Tam Put on the Red Light

A hand, a large hand enveloped my own and began pulling at me, pulling me up. But the tendrils stayed wrapped tightly around me. The hand was pulling me up, the tendrils were pulling me down and that left me frozen, stuck in the mouth-like hole at the bottom of the cave.

It was Crag! He had leapt to save me. And even more miraculously, he had managed to catch me before I had completely vanished down the hole. I had been so sure he was going to be too late. But here he was, holding my hand, pulling me with all his might. But the tendrils hadn’t given up either, they were still pulling me down. I could feel both of them tug at me. I could feel the opposing forces tear at me. It was so painful, but I held on with all I had. The other option was unthinkable.

But the tendrils weren’t going to give up so easily. I could feel their moistness slip over me, moving up my body. Thin little tendrils geow upwards towards my chest and my upper back. They wrapped around my shoulders and up my arms. I knew that whatever this creature was, it wasn’t going to give me up. It was hungry and wanted more. We were running out of options.

Then it came to me, our one way out. “Tam!”

“I don’t think she’s going to be able to reach you,” Crag said through gritted teeth.

“I know. That’s why you need to go and free them.”

“Them?”

“Tam! You need to free Tam! Only they can get us out of here!”

Crag glanced up behind him to the prone Tam, wrapped in tendrils, held aloft just over his head. “Are you…?”

“Just do it!” I shouted.

Reluctantly, he let go of me with one hand and reached up. He tugged at the tendrils holding Tam, but nothing happened. They wouldn’t give way. “It’s not working,” he told me.

“You have to let go of me. Completely.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“But then you’ll die.”

“I’m going to die anyways. Freeing Tam is the only way I have a shot at living. That any of us do.”

As soon as I said it, I could feel the truth in that sentence. I could feel my life’s energy leaching out of me through the tendrils. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, that none of us would, that it was already too late for us to try to fight back. But that red glow emanating from Tam, what I had already seen them do with that energy, I knew they could save us.

Or at least I hoped they could. We needed them to. If they still had enough energy. We had no other choice. “Do it,” I told Crag. “Free them.”

Crag reached up toward Tam, but he couldn’t reach. “You have to let me go,” I told him.

“But then it’ll pull you under.”

I could feel the tendrils squirming their way upwards, closer and closer to Crag. It was going to get him, too, and then we’d all be out of luck. “You have to do it now! We’re running out of time!”

“But…”

“Now!”

Crag let go of my hand and I was tugged quickly down beneath the lip of the mouth. I reached out desperately to grab onto anything I could. But all there was to hold onto were the tendrils, the slick slithering tendrils. Any grip I could mange slipped out of my hands almost immediately.

I was being stuffed into the hole, into the mouth, and all seemed lost when suddenly the tendrils began to convulse wildly. I was thrown back and forth by their distressed spasms. I could tell immediately that something was wrong.

It was Crag. I could see just a bit of him through the top of the hole. But I could see that he was trying to free Tam. He was pulling violently at the tendrils wrapped around them. It must have been effective because it seemed to be hurting it. The tendrils were in pain. It was only a matter before they struck back. And then we’d all be in serious trouble.

I could see the tendrils swarm toward Crag and within seconds he disappeared from my view. I could only assume they had him. The tendrils once again wrapped around me, tighter this time. They covered nearly every inch of my body. I was completely unable to move. They pulled me downwards into the mouth. I was being consumed. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

And then came the red light. It washed over everything. It was brighter than ever before. Even with my eyes closed and the tendrils covering most of my face, I could still see it. It seeped through every crack, filled every corner. And it hurt. It hurt me, but even more than that it hurt the tendrils. It really hurt the tendrils. They began to spasm uncontrollably, shaking and convulsing. Which would have been a good thing if I hadn’t currently been in their grasp. For as much as they were tossing me back and forth, I could’ve escaped from the tendrils’ grip if only I’d had something else to grab on to.

