So there I was. Ahead of me, the light cast a white glare over the rough stone wall. I fumbled in my pocket. Holding my flashlight carefully, I read the parchment again.
To the wanderer through this den,
Comes this friendly warning from our pen.
Follow the river down to the fall,
Curve a half circle, then climb the wall.
The third step is fatal, so only take two,
Follow instructions exactly – nothing else will do!
I took a deep breath. Follow the river down to the fall. What did it all mean? I held the flashlight up high. There was no river. On the contrary, I was hemmed in by two massive stone walls on either side of me. Behind me snaked the long corridor I had come through and in front of me a massive oak door calmly awaited my next move.
Note: The following story is an Aesop fable re-written in the English style of the King James Version of the Bible.
Now it came to pass, that Carmi the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was a-dying, and he called his sons unto him, and he said unto them: Behold, I am old, and well stricken in age, and it shall come to pass, that when I die, ye shall forget all the commandments which I have given you: and shall go after your own way, seeking not to remain in the way of your fathers: but ye shall war one with another: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever findeth ye shall overcome you. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
And the man Carmi had bound together a sheaf of arrows. And he commanded them that they should take up the arrows; for he wished to show somewhat unto his sons. And the son which was the son of the birthright took them up, and he said unto his father: What mean these arrows?
So there I was, buried under a sprawling, chaotic mass of thrashing arms and legs. Fury lent me a strength almost superhuman; with a mighty effort, I flung off the soldiers on top of me, rising to my feet.
I knew escape was hopeless, but that only goaded me into a greater rage. Like a bull I rushed at the head officer, Don Pedro Priego, only to be caught by a dozen of the bronzed veterans surrounding me.
For a second, I succeeded in flinging them off.
“No more!” I gasped, my anger almost choking me. “No more! Fleming though I am, I was a loyal servant of King Phillip, but I tell you no more! You take my money. Very well. I can earn more. You take my job. I can get another. You take my home. Yet I raise no protest. But you are not content! You are never content!” I spat each sentence out as though it were poisonous. Through narrow eyes I looked at him, and he met my stare with a gaze every bit as cold and icy. I tore myself out of the grip of a soldier who had seized my arm. “You are never content,” I repeated. “Now you want my life! Master-gunner on his Imperial Majesty’s Invincible Armada’s Rear Admiral’s flag ship! Slavery!”
You took a deep breath and glared down the grimy pipeline. “Eew!” you exclaimed. But your friend hissed in your ear, “Hurry!” and you knew that you had no choice.
You jumped in.
Brrr! but the water was cold, and Yuck! but the slime was disgusting, and Oof! but the smell was awful!
You endured it as best as you could, and just when you thought another second of this torture would make you vomit, you were spewed out into the open air.