$19 raised out of $160,000

Explore the Magic Horn and the amazing Universe in The Horn’s Hoax.
It’s always a sword or a dagger, but not in The Horn’s Hoax.


Some stories were never meant to tell. Some were built on a dream and others by your children. 

Hello, my name is Hector C. Kalifa. The Horn’s Hoax: The Forbidden Instrument is my debut novel and Book One of the series The Horn’s Hoax.

The writing of The Forbidden Instrument was an unexpected pleasure for me, as I would never have imagined myself writing a book.

It all began in September 2019. It was intended to be a ten-page short story. A story of how I play with my children. As I wrote, my imagination and my taste for writing kept me working. I realized on a blank page I can create amazing things and let my imagination fly. Words kept coming, and I discovered the hard work of building a story; that’s why it took me too long for this first book. With the help of many people, I gave my heart to create my first Art. So I hope this story reaches all the readers who enjoy fantasy. (At the bottom is the beginning of The Forbidden Instrument)

My desire is to keep amazing covers through the entire fantasy series. For me, it’s hard to get funded because my book is more for MG kids and up to 16 years old. The MG kids don’t have credit card and are not used to fund books. I ask you to help me build an amazing cover for Book 2 like I did for The Forbidden Instrument, and for hiring the editors I require.

The Horn’s Hoax: The Forbidden Instrument

Kim Dingwall is an excellent illustrator with amazing creativity. She did the cover for my  book 1, which ended up being a beautiful cover. My budget for book 2, which is already written, is limited. That’s why I need your support.

 You can find Dingwall’s work here. I might hire another good illustrator as Kim.

I live in Monterrey, Mexico with my wife and my four children, two boys and two girls.

Here are some illustrations I’ll gift.

Divine’s Logo
Snake Inside the Bottle. Drink it, or you’ll die.
Dark Red Horn
Blue Horn
Crystal Case

Prologue (The Forbidden Instrument)

Blue energy sparked through the black circle in the sky as a body fell, smashing the ground with a thud. The portal vanished.

The brother rapidly stood up. “No, no, no, — Why? What the hell have you done?” he howled to himself, searching for the portal. He paced side to side, hands wringing. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening, he kept thinking. A lump formed in his gut, and his breath quickened. The more he thought about it, the more his heart raced. The tension moved through his chest, up his throat, until he unleashed a scream of fury.

It was partly his fault. He could’ve pulled his brother inside the portal.

He hesitated. To his left, a swirl of dust. To his right, a rolling bush. “Where am I?” he asked out loud. He was standing on a road, alone in a desert, clutching a small, strange animal horn.

Damn it,” he yowled, staring at the horn. He raised his arm to toss it away; then, a thought struck him. He ground his teeth in frustration because he couldn’t get rid of it—it was the only way to get back to the portal.

He clenched the horn, face reddened in anger, and yelled, “Itenelum, Dantus.” He repeated, “Itenelum, Dantus.”

Nothing. The horn wasn’t activating.

He headed down the road. The radiant sun beat down. He hoped to return to where he had suffered the strangest experience he’d ever had.

In the distance, metal clattered. He raised his burned face, eyes squinting at the smudge on the horizon, and eyed a billboard. The advertisement promised Coffee Cheer, Morning Cheers.

He gasped, widening his eyes. “The sign.”

He hastened to the billboard, looking for the dirt road. He stopped, and his face dropped again. No dirt road, only bushes. He sprinted to the bushes and yanked several from the ground. “Where is the road?”

Could he get back to the cabin? There was no dirt road to lead him.

He walked a few paces away from the bushes, his hands dirty and bleeding. Now he thought of getting home. But had his family survived? He walked toward his house, his weary feet dragging on the ground.

He recalled his experience and sensed ominous times ahead. As if the ones he’d already lived through weren’t enough.

Soon, the hum of a motor approached as an old pickup drove towards him. Finally. Covered in dust, he waved the vehicle down as he tucked the horn in his jacket.

