Ryan’s Story – The Jewel
“Err … hi,” said Jake nervously standing at the foot of the bed clutching his bag.
Ryan looked at Jake through narrowed eyes. “What do you want, Jake?” He head was still a little sore and he wasn’t really in the mood to deal with whatever the older boy wanted. He expected Jake was here to try to intimidate him into keeping quiet over what had happened just prior to the accident.
“I thought you might want this back,” Jake replied reaching into his bag. He pulled out Ryan’s skateboard and handed it to him. “You left it at the top of the cliffs.” Ryan took the skateboard and grunted a thank you. An awkward silence hung between the two boys, neither knowing what to say.
“So,” Ryan said breaking the silence, “how’d you get in anyway? Visitor hours don’t start until two and you don’t exactly count as a friend or family member.”
“My dad’s a sarge in the police back at Cliffport; he pulled a couple of strings when I asked him for a favour.” Jake sat down in the chair by his bed, idly glancing at the comics.
“Uh-huh, you came all this way just to return my skateboard.”
“Actually,” Jake said uncertainly, “I was hoping I could do something about what just said.”
“About what,” Ryan said, slightly confused and impatient.
“About not being a friend. Look, you saved my life. If it weren’t for you that car would have hit me.”
“You’re serious,” Ryan said, realising that Jake wasn’t joking. “The way I heard it; you were the one that saved mine. Sounds like we’re even to me.”
“Yeah, but you were right what you said. We’ve been real jerks to you since you got here, especially me. Honestly, I’d have understood it if you’d just jumped out of the way and let the car hit me. But you didn’t. Despite all the crap that we’ve done to you, you still risked your life to save mine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t forget stuff like that.”
“Look, I don’t need anyone watching my back. I can take care of myself.”
“Yeah, I can see that. My jaw still hurts from that punch you gave me,” Jake said, grimacing in mock pain as he rubbed the side of his face.
Ryan was dubious, he had gotten used to expecting an ulterior motive when someone tried to “help him” or be his “friend.” Yet after four years of shutting everyone out, he was getting tired of always being isolated and alone. The Johnson’s were nice, they genuinely seemed to care; Trey was annoying, but he couldn’t deny that sometimes it was fun to be around him. Maybe it was time to start trusting people again.
“All right,” Ryan said taking a deep breath, “but no promises ok?”
“That’s cool.” Jake reached back into his bag once again and this time pulled out something wrapped in a supermarket carrier bag. He handed it to Ryan who looked inside, revealing a pair swimming shorts.
“What’s this?” he asked confused. “I’m not a house-elf you know.”
Jake laughed, betraying a passing familiarity with the Harry Potter books. “That’s for when you get out. As soon as you’re up for it, I’m dragging your ass to the sports centre and teaching you how to swim. The next time you fall into the harbour, I ain’t jumping in to save you.”
By the time Susan and Anthony had arrived an hour later to take him home, the two boys were still laughing and talking. Over the next month, Jake kept his word and tried to teach Ryan how to swim with mixed results.
In between schoolwork and learning how to swim, Ryan had set himself another task. The memories of what he had experienced after he had passed out underwater were fuzzy, almost dreamlike in quality. Yet he was sure that what he had experienced was no hallucination, that it was real. The heat from the flames had felt real, a bruise from the strong grip had been left on his arm and no one had told him that Jake had been the person who had pulled him out of the water. He had seen that for himself during the out of body experience.
The demon, if the other man had been addressing him literally, had referred to his brother and a ritual. Despite the best efforts of psychologists and counsellors, Ryan had never completely come to terms with what Mark had done. What had happened on that night four years ago still gave him frequent nightmares and he had never told anyone the full story of what his brother had done to him. One of the things he had never told anyone was that his brother had also mentioned a ritual right before he killed his unsuspecting accomplice. Ryan had never thought too hard on what his brother had meant, although Mark’s last words to him were indelibly burned into his memories. His instincts told him that he needed to find out what Mark had been trying to do. Something told him that his life might quite literally depend on it.
Deciding to research the ritual was the easy part. Finding a place to start wasn’t. Using the internet was out of the question, the Johnson’s PC had parental controls blocking any website that could be useful. He didn’t know enough about computers to disable the controls and he didn’t want to ask his foster parents to remove them, as that would have raised too many awkward questions. Cliffport’s public library wasn’t much help either. Apart from a few books on theology and ancient mythology, the library had nothing that came even close to books on the occult.
