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     At the top of one particularly large mound they stopped quickly to look around and helped themselves to another shot of ‘schocta berries’ they had for snacks.  After feeling empowered, they descended down the mound and continued on through another ravine.  “We must be getting near those plains by now,” thought Chilley.

    Ivonne tried to explain to her how she first became more inclined in her abilities of prowess through ‘superyou’:  “Knowledge was the first key to understanding ‘Balhrama’,” she said.  The ‘something in the air’ around here that seemed to take away the friction of being able to learn things with ease just seemed to help.  But yes,; there had been some luck on her side too.  Had she and her crew never run into a tribe of Berrebos that were out on a stroll by the base of Mt. Muhadao, chances were they wouldn’t have made it out here successfully.

  “Unlike other people who venture this far deep into Anakaland, we just happened to be lucky enough to stumble onto some of the Berrebo tribe right from the start,” she said.  “I was going to tell you how I got to this state of enjoying learning simply because I found this ‘plasma’ technology they use fascinating.”

  She pulled out a Tomahawk Axe and held it up with her other hand.   “See?  Aside from chores once in a while, out here you realize you got all the time in the world.  As I told you, I discovered that without deadlines and ridiculous standardized exams, I actually enjoy understanding how stuff works. The irony is that I’ve learned more about life and the physical universe out here without the pressures of society than any school had ever taught me.”

   “Hmm,” said Chilley-Sue.  “But then again I hardly learned anything in school.” She failed to mention to them about her bad habit of pondering about anything as an excuse to get out of studying. “Like I said, it was because of an algebra exam back at my college that I ended out here.”

  “That’s because a lot of classes are not about learning; they are about requirement,” Thope complained. “Then again you’re probably still paying so much money for it, it’s criminal---“  

    But suddenly a strange event in front of them interrupted what probably would have been Thope’s standard bantering:  as they scanned the surrounding landscape, all three of them happened to see a purple-globular portal appear out of nowhere above the forest to the east of them.  It appeared to have opened up above the tree lines no more than a mile away.  Even at that distance, it looked like it rotated to its side and out of it poured a dozen small objects that dumped into the woods below.

  “What in the hell is that?!” exclaimed Thope.

   “I wasn’t lying see? The portals!” exclaimed Chilley-Sue. “Well there they are!  You mentioned something about not seeing them yet. Well?? is that ---"

   But then a collective bellow that sounded like a low pitch medley of ram’s horns being played came deep within the forest to their left.  The horns were abnormal: they sounded rather like they were a multiple compression of a hundred voices bellowing all from the same point-source in space-time; coming from one dense direction and not spread out all over.  Towards the distance about a half a mile away where the sound originated from, they could see the tops of the forest trees swaying rather violently -- as if a giant pulse of unseen energy was propagating through the forest medium like a violent solitary wave.

    For the first time ever, Chilley-Sue actually saw a look of fear form in both Ivonne and Thope as if uncontrollable dread had suddenly taken hold of them:  The look on their faces scared the hell out of Chilley more than whatever it was they were hearing that was coming from those woods.

  “What is it?!!” she exclaimed with great fear herself.

  “This is it!” murmured Thope.  “The Mabigoneon.  RUN!!” 

    She bolted right after them as they sprinted pretty fast along the green floor of the mounds they were crossing.  There was no time to ask them what the hell it was that had gripped them with terror.  But she could guess that this ‘Mabigoneon’ creature or thing was not something you’d want to stumble into in the forest here or anywhere – even under broad daylight and with an entire army at your side apparently. 

    They could hear the sounds of the multiple low-pitched horns trailing behind but now more from a southeast direction and coming towards them.  With Thope and Ivonne at the lead and running faster than she could catch up,  Chilley-Sue found herself about two football fields distance behind them before they hit a large clearing.  This great plain seemed to be a strip of land separating the last of the low hills and burial mounds on the either side for miles  around with a large row of trees and a great stone wall that clearly marked the borders of Moem Cemetery ahead. 

