The night is dark. Lightening lights up the sky and a thunderous boom fills the air. The wind blows like there is no tomorrow, and no one is around. The storm sounds like it wants to destroy the earth. In the distance, an old, white house stands alone. Lights shine from every window, as if the house is alive and defying the storm.
Ten-year-old friends Mark and Luis enter the attic in the house, which feels full of mystery to them. The occasional blast of lightening is the only source of light in the room, and thunder makes the only sound. They see a large collection of nautical objects: boxes full of vessels; gems, including emeralds and rubies; polished and carved marble stones; old bells, small figurines, antique frames, seashells, dried starfish, and aged coins. One section of the room contains bottles with strange and unfamiliar animals preserved in alcohol and formaldehyde.
The brave boys break the silence of the room as they enter. They are mesmerized by all that they see, and they take in every detail. They are scared; they know they should not be there. But curiosity and the spirit of adventure drive them to enter into the unknown magic of the room.
As they walk, Mark trips over something on the floor and falls. His eyes grow wide and his heart palpitates. Luis covers Mark’s mouth before he screams. Then Luis signals to Mark to keep quiet.
“Are you OK?” Luis whispers to Mark in Spanish, and Mark nods. These boys, while growing up together, are teaching each other their own language. “What is this?” Mark asks Luis, looking at what he just tripped over. Luis has no idea what this mass is lying on the floor.
Mark stands slowly and starts to track the length of the mass. Luis follows him. Whatever they are following is wide and long. It is dark green with black oval spots, spots with yellow-ochre centers that run along scaly sides. They start realizing the mass is the body of an animal that has been preserved with taxidermy. It’s kept up so well that the skin looks like it is still alive. Utterly intrigued, they keep following the length of the body. They look at each other, confused. They can’t comprehend its huge size.
The storm intensifies. A loud thunderclap tells them the storm is getting even worse. They stare out the window, breathing heavily from fear. But their curiosity is stronger than their fear, and they continue following the massive, preserved body. They see it wind underneath a table covered with an old tablecloth. They go to the table, and suddenly they see a giant snake head on the other side of the table. Lightning fills the room with bright light, and thunder cracks loudly in the air. An attic window crashes open from the furious winds. Luis gets so scared that he opens his mouth to scream, and Mark punches him in the shoulder to signal him to be quiet. He gives Luis a look that tells him to calm down, and Luis does.
“I’ve never seen a snake that big and scary,” Luis tells Mark.
“Me neither,” he says. They stare at the snake for a moment. They don’t realize it is an anaconda. They feel hypnotized by its open jaw and protruding teeth, its face looking straight at them.
“I don’t like snakes,” Mark says with a soft, scared voice. Luis just swallows, terrified. Suddenly a strong gust of wind whips through the open window, disturbing the contents of the room. The boys jump. Animal vessels and crystal figurines blow onto the floor; old papers fly around them. The wind is so strong, it wants to destroy the room, a signal that it’s time for the boys to leave. But the bravery of the youngsters’ souls is too strong for them to quit their adventure now.
Mark runs to an old wooden staircase in front of the window. He climbs up to close the window, and suddenly he sees a big black man standing outside in the middle of the storm looking up at him. Scared, Mark squats below the windowsill. Then he stands again, but the man is gone. Mark is confused; he wonders if it was just a shadow from the lightning through the trees. Distracted by the wind blowing into the attic, he doesn’t give it much thought. Mark manages to close the window and sighs. He looks at Luis, who is still shaking with fear.
“Let’s go back downstairs. I don’t like this anymore,” Luis tells Mark.
“No. Let’s keep looking around. Remember, life is an adventure!” replies Mark, lifting both hands in the air with excitement. They hear another clap of thunder. Mark squats quickly.
“You don’t look that excited now,” Luis says. “Are you sure you want to stay?” the young Latino asks. Mark stands hesitantly. He looks around. “Nothing is going to happen,” Mark answers his best friend, not too sure himself. His charming blue eyes brighten. His spirit is very strong. Suddenly, Mark sees something shining on the floor. He climbs down from the staircase, and Luis follows him. Mark picks up the object. It’s a big, beautiful crystal. Their eyes shine in its reflection; its majestic beauty enchants them.
“What is it?” Luis asks while looking at the crystal.
“It’s a diamond, I think,” replies Mark, not really sure.
“Why is it blue?” Luis asks, knowing Mark will not have an answer, but his curiosity is too strong not to ask.
