"Okay class, you may go," said Miss Ellis. She was our English teacher. "There's going to be an announcement in the main hall this afternoon at six. You are officially done with school for the year, congratulations."
Welcome to Bordeaux boarding school. This is where my story begins… as a history for the beginning of the extraordinary happenings that soon took place. The school was named "Bordeaux" for… reasons I have no reason to tell you… but it is kind of funny… seeing as how we're in South Africa… and the name is French. Another weird thing is… our school makes up the town we live in. There's no nearby villages, maybe a few wandering nomads in the area, but otherwise, we live in a very desolate place. It's mainly desert out here… not like the sand dunes kind, but the shrubs, the lizards, the small desert animals, and a few nearby hills.
I (Kyle) am a psychological orphan. I never actually knew my parents, because they sent me off to boarding schools. This year, I'm here at "Bordeaux," and from what I hear, I'll be here for the rest of my high school years. I'm a freshman, one of those "wily" ones, and apparently my parents thought sending me to a remote place was a good way to keep me out of their thoughts for a while… they definitely didn't send me here for the inspiring view or the good teachers, but I won't get into that right now, I have to get my story going!
"I can't wait until we get out of this place! The solitude is driving me crazy!" said Jenna joining me on my way to the rec. room.
"Well thanks! Apparently my imagination isn't much to explore then is it?" I said pouting teasingly, "Maybe I'll just stop writing, and let you make up your own imagination, because mine feels unappreciated," I said beginning to smile.
"That's not what I meant, and you know it," she said lightly punching me.
"Oh!" I said stopping, "Off the subject, but how about that new rule? Free roaming … that's going to be great! Now I can go camping!"
"You and being outside… well it's not really free roaming, you only have two hundred acres to roam," she said.
"And?" I said, waiting for her to continue, "I really can't go that far, I mean there's that stupid 'check in' rule."
"Well it's not so stupid if someone gets lost," she replied, "and plus, it might not stay in affect if no one abuses their privileges, then we can stay out as long as we want, just as long as we're in bigger groups."
"True… but… never mind. So anyway, Josh and Brian are going to stay out for a week anyways. They said we could come."
"Uhh… no. For two reasons. For one, they don't really like me, and two, I don't want to get into trouble. I could come visit you guys, but that's all."
"All right, I understand," I said, submitting.
Jenna was a good friend, someone I knew a little bit more, and a little bit less than everyone else. I knew her a little bit more because she was my best friend, but it seemed I knew her less, because I was still getting to know her. She was someone I could go to, someone I could just relate to, and that's how it was from the beginning of the school year. She was just one of those people that if there was nothing to say, you'd meet eyes and just laugh.
(later at the assembly) "Alright people, this isn't going to be an informal gathering as usual, there's been a change in plans. Apparently there's been a group of people that were too impatient for the roaming parameters to be expressed, and left this afternoon without letting anyone know. If they don't come back in three days," (the time we were set to be given until we had to check in) "we'll conduct a short search for them. They are experienced hikers, so they're most likely not hurt, but the fact remains they left without permission. They will be punished accordingly, but first we must find them. We're offering a reward to anyone who finds them and reports their position, so we don't actually have to make a search party."
"What's the reward?" shouted someone from the crowd. We all wanted to ask the question.
"That will be the person who gets the reward's choice. Obviously it must be realistic and worth their effort. That is all. Those who wish to conduct a volunteer search, go to Mrs. Washington's class to team up for your searching parties. Good luck finding them. It's to everyone's advantage that we find them, because it means a higher probability of extending the check in time, and the sooner they're found the less trouble they'll be in.
Jenna and I decided to go later that day with our tight ring of best friends. The hike turned out to be nice, but no one "found" the party we were looking for. Two days later, someone joined it though… it was a group that never came back, but radioed in that they were staying with them. We searched for three more days after coming in for our "check in," and then they held another assembly, discharging the mandatory search, but allowed for the kids to search at their own disposal for the "prize." The school staff was making a lazy search for them, because it wasn't too urgent. Being at half staff, they didn't have the ability from keeping mixed groups apart, and really didn't care, mainly because they trusted the kids, and the kids knew it. That boarding school was a Christian school, and the people were very honest, and had no reason to be doubted of their integrity, so it'd never be a problem in the first place. I just had to say that, so you wouldn't misunderstand the considerably lax rules of our school, just in case you ever plan on enrolling for the wrong reasons.
Anyway, a group of my friends and I went on a weeklong hike/search party. It was more an end of the school year celebration, and our teachers liked most of us, so they let us go for the week… seeing as how we didn't have anything better to do.
"Pass me a canteen please," asked Mark, "I'm parched."
"Coming right up!" I said passing him mine. "Today's a good day for being outside. Feels nice… beginning of summer, dry grass between your toes, just feeling the warm breeze. It's what I look forward to here."
