Hidden World

It’s a strange memory, but even now I can recall it clearly.

During the summer holidays of fifth grade, I was in the backyard making a list of nearby bugs for a school assignment. The corners of the yard were covered in concrete, and I found a rusted iron gate that probably lead to the sewers. Out of curiosity, I grabbed the handle and tried pulling it. I saw a ladder leading further down.

When I reached the bottom, the ground was made of wire mesh, and there seemed to be something even further down under that. I could hear the sound of water, and a bad smell, so I figured it really was the sewers. The path spread out before and behind me, so I decided to walk straight ahead.

I shone my torch at my feet, excited as I walked, about probably 20 metres in I came across some iron bars blocking the way. There was another ladder beside them leading up.

‘I thought I’d see something better,’ I thought, and disappointed, I climbed up the ladder. ‘Judging by the distance, I should be in the empty lot on the other side of the road.’

I opened the lid above me, climbed out, and saw it was already evening. It was lunchtime when I went in…

I grew scared and decided to get back home as soon as possible, but something was wrong. The scenery was somewhat… different. I mostly recognised the area, but the store I always bought sweets from was now a house, and the community centre was now a hospital. The road signs had marks I’d never seen before as well.

I rushed back home, but everything was strange there too. A giant cactus was flowering in the garden, and there was a red car in the garage that looked like a squished sports car. Instead of an intercom at the front door, there was a small lever pointing down instead. On either side of the door there was a small decoration that looked like a giraffe with a beard. But still, it was undoubtedly my house. The details were different, but no matter how you looked at it, it was my house. The nameplate was even our family name. It was like playing “spot the difference.”

I was too scared to enter from the front, so I went around the back and looked in the kitchen window. My father was sitting in the lounge room wearing a purple jinbei, happily chatting with my school music teacher. Suddenly I remembered the game I was playing at the time, Dragon Quest 3. There’s a hidden world in that game, right? I realised that was what happened. I’d entered a hidden world.

I panicked and returned to where I came from, climbed down, and ran back around the path. I ran as fast as I could, breaking out in a cold sweat. I felt like if I didn’t hurry up, I’d never be able to return, but I climbed out the door I went through and safely got back.

After that, I was too scared to ever got near there again. I didn’t even want to look at it. If I did, it would drag me back to that hidden world again, only this time, I’d never be able to come back.

We ended up moving away, and I never found out exactly what it was anyway. But six months ago, I was in the area for work so I decided to drop by and see if it was still there. Half the area had been turned into a public lot, but the rest of the ground was still there. I had a flashback to how scared I was that time though, so I was unable to go any closer.

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