A few days had passed since the move and Johnny slowly began to adjust to his new surroundings. On a fine Thursday morning, Johnny pulled up into the garage parking lot shifting the gears in the car. With the ignition off, Johnny stepped out from his car and pulled out his backpack before locking the car. He was fortunate this day to park on the first level of the garage, so he could walk straight to the campus which fortunately for him was right across from the garage. Sure as the site described, the college in general was big, for a community college.
Within a few minutes prior to his arrival, Johnny made his way into class joining up with all the students. There were a few his own age, others slightly older than him, all of them different. Course Johnny hardly paid much attention: Not what they chose to wear or that they were texting on their phones or talking about gosh knows what's the latest trend. He treated today much the same as the last: He'd come into class, put his backpack near his desk, take a seat in his chair, and get all the materials for the class before the teacher proceeds to hand out the assignments. The teacher in this class had a shaven head look with the circular glasses, a buttoned shirt with an aquamarine vest, and light tan slacks with black shoes that matched his belt. This particular teacher was Mr. Kaplan, the English teacher.
"Class," said Mr. Kaplan, "please turn your books over to page 20. Chapter Two. No talking, no cell phones…" He then pointed to a student. "I mean it this time. Proceed."
It didn't take long for Johnny to open up his textbook and proceed with his studies. Next to him was a fellow student that he did know rather well. He was an orange bearded young man with an open Hawaiian shirt that was over a plain black T-shirt with jean shorts and green sneakers. His name was Luke Hellwig, who was just putting his cell phone away when Mr. Kaplan pointed him out.
"He's a real Mister Sunshine, isn't he?" he whispered to Johnny.
"He's not so bad," Johnny whispered back, shrugging his shoulders.
"Eh, the bloke honestly just has it in for me I'm telling you. Kinda reminds me of a neighbor I had back home."
"I've had worse."
"Mr. Hellwig," Mr. Kaplan called out, approaching his desk. "Do you have something important you need to share with the class?"
"On the contrary, Mr. Kaplan," Luke replied, attempting to keep it calm. "I was merely referencing you to a rather prestigious gent I recall back in my home town. You'd like him. Pretty nice guy, very passionate about the arts..."
"Yes, I love that story, Mr. Hellwig," Mr. Kaplan spoke, with a hint of sarcasm. "Perhaps you can tell me more about it after class, I can't wait to see how that ends."
"Crap, not again."
"Tough luck, man," Johnny whispered to Luke.
"Don't sweat it, I had nothing better to do," Luke replied, carelessly. "See you at lunch?"
With that done, Johnny turned back to his book with a shake of his head. He had only known Luke for a short time since the day they met when the seminar began, but he knew enough about him. While he seemed like the laid back, carefree type of person he was smarter than he acted if anything the one major drawback was allowing his big mouth to put him in trouble. But even so, he was generally a good person to get along with and possibly the closest person he would call a friend. Course, with Johnny being focused on his goals to get through the school year and so caught up with getting things done, compared to his classmate Johnny wasn't much of a social type. And Luke alone was the one person who noticed, as an eye glanced at the student sitting beside him.
Sometime afterwards, all of the other students were strolling through the grounds of the campus. Some with scheduled classes in the next hour were well on their way. While for those with classes that won't start for quite some time, took the time to either head to Study Hall to catch up with their notes or hang by the yard for some casual time with their friends while an even number of said students took the chance to drive into town to pick up food or supplies for their projects. In the meanwhile, as they passed by a gathering of students sitting under a tree, Luke and Johnny decided to take a stroll what with their next class not starting at least until one hour after noon.
"So, Johnny," said Luke, "still adjusting to life in Fleming, are we?"
"It's different, I'll admit," Johnny replied. "Big city kid decides to move to a small town, where his mother happened to be born from and placed in a school his father went to. Like you've never heard that story before."
"Oh sure," Luke answered. "I've been on this campus for at least two years, gave me a chance to know almost everybody. Different stories, where they've come from, what they want to do. The usuals and the not-so-much."
"What's your story?"
"Nothing much. I live on my own at the other side of down, paying rent for the superintendent, while my parents are still in the UK. But most of the time, I hang out around town trying to find things to do. Then again, Fleming's just one of those towns where the most fun to do is go to the shopping mall… Or at least it 'would' be, but circumstances tell otherwise."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the old Regal Mall's been abandoned for almost fifteen years now. We have a new one, but not so big as the Regal was. I mean picture it: It was big, I mean REALLY big. People used to come from miles past the state border and beyond to come see it. There was a wide variety of shops, the biggest food court, a movie theater, arcade, book stores, furniture, you name it they had it. But sad to say, socio-economic disparities got involved, businesses began to close, and several workers were laid off until eventually... They were forced to close down. Everything's gone and yet it still stands."
"My mom did tell me about that prior to the move," Johnny admitted. "Still bites to hear about it."
"Sometimes, I go there to explore the place," Luke continued. "To imagine what it was like in it's hay day. To explore every square corner and time how long it takes to go from one side to the next. Course, it won't be there for long what with it being due to be demolished so a 'parking garage' will take it's place. So like life, one should treat each day like the last."
"But why now, after fifteen years, are they deciding to demolish it?"
"Who knows anything?" Luke shrugged. "Shit happens, but then that's life."
"Amen to that," Johnny replied.
"I will say this. The great thing about my schedule this year is that I don't have any classes on the weekend, especially Fridays. Got big plans this weekend, a little get-together with my pals. What about you?"
"Not really. Probably just gonna help mom around the house, doing my chores, catching up on my homework, and stuff."
