A vacation on Easter Island reveals some truth behind the mysterious statues.
“Alright Brad, now you tell me, is the price of that new car above $14,499, or below?”
The crowd immediately began yelling. Brad singled out Amy, who had the presence of mind to point up rather than try to make herself heard over the din.
“Bob, I’m going to say higher,” he said.
“Brad,” Bob said slowly, with his patented dramatic pause, “Brad, if you are right, and the price is higher than $14,499, then you will win that car, plus you’ll spin the wheel for a chance to compete in The Price Is Right Showcase Showdown!” The applause light came on, and the crowd cheered. “Ladies, please flip over that card!” A hush came over the audience as the actual price of the car was revealed: $16,849.
“Brad, you are a winner!” Bob guided Brad to the infamous wheel as the crowd went crazy.
Ten tense minutes later, Brad was standing at his console for the Showcase Showdown. He felt a bit guilty for winning the spin, as both of his opponents were little old ladies who had to be nearing eighty years old. They both kissed Bob as they shuffled offstage. Brad decided that Bob Barker must hold some sort of record for being kissed by more elderly women than anyone else in the world.
As he waited for the second half of the show to go by, he thought about how weird it was to be on the longest-running game show in American history. He and Amy had gotten the tickets on a whim, since they had to be in Los Angeles for a convention anyway. Neither of them actually expected to be selected as contestants, yet here he was, waiting for the grand finale. He hoped the showcases were good. After an eternity of contestants in the second round who seemed to be unable to make a decision, it was finally time.
“Brad, you will be shown Showcase number one,” Bob began. “If you want to bid on it, you may do so, or you can pass it to the beautiful and charming Mildred, who is our second place winner today. If one of you bids within two hundred dollars of the actual retail price of your showcase without going over, you’ll win both showcases! Are you ready?” They both nodded. Brad was amused at the way Bob would pause at moments like this, turn to the camera and tell America that they would be right back after this commercial break, and then immediately continue on with show as if nothing had happened. Like most things, once you see how it really works, you never see it the same again.
“Rich, what do we have for our wonderful contestants today?” Bob asked.
“Well Bob, Brad looks a little tired. Perhaps he might rest better… with this brand new bedroom set!” On cue, the crowd went crazy as Rich Fields described the set. Ok, that’s about five grand, Brad thought, trying to focus over the noise.
“And of course, you’ll be ready to rest… after using this brand new exercise equipment!” Again, the crowd cheered. Three grand, which brings it to eight, Brad decided. If the last prize isn’t just fantastic, I’m going to pass this one to grandma over here.
“Brad, once you get in shape, you’ll be ready to show yourself off… on this fantastic vacation in exotic Chile! You’ll spend eight days and seven nights touring around Santiago, to include two days and one night on the mysterious Easter Island! You’ll be staying in the luxurious Grande Marquis Resort and Spa, with air travel and spending money provided. And Brad, all of this can be yours… if the price is right!” Immediately the crowd began shouting numbers at him, ranging from one dollar to one million. He tuned them out and thought about it for a second.
“Brad,” Bob prodded, “Do you want to bid on this showcase, or pass it to Mildred?”
“I’ll bid, Bob,” Brad said. “I’ll bid… $17,500.”
“$17,500. Alright, Mildred, let’s take a look at your showcase,” Bob said, moving the show along.
Brad tuned out, second-guessing his bid. At first he decided that he had grossly overbid, and then he began to think that he hadn’t gone high enough. It was so hard to tell with the vacations. Sometimes they were cheap, and sometimes they were ridiculously expensive. He returned his attention back to the show just in time to hear Mildred bid on her showcase.
“One dollar, Bob,” she finally said after consulting what seemed to be the entire audience.
“So, Mildred thinks that you have overbid, Brad,” Bob said with a chuckle. He turned to the camera. “We’ll find out if she is right just after these messages!” He stepped aside as the cameras repositioned for the finale. When everything was set, Bob resumed his position beside Mildred.
“Mildred, you bid one dollar on your showcase. The actual retail price is… $26,250. Now if Brad has overbid, which you are hoping, you will win!”
“Bob, I just want to say that I’ve been watching you for years, and I love you,” Mildred gushed, clutching Bobs arm. Brad thought he might throw up.
“Oh, now aren’t you a sweetheart?” Bob replied with a grin. He stepped over to Brad. “Brad, you bid $17,500 on your showcase. The actual retail price is…” Bob made another dramatic pause. “$22,179, a difference of $4,679. You are a winner!”
Brad stood in a stunned silence, barely noticing as Mildred congratulated him with a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. Amy ran onstage and wrapped him up in a hug, bringing him back to reality.
“We won, we won!” Amy shouted in his ear. “We’re going to Chile! Oh baby, I’m so excited!’
“Don’t forget about that Ford Focus,” he reminded her. “That’s your car. I wouldn’t be caught dead in it!”
Amy laughed and tightened her hug. Just as Brad was about to complain that he couldn’t breath anymore, the producer came over and pulled them to his office to complete all the necessary paperwork. Brad walked down the hallway in a daze.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.” The dinging chime, followed by the male, slightly Spanish-accented voice woke Brad from his fitful nap. He had been dreaming of natives dancing around a fire, over which hung a pot containing Amy, himself, and a lot of boiling water. “We are beginning our final approach to the Santiago International Airport. The current local time is 4:25 pm, and the temperature is seventy-six degrees under a partly cloudy sky. At this time we ask that all luggage is stowed, and that seatbelts are secured. The flight attendants will be collecting any last articles of rubbish that you may have, and ensuring that all seatbacks and tray tables are in the upright and locked positions. Flight attendants, please prepare for landing procedures. Thank you all for flying with us today, and we hope you enjoy your stay in Chile.”
