Thieves Rise at Nightfall, Isn’t That What They Say?

Ain El Kebira, Algerian countryside

I was folding clothes when a piece of paper came flying through the window and fell at my feet. As I picked it up, I saw it had something written on it. This immediately aroused my curiosity. The paper read, “Behind the forest, where the failed attempt to scrape the sky.”

I would have thrown it away, but then I saw a note on the side that caught my attention.

“Luke 9:11.”

I looked the verse up on the Internet: “But the crowds learned about it and followed him.”

My findings got me all keyed up at the thought of having chanced upon a treasure map. I had planned to spend the next day with my friend not doing much of anything but decided last minute to urge her to embark on an adventure with me.

“Hi! How are you, Tina? How have you been?” she greeted me over the phone.

“Good, thanks! Emma, I called to tell you about something strange that just happened to me.” For a second I balked at revealing my secret.

“Don’t hold back. I want to know it all,” she chimed in with enthusiasm.

“I found a cryptic message written on a piece of old-looking paper, and if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it was the foreigner who delivered it to me. We have to figure out what this is all about.”

To my surprise, she seemed enthusiastic about my idea. “We should meet first thing tomorrow morning! It’s always raining at night.”

“But it’s Ramadan! You’ll need a plausible excuse to leave the house.”

“I’ll just say I have an appointment with the dentist.”

At 8 a.m. the next day we sallied forth. We didn’t know what path to take, but we were optimistic about our odds of reaching our destination at some point.

Then Emma spoke. “Let’s face it: We’ve got a problem. Considering the foreigner is no spring chicken, he probably lives in a rather vintage-looking type of house. However, there are no historic residences behind the forest. As far as I know, there is a school, a hotel, and—perish the thought that we’ll find him there—a hospital.”

“I say we go look for him at the hotel. He is a foreigner after all.”

My friend Emma was wise in suggesting that we set out on our expedition in the morning. There was no one to be seen for miles around. That helped us make up our minds about whether the potential benefits of pursuing our goal actually outweighed its risks, and thus, we went into the forest.

After a bit, we ran into a wall that had seen better days. Whoever may have wanted to keep us from trespassing should have tried harder. We had enough gadgets to go to war if need be. We climbed the crumbling wall, and a few moments later we were standing on the grounds of a big house. The doors were closed. As we got ready to go around the house to see whether we could find another entrance, a voice whispered in our direction, “Besides me, has someone else invited you in?”

“No,” we confessed.

Then a face emerged from the foliage.

“Good morning!” he said in such a cheerful tone that it caused us to cringe. “I was feeling bored to death when I heard you jump over the wall, and now, I’m dying to know what has driven you to this forsaken place. So, what is it then?”

As soon as he had heard our story, he decided to join us in our quest to decipher the piece of paper’s mysterious message. Louis had a knack for unlocking closed doors. Needless to say, it came in handy to have a guy like him siding with our cause.

“These old locks don’t usually put up too much resistance. Breaking into the house shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Wait, I think I have something that may be of assistance to us right now,” said Emma. And after rummaging in her purse for whatever it was she wanted to show us, she hollered, “A nail file! There’s no telling what items can be found in a woman’s purse. Here, take it,” she added.

“Would you happen to have something a tad smaller than that by any chance?” Louis inquired.

“Such as?”

“I think I may have a nail clipper,” I volunteered.

Emma opened my purse and started groping around in it for the nail clipper.

“Excellent!” Louis replied. “Though, before we continue, I think you should see this piece of paper I just found lying around here.”

“What does it say?” I took it from him before he had time to answer. “Look around you,” I read aloud.

I had deemed it judicious to bring the original piece of paper I had found with me, so I took it out of my purse and compared it to the newly discovered piece of the puzzle. It was as plain as the nose on one’s face that both messages exhibited the same handwriting.

“I think we are making progress. This means that we’re at the right place!” Although I was excited, I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. “Let’s take a look around. I can sense we’re already very close to finding what we came looking for!”

Everyone concurred with my appraisal of the situation, and we split up. Emma went to examine the trees, for she was well versed in shinning up them. Louis didn’t say where he was headed, so I assumed that he had quenched his thirst for adventure and had decided to go back home. I myself resolved to turn over some stones, which I reckoned to be a fairly safe activity compared to the alternative—that is to say, tree climbing. Therefore, I moved toward the wall. Emma and I continued combing through our surroundings until the clock struck 10 p.m. By then we had to admit to ourselves that our chances of ever unraveling the mystery in question were quite slim.

Suddenly, I heard someone yell hysterically. And to my surprise, it was Louis. He had scaled the wall and was sitting on it—just about three meters away from me. There was a crack in the wall below him that led to a hole in the ground. Louis climbed down and pulled something out of the hole. At first, I thought it was a box, but then I looked harder and saw that it was in fact a book. He flicked through it and then tossed it in my direction.

Over the next few days, I savored every moment I got to hold our bounty in my hands and read the many adventure stories the old book contained. One day, however, my sixth sense told me that the book weighed an unreasonable amount, even for all the knowledge it carried. Without any hesitation, I ripped it apart. I still can’t believe my luck to this day. Hidden inside was—drumroll, please—an ingot of gold!


Written by Sara Elagag.

Choose your own adventure

This book

a) is a treasure trove of wisdom.

b) sells the prospect of a pot of gold to whomever rifles through its pages.