Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Six

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

Everything had happened in an instant during the ambush and the guards’ attempt to capture Jonathan and Sammy, so quickly in fact, that he hadn’t even had time to process what was happening at the time.  Now that their attackers had been run off, frightened by the haunting voices of Maestyg’s unseen tribe, Jonathan took a moment to pause and reflect.  The guards looked more like ruffians and thugs than any sort of disciplined and uniformed force.  In fact, had he not known they were the guards of the Fortress of Tyull, he’d have thought they were some sort of pirates, criminals or rabble-rousers of a distant age.  A book of his that had discussed the dark side of the Middle Ages came to mind when he recalled the state of the men who tried to grab them – armed with clubs, swords, and dressed in black leather and filthy clothes.  Jonathan shuddered as he realized they looked like executioners…

“Come, Jonathan, quickly now – there isn’t a moment to spare,” insisted Maestyg, as he tugged on Jonathan’s arm to keep him moving down the beach.  “You can’t rest now.  That was a close call, but they’ll be back with hundreds more of their same ilk – we can’t fend them all off the next time!”

Jonathan snapped out of his thoughts and understood that Maestyg was right, there was no time to lose.  He quickly realized that Sammy was fine, and he himself wasn’t hurt, just shocked.  Taking a deep breath, he said, “You’re right, Maestyg, I’m with you now.  Let’s go.”

Maestyg maintained his cloak of invisibility along with the rest of his tribe, as they all accompanied Jonathan and Sammy up the beach.  Jonathan really didn’t know where they were heading, except for the fact there was a boat somewhere along the shoreline they would commandeer for his and Sammy’s escape from the Island of Tyull.  He was beginning to understand Gramps’ unwillingness to discuss any details about Tyull.  If Gramps had been taken into the fortress against his will at the time, he was lucky to have made it out alive.  Maestyg had earlier mentioned that he had assisted Myllanthal in escaping a prison cell deep within the sandstone fortress, and Jonathan understood the debt of gratitude all of Myllanthar owed to Maestyg for his bravery – and even now, he was assisting them to escape this cursed Island Fortress of Tyull.

They traveled up the beach for another hour under the light of the stars, until the first predawn glow finally appeared on the eastern horizon above an endless sea.  Daylight wouldn’t be their friend, as no doubt the guards had since reorganized themselves for their re-attack against a boy and his dog.  Perhaps the haunted voices would give the guards pause enough to delay their reappearance on the beach, buying them time to make it to the boat and escape this foul place.  The odds weren’t in their favor though, as prying eyes from atop the fortress could easily track their movements along the beach now, as if watching them endlessly circle this island of rock in their futile attempts to escape.  Perhaps the guards were simply laughing at them, and waiting until their prey had spent their last reserves of energy like rats in a maze.

As the first rays of dawn illuminated the desolate rocky beach, Jonathan scanned the distance as they continued moving up the beach as fast as he could.  Sammy was actually enjoying the trek, running in and out of the waves on the hard packed sand, while Maestyg and the invisible tribe along with them kept up their relentless pace.  There at the water’s edge, perhaps a quarter mile ahead, Jonathan made out the image of masted boats pulled up onto the beach.  They appeared to number less than ten he guessed, and each seemed to be the size of a small sailboat with a single mast, nosed into the beach.  There wasn’t even a gentle breeze as dawn broke, and sailing off the island appeared to be a non-starter, dooming their efforts to get away.

The closer they got, the more suspicious Jonathan felt, as if a whole host of guards were only just now waiting to pour out of an unseen tunnel to attack them.  Another battle with the guards wouldn’t go well he realized, for they might decide to do away with him right then and there, leaving him no hope of ever returning home to the Spencer Family Farm.  He shook his head and put away his thoughts of defeat, understanding that the next few minutes held his entire future in the balance…

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Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Five

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan had time to ponder their circumstances as Sammy returned to chasing the waves, while Maestyg went up the cliff face to retrieve something for them to eat.  ‘What a situation,’ thought Jonathan about the pickle they’d found themselves in.  Of all places to end up in, the Island Fortress of Tyull wasn’t anywhere on his list of preferred places.  It was simply their reality, though, and all the wishful thinking in the world wouldn’t change it.  ‘Perhaps the idea of sailing to Myllanthar is a doable option,’ he quietly pondered, while trying to remember anything he’d ever read about how to sail a boat – it wasn’t a very long list…

