"Escape to Adventure Story"
By John Pirillo
"Up here!" Danish called to Rusty.
She stood at the base of a formation of red stones that were a combination of sandstone and hard granite that spiraled up into the cap where Danish stood. It was one such formation of many in the valley of the Red Painted Souls as it was called by the natives of Peru. Danish had discovered the rather oddly protected valley quite by mistake when he was enroute to another part of South America in a privately leased jet to help with a drought ridden area United Nations Project he and the Director had gotten involved with.
Rusty shrugged her rugged backpack to her other shoulder. It had been a long day. Too long. Like most of these kinds of things they explored and did, regular hours didn't fit the picture. Not even irregular. The hours were just...monstrous.
She wiped a sweep of her red hair from her sparkling green eyes and sighed. She was a tall woman, but next to Danish she seemed short. He was close to six foot two, maybe four. She'd never asked and he'd never ventured.
As hot mountain sun burned down on her, and sweat coursed through her hair across her forehead and into her eyes, she thought back to how she had come to be in this God forsaken hellhole of a stone dungeon.
Ever since they had solved their last great mystery. Excalibur. They had both decided to take a leave of absence from the museum and its attendant mysteries and instead give their time to charity. It had worked wonderfully at first. They had run from one hot spot to another over the past year...Syria to Lebanon, Egypt to Israel, Pakistan to India and a dozen provinces within those countries, but eventually it became plain to both of them that they were getting bored.
It wasn't that they didn't love helping people, but everyone else was so much better at it, and more dedicated. They had spent their lives in anticipation of such help and building it into a career of sweat and blood that knew nothing else but alleviating the torment of their fellow human beings. Even so, no one knew how close the earth had come to destruction several times and had it averted by Rusty and Danish and their wonderful friends, the Director his son an her best friend.
But everyone had drifted their own ways after the Excalibur incident and it had been all right with them to do so. Each had their own goals to fulfill.
But now Danish and Rusty were back out in the wilds again, seeking the solutions and answers to mysteries that others had failed to either find, or to comprehend.
Rusty had lost some of the powers she had picked up in their first incident with the alien ship, but she still had a tremendous amount of surprises in store for herself with the ones she had not lost. While she was no longer transforming, her body transformation had stopped. Her ability to divine information not readily available without a microscope and a computer had not been lost. She found herself wincing as she leaned against the pillar Danish stood atop of. She could feel the malevolence that had become embedded in that stone. And not just there.
"Danish, come down from there before you hurt yourself!" She hollered at him.
He shook his head. "Come up!" He insisted.
Rusty dug her heels in and shook her red hair. One thing she was not going to do was climb that crazy rock just to take in a view. "No way!" She hollered, shaking her head vigorously.
Danish gave her one of his famous puppy dog looks, his big brown eyes exuding those love me vibes that had sucked her into him in the first place. "Please." He mouthed.
She blew out a sigh, and then set down her backpack against the base of the pillar. She swore she was going to make him pay that evening for doing this, but...
She made her way up as carefully as she could; using the special tennies she'd bought in the airport for grappling. Lots of climbers used the Peruvian mountains to test their skills. Amateur and professional. She was somewhere in the middle of that lot. Neither an amateur nor a professional. But she knew enough to be dangerous to herself and others, which is why she usually avoided climbing at all.
She slipped slightly as she crested the top, almost losing her grip. Danish caught her and pulled her up effortlessly to the top and against him. She bathed in the radiance of his hot body a moment, and then gave up. She put her arms around him, nuzzling him with her nose.
"I'm sorry, I'm just burnt out." She confessed.
"I promise you we'll head back to camp when we're through here, and then return to New York."
She gave him an excited look. He put a finger on her lips before she could squeal. She always did that when she was excited. That and glow in the dark. Something that hadn't left her when the aliens had taken off in their gigantic crystal ship to return home to their planet.
She bit him.
"Ouch!" He jerked his finger away and nursed it in his mouth, giving her a hurt look.
She laughed, and then put her hands on her hips. "So now what? You got me up here. Is it just to neck or do you have something disgusting or at least interesting to show me?"
He broke into laughter. She was good for him that way when he got too serious. He turned and pointed through the maze of twisted rock columns that formed the Red Painted Souls. She gasped. There it was. What they had been searching for these past five weeks.
"The Director is going to have a heart attack when he learns about this."
Before her and his view as a very, very unique twisted column of rock. It interwove with four others, forming a platform. At the top of the platform was a massive growth of plants, but just below the growth and just above the platform was a door.
"Pacaitambo." He intoned in his best Indian voice.
"Abode of Procreation." She added, translating his word.
He looked into her face. "You realize what this means, don't you?"
"Yeah. More beans and water." She made a face.
He smiled and put an arm around her. "This is living proof of the Unu Pachaciti, the Great Flood before times."
"The Yunca Tribe believed that the Pachacamac..."
"The equivalent of our Jehovah."
"He animates this world."
"Why is the Big Guy always a male, for God's sake?" She complained. "You'd think at least some cultures would give the gals a break."
