Chapter 1

This was the biggest competition of the year. The winner would be famous around the globe. When I looked at my name on the registration, A-L-E-X didn't seem like it was the way to spell my name. I hesitated to put my name on the form, but I looked back and thought I made the right decision. The sun was glaring in my brown eyes. I had zoned while I was on the way through the maze. There was no way I could have made it. The clock was ticking and ticking fast. There were only five hours left. I was so disoriented. I lost my concentration while I was thinking of the day we arrived at the stadium.

My friends and I could not believe it. Out of all the boys in the world, we were chosen to be in this fantastic adventure. It seemed so long ago when we started the first event. I can still remember when Jason was in the rubber ball, being kicked around by remote-controlled foosball table. He was pretty dizzy when he came back. He got his payback, though. When the other person was on the field and Jason was in control of the tiny figures attached to the metal bar, Jason went all out. Now, we were so close to winning this. I had my map, but I had lost my marking spots. My teammates had been already used in the other events and I was the last one to do the last event. There was a labyrinth the size of D.C. It was the best competition in the world. It was even bigger than the Olympics. Seven teams of five people entered the competition and used one person for every event. When that person had done an event, he or she could not do a second event. This was the last event. One person had to find their way through the labyrinth with a map of the marking places but no boundaries of the walls. The person had to go to every marking place and solve a puzzle and get the medal from that place. After getting all the medals, the person had to find the center of the labyrinth and insert all the medals and the platform would take him or her under the labyrinth to the second part of the last event. In the second half of the event, the person had to go through the obstacle course to reach the three gold keys. After getting the three keys, there was a vault at the end of the obstacle course and inside the vault was the ultimate prize. The prize was five million pieces of gold. With, 5 million pieces of gold, I would be set for life. All the risks of the game were worth the prize. Even with no prize to gain, the experience was enough.

There were ten medals and I had already gotten seven. The three left were the bronze cat, onyx dragon and ruby raven. I looked at my map and saw the bronze cat was the closest, according to my drawing. I ran my fingers through the blackness of my hair. It was hot from being in the sun for so long. I wiped the sweat from my forehead on my t-shirt and followed the path that seemed to be the closest one. On the way, I put the map back into my backpack, which also held my water bottle, some sandwiches, the seven medals I had, a pocket knife, compass, and a first-aid kit. As I turned around the corner, the feline figure glistened in the sunlight. Two medals were already gone. I stepped up to it and inserted one of the coins used to activate the marking spots. The eyes shined a beam to the holes in the left and right walls and the ground beneath me began to descend. I was lowered into the puzzle chamber. There were symbols on the wall and a code to the left of it. On the right side of the ceiling was a hole with sunlight coming through it. There were long staves, a meter stick and a box of mirrors on the ground. I figured the symbols on the wall would tell me what to do. I looked at the symbols and then the code. After a while I figured out that the message read "The gold will fall when the all-seeing-eye is blinded by the heavens." I looked around for an eye, but found none. There was a carving in the wall of a sun, but still no eye. All I had to do was find the eye and I would have solved it. I looked up and saw a hole drilled into the wall. I couldn't reach it, but I definitely thought it lead to the eye. I took wooden staff and put it up to the wall with the hole in it. It was too short. I found another one that I thought would be long enough. It turned out to be too long, but I snapped it to the height of the hole. I split the end of it and stuck a piece of mirror between the split. I held the staff so the mirror reflected the light into the hole. I waited for something to happen, but nothing happened. I was confused. I was sure that was the puzzle. I heard a metallic ping and saw a gold glint in the dirt. That had to be the medal. I walked over and picked it up. Only two more medals left. I stepped back onto the platform and it raised me back up. I got a Jolly Rancher from my bag and ate it. It was the tangy flavor of green apple. One of my personal favorites.

"Only two more to go," I said to myself and crossed the bronze cat off my map.