Maestyg soon returned with a good quantity of smoked fish for them to eat, and reassured Jonathan that it had been properly deboned for Sammy.  “The tribe is gathering supplies for your journey at the moment, and they will soon head out to supply one of the guards’ sailboats for your use – that is, should we be able to evade them on the way there, of course.  Our people eat the offerings of the sea here on Tyull, and drink spring water that flows out of this sandstone rock formation, so your provisions will consist of smoked fish and water flasks.  They should last you for at least two weeks, and then after that, you’ll have to fish for your own supper.  We’re providing you with a catch basin to accumulate rainwater as well, and perhaps the guards’ sailboat will have other supplies you can make use of.  Whatever you do, don’t let the guards catch you in a second boat if you do manage to get away, for I’m afraid that would result in a very bad outcome for you both.”

“Now that the full moon has set, we can begin the trek of circling to the other side of the island.  Here’s a parcel of food and water to put into your backpack, Master Jonathan, and hopefully the guards aren’t making their rounds over the next few hours.”

The three of them set off down the narrow rocky beach towards the southern tip of the island, talking about many different topics concerning both Tyull and Hampton, Ohio.  To anyone observing him, it would have appeared as though Jonathan was talking to thin air, or to Sammy, as Maestyg remained in his transparent state for the journey.  They came upon additional tunnel entrances opening into the sides of the sandstone cliff, but luckily, they all remained unguarded – or at least that’s how they appeared.  Jonathan thought to himself that, ‘The Island Fortress of Tyull doesn’t get many voluntary visitors it appears, so the guards don’t have to worry much about the island’s beachfront security.’  What he didn’t realize though, was that the island was full of many watchful eyes, and his and Sammy’s progress was being tracked even as they made their way down the beach.

The guards had only detected a boy and his dog walking along the beach, so they only sent three guards to ambush, confront and capture them once they rounded the southern tip of the island, where they would have the element of complete surprise.  Why a boy and a dog would be strolling down the beach of the Island Fortress of Tyull stumped them, for everyone in Myllanthar knew of the island’s terrible reputation, so the guards wanted to find out more information from them after their capture.  Their presence on the island might be a ruse for an attempted invasion of the island the guards calculated between themselves, and the more information they could get out of the boy the better.

The southern point of the island was the ideal place for an ambush, as the steep cliffs prevented anyone from seeing around the corner of the beach until it was too late.  When Jonathan and Sammy rounded the cliff face, the three guards pounced on them grabbing Jonathan by the arms, but missed nabbing Sammy, who went into a snarling and barking attack against the guards.  Two of the guards were needed to fend off Sammy’s attacks, while the third held Jonathan securely by both arms from behind him.  “Let me go,” yelled Jonathan, “You have no right to grab me that way, and leave my dog alone!”

In the midst of this confusion between three struggling guards, one snarling and biting dog, and a boy screaming to be released, there suddenly came upon them a hundred individual voices out of nowhere chanting to release the boy.  The one guard holding Jonathan asked the other two fending off Sammy what the voices were, clearly frightened by a multitude of unseen figures.  Jonathan seized his opportunity and yelled out, “The voices you hear are the ghost army I’ve brought with me to liberate Tyull!  You had all better leave this island now, or these ghosts will haunt you every day of your lives!  You’re bad people doing bad things here, and I won’t have it – flee the island, or the ghosts will make you pay!”

With that, the guards were so frightened they ran away towards the nearest tunnel opening into the cliff, as Jonathan called after them, “You can’t hide from ghosts – they’ll get you in the end!”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Four

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

“What are we to do, Maestyg, and where are we to go?” pleaded Jonathan, suddenly overcome by the reality of having found themselves on an island fortress, surrounded by danger everywhere around them.  “Sammy and I can’t remain here, and risk being captured and worse.”

