It is hard to believe that i have spent two whole days absorbed in my quest to find a solution to the riddle… Now that i have found the answer, it is laughably simple; something that should have crossed my mind almost immediately, but i am weary and the obvious is not always as plain to me these days as it might once have been. The riddle’s solution is a name – a name from my past; a member of our writers’ guild… someone i have not seen for many years.
Last night, i shied away from spending the hours of darkness at the portal i had discovered – if the Elite were abroad, i had no doubt that they would be aware of its existence, even though i knew that they would have even less knowledge than myself of how it may be activated. In the gathering gloom i found myself a bolthole on the rocky shore – literally stumbling into it by accident in the darkness – and there spent my night, safe and secure. As dawn broke and i awoke, i looked ruefully at my bruised shin – a reminder of my accident the previous night which revealed this safe haven… a happy accident, at that.
In my semi-wakefulness, the words wandered around my head… ‘a happy accident’… ‘safe haven’… and slowly, realisation dawned:
“A substitution of a single letter creates a happy accident that will lead you to a place of safety”
With sudden crystal clarity, i knew the answer! A name, long forgotten, that now leapt into my thoughts – the answer that had eluded me for so long. i looked at the stone walls surrounding me: My haven – a place of safety; a place i had discovered by accident, a happy accident… serendipity – a word, which with the substitution of a single letter became a name: Serendipidy… Serendipidy Haven!
With a smile, i remembered her and the way she would always fiercely defend her choice of name. “Yes… i do know how to spell! It’s meant to be that way – it’s my choice to spell it incorrectly – it’s my name and it’s no accident, happy or otherwise!”. Names, to her, had always had significance – they unlocked secrets and spoke more about people than any profile ever could. That name held other secrets too, secrets that only those close to her had ever been told – it was fitting that her name should be the key that unlocked my path to safety.
As the morning sun climbed in the sky, i returned to the portal, clicked on the TP pedestal and, for the first time in many, many months, spoke aloud in open chat… “Serendipidy Haven”…
…The pool was cold – an unexpected shock to my system. i was disorientated; the sound of tumbling water in the enclosed space confusing me and assaulting my senses; my vision blurred as i plunged beneath the water, then re-surfaced, gasping and spluttering.
Gradually i began to make sense of my surroundings; a rocky cavern, into which a cataract of icy water poured, forming an underground river that flowed into the darkness. i had expected some form of welcoming committee, yet no-one appeared to greet or to guide me. Sighing, i resigned myself to further lone exploration of this strange place into which i had teleported.
At one end of the cavern, where the waterfall cascaded down the slick walls, a treacherous stone stairway ascended upwards. This seemed to me my most likely route; i carefully negotiated the steep and slippery steps, only to be frustrated as they ended at a solid wall of rock. i surmised that this had been the original entrance to the cave, now solidly protected against intruders and the curious. The route back down was even more difficult than the ascent and, upon reaching the river, i stopped, waiting for my heart to resume something more akin to its normal rhythm. Steeling myself, having found no other route that i might follow, i made my way into the darkness, following the subterranean river downstream.
Hours of dreary, cold, wet trudging seemed to me to pass as i half swam, half stumbled along the echoing watercourse until, some time later, the timbre of the sounds changed, as did the rock walls of my tunnel, to be replaced by clear evidence of habitation.
Stone walls, wooden bracing and metal grilles began to appear at more and more regular intervals, until the passage i followed took on the form of a purposeful construction, rather than a natural passageway. The space around me opened up, block paving walkways appeared on either side and, rounding one final corner, i was finally at my destination.
There, stood at the water’s edge were two figures… as i drew close, one of them gave out an audible gasp. Awkwardly, with the assistance of the two watchers, i dragged myself from the water onto dry land. Then, a hand on my shoulder and a voice…
“Is it really you?”
i looked up into a face i had thought i would never see again… the face of a friend.
“Yes, it really is me!”
“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”