The following is a story I wrote when my nephew Erik sent me a Flat Stanley a few years ago. My wife and I turned it into a book, and included an unusual-looking coin I’d picked up in my travels overseas. I’m sure most of the formatting will be lost here, but I hope you enjoy it.
Flat Stanley and the Magic Coin
By Erik’s Uncle Doug
Chapter 1: The Mysterious House
My wife Kathie and I moved into our new home just last year, which was built in 1863— over 140 years ago, during the American Civil War. A home that old isn’t all that rare in Richmond, Virginia, where we live. Richmond is filled with historical landmarks and homes that let us revisit the past, but now we were going to live in a piece of that history and we were very excited.
Best of all, we soon learned that the house was filled with secret passages and trap doors that we explored for hours. We had wild ideas about there being treasure hidden somewhere in the house, but we never found any. Still, they were a lot of fun to play in, and when our nephews Karl and Erik visited they played in them for hours on end. Sometimes they were spies, sometimes they were monsters, but they always had a good time.
But the real mystery of the house began way back when we moved in. On moving day the man who owned it before us handed over a large ring filled with keys, one for each door in the home, he said. I remember thinking at the time that there sure were a lot of keys and I wondered if we even had that many doors.
Slowly but surely, I was able to match a key to each lock in the home, and I labeled each one as I found where it belonged. But when I reached the end of the key ring, there was one door without a key. Thinking back now, I’m surprised I never noticed that locked door upstairs. I tried to tell myself that there was plenty of room in that big old house, that we didn’t need anymore rooms, but in the end I just had to know what was behind that door!
I tried to contact the previous owner to see if he had the key, but he had left town without a trace; no one knew where he went, and had left no forwarding address. So, I took matters into my own hands and tried to pry the door open. Nothing. I tried to take it off its hinges. No luck. I even called a locksmith. He said he’d never seen a lock like it and that he couldn’t open it. It stayed locked, and I eventually gave up. I would have to live with the mystery.
Chapter 2: Flat Stanley Arrives!
Given all that’s happened it’s hard to believe that it was just a few days ago that Flat Stanley arrived, sent to me by my nephew Erik, and Kathie and I were thrilled to have him. He was a pleasant boy, with good manners and a winning smile. We instantly hit it off, telling jokes and playing games for hours on end.
On the third day of Stanley’s visit with us, I told him about the secret passages and trap doors in our home and he was instantly curious about them. “May I see them, pleeeeese?” he begged.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, Stanley. You could fall through a crack in the floor, and hurt yourself,” I cautioned.
“I’ll be really careful,” he promised. “Really.”
I looked at Kathie, who gave a nod of approval. “If you’re really careful and you only go in there with either me or Doug, I guess it would be okay.”
“Yippee!” Stanley shouted. “Can we go now?”
So off we went, to show Stanley the secret passages and the trap doors that lead to all the rooms of our home. We played hide-and-seek and even had dinner by candlelight in the narrow passages. By 8:00 that evening, Stanley finally admitted that he was tired and ready for some sleep. “This has been a wonderful day, but I think I’m ready for bed now.”
“We understand,” Kathie said. Just wash up and brush your teeth and I’ll come tuck you in.”
And off he went.
“What a nice young man Stanley is,” Kathie said.
“Simply wonderful,” I agreed.
Chapter 3: The Big Idea
The very next morning, somewhere between asleep and awake, something in me clicked. Sitting up in bed I said, “Of course, why didn’t I think of it before? Flat Stanley is FLAT!”
Still mostly asleep, Kathie said, “Yes, he is, dear but we love him just the same.”
“No,” I said excitedly, “he’s flat!”
More awake now, Kathie was beginning to catch on, and we said it together: “Stanley could fit under the door!”
Wondering what all the noise was about, Stanley came into our bedroom. “What’s going on?” he asked, yawning and still not fully awake.
“Stanley,” I said, unsure of how he’d feel about taking on something that might be a little scary. “Remember that door upstairs I told you about?”
“Sure I do,” he replied, now gaining interest. “The one you’ve been trying to open since you moved in here.”
“Right. I think I know a way to open it.”
“How?” He asked.
“From the inside.” I said.
“But how would you get on the other side of the door?”
“Then how could you . . .” I could see the idea catch, like a switch had been flipped, and I knew he understood. “Let’s do it!” said Stanley, his smile as wide as he was.
We both ran to the mysterious locked door just as fast as we could, and I could tell Stanley was excited because he beat me there. He may be flat and small, but he could run fast when he wanted to.
“Okay, I’m going to put you under the door slowly and I want you to look around. If you don’t like what you see, I’ll pull you back out just as fast as I can. Is that okay?”
“Sounds good to me,” Stanley said cheerfully.
Gently and slowly I put Stanley under the door, wishing I could be the one to get behind that door first.
“What do you see?” I asked when he was less than halfway in.
“I can’t see much yet,” he said, his eyes still adjusting to the darkness.
