Thursday, September 30, 2010


The following story will be your first exposure to a new brand of adventurer, but this is chronologically at the end. So if you're reading the end, why do you want to go back and start from the beginning? First, I'm sure I'm not surprising anyone by telling you the hero rides off into the sunset. If you want to know what he rides, you'll read. Second, if you don't read, you'll miss what makes this adventurer different than any other. Mostly, he's a pipe smoker. Those of you who understand why that makes a difference don't need an explanation, and those who don't can easily find out by reading. One last thing, the hero is not yet named. His name will be decided in a contest at PipeChat, so visit that site for details. Ok, on with the epilogue. Happy reading.

The old man in the cowboy hat rubbed the purposely scarred walls with his randomly scarred hands. There was a message on the crags, but not necessarily a language. The light behind him flooded the cave, and he removed his hat to cut down on the shadows he cast. The glyphs were a map, but not one telling a destination. This was telling a journey. The old cowboy removed a leather tool wrap from his supplies and spread it on the ground. Picks, brushes, and a mallet were readily at his disposal, but these weren’t the tools he needed. Another wrap opened to reveal four tobacco pipes.
On the left, there was a corncob, one of a long line, replaced often out of necessity. The perils of treasure hunting often resulted in tragedy for his pipes, and he was grateful for the cobs’ willingness to make that sacrifice. He smoked this often when there was any chance he might have to move quickly. He lost three seeking the buried treasures of Captain Kidd and fourteen in negotiations with the IRS over their value. Often, it was the only pipe he took with him.
On the right was his celebration pipe, a Tsuge billiard with bamboo stem and decorated with the image of a dragon. It was a gift from the Japanese Emperor upon the return of his nation’s long lost treasure. To date, it was his largest find, and the pipe, while not the most expensive gift, was his favorite reward for services rendered. So rare it was that it never made the journey unless success was close at hand.
The second from the left was a simple Kaywoodie, a backup should any of the others fall to fate. When called to duty, it performed humbly but adequately, a journeyman pipe for the journeyman. It was the only bent pipe of the four and would have been the easy favorite for his thinking pipe had his thinking pipe not been stained in sentimentality.
That last pipe, the one he used to facilitate his thought processes and the one for which he now reached, was a Peterson billiard from the Free Irish State era, a classic for its form, design and simplicity. The pipe’s celebration of Irish independence was a symbol of the bravery and fortitude of conscience he hoped to emulate. Beyond that, it evoked memories of his first adventure, one that set him on a lifelong journey of exploration and discovery, especially self-discovery. Even at this late stage in his life, he was unable to determine whether it was the adventure or the pipe that created the man he now was, if there was even a choice to be made. Regardless, he could not imagine one without the other.
His hand hovered over three pouches attached to his belt, rubbing up against his holster. In one, he had Virginia tobacco given him by the Governor of Missouri mixed with Oriental tobacco he received from a grateful gypsy. In another, pure Kentucky burley with true St. James perique blessed by a Voodoo priestess. He reached into a third, pinching enough straight Syrian latakia, a treasure in its own right, and filled his Pete.
After many adventures and many treasures, the submarine was fitted with equipment to filter the air around it and resupply oxygen, a necessity when smoking while exploring underwater caves, and the one his eyes were lingering over as he lit his bowl was the most impressive thus far.
Between technological advancements and pure luck, the adventures lately had been requiring more of his mind and less of his body. He doubted he could still leap from tree to tree in the Congo or battle small armies on the mountain Ojos del Salado in Argentina or climb down the Rupal Flank cliff in the Himalayas. But thanks to seasoned reason, he no longer had to rely on the speed, strength and quick wits needed to survive the booby traps of his youth. Age and experience had taught him it was preferable to avoid the traps and that there was always another way in and out. Of course, his quests now took a little more time, as the correct path is rarely the quickest, but he was far more certain now he would face death from natural causes.
With his pipe burning nicely, he added a final tamp with a simple spare bolt from the sub and sat down on a stool he brought for just such occasions, as his aging joints could no longer take the strain of standing for extended periods.
Through the smoke, he viewed images, crudely drawn but potently meaningful, showing a civilization forced from it’s birthplace, traveling as nomads and absorbing the knowledge, wisdom and rituals of those cultures it met before disappearing without trace. After great accumulation of technology, this nation found itself the envy of its neighbors, a jealousy that led to many battles, which the wiser and better-armed civilization easily won, although they were lovers of peace and mourned bitterly over the fallen from both sides. Their desire for peace forced them to the sea, where they built a floating city, able to ride the waves and sink below the waters, so that their exploration need not end. The story, it seemed, did end, at least it did on this wall. He suspected the reasons behind the downfall of this nation adrift might be found inside, but first he had to open the door.
Because these were a people who loved learning and peace above all, the key, found in a series of catacombs beneath the ancient Great Pyramid of Alexandria, featured the Bowl of Hygeia. Now recognized as the symbol of pharmacy, the snake wrapped around the bowl once embodied both wisdom and healing. The cowboy recognized the significance of the Greek symbol inside an Egyptian labyrinth, if not immediately the purpose. He clenched his Peterson as he bent down gingerly to retrieve the artifact. The tobacco accented the moment, as he slid the key into place. It fit snuggly, but the adventurer hesitated before turning it. He stepped back to the pipe wrap and, before returning it to the submarine, swapped his Peterson for the Tsuge. The key waited for him, and his hand shook as he touched it again. “Welcome to Atlantis,” he said, as he turned the key and opened the door.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Tom, keep it up! I can't wait to read the next.