Category Archives: Return to the Cave of Time

A Cavernous Conclusion

After being chased by a giant prehistoric cave bear and being rescued by a ridiculously strong proto-human during our impromptu wall climbing expedition, we voted overwhelmingly to keep following our new friend Iaark into his cave to further our questy adventure:

You follow Iaark into the tunnel, hoping it will come out in the open. “Where does this lead?” you ask, though you know he can’t understand your language.

Great, we’re the kind of guy who, when the cab driver doesn’t understand us, just says the same thing only louder. Because English is comprehensible to a non-speaker in direct proportion to its volume. I bet we’re a lousy tipper, too.

Orgorjon,” he calls back.

You have no idea what that means, but the tone of it was friendly. Maybe he’s just exploring the tunnel to see where it goes.

Iaark continues on. You follow close behind, thinking that you may come out on the other side of the mountain. Instead, the tunnel floor gives way. You’re falling, and Iaark is falling with you, tumbling through the Cave of Time! Then you are waking, as if from a dream. Once again you’re just inside the entrance of a cave. You walk out into the open air. Something — maybe it’s the smell of grass and flowers, or the temperature, or the sound of traffic from a nearby highway — tells you that you’re back in your own time!

“Ak lugga!” says a voice. It’s Iaark, walking toward you from the interior of the cave.

“Iaark, you’re here — I can’t believe it! You better come with me,” you call. “You’re going to need a place to stay.”

The two of you reach a road and walk along into a nearby town. Iaark gasps at the sight of cars and trucks going by on the highway. Your time is stranger to him than his time was to you! When you reach the town and talk to a police officer standing on a street corner, you find out that you are indeed back in your own time.

The End.

One word:

Sorry, no, two words: Effing lame. Are you serious about this, Edward Packard?! When you choose to go into the past and start exploring, your goal is not to end up right back where you started after the thrill of climbing a wall. And nothing says “fun!” in a novel like introducing an intriguing character, only to completely end the story two pages later without learning a single GD thing about him. Well played, sir.

I am so done with this stupid adventure. My apologies for subjecting you all to this frustrating dive into irrelevancy. We’ll try something different next week.

If you had a favorite Choose Your Own Adventure type of book you’d like to see us try next, by all means let me know. Just so long as it’s not as idiotic as this one.

To Follow or Flee?

My apologies for skipping our “Return to the Cave of Time” episode last week. I plead “Coding Fog” as my excuse. Luckily, even though I was asleep at the wheel, our intrepid time traveller (and you, his controlling public) were not sitting around idle — we decided we should send him scampering up the cliff wall after our Neolithic compatriot in an attempt to avoid the clutches of the savage cave bear:

You leap high against the cave wall, grab a handhold, dig the toe of your right foot into a tiny niche, and begin to climb. Looking over your shoulder, you see the bear lumbering toward you, grunting and snorting.

You’re able to climb a few feet higher, but the wall becomes even steeper above you. Your feet are still within the bear’s reach, and you can’t find a higher handhold! Suddenly your wrist is seized in a tight grip, and you feel yourself rising, then being hauled onto a ledge. Only then does the grip release you. Aching and sore, you look into the smiling eyes of Iaark, then back at the claws of the bear raking the lip of the ledge, trying to reach you.

“Aug,” says Iaark. He starts crawling ahead into a dark tunnel.

You wonder whether to follow him. He saved your life, so you’re pretty sure you can trust him, but you don’t know anything about him except that he’s tremendously strong.

This is the choice page from the eBook; I’m assuming that’s Iaark there at the bottom, looking up like some kind of prehistoric fountainhead. I just thought you might want a look at who we’re supposed to be following:

I think the narrator did a pretty good job of summing up our options on this one. So what’ll it be, intrepid explorers, do we follow our muscular but likely pre-human Mr. Muscle into the deep, dark recesses of the cave, or do we lam out on our own?

Forward to the Past!

Your voice has been heard, and rather than repeating our sojourn into the future, we’ve decided to change tactics and plunge backwards into the stream of time. Meaning the stream of time is flowing backwards, not that we’re swimming backwards. Because that’s a good way to drown.

Maybe in the past we can pick up some good tips on better metaphors.

Regardless, here we go!

