Philip R Benge
Philip R Benge on Shakespir
Three Journeys of the Scary Kind
Copyright Philip R Benge 2016
Cover Art Copyright Philip R Benge 2016
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Now this is a story about a Pirate, a Priest, a cave on a Greek island, and three boys. Now caves abound on Crete, which is the particular Greek island in question, but only one cave remains unexplored. Hells mouth, which is the name that this particular cave goes by, is a sea cave with a very dangerous welcome mat. Very strong currents plus a whirlpool around the entrance to the cave make it suicidal to go anywhere near it. The cave entrance is a two-metre circular ragged hole in the rock face, mostly under water. If you dare to get close enough you can see the first few metres into the cave, but that is as far as the sunlight can enter, then an inky blackness prevents you from seeing any further. Many have tried to gain entrance to it during the long distant past, to discover how far in the cave goes, but all have died trying, all but one that is. That one person was the pirate captain Black Jack, and it was rumoured that this was where his treasure was hidden. Black Jack though has taken the secret to his grave, for he was said to have entered the cave one day, but never to have reappeared.
Two of the boys mentioned before were named Joseph and Samuel, Joseph who was thirteen years of age, and Samuel who was fourteen years old. They lived in Hastings, a seaside town in England, with their two brothers, Isaac and Reuben, plus their sister Millicent, and of course their Mother and Father. The family was not in Hastings now though, now they were holidaying at the children’s` Grandparents home on the Greek island of Crete. The house was in a small village near to the blue seas of the Mediterranean. For the first week, the family had spent all their time playing on the beach or swimming in the sea, and they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Today though the boys were not on the beach, or swimming in the blue seas that surrounded Crete, no today they were in the large town of Hania. Their parents were dragging them and their siblings around the shops in the old part of town while they searched for something or other, but Joseph had long forgotten what it was. He had tried to relieve the boredom by teasing his sister Millicent, but his Father had given him a glance that told him to pack it in. Now he was wondering if it was possible to walk around the shop with his eyes shut, and to feel the presence of the many things around you with just the power of his mind. He had seen Sam trying to manage it with some degree of success and if Sam could do it then so could he. Joseph was making good progress, but his feet became entangled with Sam’s feet. Joe fell over and he only managed to stop himself from being hurt by grabbing frantically at a large mahogany desk that took up most of one wall of the shop. Joe hurriedly clambered to his feet, checking to see if his parents had seen his antics but no, only his brother had seen him, and Sam was laughing at his clumsiness. Before Joseph could rebuke his brother with a punch, something else caught his eye, he noticed what looked like a secret drawer, and it had sprung open at the rear of the desk. Somehow, when he had grabbed at the desk he must have activated the mechanism that controlled it. He also saw that there was something within the drawer, and reaching over he withdrew a parchment that had lay hidden within it for some five hundred years. Joe looked at his find and saw that what lay within his fingers looked like an old map, excitement showed within his eyes as a score of scenario’s immediately sprang to his young agile mind. Warning Sam to silence, for he had also seen something of the old map, he popped it into his pocket to read at a more opportune moment.
Later that day the house was comparatively quiet, and finally the children were asleep, except that Joe and Sam were not. Their parents and grandparents were in the front room watching something on the television and the two boys decided that now was that opportune moment. Joe switched on his torch, and with Sam at his shoulder; they opened up the map that Joe had found. It showed the outline of part of some coastline, the island`s name was written in a copperplate script ‘Kriti’ Joe had heard that name before but Sam was slightly quicker at remembering where.
“Kriti,” he whispered in an excited voice “that’s where we are.” As soon as Sam spoke, it immediately came back to Joe; of course Crete was also called Kriti.
“Look” Joe said, “It shows the way to a pirate`s treasure, shall we tell Dad?” Joe whispered and looked across at Sam for agreement.
“No! We will check it out first Joe.” Sam decided, even though he had not been the one to find the map, as he was the older brother, he was in charge of this new adventure. “Dad may not even let us go to look for it, if we tell him before finding out where the church and the altar marked on the map are. No we will keep it to ourselves for the moment.”
Should we tell any of the others?” Joe asked of his older brother.
“No they are much too young for anything like this.” Sam replied for he was fourteen, and Joe was thirteen, but the others were only kids. Isaac was twelve, Reuben only seven and Millicent, Sam reasoned, was of course ‘only a girl’, and she was only ten years old anyway.
The next morning the two boys were up early and as luck had it their sleeping quarters were in their grandparents’ library, and in the library, there was a map of Crete.
“Where are we staying asked Joe?”
“Here” replied Sam “in the small village of Ayios Georgiou.”
The two boys stared intently at the map in front of them. Then Sam took out the parchment and looked first at it and then at the map and then once again at the parchment. He looked up at his brother`s face and in a hushed voice.
“Look Joe, the small village shown here on the map is also called Ayios Georgiou, it must be the same one because look, it also shows Kalives, and that is where we have been swimming. We must be staying only a hundred or so metres from the entrance to the treasure.” Sam and Joe exchanged looks that would have told their parents volumes, if only they had been witness to them.
The next few days sped by as they swam and played the days away, but the map was never far from Sam or Joe`s mind. Now it had been the job of the two boys to go for the bread each day, and each day they had been exploring the countryside about their grandparents’ home. It had been the day before that they had found the old ruin that had once been the ancient church of Ayios Georgiou, and it was today that their adventure would begin. The boys had risen extra early, eaten their breakfasts, washed and dressed, and as soon as they saw their siblings were now outside in the garden playing, they asked their parents innocently if they wanted any bread that morning, and after being told yes, and given the money for the bread, they were off. Sam and Joe were soon on the track of the treasure.
They had found the church of Ayios Georgiou within an olive grove just outside of the village in which they were staying. The two boys approached the ruin with some trepidation, for it was a very spooky place. The church sat in the middle of an overgrown olive grove that seemed more dead than alive, shadows shrouded the church and it seemed that even the bright Cretan sun could not enter here. A large black bird squawked its anger at them for interrupting its peace, just before it flew away, just missing their heads as it hurried away. It seemed to both Sam and Joe that this was a sign of ill omen. If one or other of the two boys had dared ask to call everything off, the other would not have hesitated, he would have agreed willingly with his brother. However, neither wanted the other to know that he was scared, so they did not say a word, and as Sam reasoned, now they had found the first of the clues shown on the parchment, should they not continue on, for what could go wrong? The way into the church was easy, as one end of the old building was missing, but the all-important altar was still there, looking enormous and forbidding inside this ruined shell of the old church. As Sam and Joe approached the altar they could hear things scuttling around inside the old church, their minds transforming mice and small birds into horrors of the unknown, as the dark atmosphere of the church coloured their imaginations. Then they were standing before the altar, looking up at its heavy stone lid that topped this giant construction, at its massive stone sides, which they saw with horror were covered in horrific looking gargoyles. The gargoyles appeared to the two boys to be glaring out at them personally, as if they thought the two boys were trespassers, or maybe even dinner. The fear that had already been present increased, to grip the insides of the two boys as they heard more rustling amongst the undergrowth, they both refused to look anywhere but at the parchment, and its few instructions, but all the parchment said was that the way lay beneath the altar.
“Sam, what do we do now?” Joe whispered, although why he spoke so softly, for there was no one else about.
“Let’s try moving the top.” Sam said.
Putting their hands onto the large lid of the altar they tried to budge it, but try as they may the top was far too heavy for two young boys, or just plain stuck by centuries of sticky Cretan clay. Joe was for giving up the quest immediately, for he was getting quite scared now. The ruined old church and the dying olive grove looked really scary, and coupled to that he was also worried about what they might find within the altar, a skeleton, or even something worse that would reach out and grab them. Now Sam was just a little scared too, but as the elder of the two, he felt he should hold out just a little longer.
“Let’s look at it one more time”
It was as if fate did not want to lose its grasp quite so easily on the two boys, just as Sam was going to suggest that maybe they should leave, Joe found that one of the gargoyles was in fact a pirate.
“Look at this gargoyle Sam, it is a pirate.”
With that, his hand latched on to it as if on its own accord. He gave the gargoyle a tug, a twist, and a shove, and with a loud grating noise, the top of the altar moved aside, a cloud of dust long trapped within the altar was caught by the light breeze and drifted down onto the boys making them cough uncontrollably.
It took a minute or two before they managed to stop their coughing, but then a red-faced Sam asked “Wow! How did you do that Joe?”
A bewildered and just a little frightened Joe said with a shrug. “I don’t know, just clever I suppose” However, the smile he managed after this display of modesty was rather weak.
However, it was this success that brought the excitement back to the two boys` eyes, and with it a little of their earlier bravery. The two boys clambered up the sides of the altar and looked down, past the now missing top, and into the open altar. Within the altar a stone staircase led down into the depths of an inky blackness.
“You go first Sam” Joe said as he pushed Sam forward “I found it so you should go first” This logic seemed odd to Sam, but as he was the older of the two he didn’t argue, lest his brother call him a coward.
“Ok, Joe” Sam said these words being whispered in a very nervous tone, but swallowing hard Sam clambered into the open altar and stood on the top step of the staircase that disappeared into an inky blackness. Looking round at his brother he gave a large gulp “Well Joe are you coming then?” What could Joe do, and so a very pale Joe joined Sam on the top step, stopping nervously to look inside for a skeleton or something worse. He should have been happy to see that it was completely empty inside, empty that is except for the narrow stone steps that wound down into the dark cavern below. However, an evil, imaginary or not, seemed to emanate from this blackness, and now Sam was beginning to see some sense at last, as his fears mounted by the second. He could only just keep control of himself as he stammered out the feeble excuse that had sprung miraculously to his mind
“Maybe we ought to tell dad about it before we go down there Joe.” Sam`s eyes shifted to the blackness, and he could almost see the ghostly hands that could even now be reaching up for them from the depths to clutch at their feet.
Joe looked at Sam and Sam looked at Joe, however, fate once again took a hand, for the stonework of the altar was very old, and the last earthquake had weakened it considerably. As the two boys both decided to agree that maybe, they should tell their parents, the altar shook, cracked, and threw the two boys down the staircase to deposit them in a pile upon the waiting floor of the cavern, deep within ground. The two boys screamed in terror as they were swallowed up by the inky darkness, and just as the stone staircase collapsed at their feet. The large altar above had collapsed into a pile of stones, and blocked out most of the light from above, as well as sending a cloud of dirt cascading down upon the two boys.
“Where are you Sam?” Joe called out as his eyes tried to pierce the inky blackness.
“I`m over here Joe, how are you, are you hurt?” Sam replied, feeling much better now he knew that he had not caused the death of his younger brother by not telling their father about the treasure map, even so his words came out somewhat shakily.
“I`m all right Sam,” Joe answered. “I only got a few bruises and scratches, how are you?”
“I`m ok Joe, but I don’t know how we will get out.”
It was then that the boys heard a noise that echoed inside the dark cavern making it seem even more scary.
“What is that noise?” Joe asked. The two boys stood up nervously, their fears doubled, as they listened to the loud noise that was coming out of the blackness that surrounded them. The noise that Joe referred to was a roaring noise accompanied by the sound of water splashing. It took a long scary minute before they remembered that they had brought torches along with them, and luckily, they were both still working, even after the fall. Two beams of light sprang out illuminating their surroundings. They saw that they were in a large cavern, and in the middle of which water splashed over the edge of the rocky shelf, the one upon which they had been dropped. The water surged out of a hole in the wall of the cavern, fed by a tunnel that connected to the sea, and the boys now heard the roar of the waves as they crashed against the far off cliffs that were hidden behind the dark walls of their cavern.
Joe turned his torch back to the cavern walls, and he was puzzled when one part of the cavern sparkled as the light of the torch went over it. Joe crossed the cavern to see what was sparkling, and there before him stood a large open sea chest, and it was full to the brim with gold and jewels, but this was not all that awaited Joe. As Joe took in the whole scene before him he began to tremble, for draped over the sea chest was the skeleton of a seaman, his clothes still hanging loosely about the bones, his face set in a ghastly grin, and his left arm reaching out to Joe in greetings. A dirty brown patch surrounded a hole in the breast of his clothes, and Joe could plainly see that he had been shot. Black Jack died guarding his treasure with a cutlass in his other hand, and centuries later, he still stood at his post. On the floor at his feet lay the skeleton of another man, a priest, for Joe could still make out the tattered remnants of his priestly robes, in his hand was a rusty old pistol. There was another dirty brown patch surrounding a long jagged hole in his clothes, Black Jack had killed the priest with the cutlass that he still grasped in his bony hand.
Joe`s trembling increased as his young agile mind created nightmare scenarios out of the unearthly scene before his eyes, ones involving skeletons coming to life, ghosts trapped within the cavern for centuries, destined to haunt the scene of their deaths. He nearly fainted when Sam, who had followed him, let out a scream that had Joe thinking that all the demons of hell were coming for him, and so Joe screamed until he realised that Sam had not seen some creature from hell, just two more skeletons, these were of children. Sam managed to get a grip on his fears, and now sought to reassure his brother that it was impossible that the noise of their screams could awaken the two dead men before them, or bring something even worse to investigate the noise.
“It’s all right Joe, they’re both long dead, they cannot hurt us.” Said a trembling and not too sure Sam as he put an arm around his brother’s shoulders to comfort him.
Although Sam was not completely convinced of what he had told his brother, something told him that things like that could not happen in the twenty first century. The two boys stood there, both trying to control their fright, but if they could have run away they most certainly would have, but the way out was gone, the ancient stairway lying in pieces at their feet.
“I am scared Sam, how will we get out?” Joe looked up at his older brother hoping to hear the words ‘No problem Joe, come with me’.
However, all Sam could do for the moment was look back at his brother and say in a quavering voice “I don’t know Joe, but someone is bound to come and find us.”
Joe did not seem convinced by these words for he said “But no one knows where we were going.” And his pulled the old cutlass away from the dead pirate, just in case a demon suddenly appeared. Instantly he felt himself being pulled towards the walls of the cavern.