"Right, and for me, it's getting back. I like taking off my shoes too… but I just stepped on a shrub!" complained Dewey.
"Cheer up, and maybe we'll find a fountain of youth for you to soak it in," teased Courtney.
This is a small group of my friends, all of which here are my favorites: there's Jenna, Courtney, Melissa, Alvin, Mark, Dewey and Sam.
Now Sam's one of my best friends too, but he's back at the boarding house. He's not much of the hiking type, but more of a bookworm. All of my friends are at least partially philosophical. I'm really the class clown… and I love to put a smile on anyone's face. My friends are what give the smiles to me, so I can give those out, but back to Sam. Sam is really into sci-fi stuff, all the mythology, and way into Revelations. He's one to go to for an intriguing conversation about the coalition between real life and lore. It's crazy the different theories he comes up with.
My friends are all I need to sustain me really, but Jenna's the best if I were to pick favorites. She seems to understand me completely. Sometimes you can just look in someone's eyes and feel what they feel. There's really nothing that's come as a long lasting problem, because there's nothing we haven't solved together. If someone were to ask who to go to for a problem, they'd say "Go to Jenna," and that'd be the end of it. There's really no hiding a problem when you're stuck in a boarding house, because you know everyone pretty well, and you're going to be stuck with them for a while. But enough about me… back to the story.
"Nuthin' like being in the boonies to see the stars," I said to Mark. "I remember first coming here, and actually seeing the stars for the first time. It was really cool. It kind of makes up for the loss of technology, movies, and all that."
"I know how that is," replied Mark. "There's not much to say though, when looking at the stars. They take your breath away. It's like if you tell someone to look at the same star, just thinking their looking at the same star, millions of light years away, it seems as if you could share the same thoughts."
"Wow, yeah, you should write that down. Man, you shouldn't complain of not being able to write poetry, you're perfectly good at it!" I scolded.
"I agree," said Courtney. "You're always so quiet… but when you say something, you say it well."
"We all have many gifts… That's my only good one," he joked.
It was a starry night, and the moon was near full. It was beautiful. There was no one to bother us, and no tents to put up, no food to make, just the stars to wonder about and your friends to talk to. I just wish everyone could experience this at least once in their lives.
Even if we didn't get to have a campfire cooked "meal", it was still good because of the company. What we did have was MRE's, sandwiches, and we were also allowed to have a few s'more kits, rationed by the school.
"Well it's late; we should all go to sleep." I said
"You shouldn't be the one talking, you're the one who always sleeps 'till the sun's burning through our blankets," teased Dewey.
Now Dewey was another joker in our group. He was much crazier, but still a joker. He was just someone it was fun to be around. If there was an actual prank, it was a sure bet to think it was him. He was also the guitarist in our group, and the only one brave enough to bring a guitar on a hike. We all did appreciate his bringing it. We all just enjoyed staring at the fire and listening as he made up songs as he went along. It was nights like those that made you smile in your sleep, thinking of all the fun times we had, joking with each other.
"Dewey, when are you going to start writing down the songs you come up with?" I asked as he finished one of his serenades.
"When I take a liking to them… I guess I don't appreciate this as much as you guys do, though it does feel good to do it. It just doesn't seem as special when something's recited. I think its best when it comes the first time, and should be left alone. Besides, it is written… in our souls. If it truly affects you, then it'll only affect you once in the first place. There's nothing more to do after that with the same song, but make up new verses. It's just how I see it."
"Hmm, no one thinks like that anymore," I said, leaning on my elbow.
"Except us that is," he added
"Yeah," I replied.
"Rise and shine camper, we got drills ta do!" said Melissa, plopping a backpack on my head to wake me up.
"I don't want to go to school today," I mumbled starting to smile.
"We don't keep stragglers at this recruitment camp, cadet! We eat them! Now get up!" she said laughing.
"Mm, is that what's for breakfast?"
"No," she said throwing me jerky. "They didn't let us take any cooking utensils, or else you'd have been missing a leg!"
"Mm, my favorite… bony leg," I said sticking out my tongue.
Packing up was easy, just roll up the mats, tuck away the blankets and chew some school-made fruit bars and jerky on the trail.
We were heading to a more remote spot at a not so well known oasis on the school's land. Everyone at the school had their own camping spot they liked, this was agreed to be our group's favorite. The water was chest high in this hole, and yet we were the only ones who knew about it really. The only people with a map of the property was the principal and some staff members, and they aren't much for particular spots when they camp, and they don't tell people where the "best" spots are, because they say "finding your favorite place to go is a thing of character." -Whatever that means. I think they just don't want everyone going to one spot and creating arguments… then have to start scheduling when some people get what spot. I think finding something of your own is cool anyway.
