Thursday, 19 June 2014

#2 Lockhart & Doppler

#2 stand –alone story

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler
An Illustrated journal of amusement, adventure and instruction
Gods and Monsters


Sir Rowland Cornish; F.R.S, R.G.S, A.R.S.E, toyed with the teacup in his pudding fingers. He was a bulky man, squeezed into a seat like a bear in a public convenience. He took up most of the room in the booth, his top hat balanced on the table at his right elbow. Next to him sat a fresh faced youth, I'd say 19 years judging by his light chin fluff, clutching his Derby and smiling nervously at Doppler and I. His curling, golden hair framed his face, like one of Rossetti's Arthurian hero's. I noticed the flush each time he caught Doppler's eye. For her part, she remained unusually reserved. She poured another cup of tea.
"Oh, allow me Miss Doppler!" exclaimed the youth, his trembling hand reaching for the floral porcelain. I noticed his immaculate nails, the long pale fingers. He struck me as a poet or something similar. Cornish cleared his throat,
"In light of the incident of the jade jaguar, we at the Academy have…" "You haven't proven that I stole anything, Sir Rowland!" No reply. "In fact, I did retrieve for the Academy what it sent me for; Tixotittle's bust." He left his cup alone and straightened, "Yes you did" "And," I continued "You also got Tixotittle's head-dress, or what remains of it." "You were paid well Miss Lockhart, if I remember correctly. But your contract…" "Contract be damned!" I interrupted. His companion flushed, Doppler concealed a smirk. "You Academy chaps are all the same, you think you can just buy people; that women should do as they're told and know their place, my God man, it's the 19th century! And here's one woman..." a cough from my right, "Two women, who will do no man's bidding, unless it is under our terms. I know you've got fellows out there, 'in the field' as you put it, but it seems to me Sir, that what we can obtain is beyond their reach. And until the day you admit women to your societies, I shall decide who gets what from my endeavours!" I inhaled.
"Ah. Finders Custodies!" "Exactly!"
Let me tell you about Cornish, Fellow of the Royal Academy. Sir Rowland was one of those bluff old coves you see squatting about in Parliament, in smoky gentlemen's clubs and peering at very young ladies through their moist, monocle eye. He had seen action during the Greek Revolution, in the Sixth Xhosa War and something in China to do with allowing us Brits free access to sticky drugs. He was highly decorated – in fact, he looked like an oriental divan with his straining button holes in his silk waistcoat. He was past his prime, gone to stodge. But I did rather like him. It was through Sir Rowland that I got the main body of work for the R.A. sometimes with the knowledge of the governing body, sometimes not, mostly not. He wasn't above keeping a little in reserve for himself on occasion. I happen to know that he has a beautiful ebon scarab beetle, inlaid with turquoise and mother of pearl, courtesy of yours sincerely.
He was right though, I did have a contract for the last job I did for the Academy, in South America, but I'd denied having some finds. There had been a hearing, bloody kangaroo court, how they love the sound of their own voices these old toffs. When some old buffer had gone, "It's just not cricket!" and "a real gentleman…" I had smiled politely, apologising for my lack of knowledge on the subject of cricket, and as the honourable gentleman could see, I was not and never had been, or would be, a gentleman. Then thrust out my bosom and breathed very deeply. Would the honourable gentleman care to have a closer inspection? I ventured, making as if to undo the pearl buttons on my high neck blouse. The room fairly exploded. Puce faces with spittle foaming their whiskers demanding this "Outrageous female!" be instantly excluded –they couldn't, I was not a member. That she return to her kitchen and sewing and henceforth not be admitted to the Academy buildings. In the end, Sir Rowland had said he would vouch for me, a fine was agreed upon (which I certainly did not intend to pay) and now this…
Sir Rowland was asking me to return to South America to find the lost city of La Venta. Part business, part personal, this trip was to discover, locate, record and collect. Sir Rowland had read much about the Inca, Mayan and Olmec, this last piquing his interest because of the little that had emerged from the rainforests about this particular culture. Plus, he was keen to receive into his collection, a trinket of something in particular. The Academy had decided to 'keep an eye' on me on this occasion, hence the presence of the young Mr Daniel Tobias. They wanted maps this time and the youth was a cartographer, he was also an amateur photographer, water colourist and kept newts. Obviously I had objected, space in the capsule, weight to gas, supplies and so on and so forth to no avail. The Academy would be paying Mr Tobias and paying his way. I had looked at him and him at me – I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character, don't know what it is, and call it a sixth sense, but I can usually tell immediately if a person is to be trusted – Mr Tobias was trustworthy. But, there was something else lurking there behind those gentle, brown eyes.
"They're green." Corrected Doppler later that day. "What?" I said automatically, distracted. "His eyes, Daniels, they're dark green, and he's twenty one, not nineteen."
I wasn't sure how or when she had obtained this information, but it seemed clear as day that Theodora had fallen for Mr Daniel Tobias. I had been lying (again) about the interior space of the Professor Selwyn. There was plenty of room for three, even four passengers, but we rarely if ever, had anyone other than the two of us in it. The Professor was based on a space worthy craft designed by Professor Cavor, but instead of gravity defying Cavorite, our sphere was made of mahogany wood, white ash and brass, with six portholes. The interior was like an inside out cricket ball; walls lined in dark, red leather, seating of the same. Hand sewn in London at 'Leytons Leather Bodies', (who could make practically anything you wanted in leather, very obliging, highly recommended). The floor was situated about a third of the way from the base, leaving plenty of space beneath for storage. The lid, when closed was watertight, you never knew when you were going to crash land in the sea, it could be raised on six pneumatic powered legs and when one stood on a raised gantry you could catch the breeze, watch the world sail by without pressing your nose up against portholes. The whole thing suspended beneath a balloon of red and white striped silk. Anyone can sail in a basket, get wet, cold, attacked by all sorts of things from bugs to behemoths and crash in a crumpled heap in some foreign farmers crops. (Rule #6: Any fool can be uncomfortable, don't be a fool) The Professor had directional fins that could extend from the main body, it had booster jets to give speed, and it had an adaptable porthole that could become a fixture for a harpoon. It was handsome.
Mr Daniel Tobias arrived with a trunk of clothes, a carry box of inks, quills, rolls of parchment. A tripod and camera, plus all the equipment and material required for development. A portable vivarium of newts, an assortment of headgear and footwear and finally a walnut box about five feet in length and six inches deep with an ornate lock. This last he clutched to his body as I ploughed through his belongings, dispersing shirts, pretty cravats, hat boxes, newts and the like hither and yon, until satisfied we had the minimum requirements. Only then did I allow him to board. He was attired in crisp khakis, not dissimilar to those worn by Mr Henry Stanley, (to whom I once gave a ride in the Professor), he did not however measure up to that specimen of a man. Mr Tobias was more reedy than robust. We used town gas to inflate the balloon and carried spare canisters. The journey passed fairly uneventfully. I spent most of my time plotting our direction. The lid was open on occasion to allow a gentle breeze to freshen us up. Theodora and Daniel played at cards, read passages from Jane Eyre and Emily Dickinson poetry (prefer a bit of Moby Dick myself) Daniel painted a small watercolour of Theodora.
