Authors: James Kahn
Data reached into his pack for a flare and, in that movement, lost his footing. He began to slip down the steep grade of the
floor. I grabbed for him, but he just pulled me with him. Mouth was hangin' on to me, and. Stef to him, and Andy to Stef and
Brand to Andy, and
before we could react, we were sliding down the floor, which narrowed to become a chute. And all of a sudden it was a water
slide, and I was blasting down it way faster than I could control.
It turned into a tube, all twisting and curving around, surrounded by moss and trickling water. Must've been a high-pressure
water spout to be so smooth. It divided pretty soon, and we were all separated, but I couldn't deal with that. I was barely
dealing with this suicide roller coaster I was on.
But what a way to go. I mean, it was the funnest terrifying thing I've ever done. Like they have a water slide amusement park
called All Wet down near where Grandpa used to live, and this was
better than that, but there were problems with this one. Like the rocks that were sticking from the ceiling at some of the
turns, so if I'd been any bigger, they might've clobbered me. Little stuff like that. No time to think about that, though.
I just wiggled and dodged without thinking, and somehow that was the right thing to do.
Finally I spurted out the mouth of the chute, flew through the air, and landed with a splash in a pool of shallow water. Within
seconds the others shot out of other holes in the rock and splashed down around me. There was a lot of coughing and spitting
and shaking water from our ears, until when I stood and opened my eyes and looked around, I almost sat down again, just at
the wonder of it.
We were in an enormous, and I mean friggin' huge, cavern. The far ceiling and walls were lined with sparkling rocks that glittered
off shafts of low sunlight that pierced through holes high up. The whole place was filled with a still pool of dark blue water.
Just beyond the walls the ocean's waves could be clearly heard lapping and crashing all around.
But the most amazing sight stood at the far end of the cavern—a ship! A real, honest-to-God, well preserved, seventeenth-century
pirate ship, tilted half on its side, buried half in the far wall, where there'd been a cave-in probably hundreds of years
The sails were tattered. One mast was gone, the others were broken or leaning. The skull and crossbones hung at half mast.
The ship rested broadside, its gunports open, its rusting cannons pointing right at us. It was like something out of
, marooned there.
We all just stared.
“It's Willy's ship,” I said, but no one was really listening. I started to wade over to it.
“Wait,” said Brand. “What if there's more leeches in there?”
I stopped. Data just smiled, though. He pulled a yellow plastic folded thing out of his backpack and pulled a cord—and the
thing began to inflate into a life raft. But the thing is, it didn't stop, it just kept getting bigger and bigger, until
, it exploded just like all the rest of his inventions.
The sound bounced around the cavern walls, setting off a small rumbling from above us. Tiny pieces of earth fell from the
ceiling, shuddered down the walls, and plopped into the water. Then it got quiet again. Then we started wading toward the
I talked as we walked. “Willy had it all planned out, you know? He was waitin' for us. For anybody who was smart enough to
figure out his tricks. And we were smart enough.”
“And lucky enough,” said Brand.
“What do you guys mean?” said Andy.
“Don't you get it?” I said. “He's been waitin' for us for three hundred years. I'll bet you anything he's waitin'
up there right now. It's like… he wants to invite us aboard.”
We walked past the ship's figurehead—the wood carving of a beautiful lady, usually sticking out the bowsprit. Now she was
on her back in the water, caught on a craggy rock. For just a second I had this flash of us being like her—trapped down here
forever, within hearing of freedom, never able to break free. Just a flash and then it was gone, and we kept walkin' to the
ship. And then I flashed on Captain Hook, chasing Smee up to the crow's nest to look out for Pan, who was sure to be sneaking
up just like we were.
All of a sudden Stef turned to Mouth, who was right behind her, and glared at him kind of hacked off. “Watch your hands. Touch
me again and I'll bop you a good one.”
Mouth looked kind of puzzled and just shrugged. I figured it was his old innocent “Who, me?” business. I figured wrong.
