'Ten Minutes Late for Reality' by Lou Morris (c) 1988, 1989, 1991, 2002, 2015. Sixteen:

Sixteen:

   "You have just accumulated 465 points on your drivers
license, pending conviction.  You are 453 points past the
automatic loss of driving privileges.  Ten more points and
you win a blender!  Twenty five more points and you can win
this fabulous microwave oven..."

                                 - The Cassville police
                                  officer--commenting on
Mary's "high score."


   The party of adventurers stood and stared at the large,
metal and slightly locked door.
   "Oh well, it's locked.  Guess we can go home now, right?"
Beach-Ball sputtered hopefully.  He smiled pitifully;
Please?"
   "No, young one.  I shall open thy door..."  Emmerick
stepped up to the door.  He pulled a small leather case from
his tunic then removed a single lock pick from within the
case.  He proceeded to pick the lock...
   Click.  Poke.  Clerk.  Sprang.  Clre--Snap!
   Emmerick withdrew a broken, bent-up lock pick.
   "Failed, eh?" Kill-M-All snickered with a smirk.
   "You try it," said the Misty elf (not related to the
legendary Keebler elves).
   So he did.
   Swing... Scrape!
   The door remained, not scratched in the least.
   Kill-M-All was speechless.  He stared dumbly at his magic
sword.  Nothing could stand the might of my mighty sword, he
thought.  What kind of door is this?
   Kaye-Boom looked to Shae-doe, who was covered with
whipped cream.  "Shae-doe," he said, "Try thy magic against
thy enchanted door."
   Shae-doe licked some of the fluffy cream from his pointy
hat.  "I already did," he said.
   "Uh..." Beach-Ball stammered.
   Shae-doe, Emmerick and Kill-M-All glared at each other,
the same thought crossing each of their minds.
   "He couldn't possibly..." Shae-doe mused.  He rubbed a
spot of cream into his exposed arm, like a lotion.
   "No, he won't just walk up to it..." Kill-M-All flinched,
still dumbfounded at the strength of the door.  "Will he?"
   "Won't happen," Emmerick stated.  He gave it a second
thought, then said, "Will it?"
   "'Tis thy way of cliche adventure novels," Kaye-Boom
said, "No one can do a certain thing, then thy pure-hearted
wimp waltzes up and does it like it was thy simplest thing in
thy world."  He walked up to Beach-Ball, clapped him on his
pudgy back and led him to the magically locked door.  "Go to
it, noble but wimpy sir."
   Beach-Ball stared dumbly at the door.  "Me?" he said
weakly.  Don't worry thyself, he thought, 'tis probably not
even locked.  Just walk up to it and turn the knob.  Nobody
checked to see if it was locked or not, they just assumed it
was.  I can do it.  I'll show them.  "Yes."  He stepped to
the door.
   Everyone held their breath...
   Beach-Ball turned the knob slowly...
   They really held their breath...
   And...
   And this is not, I repeat, this is not some cheap cliche
adventure novel!!
   ...And the door was firmly locked.
   So there!
   A moment of silence passed uneventful.
   Kaye-Boom shrugged.  "Fire-"
   "Aaaa!" came the general reply.
   Everyone except Kaye-Boom made a desperate break for the
top of the stairs.  It took almost ten minutes to climb down
the stone stairs; they were up them in ten seconds, running
with a fear one could hardly imagine.  A fear of fire.
   "-Ball!" Kaye-Boom finished.
   And a fear of a two syllable word that Kaye-Boom liked to
utter whenever possible.  Fire-Ball.
   A jet of flame erupted from the mouth of the crypt,
searing the seat of Beach-Ball's pants and melting a few of
Shae-doe's sewn-on sequins but hurting no one.  Except
Kaye-Boom, they mused.
   "I wish he would stop that!" Beach-Ball whined, rolling
around on a pastel blanket left by a suntanned ghoul.