Over the Gulf of Mexico we hit a storm, rocking off course we came, revolving and swaying into a localised rainstorm which threw us into a dense canopy of cacao trees. The balloon towed the sphere through the greenery, tilting alarmingly. Tiny squares of paints spattered across Mr Tobias, a particularly luscious aqua marine plastering itself to his forehead. Loose books, playing cards and paraphernalia tumbled to one hemisphere. Thank goodness for the De Sade patent harness, without which we would all have tumbled like dice in a cup. We came to a rocking halt. Pumping at a series of three shiny, brass knobs, I began extending the hydraulic legs at the base of the sphere; slowly we began to right ourselves and the interior clutter rolled to the floor.


God I love the Americas. It has everything; forests, savannahs, lakes, rivers and swamps, desert, mountains, not to mention the tremendous variety of people. If you knew how, you could hide out for years, remain undiscovered – should you wish to! I breathed huge lungful's of sweet Mexican air and stopped –
The figures emerged hesitantly from the undergrowth, four males. They were naked apart from feathered loin cloths and intricately woven and beaded bands around their heads. White pigment formed a solid band across the eye area, each had three, white vertical stripes on their chins, three white vertical stripes on their upper arms and about each tawny neck hung a medley of beads, feathers and a small pouch, all carried a slender spear, a polished blowpipe was tucked into each waistband. Now, I have had encounters with these tribal chaps before, down in Peru, but you need to be on your toes, could offend easily and all that, each tribe having its own codes, greetings and so on. I attempted a couple of words and gestures and to my relief, they acknowledged my overtures. I gave them the basic gist of our presence. They were very patient, very curious. We gave them some trinkets which they adored. Daniels pocket watch enthralled them – it didn't enthral Daniel when I made him give it to them. After a brief and excitable tour of the Professor Selwyn, we were invited to follow them to their village. We carried what we could and headed off.
Our guides wove between the vegetation like oiled snakes. We three however, hacked at vines, giant leaves and obstreperous branches. Daniel had been reticent about following the men, he said they may be cannibals and that we were dinner, I gave him a look and continued. Doppler kept stopping to pull heads off plants, beetles off the floor and drizzle sap from slashed scrub into handy phials. I was keeping track of our route, we might need to find our way back to the Professor alone, you never knew, could all go a bit Hong Kong. It was an energising trek, ascending for almost an hour, the dense greenery disgorging us onto a mountain plateau. At one point, Daniel let out a little cry of horror. He had stumbled under the weight of his camera, wooden case and paraphernalia. I turned to see him squirming and frantically swatting at something on his back, as he turned, there was the largest insect I had ever laid eyes on, as long as my forearm, black, chitinous, its feelers wavering about the young man's sweaty collar. Seeing that our guides were not worried by it and realising it posed no danger, I allowed him to continue – cruel of me, I know, but one must take one's pleasures where one can.
"Be very still Mr Tobias" I cautioned, he froze. "I'll just remove it for you." I drew my knife, "Erm, Miss Lockhart?" he quietly quavered, "You will be careful, won't you? I…I mean, it might bite if it feels threatened, or, or it could leak on me and…" I advanced and was about to skewer the little beastie, when Doppler pre-emptively swiped it away with her hand. Daniel sagged. He looked at me with a mixture of embarrassment and disappointment. I sheathed my knife as he regrouped. Doppler giving me a school ma'am look.
"Be nice." She said. "I thought I was. Getting rid of the insect and all." "You know what I mean." She cautioned.
You know, despite our age differences, Doppler was still capable of acting like the elder in our affiliation. Sometimes, I thought, she just didn't have a sense of humour. Nutabe, one of the guides, led us to the lip of the rise to view the scene. The gentle curve of the Gulf below us, far to our right, dipping in and out of the green canopy, I could see our balloon with the aid of a spyglass. It was like a great, fat red and white bird playing hide and seek. To the North, the land became more open, in the far distance, mountains. But Nutabe had brought me to see something else, for nestled just off-shore, were two large ships, steamers. Coming into the shore I counted eleven row boats, stuffed to the gills with blue jacketed, white trousered men, nearly all were carrying arms. Nutabe informed me that the white man was warring against the brown man, so far his tribe had gone undetected, he didn't know or care to know what they were fighting over – neither did I. But, they could prove troublesome, soldiers often were. I made a point of avoiding organised factions, they never understood what it was I was doing, didn't like the individual, especially individual woman, doing whatever she wants; that's the problem with military types can never think outside the box.
A further two hours tramping sandy upland, descending into hummocky moraine and back into rainforest and I was sure we would be lost if it weren't for the markers I was leaving; small, inconspicuous, root level. Practically undetectable except for rangers, someone actively following. Then we were in an area of huts, cleared ground and tiny forest pigs. Nutabe, Toro and Tahami had returned, trailing three white 'men' from the sky. It turns out that these chaps could not differentiate between us, in their eyes we all looked the same, pale skins, trousers, jackets, goggles and backpacks. Now we saw the females, who were also naked except for minimal decoration, the children were completely unadorned. The Chief, Mompox, was a diminutive, prune-like individual, seemingly with a permanent smile. I like to think I'm pretty open-minded and amenable to new experiences, so when he greeted us by circling each in turn, spitting at a distance then pressing his face to ours and sniffing deeply, I did likewise. He smelt vaguely of the forest, of wood smoke, and general human aroma, not unpleasant. Doppler attempted the same but I noticed her recoil slightly at the physical contact, she couldn't spit, her mouth was dry and so made the noise of spitting – a habit totally frowned upon in English society as you well know. Daniel dithered and trembled, put his face to the wrong cheek, spat on a passing piglet, apologised profusely, attempted to shake the Chiefs hand, and then backed off awkwardly. I smiled, patted his arm in a reassuring manner and told the Chief that he, Daniel, was 'special', that he was like a child in our own society and needed caring for, cherishing and teaching. Chief Mompox smiled and nodded, made gestures, gave instructions and a cluster of four elderly men and women came and ushered him off, protesting.
"There, there Daniel, don't be afraid, they mean no harm, they're going to teach you stuff, you'll love it!" "Lockhart!" Snapped Doppler, scowling, unsure whether to stay with me or accompany Daniel. Finally resolving to ensure Daniel Tobias' safety and sanity, she trooped off after them.
I turned to smile at the Chief, he looked me straight in the eye and said
"El truco." Trick.
