Sunday, June 8, 2008

015: Musical Trees

Left: 6 votes
Right: 0 votes
Straight: 1 vote
Edolie was becoming impatient.

"Let's just go straight!" she said, attempting to pull Charleston along.

"No," said Charleston, "Chances are, going straight would just lead us into an infinite loop."

"What about going right?"

"I don't trust going right. I don't trust it at all."

"Then we are going left?"

Charleston nodded, "I've got a good feeling about going left." He put his hat on Edolie's head and pulled it down over her eyes. "There might be some mind-melting terrors from beyond our world in the tunnel. As long as you don't look at them too closely, they'll leave you alone. In your case, I think it'd be best if you saw nothing at all until we came out of the tunnel."

Edolie nodded, and held the hat over her eyes with her free hand. Charleston fixed his hair a bit, and started into the tunnel. There were indeed terrors from beyond their world in the tunnel, indescrible in their appearance, unknowable in the terror they could evoke.

One of them, looking like a monkey made of bone and stone with hollow eyes but much more terrible, took one rock and tapped it on another in an arrhythmic beat. It stared at Charleston and Edolie as they hurried by.

They left the tunnel and came to a clearing with five trees in it and no other tunnels. Charleston took his hat back from Edolie and put it back onto his own head. He walked to each tree and tapped it with his cane, and each one made a metallic sound.

"This is worse than unstable terrain," said Charleston, "This is magic. Someone, or something, is trying to get through to this world and they found some sort of opening. It might have been those Alogrins Land Captain talked about, or it might be something far more sinister. In any case, whatever is going on here is much bigger than an abnormally large frog or some aliens. The worst part is that we might be stuck in this forest."

"We tied the string to a log," said Edolie, whose eyes betrayed her concern.

Charleston gently pulled the string. It fell to the ground, and when Charleston pulled it to him, he saw that the end had been chewed through. Edolie looked at it with horror.

"We might be screwed," said Charleston, "We can't go back the way we came because every time we go through the same tunnel, we increase the chances of being noticed by those things. Even if we did make it through the tunnel again, we would probably end up somewhere else entirely. Also, unless I miss my guess, there will still be nightfall."

"What happens at nightfall?" said Edolie, pulling Charleston closer to her.

"I've been in one of these situations before. My partner and I decided to try our luck with a tunnel, and those things got him. At first, we thought he had just been freaked out by those things. Instead, they turned him into a walking shell of a man. Over time, he lost his hair, his skin, everything, until he was just a skeleton, kept moving because those things never told him to stop. Since he was out of communication with them, he just stood around and did nothing. If there are any in these woods, though, they'll be in communication with those things, and they're nasty."

There was a plop from the other side of the clearing, opposite the tunnel. Both Charleston and Edolie turned towards it, and then they went over to investigate the wall. There was a hairline crack in it.

"Does this mean we are not stuck?" said Edolie.

"If we can figure out a way to open the door, we might stand a chance," said Charleston, trying to lever the door open with his cane. It wasn't working.

Edolie thought for a moment, "The trees made a noise when you hit them, did they not?"

Charleston nodded, and then looked at Edolie with a smile, "It's some sort of sound puzzle! Five trees, five different notes! All we have to do is figure out the proper sequence and the door will open, hopefully!"

Edolie smiled, "How much time do we have before night falls?"

Charleston looked at the sky. The sun was nearing the tree line. "There's not much time. There are five trees, and I think we can safely assume that, since this puzzle stems from nature itself, that each tree can only be hit once in the sequence of five. I think that's twenty-five different sequences, though I could be wrong, I'm terrible at math." He undid the string tying his hand to Edolie's hand, and felt a bit sad about this. He pushed the sadness aside, however, and pulled out a marker. He wrote "1" on the nearest tree, and marked each tree with a different number.

He walked over to the One tree and tapped it with his cane, then repeated the process with trees Two through Five. The door ceased to open. He tried again...

"One, two, three, five, four. No."

"One, two, five, three, four. No!"

"One, five, two, three, four. No, damn it!"

"Five, one, two, three, four."

"One, two, four, three, five."

Edolie watched as he went from tree to tree, again and again, and she shuddered when a wolf howled in the distance. Charleston stopped and stared at the tunnel. Any moment, the slaves of the tunnel-things would emerge. If they could open the new tunnel, it could lead to salvation. In fact, it was their only chance at salvation, since there was no way they could last the night against a constant siege. Someone would have to fight them off, and someone would have to continue trying to hit the right sequence.

"Edolie, come over here," said Charleston, still staring at the tunnel.

"Yes?" she said, walking over to him.

"Any minute now, those things I told you about are going to start coming. One of us could fight them off while the other tries to get the sequence. I want you to try and get the sequence while I fight," said Charleston.

"No. You are not yet able to fight against so many. I shall fight, you shall solve the sequence."

"I'm slow right now, but I don't really need to be able to run to fight these things. We can't both fight, or both try for the sequence, either. We'd never last the night if we fought, and if we both tried for the sequence, we'd probably keep messing it up."

A tunnel-thing slave walked through the tunnel, bits of flesh clinging to its skeleton. Its eyes were empty. Charleston and Edolie looked at it, and turned to each other. Charleston knew he had to move quickly if he wanted to be the one to fight the slaves, and he had to decide now.

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