2.15.2010

Richard Hutchins' Diary, 100 Cupboards Bonus Content




Now that ND Wilson's blog tour for The Chestnut King is over, I thought it would be ideal to collect all of Richard's Hutchins' diary entries in one place. What follows are five entries with visits to Cupboards #31, #44, #72, #63 and #23, as well as links to the blogs where they first appeared. Enjoy!



(First published entry, posted at Mundie Moms on 2/8/2010)

This notebook belongs to Richard Hutchins. If you find it, please return to Richard Hutchins (currently living in the seaport of Hylfing). Even though it is old and belonged to someone else first, I discovered it beneath some floorboards, and it is mine now. Do not read it. If you took it out of my pocket because you found a dead boy and you were wondering who he was; now you know that my name was Richard Hutchins. I am the dead boy. Please notify Anastasia Willis, daughter of Francis and Dorothy Willis, (currently living in the seaport of Hylfing) that I have died. And give her this notebook. Especially please do not read this next part, just a little ways down, which begins with the word ANASTASIA and ends with the word DEAD.


(Extra Note: If you have never heard of the seaport of Hylfing, that is probably because I have died in the wrong world. To me, worlds are mere chalk squares in a scotch-hop. I now venture to hop them. Possibly to my demise. I’m sorry that my body should be a burden to you. A shallow grave and short prayer is all I ask.)


Anastasia: You were wrong about me. I can be brave. I have been brave many times. I have faced terrors and enemies and demeaning comments. I have been stabbed (and if my memory serves, you haven’t). Perhaps I seemed weak when we first met. I was weak then, especially compared to the likes of Henry York and Ezekiel Johnson. But I was also young. Now, I am thirteen. Nearly. Definitely (if I die) by the time you read this. And I am unafraid. I have returned to the lonely Kansas house. I have returned to the attic. I have faced the doors. I have faced death. I might even be dead. If I am, and you’re reading this, then you can have everything. Even my three best wool socks (I haven’t had time to finish knitting the fourth). They’re yours Anastasia. Just like I am. Or was. I did all this to show you my courage. Please don’t feel badly just because I’m dead.


Exploration #1

The first cupboard I have chosen to test is on the right side of the wall, four up from the floor. In this notebook (which I did not steal—I tried to give it to Henry, but he didn’t want it) there is a short description of the door. (Anastasia, I think your great-grandfather wrote it.)


#31. Collected 1902, Fourth Britannic Tour. Single-pull drawer, oak and sterling, lateral grain. First report: Drunkard in The Swallowed Hog (London Bridge) complaining of a drawer that held weeping, laughter, voices, and even torchlight. Confirmed and purchased. Further observation: drawer cycles in activity. Progression repeats nightly, but appears dormant in between. Activity begins with voices, the low rumblings of a crowd. Ends with distant shouting and applause.


Anastasia, I think your grandfather wrote this next part later. The handwriting is different. (And he put a combination in the margin, too.)


[Partition/Globe, H-let/True pas? Alt?]


I don't know what he meant by that, but no matter. The time has come for adventuring. I will now attempt to enter the cupboard. (Goodbye. Perhaps forever.)


(Second published entry, posted at books4yourkids.com on 2/9/2010)

Survival. Ha! I, Richard Hutchins, have done it. The compass knobs are a mess, and the door is half off its hinges, but the combination still had its effect. I crawled through the downstairs cupboard (not forgetting the rope!), and I didn’t die. At first, I thought I had crawled into dark emptiness, but no, not at all—my small doorway was hidden behind a heavy curtain. When I moved it aside, I was looking down upon (and smelling) a sea of gaping, unwashed people, pressed in tight, shoulder to shoulder, and completely filling a circular court open to the sky (with moonlight). And they were all looking at me. Or in my direction, for I was lying on my belly on a high stage (with my face peering out beneath the curtain). Also on stage, a man in black was talking to a skull in a very strange voice, and acting drunk . . . certainly mad. I could only just make out his words, when a hand caught me by the ear and I was dragged back beneath the curtain. Anastasia, did I scream? Did I squeal in fear? No. I am Richard Hutchins. I do not do these things. A hugely fat man spattered my face with a whisper.

“Ophelia,” he said (I think). “Into your dress before I carve your face and eat your ears.”

Clearly, he had mistaken me for someone else, but he was tearing at my shirt. I kicked him like a warrior (shin and groin!) and dove for my rope. And now I sit, writing safely, on the remains of your grandfather’s bed. A sun shines on the grassland beyond the empty windows. If possible, my courage has grown with this little adventure. It is time to choose another door.

#44. Collected 1903. Greek Isles. Long oval. Horizontal grain, pull knob. Upper hinges (hatch). First report: Sailors claimed a captain who possessed a hatch to Hades. Too small for men, large enough for small animals, poultry, etc. They had tested it themselves. Swore that it had swallowed living chickens, turtles, cats, and even a monkey. No chance for confirmation. Boarded the ship, drugged the captain, removed his hatch by crowbar.

