This is a continuation of a story begun in the post “Chapter 1. Part 1.” If you enjoy it, please like and share it with others!
CHAPTER 8: CITY OF FALLING… WATER
The rest of the day passed by without any major event. We had stopped for lunch, and talked about the plan for the day ahead. The City of Falling Water was the name of the place on Canyon Ridge where we would be staying that night.
“That’s pretty much our only option isn’t it? I know it’d be nice if we could ride some jeeps down the canyon. Hey, it’d be great if we could just fly a plane all the way to the garden, but we’ve got to make do with what we have! We’ve got to take the donkeys,” said Chak in between bites of what looked and smelled like a solid pile of dung. Apparently it was actually quite delicious, I just couldn’t appreciate it. I was happy with what Brew had called a chicken salad sandwich. Although it could have done with some olives, I wasn’t about to complain about the quality of food. Compared to the rations provided by the Athenian army, this was fine dining.
“I guess so. Unless we wanna ride the waterfall down,” said Brew. Everyone laughed.
“Could Shishu carry us down like he did when leaving the Syllogy?” I asked.
“No. There is a limit to the height an Umbra can jump. The canyon is too deep for one Umbra to reach,” said Shishu.
“What if we paraglide down? I’m pretty sure The City of Falling Water has the gear, and we could get a few of the Umbili there to come with and bring the gear back,” Brew suggested.
“I don’t think Thrump or this backpack could paraglide,” said Chak. “They’re both too heavy.”
“He’s right on that. Also, I believe Flye is afraid of heights. But we could split the group. Those of us who can’t paraglide can walk down the canyon, or ride donkeys, and those who can paraglide could leave later and meet us at the bottom at midday tomorrow,” said Thrump.
“No. We stay together,” said Chak. “We’re taking the donkeys. That’s final.”
No one questioned it after that. Chak was the leader and his decisions were respected as such. We would take the donkeys down the canyon.
“What’s paragliding?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Said Chak, Brew, Thrump, and Fwik in unison. I was going to enjoy it when I got to say that to one of them.
Plink and Dr. Lee were having their own conversation on the edge of the group. I heard Teleon’s name mentioned again and listened in.
“I tend to agree with Chak, my dear,” Dr. Lee was saying.
“I think Flye has a point. And Shishu thinks there’s more to him than meets the ear,” said Plink. “I heard that he restored a blind man’s vision. No Umbili, not even the magnivates, have done something like that!”
“It was a human’s vision. Umbili anatomy is immensely more complex. I am confident the Umbili magnivates could remedy such a situation if they so chose. The magnivates know the minds of the Higher-ups better than a random man in the Settlement,” said Dr. Lee.
“What about the story about—”
“We’re moving!” I heard Chak yell in our direction. The conversation was over.
We packed up the lunch and walked on. The trees of the jungle grew smaller and smaller behind us, and just as they started to disappear I saw the glimmer of a building ahead of us. We were one sight-length away from the city. I looked up at the sun. It was still high in the sky, but our shadows indicated that it was past its peak. As we grew closer I noticed some interesting things about the town we were about to enter. First of all, it rested on the precipice of a huge canyon.
For those reading this account who have seen the Grand Canyon, it was about five times further across and twice as deep. A wide road led to the main gate of the city, which interrupted the massive walls surrounding it. Our group merged with the road and approached the main entrance, and from outside the wall I could see only five structures. Four were tall identical towers located near the center of the town. They were all the deepest blue color I have ever seen. They reminded me of the blue goo barrier we had left at the Syllogy. The other structure was a tall gray communication spire identical to the one we had camped at the night before, which was symmetrically located in between the four tall buildings surrounding it.
We neared the gate that interrupted the road at the city’s outer limit. There were hazy outlines of four large dudes guarding the gate — I was apparently getting better at seeing Umbili. We stopped in front of them.
“We’re here!” said Chak.
“It’s good to see you,” the noise of a shipwreck came out of his mouth next. “Is this the human?” The Umbili in the center left position was speaking. I focused on him intently, and I could almost see him fully.
“It is. Nicholas, you may call this dude Kliff. He’s an old friend. Kliff, this is Nicholas Alexander.”
I heard a small pop and Kliff became completely opaque.
“Gentledudes, reveal yourselves to the human,” he said. “He deserves the respect of us all, for he will save our world.”
Three more pops and I could clearly see all of the Umbili standing in front of us.
“Hello,” I said. “So… what do we do now?”
