Part 20: Sun, Sand, Summers
Part 18: Sun, Sand, Summers
We hiked through the snow, past Stonehenge, and back to Dr. Andonuts' lab.
: "I finished remodeling the Sky Runner. You can leave for Summers whenever you wish."
: "Be careful, kids."
He immediately went off to a nearby table and began tinkering with something, more or less oblivious to us.
: "Come on, let's get out of here."
We climbed back into the silver craft and lifted through the skylight of the lab. The snowy white expanse of Winters was an inspiring sight below us...
...but it quickly gave way to sandy beaches and a harbor town loaded with boats.
: "Ooh. This looks like a nice place."
The Sky Runner swooped down and hovered over the beach.
: "Alright, now to land it...easy, now..."
The Sky Runner crashed into the sand, splitting apart at the seams. Fortunately, we weren't very high off the ground, so we weren't hurt. We emerged from the wreckage as the gently lapping waves already began to carry the scrapped pieces of the craft out to sea.
: "I don't think it's getting fixed again."
: "Probably not. Let's have a look around."
The inhabitants of Summers, we would quickly learn, were extremely laid back. None of them seemed to notice or care that we had just crash-landed in what looked to be a UFO.
They were all more preoccupied with something, or nothing, as the case may be.
Of course, Summers was more than just a beach. A little more, at least. There were upscale restaurants...
...a fancy hotel...
...Hostile street signs...
...and a mysterious building labeled the 'Stoic Club' whose door was locked.
At the edge of the beach, yellowed clay houses made up the port town of Toto, where gruff sailors congregated and set sail across the sea.
The sailors seemed to be superstitious about a town called Scaraba that was across the sea. I remembered what Monotoli had said, about the forces from the Mani Mani statue wanting to keep us away from the Pyramid, and realized that we needed to get to Scaraba and investigate.
: "Can you take us to Scaraba?"
It was the same all over Toto, none of the sailors would leave out of fear of the Kraken.
: "I'm not scared of the Kraken! My wife's totally ignoring her Magic Cake business. She spends all her time hanging out in a strange club...what's it called...The Stoic Club. We don't have anything in common anymore! Is our relationship over?"
The captain turned away, lost in thought.
: "So there is something weird about that club, huh?"
: "Seems like it. But how are we gonna get in? We've got to do something, this guy's the only one who's not terrified of the Kraken."
Asking around town, we learned that the only way to get in the Stoic Club was to call them first-you couldn't just walk in the door.
I ran next door to a drugstore and put a coin in the pay phone.
: "What a weird club."
: "Let's go check it out!"
This time, the Stoic Club's doors opened and we were let inside. A handful of people sat at tables, sipping water from tall glasses. The murmur of conversations filled the room. A small stage took up the back wall, but instead of a band or a microphone, a large, gray rock sat in the center of the stage, a spotlight illuminating it.
: "What a weird club."
: "It's a mysterious work of art...I can't get that cake off my mind. There's only one woman who can make it...she's hanging out in this club. Yeah, she's over there at the entrance."
: "I don't either, but I try to be patient with the customers. They pay high prices just for a glass of water and the chance to have serious, intellectual discussions. So...Do you want some water?"
: "I'll pass."
: "The patrons of this club are able to stare into their own soul hard enough to burn a hole in their psyche. I'm now comfortable enough to stare at the real me, the true self, and burn the impression into my super-ego. I want to be in this comfort zone at any time, all the time, or at no time."
: "Uh, that's really interesting. So, how about that magic cake? I heard it's pretty impressive."
: "Why don't you stop by a little cart near the beach later? I'll have one ready for you."
She hurried out of the bizarre Stoic Club, and, not wanting to get caught up in any more 'intellectual' discussions, we soon followed. Strolling along the beach, we eventually came across a cart manned by the captain's wife, who was looking very happy indeed.
: "Actually, your husband told us about your cakes. He misses you, and was worried about your Magic Cake business."
: "Aww, he's so thoughtful. Here, I want you to have this. It's the first Magic Cake I've made since coming back. I used all leftover materials. This is a very special Magic Cake."
She handed me a little pink cake on a paper plate. I broke it into thirds to share with Jeff and Paula, then took a big bite.
: "Oh my goodness! Ness? Ness!"
: "Whoa! Um, I think I'll save this for later."
The last thing I remember seeing was the Magic Cake saleslady's face, grinning and beaming like the bright Summers sun, as the world swirled pink and my vision faded to black.
: "Go to the place of emptiness and endure this final test. I am praying for your success in this final stage of your training."
This is so weird. I'm dreaming, but this seems familiar somehow.
A city floating on pink clouds...somehow, it feels like home.
Man, my subconscious must really love poop jokes. Ha ha ha.
Hey, Poo, you'd better call Apple Kid.
People who train here must first clear everything from their mind. If you can make your mind blank and learn the true meaning of 'Mu', you'll pass through. Mu is Mu...