He'd caught me out, I tried to look suitably shamed, but he just smiled widely and indicated for me to join him in his home. We chatted together in a blend of the dialect of the Auyan-tepui, Spanish and English. I may have mentioned before that I am very good at languages, once you have three or four under your belt, the rest is fairly plain sailing, got me out of many a pickle. I discovered that the Auyan-tepui were a known tribe, a fairly respected tribe in Tabasco, but never before had they had a white man in their village, and if we didn't mind, they would like to keep it that way. My little leather notebook was open on my crossed legs, I wrote phonetically, made drawings of gestures and little sketches of Mompox, his wives and children (of which he had three and five respectively). We were invited to stay a while, as honoured guests, which I was delighted to do, more time for enquiries. Daniel could take photographs, once they had been shown one of Doppler and made to realise he would not be stealing a part of their spirit. Doppler availed herself of the hunters various poison making sessions. She discovered the Shamans hut and sat for some time just watching various procedures. Pocket watches held no interest, except for the craftsmanship that was to be admired. Time was practically meaningless to these people; they slept when tired, ate when hungry, and spent time alone or together as desired. They drank a strange beverage made from a starchy root and flavoured with berries, quite pleasant, but when I watched the process…only the women were allowed to make this beer; they dug up the roots and collected the berries with female children, then they chewed the roots and spat the pulp into gourd like containers to ferment. I struggled a little after watching that, but aware of offending, drank down the saliva beer and smiled afterwards. Pig was the main meat, along with snake, a spider monkey as a treat, small birds and porridge like stuff that was a dubious grey colour. Although the Auyan-tepui did not know the name of La Venta, they were able to indicate where there were 'hidden places', dead villages or cities that God had caused to become hidden by the forest so people would not use them anymore, the peoples of these long dead places had evidently displeased God, the Auyan-tepui were good people and so God let them go on (not for much longer if those bluecoats discover them thought I). But as to the Olmec city, no idea. They did however inform us of the Cacique, an aggressive war like tribe that had in the past had dealings with the white man.
On the evening of our third day there was a feast, dancing, singing and drinking. Daniel was nervous and behaved like an over protective nanny towards Doppler, by now the Auyan-tepui were convinced that Daniel and Theodora were men in a same sex relationship and believed that Doppler was the dominant male. I grinned and nodded whenever one of the tribe made amusing comments about this odd couple. My encouragement riled Doppler and upset Daniel, but, drew them closer in their unified position of targets of humour. Sat around a fire, we drank beer, ate parrot and smoked a communal pipe. Then Mompox took a cup from the Shaman and passed it to me. Holding it before me I looked around the circle of flame lit faces. Doppler knew what these people could concoct, her face was taught, concerned. Daniel was shaking his head, Chief Mompox smiled and nodded. I drank.


I was looking down upon the circle of naked and not so naked people. Around this inner group the rest of the tribe danced and swayed. One figure stood out, mine, still cross legged but lying flat on my back, but I was up here too, what was happening? I watched as Doppler and Daniel rushed to my side, the Shaman stopped them from shaking me, I was floating higher, I began to panic. What if I couldn't get back? What would happen to my body? Was I dying? I didn't seem to have any control and so gave myself over to the experience.
"Who are you?" "Wha…?" I turned my non corporeal head about, all was empty space, looking down, or what I perceived would be down had I a body, and saw tiny dots of light, a brighter area seemed to indicate a town, moonlight twinkled on waves, I was higher than a balloon!
"Who are you?" the voice again, it was loud and booming, yet whispering and close. I couldn't tell if it was male or female. "I, am Lucy Amelia Gertie Lockhart, who are you?" I summoned my courage. "What do you want?" "Excuse me! I think it's my turn, you asked I replied. I ask and you reply." I was irked. "What do you want?" more insistent. "Now look here! I don't know what you're playing at, who you are or where you're from, but where I come from…" "Silence!" bellowed the whisperer. I felt the voice as much as heard it, and yet, I couldn't feel anything else, at all. My chagrin turned to impatience, my non-corporeal form fidgeted and fought against the other worldly.
I had no idea how much time passed when I began to realise I was thinking about our mission, I perceived through the non-mist a vague flowering of land mass, a massive canopy of emerald. Then, I was rushing over tree tops, rises, dips, past swampland and overgrown pastures. Completely relaxed and detached I observed the scene played out. Now the landscape was hurrying towards me, like a steam train, powerful, ferocious, primitive. Winding along unseen pathways, dashing through derelict archways, coming to an abrupt, almost staggering halt before a granite face that utterly filled my vision – and I knew. I came wide awake, sat up quickly and promptly threw up.


Some days later, we bid farewell to the Auyan-tepui. We each now had a mystical pouch tied about our necks. I did not feel inclined to refuse the proffered gift. Daniel was relieved to be leaving the naked folk, although he had some fine photographs that Cornish and the Royal Academy would be most pleased with, he was evidently more at ease with the accoutrements of civilised society. Doppler had found it all an interesting and informative experience, happily packing a small roll of self- made darts and various leafy parcels of pastes and unguents in her belt pouches.
"So, back to the Professor then?" enquired Daniel. "No Mr. Tobias, not back to the Professor. Follow me." And I plunged into the wall of the forest, Daniel allowing Doppler to go before him, holding branches aside like he was holding a door open for her. She thanked him politely and pressed on quickly.
After some time, I called a halt.
"Rest a while. Drink, eat. We're on full alert from here on." "The Cacique?" queried Doppler.
I nodded as I slugged from my canteen and noticed her stroking a blowpipe tucked into her belt. Daniel glanced about nervously, his hair was tousled on top with crescents plastered to his damp forehead and cheeks. He clutched his camera to his chest, I wondered how much weight he was carrying, how fast he could run if it came to it, and I wondered if I would wait for him. Refreshed and rested we continued on our way. I didn't think about it, or navigate, I knew, I just knew where we had to go, I knew the lay of the land even though I had never been here before, I knew what peaks to climb, which rivers to wade –I had seen it all… That night, we slept in the branches like a family of orang-utans the better to avoid all the nocturnal forest floor insects, mammals and possible Cacique. Like a true English gentleman, Daniel had made a separate 'nest' for himself (I wasn't sure how Doppler felt about this, I didn't ask). The following day, rainy and humid, saw us heading downhill towards a broad river that lay like polished silver amidst the lusciousness. Released from the cover of the broad leaves at last, I turned my face up into the rain, sticking out my tongue to capture the sweetness. I turned to see Daniel and Doppler sitting together on a hummock quietly talking, looking at something I couldn't discern, their heads were close. It was an intimate image, I turned away. Something had moved in the shadowed branches beyond them. I looked down at the terrain, muddy, tangled and sloping downwards. Keeping my back turned to them, I quietly spoke;
"Don't turn around or act startled, collect your belongings and when I say run, run."

Some movement of packs being put on, squelching of boots in soggy soil.
