by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Thirteen: The Evil Professor
It was an eerie dim that fell onto the room, more so than even the deepest part of the trees. The room was twilight. The world outside was bathed in daylight -- a daylight not permitted in. It was like wearing sunglasses during a solar eclipse.
"What is this?" Tyler asked timidly, a long-concealed fear of darkness gnawing at his insides.
"It's dark," Cali barked the obvious.
"Let's get out of here," Tyler moaned, "I don't like this."
Tyler headed for the large opening followed closely by the other three. His attempt at a hasty exit came up short when he bumped his face into the empty opening.
"OW!" he screamed, half from pain and half from surprise. The apparent opening was anything but open.
Cali tried to exit with the same perplexing results. Tyler gave it three more tries, each more determined, more forceful, than the last. The bright outside world beckoned, but it was inexplicably unreachable. It was as though an invisible shield covered the opening.
"Try the others," Cali commanded.
They scrambled to the other openings. Each was sealed in the same way. They could not leave. The small room grew suddenly smaller.
Tyler sank to the floor, his back pressed against a wall. He sighed, "Cali, you know my nightmares about that monster and the griffin?"
Cali, beating her fist against an invisible opening, snapped impatiently, "Yes, what about it?"
"I'm also afraid of the dark," he answered slowly.
Cali stopped beating. She looked at Tyler.
"And I'm not too crazy about confined places either," he continued. "Especially when they're dark."
"That's just great," she said angrily, "You're a walking psycho ward aren't you. Any other little phobias you care to tell me about?"
Tyler shook his head, "Not that I can remember."
"That other professor... that evil...," Cali said with clenched teeth. "He's obviously behind this." It was her turn to sink to the floor, her back resting against the wall opposite Tyler.
The two Leornians were even more confused and frightened in the darkness than the students. They huddled together, timidly against another wall.
But the silence quickly ended with a screaming howl.
"WHAT IS THAT?" Tyler screamed back, plunging his face into his knees and knocking his glasses to the floor. He held onto his knees for dear life.
The howling, almost, but not completely, masked the faint, frantic scratching sounds of the two Leornians instinctively digging through the wall.
"It's nothing," Cali said firmly. "It's that other professor. He's trying to scare you. Just remember, he's only trying to scare you. There's nothing here to hurt you. There's no reason to be afraid."
Tyler loosened the grip on his knees slightly, but kept his face buried.
The howling sound grew louder, followed by the shrieks and cries of tortured souls. The Leornian scratching continued, adding to the overal effect. Tyler tightened his grip.
"IT'S JUST SOUND," Cali screamed, her voice little more than a whisper by comparison. "THERE'S NO REASON TO BE AFRAID. HE'S TRYING TO SCARE YOU. DON'T LET HIM."
The sounds faded. As they did, Tyler looked up, but quickly buried his face again.
"Oh my god!" Cali exclaimed.
In the center of the room was an bright, white image. At first it looked to be human, but then it changed. First, into a dragon belching fire at Tyler, then into the hideous monster they had encountered in the trees, then the griffin from the valley. The image quickly morphed into numerous repulsive beasts, each threatening Tyler with fiery breath or razor-sharp claws. Tyler kept his head buried, refusing to look up. His body trembled. The Leornians scratched feverishly.
"NO! NO! NO!" he screamed. "STOP! PLEASE STOP!"
After several more, painfully long minutes of howling, screeching, ghoulish images, the form of a small, slender but transparent man appeared in the center of the room. The monsters vanished.
This small, slender, white-haired, transparent man was dressed in a dark blue business suit that set off his crystal blue eyes and aged, but tanned face. The image held its arms open to Tyler. Beckoned by the sudden onset of silence, Tyler looked up.
"Tyler," the image spoke softly, "Let me help you. I can help you."
Tyler dropped his face once again when, with no glasses, he saw nothing but a blurred image. For all he knew, the image was an equally treacherous, although silent, monster.
"Tyler," the image called again, "You need not suffer this pain. Let me help you. Please let me help you."
Tyler found his glasses, put them on, and looked up again. This time he did not turn away. In fact, quite the opposite. He could not divert his eyes from the beckoning image. The Leornian scratching stopped.
