Falling through the Rabbit Hole

Nia Gaines and her parents had been shopping for hours which felt like days to Nia. And to think how excited she’d been when her dad, Edwardo Gaines, had invited her to come with them on what he’d described as a combination family vacation and business trip. When does the vacation part start, Nia, wondered? So far, she’d been dragged along from one antique store to another. Beijing China has sounded like such a romantic place to visit, but as far as she could tell it was simply blocked after block of old stores filled to overflowing with ancient and mostly ugly stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Everywhere you looked more stuff. And the price tags on them. Outrageously expensive stuff as far as Nia could tell, but her father disagreed. The more shops they visited the more excited he became. After all, he’d made his fortune buying old stuff overseas then returning home to Boston, Massachusetts to sell it for a hefty profit.

So, I shouldn’t complain, Nia thought as they arrived at the next story, the Beijing Curio, the sign read. I have a pretty great life thanks to all this stuff, but really, wasn’t it time to take a break for food, and after that maybe slip in just a little bit of vacation time. Take in a show or something. She’d learned in school that the Chinese had a long and distinguished history that included different forms of dance. How about a dance show? Maybe she could convince her parents that it would be an important part of her education. Nia loved dance in all its many forms. She planned to become a professional dancer. That’s all there was to it. Already, she’d been accepted to a prestigious school of the performing arts, and she was top in her class both academically and in her dance classes.

“Please, dad, can’t we go get a bite to eat? I’m starving,” Nia whined for the third or fourth time.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Alisha Gaines, Nia’s mother piped in.

“Okay, just one more shop and we’ll break for lunch,” Edwardo finally agreed.

“You promise?” Nia asked.

“Promise. Now, let’s see what gems the Beijing Curio has to offer.” Edwardo opened the door for his wife and daughter.

“More dusty, over-priced stuff,

Nia whispered, but was careful to keep her voice soft enough that her father couldn’t hear. He’d promised food after this so the last thing she wanted to do was to make him mad.

Much to Nia’s surprise, she found the inside of the shop clean and well organized and filled with ornate sculptures which even she could appreciate, many of them made from ivory. “Ivory is the tusks of elephants,” she recalled one of her teachers telling her, and tusks were really just the elephants’ long teeth on either side of their mouths. Her teacher had gone on to discuss how the elephant populations around the world were endangered because of the high demand for ivory, but Nia had lost interest around that time and couldn’t remember the reason for the high demand. Now she knew. In the hand of creative artists, a piece of ivory took could take on a life of its own and be transformed into a beautiful work of art.

“Huānyíng, huānyíng,” a small man in an embroidered crimson sarong said in a singsong voice. He was only a few inches taller than Nia who, at fifteen years of age was an inch or two taller than most of her classmates, but she’d noticed most of the Chinese she’d seen were smaller in statute. Noticing his new customers were Americans, he quickly switched to heavily accented English. “Please come in. Welcome to my humble shop,” the owner continued, then seeing Nia come in behind her parents, his facial expression changed to a frown. “One important rule,” he said staring straight at her. “Look but don’t touch. Understand?”

“Oh, she won’t be any trouble,” Edwardo said before Nia had a chance to respond which was probably a good thing. Nia hated to be told what to do by anyone and especially by a stranger who was just barely taller than her.

She watched as her father handed the shop owner his business card, and waited as the frown was replaced with a smile.  “Oaaa, please come in. I have many fine things your American friends will enjoy. Low prices as well. I am Chang, your humble servant. ”

Really? Nia thought. We’ll see. She stayed with her parents while Chang showed them around to the various areas, pointing out items as they walked around. Then, the tingle of a small bell above the front door alerted him that a new customer had entered. “Please, excuse me one moment,” and with a final stern look at Nia, he waddled to the front.

“This is a goldmine,” Edwardo said after Chang had left.

“Some beautiful pieces for sure,” Alisha agreed.

“And look at these prices. There’s plenty of room for a hefty profit margin. I think we’ve hit the motherlode.”

As her two parents continued to discuss business, Nia wandered off on her own, already bored by the rows upon rows of stuff.  Her stomach growled to remind her how long it had been since breakfast. Suddenly, her attention flew from her hunger pangs to a gorgeous object in front of her. The carving of a line of elephants walking over a crescent bridge seemed to glow from within, the ivory was so brilliantly white. Nia glanced up to the ceiling to see if there was any special lighting showcasing the object but could find nothing. She moved closer to it, mesmerized by the intricate design, each elephant perfectly carved, connected to the one behind each tail-to-trunk with the following elephant slightly smaller.

After a moment more of studying it, she looked around to make sure Chang was nowhere to be seen. She heard his words of warning once again in her mind. Look but don’t touch.

I’ve held fragile objects all my life, she countered as she picked up the object with both hands to get a better look. As her fingers circled around it, she felt a tingling at the point of contact, and in the next moment, she felt herself falling through a black hole of space.


Are You a Zak Bates Eco-Adventure Series Fan?

If so, I think you’ll enjoy reading Ra-Kit’s Initiation

A Prequel to the Zak Bates Eco-adventure Series

In Dominion Over All, book one of the Zak Bates Eco-adventure team, Zak is blackmailed by Ra-Kit, the last living magic cat, to accompany her and her companion, Sampson the flying dog, on a daring adventure to save the animal kingdom from annihilation.

But where did Ra-Kit’s magic come from? Is she really five-hundred years old or is that just part of the mythology she’s woven for herself? What did Ra-Kit have to do to be initiated into the secret clan of magic cats?

In Ra-Kit’s Initiation, these questions and more are revealed in a quirky romp around London in the mid-1800s. It’s a digital short for animal lovers of all ages.

Click Here to download your copy of Ra-Kit’s Initiation.

When you do, I’ll add you to a special fan list so you’ll receive advance notices and specials on my W. Bradford Swift novels and stories including additional chapters of Ghost Elephant and a few special surprises I’ll announce later. In the meantime, enjoy Ra-Kit’s Initiation.