A Lesson Learned

Ethan walked into his house and took off his backpack. He ran upstairs to his room, only to see his parents standing in front of his door.

“What’s going on?” Ethan asked.

“You and I both know what’s going on,” his dad answered.

“And what’s that?” Ethan said, trying to act innocent.

“You know… your graffiti that you left on the school wall,” his mom said. “Ethan, this is the 16th time this has happened. The police came over and told us. We’re very disappointed in you. As your punishment, you are grounded for life.”

Ethan stared at them, pushed his parents out of the way and slammed the door shut, then quickly locked it. His parents pounded on the door for a few minutes while occasionally yelling. Eventually it stopped. Ethan started gathering his clothes and put them in a small suitcase.

“I’m obviously a disappointment to them. They probably don’t even want me,”  Ethan muttered to himself. When he was done packing his clothes, he went to the kitchen and grabbed sandwich supplies and stuffed them in his backpack. When night came, he grabbed his backpack and suitcase and quietly walked downstairs. The stairs creaked as he walked down them. When he arrived at the front door he slowly opened it, stepped outside, then closed it.  

He sprinted down the sidewalk, dragging his suitcase behind him. He turned the corner of the street and headed toward the forest. The trees loomed over him, casting a dark shadow. He sprinted toward the center, crunching leaves and snapping twigs. He slowed down and sat for a break.

He heard rustling and he turned around. Behind him was a map taped to a tree. He grabbed it and opened it. It showed a strange world with four giant land masses at each direction. He pressed his finger against the map and instantly disappeared.

He reappeared in a desert. The sun was very dim and his eyes took some time to readjust. He glanced around. There was little life except some cacti and the occasional rats. His head throbbed with questions. He looked at his hands. He just realized that he was still holding the map. His backpack had also disappeared. He laid the map across a flat rock and pressed his finger on the map, waiting to be teleported. Nothing happened. He panicked. He started rushing around trying to find help, but it seemed like the desert continued forever.  Why am I here??? I was just in a forest and now I’m suddenly in a desert?  he thought.

He finally stopped to take a break. Behind him he heard a rustling sound. He whirled around to see what it was. It was just a raven. In its beak was a scroll. He jumped at the raven to get it, but the raven would just teleport a short distance away.  Eventually he got so frustrated that he picked up a rock and chucked it at the raven. It hit the bird, and the bird slumped over. He picked up the scroll. He opened it.

Inside, it read, Hello child. I know you want a way out of this endless desert and only I have the answers. To get the answer you must first complete two tasks for me. If you succeed then go to this same spot and you’ll get your reward. Here are the tasks I wish for you to do for me. First you must find the oasis. There will be a door. On both sides of the door will be a panel full of numbers. You must type each number within 1 second of each other. Here is the passcode you must type in, 1 (left), 6 (right), 4 (left), 9 (right) and 2 (left). Each time you fail you will be incapacitated with great pain.

For your second task, you will climb up a mountain. At the top are two doorways. Each doorway leads to twice as many doorways there has been before. When you step in the doorway on the left a sheet will appear having the answers to the doorway on the right. But if you leave the sheet will temporarily disappear until you step back in. Everything I told you also applies to the doorway on the right except it contains the answers to the doorway to the left. If you step in the wrong doorway you also will be incapacitated with great pain and will have to restart. Only one of you has to go through the last door to complete it. When you complete a task, you will earn food and water to keep yourself alive. From: The One Who Watches.

Ethan rolled it up and put it in his pocket. Ethan looked up at the sky and shouted, “This is impossible! How am I supposed to do this alone?”

Suddenly another scroll dropped from the sky and landed near him. He picked it up and unravelled it. Inside it read, I will be sending another child who is also stuck in this desert like you to help.

Ethan then dropped this scroll and looked around. It seemed like there was no help coming toward him. He turned around and suddenly another kid was there standing face to face with him. Ethan backed up. The kid was tall with impatient green eyes and messy hair. Ethan jumped back in surprise.

“Are you the help the scroll sent for me?” Ethan asked.

“I guess,” the kid said, “My name’s Michael, but call me Mike. Yours?”
“I’m Ethan,” Ethan replied. “Why are you here?”

“I ran away from home to a forest. Found a compass. As soon as I touched it, I got teleported here,” Mike said.

“Same. Except I found a map instead of compass,” Ethan replied.

“Well Ethan, let’s get started then.”

“But… where do we go?”

“Ethan use your brain. You’re holding a map.”

“Oh, right.” Ethan hadn’t even realized that he was still clenching the map in his hand.

Ethan grabbed his map. It showed the same land masses he saw in the forest. The biggest one was covered in sand, so Ethan assumed that he and Mike were there. Mike leaned in to get a look at the map. On the map it showed little symbols. There was a raven, a mountain and a lake with trees.

“So. We’re at the raven, right?” Ethan asked.