Brad yawned, wadded his blanket up and shoved it in his backpack. He winked at Amy, who gave him an exasperated look.
“It’s not like the hotel won’t have blankets on the bed, Brad.”
“Hey,” he protested with a grin. “How many times do you get a chance to steal a blanket from an airplane while landing in South America? This baby will bring back memories some day!”
“Whatever.” Amy rolled her eyes and collected her trash. “Hand this to the lady when she comes by, and don’t stare at her boobs this time.” She returned his wink, and kissed him quickly on the mouth before he could protest his innocence.
After a harrowing taxi ride to their hotel and a quick shower, they headed out for a good local meal. Amy attempted to browse through a huge pile of brochures from the hotel lobby as they walked down the crowded sidewalk, and occasionally called out various facts and potential restaurants.
“Hey, this says Santiago has five million people! Holy cows…” she trailed off. “Hey, this place sounds good! It says that they serve American cuisine and have a live DJ playing American pop music.”
“Are you kidding me?” Brad returned. “I didn’t spend two weeks on a damn airplane to Chile to go out and eat a double cheeseburger and listen to Britney Spears.”
“Oh, two weeks my ass. And you don’t even listen to Britney Spears at home,” Amy retorted with mock fury.
“Damn right, baby,” he winked. “I have good taste. Now let’s find a Pizza Hut and chow.”
Amy punched him in the arm with her free hand before breaking into giggles. They walked arm in arm down the street staring into storefront windows, commenting on the various oddities on display. After walking another block, they came into an area thick with bars and restaurants. The neon signs caught Brads eye, despite the fact that most of them were written in Spanish.
“Oh, look at that place,” Amy said, yanking on his arm. “It has a Bacardi sign, and the people at the tables inside are eating. It’s perfect!”
“Oh, you and your rum and Diet Coke,” Brad pretended to protest. “But I guess we could check it out; they do have beer…”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Amy pulled him across the street and into the restaurant. After seating them, the maitre d introduced them to their waitress, who stood waiting for their drink order.
“Uh, uno cerveca, por favor,” Brad said, using up all of his Spanish vocabulary.
“Yes sir,” the waitress replied in perfect English. “What brand would you prefer?”
Brad blushed, and fumbled through the menu looking for the beer. There was an extensive list of local micro-brews, as well as a lot of British and German brews. At the bottom of the list were a few American beers, which he was fond of.
“Can you recommend one of the local brews?” he asked.
“Of course, sir,” the waitress replied. “Do you prefer ale, lager, or a weisen?”
“Well, I normally drink Bud, but I had a layover in Ireland once and they had some really dark beer that was great,” he said. “I’d like to try something dark and local.”
“Alright,” she said, “I know just the thing. And for you, ma’am?”
“Rum and Diet Coke,” Amy promptly replied.
“No problem,” the waitress winked. “I’ll be right back with your drinks, and to take your order.” Brad watched her as she walked away, pretending to look around the place.
“She’s cute, and she has a great ass,” Amy ventured. Brad spun around, surprised.
“I hardly noticed,” he lied mischievously.
“Yeah, I thought so,” Amy giggled. “Look at this one.” She pushed a brochure across the table.
“A subway tour of Santiago?” Brad asked. “First off, I didn’t know they had subways in Chile. Second, what do you get to see, a long stone tunnel at high speed?”
“Oh, don’t be facetious,” Amy said. “If you’ll take three seconds of your life to read it, you get off at every stop with a map and do a self guided tour. I think it sounds really cool.”
“It says here that it takes two days to do it. We only have one day and then we go to Easter Island, whatever that is.”
“Oh, don’t be dense,” Amy said. “We can do the first day tomorrow, and when we get back we’ll do the second day. After that, we’ll still have four days to do what we want.”
“Three and a half days,” he corrected her. We fly out at four pm, so we’ll have to be packed and at the airport by two,”
“Okay, whatever. We’ve got all the time in the world. Let’s do the first half tomorrow. We’re bound to see things we’ll want to go back and check out, so when we get back, we’ll do the second half, and then we can spend the rest of the time looking at that stuff. What do you say?”
He started to respond, but then the drinks arrived. “I say cheers to us, cheers to Chile, and cheers to Bob Barker, who got us here in the first place.” They tipped their drinks.
“Are you ready to order?” the waitress asked. “I can come back in a few minutes…”
“That would be great,” Amy said. “We haven’t even looked at the menu yet.”
“No problem, ma’am” she replied.
“Oh, waitress,” Brad called her back. “Can you bring us two more drinks, please? By the time you get back, we’ll be ready for them.” He winked at her as she walked back to the bar.
“Are you flirting with her, or trying to get me drunk?” Amy asked with a grin. “I hope it’s the second.”
“Baby, I want to be able to tell my buddies I got drunk and laid in Chile, but only with you.” He leaned across the table and kissed her. “Well, if you want to bring the waitress into it, I guess I could allow that too,” he laughed. “You did mention her ass…”
Amy giggled as she kicked him under the table. “You are such a dog,” she teased.
A few minutes later the waitress reappeared. “Are you ready to order?”
“Yes, I think we are,” Brad said. “I think I’ll have the curanto.”
“Very good, sir,” she said. “And you, ma’am?”
“Um, I’ll have the same, I guess..” Amy said. “The mussels are cooked, right?”
“Yes ma’am, everything is cooked and healthy,” she said with a quick wink. “It’ll be right out.”
