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  It took them three days to reach the Biodomes.  Although their trek through the southern forests of Anakaland was quite dull, they were grateful, for they would rather endure endless paths through deep forest than run smack into the Woozos creatures lurking behind the brushes in the open plains directly east of them, or even another tribe of Zoulesh feral creatures waylaying travelers by some forgotten ancient monument.   There were still many natural dangers to watch out for besides the fabled Guardians.   The area of the Biodomes ahead was rumored to be infested with the Moroller shrub; it was a certain hallucinogenic plant that would alter the brain chemistry of anyone who accidently inhaled it.  It was a terrible fate too for anyone exposed to the spores: if there was no one else to save them, a victim would deteriorate into the oblivion until they wandered the wild like an automaton.  It was for this reason the Moroller 'zombies' were feared so much by intrepid explorers brave enough to travel around Anakaland; not because of their danger so much as the fear of ending up like one of these unfortunate oddities.

 "A good trial for the hollow Earths to test our mental strength -- if any of us happen to ingest the thing," joked Ryrlax rather darkly.  "Even a Berrebo would best keep absolute care around the grassy mounds here.  It's small wonder that hardly any of my people ever wander out here to explore these stupid superstructures on the hills."

“These derelict superstructures you mean,” said Chilley. “There’s no Mortriarchs living out there…are they?”

  Ryrlax just grinned and shrugged mischievously as he walked along.  “We can’t worry about the inevitable if we’re trying to do our best to be cautious,” he told her, “which we are.  All we can do after a while is laugh about it. What else are we expected to do?”

   Soon enough they had stumbled into an open country full of small hills and barrows. Everywhere they looked, they saw the scattered ruins of small buildings that looked like ancient mausoleums and strange monuments resembling sarcophaguses rising out of the ground.

 It was around dusk when they saw the silhouette of the first of many massive domed structures resting on the top of a hill against the pink-orange sky a few miles ahead.   They looked like indoor sports stadiums that had been inexplicably built among a sea of rolling hills.  As they climbed near the top of the nearest hill to get a better view, they saw that hill behind the nearest structure also contained the shadow of another one of these domed structures, followed by seven more trailing behind that one that were silhouetted against the dusk sky and scattered on top of a sea of hills.

  "Well, we're here!" said Ryrlax. "The great abandoned Biodomes of Anakaland.  So far so good.  Only watch your step.  The Moroller plants grow like weeds here.  See?  There you go!  You could have stepped on that right now and we would have already believed we had reached the hollow Earths!"

As they passed by a few of these massive structures, Chilley noted how they really did not resemble biodomes at all except in shape.  They were made of stone and had many pillars protruding around their perimeter -- as well as other architectural designs that made them look like the combination of domed sports coliseums, cathedrals and Mesoamerican pyramids all at the same time.

  "But what did the ancients do with these Biodomes?" asked Chilley-Sue.  By now, she was genuinely interested in learning about the mysteries of Anakaland despite her mission. "Were they really ancient greenhouses?"

 "It's like I told you before," said Ryrlax. "The Biodomes are the remnants of labs that those ancestors left behind in Anakaland.  Their names are deceiving; they weren't really even places to study artificial plant life or some other phenomena.  Supposedly, they were places to study the stars.” He paused and took a deep breath.  “It was said that through a forgotten art, the Kayo would find certain constellations that would radiate otherworldly photonic energy to grow alien plant life here on Earth hundreds of thousands of years ago.   I don’t know how true that can be: no evidence remains of the great telescopes that were said to reside here.  I know this: the domes are loosely related to the infamous Force Storms of Stone you saw.  You probably have sight-seen more than I have regarding any of this.   I don't really know anything else of them -- I guess just keep your eyes out for…”  he shut up rather grimly. But he didn’t need to explain: everyone knew who he was talking about.

 It took them nearly an hour to get over the first few hills in the twilight.  There were spores everywhere: blue mushroom-shaped ones protruding out of peculiar-looking ferns scattered all over the slopes.  They looked fragile enough to go off even with the stroke of a light kick.   In some parts the growth was so thick that they decided to cross around the perimeter of some of the hills instead -- even if this made their pathlength much longer.   As they party passed through the second hill, they had to shudder.  Scattered all over the slopes were the remains of victims who may or may not have zombified themselves and lost direction until they died right on the hill.

 “Watch it!” Ryrlax cried to Ivonne who almost stepped on a spore right in front of her.  “Damn it!  Some of us may be able to hover, but we can’t hold our breath forever!”

Excerpt from Book VI: The Demodads

Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes 

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

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