Excerpt from “The Mystery Box”

                                                 Chapter 1

  Mildew goes wild

One Saturday morning, Thiam and Tamara packed their backpacks and went to play in the woods. Thiam’s dog, Mildew came along. For a while, Mildew trotted ahead as if he knew the way. He got distracted by locusts, frogs, butterflies and lizards that paraded themselves. Suddenly, a rabbit appeared and dashed into the bushes for cover. The dog’s gait instantly changed. He  became wild.

Mildew ran after the rabbit. Thiam and Tamara jogged behind him. They lost track of the dog. He barked from a distance to draw their attention. He had drifted further away from their vicinity. The bushes couldn’t give Thiam and Tamara free passage and forced them to circumvent an acre of stinging nettles to get to the other side. When they arrived Mildew hadn’t come out of the prickly shrubs.

“What should we do now?” asked Tamara. Mildew had been swallowed in the thickets.

“We have to go after Mildew, even if it means going into these bushes,” declared Thiam. He didn’t want to leave his dog behind.

“Should we take the bags with us?” questioned Tamara. She doubted the move they were about to make.

“No, we can’t. With the thistles, it would be difficult,” replied Thiam. They left them in the shade.

“These brambles are thorny and scary, I don’t want to end up with scratches,” complained Tamara. Thiam didn’t waste time, bravely he pushed in.

“Do we have a choice?” he asked as he wiggled through the thickets. “Let’s go find him!” he added.

They crawled into the bushes and struggled forward. Thiam and Tamara battled with twigs and thorns to find Mildew. They popped up at an open space punctuated by  an anthill, right  at the centre.

“Look at Mildew!” shouted Tamara. Mildew poised at the top. “Your pet thinks we can climb that mass of earth,” she laughed. She beckoned the dog to come down. The  presence of Thiam and Tamara made him leap with joy. “He expects us to climb this mound of sand?” repeated Tamara frowning. She couldn’t understand the dog’s reasoning.

“Mildew doesn’t think like us. The way we ascend, is not his problem,” replied Thiam

Mildew barked at them.

“Descend Mildew! We are not coming up!” shouted Thiam. The dog howled and wagged his tail.

“Mildew, get down! Stop wasting our time! Comply or we leave you!” screamed Tamara. Mildew skipped and barked. To their dismay, he remained adamant.

“One more chance, jump off that shrubbery anthill!” Thiam yelled. The dog wanted the children to join him in the tall shrubs.

“Mildew we are leaving you!” Tamara screamed again. The dog refused to move.

“Woof! Woof!” he continuously barked. He didn’t budge, he maintained his stance.

Thiam had an idea. He assigned Tamara to stay with Mildew while he collected their satchels. He returned, took out a dog biscuit, squashed it and showed Mildew. Within a few seconds Mildew bounced down, gobbled everything and licked Thiam’s hand.

“This is cool, Thiam. How did you think of that?” wondered Tamara. She wished they had done that earlier on.

“You have to understand your pet,” Thiam told her.

“Please explain?” Tamara implored.

“Good eats!” exclaimed Thiam, beating his chest with pride.

“You mean Mildew likes food. I will try this with Tibet. At times I call the cat and she completely ignores me. I don’t like that at all,” said Tamara, referring to her pet.

“You should try the trick,” advised Thiam.

Tamara had no clue which direction to take.

“Where do we go from here? I’m lost,” she questioned Thiam. “I can’t even tell where we are,” she emphasised, while she waited for  Thiam to lead.

“Are you telling the truth Tamara?” responded Thiam. He couldn’t believe his cousin sister.

“I’m serious. I’m not lying” answered Tamara. Thiam laughed and took out his compass. He showed Tamara their position and where they had to go.

“Thiam, you seem to know a lot of things. Why did you carry that navigational instrument? You thought we would get lost?” she asked.

“The information is all in here. Leaders plan their trips in advance,” he boasted, beating his chest. He gave himself a light pat on the shoulder and told Tamara to follow him.

They came out of the bushes with scratches all over and loose threads from their torn clothes. They walked towards the bold hills and Mildew trailed behind.

“The dog is probably tired,” said Tamara. Mildew dragged behind reluctantly.

“Why do you say that?” asked Thiam, a few metres ahead of her.

“He is walking slowly and his tongue is hanging out,” replied Tamara. She tried to imitate the dog.

“Mildew is thinking of changing our course,” Thiam suggested. Tamara frowned because she didn’t want to get into the  thickets again.

Nobody predicted the dog’s intentions and so they ignored him. After 30 minutes they got to the foot of the hill. Tamara walked at a slow pace, dragging her feet. She wanted to sit down to catch her breath.

