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 Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time by I. MacPenn

Chapter 18:
Code

"Great, so what do those symbols mean?" asked Charlie, referring to the heiroglyphics written on the pyramid.

"Well, we could use the stele to try to decode the message," volunteered Alice, "that's what they did with the Rosetta stone."

"What's the Rosetta stone?" asked George.

"It's a slab of rock that people found a long time ago, and it helped them decode Egyptian hieroglyphics." Alice said. "The stone had carvings of the same text written in Egyptian hieroglyphics and Greek, and people knew Greek, so they could figure out Egyptian hieroglyphics."

"And do you know Greek?" asked George sarcastically.

"No, but the stele here isn't in Greek. And maybe we can figure out part of it," replied Alice curtly. "Do you have a better idea, George?"

George didn't answer her - he didn't have any ideas at all right now.

As they looked at the carvings on the pyramid, Charlie had an idea. He said, "Maybe the stele will let us translate from hieroglyphics to our letters. I'll go to the slab - you write the letters in the sand when they're translated."

After Charlie got to the slab, Alice called out, "A picture of a basket," and Charlie yelled back, "That's a K."Alice called out, "Two feathers," and Charlie called back, "That's a EE."

Next came a single feather, a zigzag, an upside-down "U" with uneven sides, a bird, another zigzag, and a hand. While he was there, Charlie took out a pencil and a piece of paper from his pocket. He drew a picture of the markings on the stele.

Alice called to Charlie, "That's it - we're done." Charlie returned to the pyramid and looked at what George had written in the sand. It read, "K EE I N S A N D."

"And how exactly is this going to get us into the pyramid?" asked George.

"I don't know," replied Charlie, but he was busy thinking. "This could be a code."

"Or it could be in Latin or Greek or some other language we don't know," said Alice.

"Wait," said Charlie, "The letters are K-EE-I-N-S-A-N-D."

George yelled, "KEY IN SAND - it says KEY IN SAND. It's so obvious."

They all started digging in the sand near the inscription. The sand was loose and moved quickly in their hands. After a few minutes, they had dug a large hole in front of the inscription, but there was nothing there. There was no key, and no mechanism to open the door.

"There's nothing here at all except sand," said Alice, "And we've gone down almost two feet. Maybe someone else already found whatever was buried here."

"Maybe," said George dejectedly. They all sat down at the edge of the hole. A hot wind was starting to blow the sand all around them.

Alice added, "And do we really want to go inside? It's only a tomb for some dead guy. If we go in, all we'll find is a mummy. They're fun in the movies, but I don't really need to see one up close."

"I want to go in," said Charlie, "how can you not want to?"

Alice looked over Charlie's shoulder and asked, "What's that big brown thing over there?"

Charlie and George turned around and looked. It was a huge, brown mass on the horizon - it went from the desert floor all the way to the sky. As they looked, it was getting closer and closer.

"It's a sandstorm," said Charlie, "we'd better get out of here. It looks like it'll be here in a few minutes."

"There's nowhere to go," yelled Alice.

"We have to get into the pyramid," Charlie reasoned. "What does that clue mean - KEY IN SAND?"

"Wait a minute," said Alice, "how could the clue be in English? English probably wasn't even spoken in Europe when the Egyptians were building pyramids."

George yelled at Alice, "We don't have time to worry about that. We should look for a key and a keyhole."

Charlie suddenly smiled, "Maybe it's a trick and we shouldn't be looking in the actual sand for the key - maybe we should look in the word 'SAND' in the inscription on the pyramid." He got up and looked closely at the characters that spelled out the word sand.

Charlie soon noticed a tiny dot in the hand picture, and without thinking, pressed it as hard as he could. A loud, clicking noise began and the huge pyramid began shaking.

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