“I don’t want to be stuck in here with you forever!” I screamed at the photographer, and my partner in this game, as I held him up against the wall of the cursed tomb of the pharaoh Escathon. “I didn’t even want to be in here with you for an hour!"
Exactly 59 minutes prior to our team’s meltdown, we stood in front of the great tomb door, emblazoned with hieroglyphs and flanked on both sides by statues of Anubis - the ancient Egyptian god responsible for guiding souls to the afterlife. We were told that the tomb was recently discovered inside Escapers at the Downtown Katameya mall, but the hieroglyphs on the door were decoded to reveal a curse spelled out in cute little birdies and cats: "Any who enter shall have one hour to unlock the pharaoh’s secrets and escape, lest they be cursed and dwell within his tomb forever.”
Initially, we weren’t worried in the slightest. Solve a couple of puzzles, beat up a few mummies, hang out with a few Cleopatra-type babes, and make it out of the tomb with plenty of time to spare - how hard could a few puzzles set up by some stupid dead pharaoh really be? Turns out we may have been just the tiniest bit overconfident.
Upon entering the tomb, the first blow to our confidence hits when we hear the soft click of the lock behind us. "We’re really locked in here,” my shutterbug sidekick says, eyeballing the big red 'emergency exit' button by the door. Then the voice of Escathon booms forth from the ceiling, saying something about ancient curses, blah blah blah all of eternity, doomy doom doom - typical movie villain speech, it doesn’t phase us. We’re barely listening. Already we’re moving through the elaborately crafted tomb trying to find our first clues.
We blow through the first few puzzles with relative ease. We cracked a few hieroglyphic codes with ease (I studied languages based on little people holding flowers in 3rd grade) and with every success came the satisfying sound of a lock clicking open somewhere within the tomb. The first 10 or 15 minutes were full of fun and camaraderie, which is rare in the CairoScene office. In fact, during those brief first moments in Escathon’s tomb, I dare say that I didn’t actively hate my colleague. Working together to solve the mysteries of this ornate burial chamber brought out a team spirit that is usually completely buried under the spite, jealousy, hunger, and darkness that is the CairoScene writers' cave. As a team-building exercise, trying to find our way through Escathon’s tomb, or any of Escaper’s other three rooms, the experience was exemplary.
In our case, though, this was short-lived. Around the halfway mark of our quest, there was a minor disagreement over whether a little pyramid with an eyeball on top meant a certain number or "submit to the will of the Illuminati and cower before the New World Order," and we quickly degenerated into bickering and accusations just like, well, two people who work together at CairoScene. Instead of solving our disagreements in the way we’d become accustomed to back at the office (usually either duelling with the sharpened bones of cannibalised interns or flogging each other with our collection of busted Mac chargers), we were forced to trudge on.
By the time the five-minute warning sounded, we were one puzzle away from unlocking the final secret of Eschathon and escaping, but we were stumped. We poured over old clues, hoping to find some secret we had missed. My sidekick tried forcing his way through the puzzle with his freakish strength, much to the chagrin of the omniscient Game Master whose repeated calls of “Please sir, stop trying to break everything” became a chorus to our growing madness. We screamed; we cried; we laughed with burgeoning psychosis. Just as I was beginning to sort out how I would convince my partner that I should live longer than him and he should stop breathing to save air, it hit me. “Oh,” I said, all mania subsiding like dust in a rainstorm. “I figured it out.”
Just before the door locked forever, we completed the tomb’s final trial. The door popped open and we sauntered out as if we weren’t just in throws of panic and madness. Turns out the final test that we had laboured over had a simple solution. The key was [REDACTED: SPOILER ALERT. GO TO ESCAPERS AND FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF!]