“You’re right there, Master Jonathan, you mustn’t remain here – you’ll have to go,” replied Maestyg with an air of certainty.  “There is nothing for you here on the Island Fortress of Tyull…”

“We can’t return up the staircase, because the entrance into the caverns is blocked.  We can’t swim across the Sea of Tollvar to Myllanthar either.  What are we to do?”

Maestyg thought about Jonathan and Sammy’s predicament for a moment and replied, “Well, I suppose invisibility isn’t an option for either of you.  Getting caught by the guards of Tyull would be tragic though, and the end of you – so we can’t let that happen – and there’s no place for you to hide on this narrow beach.  Climbing the cliff to our dwellings isn’t a possibility either, or else the  guards would have done that ages ago.  I suppose you’ll have to sail away from the island.”

“Sail away?” queried Jonathan, “But how?  I don’t see any boats here, and the guards are sure to come after us.”

“That they are, Master Jonathan, but I have a plan.  It may not work though, and if that’s the case you’ll both be caught.  It’s your only hope, so I don’t think you have much of a choice in the matter.”

“Okay, if it’s our only choice – where’s this boat?”

“It’s on the other side of Tyull, on the eastern side of the island.  If you want to sail to Myllanthar, you’ll have to circle back around the island and sail west – otherwise you’ll be carried by the winds into the endless Eastern Sea.  Do you know how to sail?”

“I’ve never sailed before, Maestyg, but I’ll figure it out somehow.  I’ll just sail towards the sunset and away from the sunrise.”

“Good plan.  I’ll have our tribe move enough supplies to where the boat is, and then we’ll travel together in the dark around the island – it’ll take us a few hours, and hopefully we’ll miss the guards’ evening patrols.”

“How can your people move supplies without at least the supplies being seen, Maestyg – they’re not invisible.”

“The clothes we wear and the things we carry, mimic the same frequency shift of our own oscillating atoms, rendering them invisible as well.”

“If you carried me on your back, wouldn’t I then become invisible, too?  Someone else could carry Sammy.”

“Oh, right – I never thought of it that way.  Let’s give it a try.  Call Sammy over and I’ll pick him up, and you can tell me if you can see him as I increase my atoms’ vibrational frequency.”

Sammy ran over from playing in the waves, and once Maestyg had him in his arms, Maestyg turned invisible, but Sammy remained in plain sight elevated above the beach as if he was floating.  “It didn’t work, Maestyg – I can’t see you, but I can still see Sammy.”

“Sorry about that, it must be because you’re not from here.  It was a good try though – the idea was right, but we couldn’t have known it wouldn’t work unless we tried it.”  Maestyg placed Sammy down again, and Sammy sat down at Jonathan’s side.  “Well let’s get started then, invisibility or not.  You two must be hungry – let me go up the cliff to retrieve something for you to eat, and tell my tribe our plan…”

“One quick question, Maestyg, before you go – whose boat will we be using?”

“Oh, the guards’ boat of course, they’re the only ones who have anything on Tyull.  Except for my people, there’s nothing and no one not under the control of the fortress – except you two, of course – at least for now.  They won’t be happy with you for taking their boat though, so you can expect them to come after you, unless of course, you venture into the Eastern Sea.  No one goes there, and if you do, you’ll perish after running out of supplies – for there’s nothing in the Eastern Sea but the endless horizon…”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Three

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

“Tyull”

“What?  Who said that?  Sammy, run back over here – right away,” said Jonathan, even more confused than he had been a second earlier.

“I said that – you’re on the Island of Tyull.”

“The Island of Tyull?  Who are you?  Where are you?  I don’t see anyone…” replied Jonathan, not understanding what was happening.  Sammy came straight back, and Jonathan took a good look at him, quizzically half-expecting that Sammy had learned to talk.

“Who are you, and why do you want to know who I am?  You asked a question, and I gave you an answer.  What’s to understand?” the mysterious voice said out of seemingly thin air.

“I’m Jonathan and this is my dog Sammy, and we’re from Hampton, Ohio.  What do you mean I’m on the Island of Tyull?” mustered up Jonathan, trying to remain calm while clearly agitated at speaking to the air around him.

