I can’t believe I’m doing this right now, me, of all people! I think to myself as my quivering foot gets some traction on a small ledge and I pull myself upward. She is pure evil for making me do this. Well, she didn’t make me do this, but I had to, even though I didn’t really have to. It’s a guy thing.
I’ve discovered a fool-proof method that enables me to scale the mountain with almost no trouble from my fear. I just shut out the thought that I’m scaling the side of a mountain which is taller than most skyscrapers and keep my chest as close to the mountain side as possible, and of course make sure that for the love of God I do not look down else, well, splat. As my ingenious method keeps me grounded, relatively speaking, it just feels like I’m crawling on a really rough carpet and not the side of a really, really tall mountain and this helps a lot.
I pause for a bit to catch my breath and I glance up for a second to see how far away my target is. To my surprise, I realise that it’s only just a tiny step away from me, resting on a small ledge. I can imagine how Alex is feeling right now. I’m sure that she must be pretty ashamed of herself right now.
I breathe out slowly and place my foot on the final rock that will enable me to reach my target. I’m so close I can almost taste it, literally, some sand got knocked lose above me and landed in my mouth; disgusting.
“Hey Alex,” I say. “Guess it’s almost time for you to eat those words huh?”
In a total moment of madness, I completely forget my fool-proof method that has got me this high up in the first place and I inadvertently swivel my head. The moment my eyes catch sight of the clouds below us, I immediately realise just how high up I am. My brain immediately starts racing and I instinctively panic which causes my supporting foot which is rested on the ledge just below me to slip, leaving my hands and my other foot as the only thing keeping me from a bloody death. Since I have the finger strength of a gerbil, I’m doomed.
After what seems like twenty minutes but what was really about twenty seconds of being in this situation, my panicking starts to get even worse. My brain suddenly goes blank and all my cognitive abilities disappear like a magician. My other foot looses all traction and is left dangling just like the other one, leaving my thin, bony, muscle-less fingers as the only thing keeping me from a potentially bloody death.
“Be careful up there!” Alex says from down below. Her voice sounds really concerned but I still don’t believe she’s being sincere.
After a few minutes of frantic struggling with me trying to regain my grip which doesn’t happen, I feel the strength in my fingers steadily giving out, but before they do, in a very brief moment of unselfish thought, I manage to pull myself up with my remaining strength and grab the communicator off the ledge. Once it’s in my hand, I just let myself go and feel the wind blanket me as I plummet to a certain, gory doom. My plan is simple; toss the communicator to Alex just as I’m about to hit the ground so that at least one of us has a chance surviving this nightmare. Wow, since when did I get so selfless? I guess that’s what seeing so many people die does to you.
Okay, back to the fall. It feels as if the world is going in slow-motion as I plunge to my death so when I feel that the ground is getting close, I glance to my left and toss the communicator in Alex’s direction who has been screaming her head off for the whole while I’ve been falling. In order to soften the blow a bit, I close my eyes tight and prepare myself for the inevitable pain. I feel the close proximity of the ground below me so I clutch all my limbs together and brace myself for the impact, which is sure to be a crushing one.
It’s awful. It’s actually more painful than I imagined! It feels worse than being hit by a car and I’ve been hit by a car before. The crackling and shattering of my bones upon impact leave me with no bone intact in my body. The screams of pain from me and horror from Alex as my body makes contact with the hard, rocky ground will haunt me until the day I die, which is a few seconds from now.
If a situation like that happened, that’s how I always envisaged it going in my mind. Well back to reality. I was expecting all that awesome, err, painful and horrifying stuff I said earlier but instead of a bone crushing impact, I feel something, soft, almost, rubbery below me. I keep my eyes closed for a few seconds to contemplate what just occurred and if I am indeed alive. I’m alive, that’s for sure, but, how?
“Ain’t you gonna get up?” Alex says to me and I open my eyes quickly to see her standing over me with a large grin on her face and an outstretched arm.
“What happened?” I say as I take her hand and take an even longer look at the spot on which I landed.
