"A Professor Challenger Story."
"Bloody Hell, Challenger, we'll never get to the top of that monster!"
Challenger eyed his shorter companion, Conan, who was sweating so badly his jungle outfit was wet through and through. Even his hat, meant to keep the sun from his eyes, and his skull cool was soaking wet. "You really need to shed some of those pretty pounds."
Conan bristled. "They are not pretty!"
Challenger softened. "I know. I know." He clapped a hand on Conan's shoulder. "You've got to look at this climbing as a necessary part of your life if you intend on continuing to accompany me on these journeys."
"I'd rather chase Hyde through the gates of hell than climb another monolith!"
"As I, but what must be done, must be."
Challenger eyed the spire of the mountain, which was sheathed in a myriad of hands of cloud that squirmed and shimmied like bowls of liquid oil, colored with snow. "From what I can see if we start now, we should get half way to the top by nightfall."
Conan gave him a look that could kill. "You said it'd be a piece of cake!"
"I did, didn't I?" Challenger agreed, and then he smiled. "Would you have come had I said otherwise?"
Conan said nothing.
"I rest your case."
Challenger put a hand to the rocks above him and began climbing. "Oh, and I wouldn't wait for me to come back, as the only way out of this part of Fairie is up there.'
"You stinking, rotten Tosh!"
"Come now, Conan, sticks and butter, you know."
Conan was so frustrated he could punch a hole in the mountainside, but upon looking at the hardness of it in the light of reason; he pocketed that thought for more worth flesh, when he got back home and could tell Challenger exactly what he thought of him while he clubbed his brains out with his fists.
"I heard those thoughts, Conan. Killing me won't help you one bit."
Conan raised a fist. "Is there nothing of me you don't know?"
Challenger paused about ten feet up and looked down. "Never gave it much thought, but I suppose not. Oh, and by the way there's something you might want to notice before you decide to play stubborn much longer."
"WHAT!" Shouted Conan, his face reddening with anger once more.
At the precise moment Conan finished the bellow of a gigantic beast blasted from behind him. Conan spun around and felt his heart sink into his stomach. It was a prehistoric beast from the worst of his nightmares.
"I'd suggest you climb, Conan. Fast!" Challenger sternly suggested.
Conan was about to curse Challenger when the monstrous beast spotted him and began its charge.
Conan leaped for the highest handhold he could reach and began climbing frantically. The beast behind him was quite sizable; at least thirty feet tall and closing fast.
Challenger scrambled as well, moving swiftly, but carefully at the same time. He had the better lead, so wasn't worried about the beast's reach, but he was worried about his friend. Though stubborn and hotheaded at times, he was truly a remarkable man with great writing talent and a genius for forensics and an imagination to die for. He looked back and saw Conan wasn't going to make it.
"Hurry, Conan. Hurry!"
Conan scrambled as fast as he could, but the beast was faster. Its huge mouth, filled with rows of razor sharp teeth and a ghastly stinking breath opened up to envelope him. At the moment it was ready to seize him from the mountain wall, a rope coiled over his backpack and tightened, and he was swung away from the wall, screaming like a madman.
The beast's jaws slammed into the mountain wall, nearly knocking Challenger from his precarious perch above, but he managed to hang on, then resituate himself so he could swing Conan higher and out of the monsters reach.
Conan became a dangling carrot for the monster, who would swipe at Conan to eat him, shortly before he was jerked away and a bit higher.
"Damn you, Challenger! Either feed me to him or get me out of here!" Cursed Conan.
Challenger strained at Conan's weight. He was almost equal to Challenger's body mass, even though shorter by a foot, then he grunted and made a Herculean effort and just as the beast launched itself upwards to seize Conan, he pulled him the rest of the way up and into his arms.
The beast landed below and bellowed its rage and frustration as both Conan and Challenger gasped for air and strength.
The beast paced below them, looking for a way up it could traverse.