A few seconds later Stef got really red in the face and turned on Mouth and said, “I warned you,” and lifted her hand to slap
him, and in the second it took her hand to come around, this giant squid shot up out of the water between them, and no lie,
she slapped the squid.
It had this giant bloodshot eye, it was so gross, kind of pinkish-gray, and one of its tentacles was wrapped around Stef's
thigh, kinda tickling toward her crotch, which was why she assumed it was Mouth.
The squid wasn't crazy about being slapped, either. It slapped her right back, knocking her three feet away, into the water.
I mean, the thing was huge. And then, like it was letting us know what was what, it slapped the water with another tentacle.
Sounded like a cracking whip.
I don't know how you'd feel in a situation like that, but
it scared the shit out of me. I mean, I knew the thing was a giant squid, but I still screamed, “What is that?”
“Giant sushi!” shouted Data. He immediately went for his backpack.
The giant eye moved just above the surface, and Hook's crocodile never looked so mean. Another arm grabbed Andy around the
waist, pulling her toward its disgusting beak-mouth. And another arm got me around the ankle. The thing opened its beak to
gobble on Andy's leg… and that's when Data struck.
He'd pulled his cassette deck from the backpack, turned it on, and cranked it up. It was Talking Heads, doing “Burning Down
the House,” full volume, twin speakers, rockin' on. He threw the cassette player into the squid's mouth.
The squid reeled back, man, it was blown away. I don't think it had ever had an up-close experience with New Wave like this.
The chorus reverberated through its body, heavy on the bass. It trembled. It quivered. It shaked, rattled, and rolled. It
let go of us and shot away in a craze, movin' to the beat for sure, until it disappeared into the far corners.
“Put another dime in the jukebox, baby,” said Mouth.
We didn't wait around for the flipside. We ran like hell to the ship. Looking up at it, there, from the chest-high water,
was like looking up at a skyscraper, it looked that tall. I didn't feel much like waiting for the elevator, though—for one
thing, the batteries in Data's tape deck weren't gonna last forever—so I found a dangling rope and started climbing, using
cracks in the old wood for foot-holds. The others followed me.
“Watch out for splinters,” I called back. “This wood's really old—one jab and you're in for lockjaw or spinal meningitis.…”
I figured Mom would've been glad I said
that. And I wanted her to be proud of me even if I didn't—especially if I didn't—make it out of here alive. It made me realize,
though, how different it was down here from up there, back home. Back there we worried about stuff like flu and tetanus shots
and gas mileage and Excedrin headaches and stuff. Down here it was a different world. It was life and death, and wonder and
romance, and bottomless pits and legendary riches. You had to be light on your feet down here and quick on the draw. Back
there all you had to be was easy on the mustard. You know what I mean? I mean, it's no wonder I was sick so much back home.
We arrived on deck. It was listing some, but we could stand okay without having to hang on to anything, so for a minute we
just looked around. The rigging was all in place, like sheets of giant spiderwebs—and there were
spiderwebs everywhere, too, which looked a lot like sheets of miniature rigging. For a second I couldn't tell if I was big
The deck was full of all sorts of stuff. Rope, wicker baskets, decayed Oriental rugs and pillows, cannonballs, pots and pitchers,
a few boulders that looked like they'd fallen from the ceiling and partly stove in the planking. Any minute I expected to
see the ghost of Captain Blood.
Swords and knives hung on a weapons rack near the main cabin, just below the limp Jolly Roger. Brand and Mouth checked it
out while I went up to the raised rear deck to look around. Stef and Andy shouted that they'd found a trapdoor, but it was
fastened shut with chains. Data located some kind of ventilator or somethin' and started climbin' down it head first.
I roamed around the upper deck until I backed into the steering wheel—with a pirate's skeleton still hangin' on to the big
wooden spokes. He was a party pirate once, by the
look of his clothes, but he hadn't died at any party. He had daggers stuck in
of his eyes.
I kinda screamed. I mean, I don't remember exactly screaming, but a few seconds later everyone joined me, so I must've said
Stef pulled one of the knives out—did I say she was one tough lady? Anyway, we examined it and found out pretty quick that
the handle was lined with small, sparkling jewels—rubies, diamonds, and emeralds.