“I’m tired Thiam!” she shouted, struggling to keep up with him. Thiam stopped and waited for her.

“Should we go back?” he asked. He didn’t mean it because he desperately wanted to get to the hilltop.

“No, I didn’t say that. You are walking too fast. Slow down Thiam,” she said. He smiled.

“In half an hour we will be right at the top, breathing cool, fresh air. The aerial view is the best,” he told his cousin. They trudged on. Before they got to the summit, Tamara checked on Mildew and to her astonishment, he  had disappeared.

“Mildew is not here!” she shouted. Thiam didn’t bother at all. He kept on climbing. “Thiam, your dog is not coming!” Tamara disliked Thiam’s attitude.

“I told you not to worry about the dog. He will come as soon as we sit down to eat,” replied Thiam.

They located a nice place at the peak of the hill, dotted with colourful daffodils.

“This place is refreshing! Have you been here before?” asked Tamara. She sniffed the air scented with a pleasant aroma. Bees buzzed, moving from one flower to another for their fill of nectar. In the sky above some swallows danced.

“No, I haven’t. I spotted the hill from a distance and got attracted,” he replied slowly.

Thiam and Tamara admired the flowers, pebbles and plants around them before they sat under an umbrella tree. They opened their bags, took out their lunch boxes, and ate cheese and ham sandwiches. Mildew arrived on time for his meal. Thiam looked at Tamara and said, “What did I tell you? I know my dog.” Thiam boasted about his ability to predict his dog’s actions.

“Thiam, you are clever and you studied your pet’s behaviour well. Please explain why Mildew came back?” she queried. He had just appeared from thin air.

“The meat flavours provoked his appetite,” replied Thiam. Tamara nodded her head in agreement.

“You are right, Mildew likes food and he has a strong sense of smell,” she agreed.

Mildew hungrily looked at the children having their lunch.

“Sit down Mildew! You will have your share later,” instructed Thiam. He sat down quietly beside Thiam, who later opened a can of dog food. Mildew gulped down everything in one goal, expecting to get some more. Sadly, the children didn’t have any leftovers. Disappointed, he yawned, closed his eyes and went to sleep. Without warning, he sprang to his feet, sniffed the air and raced down the hill.

“What’s wrong with your dog?” Tamara asked, leaning forward.

“Another cotton tailed animal, probably,” suggested Thiam.

They both stood up, craned their heads in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the intruder. They saw a rabbit crouched a few strides away from the dog.

“You are right Thiam!” screamed Tamara. Mildew, crawled quietly towards the rabbit. They believed the dog would pounce on the fluffy tailed animal at any minute. The children thought of rabbit stew in peanut butter sauce.

“I remember the time grandmother prepared the dish,” emphasised Tamara. She licked her lips.

“Our grandparents would have a shock of their life when they see the rabbit!” shouted Thiam. He rubbed his palms together. Excitement filled the air.

“Oh my goodness! Yes!” agreed Tamara, dancing.

“Mildew’s hard work would be finally rewarded,” concluded Thiam. To their disappointment, the rodent escaped.

Thiam and Tamara ran downhill to help Mildew. They found Mildew engrossed in a spiral chase. He failed to understand what had just happened. Tamara found narrow trails in the grass, leading to a network of tunnels. The burrowing animals had created the holes. The children realised the short tailed rodent had escaped through one of the burrows. Mildew’s sadness could be felt around them like a wet blanket on a cold winter night. The dog moaned and Thiam knelt down to give him a big hug.

“You are such a good boy!” he said, rocking him sideways. Mildew licked Thiam’s face in response. He seemed to understand his master.

“You came so close to the prey Mildew!” exclaimed Tamara, lightly stroking the dog’s wet nose. He wagged his tail in appreciation of the gesture.

“Let’s get our belongings and go because we can’t stay here forever,” stated Thiam.

“The frightened rodent isn’t coming out any sooner. Maybe the tunnel leads to the other side of the forest,” suggested Tamara. They collected their bags and left.

“Clever animals! I read a lot of stories about them, and probably the rabbit is already a kilometre away from here,” Thiam agreed with her.

They were drenched in sweat, and their clothes stuck to their bodies because of the scorching heat. The cousins raced downhill and Mildew strolled behind, probably nursing his disappointment. As they got to the foot of the hill, a calm blue pool greeted them. Thiam and Tamara sat down by the pool to enjoy the cool breeze. Mildew jumped into the water and made a big splash, catching the children by surprise. Their clothes got wet.

“Mildew, what’s in your head? Why did you do that?” shouted Tamara. She fumed.

