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Highs and Lows
Max Alvarez was the famous explorer. The one at the peak of his game. The one at just the right age. The one everyone who was anyone in the archaeological world knew. The one who accomplished feats people could only imagine. His discovery of the secret underground city at the Nile River dumbfounded everyone and his many journeys at the Aztec and Mayan routes, finally leading to the discovery of the City of Gold and Chnichua, had placed him in a shrine of greatness few explorers had ever been in. He had seen the waterfalls at the edge of the world and returned from places few had ever gone before. But all he ever wanted was to be known. Well, there was more than that.
After his dad died in his teenage years, Max realized he needed something to do in life, something to take his mind of the chaos occurring around him. Max had always been interested in every little detail of study in his history classes, always perplexed by the endless mysteries of the past; in college, he discovered his passion of exploring as he studied abroad in various places, such as South America and China, around the world. Whenever he toured, he would be curious to find out more, to find out how, to find out why, to find out what. Exploring had given him an escape, a chance to discover something new, delving to depths where no man ever dared to go before, encountering things that everyone else feared. It was the sweat teeming and tempers flaring after every failed journey. It was a feeling like none other, a feeling of finding something that people had spent years searching for and had only heard of in legends.
That was all until last year, when the bits and pieces of his world came crashing down. None of the thrill mattered anymore and no journey would ever feel the same, at least for now. He had been framed, and he had become the infamous explorer. Now he was attempting to regain is fame and reputability by embarking on a quest in which none other had ever emerged alive, as far as records showed. To be honest, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was now or never.
Max and his crew were looking for the Pyramid of Everlasting Dreams, in the middle of an Egyptian desert. Legend told of an ancient spellcaster, Kemnebi Kemosori, who had been buried alive in the pyramid for placing a couple of villages in Egypt under his dark magic and for haunting Egypt; ever since then, his soul has been haunting the alleys of the pyramid, reaping whatever fools entered. Anyone who managed to find the Scallion of Pteryx would be granted one wish, anything they wanted. The last time someone had dared to enter was in 1878, when Zemusu Massri came to find the prophesized scallion. He and his crew never came out; it was supposed that they were lost in the depths of the pyramid, forever.
As Max stepped down from his dunebuggy, the sand blew across his face, further cracking his spoiled softened skin in the arid Egypt air. The crew had to put on masks to prevent the sand from blowing across their face. Max had told the rest of the crew to look around and that the approximate coordinates said that they were close to the pyramid, but they could hardly see two feet in front of them.
The words of the cuckoo old man, with ancient wrinkles and disheveled gray hair, whom Max had encountered at the shantytown on his way to the pyramid still rang in Max’s head. The pyramid will reveal itself, if Kemnebi chooses you. You’ll know as soon as you step in the right place. As they moved about, Max felt his foot plunge into some sand that felt like it was different, somehow soft and moist amid the raging sandstorm. He placed both of his feet into the sand with a gleam of hope that it wasn’t a trap or quicksand. Feeling his feet lodge safely as if there was some kind of device to secure his feet and open a door in the distance, underneath him, implanted by a magical spell, he saw something shine in the near distance. He didn’t know how, but he knew it was it. It was the pyramid where the man with the magic lay, where the most powerful artifact ever sat complacently.
He began waving wildly to his crew, and they looked over and saw him point to something in the distance. After exchanging confused looks, they started walking over in the direction where Max had pointed, as Max moved hastily to the gleaming shimmer. And then everyone saw it. It was magnificent. The entire front of the pyramid came into view; it was beautiful with its perfect sandy blocks placed in perfect order.
The door to enter the pyramid was covered with hieroglyphics, and Max motioned for Tamocar to translate the hieroglyphics. Tamocar walked over and moved his head and read them. He took off his visor for a second, as the raging sandstorm had decreased near the pyramid, and said, in a thick accent,
“Thusss whos enter mhust feer myy rage. Leaff whilst youu can.”
As Max removed his mask, a chill swept over him and immediately told him that this was truly the Pyramid of Everlasting Dreams, where Kemnebi lay, waiting for their arrival.
Max’s longtime buddy and teacher of ancient arts at Oxford University, Clark Pemberton, moved next to him and tried heaving the dusty door open. It didn’t budge. He pushed again. Still no budge, as everyone looked on in anticipation. Finally he thrust his shoulder against the door with a loud grunt. The door flung open and stone rubbles fell down. The crew stared into the darkness of the pyramid with astonishment and fear, in wonder of what lay ahead.
Max stepped inside the cave-like alleys of the pyramid, followed by the rest of the crew. They traversed the dusty, eerie space with caution, most of them holding a flashlight. As their torches illuminated the surroundings, they saw everything, from sculptures of animals to smelly jars full of organs of those who had died due to Kemnebi’s wrath to statues of Anubis, the god of death to bodies of the warriors who died guarding this place in case Kemnebi ever awakened. Max could hear the silent murmurs, the treacherous gasps, and the hushed awes of the people as they saw what they were finally into.
Max and his crew continued walking through a series of rooms and stairs and finally arrived at a crowded square room, with three members trialing in the back, dragging a string so they could find their way back.
