Honors English 2
5 September 2017
The Riches of Saunière
She was sitting in a cafe.
She sat next to a dirty window with a black coffee, laptop, notebook, and the picked over remains of a mediocre pastry. She pressed a few keys on her laptop, scrolled down a page, scribbled in her notebook – researching, maybe? You shifted in the ancient burgundy booth to better see what she was doing. She switched through several sites and forums, and you could see the name Bérenger Saunière repeated consistently across multiple pages. You leaned a bit further, and noticed that name again, written in big block letters in her notebook. It was underlined and circled, above a couple dates and numbers – 1892, 660,000 F, 1910-1911, 105 F. You looked down, thinking. Was she researching for a book? Was she an author or something? Or did she know? Maybe she was just a harmless cryptid hunter… Rennes-le-Chateaú did seem to be attracting a fair amount of those these days… You scratched the back of your neck under your hoodie, and your musing was abruptly interrupted by the sound of the girl jumping up and throwing her chair back in the process.
Your head snapped up – this couldn’t be a coincidence. She slammed her laptop closed, and clumsily shoved both it and her notebook into the messenger bag leaning up against her chair. She fumbled her bag onto her shoulder, and threw a twenty franc bill onto the small, unstable table. On it sat the long-cold coffee, whose cup was in turn balanced on the crumb-ridden pastry plate. You slid out of the booth, quickly, but being careful not to get up so fast that it would call attention to yourself. You fished a bill out of the pocket of your dark jeans, tossed it onto your empty table, and strode out the worn, once artificial-cherry-colored door.
You emerged from the café, and squinted in the piercing midday sunlight. You turned your head left and right, blinking and trying to pick out which way she went. You caught a flash of a dark blue flannel disappearing into a dingy alley, and ducked after her, flipping up the hood of your sweatshirt.
She wandered through the cramped alleyways, prowling past neon signs and boarded up stores, which slowly but surely turned to cobble-paved lanes and century old roof tiles. You followed her past the old stone brick walls, down the street, and into the Rennes-le-Château.
Once inside the dimly lit castle, she ducked around worn stone columns of dubious structural integrity and passed under equally trustworthy arches. She snuck through the hallways, pausing to inspect every crack and oddly shaped scratch on the wall. Yeah, you thought. She definitely knows. There is no way this is a coincidence. You reached into your back pocket and retrieved an ornate dagger, with a gilded handle and an edge so sharp it could cut a single blade of grass laid on it. You slid it into your sleeve – you might need this very, very soon.
You suddenly noticed that the doorless, windowless passageway you were following was getting brighter. Please let her be leaving, you thought, but you knew this castle too well to believe otherwise. Sure enough, she turned a corner, and there it was. The door. You sighed quietly. Now you had no choice.
From inside the door, there emitted a golden glow, throwing exaggerated shadows onto the walls behind her. She gasped, and slowly approached the door, with one hand resting on her messenger bag and the other outstretched. As her fingers grazed the doorknob, a hand whipped out of the shadows to grab her wrist. Your hand. You pulled her sharply away from the door, and she stumbled backwards. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in there,” you murmured sympathetically.
She spun around, and for the first time you saw her face. She was pretty, with messy, soft looking hair and striking emerald eyes. It really was a shame that she had gotten involved. But who were you to decide who to spare? She drew in a sharp breath and her eyes darted frantically around the room, from your hand on her wrist, to the glowing door, to the exit. She tried to tug her arm away, but your grip was too tight. You flexed your wrist, allowing the knife to fall from your sleeve down into your hand. She struggled even harder, straining and pulling more and more in a frenzied panic. “Nothing personal, it’s just that you know too much,” you said apologetically. “If it helps, I’m sure you’re a lovely person…” She fruitlessly attempted to yank herself away one last time, and her phone fell clattering out of her pocket and onto the cold stone floor. “Goodbye,” you said simply. You raised the knife, and she screamed.
You knocked on the door, and a frail but authoritative voice from inside said, “You may enter, and approach the throne.” You pushed open the door, and fell to one knee. “It is finished,” you stated. The voice laughed softy. “Well done, my child. You may rise.” You raised your head to see your leader, clothed in elaborately embroidered robes and a mask of gold. The man sat in a throne hewn from a solid block of marble, inset with precious gems and metals. Around him were piled riches expressed in in every way one could imagine – jewelry, candelabras, crystal goblets, oriental rugs. You met the dark eyes behind the mask, and the man said once more, “My child, well done.”
Her phone vibrated, jumping up and down on the cold stone floor. It buzzed and buzzed and buzzed, eventually buzzing to a stop. After a few seconds, it switched to the caller, who began to leave a message. Through the muffled speaker of the iPhone, the most recent of seven calls and four messages from her roommate could be heard. “Uh, hey Maia, where are you? It´s like two AM and you’re still not home and I’m like getting really worried. If you’re staying somewhere else for the night I get it but like… you haven’t answered any of my calls from the past three hours. …Uh, I brought home takeout and I was gonna save some for you but uhhh, I got hungry again so I ate it. …Sorry. Um, if you get this- er, when- whenever you get this, gimme a call back or shoot me a text or something, but uh, stay safe, and I love you I guess. Seeya.” The phone screen went black, and never lit up again.