“Sam, help me, it`s got me, the skeleton has come to life and has grabbed a hold of me, help.” Joe screamed.
Sam could see that the skeleton had not moved from its position against the sea chest, all he saw was a terrified brother, but even so he grabbed hold of the outstretched arm of his brother and instantly he too felt the force pulling at them. Before he could think just what to do, to let go or not, they were both pulled through to another time, another place, one where they are standing aboard an old merchantman, one using sails to propel it forward, not engines.
They stood on the wooden deck looking at one another in a state of surprise; however, this only lasted for two seconds, for a cannon ball zipped past their noses making them scream out in terror, the ship was under attack from pirates. All around them they could now hear the sounds of a battle; it appeared as if magically, one second all was normal and the next madness.
Joe threw himself flat against the floor, and he was closely followed by Sam, down here Joe now noticed their clothing, they were dressed in period clothing.
“Err, Sam our clothes have changed?” Joe called across to his brother quizzically.
Sam looks at his brother as if he was mad, and then he saw that he was not the only one.
“Joe, when you touched the pirate`s cutlass, you must have activated an ancient spell, it brought us here and somehow changed our clothing.” Sam said venturing an explanation of all the curious things that had happened to them.
A tall seaman suddenly appeared behind them and grabbed them by the scruffs of their necks and pulled them to their feet.
“Get below you two young idiots; do you want your heads knocked off by a cannon ball?” He shouted at them and dragged them to a set of doors at the rear of the main deck, as musket rounds zipped by them. He opened the doors and pushed them through, and then returned to the battle.
Sam and Joe saw a flight of steps going down to a lower deck and they quickly scampered down and prayed that they would come through their ordeal unscathed.
“Sam, I saw a dead man, he was all bloody, and did I say that he was dead.” Joe moaned.
“I saw him too Joe, Joe, how are we going to get home?” Sam whispered.
They hid below decks for another thirty minutes, and then all was quiet, until two very nasty looking sailors appeared.
“We have been looking for you two boys, come with us, Captain Jack wants to meet you.” The taller and beefier pirate said. He had two pistols stuck inside his belt, a large wicked looking knife in a scabbard, and a shiny cutlass, stained red with blood, in his hand. The other pirate was similarly armed, but he also had an eye patch and a nasty looking scar running down the side of his face.
Sam and Joe allowed themselves to be led back up to the main deck, not that they could argue about it, both wondering just why a pirate captain would be anxious to meet them, and both worried that it had something to do with the skeletons under the old church.
“At last, good work Carling, these two boys will fetch us a tidy sum in ransom from their father. Have Scarface put them in chains aboard the Sea Dragon, and give them something tasty to eat, we must keep them both alive and healthy.” Captain Jack said and then burst out in an evil sounding laugh that sent shivers down the two boys’ spines.
A tall man who had a cutlass against his throat, called out to them desperately. “Michael, John, have no fear, I will pay your ransom, just hang on.”
Sam and Joe looked across at him and wondered who Michael and John were, and why the man was looking at them when he called these two names. They both smiled sadly at the man who seemed so afraid, and then at one another, searching for a little comfort, but found little of it in the face of their brother, only fear.
“You two lived the high life, being the sons of the owner of this old vessel, now though you can have a taste of the life of normal folk; see how we all have to live.” The sailor with the scar hissed, and he pushed them towards the side of the merchantman. They had to climb down a rope to a large rowing boat that was waiting for them, escape was impossible, for there was only the open sea all around them.
“Your father will be put ashore tomorrow, he will have one month to collect the ransom money, after that your lives will be terminated.” Scarface told them with a grin. “Or perhaps we will sell you to a slaver, and you will likely be turned into eunuchs.” Scarface said and laughed at them.
“What is a eunuch Sam?” Joe asked.
“I am not sure Joe, maybe a servant of some kind, but whatever it is I do not like the sound of it.” Sam replied doubtfully.
There was a rope ladder to climb up when they reached the pirate vessel, and then they were led to the ship`s brig and pushed inside, and then the door was locked. They both fell asleep in the cold dark damp brig, wondering how a happy holiday could turn out so terrible, and how their lives as eunuchs would be.
Their dreams were full of skeletons and slavers, but the two boys woke suddenly to find themselves being shaken, they were standing upon the main deck of the pirate ship, and without remembering ever walking up to it. The ship had anchored near to a small rocky island, high cliffs prevented them seeing any more of the island, and there was no place to land. Across the deck, two of the officers from the captured merchantman were crying out in terror, begging Black Jack to spare their lives, for they were both about to be forced to walk the plank. Sam looked down into the water and was horrified to see that sharks were swimming around the ship.
“The sharks know that when Black Jack arrives then dinnertime is not far off.” Black Jack said with an evil smile upon his ugly face.
“Please Captain; my father will pay a ransom for these men too, please do not kill them.” Sam begged.
“Your father, Sir Percy, would not have paid for your life; it is only the fact that I have both of his heirs that he will pay now.” Black Jack snarled.
A bright flash blinded the two boys, and when their sight returned they saw that somehow time had moved on, although they were still standing upon the main deck of the pirate vessel.
“You two are to scrub the decks, make a good job of it and you will be fed, otherwise you can go hungry.” Scarface said to them.
He then forced them to the wooden deck as another pirate brought them two buckets full of soapy water, and two old and much used scrubbing brushes.
“Put your backs into it, and scrub as if your lives depended upon it.” Scarface ordered. “For they just might.”
The two boys were forced to scrub the deck all that day, under the eyes of the pirate crew who laughed at them and joyfully pointed out any parts of the deck that needed cleaning. Finally as the sun began to set the two boys were taken back to the brig, here food and fresh water was provided, and after eating their meal they both fell fast asleep, exhausted as much by the hot sun as the hard work. Their next few days were much the same, being forced to clean various parts of the ship, and then being returned to the brig where after a sparse meal they always fell into a deep sleep.
One morning the two boys awoke to find that time had again leapt forward, and as before they were standing upon the main deck of the pirate vessel. It was now laying off the coast of some strange land, one much larger than the small rocky island where the ship had been before. Joe looked across at his brother, wondering how time had moved forward, and if the two officers had been forced to walk the plank, to die a terrible death. However, as before, he saw that Sam too was looking as surprised as he was, he too was wondering what was happening to them. All of a sudden they were picked up by the scruff of their necks and shaken yet again, it was the pirate Scarface, he looked down upon the two boys, upon his face was his usual evil smile.
“You see the red stain upon the captain`s cutlass, that is blood, the blood of your father, Sir Percy. The captain ran him through seconds after he was paid the ransom money, it is in a small chest that the captain has with him.” Scarface said with a large hint of relish.
Scarface dragged the two boys to the side of the ship, down below they could see Captain Jack in a dingy. “You see boys, Sir Percy had Captain Jack`s father hanged for stealing a loaf of bread and some cheese to feed his wife and son, they were starving, but Sir Percy did not care about that. Young Jack swore by the soul of his dead mother, she died of malnutrition soon after his father was hanged, to avenge the death of his father, he has almost done it now.” Scarface said. “Now climb down to the Captain, boys, before he gets angry at being kept waiting.”
They quickly climbed down the rope and into a small dingy, Captain Jack was the only man in the boat, he scowled at them, in front of him was a small chest. The story told to them by Scarface kept repeating in their heads, would the pirate captain now kill them, as part of his revenge plan, or did he have other terrors in mind for them.
Once on land, Captain Jack made them carry the money chest, he led them inland to a small church, one that was certainly not ruined, but it was the same church, for the pirate captain used the gargoyle to open the stone cover of the altar. Inside were a number of torches, Captain Jack first lit one and handed it over to Sam, then he lit another which he kept for himself.
“Walk down the stairs boys, the torch will light your way, quickly now.” Captain Jack ordered in a syrupy voice that was so false that it scared the two boys witless.
Trembling now, but with no other choice available to them, they entered the secret stairway and walked down into the cavern, the flames from the burning torches flickering madly, lighting up the walls of the cavern in a strange and rather scary way. They could see the treasure chest at the bottom of the stairs; however, there are no skeletons to be seen in the cavern. Sam and Joe both had a bad feeling about this; for they had both remembered the two children’s skeletons, were they about to meet their deaths, were the two skeletons they saw their own!
Back in the twenty first century, a young boy is calling down through the ragged hole in the rubble of the altar inside of the ruined church.
“Sam, Joe are you all right, are you hurt?” The worried voice belongs to Isaac, their brother, not getting a reply he calls down to them again. “Joe, Sam, are you all right?”
He had seen his brothers leaving his grandparent`s home and followed them as he thought it would be nice to walk up to the shops. He had thought it strange when they had passed by the turning for the bakers, but had followed them to see where his two brothers were going, and why they hadn`t told anyone about this secret destination. He had hesitated a moment when he had seen them enter the old olive grove, for it was rather dark and gloomy, especially around the old ruined church, but as they had gone in so did he, but he had decided to hang back and watch them from behind the broken walls of the church rather than join them inside. It all seemed too much like a ghost film he had once seen at a friend’s house, a very scary ghost film. It had been a laugh until his two brothers had disappeared amidst a cloud of dust, which were mixed in with the rumble of falling stones and his brothers` screams. Now he was calling down to them through a hole in the collapsed altar, and he was beginning to feel really scared. He remembered seeing a long length of rope at the broken wall that went around the olive grove, and he quickly returned to the bright sunshine, and away from the ruined church. He picked the rope up and quickly returned to the broken altar, and here he tied one end of the rope to an olive tree that had grown within the ruined church. With this end of the rope secure, he threw the other end down through the jagged hole, and then quickly slipped down it to the vast cavern beneath the church. On the floor he found a torch, it was lying in a small patch of sunlight that had managed to penetrate this far down. Joe had dropped the torch when he had been pulled through time; Isaac quickly picked it up and saw that it was still turned on. Swinging it around the cavern Isaac saw to his growing consternation that neither of his brothers were there, they had disappeared, then he saw the four skeletons and screamed. Could the two smaller ones belong to Sam and Joe, scared out of his mind he moved away from them and stepped on to something hard, looking down he saw a rusty old pistol on the floor and he quickly picked it up. With a weapon in his hand he felt a little safer, even if the weapon was very rusty and was unlikely to work. Unfortunately, when he picked up the old pistol, he was transported back to another time, one in which Captain Jack was about to slit the throats of Joe and Sam, it is into this horror, and this fatal minute, that Isaac materialised out of thin air.
Captain Jack gasped in surprise, however, he does not see Isaac, he sees the priest, and he laughs. “Watch this Matey, while I slit the throats of these two boys, and finally I will have my revenge over Sir Percy.”
Isaac threw the rusty old pistol at the pirate captain, making him duck away from Sam and Joe, who moved hurriedly away from the captain. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the real priest appeared, he has a burning torch in one hand and the pistol that Isaac had just thrown in the other, although now it looked new.
“Not again you black hearted villain, I will not allow you to kill two young innocents a second time.” The priest swore angrily.
The priest raised the pistol and fired it just as Captain Jack made to move towards the two boys to slit their throats. Captain Jack fell back against the treasure chest badly wounded, but in one last act of villainy he lunged at the priest with his cutlass.
A bright flash lit up the cavern and the three boys find themselves flung forward through time, until finally they are back in their own time. The skeletons of the pirate captain and the priest were there, as were those of the two children, back where they were before Joe had first touched the cutlass. One thing in particular made Isaac want to leave this cavern; the bony finger of the captain was pointing accusingly right at him.
They collected some of the jewels from the chest to prove to their parents that the story that they would tell was not make believe, then they climbed up the rope that Isaac had used in his descent and hurried home. There they had to explain just what they were up to, and then endure a good telling off for being so silly, and told that they wouldn’t be allowed out by themselves until mummy thought they were old enough to know better, and as all boys know that could be a very long, long, time. As for the treasure, well the courts would have to decide to whom it belonged. The Church, for it was under their property, the State, for the treasures were stolen booty, the shop owner who originally had the map, or the boys, and all this would take almost as long as it would take for their mummy to allow the boys out by themselves again.
It had seemed a very good idea when her father had first suggested that she accompany him on his trip to Wootton Rivers in Wiltshire. For a start it meant that she didn`t have to think of an excuse for not going to Uncle John`s for the evening. He wanted to show them yet more video shows of his last trip abroad. Millie thought that this might have been the reason why her father had suddenly decided to bring his trip forward by two days. Any way she had just about to turn thirteen and she thought that she deserved the odd treat. They were delivering something to one of her father`s customers, Millie couldn`t remember just what it was, her father would also have to install it, so they would have to stay overnight at a hotel. The going had been easy and she had enjoyed the drive, at least until they had run into the heavy storm that had caught the meteorologists out, for there had been no warning about it on the weather forecast.
Millie tried to catch up on her sleep, but she was awakened by the large crack of thunder that nearly made her jump out of her seat, even with her seat belt firmly attached.
“We`re lost Millie, I must have taken a wrong turning about five miles back. We will just have to turn around, but not here the road`s too narrow.” Millie`s father said. He smiled at her and then said. “Not too worry; did you have a nice sleep?” Millie nodded; too busy looking around for signs of civilisation to answer her father. She couldn`t see much, for the storm was getting worse, and the visibility down this particular country lane was never very good.
It was five minutes later when their car began to display signs of being ever so slightly ill. It finally came to rest after an explosive fit of steam and smoke and a clanking noise from somewhere deep within the engine. Luckily Millie`s father had been able to turn into the car park of a lonely and very old looking hotel, and before the car finally succumbed to whatever was wrong with its inner workings.
“I`m sorry about this Millie but I think we shall have to stay the night here instead of in Wootton Rivers, I imagine that it will be ok for one night.” Millie wasn`t so sure, the hotel looked as if the storm just might blow it away.
They were in luck, there were just two empty rooms available, and after a dinner that Millie thought was very tasty, she found herself walking up a flight of rickety wooden stairs to the single room at the very top of the hotel. Her night would be spent in the attic, just what I need Millie thought, now if the hotel is blown away I will be the first one to know about the event.