You are in a cave, close to the entrance. For a minute it feels as if your mind has become detached from your body — the feeling of being transported through time. Looking out, you can see that you are high on a mountainside. A vast landscape of plains and lakes and patches of forests stretches beneath you. There is no sign of human habitation. You wonder if you are living thousands of years in the past, perhaps before the appearance of human beings. In the distance you notice dark moving specks, what might be a herd of grazing animals. Where there’s life, there’s food, and hope for survival you think.

OK, fine, rub it in that we went to the Earth of the future where it’s all a big huge wasteland. I didn’t think the Oracle of Time was so vindictive!

You sense a presence nearby. You whirl around, and your eyes meet other eyes. They belong to a boy who looks older than you, though he is a bit shorter. His wavy brown hair is shoulder length. he is naked except for crudely fashioned shorts made of animal skins. He looks more solidly built than any boy you remember. His muscles bulge as if he has been weight lifting. His bushy eyebrows are set on bony ridges above his eyes, giving him a brutish look; yet there’s something sweet and friendly in his expression.

“Hello,” you say.

“Iaark,” the boy replies. He steps close and stares at you. At that moment you hear a deep-throated growl. In the dim light near the back of the cave, you can make out an animal of monstrous proportions — a gigantic cave bear, larger than any bear in your own time! Terrified, you stand watching.

And really, that seems to be what we’re best at — standing in terrified paralysis in the face of danger.

The bear edges closer.

The boy touches you. “Narga,” he says, and pulls at your arm, then starts climbing the sheer wall of the cave, gaining handholds on rough niches in the rock. You watch with amazement as he pulls himself up by his arms alone. A moment later he slips into a cleft in the rock, safely out of reach of the bear. The bear follows the boy with his eyes, then turns toward you and growls so loudly it shakes your bones. You’d better do something fast!

The fundamental question here is, does “Narga” mean “Follow me” or “Good luck being that bear’s lunch”? And do we have the arm strength to climb up that wall with a giant bear chasing us?

You decide, we report!

Do over!

The votes are in, and by a 60/40 margin we’ve discovered we’re all still thirteen years old cursing at our crispy new “Choose Your Own Adventure” and flipping back and forth to more propitious forks in the ol’ decision tree. So we’re going to go back in time and undo our choice (appropriate given that the HeroMachine “undo” feature went live this week!), and pretend we said our Safe Word to get back to the Oradumbledoracle:

The secret word worked! You know that, because you are no longer where you were (or when you were!): you’re in a dark tunnel. You have a feeling that it leads to the Cave of Time.

Also, you know the secret word worked because you’re no longer cuffed. Ahem.

It’s risky entering a tunnel when you can’t be sure where it leads, but you’re not going to turn back now. you have to stoop so low, it would almost be easier to get on your hands and knees and crawl.

You step on a smooth stone surface. This too seems familiar. Another step. The angle pitches forward; then you’re sliding, too fast to stop yourself, falling into blackness.

Somewhere a voice is singing. As your eyes slowly adjust to the pale green light, you realize that you are once again in the chambers of the Oracle of Time. The thin, ghostlike figure you remember stops singing. He looks at you intently.

You an hardly find words, but, as if to answer your questino before you ask it, this strange man — if he is a man — says, “You have found the Oracle of Time.”

“Don’t you remember? We’ve met before,” you say. I must be going around in circles. Can you help me get back to my own time?”

“Sometimes time goes around in circles,” the Oracle says. “Some break out of the circle; some don’t.”

“How can I break out?”

“This, my child, is something you must learn for yourself.”

“All right,” you say doubtfully, and are about to ask another question when he says:

“To begin you must go to the future or the past. Which do you say it will be?”

I wonder, if we choose the future again, do we go to literally the exact same place and scene? Or will it be different now that we remember we were there already? I haven’t looked ahead so I honestly don’t know.

On the other hand, we haven’t seen the past yet, so that might be interesting as well.

End of the Road?

The results were tighter than I’d have thought, but ultimately we have opted to be Mucho Machon and eschew the use of our Oracular Safe Word, and instead stand by watching the ship trundle off in the loving metallic arms of Doctor Octopus’ filthy love spawn. Let’s see the consequences of our decision:

Well. That’s … humph. I’d say ending up as landfill is a pretty fitting end, since we largely spent this adventure standing around watching things happen. To our credit, we DID manage to reject a life of The Matrix, so yay us. I like to imagine that in the giant landfill we find, “Toy Story 3″ style, all the items we need to return to power. Or, we get eaten by a trash monster, which seems a lot more likely.