Suddenly, they hear the voice of an old man in the room. “Careful with that, son.”
Mark and Luis scream, and the crystal falls onto the floor. The room lights turn on. The boys look back and see Grandpa. Mark, excited and relieved, cries out, “Grandpa!”
The old man approaches them. He slowly picks up the crystal from the floor. Grandpa’s steps are slow and short, but his calm, weary face suggests he has lived more adventures than most men have on this earth. His countenance is happy and peaceful.
“What are you doing here?” the old man’s soft voice asks Mark. “I told you not to come up here. It’s dangerous. And Luis, your mom just called. I told her that you are OK,” Grandpa tells Luis.
Grandpa sees the expression on Luis’s face. He knows Luis is scared. He smiles at the boys. He knows he can bring comfort to them. Grandpa squats to the boys’ level. He looks kindly at their eyes. He can see the curiosity in them. Then he looks nostalgically at the diamond.
“It’s an Ocean Dream Diamond,” Grandpa says. The boys’ eyes brighten. “And it’s not blue. It’s blue-green. It’s the rarest kind of diamond in the world,” Grandpa, excited, explains to the boys. He is pensive.
Then he looks into the distance. He sees a framed portrait of an old woman. He takes a moment to look at the portrait. He can’t contain his emotions. Tears fall from his eyes; memories from the past come to him, good memories. Grandpa’s excitement is evident. His face shines. “I gave it to your grandma a long time ago,” Grandpa says to Mark, as he and Luis wait for one of those great stories Grandpa usually tells. “So many adventures. I almost can’t remember them all,” Grandpa says as he looks into the kids’ eyes. “Life is—”
The kids interrupt, finishing the saying, because they know how it goes: “An adventure.” Mark, Luis, and Grandpa laugh. The boys are no longer scared. Having this adventure was the reason they came to the attic, and Grandpa knows it.
Grandpa can’t contain his emotion. It is time for him to reveal a secret. He walks toward the portrait of his wife. He picks it up and turns it over. He quickly dismantles the frame. He is very excited. As he pulls the frame apart, an old paper appears. He pulls it out. He hesitates before unfolding it.
“What is it?” Mark asks.
Grandpa opens the paper. “It’s a treasure map,” Grandpa says, full of life. The kids are mesmerized, looking at the map, contemplating the many adventures it had survived in the past. Luis’s eyes widen with interest. Grandpa touches the gritty map. He can feel the antique texture in the paper; the map evokes his memories of his own adventures. The smell of the old map lifts the spirit of his old soul. His memories come alive, memories that no one can touch.
The map is surrounded by symbols from different ancient cultures. Luis and Mark look at the symbols, not knowing what they are, but it’s not important to them. The symbols look otherworldly to the boys.
“Is this is a real treasure map?” Mark asks Grandpa
“Do you believe it’s a real treasure map?” Grandpa replies to the young, adventurous soul.
“Yes,” Mark answers with a big smile.
“What about you Luis. Do you believe it’s a real treasure map?”
“Yes,” responds Luis with a big smile, too.
“One day when you’re grown, you are going to come back and find the treasure on this map,” Grandpa tells Mark and Luis.
Both kids are fascinated while looking at the map. Their faces are full of life and hope; their eyes shine, and they are overwhelmed with the excitement of one day discovering the treasure.
“What kind of treasure, Grandpa?” Mark asks, unable to contain his curiosity.
“The best treasure of all,” Grandpa responds, smiling.
“And what’s the best treasure of all?” Luis asks, not understanding.
“Whatever your heart believes. If you believe in the treasure, then the treasure will be there,” Grandpa replies. The boys don’t understand what Grandpa means. But for them, it’s not important now; they are having a big adventure.
Grandpa knows that it is not yet time for Mark and Luis to understand what this magical night means. The time will come. For now, he just wants to plant the seed in their young hearts.
Suddenly the lights turn off. They hear a clap of thunder. The boys become scared again on this crazy night. The wind begins to blow even stronger, and the thunder resonates even louder than before. Through the flickering light of the lightening, Grandpa looks at the map one more time. He folds it and hides it back in the frame. He puts the frame together and hangs onto it. He stares at his wife one more time. He smiles. He connects with her again. He looks around again.
“OK. Let’s go. The storm is getting worse,” Grandpa says. He guides the kids toward the attic exit. After they leave, Grandpa closes the door, but not before looking one more time at his glorious past.