The driver squinted at him, then shrugged and slowed to a halt. He backed up and addressed the brother. The driver was bald, with wrinkles on his forehead and a long white beard.

At the obvious question he wanted to answer, I just waved my hand for no reason. Instead, he said, “Yes, please. I have been walking for hours and have no cell phone.”

“Where’re you headed?”

Anywhere out of here, the brother thought. “Near Austin,” he said with a forced smile.

“Hop in. I’m going that way.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

The clock on the dashboard flashed a useless twelve o’clock, and the radio was off. The brother hesitated to ask about the date; a scruffy guy on the side of the road asking that sounded normal, right? He remained silent.

The driver held a one-sided conversation that the brother mostly ignored. He stared out the window, his hand on the horn in his pocket and his mind on the experience before the black hole. The driver kept chattering.

When they finally arrived at the outskirts of Austin, he asked the driver to drop him off near his house. He stepped out and, embarrassedly, offered only a thank-you. He had no money.

He hesitated a second in trepidation after the pickup left him, then rushed toward home.

There were no cars in the house.

“Oh, no,” he wailed. He feared death had visited his family.

The brother approached the door and rang the bell. No one answered. He searched for the hidden key below the flowerpot—it was still there—and went inside.

“Mom? Maya? Are you here?”

No one answered. He glanced around and sighed, smiling. He saw a picture of them. They still lived in the house.

He needed to figure out the date. He hurried to a laptop, opened it, and waited for it to boot up.


It was a lovely summer evening when Henry arrived home for the day. Unfortunately, the weather was at odds with his mood.

He walked in the door with his black hair disheveled, his tie loosened, and his shirt untucked and half-unbuttoned. His green eyes were swollen with exhaustion.

“You look dreadful,” said his mother, Susan, as she washed the dishes.

He gasped in pain, less physical and more mental. “It’s just work, and Robert,” he complained.

“Stop with that,” Susan said. “Robert is not who you assume he is.”

“How would you know, Mom? Dad hated him almost as much as I hate this job.”

“Hated? You know they were friends, right?”

“You never saw them at work. And before Dad … you know. They argued a lot since they hired me as an intern.”

“Coworkers can argue. And what would your father think about his son detesting the company he worked for his entire life?”

“I don’t know. But every day I go to Vultock, it just reminds me about what happened to him…” Henry paused to swallow. “— and his disappearance.” The tears he held back turned his eyes bloodshot.

Susan left the dishes, approached, and hugged him. “You need to let out your feelings, Henry. It’s been, what, two months since your father disappeared? Have you cried?”

“You can’t ask me that, Mom. Everyone has their own process of grieving. Besides, I need to be strong for Moris and Maya,” his voice quavered.

“Oh Henry, that doesn’t make you strong. It doesn’t matter if you are sixteen or sixty; you can cry. Otherwise, the grief will consume you, and you’ll lose control of yourself. But for now, you can find another job if it would make you feel better.”

“No. Now that it’s a summer job, I have full time to find out what happened to Dad and how Robert’s involved.”

Robert and his Dad, Kevin, worked together at Vultock enterprise long before Kevin disappeared.

“C’mon, Henry. You can’t say he’s involved if you haven’t found proof.”

“I’m working on it. Meanwhile, I’ve got to pretend I like him.” Henry added, “You know the last conversation I had with Dad, he seemed upset and said he was leaving Robert’s department. Everyone knew about the growing dislike between them.”

“Remember that your father trusted him.” Susan looked him over and changed the topic. “But for now, go get cleaned up. Your siblings are waiting for you to play The Game.”

Moris and Maya came running down the stairs and greeted him with big hugs. “Henry! Henry! Come and play The Universe Game,” Moris begged, gazing up at him with pleading eyes.

“Yeah, let’s travel in the blanket fort like we used to play with Dad,” said Maya.

