One Gargantuan opening.
The pair fell backwards into darkness. Smack! They landed on a sheet of rock that precariously balanced on a monumental stone platform. The sound of the impact echoed through a vast tunnel system. From all directions golden fireflies emerged from the rocky cave walls. When the swarm located the source of the sound, they clustered about the new arrivals. The burning firefly glow revealed an extensive cave system lined with tracks which resembled roads. Each individual track’s wall revealed a series of symbols including moons, sunshines and animals.
With a look of uncertainty, Ghost glanced at Davina. The platform wobbled.
‘Don’t move,’ whispered Davina, while she attempted to fathom where they were.
The pair sat as still as they could but Ghost was distracted by a wall of violet fireflies flying towards them. With a sudden head motion he turned to look at them and… whoosh!
‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!’ screamed Ghost, with an urgent grab of Davina’s arm.
The rock plummeted but perfectly aligned with one of the tracks. That particular trajectory navigated the top level of the walls through the entire cave system. Sunshine symbols were spaced evenly along the route. With numerous twists and turns, their motion attracted more firefly attention. Clusters of the creatures gathered beside the track and lit their course like a luminous runway. As they sped along they noticed hundreds of tunnels leading in all directions.
With another jolt, the rock lurched and changed direction. ‘Where are weeeeeee?’ Ghost screamed in Davina’s ear.
Davina grabbed her stomach and clung onto the rock with the other hand. With a look of horror she realised they were about to undulate like a rollercoaster. She felt queasy, yet the place felt strangely familiar – it was as if she had been there before.
‘Ahhhhh!’ screamed Ghost in absolute terror. The rock picked up speed and whooshed down through the nearest tunnel.
The pair were thrown in circles, looped the loop and for a short while even travelled upside down! The shooting stone gradually slowed down and passed through a waterfall. Ghost instinctively protected himself but unexpectedly the waterfall parted for their arrival.
‘Amazing,’ Ghost muttered under his breath.
A massive carved stone gate towered above them. Ghost tilted his head to the side. It was not like your average gate; it was part of a solid mirror-wall. That wall didn’t appear to reflect anything in particular either. What made it even more peculiar was that it did not appear to lead anywhere. So what was the point of it? Ghost sucked his lip between his teeth and scratched his cheek. A secret gate behind a waterfall? What were the chances of that?
Either side of the gate two carved stone creatures reached out. Each animal appeared to be a hybrid like a lion and a wolf or a bear and a dragon. Each had a giant smile, huge eyes and an incredibly muscular physique. Ghost stepped closer and studied two of the larger animals. The statue’s eyes felt as though they were following his every move. What’s more, both of them carried bizarre looking staffs with coloured orbs nestled on the end.
Ghost side-glanced the statues, when he looked away he was sure they moved. Whenever he looked directly at the Gargoyles, they stayed still. He stepped forwards, peered closely at the statues and slunk over to Davina. ‘Davina I think those statues might be moving,’ he whispered.
‘And?’ said Davina vacantly, absorbed by her own thoughts.
‘And don’t you think that’s just a little bit weird?’ said Ghost folding his arms.
Davina pulled Ghost towards the gate. The pair stood right in front of the two carved faces.
‘Look they’re still. It’s just your eyes playing tricks on you,’ said Davina.
‘My eyes don’t play tricks!’ Ghost replied sulkily.
Davina looked down at the ground. Piles of pebbles rested at the base of the gate.
Wink! Went the half-lion statue.
‘Did you see that? It’s bloody alive Davina!’ screeched Ghost jumping backwards.
‘Boo!’ said the two stone animals in unison, with a giggle.
Ghost’s eyes almost exploded out of his head!
‘Got yer!’ they said in a strange burp-like noise. ‘Welcome back Regina Davina. You were only gone for such a short time. Did you have any success?’ They spoke in an affectionate tone.
Davina shook her head. ‘I don’t think so… I couldn’t actually tell you… but thank you for your enquiry.’
The Liongoyle side-glanced his Wolfgoyle colleague, ‘Davina is something wrong? You don’t seem your usual sprightly self?’
‘It was hard out there. Plus I had a bit of a problem with my memory…’ Davina replied sadly.
‘Oh… I understand. I heard it’s like nothing else out there,’ the Wolfgoyle howled in Gargantuan.
