The Kid’s Guide to Hitchhiking (Brandon’s version)

What follows is a description of pertinent information catalogued in this packet. For further details, see copies of documents and photos included in the packet.

ITEM 1: A MISSING PERSON’S REPORT

MISSING PERSON’S REPORT

Name: Jason Stephenson

Alias/Street name/Nickname: Jase

Race: Caucasian

Age: 15

Date of birth: 4/26/1999

Last Seen By: Samantha Stephenson, mother

Last Seen Date: Friday, 8/1/2014

Last Seen Time: Approx. 8:30 a.m.

Missing Person Reported by: Samantha Stephenson

<additional biographical data listed on actual report, attached>

REPORTING PERSON’S NARRATIVE (Brief narrative of the facts surrounding the missing person report): Jason was reported missing by his mother, Mrs. Samantha Stephenson. Mrs. Stephenson reports that Jason has been acting withdrawn and secretive for some time. When confronted, Jason either becomes belligerent and shuts himself up in his room, or laughs and passes it off as being preoccupied with school matters. On the day of his disappearance Jase was leaving late for school and was scolded by his mother. He never reported to class.

Jason disappeared between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. central standard time on August 1 and has been missing for approximately two days. Jase is described as a Caucasian male with shaggy, wavy brown hair that covers his ears. He is approximately five-foot and eleven inches in height and has green eyes. He was last seen wearing a green shirt depicting the “Legend of Zelda” video game logo, khaki cargo shorts, and flip-flops.

Jase does not appear to have any scars, tattoos, or noticeable birth marks. He was last seen carrying an army fatigue patterned backpack on his shoulder, and a surgical mask and a bag of raw asparagus in his hands.

*****

ITEM 2: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farraday

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 5

Message: Hey Mike. I’m going over this missing person’s report for the Stephenson kid when wouldn’t you know it, I see Boltman come walking in with a camo backpack just like the one described in the report. They found it stashed by the creek near his house, so I figure it must be his. All it had in it was a notebook with just a few pages of writing. I had Boltman take some pictures and he should be bringing them over to you now. Weird stuff. Are all the kids into this crap these days?

Regards, John.

*****

ITEM 3: PHOTOGRAPHS OF HANDWRITTEN TEXT IN NOTEBOOK, TRANSCRIBED HERE. SEE PHOTOS.

Alright, kid, here’s the deal: no matter what your parents or your teacher or that professor who talked on the documentary have to say about it, there is such a thing as time travel. And yes, it is possible for even a kid like you to hitchhike his way across the Stream. But if you’re going to do so, you have to know the rules.

1 – The consequences of your actions are yours to live with. This is the most important thing for you to get your head around if you’re going to hitchhike through time. There’s no guy in a phone booth who’s going to show up and fix your problems, nor some crazy haired scientist in a fancy car. It’s you. And call it karma, call it cause and effect, call it God, call it what you like, but whenever you mess around in the timestream, it has a way of coming back to you. So make sure you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it before you do it.

2 – Bring your own food. Seriously. You do not want to know what happens when you eat food from a time period your system can’t handle.

3 – Bring a mask. A standard hospital mask is okay. Actually, people will stare at you far less than you think. Or you can head to any time after 2267 when everyone started wearing the invisible body shields (but don’t look for them after 2584, they became unnecessary). Similar to rule 2, you don’t want to pick up the Spanish Flu or the plague or something. Watch what you touch, too.

4 – Don’t take rides from people who don’t look human. Chances are they come from after 3176 when major body modification became standard. It isn’t just the human appearance that went out of style, if you know what I mean.

5 – Always eat asparagus before you go. Maybe mix it up a little and eat some even when you’re not going, though, or else your parents might get suspicious. Unless they’re in on it, then it’s no big deal. Either way, you’ll need the sulfur for the jumps, so eat it, and bring some with you. Don’t worry about the smell when you go to the bathroom, that’s normal.

6 – Don’t sweat causality. Whatever you’ve read, there’s no such thing as a paradox that destroys the universe. Or at least, the universe is still kickin’ and I’ve done plenty to mess it up. And as far as I can tell, I’ve never prevented my own existence. Just don’t treat the world like a playground, alright? We all have to live here too.

