For a while he just stood there, munching pear, feeling torn. One direction didn’t seem any more promising than the other. Perhaps it was the stress of indecision, but his stomach was starting to feel quite tight. He tucked the rest of his pear away with a grumble and rubbed his belly but if anything, the tight feeling got worse, rather than better. By golly, he thought, that’s a strange sensation. It really did feel as something was pulling on his stomach. The pulling sensation seemed to be drawing him to the left.
Chuckling at himself and his over-active imagination, he deliberately turned to the right, only to find himself doubled in pain and gasping for breath. What a truly awful feeling! He quickly turned back again to the left and took a few steps in that direction, sighing with relief when the pain promptly disappeared. He could still feel a faint tugging in his mid-drift but it was decidedly more comfortable to head in this direction, so he set off, slightly stooped due to the low ceiling. Every now and then he experimented, rebelling against the pull by taking a step backwards and the pain would again reappear.
“Humph!”, he grumbled to himself, quite put out by the idea that the decision about direction was being made for him, by some force he could neither see nor explain. It quite honestly felt as though there was a string attached to his insides, and someone was pulling him along, but when he felt about for this imaginary string there was, of course, nothing to be found. “Achoo!” He sneezed in response to the dust, trying to muffle the sound beneath his hands, worried that someone in the room beneath him might hear.
For a moment, he paused in his steps, visualising the castle in an attempt to work out where exactly he was relative to the rooms below, but the tugging feeling soon had him moving again. An amazing aroma wafted up to greet him as he reached the end of the narrow room, making him feel almost delirious. Oh for something other than a pear! His stomach rumbled at the thought and he hushed it with alarm, thinking it sounded loud as thunder. Listening carefully he heard the sound of voices, chopping and clanging pots in the room below him.
A trapdoor in the floor obviously led into the kitchens. Scrambling down onto hands and knees he put he ear to the floor. That was the voice of old Samuel the cook. He sounded merry as though telling a good joke. A soft tinkling voice answered in laughter. Then the voices suddenly became muffled and he could hardly hear them. The scent of cooking also seemed muted. The King lay on the ground on his back, wondering what to do. Dare he try lifting the trapdoor to take a peek below? Perhaps it would be better to wait until later at night when the kitchens were empty.
That seemed like a fine idea, except that the tugging feeling in his mid-drift was back again and it felt like it was trying to pull him through the floor. He resisted the temptation to groan, and rolled over to study the trapdoor. A small crevice allowed him to hook his fingers into the trapdoor surface and with great care and held breath, he lifted the trapdoor just enough to see into the room below. Nothing. Just darkness. Hmmm, he thought to himself, lifting the trapdoor a little higher. It took a while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. When they did he realised he was looking down into the pantry.
Ahhh, that was why the sound of voices was loud then soft- someone must have opened the pantry door then shut it again. Again, he contemplated the very wise idea of waiting until dark before venturing into the room below, and right on cue ‘tug tug’ went the little string in his belly. For a while he managed to ignore it but it become more persistent, as though it were trying to pull him bodily through the floor. He started to wonder if there was somewhere he could hide in the pantry. It was, after all, a very large room, with a lot in it.
Suddenly the pain let off, making him gasp with surprise. Footsteps approached and the pantry door began to open, almost blinding him with the sudden light. He hurriedly lowered the trapdoor and waited, eyes wide, breath held. Whoever it was below was humming a little tune to themselves as they rummaged about. The King’s heart beat loudly in his ears and he had to remind himself to breathe. Then silence again. He flopped back onto his back with a sigh of relief. The idea of sneaking into the pantry was positively insane.
‘Tug, tug’. Obviously the invisible string had other ideas. Then he remembered how the pulling had stopped just before the pantry opened and wondered if perhaps the string were guiding him, helping him. The idea seemed ludicrous. Once again, the pulling sensation intensified. For a while he thought he would wait and test his theory, wait and see if the feeling went away again just before someone opened the pantry door, but it was becoming quite unbearable so he decided to take his chances.
Listening carefully for the sound of footsteps and voices, he slowly lifted the trapdoor to one side and lowered himself down through it onto a large pile of potato sacks, careful not to dislodge any. Balancing on top of the potato sacks he reached up and moved the trapdoor back into place, then climbed down off the sacks and looked around him for a place to hide. Annoyingly, the tugging feeling was back. He sighed and allowed it to pull him towards the back wall of the pantry. It didn’t let up until the was touching the wall itself and then it drew him towards the right. A lovely warm feeling spread through his body, starting in his hands.
The wall beneath his palms was warm. He ran his hands over the wall, discovering a small section of wall that was notably warmer than the surrounding wall. The string seemed to tug on him gently, urgently, almost as though it were excited. He pressed himself fully against the wall, wondering what on earth the string wanted him to do. He could hardly walk through the wall, after all. The wall become warmer and warmer and it seemed so soothing, it almost lulled him off to sleep. His eyes grew heavy and then widened in alarm. The wall was glowing brightly as though lit with an inner light. In a panic, he tried to pull away from the wall but he seemed to be stuck fast.
To his horror, he felt as though he was melting into the wall, or that the blinding white light of the wall was melting into him. He screwed his eyes shut, hoping it was all just a bad dream, feeling faint and disorientated. A sound roared in his ears and then suddenly it was all over. Everything was still, and the ground seemed firm beneath his feet once again. All was quiet, except for the sound of birdsong and wind blowing through trees. Birdsong? Trees? He opened his eyes and looked around him in disbelief, glad to have the wall behind him to hold him up, because his knees were trembling with weakness.
The kitchen wall seemed to be behind him now, the castle garden in front of him, his view of the trees blocked by the large, hulking shape of a great, golden dragon who smiled down upon him benevolently. With a whimper, the Kings knees buckled, and he slumped to the ground in a faint.