And then a giant hand appeared. I looked up and saw Crag’s face. It took a second for him to pull me from the spasming tendrils. He lifted me up out of the mouth with ease. My eyes quickly found Tam who was sitting in a tendril-free area of burnt rock. Tam was breathing heavy and their glow was all but gone. “You all right?”

“Just great,” they said. “You?”

“Oh, yeah. Real peachy.”

I looked up to spot the others, but they weren’t up in the air anymore. The trolls had been thrown about the pit by the spasming tendrils. “We need to get the others,” I told Tam and Crag. “And we need to get out of here as soon as…”

And then the ground began to quake.

to be continued…

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Into the Mouth He Goes

I was being pulled down lower and lower, closer to Tam. They watched me get closer, our eyes met. They reached out toward me. I reached out and took their hand. “It’s not over yet,” I told them. “We can still get out of here.”

“Oh,” Tam whispered, thin tendrils stuck to their face. “How?”

“We’ll find a way,” I told them. “We always do.”

“Do we?”

“We do,” I assured them, though things were looking pretty grim, all of us captured by these tendrils, our live energy being sucked out of us. The Sheriff and his deputies were already too weakened to help. And me being pulled down further toward hole at the bottom of this cave. I could see it beneath us, widening, undulating. This was where the tendrils had sprung from, this was where the monster lived. It reminded me so much of a mouth that it was hard not to believe that this creature was trying to eat me.

“Hold on, Frank!” I heard Crag yell. I glanced over and saw him still climbing down the wall. “I’m coming!”

Crag was still free and mobile. He was the only hope we had left, that I had left, but he was still several feet up and many, many yards away. It seemed impossible that he could reach me in time. But, then, to my utter surprise he made the stupid decision to push off of the cave wall and let himself drop down to the cave floor. No, I wanted to yell to him, don’t. Stop. It was suicide. He was going to hurt himself. But, even if I’d had the energy to yell loud enough so that he could actually hear me, it wouldn’t have mattered. It was already too late. He was already falling. There was no stopping him now. All I could do was pray that he’d survive it.

Crag dropped like a brick toward the bottom of the cave. But there was one thing I hadn’t take into consideration, that I hope he had, and that was that the cave floor was covered in tendrils. It wasn’t the rocky cave floor that he slammed into, but the rubbery tendrils laying across it. Crag bounced when he hit and went flying back up into the air. He came down again and bounced again, coming closer and closer. By the third time he hit, the impact had diminished enough that was able to turn it into a run. But before I started to have hope, I realized that it was only a matter of time before those tendrils turned on him. Sooner or later they’d grow tired of being stepped on and they’d wrap themselves around him and he’d be ensnared like the rest of us.

But did I even have that long to wait? I was being pulled even further down. My feet were nearly at the gaping mouth. I clung tightly to Tam’s hand. Even though they were very clearly weakened, their grip was still surpringly strong. I could feel myself being pulled between them, between Tam and the tendrils, between the tendrils holding me and the tendrils holding Tam.

Suddenly, Tam let out a pained gasp and I realized that it wasn’t just me in peril here. Tam was being pulled at, as well. Holding their hand, tugging on them, was hurting them. They were weak and I was pulling at their arm while the tendrils holding the rest of them there, suspending them. I had to let go. I was going to pull their arm out of their socket and I couldn’t bear to hurt them anymore. Tam tried to grab me again, but they were in no position to help, not anymore. With nothing holding me back, I was pulled down quickly toward the gaping mouth. My feet disappeared inside before I heard the scream.

It was Crag. He was running toward me with long bouncing strides. “Hold on, Frank! I’m coming!”

Desperately, I tried to find something to hold on to, something to slow my descent. I was too far away from Tam. I couldn’t reach them. I was now halfway down the hole. Everything below my waist had been pulled into the creature’s mouth. Crag was still bouncing toward me.

“Frank!” he yelled, as he came ever closer. But he would be too late. I was sinking lower and lower. He was getting closer and closer, but I was now pulled down below my chest. I had to crane my neck to see him and only then when he bounced at the top of his arc.