7 – Don’t kill famous people. See rule 6 above. The world isn’t your playground. And it’s easy to get lost if you make big changes.

8 – Clean up after yourself. It’s pretty normal for there to be anomalies here and there; people who remember things that didn’t happen (I laughed so hard when I first heard “Mandela Effect”), anachronous artifacts (ever hear of the antikythera mechanism?) and so on. Just try not to leave a trail of mysteries in your wake. It’s not the problem the theorists of the 21st century or those Synchronism activists of the 31st century make it out to be, but it’s a little like leaving trash on the trail of Mount Everest. It just makes it worse for the rest of us.

9 – Don’t tell other people about your jump spot. It’s no big deal, I just think people should have to discover them for themselves. Kinda like solving a mystery book, you know?

10 – Never talk to a guy named Michael Swan. Never. Ever.

11 – Always remember the exact time, date, and weather when you left. All else fails, you get yourself a Stream Almanac, you look it up and show it to whoever you’re riding with. 99 times out of 100 they’ll get you home.

12 – Have fun. It’s supposed to be an adventure, right? So live it. Chase your dreams, kid.

13 – Almost forgot: Don’t ask anyone to take you back more than ten thousand years or so. No one will, and they’ll probably get mad at you. And if they’re willing, they probably aren’t trustworthy. Or they’re crazy. Probably from going back too far. Stick to know history, is all I’m saying.

14 – Came back to add this, hope you see it: Don’t lose this notebook.

*****

ITEM 4: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Wednesday, August 6

Message: Did you pull that backpack out of evidence? I wanted to look at it again and when I went down there Bronte said she couldn’t find it. No signature from anyone pulling it. What gives?

*****

ITEM 5: A PHOTOGRAPH

Description: A man, approximately six feet tall, with shaggy, wavy brown hair, wearing a surgical mask and a green t-shirt, walking in a downtown area. The two towers of the World Trade Center pre-9/11 can be seen in the background.

*****

ITEM 6: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Monday, August 11

Message: Hi Mike. I’m not sure if this is just someone’s idea of a joke, or what I’m supposed to think here. I opened an envelope and out came this picture. That’s it. No note. Made a couple copies, went down to evidence to turn it in. Asked Bronte about the backpack, and she had no idea what I was talking about. Didn’t remember us looking for it last week, but there it was in the lockup. I had her pull it out for me and it was just like I remember it, except for this: the last time I looked at that flipping notebook there were only thirteen of those “rules” written in it, but now there are fourteen. Last one reads: “Came back to add this, hope you see it: Don’t lose this notebook.” Can you look in your photos just to see if that’s in there? I feel like I’m losing my mind here.

Regards, John.

*****

ITEM 7: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 12

Message: This has to all be one big stupid joke, Mike. I hope you’re not in on it, like it’s revenge for that time I put your car on the roof. I just talked with the Stephenson lady. She claims she doesn’t have a son, and never filed a report. Also, the backpack is gone. Again.

*****

ITEM 8: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 12

Message: Captain, I am sorry to trouble you, but there seems to be some kind of paperwork confusion here, or perhaps someone is playing a practical joke. I have here on my desk a missing person’s report with a variety of evidence, most of which is signed by myself. However, I did not file this report, nor am I familiar with this evidence. As far as I can tell, the people mentioned in the report don’t exist, or at least, they don’t live in the Denver area. When you get a chance, please stop by my desk and we can sort this out.

Sincerely, Det. Farrady

*****

*****

Begin Recording: This is Captain Michael Swan of the Denver Police Department, and I am submitting this packet to… whoever you people are, and I hope you’ll take it away from me and never let me see it again. This packet was left sitting on an empty desk in our department yesterday, with no indication who prepared it. All I know is that we have never, to my knowledge, had a “Detective John Farrady” working for our department, nor has my car ever been put on the roof. None of the evidence listed in the reports is in our lockup. As far as I’m concerned, this is either a practical joke or some government business that I want nothing to do with. The only reason I’m bothering is because a guy who identified himself as Jason Stephenson over the phone gave me your address, told me to record this message, and to mail it all to you. So here you go. Enjoy. (END RECORDING)

***********

This story shouldn’t have been written… but I wrote it anyway.