[Lab/Knoss/Alt Pas. back 4M?]

I admit, Anastasia, my nerves are tingling like tin soldiers. But I will do it.


(Third published entry, posted at Becky's Book Review on 2/12/2010)


Tired and sore, I, Richard Hutchins, again face new journeys. Anastasia, your grandfather’s tattered and filthy bed invites me to rest my weary bones and nurse my wounds (I still have a pinch in my hip from yesterday’s dangling). But onward I intrepidly press. Cupboard #63 awaits—along with glory, discovery, and the possibility of a grisly and unnatural end. I have already set the combination in the attic.

After yesterday’s sudden drop, I have decided to investigate this cupboard with more of my traditional caution. On all fours, I approach the small door, pencil in hand, sliding this journal ahead of me.

Darkness. I see no sun. No harbor. But I can hear . . . splashing?

!!

I apologize. I had no time to write more in the suddenness of that moment. Sour, warm, sea foam just slopped through the cupboard and onto the carpet. I leapt backward, forced to scramble across the room or become moist. (And I would apologize for damaging the floor, if Henry and your sister, Henrietta, hadn’t already done enough to destroy it years ago when we first met—your father’s bloodstain is still visible).

Should I choose another cupboard? Water has never been my friend, particularly when connected to anything oceanic. No. Courage, Richard.

The wash has crept out again. Wherever the other side of the cupboard is, it is clearly within the reach of waves. When the next wave recedes, I shall make my move. . .

Perhaps after the next one . . . Or the next . . .

I don’t want to do this. But I can’t go home now. You’ll know. You’ll see it on my face. Forward. I’m leaving the journal on your grandfather’s bed. If that’s where you (or any other) find it, then Richard Hutchins has been lost at sea. Do not mourn me unless you mean it.

Never mind. I’m bringing the journal. I need something to hold.



This place is dark. And cold. And wet. Excuse my penmanship, I am writing by the light of a weak moon, perched on a damp rock with very wet feet and trousers clinging to my stinging ankles. In a moment, my eyes will surely to adjust.

The tide seems low by the sound of things. But there is also a clattering with each wave, I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the rattle of tumbling pebbles.

I appear to be in some kind of ruin. A long mound of rubble stretches away into the sea, and I am seated near what must have been the base of a great tower—I’d wager it’s the remains of the lighthouse noted by your grandfather. I can make out ships now, most without sails. Oared ships, but big. No engines. No smokestacks.

The clattering again. The foam is rising. Black objects are rolling around the foot of my pedestal.

Ah, there’s an engine, and a fast one, gauging from its roar. No! Wave!



Horror. Horrible. Anastasia, I shiver. The pages are ruined. Can you read this? Why am I even writing? The water swept me off of my seat, and it is only by luck that I dove for the cupboard—I and ten thousand crabs. They were the rattling pebbles, Anastasia. I have been pinched and snipped and covered with viciously clicking legs. The soaked carpet is swarming with them. I may not be able to leave the safety of this bed. Big crabs, little crabs, and sinister medium crabs. Side-walking villainy surrounds me. Black and green crabs—hungry, I’m sure. Smelling me, no doubt. They want my meat.

What would you expect of Richard Hutchins? Fear? Inaction? Well, I acted Anastasia, and the cannibal crabs can feast on each other tonight—not on me. I jumped from the bed and into the hall (and oh, the awful crunch beneath my feet). Upstairs, I reset the combination and again, I had to face the pinching hordes—this time on my knees. Crunching shells and crushing lives as I crawled, my soft hands easy targets for their revenge, but I overcame. I am home. The streets of Hylfing greet me, though I am afraid that your grandfather’s room will soon be a foul-smelling graveyard. It may be a week before I venture through the worlds again, but when I do, I have chosen my path:



#72. Collected 1907. White ash. Tarnished copper corners. First report: Collector in Constantinople dismayed at having lost items within a locked cabinet. Tested repeatedly, always confirmed. Invited examination. Acquired easily after a rich supper and at the cost of only one drugged bottle of whiskey.



(Fourth published entry, posted at Eva's Book Addiction)

There is a scrape four inches long on my right ankle. In all the madness of my journeys, I can’t even name the cause—perhaps a bone as I raced through the labyrinth. My ear is still red and slightly swollen from being pinched by the terrible man in the first cupboard. And, as I banged my face inside that same cupboard on my return, there is a small bruise on my right cheek (I’m sure it’s noticeable).

If you had taken the time to look, your opinion of me would have changed. Would you have felt sympathy? Admiration? Maybe. When lunging out of the labyrinth, I rug-burned my wrists on your grandfather’s carpet. Unhealed, they sting and stick to the paper as I write.

This morning, as I returned to this carcass of a farmhouse, I am even more committed to adventure, to danger. Perhaps, when we see each other again, there will be a gouge halving my eyebrow. Or maybe I will lose an eye entirely. If my half-blindness and a velvet eye patch is what is required to get you to see Richard Hutchins for what he is, so be it.