I was down to my neck. I held my hands out, reaching for him, even though I knew he’d never get there. I was being pulled lower and lower. I could see Crag running. I could see him dive toward me as I slipped beneath the hole.

I remember thinking it was the last I would see of him, the last I would see of anyone. The only place to look was directly above me, to Tam lying there, suspended in the air, unable to move. My hands were the only part of me above the hole. It was down to my elbows, my forearms, my wrists, my palm, my fingers… I was almost completely consumed. All seemed lost. I thought that was the end and then…something grabbed me.

to be continued…

Climbing the Monster Infested Waterfall

We walked for quite a while. Surprisingly, having fallen through a hole in the ground, where we were wasn’t dark. Somehow it was still sunny. Except, there was no sun. There was apparently no sun in this dimension. Or at least if there was I had yet to see it. Except if there was no sun, how was there light? How was their heat? Even after all this time, this dimension made no sense.

We continued walking until we reached a waterfall. It stretched either way for as far as I could see. “We must climb up that,” Tug said.

“No problem,” Werz replied, though all I could see was problems. It’d be a hard enough climb even without water constantly splashing down on us. I could see there were rocks to climb, but how slippery they must be. And falling down would not be a fun trip.

“Just be careful of the sharp teeth of the Narroot,” Tug warned.

“There are Narroot?”

“Oh, yes, the falls are just teeming with them.” Tug jumped into the waterfall and began skipping from stone to stone as if they were trampolines and he were an Olympic athlete. The Sharkwoman went swimming after him. She had no need to worry about the water, the stones, or the sharp teethed creatures. Werz looked reluctant, but he sucked it up and began to climb up the waterfall. It looked like I had no choice but to follow.

I jumped into the water until I reached the falls. I found a purchase on the rock face and began to climb. The water was beating down on me, but I made sure not to look up. Just focus on the task at hand, one rock, then the next one, then the next.

Things seemed to be going pretty well. I didn’t dare look to see how far I had to go, but we were moving upwards at a steady pace. I was beginning to feel optimistic, that we might actually do this when suddenly something jumped out from the falls and snapped at me! I pulled my hand back quickly as something that looked like a cross between a crow and a piranha shot out of the water. I slipped on the wet rock and only kept from falling by holding tight to the handhold I had with my other hand. I tried to find a foothold while another piranhacrow jumped out at me. “Narroots!” Werz yelled. “And they look hungry!”

“How are we supposed to climb with these things snapping at us?” I asked as I swatted away another Naroot.

“We may not be able to.”

“Then how are we supposed to get up? These clothes the Wizard gave us don’t fly, do they?”

“No, but the Wizard also gave us this.” He pulled out a length of cord and held it out.

“How are you going to fasten that to the top?”

Werz threw the cord with a snap of his wrist and one end went flying. He threw it hard, but there was no way it was going to reach the top. And it didn’t. But it didn’t fall back down either. The end of the rope just hung in the air as if it were glued there! With another snap, Werz let go of the rope and it went stiff as a board. “Jump!”

“It’s not attached to anything!” I yelled back.

“Just jump!”

I looked at the dangling rope, but the Narroots continued to snap and I was only holding on by my finger tips. So…I leapt! I grabbed hold of the rope and was greatly surprised and relieved when it held. I began to climb, happy to not have water pouring down on me. When I passed him, I saw with trepidation Werz reach over and grab ahold of the rope. I was amazed it held him as well.

We kept climbing and were more than halfway up when the rope began to shake. “What’s that?”

“Uh-oh,” Werz said, “It might be waking up.”

“What’s waking up?”

“The Purtek.”

“The what?”

“The thing we’re climbing!”

“You mean the rope?”

“Yes!”

“The rope is waking up? The rope is alive?”

“It’s a Purtek!” Werz shouted. “And it’s waking up from its dormant state!”

“Dormant…?”

“Just climb!”

