by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Six: The Hideous Monster
Tyler awoke into his third day in this surreal land of Leornia. The red carpet grass did not startle his senses as they once did. The pink sky did not seem nearly so bright. The blue sun peaking through the umbrella trees was softer. The eerie twilight of the trees was a shade less eerie. Bloodthirsty monsters remained at bay. And a somewhat friendly companion had joined his journey. This wasn't the worst of all possible worlds.
He reached into a half-empty bag for a purple fruit. It beckoned him for a close examination. The smooth skin covered a tasty, juicy pulp. The covering was almost luminescent in the early morning light. Tyler never imagined he would have such strong feelings for an edible item.
He took a bite. This one tasted as good as his first. He pondered other foods he had eaten. But the cheeseburgers, fried chicken, pizzas, and even hot fudge sundaes were no match. Halfway through his second fruit of the morning, he offered some to the winged cat-frog perched on the other side of the path. It's eyes blinked, then it looked away.
"You don't know what you're missing," Tyler chastised.
His newfound companion, Cali O'Toole, remained still curled in a ball, snoozing a few feet from Tyler. In spite of the orange dirt smudges covering her face and clothes, she maintained an aura of freshness. Perhaps sensing Tyler's gaze and thoughts, she began to stir. She slowly opened her eyes, gave a big sigh, then closed them.
"The color of this grass makes me sick," she said with a gravelly half asleep voice. "I want to go home."
"Good morning," Tyler said happily in a useless attempt at morning cheer.
"Oh, go away," she grumbled, "Please go away and leave me alone."
Tyler pulled a piece of fruit from the bag. "Here catch," he said throwing it to her. "You're probably hungry."
Her eyes opened just it time to see the fruit coming at her nose. With a half-hearted shriek, she threw her hands over her head and rolled over. The fruit bounced softly and harmlessly off the red carpet grass next to her.
Tyler reached for another fruit.
"Good aren't they?" he said throwing the second.
She was prepared this time. She caught the fruit with both hands and tossed it back at Tyler. It bopped him lightly on the forehead.
"Delicious," she said with the barest hint of a smile. Then plucked up the first fruit from the grass next to her. Her arm suddenly cocked, preparing to the purple sphere. He pulled his own juicy fruit ball into launching position.
Each cautiously eyed the other.
"So," Tyler paused, "You want to fight or do you vote for unilateral disarmament?"
Her look was ice as her fruit-loaded launching arm quivered.
"I'd rather eat," she said as she turned her head to fruit and took a bite.
Tyler chuckled, relieved that he had not been force to waste his prize possessions. She washed her breakfast both down with a long drink of water, then daintily wiped her mouth with a clean corner of her top.
"Well, what now?" she asked suddenly solemn.
"I don't know," Tyler responded with a mouthful. "We can wait here for an instructor, or continue."
Cali stood up. "I don't like this," she said, "Something seems wrong. Maybe we should call for the professor. He told us to call if we needed help."
Tyler nodded. It seemed like the sensible thing to do.
Cali called out, "PROFESSOR!"
"I don't think you need to scream so loud," Tyler said covering his ears.
She yelled for the professor a second time and then a third. There was no response. They waited. Nothing.
"He's probably in class," Cali said and sat down. Tyler nodded.
They waited. The cat-frog flapped its wings and hoped over to another perch. Then it fluttered off into the trees.
"You know Tyler," Cali said when the silence had returned, "I'm sort of scared."
Tyler wasn't sure what to say. He was a little concerned himself. The visions of hideous, lurking monsters surfaced in his head.
They chose to sit and wait.
As they sat, Tyler decided to change the topic, "How did you manage to get here?"
She thought, recalling a world and time that seemed long past, "The professor asked me to stay after class. He had just given back our tests and I did really bad on it. Then we started talking about economics and everything. I'm not sure what happened after that, but I ended up here."
Tyler nodded, "The same thing happened to me. I went to see the professor, and after we talked for a while he pulled out this old book and said something. Then next thing I knew I was covered with this orange dirt." He unsuccessfully brushed some orange dust from clothes.
"Yeah, I remember an old book too. I don't know why he sent me here," she said thoughtfully, "I really don't like economics, and I'm not very good at it. I don't even know why I went to college. I guess I went because my parents wanted me to. My parents want me to be an engineer or doctor or something. My dad's a doctor. But, I'm not really smart enough to do anything like that. I don't really know what I want to do."
Tyler shrugged, "I'm not sure what I want to do, either." He laughed weakly, "This is my fourth year in college, and I haven't found a major, yet."
"Oh, wow," she chuckled, "I've declared about 10 different majors myself, and I'm still only a sophomore."
