Journey to the West

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


Chapter XI

Night came on swiftly, the dull greyness changing rapidly to inky
blackness.  Akuta and Sharon had tried to back track their steps but came
upon dead end trails time and again.  They finally realized that they were
hopelessly lost in the marshes.  Akuta decided they would find a spot to
spend the night and tried to find a dry placed where they could camp.  The
best he could do was a bit of ground that was less damp than the rest.  The
two sat down and curled up in their tattered and torn cloaks, trying to
keep warm.  This was no small task in the dark dampness with no way to
build a campfire.

Sometime in the middle of the night Sharon woke with a start.  She was
dreaming again about Dave Strahan.  As she woke she heard many sounds of
crying and moaning.  At first she wondered if she wasn't still trapped in a
dream.  "Akuta?" she said.

"I am here," he reassured her, giving her a gentle hug.

"That crying...it can't be the wind."

"No, it cannot," he answered.

"What did you mean by the edge of the world and lost souls?"

"The old tales tell of a great western marsh," the fairy began his story.
"It was called the edge of the world because at one time that was what it
was thought to be.  The land is always shrouded with impenetrable fog and
mist.  In olden days the edge of the world was said to separate life from
death, this world from the next.  Since then it has been discovered to be
no more than a very large marsh which is always shrouded in vapors."

"And the wind sounds like the cry of lost souls," she added.

"No.  There is no reason for such sounds.  The wind could not produce them
and yet not disturb this thick mist that surrounds us."

"Then what are they?" Sharon asked hesitantly.

"It is said that when the spirits of the dead journey to the western
islands they sometimes stop here.  The legends tell that a spirit who has
left unfinished work may be lost in the mist rather than journey on.  The
cries you hear are the lost souls grieving for who and what they have left
behind."

The girl drew closer to her friend.  "It's a very romantic ghost story.  I
only wish you hadn't told it to me right here and now."  She sat for a
while and listened to the soft wailing.  "What do you think happened to
Pardoo?" she asked, trying to get her mind off of the lost souls.

"I think he was telling us true when he said he knew the paths in this
swamp.  He somehow managed to double back and has purposely abandoned us
here in hopes that we shall never find our way out," Akuta answered
angrily.

"And will we?" Sharon asked.

"I know not."

They sat in silence, not knowing for how long.  It was still pitch black.
Suddenly Akuta sat up, a tense bundle of alertness.  "What is it?" Sharon
asked.

"Heard you not the voice?"

"What voice?" she whispered, straining her ears in the darkness, but all
she could hear were the sighing moans of what she hoped really was the
wind.

"I thought...I thought I heard my name."  His response caused Sharon to
shiver.

* * *

"Lord, what says this?" Rood asked as they waited at a corner for a light
to change.  He was holding a pink handbill that someone had given him a few
moments before as they came down the street.

Scott was beginning to lose his patience as he realized the enormous
impossibility of their search.  He glanced at his friend, snatched the
paper away and tossed it in a trash can by the lamp post.  "Just ignore
those people as we pass them.  I don't care what they tell you.  You don't
take anything from anyone."

"But, lord," Rood said, and reached into the trash can for the handbill.

"Rood, what do you think you are doing?" Scott asked angrily.

"I wish you to translate these human runes for me," the man said, holding
out a crumpled piece of pink paper.

"That's a parking ticket."

Rood looked at the paper in his hand in surprise.  "This is not what I
had," he said and reached back into the trash.

"Rood, get your hand out of that!" Scott said impatiently.

"Here; this is the one," the man said as he retrieved a larger piece of
pink paper.  "Interpret this."  He handed the paper to Scott.

Rood waited excitedly while his friend looked at the crumpled sheet.  "It
says, 'Three exciting shows.  The world's greatest female impersonators
live onstage.'  This is an ad for a drag show."

"Please explain this 'show,'" the fairy persisted.

"It's not like that other club.  You wouldn't like it.  Men dress up and
pretend to be women.  Now let's get back to work."

"But look at the small illumination on that paper," Rood insisted.

Scott glanced at the photo.  "Yeah, she's very pretty.  Now can we..."

"Look once more," Rood insisted.  "Does she not remind you of anyone?"