I climbed as fast as I could and the lower end of the rope began to curl up. It rose until it was even with me and I could see its open mouth! The Purtek lunged at me, quick as a bullet! I tried to dodge it, but I was hanging from a rope which was the creature’s body. It slammed into my side. Fortunately, the Wizard’s clothes kept it from ripping out my kidney, but the impact sent me spinning. “We’ve got to move!” Werz yelled.

“Where? Back to the waterfall where there are piranhabirds waiting to eat us?” But the Purtek’s mouth was turned back toward me now and I wondered if dropping back down to the water was that bad of an idea, at least back at the bottom nothing was trying to eat me.

And that was when the Sharkwoman appeared snatching the creature by the neck just as it began to lunge. “Move it already!” she growled.

“Thank you!” I told her.

She glared at me. “Get moving! I can’t hold this stupid thing forever!”

And so I did as she said and I got moving, but as I reached the top I looked back down and I could she was having difficulty. “Go!” Werz commanded from right beneath me.

I jumped onto the ledge where Tug was waiting for us. “What took you so long?” he asked.

Werz joined us at the top of the falls, but I looked down and the Purtek had begun to wrap itself around the Sharkwoman and she couldn’t escape. The Sharkwoman began to change into her massive shark form, but the Purtek held firm. If anything its grip got tighter. “She’s in trouble!” I exclaimed. “We have to save her!”

“Save her?” Werz asked. “How? Going down there will just put us at risk too.”

“If you won’t, then I will.”

“What you can you do? You don’t have a weapon.”

“I have to try!”

But just as I was getting ready to leap down, hoping I didn’t miss and fall to my doom, Tug ran in front of me and jumped from the ledge, landing on the Sharkwoman’s massive form, quickly stabilizing himself as she thrashed against the strangling monster. I worried what he could do when the Sharkwoman had been so ineffectual. She was so big and he was so small, but then Tug opened his mouth and bit the Purtek’s head off!

As the creature died, Tug leapt back up to the top of the falls where we waited. When he landed, he spat out the creature’s head. The Purtek’s body sagged and began to unravel. When its grip got loose enough, the Sharkwoman swam free. “Are you all right?” Tug asked the Sharkwoman as she joined us atop the waterfall.

The Sharkwoman moved away from him. “I’m fine.”

It was strange. Tug seemed to be paying the Sharkwoman special attention. I realize now he had been all along. Why was that? Could Tug be in love with her? Could that be possible? The little teddy bear and the giant shark? This was a very strange dimension indeed.

“Let’s just get moving,” the Sharkwoman said.

“Where to next?” I asked.

“Up there,” Tug said, pointing toward a mountain on the horizon. “That’s where we’re heading.”

“Let me guess, it’s covered with man-eating goats that breath fire?”

“No,” Tug replied. “No goats. Whatever ‘goats’ are, we don’t have to worry about them. On that mountain, there’s only one thing we have to worry about.”

“And what’s that?” I asked.

“The Tarrgair Beast. Because that is Tarrgair Mountain.”

to be continued…

Escape from Gorillapede Village

Time passed, the light faded, and I thought maybe the gorillapedes had forgotten about me. I hoped they had, but I heard a noise coming close. I squinted into the darkness, but it wasn’t until the creature got up against the cage that I saw that it was the spectral creature coming for me! The monster grabbed the cage and began to shake it. I backed away as it bared its teeth at me. The bars bent then snapped as the monster tore them apart. I wanted to scream, but for who? For what? The gorillapedes?

The creature came closer, but I couldn’t run, my back was already up against the cage. It leaned in toward me and opened its mouth. “Quickly,” it whispered.

“What?” I replied, as shocked to hear the thing speak as I was by the actually word it said.

“Hurry! We have to move before they see us.”

“Move?” I asked, wondering if I had heard him correctly.

“They’re going to eat your friend.”

“Eat her?”

