Welcome to the first episode of The Westside Kids' Adventures! This year for our Imagine Day Camps we will be releasing a new episode each day from July 10th through 15th! Enjoy this first episode in the lead up to day camps and stay tuned to find out what happens next!
A couple things to note! As you can see in the downloads section below, you can download an mp3 of the episode or listen to it on the Westside Kids podcast on iTunes. You can also download a PDF of the story if you'd like to read it yourself, or you can read it right here on the blog. Each episode also comes with a colouring sheet that is related to it. Enjoy!
Episode 1: The Adventure Begins
It was finally the beginning of the long awaited summer vacation, and on the first morning after school let out, Fisher – or “Fish”, as most knew him – had it in his mind to search through the mysterious section of the attic that Mr. McGinty always kept locked. Fisher, being a very curious kid, was eager to find out why.
Grabbing the key for the attic from a hook in his father’s closet, Fish headed up the stairs to Max’s apartment. He took the stairs two at a time, excited to tell Max the cool plan he had for their first day of summer vacation. Fish knocked on the door and Max opened it, looking sleepy from having just woken up. Did I forget to tell you? One difference between Fish and Max was that Fish liked to get up very early and Max liked to sleep in.
Max yawned, “Good morning, Fish. Why are you here so early?”
“Is your mom home?” asked Fish.
“No, she just left for work at the bakery.”
“So you’re alone?” asked Fish.
Max grinned. “For crying out loud, Fish. We live in one big room. Do you see anybody else here?”
“Never mind, Max. Hey, I have a great idea.”
“Uh oh,” groaned Max. “Why is it whenever you get an idea, I get in trouble?”
“That’s not true,” said Fish.
“Is so,” Max insisted.
“Nah, we both get in trouble. But we won’t get in trouble this time. I promise,” said Fish.
“What’re you talking about?” asked Max.
“Well, you know the unfinished part of the attic behind that wall?” asked Fish.
“Yeah, it gives me the creeps,” replied Max. “When I go to bed at night, sometimes, I think I hear strange noises.”
Fish laughed. “Yeah, sure. The strange noise is probably just you snoring. Listen, I heard my dad tell my mom there’s really old stuff in there that hasn’t been touched in … in … I dunno … like maybe a hundred years.”
“Yeah, right,” said Max mockingly. “This house isn’t even that old.”
Fish ignored Max’s reply and continued, “Anyhow, I overheard my dad saying that he’s thinking of building a new bedroom for your mother in that unfinished part of the attic.”
Max’s eyes lit up. “Really? A new bedroom … for my mom? That’s great!”
“Yeah, but that means all that old stuff in there will have to be moved out and most likely thrown away,” said Fish. “We need to look through it to see if there’s any neat stuff we want to keep, like an old guitar or some really old coins; maybe some vintage hockey cards.”
Max’s initial concern was fading as he imagined discovering some long forgotten treasures buried in a corner of the attic. “Old guitar, huh … hockey cards, you say? I wonder if there might be some old vintage comic books?”
“Could be. Who knows? Like I said, no one has even touched that stuff in like … generations,” said Fish.
“Hmm, okay,” conceded Max. “But did you ask your parents for permission to go in there?”
Fish hesitated, “Well, uh, no. But then, they never said I couldn’t go in.”
Max laughed. “Yeah, because there’s a lock on the door. Doesn’t that tell you something?” he cautioned.
“Well, let’s see,” said Fish. “I guess it tells me I need the key, which I just happen to have in my hand. And besides, what are you afraid of? My parents would have told me if it was unsafe.”
“I guess so,” admitted Max.
“Anyway, my dad’s at work, so I can’t ask him,” said Fish. “And no one else is home. My mom’s out buying groceries and my sisters are still getting their beauty sleep.”
“That’s going to take a lot more than sleep!” laughed Max.
“Very funny,” said Fish. “C’mon, go get changed out of your pajamas so we can get started. Did I ever tell you you sleep too much?”
“All the time,” replied Max as he retreated into the bathroom to change into his clothes.
A few minutes later Max returned, grabbing a granola bar for his breakfast as he passed by the kitchen counter. With growing anticipation, the two boys had started towards the door leading to the mystery room when they heard a knock on Max’s apartment door.
“Who could that be?” asked Fish, sounding a little annoyed at the interruption.
“I don’t know, but I better answer it,” said Max. Fish followed Max to the door.
Max opened the door and was greeted by Abby and Willow.
“Hi boys, what’re you guys up to today?” asked Abby.
“Oh, nothing much,” replied Fish.
“Yeah, you know. Just trying to keep Fish out of trouble as usual,” added Max.
“Well, that would be a first,” joked Willow.