Scott looked again, his anger building.  He couldn't imagine why his friend
was suddenly so interested in a female impersonator.  There was something
compellingly familiar in the photo of the girl on the handbill.  She had a
young, delicate face and hauntingly familiar eyes.  The caption under the
picture said, 'The Exotic and Amazing Danni.'  "Danni!" Scott suddenly said
as the familiarity clicked home.  "Dannemel!"

"Then it is he?" Rood asked.  "The likeness caught my attention so that I
thought a spell must be on him to make him a female."

"No," Scott explained.  "It's all just costumes and makeup."

"Tells this paper where this dragon show can be found?"

"Yeah," Scott said.  "Let me call the girls at the hotel and have them meet
us there.  We should be going home within the hour."

* * *

Sharon jerked awake as Akuta moved.  She looked around at the uniform
greyness.  "It's morning?" she asked and immediately felt foolish for
asking the obvious.

"It has been for a short time," her partner said.

"What do we do now?" she asked, trying not to think of the gnawing hunger
causing her stomach to growl.

"We must continue to wander in hope of finding a path out of here."  The
two stood up slowly.  Akuta took her hand and they moved off into the fog.
They stumbled on, coming upon more and more dead ends, their frustration
growing until finally Akuta led them into a thick, boggy area where they
quickly became stuck in the muddy soil.  "We must accept defeat," the fairy
said as he looked back at the exhausted woman.  "This is futile.  You have
no strength to continue and I have very little."

"What are we supposed to do?  Just sit here in the mud till we starve to
death?" Sharon snapped.  She waited for his answer, but received none.  The
girl look up to see Akuta standing tall, his whole body a picture of alert
tension.  "Akuta?"

"I heard it again," he said.  "Someone or something spoke my name."

"All I can hear is the wind," Sharon insisted.  "Your mind is probably
playing tricks on you.  It was just a hallucination."

"I heard it clearly," the fairy argued.  "I cannot believe you heard it
not."

"I wouldn't have heard it if it was a wind whisper directed to you," she
theorized.  "Maybe Pardoo is hiding out there and trying to trick you."

"Yes," Akuta said, thinking about her suggestion.  "Yes, it is something
the westerner would do."  The fairy fought with all his strength to pull
himself back out of the bog and onto drier land, and then he turned and
tugged on the girl until the mud finally let go and the both ended up on
one of the firm but soggy paths.  "Can you continue on?" he asked Sharon as
the two of them sat next to each other.

"Yes, I think so," she sighed.

"Then let us..."  He cocked his head and then quickly stood.

"Akuta," she said as she climbed to her feet.  "Did you hear it again?  Is
it Pardoo?"

"Where are you?" Akuta called into the grey mists.  "I am here.  Where are
you?"  He looked off into the fog.  "Yes, yes, we shall follow."

"Akuta, what is it?  If it's Pardoo it may be a trap," Sharon said.

The tall fairy turned and grabbed her wrist.  "Come.  He will show us the
way to safety."

"But can you trust him?" she asked.

"Of course.  Alex would never harm me."  He pulled her after him down the
path.

Now Sharon was really frightened.  If Akuta lost touch with reality what
hope was there for her?  He was her only chance of getting out of this
marsh.  She followed along quietly, but the whole time her mind was in
overdrive trying to think of what to say or do to bring him back to the
here and now.  As they journeyed, she had to admit they did not run into
any more dead ends, but they turned again and again, leading deeper into
the dense fog.  For all she knew they may be continually running in
circles.

Suddenly Akuta stopped.  He looked around as if confused.  "Where are you?"
he called.  "My love, I have followed as you instructed.  Where are you
now?"

"Akuta," Sharon said softly.  "It was most likely just Pardoo..."

"I know my love's voice," the man replied angrily.

"I'm sure you do," she calmly answered.

After a minute of silence Akuta spoke again.  "I apologize.  I meant not to
be angry with you."

"I understand," she told him.  "It's just that you're under a great strain,
and when that happens we all see things we'd like to...Akuta?"

The fairy's attention was focused elsewhere, off in the swirly clouds of
vapor surrounding them.  "Come," he said and dragged her along behind him.
For a few moments they were literally racing blindly down the narrow path,
and then Akuta stopped short, Sharon running headlong into his back.  "Must
we take this way?" he asked his invisible guide, then removed the remains
of his torn and tattered cape.  Methodically the fairy tore it into long,
narrow strips of fabric.  Next he reached out, tying one end of his
makeshift rope to Sharon's wrist, and then fastening the other end to his
own.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"This shall keep us from being separated," he told her.  "Now come.  We
have but a little way to go."