“What more is there to say, besides that’s where you are.  I’ve never heard of this place Ohio you’re talking about, and it’s important for me to know who you are before I show myself to you, as this is not a safe place, this Island of Tyull,” explained the voice, carefully measuring up Jonathan and Sammy.

Jonathan paused for a second as he began to understand what was going on, before saying, “I once heard of this Island of Tyull from Gramps – perhaps you know him.  He also goes by the names of Illandor, Arrydor and Myllanthal.  Do you know him?”

“Oh, Myllanthal, he visited here once, but was in a tremendous hurry to leave.  Yes, I helped him escape from the Fortress of Tyull – not a pleasant place to be.  Not a pleasant place at all.  Do all you can to avoid it.”

“Well, Myllanthal’s a friend of mine, and I’m glad we understand each other now, but I still can’t see you.  Where are you?”

“Oh, that – sorry,” replied the voice as a shape slowly formed in front of Jonathan.  “I forget about the invisibility thing all the time when meeting outsiders.  I’m Maestyg, of the Dowylais.  We’re Cliff Dwellers, living in these cliffs,” explained the shape before Jonathan, still seemingly assembling itself into a unified form.  After a few more moments, the person was visible to Jonathan and fully-functioning, yet having an air of translucence to it similar to the Myull and the Sylth.

“Very nice to meet you, Maestyg.  Why the invisibility, and why do you live in these cliffs?  What is this island all about?” replied Jonathan, not truly understanding what was going on here.

“The Fortress of Tyull is a terrible place, Master Jonathan, and our people use invisibility as a means of escaping the guards.  This is not a good place to be – how did you escape the guards on the stairway to arrive here?”

“We didn’t see any guards on the staircase, Maestyg – the staircase came straight down.  There was only one side passageway that we saw, but the air was too foul in it to chose that route, and we ended up here on the beach.”

“There are many side tunnels off the staircase, Jonathan.  They go everywhere under the fortress.  The guards mustn’t have seen your torch, Master Jonathan.”

“We traveled down the stairs in the dark, and only once used my flashlight for a brief moment.”

“Ah, that explains it then – the guards weren’t looking for anyone in the dark.  They must have been preoccupied in a side passageway the moment you used your light.  You’re very lucky, Master Jonathan, very lucky indeed, otherwise you’d be in a prison cell now deep within this mountain…”

“Why do your people live here then, Maestyg, if Tyull’s such a terrible place?” asked Jonathan, as Sammy chased more incoming waves.

“The guards don’t bother us, because most of the time they never see us due to our invisibility.  We rarely revert to the opaque versions of ourselves.  We can choose to be either opaque, translucent or transparent, which is invisible.  We do this by manipulating the frequency shift of our body’s atoms – the faster the vibration of the atoms, the more light is able to pass through them.  It’s a process of harmonics.  When the atoms of our being correlate to a harmonic of the frequency of visible light, we then appear invisible to anyone looking at us,” explained Maestyg.  “The other effect a higher frequency shift creates, is for us to become lighter than air and defy gravity.  The faster the vibrational frequency of our atoms, the less effect gravity has on them, until at a certain point, gravity has no affect on us at all.  That’s why we can ascend these cliffs and live within the openings.  The guards can’t touch us – but they can and will find you here…”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Two

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan and Sammy made quick progress going down the remaining stairs towards the illuminated base of the stone stairwell.  The stair treads appeared to stop at a smooth landing, and the illumination was now making it possible to see the entire staircase area clearly, although not as brightly as if it had been in full sunshine.  It was still a dim lighting environment, but they could easily see the sandstone tunnel and stair treads without the aid of a flashlight.  Their eyes had definitively adjusted after spending three days in the dark tunnel and another morning in the cavern system, but he hoped beyond hope that this new light would show them the way out of their sandstone prison.

The question was, what would they find at the base of the stairs?  If they were encased within this sandstone rock formation, how was the light getting in – and would it allow them to somehow get themselves out?  It wouldn’t take long to find out now, and with every step down the stone staircase they were even more aware of the repetitive sounds and salt-infused air.  As they stepped off the final stone stair tread, they found themselves on a level sandstone landing that opened into a short, level corridor of perhaps fifty feet.  Clearly displayed at the end of the short corridor, was a full moon descending towards a distant horizon – over the ocean – shining its light directly through the corridor to illuminate the base of the stairway!