Davina nodded, ‘I guess you’re right. You know what? It’s lovely to see you again.’
‘It’s always a pleasure for us Regina,’ said the Wolfgoyle with a tap of the staff.
Ghost stared with his mouth agape. ‘Davina a stone statue just talked!’
‘It happens…’ breezed Davina.
‘No it doesn’t just happen! Davina you’re freaking me out! A wall just actually talked and you talked back to it in burps!’ said Ghost trying to justify the odd conversation to himself.
The Wolfgoyle waved his staff. ‘And now you are both granted access through the Goylegate to Gargantuan. May you have many inspiring experiences.’ The Liongoyle ushered the children through.
Ghost and Davina followed the Goyle’s gesture and climbed back on the sliding stone. They glided effortlessly through the silvery wall before them. On the other side of the wall a second turquoise waterfall towered above them. Upon their arrival it lifted to allow the pair into a cavernous area of sparkling white stalagmites and stalactites.
‘Davina did you see that?’ said Ghost staring at the underside of the lifted waterfall.
‘Yes I saw it, amazing isn’t it?’ she replied without any excitement in her tone.
Ghost stared at Davina, he couldn’t understand why it was all so normal for her.
Once inside the cavern, pumpy folk music echoed about them.
‘Davina what’s that noise? It sounds like someone burping a song.’
That wasn’t how she heard it. The haunting melody reminded her of something, but she didn’t quite know what. All the while, Ghost attempted to look in all directions at once.
‘What are you doing Ghost?’
‘Trying to find a way out,’ he replied urgently.
‘Ghost we’ll be fine. I think I know where we’re going.’
‘How can you?’
Davina shrugged, ‘I just have one of those familiar feelings, like I’ve been here before.’
The sliding rock came to a standstill. Before them, the cave system stemmed out. Davina and Ghost carefully climbed off the rock and surveyed the area. The first part of the cavern was full of limestone stalactites leading to a brighter area. Davina strode ahead while Ghost stood transfixed by a puddle. Water defied gravity and dripped from the ground up into the air. Some of the water even twisted about the stalactites to the ceiling. Ghost followed the path of water and froze. A river rushed along the roof above him.
‘Ghost… I know it’s bizarre but we have to keep going,’ said Davina looking up.
‘Davina… that whole river… could… well… fall on us at any time,’ cried Ghost with alarm.
‘It won’t,’ she reassured him.
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘I just kind of know.’
Ghost studied Davina, ‘You know what? I really don’t get you! This is all so odd to me, and for you… well it’s just normal.’
Davina shrugged, ‘It just seems familiar. Maybe it’s because I have no memory or anything to compare it to.’ Davina was silent for a moment. ‘I think we need to find the source of the river and then we might gain a clearer idea of how it works.’
Ghost didn’t know whether he wanted to find the source. Maybe they should leave before things got out of hand.
‘Come on,’ said Davina tugging at Ghost’s jacket.
Ghost reluctantly followed Davina through the limestone cavern. The walls carried a pearly shimmer and odd nodules appeared to be growing from the walls like horns. Some of the stacks even resembled piles of melting ice-cream. Other areas had vertical limestone towers rising up from the central rock. Water weaved in tracks along the walls in small sideways streams. The streams led to the edge of a plateau where an enormous waterfall rose up into the air, looped the loop and transformed into a wall of rainbows. Beside the wall of rainbows stood a city carved out of sparkling, white limestone. ‘Welcome to Gargantuan,’ was written on a hovering sign in Gargantuan language.
‘What does it say then?’ asked Ghost, guessing Davina was reading the carved shapes.
‘Welcome to Gargantuan,’ said Davina matter of factly.
‘Oh,’ said Ghost ‘Of course… how stupid of me.’
Davina gestured for Ghost to follow her to the city.
‘I’m not going into a city in the middle of the earth. What if they eat us or something?’ insisted Ghost folding his arms.
Davina huffed, why was Ghost frightened? It all seemed so alien to him and so familiar to her. ‘Ghost chill out, we’re safe here.’
‘Oh, of course we are. How silly of me to not know that. I’m sure everyone knows how safe it is here!’ said Ghost surveying the area.
‘Ghost!’ urged Davina, grabbing his forearm.