“I never thought Mildew could do such a cool thing,” said Thiam calmly. He actually enjoyed the splash.

“Dogs! Dogs! Dogs! They can be a thorn in the flesh,” hissed Tamara in anger.

“The weather is hot! Tamara; be realistic, don’t you feel much better after the shower?” asked Thiam, laughing. He wanted Tamara to tell the truth.

“I do,” she replied earnestly. The two cousins needed something like that in hot weather. They took off their sneakers, dipped their feet in the water and without thinking, began to waddle.

Thiam and Tamara splashed at each other and giggled, making a lot of noise. All of a sudden, Tamara saw a water snake emerging from reeds. She screamed and ran out of the pool.

“Thiam, watch out! Be careful, we are in danger!” yelled Tamara. “Run for your life!” she added. Thiam turned around, but missed the reptile that had gone back into the reeds.

“What’s the matter Tamara?” he asked as he wobbled, trying to get out.

“A green python is coming! Come out! Quick!” she shouted as she scurried out of the pool. Thiam waddled as fast as his legs could carry him. He tripped and fell as soon as he came out of the pool, terrified. When she got out of the pool, and realised they were out of danger, she started laughing.

“Is the slithery thing any closer? Assist me Tamara, please!” he shouted struggling to stand up. “No Thiam, the viper is gone,” she giggled, trying to help him to his feet.

Mildew ran for his life too, and came out at the same time with Thiam. He shook off water from his dampen hair, sprinkling everywhere. The children shouted at him in anger. Thiam checked the time, it was 3 o’clock and they had to rush home.

“We better be out of here because  we need to stick to our schedule,” said Thiam. He took out his compass and looked again. “We don’t want to take the winding route like we did when coming. If we pass through the jungle, we come out near the water works. By so doing we avoid the thistle infected area,” explained  Thiam.

“Let’s go now,” agreed Tamara, facing the eastern direction.

They came to a gorge and Mildew refused to cross. The dog barked as he ran along the ravine. Thiam and Tamara thought Mildew had found another rabbit and so they followed him. This time they got impatient.

“Mildew, come back!” shouted Tamara.

“Mildew, we have to go otherwise we miss our dinner!” screamed Thiam. Mildew became stubborn and totally ignored them. He had the determination to continue  without his master.

“Where is Mildew taking us now?” asked Thiam. He feared that his grandparents would get to the farmhouse before them. They lived with their grandparents, Mr and Mrs Kwoyome.

“I am tired of Mildew’s behaviour. I don’t care anymore about rabbit stew in peanut butter sauce,” Tamara complained.

“Me too. It’s getting late,” said Thiam.

A scary thought crept into Tamara’s mind. She stopped running.

“Are we not in our neighbour’s farm?” she called out to Thiam. She froze and he slowed down.

“No, we aren’t. Grandfather told me sometime back that ours is fenced right round. Have we seen a fence anywhere?” asked Thiam. He stood on his toes to have a better view of the surroundings.

“No, we didn’t, but we are in the forest,” murmured Tamara. “I don’t like this!” she emphasised.

“Don’t worry, I know we will get home,” spoke Thiam with confidence. Knowing that they hadn’t trespassed came as a relief to Thiam and Tamara. They ran faster to catch up with Mildew. An old suspension bridge made of rusty iron bars and supporters stretched before them. Their creaky sound gave them a chilly sensation. The gorge was over fifty metres deep and thirty meters wide. Big boulders and weird shaped trees festooned the gorge, but there was no water.

The huge rocks had edges as sharp as swords. Their grandparents had never told them anything about this place. Mildew crossed the bridge without hesitation and Thiam and Tamara followed behind. The area appeared familiar to the dog.

“I’m dizzy!” screamed Tamara. Many thoughts flooded her mind and she wanted to get out of that place.

“Are you scared of heights?” Thiam asked. The rustling wind and fear of the unknown threatened her and she suffered breathing problems.

“No, but I’m not sure of where we are going,” she mumbled.

“We are still in our farm,” he said as he peeped into the deep gorge. “Look at those boulders,” he added, and she almost lost her balance.

“If you miss a step you will never breathe again,” Thiam warned her.

The balancing rocks spied on them threateningly as they  passed. The scenario gave them the shivers.

“This used to be a big river, I guess. Why did it dry up?” Thiam asked as they crossed slowly to the other side.

“Did people take time off work to mound these rocks? Many labourers got hired to do the work,” Tamara spoke softly.

“Tamara, this is God’s amazing creation. Men constructed the suspension bridge because they wanted to cross the river,” explained Thiam. He knew the rocks weren’t  erected by human beings.

“Oh, I thought architects did all the work,” repeated Tamara. “Thiam, who constructed the bridge?” she asked again.

