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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 16:

George was frightened, and for a few seconds he was unable to either move or think. He was hoping that Charlie and Alice hadn't traveled somewhere else in time, leaving him all alone in the ancient desert. But part of him was certain that they had stranded him.

The absolute silence of the desert was unnerving. George wasn't happy about being in the desert to begin with, but without Charlie and Alice he was terrified.

George could see for miles in all directions, and there was no one out there. He frantically called Charlie and Alice again, but they didn't answer him. He tried over and over again, but there was no answer. He wasn't suprised - he knew that no one was out there. He was all alone.

After a few minutes, George started thinking more clearly, and decided to retrace Charlie's and Alice's steps. Maybe that way he could discover what had happened to them. He went to where they had been standing by the junk pile. He found their footprints in the sand, and slowly followed the tracks in the direction of the pyramid.

After traveling about 20 feet, he noticed that a few feet up ahead, the tracks went right up to a hole in the ground. He yelled to Charlie and Alice again, and this time he heard a faint sound -it was coming from the hole. They were trapped down there. George was relieved that they hadn't abandoned him!

He ran to the edge of the 2-feet-wide hole. He knelt down and could hear what they were saying. Their voices were coming from below the ground. George could see Charlie and Alice about 10 feet down, trapped in the small, cylindrical hole. Charlie's flashlight shone on the sand-colored wall.

Charlie and Alice were both yelling at the same time, and he couldn't understand anything they were saying.

George yelled into the hole, "Are you okay?"

Alice screamed, "Yes, but get us out of this horrible hole now!"

George replied, "I thought that you had disappeared - that you had maybe even used the time machine to go to some other time and left me here."

Charlie yelled back at him, "YOU have the time machine, George."

"Oh, yeah," George replied sheepishly, "I forgot."

Alice was annoyed at this silliness, and demanded, "Get us out of this hole, George! Now!"

Now George had to figure out how to get them out. "I'll go get some rope," yelled George, and he ran back to the junk pile. He chose the least-frayed coil of rope that he could find. He turned to run back to the hole, but forgot exactly where it was. He had to search for footsteps in the sand. After finding them, he retraced his steps back to the hole once again.

He let one end of the rope down into the hole, and in a few seconds, Charlie said, "I've got it, now tie it to something heavy so we can climb out of here."

"There nothing here to tie it to," said George. "Well, there's that black slab sticking out of the sand about 20 feet away. But I don't know if it's strong enough."

"Just do it," yelled Alice. "Get us out of here."

But George didn't have nearly enough rope to reach to the slab. He ran back to the junk pile and grabbed as much rope as he could carry. He ran back to the hole, and tied the pieces of rope together. He held the end, and ran toward the slab.

All of a sudden, the ground beneath George collapsed with a sickening cracking sound. George fell through the sand and landed on his back in a dark pit - the air had been knocked out of him. He was all alone and trapped in a different hole. Things were just not going well today.

It was cool and dark underground. When George's eyes adjusted to the dark, he looked around. The hole he was trapped in was a long, tall cylinder, and George was lying at the bottom of it. About 10 feet above him, the sun shone faintly through the small hole that George had fallen through. The frayed rope dangled from that hole and reached about halfway to the ground.

After he caught his breath, George stood up, grabbed the end of the rope, and pulled it. He pulled the rope taut, and slowly started climbing it toward daylight. George had never enjoyed climbing ropes in gym class, and this was worse than any gym class he had ever endured.

When George was only about a foot from the hole at the top, the rope broke. George fell to the ground and landed with a dull thud. A 15-foot length of frayed, old rope had fallen with him.

George was trapped again. But this time, he didn't have a way out.

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