I charged downhill only glancing behind briefly to ensure the lovebirds were following, they were, and so too were about ten or twelve short, brown, semi-clad men wielding spears and hungry looks. We skidded and slid through the sodden ground cover. My boot caught under a ropy root and I practically flew through the air a few feet, Doppler was on her backside skidding along like she was on a sled, Daniel was frantically grasping onto her. Even though we were moving at speed, the friendly locals had no intention of giving up and were dashing down after us, whooping and bellowing. As the ground became viable for running again I led us towards a relatively open area. My breathing becoming ragged, I slowed and turned. Daniel had Doppler over one shoulder and was sprinting like an athlete towards me, packs and cases bouncing about all about him. I was totally flabbergasted. As he drew towards me he lowered her gently,
"Don't…ever…" she began, fists clenching and unclenching.
"No time for that, run!"
I cut her off as the hunters approached. We set off again, all on foot this time. Daniel was evidently tougher than I had first thought, and stamina – why the boy just kept going, seemingly tireless. We leapt boulders, scrambled over fallen trees, ducked creepers and vines, startled small furry things. Daniel assisted by hauling, dropping, pitching and flinging alternately myself and Doppler through verdant undergrowth. A spear shot by my right ear, continuing forwards I pulled it from the ground as I passed. I was running out of steam, Doppler and Daniel were faring better – youth, dammit, they pounded past like a pair of gazelles, I stopped and watched enviously.
So, this is how it would end, I thought to myself, and turned to face the pursuers. Calm, determined, I gazed into the middle distance, left hand holding the spear, right hand feeling the cold steel of three readied throwing knives. I am resolute; ready for anything. The primitive bunch were now about 200 yards away and closing fast, another spear soared my way, I wasn't about to let these bloody natives see my fear, I straightened my shoulders and watched as the spike pierced the earth mere inches from my feet, I glanced at it then raised my eyes, smiled and… I hurled the spear at the nearest, following up immediately with three gleaming knives. Each struck home. The leader toppled forwards, pushing the spear further into his body as he collapsed to the ground, three others, wounded, stunned, halted looking down at the shafts of metal protruding from their chests. The rest stopped, realising the prey bit back. I quickly pulled six more blades from my bandolier.
"Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough." I chanted under my breath.
As I threw three more blades a loud report close by made me start. A brown body dropped to the floor, turning my head I saw Daniel Tobias, a rifle to the shoulder, striding purposefully forwards, and dare I say it, manfully! He fired again, another fell, they began to flee, he fired yet again, he continued stoutly, implacable, impassive, British to the core! Was it my imagination or did the lad look taller? Doppler behind him was using her blowpipe, picking off the flanking figures, though they still moved, it was with a heaviness, slowly, with effort. Finally we were alone with six corpses. I retrieved what blades I could, unfortunately, three of the wounded had run with my beautiful steel in their bellies –that'd teach them.
"Miss Lockhart, are you alright?" enquired Daniel. "Absolutely Daniel. And might I say, that was damn fine shooting there, you saved my skin young man. Where on earth did you learn to shoot like that? And what about all that running?" "I, erm," he became all self-consciousness, slack shouldered and pink faced again, return to normal then! "I was taught to shoot by Sir Rowland ma'am. As for the running, I raced for my school." "And which school would that have been?" "Rugby ma'am." "Of course it was. And Daniel," "Yes ma'am?" "Please stop calling me ma'am. Lockhart will do. I might let you call me Lucy, one day."
I glanced at Doppler. She smiled shyly.
"Well, that was exhilarating wasn't it?" said I checking around for any missed weaponry.
"If you say so ma'... Ms. Lockhart." "I do Daniel, I do. Although, seems like you two have the upper hand when it comes to running away. What I can't work out Mr. Tobias, is, the extraordinary way you handled yourself just now, I had you down for a namby pamby, lily livered clerk, yet here you are, manfully taking pot shots at the natives with ne'er a flicker or quiver. Eh?" he pinked, again.
"Look at you, you stand before me like some virginal schoolboy…" "Lockhart!" gasped Doppler "…like some mummy's boy, twisting and squirming, yet you blast away like merry hell after running like a, well a cheetah!"
Daniel gathered himself.
"I saw danger to yourself and Miss Theodora. It is my duty as a gentleman, an Englishman, to protect and serve those in whose company I find myself. Sir Rowland taught me, Miss Lockhart, to always be respectful, be a man of honour if you can't be a man of greatness and I think I shall never be a great man Miss Lockhart, but I can at least try to be an honourable one, and so, my duty on this expedition is the preservation of Miss Theodora and yourself Miss Lockhart. Whatever it takes, I shall do it. If it means I must lay down my life, then that is what I will do."
Oh Lord, thought I. A real life Arthurian hero. Doppler gave his upper arm an affectionate touch. I held my hand out for the rifle. It was not like anything I had seen before. The basic shape of a standard safari rifle with addition of; multi-lens sights that could be swiveled into place, there was an extra barrel under the customary one that fired heavier ammunition, a magazine casement with ammunition selection switch, both front and rear sights could call up a metallic shield about them, exiting the barrels in a fan of bronze- like leaves. The cheek rest and stock were a beautiful deep red, polished to a satin finish, very comfortable to hold. I returned it to his hands respectfully. Hitching my pack over my shoulder and wiping the dirt from the blades I indicated we move out.
"Come on Galahad."
We came to a narrow tributary of the Amazon River, about eight feet across, dotted with floating islands, clumps of debris washed downhill with the rains. Raising our packs above our heads we waded. Something glided just beneath the surface, I halted so as not to draw its attention, Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh. Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches, creaks and croaks resounded all about. We crossed three more tributaries before the end of day. Exhausted and soaked in foul smelling swamp water. With the fauna of the forest reduced in our wake by; four stabbed snakes, a shot river dolphin, two blasted parrots, an incapacitated capybara, an assaulted alligator, numerous leeches burnt and a frog that popped when Daniel stepped on it, behind us, it was time to take it easy. On (relatively) dry land we made camp for the night. Whilst I cleaned my blades and blasters, Doppler did whatever one did to bright blue frogs to coax some venom from them, Daniel made tea, and jolly good it was too,
"You'll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel." Says I with a wry smile.
Doppler threw a deflated amphibian at me. I couldn't tell if his face went pink. After the time we had spent with the Auyan-tepui tribe and traversing the jungle, his exposed skin had gone from pallid, to overcooked and now was a light creamy tan. I looked at Doppler, she was tanned like a Diego, smeared about with slime and mud, and I obviously looked similarly weather beaten. Funny thing though. Despite our regular excursions, a week or two back in Blighty and we were back to our pale English complexions. After eating our fill we organised a watch system. It is amazing how noisy is in the rainforest at night, however, I sleep well, my conscience is clear you see. I do believe that those who sleep badly do so because of a guilty conscience, and what did I have to feel guilty about? Morning cast a brilliant light across my blameless features. Doppler was still snoozing like an innocent and Daniel was sat on a stump, rifle across his knees, head drooping like a dreaming soldier from a Burne-Jones painting. I mooched off a little way into the tropical green carrying a small hunk of capybara. It didn't take long to find what I was after. This one was deepest blue, almost black, winding down a low hanging branch, the dew glistening on its scales like tiny diamonds. As its tongue darted I swung the meat before it then dropped it to the floor. I crouched nearby and watched, fascinated as the six foot length looped and convoluted its way down to the meal. The tiger rat snake ate quicker than any snake I've seen before, the bulge midway down its slender body was quite comical to behold. As it turned to a vine to ascend back into the tree, I made a grab for it, I caught it by what could be deemed its neck, though who knows with snakes, ensuring that the head could not turn and bite me. It hissed. I already had a handy branch, allowing the creature to wrap itself around this and not my arm, the tiger snake constricts. Then, I returned back to camp, quietly. I approached Daniel from behind, held the snake close to his ear and squeezed, the inevitable happened. The tiger rat snake hissed angrily, Daniel, surprised into wakefulness, sat bolt upright, not daring to move a muscle. The snake hissed again, Daniel swallowed and unable to decide what sound he could make or how loud, began a series of quiet singsong noises to draw attention; "tut, tut, tut, Thea, Lockhart, yoo hoo, Lockhart woo hoo, hello-o, ah Miss Theodora, I wonder…",
This last to the now awake and really ticked off figure moving towards him. I straightened like a naughty child caught red handed, flinging the snake away from me. She was so cross, she couldn't speak, Daniel was bewildered, not for the first or last time in his life thought I, totally unaware of what had happened he wondered at Dopplers scowl towards me, what had happened to the snake he was sure he had heard close to his ear, why there was a sudden chill in the air.
The rest of the day was spent in chilly formality between Doppler and me. I don't think Daniel even noticed. After an hours brisk walking and then hacking through humid rain forest, we found ourselves face to face with the first idol; it was about six or seven feet high and thirteen feet wide; a strange crouching figure coming out of the base with a baby in its arms, the baby seemed to be part animal, a were-jaguar! The plateau was massive, mostly overgrown, but the immensity of the site was not to be underestimated by any means. Massive heads seemed to dominate the place. A vista of knotty vines, creepers, blocks of stone peeping from the green here and there, and about a quarter of a mile beyond, the recognisable top portion of a pyramid. This was it; this was what I had seen in my dream walk or whatever it was that happened that night when I drank the Shaman's drink, the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Using our knives we made our way excruciatingly slowly through the dense and matted undergrowth. It was as if the forest were deliberately hindering us, doing its utmost to prevent our progression. Innumerable times we had to stop to untangle hair, limbs or clothing from the restraining growth. The only way we were able to proceed in the right direction, was because I knew where to go. Further in we discovered four huge carved heads, they may or may not have been the rulers of La Venta, and they were carved from a single piece of basalt. The stones were covered in vibrant mosses, crawling with beetles of species we had never seen before, Doppler took specimens. I made drawings, Daniel took photographs of the location and carvings, some with myself and Doppler standing alongside for height comparison. The following day, after a restless sleep hindered by such noises that I hadn't heard before and biting insects that left us with tiny red blisters on our exposed skin, we continued looking over the site and found a number of relief sculptures of the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec deity, what was it doing here? I discovered a small opening in the side of a structure and Doppler and I squeezed through, Doppler being slight of figure found the egress much easier, I tore my blouse and snagged myself a number of times, but eventually we stumbled into a small ante chamber, the rest of the area was blocked off with rock fall, by the light of our torches we could see strange images painted across the walls and ceiling. Half men, half animals, more of the 'were –jaguars'. Doppler took notes and measurements whilst I searched broken, carved chests, bone piles and alcoves. We came away with a small cache of jade and serpentine objects. I didn't inform Daniel about all I had found.
Finally we neared our purpose. It turns out that Doppler had been researching in Sir Rowland Cornish's library – when she found time for this I haven't a clue- anyway, Doppler said the Pyramid was originally discovered by the Spanish around 1520, they named an expanse along the side of the Pyramid; Avenue of the Dead, as they believed the buildings running along it were tombs. My theory is that they were homes or shops, for why shouldn't ancient peoples trade, buy and shop the same as we do today in the nineteenth century? The area is largely overgrown, but the Pyramid can be seen through the density. Daniel assisted by Doppler made some measurements and calculations whilst I sat on an Olmec head smoking a cigarette. The base of the pyramid was about seven to eight hundred feet long on each side and two hundred feet high, we ascended the staircase of two hundred and forty eight steps, exhilarating and exhausting in this heat, to find more of the feathered serpent images here, weather beaten but still magnificent, plus what was once, most probably, a sacrificial altar. After spending half an hour taking in the view, photographing it, eating and taking respite, we descended again, to search for an entrance. Some long time rummaging, scraping and tugging eventually uncovered a likely ingress. Doppler and I made our usual preparations; weapons, ammunition, torches, packs for finds and so on. I turned,
"Right, Mr Tobias, we have discovered and located the place, you have made records in your fine hand, now it's my turn to collect. I would appreciate as little interference as possible from you. I will take what I please and you will not say a word. What happens in the pyramid stays in the pyramid, we don't talk about what we find in the pyramid. Do I make myself clear?"
He glanced at Doppler who simply raised her eyebrows and nodded almost imperceptibly, he nodded his head vigorously.
"Good." I smiled and rubbed my hands, "Then let the treasure hunt begin!"


As we walked our torch lit way along the entrance passage, I thought fondly of a similar trip I had made not so very long ago, in Peru. Almost lost the treasure to The Frenchman, ah Rene, I wistfully wondered what he was doing right now, more to the point who! The walls of the passageway were covered in carvings, angular in style, sometimes recognisable as heads, figures with human heads, figures with animal heads, strange symbols that Doppler says was a sort of Olmec writing. Daniel was keeping quiet to the rear, I could hear a feint rasping as of a pen on paper. We found ourselves circumnavigating a central chamber that was home to seven sarcophagi. The lids were plain, whilst around the base of each were strange cubic hieroglyphs. Surrounding the central plinths were what seemed like, hundreds of baskets. This is how many pre Colombian tribes would have buried the ordinary people of the time, some African tribes are known to have used this burial practice too, and so taking the lid off one was not going to be a surprise. Daniel wrinkled his nose and looked away as Doppler and I began opening coffin after woven coffin. We dug our hands in and felt around, every now and then coming out with a small trinket. Well, what would have been a trinket when the Olmec were living was now an exquisite and valuable find. A jade ring here, pendant there, and when I held a petite kingfisher jade maskette in the palm of my hand I was awestruck by its beauty. Made around 1200BC, it was as stunning in its simplicity and craftsmanship to me as it must surely have been to its owner. Be worth a few bob! Doppler and I were methodical in our searching, we left no cadaver unturned. Not every one of them had something to treasure, but a fair few, enough to pay off the Royal Society, and then some! Now for the seven sarcophagi in the centre. But no matter how hard we pushed, even with all three of us trying, we could not move a single lid. Giving it up as a lost cause I led the way through the opening opposite the one we entered by. Steps heading down. We entered a curious chamber. The ceiling was too low for us to stand upright, especially Daniel, we made our way, in a semi bowed position, through closely constructed columns faced in stylised carvings of animal heads, recognisable were deer, dog, rabbit and of course the jaguar. Our torches flickered as from a draught as we wended or way through the compressed labyrinth. Cheese coloured stones loomed out of the gloom, cubed designs covered the non-animalistic surfaces, Daniel scribbling away at the rear. We had to scramble over some collapsed masonry on a couple of turns and soon found ourselves at the centre – a dead end. One stone, centrally placed had the figure of a large male, arms outstretched from his sides. Kneeling about him were figures in supplication, I'd not seen this kind of figurative imagery in Mayan art before. I attempted to read the hieroglyphs about him; the feathered serpent god Qumqwikcoatle, the jaguar headed god, Ixchfleeassle and the main figure seemed to be named Juxtapositle, his head stylised larger as all the other heads we had discovered on the site.
