There was a crack in the wall.
Gregory had been up and down every inch of the new house, hoping to find something cool, something special, something that set it apart from their old house, the one his parents had dragged him so far away from that he wasn’t even certain they were in the same country anymore. He missed the friends he’d made in his first-grade class, the soccer team on which he’d been one of the best kickers, and the huge tree that had been in his old backyard, just ripe for climbing. And he missed his old house, which had a secret cupboard under the stairs just big enough for him, a huge old attic with spooky corners where the light didn’t shine, and a closet in his bedroom that was big enough to build a fort in by draping blankets over the clothes racks.
The new house was too tall, too skinny. It was all the wrong colors. It was too close to the houses on either side of it, and the backyard was far too small. He’d thought the fireplace in the living room was pretty cool, but his mother refused to build a fire in it because she had some insane belief that he would, like, just decide to leap into it and burn to death. His mother was always so weird like that, like she thought he was stupid or something. Father knew better, but he also knew better than to question mother’s decisions.
So Gregory searched, from top to bottom, front to back, he searched every inch of every room, praying for something cool, determined to find something that would make this horrible new house interesting. He searched through the old wood-panel cupboards and in the large closet in the porch that had shelves made of unpainted 2×4. He searched every nook of the cement-floor basement and briefly considered the grey pole in the center that his father called a “load-bearing” something-or-other. He knocked on every stair, hoping for secret compartments. He ran his fingers along every inch (that he could reach) of every wall, wondering if there were any hidden doorways. He looked and looked and looked until he was positively exhausted of looking and was finally quite certain that his family had moved into the most boring house on the planet.
And then, on the fifth night in the house, as he was laying awake in bed and wondering what he could do to convince his parents to move back home, Gregory noticed the crack in the wall. It was staring at him from across the room, precisely at eye-level from the position of his pillow, and he was sure – absolutely sure – that it hadn’t been there the previous four nights. He stared at it for quite a while, frowning, his eyebrows furrowed. It was a thin crack, but long – probably as long as his arm. And it was jagged, going up and down, this way and that, but the basic shape of it was like a bit of a semi-circle. It reminded Gregory a bit of a smile.
Finally, too curious simply roll over and go to sleep, Gregory slid out of bed and creeped across his bedroom floor, careful to avoid the spot that he’d learned would let out a loud creeeeeaaaaak if he went anywhere near it. The crack-smile seemed to grow bigger as he approached it, so that by the time he was crouched in front of the wall, reaching out a hand to touch it, it gave him the distinct impression that it was happy to see him.
A little thrill of fear – mixed with excitement – went up through Gregory’s throat, and for a moment he considered dashing back to bed and throwing the covers over his head. But even as the thought crossed his mind, the tips of his fingers brushed the crack in the faded blue wall and a light began to emerge from the tiny space between the slabs of paint.
And as the light grew and grew, filling the room with an unearthly glow that he couldn’t have described if he’d tried, Gregory remembered thinking, “Now this is more like it.”