After dinner they strolled around the block, window shopping and browsing through the stalls of the various curbside vendors. Brad bought Amy a small flashlight that looked like a totem pole, and she bought him a pocketknife with a tribal design on the handle. Before long both of them were exhausted from the busy day of traveling, and they returned to the hotel for a long night of good sleep.
The five hour plane ride to Easter Island was a welcome rest after the hectic subway tour around Santiago. They both had a list of places to go back and check out further, but the thought of walking up any more hills or stairs right away was more than either of them wanted to consider. Brad woke up first as the small plane began to descend, and he nudged Amy awake.
“Hey, we’re getting ready to land,” he whispered in her ear. “Wakey, wakey.”
“Yeah, alright,” she muttered. “I’m awake. What time is it?”
“We’re right on schedule,” he reported. “It’s almost eleven o’clock; just in time for lunch. What kind of local food do they have on Easter Island, anyway… Easter bunny, perhaps?” He dropped a lavish wink with his quip.
“Well, mister ‘I don’t read brochures,’ I guess you’ll just have to find out when we land,” Amy replied. “Now put your tray table up before you get us in trouble.”
They ended up eating in the airport restaurant since they were both starving. A quick taxi ride got them and their luggage to the hotel, where they learned that a tour of some of the local scenery would be leaving within minutes. They raced to their room and dropped off the luggage.
“Hey,” Amy called as they were leaving the room. “Have you got the camera?”
“Yes dear,” he said, patting the bag. “Now let’s go, they’re going to leave us.”
As it turned out, the tour guide waited, and they climbed in the van. The guide drove carefully, narrating the ride with facts about the island. Within minutes they could see giant statues looming in the windshield.
“Here on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, these statues are called Moai. Some of them are well over one thousand years old. No one really knows why they were built, or what they represent. Some people speculate that they were created in honor of tribal chiefs, and others think they are idols that were worshiped. Some even say they were guardians to protect the people. We’ll park close enough that you can walk around some of them and take photographs.”
“Good grief,” Brad whispered to Amy. “Can you imagine how long it took to carve those things by hand?”
The van stopped, and people began climbing out. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the guide called, “Please respect these artifacts, and don’t break off pieces of them for souvenirs.”
“Do people actually try to do that?” Amy asked.
“Ma’am, you would be amazed at the things people try to do here,” chuckled the guide.
“I think ‘horrified’ would be a better word,” Amy smiled back. “That kind of thing makes all of us tourists look bad.” She hurried to catch up with Brad, who was already walking away. He passed several stone heads protruding from the ground and stopped before a much taller statue.
“This one-“ he began, before Amy cut him off.
“Shh, listen,” she scolded.
“… learned that all of these statues include an upper torso, and most are of the same height,” the guide was saying. “The ones you see that only show the head have sunk, or been buried by soil buildup and volcanic eruptions over the centuries.”
Amy turned back to Brad, who was feeling the stone.
“Check this out, it’s hot!” he said.
“Duh, genius, it’s been sitting in the sun all morning,” Amy laughed. “Did your scientific studies also conclude that it is hard as a rock?”
“Okay, whatever,” he sighed. “Stand over here so I can get a picture of you and Egor.”
They walked on down the line of statues taking pictures, moving slowly toward a circle of stone heads. Neither of them noticed that the group was going the other way. When they reached the mysterious circle, Brad stood in the center, turning in a slow circle as Amy walked around the outside taking pictures.
“This is one creepy place,” Brad said after a few minutes of silence. “Everything feels surreal; kinda dreamy.”
“What?” Amy yelled back. “I can barely hear you.”
“What do you mean; you’re only ten feet away,” he snorted. “I said it’s fucking creepy.” He looked over where Amy was standing. The air around her was shimmering, as if they were in the desert. Her long blonde hair seemed to glow. He glanced around, and saw that it was like that all around the circle.
“These things must reflect a lot of heat,” he called. “It looks like a mirage. Come look at it.”
Amy made her way over to him, careful not to trip over the chunks of stone lying about. “You can quit yelling now, I can hear you fine,” she said. “I guess the wind was carrying the sound away when I was over there.”
“What wind?” he asked. The air was dead still around them.
“I don’t know,” she muttered, looking around. “This is pretty trippy. Look at the view of the ocean!”
They were on a hilltop about five hundred feet above the water, which was half a mile away. On the other side, the island continued on with rolling hills as far as they could see. Some of the peaks were quite a bit higher than the one they were on, blocking the view to the other end, some fifteen miles away.
“That one brochure said the locals used to call this ‘Te-Pito’-something. It’s supposed to mean ‘The Navel of the World.’ How’s that for weird?” she asked.
“It’s weird, alright,” he responded. “I feel like I’m being watched. It’s making my skin crawl.” He moved over to a large rock and sat down on it.
“Well, it certainly has a vibe, but I think it’s incredible,” Amy said, flopping down beside him.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. “It sounded like something falling underneath us.”
“Hear what?” she asked, leaning back.
The rock they were sitting on rolled backward, sinking into the ground. All at once they were falling; screaming and grasping one another in sheer terror. Their screams ended quickly as they landed in soft dirt, rolling a few feet down the short incline. Brad rose to his feet, trembling.
“’Hear what?’ she asks. Fucking hell.” He helped Amy to her feet. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I think so,” she gasped, brushing the dirt from her hair and clothes. “What the hell happened?”
“I think we fell into a cave,” Brad said slowly.
They looked around. There was a hole about twenty feet above them, slightly bigger than the rock they had been sitting on. The dirt around it appeared to be held up by tree roots, though Brad didn’t recall seeing any trees around the statues. Sunlight was coming in the hole, but it seemed to be absorbed by the darkness inside. Suddenly he had an idea.