   "Stupid fool," Emmerick surmised.  "No one could survive
a fireball blast in such a small and enclosed space."
   A tear rolled down Kill-M-All's cheek.  He sniffed.  "So
long, Kaye-Boom.  We'll miss ye."  Then he added as a smile
peeked into his face, "I call his magic ring!"  He bounded
down the stairs.
   "What?!  Hey, that's no fair!" Emmerick yelled.  "I
didn't get a chance to call--"
   Shae-doe cut in, already running down the steps, "Dibs on
his magic hat!"
   "But..." his voice trailed off.  Emmerick shrugged and
jogged down the steps after the rest of the group.
   "Hey, wait up guys!" Beach-Ball yelled down the
staircase, still holding the large blanket.  He looked at it,
thinking aloud, "If a towel is the most useful thing ever or
so I've read, shouldn't a bigger blanket be even more
useful?"  He ran down the stairs after everyone else,
trailing the blanket behind him.
   Since this isn't a cliche adventure novel, it would
automatically be assumed that this could only be a cliche
comic novel.  If that was the case, then the only logical
thing to happen next would be Beach-Ball tripping over his
blanket, rolling awkwardly down the hard stone steps, and
plowing into everyone else forming a heap of twisted bodies
at the bottom of the stairs right in front of Kaye-Boom.  
This is exactly what happened.
   The smoke cleared from the bottom revealing a laughing
Kaye-Boom.  "Glad ye all could make it," he smiled, grinning
at the human and elven heap.
   Emmerick pulled himself free of the blanket and stood up
only to be knocked down by Kill-M-All attempting to stand up
himself.  "But how?" he managed, crawling under Kill-M-All.
   Kaye-Boom stepped through a puddle of molten metal to
help the rest of the group gain their hands and feet.  "Never
doubt pyro-power," he replied, helping Emmerick up.
   Beyond the molten doorway, lay a medium sized hall able
to fit two by two down the middle.  At the end of the hall
was another metal door, much thicker than the last.
   This door, however, was unlocked.
   They approached it carefully, Beach-Ball leaving behind
his unlucky beach towel.
   A sign on the door read, in the really common tongue (ye
old English, if ye wish), "Beware!  Otherworld being within!"
   "The Dead Ear!" Emmerick blurted.
   "The Dead Eye," Kaye-Boom corrected.
   "Do ye think we found thy fiend?" Emmerick asked.
   Kaye-Boom nodded.  "Aye, I think--"
   Kill-M-All cut in, "Aye?  This is an adventure novel, not
an old pirate movie!"
   Kaye-Boom frowned.  "Yes," he began again, "yes, I think
this is thy evil fiend's lair."
   "Better."
   "Uh, guys, uh," Beach-Ball jittered, "Uh, I think I, err,
left my, uh, tinder box going at my, uh, cottage."  He smiled
weakly.  "I'll just go and, err, uh, shut it off, err.  
Please?"
   "Told ye we should have left him home," Emmerick said to
Kill-M-All.  "Now we have to listen to his whining."
   "How do we kill him?" Shae-doe cut in.
   "Beach-Ball?" Kill-M-All asked, slightly amused.
   "Nay.  The Dead Eye."
   "Oh.  I don't know... Wait!  I've got thy idea!"
Kill-M-All grinned, "This door is thick enough... I'll open
it and Kaye-Boom will toss a fireball inside.  Then we'll
slam the door shut and run."
   Kaye-Boom grinned.  "Good idea, warrior."
   Kill-M-All nodded and then jerked the door open...
   "Wait!" Emmerick yelled, the thought just coming to mind,
"What about thy gold and treasure?"
   Too late.
   "Fire-Ball!"
  Zip!--Slam!... Foom!!!
   The metal door glowed a soft orange for a few seconds
then returned to its normal shade of dark metal.  Smoke
poured from under the door.
   Kill-M-All yelled, "All that gold!  Down thy drain!  
