Your chemistry class study partner pours a small amount of white powder into a glass beaker she has bubbling over a Bunsen burner, then stands back with hands on hips, waiting for a reaction. After 30 seconds, when nothing happens, Debra bends down, peers at the liquid and scratches her head.
“I must have made a mistake.” She runs her index finger along the formula written in her lab notes. “Hmm… It says here, the solution will turn blue once I’ve added the sodium chloride.”
“Well that’s not blue,” you say. “That’s lime green. And … and I think it’s about to explode!”
You leap back as a geyser of slime shoots up, splatters onto the ceiling and starts dripping down onto the stainless steel bench. The smell of rotten eggs fills the room.
“Yikes,” Debra says. “There goes my experiment. Just as well Ms Rutherford and the rest of the class are at lunch so we have time to clean up before they get back.”
“I’m more worried about this stench.” You pinch your nose. “Yuck! It’s making my eyes water.” You cover your mouth and cough. “I’ve got to get out of here before I puke.”
Debra isn’t looking too well herself. Her forehead is dotted with beads of sweat and she’s gasping for breath.
You grab her hand and head for the door. Half way across the classroom, it starts spinning. Colors flash past your eyes and the floor beneath your feet goes squishy. A gigantic whirlpool spins you around and around. Your grip tightens on Debra’s hand for balance just as your knees buckle.
into the darkness you sink.
When you come to, you’re not sure how much time has passed. The spinning has stopped, but you still feel nauseous. It’s so dark you can barely see your hand in front of your face. Someone’s breathing a short distance away.
“Is that you Debra?”
When nobody answers, you crawl towards a shadowy lump lying on the floor. It’s Debra. You shake her arm. “Debra, wake up.”
“Wha … what happened?”
“I don’t know. I was spinning … must have passed out. Are you okay?”
“I … think so. Where are we?” she says, sitting up. “And who turned off the lights?”
You wish you knew. “I don’t think we’re in the lab anymore.”
You hear scrabbling. A flame flares. Debra holds up a match. She has a worried expression on her face.
“Where’d you get those?” you ask, nodding towards the box of matches in her hand.
“From when I lit the burner.” She lifts the match higher, trying to get a glimpse of your surroundings. The tiny flame barely penetrates the gloom.
It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust, but just before the match flickers out, you spot a stone bench a couple of yards away.
“I see a candle,” you say.
“A candle on that bench. Hang on, I’ll grab it.” You inch through the darkness, an arm extended, feeling the way as you go. Once you’ve reached the bench, you slide your hand up and feel your way across the surface. Hopefully you won’t find a spider. Ah ha, the candle!
“Right, now light another match.”
When there’s flickering light, you feel much better. The two of you stand up and inspect your surroundings. It certainly isn’t the school’s lab.
“We’re in a cave,” Debra says. “But how did we get here?”
“More importantly,” you say, “how do we get out?”
Debra lifts an arm and points. “Is that writing on the wall?”
You take a few steps and hold the candle higher. “Holy moly, is this for real?”
Debra brushes against you. Her skin is cold and trembling. For a long moment, neither of you says a word. Then she turns to you. “This can’t be right. We were at school only moments ago.”
“Maybe it’s a dream caused by the fumes we inhaled. What other explanation is there?”
“We were spinning pretty fast,” Debra says. “Maybe we’ve ended up in a parallel universe?”
“Or we’ve been transported to another place in our universe.”
One explanation sounds as unlikely as the next. You read the words on the wall again.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD BETWEEN
A PLACE THAT MOST HAVE NEVER SEEN
ONE DOOR WILL TAKE YOU SAFELY BACK
THE OTHER TAKES A STRANGER TRACK
“World between?” you say. “What does that mean?” You take a couple of steps to your right and peer into the gloom. There are two doors set back into the stone wall.
On one door are the words: FLY LIKE AN EAGLE. On the other: SWIM UNDER THE SEA.
“So what do we do?” Debra asks. “We can’t stay here. People will wonder where we’ve gone. What sort of place is this anyway?”
You shrug. “A strange one?”
Debra glares at you.
“Well, I don’t know. I just want to get back to school. Which door do we choose? Can you even swim?”
“Better than you can fly.” Debra steps a bit closer to the writing on the wall. With her chin cradled in her hand, she thinks hard. “Maybe the words are symbolic. You know, like a riddle.” She studies the poem for a moment longer and then throws her hands up. “Oh I don’t know. You choose one.”
So, which door do you take? Which door do you choose? Will you win, or will you lose?
It is time to make your first decision. Do you:
Open the door that says FLY LIKE AN EAGLE?
Open the door that says SWIM UNDER THE SEA?