“I think our ancestors did or the white settlers,” Thiam wasn’t sure.

“Our forefathers did, not the settlers. Grandfather said our farm was never occupied,” argued Tamara. She felt confident of her facts.

“Of course!” exclaimed Thiam as he remembered the whole story.

“I hope one day he will tell us more about those mysteries,” added Tamara.

They came to the other side of the gorge and Mildew couldn’t be seen anywhere.

“Where is he now? Mildew! Mildew!” they called out. Only the whistling wind pierced their ears as they sat on a rock, waiting for the dog to come back. They didn’t want to leave him behind. From a distance, he barked continuously and Thiam and Tamara followed the sound until they found him. Mildew yelped looking at them, and ran a few steps backwards, repeating the move over and over again.

“What does he need now?” asked Tamara. She hated  running after the dog all the time.

“I think he has a message,” hinted Thiam. He became impatient with his pet.

“Probably he encountered someone. I hope not!” Tamara guessed.

“We have to check on him, and who knows,  we might land on some treasure. Mildew seems to have a story to tell us,” suggested Thiam. He took a deep breath and went after Mildew. Reluctantly, Tamara followed.

Mildew disappeared behind a massive stone. They trailed along carefully, listening to unfamiliar sounds. Behind the rock, a wide entrance ushered them into a cave. Mildew ran inside and he seemed well acquainted with the environment. Thiam stopped for a moment,  interlocked between the world of reality and dreamland. He envisioned bats, cobwebs, spiders, owls, snakes and all sorts of scary creepy creatures in the crevices.

“What if we awaken a black mamba or python from its sleep?” he imagined. Thiam continued to torture himself.

“Probably we may tread on human skeletons,” said Tamara. She  didn’t want to get inside the cave.

“Yah! In the past they buried the dead together with their possessions in caves,” replied Thiam. They continued to frighten themselves.

“So human bones are scattered everywhere?” inquired Tamara. “I don’t want to enter the dark hole. Let’s go home Thiam,” she begged him. Thiam didn’t budge because his heart told him to follow his dog, though his flesh screamed at him.

“No, Tamara. Can we check first? I’m sure we won’t step on skeletons,” he argued, trying to be strong. She half- heartedly agreed.

They came to the entrance, knelt down and peeped through the hole and darkness greeted their eyes. It was pitch-dark.

“The place is just midnight,” complained Tamara. She narrowed her eyes, trying to visualise the interior.

“I agree with you,” mumbled Thiam. At long last they pierced the black blanket of darkness and a stone stairway case unfolded before them.

“Where are the steps leading?” Thiam asked. He couldn’t picture the rest of the stairs. The cave resembled a dungeon.

“I don’t know,” replied Tamara wearily. “I hate walking into a trap. Can we go home now?” she begged again.

“I’m descending into the bottomless pit,” Thiam announced. Carefully, he followed his dog. Tamara crouched to get into the cave too because she feared to stay by herself.

“Be careful Tamara, these stairs look old and worn out,” Thiam advised her. She didn’t answer suspecting someone might be listening. Spider webs adorned the place and hung loose like torn lace drapes. Thiam and Tamara’s hair, eyebrows, clothes and bags cleared cobwebs to make a path. When Thiam opened his mouth to speak, a cloud of cobwebs found their way into his mouth.

“Burr! Burr! Disgusting!” he said as he spat out the dirt. Tamara giggled, forgetting her fears. Right in front of them stretched a rift on the floor. Through the opening Mildew vanished into the belly of the cave. He disappeared for about ten minutes. The sight of the rugged gap sent some shock waves down their spine and left them mesmerised. Tamara overcame the hypnosis first and grabbed Thiam’s arm with force.

“Let’s go Thiam!” she whispered in a hoarse voice.

“Tamara, we can’t leave without Mildew,” Thiam stood his ground. A scuffling sound from underneath frightened them.

“Listen to the noise!” Tamara mumbled in fear. Thiam didn’t want to abandon Mildew in that horrible crevice, and so they waited. The bond between Thiam and the dog couldn’t be undermined. Their cords of friendship ran deep. Thiam and Tamara waited in that dump, chilly and stuffy cave, shivering. Goosebumps covered them from head to toes. After a while Mildew appeared with something in his mouth. He had a tin covered in dust, soot and cobwebs.

   Chapter 2

                                            Treasure or Trash

Mildew ran past Thiam and Tamara as if a monster chased him. The children got scared and took to their heels. They came out of the cave and ran through the woods after Mildew. When the dog emerged from the jungle, he stopped and turned around. Thiam and Tamara arrived gasping for air, a few minutes after him. Their parched throats craved for cold water.