“They’re already finished eating the munsorv. She’s going to be next. They had me suck the shadows out of her. It’s poison to them, to most creatures. Now that it’s gone they can eat her.”

“Why are you helping us?”

“Because I cannot stand by. I have tried before but the captives are never strong enough to help me. I think maybe you can be.”

Surprisingly, I believed him. He seemed sincere enough and I couldn’t think of a reason why he would free me. If he wanted to hurt, why free me? “I’ll try.”

“Hurry! We must save her!” The creature turned and rushed out through the hole in the cage. I followed behind him but kept my distance just in case. I may be convinced, but I wasn’t that convinced. Maybe this was all some kind of game, I thought, but even if it was, it was better than being stuck in that cage.

The creature led me through the village where we saw dozens of gorillapedes. I could see the body of the acid monster cracked open like an egg, hollowed out inside. And in the middle of the gathering lay the unconscious Sharkwoman. One of the larger gorillapedes moved toward her and began chanting. The Sharkwoman began to revert to her less human form. “Why are they doing that?” I asked.

The shadoweater whispered back, “So there will be more of her to eat.”

“We have to do something!”

“I will attack them and that will allow you a chance to grab your friend.”

“When she’s like that?” I pointed at the Sharkwoman, nearly in her full massive shark form. “There’s no way I could pick her up, I’ve tried. She’s way too big for me. You’re going to have to grab her.”

“And what will you do?”

“Distract them.”

“Distract them?” he asked, surprised by my answer. “And then how will you get away?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll think of something. You just focus on getting her out of here.”

Seeing little time for thought, I ran out to the gorillapede gathering and threw my body into the closest gorillapede. Landing on my feet, I kept moving. There was no stopping now. I leaped over the Sharkwoman’s body and screamed as I slammed into another gorillapede. It didn’t seemed to be very effective, probably hurting me more than them, but it did seem to have angered them. They began chasing me as I ran away. So far, my plan was working perfectly. Now if I could just figure out how to get away from them.

I ran as fast I could. My time in the cage had allowed me a chance to rest, but I was still no match for the gorillapedes. In less than a minute, they had caught up to me. A few gorillapedes had rushed past and curled around back at me. They were in front of me. They were behind me. They were all around me. They had me surrounded!

The gorillapedes began to circle around me. Every now and then one would lean in and growl. They were playing with their food now. I had no way out. There was nothing I could do. At least, that yeti thing had gotten away with the Sharkwoman. They would both escape. At least I wasn’t going to die for nothing.

to be continued…

Traveling Through the Miboaq’s Carapace

“It’s carapace, yes,” the Sharkwoman said as she raced down the pathway, dodging the thrusting tubes right and left, as I held onto her dorsal fin for dear life. “Be happy. There are worse places we could be traveling.”

The tubes continued to snap at us along every turn. We just couldn’t get away! I began to wonder just what those tubes really were. Were they fingers? Tongues? Hair follicles? At least I was pretty sure we weren’t literally inside the creature, though it was all around us. Dear god, it was everywhere! This path seemed to never end. I suddenly began to wonder, “Just how big is this thing?”

Then one of the tentacular tubes finally grabbed a hold of the Sharkwoman. Just the sheer amount of them, it was only a matter of time until they did. The tentacle wrapped around her tail and it pulled her in. I was thrown off, but I didn’t go flying far. Without the Sharkwoman to dodge, I was quickly caught up by one of the tentacles. It was slimy and gross and it gripped me like an anaconda.

A second tentacle wrapped around me and I was expecting the worst. Were they going to crush me or tear me apart? But surprisingly they did neither. In fact, the first tentacle let go. Then a third tentacle grabbed me and the second one let go. It seemed like they were passing me down the line. Were the tentacles carrying me to the other end of the cave? Could we be so lucky?

