Endolye Chapter 9: Over their Heads

“Where are they?” Seeya said quietly.

“I don’t know,” Dante said, looking around. “This must be the right place.”

“I don’t know if this is the right place,” Ori said, “but the view is beautiful.”

He was right. Below them, on the other side of the mountain was a valley with a large lake, the water sparkling in the sun. There was a small shoreline on the side nearest the mountain, and on the far side of the lake were more trees. On the left the lake wound out of view around the mountains, and on the right it appeared to enter the mountains through an underground cave.

“What now?” Seeya asked. “I thought there would be something here.”

“Well,” Greff said, “we might as well head down to the valley. We’re more likely to find food and water down there, and I doubt anyone is going to show up here.”

They looked at each other and came to agreement. Dante sneaked a peek at Addis who hadn’t said a word. He was looking down at the valley with a troubled expression, but didn’t argue. Dante was disappointed that they had come this far and no one had been there to meet them when they reached the summit. What if they never found the Khee? They hadn’t seen any more portals, so she wasn’t sure what they would do once they reached the lake.

Going down the mountain was much faster than going up, and by late afternoon they had reach the near edge of the lake. As they stood there, Addis reached into his bag and pulled out folding chairs. The group sat, wondering what to do next. Dante couldn’t sit still, so she got up and wandered down the shore of the lake a little.

“Don’t go too far,” Greff called after her. “We don’t know if we’re alone here. And if we’re not, the inhabitants could be dangerous.”

She had turned to smile at what she thought was Greff’s overly cautious attitude when she suddenly heard whoops of laughter, and was instantly surrounded by a pack of creatures laughing and shoving, and moving so quickly they all seemed like a blur. When they finally stopped Dante could see they were four lizard-like creatures, with long muscular limbs and big eyes full of laughter. Despite their sudden appearance they certainly didn’t seem dangerous. In fact, their laughter was so infectious, she found herself smiling.

“Who are you?” she asked, as Ori, Greff and Seeya approached, followed by Addis.

“We are the Wumpus,” the tallest one said with a deep, mocking bow, “at your service. My name is Pirrin. And who might you be?”

“I’m Dante,” she answered, and for some unexplained reason they all burst into hysterical laughter. She found herself laughing with them. Greff stepped up next to Dante and faced Pirrin.

“What’s your business here?” he asked firmly.

“Oh, do listen to him!” another one of the Wumpus said, “Isn’t he just a sourpuss!”

“Here,” Pirrin said, extending his hand to Dante, “let’s take a spin!”

He grabbed her wrist with one hand and flung his other arm in the direction of the lake; she was suddenly looking at solid ice. She gasped, but before she could ask a question she found herself being pulled across the ice at a furious pace. As she tried to keep her feet under her she could see the other Wumpus were “skating” with them, their legs gliding over the ice, their feet never leaving the surface. She could hear some shouts coming from the bank behind her and felt her hand beginning to slip – or was Pirrin letting go of her? She was suddenly scared of crashing into something at the speed they were going and shouted, “I can’t hold on much longer!”

“Can you swim?” one of the Wumpus next to them asked.


“I said, can you swim?”

“Yes,” Dante replied, and in the next instant she was over her head in water. She came up gasping and coughing, with the Wumpus swimming around her.

“You see, this way you don’t have to worry about hanging on.”

“What happened?” Dante had quickly recovered, and was trying to tread water. She was still coughing and the land was now far behind them.

“I don’t know if I can swim to shore.”

“Oh dear,” Pirrin replied, “well, that could be a problem for you, couldn’t it?” And they all swam off, leaping and diving in the water like dolphins, laughing loudly.

Dante looked around; she was now in the middle of the lake by herself. Trying to steady her breath, she began swimming back toward the shore. The water pulled at her legs, which were already tired from the walk down the mountain. She rolled to float on her back, and then began to backstroke. She knew it would be getting dark soon, and tried to keep down the panic that was starting to rise in her chest. She realized she wasn’t going to make it, and began to sink. Just before the water closed over her head she felt herself falling, and landed on the dry ground with a thump. Winded, she sat up. She was surrounded by a thick fog, just like the fog in the Brox hollow, and could hear the laughter of the Wumpus all around her.

She got up and began walking in a straight line. She bumped into one of the Wumpus, who quickly spun away from her. “Take me back to my friends,” she said.

