Lee Clement Ochs

The Mogao Grottoes Adventure

Hayden and Kayden were two engineers famous for building robots and machines. Looking like a typical scientist with a pair of nerdy glasses, Hayden was detail-minded. Kayden, seemingly playful, was a creative genius.

One day, while they were watching a documentary on ancient Chinese culture, the Mogao Grottoes came to their attention. They learnt that there were countless valuable murals regarding Buddhist teachings, statues, books, and artifacts in this place. However, loads of treasure were stolen and sold on the black-market years ago. “Is there something we can do to stop the thieves?”, asked Hayden. Kayden, pondering for a while, suggested, “Perhaps we can build a time machine to travel back in time.”

Two months later, the time machine was ready. Setting the time back to 100 years ago on the control panel, they started their journey with some whizzing sounds in the background. After landing, each of them carried a backpack and walked inside the vacant Mogao Grottoes. “I can’t believe we are actually here! Yippee!”, exclaimed Kayden with his fist in the air. When darkness of the night fell, they started their private exhibition tour with two flaming torches in hand.

Suddenly, the engineers noticed two shadows at a corner and heard some clashing sounds. They quickly hid themselves behind a gigantic statue and walked on tippy toes towards the source. There were two clumsy men tossing books and artifacts into their bags. “We have to stop them! These books and artifacts are so important for research on Buddhism. They shouldn’t be kept as personal collections,” Kayden whispered. Hayden then fished out a tiny robot from his backpack. This invention, rechargeable with air, could produce different kinds of sounds with audio command. “Let’s scare them away and make sure they would never return,” suggested Kayden. “How about some howls of strong wind and zombies?” Hayden proposed with a mischievous grin.

Hayden whispered the command to the robot, not to draw any unwanted attention. Shortly, the howl of strong wind echoed around the hall and sent shivers down their spines. One of the thieves glanced around and murmured something in a local dialect nervously to his companion.

Next, Hayden gave another command and some louder zombie-like howls were released. This time, both thieves looked at each other with widened eyes, terrified of any approaching monsters. They dropped their bulky bags onto the ground and began running. One of them tripped over a rock and landed with his chubby face down. Some broken teeth fell from his bleeding mouth. Another cried for his mother, shouting, “This cave is haunted! Help!”

The engineers witnessed the entire scene while covering their mouths to hold in the laughter. After the thieves’ departure, they high-fived each other and decided to leave the robot behind to guard this place. They programmed it to only operate at night so that the workers at the grottoes could continue working in the daytime. Taking the final glance at its wonder, they entered the time machine with satisfied smiles.

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