Ella is trying to fill the long, monotonous days of her summer vacation when she discovers sunlight pouring through a hole in the brick of her cellar. Intrigued, she chips away at it to find the source of the light, which leads her to a princess who is in peril. Will Ella be able to save her and her kingdom from disaster?
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Ella is a bored, inner-city girl trying to fill the long, monotonous days of her summer vacation. As she keeps a promise to her mother to clean the cellar, she discovers a crumbling brick behind an old trunk. Even though it’s raining outside, sunlight pours through the opening. Intrigued, she chips away at the brick to find the source of the light.
To her astonishment, she finds another land beyond her cellar wall, gripped in the freshness of spring. In the land of Neo, she makes new, unusual friends, discovers breathtaking beauty, and learns of Kosmeo who will guide and direct her during all of her adventures.
She discovers Kosmeo has brought her here for a purpose. Princess Onyma must choose a suitor who will eventually rule all of Neo. Many of the citizens of Neo are threatened during this perilous time of choice between good and evil. Can Ella save this beautiful kingdom from disaster?
THE CRUMBLING BRICK is in the tradition of C.S. Lewis's and George MacDonald's fairy tales.
“Ella, is your room clean?” called the worn, tired voice from the bottom of the stairs.
“Yes, Grandma,” Ella’s voice rose as if she were yelling through a megaphone, hoping her grandmother would hear and leave her alone. School was bad enough but summer vacation was even worse. To be twelve and have nothing to do but clean her room seemed unbearable. Ella and her mother lived in the city in her grandmother’s apartment, so things had to be done Grandma’s way. Since her mother spent all day at work, it was up to Ella to do Grandma’s bidding.
Ella kicked the big stuffed bear that sat at the foot of her bed. Sometimes she missed the days that she could hug him and find company in his worn brown fur. He was no comfort today and even made her angry for looking so satisfied when she felt glum.
The rain pounded the window as Ella pressed her nose against the glass. The traffic on the street was thick as usual although the water muffled the engine noise. She sighed as she turned to look around her room, staring at a poster on her wall portraying a unicorn drinking from a brook, his long mane brushing the water. Behind him loomed a huge castle, as grand as any in real or fairy tale life. As she gazed at the picture, Ella's heart ached with a great longing that she didn’t understand. Why did beautiful things hurt as much as they caused pleasure?
She plodded down the stairs to see what Grandma was up to. She peeked in the kitchen and noticed her dealing the cards out into a game of solitaire. “Come sit down and play some cards with me.”
“No thanks, Grandma,” she tried to answer cheerfully. She thought if she played one more game of rummy, she’d scream.
“Suit yourself. You’d better start on the cellar then or your mother will have a word or two for you when she gets home.”
“I hate that place. It’s dark and damp and smells like something died down there.”
Grandma laughed, “I suppose that’s why it needs cleaning – sooner started, sooner done.”
Ella knew better than to argue with Grandma. She was easy to get along with unless she was defied and then she got that snap in her eyes that made you wish you were invisible. Ella almost marched down the basement stairs to the rhythm of Grandma shuffling the cards, the tap of her shoes and the drum of the rain.
As she brushed cobwebs out of her path, she decided to start with the far corner. It was the only place that wasn’t damp from the rain. She leaned over, bracing her foot against the wall to pull out the huge trunk in front of it. Upon giving a great heave, the trunk budged a fraction of an inch and Ella heard the old brick behind it crumble. Pretty soon the whole place would come down around their ears, she thought. Another tug brought the trunk closer. Ella gasped, letting go of the trunk, her momentum throwing her backwards onto the hard, muddy floor. As the trunk slid outward, bright sunlight poured from behind it.
“What in the world? How can there be sunlight coming through that wall? There’s only mud behind it.” Ella's strength increased as her curiosity soared. With a powerful jerk, the trunk came sliding across the floor. She could now see that the brilliant light was shining through a disintegrated brick, the hole perhaps five inches wide. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed an old hammer hanging on the wall. Grabbing it, she began pounding at the old brick as sunlight beamed on her through the bricks that had fallen apart.