There weren't even many animals there, at our Oasis… maybe a few desert tortoises or buzzards, rarely anything dangerous, save scorpions. Our spot was like a dream spot, it even had a nice bush area for shade. We couldn't dig holes to sleep in though, because that's where the more dangerous animals, like the aforementioned scorpions, liked to sleep and stay so if we dug a hole, it was for the day, and it was for all of us to keep out of the sun. It really didn't get too bad usually, but there were some days when you could feel the sun just burning your skin if you weren't covered properly. So far, the school hadn't had many mishaps, and those were minor, and done by ignorant people, who in turn lost their privileges for hiking. We were well trusted and mainly well trained for being outside. There wasn't much you could get into trouble with out on these hikes.
"Hey Dewey, don't slip there," I said half teasing. He'd gotten a good history of slipping on certain slopes, and usually ended him with a sprained ankle or a nice scrape… he'd gotten scars from his clumsiness.
"Right," he said half nodding and smiling, pretending to fall, and ultimately actually falling. "So uh, anyone got a gun? Just shoot me before I embarrass myself," he said chuckling.
"I'd like to sometimes," I said teasing him. "But you don't need to die to go to heaven. I see our spot."
At the mention of it, everyone started for our claim of heaven on earth. The sun was coming to its peak then, so we were anxious to get to the shade.
"So far, I've never found a place better than this," I said plopping down on one of the beds we left there a while ago. "Now all we need is a butler."
"Alvin!" Courtney yelled teasingly. "Go get me some water!" she said laughing.
It was hot, and every once in a while someone would go jump into the water and jump back out. It was too hot to stay in the water, no matter how nice it felt.
"Alvin! Where's my lime?!" demanded Mark drowsily lying in the shade. He was referring to the lime trees growing in our private oasis. It didn't seem so odd to us, because we'd seen it so many times.
"I told you to go get me one too, butler boy," Melissa said awkwardly. She wasn't very good at being mean, or teasing for that matter. She was one of those people who'd want to cry if you said you were having a bad day. She wanted everyone to feel good no matter what the circumstances. She was also the newest to our group. Apparently her parents were actually moving to the area, but couldn't take the time to do anything with her, so this was more like a summer camp for her. It was sad that she was leaving after the summer was over, because we'd all gotten to know each other over the previous summer and school year, and some even before that. I was the newest arrival at the school, and made friends fast.
It was about quarter past two when all of a sudden one of the radios started talking. We knew it was the people that left without asking, and we heard a "You have it on the wrong channel, the rest of the group is on channel 8. We don't want anyone else hearing where we are."
"Hey, that was them, wasn't it?" asked Melissa, perking up.
"Sounded like it," I replied.
"Anyone up for a little espionage work?" asked Jenna devilishly.
"More like up for a sneaky reward, right?" I asked.
"Right," she replied.
We snuck over the hill we suspected where they were. Because of the rules, every hiking party has to bring a rope with them, for reasons we know not why, but we had it, so we thought we'd put it to good use. We devised, that because they were using a large hill (very steep) for whatever they were doing (because by now we'd spotted them) we'd use the rope to lower someone in their cave and take their food while the other people (mainly Dewey) went and distracted them (playing his guitar).
"Why am I always the distraction?" asked Dewey, nearly offended. "Am I just that distracting?" he asked.
"Yeah, and you're not good at lowering people," said Alvin bluntly.
Dewey started playing his guitar nervously, chuckling to himself. "And all for a prank," he mumbled. As he got closer, there was sudden confusion and a cloud of dust that burst out of what at the time seemed behind the hill. I was holding the rope, but slipped and fell. Luckily, the rope was tangled in some shrubs and bushes, so I was only sliding slowly, but if no one grabbed the rope, I could start sliding fast, which wouldn't be good, seeing as how 'road rash' isn't pleasant.
I felt the rope stretch as someone grabbed it, and shouted for the other person. No one below heard it, or felt the dirt falling from my decent, because there was a cloud of dust, and they were confused themselves. Some were shouting, wondering what the cloud of dust was, others were shouting for no reason, and some were because they heard Dewey playing his guitar, so it was all around chaos. I was let down at a considerable speed, half rappelling, half sliding. I landed amidst the chaos, wondering myself what the cloud of dust was, but I'd find out soon.
At about the time I got let down, Dewey realized they weren't all scrambling because of him, although adding to the confusion, he knew something was up, and stopped playing.
I bumped into Derek, one of the instigators of the "runaway expedition" and he looked at me curiously. After a minute of looking confused, and letting the cloud settle, Derek realized that I hadn't been here before. His brow furrowed in confusion several times, relaxing intermittently. He was trying to think of a plausible explanation as to how I got there… but then he started freaking out. Finally he asked the question: "Did you come out of there?!" I was confused for a moment, then laughed at him.
"We just got here, we were going to play a prank on you, and I fell, and everyone was shouting."