Now sixteen, Henry wanted his siblings to have the same experiences of living with Dad. They wouldn’t be interested in playing much longer. Maya, at twelve, was almost done. Moris was only a year younger but more fanciful and might play longer.

Henry’s nose scrunched. “You both stink.” He made his voice hoarse, imitating Dad. “Take a bath and brush your teeth. Then we play until ten.”

“Let’s see who finishes first,” Moris said and raced off to complete his tasks.

Not even four minutes passed before the kids rushed back. Moris started to speak, “Let’s—”

Susan frowned. “Really, that fast?”

Moris scampered with his sister and jumped onto the big bed to play The Game. Henry sighed, turned to his mother, and gave a weary look. Susan shrugged and beamed. He headed to the bedroom and stopped in the doorway, staring at the bed. He saw himself playing with his Dad when he was a kid. A flashback that he always tried to avoid. Tears swelled in his eyes. Be strong, he thought as he held the sob in his stomach.

The kids scrambled under the bed sheet.

“It’s my turn to go first,” Maya said.

“Why you first?” Moris asked.

“You were first the last time.”

“She’s right, Moris,” Henry said. “She goes first.”

Henry joined them, and Maya started shaking the bed sheet. She said, “This spaceship wants to go to Dinosaur World.”

The kids made a raspy sound, trembling their body as if the bed flew through different dimensions until they arrived at Dinosaur World. They dashed out of the room and Henry roared, chasing his siblings around the house with a pillow to fight.

Susan watched Henry hunting after them. She grinned, and a tear fell to the floor. For this moment, happiness reigned in the house. They all needed it—that’s why Henry played, even though it crushed his heart.

Henry caught Maya, locked her, and hit her with the pillow. She laughed. He then did the same to Moris.

“Now it’s my turn to choose the Universe,” Moris said, and they trooped back to the bed.

Suddenly, the door of the room slammed. The three of them gasped, startled.

“What was that?” asked Maya.

“Sorry, it was me again,” said Moris.

Maya giggled. “I thought your power was running super fast.”

“It really was me. I stared at the door and shut it with my eyes.”

“You’re obsessed with magic, Moris,” Maya said.

“If it can bring back Dad, then yes. I’m obsessed.”

“Henry, are you sure he’s eleven?” asked Maya, taunting.

Henry chuckled. “Are you sure you’re twelve?”

Maya was different too but in another way. Her gift was superior intelligence.

Henry stood up, went to the window, and closed it. He said no word of it.

“You see, it was the wind,” said Maya.

“Does it matter?” asked Henry, returning to the bed. “Moris, what world do you want to travel to?”

“I want Heroes World.”

They performed the same ritual, rubbing the bed sheet and trembling their bodies as they flew to it. Moris darted off with a zoom sound as fast as he could.

“Look, it’s the Flash,” Maya taunted, rolling her eyes as she got off the bed.

“Stop Maya, you picked the last world,” said Henry.

“I’m bored with this one,” she replied.

Maybe they had less time with Maya than Henry had thought. He got closer and said in a low voice, “Do it for Moris. Do it for Dad.”

Maya sighed, then flexed her arm muscles. “I’m Captain Marvel,” she announced, and punched Henry in the chest.

Henry groaned and stood up, towering over her. “You can’t hurt Hulk.”

Maya’s eyes widened, and she ran out of the room with a yell.

Henry chased them around the house.

On the run, Maya tripped on a step and fell. Gripping her knee, she started to cry. Henry hurried over and examined the injury. It didn’t seem bad. He bent and kissed the wound. “My strength is yours,” he said, just as Dad did when someone got hurt.

At these familiar words, Maya tears turned to sobbing.

Henry was stoic, like always. He swallowed the lump in his throat and hugged her in silence.

The ceiling light blinked right as a picture on the wall of Mom and Dad rattled. The kids didn’t notice, but Henry did. He frowned, unsettled. Was it Dad’s ghost? After his father disappeared, he has experienced paranormal events.