After finding that no useful information could be found in Cliffport, Ryan decided that perhaps Plymouth would be better place to look. So a week after the accident, he took the 40-minute bus ride across the county line into Devon. Armed with a map and a printout from yell.com, he eventually found himself in Plymouth’s Barbican district standing at the door to a dark basement bookstore.
As he opened the door, ringing the bell, he had to squint in order to see in the dim lighting. The air smelled stuffy, reeking of old books and other strange odours. Bookshelves crammed with books lined the walls of the small room interspaced with glass cabinets housing numerous strange looking items. Ryan peered through the dusty glass of one cabinet at what appeared to be a human skull decorated with a strange red metal inset into its surface. The books on the shelves next to it were old and leather-bound. He reached out to take one from the shelf when the sound of a throat being cleared made him jump and spin around.
An old man standing at the door to a back room peered at him over the rim of his spectacles. “Please do not touch the books,” he said as he appraised the youth before him, “and I don’t like school children poking through my shop. So unless you are looking from something in particular, please leave.”
“I’m err,” Ryan said nervously. The man’s stare was piercing and it made him very uncomfortable. “I’m um looking for…”
“Spit it out boy, I haven’t got all day.”
Ryan swallowed, “it’s now or never,” he thought to himself. “I’m l looking for books on soul pledging.” He said quickly, almost stumbling over the words. The man took a couple steps towards him, fixing him with a suspicious look and standing uncomfortably close to Ryan. Ryan stepped back at the sudden movement, backing into the bookcase behind. Adjusting his glasses, the old man leaned forward looking down at Ryan.
“That’s a very dangerous subject,” he said quietly, “and not something you should be playing around with at your age.” The old man adjusted his glasses and peered at Ryan’s neck, seeing the scar there for the first time. He stepped back, examining the line of scar tissue. He could tell just by looking at it that it was a knife wound and judging by its location, it was a miracle it hadn’t been fatal. “That’s a nasty looking scar you have there son. Where did you get it?”
“I got attacked by a dog when I was little,” lied Ryan automatically, “look mister, do you have any books or not?”
The old man folded his arms and looked at the boy. Ryan muttered under his breath and turned to leave. “Wait,” the old man said as Ryan reached the door, “I might have something for you.” The old man went into in to the backroom, leaving Ryan alone in the front. As the sounds of rummaging filtered in from the back, Ryan wandered over to the bookcase again, reading the book titles; Myths and Monsters of Devon and Cornwall, The Four Ancient Gods, Infiernoboca de la Mundo. “Found it,” the old man said as he walked back into the front holding a leather-bound book. He walked over to Ryan, handing it to him.
“A Primer in Animus Spondeo, Everto quod suum Ritus,” Ryan said reading the title aloud, “A Primer on Soul Pledging, Demons and their Rituals.”
“You read Latin,” the man said with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, a little,” Ryan said carefully flicking through the pages, “my last foster parents were ultra-strict religious types and they made learn us Latin and stuff. You know, trying to save our heathen souls or something.” The old man nodded. “So, how much?”
The old man scratched his head. “For you, thirty pounds.” Ryan grimaced as he fished out a handful of notes from his pocket; this was all he had. Reluctantly he handed over the money as the old man wrapped the book in brown paper and twine. “Pleasure doing business with you son,” the old man said coldly. Ryan took the package from him and placed it gently at the bottom of his backpack. As he left the store, Ryan could feel the eyes of the old man on his back, following him all the way to the door. He felt relieved when he was finally outside in the bright sunlight.
As soon as the boy was out of sight, the old man was joined by a young man from the backroom. Daniel reached into a pocket and pulled out his wallet. He handed the old man a roll of notes. “£1’000 as agreed. That should cover the rest of the book’s cost.”
The old man counted the money. “Humph,” he grunted, “I should hope so. That boy got a bargain; I could have sold that book for over £800 at auction.” Daniel picked up an old kitbag from under the counter, shook the old man’s hand, and made for the door. “Mr Reese?” the old man asked, “one question if you will. Why was it so important for the boy to receive that book? Soul Pledging is not a game for children.”
“You saw the scar on his neck, he’s already been pledged. He just doesn’t know what that means yet.”
A month passed, and Ryan had found reading the book hard going. The Latin prose was dense and poorly organised. In some places, the age of the book worked against him as the ink had faded rendering the text unreadable. Still, it was all he had to work with.
