Category Archives: For you to read

Opposites Attract, pt. 4

(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?”

Everyone nodded.

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.

“The backpack!”

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.

Opposites Attract, pt. 3

(The story so far: On a trip through a dangerous desert, Alice and her caravan (Jack, Arbuck and Marie) come across a floating rock and a ladder that reaches high into the air. Eager for adventure, Jack and Arbuck climb the ladder. Alice sees no other option that to follow…)

The man on the rock

The ladder went all the way up into the sky. The higher Alice climbed, the more she clenched onto the spokes. She had never been good with heights, and this was no exception: her heart was ready to explode inside her chest.

And then, after what seemed like an eternity, the ladder stopped. Hands shivering, Alice let go of the top spoke and put her hands firmly onto the rocky surface in front of her. She lifted her left leg, put her foot onto the rock, pushed herself away from the ladder and, right leg dangling behind her, scurried onto the semi-safe floating surface. There, she turned around and slammed down on her behind, feeling that sitting was obviously the safest thing she could do in this situation.

Jack and Arbuck stood in front of her (Arbuck was sleep-standing). Jack waved excitedly at Alice. “It’s a floating rock!”

Alice grumbled silently. Luckily, Jack didn’t pursue the matter further. Instead, he took a step to the side. Behind him, a short, stubby shape slid into view. It was a man, a little under five feet in every direction. He had a large curly beard. On his head, he was rocking a big afro with a small bald patch in the middle. He was sitting on a treasure chest. “Oh, by the way”, said Jack. “This is Brock.”

Brock raised his hand. “Hi! I’m Brock. And I’m stuck on this rock!”

Alice eyed him confusedly. “What’s in the chest, Brock?”

“Nothing”, he said, and because Alice obviously didn’t believe the strange man on the rock, he added: “See for yourself.”

Brock opened the chest. Alice carefully got to her feet and wobbled over to the chest to look inside. For a second, she felt like she was back on the SS Transglobia with which had traveled across the Great Sea into the desert (pretty much the moment things had started going wrong). She had never found her sea legs on the massive ship – and this inexplicably floating thing was no different. She peered over the edge of the chest. Brock hadn’t lied. The chest was completely empty – safe for a Parcheesi game lying in the corner.

“Okay, okay. Nothing but a Parcheesi game in there. Dibs on the Parcheesi, by the way.”

Alice didn’t care for games and looked over to Jack (who tried his very best to hide that he did). “And he was up here?”

“Yep!”, Brock answered for Jack. “For three full days!”

Alice looked back to Brock. “Well, you can climb down now.”

“Actually, I can’t.” Brock’s face turned red; he stared nervously at his hands.

“Why not?”, asked Alice.

“I’ve got a fear of heights.”

Jack sighed. “Poor guy.”

Brock. “But don’t worry, I’ve got a plan! There’s a tower in the next town. It’s only three weeks by rock.”

“By rock?”, Jack asked excitedly.

“Oh right”, Brock answered. “I can steer it.” He moved all the way towards the front edge, stopped, and jumped. With a shock, the ground tilted forwards. From the corner of her eye, Alice could see the ladder topple backwards; she lunged herself towards the edge managed to grab onto it at the final moment.

Brock blushed. “Good thing you caught that. Would’ve been mighty dumb otherwise.”

“So every time you want to move the rock you have to jump like that?”

“It’s not a very efficient rock”, Brock admitted. “That’s why I take it slowly. Spare my energy, you know.” He looked at Jack. “Speaking of which. I could eat. Do you have anything to eat?”

Jack looked over to Alice, who stepped towards the backpack. “Do we?”

“We do. It’s rationed.”

“Hey guys!” Marie emerged over the rock’s edge. Still wearing nothing but her bikini, she gracefully descended from the ladder with a handstand like she was anywhere but six hundred feet up in the air.

“Marie!”, said Jack. “This is Brock.”

Brock didn’t say anything. Instead, he just stared at the new presence that had just joined the group, mouth slightly ajar like a dog that noticed a very tasty piece of junk food.

Suddenly, Alice could piece everything together. She pulled her eyes to slits and looked at the curly man. “You pervert.”

“What? Me? I’m offended”, said Brock.

“That’s a pretty serious allegation, Alice”, said Jack.

“That’s why the shadow was on top of Marie. You were following her.”

Brock looked at Alice. “I did no such thing!”

Alice got to her feet. “Yeah you did! You steered the rock over her so you could lean over the edge and stare at her- at her-“ Alice stopped and blushed.

“At her”, Jack helpfully corrected Alice’s intonation.

“You pervert!”, shrieked Marie, a delighted smile on her face as she walked over to him and playfully slapped him. “How could you?”, she added in a tone that quite clearly seemed to know how he could.

Alice leaned back into the ladder. “You can have your rock. I’m going back down.”

“Oh come on!”, Jack pleaded. “We’ve only just got here!”

“Yeah!”, Marie added, and winked at a very sweaty Brock.

“I have Parcheesi”, Brock told Marie.

She leaned into him. “I love games.”

“Yeah”, Alice answered, “especially the ones with people for pawns.” She turned to Jack. “Come on. We can’t share our supplies with a pervert. We’ve got four more days ahead of us. So let’s just go down, make this weirdo count to three hundred before he can take the ladder down-“

Alice stopped in her tracks as the ladder disappeared from underneath her. She toppled backwards and went over the edge. Her hands snatched hold of Arbuck’s surprisingly steady foot and she pulled herself back up. Back on safe ground, Alice turned around on her stomach and looked at the sands below. Jack and Marie followed suit.

Below, they could see the ladder disappear into the sand. It didn’t as much fall forwards, backwards or to the side as much as it just  went limp. Just before it disappeared entirely, a huge, gaping lizardlike mouth sprang from the ground and snapped itself shut, the ladder inside it.

“Damn Ladder Lizards.”, said Brock. “Well, at least we’re in nice company, huh?”

The Ladder Lizzard scurried around the sand, turned around its axis once, lay down and went to sleep. Alice jumped up and rushed towards Brock. “You could’ve told me that ladder was actually a lizard’s tongue!”

Brock shrugged. “I thought you knew. Come on, it’s a six hundred foot tall ladder lying in the sand. What are you, daft?” He pulled his eyes to slits. “Besides, you kept interrupting me.” Then, he looked over to Jack, Arbuck and lingered on Marie. “Anyone up for Parcheesi?” He glanced back to Alice. “Anyone not rude.”

Alice sat down. She’d need to think this situation through. “Well”, she said with a sigh, “At least we’ve got our food.”

She took a step towards the backpack, but it wasn’t there anymore. The force of moving of the rock had made it roll towards the edge. The pack was dangling, half on the rock, half suspended in mid-air. Everyone shrieked in panic at the same time. Jumped towards the backpack. And watched in horror as the food went over the edge. It fell into the sand with a thud. The lizard stuck out its laddered tongue, wrapped it around the backpack and lazily swallowed it in one big gulp.

“Our food!”, Alice cried.

“This is your fault!”, yelled Marie.

“How is this my fault?”, Alice retorted.

“Who puts down a backpack on top of a floating rock?”

“Rocks don’t float! And it was your turn to carry the pack! But no, you wanted to get a tan!”

“You’re just jealous because I have better skin!”

They were interrupted by Jack stepping over the ledge. Alice and Marie could barely snatch him by the waist and keep him from jumping down. They looked at each other.

“Shake hands?”, said Alice.

They shook hands.

Alice peered over the edge. Then, she nudged Arbuck. “Hey. Time to wake up.”

Arbuck groaned and turned away from her.

Alice grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him back and forth. “Arbuck! Wake up!”

Arbuck mumbled something about making him and Alice not being his mom.

Alice slapped Arbuck in the face. Finally, he opened his bloodshot eyes. The sunlight burnt at them; he pulled them to slits and lowered the rim of his hat. “Mornin’ dudes”, he said with a wink.

“Morning Arbuck!”, said everyone but Alice.

Arbuck looked around. “What did I miss?”

“Not much”, said Jack, “But we’re stuck on top of a floating rock.”

Arbuck shrugged.

“Anyway”, Alice said hastily, “We need your markmanship. Shoot that lizard. But don’t kill it. Anger it.”

Arbuck peered over the ledge. Then, he grabbed his revolver, coolly said “I got this” and accidently dropped it. The gun almost went over the edge, but swerved and bounced onto the rock at the last possible moment in the most miraculous bit of luck of the century.

Arbuck got to his knees and picked it up. “All part o’the plan.”

Alice groaned. The gunslinger stood up. “I’ll sock the sucker right in the eye. Won’t know what hit’em.” He carefully inched towards the edge, stretched his right arm downward, closed one eye, slowly adjusted his aim… and squeezed the trigger.

The gun let out a metallic bang. Arbuck seemed pleased with himself for a brief moment; then, he threw himself backward onto the ground as the bullet flew back up, past the rock and into the sky. Arbuck jumped up, let out a frustrated cry and fired five more shots at the creature, but it didn’t work. The bullets ricocheted off the lizard’s body like rubber.

Arbuck looked at Alice. “Gonna need a bigger bullet, chief.” He pocketed the gun, pulled a flask out of his leather coat and took a sip.

Marie rubbed her temple. “So what now?”

“Parcheesi”, said Jack.

They all agreed on that. Except for Alice. She sat down, legs dangling over the rock’s edge, and stared at the horizon. She was going to have to think about this.

Caravan is going on hiatus for a bit. To be continued in February!

Opposites Attract, pt. 2

(The story so far: Alice, a lowly insurance agent, finds herself on a highly forbidden trip through an uncharted desert with Jack (captain), Arbuck (gunslinger) and Marie (cook). Out of nowhere, Marie starts screaming…)

The floating rock

Everyone stopped in their tracks and turned towards Marie. She was standing between them, third in line. Arbuck, who was sleepwalking, bumped into her. Disgusted by the smell coming from his mouth, Marie pushed him away from her.

Alice immediately was on her toes and scouted the horizon, but there was nothing to be seen. “What is it?”, she asked.