“Hey, you’ve got the camera, right? Take a picture so we can see how to get out of here. The flash ought to light everything up.”
“I hope it still works,” she said, pulling the strap over her head. “I think I landed on it.” She removed the lens cap and pointed it straight in front of her. “Here it goes, ready?”
The flash showed a room much larger than either of them were expecting. The torsos of the moai statues created a circular wall around them. In between the statues, the dirt was held vertical by a mesh of roots. They were standing on a mound of dirt that fell away into a slope ending at the feet of the statues.
“Wow,” Amy breathed. “I thought the tour guide said they only went down to the waist. These things must be fifty feet tall!”
“Yeah, that’s a great fucking discovery,” Brad snarled. “It also means the ceiling is at least thirty feet above us, and the hole we came in is in the center. Did you happen to see an extension ladder anywhere?”
Amy drew away from him with a wounded look on her face.
“Look baby, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure out what to do.” Brad put his arm around her and turned her around. “Let’s try the flash the other way and see what’s over there.”
“Alright,” she said. “But if there’s no ladder, don’t bite my head off again.” She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss of forgiveness. “Ready?”
“Shoot,” he replied.
The view was the same as the other side, except that between the feet of two of the statues was a passageway leading down into the darkness.
“Don’t even think about it,” Amy stated flatly. “I’m not about to go in there.”
“I didn’t say a word,” Brad protested. “Besides, we’d use up the camera battery before we got fifty feet. Now, if we had a flashlight…” His voice trailed off as Amy rummaged in her purse. After a moment of digging, she slowly produced the totem pole flashlight he had bought her.
“This doesn’t mean we’re going down there,” she said firmly. “We’re going to stand here and scream for help until the tour group finds us.”
After an hour, they were both hoarse. No one appeared at the hole above them, nor did they hear anyone talking or yelling as tour groups are prone to do; especially those with children.
“I think my throat is bleeding,” Brad croaked. “Do you have any water?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a bottle in my purse.” She pulled it out and took a sip. “Don’t drink it all, we’ve got to make that last.”
After another hour, Brad made his mind up.
“Alright, the group isn’t coming up here. We’re going to see where this tunnel goes. It probably goes right to town, or down to the ocean. We can sit in here forever, or we can go down the tunnel and probably be back at the hotel in an hour. What do you say?”
Amy slowly got to her feet. “Alright, but I’m coming right back at the first sign of bats or snakes.”
“Deal,” he grinned, taking her hand. She gave him the flashlight and put the water back in her purse. They climbed carefully down the slope to the beginning of the tunnel. Brad turned on the flashlight, and they crept inside.
Within twenty feet, the tunnel turned to the right and angled down. The sunlight behind them vanished as they turned the corner. The corridor was about five feet wide, and high enough for them to walk comfortably upright. The walls and ceiling were intertwined with tree roots, and the floor was packed dirt, as if it had been trod upon by many feet over the years. They had walked for about ten minutes in silence when the walls of the tunnel abruptly stopped, and they found themselves in a large cavern. Streaky sunlight peeked through the ceiling far overhead, providing a faint light. Brad and Amy looked around them in awe.
The immense room was filled with statues of every size. They all had the peculiar faces of the moai on the surface, but these were far more intricate. Instead of the rough-cut appearance of those outside, they had various styles of clothing, and much more detail in the faces and hands. Some were obviously female, and some appeared to be children, but all were eerily lifelike despite their dissimilarities to human form. Brad guessed that there were about a thousand of them in the room, all arranged in giant rings around a behemoth statue on a stone pedestal in the center.
Brad was walking slowly into the outer ring of statues when Amy ran to him and grabbed his arm.
“Honey, I don’t like this place; let’s get out of here,” she begged.
“In a minute,” he replied dazedly.
“Now,” she pressed, terror beginning to show through in her trembling voice. “Something is wrong with this place. Can’t you feel it?”
Brad turned towards her, and then stopped short, staring back the way they had come. Amy spun around, trying to see what had caught his attention. Her knees buckled, and she crumbled to the ground, her breath coming in hitches.
“Oh my God, what’s happening?” she cried. “What the hell is that?”
A statue stood in the tunnel entrance. It was clearly a soldier; its stone sword held up and at the ready. Its arms, legs and head were disproportionately huge, and it looked capable of destroying anything in its way. The helmet chiseled into its stone head did not include a mask, and its blank eyes were dark and menacing.
“Where did that come from?” Brad asked stupidly. He shook his head as if to clear it. “Didn’t we just come through there?”
Movement in the corner of his eye took Brads attention away from the soldier in the tunnel door. Two stone soldiers carrying spears were walking towards the tunnel. They stopped in front of it, one on each side, and thrust their stone spears across the opening, creating an X barricade with the sword-wielding giant behind it. Brad jumped, letting out a shriek as Amy grabbed his leg, clutching him with both hands.
“I want to wake up,” she moaned. “I want to wake up right now!”
“Baby,” Brad whispered, grabbing her hand. “Baby, stand up. Listen to me.” He pulled her to her feet. “We’re going to run. Are you listening?”
“Umm,” she stammered. He pulled her face around and stared into her eyes, both drawing courage from her fear, and trying to pass it back to her.
“We’re going to run to the other side of the room and try to find another tunnel out of here, okay?”
“Okay,” she whispered. She squeezed his hand, and they took off around the outside ring of statues. Stone heads turned to look at them as they passed. Every statue in the room was watching them, sending Brad into a terror-filled panic that he had never experienced before. He flung his head around, sure that the door guards were chasing them, but they stood still at their post. The accusing stares of the silent audience felt like an oppressive weight slowing them down, as if they were running in a dream. After what seemed like an eternity, Brad saw an opening in the wall approaching.