I stamp on it repeatedly to make sure; it’s solid. I could swear that spot was soft, almost bouncy when I fell on it.
“Hey why did you throw me the communicator?” she asks another totally contradicting question in an attempt to dodge my first question.
“Obviously I just wanted it to be that if I died,” I say, “At least you would have a chance of making it back home alive.”
“Awww that’s sweet,” she says with those wide lovey-dovey eyes which I hate.
“Yeah,” I say. “So seriously how did you do that?”
“How did I do what?” she asks in reply as we begin to walk forward.
I stop in my tracks, turn around and point to the ground. “That, how did you make it soft enough for me to land on and end up unhurt?”
She begins to laugh hysterically at my question and instead of answering me, she just walks on, leaving me pointing at the ground and also leaving me stuck in a cloud of mystery with no foreseeable means of elucidation.
There are two possible options I can contemplate right now, one, she’s a witch; two, she has superpowers. That’s about all I think of right now. All scientific principle has been thrown out of the door.
“You didn’t really think I was going to let you climb a dangerous mountain without any form of protection did you?” she finally says when I join her up the mountain path.
“Ummm, you kinda did, just a few minutes ago! Except that you somehow managed to break the laws of physics and save me,” I say and draw in very close to her as we turn around a bend in the mountain path. “Oh come on Alex, you can trust me. Tell me, how did you do that? You used your superpowers huh?”
She begins to laugh hysterically at me once more and this makes me very uncomfortable due to the immense echo produced. I don’t want any post-humanoids to think that a pretty girl is laughing at me because come on; I have a reputation to uphold.
“All you need to know is that you needed to learn a lesson about women and you got it.”
I pause for a few seconds to thin about that. “Wait, what? What lesson Alex?” I say but she just walks on and simply refuses to acknowledge my existence.
“Hello,” I press on but she still pretends not to hear me, expecting me to learn some mysterious lesson about women on my own. I think I’m going to leave well enough alone so I stop pressing her for an answer and just keep walking up the twisty mountain path.
“Wait!” Alex says suddenly and stops; so do I.
“What?” I say in a hushed tone.
“Can’t you hear that?” she says.
“That. It kinda sounds like scratching, or something,” she says and I scan the area with her eyes. We pause for a few seconds as I listen for what she is alarmed about but all I hear is her heavy breathing.
“Alex I can’t hear anything. Maybe you just imagined...”
I was about to tell her that she is letting her imagination run wild again but before I finish, a piercing screech from above vibrates in the air. That certainly wasn’t in her mind. My mind immediately jerks upwards and beside the bright light of the sun, I faintly make out a figure descending rapidly on us.
I push Alex out of the way and it barely misses her and crashes right into me, sending both of us tumbling off the side of the mountain. My mind has to cool down before I realise that it’s a post-humanoid that ambushed us. I leap toward it and grab it by the neck but it’s ridiculously strong. It flips me over and keeps pushing me back. Initially I’m a bit confused because it’s not attacking me or anything but I swivel my head around and immediately realise what it’s trying to do. Before it can turn m into a victim of intense rug burn, I grab it by the neck and kick it over me, causing it to graze its face in the side of the rough mountain. I hold it in place until it stops squirming then release it for it to fall peacefully.
The air is rushing so quickly around me that I can’t take in a proper deep breath to catch my breath. My chest feels as if it’s about to cave in. I frantically look around for a way to stop myself from plunging but after seeing nothing, my eyes immediately drift to my beautiful nails. They may just be my only hope.
After a quiet mourning that lasted about half a second, I dig my nails deep into the side of the mountain. All the dust around me shows how I’ve succeed in slowing myself down but the friction due to the speed I’m falling at is so intense that I immediately lose my grip. I shake my fingers frantically to get all the scorching heat out of them. I attempt it again and this time, with the help of my feet, I manage to get a grip on a ledge that fortunately appeared in the nick of time. I hang there without moving as I wait for the heat to escape my fingers; such pain! After they burnout, I wipe my watering eyes on my sleeve and look up to where Alex is standing.