Susan came up the stairs, Moris in tow, to check on the crying.

“They miss Dad,” Henry said, low and sad.

“We all miss him,” Susan said tenderly, stroking the kids’ hair. “Remember that he’s always with you, in your—”

“How? He’s dead,” Maya said from her cocoon in Henry’s arms.

“You don’t know that,” howled Moris. “He just disappeared.”

They argued, and Maya pushed her little brother. The ceiling lamps blinked repeatedly, longer than the last time. Everyone watched. BOOM! The light bulb exploded.

They yelped in fright.

“It’s okay,” Susan assured them. “It’s only a power surge.”

“No, it was Dad saying hello, or … or scolding us,” said Moris.

“How’s that even possible?” asked Maya.

“Maybe his spirit came and expressed himself.”

“Spirit?” Maya laughed.

“C’mon kids. Don’t start. Go to bed; it’s ten o’clock.” Susan hustled the protesting children to their room.

Later, after Henry had made himself dinner and the kids were asleep, Susan rejoined him in the kitchen. He asked, “How was your day, Mom?”

“Well,” she said in a quiet voice as she sat beside Henry, “the school called today. They’re worried about Moris. He’s been alone in class and recess. And Maya has been more defiant with her teachers.”

Henry hesitated. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t need to say anything.” She patted his hand. “Anyway, thank you for asking. I’m gonna head to bed; I’m very tired.” She stood up and kissed Henry on the forehead.


Henry frowned. He didn’t recognize the large, old rustic cabin surrounded by trees before him. He glanced around, and haze covered the forest.

Where am I?

Two people exited in a hurry. One was short and bald, dressed in scuba gear with a gold gauntlet wristband and an unfamiliar type of helmet. The other one was normal-sized, dressed all in black, and wore a dark trench coat.

Who are they?

Henry followed the people until a scream echoed from afar. He twisted around, searching for the yell.

What’s that?

The yelling got louder and louder. Henry walked toward the woods, following the noise. The haze covered his sight, and the screams were more intense. He shivered but kept moving. Suddenly, the person in the black trench coat came out of nowhere with sparks in his fist.

Henry jerked awake in bed, gasping. The clock said 6:56 a.m. The screaming continued. “What the hell,” he groaned. He put on the slippers and stood up, eyes half-opened. He followed the shouting downstairs, where his siblings were arguing.

“I called for the bread first,” said Maya.

“I don’t care. I want some too,” said Moris.

“Why don’t you use your magic and make some appear?” scoffed Maya.

Henry looked around for his mother. “Mom!”

The kids kept bickering.

“Hey! What the heck?” Henry scowled. “It’s seven a.m., and you’re already fighting. Stop Moris; she grabbed it first. Find something else.”

“No! Why her?”

“It’s too early to fight for stupid bread. Eat something else.”

Henry heard footsteps coming downstairs. Finally, Mom. He sighed in relief.

“Henry? Can you take the kids to school? Today is their last day.” Susan said hastily as she took the car keys.

Henry’s face dropped again. “Do I have a choice?”

“No, I need to be at work in thirty minutes. I have early client appointments.”

“Okay. I’m taking a bath,” Henry said as he went back to his room.

“Kids, no fighting. Share the bread. Then get ready for school.” Her harsh voice made them agree. “I’ll buy groceries later.”

A few minutes later, Henry came down dressed. “Maya, Moris, let’s go. Get in the car.” Henry hastened to the car. The kids’ pace was slow. So he shouted, desperately, “Hurry up, I need to be at work,”

The kids hurried to the back seat. Entering, Moris grabbed a bow and a steel arrow that was in the car. “Henry, can you teach me archery?”

“No. Leave the arrow.”

“Why not? Dad taught you when you were my age.”

Maya chuckled. “You don’t know how to throw a ball, and you want to throw an arrow?”

