Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XXI: Corridor of Terror.
“It is a deadly monster capable of incinerating everything within a distance of fifty meters!” Kun declared with obvious pride.
“That’s what makes it cute,” his daughter replied; and, to the monster, “Who’s a pwecious widdle fwame-bweaving dwagon?”
“Enough!” Kun shouted. “Pyrosaurus! Incinerate them all!”
A loud, shrill whistle pierced my ears: it had proceeded from Weyland, who was now holding his broom high over his head.
“Here boy!” he shouted. “Look at the stick!”
The beast snorted. A huge pink tongue rolled out of its mouth like a carpet.
“What are you doing?” Kun bellowed. “Stop that!—Pyrosaurus, finish them off!”
“Fetch, boy,” Weyland called out to the beast. “Fetch the stick!” He threw the broom with remarkable force over the beast’s head. The creature jumped, turned, and snorted, and ran back into the tunnel.
Miss Kun looked up at her father. “What do you think of that, Daddy? Pttthhhhht!”
“None of your witty banter, young lady! You come back here and take your punishment like a—”
But we heard no more, because we had retreated to the stairway and closed the door.
We dashed back up the stairs, swatting the grumbling spiders out of the way, and ended up in the corridor outside Miss Kun’s laboratory again.
“That was a big crocodile,” said Tluxapeketl. She was the only one of us not breathing heavily from the exertion of our run up the stairs.
“How did you toss that broom so far?” Miss Kun asked Weyland.
“Peevish can tell you: the old broom toss was a favorite street game when we were growing up. I was the undefeated neighborhood champion. —It seems our plans have changed. If the back way is inaccessible, what about the front way?”
“It will have to be the front way,” Miss Kun replied. “But Daddy won’t make it easy.” She led us past her laboratory to another elevator, whose doors were already open. I was about to let Tluxapeketl step inside when Miss Kun put out her arm to stop us.
“Just a moment,” she said.
She reached inside the elevator and pushed one of the buttons.
As soon as she withdrew her hand, the doors closed with us still standing in the hall, which seemed counterproductive to me. But in a moment we heard a tremendous crash from behind the doors. The racket went on for some time, ending at last with a few final plops and tinkles.
“I thought so,” said Miass Kun. “Emergency protocols. I helped design them. I think we’ll take the stairs.
We walked a little farther down the hall to a door marked STAIRS. Again I was about to open it, but again Miss Kun prevented me.
“That’s not a good idea. The first step is fifty feet down, and the bottom is paved with spikes. It’s my father’s idea of a joke.”
She led us farther along to a door marked PIT OF RATTLESNAKES.
“This is the stairway,” she explained, opening the door. Illumino rays revealed another curving stone stairway, this one much cleaner, so that we had no need of the three brooms we were still carrying.
“I suppose mislabeling the door like that is another one of your father’s jokes,” said Weyland as we walked down the stairs.
“Oh, it’s not mislabeled,” Miss Kun replied.
A symphony of rattling suddenly met our ears as we rounded the curve at the bottom of the stairs. The floor below was covered with rattlesnakes of all descriptions.
“Gangway,” said Miss Kun. “Make room.”
The rattling diminished considerably.
“I don’t want to have to discipline any of you,” she added.
The rattling ceased, and there was quite a lot of slithering as snakes scurried to the left and to the right. A broad path opened in the middle, leading to a doorway on the other side of the snake pit.
“Come on,” said Miss Kun. “They won’t bite you, if they know what’s good for them.”
Like Israelites through the Red Sea, we passed on bare floor through the midst of the sea of serpents. Only one dared to rattle at us, and the glance it got from Miss Kun sufficed to silence it immediately.
“Remarkable how you control them like that.”
“Snakes have a sort of phobia about me,” Miss Kun explained as we reached the door on the opposite side of the snake pit. “Of course, I did have to make a few examples.”
We passed through the door into another room that seemed completely empty, but Miss Kun stopped near the entrance.
“Now, the easiest way to get through this one is to sacrifice one of us,” she said. “How about her?” She pointed at Tluxapeketl.
“How could you suggest such a thing?” I demanded, moving in front of Tluxapektl.
“Well, I like men, but women I can take or leave.”
“What will happen if we do this?” Weyland asked, taking my broom from me. He tossed it into the middle of the room. Just as it reached the middle, two huge stone slabs swung down from the ceiling in opposite directions and clapped together with a mighty smack, squashing the broom between them in mid-air.
“Yes,” said Miss Kun, “I suppose that would work. She continued into the room, now apparently unconcerned; and we followed her, stepping around the dangling stone slabs.
Next we came to a long corridor that seemed completely featureless, but I was beginning to think of that as a bad sign. Miss Kun confirmed my suspicions.
“Daddy and I had a bit of fun with this one, I’m afraid.”
“What does it do?” Weyland asked.
“Mostly it disorients you,” she replied, “till you get to the end.”
“Then it kills you.”
“What should we do?” I asked.
“Tackle one problem at a time, I suppose. Come on.”
We walked a few feet into the hall, and suddenly things seemed very different. We appeared to be walking on the ceiling.
“Why is down up?” asked Tluxapeketl.
“Just ignore it,” said Miss Kun. “It’s a silly trick. It’s all done with mirrors and disoriento rays.”
“Now down is left,” Tluxapeketl remarked.
“Mr. Peevish,” said Miss Kun, “you might want to hold her hand.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you two make a cute couple. If the hand-holding goes well, I can provide you with a number of more advanced suggestions.—Oh, just ignore it.” This last came out because we now appeared to be walking on a tightrope over the gorge below Niagara Falls.
“Pretty,” said Tluxapeketl. Almost without thinking about it, I found that I had taken her hand, or perhaps she had taken mine.
We seemed now to be about to step off the roof of the Oliver Building, but we continued walking out into what appeared to be thin air.
“A remarkable illusion,” said Weyland.
“I did this next one all by myself,” Miss Kun said proudly. The scene changed again: we were walking on the deck of a ship at sea, but all around us we could see what appeared to be the interior of a giant bottle. “Daddy thought this one was a little too silly, but I say you might as well have fun with your evil deathtrap or there’s no point in doing it.”
“You certainly have done remarkable work in creating disorienting impressions,” said Weyland. “You must have studied psychology in great detail.”
“Not half as hard as I studied anatomy,” Miss Kun replied. For some reason Weyland jumped a bit. It might have had something to do with the position of Miss Kun’s hand, which was behind him where I was not able to observe it.
Now we appeared to be climbing the side of a tornado, but we simply ignored what our eyes were telling us. Eventually the illusion faded, and we were back in the unadorned corridor again, having nearly reached the other end.
Suddenly panels in the walls near the middle of the corridor opened up, and water began to pour out into the corridor with a loud rush.
“I say,” Weyland remarked, “it even feels wet! Is this really just another one of your illusions?”
“No,” Miss Kun replied. “This is where it kills you.”
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling installment: