by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Eight: The Quest
The lean, elderly professor looked like he had lost an argument with a package of unruly firecrackers. His once crisp, clean black robe, was torn, dirty, and opened in the front. One sleeve as ripped from his shoulder. His mortarboard hat, seeming glued to his head on his previous visit to the surreal land of Leornia, was tucked haphazardly under an arm. The professor's face was smudged with orange dirt and sweat.
He ran towards Tyler and Cali in this uncharacteristically disheveled manner.
"Tyler, Cali," he screamed excitedly, "I am so glad to see you. I... I... Was not sure where you might be."
Tyler looked at Cali. Cali looked at Tyler. Both looked bewildered.
"Professor," Cali took the lead, "what's wrong?"
"I apologize for my dramatic entrance," the professor panted, his head hung low, "but I have little time for explanation." He plopped onto the red carpet grass in a surprisingly casual manner. He then sighed, searching his words carefully. "You must complete this lesson immediately," he said between breaths. "No, you must reach the end of the economics path. Don't even concern yourselves any tests."
The professor look up at the student twosome. The intensity of his gaze, unlike any found in the classroom, made Tyler shudder.
"What?" Cali queried. "But why?"
"We have a bit of trouble," the professor hung his head once again. "I can not tell you more. I don't know much more. But you must reach the end of the economics path. Only then can I bring you out."
"Bring us out of Leornia?" Cali asked, "I thought we had to finish the lesson. We've just now finished the second test. The one on markets."
"Yeah," Tyler joined in, "This hideous monster was blocking our path, and Cali figured out how we could pass using trades, the law of supply, and stuff like that."
"What!?!" The professor jerked his upwards in disbelief.
Cali tried to explain, "Well, a monster was blocking our path and we had to produce this sludge called crunch water." She shuddered thinking about the smell. Tyler successfully restrained his still queasy insides. "After we gave it three bags of the stuff, it let us pass. It was the basic law of supply."
The professor stared at Cali, his jaw slackened.
"That is not part of the market test," he declared. "You completed the market test before my previous visit. There are no monsters for the market test. There are no monsters on the economics path, at all. The only monsters are on the psych..." He stopped suddenly, his usually narrow eyes grew wide. "OH MY...! You must get to the end of the path as quickly as you can. Don't hesitate. Don't stop. Just go." He was on his feet "I will get you out sooner if I can. This is worse than I thought."
"But, the monster... what about the monster?" Cali trembled with the realization that the hideous monster was not part of the market test. Tyler scurried to the trails edge, then vomited.
"It was not part of the market test!" the professor scolded, then realizing he was chastising the wrong people, asked, "Are you both okay? Were either of you hurt by that thing?"
They shook their heads, Tyler's face now white and Cali catching herself as she sat down hard on the red grass.
"This is NOT supposed to happen," the professor muttered to himself. "Someone could be harmed, seriously harmed. I can not believe he would do this. He's gone too far this time." He then turned to two students, both shaking visibly, "You must be very careful from now on -- very, very careful. I can not predict what might happen. It's important that you reach the end of the economics path. Stay on the path and follow it to the end. Don't delay! I do not know why he wants to stop you, but clearly he does. "
Nervously, the professor turned to leave. "I have to go now, the very existence of Loernia is at stake. And be careful! Be on the lookout for anything."
For an elderly gent, he moved quickly down the path and out of sight. Once more they heard a small explosion.
"Oh wow!" Cali exclaimed.
"What do you think is happening? Who do you think is trying to stop us?" Cali continued, as she hoisted her bag of water.
"I don't know," Tyler grabbed his fruit bag with trembling hands.
"Whoever 'he' is," Cali observed as they renewed their hasty journey, "it sounds like trouble, like this place, land this land of Leornia itself is in peril."
"Oh! don't be so melodramatic," Tyler countered, but fearing she was right.
"But why would anyone want to stop US?" she wondered. "We're just students."
Tyler recall his brief encounter with the timid Loernian creature named Aristotle. Then he said, "Remember what I was telling you about the creature I met; not an instructor, but the other." Tyler chuckled uncomfortably. "He... uhm... said I was 'the one' who could help them. The ONLY one."
Cali mused, "You?..."