So thus our foray into the Cavern of Time draws to an ignominious close. Or does it?

So what’ll it be folks, flip back and change out decision like we all know we did with the actual books Back in the Day, or chuck it into the trashbin of history (much like our adventurer!) and move on to something completely different?

Safe word, safe word!

When last we left our outer-space, far-future adventure, Doctor Octopus’ illegitimate cyborg love child was wrapping its metal tentacles lovingly around our only spacecraft. We decided to stand idly by as a witness to this Grand Theft UFO, and as a result:

You watch while, like some robotic garbage collector, the spider vehicle lifts your spacecraft off the ground and ascends into the clouds, leaving you standing helplessly on the barren rust-colored ground. A loneliness sweeps over you worse than any you experienced in space. You strap on your backpack and start walking over the flat, rubble-strewn terrain, trying to travel in a straight line.

The sun never shows through the clouds; the sky gets darker. Nightfall will soon be upon you. You have no idea how far you’ve traveled or how far you are from civilization — if there is any civilization on this sad world.

Soon it’s almost completely dark. At least you’re not cold. You like on the hard, sandy ground and try to sleep. You manage to doze off.

You’re wakened abruptly by a sound overhead. Opening your eyes, you see the spider vehicle hovering over you. The wires are already unreeling. You jump up, yelling at the craft above, hoping someone on board will hear you, but no one answers. Instead, wires drop down and get in position to wrap around you.

You try to remember the secret word the Oracle of Time gave you. Maybe you should use it now!

Well, Intrepid Bystanders, what will it be? Do we get nervous at the sensuous approach of those silky, glinting tentacles like some Hentai movie gone wrong and shout out our Safe Word, or do we grit our teeth and see our far-future adventure out to the end, hoping to get a free guided tour of Doctor Otto Octavius’ Pleasure Palace of Ye Olde Earthe?

To leap or lounge?

The people have spoken, and we have decided to turn down the beguiling high-tech Utopian fantasy offered by our long-skulled yet cowardly “allies” in favor of continuing our journey to cloud-shrouded, devastated Earth!

Earth may not be like it was, but it’s your home. You wonder how far into the future you’ve journeyed. A thousand years? A million years?

A screen lights up. You’re determined to see what happened to it, so you order the computer to stay on course. Moments later, retrorockets fire to brake the descent.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SURVIVAL ON EARTH
Oxygen content: 4.3%. Supplementary oxygen-generating helmet must be worn at all times. Radioactivity level: 6. Radiation-resistant coat and helmet cover must be worn except in protected zones. Basic gene grain bits are available. This is the only edible food. Ingest 1,800 milligrams of vitagranules-anti-toxicant formula mark 8744369-5 — with each gram of gene bits. All water must be demulsified and de-acidified in puroscan.

You have hardly finished reading these words when you feel an abrupt deceleration followed by a slight jolt. Your craft has made an amazingly smooth landing.

Through the window you see an endless landscape of rocks and boulders, the sort you might find in a dried-up riverbed. So this is Earth.

You only hope it’s not all like this.

You put on the oxygen-generating helmet and your radiation-resistant coat and helmet, open the hatch, and step outside. Your computer said that food is available, but everywhere you look, you see nothing but barren, rust-colored rocks and dirt. It’s the most forlorn landscape you’ve ever seen.

Hey, we landed in Phoenix! I kid, I kid.

There’s no way of knowing which way to walk.

Before you can think about it, a strange-looking machine zooms in and hovers over you. You watch with fascination as wire arms descend and begin enfolding your spacecraft like a spider capturing a fly.

What’ll it be, intrepid explorers? Stand by and spectate, or leap in and participate? Each path has potential dangers and benefits. However, I believe our only food source is on the ship, no? That might make this decision REAL easy …

(Text and images ©1985, 2010 by Edward Packard.)

Oooh, shiny!

The votes are in and we’re heading back to decrepit old broken-down Earth! Perhaps my future as a travel brochure writer is in jeopardy. Regardless, off we go!

You wake up in a tiny spacecraft. You’re in a chair molded to your body. Stars are visible in all directions. To your left and slightly behind you is Saturn with its spectacular rings. To your right is Jupiter. Its famous “red” spot has broken into three flecks of orange, but its four largest moons are as prominent as they were to Galilelo when he discovered them long before you were born.