“Dr. Blay! Are you alright?” Alex calls down to me.
“Do I look alright?” I say. “Whatever you’re doing please do it fast; my fingers are starting to give out!”
She immediately disappears out of view and my heart skips a beat. Did she just ditch me? That b...
“Dr. Blay,” she says as she reappears into sight. What? Oh come on I was going to say ‘that bad girl’. Get your mind out of the gutter. “I’m going to blast sections of the mountain with an anti-density ray that will soften the rock enough for you to grab it and climb up...”
“Short and sweet Alex!” I say. “Skip the explanation!”
“Yeah well if you hadn’t interrupted me I’d have finished,” she says and I roll my eyes. “It only lasts for three seconds so you’re going to have to move fast. You ready?”
“You ask like I have a choice,” I say under my breath and one of my fingers slipping off causes me to shriek in terror.
“Huh? Whaddya say?”
I watch her as she aims her communicator at the spot just above me. A yellow beam from her device hits the spot just above me and I reach up and grab it before I lose my grip. Even though it still looks like, and smells like rock, when grab it, it feels a lot like tough rubber in my palms. That explains a lot.
Eight blasts and accompanying climbs from me later and I manage to reach the top of the mountain. She pulls me over the cliff to safety.
“Thanks,” I say. “You saved me,” I say.
“Yeah,” I say. “Oh and I know how you did that rubbery-floor thing earlier.”
“Wait, you honestly didn’t know about the anti-density ray?”
“No. Why do you think I asked you?” I say as we walk further up the mountain path.
“Why, what wow?”
“So how many features of this thing can you use?” she says as she wiggles it in the air.
“Wait, well I can communicate, check maps, kind of and well, yeah that’s about it, two.”
“Incredible; you really are old huh?”
“You young whipper-snappers and your fancy-schmancy technology,” I say impersonating an old man’s voice. “Blech, I can live without it. Back in my day, we didn’t even have toilet paper. We just used leaves and small, furry animals. Why did you think that dog trick is called ROLL-over?” She laughs hysterically at my antics and in a brain fart moment, she smacks me hard on the arm and I almost plummet of the side of the mountain, again. I’ve done enough plummeting in the last week or so to last a lifetime.
“Hey, watch it!” I say when I regain my balance.
“Sorry, it’s just, you’re funny.”
“I’m not that funny,” I say self-effacingly as my heart dives from my throat back into my chest. “I was just impersonating my favourite character from Complete Weirdness Island....”
“Mark’s alternate personality of an old man!” we both say simultaneously.
“How did you know?” I ask her and she asks me.
“I, we, it,” we keep crossing each other verbally. “You speak,” I say.
“I used to watch that show all the time!” she says.
“Wow, me too!”
“I got some episodes of it from that satellite that almost killed us; you wanna watch?”
“Ummm, yeah sure,” I say and she gets out her communicator. After a few icon clicks, the show’s logo flashes across the tiny screen after which the shows distinctive theme song plays.
We walk and keep watching, episode after episode, laughing exceedingly loudly as we go along which is unbelievably dangerous since we are currently walking along the edge of a really tall mountain.
We have lost complete track of time and well, pretty much ourselves basically because when I look up from the little screen we’ve been staring into for the past hour or two, it appears that the sky has darkened but for some reason, we haven’t seemed to have made any progress.
“Alex, look,” I say and push the screen down from her eyes and she also takes a look around.
“What? Where are we? Wait, I know this place, it’s the-”
“The cave entrance, yes!” I say as I complete her sentence. “We’re right back here again!”
“What? That’s impossible! We’ve been walking for like two hours!”
“I’m flummoxed too Alex,” I say and place the heavy gear bag on the floor, look out into the open sky and try to think. As I do this, quite an atypical sight catches my attention.
“Hey Alex,” I say. “Come over here for a sec will ya?”
“Why, what’s up?”