On the morning of the 19th, Ryan groaned and rolled out of bed, contemplating an act of brutal violence against the alarm clock. It was a Monday. Ryan was not a morning person, especially on Monday mornings. He glanced across the bedroom at Trey’s sleeping form. The younger boy was snoring blissfully, lost to dreamland. “Get up squirt,” he grunted throwing a pillow at Trey and waking him, “time for school.” As Trey rolled out of bed, landing roughly on the bedroom floor, Ryan staggered across the landing into the bathroom and “deposited his morning business.” After several minutes, he left the bathroom and went back into the bedroom. Trey was still sitting on the floor, wrapped bleary-eyed in his bedcovers. “Breakfast in five,” he said over his shoulder as he rummaged through the chest of drawers looking for something to wear, “leaving for the boat in fifteen with or without you.” He pulled on relatively clean t-shirt and hopped into his pants before heading downstairs.
His foster parents were already up and dressed. Anthony looked up from his cereal has Ryan popped a pair of pop tarts into the toaster, strawberry for him and chocolate for Trey. “Morning, ready for school?”
“Yeah,” he answered opening the fridge and reaching for the orange juice.
“Have done your homework?”
“Yes sir,” Ryan said playfully.
“Is Trey up yet?” Susan asked him.
Ryan glanced at the stairs. “He better be,” he growled in mock-menace, “I’m not being late again because of him.” The toaster dinged as the pop-tarts sprang up. Ryan carefully plucked the hot breakfast treats out of the toaster and put them on separate plates. As if on cue, a grumpy twelve-year-old clomped down the stairs and into the kitchen. Trey sat down at the table and greedily began to munch on his pop tart. He grunted unintelligibly to a question about homework. Anthony looked over to Ryan who nodded slightly confirming that he had made sure that the younger boy had completed his homework the night before. Trey hated school and, like most children, hated homework.
True to his word, ten minutes later Ryan was half-dragging a half-awake Trey out of the front door. Walking down the cliff top road down towards the harbour, Ryan looked out across the bay towards St Piran’s Island. Just a mile offshore, it was the unusual home to Cliffport’s school. Named after Cornwall’s patron saint, the island used to be home to a family of wealthy landowners. However, in the late 1930s, the family had donated the island to the local community with the stipulation that the grounds and buildings be used to house a school for the village’s children. Cliffport Community School was opened the following year. Despite the growth of the town, the school was still small, having only 400 students. Although during low tide it was possible to reach the island by walking across the sand, access to the island was generally provided by two boats owned by the school. “Racing the tide” were also grounds for detention if caught which didn’t stop children from trying it.
The two boys reached the harbour with ample time to spare, boarding the boat with the rest of the upper school students. The boat’s worked in shifts, first transporting the upper school students to the island before returning for the junior school students and any upper school stragglers. Three members of staff once again performed the daily struggle of reminding all the children to put on their life vests. Trey immediately ran off to join his friends at the bow while Ryan looked for somewhere to sit down. With his father in prison on drugs charges and his mother declared an unfit parent by the courts, Trey had been in care for just under a year. Being a local boy, he had been very lucky that social services had found a foster placement within the community allowing him to keep in contact with his friends.
Just before the boat loosed its moorings, a late arrival ran up the walkway and jumped onboard, stumbling his way through the crowd to sit next to Ryan. “Morning Jake, you look terrible,” Ryan said looking up at the older boy. He had dark circles around his eyes and he looked like he hadn’t had much sleep. Jake grunted, shielding his eyes under his hood.
“God must be a teetotaller,” he mumbled, “’cos if he were an alky, he’d have never made the sun so bright in the mornings.”
“Your dad’s a cop; if he catches you drinking you know he’ll kick your ass.” Jake gave him a sidelong glance but as the boat started to pull away from the dock, its diesel engine roaring, something on the dock attracted his attention.
“Whoa, did you see that?” He said pointing towards the dock. Ryan turned and looked at where he was pointing.
“That dog.” Standing at the end of the dock was a large black dog, watching the boat depart.
“What about it?”
Jake was sure that, just for a second, its eyes had shone red. “Must’ve been seeing things,” he thought to himself. “Nothing … he’s just huge.” Jake said turning his back on the dog.
“Uh huh,” Ryan said sceptically, rolling his eyes. Unseen by the two boys, the wolf-like hound walked behind a sign out of sight from any onlookers and vanished.
