Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Cloud of Smoke and the Ghost People

Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Cloud of Smoke and the Ghost People February 28, 2020

Door in the Dragon’s Throat, pp. 70-74

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Peretti has realized that detonating massive explosions in caves is dangerous. It’s odd. But first, we get a mind numbing description of Bill’s preparations with his explosives.

Bill smiled very confidently

Did Peretti lose faith in his description to describe what a confident smile looks like?

and set right to work, directing all the crew in placing the explosives in just a certain way

…in just a certain way? What way is that? What even are these explosives made of? How does this work? Does it all have to be attached together, for the detonator to work? I have no idea what they’re even doing right now!

around the seams of the Door. They used ladders and ropes to reach as high as they could up the Door’s sides,

How high? This is an 80ft door we’re talking about.

carefully packing the explosives into the cracks.

Are these explosives made of putty?

Bill inspected every placement, every person’s work, every quantity of the stuff.

…of the stuff?

Everything had to be just right. The work took hours.

So did reading this paragraph. 

I have never read a paragraph describing an activity and felt like I finished it with less knowledge of what they were doing, until now.

And then we get this weirdness:

Then they all gathered, not at the base of the stairs, but at the very top, on the ground, at the edge of the Dragon’s Throat. Bill would use a radio detonator this time and a series of special relays. No one needed to be anywhere near the blast.

Again with the use of the word “special.” Either just tell us they’re relays, or describe what makes them special, okay? (Many thanks to the readers who pointed this out last week or the week before!)

More to the point, though, why was it a-okay for everyone to stand at the base of the stairs last time they set off a huge explosion in the cavern, but not this time? I don’t get the feeling this one is any greater of a blast—the last one had boulders the size of cars bouncing off the cavern walls like popcorn.

But this isn’t the only sign that Peretti has suddenly realized that what he’s having his characters do is extremely dangerous.

“Well sir,” Bill said, looking at them all, “if this doesn’t open it, nothing will. I just hope we don’t bring down the whole cavern.”

Holy hell. Maybe you should make sure you have more than a hope before you set the damn thing off, Bill.

“I trust you, Bill,” said Dr. Cooper.

That’s it?

“Thank you,” Bill said rather grimly. He was unusually serious about this particular blast. “Hang on to your hats!”

 

Why was Bill so serious about this blast in particular? Come on, Peretti! Tell us what’s going on in Bill’s head!

The Dragon’s Throat began to rumble and growl, and then issued a tremendous, angry roar as smoke, dust, and gas billowed out of the shaft like the eruption of a volcano.

New theory. They all died last time they did this, and everything after that is just their ghosts. Because they definitely would have all died last time. Gozan was with them, so he’s a ghost now too. They’re all ghosts. Maybe the shaman blew up the supply shed in an attempt to exorcize the area. That’s also how he managed to carry a 13-year-old girl and sprint so fast at the same time—she was a ghost, she only moved with him because she doesn’t know she’s a ghost yet.

They all scrambled back from the edge of the cavern as the cloud poured out of the hole and drifted, back and ugly, across the desert floor.

“Hoowee!” Bill exclaimed. “That was pretty!”

“What happened down below?” Dr. Cooper wondered. “I’ll be surprised if you didn’t disintegrate it.”

Oh, for god’s sake.

If there was any concern that this blast would disintegrate the door, they should definitely not have done it. Remember, the door is the treasure. A massive maybe-bronze door with inscriptions on it, in a cavern in the middle of a desert? Archeologists would come from all over, with tourists fast on their heels! But no! We’ll just blow it up! 

To be safe, they waited until the following day to reenter the cavern.

I am genuinely baffled as to why safety suddenly became so important.

I also just realized that this all happened on the same day. No, really! First, they set explosives to blow up the rubble that covered the lower 40 feet of the door, setting boulders bouncing off the walls. They stood at the base of the stairs they’d constructed, right at the mouth of the corridor that led to the cavern. Peretti says they kept their eyes “glued on the corridor” during that explosion, but that all they saw “was smoke and dust, which lazily drifted up the corridor several minutes after the crash and clatter of the explosion had ceased.” I suppose it’s theoretically possible that that explosion was on a smaller scale, but that’s never stated—and the car-sized boulders bouncing makes me skeptical.

Is there a bombs specialist among my readers? I’d love to see some analysis in the comments!

Anyway, they then sent Jay and Gozan to get the seismometer set up on top—“it’ll take a while for all the dust to settle”—and after Gozan and Jay argued while setting up the seismometer, Peretti took us back to the cavern where Tom tried and failed to use his drill on the door. They decided to try explosives and sent Lila for the detonators. Lila got knocked over near the supply shed by the shaman of the desert, and then the supply shed exploded. Lila and Jay argued with Gozan about this, then went back into the cavern to tell their dad what happened. He thought about it all, and then told Bill to set up the explosives. This took hours, and then they all stood on top and while Bill triggered the explosion.