Tyler thought for a moment, then said, "I wish I was like my brother. He knew what he wanted to do from the first day he entered college. He's a CPA for IBM. I think he knew he was going to be a CPA the day he was born. Me, I haven't found anything that I want to do. I don't know if I'm good at anything. With every course I take, I ask myself if this is what I want to do the rest of my life. No answer yet."
"Yeah," Cali agreed, "I know what you mean. My parents tell me to take this course or that course, to major in this or that, but then I do and I don't like it. I'm tired of them telling me what to do."
"Well I wish someone would to tell me want to do," Tyler said wistfully. "Aw, I don't know. I really don't know what I should do. And now I've got my final exams coming up in a week. Eventually, I'm going to have to graduate."
"But how could you graduate if you don't have a major?" Cali asked incredulously.
"Western State is a big school. It's easy to slip through the cracks. I just keep taking courses. All you have to do is pass your finals."
He paused for a moment thinking about final exams, then jumped to his feet and screamed, "Holy cow! This is my third day here. That means...," he closed his eyes, "I went to see the professor on Thursday.... That makes today Saturday.... And finals start on Monday.... Which means and I've only got two days to get out of here."
"Then let's get going. Let's see if we can find the fourth test," Cali offered.
Tyler thought for a moment, then said, "Yeah, maybe you're right. The professor said to stay on the path. And there's no point waiting here for that long-eared instructor. If he was coming he would be here."
Cali pick up her sloshing bag of water and concluded, "The third test was probably canceled anyway."
Tyler gave Cali a sideways glance, then began to laugh. For some reason the thought of a canceled test in this land of Leornia was so absurd as to be funny. But then, why not? It happens all of the time in the real world.
"Okay," Tyler said, with a chuckle, "Let's go. There might be help if we follow this dusty orange path." Tyler felt like bursting into a rendition of the "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," but thought better of it.
"If nothing else, we should get closer to the end of this stupid lesson," Cali said with a deep sigh. Then she began to hum.
Tyler readjusted his own bags, which grew lighter with each meal. The flying frog reappeared from the forest, following a parallel path.
They walked for about thirty minutes, when the frog began acting peculiar. Within twenty yards of another bend in the path, the frog grew obviously excited. It flew up to the bend in the path, then back again, fluttering its wings wildly, croaking at the top of its small lungs. It continued this routine, but with increased intensity, as Tyler and Cali approached the bend. Tyler and Cali quickened their pace as they hurried to identify the apparent cause of the frog's excitement.
When they were within a few yards of the bend, the frog stopped fluttering its wings and found a perch on a illuminated stick-plant. Then it said, "Are you two complete idiots? Don't you see that I want you to stop. Can't you see that I'm trying to warn you of impending danger?"
Cali stopped with one foot in mid-air, as much surprised that the cat-frog could speak, as by the words of danger. Even Tyler was surprised, having convinced himself that his previous conversation with the frog was caused by lack of sleep. But, unlike Cali he continued walking.
"Stop," the frog repeated, "There's danger ahead."
With this second warning Tyler also stopped. However, he was now standing at the bend in the path.
"What danger?" Tyler asked as he turned to the frog, his back to the exposed to any danger that might be ahead.
Before the frog could explain, a large, brown and green, scale covered hand came swinging around the bend, aiming at Tyler's unsuspecting head. The frog jumped into flight, also aimed at Tyler's head.
"What the..." Tyler screamed as he dodged what he thought to be an flying attack from this cat-frog. The giant swinging hand missed Tyler's head by a small margin, but clipped the airborne frog. The blow sent the frog tumbling down the path several yards before coming to a stop.
"TYLER!" Cali screamed as the hand made another pass at Tyler's head.
This time Tyler looked back in time to see the hand coming. He ducked and scrambled away, as the hand once again missed its target. Tyler grabbed Cali and Cali grabbed Tyler. They hurried away from the bend in the path.
When they were a safe distance from the monstrous hand, cowering at the base of an umbrella tree, Cali asked, "Are you okay?"
Tyler nodded, trembling too much to speak.
They stared as the body attached to the swinging hand steeped into sight, covering the full width of the path, and then some. Tyler was finally face-to-face with the hideous monster of his imagination, the monster he had been expecting since arriving. As the monster came into full horrific view, accented by the twilight of the glowing stick plants, Tyler and Cali cowered even more.
Hideous was a good word to describe this thing. The monster was well over ten feet tall, and broad enough to block a classroom of students with its slimy, bulky, scaly, green and brown body. Its head was a large hideous lump bulging from its equally hideous body. From the center of its face protruded a large, glimmering horn. It oozed with slim. On either side of the horn, orange and black eyes bulged, staring hungrily in the direction of Tyler and Cali. Below these eyes was a drooling mouth, outlined with numerous sharp, jagged, yellow-green teeth.