The Kid’s Guide to Hitchhiking (Jon’s Version)

  1. Do not tell mom you plan to hitchhike to go to Drake’s.
  2. After she spanks you, make sure to sulk in your room for a while.
  3. While you’re sulking, double-check your map and your backpack. Make sure you have a tissue box, a flashlight, three Tootsie Rolls, and Bavary. (Or whatever dumb thing you named your bear. If you don’t have a bear, make sure you bring an animal just as ferocious. If you’ve grown up too much to have a stuffed animal, bring your imaginary friend. Or your girlfriend, since those are just as scary. If you don’t have any of those things, you’re a loser.) Bring the extra keys, the really rusty ones.
  4. Sneak out the window when the sun is just over the top of the tree, the one with no leaves on the first few branches. The one that looks like it’s faking being alive.
  5. Walk to the corner. Don’t run. Remember how the neighbors called your parents when they saw you try last time?
  6. When the moon is just over the hill, three black cars will drive by. Don’t look at the drivers. After each one drives by, eat one Tootsie Roll.
  7. An old red truck will go by. Hold out your hand with your thumb up, like you saw in that movie. When the truck stops and you see the driver is crying, offer the box of tissues. If her teeth are made of peas, don’t get in the car. If her eyes are made of marbles, you should be ok.
  8. She’ll ask where you’re going. Tell her you’re going to Drake’s. When she offers to take you anywhere else, show her Bavary. He’ll protect you. She’ll laugh, but she’ll drive you. Adults are silly like that.
  9. After a while, she will try to hug you. Throw Bavary at her. When he is attacking her, jump out of the car. Don’t worry; it’s safe. Mostly.
  10. It’s dark. Turn on the flashlight, stupid.
  11. Hide in the ditch until the cops come, and the tow truck takes the lady’s car away. Don’t worry; the ambulance won’t stick around long.
  12. After everyone’s gone, it’ll be really late. Soon a chariot will come by. A man with a really big nose will tell you that you will come with if you answer his riddle. Give him the keys, and he’ll shut up.
  13. Ask to ride the horse on the right. The one on the left stinks like your mom’s cabbage soup.
  14. You will fall asleep. When you wake up, the birds will be singing one of those dumb Broadway songs your dad always sings in the car on long trips. The chariot will be gone, and you’ll wake up in a faerie circle. Don’t touch the mushrooms.
  15. Drake will be waiting on the log over the stream like always. He’ll ask for the cookies, but you forgot them. Maybe you should have put them on your list. Don’t look at me. I didn’t know either.
  16. His tail will start twitching. That’s the signal to run.
  17. Make sure to avoid the fire he breathes at you. Remember the burns from last time?
  18. When you make it to the road, take the first car you see, unless it’s one of the black ones from last night. Remember, don’t look at the driver if it’s one of those black ones.
  19. Ask to go home.
  20. Your mom will be the driver. She’ll hug you. Be thankful. Mom’s hugs protect from dragon’s fire.
  21. Next time, remember to bring cookies.

This story shouldn’t have been written…but I wrote it anyway.

Orphan’s Song – A Review

Orphan’s Song

Imagine there is a song that embodies the power of the world. Imagine that to sing that song is to touch the power of creation and change the nature of things around you – to heal the broken, to prevent harm to others, to affect the actions of others and sense when people are near. Imagine that you alone can hear the song, and your voice alone can sing it.

This is the life of the orphan Birdie, the main character of Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams, first book in the Songkeeper Chronicles. Birdie has lived her twelve years with the mystery of the song that only she can hear, the ward of a less-than-kind innkeeper. Her only friend is an itinerant peddler, who holds his own secrets, who becomes her protector when soldiers of the evil ruler, the Takhran, come seeking Birdie.

If this sounds like your classic coming of age fantasy story aimed at adolescents, I can’t argue with you. The recipe is adapted a little, but it’s still the same cake we’ve eaten before. There’s a gryphon (or is it a hippogryph?), a magic sword, a streetwise urchin, and a stirring rebellion; in short, many of the classic elements of a good ol’ fantasy adventure story.

