The night was cold and dark. Private Kooble couldn't see anything much past the section of castle wall he had been assigned to guard. He shifted his grip on his rifle in order to warm one of his hands in a jacket pocket for a few minutes. As he did so he spotted a large grappling hook as it appeared from the darkness, flew over the edge of the castle wall, and lodged itself in the corner of a crenelation.
Private Kooble studied the grappling hook closely. He leaned over the parapet to call down to the sergeant of the guard.
"Hey, Sarge!" Kooble yelled.
"What do you want now?" replied Sergeant Knortween.
"There's a grappling hook up here, just come over the wall." said Kooble.
"Does it have a rope attached to it?" said the sergeant.
Kooble checked. After a pause, he called down, "Yes."
"What color is it?" asked the sergeant.
Kooble looked at the rope. After another pause, he said, "Yellow."
"Throw it in the box with the others," replied Sergeant Knortween.
"Right, Sarge." Kooble shrugged then returned to study the grappling hook again. He pulled it out of the cranny it had been wedged in, gave the rope a tug, and carried the hook to the end of the parapet towards a storage closet.
Inside the closet Kooble found a large cardboard box with a paper sign taped to it with the words "Grappling Hooks" printed neatly in red crayon. The next shelf down held another cardboard box the same size, this one with another paper sign that said "Grappling Hooks (with Rope Attached)." Kooble tried to put the grappling hook in the second box but found it wouldn't reach. He gave the rope a tug. It still wouldn't reach.
"Hey, Sarge," he called down again.
"What is it this time?" said the sergeant, his voice revealing no small amount of irritation.
"I think there's someone holding onto the rope!"
"Do I have to do everything around here?" yelled the sergeant. "Go to the supply room, get a new box and some paper, make a new sign that says 'Grappling Hooks (with Rope and Climber Attached),' put it in the storage closet, and leave me alone."
"I can't pull the rope up," said Kooble, "he's too heavy."
Kooble could hear the sergeant huffing and puffing his way up the ladder. "This better be good," the sergeant mumbled, "my stories are on in a few minutes."
Peering over the edge of the castle wall, Private Kooble and Sergeant Knortween spotted a huge, hideous creature clinging to the rope. The reptilian beast had six rows of razor-sharp gnashing teeth, four pairs of dangerous-looking eyes, three rows of horns, and what appeared to be a black knit ski cap attached with paper clips to the top of its long domed head.
"Hi, Jake," said Sergeant Knortween.
"Dude," said the creature hanging from the rope.
"If you don't mind telling me," the sergeant said slowly, "why are you trying to climb my castle walls at this hour of the morning?"
"Forgot my keys," said the monster.
"Friend of yours?" Kooble muttered to the sergeant as the creature struggled up the rope. The beast finally made it over the top with great difficulty.
"Dude," the monster said breathlessly.
"What are you doing, Jake?" pressed the sergeant.
"Oh, just moping around, you know," the creature said, panting heavily."Either of you guys seen Voltoon around here?"
"Voltoon?" asked the sergeant. "You mean the Great God Voltoon? He wouldn't be hanging around here. This is a Voltoon-forsaken place."
"What's that out there?" said Private Kooble, pointing over the wall towards the horizon. "Looks like a mob of angry villagers with torches and pitchforks."
"Gotta go," the monster blurted. He ran down the walkway towards the far wall of the castle. "Tell Voltoon I'm looking for him," he said and disappeared over the edge of the opposite wall.
"What a strange individual," said Kooble.
"Indeed," agreed Knortween.
"What do you think it means?" said the private.
"Probably some sort of foreshadowing," said the sergeant. "Dramatic irony, something along those lines I expect."
Private Kooble thought about that for a bit. He was worried. "You don't think it's a metaphor or anything like that, do you? An allegorical reference or something?"
"What, at three o'clock in the morning?" said the sergeant, incredulously. "Don't be ridiculous."
"No," continued the sergeant confidently, "I'm sure it's just a red herring, an intentional misdirection. Nothing to be concerned about. I'm sure it means nothing."
Sergeant Knortween and Private Kooble stood quietly for a moment, lost in thought, gazing at the section of wall the creature had just hopped over. Slowly and silently, without looking at each other, the two men tightened the chin straps of their helmets.
The content on this page was written in July 2002
Last updated: June 11, 2016