Chapter Thirty One
Adam awoke to the sound of running water and the warmth of the sun on his face.
I’m dead, he thought in a sudden fit of awareness. Like Pin, my body has been dashed. But my thoughts are floating along the ocean of forever.
Ten hours earlier he was on the floor of the mountain tunnel, eyes rolling wildly and teeth grinding painfully as his mind fought the powerful darkness that tried to consume him. He was a horror of retching and shivering; of barely breathing as the spider things took their fill from his flesh.
The spiders’ poison was strong, but after nearly eleven years of bites and scrapes, his body had become a formidable opponent to the moon’s natural aggressions. If it weren’t for that, the subterranean world would have claimed him forever.
Adam struggled to open his eyes, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t find the strength. He attempted to call out, but his throat was dry and unable to form sounds.
Something touched his lips then. It was cool and wet and dribbled into his mouth. Water. He sucked at the drops greedily, letting the liquid soothe his throat and slolwy fill him with life again. He became aware of why he was unable to see. Something covered his eyes.
Bringing his hands to his face, he tried to determine what it was. It felt like some of kind of rough animals hide was wrapped around his head. He pulled the hide away from his right eye and light flooded it making him wince and shut it tightly again.
“Chi-tu. Un-aha,” came a voice from somewhere unseen. The words came slow and husky and were followed by a strong hand that reapplied the bandage over Adam’s eyes.
Adam’s skin bristled at the sound of the alien voice. He knew that language, had heard it spoken once before during the violent ritual back at the cliffs. Adrenaline shot through him and he sat up. The ogres had him!
Ripping the bandages from his eyes, Adam shuffled backwards in a lame attempt to escape blindly. Waving his arms defensively at the blurry world, his back eventually hit stone and he knew there was nowhere to go.
The sound of hearty laughing surprised him then. It wasn’t malicious, but a kind of warm chuckle that reminded him of Pin when he used to laugh so hard it seemed to come from the middle of his belly.
“Where are you?” asked Adam, continuing to grope the air wildly. “Why are you laughing?”
The laughter became louder then and Adam wondered if the ogre that had him wasn’t a little crazy, like that time their flappers escaped their pen and eaten a whole harvest of rock nuts making then unable to walk straight. Adam remembered how they’d tripped around each other in circles for hours after, making the oddest sounds chuckling. He and Emma had absolutely bowled over laughing as they watched them circling the yard, no more able to escape than walk in a straight line.
The moment Adam saw her face in his mind he knew he couldn’t stay blind if he ever wanted to find her. He strained to open his eyes, letting the lids up as much as he could stand. Light flooded in but with some effort he found he could keep them open.
The world came into focus slowly until he could make sense of where he was. He was in a small cave, open to the air. A small fire burned at his feet. It was night out and Adam realized the heat he felt when he awoke wasn’t the sun, but the fire next to him.
Across the cave, kneeling next to the stone wall and scraping it with a large stone, was an ogre. Adam let his eyes set on his captor until the ogre came into focus. It was a female. She looked ancient with thick white hair that coiled all around her like vines growing around the trunk of a tree. Even though she was twice his size, she seemed small hunched where she was against the wall scraping away at the stone.
As soon as his vision was clear enough to run, Adam jumped up to escape through the cave’s opening. But he skidded to a halt when he saw it was a dead drop down hundreds of feet to the ground below. He waved his arms to keep his balance and just barely stopped himself from falling over the cave’s edge.
Cackling laughter echoed off the stone walls and he turned around. The old ogre was looking over her shoulder at him, snickering. Finally, she motioned to the fire as though inviting him to sit, and for the first time he noticed there was a large stone pot perched atop the hot flame. A crude serving spoon made of wood stuck out from it. Adam hesitated, unsure, but the ogre turned away and focused again on her task without so much as another word.