“Mildew put us through a lot in one day,” Tamara complained. Thiam fumed with anger.

“Why did we have to suffer?” asked Thiam frowning. He pointed at the dirty tin in Mildew’s mouth.

“Definitely the tin isn’t worth our sweat. Let’s go home,” spoke Tamara bored and angry.

Mildew put the grey tin on the ground. It had soot, dust, cobwebs, all dampened with the dog’s drool.

“What on earth have you got Mildew? We don’t need the filthy thing! Do we?” questioned Thiam. They had wasted their precious time following the dog. Thiam shook his head in disbelief.

“Yak! Your fortune is disgusting. Let’s go Thiam,” Tamara turned to go. They didn’t touch Mildew’s treasure. The dog, full of excitement, danced on his two hind legs, his show off dance. The children ignored him and walked away. After a while Thiam checked on Mildew and surprisingly, he was at their heels with the filthy tin in his mouth.

“Leave the dirty tin Mildew!” shouted Thiam. The dog was adamant. Mildew surprised Thiam with his arrogant behaviour.

“Drop the tin Mildew!” commanded Tamara. Mildew didn’t put the tin down. He had the determination to take his treasure home. On second thought, Thiam decided to examine the tin.

“Eew! Mildew’s drool mixed with dust, cobwebs, and soot. Yak!” he said, frowning. He scouted around for something to clean the tin with. He pulled some dry grass to do the job.

“Good luck!” exclaimed Tamara. She laughed at Thiam who had begun to do the dirty work.

“Tamara, come see this!” shouted Thiam. Tamara knelt down beside Thiam and looked at the tin.

“Wow! It’s a metal box with no locks or buttons! This is cool!” she exclaimed. They examined the object carefully.

“The box looks strange,” Thiam said as he continued to examine.

It had a bright orange emblem on top. The box needed a thorough cleaning for them to have a good look of the emblem. Thiam shook the box, but no sound came out.

“What are we going to do with the box, Thiam? Should we keep it as our secret treasure?” inquired Tamara.

“Good idea, but where?” asked Thiam. They kept quiet for a moment, trying to figure out where to hide their newly found treasure.

“In your room, under the bed,” suggested Tamara, convincingly.

“No way Tamara! I don’t like the box in my room!” he shouted.

“In the garage, away from our grandparents,” proposed Tamara again.

“Good,” replied Thiam.

Thiam took out an empty plastic bag from his pocket to put the box. They walked home fast to beat time.

“What are we going to do with the box?” asked Tamara.

“We will open it to find what’s inside,” answered Thiam. They had forgotten that the box had no locks.

“What do you expect to see?” inquired Tamara.

“A treasure map,” suggested Thiam. He liked adventure.

“Maybe a set of false teeth,” Tamara said and laughed. Thiam frowned at his sister in disgust.

“You sound like a comedian. Whose false teeth would they be?” questioned Thiam. Tamara made loud noises with her teeth.

“Someone’s grandparent’s,” she laughed. Thiam turned around and looked at his cousin sister.

“You can be funny Tamara. Where did you get the idea from?” he quizzed her. “Actually, your suggestion is disgusting,” Thiam added. Tamara grinned.

“Watching too many movies,” she justified herself.

When they got home Thiam went into the garage to hide the box. He hid it in an open trunk where nobody would bother search for anything. Mildew never missed a thing.

“Don’t even try your tricks on me,” Thiam threatened the dog. After hiding the box he went to take a shower. Later on he joined the rest of the family in the dining room. They had their dinner quietly. At the end, Mr Kwoyome broke the silence. He asked his grandchildren about their outing in the woods. Thiam quickly retraced their steps and told them about their walk to the hills, Mildew’s adventures with rabbits, and their encounter with the water snake.

“At one point we concluded Mildew would catch a rabbit. We both remembered grandmother’s rabbit stew in peanut butter sauce. The thought of the delicious dish made my mouth watery,” said Tamara. Grandmother laughed. True, she had once treated her family to that delicacy.

Grandfather noticed that his grandchildren had wanted Mildew to catch a rabbit.

“Mildew isn’t a hunting dog,” grandfather informed them. “He is not trained to hunt,” he explained further. They stared at him with wide open eyes.

“Are dogs trained to hunt?” they asked in a chorus.

“Yes, they are,” replied grandfather. That night they learnt a lesson about hunting.

“I’m sure you had a pleasant outing today,” concluded grandmother. “The twinkle in your eyes betrays you,” she pointed out.