You could have knocked Jonathan over at the sight of the descending full moon over the ocean, as nothing was making sense.  ‘A full moon over the ocean?’ thought Jonathan, ‘No way could that be possible!  The caverns and staircase originated in Southern Ohio, and didn’t cover hundreds or thousands of miles.’  Sammy ran ahead onto a pebble stone beach about twenty feet deep, where large waves crashed upon the shore.  The salty ocean air definitely confirmed this was an ocean, and not just a huge lake.  The water from the waves washed up to about ten feet from the opening of the corridor leading to the staircase, and as Jonathan emerged from the sandstone entrance, it was like walking into a completely different world!

It was like he was dreaming, and not really sure if he was awake or simply hallucinating, as he pinched his arm to confirm he was indeed awake.  Sammy ran up and down the beach a short distance away while chasing the crashing waves, and a small stream a short distance away trickled out of a crack in the sandstone cliff face, before flowing across the beach to the sea.  Jonathan quickly grabbed his canteen and water bottle from his backpack, and filled them up to the very top while he could, and then drank his fill from the trickling water out of the crack.  He called Sammy over to do the same, and they both drank like they had never tasted water before!

Looking up, Jonathan saw the sandstone cliff going virtually straight up for hundreds of feet above the beach, with what looked like stone walls atop the cliff continuing even higher, but the moonlight wouldn’t allow him to get a clear view that far away.  They watched as the full moon continued to make its descent towards the horizon, realizing it would only be minutes before the moon completely disappeared from view.  It would then be dark again, and he hoped sunrise wasn’t far away now, but what direction was east?  If it was on the other side of this sandstone mountain, it could still be hours before they’d see the daylight.

He took out his compass from his backpack and leveled it, only to watch as the needle turned in slow circles.  ‘That’s odd,’ Jonathan thought to himself, how could there be no true north?  He looked left and right along the beach, but saw nothing other than this narrow strip of stony beach alongside a massive rock cliff.  “Where are we?” Jonathan asked aloud to the slight breeze they were feeling coming off the ocean, and wondered to himself what else could possibly befall them next…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Three, Part One – Understanding