After undressing and putting on her pyjamas, she brushed her teeth. Millie then got into a very old rickety wooden bed that appeared to Millie, to be even older than the hotel. Its only redeeming features were the angels carved into the wooden headboard. It took her ages to drop off to sleep because of the rain pounding against the tiles on the roof right above her head, if that wasn`t enough to keep her awake then the wind was. It moaned constantly outside of her small window that didn`t close properly, sounding almost like a fiend from hell, Millie thought, not that she had ever heard the moaning of such a thing. The wind gained entry through countless openings in the hotel, most of them appeared to be within her room, and she shivered as one extra strong gust blew her window fully open. This made it necessary for her to get out of bed to secure the window, for her pains she got a little wet and more than a little cold. Slipping back into her bed she covered her head with the bedclothes, and the noise of the wind screaming just outside of the door to her room made her remember a particularly scary film that she had seen at her friend`s house the week before last. Finally, she fell into a troubled sleep, and with a nightmare to keep her company.
Millie woke to find the storm was still raging outside. Whether it was the rather vivid nightmare that caused her to wake up, or the extremely loud crack of thunder that exploded directly over her head, she couldn`t decide. Whichever it was the thunder was still rumbling even as her hand searched for the bedside lamp that stood on the small bedside table beside her bed. Unfortunately, Millie couldn`t find either the lamp or the small table, all her hand found was a very solid wall, and flailing around with her other hand didn`t bring her any more success on that side either, someone seemed to have entered her room while she slept and taken them away. Millie sat bolt upright, fully awake now and feeling the first signs of fear. Her first thought was whether the night caller might return, so she decided to seek out her father`s room and ask him if she could sleep in his bed. With this decision made, Millie got out of her warm bed and then slipped on her slippers, and then her nightgown. Then she walked slowly to the door, for she didn`t want to walk into her mobile furniture, thankfully the light provided by another bright flash of lightning showed her just where the door was. Opening the door slowly, Millie looked outside; ready to scream for help should her nocturnal visitor be there. Fortunately, all she saw though was the rickety old wooden staircase before her. Taking a deep breath of courage Millie fled down the flight of stairs to the room where her father was sleeping, unfortunately somebody had moved the room. There was also another strange sight, the wooden panelled corridor that had been there only hours before was now made of stone. Millie felt the fear within her growing, what was going on, how could a stone wall appear during the night, and where was her father?
Millie hurried down the corridor in a frantic search for her father. “Hallo, can you help me?” She shouted out as loud as she possibly could. She now came to a door and knocked loudly upon it. “Can you help me please; do you know where my father is?” Millie`s voice had now taken on a hint of the panic that filled her heart, and was now overflowing.
At the far end of the dark corridor, which to Millie resembled a pitch-black tunnel, she heard someone crying. This brought some of her courage back as her sympathy for whoever was crying smothered her fear, and anyway Millie could see that there was a light in the room. Millie put aside the fact that she now appeared to be in a castle, she walked bravely along the dark tunnel towards the light. She banged hard on any of the very solid looking wooden doors that she passed on her way, and asked for help in a very loud voice. Her mother was always telling her to be more ladylike, more genteel, but this was a time for screaming out her presence, not whispering it. No one answered her pleas for help, and she was now entering through the open doorway at the end of the scary corridor when the crying stopped, and the candle that lit the room was extinguished. This spooked Millie, and she almost screamed in panic, but she managed to keep control of her emotions, and even to say a few words into what now looked like an empty and very dark room.
“Hallo, don`t be scared, I`m here to help you. My name is Millie, I`m a guest here, I booked in yesterday evening with my father, when our car broke down.”
Her voice wavering as an enormous flash of lightning lit up the room, unfortunately, it was just for a moment and then the darkness returned to envelop her. However, this moment did allow Millie to see the whole of the room, and what was in it. The main item was a large four-poster bed, there was also a table on which there was a large jug sitting within a larger bowl, and the final piece of furniture was a wooden chair. That was all there was to be seen within the room. There was no boy, for Millie thought that the voice of the person crying sounded more like a boy.
“Are you hiding under the bed? Please speak to me, I`m a little scared as well.” No one answered her new pleas for help; in fact, there was no sound at all except for the constant moaning of the wind.
Millie slowly backed out of the room, she was feeling even more scared than before, if it were possible, was the hotel haunted, was this why it all looked so different? She was ready to run at the least sound or sight, her safety was her main consideration, not dying a heroine. She whirled around, positive that someone was creeping up behind her, but there was no one there, only a wooden staircase that went down to the ground floor. For a moment, this solid looking staircase was lit up by the storm, and Millie chose this second in time to flee down the wide wooden steps to the floor below. At the bottom of the stairs, she stopped for a moment, uncertain in which way to go. To her right was another open door, and hoping to find someone within the room, Millie ran quickly through the doorway. She found herself in a room that looked like a medieval hall; much like the one she had seen in Battle Abbey, she had visited it last year with her parents and her brothers. The room was empty except for a long wooden table, and Millie decided to walk up to it so that she had something firm between her and the rest of the room. Just then, the storm violently exploded in a brilliant flash of light, and it lit up the boy just feet away from her. He was looking out at the storm through one of the windows that ran along the outer wall of the room. Sensing her presence he whirled around, but he didn`t cry out in fear, or burst into tears, no instead he smiled at her and then laughed happily.
“Have you been sent to keep me company?” The boy asked delightedly.
“Do you live here then?” Millie asked ignoring his question for the moment. She wondered how he had arrived ahead of her, but then there were always hidden stairways in such places as this now appeared to be. The boy gave a sad laugh and some of the happiness drained away from his face.
“Yes I suppose you could say that I ‘live here’ now.” Just then the room was lit up by another powerful flash of lightning and to Millie`s terror she realised that she could see the far wall through the figure of the boy.
“Oh my, are you a ghost?” Millie wailed, almost too frightened to want to hear the answer to her question.
“Yes Millie I`m a ghost, I have been one for such a long time now.” The boy answered sadly.
“Why are you haunting this house, did you die here?” Millie asked bravely while slowing retreating the open door. Then, for some reason Millie decided that she needn`t be afraid of the boy, for he seemed quite nice really, that is for a ghost.
“Yes Millie, but a powerful wizard cast a spell upon me. It holds me here in the abbey for eternity.” The boy burst into tears and his figure began to fade into the darkness of the night.
“Please don`t go, don`t leave me here by myself.” Millie cried out as the figure of the boy almost disappeared. “There must be something that I can do to help you, please.” Millie beseeched the young boy who thankfully now began to reappear again, albeit rather slowly.
“My name is Reuben and to answer your question, there isn`t anybody that can help me.” The boy said gloomily.
Millie was delighted to see that his figure was becoming visible again, for she desperately wanted him to stay with her, for she badly needed a friend in this insane world, even if he was a ghost.
“I have a brother named Reuben.” Millie said to the young ghost, who smiled at her, and then looking very serious, he spoke to her.
“Millie you asked if you might help me, well you would have to be very brave to be able to help me, brave enough that is to enter the wizard`s bedroom and steal back my mother`s locket, and the lock of my hair that is inside of it. Then the brave person would have to hand it to me, only then would I leave this place and join my mother.” The ghost said dolefully.
“Reuben, you live here in this castle because you are a ghost, but how did I get here?” Millie asked the question that had been lurking at the back of her mind ever since she had found that she was not in the hotel, up until now she had been too scared to even consider it.
The young boy looked guiltily at her and mumbled something, but when Millie asked him to say it again, he began to fade from view.
“Reuben you had better not leave me here by myself. Now tell me, how I was brought here.” Millie ordered in the same sort of voice that her father used when he was angry.
“It`s my fault Millie, I went into the chapel and prayed for someone to keep me company, for I am ever so lonely here. The angels must have sent you to be my friend.” The young boy said in almost a whisper.
“But I`m not dead yet, I don`t even feel the least bit ill?” Millie wailed thinking it most unfair that she had been kidnapped in this way, and by angels too.
Millie went over to one of the many windows and looked out to see if she could figure out where she was. The sun was peeping out too, she could see it through the storm clouds and happily, the last rumbles of thunder seemed to be miles away. Outside, Millie saw a strange world. People were appearing in the fields, and the road that ran up to the abbey had a cart on it, one drawn along by what Millie could only assume were oxen. There were no electricity lines, no lampposts, and the surface of the road was of mud! Millie whirled around.
“What year is it Reuben, tell me?” Millie demanded with a hint of fear returning to her voice.
“It is the year of our Lord 1230 Millie, but surely you know that?” The boy answered puzzled at her question.
Millie`s voice wavered. “1230, that`s impossible, isn`t it?” For just a second Millie had even considered asking the young boy if he meant lunchtime, just after twelve o`clock, but she could see by everything around her that he hadn`t meant any such thing. Millie took a large gulp of air and attempted to still her rapidly beating heart, she knew that she was in a right pickle; she also knew that she would have to be the one to sort out her problem. Maybe if she helped the ghost escape, then she too would return to her own time.
“Reuben where does the wizard live?” Millie asked. Even she didn`t know why she asked this particular question, for surely the last thing she wanted to do was to confront him.
“Here in the abbey.” The young ghost replied.
“Abbey, you mean there are monks and things here too?” Millie said, her spirits rising.
“There haven`t been any monks living here for years now Millie, the wizard scared them all away because he wanted the abbey for his own house.” The young ghost said sadly.
“You`re still visible Reuben, I thought that ghosts only came out after dark?” Millie said in surprise for the dawn was just beginning to break.
“No I`m here all the time Millie. Millie can we play a game, hide and seek was always my favourite, can we play that?” the young ghost asked, now considerably cheered up, now that he had a friend with whom to play games.
“Only if you promise not to hide inside any of the Abbey`s walls.” Millie said laughing. Now that the sun had risen she too felt a little happier.
“But not now Reuben, all this travelling through time has made me rather hungry. Where do I go for breakfast?” The young ghost told her to follow him, and he led her through to the kitchen where she found a good supply of food in the larder.
“Why on Earth has the evil old wizard imprisoned you here, there must be a reason Reuben?” Millie asked as she prepared her breakfast of bread and cheese and a glass of milk.
“My father is a keeper of the peace, and he is in charge of this district, unfortunately for me, my father attempted to have the wizard imprisoned, it was for the many crimes that he has committed over the years since he came to live here. To punish my father the wizard made me die a lingering death, and even after my death he holds me captive within the abbey, a further punishment that my father and I must suffer. My father is an old man now, so maybe he will let me go soon.” The young ghost said finishing off with a huge sigh.
“The abbey is very clean for such a large place, who cleans it?” Millie asked.
“The wizard has put a spell on some of the women of the village, as punishment for the one time that they rebelled against him. Now, they come in and sweep the place and chase the cobwebs away, some of them even provide him with his meals, and they obey his every order.” The young ghost said sadly, for he knew that as well as being afraid of the wizard, the women were also terribly afraid of him, him being a ghost an all, and that this included the women of his family.
Both Millie and Reuben had been so engrossed, Millie with her breakfast, and Reuben with his new friend, that they did not hear the wizard appear in the doorway of the large kitchen. He stood there for a moment listening to them and then walked in and grabbed a hold of Millie`s shoulders before she could leave her chair and run.
“Who are you girl, and who told you to eat my food, stealing is a grave offence in the England of good King Henry III.” The wizard screamed angrily.
Millie looked at the young ghost who was fading away through fear of the wizard, however, she was not about to be cowed by an extremely old man, for he had been born over 800 years before her. She decided that attack was the best form of defence, and launched into him, verbally.
“I am a loyal subject of the king, old man, I came here as soon as stories of your evil reached my ears, when I return to confirm these stories, King Henry will probably chop off your head.” Millie cried out angrily.
Of course, this was all bluff on Millie`s part, she neither knew the king, nor would he bother to listen to a young girl, no matter how pretty, Millie thought, smiling as she uttered the last words.
“Are you saying that you have access to the King, my god you must be mad to think that I would believe such a thing, or think me so, and maybe you are mad if you really believe that I would listen to such ravings. However, now that you are here, I do have a use for you, you can be my new scullery maid, the last one died of some disgusting disease.” The wizard said without any feeling for the old scullery maid.
“Finish your stolen food then clean this kitchen area, defy me again and I will send a demon from hell to torment you until you come to me on your knees to beg my forgiveness. If you do not believe me then ask your new friend, he will confirm that I have the power to call upon the demons of hell.” The wizard said, looking down at Millie with disgust.
The wizard then left her to her new work, and when Millie looked around for the young ghost, he too had disappeared, for the moment. Millie was not sure if the wizard could make good on his threats, but until a way to defeat the wizard was found, she knew that she had to obey him, for where else in this time could she find food and shelter. It was while she was washing the floor of the kitchen that Reuben returned.
“I am so sorry Millie; my wishing for company has landed you in so much trouble.” Reuben said sorrowfully.
“That is all right Reuben, but I will have to find another place to sleep, the bedroom that I slept in last night had far too many holes in it, and the wind knew where each one was.” Millie said and smiled at the sad young ghost.
At lunch time a local woman entered the kitchen to prepare the wizard`s lunch, but she did not speak to Millie, she merely ignored her attempts to get to know her.
“Hello, my name is Millie; the wizard has made me his new scullery maid.” Millie said introducing herself with a smile.
The village woman looked at her momentarily and then carried on with her work for a moment before turning to Millie.
“You`re a stranger here girl, has the wizard sent you to spy upon us, if so we know how to deal with your sort?” The woman said in a very unfriendly tone. “Now get on with your work, or one of us will have to do it, and we have enough to do without doing your work.”
Millie looked at the woman, she was well built and looked well able to look after herself, so Millie decided not to complain about her unjust words, she just returned to the scullery and her work. Later that day when another woman came by to prepare the wizard`s dinner, Millie stayed out of her way, she had done her day`s work and had made a meal for herself, so sitting in the scullery she ate it.