"Oh… you scared me there."
"Right," I said looking around, "What the heck is this?"
"Slap me with a booger stick! This cave is huge!" Dewey exclaimed. He was like that, saying random exclamations, some funny, some just… exclamations… but I think he got the expression right this time. The group had dug a huge cave about 10 feet high and at least 30 deep.
Finally Jenna, Alvin and Melissa all came down from the top of the hill, which added a short secondary moment of confusion. I was only confused because everyone else was.
"Are you alright?" asked Jenna, to me.
"Yeah," I answered quickly.
"What is this place?" asked Alvin and Melissa, nearly simultaneously.
"Ask him," I said gesturing towards Derek.
"Well, we just wanted to make a cave; you know a cool place to go, with maybe a few rooms. Just a minute ago everyone started shouting and that dust cloud came," he said turning to walk in the cave. A few kids were grouped around one area of the cave, namely the back.
"What was all that about?!" Derek demanded.
"Look," said Amanda, half ignoring his question.
It was an opening, like an underground cave… only… tiled?
"Whoa!" Derek exclaimed, stepping through the small opening.
"What is it?" Jenna and Dewey asked quickly, they hadn't seen the opening yet. We all filtered through the small opening, and peered into the semi-dark space. It was like a hallway, only… underground… and straight, and…tiled. There were no light sources, except the one at the end of the big cave the group had made. We had to step down into the hole about three feet. No one had brought a flashlight, and we only had one glow stick to be used as a flare if we're ever in trouble. Someone decided to break theirs. The walls seemed to soak up the light from it, yet bounced it back too. The walls glowed blue green, even though the glow stick was red. There was an eerie silence, because everyone was dumbfounded by the sight of the place. The walls were plain tile, same as the floor, but it seemed to be intricate architecture. There were odd shapes that made the corners and turns, making odd angles. The air was interestingly scented. It smelled old, but not like dust old, but like place old, with tons of wear. The smell was nearly pleasant, and would've been if you could smell it for more than a second at a time. The air wasn't stuffy at all, which was extremely peculiar because there was no airflow.
"We've got to radio this in," Mark said, stunned.
"What? No! You can't!" protested Derek.
"Why not?" asked Jenna.
"They won't let us come back! This is probably a very significant archeological find!" he nearly shouted. "For one, our group isn't even supposed to be out here, and… yeah… just think about it a minute."
That I did. He was right, but we still had to radio in either way. If we didn't, the people would come looking for us. We devised that if we went back to the school and asked to go out for another long hike after a day of "rest" we could bring back a substantial food supply for the group. If we didn't bring extra water they wouldn't get suspicious that we were supplying the runaway group, so we decided to bring a water filter, so someone could just get water from our secret spot, and everyone could stay out longer.
On our trip back I was reflecting, wondering how this was all going to work out, if we'd get any royalties or fame for discovering the odd place. I never thought it'd end up how it really does.
After a day of anxious resting, our group set back out with a few more supplies than we'd planned. We even got a few short range walkie-talkies, so we wouldn't have to worry about other people who we thought were out of range, hearing us.
The trek was a little harder, and a little longer, because we were excited to get back to "the site" and check out what they found. We got there about noon, because we had to stop and get water for the purifier. When we got to the site, there were only two kids out, and they were only there for us. Apparently the rest made torches and went inside for short interval exploration sessions. We dropped our stuff, grabbed our lunch for later and some water for our exploration in the den. The other two followed suit.
"Time for some light," I said tossing a walkie-talkie and a flashlight to Amanda, the aforementioned girl from the runaway party. We checked them to make sure they worked, and they did.
"The walls seem to absorb the light," commented Alvin. "Yet when you turn off your lights," he said pausing, waiting for us to turn them off, "they seem to glow, as if releasing the light back. It's weird!"
"I want to know how big this place is," said Jenna excitedly. "This is awesome!"
Suddenly there was the sound of panting and footsteps. Derek had arrived. He was out of breath, and his torch was out. He breathlessly motioned for water and pointed at our flashlights pleadingly. I quickly handed one of the smaller ones from my pack to him.
"This place is huge!" he said, gesturing with what energy he decided to explain with. I could tell by looking in his eyes that he was very exited.
"You're running around, and you've been here for a whole day!" said Melissa.
"It's huge, and we couldn't go very deep without flashlights," he said, still panting. He took off shortly, disappearing into the dark mass of the labyrinth.
"Right, nice to meet you too," Alvin called after him, sarcastically.
"We should stick together. No one here thought to bring a compass, so it could be easy to actually get lost… the booger… he could get in serious trouble. We don't know how big this place really is. And for that matter, it's been open for a whole day, snakes and other things could've gotten in by now," said Jenna worriedly.