Chapter 2

The ruby raven was to my left. I turned around the corner and there was a dead end. I looked at my map again. Backtracking back to the bronze cat, I went straight forward and then took a left. It sparkled and cast an intricate red shadow against the ground. I put in one of the last two coins I had. A similar platform lowered me into its puzzle chamber. I saw three orbs on three stands. There was a green orb, a blue orb, and a red orb. Light, coming from the bottom of each stand, was illuminating the three orbs. The medal was on the other side of the room. The floor was a deep chamber and I could not see the bottom. On the wall were more symbols like the ones in the bronze cat. Another code was on its left. This message read "Beware of your step. Light the safe colors and beware the eternal darkness." Below the message were three holes. I looked back at the three glowing orbs. I took them and inserted them into the three holes. Nothing happened. I waited some more and still nothing happened. I repositioned the orbs into the holes and they began to glow even brighter and tiles began to rise up from the pit and position themselves on the ground and began to resonate in light. I proceeded towards the medal. As I stepped onto the first tile, it fell into the earth and the rest of the row began to fall into the pit. That was just great. I could not turn back. I had to think. I looked across the floor and tried to find a safe path towards the medal. I stepped forward again and stepped on a black tile. Volts of electricity went cruising through my body. Everything went black and I lost all consciousness.

I finally woke up some time after I had passed out. I was still on the floor of the ruby raven's puzzle chamber and the Jolly Rancher was still in my mouth. A flashing light had awakened me. That flashing light was not a good sign. I had passed out for almost an hour! That meant there was only four hours left until the competition would be over! This was bad. I had to think faster if we were going to win this competition. I finally got up and wiped myself off of all the soot that was on my clothes. I stepped carefully this time. I looked back towards the message on the wall. What were the safe colors? It couldn't have been any more obvious. I looked back at the three orbs. They were dim. The lights underneath them had gone out. I finally found a path towards the medal. I only stepped on the blue, green, and red tiles. They didn't shock like the black ones. Carelessness caused me to be delayed. I had lost some time when I passed out, but I hadn't lost my rank as second. I stepped onto the platform and it raised me up. The Jolly Rancher had become really thin and I bent it carefully in my mouth. Jolly Ranchers don't break as easily as other candies. I made it into the shape of a horseshoe for good luck.

Chapter 3

One last puzzle until the last obstacle course and then the final prize. The onyx dragon wasn't that far away, but if I was lucky, I would get there before the first guy. I looked up towards the score board. I had moved up to second after the person before had been disqualified. The red mark on his picture had happened while I was out because I had not seen that mark before the ruby raven. I looked at my map. The onyx dragon was a little farther than the ruby raven, but there was a possibility that was actually shorter. I frantically ran around, trying to find it. It seemed liked forever until I found it. Finally, the black statue was standing in front of me. I stepped up to it. It sparkled like a magnificent black diamond. I took the last coin out of my pocket and I put it in the statue. The platform rumbled and lowered into its chamber. This was the last chamber until I had to find the center of the labyrinth and go in for the final obstacle course. As the platform rose back up, sand began to fall from a hole from the center of the chamber and various holes throughout the chamber. This was just great. If I didn't finish this puzzle in the certain amount of time before the sand filled the room, I would suffocate in the sand. Judging by the size of the chamber, I had about a half an hour or forty-five minutes at most. I had to think fast. I didn't even know what the puzzle was. I couldn't see it. There was just sand. I started to go forward through the sand. It filled my shoes and stuck to my face, but I finally made it across the sand mound. I still saw nothing. What was this? There had to be something in this chamber to do. I just had to find it. I sifted through the sand a little while I was thinking. I stared at the wall while the sand was piling up in neat mounds like it does inside an hourglass. It covered my entire foot, now. I searched the wall for something, anything that would get me out of here. Still, there was nothing. There were strange grooves in the walls, but it didn't seem to be anything. The grooves looked like they were chiseled badly by a sculptor. They made random shapes and figures, but nothing the seemed to be actually anything. I made my way across the wall and started to feel the second adjacent wall. It had similar groove marks, but still nothing. I felt around the whole room and found nothing, not even a switch. The sand was up to my knees. It might have been more because I wasn't standing on the floor. A layer of sand was holding me up a couple inches. I wouldn't suffocate when it reached my height because I could just climb on top of the pile, or at least try to. I looked around the room again. I sat down in the sand and stared at the wall. I would never figure it out. I bent my knees and locked my arms around them and put chin on my knees and sat there. It was no use, anymore. I just stared at the wall and watched the sand rise and fill the tiny grooves. The sand seemed to be a redder tint around the walls. It was probably just the walls reflecting the color onto the sand. Sand began to go down my pants so I had stand back up. There is no worse feeling than the feeling of sand down your pants. I shook most of the sand out, but some of it just won't come out. I bent down and stuck my hand into the sand. It came up to my armpit and I couldn't even feel the floor.