“We were thinking of going to the mall to check out the new computer store. Wanna come?” asked Abby.
“Oh uh, the mall, huh?” muttered Fish, trying to come up with a good excuse without offending his friends.
While Fish struggled to find a good reply, Max decided to jump in, “Uh, well, the thing is, we were just going to look through some old stuff in the attic.”
Fish threw Max a disapproving look. “What he means is we have to clean up the attic. Real dirty work. Nothing you’d be interested in.”
“Oh, we’d be happy to pitch in, wouldn’t we, Willow?” suggested Abby.
“Well, I kind of wanted to look at the new iPhone. But … okay, as long as I don’t get dirt on my new jeans,” said Willow.
When the girls weren’t looking, Fish whispered in Max’s ear, “Why’d you open your big mouth? This was supposed to be our little adventure.”
Just then, there was another knock on the door.
“Now who could that be?” asked an exasperated Fish. “Are we ever going to get into the attic?”
“Don’t freak out, Fish. I’ll see who it is,” said Max.
Max opened the door, and saw Joey upside down doing a handstand – he had knocked on the door with his feet! “What a goofball,” said Max as he and Joey laughed out loud. “We were just going to look through stuff in Fish’s attic.”
“I’m in,” said Joey. “Let’s go.”
The Westside Kids walked across the room to the attic door. As Fish placed the key into the lock, Abby said, “You know, some kids say summer vacation is kind of boring, but I have a feeling this summer will be really cool.”
“Cool, huh?” said Fish raising his eyebrows. “I just hope this turns out to be more exciting than going to the mall.”
Fish turned the key in the padlock, removed the lock and gently pushed inward on the attic door. As it slowly opened, the door’s rusty hinges creaked as if to say no one had entered this room in a very long time. The kids followed Fish into the dark attic. Fish clicked on his flashlight and waved it around, searching for a light switch.
“Man, it’s dark in here,” said Willow nervously, as if she expected a ghost to pop out at any second.
“And it smells … (sniff,sniff) musty,” added Abby.
“And to think, you two could be having a great time at the mall instead of getting freaked out in this spooky attic,” joked Joey, and he let out a loud, ghostly laugh.
“Stop it, Joey. You’re gettin’ me psyched out, too,” said Max.
“Hey, Abby. Could you pull that string dangling behind you?” asked Fish. “It must turn on the light in here.” Abby obliged. “Yeah, that’s better.”
“Wow! Look at all this stuff piled in here! So messy!” noted Willow.
Fish gave a sarcastic response, “If we knew you were coming, we would have had the place all cleaned up ahead of time.”
Joey’s face lit up. “Hey guys, look at this – an old Superman comic! Must be one of the originals!”
Abby was busy digging through a rack of clothing. “And here’s an old dress that looks just like one my grandma is wearing in an old picture we have of her when she was a little girl.”
Something on the floor caught Fish’s eye. “Hey Willow, what’s that book under the shelf next to your foot?”
“I can’t tell,” she said. “It’s covered in dust.”
Fish realized one of the legs of the bookshelf was sitting on top of part of the book so he grabbed onto the bookshelf to try to move it out of the way. “Unhh! I can hardly budge this thing. You guys, give me a hand lifting it.”
Joey and Max came over to help. Fish called out, “1-2-3, lift! Unhh! Hold it there a sec. I’ll kick the book out with my foot.”
“Yyowww!!!” Fish cried out, and the boys all jumped back as a loud blast of electrical static radiated from the book. The shock caused them to let go of the bookshelf and it slammed down hard on the floor.
“What?!! What just happened?” asked Willow in a trembling voice.
“I’m not sure,” said Fish, “but when my foot touched the book I got an electrical shock. Something really strange is going on here.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be in here,” suggested Max, clearly wanting to be somewhere else.
“Why don’t we wait for your dad to come home?” said Willow, siding with Max.
But Abby, known for her courage, said, “This needs to be investigated and who better to do it than the Westside Kids? That’s us. Who’s with me?”
A teacher once called Abby plucky, and though none of the kids knew what it meant, they all thought it was pretty cool. At any rate, something had caught Abby’s interest and chased away any fear she may have felt initially. For her, like Fisher, once the adventure bell was rung, there was no turning back.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Abby said. “Look. The book flipped open to a page with a drawing of something, but I can’t quite make it out.”
“What’re you doing? Stay away from that, Abby,” cautioned Willow.
Abby would not be dissuaded. “I’m just going to get as close as I can without touching it, then blow the dust off. C’mon, when I say ‘blow’, we all blow as hard as we can.”
“Just so long as I don’t have to touch it,” muttered Willow.
