Taleth walked down the halls of his home in the early hours of the morning working on his daily rounds. A young man with blue eyes and curly blond hair he was the one who maintained the gardens and plants that were scattered around the grounds of the sphere. It wasn’t always necessary that he get up this early to water and prune them, but there was something to be said about walking around the Helix in the quiet early hours before the day had started and everyone else had begun to wake up and go about their daily routines. He found the creatures of the surrounding water to be more active at this time and when he worked at the edges of the sphere he loved to watch them as they swam by so majestic and serene.
He made his way to the Atruist Greenhouse where a lot of the daily vegetables were grown for everyone to eat. It was his job not only to maintain them so that there was enough to properly sustain the growing population of the sphere, but also to make sure to protect them from any unauthorized visitors. Their population was not overly large, and yet had been steadily increasing over the past few years according to the census that was taken every year. Although he knew everyone who lived here and it would be hard to hide some injustice that was done it was still a cautionary measure that needed to be taken. Maintaining proper justice in such a situation was of the utmost importance or everyone would perish. As a result they had designed it so that only he and the eldest elder would be able to get in and out of the greenhouses and others would have to have his accompaniment to have any kind of access to the edible life that was grown in the sphere. If anything happened to him, then the elders would help to choose the next person to perform this important job for their community.
Taleth stepped up to the door of the Atruist room and held up his hand to a pad allowing it to read his fingerprints. Once he had done this the door slid open allowing him access to the room beyond and then shut itself behind him. The smell and the colours were what greeted him first upon his entrance. Although he had lived his entire life down here in the water sphere, or Helix, what they called their home, he imagined that this must be what it smelled like up on the surface above. He closed his eyes and breathed in all the surrounding air and for a moment imagined he was back up on ‘real land’. It was odd how much he loved his home and yet everyone here had always told stories of their original home. Books had shown images that he could only imagine and he knew that one day, despite how many times he was told it would never happen, he would go to the surface and discover what the stories were about. He opened his eyes and looked around deciding where he should start. His tomatoes looked quite promising for the evening meal, he would have a meeting with the Sphere Chef Carnon soon enough and would make his suggestion. He passed the carrots, potatoes, and beans and moved on to the back of the room where his favourite was, the hot chilli peppers. He hoped that there would be enough ready to add to the tomato dish Carnon would prepare as he like his dishes with a spicy flair. He saw a few that were ready to be picked and smiled brightly, he was pleased and already beginning to salivate at the thought of the combination. He then stepped past them and looked at the various kinds of lettuce growing and noticed that they weren’t as healthy as they had been a few days ago. It almost looked as though they had been over watered. He picked up a plank of wood and laid it across the soil to the back edge of the sphere. Then he stepped his way along it looking for any sign that there was something wrong with the sprinkler system he had developed to maintain a healthy watering method for the plants. It wasn’t until he had reached the very back of the garden when he noticed the predicament. At first he wasn’t sure that what he was seeing was real, and then after he leaned in closer panic struck him in the gut and his jaw became slack with shock when he saw that his eyes were not deceiving him. There was a crack in the sphere and water had begun to slowly leak its way into his garden.
Taleth sat across from the eldest elder, Saileth, waiting expectantly for his response after he had just revealed his discovery to their leader. Not discounting his age, he was a very wise and sensible man and if theirs had been a society where they had voted for a leader, instead of assigning it to the oldest member of their society, he would have been chosen as theirs regardless. He had woken the poor man up from his sleep and had felt horrible about doing so, but knew that he had had no choice in the matter. He could tell that Saileth was still trying to wake up and think out what his response should be. He was a no-nonsense kind of man who only believed in saying what you mean, and therefore always thought carefully before he ever said anything.
“I hesitate with what I am about to say my dear Taleth, not because I don’t believe you or expect you to lie, but I feel I must see the proof with my own eyes. Will you show me?” The young man nodded his head ferociously and stood up making his way to the chamber door of Saileth. The two of them walked as fast as their legs would carry them to other side of the Helix and entered the greenhouse in question.
The elders of the Helix Sphere, along with Taleth all sat a large table in the conference room.
