(For those who came in late, catch up with Part 1 and follow the links at the end of each episode.)
Last episode, Dash found dead aliens and a large supply of Spam and made a new friend.
This week we answer the age-old question: Are we there yet?
Chapter 10: Hard Landing
Dash was awakened by a shock so sudden and severe that if he had not been lying fast asleep, with his body relaxed, he might have been hurt.
As it was, he was flung into the air, along with almost everything in the big room: socks and shirts and snacks and batteries and beer flew every which way. Fortunately, nothing fatally large came Dash’s way, but he did take several painful lumps from flying cans of Spam before everything settled down.
Otto meantime rolled crazily this way and that, like a giant glowing pinball slapped around by invisible flippers, rebounding off walls and pillars and benches. At last the glowball careened around the bend to part of the room where the dead aliens and the headless cow were.
Dash lay on the floor, listening to the pounding of his own heart. He was sore, and he would have a few bruises later, but he wasn’t bleeding and nothing felt broken. He was pretty much intact.
Except for his dignity. With disgust, Dash realized he had wet himself. Again. Not just now, but in his sleep. He blushed, though there was no one to see. Seriously—what was wrong with him? He was peeing all over himself lately.
Now ickily conscious of the stale wetness against his skin, Dash sat up, too fast, and learned he also had a tremendous pulsing headache. And not from getting smacked by a can of Spam. He felt hung-over. He felt as dried out as a stray strand of spaghetti left overnight in the pot. He also felt like he was about to be sick.
Dash turned over and threw up, which left a gross taste in his mouth, but he felt better afterward. Slim Jims, Spam, and Circus Peanuts for dinner had seemed like a really good idea at the time…and it might again, if he didn’t find anything else to eat around here.
Dash ditched his soggy loincloth, dried off, and fashioned a new skirt—he preferred to think of it as a kilt—from fresh shirts. “Hey, Otto!” he called, as he knotted the shirts around his waist. “Hey, little buddy where are you?”
Without warning, the floor tilted crazily, sending everything sliding against the far wall. Dash lost his balance and went sliding along with all the loose objects. He slammed into a pile of cigarette cartons which broke his fall. Grinning wryly at a crumpled image of Nick Tyger he muttered, “I guess cigarettes can be good for you sometimes, huh?”
The floor shifted again, though less drastically. What was going on? An earthquake and aftershocks? If so, he should find a way out of here fast. “Otto! You okay?”
“Otto!” echoed the unseen glowball. “Otto!”
Dash crab-walked to the bend in the room and peered around. At the far end, he saw the decapitated cow, the three dead aliens, and a pile of boxes and cans and other junk. Barely visible, wedged under the cow, was the glowball, blinking red.
“Otto! Otto!” said the ball.
“You stuck?” said Dash. “Hang in there, buddy! I’ll get you out.”
Dash half-scampered, half-slid to the bottom of the room. Otto was stuck fast under the body of the oddly shapeless cow. Draped over it was one of the little gray dudes. Dash gently lifted the body and laid it to one side.
“Otto! Otto! Otto!” said the glowball.
Otto was pinned under the cow’s shoulder. Dash approached the headless front end of the animal.
“Ew!” he said, scrunching up his face.
There was no way to get a handhold without sticking his hand inside the neck and grabbing the remaining end of the bovine spine. Dash fought back the urge to vomit again and stuck his hand into the meaty mess. The carcass, though drained of its vital fluids, was still very heavy.
“Otto, I can’t lift this cow by myself. I might be able to move it a little. Hope that’s good enough.”
Dash planted both feet against the tilted floor and heaved. His socks slipped and he lurched forward, face-planting into the neck hole. Repulsed, he pushed himself upright, spitting and gagging.
“That is so gross!” said Dash.
“Hang tight. I’ll get it this time.”
Dash removed his socks, got a better grip, and heaved with all his might. At first the carcass did not move. But gradually it shifted. The hoof at the end of a stiff leg scraped slowly across the floor. He got one inch of clearance, then two, then a third…then Otto the glowball shot free of its entrapment and rolled several feet up the incline before pausing.
Dash dropped the headless cow. He leaned back to catch his breath.
“You okay, Otto?”
“Good boy. Good boy,” said Otto. Otto’s swirl of colors was now orange, yellow, purple, blue, and green.
“You’re welcome,” said Dash. “Now you’ll have to tell me how you roll uphill.”
Otto continued upward. Dash had to lean far forward and use his hands for support to make it back up the incline. When he reached the upper part of the room, he found the aperture through which he entered this chamber had reappeared. Otto waited beside it.
“Why are you chasing me?” said Otto. It was still freaky hearing his own voice coming from the glowball. But far from the freakiest thing going on here.
“You want me to follow you again,” said Dash. “I get it. But let me grab a few things for the road.”
Dash scavenged what useful items he could reach—a handful of Slim Jims, a couple cans of Spam, a carton of Tygers, a pair of sunglasses, a pen, a lighter, a “Gone Fishin’” trucker cap, a bottle of iodine, fresh socks and—because you never knew when you might need them—a can of WD-40 and a roll of duct tape. He wrapped all these items in a t-shirt and tied it into a bundle. He turned a second shirt into a sling for a bottle of cola, then knotted the two shirts together and hung them around his neck. He wished he had his backpack, but this would have to do.
Dash scrambled up the angled floor on all fours and followed Otto into the corridor. It curved steeply down and away. Otto rolled out of sight around the curve at a controlled pace, seemingly unaffected by the sharp incline.
“Hey! Wait up!”
Dash tried to follow. But he slipped and fell, landing hard on his butt. He started to slide, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The shirts around his waist saved him from a nasty friction burn, but there was nothing to grab to halt his slide. He caromed off the outer wall, rebounded to hit the inner wall, then spun around so he was sliding backward.
“Whoaaaaaaaaaaa!” he cried.
At last Dash slammed into another wall and came to a stop. He was sprawled across the outer wall of the curved corridor, except it was now the floor due to the crazy tilt. Dash peered up the corridor. “No way I’m ever getting back up there,” he said.
The corridor also curved upward at a sharp angle on the other side of the glowball. Dash looked at Otto accusingly. “So when you were chasing me before, was I just running around in a big circle?”
“Big circle,” said Otto.
“I just hope there’s an emergency exit.”
Otto emitted a series of clicks and tones. An aperture irised open in the outer wall (now the floor). Strange greenish light leached into the corridor.
Otto rolled dropped through the hole like a pool ball finding the corner pocket. Dash looked down and saw the glowball sitting on a shimmering pavement several feet below. Otto rolled aside.
Dash carefully lowered himself through the hole until his feet touched solid ground. He looked all around him, his eyes growing bigger and bigger at what he saw.
“Otto, I don’t know where we are—but this ain’t Kansas!”
And that’s Chapter 10! Hmm, I wonder where Dash has landed?
Be here next episode, when Dash says: “Great. It’s the planet of the blue apes.”
Thanks for reading!