- Ch. 1: Waking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, there are fries.
- Ch. 2: It might be a game to you, but it’s not to us.
- Ch. 3: Does anything actually happen or do we just talk about it?
- Ch. 4: What could possibly be better than jewels, gold and glittery treasure?
- Ch. 5: The first thing we do, let’s uninvite all of the parents.
- Ch. 6: The long walk to freedom
- Ch. 7: Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. But what’s the puzzle?
- Ch. 8: The unknown versus the known.
- Ch. 9: It doesn’t always make logical sense. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
- Ch. 10: This is the worst day of my life (again).
- Ch. 11: We are family.
- Ch. 12: Castle Burgers with a side of Bog
- Ch. 13: Upside-down ladders and distant brothers
- Ch. 14: Sibling rivalry isn’t only among 9- and 11-year olds
- Ch. 15: No time for patience
What does it mean to be brothers, anyway? And whoever has the manual, could you pass it down this way, please?
“Weren’t you guys scared?” Lu asked anyone who would answer as they walked slowly through the tunnel in the direction of what they hoped was the castle.
“When?” Li asked back.
“When you got to the edge up there and then you were down here. Did you think you were going to die or, I don’t know, at least fall into nothing?”
“Nah, I was good,” Li said confidently.
“Could someone answer who was scared, please?” Lu asked.
“I was totally scared, Lu,” Dec said. “But I had to get my little brother. He was down here, so I knew I had to come after him.”
“So, Dec,” Lu started, “this is going to sound like a really stupid question and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to, but I’m seriously curious because, well, what you’re saying is like a different planet to me, I just don’t understand it. So, my question is, what book on being an older brother did you read and could Li borrow it for, like, a year?”
“Are you serious, Lu?” Li chimed in. “I would totally save you, you’re my little brother.”
“You’re just saying that because Dec said it about Dan,” Lu accused and tried to keep his voice steady and hide the hurt.
“Lu, I’m being totally serious, I would totally save you,” Li looked for more to say. “Dude, we’re like family.”
“We are family,” Lu corrected him.
“See? Exactly,” Li continued as they walked slowly through the tunnel.
“‘See? Exactly,'” Lu mimicked, “You’d never save me, all you care about is yourself,” Lu said and you could hear the tears in his voice.
“Lu,” Li stopped walking. “What are you talking about? I’m happy to see you, I’m glad you didn’t die and that I didn’t either, that we’re all here and we’re heading, well, I don’t know where we’re heading, but that we’re all together. What’s wrong with you? Of course I would save you and watch out for you, Lu, you’re my little brother.”
Lu sniffed and thought it was best to not respond. Maybe he was going a little overboard, he thought. He stopped.
“Hey Lu, let’s just look for the soccer ball, OK?” Dec said and walked near Lu and put an arm around him.
“OK,” Lu quietly agreed.
The boys walked further along in silence until Li started calculating how far they had come. “Hey guys, don’t you think this is about as far away as the castle is from where we were playing soccer? Shouldn’t we be under the castle by now?” he asked.
“I guess so,” Dan said, but it still looks the same.
“Where’s the ball?” Lu said.
“Well, we’re still sloping down a little bit, right? Dec noticed.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Lu said, but then thought about what that meant. “Maybe we’re going even deeper than under the castle, like under the under the castle.”
“You’re right, Lu,” Dan turned to look at Lu. “I bet we’re deeper than where we were with Alastar.”
“How are we going to get out of here?” Li asked.
“I thought you weren’t scared,” Lu said immediately.
“Well, I am scared,” Li shot back. “Are you happy now?”
“Yes, I’m just happy you’re not lying anymore,” Lu said.
“Guys, do you guys always fight so much?” Dec asked, annoyed but also curious for the answer.
“I don’t fight,” Lu said, “I just have to deal with him.”
“Guys,” Dan now jumped in. “Listen to yourselves, you’re like fighting adults, just pestering each other all the time,” he paused a moment. “OK, here goes, I’m going to distract you. Ready?”
“I guess so,” Lu said.
“Whatever,” Li said.
Dan bolted as fast as he could in the direction they had been heading. He ran and flailed his arms and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Well, that worked,” Li said and he took off after him and screamed and waved his arms and tried to be a crazy person running.
Dec looked at Lu and they couldn’t keep a straight face and both took off screaming and yelling and waving and running like wild animals, but not like elegant wild animals. Like hairless poodles, not like prancing antelope.
“Hey,” Dan yelled back to the others, but they were still madly yelling and screaming, so they didn’t hear him. “Look what I found,” he yelled as they caught up with him.
As they approached, they saw what he found: the soccer ball. Dan held it proudly in his hand.
“Cool,” Lu said. “But does this mean it’s the end of the tunnel or something? Look,” he pointed a little further, “now it’s going a little bit up.”