As we walked on, we forgot about the others, and just explored. It's a great feeling: to know you truly are exploring somewhere that no one before you has… at least not in human record or history.
The rooms were mainly the same, some had obvious uses, others had interesting areas, and we figured they were built for something specific. Speaking of building, that's exactly what was going through my head. Who built this place? How'd they get it underground? There's no civilization in this region of the world that had the ability or the knowledge to build something like this. And another thing… how'd they get in, and why'd they leave? These were soon obliterated from my thought process once what happened next… happened.
"We've been in here a while already, and it doesn't seem like it was very long," remarked Melissa.
"That happens when you're exited," teased Jenna.
"Hey guys," said Alvin, stopping, "look, right there. I saw that before, and it keeps looking like a 'light at the end of the tunnel' but it doesn't shine on any of the walls."
"Yeah, I thought that was my eyes going crazy," I said, agreeing. As we neared "the light" we realized it wasn't light at all, but it seemed like a clear tablet. Only, it wasn't clear like glass, it was clear like moving water. The light reflected in changing patterns off of it, even though the light was steady. Once we got to it, we stared at it, wondering what it was made of.
No ancient tribe of any kind had been able to make clear glass, and this looked like the purest slab of glass I'd ever seen. Every once in a while, its insides would move violently, making it appear as though it was about to fall from its place. Finally, I got brave enough to touch it.
"Whoa… it feels cold, like ice. And, it's changing color!" I said in awe. I slowly and carefully took it off its resting place. We took a short glance at the wall, and it seemed there was nothing there to hold it up, but we didn't really take notice. We were too enthralled with the tablet.
"Look! It's changing colors!" exclaimed Melissa. She didn't have to point it out for us to know, but no one scolded her for it. Wherever my skin touched the tablet, it changed color and made strange designs. It seemed as if there was an electrical storm inside of it, and it made my arms tingle. I was very exited, but I was afraid to move for fear I'd drop it, because I couldn't feel my hands.
"Uh, someone, quick, grab it!" I said suddenly, "Don't grab it with your hands though, do it with something else! My hands are going numb!"
At that remark, they all backed away, yet became more curious.
"I'll do it," said Jenna quickly, pulling out a bandana.
I handed it to her quickly, and nearly instantly my feeling came back. At the same instant that my fingers lost contact with the tablet, it stopped moving rapidly, and went back to it's slow current like flow. After a second of that, it started changing colors again. We stared at it in awe. Apparently Derek and a couple other kids came while we weren't paying attention, and added in their quiet "ooh's and ah's" with the occasional gasp. The tablet started making odd designs again; only this time it started making symbols. No one had the consciousness to back away, or else they would've then. It made symbols like writing, then ones we could recognize to be runes and hieroglyphics. Finally it stopped on something that seemed familiar to us all. When looking at each symbol, it seemed you knew exactly what it meant. After about a minute of dumbly staring at it in this state, it changed again, this time to English. Some of the symbols were still the other ones, but it was easy to read past them. It seemed they were a universal language, and served for words we didn't have in our vocabulary, but somehow we understood what it meant. Jenna read the tablet aloud, but no one remembers exactly what came out of her mouth, or the details it held, but we were there for a good hour, reading it. I know it relayed something about the place we found, being an angelic city, but that really wasn't exactly what it said. It said that it only was a city, because angels were working for ages to build the place, and was named an angelic city, because it was never used. The tablet referred to "Abraham's Bosom" and referred to that as the living land. The place we found was supposed to serve in its stead before it was made, but was never used.
"Hey guys, what's that, and where'd it come from?" Asked Mark, apparently he did the opposite of Derek, and had branched off his our expedition. He'd just come through a side hallway from us, not 10 yards away.
"What's that?" he asked as he stopped his thought short. It was the tablet he was referring to. It had odd markings, like everything else around there. In our crowding around the tablet, I tripped over a decorative handle. Mark thought it was just some piece someone left on the ground in a hurry, but when he tried to pick it up, he discovered it was part of a door.
After deciding to open it, he tried, but it didn't pull up… and he thought it was stuck, and kicked it in frustration. "there's got to be a reason for that… it's not like someone glued it to the floor as a prank!" he said, and kicked it again. This time, it moved… into the floor and sideways, making a crack into whatever was below. I pushed it with my foot, and it slid easily into the floor, so only the handle was sticking out, and about a 3x3 square hole was made, and doing so, we found that we were standing over a very large water reservoir.
"Well who's up for a dip?" asked Mark enthusiastically. Everyone looked at him like he was a crazed man, but a few slowly considered it.
"We don't know what's down there!" said Melissa.
"Well there can't be anything dangerous… there couldn't be any vegetation down there, and so nothing could live down there," remarked Dewey.
