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Slojo

I'm with my brother, the two of us the latest in a line of chocolate merchants in Perugia. Once a year, we need to visit the catacombs under an ancient villa to inventory the heirlooms and archives of my family. The entrance is a one meter square portal under the old Roman aqueduct, on a street teeming with tourists. As casually as possible, we hover near this small iron door, while I fortify myself with a fine Assisi wine.

It's time. "In bocca al lupo," says I.

"Crepi il lupo," replies my brother, but he's not the one entering the mouth of the wolf because he couldn’t possibly crawl through the passageway, being of considerably more girth.

"In culo alla balena," I mutter under my breath, and I begin to crawl down the passageway.

Suddenly, there is a commotion. There is a disturbance up the street involving some English tourists, and a panicky rush is now threatening my life portal.

"Francis? … Francis!" I scream.

There is no answer. The mob has swept him away.

"Porco mondo!" My heart is pounding as I make a furious attempt at backing out. It can't be done. I must go forward. I can hear the iron door banging open and shut. It shuts one last time and I hear the unmistakable clank of the latch dropping. With that, the draft eddies, blowing out my candle. Why am I in the eighteenth century? Why a candle?

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