I’m writing this letter in the hope it’ll get to someone who enjoys reading of adventure. Jolep said this letter will be delivered to such a household.
My name is Diego Suarez. My adventure started when my family vacationed in Nagua, Dominican Republic. We did the normal stuff people do on a beach vacation, and had lots of fun. One day, we went to a history museum. That was when I learned about Captain Vincente Ochoa. And that’s when my life changed.
In the late 1600s, pirates attacked Captain Ochoa’s galleon, the Nuestra Señora de la Valencia, to capture the load of gold on board. Captain Ochoa blasted the pirates with his cannon. But his ship was severely damaged, and he limped it to the island that became the Dominican Republic. He beached the ship and ordered his men to march into the jungle and bury the chests of gold. Then the men worked to make the Valencia sea-worthy again. But their numbers were decimated by fever, jaguars, and heat exhaustion. None of the sailors was rescued.
The buried gold became legendary. Treasure hunters have searched ever since, yet the gold has never been found.
The legend captured my imagination like nothing had in many years. My life back in Atlanta had become routine. I went out with friends, but getting drunk every weekend grows old after a while. While I dated around and had some great times, I wasn’t in the mood for a serious relationship. The gold gave me a mission above those things, to do something big with my life before I turned 30.
I bought books about Captain Ochoa and read them after work to learn all I could about the man. His life in Spain, becoming a sailor, his exploits on the high seas. Theories of locations where he could’ve beached the Valencia on that fateful day.
I went alone on my next trip to the Dominican Republic, and checked out the locations of the theories. I talked to the locals for clues that might help me. I followed their clues and found nothing. Wild goose chases resulting only in frustration.
Sad to say, the desire to find the treasure overwhelmed my life. I could hardly think of anything else. I quit my job, sold my car and belongings, broke the lease of my apartment.
Once again I went to the Dominican Republic, this time to search every possibility. Only after everything was tried would I have given up. I stayed past my tourist visa, and kept my head down to avoid the authorities.
One afternoon, I became lost in the jungle while following yet another clue. I was thirsty and exhausted. A sudden rainstorm made me seek shelter. A cave entrance on a mountainside beckoned. I slumped off my backpack and collapsed on the cave floor and fell asleep.
Hours later, I was shaken awake. A stranger’s face glared down at me. A face that could’ve belonged to a pirate. Wispy goatee, small gold loop earrings. The stranger demanded I tell what was I doing there. I broke down and told of my obsession with Captain Ochoa’s gold. The stranger took pity on me, said I needed to forget the gold and find a new direction in life. He would help me move toward that. He introduced himself as Jolep Teeko, an elf who lived in the World Beyond the Cave.
When you heard tales of Oz and Narnia, you probably thought places like those could never exist. But they do, dear reader. They do.
Jolep led me deeper into the cave, until it opened to a land that’s on no map. The jungle seemed similar to the one I had left. Teeming with tropical plants, colorful flowers, birds. Except this place had a village built by elves on a sunny spot along a river. When I was seen approaching the village with Jolep, word spread and soon a crowd stood around me. They were slender, long-haired, wore an odd assortment of clothes. I learned they took discarded shirts and dresses from the outside world and patched them together into new clothes.
After Jolep told the crowd my story, I was welcomed. I slept in a hammock until a bed was made. Their eagerness to hear about my life removed my initial shyness. I’ve made many friends. They’re huge soccer fans, and I’ve joined the daily games. I’m not nearly as good as them, and they playfully tease me about my clumsiness. And I’ve helped with fishing and retrieving fruit from high in the trees. The fish, fruit, and grains are so flavorful, they make you swoon. Nightly, they tell stories and play music.
I’m regaining my strength and sanity. Jolep was right: I need to forget the gold. I plan to stay for several more months, then I’ll head to the outside world and start over. The elves tell me once I leave, I can never return to this wondrous place. I wish I could come back, but I miss my family and friends.
Jolep encouraged me to write letters to my parents to tell them I’m okay. Jolep has stationery he stole from a cigar company. My letters will be delivered through an underground system of carrier-elves. And Jolep suggested I write a letter to a stranger, one who appreciates stories of magical places.
Keep your beliefs strong.
copyright © 2021 Dave Williams