“The sphinx speaks in riddles,” John said. “There’s no way the answer is to just go down the passage on the right for 210 steps and then turn. It’s too simple.”
“But what else could he be meaning?” Liese said. “There are four seasons. There are seven days in a week. I don’t see any other way to interpret them.”
“But what if the Sphinx was talking about a different calendar?” John asked, then slapped the wall in frustration. “If we had an internet connection, we could just zip online quickly and check it out. I’m sure it’s on Wikipedia or some other website.
Liese shrugged and unslung her conveniently not mentioned until now backpack. “I’ve got my history book on Egypt,” she said. “Do you think that will cover it?”
John blinked, then narrowed his eyes at Liese. “You don’t happen to have a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak in there too, do you?”
She gave him a blank stare. “Is this some sort of American humor?”
“Never mind. Check the book.”
John would have peered over her shoulder to get a glimpse of the answer sooner, but the entire thing was written in German, so he had to content himself with watching Liese as she skimmed through the pages. “It’s only general things,” she said. “I don’t know if they . . . Wait! Here it is! Ancient Egyptians had a calendar that was separated out into 3 seasons, and their weeks had ten days.”
“Strange,” John said. He could understand wanting to cut out summer. That was a beastly season. But who in the world would want ten day weeks? That would mean 8 days of school with only two days off for the weekend. It was like some teacher’s dream schedule. But he barreled through that thought and did some quick calculations. “So we need to go down the passage behind us for 300 steps, and then turn and take that fork. That should take us to the library entrance, right?”
Liese checked the math and nodded. “That should do it. Do you think we missed anything else? It would be a shame for the two of us to meet some grisly fate just because we were too quick with the riddle.”
John couldn’t agree more, but he also didn’t have the luxury of having the riddle written down in front of him. Was it possible the sphinx’d had some other tricks in there? Yes. But this was the best he could come up with for an answer for now. And that was assuming the sphinx had been trying to trick them. It was always possible the sphinx had kept up to date with current calendaring methods, and that by studying this problem so thoroughly, he and Liese were making it far harder than it was supposed to be. “It’s going to have to do,” John said at last. “Let’s go.”
So the two of them set off down the passage, the light of their cellphone illuminating the path in front of them. Have you ever tried to count to 300 as if your life depended on it? It gets more difficult the higher you go, especially when one of you is counting in German. Were you on 160 now, or already at 170? Did you skip the 220’s entirely? There was a branch to the right at 275, and then a branch to the left at 302.
That was when John and Liese both realized that using any measuring system that relied on something as arbitrary as steps was really about as foolish of an idea as you can come up with. “How tall were ancient Egyptians?” Liese asked.
John shrugged. “You’re the one with the book. What does it matter?”
“If they were really short, then maybe their steps wouldn’t be as big either.”
“But what if the sphinx was talking about its steps, and not our steps?” John asked.
The two of them exchanged a long glance, then shrugged. “We could keep debating this for ever,” Liese said. “I don’t think we’ll come up with a clean answer. I say we go down this passage here. The one it took us 302 steps to reach. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong.”
John was about to give up hope as well and just go with the easiest path, but then he remembered he had the Tome of Ra to consult. He took out the book, stared at the cover, and asked, “Which passage do we go down?”
The Tome gave an exaggerated eye roll, then stared unblinking down the passage they were standing next to right now. “It’s this one!” John yelled, his voice echoing down the corridors. “We were right!”
With a smile and a much lighter feeling in their steps, John and Liese rushed down the passage as fast as they could, looking forward to being free of this interminable maze at last. Labyrinths were much cooler when you were thinking about them than when you were actually stuck in one.
The passage led down and then down some more, going on for longer than John expected. As the approached the bottom, it appeared some sort of light was emanating from something ahead of them. They slowed down and shut off their cell phone flashlight, then approached their destination with caution. Now wasn’t the time to lose their heads, after all.
The passageway led to a large chamber, at least fifty feet square and twenty feet tall. In the middle of the chamber stood a single stone door frame, unattached to any walls or ceilings. Lightning arced around the stone in a continual arc, making the whole thing look like it was being permanently electrocuted. It gave off a furious crackling noise, like a bonfire on a lonely night.
“We’re supposed to go through there?” Liese asked.
John shrugged. “If we’re going to get into the Library of Alexandria, I think we are.”
“Great,” she said. “But how?”
That was the question of the hour, certainly.
Make a Suggestion
How will they try to get in, and what do you think will happen when they do? Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves and reach a consensus. Otherwise, I’ll take the suggestion I like the most and run with it next week. Thanks for playing!