I continued to push him under the door until I had just the tips of his shoes in my fingers. “Should I let go, Stanley? Are you all right?”
“Yeah, go ahead and push me the rest of the way in!” he yelled from the other side.
I heard some walking around inside the room and then, “Whoa!”
“What’s going on in there, Stanley?” I asked, concerned.
Stanley’s face appeared under the door, “You have to see this for yourself!”
He disappeared, and then I heard the squeak of a doorknob, turning for the first time in many years, and the creak of a door opening. How long I’d waited for this moment.
Chapter 4: The Discovery
When the door finally swung all the way open, the room appeared to be empty, except for years of dust and cobwebs, with bare wood floors like in the attic. My heart sank and a wave of disappointment washed over me. I’d waited so long to see what was behind this door, and now I knew: nothing. But then I saw Stanley, who was peering up at a large box or chest of some kind. I walked closer and noticed that it reminded me of one of those old treasure chests in those pirate stories I read when I was a kid. In fact, it looked just like one of those old treasure chests.
Stanley’s face was lit up by a soft yellow light. When I looked in the chest I found out why: hanging inside the lid, spinning in place as if by magic, was a silver and gold coin that seemed to glow from within. We both stood and stared at the coin as if in a trance for what seemed like minutes. Finally, I noticed the note beneath it. I slowly reached for the note, almost afraid that disturbing it would break whatever magic held the coin in place. Once safely in my hand, I gently unfolded the note and read it out loud so Stanley could hear: “The power to heal and the power to harm turns on the flip of the coin. In your hand rests destiny.”
“What does it mean?” Stanley asked.
“I’m not sure, Stanley. But there’s more writing at the bottom of the page. It looks like instructions or something.”
I read on: “Turn me once and you shall see but not be seen. Turn me twice and your mind shall command objects to do your will. Turn me thrice and you will know the mind of others.”
“Wow!” said Stanley. Do you really think it has special powers?
“I don’t run into floating gold coins in treasure chests every day, so I suppose anything is possible.”
“Let’s try it!” Stanley urged.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, Stanley. We don’t know anything about this yet. Maybe we should get some advice about this. Old Mr. Edgars has an antiques store downtown. I’ll bet he can help us understand this a little better.”
Chapter 5: Mr. Edgars
I’d been in the store a few times and knew Mr. Edgars pretty well. He was a nice man, who loved children and was always asking about my nephews, Karl and Erik. When Stanley and I walked in together, Mr. Edgars’ face brightened. “I’ve heard so much about you, Stanley!” Mr. Edgars said. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Edgars,” Stanley said, ever the polite young man.
“Now, how can I help you two fine men today?” Mr. Edgars asked.
I began, “Well, you know that door in my home I asked you about, Mr. Edgars?”
“Sure I do. That’s quite the mystery you have on your hands.”
“Well, it’s just gotten more mysterious.”
“With Stanley’s help we were finally able to get in the room, and we found a treasure chest with this gold coin floating inside. We were hoping that maybe you could help us figure out what it was.”
“It was floating, you say?” Mr. Edgars asked, obviously fascinated.
“Yes, and there was a note.”
“May I see it?” the shopkeeper asked.
I produced the coin and note from my pocket, and Mr. Edgars took them both with the eagerness of a child reaching for candy. First he read the note, “The power to heal and the power to harm turns on the flip of the coin. In your hand rests destiny. Hmmm,” he said to himself. Next, he gave the coin a good, long look, turning it over once, twice, three times. “I see it but I don’t believe it. I couldn’t really be . . . “
“What? What couldn’t it be?” I asked.
The Entropic Coin of Antar. There are stories about a coin just like this one going back thousands of years. They say it has special powers, but of course most people dismiss it as over-active imaginations and good storytelling.
“What kind of powers?” Stanley asked, still confused by the mysterious note, but secretly hoping that ice cream would be involved.
“Well, I’ll have to find my book on it to be sure, but I can assure you that it can’t make ice cream appear, Stanley.”
Stanley looked confused. “How did you know what I was thinking, Mr. Edgars? I never said anything about ice cream out loud, I was just thinking about it.”
All three of us stood there, not saying a word, and soaking up the importance of what just happened. Mr. Edgars, while holding the Entropic Coin, had read Stanley’s mind.
Finally, Mr. Edgars broke the silence. “I think I’d better do some research on this coin before it causes too much trouble.”
“What do you think it can do?” Stanley asked.
“I’m really not sure, Stanley. I think this coin may have the potential to do great things or . . . “ Mr. Edgars let his voice trail off, but his meaning was clear. All power can be used for good or evil.
Chapter 6: The Only Safe Place
It seemed like weeks since our visit to the Antiques store, but it had really only been two days. Stanley, Kathie and I still had a great time, visiting local museums and an amusement park, but the coin was never far from our minds. Was it really magic? Did it really have special powers? Where did it come from? So many questions and still no answers. Finally, that Friday, Mr. Edgars called. “I have . . . interesting news,” he said. He sounded tired. “May I come over to see you?”
