The tour guide was a man in his early sixties, with grey hair and an oval face. His nose resembled a bottle in shape and his dark lips proved that he ignored the warning that ‘smokers are liable to die young.’ His beards were neatly trimmed and the few loose buttons of his shirt exposed his hairy chest. The short sleeves of his shirt showed off the sinewy muscles of his arms and his athlete’s build made him look like a young man in his twenties.
“This castle is as old as Rome,” he said as he pointed at each painting hung on the wall.
I followed his pointing finger, admiring the artistic geniuses that adorned the walls of the castle when I noticed the sculpture in the middle of the room. It was the rendition of a man, with his hands outstretched like a beggar towards a damsel who seemed to be running towards him and yet was staring at something behind her.
“Who are these?” I heard a voice from the back of the crowd.
We were a little group of 20 students on an excursion with one of our lecturers from the department of Archaeology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria, as part of our practical fulfilment of Arch 272.
“These are the two lovers who were predicted to end the horror in this castle—”
“But they failed,” James interrupted.
The tour guide gave James an insoluble stare and went on, “The boy was a student, just like all of you, on the same mission. He wanted to visit this castle first but his group disagreed so he came here alone at night. He was exploring the halls of this castle when he found her bound in chains, a prisoner of Medusa.”
“Medusa?!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, Medusa,” the man replied gravely.
“I thought those were fairly tales,” I stammered.
He laughed, revealing his mostly toothless gums. “Medusa is real. So he persuaded her to leave the castle with him, she agreed and he unbound her. They were running away from Medusa when—”
He stopped and stared at us to check if we were paying attention. Satisfied that we were all entranced by his tale, he continued, “She fell down. Medusa was right behind her, she begged her rescuer not to turn back knowing the consequence of such but he looked back and was turned to stone. In her despair, she also turned to plead with Medusa, but she also became stone. So both of them are trapped in here.”
“Like Romeo and Juliet,” James chirped.
“This isn’t a book, this is reality,” the tour guide said, betraying his Greek accent which he has been hiding.
“Can they be saved?” I asked after a long silence.
“They must be saved. Only them can save us all, when they revive, their bond will be the weapon to destroy Medusa for good.”
“How can they be revived?” our lecturer asked.
“A snake from Medusa’s head will be used to tie their hands and then they will revive.”
“But that’s sucide!”
“Yes, someone has to die for us all.”
An eerie noise echoed along the halls and the guide spoke in urgent tones, “We have to leave now. Medusa is near.”
At this, we all raced out of the castle but I couldn’t help glancing back.