The Storm

The two students, Andrei Banica and Tudor Leru were in a hurry. That's why they had taken the shortcut. Leaving the highway that was taking a detour on the bank of the river Aries, they decided to climb up Vanatu, the mountain bordering on the river like a huge flat iron. They were geologists and – after a month of practice – climbing for a half an hour wouldn't scare them. They could catch the train to Turda. Otherwise they would have had to wait until after midnight for another connection. There was a terrible heat, even the leaves on the trees stood still, and the young men were soaking wet with sweat because of their heavy backpacks, yet they would march on bravely. They were used to that, too. "If only it won't start to rain," said Andrei and looked at the clouds that were gathering as they came from Prislop. "Don't worry, we won't melt. Neither will the stones in our backpacks…" "What about our copybooks from the practice?" "They are in my backpack, wrapped in the cellophane bag. They won't get wet…" "Then it's all right. Let's go!" They didn't talk for a while. They only started now and then, looking at the sky that turned pitch dark in the middle of the day. Then it lightened and the thunder filled the mountain hollow and shook them like an explosion. "Let's look for a shelter!" said Andrei. "It's pouring. There'll be a storm." "Relax, it's a summer rain," said Tudor and kept going. "We're just cooling off a bit…" Hardly had he finished the sentence when a bolt of lightning thrust itself forward in the trunk of a fir, right in front of him. The tree gaped open and fell down with a long groan. At the same time, the flood broke loose. That wasn't rain any more. Tissues of water whipped them in their faces like a pair of palms and blinded them. Their boots no longer found support and the two of them almost crawled, propped by their hammers, taking care not to slip. Down there, about 50 meters below, the river Aries was flowing unseen, hitting the rocks. "What shall we do?" shouted Tudor, hung on a cornel shrub. "Let's stop," was the boy's answer. Tudor turned around and saw him flat on the ground. At the same time he saw the entrance of the mine about ten steps behind. "Andrei! Look over there! It's a Roman mine!" Indeed, the two of them were right next to the entrance of a deserted gallery. Deserted for almost two thousand years… Some time before, for fun, they had decided to explore it. They could see the stairs and pillars drowned in weeds. It had obviously attracted some visitors over the centuries.They crawled back carefully, lest they should slip, and got in."Do you have the matches?""Yes, they are dry."Andrei lit a match and, as the flame flickered, he went forward a few steps.It was a dark and moldy grotto, deviating right at the entrance and quite dry because of that. It was also quite scary, because all sorts of roots had penetrated through the walls, like strangely interwoven hands. They had just taken off their shirts in order to wring them out when they heard a noise coming from the back of the mine. "There is someone else here as well!" whispered Andrei."I don't think so. Just light a match…"They walked slowly in that direction and suddenly they saw a bear cub. It started for a second, as it was frightened, then it jumped right through the two young men and ran off. It hit the two backpacks placed one over the other, jumped back and found itself wrapped in the shirts that were hung to dry. Then it jumped up squeaking and grabbed at random one of the roots that filled the gallery. They heard a muffled noise and stuck to the walls of the mine. Under the weight of the bear cub the root broke and the gallery, worn out over time, collapsed… after a few minutes, when the crumbling stopped, the two headed out towards the exit. They were groping in the dark. The entrance to the mine was blocked.They lit a match and realized the disaster. They were stuck in the Roman mine and no one knew about their situation. A few steps away were their backpacks and behind them, looking terrified, was the bear cub. So they took their hammers and started to scratch an exit but then they both stopped. There was no solution. With every blow the ground kept on crumbling… THE STORM CONTINUEDBY CRINGANU S. CONSTANTIN, 7TH GRADE While our young students were going through the happenings mentioned above, a traveler in a raincoat, with piercing eyes, was climbing up through the rain, following the boys' footsteps. The traveler was searching for a reference point, when he heard voices. He instantly threw himself on the ground, then he lifted his head with fear and looked at the gallery. He got back on his feet and cleaned the mud off his raincoat. He looked back and went to the deserted mine. When he arrived there, he noticed that the entrance was plugged and he wondered. He went around the spot until he found a dry tree. He uprooted it easily and, getting close to the hole that it had filled, he shouted:"Is anybody in there?""Yes, there is," answered a voice coming from the mine. Then the stranger took a rope from his waist, tied it around a big rock and climbed down the hole in the mine with great deftness. The young men bustled with joy when they saw him. After hiding his face in the raincoat, the traveler took out a flashlightot and pointed it at the agitated faces of the young geologists. They were blinded by the light. