Indiana Jones

and the Buddha of Death

In the Giant Forests of Taratupa, in the South Pacific, a lone man scrambles up the final phase of an impossible climb...

From Doctor Jones' journal: "They called it The Buddha of Death. My Buddhist friends were offended by that. While not well-understood in the West, Buddhism isn't some blood-soaked, heathen cult, rife with death and curses. But the name wasn't connected with Buddha, nor their beliefs. It came from the fact that, although its location was fairly well-known, no-one had ever attempted to retrieve the Buddha and come back alive."

"I hadn't been able to hire guides or bearers. I was entirely on my own. And the damned cliff, which looked easy enough to get at from other directions, had required me to cling upside-down like a human spider, and clamber up from an overhang. Still, in my two-hour march from where I'd had to leave the jeep, I'd found no bodies, no artifacts, no sign of the many others who I knew had been here before me."

"It was hard to figure. Where were they? It's not like they'd have been snared in some booby-trap. The island of Taratupa had been well-known for centuries, and its natives had never gone in for guile, nor traps, nor violence. They were joyous, patient, enduring folk, who let misfortune pass them by when it was done with them. The puzzle was still on my mind as I scrambled up the last of the cliff."

"I mean, this was a fall that could have scared off or killed a lot of men -- but I'd gone through worse, to find the likes of Rene Belloc waiting for me when I got there. This was too easy. Someone should have beaten me here!"

"I rested for a moment on the flattish plain of rock."

"Then, in the corner of my eye, there was a glitter of gold. I turned my head..."

"...and there it was!"

"Sure enough, it was just sitting, unguarded, shielded from the occasional rain by an overhang of solid rock. There were no booby-traps. No trip-wires, nothing but solid rock to disguise them, and this stuff, crystalline granite, found only on Taratupa, would show a spiderwebbed network of cracks and fissures if it had been opened in any way to disguise a trap within."

"It still took me a few minutes to work up the nerve to pick up the Buddha. There had to be something. Scores of guys had disappeared looking for this thing! But, no. There was nothing, and nothing happened when I picked it up. I clutched it to me, 85 pounds of gold and brass, and began sliding on my can back towards the edge of the cliff, and the beginning of the long, boring journey home."

"One thing was for sure. Those scores of other guys, who had never returned from seeking the Buddha, must have been cowards and pantywaists. Because, compared to some adventures I'd been on, this was dead easy."

"I wonder what the big deal was?"