"I can help you Tyler," the image said softly. "I can help you. Let me help you. I can be your friend. I can help. You want me to help, don't you Tyler? Let me be your friend.,"
"Tyler," Cali commanded, "Don't listen to him!"
"You can be my friend Tyler," the image continued, "Let me rid you of your terrible fears. Let me be your friend. I can help. I can solve your problems. I can eliminate your fears. I will be your friend. You can be my friend."
Tyler stared at the hypnotic image.
"Tyler look away," Cali screamed, "He's trying to hypnotize you! Look away! Don't listen!"
Tyler continued to stare.
"If you help me, Tyler, I will help you," the supple voice continued, "If we are friends Tyler, we can help each other. You can have anything that you want. I can help you. I will help you get what you want, everything you want. You cannot help Leornia. Forget about Leornian. I will help you, Tyler, if you help me. You can have anything you want. Forget Leornia and you can have anything that you want."
A frown slowly crossed Tyler's previously expressionless face.
"Forget Leornia and you can have everything you want. You cannot help. I will give you everything you want. You cannot help Leornia," the transparent image continued.
The frown on Tyler's face intensified.
The image repeated its mellow chant, "Forget Leornia and everything you want is yours. Leornia has no problems. Forget Leornia. Help me and you can have everything."
Tyler shook violently.
"No!" he cried, "NO! I won't help you." He closed his eyes and dropped his face to his knees, shooting "NO! NO! NO!"
Seeing defeat, the image fell quiet. Its hands dropped to its side. Then it spoke, "You will regret this, Tyler Martin! You will regret this! I gave you a chance. You are doomed! You cannot help Leornia! Leornia is doomed!"
The image faded, and the natural light returned.
"Tyler," Cali rushed to Tyler, "Are you okay?"
Tyler nodded, then adjusted his glasses with trembling hands. He sighed deeply, "Whew! Was that the evil professor?"
"It must have been," Cali sat down beside him. Then she hugged Tyler. "You were wonderful, Tyler. How did you fight him off like that?"
Tyler took a deep breath, "He was pretty convincing. I was ready to do what he wanted. Then he said something funny."
Cali didn't recall anything even remotely funny.
"He told me that I could have everything that I wanted," Tyler explained.
"So?" Cali asked, not seeing the humor nor significance of this remark.
"When he said that, something just clicked in my head. I remembered my first test here in Leornia. That was one of the questions."
Cali was perplexed.
"Don't you see," Tyler laughed, "Because of scarcity, the first lesson, I knew that I couldn't have everything I wanted. Once I realized that he was lying, the trance broke, just like that." He fruitlessly tried to snap his still trembling fingers.
Cali nodded, relieved that the ordeal was over, whatever the reason.
"How are Leonardo and Issac?" Tyler asked, motioning to the Leornians huddled against the wall.
Both stared vacantly at the center of the room recently occupied by the transparent image. Cali crawled over to them. The locators did not move.
"Are they dead?" Tyler asked solemnly.
Cali reached for Leonardo and gently shook him. At first there was no response. After another shake or two, the Leornian blinked his eyes and looked around the room.
"My-o-my," was all he could say. "My-o-my."
Cali then enticed Issac from his trance.
"Are you two okay?" Cali asked.
"That was some test," Leonardo observed, "some test."
Issac sat against the wall slowly shaking his head.
"I presume that he is the one responsible for Leornia's problems?" Leonardo asked.
"I think so," Cali answered. "At least he seems responsible for our problems."
"What are we going to do, Cali?" Tyler interjected.
"I say we get out of here, Tyler," Cali jumped to her feet, careful to avoid the ceiling. "Let's get to the end of the path as soon as we can." She checked the opening to see if it was still blocked. Her hand went through.
Tyler rose to his feet, "But we can't leave. Didn't you see what just happened. We've got to help Leornia, now more than ever. And if I'm the key to solving their problems, I've got to stay., I've got to help."
"I agree with you one hundred percent," Cali countered, "But, I think the best way to help is to get to the end of the path and find Professor Francis. He'll be looking for us there. We can tell him what has happened. Maybe he can figure out why you, of all people, are so important."
Tyler nodded. The two students gathered the bags of fruit and water, and Cali's pouch of estoffe.