“Oh why, they’re so dull!” It was Pirrin.

Another voice chimed in. “Yes, and you’ve been doing so well, aren’t you having fun?”

“No,” Dante said. “You’ve pulled me across the ice, nearly drowned me, and then knocked the wind out of me. I’m not having fun.”

“Well, we must change that at once.” Dante was suddenly swung up off her feet moving at a fast pace. She could feel the movement of the Wumpus as it ran, carrying her. The others were running along shouting. They reached the shore and they were instantly out of the fog, the lake sparkling behind them. Pirrin dumped Dante on the shore next to Addis.

“Dante!” Greff rushed over to her. “Are you o.k.?”

“Of course she’s o.k.,” Pirrin said, laughing. He turned to Dante.

“Now, see, I’ve brought you back to your friends. Don’t be cross.”

Dante didn’t say anything, but went to stand next to Ori, who put his arm around her. Seeya darted over to where Pirrin was standing. Dante noticed he stayed just out of the Wumpus’ reach.

“Well,” he said silkily, “that was just amazing. How did you do that?”

“Oh, it’s nothing!” one of the Wumpus replied. “Watch!”

And he flicked his hand. The lake disappeared and they were suddenly enveloped in fog.

“No, no, me!” shouted another one. The fog was immediately gone and the lake in front of them was solid ice.

Pirrin shoved himself to the front of the group.

“That’s nothing,” he shouted , and the lake was turned into a steaming mass.

Another Wumpus said, “I want to play!”

The steam disappeared and without warning rain begin pelting down on them. Seeya shrieked and Wumpus laughed uproariously.

Dante had completely forgotten about being upset. She looked slowly at the rest of her group, who stood on the bank with rain dripping off of them.

“Could it be….” Ori began, but Dante interrupted.

“Wow,” she said, “I wish I could do that at home. Swim in the morning, ice skate in the afternoon, and create a thunderstorm to get out of gym class.”

The Wumpus all smiled. “It’s nothing,” they chorused, laughing. Dante found she couldn’t stay mad at them – they all seemed to be having so much fun, and they seemed to want her to be having fun with them.

Addis had been moving closer to her, pulling an umbrella out of his bag. He now made a pretense of holding it over her as Seeya edged his way underneath.

“Dante, we’ve got to get out of here,” he whispered. “These Wumpus are dangerous.”

“Oh, Addis,” she answered, twirling our from under the umbrella into the rain, “I don’t want to go. I’m having fun!”

From under the umbrella Seeya said, “Dante, dear,” but he was interrupted by Pirrin.

“You can’t go,” he said, “in fact, you must stay for the night. All of you!”

“Yes, yes,” the others chorused.

“That would be wonderful!” Dante exclaimed with a laugh.

“But unfortunately impossible,” Addis said, eyeing her intently. Ori had moved closer and agreed with Addis, “Yes, Dante, we need to keep going.”

The Wumpus surrounded Greff, who stood resolutely, rain dripping from his back, and began dancing a circle around him.

“Look,” one shouted, “a rain dance!” The others all laughed.

“Come on,” Pirrin shouted, “join us, Dante.”

She ran to join the circle, and danced with the Wumpus around Greff. They moved on to Addis, laughing at his cross look under his umbrella, and at Seeya trying to hover next to him so his hair wouldn’t get wet. Addis had his bag firmly in one hand, and held the umbrella in the other. His wouldn’t look at any of them, and as Dante watched him studying the ground, she suddenly didn’t think it was quite so funny. She could see the shocked expression on Ori’s face, and the disapproving glare of Greff. She stopped and turned to Pirrin.

“That’s enough rain for now, don’t you think?”

“Well, all right, if you say so.” The Wumpus stopped dancing, and the rain stopped. Before them the lake sparkled in the sunlight. Dante stood with her hair dripping, looking at Addis. He very stiffly folded his umbrella, and placed it back in his bag. Seeya looked up cautiously, and Greff moved over to stand next to Ori, looking over Addis’ left shoulder. Looking at her friends, the group who had picked her to be their leader, Dante felt ashamed of herself.

“I’m sorry guys,” she said, “I was just having so much fun. They really do make me laugh. Can’t we just stay one night?”

“No,” Addis said, “we need to be going. If you’ll recall we’re trying to find someone.”