"Oh, right. Forgot about those hotties."
He laughed. "The Yuncas believed he was the Creator of the World."
"I don't think I like the part about them doing blood sacrifices in his name. Sounds like a screwy god to me. What kind of god would want to kill his kids?"
He gave her a stern expression. "Be careful where you say that, Rusty. There are still Yuncas alive to this day, though not openly so. Their cult is looked down upon by most modern Peruvians."
"Even so." She broke in. "None here. No bother. No worry."
"Even the stones have ears." He teased.
She giggled. But she wouldn't have giggled had she seen the brightly colored Indians who were hiding on the other side of their rock, listening to everything.
"Well, I got no problem with their existence, just their way of life. Sucks. And that stupid Pachacuc thing."
"Crushing spiders to divine the truth, the future." Danish finished for her.
"Yeah, that too. Creeps me out big time."
He leaned closer. "What the records, modern ones at least, don't describe or talk about is that they also sacrificed human beings to achieve their goals. And it was rumored that they could climb stone like spiders and suck the blood from their victims."
"Now you're just plain creeping me out, Professor Danish."
"You believe this flood is the same that Noah experienced, don't you?"
He nodded. A thoughtful expression on his bronzed features. "Too many early cultures, here among the Indians and in our America have such legends for it to be a coincidence, or just smoke."
"Where there's smoke..."
He finished. "....there's fire."
"Usually." She reminded him.
He smiled into her face. "And this is why I love you so much, you raggamuffin."
She punched him lightly in the stomach, but he acted as if she had struck him hard and playfully gasped in pain. "You big softie."
She pulled him back to her. "Tomorrow, okay?"
She looked into his eyes.
His widened. "Oh." Was all he commented.
They had headed back down the pillar with the intent of retracing their tracks in the morning. The sun was low by the time they reached their simple camp. An outdoor oven of heaped rocks in a hollow circle, which Danish expertly put to use by rubbing some sticks together to catch a fire, kept them warm and heated the can of beans they shared between them.
"Pinto. My favorite." Rusty said, making a face.
Danish handed over another can. She took it and spooned some out. "Hot. Yummy Kidney beans."
"Lots of protein in beans. And good for your skin as well."
"It's not my skin I'm worried about, dreamer boy."
Her stomach let out a loud growling sound.
"Okay. Okay." He surrendered. "We'll check out the cave entrance. If it's valid, we'll leave a transponder to find it again and hike back to normalcy."
"Hallelujah to that, brother." She said with a smile.
"Now, about that little something I promised earlier."
She rose, took his hand and led him towards the tent. She raised the flap to enter and then shrieked. Inside the tent was this hideous giant spider, about three feet in diameter. Its multifaceted eyes were focused on her, and its legs bent to leap.
Danish swept her back; shut the flap hurriedly as something large impacted it, almost knocking him down.
He looked at the fire. Rusty didn't need any encouragement. She dashed over, grabbed her jacket off, lit it and tossed it on top the tent.
The tent burst into flames in seconds. Danish held the flap shut as long as he could bear the heat and flames, coughing from the smoke as the thing inside let out a blood curdling scream that the two of them would remember to their dying days.
The screaming got louder and higher, then suddenly stopped.
Danish jumped away from the flap at the same time as the whole tent collapsed.
Rusty shrieked and pointed. The spider was still alive and on fire now. It leaped at Danish. He rolled out of its way, grasping a hot stone from the makeshift oven and heaving it into the open mouth of the creature. The spider swallowed it and made choking sounds, but it kept crawling towards him.
Rusty grabbed another hot stone and clobbered it on its head. It spit out the other stone and stood there frozen for a moment, its multiple eyes on her. She froze too. This was it. They were both going to die!
Then the giant spider collapsed, the fire finishing the job it had started.
Rusty and Danish stood over the burning spider, their looks of horror frozen on their faces.
"We lost all our gear."
"I don't care." Rusty shot back.
"We're so outta here." Danish said.
He took her hand. She screeched.
She took his other hand.
He let out a howl of pain. "Burnt! Burnt!"
They looked at each other and burst into laughter, then froze when they heard a screech like the spider had made.
"I think that's our cue."
As they vanished into the night one of the Indians walked into view. He laid down an unusual pipe and squatted before the burning spider. He began to hum and then sing to it in an Incan voice. The burning spider's shape began to shimmer in the flames and then slowly it resolved into the shape of the other Indian.
Danish and Rusty caught the first plane back to the States. When they had disembarked, a porter came up. "Your luggage is waiting at the checkout."
Danish and Rusty looked at each other, but went inside.
At the checkout was a huge piece of luggage with their names on it.
The Checkout Man said. "Passports please?"
They handed them over, and he checked them out, and then nodded. "You can get a cart over there." He nodded towards a row of rental carts.
Danish and Rusty shook their heads.
"No thanks." They both said at the same time.
They walked away, not looking back. Had they done so, they would have seen the huge piece of luggage move as if something large were inside it.
The Checkout Man eyed the luggage, then shrugged as a couple walked to the exit. "Passports please."