"Well... that's what he said," Tyler replied indignantly. "Then he said something about some other professor. Not our Professor Francis, but another professor who might do something bad to him, to Aristotle. I can't seemed to remember exactly what he said." Tyler shook his head, frustrated with his lack of recall.
Cali stopped walking, "Clearly that's who Professor Francis referred to. There must be another 'professor', maybe one who has invaded this Leornia place, and is trying to take it over. Maybe he's some evil professor out to steal Leornia from Professor Francis, or even destroy it?" Cali made this statement half joking, thinking such a scenario was absurd. But when she considered recent events and their conversation with the professor, she filed to amuse Tyler or herself.
"Oh my..." she exclaimed turning to Tyler, her mouth opened wide, "Some evil professor is trying to kill us. And that monster..."
Tyler shuddered, as their pace quickened.
"I hope the end of this trail is close," Cali said.
"End of the trail," Tyler mumbled to himself, and as he did, he dropped his bag to the ground, then stood motionless, eyes closed.
"What's wrong Tyler?" Cali asked anxiously, thinking he might be on the verge of a heart attack or worse.
A sensation Tyler had experienced twice before invaded his insides. He lifted one arm, then pointed to the front, slightly to their left, off the path and into the thick umbrella foliage.
"We will get to the end much faster if we go that way," he said his eyes still closed. "It's the most direct route."
"What do you mean?" Cali asked. "Why that direction. That's not on the path. The professor said to stay on the path."
Tyler opened his eyes. "I know," he said, "but I just have this overpowering feeling that we will get to the end quicker if we go that direction."
"I don't know..." Cali said skeptically.
"Trust me," Tyler said, "I know what I'm doing."
"I don't know why I should," Cali said, "but, then again, I don't know why I shouldn't."
Without hesitation, Tyler took off in the direction he had pointed. Cali paused an instant, but was only a step behind. The umbrella trees grew denser, but still passable, as they left the path farther behind. The trees, however, posed no apparent obstacle for Tyler, even though he walked with eyes closed. When a tree came between him and his goal, he stepped around it, without acknowledging its presence, then continued. He did stop from time to time, changed direction slightly, then proceeded. Cali followed, more confused with each step.
Once they had travelled several hundred yards, the umbrella trees thinned. After a few steps they saw the unmistakable orange of the path.
"Have we been going in circles, Tyler?" Cali demanded angrily.
"Of course not," Tyler opened his eyes and responded, obviously hurt by her accusation.
Breaking into the opening of the trail, Cali scanned both directions.
"Look," she said, "There's a sign over there. Maybe this is the end of the path?"
Tyler closed his eyes and shook his head.
A broken sign was laying next to one of the trees. Cali picked it up and read:ECONOMICS
She laughed lightly.
"Of course," she said. "This path must wind back and forth throughout these trees. We just cut across the path. There's no telling how long it would have taken us to get this far if we had stayed on the path."
Tyler nodded smugly.
"But we should continue," she cautioned.
Tyler closed his eyes and pointed again, extended the line of their previous course. As Tyler led them quickly through the trees, they crossed the orange path three more times. The third time they found another sign. It read:PHYSICS
"Physics?" Tyler said, somewhat puzzled.
"Of course, Tyler," Cali responded. "It makes sense doesn't it? They probably have lessons in physics, chemistry, and other subjects, as well as economics. I'm sure the professor was about to say something about the monster being from the psychology path."
Tyler nodded. It made sense.
"I hope this doesn't mean we're heading away from the end of the economics path." Cali wondered.
Tyler closed his eyes, shook his head, then signalled their continued path into the trees, "We continue that way. That's the end."
The umbrella trees grew less dense. But this time, as they reached the clearing, they did not enter into the eerie green twilight of another orange path. Their first impression was the blinding brightness of the pink sky. The sky was much more brilliant than it had appeared through the tops of the dense trees. Tyler stepped into the clearing as his eyes adjusted to the brightness. The scene before him was nothing less than awesome. Tyler observed an expansive red valley, interrupted occasionally by large indistinct, purple blotches. Miles away, across the valley, a range of mountains jutted from the red landscape. At their base and halfway up the side, Tyler thought he could see more of these peculiar purple blotches.