“Yes,” Greff said, “a job to do.”

“Although,” Ori said quietly, “we could use a place to stay.”

The others looked at him in surprise, but he just gazed calmly at Pirrin. “That is, if we’re all welcome.”

“Of course!” Pirrin shouted. “I’ll lead the way.”

Bo Vine Gets Her Wings – Part 1

My husband Steve is from a small town in Iowa called Fairfield, and when his boys were young we used to go there every summer to visit his folks. They had a house on a few acres of land, and two very large buildings where his dad used to keep his milk trucks. When Steve was growing up, his dad had a milk distribution business – in other words, his dad was the milkman.

Steve and his siblings had to help with the business by running milk routes. And oh the stories they tell…. You’ll find bits and pieces of them in the short story below. I began writing this for my youngest step-son Brandon when he was around six or seven (I think). If I’m recalling correctly he suggested the subject of a flying cow, and the below is Part I of the result.

(For those of you who end up wondering what in the hell golden domes and pillows have to do with flying, you can get the full scoop from Google, but basically there’s a community of folks in Fairfield who practice Transcendental Meditation in big golden domes. It includes a practice called “yogic flying,” where they sit on pillows and then do these crazy butt hops. Like really high, long butt hops. They must have some serious glutes on them. But it’s not really flying. True story. Look it up.)


Bo Vine Gets Her Wings

Once upon a time there was a cow named Bo who lived on a very nice farm with a very nice farmer named Vine. The farm sat in the middle of a beautiful green field that was somewhere very close to, but not exactly in, Fairfield, Iowa.

Bo had a good life on the farm; Farmer Vine was very kind and the grass was very green and abundant so Bo always had plenty to eat. When Farmer Vine came to milk her in the morning and then again at the end of the day, she would contentedly chew her cud, knowing that the milk she was giving would go to feed children in schools, and people in hospitals.

In fact, every morning she would see the milkman drive by, delivering her milk all over Fairfield and all of Jefferson County. She would wave her ears and swish her tail and give him a big Moo to say good morning, but the milkman never seemed to notice her. He did, however, notice the farm dog who would run from the field to chase the truck. Each morning the milkman would call out, “Hi dog!” But he never said anything to Bo.

Bo wished that people would notice her more. But, after all, she was just a cow and people living somewhere very close to, but not exactly in, Fairfield, Iowa didn’t normally notice cows very much. Sometimes while she was chewing on the grass in the field she would wonder if anyone other than Farmer Vine would ever notice her.

And one day, while she was eating and wondering that very thing, a small bird flew down and began pulling a worm out of the wet grass in front of her. Bo said, through the grass in her mouth (because cows don’t have very good manners and often talk with their mouths full), “It must be wonderful to fly.”

The bird cocked his head and looked at her with his shiny round eye. “Well,” he said, “I’ve never not been able to fly, so I wouldn’t know what not flying is like. But I would have to guess it is wonderful. I can go pretty much anywhere I want, I can get there quickly, and I can see everything that’s on the ground.” And to demonstrate he quickly flew up to the branch of a nearby tree, over to a phone line, landed on Bo’s back for a moment, then lighted back on the ground in front of her.

If Bo could have clapped, she would have. But being a cow all she could do was sigh, which just sounded like a long moo. “That was wonderful,” she said. “I would love to do that.” She chewed quietly for a moment, then asked, “You don’t think you could teach me to fly, do you?”

The bird considered it a moment. “I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s not like I really had to learn. It would be like me asking you to teach me how to give milk.”

Bo thought about that. It was true, she would have no idea how to teach someone to give milk – it was just what she did. But the idea of everyone noticing her in the sky seemed like a good one.

“And anyway,” he continued, “I don’t think a flying cow is a very good idea. You’re awfully big, and it would probably scare people to death.”

Bo just hung her head, and the bird felt badly for her. He tried to think of something that might cheer her up, when he had an idea.

“Wait a minute,” he said, “I just thought of something. Not too far from here is a very strange place with big golden domes. I’m sure that while I’ve been eating on their lawns I’ve heard that they’re teaching people to fly in those domes.” Bo felt a sudden surge of joy.

“Please,” she said, “tell me how to get there!”

“Well,” the bird said, “you go over that field, two cornfields to the right, and you’ll see one of the domes.”