It took the boat about twenty minutes to cross the small channel and slowly the students disembarked, filtering towards their various classrooms.
Morning lessons always dragged on a Monday. First period was English literature, and the class took turns reading out passages from Macbeth. It was a snore-inducing lesson, especially first thing on a Monday morning and Ryan wasn’t exactly sure what they were supposed to be learning while reciting Shakespeare. When the teacher called on him to recite a section, he did as he was told even though he had hidden a comic inside the book. Sat on his own at the back of the class, he was able to recite the required passage from memory, visualising the pages in his mind. In the corridors between classes, Ryan noticed a girl looking at him strangely. For a brief second, their eyes met across the crowded corridor. It was this point that Ryan recognised her, with her eyes different colours, Celeste was the only other person at school considered weirder than Ryan. French was marginally more interesting, if only because he actually had to think a couple of times. He was glad when lunch finally rolled around.
Idly pushing peas around on his plate with a fork while reading his comic, Ryan was soon joined by two others, Jake and Jake’s classmate Spud. In between mouthfuls of chips, the two older boys were desperately trying to finish their science homework before it was due in after lunch. Ryan was only half-listening as they argued over the answers to some of the questions.
“Gravitation, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force,” Ryan said quietly as Defender threw the Gargoyle across the room, taking out Rampage just as he was about to body tackle The Eye.
“What was that?” Jake said looking up from his workbook.
“Question 12, what are the four fundamental forces in Physics? Gravitation, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force,” he repeated slightly louder.
Spud looked at Ryan, a sneer on his face. “Like you’d know something like that, dumbass.”
“Hey,” Jake said punching Spud on the arm, “there’s no need for that.”
“Oh come on, he’s a ‘tard. My sister’s in the same class as him and she says he never gets a question right and he’s at the bottom of the class.”
“That may be true,” Jake said turning the text book towards Spud, “but he’s right.” Behind the comic book, Ryan smiled covertly.
“Humph, lucky guess. Question 5, what element has the atomic number of 45?”
Scowling, Spud flipped through the textbook looking for another question. “Ok, what element is directly to the right of Argon on the Table of Elements?”
Ryan put the comic down and looked Spud casually in the eyes. “Trick question, Argon is in the rightmost group. But to the left of it is Chlorine with an atomic number of 17. Used as a bleaching and disinfectant agent it’s also part of the compound Sodium Chloride, better known as table salt.”
“Alright alright,” Spud interrupted holding his hands up in defeat, “so you’re not a complete ‘tard after all.”
“You’re welcome,” Ryan said rolling his eyes. Ignoring him, Spud gathered up his books and jogged over to join his girlfriend Samantha at another table. Shaking his head, Ryan went back to reading his comic. After a few moments, he noticed that Jake was looking at him with a quizzical expression. “What?”
“What the hell was all that about?” Jake asked closing the textbook. “No offense, but Spud’s right. Everyone knows you’re supposed to be stupid.”
Ryan’s eyes flashed with anger as he glared at Jake over the top of the comic. “Gee thanks, none taken.”
“Whoa, it don’t matter nothing to me. Einstein or Forest Gump, we’d still be cool. But if you’re a freaking genius, then why are you at the bottom of the class?”
“I’m not at the bottom,” Ryan mumbled bitterly, his mouth full of chips; “if you’re at the bottom you get special help.” Ryan emphasised the word special with air quotes. “If you get every question right you’re the teacher’s pet. Average and they push you to try harder. But if you’re just stupid, then no one pays you any attention.”
Jake leaned forward and closed Ryan’s comic, forcing the younger boy to look at him. “You always sit by yourself, or at the back. Anyone tries to get close, you brush em off, and you’re failing every class on purpose so that none of the teachers bother trying to teach you anything. Mate, what’s up with you? It’s like your hiding from the world.”
Ryan looked at Jake, his mouth wobbling as if he was trying to find the words to respond. Then, abruptly, he scooped up his bag and the comic and got up from the table and left. Jake stood up, ready to go after him but his uncompleted homework beckoned. With a resigned sigh, he sat back down and started writing. As he did so, he realised that he didn’t really know anything about Ryan, no one did. Ryan never talked about himself and always seemed to deflect any questions. Jake had of course asked the obvious question, about the origins of Ryan’s scar. He’d gotten an answer, an animal attack when he was younger, but Jake had a feeling that there was more to it than that.