“I am afraid it is true.” Saileth sighed as he looked around the table at all of his comrades. There were fifteen of them, which were considered elders among their population; which spoke highly of their home that they took good care of one another, including their elders. Saileth was the oldest of them all at age eighty-three and looked a good fifteen years younger than he actually was. In fact they all looked younger than their age. Although his hair had lost the pigment of its original colour, which he always pretended as though he couldn’t remember what it was, his eyes still shone through their blue to show a vibrant youth hidden beneath. His skin was also quite smooth still and had minimal wrinkles to mar his handsome appearance. Beleth who was one of the younger elders spoke up,
“Then what we have feared would happen is finally starting?” She looked around to the others for confirmation and they all nodded their heads slowly, while Taleth found himself confused by what she had said. He wanted to say something but didn’t want to interrupt Saileth as he continued on with the meeting.
“We must keep this among us for the time being until we have decided what the next course of action will be.” An eruption in the room ensued, Jared being the most boisterous of the group.
“Stopping the leak would be the first thing we should do!”
“Jared, as in the past that has already been taken care of but everyone knows that it will continue to happen unless we find a more permanent solution.” Taleth’s eyes widened.
What, in the past? Has this happened before? Finally, he felt the need to interrupt.
“Excuse me elder Saileth, but did I hear you correctly, that leaks have been stopped in the past? Has this happened before?” His blue eyes looked over to the young man contemplatively.
“I’m afraid so, fortunately we were able to keep the news of them all within the compounds of these four walls, which we will continue to do for the better of our society.” He held up his hand knowing that the rest of the elders were about to explode with questions once again, but he persisted on to say, “Now I understand this time we must do more than we have in the past; we all thought that we could just patch everything up and everything would be fine, but we should now know more than ever that there is no temporary solution for this. The magic that sustains our beloved home is fading and we all knew it would eventually. I will reflect with the books of our ancestors who created our home and will let you know of what I find shortly, for now please continue among your business as if it was any other day and remember to not say anything to anyone!” He stood up from the table unwilling to answer any more questions and walked out of the room to leave behind a frustrated assembly. Taleth sat dumbfounded at the table only one word able to come to his mind, Magic?
Saileth had closed himself in the Helix library for the past few hours while Taleth tried to keep himself busy tending the rest of his gardens. He was late for his meeting with Carnon and had to suggest to him something other than tomatoes to keep the man out of the Atruist room.
“You want me to make dinner out of eggs?” Taleth nodded to him and nervously responded,
“I’m sorry my friend but I don’t feel the tomatoes are ready yet.”
“But you said yesterday that they were looking really well…”
“I know, but I just feel as though they could use another day, to really be at their peak. I do have some nice fresh basil and onions that you could put in them, you’ve made eggs before for dinner and I really liked it.” Carnon snorted out indignant.
“You promised me tomatoes, tomorrow I expect to have them.”
“Alright… but will you help me collect the eggs, today?” He hesitated and then shrugged his shoulders,
“Don’t I always?” Taleth smiled at him in more relief than thanks and the two of them went to were the chickens were kept and began their job of checking for eggs.
“You seem a bit agitated today Taleth, is something bothering you?” Carnon reached his freckled hand into one of the coops of the hens checking for any lain eggs. He looked over at his friend the chef, one of the few red haired people down in the Helix. His green eyes looked over at his friend and reflected genuine concern that Taleth really wished deep down that he could tell him the truth. Instead he kept himself busy counting the eggs they had already found.
“I didn’t sleep well last night, is all. Maybe I’ll take a nap later after I’ve helped you pick the basil you’ll need for the omelettes.” Carnon felt like there was something more that his friend wasn’t telling him, but decided to let the topic drop for the moment.
“I’ll need some blueberries too if I’m going to make some muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast.” Taleth felt his concentration slipping as he thought about the meeting he had attended earlier on and found himself reaching for a way out.
“You know what?” He thought fast for an excuse. “I’m going to go and get started on those blueberries now, like I said I’m tired and the sooner I finish the sooner I can take that nap.” He placed the basket of collected eggs on the floor and backed his way out of the room. Carnon shook his head puzzled but continued to riffle through the cages looking for eggs.
