This is the final piece of writing for the Outcast anthology. Fingers crossed, the anthology should have the last few loose ends tied up this week. It really has been an adventure. Anyway, I hope you enjoy today’s story. It’s inspired by the prompt “Secret Doorways”, but it is quite a bit over the challenge word limit of 250 words…
Written in response to WWP # 22 – Secret Doorways
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Everleigh, Gentleman-Explorer
Arthur Everleigh pushed his tiny round spectacles back up his nose. He was feeling smug. They said he would be no good as a gentleman-explorer, or an archaeologist, but look at him now. He was exploring. He was discovering.
Who were “they”? Everyone. His classmates at Cambridge. The professors too. Not to mention, his father, Sir Lancelot Everleigh.
‘Ha!’ he cheered, fist raised in the air in triumph against his naysayers. A huge sneeze broke off his gloating celebration, a consequence of the vast amount of dust.
Casting his eye about the dimly lit room – the only light coming from the small lamp he was holding – he guessed it had been centuries, no millennia, since anyone had been in there. Statues, chests and strange looking furniture filled the space. All was covered with many lifetimes worth of grime.
Raising the lamp, he turned slowly to allow the light to reach into the furthest corners of the room, chasing away the ancient shadows. On the far wall, he noted a large inscription, which he translated in his head.
HERE LIES THE GREATEST KING THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN
ARTHUR PENDRAGON, CHIEF OF THE BRITONS
‘I knew it!’ he exclaimed, his free arm swinging before him for emphasis. ‘What will they say about me now?’ he asked in a self-satisfied tone.
He continued to study the room, his mind wandering slightly from what he could to see to whether it was likely the British Museum would name something important after him.
‘“The Arthur Everleigh Collection”, perhaps?’ he mused, chin nestled between thumb and forefinger in deliberation. ‘It does sound rather good.’
And that was when he spotted it, half-hidden in the gloom. A door.
His brow furrowed. He was sure the building hadn’t looked big enough from the outside to accommodate another room. But then, he had been wrong before. In fact, he had always been wrong about everything before.
Pushing his concerns to the back of his mind, he went over to explore some more. Rolling an impossibly large shield out of the way, and then wiggling a chest just enough to make access to the doorway easier – Arthur wasn’t a particularly strong young man; he preferred cricket to wrestling – he surveyed the entrance. Scratched into the wood of the door were the words, THE ISLE OF APPLES.
‘Avalon…’ he whispered. ‘Could it be…could it really be…I wonder…’
‘Come along now, Arthur,’ he heard the pater’s voice in his head. ‘Don’t do anything silly. Or reckless. If the papers get to hear about it, well, imagine the embarrassment for the rest of us.’
Arthur weighed up his father’s words. They sounded sensible. He should return to civilisation and put a team together so they could start cataloguing the treasure he had found. Then, maybe with an old soldier, or one of those derring-do sorts of chaps, he could find out what was beyond the ancient barrier. That did sound safer.
He stared at the doorway for what felt like a lifetime, trying to make up his mind. Finally, he came to a decision. Why would he want to involve other people in his greatest victory? Sharing the glory after he had done all the hard work…no. That didn’t seem fair.
‘Sorry, Father,’ he said to the dusty room. ‘I like doing silly things. I like being reckless. And I’m quite enjoying being a gentleman-explorer.’
With that, he pushed open the doorway and stepped through…