I could see the Sharkwoman was being passed as well, but she was taking it a lot worse than I. She thrashed about, then suddenly she grew into her full shark form and burst from the tentacle’s grip. She quickly swam forward and tore at the tentacles holding me. She ripped me free, but that allowed the Miboaq to grab her. Three held onto her, one on the end of her tail, one at the base of her tail, and one around her head. I climbed onto her and pulled at them. She shrunk again, even more than before to just a human body with a shark’s tail. I wrapped my arms around her neck as she swam free!

“Why didn’t you fight?” she growled.

I replied, “I hoped that maybe they were passing me to the other side of the cave.”

“They were passing you to its mouth,” the Sharkwoman said bluntly. “It was going to eat you! And it’s still trying to eat us both!”

The tentacles continued to lunge at us. “Well, what are we supposed to do?”

“Not get caught again. I was hoping we could get through it without waking the Miboaq, but that seemed beyond our luck. You otherworlders just taste too good. The creature is becoming frenzied, going down the pathway may just not be possible.”

“Then what can we do?”

“We only have one other choice. We have to use magic. This is something Lu Wu taught me,” she said, grabbing the pendant from her necklace. It was the one she had taken from me, the one Lu had given me. She mumbled something incoherently as she dodged around another couple of tentacles that were grabbing at us. Her hand began to glow bright red. Then she opened her hand and a bright red light burst from the pendent and burnt into the wall in front of us. The Sharkwoman flew inside it.

There were juices dripping from the top. I almost hoped it was blood. Of the many possibilities, that was probably one of the better ones. The tentacles tried to follow us, tried to grab us, but they couldn’t. They could only reach so far and we were past that in seconds. The tunnel was longer, and grosser, than I would have liked, but it wasn’t long until we were nearly at the end. I could see the sky ahead.

The tunnel began to shake, but it did little more than get gunk on me before we burst free of that whole mess. I almost laughed with joy as we broke free. I glanced back at the carapace and was surprised to see the whole mountain shaking. It began to quake violently. “Is that bad?” I asked.

The Sharkwoman glanced back. “Crap. Maybe I shouldn’t have burnt a hole through it. I may have pissed it off.”

“Yeah,” I said. “What does that mean?”

“Uh… I think it might mean that it’s coming after us.”

“Coming after us?” I looked with horror as the Miboaq began to rise. It was like the whole mountain was coming to kill us! Massive rock-laced tentacles whipped around, like as if a giant had multiple rock covered octopus hands and it was reaching for us. I was pretty terrified at the sight. I was pretty sure the Sharkwoman was just as scared. I don’t know how anyone could have not been.

Escape seemed impossible. The thing was just too big, too fast. We couldn’t outrun its reach. And then a small furry creature appeared in front of us. I thought it was a teddy bear for a second. It looked so much like one. I couldn’t figure what the hell it was doing there. The little creature grabbed a hold of the Sharkwoman as we flew past, as if it were the easiest thing. “Get off me, you little monster!” she yelled.

“In a rush, are we?” it asked.

“Well, there’s a giant monster trying to kill us,” I said.

It looked back at Miboaq, its many arms reaching. “Is that all?” the creature asked as the world quaked around us. “Well, I can solve that.” The little furry beast snapped its fingers and we were gone.

to be continued…

Face to Face with the Sharkwoman

I knew this was it, that the shark would eat me, but instead of tearing me apart, it lifted me up and carried me away. To be eaten later? I wondered. Was it just going to take me somewhere else to enjoy in peace? I could feel its teeth pressing against my skin. My torn dress was no protection, but still the shark’s teeth didn’t break the skin. It didn’t bite down and it didn’t try to tear me apart. The only jostling I felt was when it was maneuvering around the Grokloc’s gigantic legs. But when we were past that, it was smooth sailing in empty space.

When I opened my eyes, I could see the battle still being waged behind us, the Sharks doing battle with the Manta People and the Grokloc. But we were moving away from all of that. Why, I had no idea. My fear began to diminish as I began to wonder where it was taking me. We continued to get further and further away, but none of the other sharks were following. What was going on?