Continue reading

Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Helen’s Version)

He sat among them, surrounding himself in their company. A neat stack near his right elbow, waiting.  The rest spread out all around, overlapping here and there as thoughts from one source seemed to flow into the next. Stories, myth and legend, fantasy….evidence.

“Still here?! The supplies are packed!  We should be gone already!” the voice echoed too loudly across the library. “We decided this weeks ago, and you lost.”

A set of heavy steps and a set of lighter, quicker ones behind those approached the desk.

“You decided you won,” Filvarel observed without looking up from his study.

“There is no proof. No solid evidence. Nothing. End of story. Book closed. Let’s go.” Dhuggoc scooped up the books and papers and heaped them onto a return cart. Salser jumped at the noise, landing between Dhuggoc and Filvarel.

“The proof is all around you,” Filvarel plucked a volume back from the cart.

“Proof of what? That fairies exist or that they don’t?” Salser prodded.

“I’m not starting this again. Time to go,” Dhuggoc insisted.

“They are as real as any of us. Fairy tales are everywhere. Every culture, every generation. It is based on some truth.” Filvarel marked a passage of his book for further study.

“What is truth? Your truth or mine? Truth can be tricky, like me,” Salser chuckled, hopping from one foot to the other.

“You will shut up,” Dhuggoc warned. “You’re distracting him.” He grabbed the remaining books and papers from Filvarel’s hands and dumped them on a poor, unsuspecting librarian as she passed. “Unless you hand me a fairy, a real live fairy, they don’t exist. No such creature, no such magic. And no more delay!” He turned on his heel and tromped out. It seemed dwarves did not belong in libraries.

Filvarel sighed and gathered up his things. Between Salser’s antics and Dhuggoc’s rough demeanor, his companions were leaving quite a wake in the normally peaceful library. Filvarel whispered an apology to the book-keeper at the center of the library as he passed. And, running his hand along the shelves with a promise to return soon, he slipped between the rows and out into the tree-lined street.

“What if he handed you a dead fairy? Do dead fairies count?” Salser goaded.

“A dead fairy would only prove that they once existed. My point is that they are still with us today.” Filvarel unrolled a small sketch, still unfinished.

“I see no one with us except this trickster. And I’m done with this argument. Nothing has changed. You still have no proof,” Dhuggoc didn’t look back.

“What is your proof? How do you prove they don’t exist? Hand him a not-fairy?” Salser was enjoying this a bit too much. Duggoc glared at him.

“You cannot see the air. Nor can you see loyalty,” Filvarel commented.

“Why must you complicate matters?” Dhuggoc was getting agitated now. “And put away your silly drawing, elf. That is a child’s work.”

“I am merely trying to cut through the flaws in your logic,” Filvarel replied evenly.

“Stop it. I hate that. My mind is set,” Dhuggoc asserted.

“Yes, you do keep repeating your point,” Filvarel left it at that. He rolled his parchment up again, content to work on it later.

“And you said things that are repeated are based on some truth,” Salser triumphed. The little gnome looked like he might break into a jig.

“Just as you said that you can be tricky,” Filvarel countered. “You twist my words.”

Salser laughed gleefully and ran ahead counting himself the winner this round. Dhuggoc shook his head and strode on, eager to continue their journey. Filvarel, however, paused a moment and glanced into the branches of a nearby oak.  “Why can they not see the fairies?” he asked.

“Seeing is not believing,” the winged creature replied lightly. “You have to believe it; you have to know it to be true. Then look closely and see. Fae magic holds this world together. But once dried….”

“Glue is invisible.” Filvarel supplied.

This story shouldn’t have been written…but I wrote it anyway.

Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Brandon’s)

“Heya, Bucket, come ‘ere, boy!” Dougie rapped his HAMMER against his toolbox, looking around for the dog. “Bucket, where you at?”

A jingling and a clanking told of the dog’s approach, and around the corner of the barn came Dougie’s gray pet, with its rusty patches here and there. “Gives it character!” Dougie’s grandpa often said.

“Aw, Bucket, lookitch you,” Dougie sighed. “You git into a fight or sumpin’?”

Bucket just yipped happily and lolled his tongue out to the side.

“Aw, who’m I kiddin’. You don’t even notice, an’way. ‘Sides, we had work to do n’matter what. C’mon, less go git you in the barn.”

