The stair was roughly hewn from the bedrock on which the house sits. Not trusting the batteries in the flashlight, I grabbed a few extras and shoved them into my pocket. No way am I going to be caught in that darkness without a backup! I stood in the doorway, straining my eyes to see the bottom but the light just didn’t penetrate. The thick, hungry darkness seemed to consume the light; swallow it down into God only knows where. I mentally gave myself a swift kick for letting my nerves get the better of me.
“It’s likely nothing more sinister than a storage cellar! Stop being such a Nervous Nelly, and get on with exploring it!” My words had little effect on the minor case of nerves I’d developed. Truth to tell, I’ve always been just a little afraid of the dark. My overactive and perversely sinister imagination has always concocted malevolent beings, real or fanciful, lurking in the shadows just waiting for my arrival.
In retrospect, I should’ve called Abozaky to go down-cellar with me. I was embarrassed to have him know I was afraid. Better to let him continue with the cleaning and painting while I confronted what had now become, in my mind, the “evil abyss”.
Now, I know about little people; leprechauns and such. I tried to run quickly through my mental memory banks to see whether such creatures exist in Jordan. I came up empty. Vampires and werewolves don’t exist as far as I’m concerned, so no worries there. Something kept tickling the back of my brain, though. Something that wouldn’t let go, but damned if I could get a grasp on it.
The rough stone surface was cool under my hand as I began my descent. The light only illuminated about 4 steps ahead of me. I could see to navigate my feet, but not much more. I was still going down into the darkness. I stole a glance behind me and was startled by how far away the door appeared to be. I’d gone down a mere 11 steps. Yes, I’m one of those individuals who must count everything. Steps, tiles, windows, anything that has multiples absolutely has to be counted. I’ve never been sure why, I can never remember the total of any of the things I count on a daily basis.
On the fourteenth step I see a wall before me! Oh no, this can’t be. A stair to nothing? I swing the light left and right. Nothing but the chiseled walls of stone. The stair is a dead-end.
With a wry smile I turn to go back up the stairs and finish my painting.
“Hold on a second there, Mister!” Yes, I frequently talk to myself… “The stair door was concealed, maybe there is a hidden mechanism here, too. Why would anyone dig a stair three meters into solid stone and just stop? It was clearly done without any kind of mechanized tools. Let’s get back down there and have a closer look.”
I held the light close to the wall and ran my hand over its rough texture, looking for any hint of a latch or other ‘trick’ that might open another door. I can tell you, Gentle Reader, it was difficult going. The stone has natural clefts and veins. Each one gave me an Aha! moment, thinking I’d found something.
By this time my mind had concocted visions of a cache of ancient gold and artifacts hidden away by the likes of Renaud de Châtillon or some other greedy Knight Templar. I imagined gold chalices heaped on great piles of ancient coins, emeralds the size of small kittens and diamonds as big as baseballs. I may have mentioned that my imagination knows no restraint.
Oho! What’s this, then? A tiny hole no bigger than my index finger, not more than a centimeter above the floor. Despite the coolness, sweat dripped from my brow, darkening the stone floor as I slipped my finger inside. Click! The door opened just a bit. I gave it a mighty push and it protested with the sound of stone against stone, but it opened!
*More to come…*