Chapter 4

In fifteen minutes or so, the whole room would be covered in sand. I stood by the wall because I didn't want to sit down again and have more sand down my pants. I watched the sand fall from the hole in the middle of the ceiling. I wondered if I could fill the hole and stop the sand from falling. The only problem was that I had nothing to plug the hole with. All I had was my map and it too important to use. I could use my shoe. That could work. I had to wait until I could reach the ceiling. I could touch the ceiling barely with my shoe, but I needed to be closer to stuff the shoe into it. I just needed to wait a couple more minutes. I walked towards the center of the room. The sand created some dust clouds that made me cough, so I stepped back a little. Finally, I could reach the ceiling. I covered the hole with the bottom of the shoe. Sand fell all over me and down my shirt. It got into my mouth and I had to stop and take the shoe down. I spit most of the sand out. I might have swallowed some because my throat was really dry. Maybe I'll get a pearl. That idea didn't go very well.

"Ugh, that sand is nasty!" I said, trying to get the rest of the sand out of my mouth.

I shook my shoe to get the sand out and put it back on. I took off my backpack and opened it. I remembered that there was gauze in the first-aid kit. I opened the latch and took out the roll of gauze. It was already in the shape of a cork. I stuffed it into the hole and waited for something to happen. When I stuffed the hole, more sand just fell through the other holes. That was a useless plan. I thought about putting my palm over it. It was the only thing I could do. It was worth a shot. I stepped back towards the center. I carefully put my palm over it, making sure to cover the part towards me first so the sand wouldn't spew all over me, again. The sand was surprisingly warm. The sand probably came from outside the room somewhere above. If the sand was coming from above then the room's ceiling had a compartment that held all the sand. Since there was only so much space between the ceiling and the labyrinth itself, there was no way it had enough sand to fill the room. Of course, I could be wrong. It was an assumption that could either help me or kill me. It was a mental psych-out. Those snakes in the government were indeed, evil. If I hadn't figured that out, I would have broke down and tried to tunnel my way out. I would have eaten the sand if I was desperate enough. All I had to do was, wait until the sand ran out, if it there wasn't enough sand. Now that I didn't have to worry about suffocating, I could relax, sort of.

"Glad that's dealt with!" I said trying to catch my breath and getting my own hopes up.

Chapter 5

As I waited for the sand to fill the room, I opened my backpack and sat down in the sand. The room was halfway filled with sand. I took out a plain peanut butter sandwich with no jelly and opened the foil. It was cut the way I like it, into a triangle. I bit off the three corners first and enjoyed the first taste of food since breakfast, not counting the piece of candy. Peanut butter was one my favorite things to eat. It had quick energy when I needed it. I was starving. Breakfast was five hours back in my memory. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and cereal was what I had. My mother insisted that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. I could really care less. If I'm hungry in the morning, which I always am, I'll eat something. When I'm hungry, I eat. Duh!

I finished the sandwich and took a swig from my canteen. There was still a good half left. Looking through the bag, I found another Jolly Rancher. This one was grape. I brushed the sand off my pants, picked up my back pack, and began to stand up. As I started to stretch, my head hit the ceiling. I hadn't realized how much sand had entered the chamber. Maybe there was enough sand to fill the room. There was nothing I could do besides wait for the sand to stop or wait for it to engulf me. Either one could happen. It was known that some people were killed in this competition. Every year, the format of the game changed. Last year, one guy lost his left hand while going through one of the puzzles. Sometimes, people fell into the large empty pits and could never get out. It reminded me of the ruby raven. I suddenly realized the dangers of this game.