We eventually reached an island of land and the shark dropped me unceremoniously onto it. I quickly turned to face it, preparing for an attack. But instead of attacking, the shark began to change, transform. The mouth began to shrink, the fins started to become hands. That was when I noticed her necklace. It was the Sharkwoman! The one who had attacked the Mantapeople when they had first captured me. What was she doing here?

“Where is Lu Wu?” she growled. “What have you done with him?”

“What?” I replied elegantly. “Lu? What are you talking about? How…?”

The Sharkwoman swam closer to me and pulled me close with her hands, so I could see her sharp teeth. “Where is Lu Wu?”

“He was eaten,” I told her. “By a whale.”

“A whale?”

I nodded. “We were on a bridge and it came and ate him. He pushed me off the path to save me.”

“Impossible!” She declared. “He is the greatest wizard…”

“I don’t know about that, but he was injured. He had been attacked by lizard men.”

“Lizard men?”

“In my world,” I said, as if that explained anything.

“Your world,” she growled disdainfully. “And who are you? What are you doing with his seal?”

“His seal?” I opened up my hand. “Oh, you mean his pendant?”

“No,” the sharkwoman snarled, trying to snatch it away. I pulled back reflexively. “I mean, his seal! It is the source of much of his power and he wouldn’t have given it away to just anyone! Tell me who you are or I will chew your head off!”

I saw no reason not to just tell her the truth. “My name is Frank. We were both taken prisoner by a madman on our world. Lu brought us here…I guess to save us.”

The Sharkwoman growled. “And why would he save you?”

I shrugged. I really didn’t know what Lu’s plans had been. “Because he’s a good man.”

The Sharkwoman was not satisfied. “Give me his seal!” I handed it over this time. What else was I to do? I didn’t want to fight her and if I was going to find a way home it seemed in my best interest to get on her good side. She placed it on her necklace and she seemed to relax. “Grab onto my fin. For Wu, I will get you home.”

I didn’t ask her why she was helping me or why she was so concerned with Lu Wu. I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when that mouth had such sharp teeth. I grabbed onto her fin and held on tight as she swam away. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“To see the Wizard?”

“The Wizard?”

“Well, A wizard.” Noting my skepticism she added, “You want to get home, don’t you? How else do you plan on doing it?”

“I have no idea,” I admitted. We hadn’t been swimming for long when we reached a cave. “We’re going down into that?”

“Scared?” the sharkwoman mocked.

“The only cave I’ve seen in this dimension had the Grokloc in it, so…”

“There is no Grokloc here, but there are dangers.” The sharkwoman laughed and it echoed off the cave walls. It was not a pleasurable thing to hear as we entered the darkness.

But surprisingly it wasn’t completely dark. Lu’s pendant glowed creating a light. I was surprised to find out the Sharkwoman’s own pendant glowed as well. Was that a coincidence, I wondered. Or were the two pieces related?

I didn’t have much time to think about it before I noticed a strange thing poking out of the wall. It swayed like seaweed in water. It was a stubby tube shaped thing poking from the rock. We swam right past it. Then I saw another. And another! They seemed to be growing everywhere! I thought they were harmless until I saw one of them dart out toward us!

It missed us, but a second one came shooting out and the Sharkwoman had to quickly dodge it. Then came a third! And fourth! They were everywhere! “What the hell are these things?” I asked.

“Miboaq!” she replied, somewhat distracted dodging for her life.

“How many of these things are there?”

“How many? Just the one.”

“One!?” My eyes darted from one writhing, grasping tube to another. “Are you telling me all of these are all one thing?”

“Yes,” the Sharkwoman said. “The only way to the wizard is through the Miboaq Carapace.”

“Carapace!?” I exclaimed looking at the ‘cave’. “Are you telling me that we’re traveling within the Miboaq?”

to be continued…

The Manta People and Their Grokloc

As the giant shark attacked, the Manta People fired back at her. Beams of red and green light fired from their guns. The shark grabbed a Manta Person and bit off the top of its body, then moved onto the next one. Three, four Mantas wore torn to shreds. But the Mantas kept firing and the Shark retreated. It turned and tried another attack, but the Mantas scared it off this time.