Abby called out, “Ready – set – BLOW!”
And the five kids blew as hard as they could. Fiery sparks flew off the pages of the book, filling the room with tiny beads of light that flashed for an instant as they floated in the air; and then just as quickly, they died away, falling to the floor like settling dust.
“Wow – did you see that!” said Max in amazement.
“Yeah, the dust was like a million tiny fireflies,” said Fish, still trying to make sense of what he saw.
“It was like an explosion of sparkles in mid-air,” said Joey.
Fish’s curiosity was piqued. “We gotta see what this is all about. I mean it’s only a book, right?”
“But look at that drawing in the book. What is it?” asked Joey.
Willow replied, “It looks like a narrow road, a pathway.”
“Yeah,” agreed Fish, but at the end of the path there’s a bearded man in a white robe standing there. He looks like he’s holding out his hands almost like he’s asking us to come to him.”
“Could that be…” Max paused mid-sentence.
“What? Who do you see?” asked Abby.
Max was still staring at the figure in the picture. “Uh, I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just a little freaked out right now.”
“Well, we can’t just leave it,” said Abby. “Let’s pick the book up and put it on that table over there and see what’s in the rest of it. And maybe that’ll tell us who the person is in the picture.”
“What? Are you crazy?” snapped Willow.
“Okay, then I’ll do it alone,” said Abby boldly.
“But you have no idea what might happen if you pick it up,” warned Max.
Fish was siding with Abby and said, “That’s what makes it exciting. Come on, you guys, all of us need to do this together. You might never get a chance like this for the rest of your life.”
“Well I’m definitely in,” said Abby.
“If Abby’s in, I guess I’m in,” said Willow with some hesitation.
Joey signaled his agreement with a thumbs up, which was his way of saying: Of course, I’m in.
“Well, okay. I don’t wanna be left out,” said Max. “I just hope we don’t all go up in a puff of smoke and our parents come home to find their little sweethearts disappeared into who knows where.”
“Did I ever tell you, you worry too much?” said Fish.
“All the time, but one of us has to,” said Max in his own defence.
Fish suddenly got an excited look on his face. “Hey, wait a minute! I wonder if this could be the old journal my Uncle Frank was trying to find. He said it belonged to my great, great grandfather who was a missionary in the Amazon back in the 1940s. Uncle Frank says the Amazon tribes liked to call him Papa Jim. Come on, we’ve gotta pick it up!”
“Are you sure we won’t just get another shock?” asked Willow.
“No, that’s what makes it exciting!” Fish gave instructions. “When I say three, we’ll each grab onto the book, and then we’ll lift it up together. Ready?”
“This seems crazy,” said Willow.
“Why did I let you talk me into this, McGinty?” said Max
“God, please keep us safe whatever happens,” said Willow, her voice quavering.
The kids grabbed hold of each corner of the book and lifted it from the floor. Flashes of light began shooting out from the pages of the book. In a panic, they tried to back away and let go, but their hands remained locked onto the book as if glued to it. The room throbbed with a loud electrical buzz, jolting their senses as blinding flashes of light came faster and faster until the whole room was bathed in a shower of shimmering light!
“Aaah, Fisherrrrr!” Willow shouted, “Get me outta this! I think the room is starting to move and I can’t let go. Do something!”
“It isn’t the room, Willow – it’s us. We’re starting to spin.” said Abby. “Just hang on tight … and pray!”
Just then an attic window burst open, and a sudden gust of wind blasted through the room.
Max looked across at Fish for reassurance. “I’m getting dizzy, Fish. I think I might be sick to my stomach.”
“Hang in there, Max! We gotta see where the book takes us,” replied Fish.
The attic walls became a blur. Then, suddenly, the ceiling seemed to fly away and for a moment the kids are blanketed in total darkness.
“Now I can’t see a thing!” cried Willow.
Now even Abby was having second thoughts about this adventure and she called out, “Jesus, please keep us safe.”
The kids whirled around faster and faster in the darkness wondering when and how this would end. But just then, a dull light began to illuminate their surroundings, and their spinning gradually slowed and slowed some more until they finally stopped. The book was gone. It took a moment for the kids to regain their composure.
“Is everybody okay?” asked Fish.
Although everyone said yes, they were still confused as to what had just happened: where in the world were they now? How far had they come from home?
At the moment, all they could tell was that they were standing beside a very large lake. It appeared to be late in the day as the sun seemed to be setting in the west, already half-hidden by the hills.
The five kids huddled together beside a large rowboat trying to figure out what to do next. At least it was warm, and the evening breeze off the lake was somewhat comforting.
Max broke the silence with a less than optimistic take on their situation, “So what now, genius?”
