THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

The Temple

Eddy Blake wasn't supposed to be with Lester Moore. His mother said, "That Moore boy is going to get you into trouble."

It's true that Lester Moore did his share of mischievous things, and that on more than one occasion Eddy and Lester were in some trouble, but it was never very serious because none of the things they did ever hurt anyone or anything.

The incident at the Shealist temple is a good example.

It began that day Lester asked Eddy if he'd ever seen the inside of the Shealist temple. They were walking home from school as they usually did accompanied by Jasmine Jackson, who was riding her bike slowly beside them.

"Have you ever been in it?" Lester asked Eddy.

"The Shealist temple? My parents are Klomans. I could never go there," Eddy said.

"Well I've been in it. It's the scariest place you've ever seen. The walls are covered with pictures of monsters and demons and dragons and beasts I can't even describe. And there are hidden passageways all over the inside," Lester said.

They had stopped walking and Jasmine was straddling her bike. "Why did you ever go into such a terrible place?" Jasmine asked.

"Just to see it," Lester said, "and to show I wasn't afraid."

"It sounds scary," Eddy said, "but I wouldn't be afraid."

"It sounds disgusting," Jasmine said. "I would never go into a horrible place like that."

"Well we're going in it," Lester said.

"You're actually going into that horrid place?" Jasmine said wide-eyed.

"We are," Eddy said, though it was the first he'd heard of it. "Too bad you're afraid to go with us," he added, even though he knew Jasmine wasn't afraid of anything.

"You know that's not true," Jasmine insisted. "I could go in there, but why would I?"

"There are secret passages," Lester said, "and we're going to explore them."

"Really?" Jasmine exclaimed. "How do you know about any secret passages?"

"I've seen them," Lester bragged a little.

That was enough to pique Jasmine. She just had to know if Lester was just bragging or really knew something, and she was not going to let two boys prove she was not as brave as they were.

"When are we going?" she asked.

"Are you really going with us, Jasmine?" Eddy asked.

"Of course," she said. "I'm not afraid of that place, I'm only afraid of what Mama would do if she caught me, but she won't be in any Shealist temple," she said a little defiantly.

Eddy was glad Jasmine wanted to go with them because he loved Jasmine, but he was also a little concerned. He did not like to think of her being in any real trouble.

"We could go Sunday morning," Lester suggested. "They have their meetings on Saturday and there's nobody there on Sunday."

And that's what they agreed to do.



"It took both Lester and Eddy to open the huge door of the temple. As soon as they entered, and the door had closed behind them, Jasmine drew in her breath, and whispered loudly, "Oh Jasta! It's horrible."

Even though she whispered the sound of her voice echoed back at them. It was huge and even in the subdued light, the lurid paintings of monsters staring at them from every wall and the grotesque creatures that seemed to be flying above them were dreadful. In spite of walking as softly as possible, every step echoed and they could not help feeling they were being watched.

"The passage is at the back, behind the organ," Lester said pointing at the huge pipe organ at the back of the vestibule.

Then he pointed up at the gargoyles that ringed the entire ceiling. "You can see the little doorways behind each of those flying monsters, there, and the little shelf that runs between the doorways."

"What's the shelf for?" Jasmine whispered.

"It's to get from one door to another," Lester said. "Only the first one can be reached from the passageway."

"Is that where we're going?" Jasmine asked.

"Yep," Lester said. "You're not afraid, are you?" and he wasn't teasing.

"I'm no more afraid then you," she said defying him.

When they reached the organ, Lester led them to a door behind it. The door led to a small alcove in which there was another small door to their right. He opened the door which led to a very narrow staircase which they climbed, Lester leading the way, Jasmine following, and Eddy behind her.

The stairs seemed to go on forever, and Lester kept saying, "turn left," because it was dark and the stairs kept turning and his warning prevented them from walking into a wall. At last they reached a little platform and they could see a thin crack of light around another little door.

Lester finally found the latch and slowly opened the door. In front of them was the back of a gargoyle suspended by wires slightly above them. When they looked down, they could see the entire temple below, very small and very far away.

"There's the ledge," Lester said pointing to the little shelf about three feet wide that ran from their door to another door about twenty feet to their left."

"Now we'll see who's afraid and who isn't," Lester said.

"Well, I'm not afraid," Jasmine said, stepping out the door and onto the ledge.

"Don't touch the gargoyle," Lester warned. "It's just wires holding it. It can't hold you."

Jasmine had already moved about three feet toward the other door when Lester stepped out onto the ledge. He stayed as close to Jasmine as he could.

Eddy finally stepped out onto the ledge and followed Lester as closely as he could. They were all shuffling along the ledge when Jasmine reached the next door. She tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. Lester tried to help her but had to reach around her being careful not to knock her off the ledge, but even with his help the door wouldn't open.

They were debating whether to go along to the next door or to go back when they heard the huge temple door open and then slam shut, followed by the echoed footsteps of someone marching to the front of the temple.

They could see the man walking quickly down the aisle to the back of the temple, but could not see him when he finally stopped walking.

Barely daring to breath, they stood listening to sounds of shuffling, then squeaks and groans, but had no idea what they were listening too.

Suddenly the temple was filled with a huge roaring sound. The man was beginning to play the organ and the power of the first chords nearly shocked them off their precarious perch.

They all realized at once, that so long as the temple was filled with organ music, they're whispers and shuffles could not be heard.

"Can you turn around?" Lester whispered to Eddy.

"I think so," Eddy said, slowly trying to turn his feet and then his body in the opposite direction while staying pressed as close to the wall as possible.

Lester turned himself around as well, then offered his hand to Jasmine as she turned herself around. They began to shuffle their way back to the other door when the organ music suddenly stopped. When they tried to stop Jasmine bumped into Lester, both of them just barely catching their balance.

"Whew," Jasmine said when the music began again, and they once again started their careful shuffle, but the music stopped again, almost as soon as it started. The rapid start and stop of the music happened two more times, but Eddy had managed to reach the door and was stepping in when they heard the voice.

"Who's that," a man's deep voice echoed from below.

"Lester reached the door and was reaching out for Jasmine when she lost her balance. Lester grabbed the hand closest to him but Jasmine's other hand struck the Gargoyle which began swaying wildly. Lester just managed to pull Jasmine in."

"Thanks," Jasmine said. "I think we've been caught."



They didn't discuss it. There was no point. They had been caught and knew the only thing was to face the consequences.

They very quietly and gloomily descended the dark stairs. They firmly believed when they reached the bottom they would be met by one of more very angry adults who would surely have some very unpleasant punishment prepared for them. But when they reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door there was no one. There was not even a sound.

They just looked at each other astounded and wasted no time getting out of what they now all agreed was a, "horrid," place.



What they did not know was that the organist had not actually seen them. He only thought he had heard something, which explains the sudden starts and stops of the music, but when he looked up all he actually saw was the Gargoyle wildly swinging back and forth which looked to the organist like a grotesque dance.

The organist was a Shealist and Shealists, being very superstitious, believe all of the monsters depicted on the temple walls and by the hanging Gargoyles are quite real, and to see one of them dancing was surely a sign of some terrible evil. The organist was thoroughly terrified by the sight and had fled the temple as soon as he saw it.

***