“Liese?” John asked once the fall was over. There’d been a lot of tumbling involved, a few big jostles and bumps, and more elbows than he’d thought they had between the two of them, but they’d come to a rest at last, down at the bottom of a long ramp. Up above them, a small postage-stamp size spot of light showed the passage they’d come from. It had been a long fall. Even as he watched it, the light grew smaller and closed shut.
The trap door had closed, casting John and Liese into complete darkness.
“Liese?” John repeated. “Are you okay?” The air tasted musty, and his tongue was dry. When he breathed, it was like he was sucking down dust particles.
She coughed a couple of times, then said. “Maybe next time you should think about booby traps before you go pressing buttons.”
If she was well enough to criticize him, she was probably going to be okay. “Sorry,” he told her. “I didn’t know it would do that.”
“Do you have a flashlight?” she asked.
John patted himself down, on the off chance Khalid had given him something useful when he’d made the clothes magically appeared. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Do you?”
Liese sighed. “Boys. Never prepared.” And she clicked on the light of her smartphone, casting a ghostly white glow into the chamber where they’d landed.
A chamber filled with dust. When they’d fallen down, they must have kicked up a thousand years’ worth of the stuff. It hung in the air like a million hovering fairies, all bright specks of light wherever the phone’s beam struck them. It took a bit for it to clear, and John and Liese had to move slowly after that to avoid stirring up another dust cloud.
John and Liese sat up, carefully brushing themselves off. The chamber wasn’t very large: a square room that was about twenty feet on any side, and maybe seven feet tall. Three doorways led from the room, as well as the sloped passage that headed back toward the entrance. When John stood up and took a few steps back toward the ramp, however, a distant rumble sounded, and a legion of sharpened stakes popped out from the ramp’s floor, all of them pointing straight at John.
Trying to climb back out of this room would be a long haul, and they’d likely get sliced into ribbons.
“Looks like we aren’t heading out that way,” Liese said, coming to stand next to John. “Good thing we have the map.”
It took John a moment to remember the overhead diagram of the tunnels they’d seen in the Tome of Ra, but the book itself wasn’t in his pocket. Of course. I dropped it when we fell. John looked around the chamber for the Tome, beginning to panic when he didn’t see it immediately. There didn’t seem like the room had any hiding places, apart from all the dust. When he and Liese sifted through all that dust, they realized just how thick it was. In some places it was only an inch or so deep, but in others it had piled up well past half a foot. It took some scrounging, but he found the tome at last, tossed into a corner and looking quite a bit dirtier than he’d last seen it. The eye on the cover was blinking wildly, trying to free itself of all the dust that had gotten into it. John felt bad for the thing, and he tried to blow it clean.
The eye blinked a few more times in protest, then glared at him. Apparently that hadn’t helped.
Tough luck, John thought. He was only trying to help, and he was only in this mess for the book’s sake in the first place. He opened the tome and flipped through the pages until he found the overhead map again.
“We’re here, I think,” John said, pointing to the central chamber. Sure enough, three passages led off from it, branching into a tangled mess that quickly became hard to follow. Either ancient Egyptians weren’t too good at drawing maps, or they hadn’t wanted this one to be easy to understand.
“Sure,” Liese said. “But where is the entrance to the library?”
John stared at the book some more. He even tried turning it upside down, hoping that might make the map easier to decipher. He turned the page to look at what had come earlier in the book, but there wasn’t anything he was close to understanding. Just more Heiroglyphics.
“Wait!” Liese said. “Do that again?”
“I thought I saw a watermark.” She held her light up to the map, shining it through the paper. Sure enough, with the light behind it, you could make out small symbols scattered throughout the map: a crocodile, an open door, a dagger, an eyeball. Ten or twenty of the little icons, each with an arrow pointing at one particular part of the map. “See?” Liese sounded more than a little proud of herself. “All we need to do is go to the door, and we’ll be done. This game is a bit simple.”
John frowned at the map, and tried to get a better look at the door. It did make sense, in a way. They needed the entrance to the library. “But what about this eyeball?” he asked. “The book has an eye on the cover. Maybe this is where it’s supposed to go.”
Liese shrugged. “We have to go somewhere. We can’t stay here. I don’t have any water, do you?”
Now that she mentioned it, John could really go for a nice cold glass of liquid. But she was right. When it came to being brave archaeologists, it appeared the two of them had a few things to learn. Indiana Jones never seemed like he forgot to bring water. John took another look at the map. As close as he could tell, the door on the right would take them to the eyeball eventually, though they’d have to go through several other symbols on the way. The passage on the left led toward the picture of the door.
He ignored the one in the middle for now. Clenching his jaw, he made a choice, hoping he sounded confident.
Make a Choice
Eyeball, Door, or Middle?