86 Treasure

“I’m fairly sure Zeke will be back soon with more demons. We don’t have much time. Does anyone remember how the Ark can be moved by humans?”

“I do!” Tova says excitedly. “You have to thread two poles through the rings on the four corner edges. Then, four people must lift the poles onto their shoulders by crouching under and lifting at the same time. No one is to touch the Ark of the Covenant except the High Priest.”

“That doesn’t sound too hard. We’ll look for the High Priest after we get the Ark to the Temple. I know we didn’t count on moving the Ark, but every mission has an unforeseen challenge. Look around for the poles. They will be close.” The team splits up and we search the tunnels by lighting the way with our sulfur and lime torches.

“I see them!” Kimmy calls out. The rest of us head towards her voice. When we arrive, she points to the high ceilings. The poles are encrusted in two separate stalactites about fifteen meters above ground. Seiko asks the question on all our minds: “Why did they choose such a crazy spot to store the poles?”

I take the lead on the answer. “Well, you have to admit, they’re well hidden from people looking down trying to maneuver the rocky terrain. Most people would probably miss the poles even if they did look up. We can see them because Kimmy has a nose for sniffing out things that have gone missing with her superpower of strategic imagination.” She smiles at me a full, toothy grin.

I move us onto the next step. “Seiko, it looks like we need your levitation superpower again. You’ll need to get up there and chisel the poles out. Let’s look for the tools she’ll need. They’re probably in a much smaller wall chest this time.”

Almost immediately, Liam notices a spot on the wall of the cave that has a protrusion and markings above it. He calls for Seiko to interpret the message. “Hmm, this is interesting.”

“What is it?” I’m not sure if I should be concerned or elated.

“It says here these tools once belonged to the Master. I assume the tool set inside this wall belonged to Jesus. He most likely used them as a boy learning the trade of carpentry from His father. I can’t wait to see them! Everyone, pick up a sharp edge and help me clear away the dirt.”

After the soil is cut away, a hollowed-out iron box is removed and opened. Sure enough, there is a set of carpentry tools in the box, including a hammer and chisel. They are perfectly preserved.

“Imagine,” says Seiko, “these are the tools Jesus held, and I will be the next person to touch them. This is surreal.” Her eyes shine with excitement.

“You won’t die if you touch them, right?” Kimmy asks.

I put up my hand to stop Seiko from grabbing the tools. “That’s a good question. Tova, do you know anything about this?”

“I’m not aware of any history on these tools.”

“Good—and dibs.” Seiko blows a kiss in the air to Kimmy.

“You’re calling dibs on Jesus’ tools?”

“Relax. It’s not like I’m going to sell them on eBay. I just really want them.” Seiko picks up the tools she’ll need and carries them to the spot directly beneath the stalactites. She closes her eyes to concentrate. In a few seconds, she begins to rise. Once she is eye-to-eye with the poles, she begins to chisel them out. The calcium salts give away easily to her hammer and chisel and she tosses the first pole to Liam. A few minutes later, she tosses the second pole to Sterling.

Once Seiko is back on the ground with us, I call out the next instructions. “Let’s get the Ark out of here. Liam, Sterling, and Tony help me slide the poles gently through the loops. Kimmy, Tova, and Seiko strap on the guys’ backpacks and carry the torches for us. Seiko, walk in front of the group and light the way. Kimmy, walk alongside the Ark and provide light where we step. It’s critical we not drop the Ark of the Covenant. Should we, legend has it we’ll all die.” This part of the story, I remember. “Tova, take the rear and walk behind the group. Let’s lift on the count of three.”

As the Ark lifts, the blue aura that surrounds it brightens. We slowly rotate the Ark ninety degrees and begin to walk in sync towards the exit.

The first half of the mile walk through the tunnel goes well. I’ve been figuring the stats. The average human takes twenty minutes to walk a mile. We have been walking towards the exit for forty-five minutes through some very rocky terrain which has probably added ten minutes to the estimate. We can’t risk slipping on the smaller rocks. Once again, I’m worrying about pebbles thwarting a mission. “How are your shoulders holding up with the load, guys?”