“Yes, we did. We hope to have another adventure soon,” replied Tamara. After dinner they went to the family room. Grandfather read the day’s newspaper, grandmother worked on her needlework and the children played a game. Quietly, Mildew walked in, with a box in his mouth. The dog stood next to grandfather and barked softly to draw his attention. The two children stared at Mildew. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Thiam’s heart pounded and Tamara bit her nails as they waited for their grandparents’ reaction.

Grandmother neither had interest on the dirty box nor captured the sudden changes in Thiam and Tamara. She thought Mildew had brought a piece of junk from the dump. She didn’t want any trash in the house.

“Thiam, get rid of the scrap in Mildew’s mouth,” she said in disgust. Thiam jumped to his feet and grabbed the box , but the dog couldn’t let go.

“Give me!” he pulled, but Mildew’s grip proved to be stronger than his. They wrestled, Thiam pulled and Mildew growled.

“Leave the dog alone. Bring it here Mildew,” boomed grandfather’s voice. Thiam stopped fighting with Mildew and returned to his seat.

“Why would you want such a dirty thing?” Mrs Kwoyome asked. She paused for an answer. He kept quiet and fixed his gaze on the dog.

Grandfather took the box from Mildew.

“Where did you get this from?” grandfather inquired. Mildew tilted his head in response. Thiam stole a glance at Tamara who continued to bite her nails. Grandfather scrutinised the box. He had never seen it before. He went to the garage to take a piece of cloth to clean the box. The dog followed grandfather to the garage and back to the living room. Mildew stood by Mr Kwoyome and never left his side. He had a story to share.

Mildew shifted his eyes from the box to Thiam, from Thiam to Tamara, and then to grandfather.

“Mildew seems to have a story to tell me,” remarked Mr Kwoyome. Dead silence filled the room. Grandmother worked on her needlework. She couldn’t be bothered. After cleaning the box, the bright orange emblem, a boy’s face with six fingers for hair, glared at him. Engraved small letters dotted the left corner of the box. He couldn’t read them and so he went to the study to get a magnifying glass. Mildew followed him. The dog watched his movements with interest. Grandfather read the small letters, and to everyone’s surprise, he began to shout,

“What a surprise! It’s unbelievable!” He rose from his seat and beat his forehead.

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked Mrs Kwoyome. Grandfather held the box close to his heart and mumbled something inaudible. Then in a loud voice he said, “This is a miracle. Listen to this!” She didn’t get the chance to answer him.

“Kwoyome Family Secret Treasures,” he read aloud.

“What do you mean?” asked Mrs Kwoyome.

Mr Kwoyome glanced at the box and repeatedly said, “If I were to rewind the clock I would bring back my father and grandfather.” His speech surprised everyone in the room.

“For this box?” asked his wife, frowning. Thiam and Tamara followed this conversation with interest.

“This is the password to the hidden treasures, which have run from generation to generation. Only two generations didn’t see the Kwoyome Family Secret Treasures. Our generation could have missed out too. Thanks to Mildew,” explained Mr Kwoyome, stroking the dog’s head gently.

His wife failed to understand him, she couldn’t figure out anything.

“I don’t understand what you are talking about,” she told him. He waved his hand and said, “Don’t worry. You will understand with time.” Thiam and Tamara wanted their grandfather to carry on with the story. Unfortunately he left the room and went to the barn. After pulling out an old leather bag from a battered trunk, he took out a bundle of old stained papers and went through them carefully. To his disappointment, the writing was faded. On one of the papers, was a faded orange emblem, which matched the one on the box. Finally, he had found the mystery box to unlock the family secret treasures.

Slowly, he wrapped up the papers and put them back into the trunk. He returned to the family room where his family waited in anticipation. Upon entering the family room, all the eyes rested on him, expecting to hear more discoveries. He sank into his chair and sighed.

“Why are you sullen?” grandmother asked.

“You should tell me the truth. Where did this box come from?” grandfather quizzed his grandchildren. This surprised his wife who replied defending them.

“What do you mean? Mildew has the full story, unfortunately he can’t talk,” answered grandmother.

“Yah,” Thiam nodded his head in agreement.

“Uuh,” mumbled Tamara.

Grandmother’s response came as a relief to both of them, but was short lived. His instinct told him his grandchildren were hiding something.

“I’m not a child. Do you hear me?” Mr Kwoyome lost his temper. His wife failed to understand why he became angry. He stared at Thiam.

“Thiam, where did this come from?” he asked for the second time. Thiam cleared his throat and began to narrate the story. Grandmother got the shock of her life. She slowly put her needlework down and shrugged her shoulders. She couldn’t believe her ears, their own grandchildren could be so secretive.