"Seems to be a calendar" I muttered. "This must be it then." Whispered Daniel. "Can't be, doesn't make any sense" I replied irritably, "There is no main chamber, there should be more, the site above ground is larger, that's wrong."
And so I began retracing my steps.
"Here!" I pointed to one of the rubble piles, "This is where we go."
Daniel was about to protest when Doppler placed a hand on his arm and gently shook her head. She had that look on her face that meant I had that look on my face – the 'I may look and sound mad, but I'm sure as hell right' look. We dug, pulled, lifted and scrabbled. It took almost an hour of shifting debris but eventually a dark patch appeared, a gaping hole that smelt of dust and spice. Thrusting a torch ahead I crawled through, closely followed by Doppler and Daniel. Holding our torches aloft, we stared at the magnificence about us. We were directly beneath The Pyramid of the Sun and surrounded by more gold than I had ever layed my eyes on. Ornaments, offerings, statues, cases of coins, even the walls were covered in beaten gold, the light from our torches rippling over the fashioned surfaces like water. Daniels mouth hung open like a Bedlam inmate, Doppler was running her hands here and there over the hard, cool objects, we locked gazes, I'm sure the gleam I saw there was mirrored in mine.
"Oh my goodness," sighed Daniel, "The Academy will be so impressed…"
I span to face him,
"This goes no further Mr Tobias." I stated firmly. "But… but Miss Lockhart, they need to know this is here, you have found the most amazing thing and…" "Mr Tobias!" I bellowed, "This is my venture, my find. I will decide what I tell and to whom. You will not tell The Royal Academy about this room, this room does not exist, this room was never found. Do I make myself clear?!" "What about Sir Cornish, ma'am?" he asked meekly "And my reports?"
I stepped in close, the toes of our boots touching and thrust my face towards his,
"Mr Tobias" I breathed, "If you write, speak or sign a word about this room, I will rip your jewels from their pouch with my bare hands. This is my retirement fund, Doppler's retirement fund and, your retirement fund, if you can play the game. Now, are we clear? Or do I have to return home with a miss Tobias?!"
He gulped.
"Now" I continued clapping my hands together, "Show me the portables."
And with that, began appraising size, weight and value of various items, these would be the initial haul. I planned to return at a later date. Alone if need be. After a smallish payload had been assembled, I took a stroll around the dazzling chamber. I unconsciously scratched an itch on my chest, at the far end of the room a set of shallow steps led to a golden throne, astounding carvings covered the whole object with a giant Olmec head relief on the back. I scratched. Doppler was itemising finds in her book then packing them, Daniel was making his own notes (I must remember to read that later). Something, call it a hunch, made me take a peek behind the throne, I couldn't immediately discern anything. A warmth was spreading across my chest, as I rubbed, my hand touched the mystical pouch that hung about my neck, it was warm, was it my imagination or was the thing glowing faintly? Like a compass, I turned, directing the pouch, it glowed with a greater intensity at one particular point. I began scouring the wall. A noise made me turn, Doppler was there, itching away;
"What is it? Why am I itchy?" she enquired "I haven't a clue, but there's something behind this wall that I believe is causing it, help me."
We ran our hands over every lump, bump, ripple, recess and curve. Daniel approached, scratching his chest and mopping his brow with a linen kerchief.
"Ms. Lockhart, do you think this is a good idea? I…I mean, surely the erm, pouches are for our protection and if they're, well, activated, then doesn't that mean something? Ms. Lockhart?"
I sighed, stopped and turned,
"Daniel, I know you think me a scavenger- no don't bother to protest, that I am only after the financial gain, treasures, coin and so on. And y'know what? I may be that. But that's not all there is. Daniel," I stepped forwards and grasped both his arms, "There's the thrill of the chase, entering the unknown, discovering the undiscovered, does that not excite you? Do you not tremble with anticipation? Do you not long to know why?"
He tried to hide his fear, but I saw it there, writ large on his young, pale, Pre Raphaelite face. I let him go,
"Go and…write in your book Daniel." "I'm sorry."
I gave his shoulder a pat, "Don't worry yourself."
He clenched and unclenched his fists, his mouth showing the internal struggle. He pushed a fist into the other palm, clenched it and repeated the action, watching, a thought suddenly occurred to me. Back at the wall I located a series of four square hollows, I tentatively pushed my hand into one. My fingertips found something, I grasped the handhold and turned. There was a muffled scraping and grinding. Doppler and Daniel stepped back. I repeated the action in each of the recesses, each time followed a series of grating sounds as of stone locks opening far away. There was a groan, a puff of dusty air as if the stone had sighed and a gentle, slow grating as a huge slab began descending into a man-made hollow. We stood on the threshold of a darkened chamber. Giving Daniel a wink, I crossed over.


The light of three torches did not permeate the edges of the rough-hewn place. It felt more like a huge cave than a chamber under a pyramid. Time had caused rock fall here and there. The floor was bare stone, bedrock I guessed. The air was cool, still and scented, like spices; coriander, sage, cocoa and vanilla. I advanced cautiously, a tiny circle of light in a stone wasteland. After some moments, the light expanded as Doppler and Daniel followed. It was more like being outdoors than underground, it was breath-taking in its barrenness. We walked for about quarter of an hour, moving our lights to and fro, when of a sudden something was highlighted. I couldn't be sure at first if I was imagining things. I looked towards Doppler and Daniel. We remained silent, squinting into the middle distance. What we were looking at was surely not possible, such an incongruity. Ahead, all alone, was a small house. For some reason, this lonely little house held some sense of foreboding.
The house was built in the pre-Colombian style; Stone walls, open doorway, partially collapsed grass roof. It had stood the test of time well, apart from the hole in the roof. I circumnavigated it, then entered. Inside was a simple cot, wooden table upon which stood a long expired lamp, a single plate and clay beaker. The simple wooden chair contained a mummified form, upright in death. Clutched in its dried up hands was a stone tablet.