The sand suddenly stopped flowing into the room and I became very alert. The floor shook under my feet and the sand near the center began to fall into the floor. The floor had split in two down the middle and the sand was falling into the pit. Along the wall, the grooves in the wall were filled with the sand, but it had become red and glittery. The sand disappeared quickly and the walls were painted with glittering sand pictures. They slightly resembled the shapes of animals. I looked down into the crack in the floor to see if anything was down there, but I saw nothing. Depending on how deep the pit was, I could have jumped into it. The puzzle that would finally get me out of this place could have been on the bottom. If the puzzle was on the bottom, then the sand would cover it up, just like in this room. I could jump into the pit and, maybe, find the puzzle, or I could stay up here and wait for something else, whatever it was, to happen. It would, either, get me out of here, or kill me. It was a risk I was willing to take. The floor had opened halfway and I had to decide what to do. I swung my backpack around, put it on, and jumped into the dark hole in the middle of the room.

I hit the bottom and a cloud of sand flew up in the air. Inhaling the sand, I coughed violently. I thought I was going to be sick. Nothing like inhaling sand particles makes you sick to your stomach. I looked up towards the room of sand and it seemed like all the sand had fallen down into where I was. The floor had opened up completely and sunlight came through the holes in the ceiling. I decided I needed to get up and see what was going on. Once again, I had to wipe the sand off myself. If I had a mirror, I wouldn't want to see I looked like. All this dirt was building up on my face and I didn't want to think about it. I tried to get up, but my foot was caught on something the dirt. When I tried to get up, I fell back into the sand, face first.

"What the heck was that?" I screamed. I was getting frustrated with this. I ran my hands through the sand and found what tripped me. It was a wooden shovel.

"What am I suppose to do with this?" I asked myself. That was a stupid question to ask myself. I was stuck in a pit of sand with a shovel. There's only one way to use a shovel in my situation. I started to dig as fast as I could. Then, I stopped. I took off my backpack and got another Jolly Rancher. Cherry was good enough. While I was digging, I had no idea what I was looking for. Whatever it was, sooner or later, I would find it.

Chapter 6

It seemed like hours and hours of digging through endless sand. Digging and digging just didn't seem to find it. Finally, I got frustrated. I scooped up a big pile of sand and threw it against the wall. Ping! Out of the aggravation of all the digging, that one sound was music to my ears. As I headed towards the direction of the noise, I chucked my shovel against the wall as hard as I could. When I got there, I couldn't see anything in the sand. I heard it, I knew I did! Desperately, I jammed my hands into the sand and filtered it through my fingers. Nothing! I did it again. The sand fell through my fingers and uncovered a shiny piece of gold. Finally, I had the last component needed to go to the obstacle course. As I put the last medal into my book bag, the walls began to shake and the floor started to rumble. I was ascending towards the original chamber above. While I was being lifted up, sand was falling through the cracks near the edges of the platform back into the pit. It stopped with a jolt and I almost fell backwards.

Red, glittering pictures were still on the walls of the chamber when I came back up. I didn't understand. If the challenge was to find the medal in the sand, then there would be no other problems. There had to be some reason for the pictures. I walked towards one of the pictures and ran my hands across the sand particles. I traced the picture and I came to hole in the wall. I never saw that in the wall before the whole shovel incident. It was in the shape of a heptagon. Now, I knew why the holes were in the wall. I reached into my backpack and took out a medal. This was the only reason they were here. They were the keyholes for the medals to trigger the entrance to the obstacle course. I don't remember the onyx dragon being in the center of the labyrinth. I took out my map and looked for the onyx dragon symbol. There it was, in the middle of the paper. I put it back into my book bag and looked back at the heptagonal hole in the wall. I slipped the medal into the slot. Nothing happened. There must be other slots like this one around the room. I went around the room and felt across the walls until I had found eight more. There was one missing. On the walls, there were only nine symbols. I couldn't find the tenth one. Holding the last medal in my hand, I looked around the rooms again to try to find that last keyhole. No luck. Where could it be? Finally, it came to me. It was so obvious. I walked back to the platform that raised me up from the bottom and I down. I was standing on the last slot. The one place I wouldn't check and it's there. Of course it is! I got over my idiocy and knelt down on the platform. I dropped the medal and it spun like a coin on the ground. It gravitated towards the slot and dropped in place. When the last medal fell into place, three of the walls of pictures lifted up to reveal three separate tunnels. I looked through one of them, but I couldn't see anything.