Directly ahead is a red-hued planet — Mars. You must be close to it, because it looks brighter and larger than Jupiter even though its diameter is twenty times smaller.

Beyond Mars is another planet. The large moon near it tells you that it must be Earth, but it doesn’t look like the Earth you remember, with the swirls of white clouds over blue oceans and brown-and-green-hued land masses. The entire planet is covered with thick gray clouds!

Has the sun stopped shining on the Earth? Is its total cloud cover the result of the “greenhouse effect,” caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the air? Scientists warned that this might happen back in your own time.

Why does Edward Packard hate America?

Could you stand to live on such a planet? It’s a horrible prospect, but where else can you go? Mars, perhaps. Maybe there’s a colony there, and Mars is quite close by. You look at the instrument panel and control levers. It may take a while to learn how to steer this craft, but the computer will take care of the hard part. Why not take control and head toward Mars? If you see signs of a colony, you could land; otherwise continue to Earth.

Phrases like “the computer will take care of the hard part” strike terror into the soul of this former Dell technical support guy. “Coming in for a landing now, Cap — BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!” But hey, maybe by the future Windows will be less buggy. The question is, do we continue on like stalwart, stubborn adventurers of old, or are we more of the freelancing, take a chance as it comes kind of guy?

I’ll try to let this vote go for just a few hours then go with whatever’s ahead then, so we can try to get in more adventure today.

(Text and images ©1985, 2010 by Edward Packard.)

Unplug, Jack Out, and Jet Off

We’re no hedonists, sitting slack-jawed in front of artificial machines that cater to our every whim and show us whatever we want and … um … OK, in THIS STORY we’re not hedonists! At least, according to the votes in our last installment of “Return to the Cavern of Time”. So we respond to the far-future relative of Ralph Dibny that we ain’t gonna take all that pleasure and joy laying down, by gum!

You tell Celeste 433 that you are not willing to give up your freedom for a life of pleasure. She nods and, to your surprise, smiles. “I understand,” she says. “You are from a primitive culture, so you don’t understand that constant pleasure is superior to freedom of choice. Very well. Since freedom is more important to you than pleasure, I shall tell you something that I would not have mentioned otherwise. Suprema Eighty-seven to the Fifth Power may soon be involved in a war between the grand overseers.”

Wait, that’s something she wasn’t going to mention? That seems like a fairly important bit of trivia that might have helped us decide whether or not we wanted to stay in our Nintendo Coffin while the homeworld’s getting blasted from outer space.

“Who are they?”

Celeste 433 dismisses your question with a wave of her long, bony hand. “Listen. I admire your courage and therefore will give you a chance to survive this war, which I fear will destroy our colony. I shall provide you with a spacecraft, but your troubles will not be over. Space is a vast and hostile wilderness. There are only two destinations you can reach where you’ll have any hope of survival. One of them is Alpha Alpha, a colony beyond Pluto that is far more advanced than this one. In fact, it may be the most advanced in the galaxy. The other place where you might possibly survive is the planet Earth.”

So let me get this straight. These people have occupied a whole galaxy, and both of the potential safe havens in that entire, almost unimaginably vast reach of space are in the Solar System? Why the hell did we ever leave in the first place?!

“Earth? That’s my home planet — I’d really like to get back there.”

Celeste 433 shakes her head. “You don’t understand. You have been time-displaced. Earth is no longer what it was. It is a scarred and ruined planet, a backward child of the galaxy, an archaeological scrap heap. I told you the truth. The decision is yours.”

You long to see Earth again, even though it’s changed for the worse.

You’re curious about Alpha Alpha too, though what you’ve seen so far of advanced civilizations doesn’t encourage you.

So that’s our choice — the barren wastelands of Earth, where we might get to see a sweaty-chested young Mel Gibson duking it out in the Thunderdome under a bad wig, or an ultra advanced space colony beyond Pluto. Hopefully they have good heating there, because while I’m not astronomer, I’m pretty sure it’s freaking COLD out there.


Uncle Ralph says “Don’t Worry, Drink Up!”

Back to the future!

For those of you not interested in the Open Critique Day, I thought we’d continue with our “Return to the Cave of Time” story.

When you’re stuck in a cave with a wild-eyed old man featuring a glowing hand and magical time-altering powers, it’s good to be optimistic. Which apparently we are, as we decided by a two to one margin to go forward to the future instead of backwards to the past! So let’s peel back the pages and see what sticky situations we can get into. So to speak.

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