Literally!"
   "Oh well."  Kaye-Boom smiled, not bothered in the least.  
"At least we killed thy Dead Eye!"
   "Hopefully..." Beach-Ball added.
   "Hopefully?" Kill-M-All shrieked.  "You saw how that door
glowed!  Nothing, I mean nothing is left in thy room!"
   "Never hurts to check, warrior."  Kaye-Boom added,
"Remember, diamonds don't melt..."
   With one quick motion, Kill-M-All yanked the metal door
open, screamed with extreme pain because the knob was still
really hot, and peeked inside.
   He frowned at what he saw, which was nothing much.
   Aside from a few burnt pieces of wood, scraps of molten
metal and a very awkward looking skeleton, the room was bare.  
No diamonds nor any pools of gold and platinum.
   They cautiously stepped inside...  Nothing happened.  
They stopped being cautious...  Something happened.
   "Oh great!" an annoyed female voice rang throughout the
smallish room.  "Wonderful!  Now I'm dead!"
   "A ghost!" Kaye-Boom exclaimed.
   "Terrific.  Not only am I dead, but now I'm a ghost,
too!"
   "Calm down, whoever ye are.  Things are not as bad as
they may seem," Kaye-Boom reassured the female sounding
voice.
   "I'll be going now..." Beach-Ball cowered, just regaining
the power of speech.
   Kill-M-All restrained him.  "'Tis only a ghost.  They
cannot harm ye.  Only at night can they become real."
   Beach-Ball glanced at his wrist instinctively, forgetting
for a second that he had lost his magic timepiece last week.  
"'Tisn't it still dark out?"
   "Nay.  'Tis dawn by now..."
   "Calm down?!  Calm down?!!" the ghost screamed, then
calmed down.  "My name is Laurie Miller, by the way."  She
resumed her irrational state and yelled, "Calm down?!  I'm
dead!  First I get popped from my pizza/bank into this stupid
cavern!  Then some Dead Eye spirit thing captures me and
rapes me and beats me up and tosses me into this stupid room!  
And you tell me to calm down!!!"
   "Well..." Kaye-Boom added weakly, abashed by Laurie's
speech.
   "And then!" Laurie the ghost screamed, "And then I'm
chained up to a wall and I hear voices through the door.  
'Oh,' I think to myself, 'A bunch of brave souls have come to
rescue me!'  Then the door opens and some jerk yells,
'Fire-Ball!'  ...Here I am," Laurie yelled, her voice almost
pointing to her charred skeleton, "burnt to a crisp!"
   A long pause...
   Kaye-Boom said even more weakly, "Err, sorry.  I thought
you were The Dead Eye.  I didn't mean anything personal by
it..."
   "Sorry!" Laurie screamed.  "Sorry!!  That's all I get!  
Just a stupid sorry?!"
   "Well, what do ye want?" Kaye-Boom asked.
   "Some gold," Kill-M-All instinctively replied.
   "Not you!  Her."
   "Wait a segment!  Ye said that thy spirit of thy Dead Eye
raped ye?" Shae-doe asked.
   "Yeah, so?"
   "How does a disembodied spirit rape someone?" Emmerick
asked, slightly interested.
   Beach-Ball shrugged.
   "Well, at least he couldn't have gotten her pregnant,"
Kill-M-All answered, smiling.  "Or could he?"
   "Shut-up!  Just send me home!  I wanna go home!" Laurie
cried.  "I wanna--"
   Shae-doe snapped his fingers.
   "--go home..."  The voice faded away, off to another
place entirely.
   Everyone clapped.  Shae-doe finally got a spell correct.
   "Hey, that was pretty good!" Kaye-Boom clapped.  "Where
did ye send her?"
   "Home," Shae-doe said, smiling broadly.
   "Who's home?" Emmerick questioned, the smile fading from
his face.
   "Oh."  Shae-doe frowned; "I knew I forgot something."