All on the same day.

No one even came up to check out what was left of the supply shed—or to make sure any fires the explosion might have started were put out. We went straight from Jay and Lila (and Gozan) reporting what had happened to everyone working together to push explosives into cracks (seriously, is this stuff like putty in consistency?).

What a day. 

Having remembered that safety is a thing, Peretti has his characters give the cavern an overnight for everything to settle down. In the morning, they all troop down to see what’s left. If anything.

They hurried to the far end of the room, groping along in the semidarknesss. Tom finally found the switch to turn on the lights at that end. The floodlights came on, the far wall was illuminated, and they all stood there dumbfounded, their mouths open, their eyes gawking.

Hang on a sec. The floodlights still work? True, they’re described as being on the far side from the door, but still. The smoke and dust and gases billowing out of the cave was enormous. And the lights all just turn on? 

Everyone’s gaping in amazement because—of course—the door is still there. Its seams and hinges are all still intact. The only change is that the door is now clean of the dust it was apparently coated in before. First question: do explosives work that way? Second question: they didn’t clean the dust off the door before reaching for the explosives?

The entire Door was exposed now, every inch of it; the dirt and dust of the centuries was gone.

I may be describing my archeological ignorance, but could that dirt and dust have been used to date the door?

Jay, like the others, was awes and amazed. The Door wass actually beautiful, shinning in the lights as it idd now. His eyes moved up the seams of the Door, examining once more the mysterious inscription halfway up, and then noticed something no one had noticed before.

It’s a keyhole. There’s a keyhole right above the inscription.

Okay, first, if Dr. Cooper and Gozan couldn’t see the keyhole above the inscription, despite being at the level of the inscription and able to read it, they definitely hadn’t cleaned the door enough to have any firm idea what they were looking at. That didn’t stop them from using their wonderful explosives, of course.

Many readers correctly questioned Dr. Cooper and Gozan’s ability to find and read an inscription on the door, while standing on a 40 foot tall pile or rubble that obscured the lower half of the door. Some readers asked whether there was some sort of tiny inscription halfway up the door. That seemed bizarre. And yet, here we are! Yes, there’s some sort of tiny inscription halfway up the door! Ya’ll were right! (I say “tiny” because for Dr. Cooper and Gozan to be able to read it without walking around—which they didn’t—the inscription can’t have been that all wide.)

The way they’re describing the door, post-explosion, the entire door is flat and blank except a tiny inscription halfway up the door—40 feet in the air—and a keyhole that is similarly unreachable. Any idea that this might be a treasure chamber ought to disappear right now, because how do you open a door if the keyhole is 40 feet in the air? Now that I think of it, the idea that this could have been a door to a treasure chamber seems odd on its face—can humans even open a door that is 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide? I feel like the physics of this would not have worked, especially if it’s made of metal.

I also feel very deceived by the book’s cover right now.

I was promised engravings of winged, fire-breathing lions, dammit!

Dr. Cooper and Gozan both remember that the inscription mentions a key, and everyone gets very excited. “It’s scaffold time,” Dr. Cooper says. “Can anybody pick a lock?” Um. And then what happens? You fall off the scaffold as the door opens? Speaking of which, I’ve seen no mention of handles. Even if it’s unlocked, how do you open a door this size?

None of this story makes any sense.

While everyone is casting about for what to do next, Lila puts her hand in her pocket and finds a piece of paper. It seems—bear with me here!—that the shaman of the desert put a note in her pocket while he was carrying her away from the supply shed—yes, while he was running at break-neck speed, and while she was struggling. During all of that, he somehow managed to put a note, which he had fortuitously already written, in her pocket.

I just. What?

Lila shows the note too Jay.

The writing was hard to read, but between the two of them they finally deciphered, “Please meet me … 1107 … Street of the Scorpion … tomorrow at sunset. I will explain.

They immediately realize that tomorrow means today—remember, they let the cavern sit for a night after that last explosion—and run to show the note to their dad.

If the shaman of the desert wanted to talk to them, why didn’t he just talk to them? Why blow up their supply shed and then leave a cryptic note? Oh right! Because it’s a treasure hunting book! These things do happen int treasure hunting books. And since this is a treasure hunting book, Dr. Cooper is going to take Jay and Lila into the city in a jeep, just the three of them, without telling anyone where they’re going. They’re going to skirt though narrow, poverty-ridden streets, end up in a bad area of town, and find themselves in some sort of danger. And there will be racism.

But that will all be next week.

Oh, and also—this is the point where you can forget about Bill, Tom, and Jeff, because all three will cease to function ass characters. I think Peretti ends up forgetting about them too.

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