Dougie walked into the barn and the dog ambled after him, a grinding/clanking coming with him as he limped on one of his legs.

They got to the tool bench and Dougie grunted as he lifted Bucket up onto the bench and laid him on his side. He grabbed a book off the shelf above the bench, the cover already slightly tattered, the pages curled and dog-eared and smudged with grease stains.

“Awright, lessee here,” Dougie said to himself, paging through.

“For repair of injured limbs below joints, first remove the limb at the joint.”

“‘K, Bucket, you know this oughtn’t hurt a bit.” He grabbed the SCREWDRIVER off the bench, flicked a switch on its side and it hummed life. Pressing down one of the buttons, he touched it to the joint of Bucket’s injured leg. Sparks erupted from the SCREWDRIVER’s head as half a dozen small mechanical arms spread out and began separating a myriad of microscopic connectors. Dougie moved his hand slowly, careful not to stray off his line. Bucket whined once, lifting his head and looking to see what Dougie was doing, but kept the rest of his body still.

At last the limb was free, and Dougie pulled it off to the side.

“Activate access points F and J, and examine the diagnostic panel,” the book read. Dougie flipped the leg over and tapped the small buttons with the appropriate letters next to them. Flaps opened and Dougie was looking at the labyrinthine arrangement of filaments and diodes and condensers and resistors and processors and spires and nanobeds and linkages. In the center of it all was a screen, and an amber colored light was blinking at its corner.

Dougie consulted the book. “For amber light codes, see page 294-G.” Dougie turned the pages, shaking his head. “Too many diff’rent codes, if ya’sk me,” he muttered. He reached the appopriate page and looked at the list. He had to count in his head how long between blinks, and how many shorts and longs followed by how many seconds of darkness. At last he was sure he had it right, and turned to the page the chart indicated.

“Using your PLIERS, position the fiber clusters at hinge joint 2 into a zeta-max form, as indicated by the following diagram.” Dougie studied the diagram carefully, then grabbed his PLIERS and applied them to the hinge joint.

Zeta-max turned out to be much more complicated than he expected. It required him to hold the PLIERS in both hands so that he could touch three buttons simultaneously and still flip the impeller switch on an off at the right intervals. A few times he felt the tickle of Bucket’s tongue licking the back of his hand while we worked. “Leave off, Bucket,” he grumbled, intent on the work.

At last he had things arranged according to the diagram. “Once you have the hinge joint into zeta-max, apply setting 17-B to your HAMMER and strike three times, pause for five seconds, then strike two more times.”

Dougie scratched the soft whiskers on his cheek that he hadn’t dared to shave for fear they wouldn’t grow back, picked up the HAMMER, turned the switches to setting 17-B. He struck the limb right at the spot where the PLIERS were holding things in place. A whoosh swept out from the toolbench and shook the whole barn, so that Dougie hesitated a he pulled the HAMMER back. He gulped, not expecting that kind of reaction (though he had to admit he’d never used setting 17-B before). He struck again three times quickly, and each time there was a different noise that drummed at his ears and shook the wood of the barn. A screeching, then a buzz, then a strange crackling energy kind of noise.

He paused. Had he struck three or four times? He looked at the limb. How long was he supposed to wait? It took him several seconds to find the spot in the book, and once he had he realized he had waited far more than five seconds. He looked at the HAMMER, wondering if it had built up too much of a charge and something terrible would happen.

“Welp,” he said to Bucket, “no goin’ back now. Either you’ll have a workin’ leg else you’ll be as lame as my grandpappy. Here goes!” He struck another time, and there was no sound at all, not even the sound of the HAMMER hitting the limb. Dougie cocked an eyebrow, then scowled, then grit his teeth and tried striking one last time.

Colors burst from the HAMMER and sprayed out around the room, and the tool swung out of his hand and flew across the barn, putting a crack in one of the timbers before it came to land on a hay bale. Dougie’s hand felt a little tingly, and it smelled like burned rubber.

Cringing, he undid the PLIERS and closed the flaps. At first they wouldn’t latch down together, and Dougie wondered if that was related to the original problem or something he had done. But he noticed that the screen was no longer blinking, so he thought maybe it was okay.