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Three, Part One – Understanding

~~~~~~~~~~

When Jonathan woke and opened his eyes, he could see his hand in front of him without the use of his flashlight for the first time since entering the caverns!  His hand was barely visible just inches from his face, mind you – not exactly brilliant sunshine – but at least it was a start.  The repetitive rhythmic sounds were still present, but seemed even a bit louder than before, along with the clear scent of salt-infused fresh air.  It was good news indeed for what it was worth, but the bad news simply overwhelmed it, as they were about to finish both their snacks and water here on the steps of their sandstone entrapment.

Sammy finished his treats and Jonathan ate his last chocolate chip cookie, before sipping most of the remaining water from the canteen.  The small quantity of water remaining in the canteen was only enough to moisten their mouths one last time.  It was looking like the end was near.  Jonathan knew they could last a good while without food, but without water, they were doomed.  This would be their third day of descending the stone stairway in the dark, but even the fact that it was not quite as dark as before, wouldn’t help them much in the effort.  He packed away the near-empty canteen and the sweatshirt that had served as a pillow atop the stone stair tread, and together they resumed their descent of the stairway – one probe, scoot and step down after another.

Curiosity refocused Jonathan’s thoughts away from their impending doom without water, onto the question of what these changes in their environment might mean.  Why was it ever so slightly lighter in the tunnel?  What was causing the repetitive sounds?  Was the fresh air coming into the tunnel through an opening to the outside of some sort, and if so, could they escape the darkness through it?  What was causing the air to be tinged with salt?  Jonathan knew of only two reasons for the air to carry the scent of salt – a salt mine, and the ocean.  If there was an underground salt mine here, or a large vein of salt within the sandstone, it wouldn’t naturally mean fresh air at the same time.  An ocean would produce both fresh air and the scent of salt, but Southern Ohio was a far cry from the ocean.  Something else must account for why the air seemed to be both fresher and smelled of salt.

As they continued their way inching deeper down the stone treads, it began to feel like the source behind both the air quality and the repetitive sounds was becoming nearer and nearer.  Sammy felt an excitement that Jonathan also shared, and after what seemed to be an entire morning’s efforts – or was it night – they could now just barely make out the sides of the sandstone tunnel!  The air was indeed fresher than ever before, and Sammy was eager to descend the stairway at a faster rate.  So at this point, Jonathan was convinced he could see the stone treads clearly enough to walk down them without stumbling, and they began to make swift progress down the stairs.  The excitement helped carry them down the stairs with a sense of renewed energy, hoping they would discover something, anything, that would help them escape this sandstone tunnel.

Finally, after another long period of time, Jonathan saw a light at the base of the staircase!  It wasn’t like a lamp or a flashlight, but something was clearly shedding light on the landing of the staircase ahead of them.  It was perhaps another few hundred stair treads below them yet at this point, but they were making quick progress in reaching it.  Jonathan had to hold Sammy back with his leash to ensure they didn’t try to run down the stone treads, as a stumble at this point would be a bad ending to their journey down this endless stairway in the dark, and he didn’t want to see this opportunity escape them.  He didn’t know what was causing the base of the stairs to be illuminated, but it looked like it was their one opportunity to escape the darkness…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

It was a persistent and unrelenting darkness that Jonathan awoke to, after a less than satisfying sleep on the staircase’s stone treads beside Sammy.  There was no way to know if they’d slept for two hours or two days, as the pitch darkness surrounding them remained endlessly unchanged.  Sammy was already awake and alert, and while not cold, Jonathan felt an uneasy discomfort from having slept while reclining on his backpack against the staircase, with his folded spare sweatshirt as a pillow atop the next higher stone tread.  His joints complained with the stiffness of an old man as he sat up, and began digging into his backpack in the dark to find their last remaining canteen of water for both of them to sip from.  The air was stagnant and clammy in the steeply descending tunnel, begging for the relief of an infusion of fresh oxygenated air.

“Here’s a few treats for you to snack on, Sammy, but we have to save the rest for later.  This is your last treat bag,” explained Jonathan patiently as he ate one of his few remaining chocolate chip cookies.  After a couple of sips of water following their snacks, he packed up the remaining food bags, the canteen, and his sweatshirt to begin descending the staircase into the pitch black depths again.  They were both used to being immersed in the darkness by now, and didn’t  give it a second thought as they carefully probed, scooted and stepped down each descending stair tread.  It was almost second nature by now, and they were no longer afraid of the dark.  Jonathan, however, was becoming more and more concerned about what they would do when their snacks and water ran out though, but it was a dilemma he wasn’t willing to dwell on – at least, not yet.