"Oh, wow!" Cali shrieked, remaining just on the edge of the trees, "It's so bright out there I can hardly keep my eyes open." She shaded her eyes and squinted. "I should have brought sunglasses."
Tyler, not needing to shade his eyes, said, "Oh come on, it's not that bright."
"I'm not kidding," she continued, her eyes closed and her head hung low. "It's so bright I can't open my eyes." She kept trying to open her eyes and survey the valley, but could not. She stepped back into twilight of the trees.
"That's better," she said opening her eyes. "This is really strange. Why is it so bright out there?"
Tyler, following her back to the trees said, "It's not bright. You've just been under these dark trees longer than I have. You'll get used to it."
"I don't know," she said looking through the trunks of the trees towards the blazing red and purple of the valley.
She edged slowly toward the trees again, keeping her eyes down, focus on the red grass at her feet.
"It's still bright," she said. "Are you sure we have to go this way? Can't we stay under cover of the tree?"
"Yes," Tyler stood in the open. "Come on Cali," he beckoned.
She stepped a little farther into the opening, hands shading her eyes.
"It's a little better," she said blinking and squinting. "I feel like I'm staring into a spotlight." She fought to adjust her vision.
Ten minutes or more had passed before she was able to look up and survey the valley. Her normally large blue eyes were merely slits.
They slowly walked down the smooth slope of the red landscape, leaving the trees behind. The red carpet grass that had covered the floor of the forest grew taller. At first it reached their ankles, then midway up their calves, and before long it was up to their knees. As they walked through this red foliage Tyler was reminded of his youthful excursion through wheat fields during visits to an uncle in Kansas. However, this red foliage was thicker than wheat and refused to be trampled. As each foot left the ground, the foliage underneath quickly sprang to its original form, with no sign of damage. In spite of, or because of, the thickness of the foliage was easily traversed.
"This is weird," Cali said, her eyes somewhat adjusted to the brightness.
"Hey watch this," Tyler called out.
Her vision returned in time to see Tyler bound through the foliage. Dropping his fruit bag, he dove head first along the cushiony surface of the grass, much like a baseball player sliding head-long into second base. He landed softly on the top, then sank down, completely unharmed.
"Tyler" Cali scolded, "we don't have time for this! The professor said to we have to hurry!"
"This is great," Tyler said with another lead, "I could do this all day. Come on, give it a try."
"We don't have time!"
"Come on!" he said bounding and sliding again.
"Okay, just once," Cali sighed, dropping her water satchel, and jumping in a sitting position onto the foliage. Her landing was surprising soft. She rolled from her back to her stomach.
"We need to go," she reminded, "The professor said to get to the end of the path as soon as possible."
"I'm hungry. At least we can lay here for a while and eat lunch."
"A short lunch," Cali agreed, increasingly thirsty.
Tyler ate fruit and Cali drank her water.
"Are you sure you don't want any fruit?" Tyler asked.
"No thanks," she said, her eyes still not fully adjusted to the brightness, "I'm more thirsty than hungry."
They rested for only a moment.
Tyler popped up to a sitting position, and looked around, "You know. I wonder what happened to our flying cat-faced frog?"
Cali looked around, "I don't know. I don't think I've seen it since we left the trees. But, I didn't really see much of anything since we got into the bright sun."
"I wonder why it left?" Tyler thought.
"Maybe it lives in the trees," Cali concluded. "It is pretty bright out here."
"Well, I wonder why it stayed with me all of that time?" Tyler pondered, "I was getting used to guy."
Cali shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps that will be one of life's great imponderables."
"Never mind, Mr. Compass. Just point the way."
Tyler closed his eyes, then pointed his finger at a unique intersection of the mountains, trees, and the red valley, several miles away.
"That must be the end of the path," she said. "Who knows how long it would have taken us had we stayed on the path in the trees?"
Grasping their lightened bags, they hurried off.
When the brightness of the pink sky and blue sun were suddenly lessened, Cali gave a sigh of relief. However, when she looked skyward nonchalantly, expected to see a few lazy clouds drifting by she screamed, "DUCK!" and drug Tyler down to the soft red foliage just out of the reach of a large, steel-clawed talon.
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.