Disappointment. I will admit it. I have sworn not to lie to you. I was expecting treasure in this new cupboard. Ghosts of crusaders the journal said (though I haven’t any idea what a crusader is).

I got stuck. The cupboard connected to a hidden panel in a ceiling. As soon as I began to make my way through, I felt something pull me forward. But it wasn’t pulling me forward, it was pulling me down, and it wasn’t something, it was gravity (as your world calls it).

My head and shoulders and arms swung suddenly out of a ceiling, dangling awkwardly six or seven feet above the floor in an empty room. I just managed to spread my legs in time (still horizontal in the farmhouse cupboard), and I barely caught myself.

I couldn’t worm back in (my arms wouldn’t fit—the sides were too tight), and my head began to feel as if it would explode with blood. And my hands turned purple. Hours, yes, hours I dangled there, and I won’t tell you that I didn’t cry. Tears dotted the dusty floor beneath me.

To make matters worse, one small window let in the clattering sounds of danger. Men were shouting, horns were blowing, drums were beating. I could hear steel on steel, and horses screaming in rage and death and injury. The sounds rose and fell all day. They traveled. I was a misplaced and entirely vulnerable gargoyle, just waiting for someone with a sharp object to do me in.

You might think that I should have let myself fall the rest of the way through. But think of it, Anastasia, how could I have returned through a door in the ceiling? There were no chairs and no tables to boost me back up. Should I have run outside, into a massacre, and asked someone for a ladder? I made the wise choice. I dangled, and I waited.

I think I was asleep, or simply dazed, when the door opened. The scream is what roused me, and then the chattering of an angry old woman with rings in her wrinkled and pore-pocked nose. She beat me with a broom, Anastasia, like I was that brightly colored hollow donkey full of candied sugars at your last birthday celebration.

At the first, I covered my head with my arms and writhed and begged her to stop. But the blows stung, and the stinging woke my courage. I caught the broom (though it raked my knuckles), and I tore it from her. The tide had turned and I struck! Yelling like Fat Frank in one of his fits, I smacked that old woman in the ear, and she rushed back out the door.

Well, now I had a broom didn’t I? That was something. I looked around. The ceiling had beams (I had tried to reach them before). The broom handle was just long enough to slide above two of them. A brace! Something to push against! I slid upward, backward, just far enough to catch myself when the handle snapped.

I must hurry back to Hylfing now. Someone must have missed me, but my legs are still tortured with the prickles—the departing needles of numbness—and so I will rest on the floor and choose tomorrow’s cupboard (see, I am not deterred). Here is your great-grandfather’s description, and your grandfather’s odd addition at the end:

#63. Collected 1905. Small vertical rectangle. Six-pointed star keyhole. Petrified maple? Alder? First report: Egyptian merchant told the story of a small stone-wood box that sank his ship. First purchased from an Indian astrologer who claimed to see a younger sun through its keyhole. When opened, the box revealed an elevated perspective of a harbor. The box was lost at sea when huge quantities of shattered stone emptied from its mouth, rupturing the hull of the merchant’s small vessel, and sinking the craft entirely. Acquired at great expense. Retained merchant as guide and hired ten local sponge divers for twenty-six days before success.

[Lighthouse/Alex/Alt pres]

Goodnight, sweet A. I hobble back toward the world we share.


(Fifth published entry, published at Fireside Musings on 2/12/2010)

Richard,

First, I saw you sneaking out of my room. Don’t ever go into my room again, or Uncle Caleb’s dogs will snack on you in the night.


Second, I know you put this journal on my pillow. Stop being such a creep. The fact that you even touched my pillow means that I’ll have to burn it immediately. Did you think any of this would impress me? Sneaking around writing about yourself? Could you be weirder?


Third, I don’t believe any of it.


Fourth, if you want to impress me, change. Don’t be you anymore. Don’t be the Richard Hutchins who calls himself Richard Hutchins. I’ve seen you wear pink sweatpants, and I won’t ever forget it. But if you want me to try, start playing baseball. Be normal. Don’t notice if you get hurt. Never, ever, ever whine to me or anyone else about anything again. That would be a start.


Fifth, I don’t care that you’ve been stabbed and (if you’re not lying) hit with a broom and scratched on the ankle and bruised on the face and pinched by crabs. I just read your stupid journal and that was worse than anything you’ve ever gone through.


Sixth, you’re a chump and a sneak and a weasel and an annoying Math tutor. If you died, I probably would be a little sad for you. But I’m sure I wouldn’t notice for a very long time.


Don’t talk to me tomorrow.


Sincerely,


Anastasia


P.S. If you still feel like pretending to be brave, I picked out another cupboard for you from this journal:

#23. Collected 1900. Tin-plated drawer. Single pull. First report: Ireland. Local innkeeper with a sealed room. Cursed, he said, with vipers. Seven guests killed in a week. Locked up since. Wouldn’t let me into the room. After dark, broke in and located the drawer easily (noticeable hissing when opened). Pried it loose and bagged it quickly. Left before morning.


That one should be fun for you. And if I never see you again, at least I’ll know how you died.

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