"Home,"Journey to the Center of the Earth Story. John Pirillo. Not every human is a stranger, some are just...strange!
A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story
By John Pirillo
Everett and Russ stared at the huge gap in the path ahead of them. It had to be at least thirty feet. They had no rope. There were no trees to fell to drop across the chasm that gaped at their feet. And they sure as hell weren't going to climb down and try to cross the river of lava that was streaming rapidly below. They'd crisp long before they got at its edge. The closed sides of the chasm made it like an open pit barbecue, which would cook their meat in a matter of seconds.
Rowlf sniffed the air, and then shook his head.
"Kwoss here. Door nho kwoss."
Russ translated Rowlf's bastard English into his own words and nodded. He looked to Everett who sighed deeply, then turned to his friends. "Our path ends here."
"Maybe not." Russ said.
Rowlf's antenna wiggled towards him and Everett's eyebrows rose questioningly.
"Look. None of us can jump that far. Not even Rwolf. Gravity's not going to work for us that way."
Everett got it. He turned to Rwolf. "How good are you at throwing heavy things?"
All of that had been what seemed like hours ago as Everett examined his body for bruises and Russ did the same. Rowlf threw what remained of their gear across the gap and they caught it, and stored it behind them.
Russ looked to Everett. "What about Rowlf?"
"We'll come back for him."
Russ grimaced. "You know that's not likely, don't you?"
Everett snarled at him. "You think I want to leave him behind? He's like a brother..." He began to sob a moment, and then caught himself. "Like a..."
Russ put a hand on his friend's shoulder. He turned to Rowlf. "We're going to look for a way to come back for you. Will you be all right?"
"Rowlf bee gwood!" Rowlf said, his eyes rotating in their sockets with a sense of elation.
Russ smiled. Rowlf was much more confident than he was.
"Twust you!" Rowlf said, and then sat down at the edge of the chasm, as if they would be gone only a short while.
Everett started to choke up again. Russ stopped him with a gentle punch to his shoulder. "We can't help him by standing around like a bunch of cry babies."
Everett wiped at his eyes, then turned and waved at Rowlf. He felt his heart leap into his throat when Rowlf waved back just like a human would.
Russ ignored him and pushed ahead.
Everett had to rush to catch up with him. "How can you be so callous?"
Russ turned his face and Everett's next words of anger froze on his lips. Russ' eyes were swollen and red, teary.
"Right." Everett said. "Carry on then."
They trudged ahead in silence. A long silence that grew more painful the longer they pushed forward. Ahead of them the tunnel they were threading narrowed and a strange symbol was on the right wall. They rushed forward to check it out.
"The stars again. What do you think they mean?"
Everett scowled a moment at the complex geometry embossed from stone on the wall. "Intelligence of an advanced kind is what."
Russ about him. "I don't get it; we keep running into these things. Like they're some kind of road sign or such thing, but we never see anybody."
"Maybe they don't want to be seen." Everett responded in a low voice. "Would you want your home invaded by people like us?"
Russ chortled with laughter for a moment, and then nodded. He examined his nearly naked body and the ragtag plant substances he had used to piece together what kind of clothing he could manage. "I kinda get the picture. So now what?"
Everett glanced at his friend. "We try to find a way to save our friend we left behind."
Rowlf watched his peculiar thin skinned friends with the pasty complexions wave at him and then continue along the passage on the opposite side of the chasm. They worried too much. Rowlf would be fine. It was them that he worried about. Too weak to survive long without him down here.
He rose to his feet and eyed the molten river below a long time, his senses gathering the scent and savoring it. He was used to heat, and the smell of it here. He loved waking up to it in the morning. It was the first thing he remembered after he broke from the egg his mother had lain of him. His egg had been near a volcanic flue, where the heat flushed out steadily from the lava flows below. It had warmed his egg. Even inside it he had felt safe and comfortable.
When his friends vanished in the distance and dark of the passage, he turned to look back the way he had come. There had been other passages. Other paths. Perhaps one of those would lead around to the other side and he could continue his trek with the who-mens.
The attack was totally expected and unexpected at the same time. The nature of it was quick and decisive. They knew that there were warring creatures below the surface. They had been escaping one such group for God knows how long now, but this one was totally unexpected, because they were human. Or at least appeared to be.
Russ discovered the little tyke first, while Everett was taking a quick nap. They swapped naps and watch to keep their strength up when uncertain of where they were and its dangers. Right at that time they were very uncertain. The glow moss had changed color from a soft luminescent green to a more mustard color, which indicated changing environment conditions as well.
"Probably different minerals predominate in the soil here." Russ ventured.
"Yeah. But doesn't there have to be soil?" Everett joked, noting the obvious.
Russ nodded. "Normally, but pal, this is so far beyond normal. And the moss, for all we know could have roots that go deep behind the rock into a soil we can't see."