Mike grunted, “Think so. I saw a raven flying by who gave me my scroll.”

Mike snatched the map out of Ethan’s hands and held up his compass. “We need to go north,” he announced. Mike rushed forward while Ethan lumbered behind. Eventually they found the oasis. It seemed so out of place. A pool of water and some palm trees in an ocean of sand. Ethan’s stomach grumbled. Ethan looked around. “Do we have any food?”

“No, but the scroll said that if we complete a task we will earn food. Can’t you read?” Mike answered.

“Let’s do it, then!” Ethan said. He ran toward the door, eager to get his meal. Ethan tripped on a rock and fell face first into the sand. He wiped his face and stumbled and fell in the pond. Mike stood behind and laughed as Ethan climbed out. Ethan just turned around and tried to ignore Mike laughing at him. He took out his scroll and looked at the passcode then at the door looming in front of him. The door was at least ten feet tall and six feet wide.

He pressed the first number then rushed to the other side. Suddenly he dropped. He felt like molten lead was being poured on him. He wailed in agony. His vision became blurred. Then everything went dark. He woke up with Mike staring at his face.

“You okay?” Mike asked.

Does it look like I’m okay?  Ethan wanted to say, but it hurt too much to talk, so he managed a weak nod. Mike grabbed his arm and heaved him upright. Ethan leaned against Mike for support.

Mike said, “What were you thinking, trying to finish the first task by yourself? You must be really stupid or brave to attempt that.”

“I wanted a meal,” Ethan said as his stomach grumbled.

“If you waited until I was there we could’ve done it in no time.”

“Okay, let’s do it now.”

Ethan stood on the left side while Mike stood on the right. Mike brought his own scroll out and glanced between the number panel and the passcode.

Ethan held up his own scroll and said, “Ready?”

Mike nodded, “Ready.”

Ethan pressed the first button. Then Mike glanced over and pressed the next button. They continued until the last button had been pushed. The door hissed. Mike and Ethan stepped back. The door continued sliding open. Ethan stared into the doorframe. Inside was just white. A glowing white that shone light. Then two horses appeared. They had saddles and reins. The horses walked out the door then the door slowly closed.

Ethan said, “Is this our food? Are we supposed to eat the horses?”

Mike rolled his eyes, “Shouldn’t we check the saddlebags first?”

“Oh right… yeah,” Ethan muttered.

Ethan walked up to the horse. The horse seemed friendly and didn’t seem to mind Ethan rummaging through the saddlebag. Ethan pulled out a hamburger, a backpack, and a note. The note read, I heard people like eating these… hamburgers, so that’s what I decided to give you. Return this crown to me after you’re done with your second task.

Ethan opened the backpack. Inside was a crown. He slung the backpack over his shoulder and put the note in his pocket. He quickly gobbled down the burger. The hamburger tasted like cardboard, but Ethan was too hungry to complain. Mike also got a note and hamburger in the other horse’s saddlebag. He put the note back in the saddlebag and ate the hamburger. Once he finished he said, “Well, let’s go complete the second task now.”

Ethan nodded. Mike jumped on to a horse and turned around. “Why did you run away?” he asked.

Ethan sighed and said, “I’m a graffiti artist and I sprayed the school building. My parents found out and don’t love me anymore, so I ran away.” Mike nodded and spurred the horse kicking sand in Ethan’s face. Ethan wiped away the sand and jumped onto his horse and rode after Mike.

Once Ethan caught up with with Mike he said, “Wait, where are we going? Shouldn’t we check the map?”

Mike grabbed the map from Ethan’s pocket and looked at his compass. Then looked at the map. “We’re going the right way,” he informed him. “Follow me, so you won’t get lost ‘cause I know you will.”

Ethan muttered an insult under his breath while Mike forged ahead. Eventually when they arrived at the mountain they realized that it was surrounded by water, meaning that they had to abandon their horses and swim across. The water was very deep and dangerous and sharp, jagged rocks jutted out from the water.

“How do we get across?” Ethan asked.

“I don’t know,” Mike said.

“Do we search around for a way across?” Ethan suggested.


Mike and Ethan walked around the perimeter of the island and found two small wooden canoes. Inside each canoe was a note that read, Good luck surviving.

“Wow. What a helpful note,” Ethan said sarcastically.

“Well, let’s get to it,” Mike said.

They climbed into their canoes and pushed themselves into the water. Immediately Mike propelled forward, toward a sharp, jagged rock. Ethan pushed forward with his paddle and when Mike’s canoe was in reach he grabbed it before Mike crashed.

“Thanks,” Mike said.

“No problem. Without you I would be stuck here forever,” Ethan said.

Ethan and Mike continued struggling towards the island until they finally hit land. They climbed out and looked around.

“Now we climb the mountain, right?” Ethan said.