After what could have been hours, for he had no way of knowing, there was a distinct change in the air within their sandstone enclosure, and the hairs on Jonathan’s neck stood up alerting him to the fact that something wasn’t right.  There was no way of knowing what was causing the foul smell in the air without turning on his flashlight briefly to take a quick look around.  The beam of his flashlight revealed what Jonathan had been looking for all along, a side tunnel to the left of the descending staircase going off in a horizontal direction into the darkness.  This perpendicular corridor in the rock was about the same size in diameter as the tunnel they were in, eight feet or so across, but with a level, smooth floor – while the stone staircase continued down beyond the junction into the unknown depths below.

Jonathan probed the first few feet of this horizontal tunnel, but Sammy refused to enter it, as it was the source of the foul air they had been breathing in recently.  The air quality of this passageway didn’t give him any confidence that it was the best route to follow, so he instead followed Sammy’s lead back to the staircase and turned off his flashlight, as they resumed their descent into the dark void.  It didn’t take very long to realize the staircase’s air was dramatically freshening as they continued descending into the unknown darkness beyond the intersecting passageway, as the source of the bad air all along had been the side corridor.  What was causing the stench in the side tunnel was anyone’s guess, but Jonathan knew they were headed in the right direction at this point based on the better air quality they were now breathing – but where was the staircase leading them to?

It was all he could do to fight off the boredom of endlessly descending this stone staircase in the dark, not knowing how long they’d gone since waking up or how far they still had to go – but to where were they going?  Was their demise inevitable?  Was this simply a torturous exercise without the chance of a positive outcome?  Jonathan couldn’t, and wouldn’t, focus on the nagging doubts hijacking his thoughts, for there must be a solution and way out of their sandstone entrapment.  Wasn’t it Dijia who had told him there was always hope?  All he had now was hope, and as the leader of this expedition it was Jonathan’s task to find a way, any way, to survive this misadventure.  He insisted his mistakes wouldn’t decide their fate, and kept trying to convince himself that there was no reason to give up hope now.

They continued their endless descent into the dark void for longer than he could fathom it – to the point of exhaustion – before stopping for the day.  Or was it night?  Regardless of what time it might be, Jonathan dug into his backpack for another round of treats and cookies, knowing they had just one last round of snacks after sleeping and less than half a canteen of water left.  He adjusted his backpack to get comfortable and refolded his sweatshirt into another makeshift pillow, and leaned back to fall asleep with Sammy resting his muzzle on Jonathan’s stomach again.  He was so used to the darkness by this time, that it was as familiar to him as lying on his bed back on the farm, while looking up at the ceiling and across to the poster of Snoopy fighting the Red Barron on the wall of his room by moonlight.

In the stillness, he could now clearly discern a distant rhythmic sound within the stone tunnel repeating itself every 15 seconds or so, along with a distinct smell of fresh air tinged with salt.  As if expecting to see his bedroom’s ceiling at night from his bed back home, Jonathan focused his eyes above him.  In the darkness he couldn’t see anything of course, but he had the distinct impression that the darkness wasn’t as dark as it had been before.  It was the vague awareness of an initial awakening of daylight long before dawn, in the first moments preceding twilight’s arrival.  Sammy was aware of it as well, remaining wide awake and alert, while sniffing the air and listening intently.  What was causing this combined sensation of a pre-dawn light, the faint repetitive rhythmic sounds within this sandstone prison, and the smell of salt infused fresh air?  For now it didn’t matter, as Jonathan was too tired to think about it anymore, and within minutes fell fast asleep…

(The end of Chapter Two)

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Nine

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Once they finished their snacks in the darkness on the stone staircase, Jonathan knew it was now time to keep moving down the stairs.  This was an impossible situation he realized, but as the leader of this adventure, Jonathan knew it was his duty to give them hope and find a way out of this predicament.  There was no way they could just sit here in place, because no one knew where they were – let alone the fact that they were trapped deep underground – even beyond the reach of the cavern system.  The list of their remaining supplies was a very short one, as there was one more bag of treats for Sammy, and Jonathan was now down to a few chocolate chip cookies.  They had one canteen of water left between the two of them, and his flashlight was on its last remaining batteries.  For now, they would have to cautiously move down the stairway in the dark, because he had to conserve the remaining power of the flashlight for the time when they might really need it.

“Sammy, we need to start moving again, and the best way down the stairs I think is to scoot down slowly.  If we stumble and fall down the staircase, we might get really hurt, so we’ll take it slowly.”  With that said, Jonathan slowly scooted down to the next step on his bottom, while feeling the stone treads with his hands and feet in the dark.  The two of them were lashed together with Sammy’s leash, and the arrangement seemed to be working, as Sammy easily made his way down to the next step beside him.  With the knowledge that moving down the staircase in the dark was actually feasible, they continued down in the same manner step after step, deeper into the inky black depths below.