When all of the local women had gone for the day, Millie used the remaining daylight hours to prepare her new bedroom. It was a small room that was just off the scullery, which in turn was just off the kitchen. She thought that at one time a regular scullery maid had probably slept here, now it empty save for a small amount of dust, which she quickly brushed outside. To allow some fresh air into room, for the room smelt stale and musty, she removed the window frame, it was made of animal hide that was fixed to a wooden frame, in this way some light could enter the room. She now moved the bed, the mattress and the bedding from her old room at the top of the abbey, down to her new bedroom on the ground floor of the abbey. It took her many trips, and by the time she was done she was exhausted, but at least she now had a warm, dry bedroom, being near to the kitchen. There certainly were not any holes in the room to allow the cold wind entrance inside, or the local wildlife, for Millie had found signs that they had used her original bedroom, after she had cleared it of the bed. A search of one of the cupboards in the kitchen provided her with a large supply of candles, and she appropriated a solid looking chest on which to put a candle while she undressed for bed, and a solid wooden chair to sit on. Satisfied with her new quarters she collected her bag with her clothes and other things from her old room and stored them in the chest, which had been empty.
Reuben had kept her company all the time that she worked, but as a ghost he could not physically help her, although he did keep a watch out for the wizard. In this way she hid whenever the old wicked wizard was nearby, not wanting him to catch her doing something that was not to do with her job.
Later that night Millie was laying in her bed, and she was wondering what new problems she would have to face in her new life, what if any dangers. As if to answer her, she heard footsteps in the kitchen; but it was only the wizard locking the doors for the night. He was in the kitchen to lock the door that led out to the large kitchen garden at the back of the abbey, the main windows of the abbey did not open they were fixed, the smaller ones were either too small to allow entrance, or had bars across them preventing access. Thankfully, he did not bother her; he just went on his way ensuring that nothing could get at him while he slept.
It was early into the morning by her watch, the face lit up by the moon shining in through her window, when she heard noises coming from outside of her door. Then something scratched on the wooden door and she sat bolt up in bed, however, it was not until whoever was outside of the door attempted to turn the door knob, that fear entered her eyes. Someone outside then pushed against the door, however, Millie had wedged the chair against the door to provide herself a small amount of security, and somehow this kept them out. Millie was now sitting with her back flat against the wall, and as far from the door as was possible. All was quiet for a few minutes, then she heard noises outside her window, she knew that it was too small to allow a man to enter that way, so feeling safe she got out of bed and went to the window to look out. What she saw made her previous fears seem small, for strange looking people were walking around the kitchen garden, picking and taking away the vegetables growing there. She had seen demons on the television, but they were all make believe, what was outside her bedroom was not make believe, they were real.
Millie blushed when she realised that none of the demons wore a stitch of clothing, and she was just about to avert her eyes when a demon looked her way, its blazing red eyes looking into hers, fearful that she might have been seen, she sank down under the window and waited. Her worst fears were confirmed when she heard footsteps approaching the outside wall, then the demon attempted to enter through the window, to what end she did not know, but thankfully, the demon was far too large to enter that way. Then she heard a voice in her head telling her to come out and play, she might have done so, had she not seen the demon, but even this inner compulsion could not make her legs work, she was so afraid. Soon the demon tired of this and went away, but for the next hour she heard movement outside and some of it just outside her window.
The next morning, a tired Millie went into the kitchen to prepare her breakfast, a woman from the village was there preparing the wizards meal.
“Hello, my name is Millie; the wizard has made me the new scullery maid.” Millie said introducing herself with a smile.
The village woman looked at her momentarily and then carried on with her work for a moment before turning to Millie.
“You`re the stranger who I heard about, the one that the wizard has sent to spy upon us, well I do my work, I am no slacker, and if I hear that you have been saying otherwise, then I will land you one girl, understand?” The woman said in a very cold and unfriendly tone.
Before Millie could reply Reuben appeared, she had not seen him since she had retired for the night, the woman glanced at him fearfully and hurried off, taking the wizard’s meal with her.
“Well the local women are not very friendly Reuben.” Millie said as she watched the door close behind the village woman.
“They are just scared Millie, scared that the wizard will notice them, for their families might then pay the price of their friendship to you.” Reuben replied.
Millie looked at the young ghost and scowled. “I saw demons in the garden, they were really tall and looked very strong, they were green in colour with red eyes, and they did not wear any clothes, Reuben, why didn`t you warn me about them?” Millie asked angrily. “And something tried to get into my room last night; do you know what it was?” Millie asked anxiously.
Reuben would have blushed had he been a real boy, and not a ghost, but he did look contrite. “I am sorry Millie, I thought you might run away if I told you about the demons, the wizard allows them to take food from the garden, and in return they guard the abbey during the hours of darkness. As long as you stay inside you should be safe. I really do not know what was at your door, unless the wizard sent something to ensure that you did not try to escape. During the day it is impossible, for the villagers will stop you, afraid that they will incur the wizards anger should they allow you to do so, did I tell you that they are really afraid of the wizard.” Reuben replied sorrowfully.
Millie was still angry with the young ghost, but she decided that he had a reasonable excuse. Reuben faded away while her back was turned and she decided to have a look around the abbey. She had just reached the first floor gallery, and was watching the local woman as they cleaned the large abbey, and it was while she was doing this that the wizard came across her.
“You should be hard at your work girl, not poking your nose into every nook and crevice that comes your way; well I will ensure that you keep your nose where it should be.” The wizard cried out angrily.
“Behrman, come here immediately, I have a job for you.” The wizard called out loudly.
Moments later and a small red demon appeared at his side, it had gleaming yellow eyes and sharp matching teeth, thankfully this demon wore clothes, he had on a rather dirty tunic made from sackcloth that smelt terrible, although the wizard did not remark upon it.
“I am here oh Master, what is it that you require of your poor but obedient slave?” The small demon asked.
“This serf is lazy, she prefers to walk around my abbey in search of things to steal rather than do her work, you will teach her the error of her ways, take her back to the kitchen and make sure that she completes her work.” The wizard ordered.
The small red demon turned to look at Millie, an evil grin spread across its face. “Yes my Master, I will keep her working hard.” The demon said still looking at Millie. “Come lazy serf, you have much work to finish off.”
The demon then produced a length of rope from out of thin air and threw one end at Millie, who put out a hand to stop the rope from hitting her face, but to her astonishment the rope evaded her hand and curled around her neck to form a collar. The demon then walked towards the stairs, pulling a struggling Millie behind him, and for so small a demon he was immensely strong, and no matter how hard she tried she could not undo the knot that tied the rope about her neck.
Soon they were in the kitchen, the local woman from the morning was preparing the wizard`s dinner. The woman howled with laughter at the sight of Millie being pulled along like a beast of burden.
“Ha, ha, he caught you slacking did he, or was it stealing, well the red devil will not give you any slack, he will make you work like never before.” The woman said and once again she howled with laughter.
Never in her life had Millie felt so humiliated, but she could see no point in defending herself, so she ignored the woman, she just walked over to one of the cupboards and pulled out the cleaning tools that were stored there. Then she began to clean the kitchen cupboards and work surfaces, all the time scowling at the woman and the red demon. The demon did allow her to have a bite to eat for lunch, and a drink of milk, but then he made her clean the kitchen floor, now that the local women had finished working there, until it was time to prepare the wizard`s dinner.
The demon did not return the next morning, however, Millie decided against another tour around the abbey, just in case she was caught again by the wizard, for she thought that her punishment then would be even greater, she might even be beaten by the red demon, thankfully the wizard had spared her that the first time. And so her days within the abbey were much the same routine, work hard, eat little and sleep even less.
One night when Millie was lying in bed, about to go to sleep, for she felt absolutely exhausted after yet another gruelling day, Reuben knocked at her door. She had not seen the young ghost all that day so she allowed him to come in. It was strange watching him float threw the solid wood door. Reuben was feeling very down, the wizard had been tormenting him all that day, conjuring up mystical winds that blew Reuben all over the abbey, but which left the living humans untouched.
Millie was quiet for a few moments as she listened to the young ghost’s tale of woe, but then a wicked idea sprang into her mind. “Reuben, do you know exactly where in his bedroom the wizard keeps your locket?” Millie enquired.
“Yes it is in a box that sits upon on a large table, the box is locked though, so even if you were able to get into the room, which you can`t, you won`t be able to open the box and take out the locket.” The young ghost said in his soft sad voice.
“Reuben, tell me, is the box locked with a key, or a magic spell?” Millie demanded to know.
“Just with a key, but he keeps it around his neck at all times.” The young ghost lamented.
“What he wears it even when he washes?” Millie asked.
“I don`t think that he gets washed all that often.” The young ghost answered with a smile back on his face.
“Eeeewwww, he really must smell awful.” Millie said in disgust and the two children both fell about laughing at the thought. “Strange though, I cannot remember his smelling all that bad?”
“Maybe he has put a spell on everyone who works in the abbey, to stop them from smelling his filthy body, as for me, luckily as a ghost I can`t smell him anyway.” The young ghost laughed merrily.
Millie smiled at her new friend and thought that he must be right, then another thought occurred to her. “Reuben why can`t you simply put your hand through the wooden box and take the locket and the lock of your hair, I mean you are a ghost aren`t you?” Millie asked.
“Because, Millie, he has rubbed a particular herb all over the box that stops me from going anywhere near to it.” The young ghost answered.
Millie thought about the problem some more and then an idea exploded in her brain. “Never mind Reuben, for I have a plan, listen while I tell you of your part in it.” Millie then outlined her plan, and after a few alterations following suggestions by Reuben, they were set to go.
That night Millie concealed herself within the room opposite the bedroom of the wizard, and here she waited for him go to bed. It was very late when the old wizard finally appeared in front of the door to his bedroom, and Millie was on the point of falling asleep. Luckily the heavy keys attached to the wizard`s belt jangled and woke her. Reuben then appeared directly behind the wizard and as the evil old man entered his bedroom Reuben swept in behind him whooping and squealing so as to divert the wizard`s attention. The wizard was temporarily distracted and forgot to lock his door, as was his usual custom. Instead, he chased after Reuben, threatening to do many terrible things to him unless he stopped his terrible cries and left the room immediately. Because of this diversion, Millie was able to enter the room unnoticed, and was just on the point of slipping beneath the large four-poster bed, when a cat that had sat unnoticed under the bed squealed out the alarm. The wizard spun around sharply, and saw her feet disappearing under his bed, he strode over and grabbed the two feet and pulled her out from under the bed, then he hauled her to her feet.
“What are you doing trying to hide beneath my bed, girl?” The wizard demanded to know. Not giving Millie time to answer the wizard swung back to Reuben who was on the point of fading away.
“Stop boy, this is your doing, you brought this girl here to try and steal the locket, didn`t you?” The wizard screamed at the young ghost who was trembling, so scared was he of the wizard, and especially when his voice took on that loud and angry tone.
“Leave him alone you bully.” Millie demanded. “It was my idea to try to steal the locket, so as to free him.”
The wizard turned angrily upon Millie, and her face paled under his angry look. “Then maybe I should turn you into a ghost, would you like that, girl, be his friend for eternity?” The evil old man asked, laughing at the idea of such a punishment.
“Oh you mustn`t do that, Sir.” Reuben cried out. “I will do anything that you ask Sir, and Millie will promise to never come to your room again, if only you will let her go back to her room unharmed.”
The evil old wizard considered the young ghost`s words and decided that he could use the ghost against his enemies far better if he had the boy`s willing help.
“All right girl, you may leave, but if you should ever attempt to enter my room again, then I will put a curse on you and all of your family.” A very pale Millie acknowledged his words with the smallest of nods.
Millie knew she had to appear subservient for the moment, so she scampered away looking beaten. However, her only means of returning to her world was to defeat the wizard, even if it meant risking the wizard`s anger by trying once again to enter his bedroom unnoticed, either that or accept that she would be a scullery maid for the remainder of her life. The villagers certainly wouldn`t feed her if she left the abbey, they were too scared of the wizard, so it was do or die, for medieval life didn`t really appeal to her.
The next day dawned, and the sun was only just up when she saw the old wizard leave the abbey and hurry off down the narrow lane. Millie had noticed that a tall and very old tree grew near to the wizard`s bedroom window, and she hoped to utilise it, for she believed that she could squeeze through it into the wizard`s bedroom. Millie had climbed many a tree in her short life, although it took her a while to scale the thick old trunk of this tree. Soon she was amongst the branches and edging out along one that grew over the wizard`s window. Unfortunately, the branch was some four feet above the window that she was interested in; Millie was hoping that her weight would make the thin branch bend down enough so that she would be able to slip into the window. Too scared to look down, as she was quite high, she concentrated on edging along the branch and gripping it for dear life. Millie felt the branch bending and could see the window slowing appearing to her right, unfortunately the more the branch bent, the more she had to do to stop herself sliding clean off the branch and falling down to the hard ground below.
“Oh why did I ever think this was a bright idea?” Millie moaned through clenched teeth. It was an even chance between success and failure, and failure meant her falling down to the hard ground far below. Millie soon realised that the branch would not bend far enough to allow her to simply climb along it and slip through the narrow window. No, she would have to hang from the branch by her finger tips to reach the window sill. Taking a deep breath she dropped her legs over the edge of the branch, then she let her body slip down passed the branch until all of her weight was supported only by the strength in her hands. Now she edged along the branch towards the open window, but as she did so, the branch, which was narrowing all the time that she moved along it, began to break under her weight. She had no choice, she increased her speed, she watched as the branch bent further and then snapped. Millie had timed her move exactly, as she began to fall her feet found the window sill and her hands grabbed a hold of the wall around the window. For a second she stood there, then she slipped through the window and jumped to the floor of the bedroom.