“No! This can’t be true. Somebody tell me that’s not true,” moaned grandmother. She stared at Thiam while he narrated the day’s events. Mildew seemed to follow the whole story by  the way he moved his head.

Grandfather stared at the box and shook his head.

“Today you have opened a new chapter in the Kwoyome family. This box will take us to the future. Our life will never be the same again. Now we should focus on this treasure. The box got lost at the gorge in a storm,” he told his wife. He began to narrate the story his grandfather had told him years ago.

“A long period has passed between the time the box got lost and the present day. Many decades of our family history got lost in the flood too,” he added.

Mr Kwoyome continued to narrate the story. “When my great grandfather arrived from a day’s journey, he found the bridge flooded. He underestimated the tides and forced the horse into the water. As a result the horse got swept away by the strong current. My great grandfather fought for his life and came out of the water 6 kilometres from the bridge. He lost the box as well as the horse. The carcass was found five days after the floods, 10 kilometres away from the bridge. The box was never recovered until today. It contained the key to the Kwoyome Family Secret Treasures,” he explained. He wiped his moist eyes with the sleeve of his shirt.

“Kwoyome Family Secret Treasures!” shouted Thiam and Tamara in surprise. “Thanks to Mildew!” they exclaimed. They did a high five and laughed. Mildew barked softly and moved his head. He couldn’t stand the spectator position.

“Wait! Where are the treasures?” asked Thiam with excitement.

“I don’t know,” replied Tamara. They hoped their grandfather would tell them more about their fortune.

“Beneath the mountain, the Kwayame mountain,” grandfather repeated.

“What? Where?” the children shouted. Mildew had found the box, but definitely wouldn’t move the mountain.

“The mystery gets even more complicated,” complained grandmother, shaking her head. “Tell me the truth, you dreamt these things or you heard a fairy tale when growing up?” she questioned.

“I’m telling the truth,” he replied.

“Cool!” exclaimed both children at once.

Grandfather continued to narrate the events of the fateful day.

“Every employee on this farm spent days looking for the mystery box, but wasn’t found,” he explained. “He continuously blamed himself over the loss and eventually plunged into depression, that he never overcame,” he continued. The loss meant everybody had been locked out of the family inheritance forever.

“I’m better off dead. The next generations would never benefit from the inheritance,” he quoted his great grandfather’s words. He died a disappointed man. Mr Kwoyome had been told this story over and over again by his grandfather. Two generations passed without seeing the treasures.

His wife inquired about the key.

“Is the key still intact after many years of confinement in the cave,” she asked.

“Definitely, yes! We have it right in here!” Mr Kwoyome replied with confidence. He turned to his grandchildren and shouted, “You are going too far! Next time you should tell the truth! You understand me!” They nodded their heads in agreement and apologised for being secretive.

Grandmother commented on the old man’s attitude. She didn’t understand why he moved around with the mystery box.

“If he had left the box at home he could have saved himself the depression. Everyone had to suffer because of his actions,” she said. Thiam and Tamara agreed with her.

“Yes, with his wife or son if they didn’t own a safe,” Tamara said in support of her grandmother. Grandfather wasn’t happy with the comments, though they were valid.

“Being the head of the Kwoyome Family, he didn’t trust anyone with the key and so he moved around with it,” grandfather said reluctantly.

The children hoped their grandfather would open the box before bedtime, but he didn’t.

“How do you open the box grandfather?” asked Tamara who had become impatient.

“Good question Tamara, but we aren’t opening it today. We should attend to other things first,” he replied. “We aren’t concerned about opening the box at the moment,” he told them.  He had more pressing issues in mind, best known to him.

“How do you open a box with no locks or combination numbers? It is different from your brief case grandfather. Maybe the key got lost in the flood,” she tried her luck.

“Tamara, a mystery box doesn’t operate the way you think. We don’t need all the things you are talking about,” he explained. Since the box had no locks or combination numbers a genius would be needed to open it, thought Tamara.

Mr Kwoyome refused to open the box and Tamara changed the subject.

“Grandfather, mysteries remind me of fairies and fairy dust; princes and princesses,” she said.

“I think of gnomes and dwarfs; elves and hobbits,” added Thiam. They got carried away, forgetting the audience in the room.

“I’m also reminded of trolls and ogres; pirates and mermaids,” whispered Tamara.

“Hey, you two stop now! Kwoyome Family Secret Treasures are not fairy or evil. They are different from what you are talking about,” shouted grandfather. They froze for a moment and then came back to reality.

“How can a key open a piece of land overgrown with grass, trees and shrubs?” asked Tamara, shaking her head.

“Finding our treasures is a mystery yet to be solved,” replied Thiam. He stole a glance at his grandfather, hoping he would respond to Tamara’s question.