Bo turned her head in that direction, wondering how far it would be for her to walk. She wasn’t sure she would be able to find this place by herself.

“One more thing,” the bird continued, “they can’t teach you to fly unless you have something called a pillow. Do you have a pillow?”

Bo shook her head sadly. “I don’t even know what a pillow is,” she said, “and somehow, I just don’t think it would be that easy for me to get there. You can fly, but I’d have to walk and it sounds like it’s a long way away.”

“I’m sorry,” the bird said to her kindly. “But cheer up. After all, you’re a cow, and cows don’t fly. They do a wonderful job of giving milk to people, but they just don’t fly.” He finished the worm he was eating and hopped over next to her. “I’ve got to be going now,” he said, “I hope to be back some time again. It was nice chatting with you.” And with that he flew up and over the trees at the far end of the field.

Bo felt so depressed she couldn’t eat for the rest of the day, and didn’t have very much milk to give that evening. Farmer Vine was afraid she was getting sick, so he led her into the barn for the night. He gave her plenty of hay, patted her on the back, and said goodnight.

Bo slept, and when she awoke her hunger got the better of her. Farmer Vine came in and for awhile she chewed and swished, and listened to the sound of her milk hissing into the pail. After the milking, Farmer Vine put her out in her field. Bo just started walking. As she walked, she noticed a hole in the fence that hadn’t been there before. Looking around, she decided to go through.

She found herself in another field she didn’t recognize at all, on the other side of the fence. As she walked she noticed that the grass looked very green. She dropped her head and began to eat. As she pulled up some grass, she raised her head and looked around while she chewed.

“I so wish I could fly,” she thought.

Now, what Bo didn’t know was that she wasn’t in any ordinary field. She was in an enchanted field, that grew only four-leaf clovers. And as anyone knows, when a cow makes a wish while chewing on four-leaf clovers, that wish is sure to come true.

Just as Bo was starting in on another patch of clovers, she noticed a tickling feeling in her left ear. She swished it around, and kept chewing. The tickling came back, just like someone was tickling her ear with a feather. She turned her head to see who would be playing this game with her, and couldn’t believe what she saw.

There was a large wing coming out of her left shoulder. Turning her head quickly to the right, she saw another wing.

She mooed in amazement. “Wings!” she exclaimed. “This must mean I can fly!” She wasn’t sure exactly how to do it, but she tried shrugging her shoulders a bit. The wings moved, creating a soft breeze. Delighted, she began flapping them harder. To her utter astonishment, her front hooves came off the ground. With a few more flaps, Bo was in the air.

First, she flew around her pasture looking down at the barnyard and the farmhouse. She flew over the barnyard, mooing in excitement. The other animals just couldn’t believe it. The pig fell right into his mud hole, the chickens began laying eggs from excitement and the cat completely ignored the flying cow and continued to clean her face.

Bo swooped down and off, eager to see what else she could see. She flew over some trees and saw a small town. It must be Fairfield! She flew toward the town square, with its shops and gazebo. She was anxious to see all the people, and have them notice her. Her! Bo the Flying Cow!

In the square there were some grandfathers and grandmothers sitting on a bench feeding a big group of pigeons. “Wow,” Bo thought, “what a great life. Just sit there and get fed.” Some of the birds were on the ground in front of the bench, and some were on a statue of a man reading a book to a child.

As Bo flew overheard, a large – very large – shadow passed over the bench. One of the grandmothers looked up and screamed, dropping her bag of bread crumbs. The sound nearly scared Bo right out of the sky. It scared the other people too. They began running and shouting, pointing up at her. They ran to their cars and began driving them off, and someone brought out a cloth to cover the statue. Bo wanted everyone to just calm down, and for things to be like they were. But it was too late for that.

She landed next to one of the pigeons, who looked at her sideways. “Well,” it said huffily, “I don’t know what you think you’re doing here. You’ve completely ruined our breakfast!” A few of the other pigeons nodded in agreement.

“I’m sorry,” Bo said. “I didn’t mean to scare anyone or ruin anybody’s breakfast.” And although she was sorry, she couldn’t understand how anyone could be upset over a few breadcrumbs.

“I just got these wings,” she said, fanning them gently, “and I’ve heard so much about Fairfield, that when I saw the town square from the sky I just had to come down and take a look.”