I agreed to go in, with Mark and Alvin. We were the best swimmers, and could hold our breath the longest. After agreeing that we should all go down periodically, so one could come up for air, then the other one, then the other one, and so on. After diving in, we all looked at each other. The water was warm… and cold… it had a sensation only similar to what I felt while holding the tablet, and seemed to change the same way the tablet did. After a while of peering around, I noticed I could see all the way to the bottom… it was several hundreds of feet down. It was interesting, because the light didn't reflect or refrain light from passing through it. The walls still illuminated here, so we didn't need or use flashlights. The water was crystal clear, and didn't bother my eyes to look in. it felt like nothing else… because like water trickling on your skin compared to being submerged is like this comparison to this water and the tablet. When I looked at Alvin and Mark, they had their eyes wide open in surprise of the feeling, and at how clear the water was. At the thought of the water being so much like air, not refraining light… it reminded me of air… I should go get some. When I looked up… I freaked… the ceiling looked exactly the same all over. I couldn't tell where the door was… and if they were playing a joke to scare us… it worked. I couldn't find my way out. After searching and searching… Mark noticed my frantic motions… and looked up himself. I looked at him, and he was also worried. We were trapped. For about another minute we all franticly swam back to the top, pushing on all the tiles… but to no avail. Everything was beginning to get blurry, and my heart was beating fast. If I didn't get oxygen soon, I'd die. For a few more seconds… I flailed… and seemed to accept my fate… and I stopped… like going to sleep… and I opened my mouth. I thought these were my last moments… and I breathed in the liquid. My eyes popped open wider than I ever thought possible. I was breathing water! I was so in awe… and I didn't know what I did… but once I thought to tell the others, and looked over to them… I tried to explain in motions. They looked at me with horrified faces. They thought I was taking a long time to drown… and I went over to them, who were then struggling themselves. I finally pressed on Alvin's stomach… feeling bad, because he thought I was killing him, though I wasn't. As soon as Alvin's eyes popped open in the same surprise I experienced, Mark seemed to half understand as he was letting out his last breath of air.
Once we had all breathed in the… breathable liquid, we all kind of sat there… slowly breathing in and out, like regular, only more invigorated than with air, because it was pure, but it was hard on our lungs to push water instead of air. Soon we got used to it… though I'm sure Alvin and Mark both thought what I did… the people on the upside probably were very worried about us… so we decided to look again. After a few minutes of non-panicked resolve to find the way out, we saw someone poking a leg in the water… dangling, getting ready to go the rest of the way in. I reached the leg first… apparently it was Jenna's… and I saw her eyes, looking into mine, horrified, thinking I was just floating. I guess it only made it worse when I grabbed her leg. She kicked me, and I could hear through the water her shrill scream. I poked my head out of the water and seemed like softly excreted the liquid, coughing a few times, and calmly lifting myself out. Our crowd of people all screamed at the sight of my calm face. After I spoke they all went wild. Finally, I got them to calm down… but it didn't help when the other two finally came out. After convincing them we weren't dead, we told them that the liquid was breathable. They all got mad at us, thinking we just found some air pocket, and played a joke on them. We pointed out the fact that we wouldn't be breathing out more water than we could stomach, out, and still have air our lungs if we were truly breathing air. No one believed us… and Mark just stooped his head in the water, and laid there… letting out his air. Two of the girls started crying, thinking he was killing himself, but he wasn't. I noted to the group that the water around his mouth moved in and out, like breathing. At this, they all became extremely curious… and asked mark to come out. When he came out, he breathed out his lungs-full of liquid, coughed a few times, and smiled softly.
"Good enough for you?" He asked.
After having a few minute long discussion on whether or not it was possible to breath it in, and how if possible, we decided it must be lighter than water, because water would be hard to breathe in, being so heavy. After convincing most of the people thoroughly that it truly was breathable, we convinced some more people to come down with us. It seemed like a dream, breathing water. It frightened the others their first time too, but they got used to going in the water, and breathing it in.
Time and time again, we visited this place for about two months, fuelling our awe, and using "the basin" as our new swimming pool… just keeping it a secret between the people who first discovered it. The teachers found it odd how we always went off in large groups together, and got suspicious of our "expeditions."
After a while, some of us decided to explore more of what we'd given the name of "the fortress," but some were afraid to do more than swim. We'd all somewhat forgotten about the flowing stone tablet that we'd encountered in our early discovery of the place. We found out that there were many deep passages, and we had so far only ventured into two of the smaller ones. One lead to a locked door with a symbol of an odd looking spear, but no one paid attention to it once we discovered it was locked. The other branched off into other small rooms with oddly colored and thick water-like liquid that came out of different shaped tubes into one bowl that never got any fuller. The drops coming out made a music kind of rhythm and sound, because it pushed air through the tubes. Upon hearing it, we realized we recognized it from somewhere… but we couldn't figure it out until we were just taking a break soon after in another room, where we realized that the sound reverberated through the whole place, it was just hard to hear unless you were listening intently.