“Look at those clouds down there.” I point to a little flock of birds just above us moving from left to right.
“Yeah, what’s wrong with them?”
“You see the direction they’re moving in?” I say. “All in unison right?”
“Yeah. What are you get...”
“But look,” I say and point below us to a strange sight I just spotted. “You see?”
“Wait, is that bird flying backwards?” she asks me and I nod. “How?”
“No idea, but it just gave me an idea about how this mountain works.”
“I have a theory that maybe we didn’t just walk in an aimless circle around the mountain for two hours but rather, as we walked, the mountain spun us around and brought us right back here,” I say while gesticulating vigorously to make my point. “What do you think of that?”
“Hmmm, well as sensible as that sounds, and I’m not in any way being sarcastic here,” she says. “How on earth is it possible for a mountain of this size to spin around that quickly?”
“Well, that part I haven’t figured out yet, but...wait, yes! It’s all so clear now!”
“What is?” she says as I race past her and kneel down to draw in the sand.
“You see this?” I ask her as I point to the circle I drew in the sand.
“Yes, it’s a circle Dr. Blay.”
“Yes, but it represents the earth,” I say. “You see this middle part here?”
“What is that? An eye?” I take another look at the drawing and it does look like an eye so I wipe it and try again to better convey my message.
“That is the earth’s core, not an eye.”
“Okay, so what’s your theory?”
“If this mountain, and I’m not saying it is but, hypothetically, let’s just say, if this mountain were sitting on the earth’s core, as we know, velocity equals intensity so wouldn’t it be possible that the core could spin this mountain around without compromising any its integrity since it technically wouldn’t even be attached to the ground?”
“Technically speaking Dr. Blay, you might be suffering from a heat stroke,” she says as she lays her hand on my forehead. “Let’s get you in the shade.”
“Unhand me woman!” I say and slap her hand away. “My theory makes sense to me and I don’t see you coming up with anything better.”
“So how do we get up there, according your theory?”
“I honestly think that this is just a simple case of reversing our tracks.”
“Oh, so you mean that we should walk in the opposite direction, hoping that it would take us upward this time.”
“Yes,” I say. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Many, many problems but we don’t have any other choice so let’s go.”
“Whoa what the?” I hear Alex behind me. I turn to see her on her knees on the floor.
“What are you doing?” I say.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t feel that?” she says as she gets to her feet.
“Feel what?” When I say this, she sways a bit then drops to her knees again.
“That! It felt lie an earth tremor or something,” she says. “Don’t tell me you didn’t feel that!” I shrug my shoulders to say no because there is nothing else I can say to her. “Maybe it’s from here, come and stand next to me.”
I shake my head in frustration at her antics then oblige to her request and walk toward her. She looks a bit silly, standing there and bracing herself for something which obviously isn’t coming. No sooner do those words escape my thoughts does the ground suddenly start to shake violently for about three seconds and this leaves me right on my backside.
“I told you!” she says as she gets to her feet and helps me up. “Did you feel it now?”
“Oh no, I just enjoy sitting on the ground on top of huge mountains just to enjoy the scenery,” I say sarcastically.
“There’s no need for sarcasm Dr. Blay,” she says with a piercing eye-roll. “Did you feel the way the ground shook?”
“Yeah I did,” I say. “The movement was flowing, almost tectonic.” I move away from that spot and take Alex with me.
“Yes, but do you know what this means?” she says.
“Of course but you go ahead,” I say and she rolls her eyes at me again.
“What it means is that you were right Dr. Blay!” she says with such surprise on her face that it hurt a bit. “You may have just discovered an unbelievable occurrence, a spinning mountain!”
“I take that to mean that you are now a full believer in my theory?”
“Dr. Blay, this is no longer a theory,” she says. “It’s a reality and even though it makes no sense, we need to document this.”
“I suggest we keep moving before another earthquake happens.”
We keep on walking and as we go around another bend in the mountain, we spot another anomaly which Alex quickly points out.
“Hey look, the bird,” she says. “It just changed direction; what does that mean?”
