Samuel dropped to the cold, stone floor. “It—it’s safe,” he said.
He stood in a dim, underground chamber with hand-smoothed walls. An intricate carving lay ten meters ahead of him. Thin and ghostly, in the twilight beyond his lantern’s reach, he focused hard on making out the bits and bobs of the language he had studied half his life.
He was an independent thinker; one the University couldn’t stop from completing this “fool’s errand.” If he was wrong they’d cut ties. If he was right they’d take the credit.
“No monsters?” called a nervous voice from above.
“Haven’t eaten me yet,” he called back, stepping toward the carving.
The nervous voice, Dr. Thaddeus B. Fullerton, dropped into the room and landed on his feet. He smiled and, proud of himself, strutted toward Samuel. Tripping over his own feet, he fell unceremoniously to the ground. He somehow came to rest with his backpack under him, his pelvis in the air, and the top of his head resting on the cold, stone floor.
“Curious that they would write an inscription upside down,” Thaddeus said.
“What?” Samuel asked. “You’re reading it upside down?”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said squinting at the engraving ahead of him. “It’s lucky I fell! Here we go ‘When two again are one, and all the worlds are done, we’ll meet against the stars, and learn the hardy hars…’ Well that’s rather odd.”
“It rhymed in English?” Samuel asked. “It’s an ancient language.”
“Seems to, yes,” Thaddeus said.
“And it used an English colloquialism?”
“Hmm, yes ‘Hardy’ and ‘hars.’ Oh yes, I see, ‘har’ and ‘har’… ‘hars.’ Two of them.”
“And it was meaningless, obtuse, and applicable in thousands of unforeseen circumstances?”
“Well, I guess so, yes…” Thaddeus said, “What are you aiming at, old boy?”
“Where’d the British accent come from?”
“Blimey are you daft? I’m from Ottawa, eh?”
“Now you’re Canadian?”