Liam takes the question. “I’m fab, like roller-coaster high.”

Sterling piles on. “Yea, I think I’m with Liam—just not sure what he said there. It would be good to know how close we are so we can know when the roller coaster is going to drop.” The four guys have a laugh together.

“Wait!” Seiko calls out to the team. “I see a message on the wall here at the split of the tunnel.” She pulls her torch close to ready the markings. “I hope this is good news: the message seems to be telling us that the Ark is not to be taken outside. Specifically, it says the ‘Ark must remain protected from the elements and placed in the Holy of Holies.’ These markings are routing us to an alternative path. It says we’ll come up under the Temple near the entrance to the Holy of Holies.”

We all stop walking and ponder the message. Sterling speaks first. “There’s a big catch here. The Ark of the Covenant was hidden in the caves before the Second Temple was destroyed. Though the new Temple was built to the same specs, I would think the chances are slim that the cave entrances are still perfectly aligned with the interior. We could take this route and find ourselves at a trap door that can’t be opened. Moving the Ark outside gives us a clear shot. Couldn’t we just cover it?”

Seiko defends her find. “I disagree. The message is clear we aren’t to take the Ark outside. Almighty wouldn’t allow us to become trapped. I think we need to trust the markings. Grayson, what do you think?”

I hate moments like this, when I must choose between the members of my team and their conflicting ideas. “I have to go with Seiko on this one. What we have learned about Almighty is that He gives simple and very clear instructions. When people go against them—like touching the Ark of Covenant with bare hands—the result is usually death. When we trust His instructions, we aren’t promised a challenge-free path, but we are promised a safe ending of the journey.” Sterling nods in agreement. We make the sharp right in the path and head into the unknown.

Once we arrive to a dead end, we find an iron plate above our heads. It’s a good size, probably six by ten feet. Handles line one side and seem to imply the plate should slide open. Now I’m concerned Sterling was right. This plate must open somewhere inside the Temple, but there’s no way of knowing what’s directly above it. I am sure of one thing—the girls will have to open it. “Okay, ladies, you’re up. Kimmy, we need your strategic imagination superpower. How do we do this?”

Kimmy focuses on the door. “First of all, we must move the Ark back from the metal plate. Even if nothing is sitting on it, the dirt and debris would defile it. Second, we need to look for the tool or tools we need. We’ve found them in every place where we needed them.” She runs her hands across one of the cave walls. Kimmy and Tova do the same thing on the other side.

While rubbing down the wall at the dead end, Seiko stubs her toe on a slab of chiseled limestone. She notices a marking on it. “This rock has the number one on it.” She runs her torch around the dead end of the tunnel. “It’s part of a set. There are ten slabs numbered one through ten in Hebrew. I think it’s to build a platform to stand upon. I say we stack them and figure it out from there.”

We move the Ark back about three feet. Our arms and shoulders are getting very tired now. We don’t know the rules on putting the Ark of the Covenant on the ground, so we continue to shoulder it. None of us can let go to help our female team members stack the slabs.

According to the girls, the slabs are very heavy. Each one is six inches thick. Slab number one is the largest and probably measures five-by-five feet. The girls slide it under the handles on the ceiling plate. As they are checking for the exact position, Seiko notices dark markings on the cave floor. They are drawn to form the corners of where slab number one is to be placed. They rock the slab back and forth until they push it to line up with the corner markings.

The second slab, numbered with a two, is about three inches smaller on each side. The girls prop its edge onto the first slab and ease it on with all their collective strength. They do the same with the third and fourth slabs. As the slabs are getting smaller, the girls can lift slab number five onto the top of number four freehand. They continue in this manner for the final five slabs. Each gets lighter, but must be lifted higher. The platform they built is now sixty inches high. Kimmy climbs to the top by using the edges created by the decreasing width of the slabs as steps. She reaches for two of the six handles in a straight row and pulls with all her might.