“That has nothing to do with it,” said Moris.

Stop,” Henry rasped. “No more talking.”

A silence emerged for a moment.

After Henry relaxed, Moris asked, “Henry? Are we going on vacation like all summers?”

“Yes, please,” said Maya. “That would be awesome.”

Henry glanced at them in the rearview mirror. “I don’t think so. I have a lot of work.”

“Aww,” both lamented at the same time.

“Hey Moris,” said Maya. “Why don’t we travel with your powers?” She cackled at her own joke.

“I will. But I’m not taking you.”

“Stop fighting!” Henry snapped and hit the steering wheel.

The kids froze, startled. “Are you okay, Henry?” Moris asked.

“That’s enough with you two. Why do you always fight so much?”

“What happened to you?” asked Maya back.

“Don’t answer with another question,” said Henry.

“She’s right, Henry,” said Moris. “You’ve been different since Dad disappeared.”

“We’ve all been different. The school called Mom about you two.”

“But you more. And Maya and me, we’re just playing, not fighting.”

Henry recalled his mother saying: grief will consume you. He shook off his bad temper and gave up arguing. They were right, and he knew it. Maybe Mom had spoken the truth—holding his emotions had weakened him.

They arrived at school. Before going in, Maya turned to him. “Henry,” she said in a tender voice. “You don’t have to be brave for us.”

Henry snorted in silence. This girl is really something. “Bye Maya.” he said. He watched Moris and Maya walking beside one another. Maybe they can get along, he thought.Then Moris pushed Maya. Maybe not.

The dash clock read eight a.m; he was almost late for a meeting. He drove quickly across town, parked the car in the parking lot beside the Vultock building, and hurried inside.

Entering the lobby, the receptionist greeted him, “Good morning, Henry.”

“Morning, Raquel,” he replied as he breezed past.

“I want to thank you for what your father did for me.”

Henry frowned and turned back. “What?”

“His herbal medicine cured my terminal cancer.”

“Glad to hear it. I’ve got to go, I’m running late.”

He entered the elevator. As the doors closed, her words hit him. Herbal medicine? Cure her? What was she talking about? The elevator opened on his floor, and there was his co-worker and friend, passing by with his coffee. “Hey Tomas, has the meeting started?”

“You got lucky; it’s cancelled.”

Henry sighed in relief. “Well then, I’m gonna grab a coffee.”

“Hey, hey,” Tomas stopped him and whispered, “Did John accomplish the thing?”

Henry hesitated, glanced around them before answering. “He finished late, but yes.”

“Have you looked at it?”

“Not yet; I need my coffee first.”

“Tell me what you find.”

“Will do.”

Henry grabbed his coffee and sat down at his desk. He turned on the computer and opened the software John had installed. It connected to Robert’s computer. The first thing Henry did was search Robert’s emails. He read many of the emails between Robert and his father. He started from a year ago and read each one. One email a month before his Dad disappeared said:


Listen to me, stop what you’re doing. I’m warning you.

There will be consequences, and you have a family.

Think about it.

P.S. I’ll not warn you again.

Henry’s eyes widened. He kept reading, trying to figure out what his Dad was doing or why he was threatened. He found nothing else in Robert’s emails. Yet, this was proof Robert knew something. He entered the folders on Robert’s hard drive and clicked one by one. One folder was named Bitraculus. An odd name, he thought. He clicked on it, but it was encrypted. His attempts to crack the password all failed.


Henry jerked and closed the software. Robert himself stood in front of him. The fellow had a wrinkled, angry face, always scowling, and his eyes like they were depressed all the time. “Do you have the report on the stone we found under the sea?” Robert asked.

“Not yet. I just received the results. Let me work on it.”

“I thought they gave the data to you yesterday.”

“I had problems accessing it and they had to send it again.”

“I want it today.”

“Yes, sir. You’ll have it this afternoon.”

Henry stopped investigating Robert’s emails and went back to his real job.