The conversation left Ryan in a bad mood for the rest of the day. He narrowly avoided detention when he argued with the RE teacher during a lesson on Intelligent Design Theory. Despite the fact that he was now convinced the supernatural existed, he still found it hard to accept certain things on faith alone. Luckily, the teacher had a sense of humour and had been surprised at the reasoned and well thought out arguments. He was glad though when 3:45 rolled around and it was time to go home.
Later that evening, Ryan was busy doing his homework in his room when Anthony called up the stairs that dinner was ready. Making sure his history essay was saved on the computer, headed downstairs to the dining room. Sitting down at the table, savouring the smell of Susan’s beef stew, he picked up the cutlery and froze. Opposite Ryan sat Trey. He sat there; acting like nothing was wrong eating his dinner with his eyes missing. There was only a pair of empty sockets where his eyes should be. Glancing at Susan and Anthony, they were acting normally, as if they hadn’t noticed that an eyeless child was sitting at their table eating dinner.
“What’s wrong?” Asked Trey, “looking” across the table at Ryan.
“Nuh … Nothing,” he stammered. “Could you pass the salt?” Trey passed him the saltshaker and Ryan tried his best to act natural as he ate his dinner. He avoided looking directly at Trey as they ate and wild thoughts began to race through his mind. “The shrinks were right,” he thought to himself silently, “I’ve gone crazy.”
Hurriedly finishing his dinner, Ryan excused himself from the table and retreated to his bedroom as fast as he could without making a scene. He yanked open the desk drawer and grabbed the small toolkit he used to fiddle with his skateboard. Using the screwdriver, he popped the access panel off the side of the PC and reached inside. Sitting on top of the hard drive inside an anti-static bag was the leather bound occult book. He’d had the idea to hide book there after seeing someone hide a gun in a similar place on an episode of CSI. Flicking through book, jumping from chapter to chapter, Ryan desperately scanned the Latin text for any mention of missing eyes but there was nothing even remotely close. When the door opened behind him, he quickly covered the book with a skating magazine as Trey entered.
“Hello Ryan, it’s been a long time.” Ryan froze at the sound of the voice coming out of Trey’s mouth. A voice that he had not heard in person for nearly four years but one that he heard every night in his nightmares. The voice of his brother Mark.
His heart began racing as fear and confusion gripped him. After four years of hiding, his brother had finally found him. As Trey sneered at him, Ryan realised that more than just him was in trouble. “What have you done to Trey?” He asked through gritted teeth.
“Who?” Trey asked flopping down onto his bed, “Oh, the brat. Don’t worry, he’s not been harmed. Just a simple body swap; he won’t even remember it.”
“Why, what do you want?”
“Actually, I need your help,” Trey said picking at his teeth with his fingernail.
“Christ, you want my help after what you did to me?” Ryan said angrily getting to his feet, “I’d … you … Go to hell! I aint helping you.”
Trey smiled at Ryan’s outburst, getting up off the bed and taking a step toward him. From a pocket, the younger boy pulled out a black handled flick knife. A button on its side caused its five-inch blade to spring out. Ryan stiffened at the sight of the knife blade. “Has he been depressed lately?”
“Huh?” Ryan was confused at the sudden change of subject.
“Is he being bullied at school, missing mummy and daddy, being mistreated by his foster parents?” Trey asked grinning.
“What? No. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Well,” Trey said slowly, bringing the knife to his wrist, “they’ll be asking questions about what drove a twelve-year-old boy to commit suicide.” The blade hovered just above the boy’s bare wrist. Ryan knew that he’d never be able to stop Mark from cutting Trey’s wrist. He might be able to wrestle the knife away from him and he would probably be able to stem the bleeding but he couldn’t watch Trey all the time. Ryan fell back down onto the chair, his head in his hands.
“Fine,” Ryan said dejectedly, “you win.”
Trey put the knife away and lay back down on the bed smiling. “Excellent, you know that old burial mound outside town? I need you to go there at sunset tomorrow and retrieve a very special jewel from inside.”
“Do I look like Indiana Jones?” He said giving Trey a sarcastic glance.
“No,” Trey answered looking at him sternly, “you look like my bitch. Now get some sleep, you’re gonna need it.”
Ryan did not sleep well that night, he felt exposed, trapped. Mark was essentially just across the room from him. If he wanted to, he could’ve done whatever he wanted while Ryan slept. He was also worried about Trey. Mark had already made it clear that was capable of killing Trey if Ryan didn’t do was he wanted. Whether Mark could be trusted to leave Trey alone once Ryan had obtained the Jewel was another question. With all these thoughts racing through his head, it was a wonder he got any sleep at all.