Taleth never made it to his blueberries. He instead found himself outside the Helix library pacing the door back and forth. It was eating him up inside that there was a crack in his greenhouse, where he felt there shouldn’t be. Who knows for how long the crack had been there? He should have been more vigilant with his work duties. He punched the air absentmindedly and continued to pace the floor going over the past meeting in his mind. What also bothered him was that this was not the first crack to penetrate his home and he, among the many others who lived in the Helix were never even told about it. There had been more, how many more he was not privy too, but it was obviously a big concern if Saileth was looking for a resolution to their problem in the library. He wanted to be of some help so desperately and found that he couldn’t concentrate on his normal duties. He stopped in his tracks and looked at the door to the library intently. He had made up his mind. He gritted his teeth and opened the door.
The library was quiet. Looking around at the towers and towers of books that rested among the shelves actually helped calm his nerves quite a bit. These were the books of his ancestors, what they were able to save before they had made their way down to this underwater home, he was truly amazed that they were able to save so many. Some of them however he had heard were actually written by his ancestors. They knew that there were some key books missing about important information of their past and so they wrote down what they could remember themselves and put them in a different section of the library. That was also where they had put the books about the Sphere’s creation and their decent down to the water below and so he assumed that is where he would find Saileth. He made his way to the right side of the library and to one of the ladders leading to the upper portion. Putting one foot in front of the other and pushing off he made his way to the top where he was greeted by more books on some smaller shelves and a small alcove that rested off just to the side. He climbed over the rail and walked along to the alcove to see the grey haired top of Saileth as he had his head buried in a book, oblivious to the world around him. Taleth approached as softly as he could trying not to disturb the man from his readings but discovered that it was no use as he saw the old man’s hand rise and beckon him to sit down next to him. Taleth dutifully did as he was indicated, but
waited for the elder to speak to him first despite his desperately wanting to ask him a hundred questions that scattered across his brain like ants on their ant hill. Saileth placed a cloth bookmark in between the pages he had been reading, closed the book then pushed the candle to the right so that he could place the book on the small wooden table. He had his reading glasses on and slipped them off his face to place them on top of the closed book. Then his eyes looked over to the young man and as he leaned back into his chair he crossed his arms over his chest and said rather than asked,
“You have something on your mind I presume?” Taleth found himself hesitating. He knew that he had questions, and it wasn’t that he was afraid of the older man; it was more or less that he was afraid of his questions having horrifying answers, or even worse, there not being any answers to his questions.
“Saileth, I understand why you and the rest of the elders have found it necessary to keep the secret of the cracks in the sphere, but now that I know…”
“You want to know how many times this has happened before?”
Taleth nodded his head and waited for the man to respond. He sighed before responding.
“Well, let me see if I can recall… there was that one time, although that was an accident, then there was that one in the girl’s room…” he mumbled to himself as he thought it through,
“This would be the fifth time.” Taleth’s eyebrow’s raised with concern. “What is worse is that they seem to be becoming more frequent, three in the past month. As I said before, the first was an accident, quite some time before, and the second seemed more of a fluke than anything else… but these past three…” He didn’t finish his sentence, he didn’t need to they had both seen the most recent crack.
“So what are we to do? Keep closing the cracks as we have been in the past? Will they hold up?” Saileth shook his head sadly.
“That’s the problem, Taleth. It’s not a permanent solution. We’ve been patching up an emotional wound with a bandage; the two just aren’t meant for one another. Perhaps if we still had the magic of our ancestors, but…” He trailed off while Taleth saw his chance to ask him another burning question he had,
“What is this that you mentioned about magic? We don’t have magic…do we?” He gave off a nervous laughter that Saileth understood all too well. When someone finds out that all their life there was the possibility of something more amazing that they had never dreamed of, they tend to react such as Taleth was right now.
“Yes my gardener. We do… well we did. And oh was it a great magic… it created the very home you and I are living in…” He held out his hands for a moment and then clenched his fists to emphasize his frustration. “…But as you can see it no longer exists with us.” Taleth shook his head confused.
“But why not?” He asked.
“I’ve been asking myself that question for many a year now… You see there are certain books that you all are not privy too, the elders of earlier decided that it was best when the last one who had magic died that these books be hidden and only shown to the elders. So that we might keep our eyes open to the possibility of it showing its face once again.”
“So do you believe it is possible?” Taleth asked, hope shining in his eyes.
“Not at the current moment, I am afraid. According to the book of Morton, those who had the ability of magic were in a pair that complimented the other. With the right
person the two’s magic could be of extraordinary measure; with the wrong person, disastrous results.”