"Now, hold up. You aren't telling me you're one of those 'stay at home' type of lads, are ya? Like you haven't spoken to any other students in this school besides me."
"Sorry, I had a lot of studying to catch up on," Johnny shrugged.
"You've only been here for, what, three or four days," Luke counted. "I've been at this campus for two years and this I know: There's a time to work, but there's also a time to be social. You have a whole life ahead of you."
"You thinking of inviting me?"
"Hey, let's not get too personal, I'm not the type," Luke joked. "But sure, it's going to be one heck of a party and all my friends will be there. Maybe I might even get you to have a talk with that one girl you were eyeing on in Geography. You know, Heather?"
"She's all right, Luke," Johnny insisted. "But honestly... She scares me."
"How do you know?" Luke asked. "You only know her as much as every other student on this campus... Nothing."
Johnny just simply eyed Luke with an eyebrow raised, as if Luke was only telling him things that he already knew. But Luke went ahead.
"But you are right about one thing," Luke continued. "Heather can be a little scary, believe me I know how she can be. Still, get to know her as long as I did, she's actually a pretty fun lass. She just gets a little..."
"Whatever you say, dude," Johnny sighed.
"So, are we settled then?" Luke asks. "Party at my house, tomorrow?"
Johnny paused for a moment before asking, "What time should I come?"
"Two o'clock sharp. There'll be some pizza, games, and plenty to drink. But you might want to bring snacks."
"Mind if I bring over Doritos?"
"Bring the whole lot if absolutely necessary. My friends can eat."
Johnny smiled. "Alright, it's a date then. And no, I don't mean THAT kind of date!"
"No way, dude," Luke chuckled. "That'd just make you look loonier than Margaret Thatcher."
Johnny smirked and said, "Okay then, see you tomorrow."
Luke gave a silent salute before going on ahead leaving Johnny walking by himself. On the off chance, Johnny was never one to go to parties. In all the time spent on campus, apart from Luke, Johnny didn't make a lot of friends. Usually coming off as the type that hangs out at the library to do homework and when he did sit with some students at lunch, he mostly just sat and listened then would leave when lunch hour was up. But then he was given a reminder of why their mother made the choice to move here. Their previous home, Johnny didn't make a lot of friends either and she felt that coming to this town would be a way to start over. So who knows, perhaps this party would do him some good at least if it would get his mother off his back.
After he went he through his classes, it was that time for Johnny to leave. On this particular day, Johnny decided to take a shortcut home on an off-road path along the beach. Not one to rush home after school, Johnny took the chance to learn all the routes around Fleming and a few shortcuts to get onto his street. But mostly he sought those roads trying to find some excitement in Fleming, for a brief moment find a little adventure in his life. As he drove, a familiar sound pulsed against his ears.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.
Johnny recognized the all too familiar drum beats, it was a loud beating and his radio didn't even work. He slowed the car down, turning to the side where the tide was crashing against the sandy shore. He pulled up to a stop on the sand, turning off the ignition and slowly stepping out of his car while the drums continued to beat. He looked around the beach, but there were no other cars or any beach goers despite how close the drums were pounding. It was starting to creep him out, as if he walked onto the set of a thriller horror movie like he'd see on TV.
All at once, just as Johnny turned back to his car his eyes caught a glimpse of something floating in the water. It bobbed up and down against the waves on the sea, a large crate. And the drumming noises were coming that very box. Johnny made his way toward the beach, walking through the water as the cold sea splashed against his jeans. Still he kept going until the crate was in reach and so he could get a glimpse of the faded black words on its side.
Forfait de livraison de Paris , France
Though Johnny could barely understand French, he recognized the words Paris and France. Something about it sounded familiar, but his curiosity over the contents inside the crate prevented him from thinking further. He dragged the crate until it touched the sand, a few inches out of the water and it's weight prevented it from going any further. Not willing to stop after that, Johnny made for the car, using his keys to unlock the trunk. Opening it, he searched through the items that were in there: A spare tire, an old blanket, and a few other contents. But what he was looking for he had to reach toward the very back until his grip clutched something hard, long and metal.
Johnny pulled his arm out and held it out so he can have a good look at what he needed. A crowbar, still in good use and a few tools he'd carry in case of an emergency. But for this case, Johnny had to know what was in that crate because the thumping of the drums would not stop otherwise.
Placing the flat end underneath one of the wooden boards, and with a few tries, Johnny managed to pry it off with the crowbar. After prying off a second board, he was able to reach in and see what was inside the crate.
When he finally got a grip on what was inside, the drumming suddenly stopped. His hands managed to clutch on something hard and thick, buried deep in some hay he had to dig his arms through to get it. With all his might, he pulled the object out from the crate and his eyes studied the item. It was a large wooden board of sorts with the word 'Jumanji' engraved at the center over an arrow. In each corner were four different pictures: A monkey, an elephant, a rhinoceros, and a human.
Johnny was confused for a moment. Was THIS piece of wood what was making the drumming sounds he had been hearing? How could it of been possible? Was it electronic, perhaps?
"Where were you going?" Johnny asked to himself.
Whatever the case, Johnny had no idea who this belonged to or if anyone would come looking for it. But he turned to the sun in the sky then checked the time on his phone. No doubt about it, the hour was getting late and he didn't have time to figure out the details of what was going on. So rather than leave the box on the beach, he plopped it inside the trunk sliding it alongside the spare tire before closing it. Getting back in the car and turning on the engine, he drove off toward his home as quick as possible before his mom would worry. All that was left was the crate with the French words sitting on the sand, as if it were fate that the boy would find it… Or was it?