Part 22: Xeriscape
They drove for hours more in silence, the only time they stopped was for a massive pit stop (Gas and go) that Winston had to, finally, acknowledge. Out of the cities and towns, out of most human habitation, with only the stray house here, ranch there, and then nothing. Nothing except the beginning of a dessert like…nothingness. They left everything behind.
They still had one hour and forty-nine minutes before the sun rose. Winston’s watch was accurate, he knew that for certain. They were almost there, but all the interruptions (if the deaths of a limo driver and a squirrel and a massive pit stop taking in and letting out can qualify as interruptions)…he silently berated him for waiting so long to take Daniel. He thought, first, she would never take him into her house. Then he thought she would throw him out after taking care of his head. He waited until he could not wait any longer, knowing he was losing precious precise time. What started out pure and simple became a circus, and Winston hated the circus.
Ten minutes later, Ms. Hemple pulled over to the side of the road at Winston’s demand. There was nothing to be seen. The headlights of the car only illuminated so far, but with the skies clear and full of stars and a brightly waning moon, with the oncoming morning light just hazing off in the distance, she could see enough. Of practically nothing. It was an arid dusty setting, with plant life.
With plant life? She looked around, but did not see anything that was giving them water. These weren’t just cacti. There were lush leaved plants in groups. She counted nine such groupings just in the light from the car. Jennifer Rose put her hand on her hips and frowned a puzzled “huh?”
ZsaZsa got out at Winston’s demand, helping Elora out of the car as best she could, with her hands the way they were. Elora was flinching a bit, but her back was overall numb, and she felt a bit sick. They were both glad to finally be out of the car, and held onto each other a bit more as they made their way over to where Jennifer Rose was planted.
A bustle in her bosom area brought ZsaZsa attention to her chest. She wasn’t fast enough-the squirrel had wrestled his way out, up, stared at the car perched on her shoulder (just as Winston and Daniel were getting out), made a very rude noise (especially for a squirrel) and jumped off into the darkness. ZsaZsa mewed a “noooooo” and tried to chase after it, but Winston’s yell that he would shoot stopped her dead..well..stopped her.
Slamming the car door behind him, Daniel tried to walk over to Elora, but Winston just waved the gun in a “no-no” fashion. Waiting for Winston, they waited where they were.
Elora was looking down and around, noticing slight ridges in the dusty land. The ridges, what she could see in this light, ran from one of the clusters of plants to the other. The plants were what drew her attention at first. They were the same type of plants she had lain in, with dark green glossy leaves, so soft, naked under the stars, not that long ago. The night “someone, hmph” sneaked a peek and most likely took her bra. She turned her head to look for Daniel…
He was heading her way, well, their way, with Winston right behind. “We’re moving forward,” Daniel said, semi under his breath, not wanting to alarm Elora, or the others. ZsaZsa was still looking off into the night; Jennifer Rose came over, put her arm around her, and led the two of them behind Elora and Daniel.
“Walk about ten more feet. Then stop. The entrance to the labyrinth will be there.”
They looked and saw nothing but outlines of flatness and far away hills/mountains. They stepped on and over and around more bunches of the plant clusters. Daniel tripped over a couple of them, only falling one time. His entire attention was on Elora.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She quietly said: “shhh..it’s not your fault. This is just unreal in every sense. Just don’t get him mad until we can figure out how to get out of this.”
“I’ll do my best. I still don’t see what I…”
“Stop, Now.” Winston barked out, but regained his negative calm. “Daniel, do you see that large rock to your left? Go to it, and place both hands on it, and push. Now, Daniel.”
Daniel, with a nod from Elora, left her with the other two women, and walked over to the rock. From what he could see, it looked like a Metamorphic rock, but that was gonzo to Daniel, as there wasn’t anything around that could cause such a thing to happen. Something like this would have needed great heat and pressure, and…”oooopsawllahhhhhh”
Tripping over one of the base rocks, Daniel fell on the large-ish Metamorphic rock, throwing both hands out to prevent harm to his face or chest. His hands landed on the rock, hard, and his falling momentum pushed the rock ever so much.
It was enough. A whirling winding sound arose from beneath the rock, and then slid it and Daniel to the left. Where there was darkness now came a smattering of lights, dancing in the air in front of them. It sound died down, but the lights coalesced into one large pinpoint that grew. Grew some more. And…well, it grew until it outlined a tunnel, the inside of it which could only be seen by looking at it head on. Elora and Jennifer Rose (with ZsaZsa still glued to her) tried to look, but around the “edge” it was the same as before: lifeless dessert, except for the plant clusters.
Winston’s constant smile reflected the glow. “The Ratiocination Labyrinth. It is all true. Time for us to enter. Daniel, you must lead the way.”
He did, the women followed, with Winston behind them. They had not walked far in, when a horrible moan bolted into them. All but Winston were shaken.
“Daniel, prepare yourself. The Limbus Come are approaching.” he chortled, so unlike him, not.
Elora tried to reach out to Daniel, but the other two held her back as something wicked their way came.
Outside, Bob The Squirrel had been following them, waiting for an opportunity to get the big human back. He kept on eye on his charge as well, and was glad the other one was protecting her. That gave him more of a chance.
Daniel’s falling, and the opening of sound and lights, happened all too fast for Bob to do much of anything. As the others walked in, they did not look back to see the lights start to fade and the “entrance” start to close. Jumping with all his squirrel jumping powers, Bob made it into the tunnel as it sealed shut behind him.
Bob followed, and did not like what he was smelling.