Millie`s arms and fingers ached, but she forgot about that and brightened up, for she was now inside of the wizard`s bedroom. She stood up and ran to the large table, and there upon it sat the box. Millie tried to open it but it was locked, so she set it on the floor by the window. The tree was out of reach but Millie had already decided on another means of exit. She took all of the bedclothes off the bed, and even the curtains that ran around the four sides of the bed. Then she knotted them together and made a long rope that she hoped would reach the ground beneath the window. Millie now tied one end of her rope to the heavy four-poster bed and then moved over to the window. After ensuring that no one was about, she threw the other end of her knotted rope out of the window. Millie looked out to see that she was a few feet short, but she was out of bedclothes so she decided that she had to chance it. Before climbing down the rope, Millie picked up the wooden box and cheerfully tossed it out of the window to see it break open when it hit the hard ground below.
“You can keep your big old key, I don`t think I need one now.” Millie said with a laugh. The next five minutes were scary, as she struggled down the knotted bedclothes, the muscles in her arms complaining about all of the use. She was about half the way down when her hands slipped, and she began to fall, desperately she grabbed at the home made rope ladder and managed to grab a hold of one of the large knots in her rope, and so stop her fall. Millie hung there and counted to ten before daring to continue her climb down to safety, the knot taking her weight and giving a little respite to her aching arms. Finally, she was hanging on to the last knot; it was some six feet from the ground. Looking down, Millie saw that the ground looked to be hard, but there was nothing else below her that might hurt her, and nothing else that she could do anyway, so she closed her eyes and dropped, however, Millie hit the ground awkwardly.
“Ow! My poor foot.” Millie cried. She was sure that she had sprained her ankle on landing, but no matter, she had done it. The broken box was inches from her hand and there amongst the broken pieces of wood was the golden locket. Millie grabbed a hold of it and then stood up, complaining much about her painful ankle, boys and finally about evil old wizards.
Hobbling back along the wall she finally came to the door of the abbey that as usual was open. Pushing it wide, Millie hobbled through and called out to the young ghost, who appeared almost instantly. Unfortunately for Millie, the wizard`s black cat was sleeping curled up in a warm spot of sunshine that was quite near to the front door. Being awakened by Millie it hissed at her, and sped out of the open front door in search of its master, who was already returning to the abbey, he had been in a nearby wood where he had been collecting some herbs that he needed for his potions.
“Millie, you`re hobbling, are you all right? Oh! And you have my locket.” The young ghost cried in joy.
“Yes of course Reuben, you didn`t think that I would let the evil old wizard tell a modern girl what to do?”
Millie opened the locket and then handed the locket and the lock of his hair across to Reuben, amid his many cries of thank you. His hand seemed to hover over and around the two items but he never actually took a hold of them. At this same moment, the wizard rushed through the door, and he saw the locket in her hand.
“You meddlesome girl, you will pay for this.” He stormed. Even as his threats against her filled the air, Millie could see Reuben fading but not from fear, for his face was full of joy, he was returning to his mother. Unfortunately that meant that she had to face the evil old wizard`s wrath all alone.
Millie didn`t notice that she had the golden locket held tightly in her hand, all that she saw was the evil old wizard striding towards her. Millie looked hastily around, but all her options were blocked except for the old wooden staircase directly behind her. Turning she dashed as fast as her ankle would allow her too, up the wide steps towards the room that had been her bedroom. Soon she was standing before her old bedroom door, with the wizard only feet behind her. Millie pushed open the door and moved inside, but as she closed the door, she stood for one moment looking at where the wooden bed had stood. Immediately Millie understood how she had been transported back to medieval times, for she now remembered that carved into the wooden headboard were the two angels, carved by someone at an even earlier time than now. Maybe less thought and more action would have been a wiser course of action, for as she thought about the angels the wizard pushed violently through the doorway. The solid wooden door collided with Millie`s back and threw her head first across the room, where she hit her head against the far wall, darkness filled her mind and she lay on the floor of the room for some time before awaking.
“Millie, are you awake yet, it`s time for breakfast, Oh and the car is working again, I don`t know why, but this morning it`s purring like a pussy cat.” Her father shouted threw the old panelled door.
Millie slowly opened her eyes and looked about her, she was lying on the wooden floorboards with a headache, and as she stood up, she found that she also had a sore ankle.
“It was all a dream.” Millie muttered. “I must have fallen out of my bed and hit my head and somehow twisted my ankle; oh I need a Paracetamol or something.”
As she dressed she didn`t see the locket lying empty under the wooden bed, or that the angels carved into the bedstead now appeared to be smiling. What a surprise she got one week later when a package came through the post addressed to her, for inside was a note from the hotel manager about having found the locket in the room that she had slept in on that very stormy night, and he had sent the locket on to her.
On the beautiful planet of Calamity two men were sitting in the warm sun; they were discussing whether the time had come to open their next wormhole, this time at an even greater distance from their planet. They were scientists of the Calamity Scientific Institute; so far they had only tried to open a wormhole to one of the planets within their own planetary system, now though, the scientist in charge wanted to try to create one much longer. After much discussion, they decided to open one that would allow them to travel to the next planetary system. With the decision made, they went back inside of their large laboratory, which was within the institute, to prepare their large bank of computers for the next in a series of tests of their wormhole-generating machine.
Their places on the bench outside of the laboratory were taken by two members of the Calamity police force; they were anxious to warm up after a cool night`s watch, the warmth of the sun sending them into a light asleep, but after ten minutes dosing they were awoken by heavy footsteps coming towards them, and even louder voices. Four large alien tourists appeared at the bottom of the steep hill that led up to the institute; they were Globian troopers, fully seven feet tall and clad in heavy body armour that was adorned with the skulls of the now extinct Globian dragon.
On seeing them, Sergeant Malice of the police force of Calamity asked his junior officer. “Constable Cretin, why were those four fools not returned to the planet Glob, they are unwelcome guests here on our planet, and if they stay any longer they might injure or kill someone, me for instance?”
Inside the scientific institute, the scientists were now ready to start their wormhole-generating machine. “Right Botox, start her up.” The senior scientist, who was named Grimly, ordered.
A low-pitched whine came out of a large whirling machine, a noise that always set Botox`s teeth on edge, and seconds later a wide tunnel of light shot from it. Botox was at a machine that regulated the power outflow, it was this machine that governed the distance travelled by the wormhole; he was smiling for everything was working just fine, for a change, no one had pulled the wrong lever or pushed the wrong button, yet.
Walking up towards the institute building, two of the Globians were discussing the merits of their weapons. “I tell you Lowbug, this new heavy blaster rifle is so accurate that it is able to shoot the wings off a Scindle fly, and it would not even notice, this weapon is that advanced.” Largbyt boasted.
A Scindle fly is quite large and resembled the dragonfly of Earth, except that it is yellow with black stripes, and rather irritable.
“Prove it then Largbyt; there is a Scindle fly sitting on the wall of the Institute, can you see it, it is just below the bench that is outside of the Institute, right at the top of the hill. It is a fair bit way, can you see that far?” Lowbug said in a tone that indicated a certain amount of disbelief mixed with a piece of scorn for his friend, it was an attempt to put his friend`s aim off. The bench, of course, was the one that the police sergeant and the constable were currently occupying.
Largbyt looked at his friend with contempt. “I can see it Lowbug, Ok then, and if I can do it then you owe me five credits.” Largbyt agreed with a smile appearing on his rather ugly face, which somehow made his face all the uglier.
Unfortunately, Largbyt had only just acquired the new improved version of the Glob blaster, and in any case, he was a little drunk. Believing that he had set the blaster to its lowest setting he squeezed off a shot. The blaster bolt whistled under the legs of the police constable, who howled in pain, for the energy bolt passing so close to his legs had burnt them, and then grains of the exploding reinforced concrete wall of the Calamity Scientific Institute added to his agony by peppering his legs. The resulting blast surprised the four Globian troopers, and it stunned, just for a moment, one of the two police officers, the other one was too busy howling in pain to be stunned.
On the other side of the wall, the energy bolt had also blasted a jagged hole in the main computer of the wormhole generator, and badly damaged it. The whine of the machine was now high pitched, and it resembled the noise made by an angry, and fabled, Globian dragon; it terrified the two scientists within the laboratory and even scared the hell out of the four Globian tourists. The two police officers heard nothing for a moment, one being temporarily stunned, the other being in too much pain. However, they quickly recovered, and they were now looking to shoot all four of the Globian troopers, until they too finally heard the whining noise, for its volume had grown as each second had passed.
The angry whining machine now sounded more like a flock of angry Globian dragons; and it was completely out of control. Botox had been thrown from his chair by the blast, to end up sprawled against one of the computers, however, he quickly regained his feet and rushed over to the controls to attempt to turn the wormhole generating machine off, only to find that the generator was stuck on full power, its inner workings fused together. Botox went to the electrical mains control unit to shut down the electrical supply; however, he found that it was sparking madly, for it too had been fused, it was now a solid mass, the sudden increase in demand had caused the disaster, so Botox left it well alone.
The massive increase in power made this end of the wormhole tear itself away from its normal fixed position, which was at the far end of the large laboratory building, it smashed through the laboratory wall, and it plopped down ten miles away, right on top of a nuclear fusion reactor. It soon demolished the wall of this building as well, and it then connected itself up to a new power source, the nuclear fusion reactor. With such a massive amount of energy to call upon this end of the wormhole somehow split into two. One end fed on the power while its sibling began to dance around the nearby countryside, picking up whatever it rested upon and sending it hundreds of light years away, and not to the fixed exit point on the target planet. For the sudden and massive surge in power had caused the wormhole to rip itself loose from its programmed exit location as well, and it had sent it careering through space to touch down on various other points in space, including a blue and white planet in a far off planetary system.
The men operating the nuclear reactor ran for their lives as they envisaged a very large nuclear explosion, little knowing that the wormhole was consuming all of the reactor`s power, and was asking for more, for the wormhole was now thirty feet across, and growing fast.
In the institute building, after thirty minutes of repairs, Grimly and Botox found that they could only operate the reverse button, but to press this big red button would make the wormhole operate from the other end instead of from Calamity, and this would allow objects to travel to Calamity. To press this button would be a very big mistake, seeing as how the machine was operating at full power, for there was no knowing just what would be ripped away from wherever it currently was, to plunge down upon the planet of Calamity. As Grimly considered the problem a large malignant fire bug swooped down at him and buzzed persistently around his head. Grimly did not like malignant fire bugs, in fact they terrified him because one had stung him once, and he had been confined to bed for a week before finally getting over it. Grimly attempted to swat it with a rolled up science journal, but each time he missed, but then the bug settled on the computer console. Grimly was terribly afraid that it would bite him if he did not kill the terrible bug soon, so he brought his now rolled up science journal down upon it, hard and fast, and finally squashed it, right on top of the large red button. Grimly almost fainted when he realised what he had done, and he was so angry with himself that he beat the dead fire bug repeatedly, while screaming out his woes. He was even angrier when the button caught fire and small explosions began to emanate from the console, for now they would not be able to reverse the procedure. He felt like screaming at the gods for their treatment of him, for there was no way that any sort of repair could be carried out, not now, this would only be possible after they had found a way to turn off wormhole-generating machine.
Another large machine within the laboratory now sprang to life; it scanned the point in the laboratory where the wormhole was supposed to be; when it could not locate the wormhole there, it scanned the world outside of the laboratory. It finally found the wayward rampaging wormhole and linked up to it remotely, it then sent a deadly stream of Gama radiation in a directed beam which wrapped itself around the outward travelling wormhole, the beam then travelled to the other end of the wormhole. When it reached the far end it slammed the wayward wormhole into reverse, moments later the wormhole computer sprang to life, and it gave a fearful Grimly some new data.
“The wormhole has been successfully reversed; incoming travellers will soon be arriving.”
Grimly heard the announcement and shook with fear, he then looked down at the big red button that was covered in quashed bug, and he went very pale, and felt very faint.
“Oh no Botox, if anyone or anything is sucked in to the wormhole, they or it will be brought to the planet Calamity, and the exit point is now hundreds of feet above the planet, and the lord only knows where on Calamity the exit will be when whatever is picked up finally arrives.” Grimly wailed in despair before finally coming up with an idea.
“Botox, phone the engineers at the reactor building, tell them we need help in turning off the power supply.” Grimly ordered. Which Botox did, and five minutes later four engineers from the nuclear reactor rushed in to the laboratory, they had finally worked out how to shut down their reactor, but they needed the wormhole shut off one micro second beforehand.
“Professor Grimly, we need to turn off your wormhole generator using this remote control, it will then shut down our reactor, and then all will end well for Calamity.” Doctor Watsonia said breathlessly.
“But Doctor Watsonia, we cannot shut it down, the controls are fused.” Grimly exclaimed in a wild panicky voice.
“Do not worry professor, we will fix an electronic power governor to your main power supply, it will activate when I push the button on the remote control. It will turn off the power to your laboratory and stop the stream of commands sent by your computers to the wormhole. Then, one micro second later, it will shut down our reactor.” Watsonia explained calmly, although when he said this, he did have his fingers crossed behind his back.
Thirty minutes dragged by for Grimly and Botox, watching nervously while Watsonia and his team of engineers connected their impressive looking machine to the incoming, and very live, electrical mains supply, but finally they was done. Doctor Watsonia then stood up and addressed the people within the laboratory.
“Right, I am ready, here goes.” With that, he pressed the remote control device, and less than a second later the whining generator turned off.
Outside the laboratory, and oblivious to the dangers of an out of control wormhole and a defective nuclear reactor, the four Globians, who were now under arrest, were arguing about the shot. “I think that the Scindle fly noticed your shot, so that is five credits that you owe me, Largbyt.” Lowbug said triumphantly.
“Sorry Lowbug, but the Scindle fly did not notice anything; the blast killed him before he even knew that I had shot him. It is you that owe me five credits.” Largbyt crowed.
