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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 15:

Charlie, George, and Alice saw a vast expanse of desert surrounding them and a small pile of clothing lying at their feet. The pile contained three light brown robes, three white cotton hats, and three large, full, goatskin water bottles.

Alice asked, "Well, what are we supposed to do now?"

Charlie replied, "We should probably put these clothes on - they'll protect us from the sun and sand."

George added, "They'll also make us look like we belong here."

"I guess so," Charlie said. They put the long, flowing, loose-fitting robes on over their clothes, wore the hats, and slung the water bottles across their shoulders. On the outside, they looked like desert adventurers, but on the inside, they were quite uncertain.

Alice asked, "Okay, now what do we do?"

"Beats me," replied George. "Is this part of the test or are we just lost in time thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt? That old guy could have made a mistake."

Charlie said, "I think we should follow Grandours' advice."

"What advice?" asked George.

"Be true to yourself, and follow your heart," repeated Charlie. "And choices have consequences."

"But what does that have to do with the desert? I don't even know what that advice means." said George.

"Yes, you do. It means that you always have a choice, and you have to think of the consequences of your decisions. But you should also follow your heart," Charlie said. "Look, the town is in one direction. The pyramid is in the opposite direction. Which way do you want to go? What does your heart say?"

George spoke up. "I want to go to the pyramid."

"So do I," added Alice. "I've always wanted to see a pyramid."

So they started walking in the direction of the pyramid. The cool breeze soon died down, and the air became hot and stagnant. Waves of heat started to ripple up from the dunes, making the sand shimmer in the sun. They would have thought it beautiful if they hadn't been so hot, tired, and hungry.

They walked for three hours, sweating and bickering the entire way. They argued about who chose this direction, why they were taking this silly test, why George wanted to do his ridiculous experiment with the time machine, and whose time machine caused all the trouble to begin with. They were irritated and ready for this adventure to end.

Finally, they were close to the pyramid. About a hundred feet from the base of pyramid, the kids saw a pile of objects on the ground, partly covered with a thin layer of sand - it looked like a pile of discarded junk. Another 40 feet beyond the pile was a large, black, stone slab sticking out of the desert sand. The landscape was finally getting interesting and the kids stopped arguing.

The junk pile contained chunks of carved rock the same color as the pyramid, broken hammers and chisels, coils of very frayed rope, the remnants of old camp fires, and assorted odd-looking objects.

Charlie said, "This must be the garbage dump that the people who worked on the pyramid used."

"What are these?" George asked, kicking some yard-long sticks, each of which had a wad of blackened cloth on one end.

Charlie leaned over and picked one up. "Eew, it smells bad, like burnt oil that went rancid," he said, "I wonder what they used these things for - repelling bugs?"

After examining one for a moinute, Alice said, "No, they must have been torches. You light the oily end and it's a primitive flashlight. We could use them inside the pyramid."

"Not unless you know how to start a fire," Charlie replied. "Do you?" But none of them did.

Alice and Charlie gave up on the junk pile, and turned to go to the pyramid. George had always enjoyed playing with tools, and he was fascinated by these ancient ones. He was rooting around in the sand and finding amazing things. He yelled to Alice and Charlie, "Wait, I want to look at these some more. There's a great hammer here - I've never seen one like it. It's all rough and battered, and the handle is broken, but it's just the right size and it swings perfectly. I could put a new handle on it and ..."

But he was interrupted by Charlie, who shouted, "What is it with you and hammers? Let's go to the pyramid, George - we can look at the junk later."

Alice and Charlie started walking. George slipped the hammer he had found into his pocket - he just couldn't let a great tool like that rot away in the desert. He looked around in the sand for another minute, then he got up and turned toward the pyramid.

He looked all around, but he couldn't find Charlie or Alice. They had disappeared. He shouted their names, but no one answered. There was only complete silence.

George was all alone in the desert.

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