"Maybe, w…we shouldn't disturb him" said Daniel from the doorway. "We want to know what it says don't we." I tugged the tablet, it came off with his hands. "Oops"
Daniel shivered, Doppler suppressed a giggle. I pulled out my notebook, indicated Doppler to do the same, we compared notes and translated, well partially. Something to do with keeping the God Juxtapositle in sleep mode, to allow his people to rest, sacrifices, the Guardian was to recite this each day, end of the world – and the date…
"So, the dead guy was the Guardian and he basically read this, well, prayer I suppose, daily to keep the big boy asleep. But what did they think would happen when this guy died? Surely they would have replaced him? If they really believed all this, tosh, they knew he would die and so no-one would read the prayer. What a Dodo." Remarked Doppler. "You ooze with sympathy dear." I said. "But where, I wonder, is this deity?"
Beyond the isolated house the ground became uneven with roots from trees pressing through, here and there fat, woody things looped and twisted. Pieces of miscellaneous masonry lay as if scattered by a giant bowling ball. A regular row of low pillars came into view as we advanced. Before us was a narrow rift in the floor, we could not determine it's dark fathom, the smell of spice was stronger here, my chest itched incessantly from the tribal pouch, I was tempted to fling the damn thing aside, but I didn't. The gap was only about eight feet wide, but its yawning depth made it seem harder to traverse. The hip high pillars were ranged on both sides, with clumps of fallen stone protruding from every two, walking along we found a pair with its bridge intact. It seemed that at one time, there were quite a number of these small spans and over time they had crumbled away, now, only this one was left. Crude carvings on the threshold depicted three figures, one behind the other, as if crossing the bridge. Through the cavernous, vaguely lit expanse, something could be seen ahead, something huge. The tops of the posts had deep bowl-like indentations, I scraped my fingernails inside it and sniffed;
"Oil – or tar. Doubt if it's still flammable." "Well," began Doppler, "Oil is not a pure compound. Oil is a blend of many different sizes of what we chemists call 'hydrocarbons' or 'molecules'. These molecules range from very small to very large molecules. The lighter molecules will evaporate quicker than the heavier molecules that is, assuming the original oil was similar to our oil today, but if it was black oil, or tar, then the procedure would have…"
I held my torch to it – a small flame appeared. Cut off mid-flow, Doppler, hands on hips, scowled at me,
"I know stuff too y'know. Why is it always about you?" "It isn't." I replied irritably. "I beg to differ Lockhart, but when you have some wisdom to impart, we all have to bally well listen." It was getting lighter.
"That's not true." I objected, "You get to say stuff." "You still treat me like a child. I'm not a child! I can cope as well as you in any terrain you care to mention." She was beginning to pout. "Oh yes?!" "Yes!" We'd squared up to each other when, "Ahem." "What!" we both barked out at Daniel.
Looking about, I saw Daniel had been busily lighting about six bridge markers. We had a faint row of lights and now saw beyond the gap a tall statue of a naked male. Without speaking, we carefully made our way across the remaining bridge. Small crunching and rubbing sounds accompanied us as the ancient stones bore weight for the first time in Gods knew how long. On the opposite side, there were more signs of nature's egress. The stone figure was around ten feet tall, before him was an altar, dried up flowers were scattered about, ash piles of used up incense were around the feet of the figure, around the base of the altar and in little piles beyond. There were a number of shrivelled corpses around the altar. My gaze travelled from his feather crowned head down the length of his body. Doppler was stood by my side. We exchanged an arch look.
"Erm, Lockhart" Daniels polite, tentative voice, "There are more images on this side of the bridge." "Daniel, don't you think this is more interesting?" I gestured to the big man. "Christ, my whole chest is so itchy." I itched "Mine too" said Doppler, scratching away as if she had fleas. We began to check the dead. "Ms Lockhart."
Daniel had his hand on my arm, as I looked down he hastily removed it.
"Please, I think you should look at this."
I left Doppler to search the corpses, collect anything valuable or useful and make her notes. Daniel had lit the tar oil in the two posts on this side of the bridge.
"See here," he crouched down and pointed "Two figures walking away from us." "So?" "Well there were three on the other side." "Hey Lockhart! Look what I found!"
I turned to see Doppler had crawled up the stone figure like a spider. She had her right foot wedged in the gap between the statue and the wall behind, her left foot planted on his Nebuchadnezzar. Holding onto his shoulder with her right hand, her left displayed a rather sizeable gem. I looked back at Daniel, rising from his crouch slowly, mouth agape, turning again to a grinning Doppler, I heard the first crack. Both Daniel and I took a step forwards.
"Get down now." I said levelly "But there's something else back here" she protested. "I think it might be time…" another cracking sound and I saw the chink in the stone statue." "Doppler!" "Thea!"
Time seemed to slow down. Daniel, running forwards, arms reaching out, the pouches around his and Doppler's necks glowing, I looked down at mine, and it too was sparkling. A look of panic spreading across Dopplers face as she tried in vain, to free her right foot. Then time seemed to catch up with itself as the statue exploded in a shower of stone fragments and dust. I staggered back under the impact of rushing air, Doppler was falling, arms flailing, I began stumbling forwards as Daniel caught her, falling to his knees, they both crashed into the altar. A long airy sound, as if someone had taken a huge breath. Looking up, I beheld a man. Not a statue. Not a corpse, but a man. He was the very likeness of the now demolished statue.
I gasped. The head angled down and from his great height, the eyes found me. I felt pinned, like a butterfly on a board. The God raised his hands and looked at them as if seeing them anew. He was, to all intents, fully functioning, I almost said "Cor!" He spoke;
"Kuxa'an". Alive!
I crawled towards where Doppler and Daniel were huddled, semi-comatose. Shaking them both roughly;
"Get up! Get up and get out of here!"
I slapped Daniel hard, he flinched and struggled upright, Doppler was woozy, besides her outstretched palm lay the gem she had prized from the figure. I glanced up, Juxtapositle caught my intention, a frown crossed his brow, and he began to step down from his pedestal.
"Move it!" I shouted.
Daniel dragged Doppler to her feet, pulling his rifle from its fallen case. I pulled my guns from their holsters stepping between them and the colossus. It still moved sluggishly, well so would I if I'd been asleep as long as him, reaching down slowly, he attempted to pick Doppler up, she rolled sideways past Daniel, scrambling to her feet she pulled out a dart. The well-endowed man looked puzzled;
"Teen kuxa'an. Haanal. Teen hantik. Beet meen haanal."
His voice was like a gong, it reverberated around the place, causing small showers of dust to fall. He straightened himself up, puffed out his chest and roared. We had to cover our ears. Stones rumbled and bounced across the floor, cracks appeared here and there,
"W…w…what d...did it say?" whimpered Daniel, "He's hungry" I replied.
As I levelled my guns I shouted
"Now go!"