Since I got all of the medals and found the center of the labyrinth, then one of the tunnels must lead to the obstacle course. I stood up and ate another Jolly Rancher. It was another green apple. I decided to go through the left one because it seemed the darkest. As I stepped into the tunnel, my foot pressed down on a block. The door behind me closed shut and torches on the walls were lit. No use turning back now. A spider ran across the floor in front of me and I pressed my shoe on top of it. I kept on walking and found nothing to be in this tunnel. I walked for another five minutes and stepped down on a block again. In front of me, gigantic axes swung out of crevices in the wall and almost cut me half if I hadn't jumped back. This was getting even more dangerous. This wasn't hard to cross, but I had a feeling it was all down-hill from here. Forget the path to the obstacle course, this was the course itself. I saw five axes in my path. They looked sharp enough to butcher a cow. I watched the blades swing back and forth and timed their intervals. I saw my chance to pass through and I ran for my life, quite literally. I passed the fourth axe and, of all the things that could happen, I tripped. I managed to avoid the last blade and frantically tried to crawl forward as fast as I could. I wasn't fast enough because my calf was pouring blood when I was crawling away. At the last minute, the axe caught me. I stopped for while to catch my breath. I opened my book bag and took out the gauze. I wrapped it tightly around the wound and it was stained red by the time I packed the first-aid kit away. It didn't hurt so bad considering the deep cut. I was proven wrong when I stood back up. It was definitely not ready to be walked on. I limped through the tunnel until I came to another moving block. This time, the floor in front disappeared into the wall and multiple monkey-bars slid out and connected each other to form a maze shape monkey bars across the top of, yet another, gaping bottomless pit. The other side was too far away and I probably wouldn't have made across with the injured leg and all. The only thing to do was climb across the monkey-bars. I walked up towards the first bar and I heard a noise. It sounded like snakes hissing and it was coming from the darkness below me. Don't fall. If I did, I would be snake food. I jumped with my one foot and grabbed onto the first bar. Right now, the other side seemed to be an eternity away and there seemed to be hundreds of bars. I went on with the monkey-baring and ended up slapping myself against the wall. I had to turn myself around and go back. It might have sounded easy, but doing it was hard. At last, I reached back to where I started. I jumped down form the monkey-bars. I should have been more careful. A painful jolt came up my leg and I flinched at the pain.

"Got to watch myself with this leg," I told myself.

I stepped back and rested my arms for a little while. I looked up to see a path to get across easily. Then, a ray of hope shone upon me. There was enough room for me to get on top of the monkey-bars and crawl across the top instead of going through the hard way. I went back towards the bars and hoisted myself up to the monkey-bars. I had to steady myself, so I won't fall down to the snakes. As I was on top of the bars, it was really hard to hold myself steady. I was about to fall, but I caught myself. I slowly made my way across and jumped off on the other side. This time I made sure not to land on my bad leg. I made my way through the tunnel and came to a dead end.

Chapter 7

"What theā€¦" I said. This couldn't be a dead end. There had to be a switch or something. I felt the wall for something to trigger. My hand felt something and I heard something click. Nothing happened. Then, the floor opened and I fell down into the darkness.

I woke up in another dark room. I couldn't see anything. I felt around the tiny room for something. The room wasn't much bigger than a kitchen pantry. A doorknob struck my hand. It didn't feel like a doorknob. It felt more like a big key. There were three of them in a row, vertically, all lined up. I turned the top one like a key in a keyhole. It worked. It moved and unlocked something in this room. I turned the rest of them. The room lit up and I was out of the dark. In front of me, there was another knob beside the three gold keys. It didn't seem like a knob. It more like a locker dial. I didn't understand. I never got the three keys. How did they get here? What happened to the person who brought the keys?

I turned the dial. Nothing worked. I turned it back to zero. I put my ear against the wall and it bit my ear like a needle. I turned it slowly like a safe cracker. Click! Number 17 made it click.

"One number down, two more to go," I said, under my breath. I turned it the other way for the second click to happen. Click! The second click was 35.

"One more," I said. Click! 21. There was no handle to pull the door open. I wedged my fingers into the tiny crack on the sides of the vault and tried to get it out. I pulled with all my might. It barely moved. If I tried hard enough, I would get it to open up. I stuck my fingers in again and pulled. It budged a little more.