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" said the traveler, hard and grim. The young men looked at each other anxiously, as they were quite intimidated by the strong voice of the traveler who had come incognito. But soon they became self-confident again and replied: "First of all, sir, we don't understand why you talk to us in this tone!" "Just look at you, losers, taking me to task!" He got even closer and revealed his cheek that was marked by a deep scar. When Tudor heard the word "losers," he exclaimed: "Please sir, no epithets!" "Aren't you a bit too cheeky, kid?" Then shouting and tapping his foot: "This mine belongs to me! There are great treasures here and if you came here to steal my riches, I could easily knock you down. And I will!" His hand slipped into his pocket and came out with a revolver, with which he started to play. "As far as we can see, you're a gangster!" Tudor said with anger in his voice. We'll turn you in!" "Don't think too far, kiddo! Now that I've revealed my true identity, you'll have to die! I will pull down the mine and people will think that you died buried under the rocks. Ingenious, isn't it? Come on, make your last prayer!" At the same time, Andrei struck him instantly with his foot over the hand that was holding the gun. Then he jumped on the stranger with his fist. The stranger made a step to the side, grabbed the joint of his fist and his collar, twisted him 180 degrees and, striking the leg that he used for holding his balance, he banged his head against the wall. Everything happened so fast, that Tudor was stunned. But he soon came to his senses and, with a savage rage, he sent a fist right to the stranger's chin. The stranger staggered and made a few steps backwards, but didn't fall down. Tudor prepared to punch him for the second time, but he stepped aside and hit Tudor straight in the face. With a groan, Tudor collapsed. The traveler looked around triumphantly, lifted his gun and prepared to leave when he heard a noise coming from the back of the mine. He pointed the gun in that direction and looked for the flashlight. When he lit the area, he discovered the bear cub. He spat, disgusted, and said to himself: "What's the creature doing here?" He looked again to those lying on the ground and got out of the mine using the rope. He was worried because of what had happened; he wasn't in the mood for killing any more. He had to disappear. But he had just got out when he heard a strange noise coming from the bushes. He was tensed up and paralyzed with fear: a huge bear was coming slowly towards him. The rain had stopped and the bear mom had gone out looking for her cub. When she saw the stranger instead of the cub, she got the idea that the man might have killed it. Soon enough, with her famous thirst for revenge, she jumped on the supposed murderer. He got his gun out and tried to pull the trigger but it was stuck, probably because it had been struck against the walls of the mine. He threw it away and started to run. He kept running until he suddenly stumbled. Meanwhile, Tudor, who hadn't been injured too badly, came to his senses. Hearing the noise outside, he climbed on the rope that the stranger had forgotten to pull out and made a lasso out of it. When he saw the traveler running off, Tudor twisted the rope and threw it. The rope wrapped itself around the neck of the bear. Then he took the gun, unblocked it and aimed at the bandit. "Don't move or I'll send you to the other world!" Then he shouted to Andrei: "Andrei, wake up, I caught the treasure hunter!" When he heard his friend's voice, Andrei opened his eyes and wiped the blood off his face. Then he got up slowly. The stranger tried to move but calmed down when he saw the barrel of the gun pointing at him. Tudor handed Andrei the gun and climbed down in the mine. He came back with the bear cub and the backpacks. When it saw its mom, the cub jumped on her chest and pulled on the rope until she was free. But the two young men were far away now, carrying with them, at a safe distance, the stranger. As he lift his backpack on his shoulder, Andrei shouted smiling: "That was an adventurous journey! Just as I like it!" They pulled the prisoner towards the road that was winding next to the river Aries and started to walk. Soon, the two young men, Andrei Banica and Tudor Leru, were going to be congratulated and awarded for capturing a dangerous bandit that the militia had been searching for for a long time. And the geological committee was going to discover in the deserted mine one of the most beautiful Roman heritages, which the spy had been after. But things don't always go according to plan. THE STORM CONTINUED BY NEGRUTI LEONARD There was no hope. They had gathered a bit of brushwood and lit it. The hours became centuries. They were looking at the bear cub who had calmed down and was now playing with the belts of their backpacks. The two sat down on a rock and started to inspect the gallery. "What now? What shall we do? Why couldn't the bear cub sit still on a rock instead of making us wait for our luck, that... may not come?" asked Andrei in a grumpy tone. "How do you know it won't come?" The flames of the fire were still flickering and the shadows of the crags looked like pairs of hands begging for forgiveness. "Everything went down the