Studying her movements for a moment, Adam finally noticed what it was she was doing to the wall. Spread across the length of the stone wall, and far above her head, were pictures; images that she had carved. Adam looked in wonder at the crude pictures, and driven by curiosity he stepped forward to get a closer look despite his fear.
Pictures of plants and animals, fierce creatures and rolling hills met his gaze as he tried to take it all in the firelight. The more he looked, the more the images began to look familiar. At the farthest edges he saw the ocean, their old beach and lagoon, and the cliffs. He saw the dense jungle and cane fields, and the places he and Emma learned were too full of danger to tread. And at the center, towering above the ogre’s head—and over the entire moon like a monolith—was the mountain.
“It’s a map,” whispered Adam in awe, a memory coming to him suddenly of something Emma had told him long ago when they were children. Something about a map in the caves of the cliffs close to their beach. Adam wondered if this ancient ogre was the one who had etched those, too.
The ogre turned towards him and urged him to sit once again. She moved her hand to her mouth and mimed taking a bite of food, showing her long, rotten teeth in the process.
Realizing that she meant him no harm, Adam did as she bade, sitting next to the small fire.
“If you saved me, thank you, but … I can’t stay here,” he said as the ogre turned back to her work. “Emma, my friend, she’s out there somewhere. I need to go back into the mountain to find her.”
When his words were met with no reply, he sighed deeply. It was no use. He may as well eat before striking out on his own and again. He’d need his strength.
Reaching out, he grabbed the tip of the wooded spoon that jostled in the pot as whatever inside boiled away. He gave the hearty broth a stir and thick steam broke the surface. He sniffed and, to his delight, it smelled fine, earthy and hearty and his appetite swelled.
Moving closer to the pot, Adam scooped a spoonful of the brew close to his mouth and blew. It was then that he noticed yellow eyes staring up at him. They were the same eyes as the spider things.
He pulled the spoon away and saw it was piled with dissected parts of the spider things— bristly legs, pieces of abdomen and even faces with the fangs cut out. Adam’s stomach lurched and he dropped the spoon back into the pot.
He stood up tall and addressed the ogre once more out of respect. “I’m leaving,” he said defiantly. “Thanks again for helping me. You don’t seem bad for an ogre, but Emma might be in danger. I have to find her. Can you show me how to get back into the mountain?”
The ogre turned and looked at him blankly.
“Pass-age-way into moun-tain,” he said slowly, enunciating each word as if it might help her understand.
“Chi-aura,” the ogre hissed thoughtfully.
Into the mountain,” Adam said pointing towards the back of the cave. He was getting frustrated. “You know, where you found me?”
The old ogre stood up slowly. She appeared so ancient, her joints cracked and popped like branches breaking. Without addressing him, she waved her arms across the expansive map on the wall. Landing on the tall mountain above her head, she pressed a boney finger against it and spoke.
“Chi-wa-way,” she said slowly.
“The mountain, that’s what I said, yes,” Adam said, excitement in his voice. She seemed to understand him, which was a good sign.
“Ta-tu, chi-wa-way,” the ogre said and slid her finger away from the mountain, letting it travel away from the mountain and across the depicted terrain. “Ti-tu. Chi-wa-way… Cha,” she finished as her finger landed on the image of the cliffs.
A sudden realization hit Adam and his heart sank. “What are you saying? They took her away from here? They’re taking her to the cliffs? But that means...”
Looking at the map again he noticed a large half circle etched into the stone above the cliff’s location. It was a depiction of the red gas planet that hung in the sky above them at all times.
“They’re going to kill her!” Adam spat, his knees almost buckling.
The old ogre poked her chest with a bony finger again and again, and began to laugh slowly until the sound became a maniacal cackling that echoed through the cave and sent a shiver down Adam’s spine.
The laughter continued, following him as he ran deep into the cave and found a tunnel to retreat into. And he swore he could heard the laughter on his heels as he felt his way along the inside of the mountain, looking for an exit that would bring him under the sky once more and closer to Emma.
He just hoped it wasn’t too late.