He took her hand and slowly stepped forward.  Sharon followed him until she
felt the ground give way beneath her bare feet to the chill of cold water.
"Akuta, what are you doing?" she gasped.  "Where are you going?  This isn't
the path."

"This is the way out of the marsh," her partner said and continued to pull
her forward.  The smooth, muddy bottom quickly slanted down until the two
of them were wading knee deep in the slimy water.  She was very concerned
and fearful that in his present state Akuta would lead them into another of
the thick, muddy morasses from which they would not be able to extricate
themselves.  But she could also tell that he was not going to listen to
reason.  She could only hope that they would again reach dry land and climb
back onto one of the soggy trails.

"The water grows much deeper here, my lady," the man said.  Suddenly the
bottom dropped off and Sharon plunged down into the cold, brackish water
with a loud splash.  She thrashed around a bit, trying to find a foothold,
but there was nothing beneath her.  Sharon quickly began to tread water and
called to her friend.  "We must swim now," he replied through the grey veil
of mist.

"I can't," she shouted, feeling panic slowly rising from her stomach to her
throat.  "I can't see where I'm going!  Where are you?"

She felt a tug on her wrist.  "Follow the cord," a voice called back to her
out of the fog.  She began to swim in the direction of the pull.  The
movements made her feel a little better, helping her body to fight off the
chilling effects of the cold water.  Just as she began to feel a little
hope, the fabric cord tied to her wrist jerked, then went limp.  The girl
grabbed for the cord and pulled, but only a short strand of fabric came
back, the frayed and soaked material having given way and ripped under the
strain.

"Akuta!" Sharon screamed and began to swim in the direction she was last
headed.  "Akuta, come back!"

* * *

Scott and Rood found a nondescript doorway on a dark side street just off
Broadway.  Over the door in red and green neon was the name of the club,
the Boom Boom Room.  Scott opened the door to see a long, narrow and dimly
lit flight of stairs leading up.  He and Rood began to climb.  Coming down
from above were sounds of loud music and laughter.  At the top of the
stairs was a little window on a small landing.  A plump man in drag with a
ton of cheap makeup and an ill-fitting wig asked them for a six dollar a
piece cover charge.  "This is getting to be expensive," Scott said as they
opened the door and walked into the dark, smoky room.

"That was the ugliest human female I have ever seen," Rood commented to
Scott as they found an empty table.

"That was no woman," Scott began.  "That was a..."

"What'll it be, sugar?" an attractive black waitress in a very short
cocktail waitress dress asked.

"Actually, we're here to see one of the performers."

"Sorry, there's a two drink minimum," the girl said with a smile.  "House
rules."

"I shall have..." Rood began.

"Two cokes," Scott interrupted.  "And do you have a pay phone?"

The girl pointed to an alcove by the bar.  Scott left to try calling the
hotel again.  "You sure you want to stick with coke now that your body
guard is gone?" the waitress asked.

"He is not my body guard.  I am his," Rood answered her.

She rolled her eyes.  "I'll get your coke," she said as she turned and
headed for the bar.  Rood noticed the way her backside wiggled as she
walked away, and wondered if this was because of the spiked high heels she
wore.  He had noticed this movement on other human girls.  Strange as it
was, he found it oddly intriguing.

"The girls aren't there, but the message was picked up so they must be on
their way," Scott said as he dropped back into his chair.  "I think we
ought to wait until they get here before doing anything."

"Here's your coke," the black girl said as she placed the glasses on the
table.

"When does the floor show begin?" Scott asked.

"In about twenty minutes," she replied.

"We wish to see Dannemel," Rood blurted out.

"Who?"

"Danni," Scott quickly covered.  "We're old friends from out of town.

"Oh.  You want me to tell her you're here?" the waitress offered.

"No, my friend Scott would like this to be a surprise meeting," Rood added.

"Oooh, she's not very good with surprises when she's onstage.  Last week a
drunk reached up and grabbed her and she totally freaked.  Maybe you ought
to let me tell her you're here."

Scott and Rood exchanged glances.  "How about if you take me backstage
before the show?" Scott asked.