“Hopefully it means we’re going the right way.”
“I think it does, look!” she says and points to an entrance into what is presumably the top of the mountain.
“That wasn’t there before,” I say as we trot toward it just in case the mountain decides to change again.
“Look,” she says as she sticks her head inside. “I see light at the other side of this passage; this could be the way out.”
She begins to enter without thinking so I grab her by the arm and pull her out just in time. “Whoa there tiger, you can’t just go charging into a dark tunnel like that.”
“But it’s so close; I can literally see the exit right there!” she says almost jittery with excitement.
“Yes, but you don’t know what else could be lurking in there,” I says.
“Fine, but I could be out already if you hadn’t stopped me.”
“You could as well be dead too.” I guess those words got to her because she doesn’t give a retort as she usually does when I get all fatherly on her.
I shine a light into the tunnel to make sure that anything or anyone isn’t sneaking up on us to catch us completely off-guard. When I’m satisfied that there’s no imminent threat, I draw in closer to Alex to plan our next move.
“Okay, so this is what we do,” I say. “We go in with me at point and you behind guarding the rear.”
“Why do I have to guard the rear?” she says. “I want to take point.”
“Well I could let you take point,” I say. “That’s if you feel like getting your throat cut by a gang of post-humanoids.”
As usual I was expecting a clever retort as she is known for but instead she just looks away then back into my face with a sheepish expression on. Wow, I really am on form with my zingers today.
“So what if they do attack us?” she asks after contemplating for so long what she was going to say.
“Speaking of that, are my prongs fully charged yet?”
“Oh yeah I think so,” she says, pulls them out of her bag and hands them to me.
“Thanks,” I say as I examine it. “They feel ready to stab,” I say as I make a stabbing motion in the air. “Get yours out too.”
“Uh, don’t you remember?” she says.
“You threw them at that shark and we left it before the cave collapsed.”
“Oh yeah, wait, we didn’t take it with us?” I say and she shakes her head. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“But, you were loosing a lot of blood and the cave was collapsing and...sorry,” she says with a poignant look on her face.
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault,” I say. You did the right thing.”
“So what do we do now that we have only one weapon and these useless balls?” she says as she rattles her grenade balls in their sack.
“We work with what we’ve got,” I say. “What rays did you say are on the communicator?”
“Well, there is the anti-density ray and a ray that makes something light up, an illuminator ray if you will, but these take a lot of power and could drain the battery with about five blasts.”
“Then take this,” I hand her my communicator. “Now you have ten blasts.” She nods and places both of them in her belt.
“Now listen to me Alex, if we get into a battle of any sort and it looks particularly bad, I want you to run, run away, flee...no look at me,” I say with my hands on her shoulders. “I want you to run as fast as you can out of the tunnel and don’t look back at me; is that clear?” She doesn’t answer. “I said is that clear?” She nods weakly and refuses to look me in the eye. “Okay, let’s go.”
I let her shine a light into the tunnel as I take one very calculated step then wave Alex in as we walk very carefully through the deafeningly quiet cave. We take each step almost with a tiptoe and look in every direction before taking them, flinching at every littlest sound. It’s very accurate to say that our senses are quite alert right now. The air is so heavy with the expectation of a sudden ambush right now that you could probably use a knife to slice right through it.
All of a sudden, the heavy, expectant air is replaced with fear as a little shuffling sound echoes through the cave. “What was that?” Alex whisper-shouts in fear behind me.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Must’ve been a rat or something.”
“A rat? Big enough to make a noise like that? Are you sure?” No sooner do those petrified scared words leave her lips does a creature cut across in the distance. I shine my light there but we see nothing.
“That was no rat!” she whisper-shouts again almost in panic.
“Where’d it go?” I say.
“I saw it go down behind that boulder over there,” she says and points to a big boulder just a few feet away from us.
“Okay Alex, let me check it out,” I say. “Remember what I said, about if the situation gets dangerous? That-“
“That I should turn and run; I got it.”
