Addison was 13 years old that summer. It was age she had been looking forward to for as long as she could remember; an age she was proud to
claim as her own. She was still in the lanky and scruffy stage of her life before she blossomed into a young woman. Her family owned the town ice cream parlor underneath the meager
apartment in which they lived. Neither of Addison’s parents had been very successful in their schooling, but they were hard working people. Her parents’ academic shortcomings infused in
her the desire to learn all she could. As such, they were incredibly strict with Addison in her daily routine. Her life was painfully ordinary. Each day consisted of waking up early
to help get the shop ready for business, spending most of the day in the one room school house, returning home to work at the shop until dinner, and then wrapping up the day with
homework. During any free time she could be found with her nose in a book. She loved the fascinating worlds of other people. It was as if she could escape from her dull life and take
on the role of the protagonists in her stories. She could travel to the ancient ruins in Mexico or the jungles of India.Her parents often discouraged this passion: they
didn’t see the need for books and they would send her off to play with her friends or to do chores around the shop.
That particular Sunday afternoon, Addison was left alone to close up the shop while her parents went to afternoon tea at their
friends’ house. They instructed her to finish all of her tasks before doing anything else.
“We better see this place in perfect shape when we get back at 5:00” they ordered as they walked out the door.
She set to work cleaning off the melted messes and the bits of cone that were left on the counters and tables. By 3:45, all Addison had left to do was sweep the floor and she could escape
into the enchanting world of her current book. When she finally reached the far corner of the parlor, she realized one of the black and white tiles was chipped. She knew her family was
tight on money that month, so she bent down to try to fix it herself. She never had been good at fixing things. The corner of the tile completely broke off and to her surprise it
dropped underneath the floor. She discovered that there was a hollow space underneath the tiles. At that point, Addison faced an intense debate between her conscience and her
curiosity. Her curiosity won out and she ran to get her father’s tool box from underneath the sink. She pried off the rest of the tile, then another one. It was too dark for her
to see anything, so she pulled out the lamp. A narrow and twisting staircase was just a few feet below her. Again her conscience nagged her to leave the tiles alone - it would cost her
6 months of wages to replace the tiles she would need to remove to squeeze through the hole. Like the protagonists in her favorite stories, she couldn’t just let this mystery remain
hidden. So she pried off 7 more tiles until there was just enough room for her to fit through. Addison took a quick glance at the clock before she cautiously slipped down into the
hole. It was 4:00 p.m.- she had only one hour until her parents returned.
4:01 p.m.: The cobwebs were overwhelming and Addison considered giving up. She had an intense fear of all things that crawled after she nearly died at age 5 from a spider bite.
Yet, her curious nature was more powerful and she willed herself to continue. She eased down the dark staircase, taking extreme care with each step: her parents would kill her if she
twisted her ankle again. It was already very weak from the several sprains she had imposed upon it as a young girl. She was surprised at the length of the staircase. How far
underground was she? Suddenly she felt her stomach churn and felt that empty sensation as she reached her foot toward the next step, only to discover that there were no more steps. She
lifted the light to her head and looked all around her, only to see mud walls. Her heart sank because she was sure that this was a dead end. With one last hope, she shined the light at
her feet and discovered a wooden trap door with a metal ring. Her heart did an enthusiastic u-turn and ended up in her throat. She lifted the door up and peered down the hole.
Just a few feet below her was the red clay floor. She dropped down into the darkness and landed on her knees. When she looked up, she was facing a small passageway, just big enough for
her to crawl through. She started to sweat as the panic rose – she was afraid of small spaces.Addison had already overcome the spiders and today seemed like her day to face all
4:12 p.m.: Addison reached the end of the tunnel with her white cotton dress now stained the color of the earth, but her heart was burning with pride at what she had just accomplished. It
turned out that her inquisitiveness proved to be stronger than her fears. She stood up and wiped her hands off carelessly on her dress and looked about her. The air was thick with a
stale humidity that made her gag. She was standing in a small room, complete with a lumpy bed in the far right corner and some makeshift wooden furniture. Immediately, questions began
to pile up in her head until there were so many that they began to cloud her mind, making it as thick and foggy as the air in the room she was standing in. What was this place used for? Who
had built this underground home? Did her parents know about this? Why was this room so carefully hidden from the rest of the world? She was nearly beside herself with the all the
unanswered questions floating about. Addison walked to a cupboard and paused before opening each drawer, her insides twisting with the prospect of what she might find. The first one was
empty. The second one was too. There was just one left. She squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the handle slowly towards her until the drawer was completely extended. Slowly
she opened her eyes and the empty drawer reveled what appeared to be another dead end.