There was no way he could know if there would ever be a way out of this underground labyrinth, but that wasn’t the point in Jonathan’s mind, because they couldn’t just sit there on the stairs waiting to die – that wasn’t an acceptable option.  In his mind, this tunnel of stairs had to lead somewhere, otherwise why had it been made in the first place?  He couldn’t believe that this staircase would descend so far into the ground if there wasn’t an outlet for it to open to, but they couldn’t know if, or what it might be at this point.  They would have to keep moving down the staircase as long as they had the strength to do so, and hope that whoever constructed it had a valid reason for carving it into the sandstone in the first place.  Jonathan would never give up hoping that they would eventually escape this perpetual darkness, for it was their only hope left, that this predicament wouldn’t lead to their demise.

There was no way of knowing what time it was in this endless dark void, but Jonathan knew it had to be at least mid-afternoon in the daylight of Southern Ohio by now.  All they could do at this point, was to keep moving down the dark staircase until they didn’t have any strength remaining.  Scooting down the staircase on his hands, feet and posterior, was hard on his palms against the rough sandstone, so at one point he paused to remove his gloves from his backpack and put them on.  Sammy seemed to have an easier approach at descending the staircase, lagging slightly behind his Master, and cautiously probing each lower stair tread with one paw before committing to moving.

All-in-all, descending into the dark void before them was easier than when Jonathan had first considered it, especially without a railing of some sort to hold onto, as it was virtually impossible to walk down the staircase without stumbling in the darkness.  This process of scooting down the stairs was time consuming though, and the seconds, minutes, and hours ticked away without any understanding of the passing of time.  Finally at one point, he was too tired to continue, and didn’t know if it was the same day or the next, but there was no way of continuing on without rest.  They both shared a sip out of the canteen, and tried to make themselves as comfortable as possible on the stone treads.  Jonathan leaned back into a reclining position against his backpack, and Sammy lay beside him with his muzzle on Jonathan’s stomach, as they both drifted off into an uncertain and troubling sleep…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Eight

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As the dust settled following the collapse of the carved doorway, it was evident that there was no turning back now for Jonathan and Sammy.  There had been many smaller chunks of rock that tumbled down the staircase towards them, but miraculously they missed hitting them both.  Most of the collapse turned out to be giant chunks of sandstone from above the doorway, which simply dropped in place without moving or sliding down the stairs.  Had the larger rocks tumbled down the stairway, there was no way the two of them would have survived such an avalanche.

Jonathan surveyed the huge rock pile blocking the entrance to the stairs, and understood at once there was no going back.  Not only was the entrance to the tunnel of stairs completely blocked off, but they couldn’t risk climbing onto the debris and causing a new rock slide.  Everything became clear to him in that moment.  There was no lifeline back to  daylight now.  His flashlight’s batteries would soon die, and he didn’t have any spares.  They were trapped in a descending tunnel of endless stairs into the dark depths below with no hope of rescue, and they had no idea where they were.  A darkness like they had never known before would soon close around them, and descending the steep staircase was difficult enough with the light of the flashlight, but would be all but impossible without it, as their risk of falling and tumbling down the endless stairs approached one hundred percent.

“We’re in big trouble now, Sammy,” began Jonathan, attempting to be brave while addressing their predicament as the leader of this misadventure.  “There’s no going back now, and soon it will be pitch dark in this staircase.  I’ll limit using the flashlight to only once in a while, and for now we’d best eat something and drink a little water in the dark,” explained Jonathan as he turned off the flashlight.  He fumbled through his backpack to find some treats for Sammy, munched the half a sandwich that he had remaining, and they both shared some water out of a canteen.

“We’re still alive, Sammy, so this adventure isn’t over yet, in fact it’s really only beginning the way I see it.  We’ll just have to get used to going down the stairs in the dark,” he said while trying to find Sammy’s leash buried deep in his backpack.  “I’m going to leash us together by tying one end of your leash to my backpack, Sammy.  That way, if one of us stumbles and falls, there’s hope that the other can stop them from tumbling farther down the stairs.  We’re going to make it through this, Sammy, because we have no other option.  We won’t cry or complain, and the only thing we can do now is keep moving down the staircase, and hope we find a way out of this darkness…”

Sammy understood they were in trouble as soon as the doorway collapsed, but now that Jonathan switched off the flashlight, he was on high alert.  While he normally saw pretty well at night, there was nothing visible in the intense darkness of the stairs for his eyes to detect.  Sammy did have an advantage in this situation that Jonathan didn’t have though, as his ears were extremely sensitive to faint sounds, and he could pick up and feel vibrations through his paws.  He was barely able to perceive a repetitive, rhythmic pattern from what seemed to be a great distance away, and his nose detected a strong odor of salt and humidity.  While he wasn’t aware of what it could be, perhaps what he was detecting was a salt mine somewhere within this mountain of rock.  There was no way of knowing though, and worse yet, there was probably no way of finding out…