“There,” he gasped, pointing. “Turn in there!” They dashed into the opening. Brad fumbled for a moment; convinced that he had lost the flashlight. At last he found it in a pants pocket, pulled it out and turned it on. They walked rapidly down the tunnel, both watching over their shoulders for any sign of pursuit as they tried without success to comprehend what had just happened.
This tunnel was similar to the last one, but much wider. Four people could easily walk side by side in here. Brad also realized that the walls were solid stone here, instead of dirt. He slowed down a bit, shining the light on the walls.
“Holy cows, look at that!” he breathed. Every square inch of the walls was covered in carvings. The lines cut into the rock were painted with reds and blues, giving it an eerie modern touch. “It’s like some kind of hieroglyphics or something.”
“I don’t want to look,” Amy pleaded. “Let’s just keep going.”
Brad stopped, pulling her back. “Look at this,” he insisted. “It looks like a map. See, here’s where we just were, with all the statues, and that big one in the middle…” his voice trailed off, and his eyes widened. The scene was obviously a human sacrifice taking place, offered to the stone giant in the center. “Anyway, this looks like the tunnel we’re in, and it leads to…” he traced the line down the wall. “A city?” At the end of the line were rows of buildings.
“Okay,” Amy said, tugging on his arm. “Let’s just get going. Did you forget what just happened back there?”
They took off running again. The bouncing light showed disturbing images on the walls. Amy seemingly paid no attention to them, but Brad couldn’t help noticing some of them. They all seemed to be scenes of horrible torture. In one there were babies on the ends of spears, thrust up in the air with drops of blood falling on the crowd below. The soldiers holding the spears looked to Brad like stone statues, while everyone else looked like people. In another, a man was standing in front of the giant statue in the middle of the circle. His upper body looked normal, but his legs looked like stone. People turning into living statues? Brad couldn’t help but wonder as they ran. He was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t all a horrible dream, too.
They rounded yet another corner and skidded to a stop. This time there was no shadowy room full of freaky living statues. In front of them was a city, just as the map had depicted. Again, sunlight came in faintly from high overhead, but most of the light came from torches spread out as far as they could see. Crude houses were carved into the pale stone walls, reminding Brad of the cliff dwellings in Colorado. Amy looked wildly for any sign of stone warriors advancing towards them, but there was no sign of any statues at all. For that matter, with the exception of the torches burning everywhere, there was no sign of life whatsoever. They stood in a stunned silence, surveying the scene before them.
After standing there gaping for a moment, they glanced at each other and began walking slowly down the center avenue. Their harsh breathing seemed to echo off of everything, creating an unsettling sound.
“This can’t be real,” Amy whispered. “Someone would have discovered it by now.”
“Somebody obviously knows it’s here,” Brad reasoned. “I don’t think those torches lit themselves.”
“Well, I didn’t think statues moved by themselves either,” Amy said. “But unless I imagined that other room, they do around here.”
“Let’s go look in one of these room,” Brad suggested. “Maybe someone is hiding in there. Hell, they’re probably afraid of us.”
Amy wasn’t convinced. “Why would they be afraid of us? There are pieces of rock at the other end of that tunnel carrying swords and spears around! All we’ve got is a flashlight and a camera.”
“Oh, come on,” he said. “I’d feel better walking down this street if I knew these rooms were empty, okay?”
Amy hesitated a bit longer, and then followed him up the path. The torches were on the outside of the buildings, and the flickering shadows made the dark windows look like eyes following them. Amy clutched Brads arm and stayed as close to him as she could. They cautiously approached the empty doorway, and Brad shined the light inside. Seeing nothing dangerous, they moved into the doorway and looked around.
The dwellings were fairly simple structures. The bottom floor was one large room, with a hole in the ceiling and a wooden ladder giving access to the second story. There was nothing in the room at all, save for the ladder.
“This is weird,” Brad breathed. “I expected to at least see some broken pottery or something.” He walked to the window hole and looked out, running his finger along the rough ledge. “Hell, there isn’t even any dust in here.”
“I’m just relieved that there aren’t any pictures on the walls,” Amy said. “That stuff in the tunnel freaked me out.”
“This whole place is freaking me out,” Brad replied. “Like all these torches. There must be a thousand of them burning. Wouldn’t somebody outside notice the black smoke coming out of the mountain?”
“Easter Island is a volcanic island,” Amy said, pulling a brochure from her purse. “See here? There’s a whole chain of volcanoes stretching across the ocean here. This part just happens to be above water. So, no one is going to be suspicious of a little smoke coming from a volcano.”
“Let me see that,” he said, taking the brochure. He unfolded it and glanced through it. “This says that some scientists think the Easter Island plateau used to be an entire continent above water, and could be the mythical Atlantis.” He grunted. “Wouldn’t it be called ‘Pacificis’ or something? After all, this is the South Pacific.”
Amy took the brochure and put it back in her purse. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“Alright,” Brad agreed, “But I want to look in a few more of these rooms. Just because one was empty doesn’t mean that all of them are.”
The next structure down the line shared a wall with the one they were in, and looked exactly the same. Brad tested the wooden ladder, decided it was sturdy, and carefully climbed up to the second level. Amy stood at the bottom of the ladder, afraid to be alone, but afraid to climb up for fear of getting stuck. With what she had already seen, she half-expected the ladder to disappear right in front of her, trapping Brad upstairs. She waited impatiently, listening to him moving around above her.
“Well,” she called up at last, “What’s up there?”