Of course, Mr. Edgars. Come over right away!” I said eagerly.
Just minutes later, our guest was at the front door, looking pale and exhausted, like he hadn’t slept in days. We all sat in the living room, looking at Mr. Edgars as he began to explain what he’d learned.
“The coin you found—the Entropic Coin of Antar—was originally forged in the year 1200 B.C.—over 3200 years ago—by a powerful sorcerer in service of a king who was basically good, but with a taste for power. If you turn the coin once, you become invisible. You’re still there, but no one can see you. If you turn it twice, you are given the power of telekinesis.”
“What’s telekin . . . ?” Stanley struggled to say a word he’d never heard before.
“Telekinesis is the ability to move objects just by thinking about it, just with your mind,” Mr. Edgars clarified and then continued. “If you turn it three times, you can read other peoples’ minds. Stanley, remember that time at my store, when I knew you wanted ice cream, even though you never said so? That’s what this can do.”
“Wow!” Stanley and I said together.
“So, how did it get in my attic?” I asked.
“That’s the really odd thing,” Mr. Edgars continued. “I traced it all the way to through Asia and then through Europe, including Ancient Rome and the lost city of Atlantis, but all records stop there, and no one has ever seen it or heard from it since. I think everyone assumed that when the city was lost forever, so was the coin. There were even rumors that it was the coin that caused the downfall of Rome and the loss of Atlantis, though I can’t confirm it. What it’s doing here in Virginia, and how it got here, I have absolutely no idea.
“Now,” Mr. Edgars continued, “the note you found with the coin. I looked through all my research books and found nothing, until I found a rare and little-known book of spells and incantations. Turns out that what’s written on the note isn’t just a warning about abusing the coin’s powers—which is certainly is—it’s also the incantation that unlocks the coin’s abilities. Do you remember what I did just before reading your mind, Stanley?”
“Sure, you read the incan . . . incanta . . . “ Stanley stumbled.
“Incantation. It’s like a witch’s spell, and you’re right. If I hadn’t said those words before turning the coin over, nothing would have happened. It’s like a combination lock—you have to do things in a certain order for it to work. Understand?”
Stanley and I both nodded, still unsure this was all really happening. Magic isn’t real, is it?
“But here’s the thing about the incantation. Every time you say it, it’s a reminder that in the wrong hands, the coin’s powers can be used for good or for evil. I’ll admit that in the last two days I’ve tested the coin’s power a few times—only to help others—and the power is intoxicating. It makes you feel so good, so alive, and all you want is more. I can easily see how in the wrong hands the ability to turn invisible, read minds, and move objects with your thoughts could make you end up doing bad things, even if you didn’t mean to.” Mr. Edgars sighed heavily before going on. “Which is why I feel that it belongs in the hands of someone with a pure heart, soul, and mind—someone with the purity of a child.”
Stanley was hanging on every word Mr. Edgars said, and processing it all as fast as he could. He understood the words, but their meaning was a few beats behind. Then, with the words still hanging in the air, I saw the light of understanding in Stanley’s eyes. “You mean you want me to have it? For real?”
“If that’s all right with your uncle, that is. Do you agree, Doug?”
“Completely,” I said, agreeing with Mr. Edgars that there was no better place for something so powerful than in the hands of someone so innocent. “But you have to promise to use the coin only for good and never hurt anyone with it.”
“I promise, I promise, I promise,” Stanley yelled, now so excited he could barely contain himself. “Can I share it with my friend Erik?”
“Is he as good a boy as you?” Mr. Edgars asked.
“Oh yes, he’s very good, and smart, too,” Stanley replied.
“Then I guess it’ll be all right,” Mr. Edgars said, approvingly.
Stanley returned home to Erik and his big brother Karl, and told them of his time in Richmond with me and my wife and Mr. Edgars, and showed them the coin and the note, and about its powers to do good. Right then and there, they all three swore an oath to only use the coin to help people in need and to right wrongs. And so they did.
When Erik learned that a bully was going to hurt one of the other kids in his class, he used the coin to turn invisible and find out when and where it was going to happen so he could warn his friend.
When Karl saw an elderly woman crossing the street in the path of a speeding car, he quickly recited the incantation, turned the coin twice, and used his mind to move her safely out of the way.
And perhaps best of all, when Erik saw that Flat Stanley was sad, he chose not to use the ring to read his friend’s mind. Instead, he sat with him and talked and eventually they laughed. Sometimes best use of power is knowing when not to use it.
What would you do with the ability to turn invisible? To read minds? To move things with just a thought? Think about it. Your imagination is the most powerful thing of all.
The power to heal
and the power to harm
turns on the flip of the coin.
In your hand rests destiny.
Turn me once and you shall see
but not be seen.
Turn me twice and your mind shall command objects to do your will.
Turn me thrice and you will know
the mind of others.