chimney. That's the truth... let's grab some pieces of brushwood and wonder about the cave. Maybe we'll discover a ray of light." "You are so right, Tudor," answered Andrei. "And after all, if luck is on its way, I'll ask it in gladly." They took their hammers and a few pieces of brushwood that they used as torches, and went to inspect the cave. After twenty steps they were already tired because the many crags were sharp and stood in their way. Finally, they saw the last walls of the cave. "There is nothing to do," said Tudor. They started to go back and Andrei was knocking on the walls of the cave with his hammer when he suddenly shouted: "Tudor, Tudor, stop and come here!" "What's wrong?" asked Tudor. "The wall here sounds empty, which means that there is a grotto on the other side." "Then let's get to work, Andrei!" They smashed the wall that gave in very quickly. They let the humid and moldy air get out. Afterwards they lit a piece of brushwood and got in. Suddenly they took a step backwards and their faces became yellow. They were scared. In front of them, only a few steps away, they could see the shape of a huge statue in the dim light of the brushwood. A man armed with sword and shield stood ready to fight. Only his eyes told them that he was made of stone. Behind him and on the right, everywhere one looked, there were beautiful statues, carved skillfully. As if they were under a spell, they got closer and touched with their fingers the shield, the sword and the arms of the fighter, which were still in a funereal strain. "So many sculptures and all made of marble!" said Tudor, "Look at the face of the woman, who wears a crown on her head!" They got closer and looked in astonishment at the sculpture. "Tudor, look over here, there is something written in Latin on the crown!" Tudor brought the torch closer and read: "Traveler, look closely at the sculptures and read the inscription behind the fighter…" Time had erased the following words but they were satisfied with what they had. They turned around and indeed, behind the fighter there was a small plate on which one could read: "See the tip of my sword? It points to a secret corridor at the end of which you can find... you'll experience... great endeavors..." Without saying a word, they rushed to the secret exit. It was very hard to advance. They crawled on the wet stones. Slowly, the grotto widened and now they could walk straight upright. The inscription warned them that they were going to face three dangers all at once: "There are no dangers for us," they both said at the same time. But no sooner had they made two steps, that the stone under their feet collapsed into a cold and clear water. Shivering, they started to swim until they found an iron step. They climbed on it and both saw at the same time how three human skeletons came out of the water, as if they were alive. They could hear a sinister rumble. A chill went right through them and a spontaneous smile got stuck on Tudor's lips. The rumble became louder and louder. Andrei tried hard and turned around. At the same time, his smothered voice hardly said: "Watch out, Tudor!" It was too late. A rock was rolling fast from behind. When it hit the water, Tudor fainted and fell in the water as well. The bones of the skeletons spread around after they were hit by the rock. A lost skull stopped on Andrei's breast, scaring him endlessly and profoundly disgusting him. It all lasted a second. In the next one, there was silence like in a tomb. Air bubbles came out of the water. Andrei looked after Tudor. He dived under water and pulled him out. He was still fainted. Tudor came to his senses. His right arm was aching and he couldn't move it. The rock had obstructed the corridor that they had come from. They were now completely trapped. All they could do was to go ahead. They didn't have any more matches. They started to walk in the dark. "Another inscription. Let's read it," said Andrei. They felt with their fingers and decoded the following text: "If you give up the treasure, you'll find a door that gets you out." Gropingly, they discovered the door. The wood was rotten. They pulled out a plank. A ray of light shone in the cave. "Andrei, Andrei, we are saved!" cried Tudor with great joy. In the next second the whole mountain seemed to move. They stood aside shocked, while huge rocks were rolling and blocking the exit. And the treasure. "Don't worry, we'll come back," said Andrei. Behind them they heard a grumbling. It was the bear cub, who was running towards another treasure: his mother. THE STORM CONTINUEDBY HAGIU NICOLAE, 5TH GRADE "Let's not lose our heads, Andrei!" "What can we do?" A long break followed, that made the grotto they were in seem more scary. "Let's see how much food we have and how long we can hang on!" "Andrei, I see that you have already started to think that we'll be buried here forever. Let's rather start a fire and see if there is any exit." They started to break the roots that hung like the claws of a sorceress. After they put them in the middle, guessing and groping, they managed to start the fire. "Now we have light, so we can get to the action," said Tudor. "What do you mean?" At the same time, the bear cub, crouched in a corner of the grotto, got out his head and rolled its small eyes, like two beads. Tudor was touched. He got closer to the cub and started to pet