“Come on up and check this out,” he said, peering over the edge of the hole. “There’s some weird shit up here.”
“What if we get stuck up there?” she asked with a faint tremor in her voice.
“Worst case scenario, I drop down through the hole, and help you down, okay? It’s only about eight feet.”
After a moment of hesitation, she took a deep breath and started up the ladder. The rope binding the round rungs in place stretched and creaked as she put her weight on them, and she felt her heart pounding. She climbed slowly, and rolled onto the upper floor with a sigh of relief.
Brad helped her to her feet and led her across the room. Against the far wall was a small pile of sticks. He bent down and picked one up, handing it to her. It was rectangular; one foot long and about three inches wide on each side. Every square inch of surface was covered in a strange script.
“Look at that,” Brad said. “It’s like some sort of primitive book. There’s a bunch of them.” He picked up another one and compared it to the one Amy was holding. “This one is different,” he said, turning it over. The wood was smooth and worn, and the edges were rounded, as if it had been handled over and over for years. He shoved it into the back pocket of his jeans and walked over to the window. From this higher vantage point, he could see much more of the village.
The single story huts near the street had flat roofs, with narrow paths between them leading to the rooms built into the wall. Looking across, Brad realized that though the village was long, it was quite narrow. The street down the center was flanked by a single row of huts on each side, and the cliff dwellings rose up directly behind them on both sides of the street. The flickering light from the torches cast ever-changing shadows, making it difficult to see anything far away with any clarity. After surveying the area, he climbed back down the ladder, and held it steady as Amy made her way back down to the safety of the ground floor.
“See there,” he chided, “The ladder didn’t go anywhere.”
“As if you knew it wouldn’t,” she retorted.
They returned to the avenue and walked slowly deeper into the silent, empty city. Both of them attempted to look every direction at once; both amazed at the scenery and on edge for any sign of life. The cliff on their left grew higher and higher. The dwellings went from two stories to three, and eventually to four. A lit torch was placed in the wall beside every empty doorway, and before long Brad began to feel like he was walking through a huge tunnel of fire. They walked in silence for nearly half an hour, when Amy noticed something.
“Hey,” she whispered. “It’s dark up ahead. Do you see that? I think we made it to the end.” Brad remained silent, but quickened his pace.
True to her observation, they came to the end of the silent city within another ten minutes. It ended in a smooth rock wall. They turned around and looked back over the vast torch-lit chamber.
“I can’t even see the other end where we started,” Amy murmured. “How far do you think we walked?”
“Well, we got out of the van around one o’clock, and now it’s…” Brad glanced at his watch. “It’s 47:98 according to my watch. I guess it doesn’t tell time in dead cities.”
They sat down and leaned against the wall, sharing a sip of water as they contemplated their next move. Brad was the first to voice an idea.
“I think we ought to go back into the tunnel at the other end,” he said. “I want to take a better look at that map on the wall.”
“You’ve already seen it,” Amy protested. “What good is it going to do?”
“I barely glanced at it. You were practically dragging me through the tunnel, remember?”
“Yeah, and for good reason,” she returned. They sat silent for a moment. At last, unable to come up with a better plan, Amy reluctantly agreed. “I guess it makes sense to go back,” she ventured.
“Alright, let’s get going.” Brad stood and stretched.
Amy stuffed the water bottle in her purse, and they set off back the way they had come. With a destination in mind, and having covered the territory once already, they moved much faster on the return trip. Upon reaching the other end of town, Brad stopped and took a torch from the doorframe of the last building, which was directly opposite of the ones they had searched earlier.
“No point in wasting the flashlight batteries, right?” he reasoned.
“Yeah, but you can’t turn that thing off like a flashlight, either,” she said.
“Well, I’m willing to take a chance,” he said. “I’d rather save the batteries.” He glanced in the window of the building as he was turning away, then spun back around. “Hey, there’s something in here,” he said. “Let’s take a look inside.”
At the back wall, directly in front of the ladder leading to the room above, was a small tripod. As they got closer, they realized that it was made of the curious pieces of wood they had found across the street. The top of the tripod was bound with a length of cord, and around the bottom four more pieces lay arranged in a square, enclosing the upright boards. The inscriptions on each of the boards were noticeably different. After a brief inspection, Brad handed the torch to Amy and climbed up the ladder. After passing the torch up to him, she followed.
On the floor in the center of the room was another arrangement of boards identical to the one below. Off to one side, near the wall, was a small pile of objects that immediately drew their attention. Most noticeable was an old metal canteen. Reflections of the torch flame flickered dimly across its dull silver surface. Brad moved closer, and rummaged through the pile. In addition to the canteen, there was an ancient Zippo lighter, a pair of spectacles, a tarnished silver pocket watch, and a ball of twine. Under these items was a large notebook. Brad picked it up and carefully opened the cover.
The pages were yellow and brittle, but the handwriting was clear and legible, and much to the relief of Brad, written in English. He walked over to where Amy stood, handed her the torch, and began to flip through the pages. Most were filled with journal entries, interspersed with drawings and diagrams. Toward the back was a map. Amy leaned in closer, and they examined it carefully.
On one end the map clearly depicted the circle of statues where Brad and Amy had made their unexpected entrance into the underground labyrinth. The handwritten caption beneath it read Council of Elders. Directly beneath that was written: portal? See August 12 entry. A line was drawn from that room to the next, which was displayed on the opposite page. A detailed portrayal of the cavern was drawn there. It showed each of the statues in rings around the one in the center. The caption at the bottom read Cathedral. Beneath that: See August 10 entry.
“Who does this belong to?” Amy wondered aloud.