“Give me the light,” I say and she hands me her communicator.
“Okay here goes,” I say as I extend my prongs and swallow a giant swig of saliva.
“Be careful,” she says from behind me.
I tiptoe toward the boulder and with each tentative step, I keep thinking of what’s likely to happen. The post-humanoid will most likely attack on sight so I need to attack as soon as I see anything resembling a humanoid...wait, no; I must try to dodge and then attack while it’s open. I try to erase all thought from my head as I realise that while thinking, I’m right at the base of the boulder. I take a deep but silent breath as a nervous sweat breaks out on my forehead. I silently count to three then...
I suddenly leap to the other side with my prongs in hand, ready to deliver the killer blow to whatever is there but just as I’m about to do so, my muscles freeze as I try to comprehend the sight before me as it cowers in fear on the floor.
I stare at it in the eyes and it stares me also in the eyes and for some reason, I’m unable to move or react with my weapon centimetres away from its face. After regaining my composure, I draw my weapon back.
“Alex get over here now!” I yell to her, not even bothering to lower my voice now because all my defences have immediately dropped.
“Why, what is it?” she says with obvious fear in her voice as she tentatively approaches me. “Is it disgusting? I don’t wanna see anything nasty Dr. Blay.”
“Get over here Alex, you won’t believe this.”
“Fine.” She tiptoes toward me with my communicator clutched close to her chest and she musters the courage to peek her head out of the side of the boulder.
She immediately drops all her defences and comes out fully when she sees what I was calling her for.
“What? How?” she says and I shrug. “Where did she come from? How is she here? Who is she? What is she?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t asked her anything yet.”
“Is she normal?” she says to me and I take a long look at her.
“She certainly looks normal.”
“Then ask her something.”
“What, me? What am I supposed to ask her? I don’t speak...”
“Me din di Princess Akosua. Mo nso, mo din di sen?” the girl says as she slowly gets to her feet.
“I don’t speak whatever that was,” I say.
Alex crouches to the little girl’s level to speak to her. “Hello little one, I’m Alexandria, what’s your name?” she asks but the girl just stares blankly into Alex’s face.
“Your name, what’s your name?” I say with a bit of frustration and the girl looks at me then uses her grey flowered dress to cover her face in what I think is fear.
“Dr. Blay! The weapon!” Alex says.
“The weapon Dr. Blay; put it away! It’s scaring her.”
“Oh yeah, good call.” I fold my prongs and put them back in my belt.
“It’s okay little one, he won’t hurt you, we are friendly.” When she hears the word ‘friend’ she lowers her dress from her face and looks into Alex’s deep green eyes again. “Okay, so like I said, I’m Alexandria, and what is your name?”
As Alex keeps firing blanks in her attempts to communicate with the girl, I take a closer look at her and notice that her skin is a bit dark toned and she is very pretty; she must be African.
“I am, Princess Akosua,” the girl finally says and looks at me this time.
“What a lovely name,” Alex says to her but the girl still stares expectantly at me, “I think she wants you to mention your name, Dr. Blay.”
“Oh, well my name is Ignatius, Ignatius Blay. Nice to meet you Princess Akosua,” I say and extend my arm to her for a handshake but she just cowers in fear again.
“Why? What did I do?”
“I don’t know but I guess that gesture must mean something very different around here,” she says. “Hey Akosua, where do you live?”
She looks blankly into her face again. After staring at both of us for a while, she just starts to giggle and then she starts to run toward the exit of the cave.
“After her!” I shout and we trail her as we exit the cave.
We exit into a meadow filled with luscious green grass, a very enchanting sight, but we can’t enjoy now it because we are after that mysterious girl.
“Over there,” Alex says and points over to a small opening in-between two rocks in the trees that the girl slides into. We chase after her, making sure not to trip on the vines that are all over the ground here.
“What do you think we’ll find on the other side of those trees?” I say to Alexandria.
“I honestly don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out,” Alex says as she parts the branches and we step inside.