On a beautiful planet far far away from the planet Calamity, two young friends had somehow won a trip around their hometown in a light aircraft, and they were both very excited when they arrived at the long grass meadow that was to be used for just this one time as a runway. Their mothers had brought them, and were now standing by their cars watching as the aircraft, that their sons were sitting in, took off on the thirty-minute trip. Reuben and Jasper were just twelve years old, and they were sitting in the two rear seats. They watched with excitement as the craft moved away from the ground and flew over the English Channel, before turning back towards the town of Hastings.
All seemed to be going well for them until angry looking storm clouds appeared from out of nowhere, it was just above and directly in front of them. The two boys watched in awe as a fiery mouth opened in the middle of the storm clouds, it was whirling around at a great speed and gyrating around the storm clouds in a mad dance, sucking in everything close enough to its greedy maw. Their pilot tried to avoid the monstrous thing, but the fiery mouth seemed to anticipate his every move, and then it gulped down the aircraft, along with Reuben and Jasper. From out of nowhere a hurricane force wind appeared that pulled them forward at an increasing rate of knots, it flipped the plane upside down, it hammered against the fuselage doors and finally ripped open the one by the pilot. Mr Craddock, their pilot, had never worn a seatbelt, seeing himself as far too macho, when the wind caught the small aircraft and threw it upright again, he found himself thrown violently out of the plane. The last that the two friends saw of him was as he pulled the ripcord that opened his parachute, although whether it would save him depended on the gods, and impossible as it might seem the storm now grew in intensity.
“Reuben where are our parachutes?” Jasper asked anxiously.
Reuben looked around, he looked under his seat, he looked behind his seat, and then he gulped. “I do not think that we have a parachute Jasper!” Rueben exclaimed with another gulp. “In any case Jasper, I really do not fancy jumping out of the plane, not into this storm.”
Reuben decided that they really needed a pilot, so when the aircraft stopped gyrating for a moment he climbed into the pilot`s seat. As he strapped himself in the wind veered sharply and threw the aircraft violently to the side, and knocked the two boys against anything near enough to hit, loud howls came from both the boys who were now rubbing their sore heads. Reuben quickly closed the door next to him, and it was now that the engine of the aircraft began to stutter, as if it too was panic stricken, and finally it began to fade as if it did not dare to fly within this new and very scary environment. Somehow the engine kept turning over, just. Reuben was now piloting the aircraft, with Jasper sitting next to him, for he had also climbed into the front seat. Even though Reuben had tried to keep the aircraft on an even keel, it kept bucking as the strange wind hit it from every direction. The fear on the face of Jasper had returned twofold, and Reuben could feel the same fear and panic rising in him as well, how he was able to hang onto his own ragged nerves for so long, he would never know. His knuckles had turned white from gripping the joystick so hard, and he was certain that they were doomed to die in this storm of storms. All about them, Reuben saw a nightmare vision that wanted nothing more than to attack their flimsy aircraft, and it`s two young passengers.
The inside of the aircraft was ice cold, far colder than Reuben had ever been before, his breath now froze as he exhaled, he shivered uncontrollably as the windows of the aircraft began to mist up. Reuben looked across at his friend who looked back, his fear mirroring the one that Reuben felt. Nothing aboard the aircraft was working except for the stuttering engine that still refused to die completely, and Reuben was sure that it would also give in to the storm soon. They should have crashed into something but still they flew on intact inside the clouds, they should have been torn apart, but something seemed to want more from them, more than just fear.
The colour of the clouds had become almost psychedelic, as a continuous flow of bright orange lights sped towards them at impossible speeds, only to shoot by them and disappear back into this terrifying cloud, making Reuben and Jasper believe for a second that they were in an x-file movie. For a long moment, the glare of a lightning flash temporarily blinded the two boys; then another lightning bolt exploded, it was uncomfortably close to the light aircraft and it terrified the two boys who now began to pray very loudly. Finally, their sight returned, but it brought more terror as they saw their skin changing colour to match that of the cloud, but Reuben did not think that it was just a reflection of the cloud`s colour, his and Jasper`s skin appeared to be really changing colour. Then he noticed that the aircraft, Jasper, everything, every atom of everything was changing, was in motion, disassembling from its neighbour. Reuben wanted to scream to relieve his stress, but by now, nothing remained still long enough to allow him even this small amount of comfort. His body, that of Jasper, even the aircraft, every single atom was in constant motion. He was sure that he would soon pass out, but as his mind verged on hysteria everything stilled, Reuben stilled, the aircraft stilled, Jasper stilled, time stilled. The two boys could not believe this was happening to them, they were sure that they had now left their universe behind them, and that they had entered into a secret netherworld beyond their own. One piece of information not known by Reuben and Jasper, and maybe they were lucky here, was that the aircraft was now nowhere near to the planet Earth, it had just passed Alpha Centauri and was still moving even further away through space. To Reuben it seemed to be a contest between the strange storm and gravity as to which would kill them. Another huge blaze of lightning lit up the sky directly ahead, and they plunged straight into its fiery embrace, lightning rippling along the aircraft much as water does across a rock. Reuben and Jasper were both feeling very light headed now, as the oxygen within the craft was used up. Normality had indeed left the room Reuben thought as he began to lose consciousness, leaving only a supernatural storm that battled against the small aircraft, tossing it and its occupants about like so much flotsam.
Many things appeared in the skies of Calamity when they cut the power supply to the wormhole, such as huge rocks, ones dragged from asteroid fields in other planetary systems. These now crashed down onto the planet, causing damage across the planet, amid a massive thunderstorm that had been scooped up by the wormhole. Some other things rushed through the atmosphere of Calamity, such as a storm of meteorites that burnt up in the atmosphere of the planet, and one small aircraft, battered and falling fast towards the ground below.
Reuben was on the verge of losing consciousness when the fresh air of Calamity rushed into the aircraft bringing him around, and like a cork from a champagne bottle the aircraft burst forth from the clouds and there was light, natural light, normal light, light that was not supernatural light, but unfortunately the small aircraft was losing altitude fast.
Rueben could see that they would either crash into the ground, or into the towering cliff face ahead; both were coming nearer with every second. The two boys screamed out in fear, but Reuben now recovered from his state of shock, he realised that he had to act quickly to prevent the aircraft from crashing into the ground below, a ground filled with a waiting jungle! However, there was no time to wonder about the presence of the jungle, for with a stuttering engine, pondering such matters was not high up on the list of priorities. As more and more jungle filled his field of vision he did the only thing he could, he pulled back on the joystick, and then he remembered his video game, of course the engine needed more power. Reuben now pushed the throttle forward to increase the power to the engine, and it roared back into life just as Jasper took hold of the joystick and helped to pull it back, and the aircraft slowly began its climb away from the ground. But the battle was not yet won, for with the cliff face looming ever closer, it was in the lap of the gods as to whether they would live through the next few moments. They could now plainly see every detail of the rocky cliff face that was fast approaching them. Time and space were rapidly running out, and just as it seemed as if time had indeed run out, blue sky suddenly appeared before them as the cliff face disappeared from view. The aircraft had somehow managed to find an updraft of warm air and gain enough height to clear the top of the cliff and get them to safety. Reuben and Jasper both screamed with delight, but it all seemed premature, for the aircraft shuddered as it hit a particularly solid piece of the vegetation that covered the top of the cliff top. A loud thud rang through the mortally wounded aircraft, telling of untold damage to the lower portion of their now stricken aircraft.
Smoke began to pour out from beneath their speeding aircraft, and all they saw around them was ‘wall to wall’ jungle, which spread out beneath them like an Amazonian rain forest. Reuben looked over to Jasper.
“This cannot be real; surely we must have died and gone to hell”
Jasper looked over at Reuben and smiled. “Well it seems very green to be the fiery depths of Hell, Reuben, more likely one of us is having a nightmare, and if it is you will you please wake up.”
Reuben gave a half grin to Jasper. “We will have to find somewhere to land, and fast, for we don`t have all that much fuel left Jasper, and I think that the aircraft is very badly damaged, there is a great deal of smoke streaming out behind us.”
As if to reinforce this view, the engine began to cough and splutter again, and the nose of the aircraft dipped sharply towards the waiting jungle.
“You`re right Reuben, the engine doesn`t sound too good, do you think that it will last long enough to get us down safely?” Jasper cried out in desperation.
“It`s not over yet Jasper, look, look, over there, a meadow.”
In front of them, a pocket-handkerchief sized meadow slowly grew in size as they approached it until Reuben was sure it would do, if he were as good in real life as he was when playing computer games.
The Miles Finch, for this was the make of the aircraft, answered the question for them, when it`s engine finally gave up the battle. This forced Reuben to use all his skills as a computer game pilot just to keep the aircraft airborne long enough for them to reach the meadow, and the hoped for safety that it offered.
The meadow was not very large by any standard, but it was maybe just large enough, and it did look flattish, anyway flat enough for their desperate needs, but what was the point in worrying now when the aircraft had made the choice for them? The aircraft skimmed over the tops of the trees, Reuben had no need to lower the wheels of the Miles Finch as it had fixed wheels, Reuben just hoped that they hadn`t been damaged when they had hit something a minute earlier. The stricken aircraft was now falling quickly towards the waiting meadow, and it needed all of his skills as a computer game`s pilot to keep the nose of the aircraft up, and then they were clear of the trees and over the meadow. Reuben had almost brought the aircraft down onto terra firma, but it was still not all over, for the jungle was rushing towards them from the far end of the meadow, but he finally got the craft down and they now bounced along this short improvised runway. In fact there followed a series of bumps and bangs that jarred their entire bodies, causing Jasper to cry out in pain, as for Reuben, well he needed all his concentration just to keep them alive. The craft was down though, with the long grass of the meadow flattening out beneath them, leaving a long crushed strip as the aircraft rushed along through it at what seemed a suicidal speed. The tall grass blocked their view; it gave the appearance that they were moving through a long green tunnel where the wall in front of them was rushing along ahead of them, as if to stop them from running over it.
Rueben managed to slowly reduce their speed, it was down to a more sedate rate when the grass in front of them disappeared, and ahead of them appeared a massive rock wall with a large cave inset into it, and they were approaching it far too fast!
“I don`t think we can stop in time.” screamed Jasper.
Then Fate took another hand in the events when one of the wheels struck a large boulder shearing it from the aircraft and spinning the aircraft so that it finally came to a rest with a large crash that almost destroyed the rear of the aircraft. The aircraft had ended its days at the back of the large cave that they had been tearing towards just moments ago, and with no sign of whatever had been burning, and leaving a trail of smoke behind them. Reuben had hardly had the time to react to all the events, they had all happened so quickly, so he did not bother to try as he slowly let out a sigh.
“Well, it was not what I would have called a really smooth landing Jasper, but… I suppose it will do.”
Both of them broke down in a fit of laughter, after all the stress of the last hour it was nice to be down in one piece, and finally safe. They both opened the doors of the aircraft and stumbled out, or maybe it was they fell out, onto the ground, happy to feel something firm beneath their feet.
From outside the cave, rocks hurtled down out of the sky keeping them a prisoner within it, but they finally let up allowing Reuben to walk out of the cave. Just as he was about to take in the view, two long spears hurtled from the sky and pierced the ground, one either side of Reuben, and with a very loud thud. Reuben`s heart began to beat just as loudly as he looked at them, one had been so close that it was actually touching one of his shoes. Inside the cave Jasper looked on in disbelief, and for all of two seconds before reacting, then he grabbed his young friend and pulled him safely back inside of the cave.
They looked at each other, and then at the two spears. “That was far too close Reuben.” Jasper said and the two boys laughed, surely Reuben`s luck would see them through whatever lay ahead of them.
The cave was rather smelly, and they now noticed a pile of bones at the rear of the cave, which did not make them feel any better. “We really do need to get out of this cave Jasper.” Reuben said in a very quiet and shaky voice.
First though he looked through the wreckage of the aircraft for anything that might be of help to them, the only thing he found was a silver cigarette lighter, obviously lost by the pilot during the storm, he picked it up and put it into his pocket. They only had to wait two more minutes for the meteorite storm to finally peter out, then they left the cave, eager to be away from it before the owner returned. As they left, they each pulled one of the spears out of the ground, just in case they met a savage animal before they found their way back to civilisation. They found themselves at the edge of a large meadow, and to head into it seemed appealing, until Reuben remembered the second Jurassic Park movie, in that movie the people who had run through the tall grass had died, however, to their right there seemed to be a narrow animal track that went deep into the jungle.
“This way Jasper.” Reuben said and moved off along the track with Jasper close behind him.
They had been walking for ten minutes when they entered into a small glade, but then up ahead of them, and also entering the glade, an extremely large black furry animal resembling a bear ambled towards them. Jasper`s first thought was to escape; unfortunately he seemed to have two left feet, and he got them tangled amid a vine that ran across the floor and up the trunk of a nearby tree. He promptly fell flat on his face knocking most of the wind from his lungs and losing his grip on his spear, what air remained in his lungs Jasper used up with a loud cry of terror. The animal thankfully was not as quick as a bear, but even so, it was making short time of devouring the space between it and the two boys. Reuben quickly pulled complaining Jasper to his feet and almost pushed him to a nearby tree that looked climbable. Reuben stopped at the base of the tree and helped his young friend, whose feet franticly searched for footholds, and Reuben propelled his friend up towards the safety of the tree`s branches, but it was slow going. This meant that Reuben spent valuable moments shoving a puffing and complaining Jasper up to safety instead of finding some for himself.
Unfortunately, the beast was too near now to allow Reuben to scramble to the safety that Jasper had found, and so Rueben did what was natural to him, he fought back. He threw his spear at the large animal, unfortunately, it only raked the hindquarters of the animal, it did not stop it, but it did make it very angry, as Reuben could tell from its loud roar directed straight at him. Reuben felt like fainting, but he did not, instead he picked up a section of a branch that was behind him, a victim of a recent storm, and with the bear almost upon him, he spun about and caught the bear a blow with the heavy branch. However, he had almost mistimed it for it only caught the beast a blow on its stubby snout, but the beast stopped its charge abruptly and howled out in shock and pain. Reuben followed this up by jabbing the branch into the animal’s stomach, which made it give ground before him. Unfortunately, the animal then stood its ground and lashed out at the branch with its massive fore feet. It should have sent the piece of wood flying across the clearing, but Reuben found that he possessed more strength than he thought he had. He was able to not only keep a hold on it, but spinning around again he brought the added momentum into play, and with great satisfaction brought the branch crashing round against the beasts head. The blow knocked the creature to the floor and stunned it long enough to give Reuben time enough to head for another young tree some fifteen feet away, and here he was able to scramble up it to safety.