‘Look it just feels weird okay Davina? Look at this from my point of view: I’m a kid who fell through a cave wall. I have seen statues talk, a river on the roof and a city inside the earth… I need a bit of time to get used to the idea okay?’ Ghost paced about for a moment muttering to himself. ‘I’m in a dream. I’m in a dream… that’s it… this is a dream.’ Ghost came to a standstill and looked back at Davina. ‘Right I’m okay now,’ he paused, ‘So who actually knows about all this? I mean, it’s right here below our noses.’ Ghost shook his head, ‘Davina this is so weird – a secret city…’
‘A Caesus city…’ she said with a frown. How did she know that?
‘What’s that when it’s at home?’ Ghost asked as he followed her reluctantly.
‘I believe it means invisible or not to be seen. Plus it’s behind the waterfall, making it obvious it’s not intended for outsiders to know about,’ she said.
‘But I know about it.’
Davina studied Ghost’s bemused face. ‘You must be special then. I bet your eyes have something to do with this. Otherwise you couldn’t be here.’ Davina tried really hard to think. Her mind was still blank. So how did she know that?
‘So how come we got in?’ asked Ghost.
‘I really don’t know. They knew me didn’t they? I wonder whether they would have killed you if I wasn’t there?’ she pondered aloud.
Ghost shuddered. ‘But they were just statues… Surely they wouldn’t just kill me. Not just like that. Would they?’ He considered the implications thoughtfully.
‘Ghost they’re not just statues. They are warriors. If you had tried to enter and they did not want you to come in, they probably would have killed you. I guess they’re only being nice because you’re with me.’
Ghost climbed over a boulder blocking the path and jumped down next to Davina. ‘Well they looked friendly enough to me. Plus one winked at me and that means it liked me!’ Ghost sucked the inside of his cheek. Nothing added up. The more he tried to understand, the more his mind revolted. It kept convincing him he was in a dream.
‘It’s no accident that you are here Ghost. That is all I know but I don’t know how…It must be automatic knowledge or something – there is no logic to it though…’ she said with an unconscious shake of the head and a strained expression.
Ghost raised an eyebrow; he had no idea what she was on about. ‘This place is like nothing on earth,’ he said standing catching his breath. The city was so serene and beautifully designed – you could not help but feel inspired. Even the entrance being hidden behind a waterfall provided a sense of calm before entering Gargantuan.
There was a massive, glittering crystal plateau ahead of them. On the far side of that plateau two small children sat playing a game. Davina scrambled down an ornately carved, limestone staircase and tentatively wandered over to where the children were sitting. She jolted when she saw the pair close up and struggled to suppress any obvious reaction. They looked like human children but the small girl had gravity-defying blue hair. That hair wafted about her as though it was floating in water. Her eyes were pale violet and her skin was a shade of silver. The boy had purple hair made up of four pointy spikes. The individual spikes had gold lizard-like creatures sitting on the top observing the game they were playing. Each of the children had ten frogs of different colours. Each frog hovered on a multidimensional board. The children played by whispering their moves to the frogs. It was much like drafts, but the frogs jumped each other when necessary. When things got nasty, the frogs could shove each other into orbit around the board. There they spun round and round until another frog was jumped. Sometimes the frogs spun so intensely that they vomited.
‘Excuse me,’ Davina gently broke in.
The two children looked up. Both instantly bowed their heads.
‘Regina, how fortunate for us. We thought you had left for the outside world. Did you find out anything about your father?’ asked the small girl.
Davina shook her head, ‘What do you know about my father?’
‘You are joking aren’t you ma’am?’ the blue haired girl replied in disbelief.
Davina shook her head solemnly.
‘Regina, your father was captured by the Grotesques -remember?’ continued the small girl, studying Davina intently.
Davina watched one of the coloured frogs leap the opposition’s frog. The leapt frog spun through an orbit whilst another frog leaped over it. It hopped to the side of the board, vomited, put on a stupid hat and waited for the game to reveal a winner.
Davina sighed, ‘When I went out to the world I had a problem with my memory. Can you give me an idea of what’s going on?’
The two children giggled.
‘I’m sorry but I’m not joking. Something happened when I got out there,’ replied Davina with a forlorn expression.
The children frowned. ‘What about the Goyles? They were sent to help you.’
Davina looked quizzically at Ghost. He shrugged – he had no clue what was going on.
‘What are Goyles?’
The two children gasped; they couldn’t believe their ears.
