John’s gut said to go to the eyeball. It had the clearest connection to the Tome of Ra, after all. Too bad he couldn’t have the book look at the page, but something told him that ripping the map out of the tome would be a mistake.
He got ready to say they were going to head toward the eyeball. The words were on the tip of his tongue, even. But they paused there like a five year old on the high dive board, looking over the edge and reconsidering. Liese had been right so far. She had said they should go to the door. Maybe it was time for him to actually pay attention to what she was suggestion.
“We’ll go to the door,” he said. “You’re right. It’s probably the way in.”
Liese didn’t give any hint of satisfaction that he’d chosen to go with her choice. She just nodded and smiled, and somehow that dimple made it seem like his decision should have been easy all along.
What did John’s gut know about Egyptian labyrinths, after all?
The two of them shuffled through the dust and through the passage on the left, their footsteps muffled and the light of the phone stark and white on the stone around them. John could picture the ancient Egyptians walking down these corridors thousands of years ago, the surroundings bathed in torchlight. Who had caused this maze to be created? Was it Khalid? The pharaoh? And where did the side passages go? A picture of a bandaged wrapped hand reaching out from a sarcophagus flashed through his head, and he quickened his pace.
“Come on.” he said. “We should hurry.”
Liese didn’t object. It might have been the light, but she looked paler too. Nervous?
Probably just John wishing he weren’t alone. He scolded himself for getting nerves at a time like this. Kids at his school would give up their allowance for a year to be doing this. John would have been one of them if someone had told him this story in a different circumstance. But now that he was walking through the crumbling tunnels of the great pyramid, he discovered it was one thing to hear a great story, and something entirely different to live through one.
The further they went, the worse his gut got to feeling. It became harder and harder to take each step, a feeling a dread seeping out from the humid rocks around him. If Liese hadn’t been there, he would have gladly turned around and ran back to the main chamber. Why hadn’t he chosen the eyeball instead? This felt wrong. But he didn’t want to admit he was scared, and so he kept going, doing his best to stay focused on the map and make sure he was picking the right way as they went. He passed up one passageway that led to a crocodile, and another that had what looked like a knife at the end of it.
The sooner they could get to that door, the sooner they’d be done with this.
Liese’s hand brushed his, and he wished more than anything that he could hold it, for no other reason than that some of her courage might rub off on him. Their footsteps echoed off the walls, loud and clear.
“John,” Liese said, quietly.
“What?” His voice trembled when he answered.
“When did the dust go away?”
John blinked and looked down. Sure enough, there wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen. He scrambled to think why that would be the case. “Maybe there’s some sort of spell on the floor that makes it so dust doesn’t accumulate,” he said. “Or . . . the dust in the main chamber was just from all the tourists over the years?”
Liese nodded. “Good point.”
They kept walking. It was a good thing John was so good with mazes. It would be too easy to get lost in all these turns. All the passages looked the same, and there were no markings one way or the other to tell them which way to go. If he took the wrong turn, they might end up at one of the different pictures. Some of those pictures hadn’t seemed too friendly. Not that anything would still be alive down here, not thousands of years after the pyramid was sealed.
At least, that’s what he told himself when he began to hear footsteps that weren’t coming from him or Liese.
At first he thought it was just a trick of the passageways. The sound was bouncing off the clean walls and coming back to them from a different direction. But every now and then, one of the steps sounded more like a scuffle or a scrape. Almost like claws on stone, though other times it sounded more muffled, like a padded paw. And there was no way John or Liese was making either of those noises.
And the sound was coming from behind them.
“Do you hear that?” John whispered after one such noise.
Liese took his hand and squeezed. Answer enough. John glanced over his shoulder, back at the way they had come. Nothing but darkness behind them, but if Liese was hearing this too, then it was clear:
Something was following them.
He could either start rushing to the door (which might or might not be the way out) or try and set up an ambush for the whatever-it-was. Maybe if he could spot it, they’d have a better chance of dealing with it. They could duck into a side passage and turn off the phone’s flashlight. It would be dark, and there was no way of knowing if the thing could see in the dark better than they could, but it might be safer than hurrying toward that door. He still felt uneasy even thinking about that destination.
Make a Choice
Hurry onward or set up an ambush? No clear favorites here . . .