“How could one know?” The gardener asked intrigued by the possibility of magic. The elder leaned forward eagerly and then picked up the book and opened it to the place where he had last left off.
“Well you see that is the interesting thing. According to Morton, there are four Oracles, up above,” he pointed up to the ceiling with his finger indicating to the abandoned dry land they had left and then continued on with his explanation, “the first one that all must seek is the Oracle of land, this is where they go when they want to seek out their best magical counterpart, but the answer will come at a price. If the oracle is willing to help out they will then be given a task in order to locate their specific magical partner and be directed to one of the remaining sister Oracles.”
“And then magic can be made?” The elder shook his head.
“Not quite, whether they go to the Volcano of Zardanon, to seek the Oracle of Fire, the Falling Waters of Eliza to the Oracle of Water, or finally the Mountain tops of Mount Cristom where the Oracle of Air resides, they will have to talk with the Oracle who will forge a talisman of sorts for the two that connects them forever and allows them to perform magic together.”
“Sounds like a lot of work to go through to obtain a little bit of magic?” Taleth commented sceptically.
“Oh but this wasn’t just some little bit of magic, my friend. It could be so great, so amazingly powerful that it created the very place you call home!” His eyes lit up and his hands shook as he described the possibility of what the magic could do. “Besides, if you didn’t locate the right partner you risked the chance at losing any possible magic you might already have. You see, some people were able to use small pieces of magic without a partner, although they were rare to say the least, while others found that when they found a magic partner by accident it could only become truly powerful by locating the needed Oracle and gaining the magic talisman in order to unite the two. Doing all of this is what allowed our species to grow and mature, it was a passage of rights if you will.
Taleth considered it for a moment when another thought occurred to him.
“Wait a minute, if the magic is, was as great as you claim, and it created our home, why couldn’t it fix what was wrong up above? What happened that we had to leave it behind and build a new home down here?” Saileth leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“It’s hard to say, without actually being there. Morton describes a land that was diseased with war and destruction. Our people did not want to be a part of it anymore and chose to find a home that would protect us for years to come, when it would be safe to go back to the dry world and hopefully by then the wars would be over.”
“So they expected us to actually go back up to the surface?”
“I suspect that they did, although you will find that there are others on the elder committee who disagree. I suspect that these cracks in our home are the signs that are supposed to happen; something that will force us to re-explore the world above us. Too many elders have no desire to go back to the surface and believe that we can fix things on our own down here, and if we’re not able to, we accept our fate and our choice to live down here as it is.” Taleth couldn’t believe his ears.
“You mean we give up? And we just let ourselves die?” Saileth nodded his head sadly.
“There are some that say we wait for the magic to reappear.”
“Is that possible?”
“Well it is mentioned as I said before, that on occasion partners have found one another without the need of the oracle, but for them to truly be able to do any good down here they would still need the making of a talisman and the details are rather fuzzy.” He leaned into the book and drew his finger along the page until he found what he was looking for. “There also is a grave warning here that there is the possibility of more than one partner for another person; which is why in some cases the results of the pairing can become catastrophic.” He flipped through the pages until he came across the story he had read earlier. “Look, it says here that around the same time our people created this home that a pairing was made that created a dark and devastating duo with magic so dark and evil that it consumed the two of them. They became very controlling and wanted to destroy the other species that lived on the land.”
“So we hid like cowards and let them obliterate our land along with everyone else?” Saileth nodded his head shamefully.
“That is why there are many on the council who would rather remain hidden with our shame then go out and face what we are most likely responsible for.” Taleth was becoming angry, he had never known the entire truth of his ancestors and would never have considered them as the cowards they were. He wanted to yell out, but the old man laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder and calmed him down by declaring.
“I’m not saying that we give up, but realize that it’s more complicated than just leaving the Sphere. Firstly, we don’t know what is waiting for us up above; it has been a very long time since we have lived on the dry land. The Oracles may no longer even exist for us to be able to find them and forage the needed talisman. We also have the problem of figuring out who we send out to the real world and how will we know if they are the right one? There are many questions that still need to be answered my boy and although we must act swiftly we cannot afford to go making rash decisions that will only result it our failure.” He recognized that Taleth was willing to go down without a fight and continued on to say, “Don’t worry though, as long as I am the eldest and still have command of the elders I will make sure we do something about our problem.” He stood up and closed the book that rested on the table before them and picked it up, holding it tightly to his chest.