‘Regina Davina, do you really not know what the Goyles are or are you playing with us? Like trying to test us?’ said the girl very seriously.
Davina shook her head, ‘I’m not joking.’
Ghost watched the group talking, it sounded like a series of burps with clicks. He was already bored of feeling foreign, it reminded him of when his parents packed him off to Spain when he was eight and all the adults talked at him and patted his head. He decided the best thing for it was to have a little rest. Ghost stretched out and stared up at the sky; if he was inside the earth then why was there a sky? Was it actually a sky? He wondered.
Davina watched Ghost out of the corner of her eye; he seemed like he was about to go to sleep.
The floating haired girl summoned Davina over. Davina sat down next to her and watched the four remaining frogs.
‘Davina you demanded to be sent to the outside world because the Grotesques captured your father. They took him because of you know what.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ said Davina honestly, hoping the blue haired girl would elaborate.
The small girl glanced at the spikey-haired boy, ‘Davina your father was the ruler of Gargantuan. You are…’ she glanced at her play partner who appeared stunned by Davina’s lack of knowledge.
‘And what is he now?’
‘He is the prisoner of the Grotesques. They captured him and took him to the outside world.’
Davina racked her brains, why couldn’t she remember? ‘Okay… so why did I end up out there?’
‘You went to rescue him,’ ventured the small boy tickling a frog under the chin.
‘And?’ Davina urged.
‘The Goyles were searching for you, to guide you,’ replied the small girl with a frown.
Davina stared wretchedly at the ground. ‘It doesn’t bring back any memories.’
‘Davina, you need to talk to Thalia, the wise woman. She will know what to do. Maybe she could bring back your memory.’ The small girl clapped with excitement.
Davina scratched her head, she felt thoroughly confused – she just couldn’t remember.
Davina gazed about Gargantuan. There were only a few inhabitants and those residents appeared to be preparing to leave? Was Gargantuan in trouble?
Davina’s thoughts were broken when the spikey-haired boy pulled a necklace from around his neck. That necklace was very similar to the one she was wearing – a silver lump with a hole either side. He placed the holed locket in his mouth and made a high-pitched sound.
At the sound of the boy’s whistle, a purple flame sprung into the air in front of them.The flame increased in size with a crackle and grew increasingly violet until a door magically appeared. A woman with long silver hair, feline features and leopard spots down one side of her body emerged from the door. Was she the wise woman they were talking about? From where she stood, a metallic liquid trickled to the ground enabling a series of stairs to materialise. The wise woman stood for a moment while she considered the scene before her. From standing, she dropped to all fours and bounded down the stairs like a leopard.
Ghost squinted through one eye, sat up and gasped. The odd-looking woman shifted on all fours in a big cat-like way. She couldn’t eat him could she?
Once the woman had bounded down the steps, she returned to standing and thrust out her left arm. A call from a huge white eagle sounded. With a swift motion it circled once before descending to land on her arm.
The expression of complete wonder filled Ghost’s face.
‘The rules are different here. I thought you would have guessed that outsider. It’s all about perception here and nothing else,’ said the girl. ‘Your mind has to be more open here. There are few limitations,’ she continued.
All Ghost could see was a small girl burping and gurgling.
‘What did she say Davina?’ asked Ghost keeping his eyes trained on the wise woman.
‘The rules are different here,’ Davina interpretted.
Ghost shrugged and turned to watch the wise woman. As she glided towards the group, she stroked the eagle and whispered something before she set it free.
‘So you summoned me?’ said the long, white-haired, wise-woman with a feline but gravelly voice. Her manner was kind and her posture erect, yet her motion was incredibly elegant. With a hint of a twinkle in her eye she watched Ghost’s reaction as she tapped her hip. An oversized staff materialised from thin air.
Davina studied the wise woman. The silver material making up the woman’s robes and the ring sending out rays of light were familiar. However there was something very special about her staff – numerous carved, wooden animal heads writhed. They seemed to be miniature versions of real animals like dogs, horses, beavers, mice, pigs and panthers. Each animal jostled for attention, wrestling its way to the top of the staff for a better look. The animals settled then harmoniously muttered her name. ‘Regina… Davina…,’ they whispered in unison.
Ghost was spellbound by the sight before him. He had never seen anything like it. How did it work? How could carved animals move? ‘That’s so weird,’ he exclaimed.
As he spoke, the animals shifted and scrutinized him.