“Looks like someone was studying this place,” Brad mused. “Maybe an archeologist or something.”
“But why would he leave his stuff here? Especially his notes,” Amy asked.
“I don’t know,” Brad said slowly. “Maybe he never left.”
“Jesus, don’t say that,” Amy said. “This whole thing has already gotten in my head as it is.”
“Sorry,” Brad replied. He flipped back a few pages in the notebook.
August 10, 1933
I have explored this room at length, and determined that it is some sort of place of worship. Whether the humans who created this incredible display worshiped the central figure, or intended it as a representation of their rituals is unknown to me at this time. The 214 detailed stone carvings are the work of superb artisans equal to those in historical Greece, though these pieces are of a different nature altogether in that they do not accurately mimic human form. The central statue is apparently representative of a god figure. It is much larger than the others, and rests upon a naturally formed pedestal. I have no means to accurately measure this statue due to its size, but I estimate its height at twenty-five feet. The smaller statues range from five feet to seven feet in height, and are arranged in five rings around the central figure; all facing inward.
There is no scientific explanation for this, but I feel that it is worth noting: At all times while in what I call the Cathedral, I had a distinct feeling of being watched. It may be nothing more than my imagination. After all, when one is alone in a room full of silent stone figures, I suppose such feelings are to be expected. However, on more than one occasion, I am sure that I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, which looked to me like the heads of some of the statues turning to follow my progress around the room.
“Well, at least we know it’s not just us,” Brad offered with an uneasy chuckle. He flipped back to the map.
The tunnel leading from the cathedral to the city was on the following page. Both the tunnel and the city had references to entries beneath them, but Brads attention was immediately drawn to another room depiction. It showed another city, or perhaps an extension of the same one, but it was drawn beneath the city they were currently in. Brad turned back a few pages, searching for the entry about it.
August 14, 1933
I have stumbled upon another realm of madness in this God-forsaken hell. Beneath the floor of this haunted city is one far worse. I fear that even if I were to get out of here alive, which I doubt very seriously, I would be insane for the rest of my days.
“I think this guy went off his rocker,” Brad chuckled.
“Shh,” Amy said. “I’m reading this.”
“Alright, alright,” he muttered.
The village below this one is under water. Despite this fact, there are torches burning at every door, just as there are up here. I cannot explain this phenomenon; nor can I explain the persons walking the streets down there. When I looked down through the well, a man looked up at me and pointed. I became overwhelmed by a sense of vertigo and very nearly fell through the opening. The only positive aspect is that I now understand more of the caricatures inscribed on the tunnel wall leading to the Cathedral.
“We need to read this whole thing from the beginning,” Amy decided. “There’s a lot more to this place than we realized.”
“Look, there’s no way I’m going to buy that crap,” Brad insisted. “An underwater city with torches and people? Come on, let’s be realistic. Besides, I didn’t see any well out there. I think our best bet is to go back into the tunnel and look at the map ourselves.”
“Fine,” Amy agreed. “But I’m taking this journal with us.”
“Whatever,” Brad said. He climbed down the ladder, and held the torch as she clambered down after him.
Amy paused at the foot of the ladder and opened the journal again.
“Now what?” Brad demanded.
“I’m trying to see if he said anything about these stick things he built,” Amy said. “They might be important.” She turned the pages slowly until she found what she was looking for. “Right here.” Brad bent over and read silently with her.
August 13, 1933
I believe that I have found a purpose for these strange carved sticks. Again, the tunnel wall inscriptions showed mysterious scenes where the statues appear to be mobile. A man, whom I assume to be a shaman of some sort, stands in front of the stone creature, holding these odd lengths of wood in front of him, apparently as a method of control or power. I believe the tripod within the square configuration located in the tunnel is some sort of shield which the stone creatures cannot pass, which would explain why there are no stone creatures within the village.
“He must have moved it from the tunnel to this room,” Brad guessed. “I didn’t see one when we came through. But why? If they couldn’t come through the tunnel, then why not leave it there?”
“I don’t know,” Amy answered. “Let’s check out these inscriptions.”
They set off into the tunnel. The flames from the torch were much brighter than the flashlight, and they both stared in awe at the images around them as they walked. Before long, they found the map. With the improved lighting and more time to look, Brad realized that it was much more extensive than he had first thought.
“Look at the place we fell in,” Amy said, pointing. “It looks like it’s on fire or something.”
“No, that’s the air shimmering,” Brad corrected her. His voice trembled with excitement. “Remember when I said everything looked weird, like a mirage?”
“It must have been doing that for a long time,” she whispered in awe. “According to this picture, it didn’t used to be covered with dirt.”
“Yeah,” Brad agreed. “The journal said something about it being a portal, didn’t it?”
“Oh yeah,” Amy said. “But what exactly is a portal? It could mean a million things, like the way out, or the way to heaven…”
“Or the gateway to another dimension, like on SG5,” Brad finished.
“What’s SG5?” she asked.
“You know, Star Gate 5, the sci-fi show where they jump to other dimensions through the portal and save the world.”
“Oh, now there’s a quality source of information. How about we read that journal entry back in the village,” Amy said. “Maybe it will offer some insight on it.” She turned back to the wall.
In the middle of the city, a vertical tunnel went down the wall, ending in another city. There were blue waves drawn across the top of it, and people in the streets. It appeared to be much larger than the city above.
“The detail is amazing,” Amy said. “It must have taken forever to do this.”
“I just realized something,” Brad said. “Those statues never chased us. They just blocked off the tunnel we came through.”
“Well, according to that book, the guy wandered all over that room, and he never said anything about being attacked; just watched.”