“Come now, we have a group of elders waiting for us and this information.” Taleth sat for a moment before nodding his agreement and the two of them made their way back to the conference room.
Once again Taleth found himself back in the Conference room. As he glanced around the table at all of the elders he could see that they were all feeling uneasy and nervous about what Saileth was about to reveal. A lot of what the two of them had talked about in the library had been new to him, specifically anything to do with magic, but he suspected that everyone sitting here was already versed in what the book
said. Saileth still holding the book of Morton close to his chest set it before him and began to address everyone,
“My dear friends, I thank-you all for your patience in this matter, especially since we all know that time is of the essence and we cannot afford to waste it. I have asked that Taleth continue to sit among us, although it is unorthodox, I feel since he is well aware of the situation already, he has a right to be informed on our thoughts, and perhaps voice his own. Also, I will remind you all of his highly honoured position in our society and expect everyone here to respect his presence as he respects ours.” He looked over to Taleth and gave him a wink of confidence and Taleth smiled in return amazed at how in tune to people's thoughts he always was, feeling already so much better than he was when he first arrived.
“I am afraid to report that I have not found any new information in the Book of Morton than what we already know. We know that the Helix was built as a home for our society to live and be able to survive whatever disasters happen to occur above us. But we also know that this was never meant to be a permanent solution by our people and that we have been stretching out the time limit of our home longer than it was planned.
According to the book,” he placed his hand gently on the worn brown leather cover “we are to fix the problem of the Sphere's deterioration with magic. Now I know it was hoped that fate would take a hand and a magic pair would present itself among one of our own but I believe that fate is not always that kind and that there are certain things that you have to figure out yourself.” A few of the elders began to stir in their chairs but Saileth continued on with his speech without skipping a beat.
“I know that there are some of you who would prefer to stay down here forever, and risk that whatever comes of our home and our people is meant to be but I don't believe that that is to be our destiny. Now I'm not saying that we all leave our home right now, but I do believe that we are obligated to see what is up there and send one of our own with the hopes that some sort of magic can be regained by our people. Whatever problems may have occurred up on land before, we owe it to ourselves and to those that may still be up there to do what we can and help. Sadly our people made the choice to hide instead of fight, and I'll be dammed if I'm going to let us do that again!” His voice shook a bit as he felt the rush of anger rise through his throat. He then paused to calm himself down before continuing on.
“Now we live in a democratic society and despite being the eldest here I cannot order anything unless the committee is in some form of agreement to try and fix our home!” His blue eyes shown with hope and determination as he scanned all of the faces that sat around him. He knew that if and when it came time to evacuate everyone that he would meet with more resistance, there were a lot of people here who wouldn't want to leave their home no matter how much their life depended on it. He desperately hoped that for now everyone would realize that he was right. Although a few of the elders nodded their agreement it was Jared who spoke his concerns first.
“I believe that first some of us should have our say, and then we should put it to a vote.” Saileth closed his eyes in despair. He knew exactly what Jared would say even before he said it, but he had to relent.
Jared sat upright in his chair and addressed everyone present. “I am sorry to say my dear friend, but I believe that you are overly concerned. Yes we have had a few
cracks in our sphere, but nothing that we haven't been able to fix. You claim that the magic is fading, but I say you rely too much on magic. I believe that it is not just magic that holds our home together, but well built construction as well. Our ancestors worked hard on our home and would not want us to just give up on it so easily. A world with magic!” He snorted out, “Ha! What we need are plans to maintain the construction of our home, not some pipedream that could kill us all!” Some of the elders whispered their agreement with what Jared had said and Saileth’s brow tightened in frustration. He knew that Jared would bring that up and in part he was right. It wasn't an easy task to open up the sphere to the land up above not to mention that to do so risked flooding the Helix with the surrounding water and drowning everyone inside. It was frustrating to no end that Morton and the other ancestors had not left better instructions for such a case.
“There is a way to open the sphere up to the land above.”
“That is just speculation; you wouldn’t even know where to begin looking!” Jared stood up and pointed directly at Saileth. Everyone looked at the eldest expectantly to see if what Jared accused was indeed the case. Saileth hesitated and they all knew it to be true. Jared smiled devilishly,
“We will have our vote then.” Everyone got up one by one and wrote down their vote on a piece of paper and then placed it in a ballot box. They always voted thusly so that no one would be aware of how the other one voted and they could all vote the way they truly felt. Saileth didn't need to count the votes to know he had been defeated, he saw in on their faces everyone was too afraid; they were too coward like their ancestors.