  Running as fast as they could on this field Chilley-Sue realized this was the very plain they saw before on the hill, but now that she was running on it, she regretted how large it actually was.  It must have been at least two miles wide between the edge of the low hills they had just exited from to the edge of the wall itself-- and Chilley was already greatly gasping for air at that point.   But the terror of the horns and great force of whatever was rustling those trees in the forest behind them gave her an adrenaline to want to stay alive like she had never known before.  For the next seven minutes she was on autopilot --- only focusing on reaching her friends who were only focusing on reaching the wall. 

   “Hurry up!” screamed Ivonne as she turned around and called out to Chilley-Sue.   They still seemed to have a half a mile to go and there was no time to argue; this thing was scary enough to make them both lose their cool and go headfirst into flight mode as any formalities and sense of protecting her seemed to have gone out the window.  It was pretty much every man (and woman) for themselves at that point. 

  “Wait!  WAIT!” Chilley-Sue pleaded as she threw away her backpack and small purse off her body. But the sound of the horns seemed to be getting dangerously closer --- although she had no desire to stop and turn around so she could see what was going on.  Pretty soon Thope and Ivonne reached the row of trees and the border of the great stone wall directly in front of them. It had taken them about two minutes to get there sprinting, as for Chilley-Sue who arrived about a minute and a half later, she was practically ready to fall over with exhaustion when she reached it herself. 

The wall actually was much bigger than it looked in the distance and it had to have been at least five meters in height.   Chilley turned around just in the nick of time to see the sound of the horns hit the clearing at the edge of the forest that had been to the left of the mounds beyond the plain – and she really wished she hadn’t: coming out of the edge of some trees in the forest that had been bent most violently to accommodate for the lofty shape in front of her, Chilley-Sue saw a large two headed creature that had to have been at least four meters in height.  It was probably one of the most hideous things she had ever seen in her life or even in a movie.

  This thing looked like it had died a thousand years ago but appeared as strong and as fierce as a well-fed giant pit bull.  From that angle, all that was separating it and them was this long field between that couldn’t have been more than a mile in length.

   “Shit!” Don’t see an entrance!” cried Thope.  “We’re just going to have to scale over the wall!” he said.

   “What?!” exclaimed Chilley-Sue with great trepidation. “How the hell are we going to climb that????”

   “Quick!  Up the wall; It’s our only way!” Thope yelled again.

   “But how am I going to get up????” she screamed.

   “There’s no time for that! .Let’s get you a branch for something.”  Thope scurried up the wall with one high leap and a quick parkour scale up the cobblestone rock face like a spider; and in a matter seconds, he was already up.  And while Ivonne followed suit and leaving Chilley-Sue to desperately find a way to scale herself up the rock face in vain, the cries of the horns across the field even at that great distance seemed even louder as if the thing had spotted them.  And with giant strides that covered over four meters a step, the thing was moving at a terribly fast pace towards them.   Obviously, they were its destination. 

   “My God. oh My God…don’t leave me!!”  pleaded Chilley-Sue almost clawing at the stone wall and jumping up and down while the entire valley filled with the echo of the horns.  The thing strode towards her direction with one great bellow that was louder than a gang of obnoxious Hell’s Angels bikers peeling out of a street and shattering windows. The spherical sound energy of the yell itself induced a vibrating pain upon her limbs so intense that Chilley-Sue slammed her hands on her ears and buckled to the ground in pain. She got up with the daze of a boxer who had just gotten knocked down, and she doggedly stumbled around and looked up at the wall trying to yell over the continued bellowing of horns getting louder and louder.

  “For crying out loud!!  I can’t even hear myself anymore!!  Please don’t leave me!” she screamed as she clawed at the rock face...

Excerpt from Book III: The Towering Road

Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes 

"Note the excerpts have been slightly edited and abridged for non spoiler content"

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