The next day passed quickly, the morning classes blurring together. Ryan was too preoccupied to concentrate on class work. Something that only furthered the perception that he was a poor student. He spent lunch in the school’s small library looking for information on the burial mound but couldn’t find any books on local history. At the end of the school day, Ryan snuck off to Cliffport’s public library. That morning, Ryan had told his foster parents that he had a history report to write and that he would be going to the library straight from school.
Waiting for sunset, he searched through books for any information on the burial mound. Despite local lore, no one knew who or what was buried inside. Theories ranged the serious to the downright bizarre but none of them seemed to have any shred of proof behind them. No archaeological study had ever been performed and it was entirely possible that the mound was a natural geological feature. Yet, Mark was effectively holding Trey hostage over some jewel he believed was inside the mound. Ryan was of no doubt that if his brother was prepared to go to those lengths, then there indeed was something inside the mound after all.
As the sun began to dip towards the horizon and the shadows started to lengthen, Ryan packed away his things, put the books back on the shelves, and left the library. The sun was beginning to set, the wispy cirrocumulus clouds reflecting the orange sunlight and taking on the appearance of streamers of fire, lancing across the sky. Lounging opposite the steps up to the library was a large black dog, curled up beneath a bench. As Ryan jogged down the steps to the street, it lifted its head to watch him. Passing the bench, Ryan glanced at the wolf-like hound. The dog’s eyes flashed red for just a second presumably, Ryan thought, reflecting the evening sunlight. Quickly putting the moment out of his mind, Ryan hopped on his skateboard and began to skate across town.
The burial mound was in the hills that rose behind East Cliffport. Surrounded by farmland, and providing a spectacular view of the town below, only a small dirt track lead up from the town. Huffing up the track, his skateboard strapped to his backpack, Ryan was more than a little surprised to see Celeste sitting on a rock in front of the mound, sketching the sunset. “This is just too coincidental to be a coincidence,” he muttered. Circling around the mound, he kept a wary eye on the girl as he looked for a way inside. Too many strange things had happened over the last couple of days.
“Can I help you?” Celeste asked putting her sketchbook away as Ryan circled back around to the front.
Ryan shrugged. “Worth a shot,” he thought to himself. “You wouldn’t happen to know if there is a way in to the mound would you.” Celeste got up and walked over to where Ryan was standing.
“Of course I do silly,” she said flashing him with a smile, “under the bushes.” Ryan looked over to the row of bushes she pointed to and turned back to say something when he noticed she had already left, skipping down the dirt track.
“Wiee-erd,” he said, “and what sort of person skips nowadays?” Ryan went over to the bushes and began to search for a hole or passageway, anything that could be an entrance into the mound. All he found was a rusted horseshoe lying beneath one of the bushes. When he reached down to touch it, he suddenly fell through the ground as if passing incorporeally through the dirt, landing roughly.
Rubbing his sore bottom, he found himself sitting on the floor of a tunnel. The floor was made of smooth stone and the walls and ceiling were constructed of compacted earth. Small crystals embedded near the top of the walls cast a gentle blue glow, illuminating the tunnel. Behind him was a bare wall and ahead of him the tunnel sloped gently downwards. Ryan looked up at the ceiling, as he feared there was no sign of a way out. “Well if no one was buried in here before,” he said to no one in particular, “there is now.”
Apprehensively, he began to make his way down the tunnel. After several long minutes, the tunnel eventually opened up into a small chamber. Opposite the tunnel was a small archway, through which Ryan could see another dimly lit tunnel with a chamber at its end. A tantalising glint from inside the distant chamber drew Ryan forward. As he approached the archway, a large stone block slammed down sealing the archway. When he took a step back, the block grated open slowly. A step forward and it slammed shut again. Examining the floor, Ryan looked for the pressure switch he assumed was triggering the stone block. The floor was smooth an unbroken, almost like a solid carved piece of stone. Whatever was triggering it couldn’t be on the floor. Thinking carefully, he took a step towards the archway again, timing the block’s descent. It took a just a few seconds for the block to crash down. Even at a full run, he’d never be able to safely cross the distance between the “trigger point” and the archway. Unless…
Ryan jogged back up the tunnel and unclipped the skateboard from his backpack. Taking a deep breath, he hopped on and began to accelerate down the tunnel. “It’s just physics and maths; vectors, velocities, friction and acceleration; I can do this,” he said to himself as he rushed towards the chamber. Screaming in terror, he crouched down on the board as he shot through the opening, the stone block skimming the back of his head as it slammed shut. The front wheel of the skateboard struck a rut in the stone floor and Ryan was sent tumbling to floor. He lay there, scuffed and bruised by the fall and whopping in triumph, the danger and the reason he was here momentarily forgotten. Behind him, the stone block slowly grated upwards again and locked back into place.