Mike and Ethan headed towards the mountain looming over them. Soon Mike and Ethan got separated because the mountain was surrounded by thick vegetation.

“Mike, where are you?” Ethan yelled.

“I don’t know, where are you?” Mike yelled back.

Ethan thought, Wow really helpful Mike. Thanks. Ethan looked up trying to see where the mountain was but his vision was blocked by the canopy of the trees. He decided to follow his instincts and continue moving forward. Eventually night fell and Ethan  was still lost. I wonder how my parents are. They probably don’t ever miss me.  They are probably celebrating my disappearance.  Shadows were cast upon the ground. Ethan decided to give it a break and continue when morning came. He lay down on the ground and prepared for sleep, but then he heard rustling. He sat up and looked around. Suddenly a figure burst out of the bushes. Ethan jumped back and started backing up until he realized that the figure was Mike.

“There you are!” Mike said.

“How did you know where to find me?” Ethan asked.

“I heard some noise, so I headed toward the sound.”

“It’s too dark to see. We should wait until morning,” Ethan said.

Ethan and Mike lay down on the ground and slept. Ethan woke up to Mike shaking him repeatedly.

“C’mon. Let’s go,” Mike said.

“Why do we need to leave so early?”

“I just got a note that said that  if we don’t finish this in the next day we’ll be stuck here forever.” Mike said.

Ethan got up quickly and said to Mike, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

They walked up through the forest until they got to the base of the mountain. Ethan hadn’t realized just how steep it was. Mike searched for a handhold and heaved himself up. Ethan followed. They made progress going up the mountain. Then Ethan grabbed a loose rock and fell. His fall was stopped by Mike who quickly grabbed his shirt and pulled him back up. They found a ledge and rested.

“Thanks for saving me,” Ethan said.

“No problem. You saved me before,” Mike said.

They sat down until they started climbing again. Ethan’s muscles ached as they approached the summit. Mike stood up and pulled Ethan up. The two doors were at the middle.

“I’ll take the left side and you take the right, okay?” Ethan said.

Mike nodded. They headed towards the doors. Ethan opened his door and saw a sheet of paper. It read, Second door (from left to right).

Mike shouted at Ethan, “Go to the first door!”

Ethan shouted back, “Left to right, right?”

Mike replied, “Yep.”

Ethan then said, “Second door from left to right.”

They continued until Ethan came across a trick. On his paper it said the door from right to left. Ethan hadn’t realized this until he heard Mike scream in pain.

“MIKE!” Ethan shouted.

“Yeah?” Mike said weakly.

“What happened?”

“I got teleported outside.”

“I came across a trick. It said right to left even though all the other ones said left to right. I’m coming back, ok?”

“No, don’t,” Mike said. “You’re on the last door. Just pick one and hope for the best.”

Ethan wanted to disagree, but they were running out of time. He walked up to the 17th door out of the 34 doors and braced himself. Instantly he was teleported outside. Instead of feeling great pain, a door appeared with a backpack and a note. He picked up the backpack. Inside was a scepter and more burgers. The note read, Please return the scepter and the crown to me. You know where to find me. Ethan gave the backpack to Mike and said, “So now we go back to the desert?”

“I guess,” Mike said, “but shouldn’t we eat first?”

Ethan hadn’t realized how hungry he was until now. He grabbed a burger and ate it. The burger tasted just as bland as the last one.

Mike put the backpack on and walked through the door. Ethan followed behind him. They appeared at the desert. They followed the map and compass and reached the raven symbol. There was nothing around. Suddenly a doorway materialized out of the air and a hooded figure stepped out.

“You have completed both tasks I sent you to do. Now to return home you must return my items,” the hooded figure said.

Ethan presented the crown and Mike gave the hooded figure the scepter.

“Very good children. Now I will tell you why I sent you here.”

“You sent us here?”

“Yes I did. I did to help you children learn how to work with others. Both of you hated working with others so I grouped you together so that you would learn your lesson. You are now free to go.”

Ethan spent some time taking this in. Wow. Was I really like this?  Well at least I’m a better person now.  Then he said, “Bye, Mike.”

Mike smiled, “Bye.”

They walked through the door and were teleported away. Ethan appeared in the forest holding the map in his hand. He left it where he found it and ran home. The door flew open and his mom yelled, “Where were you! You were gone for two days. We were worried.” Ethan stared at her. She looked like she might burst into tears.

“Worried? I thought you didn’t care about me anymore.”

“Ethan. Even though we were mad at you, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about you.”

“But why did you ground me for life?”

“Maybe we were a little too harsh,” his mom admitted. “I think you deserve a second chance, Ethan. As long as you try to be nicer and stay out of trouble.”

“Okay, Mom.”

“Where did you go?”

He reflected on everything that had happened. Maybe it wasn’t just a random occurrence.  Maybe  I deserved this.  He smiled. “I just got lost.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *