Oscar was a curious boy. He wondered about a lot of things. Why was the sun yellow, and not blue? Why did bluebirds sing, and the owls hoot? He lived with his mother, in a town called Ordinary where every day was the same.
Everyone in the village did the same things every day, without getting tired of the routine. They all liked doing ordinary things, day by day, and disliked change. But Oscar was different; he wanted to learn of the outside world. He was fascinated with what life would be like outside of the village. But no one was allowed to enter the village, or to leave it. And Oscar’s biggest wish in the entire world was to step out the village boundary, and see the world. He knew that there was more to life than just doing the same things over and over again.
He would often ask his mother if they could visit somewhere outside the village, but she always shushed him.
‘Oscar, please don’t ask such questions. Our life is perfectly fine here,’ would be her reply every single time. ‘It isn’t safe out there. Don’t you know curiosity got the cat’? But Oscar didn’t think it was perfectly fine. In fact, he thought it was absolutely dreadful in the town.
The only place interesting in the village was an old abandoned library. No one was allowed to go inside, and rumour was that it was haunted by the ghost of a child that had become enslaved by an evil magician.
Ever since Oscar could remember, the library had been closed, and every time he walked by it, his heart was filled with the desire to go and look inside, to ruffle through pages of the books. If he couldn’t go outside the village, he could at least explore fantasy worlds through books.
So one night, when the moon was high in the sky, Oscar decided that he was finally going to explore the library. After a supper of bland chicken and plain rice, Oscar went up to his room, pretending to go to bed early. He lay in bed, hearing his mother wash the dishes in the kitchen, and the low hum of the television. Every night, his mother followed the same routine, and never seemed to get tired of it. It was as if they were all stuck in time, but Oscar wasn’t. He wanted to move forward, but couldn’t while he was trapped in this village. Tonight, though, he was going to immerse himself in the fantasy world of books.
Awhile later, when the house had gone quiet, Oscar got up from his bed and sneaked out of the house quietly, his footsteps muffled by the carpet. The village was dark, only lit by the dim moonlight. In the distance owls were hooting into the night, singing of wisdom. Oscar pulled his jacket tighter, as dead leaves fluttered through the dark street he was walking through. Upon hearing a shuffling in the dark, he looked around worriedly; he had never been out when it was so dark. What if there were monsters out there?
Oscar should have gone home.
But shaking his head, Oscar continued walking towards the library, his pace faster. It was probably just a squirrel. And his curiosity was greater than his fear. Reaching the library, Oscar looked around to find a way in, as the door was boarded with wooden planks and the windows were covered with thick dust. The library was worn down, like an old man that had little life left in him. He wiped one window with his hand, and peered in. It was very dark, but a sliver of moonlight was shining upon shelves of books filled with worlds much different than Oscar’s.
His heart beating fast, Oscar pulled up one of the windows with all his might and climbed inside. Looking around in fascination, he felt an excitement rising inside him. There were so many books to discover. He walked through the shelves, running his hands across the dusty books.
Which one should he choose, he wondered. There were thin books with gold writing, thick and tall books, some covered in leather binding, all of them worn out as if a hundred fingers had gone through the pages. After much thought, he chose a thick book, with a red cover. Wiping off the dust, it read ‘A Guide to Magical Places & Strange Lands’. Eagerly, Oscar opened up the book, ruffling through the yellowed pages covered with paintings of strange lands. He stopped at a picture of a striking town, lighted with trees covered with jewels. He wondered if such a place really existed outside his gloomy, lifeless village.
As he was going through the pages of the book, a key fell out of the book with a heavy clang on the floor.
Oscar picked it up, turning it around in his hand, wondering which door it opened. Looking through the pages, he read ‘For those who are curious, and wish to see a place of magic, use this key to enter the town of Fireworks. The door to the key will appear to only those who believe. But be warned…’ The rest of the sentence was faded out.
Looking up from the book, he saw an inky blue door had appeared out of thin air. It had an ancient feel to it, with a heavy gold knocker. His hands trembling with excitement, Oscar put the key in the lock and with a slow, long squeak the door opened. Holding the book close to his chest, Oscar stepped into this strange town.
And what a magnificent, strange town it was. The trees were covered with glowing jewels. Emeralds, topaz, sapphires, rubies, all of them as big as Oscar’s fist. There were brightly houses lit all around, and there was a warm, delicious scent of roast chicken and mashed potatoes in the air. Oscar followed the scent to a nearby house.
Now, Oscar knew he shouldn’t, but the thought of food was making his stomach rumble. He knocked on the door tentatively, waiting for a nice old lady to open the door and offer him a warm and delicious meal.
But there was no answer. Looking around, Oscar reached out and opened the door. Stepping in he saw a banquet of food laid out in the centre. Looking around to see if there was anyone around, Oscar took a plate and piled it high with food.
As Oscar was eating a plate full of roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, he heard a shuffling behind him. Turning around, he saw a strange man wearing a long black coat, red bow tie and a top hat.
Before Oscar could say anything, the man took his hat off and pulled out two rabbits out of it! They hopped around Oscar in playful circles. Oscar giggled, a magic show only for him. The magician gave him a silent smile, and proceeded to pull out jumping jacks, clown hats and gold coins out of his hat. Soon there was dancing confetti all over the place, a set of drums and harmonium playing on their own, magically. It was a happy tune, and Oscar started dancing to it in delight. This was the best time he had ever had in his life.
After awhile of many more tricks though, Oscar was feeling sleepy, and he knew he must go home.
‘I have to go home now’, he said to the magician. ‘I’ll come back tomorrow, and you can show me more tricks’.
The magician was silent. He had not spoken a word since he had appeared, thought Oscar. Shrugging his shoulders and clutching the book, Oscar made to move towards the door. But the magician shook his head, and with his index finger spelled out the following words in smoky writing completing the unfinished sentence from the book, ‘But be warned upon entering the town, do not look back to the life of past.’
Oscar ignored the magician, and although his heart was beating worriedly he continued walking towards the door to leave. He twisted the knob, but the door wouldn’t budge. He was locked inside. Alone with the magician. Looking closer at the magician, a shiver went down Oscar’s spine. The magician had a creepy smile, and his eyes looked strangely empty now. Before Oscar could think anymore though, the magician strode towards Oscar, and grabbed him by the back of his jacket and pushed him into a dusty, old cupboard.
Oscar yelled and screamed. ‘Let me out! I need to go home’. He slammed and kicked at the door but it wouldn’t budge. Tears rolled down Oscar’s face, he wanted to go home to his mother. He was willing to do the same things over and over again, just so that he could be home. He fell asleep thinking of his mother and whether she would be worried that he was missing.
The next night the magician came back, and let Oscar out. Once again there was a lavish buffet laid out, and the magician started the magic show and tricks. This time Oscar tried sneaking out the window, but just as he was about to escape, the magician roughly grabbed him and pushed him back into the cupboard.
After a few nights of failing to escape, Oscar realized he was never going to leave the town of Fireworks. He had got all the extraordinary change he had desired in the town of Ordinary, but now all he wanted was to go back home. And every night he would be reminded of one thing his mother had always said to him about curiosity and the cat.
Curiosity had after all, got the cat.