: "I want to show you a higher level of intelligence...However, I'm still realizing and learning this high level...I'll see you again. So long!"
He turned into a tornado and flew away...This is such a weird dream. What was in that magic cake anyway? I hope Jeff and Paula didn't eat them too...
Wait a minute...
Poo...Hadn't Talah Rama said something about Poo...?
The fourth member of our group...It's him.
: "He sent me to tell you that you must stop your meditation immediately. You must come back with me instead of staying in a place like this. Your master wishes it...Please rise, Prince..."
Poo's eyes remained shut tight as the girl pleaded with him to leave. Eventually, she gave up and left. I felt something sinister coming from the girl...Perhaps Poo felt the same way. Suddenly the world went black.
Paralyzed with terror, I watched as the spirit sank down over Poo's body.
: "To complete your trial, I am going to break your legs. You will lose the use of them. Do you accept this?"
I was shocked to hear a young voice rise defiantly, as if coming from my own mouth, out of the darkness.
A blow from the spirit suddenly knocked Poo to the ground, where he lay, breathing deeply. I felt a horrible pain in my legs. I wanted to scream, but I couldn't.
: "So, Prince Poo...You cannot walk, as your legs are broken. Next, I will tear your arms off. I will then take your arms, and feed them to the crows. The taking of your arms...Do you accept this?"
What kind of horrible training was this? Once again, I could only watch as phantom forces tore Poo's arms off and flung them into the blackness that filled my vision. Poo merely laid there, seemingly deep in meditation. I was unable to move or speak. I was just along for the ride, it seemed.
: "Ah, Prince Poo...Without legs and arms, you can only lie there...Now, I'll cut your ears off. You don't mind me taking your hearing away, do you? Do you accept this?"
The soft blowing of the wind and the echo of Poo's answer were suddenly cut off as the spirit robbed Poo of his hearing. I shuddered as the spirit suddenly spoke directly to my mind.
: "So, Prince Poo...No arms, no legs, and no sound...By floating words through the air, I must ask you: Do you care if I take your eyes? Do you want to live in eternal darkness? The taking of your eyes...do you accept this?"
Poo's answer rang out in my consciousness as if it was a thought formed in my own mind.
With that, the spirit vanished and the world was reduced to black. I couldn't even see Poo's body lying all but dead in the darkness. Again, the spirit spoke to my (our?) minds.
: "So, Prince Poo. Now I only communicate directly with your mind. Your mind is all you have left...In the end, I will take your mind, though you probably don't want to allow that, do you? So...You can't answer? You can't even move? Are you sad, are you lonely? If you lose your mind, you also lose any feelings of sadness...Do you accept this? I will take your mind, Prince Poo...Know that I will possess it..."
Without warning, the darkness lifted, and I saw Poo sitting on the mountaintop, uninjured. So...had it all been an illusion? Had it taken place in my mind? Or Poo's mind?
I watched as Poo journeyed back to the palace. I could only ponder what was going on in his mind at that time.
: "There is nothing more to teach you from the holy writings. The time has come, Prince Poo. I shall relay a message to you from Eternity. The evil entity that controls all wickedness is preparing for the greatest struggle of all time...The only ones who can challenge the entity are three boys and one girl. One named Ness is the leader of the four. One of the boys is you, Prince Poo. Now that you have completed your training, you must search out Ness at once. For all beings, for the earth herself, I pray for growth in the might of the four."
Suddenly, Poo began to spin like a tornado. I realized what he was doing as he sped off, his body fading into nothingness. He was teleporting, just like the monkeys had taught me to. The palace faded from my view and my vision became a blinding white light.
: "Ness? Ness? Wake up!"
: "I think he's coming around. Ness! Hey, Ness, are you alright?"
My eyes fluttered open and I was staring up into the shining sun of Summers. Jeff and Paula were standing over me. As they helped me to my feet, I grabbed my baseball cap off the beach where it had fallen.
: "Ness, what happened?"
: "I had a vision...I went to Dalaam, a far-away land...I saw the last member of our group...Prince Poo...He's going to be here any minute."
: "Um, we'd better get him to a hospital..."
: "No, he's right. Look! Someone's headed this way."
Speeding out of nowhere, Poo dug his heels in, scorching twin black trails in the peaceful white sands of the Summers beach. Screeching to a halt, he walked calmly up to us. Paula and Jeff looked shocked.
: "I know. I saw your training in my mind."
: "I am your faithful servant, Ness. My life is in your hands."
: "This is Paula, and Jeff. Guys, this is Poo."
I noticed them both stifling a laugh at that, and I admit I had to watch myself. I wondered if we'd eventually get used to it.
: "It's nice to meet you, Poo."
: "Yes, a pleasure."
Poo bowed deeply. I shook my head, feeling the last cobwebs of my strange dream vision fade away. So this was it. The chosen four, gathered together at last.
Next time: Bribery, jealousy, and a terrible, terrible odor! Don't miss it!