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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
They all huddled by the closed door, as far away from the ledge as possible, but that wasn't very far. They were perched on a slab of stone that was only about 10 feet wide and 10 feet across. "We almost ran into that pit," cried Alice. "We would have been killed instantly."
"Well, not instantly. It would have taken a long time to hit the bottom. We probably also would have died if we had been locked in that room," replied Charlie, but his logical reasoning didn't make them feel any better.
"We'll have to open the door," said George. They tried pushing on it, but it didn't budge at all. They examined it carefully and tried everything they could think of, but there were no markings on the door, and they had no idea how to get it open.
They gave up and sat down, huddling together with their backs against the door. George kicked a small rock off the ledge into the abyss. "Count," he ordered. Alice and Charlie had no idea what he was talking about, as he said, "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five." Then they head a muffled bink sound and a few smaller binks followed by some strange, disorienting echoes.
"Why were you counting?" asked Alice. "Have you completely lost your mind? Our problem isn't thunder and lightning, it's a pit."
"I was trying to figure out how deep the pit is to see if we could climb it." George replied sharply. "Gravity pulls things downward at about 10 meters per second per second. The first second it fell, the rock started at a speed of zero, and ended going at 10 meters per second -- so in that first second it traveled about 5 meters. The second second, it started at 10 meters per second and ended that second at 20 meters per second -- so it traveled about 15 meters in that second second, and so on. Let me finish the calculations in my head." George closed his eyes, and Alice and Charlie were quiet for a moment. Then George said, "The pit is about 125 meters deep. That's over 400 feet - that's like a 40-story building going straight into the Earth."
"So we can't just climb down out of here," said Charlie. "We'll have to find another way out." But they were out of both ideas and energy.
Alice said, "I'm cold, I'm tired of being in the dark, and I'm hungry. I don't want to be here anymore, and I certainly don't want to die here on this awful ledge."
"Neither do I," replied Charlie, "but we have to think of a way to get out of here."
"There is no way out of here," shouted Alice. "We've tried everything possible with that stupid door, but it won't open. And we can't go into the pit or across it. I'm stranded here with two guys I barely even know."
"What? You know us," said Charlie.
"Barely," said Alice. "I don't even know what you like to do or what you want to be when you grow up. Not that it matters, now, since we probably won't have a chance to grow up."
Charlie didn't hesitate, and said, "I want to be a vertebrate paleontologist, specializing in dinosaurs."
George added, "I can't decide between chemistry and physics. I used to be sure it was chemistry, but lately, I like physics more and more." He tossed another pebble off the ledge, and silently counted how long it was until it hit bottom.
Charlie asked, "What about you, Alice?"
Alice said, "I used to have this dream when I was little. In the dream, I lived in a beautiful town and everybody traded jobs every month. One month, you'd be a baker, the next month you'd be a painter, and then a teacher and then a banker. You could be everything there was to be and learn about everything."
"That's weird," said George, as he tossed another rock into the pit and mouthed the count.
"No, it's not. It's certainly not as weird as physics," said Alice.
"Hey!" George shouted, "that last pebble only fell about 10 feet!" George crawled to the edge nearest where he had launched his last pebble - far to their left. "Give me the light, Charlie" demanded George.
Charlie handed him the flashlight, and George shone it directly beneath him. He saw a tiny ledge about 10 feet below them. "Look, it's hard to see, but theres a small ledge below us. That's our way out," said George.
Charlie and Alice looked. Alice spoke first, "That looks like fun. We climb down slippery rocks onto a ledge that's about 2 feet wide. And if we miss, which we will, we fall into a pit and die. You can go first."
George responded, "If we use my rope, we'll be able to make it. You always make fun of my tools, but I knew that carrying this rope with us would come in handy. "
George gave the flashlight back to Charlie, and he took the rope off his shoulder. He tied one end of the rope securely to an overhanging rock and tested the rope by pulling on it with all his weight. He then dangled the other end over the ledge and let it fall down onto the tiny ledge below them.
"I'll go first," George said. He tested the rope again by pulling on it, then he slowly shimmied down onto the ledge below. He stood on the tiny ledge and called up to Alice and Charlie, "There's a passage here, but I can't see a thing - it's completely dark."
Charlie shone the light down to where George was pointing; George said, "I still can't see anything."
"I'll go next," said Charlie, and he climbed down the rope, carrying the flashlight between his teeth. When Charlie joined George, they shone the light into the passage and they both smiled. "I think we're back at the 'spider' room," Charlie called up to Alice.
"Don't call it that," Alice shouted, "now shine the light back up here so I can get down off this awful ledge." Charlie complied, and Alice quickly went down the rope.
They went through the doorway, and were indeed back in the large domed room with eight exits. "Wait," said Alice, "don't forget to mark the way we just came in. I don't want to go through this doorway and fall into that pit."
Charlie took out his pencil and marked the doorway, "pit." He looked around the chamber, and said, "Here's the passage that we went in originally, the one we marked #1 - it's across from the one we just came out of. The King's chamber is directly above this room."
"Now we have to figure out how to get out of here," added George. "let's try another door across the room, away from that pit."
They decided to try the door next to the one they had tried the first time. Charlie took out a pencil and maked the column next to it with a #2.
The passage was wide, and Alice, George, and Charlie walked side by side. They traveled slowly in this corridor, aware now of the dangers that might confront them at any step.
After they walked about 30 feet through the curving passage, George asked, "What's that funny smell?"
"It smells like fire," Alice replied, "but what could be burning in here? Pyramids can't catch fire."
Before anyone could answer her, they rounded a curve, and saw a bright orange glow in the distance. "That's the fire we smelled," whispered Alice urgently, "I think we should turn around now."
"Yes," answered Charlie, but they stared at the fire for a minute, wondering what could be on fire and who (or what) had started it.
A giant, jet-black silhouette of a man appeared, outlined by the flames. He was carrying a torch. Suddenly, a deep, booming sound echoed through the cave-like corridor. The man had seen the kids and was yelling at them. He was galloping towards them and shouting at them the entire time. They couldn't understand anything he was saying, but it certainly didn't sound friendly.
Alice, George, and Charlie turned and ran in the opposite direction. Whatever was coming at them was big, but they were fast and scared, and they soon outran him.
As they neared the spider room again, they stopped running and their hearts fell. There was a glow of fire coming from the spider room also, and they could see the outlines of many robed figures carrying torches. Three of the figures were coming toward them and yelling sharply in some strange language.
They turned around, but the giant was right behind them. They were trapped.
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