He picked himself up off the floor walked slowly towards the distant chamber, wary in case of other traps. At the back of the chamber was an altar-like pedestal on top of which was a gleaming red gemstone. “This is too easy,” he said stepping into the chamber. A series of holes ran in front of the alter. As he cautiously approached, he was proven right as jets of flame erupted from the holes. The blast of heat and fire caused him to jump back yelping in fear, stumbling backwards to the floor. He scrambled backwards away from the jets and as he did so, the jets ceased. Ryan’s heart was racing, his breaths coming fast. He closed his eyes, taking several deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. “Come on Ryan,” he said to himself, “suck it up. Trey’s counting on you.”
Swallowing his pyrophobia, he picked up his skateboard and threw it at the jewel. The board pin wheeled through the air, trigging the flame jets, striking the jewel and knocking it behind the altar where it clattered across the floor to a safe distance. When the flame jets subsided, Ryan edged around the altar to the rear of the chamber, hugging the walls. The skateboard was warm but undamaged by its passage through the flame jets. He picked up the jewel and examined it. It was tingly to the touch and its blood red surface seemed slimy and slick even though it was bone dry. Sparkles of light danced just beneath the surface.
As Ryan stood up, a dull rumbling began to reverberate around the chamber. “What now?” Water started gushing up out of the holes in the floor rapidly pooling and beginning to flood the chamber. From up the tunnel, Ryan could hear the stone block beginning to close. He started running up the tunnel, the water already lapping at his ankles and gushing faster and faster out of the floor with each passing second. By the time he reached the archway the stone block was already halfway down. Diving under the block, he just made it under before it slammed shut. Sealing the archway didn’t stop the flow of water. It forced its way through channels and cracks and cascaded into the first chamber. His legs pumping furiously, Ryan desperately ran up the tunnel only to end up at the dead end where he had landed earlier. There was no way out, he was trapped. The water was rising up the tunnel fast; already the lower chambers were flooded to their roofs. In just a few short minutes, the water would reach him. Ryan didn’t know what made him do it, but he took the jewel out of his pocket and pushed it into the ceiling. The dirt melted away forming a shaft that lead to the surface. Rocks and stones pushed their way through the shaft walls creating handholds. Wasting no time he climbed up the shaft, not daring to look down as the water started to fill the shaft. Eventually he reached the surface, the shaft collapsing behind him.
Ryan lay there panting, covered in dirt from the shaft. A cool evening breeze blew gently across the mound and in contrast to the chaos below, the scene above the mound was serene and calm. The jewel was still in his hand and he held it up the sky, holding it in front of the full moon and letting the moonlight filter through it. Off to the side, he heard a growl. Ryan sat up and saw the black dog crouched a short distance away in an attack position, its teeth bare and ready to pounce. “Er, good doggie?” The hound’s eyes glowed red and it leapt at Ryan. He screamed did not feel the dog’s teeth on his neck like he expected. Instead, it grabbed the jewel out of his hand with its teeth and bounded off into the darkness, fading from view.
At that point, he realised that the hound must have been sent by Mark to retrieve the jewel. Ryan knew that he’d had no choice to retrieve the jewel if he wanted Trey back, but still, he wondered if giving the jewel to Mark had been a wise decision. Ryan bolted upright. “Trey,” he thought to himself, “please let him be ok.” He got up off the ground and raced down the track, jumping onto his board the moment he got to the road. If it were possible to break the speed limit on a skateboard, then Ryan would have done it. As it was, he probably broke a number of laws as he recklessly skated across town.
As he pulled into Candlewick Close, he skidded to a stop. In the driveway, under the light of a security flood, Trey was playing basketball with his friends. Laughing and joking, complete with eyes, he was acting as if nothing had happened. Mark had kept his word. Trey saw Ryan approached and tossed him the basketball. Ryan took the ball, bounced it a couple of time, and without another word joined the game.
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