“Wow, the ball rolled all this way?” Dec asked, but wanted to retract his question almost as quickly as he made it as it was obvious. The boys looked ahead and looked back.
“What do you guys want to do now?” Dan asked.
“Follow you,” Li said. With that, Dan kept going.
The tunnel turned and seemed to go in a spiral. Light came in through holes above which seemed to be natural light, but maybe through tubes of some kind as when the boys looked up, they couldn’t see sky. More turns and the air seemed less heavy, less damp. They were ascending.
“It’s getting lighter in here,” Lu said. “I bet we’re close.”
“Yeah, but close to what?” Dec asked back.
They kept walking in what seemed like circles. Finally, another turn, then a more clear path of light that this time seemed to come from above.
“I don’t understand how the light comes in here,” Dec said. “Wouldn’t there be holes above? It’s not like there are drains or like it’s a city street or something. There aren’t just holes in the ground, are there?”
“Maybe it’s the gravestones,” Li suggested.
“But those were back where we started,” Dan reminded them.
“Yeah, I was just trying to think what’s scattered around up there,” Li said.
“Wait, guys, I know,” Dec said, “Maybe we really are under the castle and the light is coming through different windows or, I don’t know, chimneys and it gets reflected down here.”
“I bet you’re right, Dec,” Dan said as he scanned the room they wandered into for anything of interest. “Hey, look over here,” he said and waved the others over. “Oh man, I know what that is,” he said and looked through something of a port hole.
“It’s the room where we were with Alastar,” Lu said.
“But we’re above it,” Dec added.
“Maybe this is where the moonlight comes through,” Dan said. “Whoa, do you guys see all of those letters on the floor? That’s right where we were standing.”
“What letters?” Li asked. “I don’t see any letters.”
“That’s because you don’t have your glasses on,” Lu reminded him.
“Oh yeah,” Li was reminded.
“I don’t see any letters, though, and I don’t have glasses,” Dec said.
“I don’t see any either,” Lu said. “Dan, could you move over so we could look from there?”
Dan moved over and Lu and Dec looked from his perspective.
“I still don’t see anything,” Lu said.
“Me either,” Dec said.
“Are you guys blind?” Dan was frustrated and annoyed that they were playing with him as it was so clear to him.
“I’m actually the blind one,” Li said from his own window. “Hey, what’s that rainbow thing on the wall?” he asked, but as soon as he said it, it went away.
“What rainbow?” Dan asked.
“It just went away,” Li said. “Sorry, but it was there a second ago.” Dan went back to looking down into the room.
“Hey, there it is again,” Li said. “Look now, quick!”
Dan turned his head to look and it went away.
“There’s nothing there, Li,” Dan said.
“You can see letters and I can see rainbows. That’s just great,” Li said and sat down on the stones, but then he saw it again. “Sorry, guys, but there it is again.” This time, Lu saw it, too.
“I see it, too,” Lu said and Dan and Dec looked. “Oh, now it’s gone.”
“Are you guys trying to be annoying or funny because you’re only being one of those,” Dan said and he looked back towards the room.
“No, Dan, I see the rainbow, too,” Dec said. “I swear, it’s right there, kinda near you, actually.” But as soon as Dan looked, it went away.
“Dan,” Li had an idea. “Could you keep looking down into the room, please?”
“Whatever,” he said and looked into the room.
“Dec and Lu, see it?” Li asked. “Dan, don’t turn your head.”
“Yep, we can see it,” Dec said.
“Can I turn my head now?” Dan asked.
“Yes,” Dec said and as Dan turned his head, it went away.
“Why is it disappearing when you turn your head?” Dec asked.
“Oh, I get it, I got it!” Li jumped up. “We are blind, well, Dan, you’re blind and I’m blind, that’s why we wear glasses. That’s it!” Li was excited, but the others weren’t in on then just yet.
“Dec, put on Dan’s glasses,” Li asked.
“But I don’t need glasses,” he said.
“Please, just for a second,” Li pleaded and Dec did.
“Now look into the room,” Li said.
“Whoa!” Dec said.
“I see it!” Dan shrieked.
“Wait, Dec, what’s ‘Whoa!'”? Lu asked.
“Guys, you have to check this out,” Dec said. “Look down there.”
“I don’t see anything,” Li said. “Just like before.”
“Lu?” Dec asked.
“Just the room where we were,” Lu said.
“Put these on,” Dec handed Dan’s glasses to Lu.
“I see them!” Lu screamed. “I see the letters! But whoa, there are tons of them, all over the floor. So are we supposed to make something out of that?”
“Lu,” Dan directed, “could you look down there again? Great, thanks. OK, I see the rainbow on the wall. Guys, do you know what that is?”
“It’s a rainbow, duh,” Dec said.
“Yeah, but it’s through my glasses, right?”