He brought the leg back over to Bucket and, with more sparks and what not from the SCREWDRIVER, reattached it. He gingerly set Bucket on to the floor.

“Well, boy, give it a go.”

Bucket turned a few circles, no strange noises issuing forth and no sign that it was giving him problems. Then he faced the door of the barn, wiggles his hips once, planted the leg Dougie had just worked on, gave a little bark, and launched out of the barn doors.

Dougie stood staring, mouth agape. “Well, I’ll be darned,” he said. “Never done that afore…”

Bucket came trotting back into the barn, tail wagging happily. Dougie retrieved his HAMMER, set it next to the book, and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Bucket,” he said, “go fetch grandpappy.”

*****
This story should not have been written, but I wrote it anyway.

Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Jon’s Version)

Or: I am not Shel Shilverstein.

Children now, gather round,
Come over and give heed:
It’s fun to play with scissors,
It’s not so fun to bleed.

A screwdriver may seem safe
Until it finds your eye.
But your father warned you, kid,
And now you’re gonna cry.

A hammer you can slam
And with it you may smash.
Don’t aim it at a window;
The curtains glass will slash.

“I can do it!” you scream
Through tears and cheers and pain,
“I finally really did it!
I drove my mom insane!”

But be careful, now, my child
To my warning now take heed:
An insane mother seems so nice
Until she makes you clean.

“Your hammers go in this pile!
Your screwdrivers in this!
Your scissors go in the ceiling,
Nowhere near your sis!

“With the hammer smash the dishes,
With your scissors slash the drapes.
Use your screwdriver to poke
Some holes in every little grape.”

And now your mom’s insane
And you’ve got lots to do.
Hope you’re happy with your project
And hope that soon you’re through.

This story shouldn’t have been written… but I wrote it anyway. 

A Tale of Two Men

I wrote this story as an introduction to a class for 7th and 8th graders. It’s heavy handed and allegorical, an approach I usually don’t care for, but I was trying to illustrate a point and had just come off of a read through of C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Rergress, so it felt like it worked. I offer it here just because it isn’t benefiting anyone sitting as a file in my Google Drive. 


 

Once there were two men, both from the same village, both near to each other in age, both having grown up in similar homes, and both were slaves. Raiders had come to their village and carried them off in chains, and sent them far off across the sea to be forced to work for a foreign king.

They were set to a very difficult and unpleasant task, to work inside a mine every day, digging and hauling and pushing and pulling and carrying huge sacks. The entrance to the mine was barred by a massive iron gate, which was locked with a heavy key kept on the belt of the captain of the guards. Every day they were marched into the mine, the gate was locked, and they worked.

This left them feeling weary, sore, and sad. Many nights they talked with each other and wondered together if they would ever have hopes of being rescued, or if they would be slaves for the rest of their lives. One night, as they sat wondering this, a messenger came to them from the king they served. This messenger was going to all the slaves with a message: “If you work hard and do all the good things you are commanded to do, I promise that someday you will be set free.”

One of the two men, Gregor, said, “This is very good news! I will work very hard to please the king and I will someday be set free!”

But the other man, Pilgrim, asked, “How much work do we have to do to be set free?”

The messenger from the king said, “That is not something I can tell you. You are just to work, and when you have done enough, you will be set free.”

Pilgrim was troubled by this answer, because he thought it very strange that someone would promise him he would be set free if he did enough, but would not tell him what enough was. Gregor, however, told him not to worry about it, and that they should just try their hardest. And so every day as they were put to work, they both tried as hard as they could, and each day they were weary, sore, but not as sad, because they knew they were working for their freedom. But Pilgrim was still troubled every night as he went to sleep, because he wondered if he was doing enough.

Then one day they met another slave from their own homeland. After they had worked hard throughout the day, this slave was also sent to Gregor and Pilgrim’s cell to sleep. That night they questioned him about how things were in their homeland, and if they had any word about their loved ones. The man could not tell them much, but one this he did tell them was that their lord was concerned about them, and that he had a plan to rescue them. “Our lord sent a message throughout the land that he is going to rescue the slaves. He said all you have to do is wait, and soon you will be free.”