“We say welcome, Nicholas. Welcome to The City of Falling Water.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth the massive gate behind him began to open. It was a slow process and I could hear the bustling of a crowd behind the gate. It opened to a wide plaza between the four buildings with the spire in the center. Through the middle of the plaza, splitting around the base of the spire, was a rushing river. The plaza was probably a thousand feet from corner to corner, and the river was about sixty feet wide. Off to the left I could hear the water churning, but the tower closest to me blocked my view. We followed Kliff toward the spire in the center of the plaza and I saw a small podium. We reached the podium, moving through the mass of hazy Umbili, and stopped for Kliff to speak.
“Dudes and dades of The City of Falling Water,” his voice was magnified by the object on the podium, and it echoed around the city, “This is Nicholas Alexander. He has come to save us. Make yourselves known to him, and celebrate. Celebrate the provision of the Higher-ups!”
All around the plaza there were pops coming from different Umbili, and a loud shout heralded the beginning of a celebration. Glowing orbs like the ones from the campsite flew into the sky, and with them raised a concomitant of concordant music. There were instruments of every kind. Guitars, tambourines, harps, cymbals, drums, horns and those were just the ones from earth. There were all kinds of native Umbili instruments that were, and still are, completely foreign to me, and some instruments from planets I’ll never see were there too.
It took a few minutes for all of the Umbili in The City of Falling Water to become fully visible to me, and dozens of them came and shook my hand and danced with me. I had to get Thrump to part the crowd so that I could get a breath of fresh air. He did so, and we left the plaza, walking downstream along the river.
It was dark by then and the party faded out behind me as Thrump and I walked toward the gurgling sounds I had heard earlier. We approached the cliff edge on which the city sat and saw the waterfall for which the city was obviously named.
It was a sheer cliff that plummeted two miles downward. I couldn’t see the bottom because it was so dark, but the moon lit the rest of the landscape well. The huge hole stretched out before me and Thrump as we stood next to the waterfall staring into the night sky, admiring it in utter silence.
This was all too much to take in. All of these Umbili were celebrating and praising me for something that I hadn’t even done yet. It was frightening to imagine letting them down. I reached down to the seed of linear time, and pulled it out of its pouch, turned it over in my fingers, and then held it up to the moonlight.
“It’s so small,” I said.
“What’s that?” Thrump said loudly, attempting to be heard over the sound of the waterfall.
“Nothing,” I shouted back, keeping my eyes on the seed. The purple of the seed blended in with the landscape. I couldn’t imagine how that tiny little seed would somehow save this world. All I had to do was throw this thing into a garden, and all the wrong Mendrax had done would be righted? Would it really be that easy? I got lost in my thoughts and Thrump tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up at him, and the green light in his skin was eerie in the darkness. He jerked his head back toward the plaza. I shook my head and waved him away.
“You go ahead; I’ll be back in there in a minute.” He shrugged and walked away toward the music. I looked to the left and could just make out the city wall coming to an end as it met the cliff edge. This was definitely a strange place. I had not noticed it before, but so far all the populated areas had large walls around them. I wondered if these had been built after Mendrax had been cast out or before. It didn’t seem like it would have been necessary before, unless there was something worse than Mendrax out there waiting to break into these cities.
I gazed back out at the moonlit canyon again, took a deep breath, and suddenly felt a little better, as if some of the weight of the problem had lifted off my shoulders. As soon as I did, I had the unpleasant feeling of something wet being stuck into my ear. I turned toward the feeling and saw Fwik with his arm extended toward the side of my head. His finger was in my ear.
“That, my friend is a Wet Willie. You’re welcome for the information. Nick my boy, my sister and I are going to educate you on the ways of the future. You see, when you come from, humor is dead. We will show you the meaning of true hilarity.” Fwik had pulled his finger out of my ear and was sitting on a rock just next to me. He reclined back on the rock, interlocked his fingers behind his head and gave me a devilish smile. Just as he did, I felt my pants tug away from my waist and descend half way down my legs. A split second later, Fwish was kneeling next to her brother.
“Pantsed ya!” she said, and both of them doubled over in laughter.
“How is this supposed to be funny?” I asked angrily wrenching my pants up to their proper height.
“Oh believe me, from our point of view, it’s quite hilarious,” said Fwik in between fits of laughter.
“You have to understand Nicholas, comedy is all about perspective. What’s funny for one is almost never funny for another, you just have to make sure you are the one, and not the another. Got it?” Fwish was quite pleased with herself and confident in her comedic ability.