‘So you recognise the staff Davina,’ purred the wise woman. She spoke with a deep, soft, feminine purr. ‘The animals here are the ones you grew up with. Now come with me and bring your dangerous young friend.’ The wise woman eyed Ghost. ‘Interesting. Davina… you didn’t think to give him a translation tube did you?’
Davina shook her head. ‘Sorry… but I have no idea what that is.’
‘You’ll recognise it when you see it,’ reassured the wise woman, blowing on her hand.
A long silver tube appeared with a bung on the end. It looked like a kind of paperclip with an eraser attached.
‘Davina tell your friend to attach this to his left nostril.’
Davina stared at the tube in wonder; she then passed it to Ghost.
Ghost frowned at the silver tube. ‘What’s that for?’
‘It will allow you to understand the language. Oh and guess what? She knows you’re dangerous.’
Ghost frowned and examined the tube, ‘so what do I do with it?’
‘Erm… she told me you have to attach it to your left nostril,’ Davina replied, as she struggled to keep a straight face.
‘You’re winding me up aren’t you? I bet this is a Gargantuan joke to foreigners. Oh let’s all laugh at the idiot with the bung up his nostril! The guy with the bung hanging from his nose is not from here!’ Ghost bleated despondently.
Davina shook her head. ‘Just try it Ghost. It should translate for you and will make it all so much easier.’
Ghost stuck the bung up his nose. He was clearly not impressed!
The two small children giggled and pointed at Ghost. ‘Davina can he understand us now?’
‘Yes I can hear you loud and clear,’ replied Ghost for himself. He was surprised that the bung didn’t hurt his nose.
To any outsider his reply would have sounded like a series of burps with a high-pitched ping at the end.
The two children clapped excitedly, glad that Ghost could join in.
Ghost nodded and tried to act cool, well as cool as he could considering he had a bung stuck up his nose. ‘How does she know I’m dangerous?’ he whispered to Davina.
‘Because it’s written all over you,’ interjected the wise woman walking away. ‘By the way call me Thalia… That is my name.’
Ghost was startled, she could hear his whisper.
‘I suggest you both follow me… Oh and Ghost I do not eat children.’
Davina and Ghost followed her along a street of carved limestone houses. They were brilliant white and looked as though they swirled into pointed rooves. They reminded him upside down icicles, yet the walls carried lines and dots like a Maori tattoo.
‘I have been following your adventure so far. It hasn’t really gone to plan has it Davina? It isn’t as nice out there as you thought it would be. I’m right aren’t I?’ cooed Thalia ushering the pair along the street.
‘I don’t remember a plan,’ ventured Davina.
‘Maybe the shock of the outside civilisation has affected you in ways you did not expect,’ purred Thalia.
‘I don’t really know what I expected…I don’t remember…’ Davina rubbed her forehead.
Thalia nodded sagely, she had experienced that ‘nothing and emptiness before. She paused and tapped her staff against one of the house walls. Lumps rose within the walls and the whole house changed shape. While the walls were in motion, she turned her attention to Ghost. ‘Ghost you have been granted entrance to one of the most secret places existing in earth. Quite a privilege don’t you agree?’
Ghost unintentionally blew a loud raspberry that ended in a high-pitched ping. ‘Yes thank you,’ was his English response before the translation tube took over.
Thalia smirked at his shocked expression. ‘Now when you reach my home you must both take a nap. When your minds are rested we can catch up.’
‘Has something happend?’ asked Davina, noticing Thalia’s shift from smile to strained expression.
Thalia sighed gravely. ‘Davina your opponent has gained power.’
‘Something massive is going to happen isn’t it? I can feel it – there is… an urgency,’ shuddered Davina, rubbing her stomch.
The wise woman’s kindly face filled with sympathy, she nodded. ‘I will discuss this with you once you have rested.’
‘I need to know now!’ said Davina placing her hands on her hips.
‘Patience! Your priority is to rest. Without rest you cannot re-juvenate. Now I will show you to your rest areas.’ Reassured Thalia.
Davina attempted to ask more questions.
The wise woman put up her hand. ‘We will discuss this later.’
Ghost watched mirrors rise to the surface of the house before him… Why would that happen? She tapped the wall again and the walls transformed again. The walls crackled and flowed liked water until they reached their new shape. It seemed that the houses could constantly transform.