The Shasta Caper
by John Pirillo
The fortress was further off than the map indicated, probably because there was no way to properly scale it against anything. Everything was new, unknown, deadly and delicious, crazy insane and gorgeously beautiful. Everything that a dream...or a nightmare could be rolled up into one.
"Are we there yet?" Jimbo asked for the thousandth time in a whiny voice.
Nanny patted his arm. "No, honey, almost thought." For the thousandth time.
Samuel laughed. "You two stop that!"
"Look, shouldn't we be getting some kind of view of it by now. It's almost dark."
Samuel looked up at the bright lands overhead and squinted. "Really?"
"Oh, okay. So it's not. But feels like it." He complained. Finally, he stopped as they approached a bend on the rough hill they were now mounting. When he did, his eyes widened. "Everyone stop!"
Samuel immediately stopped and searched for trouble. He hadn't felt anything nearing. Which troubled him more. That ship last night...
Nanny was the first to get it. "The ground's shaking."
Jimbo grinned at her. "That agirl."
"I'm not a dog!" She countered.
Jimbo started to explain.
"Or a horse!" She finished, making it final.
Jimbo shrugged. "Have it your way then. Sammie?"
Al and Marily were dancing in imaginary rain. Al had an umbrella and Marily wet boots on. He laughed. "Singing in the Rain, right?"
"What?" Jimbo and Nanny both said at the same time.
"Al and Marily are dancing to the show tune, 'Singing in the Rain.'
"I miss seeing them." Nanny complained.
"I never saw them." Jimbo complained.
Samuel looked at them, then at Al, who shook his head. Samuel said nothing.
Let's see what's on the other side of this spur of land." Samulel said, and exhausted as he was, kept climbing.
The others crested the rough ground, which was thick with rocks and sharp weeds and froze. Before them was a gigantic waterfall on the other side of a huge chasm. Sparkles of rainbows glittered and glowed throughout the falling water, as it cascaded in a thunderous cacophony from a massive entrance in the chasm facing them.
"Well, look at that." Jimbo said, his voice dripping with awe.
Nanny sat down and kicked off her shoes. "I could use a little of that water about now. My feet are killing me."
"I don't see anywhere to camp." Jimbo pointed out.
Samuel saw Al pointed over the side. Samuel stepped forward and looked down. At the foot of Al was a narrow path that wound down the side of the chasm towards a bridge that crossed the gorge below where water thundered happily along, hammering at wet rocks and mossy walls. "This way, I think." Samuel pointed out.
The others came over. Nanny carried her shoes. "Kind of steep."
"We need to get off the high ground. To easy for those flying ships to see us."
"Speaking of which, Sammie." Jimbo shot back, pointing.
Behind them, still some hundreds of yards back, came a flying ship exactly like the one that had captured them the day before. It was spearing the land about it with lances of light.
"Searching for us?" Nanny asked.
"Maybe. Maybe not." Samuel answered. "But I think we better get down and out of view as fast as we can."
"Said the spider to the fly." Jimbo muttered.
Nanny whirled on him. "What?"
"In my experience the better path usually ends up being the worse one in the long run."
Nanny looks to Samuel, who shrugs. "Whatever will be."
He started down the narrow path, hugging the chasm wall as he did. It was rough enough to give good purchase to his shoes. Jimbo let Nanny go in the middle and followed last. The three descended as rapidly as they could. As they got about half way down the flying ship came overhead.
A lance of light struck the path above them and froze a moment, then moved on.
"Faster." Samuel urged.
"We go any faster we might take a dunk. A long dunk." Nanny shot back.
"Better a high dive, then getting caught by those murderous bastards." Jimbo shouted.
They almost flew down the last part of the drop, the lance of light shooting down the path after them, each time spearing the path just behind them.
"Why do I..." Jimbo panted. "...Get the feeling we're being corraled like wild horses?" Jimbo gasped as he tried to talk and breathe at the same time.
They reached the landing of the bridge, and Samuel dropped back into an alcove, where a beautifully carved door embraced the stone wall. Strange hieroglyphics adorned its edges and the wall about it. Several niches held candles, which were burning.
"Some kind of religious spot?" Nanny considered.
"More like a picnic area, I supsect." Samuel said, pointing to a large hollowed rock, wherein were discarded food substances and containers of some wierd kind of material. Even as they looked the rock made a rumbling sound, and the materials inside it began to swirl, then bubble, then smoke, then vanished.
"Remind me not to poke my foot in there." Jimbo drawled.
"Or your finger, Jimmie." Nanny warned him.
"Nah. More likely his foot. He's used to putting it into familiar places." Samuel teased.
"You mean, like his mouth?" Nanny went on with the tease.
Jimbo threw his backpack down. "Sticks and stones, cousins. I'm beat. Time to eat."
"Sounds like a commercial for a snack food." Nanny said, but didn't complain as she se her own backpack down next to his.
Samuel stayed at the edge of the landing watching the flying ship as it continued to spear the chasm walls randomly with its spear of light. "I don't think they're looking for us."
Jimbo pulled out some more Twinkies. "Maybe they're looking for these. Chow anyone?"
They settled in around him on the rough benches that protruded next to the door, then began eating in earnest. When they had finished the Twinkies, Jimbo pulled out a can of beans for each of them.
Nanny shook her head. "I eat too much of that and I sound like firecrackers going off."
"That's because you're eating store beans." Jimbo drawled. "These are made by my family. Special formula. Guaranteed to be fart free."
"Ooh, gross!" Nanny teased.
Jimbo smiled. "Indeed they are, tinker bell."
Nanny slugged him.
Jimbo backed off, hands before him. "No insult intended."
"No pain intended either, big guy." Nanny smiled back at him baring her teeth.
Samuel smiled, then got to his feet, he examined the door in the rock wall more closely. "I don't get it. Why would they put a door in the wall with no way of opening it"
"Maybe they don't want anyone coming in." Nanny suggested.
"Maybe." Samuel replied.
Al was standing next to him, shaking his head. Samuel looked at him. "What's wrong?"
"It's not a door out or in." Al explained.
"If not out or in, then what is it?" Samuel asked, a bit wary of Al's vagueness.
Al remained silent. Okay, it was test his wits time again.
Samuel sighed, then reached to put his palm on the door.