son sweating like a madman and ask what the hell was going on.
Alick leapt down from the inside of the treehouse to the ground, rolling onto his feet. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but he had loved the idea of dangerous situations. Something about cheating death excited him to no end, and this was no different. He had measured the drop, and although it seemed high, when you rolled on your back to your feet, there was no real danger to it. Bikes were coming up the gravel road, and Alick ran to the front of the house.
“They’re here,” he yelled, not even caring if the neighbors heard him or not. Let them know, he thought. It isn’t like they can stop me, or tell my parents anyway.
The bikes stopped, making a skidding sound as the wheels struck the gravel. Rachel smiled at him, followed by James behind her.
She’s always faster than he is when they ride bikes. Interesting.
“Hey guys! Mi casa es su casa! Come to the backyard!”
The land behind the Levitain household was wide and expansive, at least to a group of 13 year olds. There had to be at least twenty acres of land. Land that Alick was forbidden to use, but it was there none the less. He would find a use for that land one day, he was sure. Great pine and oak trees grew along the edges of the tall grass. No wonder Alick had found this to be the perfect spot for a getaway.
“Where you want us to park our bikes Alex.” His real name sounded wrong and was like an open sore that festered on his skin. Alick, sounded much more mysterious, and inviting. He was going to suggest something cooler today, as part of the surprise.
Just a few more minutes of this shit and I can move on with my new life.
“Drive them up back. Follow me guys!” He motioned with a long swipe of his arm, guiding them. They drove their bikes behind him, glancing at the modest house that his parents called his home. It was small for the amount of land that Mr. and Mrs. Levitain owned, but it had a certain lived in quality that made it seem homey to outsiders. Alick knew however, once you stepped into the doorway, it was like walking into Dracula’s castle.
“I bid you welcome. Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” The book was different, but he couldn’t remember exactly how the line read. He imagined his parents were Dracula’s children of the night. Wasn’t that why he wanted to build the treehouse in the first place? So he and his friends could be far away from parental interference and control?
Yes, that was exactly why he had spent so many hours constructing the damn thing in the first place. Now it seemed like an awful decision, like biting into black licorice jelly beans. Like,
Dracula’s brides, when he tells them “He is mine.”
He didn’t know why Dracula had affected him so deeply, and on a subconscious level. He had seen the movie last year, and ever since, had been quoting it nonstop, even going so far as to read the actual novel by Bram Stoker. The story seemed so real to him. Perhaps it was, but Alick could never explain how or why it did. Maybe it was the whole idea of an aristocratic person who detaches himself from humanity so much, that he had to drink the blood of something else.
"Once upon a time, the goose drank wine, the monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line."
Alick’s grandmother used to sing that. It was something called “soul music”. He had always had a love of rhymes, and his grandmother, he believed, instilled that in him. The rest of that song though, had terrified him as a five year old. He called that phase of his life ‘as a kid!’
“The streetcar broke and the monkey choked and they all went to hell on a dead billy goat!” A dead billy goat. Alick had always been so terrified of the imagery of a goose, a monkey and a streetcar on a dead goat to hell.
His mind was racing now. The memory of him in church, being asked if he wanted to try the communion wine. He had, and he had gotten sick. The priest then went on to say that it was the blood of Jesus.
“I don’t want to drink Jesus’ blood!” Alick had burst into tears, not understanding what he was being asked to do. The idea of –
“Alex?” Rachel’s voice had forced him, rather quickly, to snap back into reality. He had to thank her for that. His hand touched onto the side of the house, and leaning into it, he began to dry heave. Luckily he hadn’t eaten anything today, so all that could come out was salvia and hoarse breaths.
“Alex? You alright man?” James wheeled himself up to the house now.
“Yeah, I just need to catch my breath man. His eyes wanted to close, needed to, but he couldn’t because the idea of seeing those images again, Dracula, the horrid “soul” song that had haunted him, and the image of him, vampire drinking the blood of the savior, was too much for him to take.
They waited for him to stand up, and when he did, they offered him what seemed to be token smiles of understanding. He knew that Rachel had meant the smile, but he wasn’t sure about James. James had seemed a little colder than usual.
“Perhaps he is just impatient,” Alick thought. “I would be too, if my friends told me they had a great surprise for me, and instead I ended up almost puking my guts out at – “
At what? Shadows? Ghosts? Vampires? Just what in the world had caused him to get this violent a reaction? He couldn’t think of that for now. He had to get James and Rachel up to the damn treehouse that now seemed to take second place to the horrible stinking ideas that infested his mind like cockroaches!
“This is it, monsieur and madam. The Refuge of the Moonchildren.” Alick smiled watching as Rachel and James stared in disbelief. It was an actual treehouse, and one that they did not expect someone like Alick, who had often lost interest in most things to do with construction to make.
“Alex, it’s beautiful!” Rachel grinned, wrapping her arms around Alick and hugged him tightly against her, much to the annoyance of James. James soon laughed it off, much to Alick’s relief. He didn’t want to get between his two best friends, especially not over a place he built for them.
“How long did it take you Alex?"
“Now now! A great craftsman never hammers and tells!” He smirked at the pun, letting it hang in the air for a couple seconds as they climbed the wooden ladder he had nailed to the base of the tree. They didn’t laugh but he often enjoyed double entendres even if it was for his own amusement.
“Come on man! Tell me, how’d you get your parents to agree to this? Your old man must have had a fit when he found out! It is his property after all.”
Alick smiled, his lips curling like a devil that has played tricks on the heavenly. “James, do you always have to be so worried about what we can and cannot do. Come on, yourself, Caph! Well you can’t come, I mean, you’re already here but –“
“Cut it out man! It’s getting annoying!” James looked as though he was ready to fight and Alick shrugged his shoulders in response.
Rachel giggled, letting her fingers drift through her hair. She was playing with her bangs, and smiling wide clearly impressed with what Alick had done here. It was what he wanted to see.
Anything for you doll, anything for you. I’ll get the moon for you if I can.
“So what are we doing up here Levitain? I mean it’s nice and all, but, are we just going to stand here staring at the thing?” James asked.
“No, my dear fellow! We’re here to be initiated in our own little secret society!” And with that he climbed up to the entrance of the treehouse, with Rachel and James right behind him. Alick was halfway up, when the line from Dracula, the novel suddenly flared back to life in his mind, and sent a chill down his spine. It was oddly fitting.
Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!