“Is the box linked to the mysteries that chased the white settlers away?” questioned Tamara with curiosity.

“I’m not sure,” replied grandfather. He didn’t want to talk about the mystery box anymore.

At 8.30 pm Thiam and Tamara left the family room to go to bed. On their way they talked about the mystery box.

“You guessed right about the treasure map! You came so close!” said Tamara, beaming with laughter.

“Yes, I agree with you. The key is like a map and without it you won’t get to treasure land,” agreed Thiam. He gave Tamara a broad smile.

“We have the key, we are back, Thiam!” shouted Tamara. She imagined all sorts of fortunes awaiting them.

“Yes, it was the missing link indeed,” agreed Thiam.

“We have the key in the house and soon we exploit the treasures. Yuppie!” she pointed out.

“The key must be special and the blacksmith a genius,” repeated Thiam. Tamara nodded her head in agreement.

“We need to get hold of the box,” she said. Thiam ignored the comment.

“Definitely, we have to,” she insisted. Thiam kept quiet. There was nothing to say because the box belonged to their grandfather. They had lost ownership over it.

“Tomorrow we will open the box,” Tamara declared. Thiam held his peace and Tamara bade him goodnight. She got into her room and closed the door behind her, still wondering why Thiam hadn’t said anything pertaining to opening the box.

“I am sure grandfather wouldn’t mind, after all we found the box,” she assured herself. When Thiam got into his room he locked the door and climbed into his bed. He closed his eyes and began to count the imaginary sheep.

Thiam fell asleep and dreamt that Mildew had opened the box, found the key and unfortunately, swallowed it.

“Mildew, how could you do this to us? We should take you to the veterinary and have you operated on. Without the key our family secret treasures are lost forever,” cried Thiam. He woke up screaming, panting and sweating. He sat in the dark, worried, but later on comforted himself because it was only a dream. After a while he drifted into another slumber. “I don’t want to offend my grandfather, but I need the key just like Tamara. I wish somebody could help us open the box,” he mumbled. The words startled him and he woke up. The sun’s rays filtered through the curtains. The thought of losing the key made him jump out of bed and run to Tamara’s room. He wanted to share his dreams with her.

Tamara tossed and turned the whole night. She imagined all sorts of keys that could possibly open the box. Tamara had just finished tidying up when he sadly walked in.

“What brings you here so early?” she softly asked. She tried to hide her curiosity.

“I had a nightmare,” he replied. Tamara remembered her bad dream too. She sat on her bed anxiously.

“Tell me about the dream,” she begged.

“Sorry about last night. I should have given you an answer before I left,” apologised Thiam.

Tamara accepted the apology and asked again, “Just tell me your nightmare.” He calmly narrated everything, without interruptions.

“I dreamt Mildew swallowed the key,” he concluded. Tamara stared at Thiam and sighed. Her throat tightened and she blinked back hot tears.

“What’s wrong Tamara? It was just a dream. Mildew didn’t swallow the key,” Thiam tried to explain. She told him about her dream too. They went quiet.

Tamara spoke first, “Do you think Mildew is going to do something terrible to the box?”

“I don’t know. It’s bizarre to have a similar dream,” replied Tamara.

They had fallen in love with the box and didn’t want anything bad to happen to it. The box had become their valued treasure, to keep away from Mildew, who had bravely retrieved it from the dark scary cave.

“The box should be kept under lock and key, far away from Mildew,” Thiam wearily said.

“Did we all have to dream of the dog and the box?” asked Tamara. Thiam had an explanation to her question.

“We retired to bed thinking of the same thing,” he replied. Remember, we talked about the key and the box before we bade each other good night.

“You are right Thiam. I was thinking of ways to open the box. I pray that nothing happens to it because we will never ever enjoy the Family Secret Treasures,” sorrowfully said Tamara. She rested her head on her shoulder.

The box had changed from scrap to a ruby. She didn’t want to lose the precious gem.

“I believe everything will fall into place with time. After all, these are just dreams,” Thiam assured her. He wanted to convince Tamara that his dog wouldn’t destroy the key.

“Thiam, we have to be careful. Having similar dreams at the same time, is rare,” she insisted.

“So, what should we do?” he asked. He gave Tamara the liberty to express her views.

“We get the box and keep it away from your dog. If Mildew already has the box, we are doomed,” said the troubled Tamara. Thiam refused to share the same opinion with his cousin.

“I don’t think the dog has the box. I’m sure grandfather locked it somewhere safe,” Thiam argued.

“Thiam, we are wasting time. Let’s go down and check what the dog is up to,” she persuaded him.

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