After about three straight weeks, we decided that the group that had dug the cave should go back, or they wouldn't be able to come back at all, and would get too suspicious of the people bringing out supplies more than they needed. If we didn't want to tell anyone about the place they'd have to go back… and since it would be more favorable to us if they didn't take themselves back, but someone go with and get a reward. Obviously we considered some things, and figured to ask for something like more battery "allowance" or something that would aid everyone in the exploration of the fortress, along with asking "unselfishly" that the group not be chastised for more than a week for staying out so long. We worked it out with everyone and everything went as planned. We secretly planned a schedule that would minimize the suspicion of the school faculty or the kids, so we'd take shifts exploring the fortress, and try to make a map.
After about a month and a half of the initial discovery of the fortress, we were all together again at "the basin," just chatting and resting. I wondered aloud to the group,
What made you guys start digging such a huge cave?"
Mark answered that one, "it was soft dirt, and we wanted a cool place to hang out"
"But wouldn't there be scorpions and stuff? I mean it wasn't a very good idea… something like a cave in could've happened if you weren't careful," said Melissa
"True" he answered with a shrug, "but we wouldn't have ever found this if we hadn't!" he said while playfully jumping in the basin.
It was cool in the fortress, but it still felt nice to go in the basin. A lot of the group didn't actually like breathing in the water for obvious reasons… it was an odd feeling, and it was very deep. No one had gone to the bottom yet, and some were afraid something still lived in it.
Amanda whimpered. "I think there should always be at least two people in the basin, because what happens if their lungs get tired from pushing in and out the water and they suffocate? Kyle, I'd feel better if you went in too, just so I know he won't die… like I know he won't… yet I don't… you know?
"Yeah, okay" I said, jumping into the small recess in the floor to go in the basin. I dove in through the opening, and went deep as fast as I could. Sometimes, when we hadn't gone deep enough, we were still afraid to breathe in the water, and bumped our heads on the ceiling trying to get out in panic, though panicking is a considerable reaction to the natural fear of drowning. Once I was deep enough, I closed my eyes, let out all of my air, and sucked in slowly, so my lungs wouldn't hurt. The water rushed in, slowly, and refreshingly cool.
Once I was past the small hint of panic, I opened my eyes again and looked for Mark. I couldn't see him, and I figured he must be below me. As I looked down, I saw something moving near the bottom, and I figured it was him. As I said before, no one had gone to the bottom yet, so I figured I might as well check it out, as well as make sure it was him that I saw moving, instead of some creepy animal that lived here for a thousand years.
As I neared the bottom I thought I saw something move again… but I couldn't tell. I guessed I was about 30 feet down, and there was about 20 feet left to go. It was very hard to get any more of the liquid back into my lungs… but it didn't matter, because I didn't seem to have to take another breath at all because of how rich in oxygen it was. One would think you would pass out from the high oxygen mix… but it didn't happen ever, in fact it was quite relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Once I got near the bottom, I couldn't take in any more water at all, because of the pressure on my lungs. I was surprised that it didn't push out all of the liquid where I was, but I guess it was lighter than water, or something. I finally touched bottom, and I saw something that puzzled me. It was the opposite thing as the entrance to the basin. There was a 2 by 3 foot box with one side open that stuck out of the floor. I had no doubt this is where Mark went. At this time, I had no idea how long I'd been in the water, but my lungs were getting starting to hurt, and Mark went in before me. I figured I had enough time to look in, and get him out, if not, I'd have to go back up and get someone to make a dash for him. As I entered, I saw brighter light coming from there. The weird thing was about this, is that after going down, it came back up. I hoped Mark hadn't gone too much further, I was getting nervous. Apparently the chute up only went a few feet, and I saw the wavy ripple of the surface of the water. At first, this puzzled me, because I thought it was an air pocket, but there was more light, and no Mark. I put my hands up first, expecting to hit a ceiling, but never did. The gap opened up to a grand room that looked like a procession room to a throne or banquet hall. I climbed out of the water, slowly, trying to get the water out of my lungs easily. At this point I would have looked for mark, but he was standing right in front of me. He was still dripping, like me, from the water we'd just gotten out of… and neither of us cared. We just stared at the huge place. It seemed there were torches on the walls… but there weren't. The walls flickered with a soft light and seemed to come from nowhere, because the walls were reflecting it more than making it.
"Wow…" was all we could say… but I don't think anyone even did… but we both knew we were thinking it.
The most impressive carvings were made into everything, the latticework, the tiles were lightly hinted with characters, the walls had great tapestries and paintings, pottery with lavish detail, tables with beast likeness on the feet and chairs made of an inexpressible material. The tile was smooth and body-temperature, and there was a sweet aroma in the air. I noticed decorative weapon racks with immensely large weapons like spears, axes and swords. Giant suits of wondrously unique armor lined the walls along with huge shields that hung from the ceiling like chandeliers. At the far end of the room, there was a large display, similar to a monument, and it had a similar, but much larger stone that flowed with light.