“Think these are real?” Andy asked.
“If they are,” I said, “I'll make a necklace out of 'em for you.”
She smiled and ruffled my hair. I wouldn't have minded somethin' else, but I figured I'd take a rain check. I mean, if the
real, then this was the start of my Golden Time, and
the kids at school would wanna hang out with me. Andy, too. And if the gems
real… well, this was still the best adventure
ever been on, and no matter what else happened, we'd talk about it for the rest of our lives. That thought was cut short
by Data's shout.
We ran to his voice to find him stuck halfway down the ventilator shaft, his feet sticking out of the top, kicking away. Mouth
and Brand each grabbed one leg and pulled. Instead of pulling Data out of the ventilator, though, they only pulled the ventilator
out of the deck, with Data still inside it. This left a big hole in the deck. Andy stuck her head down into it.
She pulled it out a few seconds later, coughing with dust. “Can't see anything from up here,” she said. She immediately lowered
herself down into the hole, and the others immediately followed. I think the amazingness, the just total coolness of this
ship actually being here, had finally made us all brave. Or at least boldish.
I went down last. I took a puff on my mist inhaler first,
though. Not that I needed it. It just seemed like good luck or old times' sake or just in case. Like that.
It was dark down here, but not so bad once our eyes got used to it. Really it just
darker, I think, because everything was covered in this like thick layer of dust. The dust of centuries. I always wanted
to be able to say that. The dust of centuries.
There were kegs down here, for powder or rum, I guess. There were a couple more skeletons, too—lying in the corner with their
bones all falling over and into each other, and a couple knives mixed in, like they'd had a major scuffle.
We stuck close together; moving through the dust like one of those industrial rug cleaners my dad used at the museum.
The museum. That's what this was like. One of those huge dioramas, with a ship, and sailors loading booty, and gooney birds
on the shore, and local plant life, and a recording of a guy tellin' you about it when you pushed a button. Except now we
were in the diorama. We were the Goonies.
Something in the ceiling caught my eye. Kind of a yellow glow shining through the dust.
“Hey, cool,” I said, “look at that.”
We cleared away some of the dust with our hands, and the glow got brighter. Some junk fell, just dirt mostly, and what was
left was a bunch of loose boards with a kind of yellowy light coming through the cracks.
“Great,” said Mouth. “We found Three Mile Island.”
I saw another riddle, though, this time carved into the beam holding up the ceiling, beside the thin slats of wood. Mouth
Ye Intruders beware,
Crushing death and grief,
Soaked with blood,
Of the trespassing thief.
“That's the first riddle,” said Data. “From the attic.”
He was right. We were back at the beginning again. Journey's end. I got real excited, I mean, whatever it was, this was it.
I stood up on a bench and pulled at one of the loose boards in the ceiling. Pulled, hung, bounced… the whole ship creaked
a little. I didn't care, though. I kept at it, until finally the board snapped and came down on me in bits, with a handfull
of debris in the bargain.
A glaring shaft of light poured through the rectangular opening. Golden, almost neon light. Everyone started pullin' at boards
until pretty soon there was a big opening, and I was so excited, I couldn't wait another second, so I jumped up, grabbed the
lip of the hole, and pulled myself into the room above us.
It was unbelievable.
It was magical.
It was a garden of jewels.
The room positively shimmered with every color of the rainbow, off a copperish beam of sunshine that shone in through the
windows from a hole in the outer rocks somewhere, shone in on the most mountainous collection of riches I'd ever heard of.
In the center of the room was a table. Upon it were golden coins, doubloons, pieces of eight. Delicately carved trees of gold
with leaves of emeralds, flowers of sapphires. Rosebushes of rubies. A half moon made of diamonds, suspended in the air above
fields of pearls, bushes of jade.
Hundreds of other items were scattered throughout and around this fantastic garden. Drinking goblets, necklaces,
rings, bracelets, crowns. Crowns! Honest-to-God royal somebody's king's crowns!