The monster's body was scale-and-slim-covered muscle. Both arms hung to the ground, with sharp steel-like claws on the ends of the fingers. Large chunks of orange dirt were scattered several feet in every direction as the monster nervously flexed its fingers. Its short stumpy legs appeared quite powerful, yet the monster's sudden entrance suggested extreme agility for such bulk. The monster's long, thick tail, replete with several foot-long spikes growing from the end, pounded on the orange dirt thunderously.
Tyler swallowed with great difficulty as he eyed the steel-like claws.
The monster continued his stare at the helpless students, saliva dripped to the orange path from the corners of its mouth. When the monster opened its mouth Tyler and Cali edged farther back.
From the mouth came a slow, deep belching sound that made the umbrella trunks vibrate and the stick plants shudder. It was a moments before they realized the monster was speaking intelligible words.
"YOU CANNOT PASS," the monster was saying, over and over again.
"What do we do!?!" Tyler began screaming as he clutched Cali's arm, "What do we do!?!"
"I don't know!" Cali kept screaming back, "I don't know!"
"Let's get out of here," Tyler screamed, "Let's go back and find the instructor." Tyler turned and tried to pull Cali with him.
Cali did not move.
"Wait!" she screamed, still visibly shaking, "The instructor... Of course... that's it... don't you see?..."
But Tyler did not see and continued to pull on Cali's arm.
"The instructor... " Cali repeated, "the lesson... This is just another part of our lesson."
Tyler stopped pulling on Cali's arm, much to her relief, and looked at the hideous monster. It stood in the path drooling and staring -- a dozen yards away.
"You're crazy," he concluded. "It wants to eat us."
"It hasn't tried to eat us yet," Cali observed.
Tyler paused to think about that one.
"How far do you think we could get if it started after us?" Cali asked, trying to convince herself as much as Tyler.
"Yes," Tyler reluctantly agreed, " I guess it could eat us if it really wanted to."
"It's probably part of the lesson," Cali said again. It sounded more convincing the second time. "Yes, it must be part of the lesson."
"But why?... or how?" Tyler wondered.
"I don't know," Cali responded. "We probably have to use economics on it."
Tyler relaxed a bit, including his grip on Cali's arm. Then his grip tightened again when Cali observed, "But your frog." She turned around and motioned to the unconscious frog.
"Oh my!..." Tyler exclaimed as he turned to find his companion lying a few feet behind them. Tyler rushed over and cradled the frog gently in his arms.
"He's still alive," Tyler said answering Cali's unspoken question. Then because he was only partly aware of the previous events, he asked, "What happened?"
Cali explained. Tyler starred at his compassionate companion .
"You idiot," he said to the frog, as his eyes grew moist and watery. "Why did you do that. You saved my life." He turned to Cali, "How could this be part of the lesson?"
"Maybe the monster wasn't really going to hit you," Cali tried to rationalize. "The frog probably didn't know. I'm sure it was a mistake."
"This IS part of the lesson, isn't it?" Tyler asked, the tears running down his cheeks.
Cali agreed reluctantly, nodding her head and quietly thankful that Tyler's remained intact. She then turned to make sure the monster had moved no closer. It remained at the bend, blocking any travel in that direction. Cali eyed the foliage between them and the monster. Unlike other parts of the path, the umbrella trees were exceptionally and conveniently dense on both sides. Perhaps a Leornian instructor could squeeze through, but they had no chance. The monster had, by design or sheer luck, picked an ideal spot to prevent their passage. They had to turn back or seek a way past.
The frog-cat slowly regained consciousness in Tyler's cradling arms. It gave Tyler its usual disinterested look, then abruptly flapped its wings, causing Tyler to fall backwards. It flew to a comfortable perch on a green stick plant, as if nothing unusual had occurred.
"Why I'll be..." Tyler exclaimed, feeling like a discarded shoe. "You... you... ungrateful reptile..." He stopped in disgust, unable to think of the proper adjectives, and uncaring that the creature was more likely amphibian. He tried to wipe his face with a dirt riddled shirt, but to no avail.
Tyler got to his feet and gave the frog a sideways glance. The frog stared nonchalantly about the forest.
"Can you believe that," Tyler said to Cali, "It acts like nothing happened." He turned back to the monster in the path, and was once again startled by its hideous appearance.
"It's probably part of the lesson," Cali said trying for any type of reassurance.
"Yeah," Tyler agreed weakly, "part of the lesson."
Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.