“Duh, we got that part, remember smart dude?” Dec remembered.
“OK, OK, wait, let me try something,” Dan said. “Remember how they’re all talking about the moonlight and a certain angle on a certain day and all that?”
“Yeah, but that’s the sun, not the moon,” Li reminded the crew.
“Yep, you’re right, but it’s still light, so maybe it helps,” Dan got so excited he almost couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. “Oh man, oh man, guys, let me try something, but I need your help,” he situated himself on his knees in front of the open area overlooking the room. “Dec, I don’t know if you even know this, but my eyes need these special glasses. There’s a prism lens in there as it helps me see better. It’s pretty rare, but it’s not bad or dangerous or whatever, but I just have it, so there are little prisms in the lenses of my glasses and maybe that’s why this is happening. OK, will you guys guide me?”
“Just tell us what to do,” Li said.
“So I’m going to keep looking down into the room, but I need you guys to guide me so that the rainbow doesn’t point on the wall next to my head but the rainbow of light, it’s actually called a prism, we learned that in science class, goes into the room. See what I mean?”
“OK, OK, I get it,” Lu said, the enthusiasm infecting his body.
“OK, I’m going to move slowly, ready?” Dan asked.
“I thin you need to move forward a little,” Li said from his perspective a little further back. “Because then the sunlight will hit your glasses right when you’re at that wall or window and can go into the room. Is that what you mean?”
“Yep, guide me,” Dan requested.
“You need to look a little to your right,” Dec said as he tried to gauge where the light was coming from, how it was traveling through the room, into Dan’s glasses and then into the room. “No, turn your head a little, don’t move it. We need the light to pass by your head a bit but we have to give it room to pass that fat head of yours.”
“Do you guys always fight?” Li asked quickly as he had been waiting to ask it back.
“We never fight,” Dec lied. “I’m an angel.”
“I’m practically a prince,” Dan tried.
“I have no response to all of that,” Li said.
“Guys,” Dan interrupted. “You have to see this.”
“Let me see,” Dec got on his knee near his beloved brother and pulled his glasses off of his face.
“Go easy, you gorilla,” Dan said, rubbing his nose for effect.
“Oh man, this is it,” Dec’s words were full of excitement.
Lu scooted up next to Dec and put his hand out. Dec put the glasses into his hand.
“Man, I want glasses like these, Dan. This is like a decoder ring,” Lu said and moved his head slightly side to side. “R, i, s,” Lu said the letters aloud.
“Can I try?” Li asked and Lu gave him the glasses on the first request.
“Oh man, only some of the letters are showing up!” Li practically screamed. “u, c, u. This is so cool. So with the light, it somehow lights up only certain letters on the floor. Man, who created this stuff?”
“Are there two ‘u’s?” Dan asked.
“Yep, I see two,” Li answered, squinting and looking slowly from side to side, as if he was interpreting a new world.
“So that’s r, i, s, u and c, right?” Lu asked. “Sucir,” he tried, but pronounced it like sucker. “Sucker!” he snorted. “That’s it, one of the four guys was a sucker!”
Dan came back to the spot next to Li. “Can I see again, Li?”
“Sure,” he said and handed the treasured glasses back to their rightful owner.
“O, s, u, i, r, and c,” Dan spelled out. “Oh, then another ‘u.’ Man, I don’t know, those are some weird letters.”
“Scurvy,” Li said. “like Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a disease. “Maybe we’ll all get scurvy down here!”
“You didn’t use an ‘o,'” Lu figured out.
“Curousi,” Lu said. “Sounds like a soccer player,” he switched to Euro-announcer voice, “Curousi dribbles through the defender, jukes right, the defender falls on his face, Curousi shoots, scores! Goooooaaalllll!”
Dan inhaled quickly and then said, “I got it.”
“What is it?” Dec asked.
“What are we?” Dan asked.
“Oh man, you’re not going to make us guess are you?” Li whined.
“Yes,” Dan said. Grandpa what’s-his-name made his guests earn their puzzles.
“But you’ve already earned it,” Li kept going.
“What are we? Why are we down here? Why are we not upstairs eating lunch or watching a movie?”
“Uh,” Li tried again, “Because we’re stupid and we really should be upstairs eating lunch and watching a movie?”
“Eeeehhgggg,” Dan made his best buzzer sound. “Next?”
Dec and Lu didn’t dare come up with funny answers if that was going to be the treatment. Dec looked for dirt or a stick to write out the letters, but there was nothing.
“It stars with a ‘c,'” Dan hinted.
“Croissant?” Dec hoped. “Sorry, I’m hungry.”
“Carousel,” Lu stated, knowing it was wrong, but just wanted to participate.
“Dan,” Li began, “This one is yours. What is it?”
Dan looked back into the room to double check the letters, but it was clear. He turned back to the boys, took off his glasses and said the word.