Vultock was an artificial intelligence enterprise and one business unit specialized in archaeology. They could trace artifacts and fossils, treasures and know their age and where they came from. Henry’s responsibility was to summarize and present the results of the archaeological artifacts studied.

It took all day and into the evening, but Henry finished the report and sent it off to Robert. He continued his investigation on Robert, but he got stuck in the encrypted folder. He groaned, his eyes red for the computer screen. The clock said eleven p.m. and he was tired.

Henry got up, closed the computer screen, and went for the car. He drove back home, and the thought of Robert’s email couldn’t get off his mind. What does Robert meant when he wrote: ‘there will be consequences’? He entered the house, and there was his mother, sitting at the dinner table, her hands wrapped around a cup of tea. She seemed concerned.

Henry sat down with her. “Hi Mom, how was your day?”

Susan sipped the tea and replied with a dubious face, “I think they liked one of the houses I showed them.”

Henry squeezed her shoulder. “You’ll close a deal. You’re the best, Mom.”

Susan smiled. “And how was your day?”

Henry hesitated, unsure whether to tell her about the email he found. He remembered how Susan felt about Robert and decided he needed more proof. “It was tiring like every other day recently.”

“You didn’t complain when you started working there.”

“I liked it better when Dad was there.”

“You need to get out with your friends, invite a girl to dinner. You have done nothing fun since your father disappeared.”

“I’d love to do that, Mom. I’m exhausted from work. There’s twenty times the number of artifacts to process now.”

Susan hesitated. “You know that any other time, I’d ask you to stop working, right?”

Henry nodded and held her hand. “Don’t worry, Mom. I know we need the money.”

Susan beamed, a tear slipping down her cheek. Her voice quavered, “Thank you.”

Henry stood up, kissed his mother on the cheek, and said, “Goodnight, Mom.”

“Aren’t you gonna eat?”

“I’m not hungry; I’d rather sleep.”

Up in his room, took a photo frame of him and his father playing archery. He paused to look and sighed. He went to bed, took out his cellphone, and killed some time on social media. He was too wired to sleep yet. Pictures of his friends at a house party, others dancing, scrolled on his screen. A girl he liked had uploaded a party photo only minutes ago. He tapped the heart icon below the picture; seconds later, she sent a message: “Join us!”

Henry was tempted. He reread the message several times, looked at the picture once more; instead, he turned off his phone and went to sleep.


Henry woke the next morning earlier than normal. He grabbed a bagel and left for work. At the first traffic light, he passed a car with an advertisement for a rustic cabin surrounded by a verdant forest. Henry frowned; his eyes followed the picture. The car behind him honked, and he jerked his attention back to the road.

Henry arrived at Vultock and parked in his usual spot. Climbing the front steps of the building, he caught from the corner of his eye a billboard flashing the same rustic cabin. He halted and stared at it, raising one brow. Henry thought it looked very familiar, but he can’t place his finger on it. The digital image flipped to the next ad. Henry shook it off and entered the building. Inside, he went straight for a morning coffee.

“What happened?” asked Tomas, after seeing Henry’s haggard face. He stirred his own coffee with a spoon.

“The weirdest thing happened this — never mind. I’m just tired of working with Robert. I think I’m gonna quit.”

“You know you won’t. You are so close to discovering the truth. Have you looked at his emails?”

Henry snorted. “He is involved. Last email I read, Robert threatened my Dad with ‘consequences’, but it didn’t say why or what. Every time I see that bastard, I want to punch him in the face.”

“Shh,” Tomas hissed, staring behind Henry.

Henry whirled around. Robert was ten feet away, eyeing him. Henry’s pulse quickened. Had he overheard anything? Was Henry going to get fired? Even though he hated his job, he couldn’t be fired. All the evidence about his father’s disappearance was here at the company.

Robert walked away.

Henry sighed. “Do you think he heard me?”

“I don’t know. Pray he didn’t.”