Saileth and Taleth left the conference room feeling dejected. Taleth still couldn’t believe that after that great speech Saileth had given that they had still voted against sending anyone out. The eldest walked with the gardener down the halls and put his arm around his shoulder in a comforting manner.
“They’re scared, and I don’t blame them. I just wish they wouldn’t follow Jared’s lead in everything.” Taleth stopped in the hall and looked up to the older man his face flushed with anger.
“I don’t understand why they do, you’re the leader! Besides, don’t they realize how much danger we’re in if we can’t fix this?” He knew that Saileth was just as frustrated as he was and yet he didn’t show any of it in his expressions, he rarely did.
“Now, now my boy, it’ll be o.k. Of course they know that they are in danger, but they also believe that what Jared is saying is the truth, it was his relatives that helped with the construction of this place, they never had magic and so I believe he’s always been a bit jealous of those who do.”
“Did your relatives have magic?” Saileth smiled as he nodded his head.
“Yes, they did. And I think he’s always been jealous of that fact. I also believe that he is jealous that I am the head of the council.” Taleth released out a snort of disgust and Saileth brushed it off by saying,
“I know what you’re going to say. It is not like I was chosen; it’s been like this for a long time. The eldest of the elders always is the leader and in time he will likely have his spot, but for now, so long as I am the oldest and of sound mind I will stand my position firm.” The two of them continued to walk down the hall in silence back towards
the greenhouses. Taleth still had those blueberries to pick and if he didn’t do as he needed to Carnon was going to throw a fit. He turned to the entrance of the door when Saileth said,
“Come by my room later tonight when you get the chance, we’ll have a talk.” Taleth nodded and smiled that he would and then made his way into the greenhouse to finish his job.
Dinner had been a success, everyone enjoyed the omelettes that Carnon had made and were equally pleased with their dessert. Although for Taleth, he hardly ate, it had been a long, emotionally draining day and he found that his appetite was waned. Normally Taleth would have had more time to relax at the end of the day but due to the two meetings he had attended earlier on, along with the talk in the library, he had to rush through the rest of his daily activities; not to mention that he had promised Carnon that he would help him clean up after dinner the day before, by the time he had finished all of his tasks night time had arrived and he was ready for bed. He didn’t need a time glass to tell him that it was late he hadn’t been able to stop yawning for the past hour. He had also brushed off visiting with his sister, Kara and so she would likely be all over him peppering him with questions tomorrow. As he finished up with the last of the dishes he felt that despite the invitation the eldest had made that he was likely asleep and would not expect him to call at this late hour. It’s just as well he thought I’m beat. He made his way back to his room and began his routine of getting ready for bed. He was just about to put his pyjamas on when he thought he heard a soft knock on his door. At first he thought it might be Kara but when he turned to look he saw a small piece of paper slide through the crack between the door and the floor. He stared curiously for a moment and then walked over to the note and picked it up. He unfolded the note and read its contents curiously. Meet me in the library in half an hour. He creaked his door open and peaked outside hoping to catch a sight of the person who left the note for him but it was deadly quiet outside of his room. He crinkled up the note pondering from whom it might have come and resigned himself to the fact that he would find out soon enough. He walked over to the small table beside his bed and picked up one of his time glasses and marked it off for half an hour and turned it upside down. Then he went over to the glass part of the sphere in his room and sat by the window watching the blackness of the water shimmer against the magical light that came from the sphere and waited.
Taleth left his room eagerly the moment the sand in the time glass had moved to the bottom indicating to him that the half hour was up. The halls were empty with the soft glow of the walls illuminating his way. His heart was beating quickly in his chest and he almost felt as though he could hear it through the silence of the night. It didn't take him long to reach the library's entrance and when he did he found he couldn't make himself enter it right away. He stood outside and shook his hands vigorously by his sides a bit trying to calm his nerves. He didn't understand why he was so nervous, he felt that it was because he was unsure of what to expect on the other side of the door, who had beckoned him to come here at this late hour and why? Well, he thought, there's only one way to find out. He pushed open the door and stepped inside.