October, especially late October is the time for spooky, weird things, right? That's how I explained the latest apparition at the royal castle.
I believe there are, at the very least, two explanations for most things: the logical (or boring) explanation, and the the "whoo-hoo" crazy (much more fun) explanation. Of course I favor the "whoo-hoo." So, given my fondness for the "whoo-hoo," and the spooky-weird spirit of late October, allow me to present...
The Tale of the Haunted Aquarium
I was enjoying the warmth of the autumn sun, streaming through the windows of the royal chariot as I made my way hastily back to the castle after another day of holding raucous hordes of elementary students at bay. The 5-minute commute offered a little precious decompression time, so direly needed before facing the raucous horde of my own children and their attack cat. My reverie was broken by a call from the Princess.
"Does this mean we're getting fish?"
Does what mean we're getting fish?
"The aquarium in the driveway. Can we keep it?"
Now, due to its unique situation near the bottom of a hill, the edge of a curve, and who knows what other natural and supernatural formations of land, time and space, the castle seems to be at the epicenter of the Vortex of Lost Toys. We have had all manner of inflatable toys -- beach balls, swim rings, a pool cover, and bouncy balls -- blow into our yard and come to a stop. Once they blow in, they don't blow out, no matter how long I try to ignore them. We've even found a small tent, scarf and gloves at the end of our driveway.
But never an aquarium.
I assumed the Princess meant a little one- or two-gallon fish bowl, probably plastic. But no. There settled neatly by the garage door was a full-sized, 20-gallon, glass and metal fish aquarium. Complete with gravel, lid, net and a couple of shells. All very dry, neat, clean and tidy. And mysterious. No note, no message on the answering machine, no nothing. I assumed someone just got the wrong address when passing along an unused tank. But the days passed an no one returned to claim it.
There was something about that gravel. It was so dull and brown. It reminded me of a desert scene. And there was no cute little castle, treasure chest, "no fishing" sign, or plastic seaweed. Hmmm... boring brown rocks like you would find in...
A REPTILE TANK!!! OR A TARANTULA TANK!!!
No note, no message, and no inhabitant!! Had our mysterious benefactor merely dropped off an aquarium? Or did they drop off an aquarium AND SOME CREEPY CRAWLY/SLITHERY creature that was now on the loose? Yes, it was cold enough out to slow down any cold-blooded critters, but the aquarium was situated right next to the garage door, which the children had opened and left open when they arrived home.
Was there something hiding in the dark corners of the semi-warm garage (or under all the toys strewn across the garage floor forcing me to park in the driveway?). Would it attack as I carefully picked my way through the garage? Or would it bide its time, discover a hidden entrance into the house and hide in my shoes, under the bed, behind the toilet or in the cupboard? Venomous or not, I'm sure the shock would do me in.
I moved the aquarium out to the end of the driveway and amused myself by sticking humorous signs on it: "I'm lost! Am I yours? Take me home!" and an owl asking "Whooo do I belong to?" I asked around the neighborhood and quizzed the kids. No one knew anything about it. But I felt sure an answer was out there somewhere.
I had just handed out the last of the Halloween candy to the trick-or-treaters and had bundled the Prince and Princess off to bed when the phone rang. The King was, I believed, ensconced in his office quietly working and too busy to answer the call. He had been working hard all day and, come to think of it, I couldn't remember the last time he had ventured out of his basement office. Strange, but I didn't have time to wonder about it now. I wanted to answer the phone before the shrill -- it had an oddly shrill ring to it this time -- and incessant ringing awoke the slumbering angels.
A deep raspy voice responded to my greeting.
"Did you find the aquariummmmmmm?" it asked. The line crackled and hissed with static.
"Yes, but..." I began to ask, confused.
"And how is Fluuuuuffy? Are you keeping him well fehhhhhhhhhhd? Bwahahaha..."
The maniacal laughter was cut off by a loud boom of thunder. At that moment the line went dead and the lights flickered before the electricity went out completely. The house took on an oppressive silence, broken only by the sound of a footstep... and another, another, another, another, another, another, and another. Eight heavy footsteps on the stairway from the basement. A flash of lightning illuminated eight gigantic, inhuman, hairy legs inching closer, closer....
In the interest of indulging my fancy, that's how the story should have ended. Unfortunately, at this point our story takes on a decidedly logical, boring ending. The aquarium provider had, indeed, gotten names mixed up when delivering the aquarium. He then was called out of town and did not realize the mistake until I had sprouted several more gray hairs.
But that doesn't explain the half-dollar sized, black, fuzzy spider I squashed near the garage door. Or that strange rustling noise coming from the furnace room.