The bear like animal was now back upon its feet, or to be precise it`s two back feet. It stood fully ten feet tall upon its hind legs, it was very mad at missing its dinner, and very angry at the treatment it had received at Reuben`s hands, so it roared its displeasure at the two boys far into the night. It had been a close thing though, for in a final attempt to get it`s dinner it had made a try at grabbing Reuben`s feet, but thankfully it`s claws just missed their target, brushing Reuben`s left shoe as he quickly drew his foot up to the safety the rest of his body enjoyed. For a while, the bear pounded against the trunk of his tree, as if attempting to knock him down, but tiring of this, it then continued to roar its displeasure, and Reuben who was just a little way above the savage beast, could smell its fetid breath as it complained to him about missing its dinner.
“Thank you Reuben, you saved my life without a thought for your own safety, you are a true hero.” Jasper called across to his brave friend in sincere thanks and admiration.
“Shucks, it weren`t nothing.” Reuben said copying a phrase that he had heard on Looney Tunes, he then smiled at his young friend. Reuben was very glad to come through their ordeal in one piece, and without turning completely to jelly, and so he said a silent prayer to god for saving him.
“You stopped to help me to my feet even though a two ton bear was bearing down on us.” Jasper continued with his thanks, and in awe of the bravery shown by his friend.
“Bearing down on us, well what else would a bear do?” Reuben said laughing, but now feeling a little self-conscious at all of the praise being heaped upon him by his friend.
The night soon passed, and without either of the two boys being able to get very much sleep, Reuben almost fell from his perch once, only just grabbing hold of another branch to stop himself from providing dinner for the bear like animal, but as the sun rose so the animal left them to search for a more cooperative source of food.
The two boys eventually scrambled down and went in search of food and water, with their precise location once again the main topic of conversation, although the large ringed planet that also rose with the sun did stop their idle chatter as the two boys stopped still and looked at it in wonder, plus a little fear.
“Reuben where did that planet come from?” Jasper wondered fearfully.
“Jasper, I don`t think we are on Earth any more, we must have travelled a little further than we thought, maybe that giant mouth was the entrance to a wormhole.” Reuben replied in a stunned voice.
It was now that their luck changed, for they came upon a small mountain stream, and they used it to relieve their thirst, though their stomachs were rumbling now, complaining about the lack of food.
Ahead of them was a large clearing, the grass well-trimmed by the creatures of the jungle, and Jasper started to move across it, even after Reuben had advised against it, for should another hungry beast appear there would be no safe retreats. It was now that a giant ostrich appeared, known to the locals of the planet as a Magi. On seeing Jasper foolishly walking across the meadow, it let out an unholy screech and charged towards him. Jasper froze for a moment, but then turned to run back towards Reuben who had wisely walked nearer to the trees. Poor Jasper must have really been born with two left feet; for he tripped again, and fell sprawling to the ground, the air knocked out of his lungs, again.
Reuben could see that his friend was in dire trouble now, and so he rushed forward and put himself between the giant bird and his friend, and when the bird reached him Reuben brought his spear up to defend himself. He lunged forward with the spear, feeling it bite into the giant bird, the sharp metal spearhead forcing its way into the breast of the Magi and tearing into its vital organs, the momentum of the bird`s charge adding to the strength of Reuben`s earthly muscles, for Calamity had a lower planetary mass than Earth. The Magi did not die though, although it was really mad now, its head on the end of its long neck lunged towards his head, and that would have finished things had it reached him, but Reuben managed to leap to one side and so he kept away from its vicious beak. The Magi squawked its protest at its prey as Reuben grabbed his spear, that was still sticking in the bird`s breast, and pulled it free, and then he pushed it forward once again into the breast of this gigantic bird. The bird roared out again in pain, and again it lunged at him but he was too fast for it. The bird`s small yellow beady eyes glared out a hatred that Reuben almost felt, and it wasn`t finished yet. Reuben withdrew the spear again as the bird moved its neck snake like, moving it from side to side as it looked for an opening to continue the attack with its huge beak. At this range, one successful kick from its feet could easily finish the battle, but thankfully, it did not unleash this particular article of its arsenal yet. Reuben didn`t have time to think of this, or much else as he fought for his life, and maybe that of Jasper`s too. Reuben, used his spear to parry each of the bird`s attempts to reach him with its large beak, but the bird almost succeeded in getting through his defence more than once. Repeatedly he caught the bird a sharp knock against the side of its head or neck when its head darted in towards him, desperately trying to find a way through to his own head or body. Blood was running down its neck from these blows, down onto its bloody breast and the Magi was beginning to tire, so the bird changed its tactics. It almost finished Reuben off there and then, for now it did let loose a terrific kick towards him, Reuben only just succeeded in leaping aside, the birds sharp talons lashed towards him raking his side, and had the blow connected it would have been fatal. However, with the bird having lost so much blood its final attempt to kill him was slower, and so Reuben managed to survive it. Reuben jumped to his feet and thrust the spear into the breast of the Magi once again, now the bird could only stand there and let cry with another terrific squawk, as it began to retreat away from Reuben, but in a direction that would take it near to Jasper, who was now coming to his feet. Jasper rushed forward to aid his friend and thrust his own spear into the bird`s knee joint sending it crashing to the ground. The head and long neck crashed down just inches away from Reuben, who thrust his spear down for the last time to spear the giant bird through its head, finally killing it.
The two boys looked at each other in triumph, and when they finally got their breathing under control, Jasper once again thanked his friend. Reuben merely shrugged and began to talk about the battle, and how he and Jasper had finally put paid to the monster bird. Jasper`s stomach chose now let out a very loud noise, reminding him just how hungry he was, and making the two boys laugh. Looking down at the bird Reuben had a good idea. “Jasper, let`s eat the bird, well some of it.” Reuben declared eagerly.
And so the two boys decided to make up a fire, Reuben remembered seeing a small ring of stones not far from where their dinner lay, for during the fight he had almost stumbled over them. When they investigated them they found that the ring of stones was an old camp fire, one that was filled with ash from previous fires, and there laying in the grass was a metal skewer along with two metal uprights, a spit, left there by someone in a rush to escape a Magi bird perhaps?
“You know what this means Jasper, there are people living on this planet, and all we have to do is find them.” Reuben declared, feeling much better now they had proof that help was not too far away, hopefully.
They then collected some wood from the forest, and dry grass from the meadow, for their fuel. Then using the blades of their spears, the two boys cuts four large fillets of meat from the dead bird`s breast and pushed the skewer through them. Reuben then lit the dried grass and added small twigs to get a small fire going, adding fuel only when needed, so as to ensure the fire did not get out of control, that and to also ensure that they did not burn their dinner rather than cook it. The resulting meal was not as good as the meals cooked for them by their mothers, but it did drive away all of their hunger pangs, although it had a definite smoky taste to it. They ate two steaks and saved the other two for later, not wanting to leave the area of their kill without a supply of food, so they wrapped the meat in their cotton hankies, ones that their mothers had insisted they carry, and saved these two portions of roast ostrich for later.
Jasper finally noticed the line of blood seeping through his friend`s shirt. “Reuben, you are hurt!” He exclaimed loudly.
Reuben looked down and saw the blood stain. “That bird did it just before we killed it.” Reuben explained as he pulled his shirt out of his trousers to see how bad the cut was, thankfully it was not deep and had already stopped bleeding. Therefore, he tucked his shirt back in and decided to forget it until they came across another mountain stream in which to clean his injury.
“We should probably head off, away from the bird Jasper, before that bear catches the scent of its blood and comes here after a free meal.” Reuben advised his friend who agreed, for he did not want to meet the bear on open ground, not after the way Reuben had treated it.
So the two boys now decided to walk off their meal, they moved off down another jungle track that finally took them to a part of the planet that was very rocky, hardly any vegetation grew here. However, Reuben was still feeling up after their defeat of the giant bird, and so they decided to investigate this part of their new world. One hour later, and with aching feet, they found a shady spot to rest up in, and with the warmth of the day, and after their long walk, they both fell asleep, it was just as the sun began to set.
Reuben woke up suddenly, it was dawn, and the sun was just touching the distant hills. He struggled to sit up wondering what all the noise was, it was Jasper, he was screaming for help. A small man with large eyes and pale skin was carrying a struggling Jasper, who was slung over the strange man`s shoulder. Reuben`s last sight of him was his friend`s imploring eyes begging for help, for the man sped away, and he really was able to move quickly for a small person carrying a load. Reuben just had time to see them disappear around a bend in the rock, the one beneath which they had been resting, but by the time Reuben had come to his feet the man had gone, and so had Jasper. Reuben immediately grabbed his and Jasper`s spears and gave chase, however when he came around the bend he found that Jasper and the ugly small man had vanished. The man`s footprints stopped at a rocky track, and just before a rock face that went up forever, and Reuben felt it highly unlikely that the strange little man could have scaled it with a struggling Jasper over his shoulder. There was another strange fact, Reuben could still hear Jasper`s cries for help, but they were now sounding a little muffled. Reuben hurried further along the track, and there just feet away was a narrow slit in the rock, but easily wide enough for Reuben to slide through. At the end he came to a large cavern, and leading away from it was a dark tunnel, and it was from the tunnel that Reuben could hear his friend`s cries for help.
To enter the dark tunnel would be foolhardy, he needed light, and he found it laying on the floor near to his feet, it was an old home made torch made of twigs, moss, and a wooden handle, he picked it up and lit it with the pilot`s cigarette lighter. Then he moved forward into the cave and along the tunnel, and into the stygian darkness of the underworld of Calamity, he held his torch in his right hand, and his two spears were in his left hand, their shafts resting against his shoulder. He moved slowly ahead, his torch throwing a cone of light before him, lighting his way. A very real fear began to consume him, would he be in time to save Jasper, or would he get there too late. A week ago, he sat behind a school desk, now he had to be a hero, and one with the job of rescuing his best friend. A thought flashed into his head, even if he found Jasper in time; would he be up to the task of rescuing him? After all, he was only a young boy. He pushed these thoughts away as he hurried along the tunnel; it seemed that it went on forever before him. He was a little worried that he would get himself lost in this labyrinth, but once again, he did not allow the fear of getting lost down here in this realm of eternal night to affect him, for he would never succeed in his mission if he did. In any case, he was following a mostly straight tunnel with a strong breeze blowing down it, one that had been beating cool against his back ever since he entered into this subterranean world. He had come across numerous side tunnels and thought that he had probably missed others, but he had always followed the direction that the breeze was blowing, that and his friend`s muffled cries for help.
Reuben had been in the tunnels for some twenty minutes when he thought he heard hurried footsteps behind him. Reuben quickly extinguished his torch and stepped into one of the side tunnels that luckily had appeared just at the right moment standing there to await his tracker. Twenty seconds later and he heard the heavy footsteps of someone coming along the tunnel. Reuben decided immediately that if it were a Troglodyte tracking him, then he would fight, knock him out maybe, for he couldn`t allow anyone to get in the way of his mission to save Jasper. The main tunnel suddenly became brighter as the Troglodyte warrior approached the side tunnel where Reuben was concealed, and then the warrior stopped immediately in front of Reuben, Reuben could see him clearly in the light of the man`s own torch. The warrior began sniffing the air for the scent that he had been following since he had entered the main tunnel, and Reuben knew that with all of his recent exercise that he probably smelt some. The warrior`s eyes swivelled round in search of Reuben, but Reuben did not wait to give the warrior a fair chance, he brought his torch violently down onto the troglodyte`s head. The torch that the native carried fell from his hands and then the warrior sank to his knees and finally collapsed onto the floor, Reuben`s muscles were made for use upon Earth, not Calamity, and so he was as strong as the Troglodyte, added to that was the heavy wooden handle of the torch. Reuben knew that he could have used the spear, but the thought of killing a stranger was repugnant to him, even one who may be his enemy.
Reuben was about to leave when he noticed the warrior`s bow, and a quiver of arrows, both still slung about the troglodyte`s shoulders, and so he appropriated them for his own use. Just as he was about to leave Reuben`s eyes lit on the small man`s cloak, Reuben thought that it could come in useful later on, to use as a disguise, and so he quickly removed it from the seemingly unconscious body. The cloak felt greasy and smelt even worse than he probably did, but if he held his breath for the next hour, it would be ok. Reuben then walked back into the main tunnel and picked up the Troglodytes torch, for it was better than his own. Now he was finally ready, so he moved off along the long dimly lit tunnel in continuance of his quest. He did not hear the ping, or see one of the Troglodyte`s eyes spring up and wobble on the end of a spring. He didn`t even see the small aerial poke up through the creatures hairline and send out a message of distress.
Up ahead Reuben finally saw the blackness becoming lighter, and then he heard alien voices coming from ahead of him, so Reuben extinguished his torch and crept forward, keeping the torch for use later on. Light danced on the walls before him, and he soon saw that the tunnel turned sharply to the right, and finally the pathway went down to the floor of a large cavernous chamber. In the middle of the chamber, thirty Troglodytes danced about a large fire, looking like witches from a medieval scene. Smoke from the fire drifted up and up and coated the roof of the chamber with a thick layer of soot.