“Max, do you ever look on the bright side?” asked Joey.
“Well maybe I would if I could find one, but just in case you haven’t noticed, we appear to be completely lost.”
“I don’t know where we are,” said Willow, “but I see some fishermen farther up the shoreline – looks like they’re storing their nets for the night. Maybe we should talk to them.”
“I see some small huts above the beach - they sure don’t look like the houses on our street,” said Fish.
“They look like they’re from a long, long time ago,” said Abby.
“Early first century, I’d say,” said Willow. The others stared at her wondering how she could possibly know something like that.
“It’s just because I like to read a lot,” said Willow, but the kids knew it was more that she had the rare ability to remember practically everything she read.
“Well, wherever we are, I think we’re a long way from home,” said Fish.
“You’ve got to admit, it beats Math class,” joked Abby.
“Right now I think I’d rather listen to Mrs. Woodhead teach us verb conjugations than—”
“Hey, look!” interrupted Joey. “There’s a glow against the bushes over there. What is that?”
“The light’s flickering – a campfire, maybe,” said Fish.
“Let’s be real quiet and move closer to have a look,” said Abby.
“It looks like a man with a large blanket wrapped around him,” said Willow. “He’s sitting on a log by the fire. But his hood is covering most of his face.”
“Ah, no!” exclaimed Max. “He’s reading our book! How did he get it? But, it doesn’t seem to be affecting him like it did us. What do we do now?”
The old man turned slowly toward the kids and spoke in a voice creaking with age, “Why don’t you join me?”
Max whispered, “He heard us, Fish!”
“A deaf person would have heard you. Come and sit with me by the fire. I have a few things to tell you.”
“Sorry, mister,” said Joey, “but we’re just a bit freaked out. We don’t know where we are or even how we got here.”
“Well, you have nothing to fear from me. You will have answers to all your questions in due time. Is this your book?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Fish. “Well, that is, that book had something to do with how we got here.”
“It’s an interesting book. Do you know what it is?”
Willow ventured a guess, “Is it some kind of daily journal, like a kind of diary?”
“Or maybe a book of magic?” asked Joey.
“ ‘Magic’? No, not magic, not darkness,” said the old man. “Do you recognize this picture or the words under the picture?”
The kids looked again at the picture of the narrow road and the man standing at the end of it. Fish tried to explain, “Well, that’s the page it was opened to when we first found the book. I know this will sound strange to you, but we found that book in my house.”
“That’s right,” said Abby. “We all held onto it and the next thing we knew we were brought here. Frankly, we’re lost.”
The old man chuckled like the sound of door hinges that need a little oil. “Well, not so lost as you may think. You kids are on the right path, Abby. Your travels will bring you closer to the Light.”
Max looked totally perplexed. “What are you talking about? What travels? What light? I just … I mean, honestly, I think we just want to go home.”
Fish suddenly stood up and pointed at the old man. “Wait - how do you know Abby’s name? We didn’t tell you her name. Who … who are you?
“Fisher, I know that your great, great grandfather, Papa Jim as his friends called him, has left you a special gift. He has recorded his favourite scriptures that guided him in his missionary work while in the Amazon. He even drew pictures to illustrate his thoughts. It may be some time before you return home, but this is meant to be. Here is your book. I have put it in a goatskin pouch – you will need to carry it with you for some time yet, as you will see. There is much adventure and even some lessons in store for you. There will also be times when you need to rely on your faith, and, to do that, you must be willing to listen and learn from the Master. But right now, I suggest you make haste. The wolves are coming – in fact, they are already very near.”
“What? There are real wolves here?” asked Willow, feeling suddenly vulnerable.
“The Pharisees, my dear child. They seek to devour the Lamb and scatter his followers, but they don’t understand that in the end the Lamb is also the king, and he will have the victory. As you depart, I suggest you reflect on the scripture Papa Jim recorded on the first page of his journal, and store these words in your heart, for you will need to rely on them in the days to come:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
“And now I must go. But we shall meet again soon.”
And with that, the old man walked away as if melting into the darkness, and he was gone.
At that same moment, a young boy, who appeared to be about the same age as the Westside Kids, came walking out of the evening mist directly toward them. He was wearing leather sandals and a rather tattered robe tied at the waist with a brown cord. He stopped about ten meters away and gave a hand signal for the kids to follow him. But to where? Who had sent him? Should they follow this stranger?
What will happen next as the Westside kids try to make sense of why the missionary’s journal has carried them to this particular place and time? Who is this old man? Who is this boy in the tattered robe trying to lead them somewhere? How will the kids ever return home? Watch out for the next episode of Westside Kids’ Adventures on this blog. You’ll never guess what’s about to happen next.