“So you’re saying if I were to,” quick as a flash I snatched Fwik’s whip and held in out over the ledge, “take this, and toss it over the edge, it would be funny for me, because I’m the one, and not the another?” Fwik jumped to his feet and Fwish was close behind him.
“Believe me, you don’t want to do that,” said Fwish seriously.
“She’s right, you’ll most definitely regret it,” chimed Fwik.
“Oh come on, I think it would be really funny. You just have to remember, in this case, I’m the one, not the another,” I said, pretending to drop it and catch it again. I had them right where I wanted them.
In a moment, Fwik was on me. He had my hair in his hands and he was pulling me by the head away from the ledge. Fwish went after my feet, trying to knock me off balance. We struggled for a few seconds, and then, in an attempt to throw them both off of me, I heaved all of my body weight backwards. It worked like a charm. As soon as I did this, they both leapt off of me onto the ledge. I smiled knowingly, but then realized my mistake. In the short tussle I had lost perspective of where I was on the ledge. In just a short second the edge of the cliff passed upward in front of my eyes, and Fwik and Fwish were staring at me in amazement as I fell down the cliff.
“Fwik! Help! I’m – I’m falling!”
The waterfall beside me thundered as I fell, and I whipped around so that I was falling back first to view the cliff edge I had just left. Fwik and Fwish were peering over the edge with a look of horror, but I could only see them for a second before I lost their faces in the blackness.
Suddenly, I hit my head on something hard and my fall stopped. I opened my eyes. I wasn’t dead. Instead, I heard laughter erupting beside me. I looked around and saw Fwik and Fwish rolling on the ground, rapidly running out of air from their heaves of laughter. I was back on top of the cliff’s edge.
“Did you see his face Fwish?” Fwik was still rolling.
“Fwik! Help! I’m falling!” Fwish mocked in a high pitched voice, then rose to her feet quickly and fell straight back to the ground dramatically. I sat up.
“What was that?” I asked, a bit out of breath from the shock of falling off of a cliff and landing back where I had started, safely.
“I can’t- I can’t breathe! That was just too perfect!” Fwish was still on the ground. Fwik had stopped laughing enough to position himself in front of me.
“We got you so good! A joke within a joke about teaching how to joke! We’re going to be telling this one for years.”
“Would you please explain to me what just happened?” I said, starting to get annoyed now.
“Right-o, right-o,” said Fwik, slowing down his breathing so he could talk. “Do you know what this is?”
He reached behind a rock and grabbed something to show me. It was the metallic green ball that Brew had packed in the backpack when we originally left the Syllogy. Recognition sprang to my face.
“I saw Brew pack that into the backpack. No, I don’t know what it is.”
“It’s called an Agnoscian Orb. Basically, this changes your perception of the world. It can make you see, or feel, or experience, whatever the wielder wants you to see, feel, or experience. All Umbili have something similar within them. That’s why we can stop you from fully seeing us. We can control your perception to a degree. It’s a gift from the Higher-ups. These orbs do the same thing, but much more comprehensively. There’re only a handful of them left you see. Mendrax stole most of them when he was exiled. They work fairly well on Umbili, but for humans, it’s like a completely new reality.”
“So you’re saying you made me experience falling off the cliff, but I was really just standing right here the whole time?” I asked.
“Basically. You reacted as if those things were really happening, that’s why you hit the ground, but you were really much farther away from the edge than you thought, and we weren’t anywhere near you. Fwish and I never actually attacked you or gave you a Wet Willie or pantsed you. We just snuck up behind you, started up the orb, and watched the comedy ensue. You should have seen yourself, dancing around trying to get the non-existent me off your back. Quite hilarious.”
I gritted my teeth and kept my composure while he laughed again. “So why do you have it? Shouldn’t it be with Chak right now?” I asked.
“Don’t be such a goodie-goodie. Take a leaf out of Teleon’s book, and walk on the wild side for once! We’re gonna put it back. Chak will never know that it’s gone,” said Fwish.
“Supposedly we’re gonna need it later on. At least that’s what Chak said the Higher-ups told him. We’re just glad we have one with us ‘cause it’s gonna make the travel much more enjoyable.” They both laughed, winked simultaneously, and started walking back toward the Plaza. “Come on Nick. People are going to start looking for you!”
I looked down at the seed still in my hand. I was gripping it powerfully. I could see in the moonlight that my knuckles had turned white. I relaxed my hand and shoved the seed back into its pouch.
“Enjoyable,” I muttered. “Why do I have trouble believing that?”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 9. Part 1.”