At last the hole was big enough to look through. Ella's heart fluttered as she saw green waxy leaves all about and smelled lilacs and apple blossoms. She dropped the hammer now and pulled the crumbling bricks apart with her hands, widening the space so that she could squeeze between the crumbled bricks.
Stepping out into a grassy area with the green waxy leaves surrounding her, she realized that she was behind a clump of bushes. Whirling to gaze at the place from which she had just come, she found it comforting to see the chipped brick lying about and the huge trunk sitting sideways in the old cellar. After brushing all the dust and dirt off of herself, she crept to a gap in the bushes to peer out. What she saw caused her to suck in her breath as if she’d caught her teacher kissing the mailman. A unicorn drank from a brook, his long mane delicately touching the water. In the distance a great castle loomed above the trees, its spires glittering like rubies against the bright blue sky. Ella wanted to run out into this glorious land but she would not trust her senses. She turned again to see the reassuring brick of the cellar. How could this be? Even though questions rolled around in her head, she felt nothing but gladness to have discovered something so wonderful in her dingy basement on this rainy day.
The unicorn jerked his head up glancing her way, then bounded into the woods.
"Don't go," Ella found herself calling.
"You'll never get a unicorn to stay around that way!"
Ella jumped at the sound of a small voice next to her. She turned to see a little man about a foot tall. His snow white beard reached his knees, neatly braided into three separate braids, which contrasted with his bright red hair, not red as we know red hair, but red as a candied cherry, and it stuck out in all directions from underneath his brown cap. His huge mouth, at least twice the size of a human mouth, startled Ella the most. His perfectly round nose and purple eyes made her feel like laughing.
"What kind of creature are you?" asked the little one with a his forehead wrinkled and his mouth looking like it could swallow an apple whole.
"I'm a girl," Ella answered, offended at having to explain something so obvious. Her anger flared even more as the wee man burst into laughter.
"Who ever saw a girl in old, faded pants and a man's shirt. Surely you can think of a better story to tell me than that if you don't want me to know the truth."
"But I am telling the truth," Ella said in a voice that sounded just like it did when she had to defend herself against a teacher who accused of cheating. "In my world, girls dress this way."
The little one stopped laughing at once and stared at Ella. "You come from another world?" His purple eyes grew large with wonder and fear.
"Yes, I do!” Ella declared as she pointed, "My world is right through that wall...". She stopped mid-sentence as she turned in panic to see that the hole was gone. The panic strangely turned to peace a moment later for no logical reason, although wonder still pervaded her thoughts.
The little one’s eyes grew larger still. "You can walk through walls?"
“No, I can't walk through walls." Ella sighed as she plopped to the ground and told the little man the whole story.
"Well, one thing is certain”, he said as every line in his face lifted, "you are here for a reason and I am sure it is a good one. Probably Kosmeo himself sent you. It is my pleasure to know you." The little man took off his brown cap and bowed low until his beard lay on the ground.
Ella didn't know where to begin in asking this odd fellow what he meant. She decided to start with simpler things so she asked him his name. “I’m Ella. Who are you?”
"Mika, is my name as was my father's and his as far back as anyone can remember."
"Mika", Ella let the name sink in as she realized that he was her only friend in this new world. "Is everyone here like you? In looks, I mean."
"Oh no!" Mika looked at her as if she’d asked if they were all gooney birds. "What a boring world that would be. I must admit that we are well represented in Neo however."
"Neo, is that what this land is called?"
"Yes indeed, my lady."
"What in the world should I do now, Mika? I don’t know anything about this place."
"Come home with me,” Mika said as he reached up to grab the edge of her shirt since he couldn’t reach her hand. He let go of it just as quickly and shook his head. “Oh dear, that will never do; you are much too large for my house." Mika twirled the braids in his beard as he frowned in earnest thought. "I know." He smiled as if he just found the cure for cancer. "Sequor will take you in. He always knows what to do."
That is how Ella found herself following a little man one foot tall through a strange and beautiful land while the rain drizzled down the windows somewhere on the other side of the brick wall.