"Well...I'm not supposed to but..."  A man at the next table asked loudly
as to the whereabouts of his drink.  "Hold your horses, Charlie.  It's on
the way," she shouted back in a strangely deep register.  "Let me get rid
of this tray and I'll see what I can do."  Again she wiggled off.

Rood watched her derriere appreciatively then thought again about his
confusion with what had been said.  He began to think that maybe he hadn't
learned the human language as well as he once thought.  Perhaps he should
have used the magic chrism of communication again before coming on this
trip.  He turned to Scott.  "I understand not this language.  Is not 'she'
the female term of name replacement?  If so this Danni is not who we seek."

"When he's dressed like a girl they all refer to him as if he really is
one," Scott tried to explain.

"This confuses me," Rood replied.  "Why would he...she wish to pretend to
be a girl?"

"Beats me," Scott answered.  "Some reversals really get into it in our
world.  I never did."

"Then this indicated Dannemel is a reversal."

"Not necessarily," Scott said.  "There are straight transvestites too."

"Trans...what?"

"Never mind."

The waitress returned.  "See that door," she pointed to a narrow opening
beside the little stage that took up half of the room.  "Go through there
and turn left.  Tell them Carlotta said it was okay."

Scott stood.  "Stay and keep an eye out for the girls," he told Rood, then
crossed the crowded bar.

"So, I got a break.  Mind if I spend it with you, tall, blond and
handsome?" Carlotta asked as she slid into the chair beside Rood.

"May I ask a question?" the fairy said.

"Anything," she responded, leaning her body against him.

"Where are the dragons?  My friend said you show dragons here."

"Well, we do serve a lot of trolls," she admitted.

"Trolls," Rood said and instinctively reached for his sword which wasn't
there.

"It's okay, honey.  I'll protect you," the girl said with a sly smile.
Rood slowly returned her smile, realizing that she must be making some
bizarre, human joke that he didn't understand.  She snatched a couple of
drinks from one of the other waitresses and in no time she and Rood were
extremely chummy with Carlotta sitting on his lap and running her fingers
through his hair.  "What's this?" she suddenly asked, pulling his hair back
and looking closely at his pointed ear.  "You must really be a fan of
Danni's.  She wear's fake ear's like this in her act too."

"May I ask a question of you?" Rood said, his head feeling strange.  He
realized it must have something to do with the drink the girl had given
him.  It seemed to contain some sort of magical love potion.  "Will I start
a fight if I touch your merchandise?"

"No, but you might start a fire," the girl cooed as she pressed her lips to
his neck while slipping a hand inside his sweater and playing with his
chest hair.

"You have firm breasts," Rood said as he fondled the girl.

"Don't squeeze too hard, sugar, or we'll have an accident," she breathed in
his ear.

"I am sorry," he said as his words seemed to slur.  "I wish not to hurt
you."

"It doesn't hurt, but I don't want you to pop them."

Rood laughed.  He didn't understand her sense of humor, but he wanted to
fit in.  Just then he gasped as Carlotta reached down and began to stroke
the bulge in his lap.  "Ooooh, you're a big boy all over.  How would you
like to finish off the evening at my place?  I'd like to feel a lot more of
this."

Rood was growing rapidly more excited.  "I cannot wait," he breathed in a
tense voice and reached down to stroke her shapely leg through the fishnet
hose.

"Oh, yes," she said.  "You make me so hot!  Higher, honey, higher!"

He slipped his hand under her short skirt and suddenly encountered
something unusual.  "What is this?" he asked in stunned surprise.

"Just the family jewels, sugar.  But don't stop now."

Rood gripped the unexpected item firmly, eliciting a little shriek from
Carlotta.  "This feels not like jewels," he said.  Before she could react,
Rood lifted her skirt to get a closer look.  He grabbed the thin nylon
panties and yanked, exposing Carlotta's very male sex organs.  The fairy
jumped up, causing the waitress to fall to the floor.  "You are not a
female!" he shouted in embarrassed surprise.

"And you ain't no gentleman, asshole," Carlotta said in a much deeper voice
as she jumped up and tried to quickly fix her clothing.  She then grabbed
her drink sitting on the table and swung around to throw it in the jerk's
face who had embarrassed and exposed her, but he was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

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