"But we've pulled the stuff by its blood roots and they're never more than a few feet."
"Yeah. Right enough. But how do we know what else they use to draw sustenance. Different world. Different rules."
"You saying they're manifesting the stuff from the soil?"
"Maybe transitioning would be a less cumbersome concept."
"Well you know how plants on the surface use photosynthesis to do their complex biological functions?"
"Everyone knows about that."
"What if these here plants..." He gestured to the glow moss. "What if they have a similar process, but rather than draw nourishment and chemical changes from the sunlight, they draw it from something else deep in these walls."
"Some kind of radiation?" Everett's eyes bugged out in horror. "Blimey, Russ, you saying this bloody world is irradiating us?"
"More than likely....and more importantly. The moss."
"I don't think the plants are more important."
Russ laughed. "Everett, it's just a matter of speech. I don't expect the radiation is lethal, or we would be showing symptoms by now."
"What if we start sprouting chitnous armor like Rowlf?"
That ended the conversation, and also transitioned them to their first rest stop. And that was when Russ had been shocked from a nap he shouldn't have fallen into by the sound of small feet. He jumped to his feet, but rather than rouse his partner, who looked exhausted. He grabbed his stone spear and walked a short distance towards the sound. That was when he saw the child of about ten in the pathway.
He froze. The child froze.
It was wearing some kind of armor. A very odd color. It seemed flexible, but stiff enough as the child positioned itself towards him for a better look. It had blue eyes and a dirty blonde hair. Its ears were elfish looking and long and pointed. It could have been a boy or a girl because of the armor which hid its sexual features.
"Well, hello there." He greeted.
The child backed up, its eyes widening in fear.
"I'm not going to hurt you, little fellow. How did you get down here?"
He took a step in that direction. Big mistake. Suddenly the walls themselves seemed to shiver free a swarm of adults, all armed with strange looking metal spears with odd looking balls at the tip of them that glowed rough blue color. He didn't wait for them to greet him. He ran.
"Everett! He yelled. "Trouble!"
Everett was on his feet, spear in hand when Russ reached him and the adults.
Before either of them could move further another flood of adults came from the opposite direction. In a matter of moments the adults had the two men surrounded.
"I think it might be a good time to put our spears down." Russ warned.
Everett scowled at him. "I think now would be a good time....not to put our spears down.
Their argument became moot when several spears were thrown and struck them on their backs. Both men cried out in shock as a blast of energy racked their nervous system and threw them to the ground. They writhed on the ground several long moments, and then lost consciousness.
The adults looked at the child and then one patted him on the head. He smiled. Rubbed his stomach. And rolled his eyes. They meant to eat Russ and Everett. They pulled wicked looking daggers from the belts of their armor and grabbed Russ and Everett to slit their throats.
"Rwolf not like you!" Rwolf commented from the right.
The adults froze, stood up to look as Rwolf stalked towards them, hefting a stone the size of one of the men. "Rwolf dink you bwad men!"
Rwolf hurled the stone.
The adults opened their mouths to scream, but no sound came out. Then they scattered with the child. They all ran up the left side of the tunnel. The stone struck none of them. It landed safely on the other side of his unconscious friends, rolled several times over and over, then stopped.
Russ was the first to wake up from his forced nap. He groaned, sat up and rubbed his shoulder blades. "Feels like someone stabbed me in the back."
Rwolf dropped between him and Everett. He gestured to a small fire had started with a piece of red hot lava held in a dish of stone. It was stuffed in a hollowed out scoop of the floor and burned several handfuls of the moss, which threw off a fragrant odor.
Russ eyed the fire, the Rwolf. "Everett!"
Russ turned to see Everett, still unconscious. He shook his friend. "Wake up will you, dinner or breakfast or lunch, whatever it is, is served."
Everett let out a series of moans, then with Russ' help sat up. "Did you just say chow time?"
Russ laughed. "Learning American, are we?"
They all gathered around the flickering flames of the fire and Rowlf served them pieces of a fishlike creature he had caught.
"But how did you get here?" Everett asked between bites.
Rowlf pounded his chest. "You wallways shay inwention ish da muther oaf Saysessity."
Russ gave Rowlf a probing glance. "You jumped."
Rowlf nodded. "Dwhen fell."
"But how did you survive? Everett demanded, between bites.
"Now wall way. Kwaught udder shide."
"I get it. You managed to reach the other side of the chasm, just below the edge."
Both men pounded Rowlf on his back. At first he looked alarmed, but when they let out whoops and hollers of congratulations, his face made its usual ugly grimace, which was his version of a smile.
"Good to have you home with us." Everett finally said after he calmed down.
"Ditto for me." Russ added.
"Home. Rowlf. Home!"
And no more needed to be said.