The surviving Mantas regrouped and began carrying me away. We went on for quite a while until land appeared beneath us. It was like a desert with small outcroppings of vegetation. We came upon their village with houses made from corral where hundreds of Manta People stood and watched me be brought in. They followed behind us as we came to the center of the village where my captors presented me before their King. “This will make a great sacrifice!”

Sacrifice? To who? To what? What were they going to do to me? “You can’t! I’m a human being! You can’t just kill me!”

The King looked right through me, as if I hadn’t said anything. “Take the sacrifice to the medicine woman! It must be prepared!” I was dragged toward a hut where an old Manta Woman waited. “No!” she cried, bursting out the door. “You cannot bring that thing in here!”

“It is the sacrifice,” one of the guards said.

“I know what it is better than you, boy!” she growled. “It is empowered with evil magics! If you bring that thing into my hut, we will all be killed!”

“But the sacrifice!”

She cackled. “The Grokloc will want to eat this raw! Take that thing from my home before it corrupts everything!” As they started dragging me away, she yelled “Begone foul creature!”

All the villagers watched from a safe distance as I was dragged in front of a large cave. Its entrance was massive! The entrance was big enough to fit twenty elephants through at the same time. I was sure this Grokloc was not anywhere near that size. It couldn’t be. Nothing was that big.

And then the ground shook and trembled. Another shake, one after the other. A cheer rose up from the Manta People. I could see the King step forward. He raised his hands up the “Grokloc comes! It comes to accept the sacrifice!”

There was a loud roar that shook the ground beneath me. I looked back at the massive cave and the Grokloc appeared. It was larger than I could ever imagine. The Grokloc took up every inch of the cave’s mouth, replacing it with its own. It’s mouth was all teeth and darkness. It’s bicuspids were bigger than I was. I was no meal for this monster, just a quick snack. It could swallow me whole.

I tried to stand, but the net was too small. I tried to move but it was too restrictive. I tried to tear it apart, but it was too strong. I was stuck. I could inch my way away, but that could never be fast enough. Not even running would have gotten me far enough away from this monster.

Then the Manta People began to chant. “Grokloc! Grokloc!” The giant beast roared. The people were getting worked up and so was the monster. The monster opened its gaping maw, pools of saliva dripping down its mouth, but then one of the Manta People let out an outraged scream. I didn’t dare turn, but the lone scream led way to more as the chants died down. They raised such ruckus that it even drew the Grokloc’s attention. Only then did I dare glance back and I was surprised by what I saw. We were being attacked by a swarm of sharks!

The Manta People began to panic. Many of them ran away, but not all of them. There were more than enough left to fight the sharks. Unfortunately, that still left me with the Grokloc. It roared again and a took a thunderous step forward right toward me. Once more and then it was right on top of me. My heart stopped as I looked up at the creature’s mouth. If it snorted and I would fly up its throat.

But instead of swallowing me whole, the monster continued onwards. It roared as it chased after the shark swarm. I dove away as its house-sized foot came slamming down besides me. And then came its next set of feet then its third pair!

And then the Grokloc began moving back and forth. I had to get out of there or I’d be squashed flat, but I was still in the net! I couldn’t run fast enough to get through. All I could do was try to avoid them. One would slam from one way, then another would come the other. It was only a matter of time before I was accidentally squished beneath the behemoth’s toes, but then I saw my time was up. A shark had made its way past the monster and now it was coming right for me!

I tried to run, but I was still trapped in the net and even if I could run where would I run? The Grokloc’s feet were stomping all around, whichever way I went I could me trampled on. Not that I had much time to think, the shark was coming at me quickly with its mouth wide open. I could see it’s rows of sharp teeth as it got closer and closer. And then it was upon me, its mouth almost engulfing me. All I could do was squeeze my eyes closed as the giant shark bit down.

to be continued…