Daniel and Doppler began racing for the bridge, I fired a warning shot over the giants head, drawing his attention. The mournful head turned, a spark flared somewhere behind the deep brown eyes. He opened his mouth and fiery sparks rained down upon me. Amazingly, I felt only heat, no burning. I fired into his barrel chest, he paused, looked curiously at the pinhole there, now I'd really made him mad. He looked to where the youngsters were fleeing for the bridge, I saw his intent, and so I dropped to my knees and cried out;
"Oh great and mighty Juxtapositle!" He paused "Hear me oh wondrous one!"
I glanced behind, they were paused, waiting for me. I made shooing motions.
"Oh great and mighty God of…"
What was he the God of? Damn, I couldn't remember. They'd crossed the bridge, Daniel now stood with his rifle to his shoulder. The figure stood before me, legs akimbo (I really wish he wouldn't, from where I knelt…), waiting.
"Now look here old chap" I continued, rising to my feet, "you can't just go around demanding to be fed every time you are awoken".
He bent his face to mine, opened his mouth-opened it too wide-and sucked in, I felt myself dragged forwards, my boots scrabbled for purchase, on roots, masonry, anything. I was skidding closer, leaning backwards, I could feel the invisible tug on my belt buckle, my pack, my weapons. My hands raised involuntarily as if a giant magnet was drawing them forward and up. I had little choice. I let go. My Tesla gun and flintlock sped away and shot into his mouth. The force ceased immediately. I turned and ran. Daniel firing. Behind me I heard some bizarre swallowing noises, ahead – the bridge was gone. I skidded to a halt.
"It's what I was trying to tell you!" Daniel shouted across the void, "Three enter, two leave. There has to be a sacrifice!" "Ballocks!" I snapped.
Juxtapositle was coming my way, striding through the rubble like he was taking a walk in a cornfield. I hastily undid my whip from my belt-hook. The look of horror on Dopplers face nearly broke my stride.
"Daniel, keep it busy!" I yelled.
He began firing at the thing behind me. I cracked the whip, missed.
"Lockhart!" cried Doppler.
I cracked it again and managed to snag the pillar on the opposite side. I tugged once, it would have to do. Before I leapt, I saw Doppler cover her face, Daniels jaw slacken as he ceased firing. I jumped.


I cursed in a very unladylike manner as my shoulder crashed into the wall of the cleft and began pulling myself, hand over hand towards the faces bent above, reaching towards me, grasping my wrists and aiding my ascent. I tumbled over onto solid ground, gasping. Doppler was laughing and crying at the same time, we hugged like never before.
"Erm, ladies" came a soft voice "Hate to ruin this little reunion, but I think we still have a problem."
Turning, we saw the naked figure gazing into the abyss, then across to us.
"A quick calculation of his height and stride, plus the size of the gap…" Daniel began. "Run!" I bellowed.
We all scarpered as Juxtapositle made a few steps backwards then pounded forwards. We ran back into the dark of the cavern, heading vaguely in the direction of the odd little house. The earth beneath our feet reverberated with every step the pursuer took. Doppler was hastily trying to light her torch on the move, she stumbled on something, almost losing her balance and the torch. The light bursting on struck my eyes making them close automatically. Halting momentarily, we glanced around to get our bearings. The house was just behind us. We had run more than halfway.
"OK. Not far now to the doorway." "Do you think you can close it?" asked Daniel "I don't know. But it will slow him down a bit, hopefully. Keep going, here he comes."
The deity had slowed to a walk, his manhood swayed like a meaty pendulum, he looked pleased. Bringing his huge hands up, he clapped, a sound like distant thunder. Ah, now I remembered; Juxtapositle, a god of the interior, of the earth, of thunder and naturism. The clap kept resonating around us, the reverberations causing the ground to tremor. A distant scuffle and scrape made me glance about.
"What's that?" called Daniel, pointing ahead and to our right. I squinted into the gloom. Things were emerging into our lighted way, bent things, twisted, hands caught to their chests as if in spasm.
"Listen to me Daniel" I panted. "Get Doppler to the stone doorway. To the left of it was another series of sockets, turn three of them. Then when you see me, turn the last."
I was gasping and slowing down.
"We can't go without you." "You can and you will. You're both faster than me, we need to get it moving. Go!"
They ran. I slowed to a jog and watched them fade into the gloom, then I was alone, in the dark. The shuffling deformities were trying to block our passage, but I had faith in Daniel – I actually did, I think, well enough. I pulled my night goggles down and saw the animated cadavers shambling and in some cases, crawling towards me from the perimeter, and there was Juxtapositle, now strolling in a leisurely but determined manner towards me. I took off my pack and pulled out the roll given me by Meadows, Lady Celia Fox's Butler. On one knee, I kept an eye on the approaching enemy whilst readying myself. I removed the Pistol flamethrower, four throwing blades I held between my teeth. They were getting closer. I pulled the juju pouch from my neck and poured some of the contents down the barrel of the flamethrower, then scattered the rest in a semi-circle about me.
"Lockhart" I heard from the distance "We're here."
I began to run again, barreling into a crusty corpse, something went crack and it toppled over. Ahead I could see a light beckoning me. The thrown powder hadn't done as much to slow the deity and his mutilated minions as I'd hoped. The light was closer. I stopped and turned, hurled all four blades at the mighty chest then followed up with a blast from the flamethrower, turning to catch some undead in the process. The corpses went up like, well like the dried up husks that they were. Juxtapositle was shaken to a standstill. His hair was scorched, burns appeared here on there on his coffee coloured skin. His face registering astonishment. I ran again. At the stone doorway, two faces peered out, willing me on. "Now!" I yelled. I saw Daniel step to the side and perform the last action. I had a small way to go when the door started to ascend from the ground. Behind Juxtapositle roared in defiance and began to run. I could almost feel his breath at my back. The gap was eight foot wide. A clawed hand grabbed at my foot and I felt myself lurching forwards. Dopplers face was there, she was shouting but I couldn't hear for the pounding of blood in my ears, I thought my heart was going to explode. The gap was six foot wide now. I fired without turning, aimlessly but hopefully. I fired repeatedly until there was no more fuel. The gap was three foot wide.
"Haanal. Food" came the voice close by.
I dived as if into a vertical pool. Hands before me, chin tucked in. I sailed through the lessening gap as the hungry God arrived. He pressed himself against the stone, the stone portal slid into place. He screamed in anger, and agony. An appendage protruded from between the top of the doorway and its lintel. Doppler, Daniel and I stared in horrid fascination. "Wow." Was all I could think of to say.


Four months later, seated at the same table in the same café with Sir Rowland Cornish, this time I was next to him as Doppler and Daniel sat together.
"Jolly good show Lockhart." Chuffed Cornish. "And wonderful maps young man" he said to Daniel. "The Academy was very pleased with the amount of detail in your reports. Shame that the Pyramid of the Sun had internal structural damage, otherwise, what might have you found, eh?" "What indeed Sir."


The End





  1. Whew! What an adventure! That Lockhart is one special lady!
    Well done Alex, I really enjoyed this and look forwards to the next adventure.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Keith, did you manage to finish the first one? Thank you for your reply.