Cali turned to Leonardo, now standing, and said, "We've got to leave. We've got to get to the end of the path immediately. That may be the only way to solve your problem. That's also clearly something our recent visitor wants to prevent."
"We will solve your problem," Tyler added.
The two locators stared silently but did not speak. An abandoned puppy could have taken lessons from this pair.
"Thank you for your kindness," Cali said, then turned away.
"We WILL solve your problem," Tyler reiterated, then shook each of the Leornians tiny paws in turn. "We will!"
Cali gingerly approached the large opening. Encountering no resistance when she stuck one foot through, she quickly flung the rest of her body outside. Tyler followed.
Once outside, Tyler raised his arm to indicate the direction they would follow.
Cali grabbed his extended arm, "Something just occurred to me. That cat-frog friend of yours left just before the room went dark," Cali said.
"So?" Tyler asked curtly.
"So maybe Aristotle was right. Maybe your friend is a messenger or spy for that professor."
"It can't be," Tyler protested. "Didn't it save me from that hideous monster? And didn't it tell us about the crunch water? It's helped me all along the path."
"Yes, but... Maybe it was trying to win your trust. We had better be careful anyway. If it is a spy..." her voice trailed away, but the implication was clear.
Tyler agreed reluctantly, then once again pointed out their desired direction. The path led through a significant part of the village. As before, their winding trek between the purple structures attracted a large number of otherwise idle locators. In a matter of minutes they were near the far edge of the village, ready to re-enter the red foliage.
"See any puppy snakes?" Cali asked.
Tyler, touched one of the blood encrusted bites on his ankle, took a deep breath, and looked across the expanse of the valley, "Nope."
"Then let's go," Cali stepped into the foliage.
"Wait," they heard someone shout.
Leonardo broke through the crowd.
"I was considering your offer of help," he said. "I know you are headed to the trees. Take me with you. Please. I must go back. I can not stay here. I have to talk with my old friends."
"Well...," Cali started to say, but was cut short when a large shadow covered the group.
They looked skyward to see a gargantuan, reptilian, flying creature, as big as an jet airplane. Its large beak opened and closed slowly, emitting an awful screeching sound. Its claws were poised to pick up its prey as it swooped toward the village.
"Oh no!" Tyler screamed as he jumped safely between two of the structures. Cali jumped on top of him as the mass of locators scattered to safety.
When the shadow and flying reptile and passed Tyler looked up to see Cali's angry questioning face.
"It was from an old science fiction movie I saw when I was a kid," he answered her unspoken question. "I can't help it. It scared the dickens out of me."
Cali rose to her feet in time to see the flying reptile circle for another attack. She returned to cover as it swooped.
"How are we going to get out of here?" Cali screamed in frustration.
A pair of pointed ears poked through an opening in a nearby structure.
"I think I can help," the familiar voice said.
Cali looked up to see Leonardo smiling. "You can help us get across the valley?" she asked.
"I think so," he responded, "If I remember where they are."
The reptile swooped again.
"Where what are?" Cali asked.
"The tunnels," Leonardo tried to explain, "We... uh... they use the tunnels when they need to contact the locators. Instructors never travel THROUGH the valley. They use tunnels UNDER the valley. They must travel in darkness. Follow me," he crawled on his belly toward the edge of the red foliage.
Cali, then Tyler, followed the former instructor low to the ground, hopefully beyond reach of the flying reptile.
"Now, if I can just remember where one is." He crawled a few yards into the ankle-high red grass. He momentarily peaked over the top, trying to get his bearings. He ducked to safety as the flying reptile made another pass.
"It's here somewhere," he said, "It's got to be here... somewhere."
The students waited quietly, nervously, as Leonardo continued his seemingly random search. He finally popped up, almost into the waiting claws of the flying reptile.
"I've found it," he screamed as he dropped, "I've found it. Over here."
They quickly reached the Leornian, finding his head halfway into a large hole about three feet in diameter.
"Should be big enough even for learners," he said, "Instructors travel in style." He dropped into the hole and waited for the students to follow.
When Tyler hesitated Cali said, "It's either claustrophobia or a flying reptile's lunch."
With no further hesitation, Tyler dove into the hole. Cali followed as the reptile made its last futile pass.
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.