“The sun is gone!”, Marie shrieked.

Jack immediately looked up. Alice gave Marie a closer look. The cook had goose bumps on her normally immaculate skin. That was because she was standing in a shadow. A very local shadow, mostly round, and about three meters in diameter.

“It’s just a cloud, Marie”, Alice said. “Just step out from under it.”

“I can’t!”, Marie cried. Alice and Jack eyed her critically.

“Fine. See for yourself.” She took a step forward. For a split second, the scorching sun shone on her skin; then, the shadow gave chase and repositioned itself firmly on top of Marie.

Alice and Jack would have loved a bit of cooling down – after all, they had had nothing but sun for days on end now. Especially Alice, who had freckles and flaming red hair, would have welcomed a chance to stop looking like a boiled lobster.

Jack looked at Marie with a frown. He thought for a second. Then a grin appeared onto his face. “A domesticated shadow. Cool!” He rushed forward, jumped into the shadow and landed into the cool sand next to Marie. Immediately, the shadow pulled its dark tip away from Jack. Jack groaned angrily, grabbed hold of Arbuck and leaned the snoring gunslinger into the circle. It responded just the same: by sticking closely to Marie. It appeared the shadow only wanted to cover her.

Jack put Arbuck back into the sand and leaned into him, lost in thought.

“I’ll never get a tan now”, Marie said disappointedly. This was nonsense, of course, as she had been getting nothing but gorgeously tanned for three days now.

Alice, meanwhile, covered her forehead to block out most of the sun and  looked up. She stared at the strange shape floating in the sky, then back down, blinked to adjust to the change in sunlight, and looked at the crew. “Oddly thick cloud.”

Jack frowned and looked up, leaning all the way backwards into Arbuck. His mouth fell ajar like a little kid looking for adventure. “That’s not a cloud.”

“Whatever it is, get it off of me”, said Marie.

“We can’t”, said Jack. “Because it’s a floating rock.”

Alice shook her head. “Rocks don’t float, Jack.”

“They do here!”, Jack exclaimed.

Alice rolled her eyes. They’d had this discussion countless times. From day one, Jack had been convinced magical powers were at work in the desert. And as much as Alice tried to convince him there was no such thing as magic, especially not desert magic, it never quite stuck.

“I don’t care if it floats or not”, Marie groaned. “I just want my sun back. Hey Arbuck, can you shoot it down?”

Arbuck responded with a loud snore.

“Useless as always”, said Marie.

“A flying rock, how about that…” Jack had a boyish grin on his face. He leaned further back into Arbuck. The gunslinger was now standing in the sand leaned back at a forty-five degree angle.

“Rocks don’t fly, either.”

“You can’t be sure”, said Jack.

“You can be quite sure”, Alice said.

Jack pushed Arbuck as far back as his drunk body would allow. Alice was just about to ask why he didn’t just tip over when she noticed something around his feet. It was a wooden frame.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

Jack let go. Arbuck toppled forwards like a domino block and crashed face-first into the sand. His feet flung upwards and dragged the frame from the sand. Only it wasn’t a frame.

It was a ladder.

As Alice pulled the snoring cowboy out of the sand and placed him neatly in an upright position, Jack started pulling the ladder out of the sand. The ladder rose; first, above his head, then twice the size and then three times his length, with no end in sight. After a few seconds Marie jumped in to help. Together, they pulled and pulled for at least three minutes, until finally, they could hear a silent thud. The top spokes had bumped into the flying rock, at least six hundred feet up in the air. Marie stepped aside again; Jack got out into the sun. Swaying left and right trying to balance the never-ending ladder, he raised it a final couple of meters higher and then leaned it against the floating rock.

Alice pointed at the base of the ladder, which was still sticking deep inside the sand. “How long do you think it goes on for?”

Jack shrugged. “Does it matter? It’s high enough.” He placed his right hand on one of the spokes. Immediately, Alice grabbed the hand and pulled it off. “Hold on. What are you doing?”

“There’s a floating rock in the sky and we got a magical endless ladder”, Jack shrugged.

“Rocks don’t float. But whatever it is, it could be dangerous”, Alice said.

“Relax”, Jack answered and started climbing. Alice watched, groaning as the captain disappeared up into the air and into the sunlight. “Well then, I guess we wait”, she said, but as her eyes veered back down to the base of the ladder, she could see Arbuck climbing the ladder as well.

Now you’re awake!?”, she cried.

Arbuck cocked his head over towards her. His eyes were firmly closed. A line of drool dripped from the corner of his mouth. He was still sleepwalking – only vertically.

Marie wanted to step towards the ladder, but Alice stopped her. “No! You stay down.”

“Why? It’s my rock.”

Alice shook her head. “If that ladder moves one inch, it’ll tip.”

“Oh”, Marie admitted, “Good point.”

Alice grabbed hold of the ladder and pulled herself upwards. “Stay here.”

“In the shadow”, Marie grumbled.

“Might do you good”, said Alice. “I think I see some sunburn on your shoulder.”

Marie shrieking in the background, Alice started climbing.