4:16 p.m.: Exasperated, Addison flopped down onto the pathetic little bed. She couldn’t believe that she had gone through all of this to find nothing. Just at that moment she felt
her hand resting on something hard inside the mattress. Quickly, she yanked the stuffing out of the mattress to find small little book, completely alone in this abandoned underground
4: 18 p.m.: She flipped to the first page, sat back down on the bed and began to enter a world that would change her forever.
She found it hard to believe that something this terrible could happen, especially so close to where she lived. Page after
page was filled with accounts of a young boy she guessed to be around her age.
4:47 p.m.: There were no dates on the pages; all she knew was that his name was Milo. Her passion for literature instantaneously connected Addison to Milo in a way she had never
experienced. She could feel herself falling in love with this invisible, suffering person, whose only trace was a journal of diary entries. She agonized over the fact that she knew
nothing more about this boy or what had become of him. When were these entries written? Perhaps they were years old and Milo had since disappeared from this earth. Or, maybe, he
was still out there somewhere. At that moment, Addison made it her life goal to find the author of the journal. For the rest of her life, he would fade in and out of her dreams, her
vision of him a constant presence in the back of her mind.
4:53: “Hope.” It was the last word on the last page. Addison found it ironic that this boy believed so strongly in hope when he had been presented with such wretched
circumstances.She didn’t think she’d have the character for that. She knew she’d fall apart the minute she faced any of the ordeals Milo had. To her, he was a hero.
4:57: Addison awoke from the depths of her thought with the realization that her parents would be home any time now.She had to get back up to the store and try to put the tiles
back into place. She wanted to explore the place more, to find more evidence of Milo’s accounts, but this wasn’t the time for it. She stuffed the journal back into the mattress,
desperately wanting to take it with her, to keep Milo as close to her as possible. Yet she knew she had no place to hide it and it would be safer in its protected underground sanctuary. She
comforted herself with the idea that she could return to that place the next chance she got.
Addison never did get another chance. As she lifted herself out of the hole and onto the parlor floor, she looked at the clock; they would be home any minute. She did the best she could
to repair the tiles so that her parents wouldn’t notice. Just as she put the last tile into place, her parents entered. She greeted them as if nothing was out of the ordinary besides
attributing her muddy dress to a game she was playing with her friends and the family retired to their tiny one-room home above.
Addison never had been good at fixing things and her repair job did not go unnoticed by her meticulous father. He never asked her what she knew about the tiles. She just woke up one
morning to find all the tiles replaced. With a broken heart, she realized she would never have another chance to visit Milo’s world and find out more about him.
Years later, after the death of both of her parents, Addison returned to the old ice cream parlor that had since gone out of business. She slowly walked the length of the shop, each item in
the room stirring up old memories of her childhood. She had made up her mind at 13 that she would, at some point, revisit that little room. So much time had passed that she was becoming
doubtful of its existence. It could have easily been a story conjured in her mind. As she had done nearly 25 years prior, Addison reached underneath the sink and retrieved her father’s
tool box. It was still here, after all these years. Slowly she began to chip away at the mortar that held the tiles in place. This time she had to remove 3 more tiles than before:
she was no longer her tiny early teenage self. She re-enacted her adventure and found herself in the humid room once more. Everything was how she left it. She had waited for
this moment for most of her life, and now that she was there, she was afraid; afraid to find that there was nothing more to the secret world; afraid to find that no more traces of Milo
existed. To spare herself a few more minutes, she carefully observed every inch of the room, a task she was unable to complete before, given her limited time. Addison pained at the
sight of dark reddish brown spots that appeared to be blood on the table. She hadn’t seen those before. Finally, she couldn’t contain herself any longer and she retrieved the
journal. The handwriting was exactly how she remembered it. Addison settled herself onto the bed for the last time and reread with excruciating detail every word that Milo had written.
That little girl, the one with the insatiable curiosity and thirst for adventure…I was that little girl once. That was years ago. I have since grown to be old and wrinkly, continuing
down the inevitable path of human aging. Many people associate a unique time or event in their life that with the end of their innocence, the beginning of their adulthood. The day that
I found Milo’s journal marked that period in my life. Before, I had been just like all the other kids whose life was balanced out between playing, chores, school, eating, and sleeping.
Until then, my biggest problem had been that we had run out of chocolate ice cream and I couldn’t eat my favorite flavor for dessert. Life was simple then. I don’t remember much about
that time in my life. It was so long ago and it was such a short time. I just remember that I went to bed every night feeling happy. As I read through Milo’s terrifying accounts,
I could feel my faith in humanity slipping away from my grasp. I wanted to believe that no one could ever be so terrible as the people who kept Milo hostage. I wanted the journal to be
like one of the stories that I read: thrilling and terrifying, but fiction, always fiction. Whenever those stories would scare me, I could comfort myself in the fact that they weren’t
real and the suffering the characters endured was only imagined. For me, that one hour on that one Sunday afternoon changed the world.
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