“I can’t budge it. Tova and Seiko, come up here and help me.” The two girls climb to the top. There is very little standing area on the top slab, but there are two more sets of handles they can use to steady themselves. “Each of you, grab a set of handles and hang from them.” Seiko and Tova do as asked. “Now, I want you to start swinging back and forth. We’ll get some momentum going and then we will sync up.” The girls start swinging. From where we are standing, this doesn’t look like a solution to anything, but I’ve learned to trust the superpowers of my teammates. After a few more swings, Kimmy gets the girls going back and forth in sync.

“Ok, on the next swing throw all your weight forward towards your feet. We want to slide this sucker open.” The rocking and momentum do exactly as Kimmy expected, the plate slides open about two inches. She tells us it’s dark above, but there’s no furniture threatening to fall on us. “Let’s keep going, girls. This time, let’s go for three inches.” After ten swings, they pull the plate back about four more feet. It’s now wide enough to take the Ark through. “Ok. We’re done.” As Seiko and Tova drop to the ground, Kimmy pulls herself up into the opening above her.

“There’s a tarp over the opening. Wait, no it’s a rug. I’ll roll it back. Hand me a torch. Tova climbs up to give Kimmy her torch. “Oh wow! It’s beautiful! I think we’re in a hallway outside a religious area. There are some seats and statues. The signs are in Hebrew. From what I can see, I would guess that we’re near the Holy of Holies. Grayson, I’m turning this back to you. What are your instructions?”

“Good job! I want you to stay up there to give us guidance. Seiko and Tova, you stay below and see we’re steady as we climb. Place our feet as we move. I don’t like the idea of tipping the Ark, but I must believe it was tipped to come down here. Let’s do this.”

We move the Ark just inches at a time. As the last step is taken, we find ourselves standing in a dark hallway, still holding the Ark. I call out to Kimmy, “Find a light switch!”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll turn on the lights.” The group goes quiet. We’re caught.

When the lights go on, we are face to face with a priest. I can tell from the vestments he’s  wearing that he is no ordinary priest. We are in the presence of the High Priest. “Father, we apologize for startling you. We are returning the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful home.”

The priest falls to his knees before the Ark. He raises his hands to the ceiling. “Almighty has brought the Ark of the Covenant back to his people. No longer is it desecrated in a tunnel under the Dome of the Rock. Blessings to you, my children, for returning this vessel. I am Judah Levin. We have kept the openings to the caves covered. I’m in shock the Ark was still here. I was sure it was stolen by the intruders. Please, carefully bring it this way. I will show you to the Holy of Holies.”

The Priest opens a set of double doors into a room lined with gold on all four walls. Pure white silk cloth drapes across the ceiling. The floor is made of white marble. “Father, is it alright for us to enter the synagogue and the Holy of Holies? From my teaching, I learned only rabbis can enter the Synagogue, and only the high priest can enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. We are dirty from a sand storm and climbing through caves.”

The priest smiles at Tova’s questions. “Anyone fit to carry the Ark of the Covenant is fit to enter both the Synagogue and the Holy of Holies to restore it. I prayed this day would come. And I prayed Almighty would send someone to return it to the Holy of Holies before man went to war. He who has possession of the Ark cannot be defeated. Please enter. Let’s return the Ark to its base.”

I stop the priest to tell him the purpose of our journey. “Father, Almighty sent us here on a mission. We are to retrieve the Keys to Death and Hades from the Ark of the Covenant and send them back with one of his guides for safekeeping with the Saints. We must open the Ark. Can you help us with this?”

The priest hesitates. He appears to be pondering his next move. “I am honored to help. Yes, the keys must be returned, of this I’m sure. I am taken back a bit. The keys were not to be removed until the End Times. Is this a sign of the end of days?”

If there is ever a moment in my life where I have felt privileged, this is it. “Yes, Father. We are souls who have traveled here from Heaven. We were told by the Saints the time of the Revelation is upon us.”

Priest Levin nods. “There is much to do. Yes, we will open the Ark.” He turns and leads the way.