Pilgrim liked this very much, but Gregor was not so sure. “How long do we have to wait?” asked Gregor. “And what should we do in the mean time? How can we make sure that when he comes he frees us, and doesn’t forget about us?”

The man shook his head. “I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait, but I know that the lord said that he will free all the slaves, no matter what. You don’t have to do anything, just wait.”

Gregor seemed upset about this, but Pilgrim felt very hopeful. The man would say nothing more, and night after night, though Gregor questioned him, he could offer no more answer than, “You don’t have to do anything, just wait.”

Eventually that man was taken away and sent to work in a different place, and Pilgrim and Gregor were left alone. They continued to labor as slaves, but while Gregor worked harder and harder, trying to earn his freedom, Pilgrim just did enough to get through the day and all the while waited.

Eventually another man from their homeland came, and he brought the same message as the first, “Just wait.” Eventually he was taken away, and they were alone again. This happened twelve different times, and still Pilgrim waited, and Gregor worked. It came to be that Gregor never even listened to the men who came from their homeland, because he always said, “What good is waiting when we can work to be free?” But no matter how hard Gregor worked, he was not being set free. And no matter how long Pilgrim waited, they were still slaves.

Then everything changed one day. A new slave came, and he was a very special slave, because he was the son of the lord of their homeland. At night in their cell he told Gregor and Pilgrim that he had come to set them free, and that he had an escape plan. He told them simply to wait for the signal and they would go free and go home.

Pilgrim was overjoyed, and eagerly waited for his freedom. But Gregor was angry, and did not believe the plan would work. In fact, he didn’t want the plan to work. “I have been working hard to do everything right so that I can get free! How can you come along and promise to free me and him and everyone without asking us to do anything? Has he worked as hard as me? Does he deserve to go free? I want the work I’ve done to count for something!”

The son only said, “My brother, I just want to set you free. Isn’t that enough?”

It was enough for Pilgrim. So he waited. And then the day came. The son gave the signal, and he did something unbelievable. He charged at the captain of the guards and tackled him to the ground. Grabbing the keys from the captain’s belt, he leapt up and ran to the gate and unlocked it and threw the gate open. All the other guards saw what was happening, and raced after him. Then the son took the key and ran away from the gate, deeper into the mine, shouting, “Free! Free! You’re free! Go, and run for your freedom!” The guards foolishly did not understand what was happening, and all they could think was to get the key back from the son. So they followed him deeper into the mine, leaving the gate open and unguarded.

“We’re free!” said Pilgrim to Gregor. “Let’s go!”

But Gregor growled and scowled. “No! Leave me alone! I’m working for my freedom!”

“But we don’t need to work,” said Pilgrim. “We don’t need to do anything! The gate is open, we’re free!”

“I don’t want to be free if my work means nothing,” said Gregor.

Pilgrim tried one last time to convince him, but Gregor didn’t want anything to do with it. Since he wanted to be free, he took one last sad look at Gregor and then ran out of the mine.

Once Pilgrim and the other slaves had escaped from the tunnel and were out under the open sky, they wondered what to do. The son had freed them, but where was he? The last they had seen of him, he was going deeper into the mine. Some feared the son would be killed by the guards, and that they would all be taken captive again. Some began to wonder if it would be better for them to go back in the mine and work, and wait for the king to free them. Some even went back into the tunnel and disappeared again into the dark.

But Pilgrim did what he had learned to do – he waited. And so did some of the others. They didn’t have to wait long before another slave came running down the road. “I have just been set free from another part of the mine!” he called as he ran up. “The son freed us there too! We thought he was lost, because we saw the guards take him and beat him. He looked like he had been beaten to death. But I’ve just seen him! He is alive, and he is free, and he said to meet him at the seashore!”

That man ran to go find another group of slaves, while Pilgrim and all the slaves went to the shore as fast as they could. As they went, if ever they saw a slave coming out of a tunnel (for there were many tunnels along the road as it wound around the mountain down to the sea), they told him that he should come with them to the sea, for the son had freed them. Some went with them, but others shook their heads and went back into the mines.

At last they reached the sea, and there they met a wondrous sight – many large ships, with room enough for all, were waiting at the shore. And standing in the largest of the ships, dressed in royal clothing, was the son, smiling with open arms. “Come, brothers! It is time to go home!”