“Let me get back to work.”

“Work as in actual work, or work as in work?” Tomas asked with a wink.

Henry smirked and headed to his desk.

An hour later, Robert phoned Henry. “Come to my office, now, please.” And with that, the line went dead.

Henry froze for a second, then slid the chair back and stood up. He walked down the long hallway, shivering. Be calm, he repeated under his breath as his chest tightened. His hands wouldn’t stop wringing. Had Robert heard him earlier?

He entered the office, and Robert didn’t mince words. “Henry, I’ve noticed you acting strangely. And you look dreadful today.”

Henry loosened. He could handle a regular Robert chewing out. If he’d been overheard with Tomas, Robert would’ve just fired him. Henry pulled a sadden face. “Well, what can I say? I miss my father,” his voice was low.

“Take some days off.”

Henry frowned. Is this a trick?

“How am I supposed to take time off now?” he asked, confused. They had a huge workload and there’d been layoffs. Taking a vacation would be seen as irresponsible.

Robert said, “I already filed the paperwork for you, starting tomorrow. Take it as paid time off and relax with your family.”

Henry doubted his boss’s motives. Robert was up to something. Did he know Henry was getting closer to finding the truth?

Nevertheless, the prospect of a break was enticing.

“Well then. Thank you very much, Robert,” Henry said.

So Henry wasn’t fired—for now. He headed back to his desk, opened the laptop, and connected to Robert’s hard drive.

Henry goes straight to the Bitraculusfolder. He double-clicked it and tried again to guess the password. What does Bitraculus mean? He huffed and put the idea aside; there were too many tasks to finish before he left for the week.

Many hours later, the clock on the wall marked nine forty-five p.m. Almost bedtime for his siblings. He left work and drove home, eager to tell his family the news in person. He would want to see Moris and Maya’s reaction.

As he opened the front door of his house, he heard his mother saying, “Good night,” while she closed the upstairs bedroom door. He went to the kitchen.

He opened the fridge and took the first leftovers he could find. Eating them cold, he opened his laptop and began researching for places to visit.

The first result was a beach in Cancun. Too expensive for them. He scrolled through downhill skiing, a ranch, hiking the mountains, a fishing trip. Then, an advertisement with a promotion for a cabin emerged. Henry stopped and stared at it. He shivered. It was the same rustic cabin he’d seen on the car this morning and on the electronic billboard—and in his dream. Was this a joke? He studied it and, as the temptation grew, he clicked on it.

Photos of a picturesque cabin in a forest and families having fun appeared on his screen. He had a strong sense of déjà vu.

“Mom?” yelled Henry. “Come here, please. I want you to see a cabin that looks amazing.”

“Don’t yell,” Susan hollered back.

Henry half-smirked, half-smiled. “You’re yelling at me not to yell.”

Susan came down the stairs. “Why do you want me to see a cabin?”

“They gave me a week’s vacation.”

“Really? That’s strange.”

“Well…” Henry paused, ashamed at what he would say next. “Robert gave me a week to spend time together.”

“You see. I told you, he’s not bad,” Susan said.

Henry snorted and then said, “I found this two-story cabin in a forest. It has three bedrooms.”

“Can we afford it?”

“We can. It has a special discount.”

“Let me see.” She peered over his shoulder, looking at the cabin photos. “It says the weather is semi-cold … in summer?”

“Maybe at night. I don’t know.”

“Seems like a good choice … Let me see other options.”

Henry showed Susan the search results. “Too expensive…” she kept scrolling. “Not for kids … bad reviews … not available. Well, the cabin is the right choice. You have my blessing.”

Henry said, “It’s not quite perfect. It says the caretakers are an elderly couple and are two miles away from the cabin. So, if we need anything in the cabin, it’s a long way to them.”

“We should be fine; I don’t think we’d need them.”

Henry made the reservation. He received a confirmation email with instructions, directions to the cabin, and a map of the forest.