(The story so far: On a trip through the desert, Alice and her caravan (Jack, Marie and Arbuck) come across a flying rock and a ladder. On the rock, they meet a stranded traveler named Brock, and find out the ladder was actually a giant lizard’s tongue in disguise. Now they are stranded on a rock with no way down. And the worst part: Their food fell down…)
Nothing but Parcheesi…
And Alice did think about it, but even as night was beginning to fall, no solution had come. First, she had considered constructing a ladder out of their clothes, but Marie was wearing too little of them for it to work. Then, she had figured they could use Brock to lure the Ladder Lizard, but Jack would probably not go for it. When her thoughts had ended up circling around building a human ladder to get them down, she finally gave up. They were stuck on a floating rock, six hundred feet up in the air, with the only way down the tongue of a creature that had no intent of waking up.
In the end, she gave up and joined the group. They were sitting in a circle on the ground around the Parcheesi board. Brock had given Marie his sweater and his pants and was sitting in his underwear, teeth clattering loudly. Arbuck was swaying left and right, already halfway drunk. Jack was, through some form of random luck that seemed to cling to him like a fly to honey, winning.
Alice sat down between Arbuck and Jack. She looked at Brock. “How did you get up here?”
Brock cocked his head towards the treasure chest. “Oh, you know. Walking through the desert, when all of a sudden I see that baby on a rock in front of me.”
Alice frowned. “This rock? In the sand?”
“No, another rock I just randomly mentioned. Is she always like this?”
Brock shrugged. “Of course it’s this rock. How else would I get up here? Besides. I wouldn’t be able to see the treasure from below. It’d just be a regular floating rock. Why would I get up that?”
Alice eyed Jack, who moved one of his pawns and sent one of Arbuck’s back to the stable. Why would you, right?
“So anyway. I walk towards the treasure chest. Only that’s when old Lizzy down there wakes up. Pokes her head out of the sand, opens wide towards me. I can see three rows of pointy teeth and my life flash in front of me. But then I think: No, Lizzy. Not today. I came here for treasure. Not to get eaten. So I jump aside, she slams her teeth down into the rock, swallows half of it in one swoop and sends the other half flying. So I hold on for my life and I brace myself for the fall.”
Brock grabbed the dice and played. Alice looked at him, waiting for the rest of the story, but it didn’t come. “So what happened next?”
He looked over to her. “I’m here aren’t I?”
“That’s impossible”, said Alice.
“Well”, Brock shrugged, “What goes up must come down, right?”
“And the treasure?”, asked Jack.
“You’re playing it”, said Brock, watching Jack boot one of his pawns from the game. “And winning.”
Suddenly, Arbuck jumped up. He drunkenly swerved backwards, almost went over the edge, then stumbled forward again. He looked around, eyes confused and panicking.
“Arbuck? Everything okay?”, Alice asked.
“What’s the matter boy?”, Marie grinned as she flipped one of Arbuck’s pawns, “Sore loser?”
Arbuck looked behind the treasure chest. “It’s gone.”
“What’s gone?,” asked Jack.
Jack shrugged. “Oh, that. Monster ate it.”
Arbuck looked at the group, slouched his shoulders and leaned down on the treasure chest defeatedly.
Brock got up from his spot and walked over to Arbuck. He wrapped his arm around him. “Come on. Let’s just play.”
Arbuck shook his head. “I’m hungry. And alcohol gives me the munchies”, explained Arbuck. Then, he pulled out his harmonica, turned his back towards the group and started playing the blues completely off-key. Everyone cowered like someone had just dragged a fork down a blackboard. Then, it got even worse: Arbuck started singing. “The man took my yums.” A few equally terrible tones from the harmonica. “No food in my tums.”
“Arbuck!”, Marie yelled, “It’s not going to get better by singing about it!”
“And you’re not my mum”, Arbuck sang.
Marie got to her feet, stepped over to Arbuck and snatched the harmonica. “No more singing.”
Alice sighed. “Guys!”
They didn’t listen and kept fighting over the harmonica. Alice looked over to Jack. “Do something about it, will you?”
But Jack just leaned back, grinned and watched the spectacle unfold.
Arbuck tugged at the harmonica. Marie slapped his hand. There was some back and forth, and while Arbuck, who was a man, was generally stronger than Marie, he was also pretty drunk. He grabbed Marie by the arm. Marie yanked him towards the group. Still sitting on the chest, Arbuck lost his balance. He toppled backwards, let got of Marie, tried to grab the chest at the last possible moment, but he was too heavy, and the chest just flipped together with him. Brock cried out. Jack and Alice jumped to the side (Jack laughing uncontrollably) as Arbuck crashed loudly onto the Parcheesi board. The chest fell to the side, flipped open the lid and smashed hard onto the rock. A stream of food rolled out of it and slid over the ground.
All eyes were fixed on Brock. Angry eyes, too.
“About that…”, he started. Then, he broke down completely. “Okay, okay! While you were busy looking at the Lizard, I switched out your food for rubble and put your backpack on the edge so it would fall down! Then, I figured I’d bore you guys to sleep with a dumb game and eat everything I wanted.”
“Hey!”, Jack said decidedly, “Parcheesi is not a dumb game.”
“We could’ve shared”, Alice said.
“And last for what, two days? Alone, I could last for weeks. All the way up to the next town!”
“I say we throw him down”, said Jack.
“Agreed”, Arbuck confirmed.
“Guys, we’re not throwing anyone down”, Alice said.
Arbuck rolled his eyes. “What do you say, Marie?
They all looked over to Marie. She was on the floor, squatted, in the middle of the food, her back to the group, and was eating. Correction: She wasn’t as much eating as she was shoving entire chickens down her throat without chewing.
Jack, Arbuck and Alice froze in their tracks, looks of horror on their face.