As Jasper finally started to regain consciousness, having fainted from fear, he found that he couldn`t move his arms so he now opened his eyes. He found himself in a large dimly lit cavern, his hands and feet bound, and he was tied to a large rock. He struggled with his bonds, but they had been tied too tightly for him to be able to free himself. Then he saw the vile creatures dancing about their large fire, screams and shrieks coming from their filthy mouths as they worked themselves into a frenzied state. They were preparing themselves for their disgusting feast and he, Jasper realised, was to be the main course. He started his struggles with his bindings again, but only got torn skin for his pains. Jasper strained his eyes as he searched the cavern for any sign of help, maybe Reuben would find him, or maybe find help.
Reuben could hardly restrain himself when he saw that Jasper was still alive. How to release him though when between them were thirty bloodthirsty Troglodytes who would kill him as well, if they caught him. All he had was his bow and his two spears, and as he knew of no trickery to scare them away, he assumed that he might have to wage war upon them. First though, he would try a more silent approach, for that he had to cover fifty feet to reach Jasper, and without being seen, but the cloak he had taken from the Troglodyte might help him there. Reuben put the disgusting piece of clothing over his head and pulled it down over his own clothing. Now is as good a time as any other Reuben thought, and making his move he slipped down the ramp that led from the tunnel to the cavern`s floor. Once there he began to sidle around the wall, keeping to the shadows when he could, brazening it out when he couldn`t. He was now only ten feet from Jasper, who had seen him and thrown him a smile. Reuben quickly covered the last few feet and cut Jasper`s bonds with the blade of the spear. The blood in Jasper`s veins began to flow normally as pins and needles affected his arms and feet, so Reuben had to almost carry him towards another tunnel on the far side of the large cavern, and through which the breeze continued on its way. Somewhere ahead of them there had to be an exit that would allow the breeze to escape from the labyrinth, and to allow them to escape with it.
They had almost made it when a loud cry went up from behind them. A Troglodyte was pointing at them, and screaming out something in his guttural tongue that sounded angry, probably because he was seeing his prisoner escaping, Reuben thought. The mad dancing bunch of warriors turned en-masse and hurried after them, calling out to them all the time, but by then Reuben and Jasper had reached the tunnel at the far end of the cavern. Taking out an arrow, he put it against the bowstring, aimed at the nearest Troglodyte, and let fly the arrow. It whistled through the air to bury itself into the chest of the warrior. The warrior stopped and just stood there, small sparks coming from where the arrow entered the warrior`s body, but the two boys did not notice them, they only had eyes for the other Troglodytes, who were getting nearer all the time, Reuben fired another arrow followed by another, but both of them missed. Jasper had taken his own spear and thrown it, all his anger and fear of these creatures adding to his natural strength, but it whizzed over the top of the warriors to fall harmlessly on the floor behind them, as did Reuben`s spear. The warriors were almost upon them when Reuben turned to Jasper and said one word, “Run!” and they rushed into the tunnel where Reuben stopped to take a moment to light his torch which would light their way through the dark tunnels before them.
“Ok Jasper we will have to risk the dangers in front and hot foot it out of here, but be of good cheer for we will soon be away from these monsters.”
They both bolted away from the cavern`s entrance, but from behind them they could hear the Troglodytes` feet as they pursued them, luckily for Reuben and Jasper the Troglodytes were merely walking briskly, not being in a hurry to catch up with them. Fortunately the walls were quite smooth in this part of the labyrinth of tunnels, and with the light of the torch to light their way they didn`t hurt themselves against the hard rocks of the tunnel walls. The tunnel seemed to go on for miles, but at least the sounds of their pursuers had now faded away into the distance. The tunnel now began to narrow until they had to run Indian style, with Reuben following Jasper. Here the breeze strengthened into a wind, blowing them along, when all of a sudden the tunnel seemed to end at a solid wall of rock.
“I don`t understand it.” Reuben said. “We have been following the direction that the breeze has been blowing all the time; there must be a way out?”
“There is Reuben, look above you, it`s a chimney, and there is the sky.” Jasper cried in joy.
Reuben thrust his burning torch up into the small opening above their heads and the strengthened breeze took the flames up into the chimney, the flames roaring now as the breeze fed them even more oxygen.
“Come on Jasper let`s climb out of here.” Reuben yelled jubilantly.
The sound of their pursuers had grown while they had stood their looking for a way out, and Reuben hoped they could climb high enough to get away from them in time. Reuben threw the burning torch to the floor and then slipped his bow over his shoulder, he didn`t need to urge Jasper to go first for he was already climbing up into the narrow shaft above Reuben`s head. At first, the going was comparatively easy, although Reuben and Jasper had to depend on what their fingers told them, until their eyes gradually adjusted to the dim light inside of the chimney. They had both covered another ten feet before their pursuers finally arrived at the bottom of the chimney, their torches throwing a flickering light up the narrow chimney. The Troglodytes called up to them in their alien language, they were in fact urging the two boys to come down and play with them, but Reuben and Jasper could not understand them. They only had to climb another ten feet to escape the Troglodytes, and once up at the top Jasper turned round and called down to the Troglodytes.
“The next time we see you had better run back to your filthy camp and hide.” Then the two boys fled before anymore of the Troglodytes appeared. One hour later they found a solitary tree and climbed up it`s trunk to rest and sleep, they were hungry again, thirsty, and exhausted, and they both went to sleep immediately.
The next morning they continued their search for a town, they were walking along a rough track through a range of hills that were covered in vegetation when they heard a voice calling to them. Reuben and Jasper spun around, but what they saw made them back away.
A dozen men, almost naked except for a loin cloth, stood there holding spears and shields. They had bones through their noses; a fantastic headdresses that appeared to be made from the feathers of large colourful birds, the feathers were in fact synthetic, made in a factory in the industrial town of Navaho.
“You two look rather tired, join us please, we were just about to have our dinner, and you two look so very tasty, I am sure that we would enjoy you.” Pancho, the man in the middle of the group said and then smiled.
Pancho looked rather scary, for he had a scar running one side of his face, he had cut it the day before and it was due to be fixed tomorrow, but today he looked scary. There was also the problem that Calamity was having with its troublesome and rather ornery computer. The part of the computer that held the English\Calamity dictionary had developed a fault, but it felt too embarrassed to admit it, so some of what was translated was wrong.
“Run, Jasper.” Reuben cried out in fear.
They fled along the rough track, going deeper and deeper into the hills until they came to a cliff face, thirty feet below them was a fast flowing river, behind them was a tired group of men who belonged to the history club of Calamity, they were dressed as natives of this region of Calamity, circa five thousand years prior to the present time. The twelve men were almost exhausted, not being very fit in the first place, and running after the two boys had just about finished them off.
“We only want you for dinner.” The scar faced man pleaded.
“Jump, Jasper.” Reuben cried in fear.
The two boys both jumped, a moment later the history club watched as the two boys hit the swiftly flowing river and were carried away downstream.
The scar faced man now realised that there might be a fault in the English\Calamity dictionary, and called the computer department to advise them.
As for Reuben and Jasper, the river carried them down to the Pink Lagoon, so called because of the colour of the sand; the lagoon was a large pool of water created by the river centuries ago, and out of bounds to all the citizens of Calamity. As the river carried on its way the two boys trod water in the still lagoon looking for a way out of it, for steep cliffs surrounded most of the lagoon.
Just then Reuben felt something tugging at his legs; he looked down just as a large Calamity freshwater octopus pulled him under. Jasper watched in alarm as he saw his friend suddenly disappear beneath the surface of the water. Realising that something must be wrong; he dove beneath the surface to see his friend Reuben, looking up at him, his eyes screaming for help, for the eight arms of a very large octopus were wrapped around his legs and body.
Jasper did not have a weapon on him, but he saw that Reuben still had a couple of arrows left in his quiver. Swimming down he looked the octopus in his malignant eyes, and then he pulled out two arrows from the now empty quiver. Then Jasper, with an arrow in each hand dug the arrows into the eyes of the monster octopus. If it could scream, then it probably did, it did squirt out all of its defensive ink at its attacker, and letting go of Reuben dashed off across the lagoon, ink following in its trail.
Reuben and Jasper just as quickly swam to the surface and took a lungful of air and then exited the pool. They hastily climbed out of the hollow that housed the Pink Lagoon, thankful to have escaped with their lives. It was almost mid-day now, and the sun was shining down upon them, its heat warming them after their swim, and also drying their clothes. Feeling rather down they continued their search for a town, along a dusty track and up a rather steep hill.
“Thank you Jasper, my arms were held by the octopus`s ones, I would surely have died if you had not put my safety before your own.” Reuben said and hugged his best friend.
“Think nothing of it, I still owe you one act of bravery, but I hope that I am not called on to repay it.” Jasper said, blushing.
As they reached the top of the hill, puffing and panting after all of their exertions, they saw a town in the far distant, and feeling better, they began their walk towards it, smiles upon both of their faces, for soon they would be safe, they hoped. However, no sooner were the two boys feeling more confident about their future, than something happened to scare the living daylights out of them. From behind them they heard the sound of heavy footsteps, and turning around in trepidation they saw a giant smiling down upon them, he was at least thirty feet high with large muscles and no hair.
“Hello boys.” The giant said to them in broken English. “Are you my breakfast?”
The two boys screamed and fled from the giant, who had they turned to watch merely laughed. The boys were so scared that they did not even wonder why the giant had spoken to them in English.
They soon got to a high security fence and decided to hurry along it in search of a gate, they came to one not far away, and standing at the gate was a police officer.
“You two boys are under arrest for trespassing and malicious damage, come with me.” Sergeant Malice ordered in broken English.
“Trespass, malicious damage, we haven`t done either of those things Sir, that must be someone else, we just want to return to our homes.” Reuben wailed fearfully.
“Oh it was you two all right, first you killed a Magi bird, they are protected by law you know. Then you damaged two of the Troglodyte robots in the Wild Reserve. Do you deny that? If that was not enough you then entered the pink lagoon and attacked a sacred oktapodi.” Sergeant Malice asked angrily.
“Sir, we are strangers here, we are sorry, and we never meant to break any laws, but the giant bird and the Troglodytes, they wanted to eat us. And the Octopus attacked us, so we had to defend ourselves didn`t we?” Jasper explained.
“You must know that you are not allowed to enter into the forest domain unless you are part of a tour. Sentry scanners in the Wild Reserve found you, and the Troglodytes intended to collect both of you, and then bring you back, to ensure that you came to no harm. You must have realised that they could never harm you in any way, they are robots, boys, surely your parents must have told you about the Wild Reserve.” Sergeant Malice said, hardly able to hold back his laughter.
“But Sir, we are not from your world, you see Sir, we were sucked through a large mouth that appeared suddenly in a storm, and then we were pulled through space to your planet, and now we`re marooned here, wherever here is.” Reuben declared boldly.
“Sucked through a large mouth you say, in the sky.” Sergeant Malice said, looking thoughtful, it was just as he had expected. “Well maybe you are innocent after all, because from what you say I think that I know what happened to you two boys, and don`t worry we will get you home.” Malice said kindly.
“Sir, what is the Wild Reserve?” Jasper asked shyly.
“It’s our newest theme park; unfortunately you two lads landed in the middle of it, rather than go through the usual entrance and enjoy one of the tours.” Sergeant Malice replied with a kind smile upon his face.
“Sir, how is it that you and the giant both speak English?” Reuben enquired politely.
The giant is another of our robotic life forms, and they can speak any language that is stored in our linguistic database, unfortunately our computer developed a fault and some of what you heard was wrongly translated. As for me well the people of Calamity all have to learn one specialist subject, and when it came to my turn, all the easier things had gone, and all that was left was a language spoken on a far off planet that one of our spacecraft had been researching, and the subject was your language.” Malice replied kindly.
Sergeant Malice took the two boys around to see Professor Grimly, and once there he repeated what the two boys had said.
“I see Sergeant, well I suppose that we should count ourselves lucky that these two young fellows are our only victims, but we can hardly send them back via the wormhole, no, they would most likely end up in the middle of some ocean, or on a mountain top perhaps.” Grimly said, after thinking the matter over. “No there is nothing for it but to take them back the old fashioned way, in a spaceship. I will get on the phone to Kanavaral space port and ask them to arrange it.”
Reuben and Jasper were both very relieved to be going home, and they were also very excited to hear that they would be returning aboard a spacecraft. Then Sergeant Malice added to their excitement by promising to take them both to the Wild Reserve, but on a tour this time.
The next few days flew by, they did indeed get to go to the Wild Reserve, and then finally they were on a spacecraft, and it was soon approaching Earth.
“Right boys, we have located Reuben`s house, and if you have your things together then I will beam you down.” Captain Korken said. Two minutes later the two boys appeared in the front room of Reuben`s house, much to his parents surprise and relief. Jasper`s parents rushed round as soon as they were phoned, then Reuben and Jasper told their story to two pair of shocked parents, and also showed them the presents that the kindly Sergeant Malice had given them, mementoes of the Wild Reserve.
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I was born in London, England. Like most of the world, I had to work hard to pay my mortgage and all the other bills, so I only had the time and the energy to write some short stories. My wife and I have a son who is now married to a lovely wife and they have five children of their own. Since retiring to the Greek island of Crete, I have finally found the time and the energy to write some full-length Science Fiction stories.
Trial by Ordeal
The Colonies of Earth Collection
Strange tales; three short mild horror stories
Kidnapped and Bound for Hell
Rescue Mission to the Stars
The Treasure of Altaraus
Return to Mazere
In the story Pirates Treasure, two young boys find a treasure map, and they decide to search for the hidden treasure. The map shows that it is under an old ruined church, unfortunately danger awaits them, and they are transported back to another time where they find that they are prisoners of a black hearted pirate captain. In the story The Haunted Abbey, a young girl decides to go out for the day with her father, however, she soon finds herself in a nightmare world. She is transported to an abbey in medieval Britain. Here she has to battle her fears and an evil wizard to free a young boy, who also happens to be a ghost, from the wizard`s evil clutches, and before the wizard catches her. In the story Sucked through a Wormhole, two boys have won a trip in an aircraft that is supposed to take them on a short flight above and around their home town. Instead they are sucked through a wormhole to another planet. There they have to endure many trials to survive while they search for help, help to send them both back home.