We didn't know what to do, because we just wanted to stay, and gape in awe. I broke the atmosphere of complete marvel, and pointed out that we should return to the group, so they don't get scared and send someone for help. Mark agreed, but seemed sad, or half listening, or a mix of both. It was an understandable reaction, and we walked slowly, glancing back at the room before exiting. After getting over our wistfulness, we became excited to tell the others about what we had discovered.
When we surfaced, our energy quickly faded into guilt, because Melissa was in tears for fear that we'd been drowned or something similar. We were given punishing glances from the other people who were also concerned. It was a considerable reaction, but it didn't repress the growing excitement of sharing what we found. Once we apologized, we told them what we found, and little by little their eyes brightened, and gasps of excitement seemed to reverberate in a melodic way around the group, creating a flow of energy to the situation, gathering a rather expressive squeal of giddy desire for us to show them. The suspense was intoxicating, as we swam as fast as we could to the bottom, sparing our poor lungs no expense in our hurry to get to the bottom and out the passage.
Once everyone was inside, we all wandered, starry eyed, including Mark and I, because we still couldn't really take it all in just yet. Marvin whistled in wonder, and just as I was thinking that it was funny he didn't have anything witty to say, he piped up,
"hey, guys, think we can sell tickets for this place, if not as a cool place to hang, then a museum, or a fighting arena? We sure have the armor to battle in!" he chuckled.
"No!" replied Amanda defensively, "this stuff could sell for a lot of money… these are like artifacts! We don't want to damage them!"
"Good point" I said, "but, being artifacts, if we give them to someone for safe keeping, won't they either sell them themselves, or wonder where we got them? Once they get curious, there's no way to stop them from desecrating whatever this place is, and industrializing it, taking it to pieces, and opening it up for the rich people to enjoy." The group nodded in agreement. It wasn't a logical thing to tell anyone yet… I mean, and then we couldn't explore it for ourselves! Besides, what good would it do? I don't think anyone would know just what to do with a discovery like this.
"Hah…" Mark chuckled, "The sad part about this is this is the day we're all scheduled to go back."
"Well, I think there should be someone to guard this place from now on, now that we know how valuable it is," pointed Derek slyly.
"We'll get in trouble if we leave only a part of our group though…"
"I have an idea!" exclaimed Alvin excitedly, "We could call up Sam on the radio, and he's got that super long range receiver!"
"How would he know where to find us, though?" replied Derek snidely
"Sam went all geeky on us last month with that whole 'quadrant' thing he did, that mapped the whole thing. He got the map from the teachers with the excuse that he was helping, well… he did, but now it helps us!"
"How do we know where he is from us… like do you know what 'quadrant' we're in?!" replied Derek defensively
"All he'd have to do is figure his way from our oasis! He figured his quadrants like a graph, starting at 0, 0, and north east was positive, positive… we know we head northeast when we come from the oasis!" said Dewey, getting kind of silly in his excitement.
"Great idea, but someone's still going to need to stay with him… he can't stay out alone, plus, knowing him, he'd want to explore since it's such an old place," I said simply. "If he explored, he could get lost, because he hasn't been here for the past month like we have." Derek was waiting for that, and was just about to pipe up when Dewey poked fun.
"I bet he's read about this place, and it's just something they buried a long time ago." We all chuckled, except Derek. He was waiting for his moment to volunteer. I saw an odd expression on his face… I don't know if anyone else did, and I knew something was up. Derek wasn't exactly the most obedient, and definitely not the most innocent of being headstrong in his ideas. I was surprised it hadn't become a problem yet, but I felt it coming.
"Alright, I'll call Sam tonight," said Melissa.
"Who's going to stay with him though?" asked Derek innocently. At that question, everyone stopped. Either they were contemplating staying and exploring themselves… or noticed his ploy. "I'll stay if no one else wants to" offered Derek politely.
"I don't think it's who wants to stay this time that's the matter… we all want to stay," I said, "The point is, who's the most responsible, and who would the teachers trust most, so as to not let them get suspicious." I said.
"Kyle," protested Derek, "you just want to stay because you think you're the most responsible. None of the teachers are going to treat the situation any different by person, unless they suspect something of us all."
"I don't know," mused Amanda, "I kinda trust Kyle more than I trust you to hold up the fort and not do anything stupid, no offence." She said turning directly to Derek, who now was growing a faint scowl.
"Don't get all worked up about it, guys, let's just pick straws. Whoever gets the shortest, if you don't want to stay, you can let someone else stay." Someone mumbled "it's a good idea," so we all shrugged our shoulders in agreement.