"Just think, even if you could have managed to escape its mouth, those front feet, which look an awful lot like hands would have caught you."
"Don't remind me."
"Not my intention at all."
Conan gave Challenger a sour look.
"It's not happy to have lost its meal, Challenger."
"Would you be?"
"Yes. I think I'd very poor eating."
Challenger laughed and helped Conan to a better grip on the mountain. "I suppose you would with that salty attitude of yours. Too much salt in a meal can be very disheartening."
The beast below looked to be going away, just looking back now and then to look at them, as if mourning for its missed meal.
"I don't like the look of that creature's gaze upon us, Challenger."
They both began climbing upwards as fast as they could, almost recklessly, but just short of that, sending sprays of rock off the mountain side to bounce down below, where the beast turned around, then stormed the mountain wall with all its strength. At the last moment when it looked like it might smash into the side of the mountain, it made a tremendous leap. Its upper clawed feet, which resembled hands shot upwards as it sprung into the air.
Incredibly, it caught hold of the mountain side, and with a roar of triumph began scaling the edifice below the two humans, its mouth open wide, saliva drooling between its enormous teeth and lips in anticipation of the meal it expected to obtain.
"Blast it all!" Conan cursed.
Challenger looked down.
"Bloody beast is climbing after us!"
"Challenger, your boot is on my right hand."
He lifted it and then began climbing again, this time more recklessly. Conan followed as swiftly as he could below him, urging every ounce of strength from his body. In minutes they'd managed to maintain their lead, but the beast was close behind. So close that both men could smell its foul breath on their heels.
Challenger paused once to pry a stone free and send it tumbling at the beast, who only flicked it away with its snout, not slowing it down for a second.
"Oh Tosh!" Challenger cursed, and then pushed upwards, struggling to keep his aching muscles from giving out.
Conan was doing little better, and much worse. Challenger could hear him gasping for air. He knew his friend would never make it. What could he do? What could he do?"
Then an idea flashed in his mind. He immediately dismissed it, but when he looked down he saw that Conan had fallen further behind and the beast was almost upon him.
"Oh Bloody Hell!" Challenger cursed, then shrugged off his backpack and flung it at the beast, which was so intent on Conan it didn't see it coming. The backpack struck its left eye and blinded it. The beast let out a howl of rage and let go of the mountain face with one front paw, almost tumbling away.
Challenger crossed himself quickly, then let go of his hand hold.
"Challenger no!" Conan cried out as his friend fell past him, arms out.
Conan turned about to look as Challenger fell, not to the earth far below, but upon the beast's large snout. It roared like it had been violated in the worst possible way and with its remaining free paw broke it free and swung at him, the same time as Challenger leaped for the mountainside.
The beast roared in rage and anger as it lost its grip on the mountainside and fell head over heels towards the ground below.
Challenger caught hold of the mountainside, but barely. The rock he held onto was crumbling beneath his grip. Just when he thought he couldn't hold onto his grip anymore, a strong hand clasped his arm and caught him as he fell.
He looked up. Conan, red-faced, his eyes wide as small moons, smiled into his face. "You're not getting away from me that easily!"
Conan swung Challenger back to the mountainside and he caught hold of a better grip and righted himself properly. He swiped a hand across forehead, which was bleeding.
"You're hurt." Conan pointed out.
"No, just my bloody pride, being rescued by an overweight sausage."
Conan burst into laughter.
Challenger grinned up at him. "I apologize for my former behavior."
Conan grinned back at him. "You saved my life twice. I'd say we're even."
"Hey!" Challenger hollered at him.
Conan laughed, and then began scrambling up the mountain, ignoring Challenger's curses beneath him. It had turned out to be a good day after all. A very good day indeed. And now if only he could get home in time for a warm meal with his beloved wife.
John Pirillo"Writing fuels the heart and soul!" Science Fiction, Fantasy and Adventure Tales to Take Your Breath Away!