it. The cub crouched and blinked frightened. But when Tudor rubbed it behind the ears, the cub started to lick his hands gratefully. "Little bear, the three of us are stuck here like in a hunter's trap." The cub started to grumble as if it had understood the situation. "Are you hungry, little bear?" Andrei took a piece of chocolate and gave it to the bear who started to lick it happily. "Let's set more roots on fire." They started to pull out the roots that were left. In the back of the cave hung a bigger one. "This one could burn longer. But why can't I break it?" asked Andrei. He grabbed it with both hands and pulled it hard. Crash! Boom! Bang! "Watch out!" Andrei heard a noise. "The wall is falling..." Suddenly there was an opening in front of them. "We are saved! We are saved!" Tudor started to shout like a madman. They went to the new gallery right away. "Tudor, look!" Andrei lifted a tool that looked like a hammer. "There are pieces of tools and bits of bones that turned white over time. There used to be a gallery here as well, but it collapsed a long time ago." The opening made a sharp turn so it didn't reveal the end. "Let's go further!" They took their backpacks and went on. The bear cub followed them. They went until the point where the gallery turned. Suddenly, the gallery became narrow. They were advancing slowly because they had to stoop. Suddenly they saw a grotto with dim light in front of them. "What do we have here?" As they entered it, they realized that they were in a funnel with shiny walls, probably formed because of infiltrations and collapsed rocks. In the middle there was a lake whose beauty was hard to describe. Almost round and blue without a wrinkle, it mirrored the sky full of stars. The lake itself seemed to be a piece of the sky, and the fact that it was there for the two young men to admire was a wonder. "It's splendid!" shouted Andrei, frankly astonished. "Indeed, but what's with the walls of this 'funnel'? Why do they shine like that?" "I think we have discovered a deposit of pyrites." "We have discovered a lot, Tudor. Just think of the old gallery, with its tools and bones, of the 'funnel' with this wonderful place, of the deposit… but one thing we haven't discovered is how to get out of here, and we should, because otherwise…" "Let us rest for now, we are very tired. And then we'll see." After quickly eating a few biscuits, they cuddled in their sleeping bags and fell sound asleep. The bear crouched at Andrei's feet and fell asleep as well. The mechanic Grigore Marin had two free days which he spent hunting in the nearby forest. He had a gun and a hunting license. On the first day he didn't hunt much, just two-three capercailzies. On the second day he woke up earlier, washed himself, packed his tent and went hunting. "These seem to be the traces of a bear," said the hunter to himself when he saw a trace in the leaves. Following them, he reached a sort of pit. On its edge, he saw a bear that was running around. He aimed and shot. The bear got up on two feet and ran off. The bullet had missed its target. The hunter tried to catch up with it, but when he got closer to the pit, he heard someone shouting. When he looked down, he saw two young men trying to climb up the walls of the pit. "Help us get out of here," the hunter heard them shouting. He took the long rope from his backpack, tied one of the ends around the nearest tree and threw the other one in the gap. Tudor was the first to climb up and he thanked the hunter. "How did you end up in there?" the hunter asked. "It's a long story and we'll tell it to you later." "Who is coming up now?" "A little bear, our friend." After it climbed up, the bear cub took off to the wood. "Finally!" said Andrei, who climbed up the last. "Where is the little bear?" he asked. "I think he went after his mother," explained the hunter. "If I hadn't seen her on the edge of the pit, I wouldn't have found you." "She must have felt that her cub was down there." "I'm glad I missed her." The three men went away. The wood was rustling behind them. The sharp whistle of the railway engine announced the end of the adventure. THE STORMTHE END SUGGESTED BY THE AUTHOR "Shall we try to break our way out?" Andrei broke the silence. "We may increase the danger of a landslide," answered the other, who seemed angry at himself. "The soil is imbued with water." "Do you want us to stay here with our arms crossed?" "You can keep your arms the way you like, just don't play with the matches," said Tudor when he heard the other one swish the box. "Do you think…?" But he didn't finish his sentence. So there was the danger of choking as well. "I don't know. It depends on how long we are going to stay here. I don't know," Tudor repeated. "The soil is pierced by roots… yet…" The bear cub acted restless again. It would snore and whimper and then it would suddenly start to jump. "What's wrong with him?" "I don't know. But anyway I suggest that at least we should remain still. We should sleep. The storm will stop and the soil will dry. Tomorrow we'll try to break our way out. Slowly and carefully, lest we should get buried alive." They kept silent. Had the storm stopped maybe? "I can't hear anything." And yet one could hear something. A stifled, rhythmic noise. "It could be a river hitting the rocks," said Tudor. "No, listen!" shouted Andrei with his