“We only read two entries,” Amy countered. “And he sounded like he was losing it in the later one. Also, there’s the fact that he isn’t here, and his stuff is.”
“Well, I want to go back to the cathedral and look around anyway,” Brad insisted. “If those things move, then maybe they talk. And if they talk, maybe they’ll tell us how to get the hell out of here. Who knows, maybe they helped that other guy get out, and he just left his stuff behind.”
“That sounds ridiculous,” Amy said.
“Well, have you got a better plan?” he asked.
Amy was silent for a moment, staring at the wall. Unable to come up with a better alternative, she reluctantly agreed.
“Alright,” she said. “But just for the record, I think this is a really bad plan.”
They walked slowly up the corridor, trying not to look too closely at the sometimes gruesome displays on the walls. One scene showed a group of people standing beside the big statue in the middle, each holding a character-covered stick towards it. On the other side of the statue people crowded close, reaching out to touch it. Brad shivered, and hurriedly averted his eyes. A few moments later they reached the end of the passageway.
The room looked the same as before. The three soldiers still held their positions in the tunnel door across the room, and as they cautiously stepped into the open, a few stone heads turned slowly to look at them.
“Jesus, this is scary,” Amy stammered, her voice quivering. “I don’t think I can go in there.”
“Come on, you’ll be fine.” Brad pulled the stick from his back pocket. “I’ve got this thing, so nothing can bother us.” He tried to sound confident.
“I hope you’re right,” she said.
“Let’s go this way,” Brad motioned to the left. “We haven’t been on this side yet.”
“Alright,” Amy whispered back.
They began a circuit around the room, staying near the wall. Some of the statues in the outer ring turned to watch them pass, but none moved from its position. After walking a quarter of the way around the room, Brad stopped suddenly, pointing toward the center.
“Look at that statue over there,” he whispered. “It’s totally different from these other ones.” He began to walk closer to it, careful to stay as far from the statues as he could as he walked through the rings.
“What are you doing?” Amy hissed from the wall. “Get back here!”
“I just want to get a closer look at it,” Brad said. “Come on, it’s okay.”
Amy inched her way towards him, dread rising in her throat with each step. She could feel the eyes of the statues around her, and as she moved inside the outer ring, she was sure she could hear their thoughts in her head, calling her forward.
Brad neared the odd statue, which stood out of line from the rest. It was much thinner, and had noticeably different features. The thing that had caught Brad's eye, however, was the color. While all the other statues were dark brown or black, this one was a very light tan. Its garments were out of style as well. It appeared to be wearing pants and a multi-pocketed coat, whereas the others were dressed in a tribal fashion. It suddenly dawned on Brad, and he called out to Amy in excitement.
“Hey, I think I found the archeologist!” He turned around to wave her over, but she was gone. “Amy, where did you go?” He called out, turning around in a slow circle. At last he spotted her.
She was standing directly in front of the giant statue in the center, with one foot up on its pedestal. She stared up at its face; an expression of blank uncertainty on her own. As Brad watched, frozen in place, she slowly reached out and touched the stone leg in front of her.
“No!” His violent scream echoed off the walls and ceiling, surrounding him in a cacophony of distress. He watched in horror as her body stiffened.
Amy straightened, her arm returning to her side. As she turned and walked slowly towards him, her gait became irregular and awkward. The sound of her footfalls changed gradually from the soft flop of her tennis shoes to the harsh clap of stone hitting stone. Her color and clothing changed visibly as well, as her entire body turned to a light tan stone. Last to go was her face and hair. She stopped in front of him, and he watched in terrified grief as her face hardened and her eyes went blank. At last his paralysis broke, and he turned and fled.
Brad ran without seeing; without thinking. The image of Amy, his Amy, reaching out and touching that stone leg was burned into his mind, and he watched it over and over. Searing pain brought him out of it as he slammed into the wall of a house.
He was back in the city. Somehow he had come all the way through the tunnel and halfway through town without realizing it. He did realize, however, that his shirt was on fire, and his chest was burning. When he hit the wall, the torch that he had forgotten that he was holding was between the building and his chest. He quickly patted out the flames, gritting his teeth against the pain. He slumped to the ground in utter defeat, and cried.
When the tears were gone, he wiped his nose on his sleeve and looked around. In front of him, in between the two houses, was a large flat rock. A crack of darkness showed under the near edge. Brad crawled over to it, simply because he didn’t know what else to do.
“Baby,” he choked, “I think I found the well.”
Moving the rock turned out to be quite a chore, but it took his mind off the pain and horror of his situation. He grabbed the still-burning torch and used it as a pry bar. Straining, he finally managed to slide the heavy slab aside. The hole beneath the stone lid was about four feet across. Water came up right to the edge, and as Brad peered in, his reflection dissolved and he saw the city below.
Just as the journal claimed, there were torches burning everywhere in the submerged city. The central street was directly below him, perhaps two stories down. A few people wandered aimlessly in and out of the open doorways, though none gave any sign that they noticed him. He turned his head and looked the other way, and his heart stopped.
Walking towards him, looking right at his tear-stained face, was Amy. Not stone-Amy, but Amy as she was before, as she should be. She was smiling and waving at him. He couldn’t hear the words she was mouthing, but her gestures were clear to him. Come on down. Before he could even consider his actions, Brad leaned forward and fell into the water.
The frigid temperature of the well water shocked his brain, and his eyes opened wide. Instead of drifting down to the city street beside Amy, he was surrounded by the smooth rock wall of the well. He thrashed in the water, but his body was too cold to respond well. He continued to sink slowly, and at long last he came to rest on the bottom. The final trail of bubbles escaped his blue lips, and he faded into nothingness.