I am walking with my teammates and carrying the Ark of the Covenant through the Synagogue of Solomon’s rebuilt Temple. I think about my mom. It would be great for her to be here right now. I feel strangely unworthy and yet running over with joy that this moment will be recorded in time.

Priest Levin leads the way to a high wall covered by a purple curtain. “Behind this curtain is the Holy of Holies. The room has not yet been blessed. Construction ended earlier this week. The blessing is set for tomorrow. The people will be very pleased the Ark of the Covenant is returned in time for the blessing. Keep your voices soft to be respectful. Please whisper inside and slip off your shoes here before entering.” Tova, Seiko, and Kimmy help us to remove our shoes after they remove theirs.

Once inside, the priest directs us to set the Ark down gently onto its base. We are relieved to drop the weighty poles and stretch our arms and backs. He reaches for a strangely-designed pole hanging nearby. It too, is made of gold. “Please bow your heads as I ask the blessing.”

After his short prayer of gratitude and praise, the priest undoes the lock. The end of the pole has a hexagon shape specially designed with magnets and edges to fit perfectly into the opening. Once the lock is undone, Priest Levin uses the pole to lift the lid. He pushes it back until it locks into an open position. He motions for us to step closer but reminds us not to touch it. The interior of the box is lined with white silk. There are four items—one in each of the four corners. The treasures are secured with straps hooked to the interior walls of the corners of the Ark. We stare in wonderment. I know this is a moment I’ll never forget, so I use my senses to try to remember every detail.

Tova has tears running down her cheeks. I reach over and catch one of them on my thumb. I push her long brown hair behind her and rub her back. The priest whispers the sealed bowl in the nearest corner contains manna that rained down on the Israelites each day as they wandered the desert. The bread was the staple of their diet for forty years. On the way here, Seiko told us she would love to dissect a piece of manna under her microscope. It’s doubtful this is going to happen on this visit.

My eyes shift to Aaron’s rod secured in the second corner. The rod was endowed with miraculous power during the Plagues of Egypt that preceded the Exodus. In the third corner I see the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. They are wrapped in a satin cloth. I can see the inscriptions, but I can’t translate them. Seiko is studying them from every angle.

Strapped to the fourth corner are the keys. They are wrapped in the same satiny sheer fabric as the Ten Commandments and tied with a golden cord. Priest Levin uses the pole to undo the strap and frees the pouch holding the keys. He lifts them out carefully and hands them to me with the end of the pole. I pull back the soft cloth and stare in awe at the two golden keys. I dare not touch them directly. They’re inscribed with lettering I cannot interpret. I hold them gently by cradling the cloth in my hand. My six teammates huddle around me and stare at the keys in wonderment as if I’m holding a newborn baby. We smile at one another. We have rescued the keys!

The priest closes and locks the Ark with the golden pole. He signals me to stay put and signals Sterling and Liam to follow him to a corner of the room. He shows them a lid made entirely of gold with two cherubs on top that are bowed in prayer. He has them carry it back by its ringed handles. The cherub lid is placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The priest bows his head. I fold the soft cloth around the keys and place them inside a satchel I’m wearing under my shirt. After Seneca told me I was going to be carrying these keys back, he gave me the satchel to wear. It hangs over my right shoulder and is strangely lined with fig leaves.

Once we are outside of the Holy of Holies and the Tabernacle, we say our goodbyes to Priest Levin and step into the cool of the desert night. Seiko shows us the way to the trail back to the desert area where Seneca is waiting for the keys. We are enjoying some laughs and high feelings of a job well done. When we turn into an unlit portion of our path, I stop short.

An eerie feeling comes over me. My suspicions of danger are verified when I hear a raspy voice. “Give me the keys, Grayson, or the girl dies.” As the torches carried by the unexpected demons light up the area, I can see we are surrounded by Lucie’s demons, and it’s Tova who is held hostage. Her mouth is covered by a demon’s hand, but I receive a message through her telepathy: Don’t give her the keys. It’s a trap. Let me die instead.

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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