But Max just hoped he did not lead all these people to their death. Why was he so selfish? But it was not just him who wanted this. The first person Max had gone to after his framing was Clark, one of the few people that had not turned his back on him right away. A few days after all the controversy surrounding Max had died down, Max mapped out an extravagant plan to gain back his fame with Clark, who had also wanted to go on an adventure for the Scallion. From there, Max gatherd the ablest crew that would help him on his journey to get this artifact and return, as he had done so many times in his life. Max had thought about using the wish right way, to use the wish to make things how they were before his framing. But then he thought it was wrong to use all of the people just for himself. He would bring the artifact out and make everyone in his crew famous. Once he collected a few members in Europe, Max traveled to Egypt, where the mystery would finally be unraveled. Max tried to keep this expedition as secret as possible, giving out minor details, so people would be amazed and would regret that they ever doubted him.
As they were entering a square room, one more open than the rest, Max looked up. The Scallion was soon approaching, but for now, they were stuck in the Room of the Mahjong, or more commonly known as the room of death. One member of the crew pointed his flashlight at the center of the room, and a dark, evil ridden stick, something that had came straight out of hell gleamed: the Quarterstaff of the Kimo. The Quarterstaff was what Kemnebi had wielded all the time, rumored to have been used for protection and attack. When he was caught, it was said that Kemnebi placed a dark curse on the stuff, dooming all that came near. But the problem was, it was also the key to unlocking the Scallion of Pteryx; legend said that once someone was able to pick up the Quarterstaff, the Scallion would be revealed.
A few seconds after the man shone his flashlight at the staff, he froze, his face cracked up, and he crumbled into dust as his flashlight dropped to the floor with a thud. Everyone was wondering what had happened. And that’s when all hell broke loose. Lights went off one by one as shrieks filled the empty cavern. They were treading the crevices of booby trap land, trapped by the ancient spellcaster. After a series of bangs and crashes, Max felt something, something moist but heavy, on his hands; when he looked down, he faintly saw a deep red. It was blood. His eyes darted from side to side, frantically searching for Carl, Tamocar, or anyone else in his crew, but he could do anything.
Suddenly, in front of Max, a little boy bathed in a glow in the reigning darkness appeared. Max did not remember bringing a kid on the journey. As Max squinted and focused his vision to see if it was real, the boy turned out to be Ryan, his fifth grade bully. Max remembered the boy who pushed him around all day. Big and chubby, with a pudgy nose. But right now, Max was not interested in getting revenge.
“Wha… What are… you doing here?” Max asked.
“Did monk find you yet?”
“Your worst enemy.”
“Yes. He’s the one that framed you. He’s the one that stole your ancient necklace of Tumulrah, and replaced it with a fake plastic one after you donated it to the museum. He’s the one who made a fuss over its genuity, to get you in trouble. He’s the one that ended your exploring days. Or at least was supposed to. And yet you persisted. And now, you must pay.”
“What… are you doing here? What… are you talking about?”
“I have the same question. You don’t belong here. Leave the ancients alone. The more you disturb them, the more your life will pay. But you never learn. You should have paid more attention to that note Monk left.”
Max recalled the note. He came back to his apartment in London, and found a note that read your time is up; don’t dare bothering us again. At that time, Max had no idea what it meant, but he was now beginning to understand.
“Who… what… WHO IS MONK,” Max screamed, puzzling for answers, his words resounding through the halls.
Then Monk appeared. He was a bald man; Max tried thinking. He looked familiar, but where had Max seen him? Then it hit him; Max had seen him wearing his hood, watching Max’s display on the opening of the museum. Max had felt something was off, but guessed it was just a peculiar spectator.
“I am Monk.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Because of your ventures. You shouldn’t discover what was meant to remain hidden. Let the past be in the past. Your society isn’t prepared for knowing about us, possessing our artifacts, entering our sculptures. Its amazing that you’ve survived this long. You’ve heard of me before. Just think.”
At that moment, Max realized who Monk was. He was the bane of his existence. Legend said that Monk came to hinder the journey of people who tried to discover ancient secrets. That’s what happened to Juan Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth. That’s what happened to Vasquez de Coronado when he tried to discover all seven cities of gold. Monk happened.
Monk then erupted into flames and became the ancient spellcaster, Kemnebi, with ancient wrinkles but a stare as fierce as a lion, as Max stood in fear awaiting the worst and hoping the best: to get out alive. Or did it really matter if he died right now? Kemnebi grabbed the Quarterstaff of the Kimo and raised it. In that moment, Max felt something appear by his foot. It was a dull gold, but had an amazing aura. It was the Scallion of Pteryx. Before Kemnebi could take action, Max wished for something, the whole reason he had came here. He wished the world would go back to how it was a year ago, before he was framed. And just as the spell Kemnebi cast was about to hit him, Max’s world went black.
Max woke up in his hotel room, feeling sore and aching all over. But he felt his bed. Then he checked his phone. It was April 2nd 2011, a week before he got framed. But everything that had happened in his journey to find the Scallion was still clear. To check if anyone else remembered what happened in the next year, Max called Clark.
“Hey, what’s up,” Max eagerly asked.
“Ugh… Max, it’s 3 in the morning. What do you want? I know you found that necklace and all, but that does not give you the right to take away my sleep.”
“Sorry man,” Max said. “See you later.”
Clark hung up the phone as Max felt ecstatic. It worked. He was alive. His life was saved. Max tried to leap out of bed, but fell right back down. His bones hurt so much. On the desk next to the bed, there was a note. Max picked it up; it read: the Scallion may have saved you this time, but beware- Monk. So it was real. Even though Max decided that his exploring days were over, he knew that he would have his legacy cemented in the world forever. Too thrilled to go to sleep, Max just sat on his bed. Max Alvarez, the world’s greatest explorer, Max thought. Max just sat on his bed, thinking, for the rest of the night. He had few highs and many lows recently, and this was a high. The greatest feeling ever.